What has mesmerized so many confused souls dedicated to decoding the Delphic clues to the QAnon conspiracy?
What they think they’re getting is ‘secret knowledge’, from ‘Q’ and a group of other military insiders working for Donald Trump, about ‘the storm…a place at the first lodges for the final match” in a “secret war between good and evil” which will end in the slaughter of all the “enemies of freedom”.
In short, an irresistible mix of “biblical retribution and participatory justice”.
The bad guys are “Democrats, Hollywood elites, business moguls, wealthy liberals, the medical establishment, celebrities and the mass media… They’re controlled by Barack Obama” – a Muslim sleeper agent – and Hillary Clinton, “a blood-drinking ghoul who murders everyone in her path…and they are funded by George Soros and the Rothschild banking family (no relation to author).”
This updated edition of Mike Rothschild’s comprehensive history of the Q movement is more important than ever. Why? In part because of the pivotal role played by so many QAnon loyalists in the storming of the Capitol on January 6, 2021, but mostly because Rothschild is documenting how deeply this madness has penetrated the heart of the new Republican Party, propelled by many of the most disgusting in America. individuals, from Ted Cruz and Donald Trump Jr to Alex Jones, Michael Flynn and Roseanne Barr.
As Rothschild writes of Trump’s first national security adviser, “Flynn’s family even filmed themselves taking the ‘Digital Soldier Oath’… part of what would become an entanglement total between the members of the Flynn family and QAnon.”
In the two years leading up to the 2020 presidential election, “nearly 100 Republican candidates declared themselves Q Believers” while Trump “retweeted hundreds of Q followers, putting their violent fantasies and bizarre memes into tens of millions of streams”.
Asked about a movement that has repackaged many of the oldest and toughest racist and anti-Semitic conspiracies for a new era, Trump gave his usual coy endorsement of the behavior of America’s most damaged internet addicts.
“I don’t know much about the movement,” he mumbled, “other than understanding that they like me a lot, which I appreciate.”
In the winter of 2021, as the Omicron variant skyrocketed Covid cases, “QAnon promoters were among the most visible anti-vaccine advocates pushing lies and conspiracy theories” to “dissuade people from to get vaccinated”.
As with so many positions of QAnon adherents, the message was “both clear and completely contradicted by the available evidence: they believed the pandemic was over and that any mandates related to vaccines or masks were control mechanisms. totalitarians who were actually killing people”.
More than anything else, this is the horrifying latest confirmation of what social psychologist Jonathan Haidt recently described as “the power of social media as a universal solvent, breaking ties and weakening institutions wherever it has achieved”.
Like so many other ghastly conspiracies of the past decades, especially the blood libel that the Sandy Hook massacre was a staged event in which no one was actually killed, QAnon was propelled with lightning speed by a combination the incompetence and greed of all the big-big names in tech: Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and YouTube.
Rothschild describes the usual futile internet game of Whac-A-Mole.
Reddit “abruptly banned the 70,000-member r/Great Awakening board because the members began harassing other users” and posted the personal information “of at least one person they falsely claim to be a mass shooter”.
Never mind: Q followers just migrated to Twitter and “shut down Facebook groups with tens of thousands of members… In 2018 alone, Q believers shared Q YouTube videos more than 1.4 million times and drove hundreds of thousands of shares to Fox News, Breitbart, and the Pundit Gateway.”
In 2019, “Trump regularly retweeted accounts promoting QAnon.” In the 2020 election, “Trump had retweeted hundreds… and regularly shared memes created by the movement.”
When Twitter and Facebook finally began “clamping down on Q iconography in the summer of 2020,” much of the movement simply shifted to Instagram. Amazon and Etsy joined the fun with books and merchandise and there were even “Q apps on the Google Play Store”.
Q’s legacy includes what now looks like the permanent distortion of the Republican Party. A December 2020 poll by NPR/Ipsos found that about a third of Americans believed in a dark “deep state” and 23% of hardy Republicans “believed in a pedophile network of Satan-worshipping elites.”
Rothschild ends by asking behavioral experts if there is anything the rest of us can do to help those who have gone far down this miserable rabbit hole. They say the only effective solution is a complete “disconnection” from the Internet.
Every time I read another book like this, I’m more and more inclined to the idea that this might be the only path to sanity for all of us.