The Other Pandemic: How QAnon Contaminated the World by James Ball - review by Heather Brooke

Heather Brooke

Conspiracy Theory of Everything

The Other Pandemic: How QAnon Contaminated the World


Bloomsbury 304pp £20

Back in the mists of time, great idealism surrounded social media. There was a sense that global interconnection would shift us into a more egalitarian and democratic age. How time makes fools of us all. 

If you are a woman or a person from an ethnic minority, someone with a public profile or anyone who holds a view contrary to the mainstream, chances are you’ve been viciously trolled online and little to no action was taken by either Big Tech or the police. Perhaps, like me, you have watched in dismay and bewilderment as wild conspiracy theories (about everything from political paedophile rings operating beneath a pizza parlour in Washington, DC, to Bill Gates engineering coronavirus) spread at speed across the world, infecting even seemingly sensible people and driving families and friends apart. Journalists who thought fact-checking would be enough to counter such theories have been proved woefully wrong. Fact-checking, it transpires, is like bringing a fly swatter to a gunfight. Clearly, new solutions are needed to combat online conspiracy theories that increasingly result in violence in the real world. 

Into these fetid swamps wades the Pulitzer Prize-winning investigative journalist and data expert James Ball with this meticulously researched book, in which he charts the rise and rise of online conspiracy theories. The book is an exhaustive and at times exhausting read. Ball makes the case that we can no longer ignore conspiracy theorists. Social media has ensured that even the most ludicrous theories can find a global audience.

As Ball documents, QAnon is at the heart of these developments. It started out as a conspiracy theory on such message boards as 4chan and 8chan. The core QAnon theory first appeared in a series of posts made from an anonymous account called Q Clearance Patriot. These contained wild pronouncements

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