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Gullible, Stupid, Perhaps Dangerous: QAnon's True Believers

Whenever somebody assures me that everything happens for a reason, it's normally my practice to tiptoe quietly away.

People are only trying to be nice. The notion that every kind of personal misfortune—each terrible accident or harrowing diagnosis, every pious wide-receiver rehabbing a bad knee—are all part of God's plan to test our individual faith and resolve is most often a well-intentioned sentimental gesture.

Have faith, is all they're really saying. You're strong enough to handle it.

It's when people start getting specific about exactly what God's plan consists of and where fate and history are taking us that all that the trouble starts. Folly and madness invariably follow. Once they bring the unintelligible prophecies of the Book of Revelation into it, it's too often a one-way trip to Crazytown with no return ticket.

So it is with the burgeoning religio-political cult calling itself "QAnon," as described in an extraordinary piece of journalism in The Atlantic by Adrienne LaFrance. She correctly notes that "[t]he power of the internet was understood early on, but the full nature of that power—its ability to shatter any semblance of shared reality, undermining civil society and democratic governance in the process—was not."

Can I get an amen?

I would argue that the historically unprecedented capacity of Froot Loops and lone dementoes of every kind and description to wind each other up online constitutes as grave a threat to the republic as anything since the Confederate States of America. In his 1704 satire A Tale of a Tub, Jonathan Swift depicted the religious zealots of his day gathered in a big circle, each with a bellows inserted into the posterior of the fellow in front of him, first pumping each other full of hot air and then discharging it in each other's faces.

QAnon's exactly like that, except online.

Remember that sad sack from North Carolina who shot up a Washington, D.C. pizza joint in December 2016 because he'd convinced himself that Hillary Clinton was operating a child sex and torture ring in the basement of a building that didn't actually have a basement?

Well, it turns out that he was a prophet.

LaFrance quotes University of Miami political scientist Joseph Uscinski, who studies conspiracy theories. Whether of the left or right, what they all have in common, he says is "acceptance of the following propositions: Our lives are controlled by plots hatched in secret places. Although we ostensibly live in a democracy, a small group of people run everything, but we don't know who they are. When big events occur—pandemics, recessions, wars, terrorist attacks—it is because that secretive group is working against the rest of us."

In October 2017, somebody calling himself "Q," see, began posting cryptic comments on online sites where right-wing zealots gather. Posing as an intelligence professional embedded deep in the "deep state," he predicted the imminent arrest and conviction of Hillary Clinton in the aforementioned child molesting conspiracy.

Needless to say, this hasn't happened nor ever will. Also needless to say, however, millions of gullible nitwits obsessed with Hillary's multiple homicides began wetting themselves in anticipation. (It's occurred to me that the manufacturers of Depends adult diapers could be behind the whole thing.)

Supposedly, see, special counsel Robert Mueller and Boss Trump himself were secretly working together to destroy Hillary's evil cabal. Also participating is the late John F. Kennedy, Jr., who was either foully murdered by Hillary in 1999 or Q's secret identity. Initiates differ on this question.

Seriously, they do.

Others believe that Q is none other than Trump himself. I remain agnostic on the question. But either way, Q kept dropping online clues, and nothing kept happening. The cult grew steadily larger. Then came the worldwide Covid 19 pandemic, with its intimations of Apocalypse, and a whole new cast of international malefactors got added to the suspect list: George Soros, Bill Gates, Rep. Adam Schiff, and Dr. Anthony Fauci.

And now Joe Biden, recently accused of being a "child molester" by no less an authority than Donald Trump, Jr.

Two and a half years on, LaFrance summarizes, and the "QAnon belief system looks something like this: Q is an intelligence or military insider with proof that corrupt world leaders are secretly torturing children all over the world; the malefactors are embedded in the deep state; Donald Trump is working tirelessly to thwart them. ("These people need to ALL be ELIMINATED," Q wrote in one post.) The eventual destruction of the global cabal is imminent, Q prophesies, but can be accomplished only with the support of patriots who search for meaning in Q's clues. To believe Q requires rejecting mainstream institutions, ignoring government officials, battling apostates, and despising the press."

