I’m a little fuzzy on some of the details, but as far as I understand it, the QAnon conspiracy theory alleges that Donald Trump is secretly at war with a global ring of satanic pedophiles, and some shadowy agent codenamed Q is posting anonymous updates on the new developments. There is about as much solid evidence to support this idea as there is to support the claim that the Sandy Hook massacre was a hoax. Which is to say, there is no evidence. While this absurd theory has gotten a lot of media attention, a far more pernicious conspiracy theory than QAnon is tearing our country apart.
As is usually the case with these things, those advancing conspiracy theories tend to think that the existence of a certain fact is itself sufficient proof for the whole cinematic storyline they have concocted to explain it. Sandy Hook truthers point out that certain web pages — memorial sites, news articles, etc — were timestamped for before the attack occurred. This, along with a couple of other random data points, some true and some not, is supposed to be all the evidence needed that 20 dead children never actually existed, or were paid actors. A more logical explanation, of course, and one that doesn’t require a whole frantic succession of additional unproven assertions, is that timestamps on the internet are sometimes wrong, and there’s nothing terribly unusual or bizarre about that. In the case of QAnon, proponents can point to the existence of global sex traffickers like Jeffrey Esptein, and this somehow is supposed to strongly indicate that all of the other claims made by some random guy posting on 4chan are reliable. This is how conspiracy theories work. They feed on our credulity and our very human tendency to make sense of the world by drawing false connections, assuming motivations, and imagining, hoping, that reality is as decipherable and organized as it seems in Hollywood films.
These theories are baseless, and rather embarrassing, but the media wants to make them into something more. We are frequently told that Q acolytes are a danger to our democracy and that they may turn violent at any moment. Yet with extremely rare exception, that simply hasn’t happened and there are no signs that it will start happening. QAnon remains a constant threat to spam our Twitter threads and post wacky memes — other than that, there is no reason to fear them. But there is another popular conspiracy theory that should perhaps cause some anxiety among the same. One with many more adherents, vastly greater influence, amplified by mainstream voices in media and entertainment, and which has proven to be a real and catastrophic threat to our physical safety, our system of government, and the future of our democracy. On an intellectual level, it is no more credible than QAnon or Sandy Hook, and probably quite a bit less credible. Worst of all, this conspiracy theory has the advantage of not being widely and properly considered or labeled a conspiracy theory, which only increases its perceived legitimacy and causes it to grow and spread like mold in a flooded basement. I refer to the theory that agents of white supremacy — within law enforcement and without — are hunting and murdering black people all across the country.
After the grand jury decision was announced on Wednesday, a guest on MSNBC ranted against “state sponsored white supremacy and killing of black people” and claimed that “you can’t go anywhere if you’re black” because blacks are being murdered by racist whites with such regularity. As proof of this extraordinary claim — made, it should be remarked, by a black man who says he can’t go anywhere and yet is sitting comfortably on national TV launching wild accusations against the very country that protects his right to do so safely — the guest Jason Johnson mentions three unrelated cases over the course of two years. In two of the cases, Atatiana Jefferson and Botham Jean, the cops responsible were indicted. Neither case has any plausible connection to racism at all. He also mentions Ahmaud Arbery, whose killers have likewise been charged. This doesn’t come anywhere close to justifying the claim that black people “can’t go anywhere” for fear of being executed by “state sponsored” white supremacists. And he is of course completely ignoring the statistical reality that blacks are more likely to kill whites than the other way around, and that blacks are not significantly more likely to be killed during the course of an arrest than are whites. He has done exactly what conspiracy theorists always do, taking a few random facts or events, plucking them out of context, disregarding from the outset all alternative explanations for those facts, making no attempt to view them from a wider perspective, and constructing around them a far reaching narrative that creates more holes than it fills and requires more explanation than it provides.
Johnson may be making claims that are absurd, dangerous, and utterly lacking any factual basis whatsoever, but he is not alone out on that limb. This is the narrative presented by BLM and its mouthpieces. LeBron James says that black people can’t leave their homes because they are being “hunted.” There is no elected Democrat on the national stage who will publicly disagree with that proclamation, and most have made similar statements. The mainstream liberal media, Hollywood, the Democrat Party — all have joined with the delusional rioter in the street who speaks of a white supremacist conspiracy to exterminate innocent black Americans. None have offered any evidence of this conspiracy. They have only random anecdotes, all of which can be easily accounted for without recourse to imaginary genocides.
Unlike QAnon, this conspiracy theory has real world consequences. One whacko was motivated by the Pizzagate conspiracy theory to show up to the Comet Ping Pong pizzeria in DC and fire off three shots, hitting no one but damaging a wall and a door, and four years later this event is still trotted out as an example of the dangers of far right conspiracy mongering. Meanwhile, hundreds of thousands of people have been motivated by the “white supremacists are hunting black people” conspiracy theory to torch cop cars, destroy buildings, loot, vandalize, assault, and kill. If Pizzagate and QAnon have dangerous implications than the theory promoted by BLM is downright apocalyptic in its consequences. It is intended to be. Those who propagate it are actively trying to destroy the public’s faith in our institutions. One’s faith in our institutions will naturally tend to waiver if one seriously believes that they are run by genocidal white supremacists. And now the calls for the abolition of police can be heard even from mainstream voices, as well as the radicals and militants who prowl our communities every night, rampaging and pillaging, and feeling morally justified all the while because they are only tearing down a system that murders innocent black people in droves. This is the conspiracy theory that burns our cities, and tears our country apart, and threatens to damage us in ways that I fear cannot be undone.
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