Here’s a very unsettling statistic, reported by Dominic Green in The Spectator:
In late May, a PRRI poll found that 23 percent of Republicans “mostly or completely” believe in the following three propositions: the QAnon theory that the “government, media and financial worlds” of the US are controlled by a “group of Satan-worshipping pedophiles who run a global sex trafficking operation”; that a “storm” is coming soon to “sweep away the elites in power and restore the rightful leaders”; and that “true American patriots may have to resort to violence in order to save our country”.
Look, I’m not interested in the QAnon-bashing you see throughout the mainstream media. The truth is, Americans have always believed in insane nonsense. And it’s not just the poor, ignorant rubes. Will Keith Kellogg was a Seventh-Day Adventist who invented Corn Flakes to help children stop masturbating. Andrew Carnegie almost single-handedly funded the Swedenborgian Church in this country. Etc.
What puts QAnon in a league of its own, however, is that it’s violent—at least in theory. It openly speculates about the imminent need for political violence. And such violent movements do not gain traction in prosperous countries like the United States. People only resort to violence—only contemplate resorting to violence—when they feel there’s an imminent threat to themselves or their family.
Of course, that’s what Q promised to his followers. But the evidence wasn’t there. Well, yes: Jeffrey Epstein was caught trafficking underaged girls to powerful men. But Prince Andrew isn’t exactly the Illuminati, and we’d already known Bill Clinton was a pervert.
Besides, Donald Trump had also flown on the Lolita Express and was friends with Epstein for years. “He’s a lot of fun to be with,” the President once recalled. “It is even said that he likes beautiful women as much as I do, and many of them are on the younger side.” Yet, according to Q, Mr. Trump was the “storm” that was going to “sweep away the elites in power.” QAnon doesn’t even follow its own internal logic (such as it is).
How do you sell an idea like this to one-quarter of Republican voters? How to you convince them of a theory that’s at once both incredibly complex and totally convoluted? And how do you convince them so deeply that they’re willing to consider take up arms in support of that theory?
Again, we’re not talking about Russia in the 1910s or Germany in the 1920s. We’re not talking about a broken people mired in abject poverty desperately in search of a savior. We’re talking about middle-class folks with brand-new Toyota Tundras and closets full of MAGA swag.
The only way a theory like QAnon could be spread is by propaganda. But what’s amazing is that it didn’t have a charismatic leader or any of the usual means of disseminating malicious nonsense. Actually, QAnon is fascinating in that it lacked all the usual means of disseminating such a bizarre theory. As far as his followers could tell, “Q” didn’t even exist.
In other words, all of Q’s followers were self-propagandized. All of them subjected themselves to brainwashing.
It’s like smoking. Nobody—and I mean nobody—enjoys his first cigarette. Usually, he don’t even enjoy your second… or third… or fourth. And yet every smoker makes the decision to keep smoking. Why? Maybe he thinks it looks cool. Maybe all his friends smoke. Maybe he’s heard that, once you get into the habit, it’s mellow and relaxing. Or maybe he want to rile up his parents. (That’s why I started.)
It doesn’t matter. At some point, the unpleasant thing becomes a pleasure. Then it becomes an addiction. It alters the way your brain functions. It’s physically painful to go without. And you become irrationally angry when others criticize your habit.
Do you see what I’m getting at?
Like I said, I’m not interested in dunking on Q for its own sake. I’m not “anti-Q” except in the sense that I’m opposed to all such dumb, pseudo-scientific theories (Marxism, Darwinism, etc.).
Here’s my real point. The fact that QAnon spread under such impossible circumstances is only possible thanks to (A) the Internet and (B) the personal devices that allow the internet to be accessed anywhere, at any time.
Let me put it another way. QAnon could not have happened without (A) the Artificial Reality created by the Internet and (B) the ability for Q’s followers to remain submerged in that Artificial Reality, virtually at all times.
In this sense, QAnon is of a piece with every other A.R. bubble created in the Silicon Age.
The dork who was really into playing as a sexy she-elf in World of Warcraft, decided to declare himself “transgender,” and found a new “community” on the internet to affirm his new “identity”? That’s QAnon.
The little girl that’s so haunted by the Slender Man game that she stabs a classmate? That’s QAnon.
The 40-year-old man who becomes so addicted to pornography that he decides to divorce his wife, abandon his children, and cruise the bars for drunk coeds? That’s QAnon.
We are all Q now. We’re all self-propagandizing. We all subject ourselves to these mind-warping pseudo-realities, which are projected directly into our brains by our laptops and smartphones. That’s why I’m a Luddite, and why I use technology as little as possible.
So, friends, for the sake of your soul: Close your browser tab. Hell, chuck your laptop out the window. Read a book. Write a letter to a friend. Go for a walk. Smell a flower. Have a nice cup of tea.
I promise you, God’s creation is much nicer than any Artificial Reality. Just enjoy it. Soak in the glory of its thing-ness. Revel in its vast, tangible being. The only way to stay grounded is to actually stand up and put your feet on the ground. That’s the only way to stay sane.