It’s Still Kool-Aid

Trying to figure out social trends while you are living through them is sort of like being in the eye of a hurricane and trying to predict which way the wind’s blowing.

Since the 2020 elections, media mentions of QAnon have abated. Those of us who shook our heads over gunmen raiding pizza parlors and “patriots” attacking the U.S. Capitol have been inclined to breathe a sigh of relief, assuming that lack of sightings meant diminishing numbers of believers.

Of course, it’s never that simple, as a recent article in the Guardian explained.

QAnon appeared in 2017 and quickly spread through the far right, before beginning to wane in the wake of Joe Biden’s inauguration.

But it hasn’t disappeared entirely, and understanding the conspiracy theory’s rise and fall – and the awful legacy it has left us – reveals a great deal about the modern landscape of partisan paranoia. It also offers some clues on how best to fight back.

QAnon seized the public’s imagination in 2017, exploding from an anonymous forum on one of the internet’s most notorious websites and becoming a popular conspiracy theory. The figure of “Q” first appeared on the message board 4chan – a website where anonymous users posted hardcore pornography and racial slurs – claiming tobe a high-level intelligence officer. (Later Q would move to the equally vile site 8kun.)

QAnon posited a conspiracy by the so-called deep state–composed, in several versions, of Democratic pedophiles who drank children’s blood. (The child trafficking had to involve sexual abuse and ritual murder so that the participants could harvest a chemical “elixir of youth,” called adrenochrome.) The deep state was intent upon undermining the presidency of Donald Trump – but that dastardly effort was being countered by someone called Q and other “patriots.”

I think I hear the music from “Twilight Zone”….

QAnon borrows heavily from the rhetoric of the  End Times–a rhetoric that evidently prompted something  in 1844 called the “Great Disappointment”–so named because thousands of people had prepared themselves for the Second Coming of Christ. It’s also in the apocalyptic fiction of the Left Behind series.

In the days before the 2020 election, a Yahoo News/YouGov poll found that fully half of Trump’s supporters believed that top Democrats were “involved in an elite child sex trafficking ring” and that Trump was working to “dismantle” that same Democrat-led conspiracy. And despite the ludicrous and defamatory nature of the conspiracy theory, Trump seemed to embrace it; during a town hall event in October of 2020, NBC’s Savannah Guthrie repeatedly offered him a chance to denounce the movement and Trump refused.

Speaking of “Great Disappointments,” it became harder to sustain the QAnon fantasy after Trump was removed from office. As one pundit noted, “unleashing the purge of the deep state over Twitter doesn’t really work when he’s not the president any more, and he’s not on Twitter any more.” But..

even as the original storyline “came to a natural end”, there was immediately “the emergence of the stolen election movement, and they found their next thing. It really went really seamlessly from one thing to another.” The movement no longer needed “the codes and the drops and the props and the cryptic stuff”. And without the mystic clues and portents, many of the ideas that first gained strength through Q drops have gone mainstream. They have percolated into the public discourse, embraced by many in the Republican party, and no longer need to involve any actual reference to Q or 4chan.

People who were vulnerable to QAnon idiocy are now part of the MAGA mainstream, and elements of the conspiracy theory have been absorbed into Rightwing talking points.

Last week, the Florida governor and presidential candidate Ron DeSantis told supporters at a barbecue in New Hampshire: “We’re going to have all of these deep state people, you know, we are going to start slitting throats on day one.”

While such violent rhetoric is primarily directed at Democrats, the article reminds readers that “QAnon, like many other conspiracy theories, traffics heavily in antisemitism: tropes about “puppet masters” controlling everything, along with constant references to George Soros and the Rothschild family.”

Karl Popper coined the term “conspiracy theory” in the 1940s, explaining that it is a quasi-theological outlook.

While a shadowy cabal controlling your every action from behind the scenes may seem terrifying, it offers a narrative and an explanation for the way the world works. And this is what QAnon was and continues to be to its believers: proof that there’s a plan (even if not entirely divine), which in turn gives them hope, and meaning.

