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HomeUSOpinion: QAnon has gone local, with strange repercussions in California's Shasta County...

Opinion: QAnon has gone local, with strange repercussions in California’s Shasta County and beyond


The Shasta County Board of Supervisors has “upset the county election process”, the Los Angeles Times reported last week, “terminating its contract with Dominion Voting Systems”. The county could choose to count the ballots by hand, which would likely delay results and promote further suspicion about the election. A supervisor said he had explored seeking the services of Mike Lindell, the pillow purveyor and prominent conspiracy theorist.

Shasta, a deep red county in the far north of California, has proven vulnerable to causes that are on the national fringe but are driven by the forces that supported Donald Trump’s false accusations of voter fraud. Militia members and other far-right activists spearheaded the removal of an all-Republican county board member last year and have since won a majority, leading to the official approval last week of suspicions. baseless on Dominion.

The current state of QAnon and related conspiracy theories are no exception to the old axiom that all politics is local. Since President Biden’s inauguration ended efforts to keep Trump in office, these theories have trickled from national to local politics, influencing local officials responsible for making crucial policies on voting, education and more.

The broad set of unsubstantiated beliefs known as QAnon portrays Trump as a messianic figure fighting an evil cabal of Democratic elites and Hollywood celebrities who rule the world and harass and murder children. In 2020, adherents merged surrounding “stop theft” allegations that Dominion-made machines had somehow changed outcomes in key states. The allegations arose in some states where Dominion machines were not even used.

A focus on Dominion’s nefarious ballot alterations and the company’s alleged origins in Venezuela (it’s actually Canadian) became a mainstay of Trump’s refusal to accept the election results. More than two years later, such conspiracies continue to pervade right-wing politics below the national level. At last weekend’s Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC), for example, featured speaker and loser in the Arizona gubernatorial race, Kari Lake, went on to argue that the 2022 election was stolen from her.

Such conspiracy beliefs have been promoted by far-right figures like Lindell and Trump lawyer Sidney Powell, and amplified by right-wing media outlets. My research found 97 candidates supporting QAnon in the 2020 primary, with California, Florida, Texas, and Arizona leading the country.

The campaigns and their supporters have been surprisingly successful in promoting belief at the grassroots level. surveys by Public Religion Research Institute and NPR/Ipsos have found that as many as one in three Americans believe in key tenets of the QAnon conspiracy theory. The echo chambers of the far-right media played a crucial role in achieving this level of acceptance of fringe beliefs. We know more about that thanks to Dominion’s $1.6 billion defamation lawsuit against Fox News.

After January 6, 2021, QAnon influencers turned to propaganda on key local issues, such as the content of K-12 education (especially “critical race theory”) and trans rights, which implies that studying race caused homosexuality and sexual dysmorphia, like me and sofia moskalenko describe in our recent book on QAnon. Much of this propaganda appeals to a Republican base comprising groups where QAnon theories have been enthusiastically embraced, including evangelicals.

Devotees were encouraged to act locally for greater impact. In particular, they have been encouraged to run for local offices, including city and county seats and especially school boards, which attract conspiracy theorists with the promise of extending their influence to future generations. From Michigan to California, dozens of local elected officials have promoted QAnon conspiracy theories like the one surrounding Dominion. Another California county, Kern, kept its Dominion machines last week only after much deliberation.

School boards across the country are now occupied by people whose social media is abuzz with calls for “patriots” and “digital soldiers” to join the movement and prophecies that nothing can.”stop what’s comingTime magazine investigated school boards in Michigan and Nevada and found, as one student put it, “conspirators or far-right radicals infiltrating the most basic unit of the American government.” Beyond their impact at the local level, these offices often serve as a springboard for state and national candidacies.

And beyond harming children’s education and the rights of trans people and other minorities, these theories undermine our democratic institutions. It should come as no surprise that since its inception in 2017, QAnon has been amplified by American adversaries such as Russia and China. Conspiracy theories about Dominion, stolen elections and a locally spread evil cabal are reflected in Russian disinformation campaigns at home and abroad. The theories have the same effect as some of Russia’s tactics during the 2016 presidential campaign, when its operatives created fake Facebook accounts to pit neighbor against neighbor, fuel protests and violence. on Both Sides disputes and undermine public confidence.

QAnon’s infiltration of local politics furthers the long-term global goals of malign foreign actors. Only by recognizing the hidden motivations and roots of these conspiracy theories can we begin to inoculate ourselves against them.

Mia Bloom is a professor of communication and Middle Eastern studies at Georgia State University, a fellow at New America’s International Security Program, and co-author of “Pastels and Pedophiles: Inside the Mind of QAnon.”

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