Recently, I received the following text from a family member eager to share a compelling video they had viewed. This isn’t the first time I’ve been sent a link to QAnon-related content, but it has been a while (especially since I ditched social media) and I was a little surprised that this stuff is still making the rounds. I don’t know if this is due to the conspiracy theory gaining something of a ‘second wind’, or if it just never really subsided like I had imagined, but either way I’ve finally decided—reluctantly—to address it here and share some of my thoughts.
Here’s this. Have you been red pilled?
To be fair, I don’t think the family member who sent this was trying to ‘convert’ me—they were just curious if I was familiar with it and expressed that though they find some of the ideas interesting, they aren’t a ‘follower’ of Q. I definitely agree that there are some interesting points brought up in the video, but I also think that the interesting points and smatterings of truth happen to be mixed in with a lot of other absurd confusion. This is typical of any compelling conspiracy theory. It has to have at least something tangible enough to latch on to and draw you in, and QAnon has apparently drawn many people in.
I do find this topic rather tiresome and I don’t relish the thought of ‘fanning the flames’ and adding fuel to the QAnon fire by giving it more attention than it already has, but it’s come up often enough now that I figured it was time to address it once and for all. In the future, if someone asks me if I’ve seen the latest from QAnon or asks me what I think, I can just give them the link to this article in response and move on with my life.
For those not familiar, the general premise of the ‘QAnon’ conspiracy theory, is that Trump is working with ‘good guys’ in control of the NSA to take down ‘bad guys’ who have been running the country (and the world) through a secretive cabal or ‘shadow government’. These highly-placed ‘good guys’ with a security clearance (or maybe one good guy - no one really knows) referred to simply as ‘Q’ leave cryptic posts on various online forums of questionable repute—like 4chan and 8chan—that supposedly hint at some grand scheme unfolding before our very eyes to take down this shadow government.
If you wish to spend your time delving deeper into the origin story of this nonsense, the Wikipedia entry is a good starting point. Jeff Williams also provides an excellent history and analysis of Qanon in this article.
With all of that out of the way, let’s now step through some of the narration of this video and I’ll give my analysis and thoughts along the way.
It opens with:
Have you ever wondered why we go to war, or why you never seem to be able to get out of debt—why there is poverty, division, and crime?
Well yes, I most certainly have! Pondering and researching these topics is in fact what led me to the real red pill of socialism. Endless war is profitable for an empire such as the USA, built on the myth of supposedly-endless expansion of markets and profits for private capital owners. Rampant consumerism is one of the symptoms of this system—along with the debt that comes with it, and poverty as well. Division is nothing new. ‘Divide and conquer’ has been a strategy used by the ruling class to remain in power and is a common theme throughout history. Divided masses are less capable of rising up in unison against their oppressors in the ruling class.
What if I told you there was a reason for it all?
What if I told you it was done on purpose?
I agree that there is a reason. I think the reason for it all is our socio-economic system based on the accrual of profits by globalized private capital, and that this dominant system does result in these negative things happening—even intentionally—to the detriment of people and the planet.
What if I told you that those that are corrupting the world, poisoning our food, and igniting conflict were themselves about to be permanently eradicated from the earth?
Sounds good to me… but wait, what is meant by “permanently eradicated”? What are we talking about here? Revolution? A popular uprising of the people to finally put the power to rule themselves in their own hands? I’d be OK with that, but I’m not OK with non-democratic vigilantism and shadowy unknown forces claiming that they’re embarking on a ‘righteous’ purge.
You might think that an idealistic fantasy.
Well, no, not really. I don’t think ridding society of the corrupt, oppressive, imperialistic regimes of the ruling class is a fantasy at all. In fact it’s been done before. People have united to throw off the shackles of their oppressors many times throughout history, and have attempted to fundamentally change their socio-economic system. The Paris Commune, for example. The Bolsheviks achieved this in 1917 as well.
Well, let me tell you a story…
[By the way, I’m loving the ‘Narration via Motorola 2-way radio’ audio affect on this guy’s voice—not gimmicky at all, right?]
