Who Cares About Q?
As I am sitting down to write this post, the first of hopefully many, the inauguration of President Joe Biden is playing in the background. Amanda Gorman, the youngest inaugural poet, has just spoken the following line: “We have learned that quiet isn’t always peace, and the norms and notions of what just is, isn’t always justice.”
Recently, I jumped down a little research rabbit hole that and landed me two browser windows, 25 opened tabs, and way too many paywalls deep. That isn’t too out of the ordinary, except that it was provoked by my need to understand QAnon. I didn’t care if anyone really knew who Q was — I already roughly understood the complexities of this siloed conspiracy. I wanted to really know who these people were that cared about “him” so much. What I got wasn’t an understanding, but a vivid picture of an alternate reality in America.
Initially, I was equivocating QAnon-allegiance to my college roommate falling in love with some guy on Hinge that had never even chatted back. That framework worked for a little while until I reached The Atlantic series: Shadowland, a project on American conspiracy thinking. Specifically, Adrienne LaFrance’s piece, Nothing Can Stop What Is Coming, answered my most burning question — how did these people go from regular Americans to proponents of one of the most virulent conspiracies in modern history?
“What caught my attention was ‘research.’ Do your own research,” says Lorri Shock, a QAnon believer interviewed for the Shadowland project. “Don’t take anything for granted. I don’t care who says it, even President Trump. Do your own research, make up your own mind.”
After the rest of my “research” — a word I now use a bit more wearily — that part of my brain where logic and reasoning happen feels like it just got mugged. This is not due to groups of people rely on sporadic and anonymous internet posts as their primary information — we see that every day on Facebook. It’s not that they also believe there’s a deep dark underworld of elite pedophiles — they can always invoke Jeffery Epstein as solid evidence. And it’s not because they are so confident in their research that they feel they know this truth is the truth — when equated with any religious practice, it no longer seems absurd. The flimsy justifications to devalue all other mainstream information gathering techniques in order to tend to a personal reality is what left my logic bruised and confused.
Q is a solo-proprietor of chronic confirmation bias for a significant number of Americans. These Americans have adopted a lifestyle that is, from a psychological standpoint, typically a tendency. They have chosen to let it define their entire reality. They proclaim any established media outlet cannot be trusted. They justify this on the basis that their own research found the reality of America most people experience day-to-day is all basically a gently-balanced charade starring the country’s most powerful. After my research, I can only marvel at those who have cherry-picked through enough information to entirely build-their-own-America.
This is a concept whose justification I have to accept that I will never fully grasp. It harnesses the opposite of logic and justifies itself by way of contradiction. When information can be devalued for the sake of personal opinion, that individual is only contributing to the misinformation they continue to forsake. This cycle becomes increasingly more dangerous as others begin to accept the notion that it is just the way it is. It’s kind of like how no one really talked about who wrote that article about the Pope endorsing Trump’s campaign back in 2016, you know, the one that was written by a Macedonian teenager with a laptop and wifi access. Could Q just be another tech-savvy, non-American looking to stir the melting pot a little more?
“I asked Harger and Shock for examples of predictions that had come true,” says LaFrance in Nothing Can Stop What Is Coming. “They could not provide specifics and instead encouraged me to do the research myself. When I asked them how they explained the events Q had predicted that never happened, such as Clinton’s arrest, they said that deception is part of Q’s plan.”
The will to understand Q is somewhat akin to a child’s belief in the Tooth Fairy. Maybe you find a loophole when you forget to tell your mom your tooth fell out and it’s still under your pillow the next morning. You then explain away that loophole by simply showing her the gap where your tooth once was, and miraculously, the controversy is settled without further questions. Maybe your mom just had to tell the tooth fairy, you reason. Or maybe she is the tooth fairy herself, who cares — you got what you wanted. This seems to be a common thread among Q’s followers, that the truth is there and it might not always be totally solid evidence, so eventually, the idea of truth itself fizzles into a more general idea of what the truth even is. It is not important to know the messenger but to understand the concept of truth he has created. His messages manifest in places and people across the country and it is imperative to acknowledge how extensively they have infiltrated everyday life.
After spending four years of my life at a university learning and practicing the foundations of responsible journalism and crafting multiple, semester-long academic studies, my personal takeaway is that I am feeling a little bit cheated. Even removing my personal investment from the equation — Do these people understand the amount of work that goes into each and every story? The thought behind every word, image, and link? The peer-reviewed, expert-driven data that is the foundation of any good story? I will have to forcibly continue to grapple with this, but will never be able to accept it as “just the way it is.” By having these conversations and drawing your own understanding you can reject that notion as well.