Is Lindsey Graham Trying To Use QAnon To Further The Right's War On Social Media? (Yes)
For a few years now, conservatives have been on about wanting to remove Section 230 of the 1996 Communications Decency Act, which prevents social media companies from being treated like publishers. What this means is that while Rebecca could maybe [definitely] be sued if I wrote a whole article accusing Lindsey Graham of having an adult baby fetish, if I knew it wasn't true and wasn't writing a satire, if I were to write it in a Twitter rant, Jack Dorsey could not.
The conservatives' "logic" is that if Twitter and other social media companies are allowed to moderate their sites and kick people off for hate speech or harassment, instead of letting everyone do and say what they want "like a town square" then they should be considered publishers and held responsible for everything people post on their sites. This would most likely lead to social media sites no longer being able to exist, because it would be impossible to moderate them on that level. It's a threat. It's "Let us scream racial epithets on your site or we will destroy you."
Of course, if one were to actually go into the middle of a town square and start screaming racial epithets or harassing passerby, then hopefully that's a town where they'd make you stop for "disturbing the peace."
Today, Vanity Fair published an interview with Lindsey Graham — who, to our knowledge does not have an adult baby fetish — in which he officially denounced QAnon as "batshit crazy." We are supposed to give him credit for acknowledging this, but denouncing a bizarre conspiracy theory about Donald Trump fighting a secret war against satanic pedophile elites is honestly the bare minimum. Granted, Trump can't do it, but he can't do a lot of things one might consider "the bare minimum."
Via Vanity Fair:
Well, QAnon is batshit crazy. Crazy stuff. Inspiring people to violence. I think it is a platform that plays off people's fears, that compels them to do things they normally wouldn't do. And it's very much a threat. But there are a lot of websites out there. How do you live in this world? So under Section 230 of our law [the Communications Decency Act], a social media company can't be sued for the content that they carry. I get slandered all the time on Twitter and other outlets. If the New York Times printed an article, I could sue them. If CNN said something about me that wasn't true, I could sue them. But Twitter and all these other sites can pass on the most scandalous information, you have no recourse. So how to fix this? I would like to remove Section 230 liability. That if you're going to have a social media site like QAnon or anything else, you spread this stuff at your own peril. So when this guy went into the pizza restaurant in Washington, because they alleged that Hillary Clinton was running a pedophile ring out of a pizza place in Washington. This guy took it seriously, went in with an AR-15 and started shooting up the place. Thank God nobody got killed. But the pizza owner under my theory, could sue QAnon for passing along garbage. That's a pretty dramatic step. But the only way I know to make people more responsible who run these websites is allow lawsuits when they go too far.
Really? Is that the only way?
I certainly don't think it is. QAnon isn't a social media site, it's a conspiracy theory. It would make more sense to sue those who spread this information than it would to sue social media sites themselves.
But Lindsey Graham is not gonna do that.
The point is that CNN is held to certain standards. You can't libel or slander somebody. You can't incite people. The First Amendment allows you to speak your mind, but it doesn't allow to yell fire in a movie theater. So these websites that we're talking about, hate-filled websites, some of the neo-Nazi websites, if somebody is hurt because of the actions these websites inspired, sue the hell out of them. Freedom of speech is one thing. Being able to attack each other's ideas is part of America. But what's the line? When you inspire people to commit acts of violence and turn on one another in a violent fashion, that's not free speech, that's criminality.
Yes, it's horrifying that people are committing acts of violence based on QAnon bullshit, and have been doing that for quite some time now. Unfortunately, this won't stop if Q is taken off of 8chan, because all of this crap now has a life of its own. There are people who believe fervently in it without ever having read a "Q drop" or even knowing what QAnon is.
If one really, really wanted to put an end to this, the best plan would really be to take it absolutely seriously. Because if Trump is allowing a Department of Energy employee (the DOE being the only department that offers a "Q Clearance") in his "inner circle" to spread state secrets on an unreliable image board where (perhaps ironically) people have been known to share child pornography then that's gotta be some kind of treason, right? According to the QAnon lore, all of this is being done with Trump's permission. So if Trump doesn't want to firmly denounce it, which he hasn't, he should be tried for treason.
This isn't about Lindsey Graham wanting to stop QAnon believers from shooting up pizza places. This is about using this QAnon shit — which Graham knows the Left is horrified by — to get conservatives something they have been desperately wanting for some time now. It's a smart gambit. Evil, but smart. He's hoping the Left will trade in something they have not budged on for years in hopes of getting to shut down QAnon. Hopefully we're smarter than he is.
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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