Obama accuses Trump of accelerating spread of online disinformation and conspiracy theories

Mr Obama warns against echo chambers and QAnon conspiracy theory

Graig Graziosi
Thursday 15 October 2020 21:52
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Barack Obama blamed Donald Trump for encouraging and inspiring the spread of disinformation during a recent podcast appearance.

Mr Obama made the comments on "Pod Save America," which is hosted by his former aides.

The former president claimed that Mr Trump was "accelerating" the spread of disinformation on social media platforms.

“Social media, media infrastructure, the conservative media infrastructure. We've had this conversation before. That is a problem that is going to outlast Trump. Trump is a symptom of it and an accelerant to it,” Mr Obama said.. “It has gotten turbocharged because of social media. And because the head of our government, of our federal government has resorted to it.”

Mr Obama said that online echo chambers contribute to the spread of conspiracy theories and strained notions of reality.

“I don't have a quick answer for that, because part of what happens within, when you get these echo chambers, is they become impenetrable, right? Any bit of information that contradicts the world view and the conspiracies within it or the conspiracy theories within it, it gets rejected as part of a conspiracy and part of the liberal plot. But I do think that that's going to be a big challenge that we all have. And I'm concerned about it,” he said.

The former president specifically pointed to the QAnon conspiracy theory and its adherents as an example of the kind of thinking that can be bred through disinformation.

“When you look at insane conspiracy theories like QAnon seeping into the mainstream of the Republican Party, what that tells you is that there are no more guardrails within that media ecosystem,” Mr Obama said.

Congress recently voted to condemn the QAnon conspiracy theory, calling it a "sick cult" and a "collective delusion."

The conspiracy theory - which includes bizarre claims about Democrats harvesting children's fear and eating them, celebrity clones, and the idea that Mr Trump and the still-living John F Kennedy Jr  will lead a mass reclamation of the country from "the swamp" - has gained some mainstream footing in the last year.

Marjorie Taylor Greene, a Republican candidate for the House of Representatives from Georgia who is all but guaranteed to win her seat, is an outspoken QAnon adherent. She has posted videos where she warns of an "Islamic invasion" of state and federal offices, made claims that black and Hispanic men are "held back" by "gangs and dealing drugs" and subscribes to the numerous conspiracy theories that Jewish philanthropist George Soros is actually a Nazi collaborator.

Mr Obama's sharp criticism of disinformation, Mr Trump, and QAnon may be rooted in a recent incident in which Mr Trump retweeted a QAnon conspiracy theory that made allegations about his role in the death of Osama Bin Laden.

The conspiracy theory alleges that Mr Obama and Joe Biden had Seal Team Six killed and that they never actually killed Bin Laden.

Mr Obama will soon join other surrogates as active campaigners for Mr Biden heading into the 2020 US election.

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