The QAnon narrative is built on suspicions and vivid imaginations more than fact.
“QAnon” refers to a person — or persons — named “Q” who began posting anonymous messages on such message boards as Reddit and 8Chan last October. Q works in the nation’s energy department with a top secret clearance, according to Q.
QAnon is the loosely knit online community of people who spend as much time trying to decipher Q’s cryptic messages as other folks might spend on fantasy basketball leagues or trying to decode old Beatles albums.
But it suddenly surged from the dark web to the Florida State Fairgrounds Expo Hall for Trump’s rally. Scattered throughout the audience were people with signs, T-shirts and caps bear a “Q” or slogans like “We are Q” and “Where we go one, we go all,” often abbreviated to “WWG1WGA.”
The people involved appeared to be having great fun, but an unsettling sense of foreboding hangs over this movement. That probably makes it more fun for the folks involved. Conspiracy theories, various experts say, grow out of the mind’s need to feel something other than helpless in the face of a changing and complicated world. But the appeal of such mindsets can encourage the unhinged to act in unpredictably in ways that can pose a danger to the rest of us.
For example, QAnon’s twisted web of suspicions is related to Pizzagate, the conspiracy theory that led a 28-year-old man to fire a rifle inside of a District of Columbia pizza restaurant last year. Last week a man appeared outside lawyer Michael Avenatti’s office, saying that Q had sent him there. An armed Nevada man was arrested after blocking a bridge near the Hoover Dam with an armored truck and demanding the release of a report that Q had claimed the government was trying to hide.
We must all be aware of the inevitability and resiliency of goofy conspiracy theories — and do all we can to refute them with facts and healthy skepticism.
The QAnon theory, whatever its origins, sounds tailor-made for core Trump supporters who need supporting arguments for the alternative scenarios spun by the White House, conservative media and other Trump allies.
QAnon is scary partly because its promoters want it to be. “Triggering the libs” or “owning the libs” — i.e., doing things specifically to upset liberals — is its own reward to many on the right. But paranoid politics can pop up on all political sides — and often does. So much for those of us who still find some value in facts. They’re not always available, but they’re worth pursuing.
Writes for Tribune Content Agency.