The video then goes on to explain how all of these bad things in society (crime, drugs, war, poverty, etc.) are all due to ‘bad guys’ that have made it to the highest levels of government and business. It claims that President John F. Kennedy was a ‘good guy’ who wanted to dismantle the ‘bad guys’ intelligence apparatus, and paid with his life for daring to stand up to them. It claims that Reagan was also one of the ‘good guys’.
His economic policies were promising, but the criminals needed a weak America to hold onto their power. Reagan was shown with a bullet that the growing US economy and prosperous citizens were not what the criminals wanted.
However, according to the ‘theory’ presented in the video, every other president after Reagan—up until Trump—was one of the ‘bad guys’. However, not all hope is lost, because apparently the ‘good guys’ have managed to gain control of the NSA, and asked Trump to run for president. They devised a plan to bring the ‘bad guys’ to justice which is now (allegedly) in play and the video emphasizes this:
They will be severely punished!
The movie ends on this note:
We realize that the problem was never capitalism or socialism, Democrat or Republican, black or white, Muslim or Christian. We know it was just very powerful criminals who had too much power.
Fellow slaves, it’s time to buckle your seatbelt, recognize your true enemy, and embrace a new future that we all owe to the brave patriots who risked their lives to achieve this victory against the greatest force of evil the world has ever known.
May God bless America
The screen then flashes the Q logo with all caps:
TRUST THE PLAN
PAIN IS COMING
… along with a graphic ‘borrowed’ from US Special Forces and Navy Seals lore featuring a skull with the US flag superimposed on it and the following text:
GOD WILL JUDGE OUR ENEMIES—WE WILL ARRANGE THE MEETING
As John Oliver would say: “Cool.”
I personally don’t subscribe to this idea that all bad things happen simply because of the ‘bad guys’. Yes, people do do bad things, and people in power certainly have the potential to abuse that power. But, to ‘dumb’ all the world’s problems down to being merely caused by ‘the bad guys’—rather than by systemic problems and failures—is naive to the point of absurdity. This is what I call the ‘football game’ worldview, where everything is thought of in binary terms of good/evil or ‘our team and theirs’. It also represents a system of thinking where morality (or lack thereof) is solely to blame for all of the ills in the world. If bad things happen, or people do bad things, it’s simply because they are bad or evil, or are on the ‘bad guy’ team. This way of thinking permeates US politics as well, especially with our 2-party system. People get ‘stuck’ thinking in terms of Republicans = good, Democrats = bad (or vice versa) when in reality, neither party truly represents the interests of the working class—both are funded and controlled by the influential and wealthy of the ruling class.
I tend to be more persuaded by the explanation put forth by the philosophy of ‘materialism’. I think people are largely influenced by the material conditions they find themselves in, and adjust their behavior to match accordingly. I also believe that humans have evolved to possess a powerful ability to adapt very well to their environment, surroundings, and social systems. If a human is placed in a situation or system in which they must aggressively fight for limited resources for survival, then they’ll adapt to this reality and behave accordingly. I believe that flagrant abuses of power and ‘higher-ups’ behaving badly aren’t necessarily due to ‘bad people’ that have ascended to these positions, but more so the fact that this system which we find ourselves operating in rewards this sorts of ‘bad’ behavior with success and wealth. If you operate under a system which rewards and incentivizes greed and cut-throat behavior, then guess who’s going to thrive and rise to the top? Those who have mastered the behaviors rewarded by the system! Therefore, I think that the problem is exactly opposite to what this video claims. It’s not that bad people have ascended to the highest positions of business and government and commandeered the system. Rather, these sorts of people are merely the products this capitalistic system we live under is optimized to produce! The system has created the monsters, not the other way around.
