How do we coax millions of Americans away from the edge of election conspiracy insanity?
If the past four years has taught us anything, it's that when you think things can't really get any nuttier, they totally can and will.
Case in point: Lin Wood's latest tweets.
Lin Wood is a lawyer who has filed or joined multiple lawsuits on behalf of President Trump in an attempt to overturn the 2020 presidential election. Wood has been an outspoken supporter of Trump and a forceful pusher of conspiracy theories—not only about the election, but about...well, just take a look.
Wood already made headlines a few days ago for suggesting Mike Pence should be executed by firing squad. Late last night, in a series of tweets, Wood lays out absolutely bonkers allegations against Chief Justice John Roberts and the world's "most well-known & 'elite' intelligence agencies."
I'm not fond of amplifying these kinds of batsh*t crazy rants, but considering how intertwined this individual is with the current legal actions of the president of the United States, and considering the fact that President Trump has retweeted this man's tweets just within the past month, it's important to understand the level of unreality that a significant portion of Americans are living in—or at least tacitly accepting.
Uhhhh https://t.co/bA5e8V9XjE— Andrew Feinberg (@Andrew Feinberg) 1609745155.0
In a series of tweets, Wood wrote:
"I believe Chief Justice John Roberts & a multitude of powerful individuals worldwide are being blackmailed in a horrendous scheme involving rape & murder of children captured on videotape.
I have the key to the files containing the videos. I have also shared this information.
This blackmail scheme is conducted by members of 10 of world's most well-known & "elite" intelligence agencies. One of those groups was hacked by a group known as Lizard Squad.
The blackmail files of rape & murder were obtained by this group & copy was provided to Isaac Kappy.
The blackmail targets are approached with a gun, a child, & a camera. The target is ordered to rape the child on video. The target is then ordered to shoot the child on video. The target is then owned & controlled by the blackmailers until blackmail evidence loses its value.
After Kappy received the hacked files from member of Lizard Squad, he gave files to one friend and the encryption key to another friend. He provided this information to his friends shortly before he was murdered in May 13, 2019. Members of Lizard Squad were jailed for hacking.
Jeffrey Epstein used this same blackmail scheme of child rape & child murder to either further his own interests or those of any intelligence agency with whom he worked. ALL who flew on his private jet or visited his island must be IMMEDIATELY interrogated & brought to justice.
I decided to post this truth on Twitter & Parler as wall exists around @realDonaldTrump that may have prevented me from getting this evidence to him. Kappy tried to deliver info to President but was then murdered. I do not know who Kappy gave it to for delivery to the President.
I have concerns that information from Kappy was not delivered to @realDonaldTrump & his effort to get it to President may have caused his death. I am aware that my life is now at great risk. But I put my faith in God. I prayed before I made the decision. I had to reveal TRUTH."
Let's pause for a moment here.
First of all, how is this even a thing that he believes? Someone just walks up with a gun and a child and a camera? What? Most of us who actually are not pedophiles would rather die than rape a child. And if someone handed us a gun to shoot a child, most of us would shoot the person trying to blackmail us instead. On a basic level, this is just dumb.
Second of all, every conspiracy theory sucks people in with grains of truth, so let's briefly get those out of the way. Lizard Squad might sound like a made-up thing, but it was actually a real hacking group that successfully disrupted XBox and PlayStation systems in addition to committing other hacking crimes. A bunch of members were arrested in 2014—but their arrest had nothing to do with intelligence agencies.
Former Lizard Squad member Vinnie Omari, when asked about Wood's tweets, told the Daily Dot, "That sounds fucking insane, bro. I'm not going to lie to you. That sounds like the type of stuff that I usually laugh at people for bringing up in conversations."
Omari said he'd never heard of Wood or Kappy and that the group never hacked any government entities or agencies. "We never hacked anything in regards to any of these billionaires like Jeffrey Epstein or any government officials," he said.
That won't convince the conspiracy theorists, of course. (We'll get to that in a minute.) At this point, you may be wondering who the heck Isaac Kappy is. Kappy was an actor and musician who tragically died by suicide by jumping off a bridge onto a freeway in Arizona in 2019. He left lengthy messages on social media before his death, expressing remorse for who he had been, stating that he had spent thousands of hours diving into QAnon conspiracies, talking about how he's abused himself with drugs and alcohol, and apologizing to people he'd hurt.
But instead of his death being a cautionary tale, QAnoners like Wood claim that Kappy didn't die by suicide but was murdered because this obscure actor had the elusive evidence proving all of the cabal nonsense that he was trying to get to the president. As if that makes sense.
Moving on. Wood continued on Twitter.
"I would never make an accusation without having reliable source for it. Stakes are too high. So I did due diligence to validate the accuracy of the shocking information I am revealing tonight. I am entirely comfortable that you are learning the truth. A truth that explains much.
I have no idea extent of blackmail scheme of raping & killing children but given the number of agencies involved, the hundreds of thousands of missing children, & the otherwise inexplicable actions of many powerful officials, celebrities, & business leaders, I fear the worst.
The number of missing children worldwide & in United States is staggering.
So I have now conveyed the truth as I know it. There has been a rising chorus of people questioning my sanity in recent days. Now you can understand why. I have no idea what will be done to me or said about me in coming days, but I will rest well tonight for having spoken truth.
