In his excellent brief book, On Tyranny: Twenty Lessons from the Twentieth Century, Timothy Snyder writes, "Fascists rejected reason in the name of will, denying objective truth in favor of a glorious myth articulated by leaders who claimed to give voice to the people." This quote came to mind while I read this article in the Atlantic called "The Prophecies of Q," by Adrienne LaFrance. As part of “Shadowland,” -- The Atlantic's series about conspiracy thinking in America -- LaFrance's article explores how QAnon is rapidly becoming a religion that rejects science and reason. The power of the internet was understood early on, but the full nature of that power—its ability to shatter any semblance of shared reality, undermining civil society and democratic governance in the process—was not. The internet also enabled unknown individuals to reach masses of people, at a scale Marshall McLuhan never dreamed of. The warping of shared reality leads a man with an AR-15 rifle to invade a pizza shop. It brings online forums into being where people colorfully imagine the assassination of a former secretary of state. It offers the promise of a Great Awakening, in which the elites will be routed and the truth will be revealed. It causes chat sites to come alive with commentary speculating that the coronavirus pandemic may be the moment QAnon has been waiting for. None of this could have been imagined as recently as the turn of the century. QAnon is emblematic of modern America’s susceptibility to conspiracy theories, and its enthusiasm for them.
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In his excellent brief book, On Tyranny: Twenty Lessons from the Twentieth Century, Timothy Snyder writes, "Fascists rejected reason in the name of will, denying objective truth in favor of a glorious myth articulated by leaders who claimed to give voice to the people."
This quote came to mind while I read this article in the Atlantic called "The Prophecies of Q," by Adrienne LaFrance. As part of “Shadowland,” -- The Atlantic's series about conspiracy thinking in America -- LaFrance's article explores how QAnon is rapidly becoming a religion that rejects science and reason.
The power of the internet was understood early on, but the full nature of that power—its ability to shatter any semblance of shared reality, undermining civil society and democratic governance in the process—was not. The internet also enabled unknown individuals to reach masses of people, at a scale Marshall McLuhan never dreamed of. The warping of shared reality leads a man with an AR-15 rifle to invade a pizza shop. It brings online forums into being where people colorfully imagine the assassination of a former secretary of state. It offers the promise of a Great Awakening, in which the elites will be routed and the truth will be revealed. It causes chat sites to come alive with commentary speculating that the coronavirus pandemic may be the moment QAnon has been waiting for. None of this could have been imagined as recently as the turn of the century.
QAnon is emblematic of modern America’s susceptibility to conspiracy theories, and its enthusiasm for them.
Qanon grifters see a new opportunity in the coronavirus scare: anyone self-isolating or quarantined can be described as under "house arrest" for all the usual Qanon fantasy crimes. Oprah Winfrey, among the many thusly targeted, blasted the conspiracy theories with oxygen by publicly denying them on Twitter.
Oprah Winfrey has been forced to deny rumours that she has been arrested for sex trafficking after fake news reports emerged online.
The presenter’s name has been trending on Twitter since the seemingly baseless rumours began, and now Winfrey has reassured fans she is just “sanitising and self distancing with the rest of the world” amid the coronavirus pandemic.
She wrote on Twitter: “Just got a phone call that my name is trending. And being trolled for some awful FAKE thing. It’s NOT TRUE.
“Haven’t been raided, or arrested. Just sanitising and self distancing with the rest of the world. Stay safe everybody.”
Accordingly, the imaginary sex crimes of Oprah Winfrey rise high among the trending topics this morning.
Tracked down the source of the Oprah sex trafficking arrest hoax, and it's just this weirdo talking in a parking lot for ten minutes. Now it's the top trending topic. pic.twitter.com/TMW4pXcgxq
— Respectable Lawyer (@RespectableLaw) March 18, 2020
It was 1993. I was working on my book Media Virus, and about to return home to LA from San Francisco, when Timothy Leary called to ask if I could make room for a “friend in need” who needed a ride. That friend turned out to be Genesis P-Orridge.
I had known of Gen through his music and reputation alone, and was frankly a little afraid to meet him. If the “coyote” boys I knew in the Temple of Psychick Youth were modeling themselves after him, I could only imagine how fierce Gen might be. But when I pulled into the parking garage where we supposed to meet, and saw the diminutive Genesis P-Orridge standing there with his two gorgeous young daughters and all their suitcases, my perception of him changed entirely.
And over the next eight hours, so did my perception of world.
Gen had just been quasi-exiled from England after a video he had made for Channel 4 (in which he carried out a mock abortion and ate the fetus), went viral in the tabloids. While Gen was in Thailand, the authorities ransacked his place, seized his archives, and made it clear he was no longer welcome in the UK. So he flew to California instead, essentially homeless, and was feeling pretty out of sorts as we drove. As his two daughters fought in the back, he told me, “If only people realized I was also a regular dad with two kids fighting in the back seat.”
The rest may as well have been straight from the tweets of QAnon. Read the rest
It's disturbing whenever I see authority figures embracing Punisher iconography because the Punisher represents a failure of the Justice system. He's supposed to indict the collapse of social moral authority and the reality some people can't depend on institutions like the police or the military to act in a just and capable way. […] Whether you think the Punisher is justified or not, whether you admire his code of ethics, he is an outlaw. He is a criminal. Police should not be embracing a criminal as their symbol.
I'll only say this once: We're not the same. You took an oath to uphold the law. You help people. I gave that up a long time ago. You don't do what I do. Nobody does. You boys need a role model? His name is Captain America and he'd be happy to have you.