It’s thought that many CEOs have and exhibit psychopathic tendencies. I’ve actually heard people joke that this is because this is an ideal trait to have in the dog-eat-dog world of competitive business, and so of course psychopaths rise to the top. Obviously, not all CEOs are psychopaths, but it’s thought that as many as 12% could be which is more in line with the 15% or so common in prison populations. In this case, did ‘existing’ psychopaths seek out CEO positions, or could it be that there are aspects of this job within the system which reward and incentivize this personality trait, and in which psychopathic tendencies might actually be an advantage (i.e. when making decisions about mass layoffs)?
I don’t doubt for a minute that shadowy forces and backroom deals work to subvert the interests of the common people across business and government. I personally don’t think this is due to a ‘shadow government’—but rather it’s just the status quo of a society with a ruling class that dominates the affairs of the country (and world) through a system conducive to their material interests. This is nothing new. It’s ‘business as usual’ under capitalism. Like any other commodity on the market, power and influence can be bought and sold. When you look at the insane wealth inequality present in our society that capitalism has led to, it’s no shock that we’re essentially a plutocracy in the USA—where power truly rests with the wealthy to serve their interests—rather than a true functional democracy of and by the people.
The video mentions substance abuse as a crime upon humanity inflicted by the ‘bad guys’. Obviously, criminals do push and peddle drugs, but they do so mainly because there is a market for drugs—a lucrative one due to the very high demand. Why is it that the USA has an insatiable demand for illegal drugs (and legal ones too for that matter)? I personally think there’s a lot more to it than just ‘bad people’ pushing them. I think rampant drug use is another symptom of our system’s failure to adequately address the material, social, and health needs of its citizens. There were studies done in the 1970s by Dr. Bruce Alexander involving rats and water tainted with cocaine or heroin. It was found that in various communities of rats—all with access to the drug—the rats who were placed in poorer high-stress living conditions with poor opportunities for social interactions sought out the drugs at a much higher rate than the rats who were placed in more favorable living and social conditions. So again, I think all of these ‘problems’ the video mentions (wars, poverty, drugs, etc.) are symptoms of a bad system rather than ‘bad guys’.
Unfortunately, we seem to want to find individuals to blame for our problems, rather than acknowledge that the root cause might be the system itself. Furthermore, those that attempt to call out the real systemic flaws and shortcomings are ridiculed, shouted down and ostracized for daring to bring up any ‘flaw’ in the ‘religion’ of capitalism. That’s another issue I have with this QAnon conspiracy theory. I ultimately see it as yet another way to distract from addressing the actual systemic failures of the socio-economic system of privatized capital we’re forced to endure, and instead blame all the issues on a cast of ‘criminals’. Of course there are people with criminal intent at the highest levels that seek to use their position for their own gain and profit. This is one of the flaws of capitalism in my opinion. Our plutocratic system increasingly rewards these people with virtually unchecked power. Merely rounding up, “severely” punishing, and then replacing these ‘bad’ people with others does nothing to address or fundamentally alter the power structures within the system that breeds this sort of behavior in the first place. We need to change the bad system, not just the bad people it creates.
There’s some other stuff in this video that left me scratching my head. For example:
We were taught that capitalism was the cause of a massive rich/poor divide, and the reason for poverty, which in turn is the reason for war, crime, and starvation. Others were taught that Communism - the system of equal wealth across all people - was really to blame for the mess.
But you see folks, it is none of these things. It is not our nature to fight and be racist. It is not in our nature to rob from others. What you must learn is that it was the criminals all along.
In an attempt at impartiality that I’m not quite sure is genuine (I’ll explain why shortly), the narrator says it’s neither capitalism or communism to blame. I disagree of course, and believe that the very nature of capitalism is largely to blame for ‘the mess’. I agree that it’s not in most people’s nature to fight without good reason. Humans’ ‘superpower’ compared to other species is our tremendous ability for cooperation after all. But, the cut-throat nature of capitalism pits worker against worker, boss against boss, bosses against workers, and the ‘haves’ versus the ‘have nots’. It locks us in a cage, so to speak, and makes us fight over artificially scarce resources. Capitalism (especially in the form of imperialism) also has a long (and tragic) history of instilling racism and slavery, both for profit, and as a way to ‘divide and conquer’ the working class. It might not be in people’s nature to be racist, but it is most certainly in capitalism’s interest to promote such tendencies.
