I’ve spent the past few months trying to avoid the various strains of plague rats. It’s been an adventure, but I’m still here, angry as hell about the fact that had the US handled COVID-19 I, too, could be watching football in a bar with my friends. Instead I’ve watched the slow, terrifying descent of the United States into a munted fuckbanquet where seemingly innocent tag groups on Facebook have morphed before my horrified eyes into “help the children/find the children” groups that are rife with the complete far-right fantasy that is QAnon.
I firmly believe QAnon is trying to foment political violence in the United States and is very close to having a formal body count, rather than the rather convenient “coincidence” that mass killers seem to keep being linked to far-right movements. In other words, buckle the fuck up, Buttercup, because the current tragedy gripping my beloved home, Oregon, seems to be getting programmed for this violence.
The tag groups that were once for harmless stuff like posting memes about Oregonians who couldn’t drive in the rain. (There’s a LOT of those!) They have become “save the children” or “stop slavery” groups, where they follow a very specific arc: a certain specific group of people, often completely clueless about basic local geography, customs (like how Oregon votes entirely by mail), the capital of the state (Salem, not Portland), and often with similar names. One such repeating character calls himself a Pastor and constantly shills various supplements and reposts memes about how masks are “muzzles” and being used by “them” to abduct children. If you doubt the narrative, you disappear from the group. Posts that once were about bad parking are now repeated memes from groups with lots of Qs and the word “PATRIOT” in their name. And those memes are about…well, some unpleasant things.
Here’s some samples of the level of discourse in this group. These are all posted by group admins. This isn’t some random human being in the group. This is, however, what your family members might see as authoritative…and once again, Oregon votes entirely by mail and this is an administrator seeding doubt about voting by mail:
Sometimes you’re “required to sign up” for one of their “anti-slavery” protests. As you may know, one of the core themes of QAnonsense is the wild claims about sex trafficking that are not just hellaciously wrong, but they often blur the actual issues. I won’t go into too much detail about Qanon’s wild beliefs about the people they target (the Daily Beast did a better 101 anyways); instead, I will politely point out that much of QAnon’s “concern” about sex trafficking is note for note identical to the completely discredited claims of “Satanic Ritual Abuse”. I’m a real live child sex trafficking survivor; I know a few others. Literally nobody went through anything like what is described by QAnon or SRA, and…well, as Prostasia Foundation raises, this kind of nonsense literally silences survivors and actual networks used to sexually abuse and exploit children. In other words, QAnon in and of itself provides cover to actual child predators. Oh, and much like in the most corrupt and galling example of using “satanic ritual abuse” to target disabled people, much like the monsters who pointed fingers in Wenatchee knowing exactly what they were doing, QAnon considers us suspect, too.
Wenatchee is important not just because it’s a great word for confusing new newsanchors, or because it has cheap power and fantastic skiing nearby (Mission Ridge deserves more love), but because Wenatchee was both the last example of the “ritual abuse” mass fabrications from the 80s, but was also the one in which the investigation snagged Child Protective Services staff as enabling most of these prosecutions. Had an intrepid reporter from KREM not blown the lid off the fabrications, innocent people’s lives would be wrecked. And yet, the same bloodlust, the same tropes, the same idea that there is some coverup so massive that it is almost impossible for it not to have been blown by now…powered by the people who were so hellbent on the irrational belief that they made it so.
When QAnon screens for its true believers, there’s a scarier wrinkle to it: nobody really knows who or what powers QAnon. No, really, even Snopes punts on this. Because we don’t know who powers the “drops” or who is sending the orders claiming that there’s proof some random person who so happens to be Jewish is secretly a child molester. This proof so rarely pans out, but I do idly wonder why the same pattern keeps repeating over and over: one small core group of people (often themselves a page controlling another page, a sort of twisted Facebook parody of an LLP) gains control of the page and begins spewing the thick layer of QAnonsense. Anyone who doubts is run out, and then the constant spam of “events” like this begins:
If you ask any questions, you’re harangued for supporting “slavery” or “listening to the l*mestream media” or, of course, of being “antifa”. You know how it works, an ideology of checks notes opposition to Fascism means that what used to be checks notes EAST CLACKAMAS BUY AND SELL is now some nonsense about “child trafficking companies”. Now, what I feel like these groups are doing is harvesting the easily duped, the people who make the best true believers. Having watched this arc repeat in 5 or 6 different groups, I can tell you that the pattern repeats.
