Disinformation experts aren’t happy about the trailer for HBO’s QAnon series

The teaser video for Q: Into the Storm, an upcoming documentary series from HBO about the QAnon conspiracy motion has a variety of deplatforming experts involved; it appears extra like a preview for a spy thriller than a cautious examination of the umbrella group of conspiracy theories.

The breathless tone may be efficient at constructing hype, but it surely has many disinformation experts involved. Ben Collins, certainly one of the main journalists masking on-line radicalization, tweeted that the trailer was “being marketed in a means that would recruit extra individuals.” Promoted by HBO as a series that “charts a labyrinthine journey to unmask the mastermind behind QAnon,” critics identified that the trailer felt lots like “a recruitment video for Q.”

disinfo neighborhood: *soberly* how will we steadiness protection and inadvertent amplification of QAnon? How will we carry individuals again to actuality in a sensible, empathetic means?


HBO: *BRAAAAM (inception sounds)* watch our $30m documentary on how QAnon is HARDCORE and FUCKING CRAZY!!!

— Emerson T. Brooking (@etbrooking) February 26, 2021

Joan Donovan, analysis director at the Shorenstein Middle on Media, Politics and Public Coverage at Harvard, advised The Verge that, by portraying Q as edgy and thrilling, the trailer risked attracting much more individuals to the trigger.

“Probably the most regarding facet to me is that the reuse of footage discovered on-line pieced collectively in 6 hours of conspiracist content material shall be validation for the up to date motion and drive extra content material/curiosity,” Donovan mentioned in a message to The Verge. “It’s not like we’re 5 years from the revolt. Q influencers will use the reality of their participation in the documentary to sap extra individuals for donations and construct a extra loyal viewers at a time when many are struggling to include this anti-Semitic and racist networked conspiracy.”

It’s laborious to say how a lot of these issues will carry over to the documentary itself. The trailer is lower than a minute lengthy, and the docuseries was the results of a three-year world investigation, in keeping with HBO. So it’s potential the series strikes the proper tone in the way it presents QAnon and its origins, in addition to its future. The press release announcing the series says it can “look at the affect of QAnon on American tradition and query the penalties of unfettered free speech permeating the darkest corners of the Web.”

Donovan mentioned she hoped the trailer was a hoax, and that the precise movie will present individuals talking about how believing in QAnon ruined their relationships with their households and mates, however she wasn’t optimistic. “In some way I doubt that shall be the case,” she mentioned.

QAnon started on 4chan in 2017, when an nameless individual posting as “Q Clearance Patriot” mentioned that they had entry to categorised info exhibiting then-President Donald Trump was preventing a world cabal of pedophiles, whose ranks included celebrities and Democratic politicians. QAnon’s followers additionally strongly ascribed to the view —falsely pushed by Trump— that the 2020 presidential election was stolen, and lots of Q proponents have been linked to the January sixth assault on the US Capitol.

Journalists have struggled with learn how to greatest cowl QAnon; reporting on it with out being adequately in control, information retailers ran the danger of amplifying and legitimizing a few of the group’s extra harmful views. At the similar time, ignoring QAnon’s followers or dismissing them as fringe might permit it to metastasize. One among HBO’s promotions for Q: Into the Storm promised that the series will “pull again the curtain” on the group, however with out the proper context, might additional muddy the public’s understanding of QAnon and its attain.

Throughout its heyday, there have been 1000’s of Q-related Fb teams and Q-related accounts on Twitter and Reddit. Most platforms have banned, or tried to ban, Q-related content material and hashtags, however with blended success. “QAnon relies on centuries-old anti-Jewish tropes and anti-Black narratives about the trendy civil rights motion,” Donovan says. “Nevertheless it’s not that difficult.”

HBO declined to remark.

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