How to stop QAnon from going global — a conversation with Thomas Huchon
2 questions and a prediction with a disinformation specialist
Thomas Huchon is one of the foremost specialists of disinformation. Thomas is a Paris-based journalist and director of noted documentaries Conspi hunter (2015) and Trumping Democracy (2017). He is also a lecturer at the Sciences Po Journalism School and a host of the “Anti Complot” weekly show on LCI news channel.
I reached out to Thomas to discuss Q Anon and its globalized rollout.
1- Q Anon has gone global and is weaponizing its disinfo to destabilize democracies in Europe and Asia after America. You’ve been studying disinfo, what’s an immediate method of slowing it down ?
If Q Anon has gone global in the u.s and is now spreading to other countries there’s no real immediate response or way to stop this down the problem is that we have a situation where social networks are more eager to create wealth for themselves than to protect what we could call the the the basis of democracy and of communication.
The only real way to slow down or stop the spread would be to force social media companies to be responsible for what they publish. This would force them to invest and create a real framework for human monitoring of what’s said on the network. If you really want to stop conspiracy theories and their spread, you really need to do some education and start media literacy and digital literacy programs in schools, but also for adults. We always imagine that fake news is a youth problem, because they get their news from social networks, but that’s not the whole picture, as most of the false information content that spreads online is spread by adults and mostly by people over 60 years old.
2- Q is the first in a series of leaderless movements that the web is sure to spawn, is there a playbook that you’re seeing re-used by other groups ?
We could say that the Q narrative is a textbook to create conspiracy theories: you could imagine everything that should never be done in journalism and you do it and that’s the QAnon movement.
What they are using is a kind of synthesis of everything that’s been said and done before. There is a huge influence of Alex Jones and Infowars in the q narrative, as well as a Breitbart influence.
There’s also a Christian influence, there’s the far-right influence, we can find the same kind of rhetoric in 20th century political movements, and so we can definitely see they are reusing lots of stuff. This is a grassroots movement because Q and the movement is made by believers and believers spread the information. It’s also kind of weird that they don’t have a leader yet everybody wants to see and listen to one.
This is kind of a cognitive disruption and it doesn’t bode well for the future of democracy.
A prediction for the next five years?
I would not go as far as five years in my field, I would only go to May 2022, next year and the second round of the presidential election in France.
I hope we won’t see the nightmare that’s getting prepared for us, but I’m starting to believe that France will not be protected by its institutions and its political culture from the populist wave that has struck every Western democratic country in the world for the last ten years.
I’m very scared of what could happen as those who should be defending us against the FAANG’s influence and democracy’s technological disruption are either: 1- unaware of what’s happening or 2- would rather use technology to push their own narrative and ideology. They are not ready to fight against how technology is spreading and changing the world without us being aware.
I’m very scared, I’m not going to lie and I hope that I’ll be wrong, but I’m starting to think that we should try and do something else.