A QAnon-linked conference this weekend — and a concerning statement made there — serve as a reminder that live events remain key venues for the spread of harmful disinformation.
At the May 30 “For God & Country Patriot Roundup” in Dallas, Michael Flynn, a former national security adviser to then-President Donald Trump and Army general-turned-peddler of conspiracy theories, was asked by an audience member why the US hadn’t experienced a Myanmar-style coup. “No reason, I mean, it should happen here,” Flynn responded, in comments that drew widespread condemnation. Flynn, who was banned early this year from Twitter, later took to Telegram to deny he had advocated for a coup in the US.
Many of Flynn’s fellow promoters of the stolen-election myth have previously celebrated the coup launched in February by Myanmar’s military, which cited unsubstantiated claims of systemic fraud before seizing power. According to the BBC, while independent observers noted errors in the voting process, there was no evidence of systemic fraud. Notable among false claims in the US was the baseless allegation that Dominion Voting Systems equipment had been used in Myanmar’s November 2020 election.
Flynn’s comments received considerable reach online. On Twitter, the keyword “Flynn” appeared in at least 175,000 tweets and retweets in the 24 hours after 5 p.m. EDT May 30, according to Trendsmap — a considerable spike above baseline activity. While the most-shared tweets condemned Flynn’s remarks, the amplification they received is a reminder that despite the crackdown by social media platforms, which appears to have diminished the reach of QAnon, it remains a growing concern. And live events such as this will remain an offline platform for promoters of disinformation, as long as there are venues willing to host them. — First Draft staff