In September, an obscure Twitter account promoting a fringe belief about an anti-Trump cabal within the government tweeted out a hashtag: #FakeWhistleblower.
It was typical for the anonymous account, which traffics in far-right content and a conspiracy theory known as QAnon, some of whose adherents think that satanic pedophiles control the “deep state.” The Federal Bureau of Investigation recently labeled QAnon a potential domestic terror threat.
Still, that did not stop others, including a Republican congressional candidate, from quickly picking up the hashtag and tweeting it. Within a week, hundreds of QAnon believers and “MAGA” activists had joined in, posting memes and bogus reports to undermine the complaint by a government whistle-blower that President Trump had pressed Ukraine’s leader for dirt on former Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr. and his son.
Then Mr. Trump tweeted the hashtag himself.
Such is the frenetic life cycle of conspiracy-driven propaganda, fakery and hate in the age of the first Twitter presidency. Mr. Trump, whose own tweets have warned of deep-state plots against him, accused the House speaker of treason and labeled Republican critics “human scum,” has helped spread a culture of suspicion and distrust of facts into the political mainstream.
The president is also awash in an often toxic torrent that sluices into his Twitter account — roughly 1,000 tweets per minute, many intended for his eyes. Tweets that tag his handle, @realDonaldTrump, can be found with hashtags like #HitlerDidNothingWrong, #IslamIsSatanism and #WhiteGenocide. While filters can block offensive material, the president clearly sees some of it, because he dips into the frothing currents and serves up noxious bits to the rest of the world.
By retweeting suspect accounts, seemingly without regard for their identity or motives, he has lent credibility to white nationalists, anti-Muslim bigots and obscure QAnon adherents like VB Nationalist, an anonymous account that has promoted a hoax about top Democrats worshiping the Devil and engaging in child sex trafficking.