The online far right is about to face a cold reality it long denied was a possibility: the post-Trump era.
What’s happening: Fringe-right internet users are broadly poised to enter the Biden era in one of three states: Denial, disenchantment or determination to use the moment to their advantage.
Catch up quick: Since the election, the idea that Trump would, any day now, reveal evidence of a massive voter fraud conspiracy and somehow nullify the election has grown increasingly mainstream on the right especially among believers in the QAnon conspiracy theory.
- That belief led directly to the Capitol siege. Now, a great many people primed for that moment are about to watch Joe Biden take the oath of office.
Here’s where the different groups stand:
The true believers: Many people still believe Trump is about to impose martial law, blacking out communications and media networks and seizing control of the airwaves via the emergency broadcast system.
- Some people are taking to ham radio and other alternative communications networks to ensure they can stay in touch after the promised blackout, notes NBC News.
The disillusioned: Some have turned on Trump, angry that the president has attempted to distance himself from the Capitol riot.
- The truly furious may be a small sliver of the broader right. Recentpolling indicates that Trump’s strong support among Republicans remains sturdy even in the wake of the Capitol siege.
- But those frustrated that Trump didn’t find a way to somehow stay in office are a larger group, and one about to grow larger when “The Storm” QAnon’s imagined moment when Trump would launch mass arrests of his political enemies and cement his hold on power doesn’t happen.
The opportunists: The most radical of the far-right fringe see a recruitment bonanza in the large body of people who will be left angry and aimless as Biden takes office.
- Extremism researchers have watched pro-Trump Telegram channels and other forums become fertile territory for violent extremists like the Boogaloo movement, which wants to incite a second civil war, to pick up fresh followers.
- There’s a well-established radicalization pipeline on the far right that includes its own lingo. “Redpilling,” for instance, borrowed from The Matrix, refers to opening people with mainstream views up to far-right perspectives.
- “Blackpilling” is a step further, referring to induction into a nihilist worldview that holds violence as the only solution for defeating the left.
The bottom line: A spell will not be broken at noon. It’s unclear what will happen to the many people who have found their places in pro-Trump internet communities that are still all-in on nullifying the election and whether the transfer of power will tamp down on online extremism or drive people further into far-right online enclaves.