As the article concludes, “That’s a far more powerful drug than adrenochrome, and weaning adherents off of it will take real work.”


  1. Trump may be gone forever one way or another himself, but dead or alive his legacy is to have given conservatives a new vision of, to quote, Grover Norquist, “government so small, I can take it home and drown it in the bathtub”.

    So far, Kevin McCarthy and Ronna McDaniel (née Romney, head of the Republican National Committee) have turned over Republicans to conservatives.

  2. You can fix ignorance with education. You can’t fix stupid.
    I have a few friends who are smart and successful, yet they succumb to various conspiracy theories to one degree or another, such as a harmless speculation of aliens building the Great Pyramids and such. And I am sure that there are similar conspiracies that appeal to left-leaning Americans but I can’t think of any right now. And then, there are conspiracies that are real, such as the False Electors, which are finally being brought into the light of day through court proceedings where telling the truth matters and lying has actual consequences.
    I hope to live long enough to see that day when Americans will wake up to the threat that MAGA has evolved into and will demand that justice be restored in our country. What will it take to break through the wall of conspiracies, and how much damage will be done until that day?

  3. The GOP has become a labyrinth of political destruction of the basics of American life; the only issue which is constant is their foundation based on lies and threats. The current lineup of candidates includes Ramaswamy thrown in as a ringer to distract us from their continuing goal which is destruction of democracy, Rule of Law and the Constitution. As Pete stated and as I have said before; with or without Trump his legacy will remain their foundation unless and until they destroy themselves, and us along with them, with their current infighting with each of them wanting their own way. Destruction is in their cross hairs, their violent rhetoric in the House is now within the Freedom Caucus members and McCarthy as their puppet Speaker who is now in the position of, to borrow a phrase from Dolly Parton in “Steel Magnolias; He doesn’t know whether to scratch his watch or wind his butt.” So; they have all gone home for a week to sip their own Kool-Aid and mull over the situation they have put themselves in.

    Conspiracy theories breeds contempt and distrust; there is no one more afraid of being robbed than a thief. There is also no one more afraid of being lied to than a liar; the House Republicans are now all eyeing one another and wondering what to do with and about McCarthy to save themselves.

  4. Also in Mark 13 and Corinthians 1 the declaration of Christs return is to be known or told only by the father as in jewish traditions marriage dates are to be announced by the father, Him alone and the disciples and followers are not to know. Thats the main problem with people being misled is that they don’t understand the text which guards them against false teachers or leaders.

  5. Who remembers Red Rider’s song, “Lunatic Fringe”??

    I know you’re out there
    You’re in hiding
    And you hold your meetings
    I can hear you coming
    And we know what you’re after
    We’re wise to you this time
    We won’t let you kill the laughter

    I think Teddy Roosevelt used the term first but it appears that they are now everywhere. And “truth” does not appear to be the antidote.

  6. QAnon what is absorbed by moms for liberty among other groups here in the Midwest. Anti-vaccine, ivermectin using, non-masking folks, who who still believe covid was a hoax, but also spread conspiracy theories that educators are indoctrinating groomers and heathens. They are from the extremist Christian nationalist churches.
    As someone who has worked with children for many years, most of the groomers, and indoctrinators come from exactly where they are from -the extremist Christian nationalist churches. Which also makes them gaslighters by projecting what is happening on the others —and knowingly, or unknowingly, protecting those who harm children.

  7. I clicked through to see who authored this article…Colin Dickey. He comes across as another DNC apologist, so I asked Bard if he was a DNC apologist. Bard responded:

    “Dickey has written articles that have been critical of the Democratic and Republican parties. He is a fair and impartial journalist unafraid to hold the powerful accountable.”

    With that said, he dismisses the Seth Rich case as a “conspiracy.” When the tech guy for the DNC gets murdered during a botched robbery on the streets of Washington, yet there are no witnesses, and the murder goes unsolved, we have a conspiracy. The DNC had a major leak to Wikileaks revealing how Hillary Clinton rigged the primary against Bernie Sanders. The emails were leaked — not stolen by Russia.

