Last week, the Democratic national convention offered an inclusive and determined show of (virtual) unity in the fight to topple Donald Trump and, as candidate Joe Biden put it, to “overcome a season of darkness”. This week, “darkness gets their turn at bat”, said Stephen Colbert during a live recap of the first night of the virtual Republican national convention.
Before the convention aired, the Republican party decided not to adopt a 2020 platform; instead, it affirmed a one-page resolution pledging undying support to Donald Trump. “That’s not a party, that’s a cult!” said Colbert, imagining the president offering “bleach-flavored Kool-Aid” to Republican voters.
The convention’s first evening – a spectacle of speeches from a variety of cable news staples such as the former UN ambassador Nikki Haley, the Ohio congressman Jim Jordan and the Florida congressman Matt Gaetz – was a “long midnight of the soul”, said Colbert. “No one should have to watch any of this. It was like watching a snake devour the Republican party.”
A particularly hard watch was Donald Trump Jr’s girlfriend and “vengeful banshee who will haunt your dreams”, Kimberly Guilfoyle, who “screamed this message of hope”.
“If you want to see the socialist Biden-Harris future for our country, just take a look at California!” Guilfoyle said.
“I’m trying to look at California, but there’s fire everywhere because of climate change,” Colbert replied, adding that California’s governor, Gavin Newsom, is Guilfoyle’s ex-husband. “I’m guessing that was not an amicable split,” Colbert said. “But I think I know who was awarded custody of the rage, because when it came to the president’s agenda, she had some very nuanced screams.”
“President Trump believes in you, he emancipates and lifts you up to live your American dream!” Guilfoyle shouted, as if leading a worship service, to an empty room. “Ladies and gentlemen, leaders and fighters for freedom and liberty and the American dream, the best! is yet! to come!”
Colbert hid under his desk. “Is the loud lady gone?” he asked, reappearing. “I’m scared! This is the first time in my life I’ve had to turn down the volume on C-Span.”
On the Daily Show, Trevor Noah turned his long-running If You Don’t Know, Now You Know explanatory segment to the internet conspiracy turned quasi-religious phenomenon known as QAnon.
The Daily Show
What is QAnon? If you don’t know, now you know: pic.twitter.com/beLTmBukSg
QAnon has been loosely described as a conspiracy theory, but “it’s more like a political cult built around a conspiracy theory and then crossed with a book of word search puzzles”, Noah explained, and that’s before getting into its outlandish beliefs. For the sake of brevity, QAnon followers generally believe a secret cabal of global elites run a child pedophilia and cannibal ring, which will be exposed by a mysterious Q figure supported by Trump, who posts cryptic messages online.
“This conspiracy theory is crazy even for conspiracy theories,” said Noah. “You’re telling me Trump is doing something heroic, but instead of taking credit for it, he’s keeping it a secret? That is the most unbelievable thing I’ve ever heard.”
So, how did this theory take off? “Partly, it latched on to real fears about the real phenomenon of human trafficking,” Noah explained. “Partly, it fed off ancient antisemitic tropes about elitists who drink the blood of children, but mostly, it was just the good ole internet.”
QAnon originated on the forum 4chan but largely exploded on Facebook, where algorithms pushed those searching for wellness and alternative health down Trumpist pathways that dumped into QAnon groups, the largest of which grew by 700% in four months.
“Yep, that’s how this shit always goes on the internet,” said Noah. “It feels like at this point, the entire purpose of Facebook is to funnel everyone toward the craziest conspiracy theories possible.
“This also shows you how much the internet is ruining our brains,” Noah added, especially since once people funnel into QAnon, they don’t find their way back out. The denial is a “classic sign of cult behavior”, said Noah. “Once you’re invested in enough something, you will make any excuse for its failures. So please, don’t be looking for logic here. That’s not how cults work.”
It’s now impossible to dismiss QAnon as an internet-cordoned phenomenon, Noah continued, since its violent messages have spilled over offline: the FBI classifies QAnon as a potential domestic terror threat; followers have allegedly been involved in a foiled presidential assassination plot, a California wildfire and an armed standoff with authorities in Arizona. A believer recently won a Republican primary in Florida, so Congress might have a QAnon follower in its ranks next year.
Trump has, of course, fanned the flames, telling reporters that QAnon followers are “people that love our country”.
No one should be surprised that Trump won’t discourage a “violent delusion that’s spread from the internet to prey on vulnerable people, and infect an entire political party”, said Noah. “Donald Trump was always going to embrace QAnon. The surprise is that he’s president.”
Originally published: 2020-08-25 11:14:17