Tuesday, 9 February 2021

QAnon and Black Lives Matter are cults born in the social media


QAnon is the clearest example of a cult born on social media: there is no way it would have reached the size it did without social media.' 

So says Stanford University's RenĂ©e DiResta, who is is researching online conspiracies. 

Black Lives Matter is another clear example, but does not worry most researchers at famous American universities. 

They probably approve of the BLM movement as a spontaneous movement protesting against injustice, though there was nothing spontaneous about it and the injustices in question were spurious and based on misinformation on social media. 

The expert class is very frightened of the public and the power the social media give the public, but it is not the possibility of a left-wing revolution that worries them. The spectre that haunts them is not the spectre of Communism, although the Black Lives Matter movement is explicitly Marxist, but fascism. 

But even more what frightens them is conservatism.


  1. I am surprised at the persistent false parallels. Floyd's murder was anything but spurious. The movement that grew from it was indeed organized, but there is nothing particularly conspiratorial about that. In contrast, QAnonsense is built on a series of lies, culminating in the Big Lie. That is certainly fascist.

  2. Does it have any connection with Mussolini's ideas really? Why not permit stupid malevolent ideas to be freely expressed? BLM long predates Floyd but is a virus which went into remission after someone in the BLM crowd killed some policemen. The idea that black people are being murdered by the police for racist reasons is unproven and unlikely isn't it? The police kill considerably fewer black criminal suspects in proportion to the numbers arrested than white suspects and the elephant in the drawing room is the number of black and white people murdered by black people.

  3. I meant BLM is a cult born on social media. This is unarguably true. I don't see it as a conspiracy theory. Conspiracy theories are not ipso facto unfounded though I steer clear of them usually. For a real conspiracy see the lead story in this week's 'Time'

    1. Conspiracy theories are not ipso facto unfounded though I steer clear of them usually.

      I agree. There are real conspiracies. Organisations like the CIA and MI6 and the US State Department engage in real conspiracies.

      The problem is that believing in conspiracy theories leads people inexorably down the rabbit hole of madness. People end up believing that everything is explained by conspiracy theories and once you accept one conspiracy theory that is semi-plausible you're likely to start accepting crazier and crazier conspiracy theories.

      If you want to maintain your sanity you have to approach conspiracy theories with extreme scepticism. Sadly a lot of people don't do that. They don't ask themselves if a conspiracy theory makes any actual sense. If it appeals to them on an emotional level they believe it.

      Unfortunately conspiracy theories have largely taken over movements that once seemed vaguely promising (such as the dissident right) and have now entirely discredited those movements.

    2. I have never read Kerouac. I should have done so at 20. But this quotation comes to mind.
      '“...the only people for me are the mad ones, the ones who are mad to live, mad to talk, mad to be saved, desirous of everything at the same time, the ones who never yawn or say a commonplace thing, but burn, burn, burn like fabulous yellow roman candles exploding like spiders across the stars and in the middle you see the blue centrelight pop and everybody goes “Awww!”'

  4. Thank you for giving me this opportunity to comment. Discussing here in a more leisurely way is preferable to Facebook, which seems so hectic and unsatisfying.
    I am not sure BLM has achieved cult status, but if so, that may lead to its undoing. Where it differs from QAnon, in my view, is that BLM is plausibly based on social injustice and discontent associated with police (mis)behavior.
    QAnon, on the other hand, is made out of whole cloth. It is a social movement fueled by grievance, ignorance and superstition. America has had similar episodes in the past. The emotion underlying the grievance is genuine, but the remedies are not. QAnon’s staying power will be tested by how many of its adherents manage to limp from one apocalyptic disappointment to another: 3rd November, 6th and 20th January (and now, it seems, 4th March). It was intemperate of me to refer to QAnon as fascist; but in the hands of a demagogue, it can be a useful device for creating ill.
    You should know that I am not keen on black militancy, abhor the riots and violence of last summer and have my misgivings about the competence and motives of a number of big-city Democratic mayors.
    I am happy to discuss the statistics supporting the BLM narrative separately. What fascinates me is that apologists for the police seem to focus on the wrong data. It reminds me of the dog that did not bark.

