David DePape’s online posts; hate speech on Twitter and a QAnon murder

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A man broke into the home of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and attacked her husband with a hammer — and he also shared far-right conspiracy theories on his blog. A study found hate speech spiked on Twitter in the run-up to Elon Musk buying the site. And there’s been yet another murder committed by an adherent of the QAnon conspiracy theory.

It’s the week in extremism. 

Pelosi attacker’s online postings

David DePape, the San Francisco Bay Area man who is now charged with breaking into House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s home last Friday and attacking Pelosi’s husband, maintained a blog containing hundreds of bizarre posts, including dozens focused on far-right conspiracy theories and issues recently promoted by far-right extremists. 

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  • The blog, which has now been removed, contained a lot of very weird stuff. DePape, who told police he planned to kidnap Nancy Pelosi, wrote on the site about having a friend who was a magical fairy and posted imagery including a picture of Hilary Clinton as a zombie.
  • Despite the apparent randomness, however, DePape’s posts contained a clear thread of far-right propaganda and conspiracy theories. He ranted about Jews and Black people and became increasingly obsessed by public debates over trans rights and outspoken antisemites.

Latest in a pattern: DePape is far from the latest person to carry out a political attack after falling into online rabbit holes. Perhaps most notably, in 2019 Cesar Sayoc mailed pipe bombs to several prominent Democrats including Barack Obama and Clinton. Sayoc was sentenced to 20 years in prison in 2019.

Twitter continued to roil over Elon Musk's takeover.

Hate speech spikes on Twitter

The number of Tweets containing hateful terms and promoting racism, antisemitism or other forms of hate spiked in the days leading up to Elon Musk’s purchase of the social media platform last Friday, according to researchers from Montclair State University in New Jersey.

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  • The researchers monitored how many times users tweeted using a range of terms including “Vulgar and hostile terms for individuals based on race, religion, ethnicity, and orientation.”
  • They found “an immediate, visible, and measurable spike in hate terms on Twitter after Musk took over as CEO.” 
  • The seven-day average use of those terms was never more than 84 times an hour. From midnight on Oct. 28 to 12 noon, the terms were used 4,778 times with a potential reach of 3 million users. Musk took over as Twitter’s CEO on October 27.

Civil rights groups who met with Musk this week said they were alarmed by a dramatic rise in hate speech, racial slurs and antisemitism: “Our concern is the platform is not allowed to be used as a place where individuals who are promoting hate speech against any community are allowed to be on and, secondly, that individuals who have been deplatformed are not easily let back on it,” NAACP President Derrick Johnson told USA TODAY.

Next steps: Elon Musk tweeted he won’t allow anyone back on the platform until he’s established a clear process “which will take at least a few more weeks.”

A QAnon adherent outside a Donald Trump rally in Pennsylvania in 2018.

Yet another QAnon-linked murder

Last Friday, the same day a man whipped up by far-right conspiracy theories broke into Speaker Pelosi’s home, another California man was found guilty of murder in the latest slaying connected to the QAnon conspiracy theory.

 Contributing: Jessica Guynn, USA TODAY.

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