Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) denounced the QAnon conspiracy theory in colorful terms Thursday, calling it “batshit crazy.”
“Well, QAnon is batshit crazy,” he told journalist Peter Hamby for an interview published in Vanity Fair and on Snapchat. “Crazy stuff. Inspiring people to violence.”
He went on to describe how difficult it is to tamp down untrue or dangerous information on social media websites like Twitter and TikTok, as opposed to in news outlets like CNN, and suggested removing section 230 of the 1996 Communications Decency Act as a solution. That proposal, often floated by conservatives, could make platforms legally liable for content they host.
“I think it is a platform that plays off people’s fears, that compels them to do things they normally wouldn’t do,” Graham said, seeming to suggest that QAnon is housed in a single place online. It is, in fact, strewn across an ever-expanding number of social media sites and forums.
“And it’s very much a threat,” he added.
As an example, Graham described the shooting at Comet Ping Pong pizzeria in 2016, where a gunman acted on the baseless belief that Hillary Clinton was running a child sex ring in the store’s (nonexistent) basement. Pizzagate was soon subsumed into QAnon, which came along a bit later.
“The pizza owner, under my theory, could sue QAnon for passing along garbage,” he said. “That’s a pretty dramatic step. But the only way I know to make people more responsible who run these websites is allow lawsuits when they go too far.”
QAnon, a patchwork conspiracy theory that centers on President Donald Trump as protagonist and his political enemies as Satan-worshipping, cannibalistic pedophiles, is not siloed on any one website. It was born in the fever swamps of the messaging board 4Chan, and has spread to all the major social media platforms.
It will also spread to Congress, in the form of Marjorie Greene, a businesswoman who won the Republican primary in Georgia’s deep-red 14th district, all but guaranteeing her a general election win.
Republicans have been struggling to position themselves in regard to the extreme conspiracy theory, perhaps wary of alienating its supporters or the President who has voiced his fondness for the believers.
With his denunciation, Graham has joined House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) and Rep. Denver Riggleman (R-VA), both of whom have criticized the movement in recent days.
The White House, though, is being much friendlier to the devotees of Q, the conspiracy theory’s supposed leader, who makes cryptic posts in online forums that followers scrutinize. Tonight, as Trump formally accepts the nomination of the Republican party at the White House, Greene will be in the audience.
“Why aren’t @Malinowski and @RepRiggleman introducing a resolution condemning the #BLM / #ANTIFA terrorists who are burning churches, looting businesses and destroying everything in their path on a nightly basis?” she tweeted Tuesday, in response to a resolution denouncing QAnon.