(This is also a reminder to read Nate Powell's brilliant comic essay on the fashion of fascism, if you haven't already)
But now the Punisher appropriation has taken a step further, with militia groups handing out flyers at QAnon rallies emblazoned with that familiar skull:
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A souvenir from yesterday's Tampa QAnon rally:
A flyer encouraging QAnon followers to "consider forming your own mutual assistance group with like minded friends.
They had 'American' faces, but these pro-Trump social media accounts all had algorithmically generated faces that only appeared 'American.'
Facebook and Twitter have banned a pro-Trump network that reached 55 million accounts and is said to be linked to a US-based media company called The BL which has ties to Epoch Media Group and the Chinese Falun Gong cult. Read the rest
Man, 2019 is weird. Read the rest
Birds Aren't Real is an amusing parody of conspiracy grift merch, which is to say it is a site where you can buy t-shirts and other things emblazoned with a bespoke conspiracy theory that Birds Aren't Real (they are, of course, government surveillance drones).
All across this wretched country there are leaders, those that have chosen to lead. To impart the knowledge of this travesty to every man, woman, and child. They will not rest, and can't (even if they wanted to) as there are drones on top of their house making loud noises. This bird nightmare makes the Illuminati and JFK conspiracies look like a toddler playing in the Burger King Play Place.
The Audubon Society reports that the site was "hatched" by a 20-year-old student.
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Sounds extreme but also somewhat fitting, given the landscape of today's social discourse. By surfacing murky bits of history and the ubiquity of Aves, Birds Aren’t Real feeds into this era of post-truth politics. The campaign relies on internet-fueled guerilla marketing to spread its message, manifesting through real-world posters and Photoshopped propaganda tagged with the “Birds Aren’t Real” slogan.
For much of its devoted fanbase, Birds Aren’t Real is a respite from America’s political divide—a joke so preposterous both conservatives and liberals can laugh at it. But for a few followers, this movement is no more unbelievable than QAnon, a right-wing conspiracy theory turned marketing ploy that holds that someone with high-level government clearance is planting coded tips in the news. Therein lies the genius of Birds Aren’t Real: It’s a digital breadcrumb trail that leads to a website that leads to a shop full of ready-to-buy merchandise.
The conservative internet loves Zach Vorhies, a lovely activist that exposes leftist mischief at Google! *5 seconds later* We regret to inform you the Zach is a racist.
Right-wing provocateur James O’Keefe published his latest video on tech giants on Wednesday, touting an interview with former YouTube software engineer and self-proclaimed “whistleblower” Zach Vorhies. In the video, Vorhies claims that Google’s search algorithms are riddled with political bias, and touted a cache of internal Google files he alleges prove his case. ... What O’Keefe’s video leaves out, though, is that his much-hyped insider is not as credible as he claims. On social media, Vorhies is an avid promoter of anti-Semitic accusations that banks, the media, and the United States government are controlled by “Zionists.” He’s also pushed conspiracy theories like QAnon, Pizzagate, and the discredited claim that vaccines cause autism.
Remember the scene where Senator Palpatine says "I love democracy" and, thanks to Ian McDiarmid's acting talent, a crudely-scripted corrupt politician is shaded with pathos and genuine discomfort? In my memory, Palpatine says only "I love surprises" in this scene. I don't know why, but it works quite well and I have no plans to rewatch the Star Wars prequels to correct my neurons.
Since the 2008 financial crisis, the "sovereign citizen" movement/conspiracy theory (previously) has grown by leaps and bounds, thanks to a combination of the rise of antisemitism (long a dogwhistle in the movement, now out in the open), an increase in financial desperation and a sense of betrayal, and the movement's ability to realize real cash for its members, who have systematically defrauded the underfunded and resource-strapped IRS of move than $1B. Read the rest
The Yellow Vest movement, like a lot of anti-establishment movements, is a complex phenomenon, filled with both right- and left-wing elements, changing character from place to place and even day to day. Read the rest
Germany's Alternative For Germany (AfD) party (previously) are an insurgent neofascist movement with ties to senior mainstream politicians and the country's super-wealthy would-be oligarchs; the party put on a hard push in the the 2018 Bavarian elections and their meme warfare was full of familiar voter-suppression tactics, from garden-variety disinformation to exhortations to stay home on election day. Read the rest
A gunman opened fire at the Tree of Life Synagogue in Pittsburgh Saturday, killing at least 11 people while shouting "All Jews must die". The man, identified by KDKA as Robert Bowers, opened fire upon police when they arrived, injuring three officers. Bowers, who is white, was then taken into custody
"The scene is very bad inside," said Wendell Hissrich, Pittsburgh's director of pblic safety.
The SWAT team had been talking with the suspect, and he was crawling and injured. Police sources tell KDKA’s Andy Sheehan the gunman walked into the building and yelled, “All Jews Must die.” Sheehan confirmed that eight people were confirmed dead. Others had been shot but the extent of their injuries in unknown at this time. Police have requested that residents stay inside their home as they exchanged gun fire with a suspected gunman.
Squirrel Hill is Pittsburgh's biggest Jewish neighborhood. Social media profiles associated with Bowers (and archived by Laura Rozen before their deactivation) show a Neo-Nazi Qanon true believer ranting about "invaders", "globalists", and the Jews: "there is no #MAGA as long as there is a kike infestation."
alleged suspect had post 2hrs ago blaming jewish immigration resettlement org for caravan, “likes to bring invaders in that kill our people”
— Laura Rozen (@lrozen) October 27, 2018
"Officials are looking to determine whether or not this was a hate crime," adds ABC News.
Updates: Bowers confirmed as the shooter by KDKA; death toll.
Here's CBS live:
Somehow, Lionel Lebron, the man behind the Qanon 'Democrat pedophile cult' conspiracy theory, managed to meet with Donald Trump on Thursday inside the office of the President of the United States at the White House.
Yes, really. Read the rest