Conspiracy theories are hard to kill. They exist almost entirely in the mind of the believer. State a fact to disprove the theory and, to the believer, it will prove how well those carrying out the conspiracy are keeping it hidden. We go through life “connecting the dots,” or reaching logical conclusions from established facts. Conspiracy theorists also connect dots, even ones that aren’t there.
Nineteen Republican congressional candidates and one independent on the November ballot have “expressed belief in or support for” QAnon, a conspiracy theory that holds that the world is controlled by a Satanic cabal of pedophiles, made up of politicians (mostly Democrats), Hollywood entertainers and the mainstream media. QAnon adherents believe that left-wing elitist Democrats and the leftist media are out to undermine President Trump, and encourage the arrest and breakup of the alleged cabal.
Increasingly, QAnon supporters have been showing up at political rallies, wearing T-shirts and holding signs marked with QAnon codes. Trump has thanked them for their support. And QAnon politicians are moving closer to mainstream political influence. In Georgia, Republican Marjorie Taylor Greene — whom Trump has called “a rising Republican star” — won the primary in her heavily Republican congressional district and will likely be elected to the House in November. Greene has an interesting worldview. In addition to her belief that Muslims don’t belong in government, Greene claims that “the fake news media hates me. Big Tech censors me. The D.C. Swamp fears me. And George Soros and the Democrats are trying to take me down.”
It’s no surprise that Soros is on Greene’s list. The billionaire Holocaust survivor and supporter of liberal causes is the far right’s favorite Jewish bogeyman, and ranks along with the Rothschilds, the Jewish banking family, as a symbol of Jewish world dominance and control.
Should we be worried about QAnon? No and yes. No, because the whole theory is so clearly made up, paranoid and wholly unverified. But yes, because the craziness persists and the flames of its destructive message are fanned by some very vocal and popular voices. According to conspiracy researcher Travis View, “The real danger is that, QAnon, because it deviates so far from what is real that it could lead to politicians, creating legislation, not based upon real world concerns, but rather about, enforcing their conspiratorial beliefs.”
Many believe that we have already seen similar reactions to the coronavirus, climate change and the demonstrations of support of the Black Lives Matter movement. Coupled with the rise of alarmingly realistic fake technology — photos, video and audio — we are increasingly at risk of being misled and misinformed.
We do have some protections — a kind of cognitive distancing that we can employ when obscure or questionable theories are presented: Cultivate skepticism, do research, consult experts, hold off from conclusions and try to make sense of what you are hearing. In other words, don’t be in a hurry to connect the dots. And be careful when you do.