Because I value my mental health and emotional wellbeing, I did not watch the CNN Town Hall for Donald Trump live on Wednesday. Of course, that means nothing in our interconnected, instant media universe, so I saw plenty of clips and recaps on social media. It went about as well as anyone who remembers January 6th could reasonably expect.
Donald Trump is a lying, cheating, civilly-liable sexual abuser who sincerely attempted to overthrow the government of the United States with little more than rhetoric and a cult of personality. In theory, he should be incarcerated pending trial for any number of crimes against the republic (or women), but while he remains maddeningly free, he should definitely not be given national or international platforms to do exactly what he attempted last time he had power. And if someone is going to be ridiculous enough to think it’s a good idea, they probably should put him in front of a hostile or skeptical audience and keep a seasoned anchor in charge of reining him in.
So naturally CNN filled the space with Trump-loving flunkies and set relatively untested Daily Caller alum, Kaitlan Collins, as his adversary. Quite predictably, a bad idea got even worse in execution.
Trump reiterated that his Vice President should have used fake powers to overturn the election, further defamed E. Jean Carroll after her successful civil case against him, attacked a judge (again), said outrageously false things about later abortion, rallied the crowd to attack the interviewer, and endorsed defaulting on the debt ceiling (because what’s a little global economic cataclysm between friends)? The entire experience was an hour-long Trump infomercial—and he didn’t even pay for it.
It was a fatal error for CNN to broadcast him, but even worse to host him without any effort to mitigate the very known and very obvious harms that are part of the Trump package. Sure, he’s appeared on state television Fox News before, but CNN is supposed to be serious, thoughtful, grown-up news. It’s still riding a (mostly undeserved) reputation for journalism from years of being where you’d turn for meaningful takes on important information. By giving the twice-impeached leader of an autogolpe space on the supposedly serious place for news, CNN gave him something that he could never get with a hundred primetime specials on conservative Pravda: mainstream validation.
CNN chief Chris Licht defended the move as representation for the large swath of Americans who agree with the likely-felonious former president. The obvious response to such an absurd argument is to point out that there are plenty of platforms for those people to vent their views, that just because people believe something doesn’t make it true, and because of the previous two points, not every perspective deserves internationally-broadcast live airtime. Especially if that perspective is associated with an attempted coup of representative government.
Trump might have been able to rant and rage across the conservative media universe without pushback, censure, or common sense, but to do so on CNN gives him and his views legitimacy he can’t buy. In just over an hour, the premiere cable news network gave ignominy the same stage as honor, lies the same weight as truth, and autocracy—with all the violence, oppression, and corruption it represents—the same respect due to republics.
There’s no telling what happens next, now that Trump has been laundered back into the mainstream. But CNN will always be responsible for reigniting the Trump Era, and all the consequences that come with it. Here’s hoping the newest version ends more easily and safely than the first.
By now you’ve probably heard vaguely about the QAnon conspiracy theory. Whether you’ve read a Facebook chain from a crazy uncle, seen an ominous “Q” sign bobbling from a sea of Trump supporters, or read about adherents getting arrested in one place and elected in another, it’s clear that QAnon has entered the mainstream. And we have to deal with it.
Read about QAnon’s beliefs, background, and danger to society below.
What Do QAnon Supporters Believe?
QAnon supporters believe that Democrats, celebrities, and billionaires are part of a secret group that controls the world while participating in pedophilia and human trafficking to harvest the blood of children to get a chemical that will make them live longer.
Further, there is an illuminati-like “deep state” group made up of people like Hillary Clinton, Barack Obama, The Pope, and Oprah Winfrey. According to Q, these people and all of their friends are fighting a war against Donald Trump, who was handpicked by the military to save humanity from these progressive cannibals and regularly sends coded messages to his supporters about his efforts.
This central theory has a number of offshoots, such as the theory that JFK Jr. didn’t die in 1999 and that 9/11 was not a terrorist attack. QAnon boils down to a combination of baseless conspiracies inspired by “Q’s” signals (keep reading) layered atop the 2016 theory that Hillary Clinton’s former campaign manager was using a pizza restaurant as a code for a child trafficking ring in his stolen emails (Pizzagate) as part of a much larger, more sinister plot to take over the world.
QAnon also pushes an explicitly antisemitic conspiracy theory that the Rothschild family controls all of the banks in the United States. The concept that a secret group of powerful people is ruling the world comes from a book called The Protocols of the Elders of Zion that was initially published in 1903 in Russia. The book contains a fake plan that Jewish leaders purportedly had for “world domination.” Its claims were frequently used to justify antisemitism, especially during World War II.
To achieve their aims, QAnon disseminates inflammatory and false information a range of issues, including social justice protests and the coronavirus, to undermine their perceived opposition.
This year, QAnon successfully pushed the theory that Wayfair was trafficking children as part of a larger criminal conspiracy into the mainstream. It disseminated a video featuring false and inflammatory claims about the pandemic that was viewed 8 million times.
QAnon has also infiltrated and promoted vague “Save The Children” efforts across the country, attaching their baseless claims to the real issue of child trafficking.
Tell Me More About This “Save The Children” Thing
Maybe recently you’ve seen an influencer or girl from your high school share vague child sex trafficking statistics with the hashtag #SaveTheChildren. These awareness-raising efforts were started in earnest long ago to fundraise for Save The Children — an international nonprofit working on a range of child issues, from hunger to education. But QAnon saw rising concern on social media for child sex trafficking — born largely of the Jeffrey Epstein case — as an opportunity to push their theory that a “deep state” is responsible.
QAnon’s strategy? Flood the internet with inflammatory misinformation connected to the #SaveTheChildren hashtag, invite concerned social media users to pro-QAnon groups, and then attempt to convince them of their broader, baseless conspiracy that people like Tom Hanks are eating children.
