F Rosa Rubicondior: Trumpanzee News - How QAnon Lured Gullible People Into The Trumpanzee Cult

Sunday 25 February 2024

Trumpanzee News - How QAnon Lured Gullible People Into The Trumpanzee Cult

How people get sucked into misinformation rabbit holes – and how to get them out

From our perspective in Europe, it seems almost incomprehensible how the political situation in the USA has degenerated to such an extent that Donald Trump may be elected as POTUS again, despite the incompetence, buffoonery and criminality that characterised his earlier term.

What was once the 'shining beacon on the hill', which set the rest of the world an example (albeit more than a little idealised) of how democracy operated to produce a prosperous, egalitarian society where aspiration and enterprise were rewarded and the economy worked for all, has degenerated to warring factions, full of mutual hate and fueled by the most ludicrous and lurid conspiracy theories.

A significant number of adult Americans now believe there is a 'deep state' run by senior Democrats, that operates as a Satanic paedophile cult and that the serial adulterer, insurrectionist and crook, Donald Trump, was personally appointed by God as their saviour, because God obviously takes a keen interest in US politics and would pick someone with a narcissistic personality disorder to do his work for him. This god also promised to ensure Trump was reelected 2020, so the fact that he was kicked out of office must have been due to the same deep state/Democrat conspiracy to steal the election - and then hide the evidence where even God can't guide Trump's supporters to it.

And of course, the serious criminal charges Trump is now facing in a number of different US courts, are all part of that conspiracy, as are the judges, prosecutors and prosecution witnesses, so the more damming the evidence and the more charges he faces are evidence of the conspiracy, not evidence of Trump's guilt and unsuitability to hold elected office, let alone be in charge of a nuclear arsenal and the US public finances, and able to appoint senior members of the judiciary.

The only real conspiracy in the USA is that run by the shadowy and rabidly far-right, pro-Trump QAnon, so how did the QAnon cult lure so many people down their particular paranoid rabbit hole to the extent that they are prepared to take up arms against their fellow countrymen and stage an attempted coup d'etat in the name of patriotism?

What information do you have on the QAnon conspiracy theories and the part they played in the attack on the Capitol on January 6th 2021? QAnon is a baseless conspiracy theory that originated on internet forums in 2017. It alleges that a secret cabal of Satanic pedophiles controls the world and that former President Donald Trump is waging a secret war against them. The conspiracy theory gained traction among some segments of Trump supporters, leading to a large online following.

The QAnon conspiracy theory played a significant role in the events surrounding the attack on the U.S. Capitol on January 6th, 2021. Many of the individuals who participated in the attack were adherents of QAnon, and some even displayed QAnon paraphernalia or referenced QAnon beliefs during the insurrection.

QAnon followers were among the groups who propagated false claims of widespread voter fraud in the 2020 presidential election, which served as a rallying cry for the attack on the Capitol. They believed that the election was stolen from Trump and saw the events of January 6th as a last-ditch effort to overturn the election results and keep Trump in power.

While QAnon is just one among several factors that contributed to the attack on the Capitol, its influence highlights the dangers of online conspiracy theories and the potential for such beliefs to radicalize individuals and incite violence. The attack prompted increased scrutiny of QAnon and other extremist movements by law enforcement agencies and social media platforms.

Has a link between Donald Trump and QAnon ever been established?

There is no direct evidence to suggest that Donald Trump has any official connection to QAnon. However, during his presidency, Trump occasionally retweeted or made comments that were perceived as supportive of QAnon followers. For example, he retweeted accounts associated with QAnon multiple times and at times praised QAnon supporters for their enthusiasm.

Furthermore, some QAnon adherents have interpreted certain statements or actions by Trump as signals of support for their beliefs, even though Trump himself has not explicitly endorsed QAnon.

It's important to note that while Trump's rhetoric and actions may have emboldened some QAnon followers, it doesn't necessarily imply a formal connection between Trump and the conspiracy theory. Trump's relationship with QAnon remains largely one of speculation and interpretation.

In an article in The Conversation, Emily Booth, Research assistant, and Marian-Andrei Rizoiu, Associate Professor in Behavioral Data Science in the University of Technology Sydney, Australia explain how people get suckered into these cults. Their article is reprinted here under a Creative Commons licence, reformatted for stylistic consistency:

How people get sucked into misinformation rabbit holes – and how to get them out

Emily Booth, University of Technology Sydney and Marian-Andrei Rizoiu, University of Technology Sydney

As misinformation and radicalisation rise, it’s tempting to look for something to blame: the internet, social media personalities, sensationalised political campaigns, religion, or conspiracy theories. And once we’ve settled on a cause, solutions usually follow: do more fact-checking, regulate advertising, ban YouTubers deemed to have “gone too far”.

However, if these strategies were the whole answer, we should already be seeing a decrease in people being drawn into fringe communities and beliefs, and less misinformation in the online environment. We’re not.

In new research published in the Journal of Sociology, we and our colleagues found radicalisation is a process of increasingly intense stages, and only a small number of people progress to the point where they commit violent acts.

Our work shows the misinformation radicalisation process is a pathway driven by human emotions rather than the information itself – and this understanding may be a first step in finding solutions.

A feeling of control

We analysed dozens of public statements from newspapers and online in which former radicalised people described their experiences. We identified different levels of intensity in misinformation and its online communities, associated with common recurring behaviours.

In the early stages, we found people either encountered misinformation about an anxiety-inducing topic through algorithms or friends, or they went looking for an explanation for something that gave them a “bad feeling”.
Regardless, they often reported finding the same things: a new sense of certainty, a new community they could talk to, and feeling they had regained some control of their lives.

