#sextrafficking | Why Fox News’ Jesse Watters seized on QAnon | #tinder | #pof | #match

The information well is poisoned. That’s the unfortunate reality about the American media ecosystem. The well is poisoned, and for proof, look no further than Snopes’ list of the “top rumors” that people are checking out. Stories about Dr. Anthony Fauci, Jeffrey Epstein, Black Lives Matter, and the Portland protests are at the top of the fact-checking site’s list.
Much of this poison — for example, a false, unhinged theory about sex trafficking at furniture retailer Wayfair — originates with posts on social media sites. But some of it comes from major media companies, as illustrated by cases at Fox News and Sinclair Broadcast Group over the weekend.
QAnon is a “virtual cult,” a conspiracy community with religious overtones, centered around sinister and debunked charges of human trafficking and other crimes. As CNN’s Paul P. Murphy wrote earlier this month, “its main conspiracy theories claim dozens of politicians and A-list celebrities work in tandem with governments around the globe to engage in child sex abuse.” The New York Times recently called it “a convoluted pro-Trump conspiracy theory about a ‘deep state’ of child-molesting Satanist traitors plotting against the president.”
But Fox News host Jesse Watters had no qualms about promoting QAnon on his Saturday talk show, during a chat with Eric Trump no less.
Watters criticized Twitter for taking action against QAnon lies on the platform.
“Q can do some crazy stuff, with the pizza stuff, and the Wayfair stuff, but they’ve also uncovered a lot of great stuff when it comes to Epstein and it comes to the deep state,” he said.
It was not the first time Watters invoked Q on TV, but it was his most explicit promotion of the cult yet. As reporter Yashar Ali wrote, “I can’t begin to tell you how validating this segment will be for QAnon followers,” or, he added, “how dangerous that is.”

Fox declined to comment all day on Sunday. After repeated requests for comment, the network issued a statement from Watters, which said, “While discussing the double standard of big tech censorship, I mentioned the conspiracy group QAnon, which I don’t support or believe in. My comments should not be mistaken for giving credence to this fringe platform.”

But Watters said on the air that “they’ve also uncovered a lot of great stuff,” which means he may believe parts of it.

Researchers have found overlap between QAnon adherents and supporters of President Trump, which is why multiple references to the conspiracy theory have worked their way onto Fox’s pro-Trump shows in recent months. When it happens, it’s a failure of both producing and hosting.

Sinclair backs down

Here’s another example of the poisoned well of information. Oliver Darcy writes: “Over the weekend, Sinclair abandoned plans to air a segment with the discredited ‘Plandemic’ researcher who suggested that Dr. Anthony Fauci was responsible for the coronavirus. After our Friday story prompted significant backlash, with concerned viewers contacting local stations expressing dismay, the company said Saturday that it would postpone and ‘rework’ the segment which was set to air on Eric Bolling’s weekly show.” On Monday, Sinclair announced that it is pulling the segment altogether.
This was also a failure of both producing and hosting. The producers irresponsibly plastered a banner on screen that said “DID DR. FAUCI CREATE COVID-19?” And Bolling said he was unaware about his guest’s background and beliefs before interviewing her. He said he added another guest specifically to counter the discredited researcher.

Darcy’s key question: “Is it still appropriate to give airtime to a conspiracy theory like this one, even if presented alongside other views?” He asked a Sinclair spokesperson, but never got a response.

‘Covid-19 conspiracy theories are being fed by institutions meant to inform the public’

That’s the headline on Zeeshan Aleem’s Sunday piece for Vox. “Conspiracy theories about the origins of the coronavirus have swirled around discussion of the pandemic since it began. Such theories tend to proliferate during times of crisis, as people search for elusive explanations at a time of tremendous uncertainty,” Aleem wrote. “But there’s also something else that’s keeping them alive: Institutions in American life entrusted to inform the public have been amplifying them.”

Another important point from his piece: “The mainstreaming of conspiracy theories about the inception and spread of Covid-19 could seriously complicate the country’s ability to manage the pandemic by corroding the public’s inclination to comply with expert guidance.”

Presidential sources of poison

The president tweeted more than 60 times on Sunday, mostly through retweets which promoted Fox and bashed the rest of the media and mocked Covid-19 mask mandates and demonized Portland.

At one point Trump said “the ‘protesters’ are actually anarchists who hate our Country,” writing of Portland, “The line of innocent ‘mothers’ were a scam that Lamestream refuses to acknowledge…”

This led CNN’s Josh Campbell to respond: “I interviewed enough of the ‘mothers’ to know they are not a scam. Confusing thousands of peaceful protesters with a smaller subset of rioters is likely: a) misjudging the crowd size, and/or, b) election year politics.”
Trump’s rhetoric -— and most of the pro-Trump media’s noise — is so far removed from what’s actually happening in major cities. That’s what makes it malicious and poisonous. As Paul Waldman wrote in this Washington Post column, “If you’re a Republican, there’s an entire cable network devoted to filling your evenings with terror.” And, I might add, there is nothing comparable on the left or in the middle.

What makes conspiracy theories so attractive?

Why is a Fox News star spouting off about QAnon? Why is a Sinclair anchor providing a forum for anti-Fauci nonsense? Why is the President frequently posting fact-free conspiracy tweets?

There are multiple answers since there are multiple motivations at work. Spinning yarns about the “deep state,” as Watters did, and sowing doubt about Fauci, as Bolling did, is about supporting Trump’s political agenda.

Conspiracy theories are sometimes rooted in political propaganda or profiteering schemes. Sometimes, researchers say, they’re about satisfying a natural human craving for understanding.

I’m reminded of what professor Brendan Nyhan said on “Reliable Sources” last May about the rise of Covid-19 conspiracy theories: “It seems to be appealing to believe someone is pulling the strings,” he said. “That may be less scary than thinking that there are these unpredictable risks out there that none of us can control.”

“It’s hard for anyone to make sense of what’s going on,” he added, “and these conspiracy theories provide a simple story.”

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