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The Q-ing of the West

Although dangerous and vile conspiracy theories like QAnon are not new, the social-media and digital communication channels available for disseminating them certainly are. The only solution is to deploy the same technologies against the problem.

BERLIN – The emergence of the far-right QAnon cult in America has brought conspiratorial thinking to the forefront of global politics, particularly now that US President Donald Trump has offered his own oblique praise of the group. While the “Q” sign has become a familiar sight at Trump rallies, its appearance in Europe this August came as a shock and a wake-up call to liberal democracies everywhere.

As right-wing activists attending anti-government demonstrations in Berlin displayed their own Qs, some agitators claimed that Trump himself had just landed in the city to take control. And the event took a truly ugly turn when several hundred people stormed the stairs of the Reichstag (the seat of Germany’s federal parliament), waving the old imperial German flag with a “Q” inserted. A further weird twist was an appearance by the devoted American anti-vaccination activist Robert F. Kennedy, Jr. (the wayward son of the assassinated 1968 Democratic presidential contender, and the nephew of US President John F. Kennedy).

Among many other preposterous claims, QAnon supporters believe that Trump is engaged in an epic struggle against a global ring of liberal elite pedophiles who siphon children’s blood to extend their own longevity. The cult’s proliferation alongside the ongoing spread of Russian-sponsored “fake news” is probably no coincidence. Leading social-media platforms nowadays are awash in baseless claims, including allegations about secret plans hatched by the Chinese, the Iranians, or the American “deep state” to spread COVID-19 intentionally.