What follows is not my explanation. Rather, it is what I learned from the superb Dutch weekly satirical TV show “Zondag met Lubach” about QAnon. I’ll tell you, if they’d English-subtitle it, it’d become a worldwide hit. (I wrote this the day after the program aired. A week later, it has English subtitles and 1.6 million views, which is extremely high for a Dutch clip.)
They showed and explained how a sizeable number of the down-to-earth Dutch speakers suddenly began accusing the authorities of running a blood-of-children-drinking pedophiles ring and all media of brainwashing us to hide this horror from our knowledge or awareness. They shout: “cancerous mongol,” “traitor,” and “rapist of children” to ‘explain’ their stance. (‘Traitors’ traditionally is used by the Dutch to typify Nazi sympathizers during WW II.) We see civilians threatening politicians with murder because they are “betrayers of the people.” They scream “murderer” to the PM of the Netherlands. The harassment is so bad that he can’t go by bike to work anymore. In their opinion, only Trump can save us. Trump, was that not from another movie? If a nation that, in vast numbers, believes in UFOs and Hollywood goes crazy is one thing, but the cool, calm, collected Dutch?!
The Dutch show left out that much of this complot theory roots in classical anti-Semitism. (This is clearer in the anti-vaxxers who contradict the science of vaccination.) But it shared a solid explanation for how this went wrong: Google and YouTube caused this. And, therefore, just they can stop this.
I’d add, or politicians can help/force them to stop this. And the free media can help/force politicians help/force these Internet giants to stop this.
Spoiler alert: This is how it works (and they show it): You stumble upon fake news. After viewing it, the algorithm calculates what (fake) news relates to this. In no time, you only get a cluster of similar lies without opposing facts.
The creation of QAnon was unintended. I really think so. But Trump supporting them is not. And therefore unforgiveable, so to speak.
Google has changed tremendously, over the years. We still think that it gives information but more and more, it pushes ads instead. See here:
In related news, Facebook and Twitter have decided to cut down on fake news (or news that appears to be non-factual) and bigotry. Their new policy has caused mistakes and is not yet that consistent, but the attempt is there.
However, a very wise senior legal commentator from a worthless daily newspaper now comments that their interference “to stop people posting a news story has major ramifications for global media, democracy and regulators.” In MHO, years of allowing and helping these lies to circulate powerfully and globally has been much more troubling for democracy.
And now we’re at it, how are, in 2020, terrorists, Nazis, and other hate groups able to maintain a presence on the Internet and the Dark Web?
And then, there is no truth to the claim that we have total freedom of the press, just because everyone can post anything everywhere. Listen to this.
De facto Limits to Freedom of the Press in Democracies
It used to be that even where there was complete freedom of the press, not everyone could get their word out. You had to have money. Money for an editor, layout, printing, for spreading and advertising. Or a publisher. Or a newspaper. Freedom of the press was still just for the rich and famous.
For decades, I was known in English-speaking Israel as a letter-writer to the Jerusalem Post. When I met new people, they would often step back at hearing my name, look at me in delight and say: “From the Jerusalem Post? I always read you. So often you are in the paper.” Spooky. What they didn’t know was that I was in the Post under six different names. (Also: Nieweg, Haguenauer, and Van Tijn (the 3 maiden names among my grandparents.) My letters were so often approved that the editor begged me to give her more names so that it wouldn’t seem as if I was the only one writing good letters. Who knows how many more there were hiding under a ray of pseudonyms? It was clear that she didn’t only ask this from me.
What also was unknown to readers was that only one-in-seven of my letters, on average, made it in. Six-out-of-seven I wrote for the wastebasket. One day, I wrote 10 letters on one paper, to ”force’ her hand to let me in. She replied: “That’s not fair. What do you want from me?” What I wanted? To be in the paper every day. My blog allows me. The Times of Israel accepts 99.0% of my posts. I was reminded of my Jerusalem-Post fame time, when this week, I commented on a money-grabbing untrue headline of it online. They changed the headline and removed my first comment that apparently was too sharp for them. Nothing ever changes.
The Internet was to bring the free press to everyone. Well, if you could afford a computer and Internet connection, but that was more widespread than family weapon shields and huge bank accounts.
But we see that the ability to spread one’s thinking is still limited:
- There is so much nonsense published and believed (aliens are coming/have arrived). It’s still hard to make a dent.
- The rich still get promoted by publishers and ad campaigns.
- Web site editors now decide who is sophisticated and ‘important’ enough to be published and promoted.
Sometimes someone is in luck and their opinion goes viral. But it’s as rare as a newspaper delivery boy becoming a millionaire in the US. It happens. But it’s used as ‘proof’ that one can beat Capitalism and class society. While in truth, 99.99% of the population cannot. All candidates for the presidency are still millionaires (yes, also Bernie). You don’t have money, you will get published but no one might read you.
Also the reverse’s true. It used to be: if you couldn’t afford a newspaper, no news for you. Now we see certain news sites having a paywall for all, or most, or some of their content. Or, if they have no ads for your region, “Oops, this video is not available in your region.” So, let no one fool you. The elites, the haves vs. the have-nots still exist. On every level.
Last but not least, the media should serve the public, not themselves. The most obvious reader abuse is a sexy, interesting heading that is not truthful to content. Or a ‘curious’ headline that wants to force you to click on it for you to find out what it is about. It’s theft of the reader’s time for the profit of the news sites. A more subtle way, employed by many Israel-centered media, is to bring to the attention a new product, website, or event but not provide a relevant link. Or, to include a YouTube clip but block it from being seen on YouTube. This all, to trap the reader onto one’s site for as long as possible. Or, this trick (JPost): When you get toward the end of an article, the link renews itself, registering two people clicked on it. Or, this trick (Arutz 7): After one paragraph, you need to click again to read the rest. Yes, news sites need to make money, but only to serve us. We’re not here to serve them. Don’t fool us. We see it and it doesn’t look good on you!