introducing qanon studies

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While it’s a shame to interrupt the usual deeply erratic programming of joke posts and internecine griping, there’s something I’ve wanted to chime in about for a while and this space is as apt as any.

I’ve been working as a right-wing watcher for the better part of the past year, which, while not an especially long period of study, means that for better or worse I’ve become intimately familiar with the nuances of the QAnon conspiracy theory. Once a fringe culture that I followed as part of my long-held interest in the reactionary right, QAnon is now something that most Americans have at least heard of thanks to the siege on the Capitol last month (did I ever envision writing this phrase?) I’ve seen a lot of explainers of QAnon and corresponding timelines, datasets, and highlights of what they conspire about when they think only sympathetic ears are listening. However, there seems to be little on the literary, psychological, or even imaginative origins of major points in the conspiracy.

My deepest belief regarding the right wing is that the reactionary right have to be understood to be combated. If we ever hope to deprogram the hundreds of thousands of Americans who have fallen down this philosophical rabbit-hole, we have to understand what makes it compelling for its acolytes. In this way, I hope some mild amateur analysis on my tiny blog is at least useful for deciphering the conspiratorial mindset.

I’ve been hesitant to ever write on this topic for risk of amplifying or giving oxygen to a belief with a body count. The number one rule of analyzing live disinformation is that you should never be a factor in continuing the spread. However, QAnon has broken containment. Where it was once isolated, it is now endemic. Residents of Sequim, WA are currently at war with their mayor over it, desperately addressing his radio show with calls for accountability for his boosting of the movement. Teachers are mentioning it in class and instructing students in how to find information about it, a dangerous prospect in the era of online radicalization. Platforms promise to address the burgeoning movement and then fall short, with lethal consequences. The inauguration of President Biden has done little to deter the most fervent believers, which media coverage of disappointed and disillusioned adherents elides. For these reasons, I believe in-depth analysis of QAnon is not only interesting for watchers like myself, but helpful to record contemporaneously.

I’ll probably only write a few posts on this, mostly in the service of articulating things I’ve noticed from months immersed in following the movement. After all, it’s possible that one day soon the fever will break, and the people who have fallen victim to this dangerous and hateful ideology will snap out of it and be able to repair the broken bonds surrounding them. I don’t think it’s likely, but I have hope.

Prospective posts: major themes (doubles, gematria, role of media); the role of prediction and prophecy; the incorporation of Bircher and sovereign citizen ideology into the schema; fellow traveler beliefs (flat earth, COVID-19 misinformation); the role of fandom. Let’s get freaky.

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