Well, I suppose everybody's got to have a hobby.

How seriously to take this particular threat to public sanity? Come November, we may find out.

Trump's ‘Obamagate’ Retreads Debunked Conspiracy Theories

Reprinted with permission from MediaMatters

Last weekend, President Donald Trump unleashed a series of Mother's Day tweets accusing former President Barack Obama of an unspecified crime, referring to it as "Obamagate." Trump later went as far as to suggest that Obama and the Democratic presidential front-runner, former Vice President Joe Biden, should be in prison.

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Limbaugh Urges Audience To Ignore ‘Deep State’ Health Experts

Reprinted with permission from MediaMatters.

After dismissing COVID-19 as “the common cold,” Limbaugh says, “We didn’t elect a president to defer to a bunch of health experts that we don’t know.”

From the March 27, 2020, edition of Premiere Networks’ The Rush Limbaugh Show

RUSH LIMBAUGH (HOST): It’s a fascinating case study to me, and it’s worrisome and it’s troublesome. And then the other side of it is, through all of this, I’ve never had any doubt we’re going to come out of it. I’ve never had any doubt we’re going to come out of it stronger, and we’re going to come out of it healthy. And I think it’s imperative that we have somebody like Donald Trump, who is outside the establishment, expert class, who has a history of solving problems, to actually lead the country through this.

You know, we’ve talked about the “Deep State” all these years since Trump was elected — the Trump-Russia collusion, the FBI — well, the Deep State extends very deeply. And the American people did not elect a bunch of health experts that we don’t know. We didn’t elect a president to defer to a bunch of health experts that we don’t know. And how do we know they’re even health experts? Well, they wear white lab coats, and they’ve been in the job for a while, and they’re at the CDC and they’re at the NIH, and they’re up, well — yeah, they’ve been there, and they are there. But has there been any job assessment for them? They’re just assumed to be the best because they’re in government. But, these are all kinds of things that I’ve been questioning.

And I’ve been watching people routinely accept whatever the authorities say. Where I live, the local town government is driving around town, trying to spot people violating the social distancing ordinances. And when they see it, they publish it on their web site, “This is very troublesome. We at the town are very troubled by groups of people congregating, violating the social distancing.” Well, what do you think people are going to do? People are not just going to sit around here and stop living.

Anyway, most of this is for next week, I’m just kind of setting the table. Because once I get going, the time starts flying here, and I’m going to be out of here before I know it.

Overstock CEO Resigns After ‘Deep State’ Rant Tanks Stock

Overstock CEO Patrick Byrne resigned Thursday after recent comments pushing a Trump-style “deep state” conspiracy caused company shares to collapse.

“I am in the sad position of having to sever ties with Overstock, both as CEO and board member, effective Thursday August 22,” Patrick Byrne said in a statement released Thursday.

Shares in Overstock plummeted nearly 40 percent, the worst two-day decline in the company’s history, just a little over a week ago when Byrne began pushing his story.

“Everything you think you know about the Russia and Clinton investigations was a lie, it was all political espionage. I think [William Barr] has gotten to the bottom of it,” Byrne told Fox Business on August 12.

Byrne also released a statement referring to federal agents as “Men In Black” and said he had assisted investigations relating to the Clintons and Russia. The release was headlined, “Overstock.com CEO Comments on Deep State, Withholds Further Comment.”

The conspiracy-laden comments that caused the company to lose millions in value and led to Byrne’s ouster sound similar to what Trump has ranted about for months.

Trump began pushing the idea of a “deep state,” referring to alleged actors within the federal government working to end his presidency, from very early on in 2017.

The wild allegation, which traces its roots to 9/11 and Sandy Hook conspiracy theorist Alex Jones, was an attempt to defend and explain away the FBI investigation of his campaign’s interactions with Russian elements.

Since Trump began pushing the idea, the phrasing has been adopted by other Republicans and by Trump’s allies at outlets like Fox News.

Unlike Byrne, the Republican Party’s “deep state” aficionados are not being forced out of their positions.

Published with permission of The American Independent.