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The QAnon conspiracy theory

Doomsday cults and peddlers of conspiracy theories can be traced back to the Middle Ages. The most recent “We’re on the eve of destruction” group is QAnon, supposedly from “Q,” an “anonymous” internet poster. QAnon claims there is an international cabal of Satan-worshiping, child-eating pedophiles bent on ruling the U.S. and the world.

Members of a “deep state” hidden government (socialist, atheistic Democrats), allegedly control politicians, their mass-media backers (including the Daily Enterprise, no doubt), left-wing university professors and everything that comes out of Hollywood. QAnon can be considered a doomsday group — in addition to a global conspiracy theory — because adherents believe if the “deep state” is not destroyed, life as we know it in this country (dominated by conservative white males and a few token females) will end. 

According to the theory, were it not for the election of Donald Trump, the deep state would have continued to grow and flourish unchecked. “Q” informed us of Trump’s noble crusade (backed by the U.S. military) to rid the world of this expanding evil empire.

A brief look at a mid-1950s doomsday group reveals similarities with — and insights into — QAnon. Dorothy Martin, the leader of a fringe religious group called the Seekers, said she received messages via “automatic writing” from the planet Clarion. Having previously visited Earth, the Clarions discovered fault lines that would erupt and trigger massive flooding, destroying the Earth. Fortunately, these benevolent space aliens said they would return and rescue the Seekers before the cataclysmic events unfolded.

After both the flood and Clarion spaceships failed to materialize, Martin announced she had received a “message” from the Clarions stating the Seekers “had spread so much light that God had saved the world from destruction.” Their faith restored, Seekers began to proselytize and successfully attracted new members.

After Trump’s defeat in November, QAnon adherents had the same problem the Seekers did — their prophecy had failed. Trump was supposed to be reelected and lead the forces of goodness to the ultimate victory over the Democratic Party-dominated evil empire. But how could Trump have been so easily defeated, and why didn’t the military intervene on his behalf? 

Just as Dorothy Martin had to revamp the group’s narrative by stating their faith had prompted God to save the world, QAnon had to explain Trump’s loss within the context of the evil empire narrative. So to some QAnons, the election was stolen via a “deep state” supercomputer and a sophisticated software program that changed tabulated votes from Trump to Biden. 

One QAnon channel flipped the conspiracy theory on its head, stating President Joe Biden has been part of the plan to defeat the deep state all along. Biden’s inauguration was illegitimate, and the real inauguration will take place in March as Trump makes a triumphant return to power.

Another QAnon channel took heart in Trump’s final remarks as president: “We will be back in some form. … We will see you soon.” From this line of “reasoning,” the deep state’s destruction has merely been postponed and the QAnon narrative remains intact. Trump did not fail, according to a QAnon adherent who says “he has done all he could within his power” and the final task of rooting out and destroying the bad guys has been handed to the military.

QAnons see coded messages that validate their perspective everywhere. When Trump delivered his final remarks before departing Washington, there were 17 flags behind him. Q is the seventeenth letter of the alphabet. What could be a more obvious sign that Trump will return and rule in the name of all that is good and holy?

Think that’s bizarre? Some QAnon followers noted the black and gray coat Melania Trump wore on her husband’s final day in office resembled static on a television screen. The static portends a media blackout and a military coup that will return Trump to power. 

QAnon craziness aside, there are at least three quite real dangers adherents pose in the post Trump era. First, disenchanted followers who are not buying into a repackaged narrative are being recruited online by white supremacists and Neo-Nazis, according to security consultant Colin Clarke. 

Second, a major disappointment for Trump supporters (as a consequence of his defeat) was postponement of “the storm” — a highly anticipated day of reckoning when thousands of deep state individuals (starting with Hillary Clinton) will be arrested, tried by military tribunals and incarcerated, possibly at Guantanamo prison. 

More radical versions of this perspective have the guilty being executed. Some diehard QAnon members may attempt to fulfil this prophesy by engaging in violence. There were more than a few QAnon flags and people in QAnon shirts and jackets among the mob that stormed the Capitol last month.

Third, QAnon now has a voice in the House of Representatives as Marjorie Taylor Greene of Georgia and Lauren Boebert of Colorado were elected last November. Prior to her victory, Greene stated: “There’s a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to take this global cabal of Satan-worshiping pedophiles out.” In 2018 and 2019 she indicated support for executing Democrats Nancy Pelosi, Barack Obama, Hillary Clinton, John Kerry and FBI agents.

