Here's a catch-up article on the rise of the QAnon far-right conspiracy theory

Originally published at:


People imagine themselves to have insider, seekrit information, thereby lifting themselves out of average or below average lives.


Psychologists could spend a career studying the cognitive agility, let’s call it, of Q’s adherents over the years. They’ve moved the goalposts so many times from the precipice of mass (i.e. tens of thousands) arrests coming from sealed grand jury proceeding, to the “Storm” being ready to be unleashed with the military taking all the disloyal deep state into custody that you could ask 100 of the Qberts what the hell this is all about and get 100 different answers.

It’s always about to happen, it’s always just a bit into the future, just far enough where they can internalize the new narrative when the predicted events don’t happen. Q cannot fail, it can only be failed. Trust Q, trust Trump, trust the plan, no matter what.


In the skeptic activism community, we’re exposed to a lot of research about conspiracy thinking (and there is a lot of research happening) and it is all pretty consistent with what the MIT person said.

It seems to be down to two main drivers:

  1. A desire to feel special. If your life is otherwise not going well, and you feel powerless, conspiracy communities are a way to feel “on in the inside” of something. Being “in the know” in a world where people feel like they never are.

  2. Existential dread. People are so afraid of the world being random and chaotic that they prefer to believe something evil is in charge. That’s better than nobody being in charge. Possibly because it makes huge problems feel solvable. Movies contribute to this thinking a lot. All the problems in a superhero’s city are always down to one bad guy. Take him out and it’s eden. Reality, of course, is way way harder than that and it can feel hopeless.

We all need to understand and figure out how to cope with conspiracy thinking, because it may well be the biggest threat to our civilization. Solving big collective action problems requires everyone to be on board and thinking rationally about scientific solutions to things. We can’t do that if half the population thinks lizard pedophiles are in charge.


I mean, I get it. The reality that our system of government is, to a frighteningly large degree, subject to the whims of an illiterate and demented game show host is a lot scarier than a cadre of super-competent folks making decisions based on long-term goals, as opposed to the number of retweets.


Parts of the mainstream Republican party have latched on

Of course they have. I’ve said this before, but Qanon is like a giant sign that says “Exploitable Morons This Way!”


I wonder if conspiracy theorism is the Great Filter

This is depressing. I can’t let the negativity get to me.


Dammit, Axios’ “summary” is pretty weak.

Why it matters: Their progress shows how a fringe online forum built on unsubstantiated claims and flagged as a threat by the FBI is seeking a foothold in the U.S. political mainstream.

“Unsubstantiated” claims? How about “nonsensical” ? Unsubstantiated makes it sound like the claims have a legitimate chance of being true, but just haven’t been fully proven yet.

QAnon is a far-right conspiracy theory that purports without proof that posts by an anonymous internet user from within the federal government are alluding to a secret war that the “deep state” is waging against President Trump.

Again. “without proof” ? How about “without any evidence”? There’s a huge difference in how people read these two phrases. The Mueller report didn’t have absolute proof of all of its claims, but they were almost certainly true. But Q’s assertions have been actually proven false time and time again. Huge difference.


I’m waiting for “Q” to start telling his/her/its followers that drinking Kool Aid mixed with cyanide will make you invisible to the deep state mind reading satellites.


A graphic simplification:


I cannot recall his name now, but I recently listed to a podcast with a guest who is a professor studying conspiracy theories. A point he was at pains to drive home was that we’re all prone to conspiracy theories.

I was troubled by some of his examples, because I take them for the truth, if not literalized to absurdity. Stuff like “1% of the people control the country,” IIRC. But otherwise I had to agree with him.

I am not a fan of evolutionary psychologists’ work in general, but I do accept their central idea that we have a bunch of relict behaviors which are less than optimal. And that seems to fit here. We’re just a bunch of monkeys, and sometimes we get scared and act out in various ways.


This is because there’s religion. Thinkin’ there will St. Michael that kill the Devil evil will help to cope with the complexity and the difficulties of the world.
If this is delivered as a nice oil paining in a place where every Sunday an old man dressed in white will talk about the hope and the salvation it could work
About the desire of feeling special is addressed too by religion, event the idea to hel other people make one to feel special and fill the live…


I am deeply concerned about what kind of world my kids are going to grow up in, and I don’t even live in the states. I try to reassure myself by thinking that this is the way it has always been, at least in the last 200 years or so - everyone believes that they are living in the worst of times, so it’s important to keep some perspective. Still, things seem especially fragile right now. Even if things are stable at home, it just feels like a matter of time before the shit show spills over the border. Horrible disasters that humans never intended are piling up on the ones we created ourselves.

Here is a great read co-authored by boingboing alumnus Maggie Koerth. I was surprised that someone polled Americans about their support for democracy, and even more surprised by the number of Americans that would be fine doing away with it.


Why is QAnon growing in popularity?

Social media platforms run by feckless managers and hapless developers. Next question…



Who’s with me? Hint: Notice the BIG green Q next to my name…bwahahahaha


QAnon believers make 9-11 Truthers look like Rhodes scholars.

The level of stupidity required to believe in QAnon is stupifying (whatever “QAnon” even means, because its not even a conspiracy theory, but it’s a vast cluster of ill-defined, conflicting hunches).

It’s simply tribalism. That won’t admit it’s tribalism. At least with “Obama is a muslim”, the people generally “knew” [if they were hypnotized] that Obama wasn’t actually a muslim (because, hell, last week, you criticized him for belonging to Rev Wright’s “militant black” Christian church, and the week before that he was an “atheist”). QAnon is the same bullshit.

Exactly. They are passionately tribalistic. And we know its tribalism because QAnon/Flat Earthers cannot tell you exactly what their theories are, because (beyond “Orange Man Good”/“Earth Flat”) they are ever-changing and not self-consistent. Everything else is chest thumping and grunting. The reason academics don’t “study” it is there’s nothing to study (unless, you are studying the adherents themselves, anthropologically— in which case there are troves of information).


This! Traditional media training is frankly contributing to problems like this (and Trump). They use soft language that presumes the other side is potentially valid and acting in good faith. They see it as remaining objective. However, this constant “both sides”-ism gives legitimacy to lunacy.


Absolutely. It’s important to remember that all forms of bad thinking happen to all of us, to varying degrees at various times. There are no “rational people” and “irrational people”. There are Nobel prize winning scientists who believe in homeopathy. There are lauded theoretical physicists who are young-earth creationists. We all have blind spots, and we all have the same brains subject to the same mental traps.

Rational thinking is a high energy state that is difficult to maintain, and none of us can do it all the time. That’s why it’s important to approach others with empathy and humility. There but for the grace of Carl Sagan go I.


We need to stop them before Q is back flying over NY again.