How a Jeopardy! Contestant’s Hand Gesture Became Part of a Conspiracy

“Thank you for reaching out regarding your concern over a Jeapardy [sic] contestant flashing what you believed to be a white power hand signal,” wrote Aaron Ahlquist, of the A.D.L., in accordance with textual content posted to the group by the contestant who had emailed the group. “We have reviewed the tape and it looks like he is simply holding up three fingers when they say he is a three-time champion. We do not interpret his hand signal to be 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 should the need arise.”

The A.D.L.’s response provoked fury amongst former contestants who had signed the letter.

“Is anyone else feeling gaslit?” requested one two-time champion, in accordance with the screenshots. “We saw it. We know we did. But a lot of people (including the goddamned ADL) are telling us we didn’t. That’s some classic gaslighting.”

These are, I ought to stress once more, a bunch of good, considerate folks. I discovered them totally on LinkedIn, the place they have an inclination to have well-curated profiles and avatars of themselves towards the present’s blue backdrop. The signers of the letter I spoke to appeared satisfied that Mr. Donohue had been flashing a white energy signal of some kind. They had been significantly involved that producers had missed it — and that the present, reeling from the loss of life of its iconic host, Alex Trebek, is likely to be “in decline,” as a 2007 champion from northern Canada, Brett Chandler, informed me.

Mr. Chandler was one of a number of letter signers I spoke to who remained satisfied that the opposite traces of Mr. Donohue’s on-line presence, in addition to his use of the phrase “Gypsy” in an earlier episode, meant he was sending a coded sign. Many mentioned that, whilst they acknowledged how inconceivable it appeared.

“He wouldn’t have known he was going to win three, so the logic falls apart a little bit there,” Mr. Chandler mentioned.

The letter’s major co-authors requested to not be named as a result of they feared harassment on social media. One, a lawyer, mentioned in a LinkedIn message that the letter’s “overarching point is that the production staff should have headed off this controversy” by enhancing out the gesture. That interpretation requires a fairly cautious studying of the letter, which started with a give attention to Mr. Donohue and included hypothesis concerning the significance of a of Frank Sinatra on his private Facebook web page.

I ought to stress once more that these are good folks, who had been normally extra well mannered than the journalists who reluctantly take my calls most weeks. And that, I believe, is the purpose right here. The contestants’ investigations of Mr. Donohue had all of the sign traits of a regular social media hunt gone awry — largely, that you just assume your conclusion and go searching for proof. And they adopted the deep partisan grooves of modern politics, wherein liberals believed absolutely the worst of a Trump supporter. But additionally they contained a thread of actual conspiracy considering — not simply that racism is a supply of Trumpian politics, however that apparently strange persons are speaking by means of secret alerts. It displays a depth of alienation amongst Americans, wherein our warring tribes squint by means of the fog at each other for mysterious and abstruse indicators of malice.

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