The description of communism as “equal wealth across all people” is a frequent mischaracterization of socialism and communism. Socialism is not about enforcing ‘equal wealth’. It’s about eliminating the class structure of society where one class rules over the other, and empowering the people and workers to manage their own affairs democratically in a rational planned economy. This doesn’t mean ‘equalizing pay’ across all jobs/professions, although a class-less society would go a long way to address and correct the egregious inequalities and poverty we see across the world today under the current system of capital.
I (as well as many others) would disagree that Reagan’s economic policies were “promising”. They were “promising” for the wealthy perhaps. Either way, I highly doubt that the assassination attempt on Reagan by a deranged John Hinckley Jr. was the work of some sort of ‘shadow government’ plot to warn Reagan not to allow prosperity (his neoliberal policies were doing a good job of that already, but I digress). I bring the bit about Reagan up here to highlight the true partisan nature of the QAnon conspiracy theory. Earlier I expressed doubt that the impartiality expressed in the video regarding Capitalism vs. Socialism was genuine. The reason for this is that the true partisan nature of the message of this video becomes apparent as it progresses. It’s kind of comical actually. It claims that part of the ‘mess’ is that we’re too partisan and divided, yet it contributes to this by flashing pictures of Democratic presidents as the ‘criminals’, and then lauding Reagan and Trump. To be fair, it does call Kennedy one of the ‘good guys’, and the Bush’s ‘bad guys’, but overall, it’s apparent—especially by the end of the video—that this QAnon stuff is nothing more than Trump political campaign propaganda, meant to appeal and tug at the heartstrings of those decidedly to the right on the political spectrum and who most likely sympathize with or support the Republican party and/or Trump. Even If you don’t like Trump, it is implied that you should at least support him anyways because he’s waging a secret crusade against the ‘bad guys’ on your behalf.
In fact, this idea being pushed that Trump is engaged in some secret war with the ‘shadow government’ is particularly troubling to me. It suggests that since he is engaged in a secretive ‘just’ conflict, he can do no wrong. Regardless of your stance on Trump, this should set off alarm bells (as it should with any president or elected leader subject to oversight). However, with Trump, my alarm at this notion is increased tenfold! His propensity to circumvent and flaunt the existing checks and balances in place is highly apparent and well documented. I think to give any leader a carte blanche is very dangerous—especially this one. He gloats about how ‘loyal’ his supporters already are, claiming he wouldn’t lose any even he shot someone. His lawyer even made a similar argument, claiming he couldn’t be prosecuted even if he murdered someone. Now this QAnon gibberish is filling people with completely unproven nonsense about him needing absolute immunity and free reign due to being ‘chosen’ to take down the ‘bad guys’ of the shadow government.
In fact, if anything, he’s been displaying a flagrant disregard for the very ‘rule of law’ Republicans claim to stand for, as well as the checks and balances that have historically been in place. From trying to out whistleblowers, to firing inspector generals, Trump and his administration are systematically dismantling the very mechanisms of oversight intended to keep leaders in check and prevent them from becoming—for lack of a better term—one of the ‘bad guys’. But as QAnon tells it, not only should we not care about this, we should applaud it because it’s somehow a sign of the great battle being waged to take down the ‘shadow government’! This QAnon malarkey is enabling the very abuses of power and the sort of behavior it claims Trump & Co. are covertly seeking to put an end to!
On top of that, instead of encouraging the masses to stand up to abuses of power, it’s telling them to sit back, relax, and “Trust the plan” as passive observers. This “Trust the plan” rhetoric is also very disturbing to me. I for one am—to use a term from the video— severely skeptical and troubled by anyone in power (or seeking it) telling us that we should sit back, not doubt, and just “Trust the plan”. However, this is nothing new coming from the Trump camp.
Just remember, what you are seeing and what you are reading is not what’s happening,” Trump said. “Just stick with us, don’t believe the crap you see from these people, the fake news. 
