A year ago, Marjorie Taylor Greene was posting videos of herself standing under an umbrella in a muddy field outside the tiny town of Rockmart, Georgia, and seeking support for her primary race in Georgia. The posts got little engagement, receiving a few retweets and a few dozen likes.
Unraveling viral disinformation and explaining where it came from, the harm it's causing, and what we should do about it.
On Monday night, Greene, who was sworn in as a representative on Capitol Hill Sunday, was introduced to a crowd by President Donald Trump.
“I love Marjorie Taylor Greene,” Trump enthused, about the QAnon-supporting lawmaker, adding: “Don’t mess with her.”Trump was speaking in Dalton, a major carpet-manufacturing hub, at what was purportedly a campaign rally for Sen. Kelly Loeffler’s runoff race against Democratic challenger Raphael Warnock on Tuesday.But Trump barely touched on the Senate runoff during his speech, focusing once again on his own election failings, boosting baseless conspiracy theories, and mispronouncing the word “America.”
And while he gave Loeffler a 30-second appearance on stage, Trump handed Greene, who traveled to her home state from Washington D.C. aboard Air Force One, much more speaking time.Greene used that time to once again reiterate that she will oppose Congress’s counting of the Electoral College votes on Wednesday, and to warn that electing Democrats will result in socialism.Greene’s rise from obscurity has mirrored the mainstreaming of QAnon, the dangerous cult that claims Democrats and Hollywood elites are operating a cannibalistic, global child sex trafficking ring.While social media companies like Facebook, YouTube, and Twitter are primarily to blame for helping QAnon move from fringe message boards like 4chan and 8kun and gain millions of adherents, Trump has also played his part in giving the movement credence.Not only has Trump failed repeatedly to denounce QAnon, but as his hopes of securing a second term in office evaporated, he has increasingly embraced extreme right-wing figures who have openly supported the QAnon movement — like Greene.
Greene has attempted to distance herself from QAnon in recent months, but just as Trump has yet to directly denounce the movement she once called a “once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to take this global cabal of Satan-worshiping pedophiles out.”As well as tweeting “#GreatAwakening”—one of QAnon’s best-known sayings—to Alex Jones and calling Q “a patriot,” Greene previously posted videos detailing the evidence she believes proves Q is “the real deal.”And it’s not as if Trump can claim to be unaware of Greene’s affinity for QAnon.During a meeting at the White House in December, Trump brought up Greene’s support for QAnon and described the cult movement as people who “basically believe in good government” according to sources speaking to the Washington Post.Greene is the latest in a series of people Trump has surrounded himself with who have direct links to the QAnon movement, including disgraced national security advisor Michael Flynn; Ron Watkins, the administrator of fringe message board 8kun that hosts the creator of the QAnon conspiracy; lawyers Sidney Powell and L. Lin Wood, who used QAnon conspiracies as the foundation of their wildly unsuccessful legal challenges to election results; and former Overstock chief executive Patrick Byrne, who now promotes election conspiracy theories.
The influence these figures are having on the president was clearly seen during his phone call to Georgia’s Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger, during which he tried to convince the official to overturn election results by citing unfounded conspiracies that have emerged from the QAnon fever swamp.And Greene herself was among those once again pushing these claims of widespread voter fraud on Monday.When asked if she had any concerns about the conspiracies Trump shared on his call with Raffensperger, Greene doubled down.“I think our secretary of state has failed Georgia," Greene told CNN. “I believe our elections should be decertified.”But when it was pointed out to Greene that taking this route would mean she would lose her seat, as her election was on the same ballot, the freshman lawmaker quickly clarified: “We're just talking about the President's race.”Here’s what else is happening in the world of disinformation:
Joe M has long been one of QAnon’s biggest influencers and grifters, making money from believers by selling books and getting people to subscribe to his YouTube channel. But after the unhinged and completely baseless Twitter rant from pro-Trump lawyer L. Lin wood this week — which repeated many well-known QAnon conspiracies — he’s not happy.
A QAnon grifter is angry with Lin Wood for stealing his spotlight
In a Parler post, Joe M complains that Wood’s “Twitter account now consumes most of the oxygen of the truth movement because people are speculating you have privileged intel not available to grassroots truthers. Are your bombs leading somewhere new, or are you just repeating what we have been saying for years?”In a follow-up post, Joe M said he wasn’t “attacking” Wood, just wondering if he has some new information or was just being “red-pilled” — the term used to describe how regular people are converted to QAnon.
Sidney Powell, a former Trump lawyer who filed the infamous “Kraken” lawsuits in four states in an attempt to overturn their election results, could soon find out that using QAnon conspiracies as the basis of a lawsuit may not have been the best idea.Powell boosted the theory that machines supplied by Dominion Voting Systems were tampered with or hacked to change the result in favor of President-elect Joe Biden — all without any real evidence. Now Dominion CEO John Poulos says his company is planning on suing Powell for defamation and is looking at possible suits against Trump and others.
Dominion Voting Systems sues QAnon lawyer
Disinformation about the coronavirus vaccine has been rife on social media in recent months, and the real world cost was laid bare on Monday.Steven Brandenburg, a Wisconsin pharmacist and admitted conspiracy theorist, tried to ruin hundreds of doses of the coronavirus vaccine because he was convinced the world was “crashing down” and that the shots would mutate people’s DNA.
The real-world cost of COVID-19 disinformation
The Moderna vaccine is viable for 12 hours when not in a fridge, and Brandenberg left them unrefrigerated. Officials did administer some doses of the vaccine but admitted they were likely ineffective. The vials in question have been sent to Moderna for testing to prove they are ineffective before prosecutors can file charges against Brandenburg.The false claim that the vaccine will mutate people’s DNA has been one of the most persistent and widely shared pieces of misinformation on social media about the vaccine, and despite being debunked multiple times, it continues to spread.Brandenburg’s actions, which could have ruined as many as 500 doses, highlight just how dangerous anti-vaxx conspiracies can be at a time when vaccine roll-out in Wisconsin is facing enough issues.Over the past week, Wisconsin has reported more than 2,300 new cases per day with a test positivity rate of 35% — both increases over the previous week. It is also lagging behind when it comes to vaccine roll-out, listed 10th out of 12 states in the Midwest for getting a first dose of the vaccine to its residents on a per capita basis, according to data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. One local doctor told the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel that the rollout has been a “very bizarre, disorganized effort.”