Saturday, December 3, 2022

Sad QAnon followers are at a precarious pivot point

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The QAnon conspiracy the theory, widely disseminated via social networks, recently supported by a majority of Republican voters. This is, fundamentally, baseless and completely debunked, the idea that a cabal of Satan-worshiping, cannibal, and baby-eating pedophiles is exploiting an international network of child sex trafficking from their positions of power. It has grown to encompass many other conspiracy theories, particularly around Covid, vaccines, and elections. Donald Trump has been touted as a cult savior and was the group’s primary source of guidance.

Now that the Biden administration has begun, QAnon’s prophecies have not come true and Trump has left for Mar-a-Lago, what’s next? Research on similar groups tells us that if QAnon followers are to leave the world of conspiracy theories, they need a way forward to preserve their dignity. Extremist groups are already working to fill the Q-shaped void by recruiting QAnon believers for their own causes, making it urgent for better alternatives to develop. This requires understanding the needs and motivations of QAnon followers and providing a viable “exit” from the QAnon worldview.

Although QAnon has been around since 2017, its popularity exploded in March 2020 when the country went into lockdown and people’s uncertainty, insecurity and free time exploded. Born on the internet, it has spread from 8chan / 8kun to a much larger base via Facebook and Twitter. In the aftermath of the insurgency, Twitter alone closed 70,000 QAnon-linked accounts.

He won over people in large part because he gave them what they needed psychologically. People adhere to cults and adhere to conspiracy theories because they are unhappy with their lives, lacking security, and wanting to feel good about themselves and their identity groups. QAnon’s online dynamics provided that. Subscribers scoured publications and online data sources for clues to solving mysteries posed by the group. They shared their theories and were rewarded with their commitment and the feeling of being in a community of like-minded people. Seeing patterns relating Q’s posts to real events was like uncovering secret information. If Q, the anonymous alleged government insider whose information is leaking started and fueled the conspiracy theory, posted a photo of a watch with a short comment, his followers would upgrade the watch image to see the time. and the date, interpret what that might mean, connect pieces of text to previous Q items, then come up with interpretations on the connections. Solving the mysteries and supporting the community made them feel smart. It offered a sense of purpose and control in an era when these things were scarce.

Now that reward has all but disappeared. Q has been silent since early December. When President Joe Biden was inaugurated and the Trump presidency ended without any of the government’s prophesied mass arrests, the foundations of the QAnon belief system collapsed. Some prominent QAnon supporters are distancing themselves. Marjorie Taylor Greene, the U.S. Representative from Georgia who was an active online supporter of QAnon and other conspiracy theories, has been removed from her congressional committee appointments. Although she tweeted about “anti-Trump pedos” as recently as Jan.31, 2021, she disowned those beliefs by defending herself in Congress days later. The failed prophecy, the external evidence contradicting the internal narrative, and the resulting disillusion and cynicism are all essential elements needed for people to abandon cults and conspiracy theories. We must take advantage of this moment.

Some QAnon followers remain steadfast, shifting objectives, looking for clues in old Q messages that connect to current events. For example, on February 15, 2018, Q posted the line “Watch the water”. In recent weeks, as reddit group WallStreetBets pushed up GameStop’s share price, a Q subscriber found a dictionary definition of “water” that included financial use related to the increase in the value of an asset, which sparked a discussion as to whether Q’s original post possibly predicted the GameStop fiasco (or the many other things it might have predicted). However, for some Q followers, grasping this desperately for meaning is too much. Many realize that they have been lied to. When followers turn away from Q, where will they turn? There are several obvious paths.

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