Supreme Court Justices have a spotty record when it comes to attending the State of the Union address. Of the current nine Justices, only Stephen Breyer has attended every address since 2001. Meanwhile, Justice Alito hasn’t been in attendance since 2010.
But this fact hasn’t trickled down to enthusiasts of “QAnon” and other fringe conspiracy theories, who used Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s absence from Tuesday night’s address as further evidence that the Supreme Court Justice was, in fact, dead, and that her passing was being covered up to avoid ceding any more power to President Donald Trump.
Justice Ginsburg had been under close medical supervision since last November, when she was hospitalized after falling and fracturing three ribs. While being treated for those injuries, doctors discovered cancerous nodules in her left lung, for which she was subsequently operated upon successfully in late December. Recovery for such procedures typically takes between six and eight weeks. On Monday, the Washington Post reported that the Justice had made her first public appearance since that surgery at the Museum of Women in the Arts in Washington.
This public appearance, however, was disregarded by the more frenzied conpiracy mongers, many of whom took to 4chan’s /pol/ board (which is itself a hive of the far-right) to insist that a photo of Ginsburg from the event was fake and that Ginsburg was deceased. Meanwhile, QAnon fans — who have mostly migrated to Reddit knock-off Voat after being banned from Reddit — had even more elaborate theories, which held that the event which Ginsburg reportedly attended was actually her funeral because her robe and gavel were reportedly set to the side of the stage.
The focus on Ginsburg’s month-long absence from the public limelight began to ferment among the Q community earlier in January, when a post by Q asked “Who is managing her [Ginsburg’s] care? Who is ‘really’ managing her care? The clock is ticking. PANIC IN DC.”
This was then picked up by members of the pro-Trump media, who helped to further propagate the narrative. Noted right-wing grifter Jacob Wohl, for instance, has been hinting at the QAnon theory by repeatedly asking where Justice Ginsburg is and why certain speaking engagements have been cancelled. Jack Posobiec, another pro-Trump poster, has also highlighted the cancelled events, while former Trump adviser and frequent Fox News contributor Sebastian Gorka tweeted last week that there was “still no sign” of Ginsburg and that she only had 6 days until she needed to make her “official appearance” at the State of the Union. (Supreme Court Justices are not required to attend the State of the Union; the only Justices who attended on Tuesday night were Elena Kagan, Neil Gorsuch, Brett Kavanaugh, and Chief Justice John Roberts.)
But while the “Ginsburg is dead” conspiracy meme may seem a laughable example of grasping at straws, the wider QAnon community is growing increasingly frustrated with the lack of arrests of “Deep State” members like George Soros and Hillary Clinton. Last week, for instance, QAnon supporter and noted pro-Trump conspiracy theorist Liz Cronkin warned that, unless there were mass arrests soon, there would be “vigilante justice.” Posters on Voat, meanwhile, have fantasized about the violence that could be directed against Deep State supporters if the mass arrests ever come to fruition.