Conspiracy in the Digital Age

The QAnon conspiracy theory originated in the United States and was initially a phenomenon that was unique to American politics. However, its popularity has spread overseas in recent years, and its tenets have especially been co-opted by populists and right-wing provocateurs in Europe. The best explanation for this is the increasingly overarching nature of conspiracy theories and the belief in secret government plots. As mentioned in Scott’s article, the concept of a “deep state” has transcended borders and can be interpreted in different ways. The relatively ambiguous and vague nature of the QAnon posts has been captivating for many people, who have directed its “anti-elite” rhetoric to their own governments and politicians. The necessity of transnational cooperation to address to COVID-19 pandemic has only added fuel to the conspiracy theories, whose adherents see coordinated lockdowns and other shared strategies among countries as proof that a “shadow government” indeed exists.

The Kalmar article discussed the tendency of populists to use “dog whistles” to implicitly communicate certain conspiratorial positions. In this case, some Hungarian far-right nationalists identify George Soros as being solely responsible for the recent influx of Muslim migrants into Europe. Although the position of these groups on the migrant crisis is openly Islamophobic, its anti-Semitism is masked behind criticism of the Jewish Soros. The intention here is to avoid accusations of anti-Semitism, while still hinting that Jews are weaponizing an immigration crisis to the detriment of native Europeans. These tactics are hardly new to such groups, but they have become especially dangerous in an age of information overload and the fast proliferation of fake news.

2 Replies to “Conspiracy in the Digital Age”

  1. Trevor,

    Your focus on the role of anti-Semitism within QAnon is apt and wholly correct. My first thought while reading was of Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene, her adherence to the QAnon conspiracy, and her infamous “Jewish space lasers” claim (in which she also goes on a rant about the Rothschild’s, too). QAnon and anti-Semitism, as you pointed out, go hand-in-hand, with adherents using these dog-whistles and thinly-veiled tactics to not only show off their hate, but also subtly attract more like-minded individuals to their ranks – a fact you pointed out at the end of your post regarding the internet and age of information.

    -Willem

  2. Thanks for this post! I liked that you brought up the coordinated lockdowns and how that helps conspiracy theorists justify their views about a “shadow government”. Everything that has happened in this strange year has definitely seemed to be back up their ideas (not that I agree at all). I also liked that you helped build up the anti-elite sentiments we see developing in many places. Which the fact that there has been a huge wealth transfer during this pandemic it seems that is also following the trajectory of giving them more to point out and use to justify. You’re right that information-overload and rapid production of fake news (I’d add in opinion news as well) has also contributed to this. The perfect storm!

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