For those who might not have heard, QAnon is an online conspiracy theory that makes some pretty big claims. At the center is this notion that Donald Trump is secretly trying to overthrow a secret cabal of people who are possibly satanists and engaged in pedophilia. Trump is not inept or in over his head; this is all a show so he can put up a good fight against some bad people.
It’s tough meeting people who buy into it.
There are enough facts which to some might hint at a deeper narrative. Jeffrey Epstein, for example, was rumored to provide underage sexual victims to some powerful people. Usually when such evidence surfaces, there’s a slew of indictments and jail sentences. But Epstein’s death interrupted such a process.
When things like this happen, it’s easier to create a narrative to make sense of the facts. That narrative isn’t true – it just has to sound true. QAnon is not any different. It takes the believable – rules are different for people who can afford to break them – and turns it into a fantastical web of conspiracy and good versus evil.
Thus, it gets frustrating when I meet people who ascribe to the notion of Trump being a secret hero or there being a shadow government. I’ve done enough government work and had access to middle level management of it to know that the secret forces are often just people who operate in a world removed from consequence. They are not changing someone’s life; they are just filing paperwork.
The agenda is hidden in plain sight, available to anyone who knows who to ask. But this is small comfort to people who see a world changing beyond what they can comprehend or can tolerate. It has to be dramatic, to fit a purpose, to have that thing behind the curtain that can be exposed and stopped for what it is.
This isn’t new. People get scared in changing times.
I try not to be dismissive of the humanity of such people. Yes, they believe in something that doesn’t have facts to support it. Many people believe in such things. They provide comfort in a complex world. Why seek to understand an antagonist when one can write them off as a villain?
It cuts both ways. And if I believed in something strange and unfounded, I’d hope others treat me with a bit of mercy and compassion. Yeah, it’s tough depending upon the belief. But deep down people are telling me they need to believe everything that they’re going through isn’t for nothing.
I met someone today who tried telling me that he knew a hero in disguise and a dumbass oblivious to his ignorance. I happened to be the latter. Such an idea didn’t get me angry or upset, something which might have happened a decade ago.
Instead, I tried seeing things from this person’s perspective. If I was in his position, and put my faith in someone who had let so many people down, I could see why conspiracies are attractive. It gets me off the hook of my own guilt, of knowing I might have helped to hurt people who didn’t deserve it. That kind of guilt isn’t easy to carry. Imagine waking up and realizing that the reflection in the mirror isn’t the hero of the story but the villain.
I couldn’t convince this person that he might be wrong. All I could do was try to get him to help himself. In the end, he was willing to do that. It wasn’t much, and it wasn’t profound or dramatic or world-changing.
But it was everything that could have been done, and I will have to be satisfied by that.