Sunday, August 5, 2018

Sunday Reading

Suckers — Rick Wilson in The Daily Beast.

Conspiracies are hard. They’re even harder when you’re stupid.

They are, however, deeply compelling. Some people need a single, grand unifying theory of why the world refuses to line up with their expectations. When difficult realities confront people without the intellectual horsepower to understand and accept the truth, some turn to conspiracy theories to paper over the holes in their worldview. No matter how absurd, baroque, and improbable, conspiracies grow on their own like mental kudzu where inconsistencies aren’t signs of illogical conclusions, but of another, deeper layer of some hidden truth, some skein of powerful forces holding the world in its grip.

After Donald Trump’s rally in Tampa this week, the notorious QAnon scam became America’s conspiracy of the moment. And why not? In the face of Trump’s daily meltdowns, mood swings, and unmedicated rage episodes in which he lashes out at every target in reach, his base is desperately looking for a version of reality that gives them some comfort and stability.

This Q conspiracy is filling the political bloodstream of the Trumpentariat and has been bubbling up inside the right for the last few months, and while Will Sommer and others have covered the story, there seemed to be a media shock moment after the Qbots showed up at Trump’s Tampa rally.

Conspiracies—this one in particular—give their devotees a sense of coherence that is lacking in everything Trump does. QAnon presents Trump as the character he plays on TV; bold, commanding, strategic, and brilliant…as opposed to the real Donald Trump, who displays the dignity, intelligence, and honesty of a strip-club tout with tertiary syphilis.

In Q’s world, Donald Trump is courageously leading an effort to round up and punish—I’m not exaggerating—tens of thousands of child predators who occupy the highest reaches of government.  Q and Don, side by side, doling out the secret knowledge to the new elite. Instead of getting a clearance, all you need to do is check out 4chan, Reddit, or YouTube.

Some even believe Q composes these messages for their eager consumption and interpretation at Trump’s direction, the amanuensis to an orange Nostradamus whose quatrains appear on the same image boards that feature bronie porn, hentai spank-bank material, and tween Neo-Nazi shitposter incels, instead of penned on parchment.

They’re desperate to believe “Q” is a senior official cleared at the highest levels (as one former NSA official jokingly called it, “TS/SCI NOSEBLEED”) who is busily leaking cryptic messages to them. Set aside that the Q clearance is a Department of Energy designation, and is for access to particular nuclear weapons matters, not the Bondian highest-reaches-of-government shenanigans to which Q claims access; this entire thing reeks of enough bullshit to fertilize Mars.

The claims of Q-Anon make Nostradamus look like Hemingway. Naturally, they’re elliptical, variable, and impossible to cross-check. Hundreds of YouTube videos, blog posts tweets, Facebook items, and speculation follow each post, a Confederacy of Dunces that ramifies this idiocy out into dumber and dumber dead ends. QAnon asks its believers to “follow the breadcrumbs” and fill in the blanks. Those blanks get filled with epic idiocy.

The glee with which the followers of this absurdity latch on to imaginary deportations of Hillary Clinton, John Podesta, and others to Gitmo is notable. Several times, Q has promised them that any moment now the rest of the Deep State will occupy the darkest holes of the American prison system. QAnon tells them that retribution is at hand, and they’re ravenous for more. Lurid and exciting for the rubes, but as of yet, Hillary Clinton walks free. If that even is Hillary Clinton, and not a shapeshifting reptilian overlord.

Those of us with the unfortunate awareness of the clownishly risible QAnon conspiracy cult have been reveling in the comedy gold, lavishly overwrought, dangerously stupid proclamations of Q for months. We’ve alternated between laughter and wide-eyed shock at how credulous Trump’s Army of Cletuses must be to fall for such an obvious, ludicrous con. Then again, Donald Trump put the “con” in “conspiracy” as far back as his embrace of birtherism.  If the puzzle surrounding QAnon is a fever dream wrapped in an enigma, coated with nougat, rolled in nuts and filled with a creamy center of delusional paranoia, Trump’s own role in fostering it is right out of the Lil Tots’ First Book of Authoritarian Strategy.

For actual authoritarians and the merely dictator-curious, building a separate, hermetic truth defined only by the Dear Leader is 101 stuff, and goes hand in hand with the relentless attacks on the free press an enemy of the people.

Of course, it’s just trolling. It’s just a prank by some chan-autists. It makes me shake my head to explain to people that the idea of a conspiracy this grand and elaborate has as much chance of working as Skeeter’s plan to cook meth in the WalMart bathroom.

Why has Q eaten the Trump-right’s minds? Why does it work on them when it’s so obviously, evidently a gigantic pyramid of digital horseshit?

It works because stupid people are stupid and because Donald Trump’s Administration loves what QAnon does to stoke the fires of paranoia, resentment, and division. QAnon works for Trump because people who are not knowledgeable about the world, politics, government, the intelligence community and reality more broadly are desperately looking for confirmation that they’re on the winning team. Q tells them that they’re on the right side of history and that for once in their dreary little lives they and only they possess the secret, hermetic knowledge from inside the esoteric cult.

Q represents where the former GOP has gone in the era of Trump; possessed the desire to have a private space that makes even Fox News look mild in comparison, grasping desperately for a different reality.

When even aggressive conspiracy-pusher faux-journalist loons and alt-lite thought leaders Mike Cernovich and Jack Posobiec find QAnon too crazy to promote, it should make you pause. Both men were aggressive promoters of the Pizzagate theory, in which a Washington D.C. restaurant was falsely alleged to be the center of a global child sex-trafficking, cannibalism and prostitution ring. Both were all-in on the cruel and false Seth Rich story, and a raft of other pro-Trump efforts to mainline fantasy conspiracies into the American body politics.

If it’s too crazy for those edge cases, it’s too crazy.

No, Trump fans, the storm isn’t coming. There is no Great Awakening. “Where we go one we go all” is a path to disappointment and madness, not to some brave new future where Donald Trump’s genius and his army of secret soldiers purge America of a vast, secret deep state of hostile insiders and pedophiles.

Q is a meta-hoax, a recursive scam in service of a scam called the Trump Presidency. The “drops” are meaningless claptrap, noise without real signal, and most certainly not the signs of the new reality its eager marks desire.

Doonesbury — Mission: Impossible.

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