GSAN: QAnon’s rude awakening | Inauguration rumors | Bias debate

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QAnon's rude awakening | Inauguration rumors | Bias debate


QAnon’s rude awakening

For adherents of the collective conspiratorial delusion called QAnon, Inauguration Day was all part of the plan — until the plan fell apart.

President Joe Biden’s inauguration on January 20 was widely seen among the QAnon faithful as the last chance to realize their outlandish and baseless core belief — that former President Donald Trump would rise as their champion to order mass arrests of members of a Satanic, child-trafficking cartel run by prominent Democrats and Hollywood celebrities. In the hours leading up to Biden’s swearing-in, QAnon believers were unfazed, predicting that the inauguration was just a ploy to bring together those who would face arrest, and that the so-called “Great Awakening” would begin just before Biden took the oath of office.

When that didn’t happen, some in the community were bewildered and angry, while others simply did what they’ve done any other time QAnon’s anonymous string of prophecies failed to come true: They recalibrated and developed new theories, such as the false and outrageous claim that Biden was already under arrest and that his swearing-in was fraudulent and had been recorded 11 hours earlier.

However, as some disinformation experts were quick to point out, the fragmenting and collapse of the QAnon community is not entirely good news. Many will likely find relief by embracing alternative conspiracy theories, while others may be particularly vulnerable to being radicalized by White supremacists and other extremist communities online.

Note: If you know someone who is or was embroiled in the QAnon belief system, it is vital to be compassionate and to understand how their false beliefs may have been meeting important psychological needs.

Viral rumor rundown

NO: A military band did not play “Hit the Road Jack” in front of the White House during then-President Donald Trump’s final days in office. YES: The audio track on this video has been replaced. YES: The original video was tweeted on Jan. 18 by CNN’s Jim Acosta and shows the U.S. Army Band playing “National Emblem” as it rehearsed for the inauguration on the White House grounds. YES: The fact-checking organization Lead Stories found that the source of the “Hit the Road Jack” audio is a 2012 recording of the Ohio State University Marching Band.

Note: Copies of this doctored video went viral on multiple platforms, including TikTok, Twitter and Facebook. It is increasingly common for misinformation to cross platforms, including iterations from one platform circulating on another.


NO: President Joe Biden’s administration is not affiliated with the “antifa” (anti-fascism) movement. YES: The URL “” began redirecting traffic to the White House homepage ( on Inauguration Day. NO: This is not evidence of any relationship between the antifa movement and the White House. YES: Anyone can purchase a web domain and redirect it to any other website they choose. YES: Prior to redirecting to, the site was redirecting to Biden's presidential campaign website. YES: The web domain has been intermittently active since at least 1999 and, as these search results from the Internet Archive’s Wayback Machine show, it was for sale as recently as Jan. 30, 2020.

Note: There is a similar URL redirect hoax at, which began forwarding its web traffic to the Wikipedia page for former President Donald Trump on Nov. 9, 2020.

Related: “ redirects to White House website as trolls needle Biden” (Stephen Shankland, CNET).


NO: This video does not show National Guard troops turning their backs on President Joe Biden’s motorcade on Inauguration Day. YES: It shows National Guard members protecting the route taken by Biden’s motorcade on the way to the inauguration, including following routine protocol and facing out to watch for threats. YES: Lead Stories located the original video, which was tweeted by Ines de La Cuetara of ABC News on Jan. 20.


★ NewsLit Picks


“'Transparency back to the briefing room': Psaki commits to pre-Trump press norms” (Matthew Choi, Politico).

Hours after President Joe Biden underscored the dangers of misinformation in his Jan. 20 inaugural address and urged Americans to “reject a culture in which facts themselves are manipulated and even manufactured,” White House press secretary Jen Psaki delivered her first remarks to reporters. Given the often hostile relationship between the press and the previous Trump administration, some called the briefing “refreshingly boring.” While the eventual nature of the relationship between the new administration and press remains to be seen, Politico’s Matthew Choi points out that “Psaki signaled she wanted to bring back to the briefing room the norms of the pre-Trump era.”



Quick Picks

“All journalists are humans with feelings and emotions and opinions and biases.” (Wesley Lowery, Twitter thread).

“Trump-ally media outlet OAN quietly deleted articles about Dominion despite publicly doubling down on election conspiracy theories” (Jacob Shamsian, Business Insider via Yahoo News).

“After Capitol attack, social studies and civics teachers struggle with real-time history lessons” (Joe Heim and Valerie Strauss, The Washington Post).

  • Note: Valerie Strauss publishes items from The Sift in her “Answer Sheet” blog.

Thanks for reading!

Your weekly issue of Get Smart About News is created by Peter Adams (@PeterD_Adams), Suzannah Gonzales and Hannah Covington (@HannahCov) of the News Literacy Project. It is edited by NLP’s Mary Kane (@marykkane).

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