    Also, Rupert Murdoch stroked the Rich family a cool million because Sean Hannity reported the facts on TV. That’s certainly odd.

    There is always a level of truth within so-called conspiracy theories, which makes them convincing to others. Some, more so than others. 😉

    As for convincing them NOT to believe in conspiracies — good luck with that one!!

  8. Republican’s strong suit is projection. They accuse Democrats of wanting to do exactly what Republicans are doing. In that context, it’s easy to understand how Republicans are operating and where they are heading.

  9. Jabbering about conspiracy theories wastes the energy that could be used to save our democracy in 2024. The billionaire-fueled, tightly integrated, singularly focused right-winged ecosystem is ready take over. If the rest of us “talk” rather than “do” – it will all be over in the blink of an eye…

  10. One accurate way to be politically literate nowadays is the filter that made Rupert eye watering wealthy, advertise for the Republican party and all of their national candidates. Run it 24/7/365 for the brand “conservative”. Entertainment that will build brand audience loyalty disguised as news.

    Advertising to their “base” is the total Republican platform now.

  11. The people are angry/scared – emotions rule, not logic. They want “change” – they tried the DEMs with Obama – they are ready to try anything (or not bother to vote). The DEMs have no message to respond and no dynamic (however you want to define it: entertaining, emotion generating, etc.) candidate. It doesn’t look good….

  12. Lester. Apparently you don’t think Sheila’s blog is a waste of energy or you wouldn’t participate in it. I do agree that action is important, but communicating, in any form, is action. Besides communicating and voting, what other actions do you take/recommend?

  13. For what it’s worth, in 1844, the followers of a pastor named Miller, the Millerites, believed his preaching that the world would come to an end on Oct. 22, 1844, buying into it big time. When the end did not come, Mr. Miller, recalculated, but the next 2 prophecies, also, did not come to pass. Rather than acknowledging that such prophesizng was based on fiction, his followers became what we now know as the Seventh Day Adventists. So, that original belief about “The End” also slipped into a more diffuse, widely acceptable state.
    Religion probably originated as a way of answering the common human quest to understand, as in understand why we humans are here, and for what presumed purpose. Thus, it makes sense that so many people can not accept the idea that we are just one more emanation of nature and its complexity, just like lions, and tigers, and bears. And, they must have “schemes” with which to make sense of it all. The randomness behind “it all” is too scary, so again, they seek patterns, like the face of Elvis, on mars. Or “Q” garbage.

  14. Sharon – thanks for asking. In many jurisdictions, despite aggressive gerrymandering, there are races without an incumbent where the GOP is “somewhat favored” and the DEMs have in the primary a new fresh (not career politician) who genuinely wants to put governing to improve people’s lives above party/ideology/power/money. They may be near you, or across the country. With your help they can win. That is what I have been leading since 2017, CommonGoodGoverning. We have helped elect Conor Lamb, Elaine Luria, Elissa Slotkin, Dean Phillips, Kathy Manning, Carolyn Bourdeaux. In 2022, we helped Adam Frisch nearly take down the incumbent despicable Lauren Boebert. There is work to be done…You can find me on Linked In or Facebook – we have no website.

  15. Those prone to belief in conspiracy theories, as Todd suggests, are going to be hard to persuade not to believe in such inanities because they have been conditioned by authoritarianism both civil and religious to accept such unseen and non-factual phantasies which fit like a glove their preconceived world view(s). Truth is not involved in such equation. Belief, conveniently, can be based on such concepts as “faith,” thus avoiding the tests of both ancient Greek and modern logicians.

    “Faith” and “miracles,” inter alia, were introduced as means of explaining resurrections from the dead, curing of disease, walking on water and the like to the Roman and Greek polygod worlds which, buffered from truth, logic and experience by such tests, bought in, and the rest is history. I think Aristotle, who mentored Alexander the Great three and a half centuries earlier free of such testing restraints, would have been appalled at such a turn of events. Theories are not facts.