Many issues in our world may be tied to blackmail scheme I described tonight, including bizarre behavior of officials & judges in recent election. @realDonaldTrump must appoint special prosecutor to thoroughly investigate. We need answers. We must investigate. For the children."
Ah yes. For the children. I've written about how the QAnon child trafficking conspiracy theories are doing real harm to actual anti-trafficking organizations that work to protect vulnerable missing children. QAnon is not in the business of saving children from anything.
Oh, and there's also this:
If asked to turn over the encryption key & other information I have to law enforcement, I will only agree to provid… https://t.co/fziauiOl6n— Lin Wood (@Lin Wood) 1609751220.0
To be perfectly clear, this is insane. That should be totally obvious, but at this point, even obvious truths need to be stated clearly, unequivocally, and constantly. This man has a million followers on Twitter and has been retweeted by the president, who is a known peddler of conspiracy theorists himself. We also now have QAnon adherents in Congress, so this stuff can't be ignored. As NBC reports, nearly all of Trump's election fraud allegations come from the QAnon world, and he has hoards of MAGA followers who have bought it all hook, line, and sinker. At this point, no one can be all in for Trump and not, by extension, support these crazy conspiracy theories. They are all inextricably linked.
New from me and @oneunderscore__ and @janestreet. Trump's expert rehash of QAnon and 4chan conspiracy theories in… https://t.co/lr8BRdbAMb— Brandy Zadrozny (@Brandy Zadrozny) 1609793648.0
So how did we even get here? And more importantly, how do we get out?
It was predictable, to be honest. During the 2016 election, there were an alarming number of comments that referred to Hillary Clinton being part of an evil global cabal of pedophiles who operate in secret and communicate in code via email. The rumors included various details about Satanic rituals (which involved bizzaro accusations of harvesting something called adrenochrome from children), Obama ordering 65,000 hot dogs (which was supposedly code for little boys), and child trafficking taking place in the basement of a popular D.C. pizza parlor (which doesn't even have a basement). Even though none of it made the least bit of logical sense and most of us just rolled our eyes at it all, a shocking number of people truly believed it—and still do.
I assumed at the time that it was just a dumb disinformation campaign to hurt Clinton's chances of winning the election (which it was) and that it would die out after the election (which it didn't). I think most reasonable people believed the same thing, which was a mistake. For four years, we've watched these conspiracy theories grow and spread. For four years, I've personally seen more and more people get sucked into the unreality the person/people behind QAnon created. For four years, people have continued to claim that well-known politicians and A-list celebrities are about to be arrested, that they're all going down soon, that Donald Trump is the great savior who will finally blow the lid off of this vast conspiracy and save the world from the machinations of the evil elite. For four years, the big reveal has always been just around the corner. Just wait. (That's literally the entire premise of QAnon. Just wait. Just wait. Just wait. It's coming. It's coming. It's coming.)
The quackiness was never going to just fade away. The fringe element just kept growing and spilling into right-wing media. And like a snowball that gathers size, speed, and strength as it tumbles down a mountain, the quackiness was becoming more and more dangerous.
When a guy took his AR-15 to Comet Ping Pong Pizza to save the children from the clutches of Clinton and her cabal of child traffickers and found nothing, that should have been the end of it. When the D.C. police called Pizzagate "a fictitious online conspiracy theory," that should have been the end of it. But it wasn't. Because that's not how these things work.
There's a reason conspiracy theories are called rabbit holes. Once you start detaching from reality, it's really hard to come back. Real news is fake news. Fact-checkers can't be trusted. Every reasonable explanation gets rejected. Anyone who denies the unreality is in on the conspiracy. From an objective outside stance, none of it makes sense, but within that world, it all makes perfect sense. Just wait, you'll see.
From a psychological point of view, the draw is pretty simple. It's a connect-the-dots mystery with the added thrill of a gambling addiction—this time, it's really gonna happen. It's a thrilling chase with the carrot of Trump saving the world from the evil elites always dangling just out of reach as you chase it. It has everything we've become accustomed to in our favorite movie plots—intrigue and deception, bad guys you'd never suspect, and an unlikely hero who we just know is going to swoop in at the finale to bring it all down. Just you wait.
The problem is that we're not living in a movie. This is real life, and our country is being damaged in real ways by having too many of its citizens swept up in an alternate reality, which isn't reality at all.
The dilemma we face now is what to do about it. This stuff isn't going to go away just because Biden gets inaugurated on January 20th, and it's destructive to the fabric of society no matter who is in charge. For goodness sake, I've had people accuse me of being a pedophile because I wrote about how child sex trafficking organizations want people to stop sharing QAnon conspiracy theories. That doesn't make sense, of course—but how am I supposed to sit down and have a reasonable conversation with someone who believes that? We can have disagreements about government and policy and social issues, and we can debate those things passionately even. But we have to exist in the same objective reality in order to have that reasonable exchange of ideas.
I'm not sure how we get there, but I have a few ideas. We need to have psychologists along with political pundits weighing in on the daily news shows. We need to see the opinions of cult deprogramming experts in addition to legal analysts as we talk about what happens from here. We need to be talking about how to convince millions of our fellow Americans to step back from the edge of the rabbit hole and how to extricate them from it once they've fallen down it.
The issues are important, but we can't have the important conversations we need to have about the issues without a basic shared reality, and right now, we're so not there.
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