How do they originate and why do they stick? Is it boredom? Is it fear? Is it vengeance? Is it retribution? Is it the need for a scapegoat? Is it protection from those we think we need protection from? For most of my adult life, I worked as a mental health counselor with people with severe mental disorders–people who often had paranoid hallucinations and delusions. They would sometimes think they were being followed by the CIA or FBI or local police, or they thought they were Jesus returned or that they had bugs crawling all over them. I felt bad for these people. They were afflicted with these thoughts, without themselves being bad or evil. But people who believe in conspiracy theories are not necessarily mentally ill. They are fully conscious and aware of their delusions, and the harm and fear they cause. And let me add here that some conspiracy theories, like those around President Kennedy’s assassination, are valid and warrant continued investigation.
The latest delusional one is this QAnon conspiracy theory which has gained much traction since 2017, particularly among supporters of Donald Trump. Even Trump himself has come out publicly and supported the conspiracy, saying, in his usual dumbed-down way, “If they like me, I’m for it.” It’s a bizarre theory that lays out an equally bizarre plot line that even the FBI has labeled as potential terrorism. It’s even been developed as a kind of macabre video-like game that claims Democrats, Hollywood elites, and other elites are part of a deep state that sex traffics children, kidnapping and murdering them to make some sort of lethal potion. It smacks of the scurrilous and utterly false blood libel conspiracy used as justification to kill Jews in the Middle Ages and elements of which still exist to this day. They paint Trump as the “lightworker” savior, fighting against all this, a kind of righteous god named Q. Way, way out there. Believe me, it’s all a gross and grotesque delusion. They’ve already committed acts of violence and murder themselves in a distorted sense of somehow saving society from Blacks, Muslims, Jews, scientific experts, mainstream media, elites…and even all Democrats. That tells me this particular abomination somehow emanated from the head of Trump himself.
In fact, let’s take a deeper look at the idea of a deep state. Recently arrested Steve Bannon who is a confidante of Trump is about as prime an example of what an official of a deep state could be. And what did Jeffrey Epstein, another close friend of Trump, do but traffic in the sexual exploitation of adolescent girls. And what did Manafort and Flynn, both close associates of Trump, do but consort with the Russians on rigging the 2016 election. And Stephen Miller, a Trump deep state capo who pushes to separate immigrant children from their families at the border. And just about every incompetent leader Trump appointed to his Cabinet and other government agencies ordered to dismantle the department they headed (most recently the USPS in order to sabotage mail-in ballots). And if someone disobeyed what Trump wanted they were summarily fired and replaced with a more loyal puppet. The result: a deep state within the guise of our time-tested U.S. Constitution and current government. And that is where QAnon adherents got the idea for a deep state. It wasn’t the Democrats at all. That was just part of a Trump rant. It was Donald Trump, himself, once again doing what he accused others of doing, a favorite ploy of his. QAnon is merely a branch of his cult-like supporters.
With all the downtime people have with shutdowns due to the pandemic, QAnon is becoming viral on social media, despite efforts by Facebook and Twitter to shut it down. In fact those efforts, along with endorsements by Republican leaders like Trump, his enablers, and Republican candidates for Congressional office have apparently made this conspiracy theory even more widespread.
But make no mistake, this is a dangerous and delusional theory that can only lead to violence, fear, paranoia, and a state not unlike the one portrayed in Orwell’s novel, 1984. As an example, I hesitated writing and posting this piece out of fear I would start to receive death threats from these fanatics and Trump cultists. But thinking of Congressman and civil rights leader John Lewis who, before his recent death, encouraged us to speak truth to lies and distortions, I decided to go ahead with it. If people like me are silenced by fear, then our progress towards becoming better human beings will be stunted, and will surely atrophy into anarchy and destruction. And anyway, what have I really got to lose, given my continued struggles with cancer and heart failure.
So if you see or hear of QAnon, or any other conspiracy theory you suspect as being distortions of what is true, I encourage you to oppose it in whatever way is comfortable for you. We’re all different in that regard. With some, all they can do is think to themselves that this is not sane, is not reasonable, is not just, is not kind to others, and discount what they are hearing. That’s fine. Others will write down their thoughts and send them to social media or a blog like I am doing. That’s fine. And others will speak out to their friends or family or even in public as a Republican Congressional representative courageously did recently. And that is fine as well. Of course, we all have the power to cast our votes for those who actively oppose QAnon.
Whatever way you choose to register your opposition is fine. But oppose them you must. It is our responsibility as conscious, kind, and thoughtful human beings.
Barbara Fahs says
Excellent piece, Stephen. You have a very true perspective. I love you lots and miss you dearly. Keep up the good work, and Goddess bless you!
Stephen Altschuler says
Thanks, Barb. Glad I still have some marbles left to do my bit. Love and miss you too, my friend. Stay safe and be well.