A bizarre conspiracy theory promoted by QAnon followers has taken hold on Twitter, according to a new report from The Hill. The theory claims that Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg is, in fact, dead, and some Twitter users are flooding the network with posts demanding proof of life.
The 86-year-old fell ill in 2018, undergoing cancer treatment up until late December. She has kept busy, however, frequently appearing in public, authoring opinions, and regularly returning to the bench to hear oral arguments. But internet conspiracy theorists, QAnon followers in particular, claim that Ruth Bader Ginsburg has been dead for weeks.
The Democrats are, according to the conspiracy theory, covering her death up in order to prevent President Donald Trump from filling yet another Supreme Court seat with a conservative judge like Brett Kavanaugh.
"Love the creepy hand to the right by Ruth they always make stupid photoshop mistakes. Like a freudsche slip. #RuthBaderGinsburg is dead," a Twitter user wrote, echoing what appears to be the prevailing sentiment on the furthest fringes of the conspiratorial online right. Not even videos featuring Ruth Bader Ginsburg are real, according to the theory, they are all doctored and part of a broader anti-Trump hoax.
As The Hill notes, it comes as no surprise that this conspiracy theory has taken hold among QAnon followers -- the majority of them seems to believe that Donald Trump is battling the deep state, a cabal of evil satanists, and that he has instructed someone with Q-level clearance to drop hints on message boards -- but it appears to be spreading faster due to the fact that a number of high-profile conservative media personalities has referenced it.For instance, Fox & Friends once accidentally aired a graphic saying the justice had died, and former White House aide Sebastian Gorka seemingly promoted the theory when he suggested that Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg "has to make her official appearance" at Trump's State of the Union address.
YouTube videos promoting the conspiracy theory have amassed tens of thousands of views, according to the report, and thousands of tweets -- mostly from QAnon followers -- reference the bizarre theory.
No matter how many times Ruth Bader Ginsburg appears in public, and no matter what she does, the conspiracy theorists will refuse to accept reality, according to experts.
Mark Fenster, a law professor at the University of Florida and author of Conspiracy Theories: Secrecy and Power in American Culture, explained that Ginsburg's recent health issues, combined with the fact that the Supreme Court is perceived to be a secretive institution, generate and amplify such conspiracy theories.
Joseph Vitriol, a postdoctoral fellow at Harvard University and conspiracy theory researcher, pointed out that statements such as Gorka's appear to have injected the theory into the bloodstream of more mainstream right-wing circles.
"Conservatives who believe in this conspiracy believe in it for that function -- to justify the belief that Democrats are dishonest and nefarious. And that can function to make conservatives feel more vindicated in the perception they have of Democrats," he explained.