QAnon exemplifies the appeal conspiracy theories have in US society today, but it goes beyond this.
By Alejandro Armengol (Cubaencuentro)
HAVANA TIMES – Facebook has shut down a large number of QAnon* members’ accounts, and even though this was mostly a corporate decision, it also reveals how serious spreading conspiracy theories can be in the run up to the US presidential elections.
Last Wednesday, Facebook announced that it had shut down 790 QAnon groups on its website, and that it was shutting down another 1950 groups, 440 pages and over 10,000 Instagram accounts linked to this far-right conspiracy theory.
What is QAnon?
On October 28, 2017, an anonymous user known by many as “Q”, appeared on social media. Q predicted Hillary Clinton’s imminent arrest and a violent uprising across the country.
While neither of these things happened, QAnon came to be associated with what is known, since the last US presidential election, as Pizzagate: the unfounded statement that a pedophile ring, including Hillary Clinton’s associates, were running their operation out of a pizza restaurant’s basement, in Washington DC. These individuals also allegedly trafficked children.
This resulted in something that was a lot more grotesque than tragic, luckily: an armed man showed up at the pizza restaurant “to carry out his own investigation.” After firing three shots and not finding the damned basement (or any basement for that matter: the pizza restaurant didn’t have one), he turned himself in to the police.
However, QAnon members insisted with their claims without any proof to back them up. They alleged of a conspiracy within the government itself, being led against President Donald Trump, his party members and closest Cabinet members.
Mostly written in a language that insinuates the knowledge of intelligence information, these accusations haven’t only stuck around, they have gained momentum. QAnon’s activity on social media, be that with posts, comments or tags, has grown between 200-300% in the past six months, according to figures compiled by The New York Times.
QAnon exemplifies the appeal conspiracy theories have in US society today, but it goes beyond this. It joins together a people from all over. You can see how rumors and baseless statements go from phone to phone and personal computer. It is a movement that is united by its mass rejection of reason, objectivity and other values that laid the foundations of democratic society.
Building a paranoia cult
We have seen the birth of a cult with QAnon, where paranoia is used to encourage a fervent hope for its ideals. It awards participants a strong sense of belonging. With a lot of fanfare and enthusiasm, members of the movement walk between irreverence and submission.
The bone of contention with all of this though, goes beyond how enjoyable a good conspiracy theory can be in a movie or series. Its’ sometimes aggressive discourse, coupled with assault rifles and the declaration of intent to use them-, can become a real threat to democracy.
Add to this the fact that the QAnon community has made their way into the electoral campaign. From participants wearing T-shirts, holding banners and different symbols during Trump’s election campaign, to the 76 candidates for Congress – past and current – who have made statements or shown themselves to support these conspiracy theories.
Out of these 76, 71 are Republicans, 2 are Democrats, 1 a Libertarian and 2 Independent, according to the most recent update on Media Matters for America a non-profit analysis website with progressive tendencies.
In conspiracy terms – it’s hard to avoid the hype -, and the theory has made its way into the White House. Late last year, Trump had retweeted accounts that were often focused on conspiracy theories, including QAnon’s, on at least 145 different occasions, according to The New York Times.
Although many of QAnon’s followers move in a parallel universe a lot of the time – like in The Matrix, politics has fine lines. In the everyday campaign struggle, some politicians can use conspiracy theories to entice voters. However, those who cling to them will only have one of two fates: to be the manipulator or the manipulated.
*QAnon or Q: (abbreviation of Q-Anonymous) is one of the US far-right’s main conspiracy theories.