I suppose that in these days of insane Trump denial and insanely unconfronted democracy erosion this post isn’t particularly relevant, but I feel as if I’ve got to make it, if only to get it out of my head.
I’ve been thinking about QAnon believers, after reading stories quoting some of them and watching videos as they explained to listeners why they believe in the Deep State, in rings of Democratic politicians and administrative officials who are pedophiles, in some of those pedophiles also drinking the blood of children to stay young, in Donald Trump being a warrior for righteousness dedicated to bringing down the pedophiles, and in an anonymous person going by the sobriquet “Q” who claims to be a government employee who’s working on the inside to bring out “crumbs” of absolutely true information on this to the waiting world. Rather than, you know, showing all the damning evidence to the world in one fell swoop.
Two that I listened to in particular were young to early-middle-aged white women of the type I used to work with and interview for my work. They wouldn’t have looked out of place in any of Chicago’s wealthy North Shore suburbs, where a casual look might have marked them as anything but conservative.
They didn’t sport “I Believe Q” buttons, or MAGA hats. They weren’t wearing stars and stripes tops; they didn’t have guns on their belts. They weren’t wild-eyed, at least not in any way that was immediately apparent. They seemed — at first — almost apologetic for their beliefs, even as they outlined what those were. One even said she “hoped” that her newly adopted beliefs about pedophile blood-drinking Democrats were wrong, even as she said she believed at least some of the charges.
When the woman interviewing these two asked the other, who said she’d done “all the research”, if she really believed Hilary Clinton was part of a pedophile ring, she, said yes. Asked whether she might change her mind if she was able to talk to Clinton and Clinton told her that it wasn’t so, the woman said she would not believe Clinton. Her eyes got, if anything, even harder.
So; almost apologetic. Until they weren’t.
I’ve since read more stories trying to figure out how someone can go down a path to believing weird-ass, completely unhinged and almost always personally and societally dangerous beliefs. There are some pretty decent analyses; there are also some I think are … not so.
I too have been thinking about wondering why on god’s green earth anyone would fall for this Z-grade bad-anime version of the world. And I’d been stumped until, in a sort of epiphany, I remembered a dream I had as a kid, a young teenager.
It was incredibly detailed, surprisingly linear, and totally unrelated to reality. It involved an evil brain, one that ruled the world in secret. The brain was carried through countless underground rail tunnels on a rarely-stopping train, encased in a grandfather clock (bear with me here, it was a dream). It started with a person dressed in silver walking up our short front walk to the verandah where I stood. He told me I’d been chosen for a team whose mission was to bring down the brain. The rest of the dream was this team’s venture down into the white-tiled tunnels (told you it was detailed), waiting for the brain to pass our location, so that we could drag it from its carriage and defeat it.
Decades later, I still remember the excitement generated in Dream Me; the feeling of surprise, then disbelief and then final joyous acceptance of being a hero. It was so strong that I can remember the joy decades later, if only as a shadow of its original power.
Here’s the key part; I think I was predisposed to have that kind of dream and to react to it in the way I did because a) I was an obsessive reader of science fiction and fantasy, with which my dream was unmistakably marked, and b) I really, really wanted to be a hero, for reasons related to my early life. What fascinated me when I was awake, what drove me, echoed in me while I slept.
Remembering the dream, why I had it and why it affected me so, allowed me to peer into the minds of QAnon true believers. Here’s what I think I found.
(I probably don’t have to say it but my thoughts land in spaces that are strictly IMHO, YMMV, potentially unpopular, etc. Now, back to my suppositions.)
First, I think these folks have a particularly strong predisposition to believe negative things about people and situations they hate, one that goes beyond the sadly natural human tendency; they happily accept calumnies and conspiracies against perceived enemies. In their cases, those would be Trump opponents, both individual and organizational; Democrats, administrative officials, Hilary Clinton.
Second — and I’ll go to the mat in defense of this supposition on my part — I’ll bet many of them have a predisposition of some sort to science fiction and fantasy, certainly a predisposition to magical thinking. I’ve noticed in stories investigating true believers that some mention that they’re gamers or readers of SFF, or that they’re right-wing and beyond-right-wing online site regulars. Many are heavily involved with a particular brand of evangelical Christian church, especially entrepreneurial or prosperity churches. (Yes I’m going there, even as an intermittent believer in god and/or gods.)
So: a dedication to good vs. evil/black and white views of the universe; belief in a god that underscores and strengthens that belief; gravitation toward unreal worlds; a desire to be a hero that is stronger than the regular human desire to be a hero.
With those prerequisites met, it became very easy for me to see someone sitting in front of their screen, haunting 8kun or OANN, hearing from “Q” and reading Q’s revelations, going through the very same progression Dream Me did all those years ago. They want to be on the side of good; they want to be adventurers; they want their world to conform to those desires. “Oh my god, this can’t be true … oh my god, what if it’s true?” … “Oh my god it is! “Oh my god, I’m going to battle! With boon companions at my side!"
Dream magic, fantasy battles for good. Twelve year olds’ dreams (at least I think I was that age when I dreamed of the brain in the train). Voilá, I found a connection between a QAnon believer and me! Unsettling, but reasonable, I think.
And the soulless hoaxers that have created QAnon and worked its nasty magic since 2018 know that.
I’m interested in your thoughts about it, especially if you disagree. Discussion is cool. Thoughts? Anyone? Bueller? This entry was originally posted at https://kaffyr.dreamwidth.org/780282.html?mode=reply, where there are currently comments. You can comment there or here, but prefer to read over on DW. You can comment there using open ID if you don't have a DW account.