Greene has stated the gun massacres of 20 young children and six adults in Newton, Connecticut, in 2012, as well as the 2018 attack at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Florida in 2018, which left 17 people dead, were staged by gun control advocates. In 2018 she endorsed a theory that wealthy Jewish bankers started the massive California Camp Fire for personal gain by firing laser beams from outer space.

Greene suggested the Clintons murdered John F. Kennedy Jr., who died in a 1999 plane crash, and said there is no evidence an airplane slammed into the Pentagon on 9/11. In 2019, Greene suggested that Ruth Bader Ginsburg had died years ago and was replaced by a “body double” so liberals could hang onto her Supreme Court seat until Trump was removed from office. Such delusional babbling typically results in a prolonged psychiatric ward stay. Now it’s a ticket to Congress. 

Few Republicans have spoken out against Greene and if the party could enthusiastically support someone as bizarre and demented as Donald Trump, it could as readily champion a deranged QAnon proponent. On Feb. 4, Greene said she regretted “some words of the past” but did not explicitly apologize for her hateful, violence-condoning rhetoric. She thanked Trump for his support and said the ruckus over her comments was a “cancel culture” attack on the free speech of conservatives.

Several state Republican parties are recruiting QAnon followers, and the Texas party, as political reporter S.V. Date notes, has “declared ‘We are the storm,’ mimicking QAnon’s prediction of a coming cataclysm.”

P.S.: A December 2020 NPR/Ipsos poll found that 17% of those surveyed agreed “A group of Satan-worshiping elites who run a child sex-ring are trying to control our politics and our media.” I’m sure you noticed that number again — 17. Are these the chosen ones? Will the Clarions dispatch flying saucers to rescue these patriots before the evil empire take over?

George J. Bryjak lives in Bloomingdale and is retired after 24 years of teaching sociology at the University of San Diego.

Sources:

Date, S.V. (Jan. 31, 2021) “Out with Reagan, Buckley and Kemp; in with Trump, QAnon and Marjorie Taylor Greene,” Huffington Post, www.huffpost.com 

Domonoske, C. (Jan. 20, 2021) “The QAnon ‘storm never struck. Some supporters are wavering, others steadfast,” National Public Radio, www.npr.org

Festinger, L., Riecken, H. and Schachter, S. (1956) “When Prophecy Fails: A social psychological study of a modern group that predicted the destruction of the world,” Harper Torchbooks: New York, 

Glanton, D. (Feb. 1, 2021) “Column: Rep. Majorie Greene Taylor is dangerously kooky. Apparently, that’s just what voters want,” Chicago Tribune, www.chicagotribune.com 

Harwell, D. and C. Timberg (Jan. 20, 2021) “QAnon believers grapple with doubt, spin new theories as Trump era ends,” Washington Post, www.washingtonpost.com

Harwell, D. (Jan. 21, 2021) “QAnon believers seek to adapt their extremist ideology for a new era: ‘Things have just started,'” Washington Post, www.washingtonpost.com

Roose, K. (2020) “Shocked by Trump’s loss, QAnon struggles to keep the faith,” New York Times, www.nytimes.com 

Rose, J. (Dec. 30, 2020) “Even if it’s ‘bonkers,” poll finds many believe QAnon and other conspiracy theories,” National Public Radio, www.npr.org 

Rozsa, M. (Aug. 18, 2019) “QAnon is the conspiracy theory that won’t die: Here’s what they believe, and why they’re wrong,” Salon, www.salon.com 

Stahl, J. (Jan. 29, 2021) “How many House Republicans believe Jews attacked California with a space laser?” Slate, www.slate.com 

Steck, E. and A. Kaczynski (Feb. 4, 2021) “Majorie Taylor Greene’s history of dangerous conspiracy theories and comments,” CNN, www.cnn.com 

Tully-McManus, K, (Nov. 6, 2020) “QAnon goes to Washington: two supporters win seats in Congress. Believers in Deep State conspiracy enter halls of power,” RollCall, www.rollcall.coim 

Solender, A. (Aug. 13, 2020) “Trump-backed candidate Majorie Taylor Greene promotes 9/11 conspiracy theory,” Forbes, www.forbes.com 

Steck, E., and A. Kaczinski (Jan. 26, 2021) “Marjorie Greene indicated support for executing prominent Democrats in 2018 and 2019 before running for Congress,” CNN, www.cnn.com

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