Reports from the Dystopian, Disinformation Beat

Ben Collins is a reporter for NBC News. He says he works the “dystopian beat”. By that, he means he follows the crazies, I assume mostly the radical right. This afternoon, he shared some of what he’s found:

Over the last few years, I kept in touch with some QAnon supporters through DMs [Twitter direct messages], checking in on them to see if they’d ever come out of it when their next doomsday came and went.

They’d typically first message me calling me a Satanic pedophile. I’d ignore it and ask questions.

Usually they would draw hard lines. A big one was D5, which everyone thought would be mass arrests on December 5th two years ago. Didn’t happen, didn’t matter.

It’s about belief, anticipation, an advent calendar. One day soon, their problems would be fixed.

I would check in the week after the failed doomsdays. They’d point to a Q post like scripture, and say some ridiculous event proved it was still happening. An earthquake somewhere, a service interruption on Gmail.

I learned something: these people don’t want to be humiliated.

So many Q people have staked their entire identities on this. There are no real-life happy endings with QAnon, especially true believers. Just constant embarrassment and almost surgical extrication from friends or family.

So they retreat back to Q forums and pray for executions [executions of Q followers to confirm their fears?].

There are a lot of QAnon influencers saying the 20th is their last stand, that if Biden is inaugurated they’ll admit they’ve been conned. But they won’t. They’ll equivocate and buck-pass. They’ll find secret patterns in his speech and say he was secretly arrested [what???]. It’ll continue.

QAnon is a deeply pathetic and embarrassing thing to believe. For believers, there is safety from that embarrassment in increasingly volatile and toxic online communities. Getting people out of it safely is going to be very hard, but important.

I’d reach back out to some of those Q people, but they’re banned from this site now.

They grew to like me. I wasn’t a Satanic, blood-drinking pedophile . . . they wanted to save me.

Because, remember, they think they’re the good guys.

Unquote.ย Meanwhile:

Online misinformation about election fraud plunged 73 percent after several social mediaย sitesย suspended President Txxxx and key allies last week, research firm Zignal Labs has found, underscoring the power of tech companies to limit the falsehoods poisoning public debate when they act aggressively.

The new research by the San Francisco-based analytics firm reported that conversations about election fraud dropped from 2.5 million mentions to 688,000 mentions across several social media sites in the week afterย Txxxx was banned from Twitter. . . .ย 

The research by Zignal and other groups suggests that a powerful, integrated disinformation ecosystem โ€” composed of high-profile influencers, rank-and-file followers and Txxxx himself โ€” was central to pushing millions of Americans to reject the election results and may have trouble surviving without his social media accounts.

Researchers have found that Txxxxโ€™s tweets were retweeted by supporters at a remarkable rate, no matter the subject, giving him a virtually unmatched ability to shape conversation online. . . . [The] disinformation researchers consistently have found that relatively few accounts acted as โ€œsuperspreadersโ€ during the election, with their tweets and posts generating a disproportionate share of the falsehoods and misleading narratives that spread about election fraud, mail-in ballots and other topics related to the vote [The Washington Post].