Here's What Banning QAnon From Facebook Will Do ... And What It's Probably Too Late To Do
This week, Facebook released a statement announcing that they were officially banning QAnon pages, groups and Instagram Accounts. And it only took them a little over three years to do it!
Starting today, we will remove any Facebook Pages, Groups and Instagram accounts representing QAnon, even if they contain no violent content. This is an update from the initial policy in August that removed Pages, Groups and Instagram accounts associated with QAnon when they discussed potential violence while imposing a series of restrictions to limit the reach of other Pages, Groups and Instagram accounts associated with the movement. Pages, Groups and Instagram accounts that represent an identified Militarized Social Movement are already prohibited. And we will continue to disable the profiles of admins who manage Pages and Groups removed for violating this policy, as we began doing in August.
Thursday, in the Wonkette Chat Cave, Liz asked me if I thought it would have the same effect as deplatforming has had on other far-right nonsense — like Milo and what have you. I have since given it some thought, and if you want the truth, I really don't think it will. But that doesn't mean that it's entirely useless to do it now. At this point, anything will help.
The bad news is that it's been spreading for years now and those who are familiar enough with it don't really need to ever explicitly mention "QAnon" in order to make it clear that they are in fact talking about QAnon. They have approximately 1200 other codewords and dogwhistles and what have you. In fact, since social media sites have started to ban QAnon-related nonsense, many of them are already getting hep and avoiding using the term at all.
Additionally, in the last year it's spread well beyond Q themselves.
Sure, there are the people who eagerly anticipate every "drop," who talk about being bakers and following the White Rabbit and all of that other nonsense. The people who spend all of their free time on the Voat QResearch pages. The ones who are really serious about it. There are lots of them, actually.
But then there are the Republican politicians adopting their little #WWG1WGA ("Where we go one, we go all" — it's a quote from a not-very-good 1996 Jeff Bridges movie called "White Squall") hashtag because they think it sounds good and patriotic. There are people of all political stripes — perhaps most particularly the apolitical — getting in on the "Save The Children" nonsense and spreading QAnonsense everywhere without having any idea about where all of this is coming from or what QAnon even is.
QAnon is to many recent conspiracy theories what Theosophy and Madame Blavatsky are to modern New Agey crap. Just like, for the most part, your friend who is super into crystals and astrology probably has no idea what an Ascended Master is or whatever, the gals in your Wine Moms Facebook group talking about children being trafficked in Wayfair cabinets are not all religiously devoted to Donald Trump and probably don't follow Q.
It may be too late to truly put a cork in it, but it can't hurt. Sure, some QAnon people will go "Oh look we're being oppressed, just as it was foretold! This proves Q is real!" — but the way this stuff works is that literally everything, to them, is proof that Q is real and they are on the right track.
Where it's still useful is the fact that the groups are really where people get fully indoctrinated, and if those go away or are at least more difficult to find ... that's gonna be a really good thing for people. I can't tell you how often I see people involved in this crap saying they don't actually even care if it's true, because the real QAnon was the friends they made along the way.
Part of the appeal of this "movement" is the community itself. When people get involved, they get love bombed and they get to join this community, this movement that feels bigger than themselves, where everyone accepts them and thinks they are great. They spend hours in these groups and on Twitter, congratulating themselves on how clever they are and talking about how everyone else is a sheep like they're teenagers who just discovered punk rock.
This kind of stuff doesn't sell as well without a community, because in and of itself it's not actually all that interesting — which is usually the case for these sorts of things. Very few people would look at any of the videos of Marshall Applewhite, the Heaven's Gate guy and go "Oh, well, yeah. I can definitely see the appeal there." The appeal is never just the leaders, it's never just whatever they're saying, it's also the community and the feeling of belonging and the feeling of being special because you belong.
In that way, in the way that they may be able to drag fewer people in, and that some who are not fully devoted may get bored with it, it may do some good. But in the future, it would be super great if social media companies could put the kibosh on these kind of extremist movements a wee bit sooner.
Robyn Pennacchia is a brilliant, fabulously talented and visually stunning angel of a human being, who shrugged off what she is pretty sure would have been a Tony Award-winning career in musical theater in order to write about stuff on the internet. Follow her on Twitter at @RobynElyse