Now, I was going to sound completely batcrap about the “true believers” thing, but Bellingcat helped my drivel immensely by a)being awesome and b)summing up an example of something much like this, so I’m going to point you to Bellingcat to sum up what actually happens with far-right “patriot” groups. The groups are used to locate the true believers, and then the same people who pushed the group agenda in the first place are free to discuss what they’re actually planning. And let me just let you in on a little secret: it’s not a barbeque.
I am watching my white liberal friends realizing that the far-right is going to engage in whatever dirty trick they can to retain power by effectively nixing or overriding the upcoming election. I also have made it very plain that I have made up my mind that I’m gonna vote and no amount of ecru people yelling at me about it is likely to change it. I’m terrified, but also kinda privileged in that I get to vote at home, where I can wear my pajamas, get blazed, and not feel quite as much compunction as I always do in settling. I live in a really white state, and Trump is pivoting hard on the white nationalism at the same time our home’s on fire and the more he seems to flail in the polls. In other words, do you believe it’s any accident that these various Facebook groups vaguely affiliated with QAnonsense are becoming less and less subtly white supremacist? Because from the selfsame group, look at these lovely recent additions, including an allegation that responding to LITERAL WHITE SUPREMACIST PROPAGANDA is “hate”…oh, and some hyperventilating about a BLM vigil at a park downtown…that happened like 10 days ago. Now, tell me, what’s “demonic” here?
I do not know who controls the horseshit that people somehow take as Gospel that is QAnon. I do know that there’s four particularly concerning factors working in concert that make me believe that QAnon may actually be a coup near to (or perhaps even past) its tipping point:
* Trump is suddenly, faced with poll numbers, “joking” far more frequently (he’s not joking) about disregarding the results of the election if he doesn’t like them;
* Those of you who aren’t used to vote by mail states don’t know the dark evil secret of vote by mail states: the results of an election are rarely known on Election Night, and this will lead to significant injection of “alternative facts” from the Trump camp;
* The increasingly apocalyptic rhetoric from the ugly seam where QAnon/Trumpism has effectively eaten and destroyed the Republican Party to such a place that QAnon is functionally a Qordyceps; you know, that badass fungus that makes zombie ants and…is in your mushroom coffee? The way misinformation spreads is much like the fungus; by the time you see it, that ant’s screwed. The GOP has acceded to becoming a crime syndicate under Trump. Oh, and if you’re a Republican saying ‘you just hate Republicans’…no, that’s not it. Conservatives, which many Republicans used to be before Trump, have loudly and firmly eschewed QAnonsense. In fact, some of the best behind the scenes investigative work on QAnon is coming from someone I would consider right-leaning.
* The fact that there is already election interference occurring on the part of the Trumpies, and QAnon groups frequently chatter about “election security”. The Bellingcat article linked above discussed people keeping armed guard around Oregon ballot dropboxes; I mean, if that’s not voter intimidation, I really don’t know what is. I believe, unfortunately, that there will be significant violence on Election Day, probably at a high-profile location in the East to produce as much of a panicked ripple effect as possible.
I think this is a coup in progress. I understand that I will end up on all kinds of Bad Leftist lists for this, but I do think preventing a coup by a force completely unknown to us which would have deleterious effects on basically everyone who isn’t a cishet white abled man is probably a good line in the sand. I’m not saying rah rah America, or that voting solves all our problems. I do think loyal soldiers of some force that’s against the continued process of democracy in this Republic — for all its warts, problems, and evils — are a hostile force, a group of people committing what is no less than sedition. People are effectively swearing out loyalty to the false prophet, the golden calf of the Internet that is QAnon.
It’s horribly cliché to end with an Orwell quote, but the complete fantasy world of QAnon and the absolute loyalty it demands to what is effectively the People’s Temple of Trump alas inspire what Mr. Orwell cautioned against: The party told you to reject the evidence of your eyes and ears. It was their final, most essential command.