Down the QAnon hole

As I mentioned last week, I now have two hgh-school friends posting QAnon memes and hashtags on FB. I suspect I’d see more if I didn’t use the “take a break” option to keep from seeing friends’ FB pages that are nothing but Hail Trump! memes.

One of the reasons it’s taking such root is that the current right wing is fertile ground. As Paul Campos says, a large part of white America has been freaking out since feminism, gay rights and the civil rights movement took “their” country away and Trump is their God. Or Texas businessman Al Hartman, who pressures his employees not to wear masks at work (not that the article says he’s into QAnon, but he’s already ignoring reality). A theory that explains contrary to all evidence, they’re right, Trump’s right and the evil liberals are indeed evil. Just by posting the memes, they’re saving the (non-existent) children! And with Republicans incapable of tackling the pandemic perhaps it helps Republicans stay loyal to the party. And anti-vaxxing and other crackpot stuff feeds the QAnon fire, much as incels and online misogyny have begun feeding into white supremacy. And there are lots of other conspiracies to keep them enraged.

And like any conspiracy theory, believers can screen out any contradictory evidence: faux prophet Mark Taylor, for example, explains Trump not taking the opportunity to support QAnon proves he supports QAnon (“It’s not time for the president to come out yet and say Q is legit.”). Because QAnon isn’t even connecting dots, it’s making them up, it’s easy to turn anything into evidence: A Wisconsin cheese festival is part of the Satanic conspiracy because ““What’s in the codeword ‘cheese,’ people? If you know anything about anything, ‘cheese’ is little girls in the world of pedophilia.” That would be funny except that, as Nietzsche said, when you grapple with monsters you become one. The story discusses how QAnon believers, having been persuaded various child-care service are part of the Sinister Conspiracy, are now kidnapping their kids to keep them safe (more here).

Not that surprising. Embracing this kind of belief was never going to lead to a mentally healthy place. As the blogger Hilzoy puts it, this kind of self-righteousness — you’re virtuous, your enemies are monsters — is addictive. Once you start down the rabbit-hole it’s hard to let go of the glorious feeling of virtue and justified hate: “The more you nurse your hatred, the larger a part of your identity it becomes. But hatred is a poor substitute for a genuine self, and the more you come to depend on it, the hollower you become, and the harder it is to let it go.” You see grey as black, then you see white as black, all so you can keep the hate going. As Roy Edroso says, Republicans have held the White House and the Senate for three-plus years, they’ve appointed dozens of far-right judges, gutted the eeevil environmental regulations, but they’re still furious. They’re hooked on their own rage; they love Trump, in part, because he eggs them on. And Republicans exploit this.

And meanwhile it seems Trump’s Russian business contacts include criminals and people who really do engage in human trafficking. Somehow I don’t see QAnon being bothered by this.

The extremists are a minority within a minority party, but our system of government gives them outsize influence. I don’t know what we can do but voting against them in November is a start.

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