The slogans making their way into this QAnon culture are really just parroting and re-emphasizing the one thing Trump doesn’t want you doing: Seeking out information from any outlet other than those that endorse him! Again, I find this to be a highly disturbing precedent, but unfortunately it is one I see all the time, especially in right-wing media. For example, somehow, I’ve managed to end up on the Epoch Times Email list and the subject line from the first Email I received recently read: “Real News: You don’t have to fact check anymore”. Nice. So yet again, here’s this idea that I’m just supposed to trust them and shouldn’t bother reading anything else since they have proclaimed themselves the sole disseminator of infallible truth.
Another thing that worries me is this language regarding the ‘bad guys’ being dealt with harshly (i.e. “severly punished”). As much as I love seeing justice be served to deserving ‘bad guys’, I wonder if this is going to be done according to any sort of due process or within the legal framework of our established justice systems. The rhetoric in this video smacks a bit of vigilantism. Is there any oversight? Are these ‘bad guys’ going to be tried by a jury of their peers? Who is deciding who’s guilty and who’s a ‘bad guy’? This all has the trappings of something that could quickly get out of hand and became a Stalin-esque purge. The fact that I’m told to sit back and “Trust the plan” does not fill me with confidence as to the motives of whoever is behind this.
So, who do I think is behind this? Who do I think ‘Q’ is? Frankly, I don’t know and I don’t care all that much because I think it’s a bunch of hogwash. But, going off of what the intended target audience seems to be, my guess is it’s someone (or a group of people) that have a vested interest in drumming up political support for Trump. I think this QAnon intrigue is ultimately nothing more than a rather bizarre form of online political campaigning and stumping for him. It’s ironic that the video mentions powerful interests using the media to manipulate, because that’s what’s exactly at play here. I think the QAnon conspiracy hype is primarily intended to manipulate people into supporting a candidate for political reasons. There are also other ancillary incentives involved for those who create content around this topic, such as monetizing clicks/views/likes/hits and building an audience of people willing to spend their time immersed in it. Honestly, I loathe the fact that even I’ve been compelled to finally spend time writing about it, but here I am.
Like most obnoxious memes and ‘trends’ that are born on the internet—as well as any good advertisement—I think that this is ultimately the point: to drum up attention and get people talking about it as much as possible for a low expenditure in production costs. Cryptic text posts on anonymous free online message boards is about as low cost as you can get when it comes to advertising. But, look how successful it’s been in getting many people to spend hours and hours pouring over it, and sharing it. In this regard—though it annoys me—I must admit that the entity behind QAnon is clever in how it’s been able to captivate the attention of so many, and ‘suck’ them in—and undoubtedly profit off this as well.
Another thought I had while watching this video is how strongly it appeals to what I call the ‘savior theory’ or ‘benevolent ruler’ theory. Many disciplines within the Christian tradition (and maybe other non-Christian faiths too although I’m less familiar with those) believe in some variation of a prophecy that goes more less like this: no matter how bad things get on Earth, it’s all OK and part of a grand plan where Jesus (the Savior) will return at the end of an epic battle/struggle, make everything right, and he will rule benevolently from that point on. I couldn’t help but notice the parallels in the message of the QAnon video:
- The prophet figure (the mysterious ‘Q’)
- The ‘savior figure’ (in this case, implied to be Trump)
- A ‘great plan’ shrouded in mystery and intrigue
- A great battle/struggle - (i.e “When the full picture comes to be known, it will forever be regarded as the greatest story ever told”)
- Appeals to faith (i.e. “Trust the Plan”)
- Suggestions that a select few ‘original’ devotees (akin to clergy or disciples) will aid the ‘faithful’ in deciphering the messages from the prophet figure (i.e. this line from the narration: “Those of us who have followed Q since the beginning will be here to help you make sense of the coming events”)
Clearly, this is intended to appeal to those who would most likely identify as being religious, which also happens to make up a good portion of Trump’s support base—another clue as to the motives of whoever is behind this, and what their ‘target demographic’ is.
