The people Weiss wrote about targeted both Clintons, but there was always a special venom reserved for Hillary, seen as a feminist succubus out to annihilate traditional family relations. An attendee at the 1996 Republican National Convention told the feminist writer Susan Faludi, “It’s well-established that Hillary Clinton belonged to a satanic cult, still does.” Running for Congress in 2014, Ryan Zinke, who would later become Trump’s secretary of the interior, described her as “the Antichrist.” (He later said he was joking.) Trump himself called Clinton “the Devil.”
For Clinton, these supernatural smears are part of an old story. “This is rooted in ancient scapegoating of women, of doing everything to undermine women in the public arena, women with their own voices, women who speak up against power and the patriarchy,” she said. “This is a Salem Witch Trials line of argument against independent, outspoken, pushy women. And it began to metastasize around me.” In this sense, Frazzledrip is just a particularly disgusting version of misogynist hatred she’s always contended with.
Nor is the claim that she’s a murderer new; it’s been an article of faith on the right ever since the 1993 suicide of Vince Foster, an aide to Bill Clinton and a close friend of Hillary’s. Recently I spoke to Preston Crow, who, when he was a graduate student in 1994, created one of the first anti-Clinton websites, where he posted about things like the “Clinton body count.” (He has since become a Democrat, and he voted for Hillary in 2016.) “Once you start following the conspiracy theories, it’s fairly similar,” he told me. “QAnon took it several steps farther.”
Greene now claims that she no longer believes in QAnon. In a speech on Thursday, before the House voted to strip her of her committee assignments, she blamed her claims that leading Democrats deserve to die for their role in a diabolic pedophile ring on her inability to trust the mainstream media. “I was allowed to believe things that weren’t true,” she said.
To my surprise, Clinton thought Greene’s passive account of her own radicalization wasn’t entirely absurd. “We are facing a mass addiction with the effective purveying of disinformation on social media,” Clinton said. “I don’t have one iota of sympathy for someone like her, but the algorithms, we are now understanding more than ever we could have, truly are addictive. And whatever it is in our brains for people who go down those rabbit holes, and begin to inhabit this alternative reality, they are, in effect, made to believe.”
Clinton now thinks that the creation and promotion of this alternative reality, enabled and incentivized by the tech platforms, is, as she put it, “the primary event of our time.” Nothing about QAnon or Marjorie Taylor Greene is entirely new. Social media has just taken the dysfunction that was already in our politics, and rendered it uglier than anyone ever imagined.