Once people reached the middle stages of our proposed radicalisation pathway, we considered them to be invested in the new community, its goals, and its values.

Growing intensity

It was during these more intense stages that people began to report more negative impacts on their own lives. This could include the loss of friends and family, health issues caused by too much time spent on screens and too little sleep, and feelings of stress and paranoia. To soothe these pains, they turned again to their fringe communities for support.

Most people in our dataset didn’t progress past these middle stages. However, their continued activity in these spaces kept the misinformation ecosystem alive.

Photo showing man and woman lying in bed in the dark, facing away from each other and looking at their phones.
Engagement with misinformation proceeds in stages.
When people did move further and reach the extreme final stages in our model, they were doing active harm.

In their recounting of their experiences at these high levels of intensity, individuals spoke of choosing to break ties with loved ones, participating in public acts of disruption and, in some cases, engaging in violence against other people in the name of their cause.

Once people reached this stage, it took pretty strong interventions to get them out of it. The challenge, then, is how to intervene safely and effectively when people are in the earlier stages of being drawn into a fringe community.

Respond with empathy, not shame

We have a few suggestions. For people who are still in the earlier stages, friends and trusted advisers, like a doctor or a nurse, can have a big impact by simply responding with empathy.

If a loved one starts voicing possible fringe views, like a fear of vaccines, or animosity against women or other marginalised groups, a calm response that seeks to understand the person’s underlying concern can go a long way.

The worst response is one that might leave them feeling ashamed or upset. It may drive them back to their fringe community and accelerate their radicalisation.

Even if the person’s views intensify, maintaining your connection with them can turn you into a lifeline that will see them get out sooner rather than later.
Once people reached the middle stages, we found third-party online content – not produced by government, but regular users – could reach people without backfiring. Considering that many people in our research sample had their radicalisation instigated by social media, we also suggest the private companies behind such platforms should be held responsible for the effects of their automated tools on society.

By the middle stages, arguments on the basis of logic or fact are ineffective. It doesn’t matter whether they are delivered by a friend, a news anchor, or a platform-affiliated fact-checking tool.

At the most extreme final stages, we found that only heavy-handed interventions worked, such as family members forcibly hospitalising their radicalised relative, or individuals undergoing government-supported deradicalisation programs.

How not to be radicalised

After all this, you might be wondering: how do you protect yourself from being radicalised?

As much of society becomes more dependent on digital technologies, we’re going to get exposed to even more misinformation, and our world is likely going to get smaller through online echo chambers.

One strategy is to foster your critical thinking skills by reading long-form texts from paper books.

Another is to protect yourself from the emotional manipulation of platform algorithms by limiting your social media use to small, infrequent, purposefully-directed pockets of time.

And a third is to sustain connections with other humans, and lead a more analogue life – which has other benefits as well.

So in short: log off, read a book, and spend time with people you care about.
The Conversation Emily Booth, Research assistant, University of Technology Sydney and Marian-Andrei Rizoiu, Associate Professor in Behavioral Data Science, University of Technology Sydney

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

Published by The Conversation.
Open access. (CC BY 4.0)
The paper by Emily Booth and Professor Marian-Andrei Rizoiu in Journal of Sociology gives more technical details but is sadly behid a paywall:

In response to the rise of various fringe movements in recent years, from anti-vaxxers to QAnon, there has been increased public and scholarly attention to misinformation and conspiracy theories and the online communities that produce them. However, efforts at understanding the radicalisation process largely focus on those who go on to commit violent crimes. This article draws on three waves of research exploring the experiences of individuals currently or formerly involved in fringe communities, including the different stages of investment they progressed through, and ultimately, what made people leave. We propose a pathway model for understanding contemporary online radicalisation, including potential interventions that could be safely made at each stage. Insight into the experience of being immersed in these communities is essential for engaging with these people empathetically, and therefore preventing both the emergence of violent terrorists and protecting vulnerable people from being drawn into these communities.

In summary, then, what draws people into these wackadoodle conspiracy cults is confusion about the world and a feeling of a loss of control - things are not turning out the way they are 'supposed' to. Diving into the rabbit hole then gives them a feeling of certainty where things begin to make some sort of sense again if you know the secrets and the feeling that this 'knowledge' gives them more control over their lives.

And of course it gives extremist fringe politicians like Donald Trump and his Repugnican's an opportunity to present themselves as championing the victims of these lurid conspiracies and their endorsement reinforces the delusion. "Everyone else is deluded but not me cos I know the secrets!". As 'insiders' they are on the right side and all the out-group are against them and either part of the conspiracy, or unwitting victims of it. And never a single shred of evidence for the conspiracy is ever produced, instead its very absence is 'proof' of a cover-up by powerful forces

So, deluded victims of the Trumpanzee/QAnon cult see it as their patriotic duty to overthrow the 'corrupt' institutions of accountable democracy, and impose their 'saviour' Donald Trump, in the White House where he will 'drain the swamp', and meanwhile he can head up his old crime syndicate again with impunity.

Ten Reasons To Lose Faith: And Why You Are Better Off Without It

This book explains why faith is a fallacy and serves no useful purpose other than providing an excuse for pretending to know things that are unknown. It also explains how losing faith liberates former sufferers from fear, delusion and the control of others, freeing them to see the world in a different light, to recognise the injustices that religions cause and to accept people for who they are, not which group they happened to be born in. A society based on atheist, Humanist principles would be a less divided, more inclusive, more peaceful society and one more appreciative of the one opportunity that life gives us to enjoy and wonder at the world we live in.

Available in Hardcover, Paperback or ebook for Kindle


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