Where Did QAnon Come From?
Like most insane theories, QAnon originated on 4chan, an internet message board, with an anonymous user. User “Q” claims to be a high-ranking military advisor, and his posts started in late 2017 and have continued since then. Q’s posts are pretty much either different questions that lead his followers to the “truth,” or are full of predictions that rarely end up being accurate.
Now, QAnon is spread through Youtube videos, some social media platforms, and fringe message boards like 8Kun.
Why Is This Dangerous?
Because people actually believe this stuff. Possibly quite a lot of people: an internal investigation by Facebook estimates that millions of users have joined pro-QAnon groups. Earlier this year, the FBI labeled QAnon adherents and other “conspiracy theory-driven domestic extremists” as possible domestic terrorism threats, likely to justify violence if they sincerely believe the world is run by murderous pedophiles.
These aren’t just warnings: At the height of the “Pizzagate” conspiracy, an armed man fired into a Washington D.C. restaurant he believed was the center of a sex trafficking ring run by Democrats, endangering staff and patrons. A QAnon supporter was arrested in April for threatening to kill Joe Biden.
QAnon continues to gather legs as right-wing domestic terrorism is a growing threat. Yet most Americans don’t believe or even know what QAnon is. According to a poll done in March of this year by Pew Research, 76% of Americans have never heard of the conspiracy theory.
Facebook and Twitter have taken action against the QAnon, either banning accounts and groups that supported the theory, limiting the features that these users can access, and removing content from recommended groups and pages.
What Do Politicians Say?
Though you might think that political leaders from both parties have vocally opposed this dangerous conspiracy, certain far-right politicians have embraced or expressed support for its adherents. After all, it is 2020 and rationality is about as nonexistent as my social life.
There are still several candidates running for Congress this year who have supported and even advocated for the theory. The most well-known is Georgia’s Marjorie Taylor Greene, the Republican candidate for the House of Representatives who will surely win her seat. House candidate Lauren Boebert of Colorado and Senate candidate Jo Rae Perkins of Oregon have also been supportive QAnon.
Donald Trump has refused to denounce QAnon, instead suggesting he is grateful for its support.
“I don’t know much about the movement other than I understand they like me very much, which I appreciate,” he said on August 19.
The president also regularly retweets QAnon-invented misinformation about the coronavirus pandemic.
Share With Caution
In the case of the Wayfair selling children story and the vague “Save the Children” “campaign,” you might not know when something you’re retweeting or sending to your friends is part of a QAnon theory. That’s what makes this group so toxic and why it is so important to be aware of what you’re sharing on the Internet. Next time you click “add to story” on a mommy blogger’s plea to help victims of child sex trafficking, make sure you verify the details and vet the source.
A previous version of this article stated that the pizza shop targeted in Pizzagate was in North Carolina. Comet Ping Pong pizzaria is in Washington, D.C. A man from North Carolina attacked the shop.
Unless you’ve been hiding under a rock you’ve probably heard about the backlash Nike has received over choosing former pro Quarterback turned political activist Colin Kaepernick as the face of their “Just Do It” campaign. Since then people have been burning their Nike shoes and cutting the famous swosh off of their socks. (Why not just like…buy new socks instead? Who wants to wear socks with the brand cut off?) The mayor of Kenner, Louisiana decided to go one step further and released a memorandum banning Nike in his town.
WTF Is This memo?
Kenner’s Mayor Zahn sent a memo to
Leslie Knope The Department of Parks and Recreation stating, “Under no circumstances will any Nike product or any product with the Nike logo be purchased for use or delivery at any City of Kenner Recreation Facility.” This memo was never meant for the public to see (pro tip: every memo is a public memo now that the internet exists) but it was made public just days after its September 5th release. Cue a bunch of angry towns people, but minus the pitch forks and sub in some New Orleans Saints players repping Nike to support the town. Mayor Zahn claims that he did it to ensure that the taxpayer dollars weren’t going to be supporting a politically charged campaign, so that their money can be neutral. Nice try at a coverup, bro. Sadly for Mayor Zahn, the town cannot stop people from wearing their own Nike apparel in public, talk about freedom!
Why Are People Pissed?
In case you look forward to Sunday’s for Kardashian episodes and not football, Kaepernick is now known for taking a knee during the National Anthem at a preseason game while on the 49ers. That is how the whole debate over whether or not it is unpatriotic to protest during the National Anthem by peacefully taking a knee got started. The Mayor of Kenner has spoken out against the movement (he literally goes to football games and yells “IN KENNER WE STAND FOR THE ANTHEM!”) so no one is surprised that he was upset with Nike’s Kaepernick campaign. That Mayor Kenner clearly has no f*cking chill.
Why Are Players Taking A Knee?
The trend of kneeling in protest during the National Anthem started, but most certainly has not ended, with Kaeperknick. The act is meant to call attention to the rapid rate at which young black men are being killed at the hands of police forces in America. Now the issue has been turned into a b*tch slap in the face to the armed forces and America as a whole, despite the fact that the protest has literally nothing to do with the armed forces at all. While Kaeperknick may have landed the Nike campaign, he first had to give up his football career to stand by his beliefs. He refused to stand and the NFL ultimately black listed him, giving us some serious Rosa Parks vibes. The debate over this act has bubbled into elections and Texas’s Democratic Senate Candidate, Beto (pronounced “bae-to”)O’Rourke has the best answer to this divisive topic. Watch out Lyin’ Cruz!
Either way, Nike has made cash money since the campaign released even if stocks have taken a hit. As far as Kenner is concerned members of the City Council are looking to reverse the memo and chances are it won’t last long.
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