By now, most people with even a tangential knowledge of American politics have heard of QAnon. It’s the batshit conservative conspiracy that alleges a secret cabal of pedophilic or reptilian (or both) politicians are running the government while secretly harboring child trafficking rings and doing all other sorts of nefarious stuff.
There are plenty of offshoots and variants within QAnon, but that’s the general gist. It gained major steam during Donald Trump’s presidency, particularly during his last year in office when he and other conservative pols more openly embraced it. Every major media outlet was talking about it, reporting on it, and trying to understand the phenomenon.
Tucker Carlson, though? He’s still not convinced it actually exists.
Tucker Carlson says he couldn't find any evidence that the Qanon conspiracy theory even exists, like theres nothing out there proving that it's a thing pic.twitter.com/tqeYm73pAb
— Andrew Lawrence (@ndrew_lawrence) February 24, 2021
While prepping for his show last night, Carlson was apparently shocked to learn that QAnon “is not even a website.” He couldn’t find QAnon on Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene’s Twitter feed, either. So if the very smart and truthful Tucker Carlson can’t find the QAnon website or on the infamous Q Congresswoman’s social media feeds, it must not be a real thing.
Carlson’s producer later explained that the host wasn’t seriously suggesting QAnon didn’t exist—he was simply using it to say that networks like CNN are the real purveyors of disinformation, not conspiracy theorists or lawmakers. WaPo’s Philip Bump explained why that’s even more insidious, since it was part of an effort by Carlson to downplay “concern about systemic racism in the United States.” Explaining away racism is Carlson’s pet issue, which is why you can hear him regularly spewing conspiracies that are just as ludicrous as QAnon itself. There’s some deep irony in a cable news host proclaiming his competitors are the purveyors of disinformation when he’s essentially turned it into his nightly shtick.
Anyone who knows anything about QAnon knows you’re not going to find it centralized on some website. It’s a conspiracy born on far right message boards but that’s played out in real life—you see it pop up on flags, t-shirts. and all kinds of wearable merchandise. You hear people mention it when asked by journalists. You saw Trump retweet, promote, and thank its most ardent supporters. And you see lawmakers turning it into a core part of their political identity.
Greene may be the first congressperson to center her identity around QAnon, but she’s far from the first to endorse it and certainly won’t be the last. It’s a pervading force in the Republican Party, much in the way chuds like Carlson project Antifa to be for Democrats. Antifa doesn’t have a centralized website and is exponentially less influential (and less existent) than QAnon, but that hasn’t stopped Carlson and others on Fox News from turning it into a boogeyman.
Fox News has spent years projecting different truths for its viewers. Only there can you find someone willing to argue that not only is QAnon more benign than mainstream media outlets, it’s actually not even real. That’s the kind of thing you can only get away with shilling if you know your audience has already bought into your warped version of reality.