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QAnon Research: October 11th, 2022
Protest, YouTube, and everything you want to know about tripcodes
“QAnon” seems to continually fade into and out of popular discourse in the mainstream press, but it’s undeniable that its peripheral (and central) communities of election denial and anti-Semitism warrant further examination. If people are aware of research, research opportunities, organizations, or events that speak to QAnon’s far-right ties, please share them for future dissemination. For now, this month’s newsletter contains some great new research, with a spotlight on the latest from Q Origins and the Eradicate Hate Summit. Here are some of the questions posed and answered:
Do people from different political parties remember January 6th differently?
What is a conspiracy theory and why does it matter?
Does social media use and conspiracy belief predict participation in political protest?
What is masculinity’s role in political unity for far-right populist leaders?
What do conspiracy theories (about Bill Gates) look like on YouTube?
Much of the information posted here would be difficult to find without the contributions of our submitters, so we please ask that you submit to our Google form to keep everyone in the loop. We also encourage people to comment on posts on the website and to always feel free to reach out to us. To grow the community, please invite anyone who might be interested by sending out a link to this newsletter:
We look forward to your submissions. Take care!
Highlight: Q Origins Project on QAnon’s Identity and Support for Xi Jingping
If you’re not familiar with the outstanding archival and investigative work of the folks at the Q Origins Project…then that’s okay because you are now. Here’s the latest:
Report: How a Baffling Mistake Revealed Q’s Identity [Link]
Opening: After an 18 month absence, Q, the mysterious figure whose posts (or “drops”) inspired the QAnon conspiracy movement, has finally returned to posting on 8kun (formerly known as 8chan). However, a number of serious technical errors made at the same time by 8kun’s administrative staff have lifted the veil of anonymity that previously protected Q. While the site admins’ mistakes don’t let us identify who has posted as Q in the past, we can now authoritatively say that the Q poster who is active in 2022 must be either one of the administrative staff at 8kun or someone working closely with them.
Report: White Hat, Black Hat, White Hat: QAnon Sentiment Towards Xi Jinping, March 2018 – April 2022 [Link]
Lynn Vandrasik, Robert Amour, and Al Jones
Opening: Despite the general splintering of the QAnon movement, 8kun’s /qresearch/ board is still going strong. While traffic on the imageboard has waned over time, it still regularly draws over 300 posts an hour and over 1000 unique active posters every three days, according to the site’s self-reported activity statistics. This is notably active for any imageboard, making /qresearch/ still the most active hub of Q discussion outside of Telegram (and perhaps Truth Social). This piece will focus on /qresearch/’s perception of Xi Jinping, President of China and Chairman of the Chinese Communist Party. To date, the QAnon community’s affinity for Xi Jinping has received almost no attention. But it’s one of the most surprising things about QAnon culture.
“Partisan Bias in False Memories for Misinformation about the 2021 US Capitol Riot” in Memory [Link]
Dustin P. Calvillo, Justin D. Harris, and Whitney C. Hawkins
Abstract: Memory for events can be biased. For example, people tend to recall more events that support than oppose their current worldview. The present study examined partisan bias in memory for events related to the January 6, 2021, Capitol riot in the United States. Participants rated their memory for true and false events that were either favourable to their political party or the other major political party in the United States. For both true and false events, participants remembered more events that favoured their political party. Regression analyses showed that the number of false memories that participants reported was positively associated with their tendency to support conspiracy beliefs and with their self-reported engagement with the Capitol riot. These results suggest that Democrats and Republicans remember the Capitol Riot differently and that certain individual difference factors can predict the formation of false memories in this context. Misinformation played an influential role in the Capitol riot and understanding differences in memory for this event is beneficial to avoiding similar tragedies in the future.
“What is a Conspiracy Theory and Why Does it Matter?” in Critical Review [Link]
Joseph E. Uscinski (firstname.lastname@example.org) and Adam M. Enders
Abstract: Growing concern has been expressed that we have entered a “post-truth” era in which each of us willfully believes whatever we choose, aided and abetted by alternative and social media that spin alternative realities for boutique consumption. A prime example of the belief in alternative realities is said to be acceptance of “conspiracy theories”—a term that is often used as a pejorative to indict claims of conspiracy that are so obviously absurd that only the unhinged could believe them. The epistemological standard often involved in this indictment, however—the standard of “obvious” falsity—invites subjectivity in its application, because what is obviously false to one person can be common sense to another. This is not just a truism; considerable research suggests that people’s political beliefs, in general, and their acceptance or rejection of conspiracy theories in particular, tends in large part to be determined by partisan, ideological, and other priors.
