A Qonspiracy Theory Grows // Crazed mobs can be virtual too

Know anybody who’s convinced that there is a worldwide cabal of Satanist child snatchers controlling politicians and the media? Maybe a friend or relative who has identified the cabal’s leaders as Barack Obama, Hillary Clinton, members of the Rothschild family and George Soros?

Someone who is certain that Princess Diana was murdered after trying to stop the September 11 attacks, and that North Korean supreme leader Kim Jong-un is a puppet ruler who was installed by the CIA? That US representative Debbie Wasserman Schultz hired the Salvadoran gang MS-13 to murder DNC staffer Seth Rich, and that German Chancellor Angela Merkel is a granddaughter of Adolf Hitler, ym”s?

Anyone who is expecting that an imminent political-social upheaval called “The Storm” will see thousands of deep-state conspiracy villains arrested and facing tribunals, with the US military taking over the country and creating, at long last, an American utopia?

Well, if you do know any such people, let them know they’ll feel right at home with the like-minded folks at QAnon.

That far-right web-based network, led by a shadowy figure known only as “Q,” who claims to be a high-level government insider, might seem like an over-the-top satire. Unfortunately, it’s an all-too-real phenomenon. The FBI, in the first instance of the agency so labeling a conspiracy theory movement, has designated QAnon a “domestic terror threat.”

Postings by “Q” and his or her followers are often presented in cryptic code, full of numbers, riddles and acronyms, challenging the movement’s true believers to “decode” the “drops,” or offerings. Working without even a breakfast cereal decoder ring (remember those?), they uncover, or so they imagine, a zoo filled with the wild cries of unfounded assertions and predictions of cataclysm.

And when dated predictions don’t pan out, Q sagely explains that the false prophecies were made purposefully, that “disinformation is necessary” to advance the greater cause.

Despite its nuttiness, this virtual mob is gaining a degree of respectability, if that word can be stretched sufficiently thin to mean acceptance by some politicians. At least 10 congressional candidates have publicly supported or defended QAnon or some of its tenets. Last month, one of them, Marjorie Taylor Greene, won a GOP runoff for Georgia’s 14th congressional district and is all but certain to be sitting at a congressional office desk come January.

To its credit, though, the Republican National Committee removed a scheduled speaker from last week’s convention lineup reportedly because it was revealed that she had retweeted a message referencing QAnon’s theory about how “malevolent Jewish forces in the banking industry are out to enslave non-Jews and promote world wars.”

Overt anti-Semitism like that isn’t greatly apparent among QAnon enthusiasts, but their repeated stress on Soros and the Rothschilds, and their obsession with alleged child abductions aimed at extracting a substance called adrenochrome from little bodies, carry faint (or perhaps not-so-faint) echoes of age-old Jew-hatred and blood libels.

The United States has long played host to an assortment of conspiracy theory-fueled cults. In relatively recent memory, there was Jim Jones’ “The Peoples Temple,” which moved to South America and ended in 1978 with the mass suicide of some 900 followers (after the murder of a congressman and three journalists); and “Heaven’s Gate,” whose 39 members sought in 1997 to board an imaginary spacecraft in order to move to “the next level,”
happily donning black tunics and new Nike sneakers before fatally poisoning themselves.

But those and other creeds were relatively limited in number. One had to invest time and money to be part of, so to speak, the fun. Today, though, we have an Internet, allowing millions of people with overactive imaginations and an abiding desire to “belong” to some cause to connect with one another easily and form virtual cults at will. That number is not an exaggeration, unfortunately, but the result of an internal investigation by Facebook.

Were QAnon enthusiasts bent merely on suicide, that would be sufficiently tragic, but the effect on society at large would be negligible. That the Q-true believers are determined to play a part in an uprising aimed at destroying an imaginary demonic adversary in the form of government or the media (or, perhaps, the Jews) is, or should be, of somewhat greater concern. l