Barry’s Blog # 261: Breathing Together – QAnon and New Age Thinking, Part Two of Eight

The essence of American politics is the manipulation of populism by elitism. – Christopher Hitchens

The QAnon narrative, as most of us know by now, explains how we are in a sinister and dimly visible global power struggle. On one side of the fight is a depraved group of pedophiles, secretly sowing chaos and strife to create a pretext for their rule. On the other side is the public, decent people who have been deceived by the power brokers and their collaborators in the press. But patriotic elements within the military recruited Trumpus, and he’s been working hard behind the scenes to defeat the evil ones.

Whoever Q is (or are), its millions of followers receive and re-post thousands of hints about its agenda, and Trumpus himself (who many believe to actually be Q) has taken full advantage of it, especially in terms of coronavirus skepticism. Q followers agree that a great awakening is approaching to bring salvation. A promise of foreknowledge seems to be part of Q’s appeal, as is the feeling of being part of a secret community, which is reinforced through the use of acronyms and ritual phrases such as “Nothing can stop what is coming” and “Trust the plan.”

The year 2020 has added another dimension to the conspiracy mongering. Many people on both the right and the left who have legitimate concerns about corporate corruption of federal regulatory agencies, specifically on the question of vaccines, are finding it easier to question some aspects of the consensus on the Covid pandemic. And the Q people have skillfully taken advantage of this skepticism to convince them that the evil cabal of insiders deliberately created the pandemic or is at least ruthlessly exploiting it to frighten the public into accepting a totalitarian world government under permanent medical martial law. William Stranger writes:

The QAnon conspiracy represents nothing less than the chickens coming home to roost for the massive loss of public trust created by the plethora of outlandishly uninvestigated, under-investigated, and even fraudulently investigated marquee crimes in American history…

But we need to realize that QAnon is well-situated in a long and racialized American tradition in which people who feel threatened by evil cabals are in fact relatively well-off. It’s a story about victimhood (as I write in Chapters Seven and Eight of my book) and an excuse for violence, real or vicarious, that we’ve been telling ourselves ever since the first massacre of Indians in the early seventeenth century. But in this new version, the savior is the President himself, who is arguably the most powerful person in the world already, and his people are already in charge. It’s a story that seems to have been designed to cope with the cognitive dissonance caused by the gap between Trumpus as his fans imagine him and Trumpus as he is. Here are some articles I’ve found useful:

The Wizard of Q  

Decoding QAnon: How the delusional theory beloved by far-right loons began 

QAnon spreads across globe, shadowing COVID-19

The Prophecies of Q: American conspiracy theories are entering a dangerous new phase

The deep, twisted roots of QAnon: Delusions of demon-cannibal conspiracies aren’t even original 

Majority of Republicans believe the QAnon conspiracy theory is partly or mostly true

A list of key words and phrases used by QAnon followers

How to know what’s true? Or, as Caitlin Johnstone asks, How You Can Be 100% Certain That QAnon Is Bullshit:

1. It always excuses Trump’s facilitation of corporate agendas.

2. It always refuses to prove the validity of its position.

3. It’s made countless bogus claims and inaccurate predictions.

I would add a fourth point, as a question: How many people who claim to be victims of the deep state are people of color? Or are they in fact people who are generally quite privileged and almost universally white?

But we mythologists cannot afford to wallow in our own form of patronizing self-deception. This is a mass phenomenon, and besides, plenty of its adherents are armed to the teeth. More critically, we have to acknowledge that at its core, it represents a legitimate, if misdirected anger at a secular state (and its media) that in their (and my) mind is no longer legitimate. Johnstone continues:

…it’s an obvious propaganda construct designed to manufacture support for the status quo among people who otherwise would not support it. It presents itself as an exciting movement where the little guy is finally rising up and throwing off the chains of the tyrannical forces which have been exploiting and oppressing us, yet in reality all it’s doing is telling a discontented sector of the population to relax and “trust the plan” and put all their faith in the leader of the US government.

And that’s exactly what makes QAnon so uniquely toxic. It’s not just that it gets people believing false things which confuse and alienate them, it’s that it’s a fake, decoy imitation of what a healthy revolutionary impulse would look like. It sells people on important truths that they already intuitively know on some level…It takes those vital, truthful, healthy revolutionary impulses, then twists them around into support for the…president and the agendas of the Republican Party.

The Anti-Fascist Network places Q and its strategies squarely within an old tradition:

Part of the fascist strategy is to misguide people into thinking the centrist neoliberal policies that trouble them are leftist policies. The far-right then pretend to be rebels against capitalism, whilst in fact standing for an even more extreme and brutal form of capitalism.

To simply dismiss these people, however, is to ignore the implications of two of the basic ideas I’ll be speaking about further on. The first is that even a broken clock is right twice a day.Q followers and progressives agree that the mainstream media and mainstream political parties can’t be trusted, and some of the things that Q people say may well sound superficially attractive. But – and here is the second – we all need to learn how to discriminate, to notice when the clock really is broken, why it’s been broken and who broke it.

The issue is immensely complicated by technology – despite those few points of agreement, Q followers no longer share a common language with progressives. Indeed, the documentary The Social Dilemma reveals that the major social media sites have deliberately ensured that these people don’t ever read or hear the same news that we do.

Still, we must acknowledge that the worst lies can effective if they contain a core of truth. The great majority of Americans are suffering from a brutally unequal economic system and behind that, a soul-killing mythology, and the one thing all but the happy ten percent agree on is the need for change. Again: Q is “a fake, decoy imitation of what a healthy revolutionary impulse would look like.” That said, I’m interested not so much in its Tea-Party, libertarian or evangelical followers, most of whom identified with racist, misogynist, Republican politics long before Q arose, and will return to their roots when it disappears.

I’m more interested in figuring out what makes the NACs tick, and why so many of them have fallen for this con. It has been suggested that such people are particularly susceptible to being manipulated because they are perceived as high on empathy and low on boundaries. Also, it appears that one of the far right’s current strategies is to actively rebrand themselves as spiritual teachers or “new paradigm influencers.”

But we first we have to detour through American history and myth.

Read Part Three here.

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1 Response to Barry’s Blog # 261: Breathing Together – QAnon and New Age Thinking, Part Two of Eight

  1. Pingback: Barry’s Blog # 260: Breathing Together, Part One of Four | madnessatthegates

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