I’m inclined to call “hoax” on all of this QAnon stuff, mainly due to the cryptic nature and game-like manner in which ‘Q’ supposedly releases information on sketchy hardly-legitimate internet forums. Many of these posts and claims have been wildly inaccurate, wrong, and thoroughly debunked. If there actually was someone in a prominent position in government who took themselves seriously, and who had something of critical importance to release to the public, why not just do what others have done in the past and take it straight to the press? This is how the Pentagon Papers were leaked. Of course, if you ask a QAnon ‘believer’ this, they will just regurgitate some line about how the media is ‘in on it’, no one can be trusted, every media outlet is run by the ‘bad guys’, etc. etc. But, such is the inanely annoying self-feeding nature of conspiracy theories like these—anything you say to refute the conspiracy just further fuels it. Of course there’s no way to know for sure, but I highly doubt that there’s actually someone high up in the NSA (or other agency) constantly ‘leaking’ sensitive information in this manner. It goes against all operational security protocols and ‘good guy’ or not, the NSA wouldn’t tolerate it for long, and most certainly has the capability to track the ‘leaker’ down. Just look at the lengths Edward Snowden had to go to to escape prosecution for ‘breaking the rules’ and leaking information about the NSA and its programs. He still has yet to return to the US, and most likely never will unless he’s forcefully extradited.
There’s also a theory floating around on the internet that QAnon might actually be an elaborate prank by artist-activists (that potentially backfired?), perhaps meant to discredit or mock those that ‘fall’ for it. An Italian ‘media-jamming’ movement/collective in the 1990’s called “Luther Blisset” published a book called Q with a plot very similar to what the QAnon conspiracy alleges is occurring now. The members of “Luther Blisset” also engaged in various media hoaxes and pranks in the 90’s with parallels to QAnon. Some speculate that a similar movement could be behind QAnon today. Ben Davis has a detailed article about this here if you’re interested in the details.
Whoever is behind it, I hope they get bored with this little ‘project’ soon and give it up because I’m quite bored of hearing about it and I’ve certainly wasted more time than I wanted reading and writing about it. It will be worth it though to have a link that I can direct people to if they send me any more of this QAnon quackery.
↩︎ 4chan and 8chan are sites notorious for being hangouts for extreme right-wing ideologues, anti-Semites, and white-supremacist types, among other things. These sites (and other like them) have gained particular notoriety for being an outlet for perpetrators of right-wing terror attacks to disseminate their ‘manifestos’ and delusional rantings. 8chan was actually shut down in August 2019 in the wake of the El Paso shooting. Just keep that in mind when you think about where these posts from ‘Q’ originate from and what we’re dealing with here.
↩︎ If anything, many of the economic woes and vast wealth inequality we’re experiencing today can be traced back to the long-term legacy of ‘Reaganomics’, which was influenced heavily by the neoliberal policies of Milton Friedman and involved slashing of social spending, tax breaks for the wealthy, deregulation, privatization, and austerity for the middle and lower class. This topic merits an entire article of its own, which I might write in the future.
↩︎ As reported here. This article also points out the similarities of this Trump quote with one from George Orwell’s 1984: “The Party told you to reject the evidence of your eyes and ears. It was their final, most essential command.”
↩︎ I have no idea how I ended up on this mailing list as I’m probably the furthest thing you could get ideologically from their ‘target’ demographic, but it’s kind of amusing and the Emails have been an interesting insight into how the far-right propaganda engine works. Epoch Times is a so-called ‘news’ outlet that could also merit its own article trying to peel back its absurdities. If you haven’t heard of it, it’s affiliated with the Fulon Gong religious movement and is highly critical of the Chinese government. Fair enough, but in being critical of the Chinese government, it embraces an almost-comical level of devotion to Trump and Trump adoration, to the point of at times reading like a North Korean propaganda poster, but for Trump instead of Kim Jong Un. Along the way, it peddles in other far-right wackiness and helps propagate conspiracy theories like QAnon, and anti-vaccination claptrap.