It’s been more than 50 years since a seminal essay in Harper’s Magazine described the “paranoid style” in American politics, but the 2020 election—from baseless allegations of electoral fraud to QAnon’s theory of a liberal cabal engaging in child abuse and cannibalism—made it feel very relevant.
Michael Jensen, a senior researcher at the National Consortium for the Study of Terrorism and Responses to Terrorism (START) at UMD, is an expert on domestic radicalization and manages data collection for the Global Terrorism Database. Terp magazine spoke to him about the endurance of conspiracy theories, the response of tech companies and what Joe Biden’s presidential administration can expect from the political fringe.
Will Biden’s White House face an increasing amount of extremism and radicalization?
Do Facebook, Twitter and other social media bans of accounts that spread conspiracy theories help or just confirm suspicions of “knowing the truth”?
QAnon has maintained relevance and approval—with one supporter winning a congressional seat—even though it hasn’t lived up to its promises of arrests and executions of high-profile Democrats. Why doesn’t that matter?
What could happen if the Biden administration takes a stronger approach to the pandemic, such as nationally mandating masks or business closures?
This narrative of a stolen election isn’t going to go away overnight. Not only is that dangerous for our democratic institutions, but there are individuals attracted to these movements that are susceptible to being mobilized for acts of violence.
(Original story written by Liam Farrell, Photo by Emma J. Howells)
January 16, 2021
Taken to Extremes: START Center's Jensen on Fringe Politics
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