    1. As well as Black Lives Matter, other cults include #MeToo and, for ultras who don't accept Brexit, #FBPE. QAnon and #FBPE fortunately turned out to be harmless. Social media is a good place for a new religion to start. In fact the anti discrimination religion flourishes online but it had gripped the world shortly before the internet became in common use and goes back to the early 1960s.

    2. The world is mad. The Cold War gave us something to believe in even though religion was in decline. Now diversity and fairness are what people use as a substitute for God.

    3. I have not really followed the Floyd death on principle. The principle being that I don't see why the world outside the USA should take an interest in such a thing. The "medical examiner" (which sounds like a coroner) said it was homicide but murder has not been proven, the defendant is innocent until proven guilty and it looks astonishing to me that they have charged him with murder at all, which requires intention to commit GBH. I very much hope he gets a fair trial. I am not sure he will.
      We remember the defendants in the Rodney King case were not guilty.
      There is of course not the faintest reason to imagine that the police were motivated by racism.

  5. There's always been a handful of crazies, fanatics, extremists and conspiracy theorists. In the past nobody took much notice of them. They were dismissed as harmless lunatics. But the internet allowed them to make a lot of noise and made them appear to be much more significant and much more of a threat than they really were.

    To some extent I think that's what has spooked liberals (I mean liberals in the American sense) and the political Establishment. For example there are neo-Nazis online. There have always been neo-Nazis. Their numbers have always been minuscule and they're just sad pathetic losers. But the internet has suddenly made people aware of their existence.

    It's the same with conspiracy theorists. They used to be sad loners who lived in trailer parks and wore tinfoil hats and people thought they were amusing. Now they get to promote their crazed conspiracy theories all over the internet and suddenly they seem threatening.

    And the internet has allowed really lunatic conspiracy theories to propagate. Which is a worry since there are quite a few sad crazy people out there who are vulnerable to nonsense like QAnon.

    It's therefore not surprising that not just the political Establishment but also ordinary people have become frightened. The crazies are not a genuine threat but they seem frightening. And people don't like to be frightened.

  6. The conspiracy theories that are dangerous are the ones pushed by influential people. The theory that there is "systemic racism" in the UK sounds rather like a conspiracy theory to me.

    1. The conspiracy theories that are dangerous are the ones pushed by influential people.

      True. Global warming is a prime example. The current anti-China hysteria in Australia is another example.

      But conspiracy theories are very dangerous to the political Right because the conspiracy theories pushed by the far right have discredited the Right. They have made the Right look like a bunch of crazies.

      People like the QAnon loons have succeeded in making Trump supporters look like dangerously deranged drooling idiots.

  7. Before the Internet people made a song and dance about the danger of fascists. The Internet hasn't changed that very much but it does mean political points of view can be published easily. Free speech and democracy therefore frighten the left very much, but even though there is very little sign of fascism or Nazism having any significant support.

    1. The Internet hasn't changed that very much but it does mean political points of view can be published easily.

      The internet has changed things enormously because it has given the total crazies a voice.

      I believe in free speech but free speech on the internet has allowed totally insane fanatical (and disturbing) political points of view to be expressed. To me (and I'm guessing for you as well) that's just the price you pay for having free speech and it's a price worth paying.

      But most people do not consider it to be a price worth paying. There is widespread and increasing public support for a crackdown on free speech. A recent survey in the US showed that there is massive support among highly religious people for the idea of depriving "religious extremists" of free speech.

      The sad truth is that most people do not and never have supported free speech. Most people will say they support free speech, except for...

      And they will then give you a list of the people who should not have free speech.

      The internet has increased most people's distaste for the idea of free speech.

      Freedom is not important to most people and it never was important to them. Most people are in favour of draconian lockdowns and would be quite happy to see people who disobey lockdown orders sent to gaol.

      Most people value safety and social conformity much more highly than freedom. People want to be told what to think.

    2. The faintest of all human passions is the love of truth.
      A.E. Housman
      It depends - you live in Australia, I in Romania. Socialism in the West weakened belief in freedom, since its purpose is to limit freedom for the sake of material comfort. In Romania freedom of speech is considered important because Romanians were until recently deprived of it. A lot of people now think they gain from restrictions on freedom of speech because they are scared of the masses. The worse the masses are ignored and mistreated by the managerial class, the more this will be the case.