Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Who Is Not in a Coma, Returns to Supreme Court

Baseless online conspiracies about the justice’s health marred her absence.

Kevin Dietsch/CNP/ZUMA Wire

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Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg made her return on Monday to the Supreme Court for oral arguments for the first time since announcing she underwent surgery in December for cancer. Her public appearance comes after false conspiracy theories about her health proliferated online, and after her attendance at a Friday private court meeting.

Ginsburg’s public absence from the bench because of her lung cancer treatment was her first since she joined the court in 1993. Internet hoaxers latched onto her brief hiatus and began pushing baseless rumors that she had died, or in one case, was secretly put into a medically induced coma.

The conspiracy theories reached an apex when Sebastian Gorka—a presidential ally, former Trump administration official, and Fox News commentator—tweeted in January about being suspicious of Ginsburg’s absence. Prior to Gorka’s tweet, the theory had been percolating on the internet, especially following one dubious story citing an unknown message board poster claiming to be close to Ginsburg who alleged she was being secretly kept in a medically induced coma. That anonymous post, key to the conspiracy’s online proliferation, appeared January 27 on 8chan, the crass and sometimes racist message board.

The theory spread across the internet, including lightly moderated private Facebook conspiracy groups dedicated to the fringe internet conspiracy theory, QAnon.

The seeds of conspiracy about Ginsburg’s health were originally sown online by “Q,” the anonymous poster behind the QAnon phenomenon, who, on January 5, asked his followers, “What ‘off-market’ drugs are being provided to [RBG] in order to sustain minimum daily function? What is the real medical diagnosis of [RBG]? Who is managing her care?”

 

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SIX TRUTHS

Reclaiming power from those who abuse it often starts with telling the truth. And in "This Is How Authoritarians Get Defeated," MoJo's Monika Bauerlein unpacks six truths to remember during the homestretch of an election where democracy, truth, and decency are on the line.

Truth #1: The chaos is the point.

Truth #2: Team Reality is bigger than it seems.

Truth #3: Facebook owns this.

Truth #4: When we go to work, we're in the fight.

Truth #5: It's about minority rule.

Truth #6: The only thing that can save us is…us.

Please take a moment to see how all these truths add up, because what happens in the weeks and months ahead will reverberate for at least a generation and we better be prepared.

And if you think journalism like Mother Jones'—that calls it like it is, that will never acquiesce to power, that looks where others don't—can help guide us through this historic, high-stakes moment, and you're able to right now, please help us reach our $350,000 goal by October 31 with a donation today. It's all hands on deck for democracy.

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