“Conspiracy Beliefs, Misinformation, Social Media Platforms, and Protest Participation” in Media and Communication [Link]
Shelley Boulianne and Sangwon Lee
Abstract: Protest has long been associated with left-wing actors and left-wing causes. However, right-wing actors also engage in protest. Are right-wing actors mobilized by the same factors as those actors on the left? This article uses cross-national survey data (i.e., US, UK, France, and Canada) gathered in February 2021 to assess the role of misinformation, conspiracy beliefs, and the use of different social media platforms in explaining participation in marches or demonstrations. We find that those who use Twitch or TikTok are twice as likely to participate in marches or demonstrations, compared to non-users, but the uses of these platforms are more highly related to participation in right-wing protests than left-wing protests. Exposure to misinformation on social media and beliefs in conspiracy theories also increase the likelihood of participating in protests. Our research makes several important contributions. First, we separate right-wing protest participation from left-wing protest participation, whereas existing scholarship tends to lump these together. Second, we offer new insights into the effects of conspiracy beliefs and misinformation on participation using cross-national data. Third, we examine the roles of emerging social media platforms such as Twitch and TikTok (as well as legacy platforms such as YouTube and Facebook) to better understand the differential roles that social media platforms play in protest participation.
“Masculinity and Sexuality in Populist Radical Right Leadership” in Politics & Gender [Link]
Nik Linders, Stefan Dudink, and Niels Spierings
Abstract: Research shows that masculinity and sexuality are pivotal to the leadership and success of the populist radical right (PRR). In particular, normative conceptions of masculinity, as seen in gendered nationalism, have been argued to be important to the appeal of PRR parties. However, the supply side of this dynamic remains understudied. To fill this gap, this article uses critical discourse analysis to analyze the role of masculinity and sexuality in the self-positioning and envisioned hegemonies of the most successful Dutch PRR leaders: Pim Fortuyn, Geert Wilders, and Thierry Baudet. The Dutch case is particularly insightful as it presents a diverse array of PRR parties in one country context. We found crucial similarities and differences between the discourses of these leaders. Our findings suggest that masculinity and sexuality, while constitutive at the party level, are largely negotiable or nondefining for the larger party family. These findings problematize often-made identifications of PRR politics with a one-of-a-kind conservative ideology of gender and sexuality.
Report: “Where Conspiracy Theories Flourish: A Study of YouTube Comments and Bill Gates Conspiracy Theories” from Harvard Kennedy School Misinformation Review [Link]
Lan Ha, Timothy Graham, and Joanne Gray
During the Covid-19 pandemic, YouTube introduced new policies and guidelines aimed at limiting the spread of medical misinformation on the platform, but the comments feature remains relatively unmoderated and has low barriers to entry for posting publicly.
We studied a dataset of 38,564 YouTube comments, drawn from three Covid-19-related videos posted by news media organisations Fox News, Vox, and China Global Television Network. Each video featured Bill Gates and, at the time of data extraction, had between 13,000–14,500 comments posted between April 5, 2020, and March 2, 2021.
Through topic modelling and qualitative content analysis, we found the comments for each video to be heavily dominated by conspiratorial statements, covering topics such as Bill Gates’s hidden agenda, his role in vaccine development and distribution, his body language, his connection to Jeffrey Epstein, 5G network harms, and human microchipping.
Results suggest that during the Covid-19 pandemic, YouTube’s comments feature may have played an underrated role in participatory cultures of conspiracy theory knowledge production and circulation. The platform should consider design and policy changes that respond to discursive strategies used by conspiracy theorists to prevent similar outcomes for future high-stakes public interest matters.
Event: Eradicate Hate Summit
In late September, the Eradicate Hate Summit hosted speakers, government officials, anti-hate organizations, and researchers on the forefront of extremism. I have nothing to add except that there were some good panels, which you can find on their YouTube channel.