    Thus “conspiracy theories” are nothing new; nor are the tests for their relative authenticity. We “believe” what we are conditioned to want to believe, as did the Romans and Greeks in their polygod world and as we do today in both the political and religious worlds we inhabit.

  16. Fear and Hatred – are at the core of much of this! The worlds of the U.S. and beyond are moving away from a predominantly white world – to a diverse world – racially, ethnically and gay/lesbian/non-binary people are particularly threatening to many men (and a lot of women). Adding toxic Christianity to the mix – and Christianity has been weaponized for many centuries – in a world of the increasing power of the Super-Wealthy – manipulating and controlling the mass media and much, much more, a lot of people are being swept up in the craziness. We need to deal with and dig deeply – among white people – with Racism – Slavery lives on in the minds of many (allegorically at least). Patriarchal views – pollute so many men, and far too many women. We do need to talk about Family Values – real Values – of compassion and cooperation. Those of us who are upper-middle class – in particular – have far, far more potential power – than we often realize. Those who are “left out” – are already organizing, as well as struggling to survive. We remain – most of us – most of the time – ridiculing the Republicans and the Right in General. We – aren’t the ones – who put their lives on the line – as “the others” – are scapegoated – Trans People, Putin (who deserves criticism of course), Iran and Muslim People and more. We need to educate ourselves! Racism, Sexism, Anti-Semitism, Islamophobia, Transphobia + – are a part of us – that we can’t simply absolve ourselves of. At age 72 – I know I won’t live to see a lot of the Necessary Positive Change. We – Can – Ally ourselves with each other – recognizing how We – who are white and male – for example – have a lot to gain – by helping change the world – into a place where we aren’t afraid of Black People, we aren’t Afraid of Women – and perhaps most significantly – we aren’t scared of white men – like ourselves!

  17. My observation is that we all ”believe”.

    But, in my opinion, it’s really an act of assigning credibility to people and sources, and it’s primarily a hand me down culture from back in the day.

    Of course some have reasons to assign credibility to a higher degree to seeing the current culture as an adaptation to ever faster evolving reality. That’s why science makes me libertarian. Evolution is necessary for survival of the species.

    Of course other feel best serve by denying change.

    That’s what they believe.

  18. How sick do have to be to get “hope and meaning” from the prospect of someone slitting the throats of your supposed “enemies ?” That’s not politics and it’s definitely not Christian.

    The leaders of the real Christian churches need to speak up and speak out!

  19. When I was growing up…”What would Jesus say/do?” meant something…he has been long forgotten….SAD

  20. Mitch D.:
    ” . . . Religion probably originated as a way of answering the common human quest to understand, as in understand why we humans are here, and for what presumed purpose. Thus, it makes sense that so many people can not accept the idea that we are just one more emanation of nature and its complexity, just like lions, and tigers, and bears. And, they must have “schemes” with which to make sense of it all. The randomness behind “it all” is too scary, so again, they seek patterns, like the face of Elvis, on mars. Or “Q” garbage.”

  21. If your organization doesn’t have a website in 2023, it’s only reasonable to deduce the org is not a serious endeavor and is simply window dressing.

  22. Peggy – DeFascist now has told us that he will add shooting of cartel members at the border to his earlier promise to “slit the throats” of the opposition when he ascends the throne. I wonder who’s next on his kill list. Democrats?

  23. DeSantis is “a practicing Catholic who has positioned himself as a defender of the Christian faith.”
    What version of Christianity does slitting throats and shooting people come from? Dear Jesus, please protect me from your followers.

    And I like thinking ancient aliens had a hand in building the pyramids and Nazca Lines. No one else has proved otherwise. It’s no more implausible than the parting of the Red Sea. It gives me hope for the future. beam me up, Scottie!

  24. That’s awful. If anyone is deserving of protections from the US government, it’s definitely those altruistic members of cartels.

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