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Sitdown Sunday: QAnon's 'digital soldier' on becoming a conspiracy theory meme queen

Settle back in a comfy chair and sit back with some of the week’s best longreads.

QAnon supporters
QAnon supporters
Image: Shutterstock/M.Moira

IT’S A DAY of rest, and you may be in the mood for a quiet corner and a comfy chair.

We’ve hand-picked the week’s best reads for you to savour.

1. QAnon’s ‘digital soldier’

An interview with Valerie Gilbert, a writer, actress… and QAnon ‘meme queen’.

(The New York Times, approx 11 mins reading time)

She unspools this web of falsehoods on her Facebook page, where she posts dozens of times a day, often sharing links from right-wing sites like Breitbart and The Epoch Times or QAnon memes she has pulled off Twitter. On a recent day, her feed included a rant against Covid-19 lockdowns, a grainy meme accusing Congress of “high treason,” a post calling Lady Gaga a Satanist and a claim that “covfefe,” a typo that Mr. Trump accidentally tweeted three years ago, was a coded intelligence message. “I’m the meme queen,” Ms. Gilbert told me. “I won’t produce them, but I share a mean meme, and I’m kind of raw.”

2. Kamala Harris’s big blended family

The new VP of the USA has a really interesting family, as this piece details.

(New York Times, approx 10 mins reading time)

Her family is ready for the moment. Ms. Harris’s niece, Meena Harris, has been sporting a “Vice President Aunty” T-shirt in the lead-up. Her stepdaughter, Ella Emhoff, an art student in New York, planned to knit a suit for the occasion (she opted for a dress). Kerstin Emhoff, the mother of Ms. Harris’s stepchildren — yes, Ms. Harris and her husband’s ex are friends — may tuck a sprig of sage in her purse; she is quite sure the Capitol could use a smudging. 

3. The truth behind the Mostly Harmless hiker

A few months ago, we shared the story about a nameless hiker whose body was found on the Appalachian trail. His identity has since been discovered, but he has a troubling background.

(Wired, approx 19 mins reading time)

His life was a mystery packed inside a tragedy. A man had died alone in a yellow tent, and his family didn’t know. “He’s got to be missed. Someone must miss this guy,” said Natasha Teasley, a woman in North Carolina who organized a Facebook group with several thousand people dedicated to discovering his identity. Members of the group lit candles for him. They talked about “bringing him home.” They scoured every missing-persons database. Everyone had a story they wanted to be true: He was trying to escape modern society. He was trying to escape a medical diagnosis. He was trying to escape someone who wanted to hurt him. This was a way to use the internet to do something good.

4. How can I feel art again?

A long listen rather than a longread, this documentary by Gaylene Gould is lovely. It’s about how she grew ‘immune’ to the power of art, and wanted to discover if she could reawaken her sensitivity to it.

(BBC, approx 27 mins listening time)

5. Have we already been visited by aliens? 

Harvard astrophysicist Avi Loeb believes that ‘Oumuamua, a mysterious object spotted flying through space, was made by aliens.

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(The New Yorker, approx mins reading time)

In “Extraterrestrial,” Loeb lays out his reasoning as follows. The only way to make sense of ‘Oumuamua’s strange acceleration, without resorting to some sort of undetectable outgassing, is to assume that the object was propelled by solar radiation—essentially, photons bouncing off its surface. And the only way the object could be propelled by solar radiation is if it were extremely thin—no thicker than a millimetre—with a very low density and a comparatively large surface area. Such an object would function as a sail—one powered by light, rather than by wind. The natural world doesn’t produce sails; people do. Thus, Loeb writes, “ ‘Oumuamua must have been designed, built, and launched by an extraterrestrial intelligence.”

6. Cork’s metal scene

The metal scene is thriving in Cork, as this piece shows.

(The Examiner, approx 10 mins reading time)

All that being said, the metal remains niche. “A lot of Irish people think metal is only the extreme stuff,” says Paul Quinn, guitarist with doom metal band, The Grief, who released a new EP, Descent, in October. “I used to live in Finland and you’d go into the equivalent of SuperValu and you’d hear poppy metal on the radio. Even in England there’s quite a big scene. Irish people don’t necessarily want that aggression. Irish people in general want something in the singer-songwriter vein. There’s a different mood to it.” 

 …AND A CLASSIC FROM THE ARCHIVES…

Let’s go back to this 2019 article about Steffanie Strathdee, who helped find a cure for her husband Tom Patterson’s serious bacterial illness.

(BBC, approx 14 mins reading time)

“I thought I can’t just take matters into my own hands and keep him alive if he doesn’t want to live any more. I need to ask him,” Steffanie says. “So I held his hand with my blue-gloved hand and I said, ‘Honey, if you wanna live, you need to give it all you’ve got, the doctors don’t have anything left. All these antibiotics are useless now. So if you want to live, please squeeze my hand and I will leave no stone unturned.’” 

More: The best reads from every previous Sitdown Sunday>

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