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Randi Kreiss

Fighting the other epidemic: QAnon (Part 1)


Oddly, the most offensive remark made by a politician lately (and there are a lot to choose from) came from Marjorie Taylor Greene last month, as she was desperately trying to hold on to her seat in the House of Representatives. Standing before a microphone on Feb. 4, Greene was back-pedaling as fast as she could to put distance between herself and QAnon, the conspiracy group she supported. She had been elected to the House in Georgia’s 14th District on a wave of racist and anti-Semitic vitriol and innuendo.

In numerous speeches and tweets over the course of her campaign, Greene had allied herself with QAnon and its conspiracy tropes targeting numerous people in public life. By Feb. 4, she had been stripped of her committee assignments in the House because of her public remarks, and she feared being booted out of office altogether. So she stood before a microphone and announced to the world, “9-11 definitely happened.”

Thank you, Marjorie.

She proclaimed, “School shootings happened.”

In what fractured reality, I wondered, do we find someone like her validating the epic public tragedies we have witnessed with our own eyes? We heard the cries of children with our own ears. We saw the bodies falling from the high floors of the towers.

Look around and take note: We are in a surreal place now, where the liars like Greene assume the roles of validating self-evident public truths.

In her Feb. 4 appearance, she tried to distance herself from QAnon, but it was a transparent, self-serving show. She kept her seat. This is a woman who promoted violence against Q’s perceived enemies, at one point signaling support for the assassination of Speaker Nancy Pelosi.

Greene was duly elected by 74 percent of the voters in her district. That raises the questions, how and why.

My initial reaction was not to write about QAnon, to avoid shining a light on its dark activities and let it die a slow death. But it isn’t dying. A better tactic, I think, is to let in the air and light until the issues that gave rise to such a disturbing belief system are addressed.

Briefly, QAnon is an internet-based group of people who believe that there exists in public life a secret society of devil worshipers who kidnap and cannibalize children and engage in pedophilia. Preposterous? The ideology metastasized across the web, pulling people into an alternative world where they followed hidden “clues” and “codes” signaling belief that former President Trump would create a “storm” on inauguration day, ushering himself back into power and bringing down President Biden. And of course, destroying Black Lives Matter and Jewish influencers and basically nonwhites of any variety.

How does a belief system like QAnon take hold? The problem isn’t politics, which just offers a stage. People are susceptible to theories that claim to explain the inexplicable uncertainties in all our lives.

According to a story by Kevin Roose in The New York Times on Feb. 4, QAnon operates in a different way, and on a different scale, than anything we’ve seen before. For starters, it is uniquely participatory. Followers congregate online to decode the latest QAnon posts and to discuss their theories about the news of the day, creating a communal bond with their fellow believers. Apparently, hundreds of thousands of people think, with complete sincerity, that the leaders of the Democratic Party may be killing innocent children. Combine those fantasies with a willingness to commit violent crimes in the name of the group, and there is a real threat.

Although there is plenty of ignorance to go around among Q followers, Roose wrote that they can’t be dismissed as stupid. The group satisfies needs we all have to feel significant and part of something big. When you don’t get that in other aspects of your life, the group becomes that much more important. Social media adds accelerant.

We have to address the psychological triggers and motivations if we want to mitigate the influence and potential dangers of this kind of thinking. Conspiracy theories will always thrive when people feel like they’re not in control of their lives and when political, religious and social groups offer shelter. According to NPR, although QAnon has been kicked off Twitter and Facebook, it thrives on various fringe platforms.

I don’t think anyone has a solution for eradicating groups like QAnon. But a good step forward is to better educate our children, creating a generation of more critical thinkers.

I’ll address that in Part 2 next week.

Copyright 2021 Randi Kreiss. Randi can be reached at randik3@aol.com.