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The Rise of QAnon

2020-08-13 09:56:20

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Over three years, the far-right conspiracy theory QAnon has spread from the outskirts of the internet into the mainstream. And by next year, it will most likely make its way into Congress: A QAnon supporter is almost sure to be elected after winning a Republican House primary runoff in Georgia this week.

It’s a remarkable rise for a group that believes in, among other things, a ring of Satan-worshiping, child-trafficking criminals led by prominent Democrats. We spoke with our colleague Kevin Roose, who has covered QAnon extensively, to get a sense of how the movement expanded its reach.

Social media platforms are a big part of it. “It’s still very fringe in terms of its ideology, but not in terms of its scale,” Kevin said. “We’ve seen QAnon Facebook groups swell to hundreds of thousands of members, and they are routinely driving conversations on social media.”

This week, NBC News reported that an internal Facebook investigation found thousands of QAnon-supporting groups and pages with millions of members and followers. Twitter permanently suspended thousands of accounts associated with the movement last month. And TikTok has blocked searches for QAnon-related hashtags.

But these companies have “realized belatedly that this is a major problem,” Kevin said. “The horse has left the barn.”

The pandemic, which led many people to spend more time online, has also bolstered the movement, Kevin said: “Our social interactions are mostly taking place online, and that means that the communities that have power online, including QAnon, are a much bigger part of the discourse.”

Much of its growth also comes from its ability to attach itself to, and then absorb, both legitimate causes and “every major conspiracy theory of the past 50 years,” Kevin said.

Its followers are “deliberately attempting to radicalize new groups of people,” he noted, by infiltrating Facebook groups focused on vaccine safety, parenting, and natural food and health.

“These are people who might be skeptical of mainstream science or authorities,” Kevin said, “and they’re inserting their messages to those communities. So that’s what people need to be made aware of — these aren’t people hanging out in the dark corners of the internet anymore.”

As the coronavirus outbreak in the U.S. has moved south from its early epicenter in New York, so have the unusual patterns in deaths from all causes. Many of the recent coronavirus cases and deaths in the South may have been driven largely by reopenings and relaxed social-distancing restrictions.

In other virus developments:

Less than 12 weeks from Election Day, Trump trails Biden by about eight percentage points nationally. Is there still time for him to turn things around?

Yes, some observers say. The polls will most likely tighten as Election Day approaches, and FiveThirtyEight’s forecast currently gives Trump a 28 percent chance to win. Trump could exploit Biden’s long record on trade issues or the Iraq War to close the gap. Or he could try to engineer an October surprise involving a coronavirus vaccine.

Factors outside the president’s direct control could also help him, Ross Douthat, a Times Op-Ed columnist, argued recently. The pandemic or the economy could improve, or public opinion could turn against recent racial-justice protests.

Others think a comeback is unlikely. Given Trump’s unpopularity and the state of the economy, other poll-watchers are skeptical that he can make up much ground. Undecided voters appear less willing to back Trump this year than in 2016. And voters in some states can begin voting as soon as next month.

“The only way Trump could even conceivably eke out a win on Election Day would be through voter suppression on an improbably (perhaps impossibly) massive scale,” The Washington Post’s Eugene Robinson wrote.

“If you love ice cream, you love it always and forever and want it no matter the weather,” writes the cookbook author Dorie Greenspan, who keeps her freezer full of the stuff. “I probably could mark my life in memories of ice cream.”

Try her recipe for chocolate-flake raspberry ice cream, which adds powdered milk for richness, honey for smoothness and vodka for creaminess. Any berries, fresh or frozen, will work in the dessert.

With the future of the social media app TikTok in limbo, Instagram recently introduced a feature that largely replicates TikTok’s core concept of creating short video montages set to music. So is Reels, Instagram’s new feature, a worthy replacement?

Not even close, say Brian X. Chen and Taylor Lorenz. The two Times writers took Reels for a test drive and found it much harder to use than the app it mimics. “I can definitively say Reels is the worst feature I’ve ever used,” Taylor said.

The tree-fruit industry in Washington — like the salad industry in California, the blueberry industry in New Jersey and the tomato industry in Florida — has for years struggled to find the workers it needs to keep producing food.

As many as 24 billion cherries must be plucked from their trees over an eight-week season. The window in which a cherry can be picked for sale is tiny. And every single one needs to be harvested individually, by hand.

The journalist Brooke Jarvis asks you to consider the cherry, and the highly skilled, poorly paid workers and labor needed to pick the fruit, in a sprawling, beautifully written piece for the magazine.

Here’s today’s Mini Crossword, and a clue: Second word of “The Star-Spangled Banner” (three letters).

You can find all of our puzzles here.

Thanks for spending part of your morning with The Times. See you tomorrow.

P.S. The Times won 38 awards for its print and digital infographics at the annual Malofiej International Infographic Awards, including Best of Show. See some of the impressive entries here.

David Leonhardt, this newsletter’s usual writer, is on break until Monday, Aug. 24.

You can see today’s print front page here.

Today’s episode of “The Daily” is about how teachers in the U.S. are responding to demands to reopen their schools this fall. On “The Argument,” Opinion writers discuss the future of the pandemic and the moral obligations of the Roman Catholic Church.

Lalena Fisher contributed to The Morning. You can reach the team at [email protected].


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