“Thank you for letting us know about your concern about a Jeapardy. [sic] candidate flashing what you believe to be a white hand signal, ”wrote Aaron Ahlquist of the ADL, according to a text posted to the group by the candidate who emailed the group. “We reviewed the tape and it looks like he’s just holding three fingers when they say he’s a three-time champion. We do not interpret his hand sign as indicative of any ideology. However, we are grateful to you for raising your concern and please do not hesitate to contact us in the future if needed. “
The ADL’s response provoked the fury of former candidates who signed the letter.
“Does anyone else feel short of breath?” asked for a double champion, according to the screenshots. “We have seen it. We know we did. But a lot of people (including the damn ADL) tell us we didn’t. It is classic gas lighting. “
They are, I must emphasize once again, a kind and caring group of people. I found them mostly on LinkedIn, where they tend to have neatly organized profiles and avatars against the show’s blue background. The signatories of the letter I spoke to seemed convinced that Mr. Donohue had flashed some sort of white power sign. They were especially worried that the producers had missed it – and that the show, shaken by the death of its iconic host, Alex Trebek, could be “in decline,” as one 2007 champion from northern Canada told me. , Brett Chandler.
Mr. Chandler was one of the many letter signers I spoke to who remained convinced that the other traces of Mr. Donohue’s online presence, as well as his use of the word “Gypsy” in a previous episode, meant it was sending an encoded signal. Many have said this, while acknowledging how unlikely it seemed.
“He wouldn’t have known he was going to win three, so the logic breaks down a bit there,” Mr. Chandler said.
The main co-authors of the letter asked not to be named because they feared being harassed on social media. One, a lawyer, said in a LinkedIn post that the “crux of the letter is that the production team should have avoided this controversy” by removing the gesture. This interpretation requires a fairly careful reading of the letter, which began with a focus on Mr. Donohue and included speculation about the significance of a photograph of Frank Sinatra on his personal Facebook page.
I have to stress again that these are smart people, who were generally more polite than the reporters who reluctantly answer my calls most weeks. And that, I think, is the point here. Competitor’s investigations into Mr. Donohue had all the hallmarks of a normal social media hunt gone awry – largely, whether you assume your conclusion and go looking for evidence. And they followed the partisan depths of contemporary politics, in which the liberals believed the absolute worst of a Trump supporter. But they also contained a thread of real conspiracy thought – not only is racism a source of Trumpian politics, but apparently ordinary people communicate through secret signals. This reflects a deep alienation among Americans, in which our warring tribes gaze at each other through the haze in search of mysterious and abstruse signs of mischief.