Russian Trolls Spread QAnon Conspiracy Theory

QAnon, Pizzagate, and other conspiracy theories were spread by an army of Russian trolls, according to an analysis of nearly 3 million tweets.

russian trolls qanon
Matt Rourke / AP Images

QAnon, Pizzagate, and other conspiracy theories were spread by an army of Russian trolls, according to an analysis of nearly 3 million tweets.

We are past the era of post-truth, and “what is dawning now is something even more extreme,” wrote the Economist in its investigation of the viral, uniquely bizarre QAnon conspiracy theory.

The concept of Q (a person or persons who claim to be an important official in the United States government with Q-level clearance) has transcended the cesspits of 4chan, pouring into the streets and creating a parallel virtual universe in which Donald Trump is saving the world from the pedophile deep state cabal of bankers and globalists.

According to BuzzFeed News, Q has an army of Russian trolls to thank for managing to penetrate the mainstream of the American collective consciousness.

Long after Donald Trump’s surprise victory, Russian trolls continued to promote conspiracy theories on social media, BuzzFeed News‘ analysis of nearly 3 million tweets published in an online archive shows.

The troll army promoted a host of conspiracy theories, from Pizzagate, over Barack Obama’s birth certificate, to QAnon. At least one of the accounts, according to the analysis, aggressively pushed the QAnon conspiracy theory less than two weeks after the first “Q” 4chan post, effectively elevating the theory from 4chan into the mainstream, via Twitter.

The account, @CovfefeNationUS, posed as a Trump supporter, and posted about 800 QAnon-themed messages over the course of a month, often using hashtags like #thestorm and #followthewhiterabbit. The account went dark on December 10, 2017.

russian trolls qanon twitter
  Chris O'Meara / AP Images

Professors Darren Linvill and Patrick Warren of Clemson University in South Carolina, who recently published a similar analysis, told BuzzFeed News that conspiracy theories “go hand-in-hand with extremism,” but sowing discord is the endgame.

“At the deepest level, the goal is to make our political differences and debates seem more extreme and insoluble than they really are. If they could make this about QAnon against Black Lives Matter, then they win.”

In a piece for NBC News, social and organizational psychologist Jan-Willem van Prooijen explained why “seemingly sane” individuals believe in bizarre conspiracy theories like QAnon. According to van Prooijen, while not novel or purely psychological, conspiracy beliefs such as QAnon are driven by three main psychological motivators.

  • Tendency to believe conspiracy theories: The belief in a different conspiracy theory is the single best predictor of conspiracy thinking. Meaning, those who believe in other conspiracy theories, are more likely to fall for the QAnon conspiracy theory.
  • Refusal to recognize the role of chance: Conspiracy theories reinforce the belief that nothing happens by coincidence.
  • Feelings of uncertainty, anxiety: These emotions are a a psychological warning signal of sorts, and help people make sense of what frightens them.

The analyzed tweets were linked to the Kremlin-backed Internet Research Agency (IRA). Based in Saint Petersburg, the agency is infamous for meddling in the 2016 election.