Well, that certainly didn’t take very long, did it? The Washington Post reports that Elon Musk’s tweeted invective about US House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s husband and White House infectious disease adviser Anthony Faucci has “injected new energy into the jumbled set of conspiracy theories known as QAnon.”
Specifically, according to Post technology reporter Drew Harwell, Musk has used his platform to spread conspiracy theories that line up with QAnon’s:
The billionaire has spread bogus theories about the violent attack on House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s husband to his 120 million followers, and he called for the criminal prosecution of infectious-disease expert Anthony S. Fauci. He has thrown around baseless accusations about adults sexualizing children, helping stir up an angry online mob against Yoel Roth, a former Twitter safety executive Musk praised in October for his “high integrity.” [links in the original]
Just how weird this is getting to be comes through as Harwell notes that on Tuesday Musk “tweeted a message with an emoji that many people interpreted as saying ‘follow the white rabbit’,” which QAnon supporters took as a coded message. Said Harwell:
Musk mocked the suggestion that the tweet could be interpreted negatively but offered no clarification. Among QAnon promoters, though, the message was clear: Musk was speaking to them.
One QAnon-amplifying account on Telegram with 118,000 followers, known for spreading a bogus claim that Russian fighters were targeting “U.S. biolabs” in Ukraine, said the tweet was only his latest flirtation with QAnon ideology.
“Elon called out Fauci for creating [covid-19], [is] calling out the woke hive mind, is paving the path for 2020 to be nullified and Trump reinstated … and now he’s directly quoting Q,” the account said. “Elon is an Anon,” the account added, using the term QAnon disciples call themselves. [Link in the original]
My take on it: This stuff would be harmless and goofy if Musk didn’t have such a huge platform, and if supposedly responsible people like the governor of Florida and the Republican House leadership weren’t buying into the conspiracy theories. As Twitter’s new owner, Musk has a gate-keeping responsibility; he is failing it. Period. End of paragraph. End of story.
Fauci said in an interview with podcaster and CNN talking head David Axelrod that he has been forced to lay on extra security for himself and his family since the Covid-19 pandemic was politicized, but he is more than willing to testify before potentially hostile congressional committees. Axelrod said, quoting Faucci:
He says he’s very comfortable with the contributions he’s made, the decisions he’s made. He says he’s ready to testify before Congress. The House Republicans say they’re going to call him. He said that gets the Brooklyn up in him, and he hopes it’s a constructive review and not just a political exercise.
In the meantime, Elon Musk keeps blathering on. I’m inclined to think he’s basically a whiz kid who doesn’t realize what he’s gotten himself into by going out and buying a media platform; who has no clue about the role of mass media in society; and who is, at this point, too arrogant to learn from his mistakes. Says Harwell of the Post:
Musk has never explicitly supported QAnon, and some of his closest allies say they doubt he believes some of the wilder things he says online. One person in Musk’s inner circle, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss Musk’s views, said he uses the claims merely to win the internet’s most prized currency: attention. “He wants to muck it up,” the person said.
But in QAnon circles, Musk’s ambiguity and plausible deniability have been seen as a strategic way for him to subtly push their dogma into the mainstream. A QAnon-boosting account with 165,000 followers on Truth Social, Trump’s social network, wrote Monday: “At this rate, Elon is on pace to start posting Q drops to millions of normies and there’s nothing anyone can do to stop him.”
Asked for his thoughts about QAnon, Musk responded in an email: “lol.”
But none of this is a laughing matter.
Citation. Drew Harwell, “QAnon, adrift after Trump’s defeat, finds new life in Elon Musk’s Twitter,” Washington Post, Dec. 14, 2022 https://www.washingtonpost.com/technology/2022/12/14/qanon-musk-revival-twitter/.
[Published Dec. 15, 2022]