I have long have been curious about the “why” behind this movement. This book, while slightly dry, is an excellent timeline of how Q has transfixed millions.
This is the real story of QAnon—what it is, what it means, and where it goes. And be warned—none of it is pretty.
On October 5th, 2017, President Trump made a cryptic extemporaneous remark in the State Dining Room. He called this gathering of top-ranking military officials, “the calm before the storm,” and refused to elaborate as journalist and politicos inquired further. But on the infamous message boards of 4chan, elaboration began all on its own.
In the days that followed, an anonymous poster spun a yarn inspired by Trump’s remarks that rivalled Tom Clancy and satisfied the deepest desires of MAGA-America. Did any of it come to pass? No. Did that stop people from clinging to every word they were reading, expanding its mythology and promoting the theory for years? No.
How did this happen, who are these followers, and how do adherents reconcile their worldview with the America they see around them? Mike Rothschild, a journalist specializing in conspiracy theories, explains all–taking readers from the earliest posts on 4Chan to its embrace by right-wing media, and the game that Donald Trump has played with its followers.
As rabid adherents to the theory show no sign of calming—with Baby Boomers especially susceptible to its messaging—families are being torn apart and politicians are starting to openly espouse the ideology in their campaigns. It’s time to figure out what QAnon is, because QAnon explains everything you need to know about American politics and global fear after Trump. from Goodreads.
The first time I saw the letter “Q” pop up was via news coverage of one of Trump’s political rally. Honestly, I thought it stood for ‘questions’ since, well, I had a lot of them about things being said at these rallies. Let me tell you though, if you had tried to look it up, you would only end up with more questions and a really weird search history.
Mike Rothschild has been covering Q since 2018 and his experience shows in his writing. Rothschild is also a career journalist and his coverage feels fairly neutral. He does not demean or belittle anons who follow Q but marches through the history of background conspiracy theories, how Q is introduced to people, and how Q has changed as a phenomenon.
Rothschild lays down a framework for Q and the QAnon movement and makes clear that this conspiracy theory is especially difficult to fight because it encourages people to, “think for themselves” in the “secret war” between good and evil. And the followers take this to heart. The allure of Q, especially in the beginning, was that feeling that you had unlocked a clue and were more in the know than someone else. This encourages people to feel like they are better than outsiders. And, when you try to discuss Q with them, their visceral reaction is to belittle your beliefs and discredit your information. Just check the one star reviews for this book and you will see the rhetoric that we have come to accept from QAnon believers screaming for non-believers to “do their research.” It is incredibly difficult to argue with someone who is not only collecting information from unknown anonymous sources but who also distrusts any of your own sources as “fake news.”
Perhaps this is why I finished the book with no better an understanding of why people follow Q than when I started. Do people really (truly?!?) believe that there is a cabal of baby killing people in politics and Hollywood? Rather than satisfy my (admittedly morbid) curiosity, Rothschild uses very few specific examples of Q followers who took their beliefs far enough to break the law. Nearly all of them had hit rock bottom in their lives when they discovered Q and clung to the idea like a life raft. He was clear that, for most people, this was not their first conspiracy theory but, the lack of personal storytelling left me feeling like I understood the system, but now how it really impacted the individual people.
The book does an excellent job analyzing Q from inception to the final drop in 2020. I was intrigued to find how different the beliefs were as time went on. It seems to have started with taking down Hilary and arresting all the baby blood drinkers. Then, it morphed into as many things as Q needed to stay relevant. I was not surprised to see the inclusion of so many left-leaning anti-vaxx / anti-science women being referred to as “Pastel QAnon” since these social media creators were an obsession of a few of my friends during lockdown.
The chapter I found most interesting was whether experts considered Qanon to be a cult or not. Short answer: expects are divided. What they agree is that there are elements of cult behavior on the surface. But the QAnons hold a variety of beliefs and there is a lack of a known charismatic leader. Still, if you have friends or family who are QAnons and you want to maintain contact with them, experts quoted in the book offer the same suggestions that they provide those with a loved one who is part of a cult. So, not technically a cult but we should treat it like a cult.
Overall, the book tended to be a little dry. But, I appreciated that it tried to be as fact-based as you can be on a subject like this. I didn’t finish the book wanting to know more about Q. I do want to know what we can do, as a society, to help people feel more heard, supportive, and (hopefully) trusting of each other.
Tell me, please! Do you believe in any conspiracy theories?