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QAnon, Tampa and Trump: Not All Conspiracy Theories Are the Same

August 18, 2018 in Blogs

By Paul Rosenberg, Salon

Conspiracy theories motivate voters on both sides of the aisle — but with strikingly different results

On Aug. 3, two days after Trump’s Tampa rally served as a kind of “coming out” party for enthusiasts of the QAnon conspiracy (according to which Trump is totally in control, working secretly with Robert Mueller to put the entire Democratic Party leadership in prison — probably Guantánamo), political scientist Joe Uscinski, co-author of “American Conspiracy Theories,” along with Joseph Parent, tweeted:

It struck me as an odd tweet in a number of ways, not just because QAnon itself is so obviously newsworthy, particularly with this public display, but because the rise of conspiracies on the left is historically unsurprising, as Uscinski’s own book shows, and because the left-wing conspiracy theories cited in the stories he linked to seem far less coherently developed into a widely-shared alternative reality.  

The Vox story, for example, was a severe critique of Nancy MacLean’s “Democracy in Chains,” which, it should suffice to note, has had nowhere near the impact of classic conservative conspiracy texts such as “A Choice Not An Echo” or “None Dare Call It Treason” in the 1960s, or Pat Robertson’s “The New World Order” in the 1990s — all of which were far more removed from reality.

Indeed, another story — at the Atlantic — expressly denied any left-right equivalence: Before we go on, let me try to quiet the cries of “False equivalence!” before they begin: No, these personalities and publications do not yet wield the same influence in the Democratic Party that their counterparts do in the GOP. But ignoring them would be a mistake.

That sort of balanced perspective is what I would have expected from Uscinski, given the findings in his book, which as I mentioned here in March 2016, “looked at letters to the editor to the New York Times from 1890 to 2010, and found that the villains in conspiracy theories were more often on the left when a Democrat was president, and on …read more


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