Let’s mosey on down memory lane to January 6th‘s most visible rioter. Unless you’ve been hibernating all winter and/or have repressed your horror at seeing armed citizens storm the cradle of American democracy, you remember that fur-clad, Viking-helmeted maniac who looked like he just walked off the playa at Burning Man. His face was painted. His tattoos were numerous. He had the crazy eyes. The media dubbed him “Q-Anon Shaman,” insulting shamans worldwide but nailing the Q-Anon part. And he wasn’t the only Q-Anon member in that howling mob. Many (read: most) of those rioters believed in the gospel of Q, an anonymous online poster who spins a bizarre story of Satan-worshiping, sex-trafficking pedophiles (including Oprah) who drink children’s blood (the fountain of youth!), believe the election was stolen (damn those lost ballots), and think Donald Trump is a step below their own personal Jesus.
Public Religion Research Institute and the Interfaith Youth Core survey found that 15% of Americans agree with Q-Anon’s core beliefs.
This deserves a serious breakdown.
15% of all Americans, a number equal to all white evangelical Protestants, all white mainline Protestants, or 30 fucking million U.S. citizens, according to The New York Times, believe — in the words of the poll — that “The government, media, and financial worlds in the U.S. are controlled by a group of Satan-worshiping pedophiles who run a global sex trafficking operation.” The figure rises to 23% of all Republicans.
20% of Americans think that “There is a storm coming soon that will sweep away the elites in power and restore the rightful leaders.” 28% of Republicans agree with that one.
A disturbing 15%, which can’t be called a dark underbelly of America because they’re 30 million people, think that “Because things have gotten so far off track, true American patriots may have to resort to violence in order to save our country.” These are real people who think about real violence, and they live in your neighborhood because there are thirty million of them, so there is no way, with that kind of odds, they do not.
Let’s see how far the rabbit hole goes.
What Q-Anon Believes
While those three statements sum up Q-Anon’s central tenets, there’s a lot more where that came from. The “bizarre rightwing conspiracy theory,” as The Guardian calls it, emerged from the nauseous mess of 4chan in 2017. A secret government insider nicknamed “Q” claimed to know The Truth about a far-reaching conspiracy involving Robert Mueller and what really happened at a pizzeria, i.e, that place Hillary Clinton was using to run a child sex-trafficking operation. It’s “pro-Trump and anti-deep state,” but after that becomes a flexible, mutable thing that changes to reflect… whatever people want and/or need.
Like that Tom Hanks is one of those blood-drinking, sex-trafficking pedophiles. So is Steven Spielberg. And the Obamas, the Clintons, George Soros, and Chrissy Teigen. The Parkland shooting never happened and David Hogg, one of the survivors, is a “crisis actor.” Wayfair, the online furniture retailer, was using their cabinets to traffic children.
Cristina López G., who studies QAnon for the liberal research group Media Matters for America and is apparently so afraid of these people she wouldn’t tell the LA Times her last name, says that, “At the end of the day, this conspiracy theory is targeting the Democratic establishment.” Every celebrity, Q-Anon claims, who’s “died tragically, from chef Anthony Bourdain to Soundgarden lead singer Chris Cornell, was murdered” to keep them from blowing the whistle on the aforementioned blood-drinking pedophilia.
According to the LA Times, these people use numerology, Illuminati symbols, and other sundry bizarre methods to decode Q’s cryptic messages, which can mean… whatever they want them to mean. And that Trump drops hints that those code-breakers have solved the puzzle. This apparently happened when a supporter asked him to say the word “tip-top” and The Orange One used it at the White House Easter Egg Roll.
Four in ten Q-Anon believers agree that “the Covid-19 vaccine contains a surveillance microchip that is the sign of the beast in biblical prophecy,” says The New York Times, who would like to remind us that Representative Marjorie Taylor Greene was all about Q-Anon before she walked it on back post-election, and that Trump refused to disavow them.
This Has Happened Before?
This runaway witch hunt crap has happened before. It’s called Satanic Panic. Remember those Salem Witch Trials? The Spanish Inquisition? But most recently, we saw it in the 1980s, where Satanic Panic reached a peak with the McMartin Preschool trial, according to NPR. Poor Ray Buckey, who taught at Virginia McMartin’s preschool in California, was accused of ritually abusing hundreds of children “in satanic rituals at cemeteries and in tunnels underneath the school.” Spoiler alert: there were no tunnels. Ever.
The McMartin Preschool trial was one of the longest and most expensive in U.S. History, and ended with Buckey’s acquittal in 1990. Since then, several of the kids who testified against him admitted they falsified their stories. But the Satanic Panic spread throughout the 80s, with TV special training parents to “recognize the signs” their children were being ritually abused, and shows like “20/20” running “long specials featuring children claiming to have been abused by satanists.”
Q-Anon’s making the same claims: Hollywood elites, sinister cabals, ritual abuse, sex trafficking, blah blah blah. But unlike previous Satanic Panics, Q-Anon believes in armed revolution. No, Q-Anon believes armed revolution is necessary.
According to Rolling Stone, the FBI declared Q-Anon a domestic terrorism threat in 2019 — well before the Capitol riots. These people are a credible threat, and remain so, as January 6th proved. They think the election was “a big lie,” that Joe Biden is not our “real president,” and that a storm of Biblical proportions is coming to wipe the slate clean and bring back our true leaders.
They’re armed. They’re dangerous. They’re 15% of us. If the Capitol riots didn’t make it real for you, these numbers should. Bowie was right: I’m afraid of Americans.