Instant Opinion: ‘QAnon - the online cult that is a danger in the real world’
Your guide to the best columns and commentary on Thursday 30 July
The Week’s daily round-up highlights the five best opinion pieces from across the British and international media, with excerpts from each.
1. David Aaronovitch in The Times
on the pro-Trump deep-state conspiracy theory
QAnon: This online cult is a danger in the real world
“A decade ago I published a book about modern conspiracy theories. I had studied dozens of them, from the forged Protocols of the Elders of Zion (guess who the infernal plotters were in that one), to ‘9/11 was an inside job’, via the hidden bloodline of Christ. On the way I looked at “the government is poisoning us” memes, baby sacrifice themes, beliefs in a secret world government, Manchurian candidates, Obama being an undercover Kenyan, accusations that the Clintons had taken to murdering their aides and that the Queen is actually running the world’s banks. All were absurd but some were actually demented. Now imagine one gigantic, compendium theory which puts all of these together — that’s QAnon... Once a phenomenon on the fringes of the internet, the QAnon movement moved mainstream onto Twitter, Facebook and YouTube. The latter was facilitated by the algorithm which recommended videos to users of the platform. So in the same way that I get Marianne Faithfull recommended if I’ve asked for The Dubliners, so people looking at Princess Diana videos might end up with QAnon, and down the rabbit hole they went. (Remember the rabbit?)”
2. Tom Peck in The Independent
on the PM’s new communications strategy
Piers Morgan vs Rylan Clark-Neal: the runners and riders to be Boris Johnson’s personal spokesperson
“You would struggle to find anyone even within the Conservative Party with much of a clue what Boris Johnson is meant to be good at beyond being a ‘good communicator’. So it must be surprising for the party to find on its own website a £100,000-a-year job ad to be Boris Johnson’s official ‘communicator’. According to the advertisement, it will be the lucky candidate’s job to ‘communicate with the nation on behalf of the prime minister’. To take on, in other words, the very last bit of the job that hasn’t already been delegated elsewhere. In fairness to the PM, it does state that the role will also involve ‘communicating complex issues clearly and concisely to the public’, so it’s not merely that he can’t be bothered to do it himself – it’s actively beyond him. If communicating things clearly and concisely is required, a man who simply cannot resist describing his bike as his ‘velocipede’ is quite right to be bringing in external expertise.”
3. Afua Hirsch in The Guardian
on the UK police’s race problem
Who will hold the police to account for racist acts that criminalise a community?
“I and so many others have written over the years about a litany of other cases in which black people have been treated with monstrous contempt. Victims are unlikely to be able to identify who exactly within the broader criminal justice system is responsible for these further wrongs. Take the family of Mzee Mohammed, only 18 when he died on the floor surrounded by police officers and security guards. They were given a decomposing body to bury. And what about Sarah Reed, whose story is hauntingly told in 1500 & Counting? She was a vulnerable woman who was assaulted by police in 2012. A few years later she was imprisoned, and went on to take her own life behind bars... Who will hold the police to account? Not the criminal justice system, which has never convicted a single officer for murder or manslaughter, in spite of numerous critical inquest verdicts, reports, reviews and inquiries.”
4. Nicholas Kristof in The New York Times
on the protests in Portland
Help Me Find Trump’s ‘Anarchists’ in Portland
“I’ve been on the front lines of the protests here, searching for the ‘radical-left anarchists’ who President Trump says are on Portland streets each evening. I thought I’d found one: a man who for weeks leapt into the fray and has been shot four times with impact munitions yet keeps coming back. I figured he must be a crazed anarchist. But no, he turned out to be Dr. Bryan Wolf, a radiologist who wears his white doctor’s jacket and carries a sign with a red cross and the words ‘humanitarian aid.’ He pleads with federal forces not to shoot or gas protesters. ‘Put your gun barrels down!’ he cries out. ‘Why are you loading your grenade launchers? We’re just standing ——’ And then they shoot.”
5. Angela Epstein in The Daily Telegraph
on swabbing airport arrivals
Rather than play quarantine roulette, why don't we test people at airports?
“Am I missing something, or doesn’t it make perfect sense to test arrivals flying into this country for coronavirus?... Of course, I’m nothing more than a humble armchair epidemiologist. But bigger fry than me have echoed the call for airport tests, not least Heathrow chief executive John Holland-Kaye - who believes airports should be allowed to test for coronavirus. Otherwise, he says, Britain is just playing a game of ‘quarantine roulette.’ Culture secretary Oliver Dowden immediately offered a sniffy and unhelpful rebuttal, telling the BBC that coronavirus testing at airports is not a ‘silver bullet’ to stop the virus. Did anyone say it was? This is all about comparative risk. And there’s more chance of the virus spreading through breaking enforced (and unnecessary?) quarantine. In the current situation, quarantine will rely on the robust moral fibre and strong civic duty of those returning from Spain.”