On Tuesday, with some fanfare, Twitter announced it had removed 7,000 accounts of users it said were “linked to QAnon,” that is, users who gave some credence to the QAnon conspiracy theory. This is likely a terrible idea, just as it would be to remove users who doubt climate change will quickly kill us (which is not to say it will not), or accounts that had been used to support President Donald Trump or to insist the salacious bits of the Steele dossier are not untrue, just not proven yet.
Coloradans might have heard more about the QAnon theory lately since Lauren Boebert of Rifle won the Republican primary for Colorado’s U.S. House District 3, at the end of June, defeating five-term incumbent Scott Tipton of Cortez. As soon as primary eve, news organizations such as The New York Times labeled Boebert someone who “has spoken approvingly of the QAnon conspiracy theory.”
This meant Boebert would face in the general election a Democrat who had previously lost to Tipton, Diane Mitsch Bush of Steamboat Springs, a retired sociology professor. The AP, distancing itself, said “Analysts say Boebert stands the best chance of any of the GOP candidates who have flirted with QAnon to end up in Congress.”
The QAnon conspiracy “posits that a well-positioned official nicknamed ‘Q’ has spent the past several years reporting on efforts to undermine Trump by ‘deep state’ officials pervasive throughout the government,” a columnist explained in The Colorado Sun. It entails “Democrats and Hollywood stars drinking the blood of children in a global pedophilia ring,” explained anchor Kyle Clark of Denver’s 9News. (Corey Hutchins, who writes a weekly Colorado media newsletter, put together a good summary of statewide reaction to Boebert and the QAnon connection.)
Merely talking about this Q craziness constitutes “behavior that has the potential to lead to offline harm,” Twitter concluded, in a defense of speech restrictions that is becoming sadly familiar.
Boebert may be to blame first for not absolutely separating herself from QAnon. The same could be said regarding QAnon and Trump, whom Boebert strongly supports. Once the stigma had been hung around Boebert’s neck, however, it seemed anything was fair game.
And so we arrived at this headline posted July 9 at the news site The Daily Beast: “QAnon-Curious House Candidate Gave Her Customers Diarrhea.” A few days later, the online magazine Salon, citing The Daily Beast, did the same thing: “Pork sliders sold by Republican House candidate who supports QAnon gave customers diarrhea: records.”
A few days after that, Colorado Democrats followed up in an email blast. Noting Boebert has opposed masking mandates, they said, “Does Lauren Boebert still think having to wear a mask is ‘attacking our personal liberties’? ... Given Boebert’s stomach-churning record on public health, we imagine her answer is ‘Yes’” – and linked to the Daily Beast article.
The claim arose from a 2017 Garfield County Public Health report about a bacterial outbreak at the Rifle Rodeo where only Boebert, a restaurateur, served food. It is not hard to imagine that the report, in turn, was unearthed by someone doing opposition research for Colorado Democrats after Boebert’s surprise primary win, although we do not know that.
Twitter may do as it likes and still not be the worse for it. (It is bad enough already.) And it may be that Colorado Democrats and Mitsch Bush can finally retake Tipton’s seat by just being gross rather than sticking to the ample, bona fide issues in a race for Congress – but we hope not.