Lizard men control the government, Stanley Kubrick faked the moon landing, the Earth is flat—we’ve all heard these conspiracy theories before, often from that one uncle on Thanksgiving or our “out there” cousin on Facebook.
Recently, though, you may have noticed that these theories have gotten a little darker, more focused on real world, tangible things. They don’t feel harmless anymore.
Recently, conspiracy theorists are obsessively posting about Joe Biden or protecting kids from perceived threats. At the University of Kentucky, we’re in the heart of Trump country; he took 62% of the vote in Kentucky in the 2020 election. You probably know someone who has gone down a conspiracy theory rabbit hole because they are stuck at home and they’re bored, or maybe you’re that person. So, let’s break down some of the theories floating around social media platforms and the Oval Office, starting with the most recent conspiracy that focuses on Joe Biden and his incoming presidential regime.
The Great Reset is a theory that President Elect Joe Biden’s slogan, "Build Back Better," has a hidden meaning and that a global cabal from Davos, Switzerland is intent on taking the world’s property rights in order to create a more equitable society in their image. This seems to be a repackaging of old New World Government conspiracies that focused on the United Nations and their supposed mission of global domination. This was popularized in Evangelical circles with the Left Behind book and movie series. This has consistently been disproved and completely ignores the fact that the U.N. is full of nations that can voluntarily participate and leave when they like, not dissimilar to the European Union and Brexit. This particular theory springs from a talk given by officials at the World Economic Forum, where they discussed several ideas of how to deal with a post-pandemic economic rebuild, which they coined “The Great Reset.” This mostly deals with broad economic policies that would be considered best practices and is not in any way the EU or the UN’s official stance.
There have been several conspiracies floated by the Trump campaign itself. One is the accusation that Trump campaign poll watchers were not close enough or not in the room when votes were being counted. The first accusation was settled in court when a judge agreed to move all observers up from ten feet away to six feet away, to still comply with best social distancing practices. The second was a baseless claim that said that Trump campaign officials were not in the room when votes were being counted. When pressed in court by the judge on whether their campaign officials were in the room, the Trump campaign’s lawyer said, “There are nonzero amount of people in that room." This clearly irritated the judge who rephrased his question, "I'm asking you as a member of the bar of this court: are people representing the Donald J Trump for president, representing the plaintiffs, in that room?" Trump’s lawyer simply answered "yes." The lawsuit was thrown out.
Another claim put out by the campaign was that Dominion Voting Systems had thrown out millions of votes for Donald Trump. This seems to stem from a report from One American News Network (OANN), a far-right media outlet, that claimed to have a report from Edison Research that stated that 2.7 million votes were deleted for Trump. When reached for comment the president of Edison Research said they filed no such report. There was also the claim that Sharpie pens would bleed through voting ballets causing those votes to be thrown out, but this was also proven to be false. This did not stop President Trump from tweeting about the report, despite a lack of hard evidence to support the claim. One of his lawyers, Sidney Powell, also latched onto the conspiracy, adding to the original claim by saying that Dominion was connected to former Venezuelan dictator Hugo Chavez. This and several other claims about the company and their machines, including the ones already listed, were debunked by the company themselves.
One theory was boosted by Fox News' Tucker Carlson who put out a list of "dead voters." This almost immediately came back as a false claim when several outlets went and found the supposedly deceased voters. The most high-profile of these being a claim that Mr. James Blalock had cast a mail-in ballot despite being deceased for 14-years. In fact, Mr. James Blalock did not vote in the 2020 election, Mrs. James Blalock, his widow, cast a vote under her married name. Tucker Carlson did offer a retraction of his statement, and said they were given false information.
No article about conspiracy theories in 2020 would be complete without a mention of QAnon. Due to the graphic nature of the theory itself, we will not go into the details of the theory, but in summary, the theory, states that a global cabal of “deep state, Satanist” operatives are kidnapping children for nefarious purposes. This information is provided by an anonymous source who claims to be a White House official who goes by the name “Q”. Q provides their followers with “Q-drops,” which are riddles meant to be solved by the community on the website previously known as “Four-Chan.” While they started on the obscure corners of the Internet, they have recently become mainstream during the 2020 election, even going so far as to highjack the hashtag "Save the Children,” making a hashtag had been used to promote anti-human trafficking causes into a signal boost for QAnon conspiracy theorists. Several crimes have been committed by the followers of this conspiracy and the FBI has listed it as a domestic terrorism threat. When asked for comment about what he thought of QAnon supporters, the president simply said, "I heard these are people who love our country."