“Inside the ‘shadow reality world’ promoting the lie that the presidential election was stolen”


The slickly produced movie trailer, set to ominous music, cuts from scenes of the 2020 election to clips of allies of former president Donald Trump describing a vast conspiracy to steal the White House.

“The Deep Rig,” a film financed by former Overstock.com chief executive Patrick Byrne for $750,000, is set to be released online this weekend — the latest production by a loosely affiliated network of figures who have harnessed right-wing media outlets, podcasts and the social media platform Telegram to promote the falsehoodthat the 2020 election was rigged.

The baseless assertion, backed by millions of dollars from wealthy individuals, is reverberating across this alternative media ecosphere five months after Trump and many of his backers were pushed off Facebook and Twitter for spreading disinformation that inspired a mob to attack the U.S. Capitol. While largely unnoticed by Americans who have accepted the fact of President Biden’s victory, the deluge of content has captured the attention of many who think the election was rigged, a belief that is an animating force inside the Republican Party.

In this world, ballot reviews like a Republican-commissioned recount now underway in Arizona are about to begin in otherkey swing states. Conspiracy theories that grow more dizzyingly complex by the day will soon be proven, showing that China or other foreign powers secretly flipped votes for Biden. Trump will be restored as president in months.

Thesefalsehoods are now seeping into civic life, spurring citizens in multiplestates to demand that local officials review the 2020 results.

Kim Wyman, the Republican secretary of state in Washington, said her staff contended with the latest barrage of email and calls just last week. “It told us something had transpired online,” she said, adding: “You can’t disprove the negatives that are being thrown out that are absolutely based on nothing.”

The echo chamber is being sustained by figures such as Byrne, who says he has spent more than $5.5 million to examine election fraud since November, and Mike Lindell, the chief executive of MyPillow, who regularly speaks with Trump and says he has plowed $16 million into the effort. Other untold sums have been donated by ordinary Americans to nonprofit groups that say they are focused on “election integrity” and tout what has been dubbed the “big lie” about the 2020 election.

Their claims have been popularized by a steady stream of attention from far-right media outlets, including a daily podcast hosted by former White House chief strategist Stephen K. Bannon. And they are being reinforced by Trump, through a flurry of statements issued by his PAC, and at rallies around the country, including one hosted by Lindell this month in Wisconsin that featured a live video appearance by the former president.

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