Qanon: The Most Dangerous American Conspiracy Theory
I first became aware of the term "anti-intellectual movement" towards the United States during the first term of former President George W. Bush. Most of it was centered around his campaign promises to amend the United States Constitution to say that marriage can only be between one man and one woman.
Written By: Anton Sawyer
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The reason the anti-intellectual talk became so prevalent is that anyone who knows how the constitution works, especially pertaining to a new amendment, knew there was no way that this kind of change could be made. With the increasing awareness of the population at large towards civil rights for the LGBTQ community, along with states like Massachusetts already granting those privileges to their residents and other jurisdictions following closely behind, you had to almost blatantly ignore any knowledge of the procedure to support such an amendment. Since the beginning of the century, there have been a number of scientists who looked at this discrepancy—blindly following the impossible—and wanted to know why. This curiosity prompted many studies on the brain and how it pertains to our political outlook. This research gives us some clues as to how these conspiracies have gained traction and why it will perpetuate for a long, long time.
For those of you unfamiliar with Qanon, it is a conservative conspiracy group/theory that top Democrats like Hillary Clinton, Barack Obama, George Soros, and others in leadership roles, are the heads of an evil hydra whose necks are the roots of a worldwide pedophile ring. There is also a large section of the group that believes in addition to molesting children, members also kill and eat their victims too. Though its beginning seems to have started on 4chan from posts under the name of "Q" in October of 2017, the groundwork had already been laid by that time.
Most people would see those claims above as being totally absurd. That a ring of pedophile cannibals holding the highest offices in the land and are in cahoots with multiple countries involving countless minors isn't likely to be real. Yet as we have seen in recent years, a lot of things we once took for granted has been turned on its ear.
The most famous incident that involved said pedophile ring was "Pizzagate." On December 4, 2016, Edgar Maddison Welch arrived at Comet Ping Pong in Washington D.C. utterly convinced that it was a main operating front for a pedophile ring. In fact, because of the internet rumors that were circulating widely at that time, it took on a life of its own convincing not just Welch, but also a lot of people along the way. For months prior to the incident, the restaurant had been receiving threatening emails, threatening phone calls, and generally harassed by those who were "sure" something was going on. Welch arrived at the arcade and fired three shots from an AR-15 style rifle, hitting a wall, desk, and a door. When he was asked why he did this, he responded that he had to "self-investigate," and felt that at the end of the day he would be considered a hero, a liberator.
The law disagreed with his assessment.
When it was all said and done, Welch took a plea agreement where he plead guilty to a federal charge of interstate transport of firearms and the local District of Columbia charge of assault with a dangerous weapon. He also agreed to pay $5,744.33 in damages.
The actions were of one man, but the rumor mill that infected his mind with the ridiculous thought of Hillary Clinton feasting on human children had burrowed its way into the mind of many.
This leads one to think, how?
Since the turn of the century, there has been a concerted effort on the part of psychologists and neuroscientists to unlock the mysteries of the human mind. Many of them have been trying to determine if there is scientific data that could determine someone's political affiliation. Before studies like this in the modern era, the most accurate way to determine someone's political stance was to look at their parents—we have seen that throughout the years through polling, about 70% of people politically align themselves with their elders.
A study published on April 7, 2011, in the Current Biology journal by neuroscientists Ryota Kanai, Geraint Rees, and co-written with Colin Firth and Tom Feilden, performed studies on how the brain reacts to certain stimuli and how it pertains to political affiliation. They found its accuracy to be much higher, over 10% more so, than when you just asked someone what their parents believed.
The experiment went as such:
They would hook the subject up to an MRI to monitor their brain activity.
They would show them images of many different things which would trigger responses and see which part of the brain had the most activity during each picture.
When they cross-referenced those results with the political ideologies of their subject, the results were pretty clear.
When it comes to decision making, there are two primary areas of the brain responsible for it; the amygdala and the pre-frontal cortex. The amygdala is the part of the brain that is responsible for emotions. The pre-frontal cortex is responsible for logic and decision making. In teenagers, it's been found that the amygdala progresses much faster than the pre-frontal cortex during puberty. This is why teenagers tend to make so many horrible choices—their reasoning skills have been taken over by the emotional center of their brain.
The scientists had the results: people whose amygdala dictated their responses were more conservative, and people whose pre-frontal cortex dictated their responses were more liberal.
I can now hear the choir of angry voices in the background taking this to mean that conservatives are stupid. This is not the case at all. As someone who has done what they can to become as self-aware as possible, I know that I am the same way. I process information with my amygdala before anything else. It's something I've had to come to realize and learn to deal with as I've gotten older. I know that if something new happens in my life, that my initial response is going to be an emotive one, and I have to take a step back in many cases before I act. None of this processing has to do with intelligence, but with the way your brain motivates your choices.
People who reason with their amygdala are more emotionally responsive. When something comes up that activates the "fight or flight" mechanism, they will go with what they feel is most emotionally satisfying to their health and safety. Those who reason with the pre-frontal cortex, look at a situation, assess it, and do what is going to be most intellectually satisfying. These processes are not wrong or incorrect in any way, and can definitely swing vice-versa. With all of the social justice warriors out there, it would be utterly foolish to think that there are not liberals who coast completely on rage when it comes to their ideologies. Also to say that no conservatives out there ever stop and rationally weigh out all of the outcomes to any action before moving on is just as ludicrous. What it does show is that conservatives are easier to persuade when you tap into their emotional perspective.
After reading the outcome of the study mentioned above, and examining the emotional manipulation techniques from when I worked for the Republican National Committee as a fundraiser in 2015, you can start to get a clearer picture as to how something like Pizzagate could occur.
If you take someone who sees a terrible injustice like pedophilia, with them having read enough "facts" from news sources they trust, and seeing this happening day after day making their blood boiling each time some new information is released, it would be easy to get carried away. They see that the police or FBI don't seem to take it seriously. Everybody wants to be a hero, to save those weaker and who are in peril, it's just Welch and some others have decided they are in the best position to take action.
Since Pizzagate, Qanon has become more mainstream and accepted by millions. It's not uncommon to see House Representatives and Senators, Governors, and even the former President Trump tweeting and re-tweeting the more popular conspiracies. Because of this national attention, it was made aware by Q that their followers must prepare for "The Storm." Though there are several elements to "The Storm," the main ones are that Donald Trump would be re-elected, the pedophile rings would be taken down, he would end political turmoil victoriously and provide complete Republican vindication.
Since the day Trump lost the election, Q has been silent ... sort of.
They ignored this prophecy and shifted their attention to Qanon influencers who have been pushing the theories as much as ever. Between Travis View (the co-host of the Qanon Anonymous podcast), and certain legislators (notably House Representative Dr. Paul Gosar-R. Arizona), the popular Q theory that the Dominion Voting machines were hacked for the benefit of the Democrats has been spread throughout social media. Agency Advance Democracy, a nonpartisan nonprofit that tracks misinformation, found that 1 in 7 tweets about “#Dominion” since Nov. 5 originated from accounts that self-identified as QAnon accounts. With all of this accompanied by the fact that on November 12th, 2020 Trump sent out a tweet about the Dominion Voting System claiming the deletion of millions of his votes, the level of suspicion became just that much more escalated. Though this theory was debunked by many—including by Chris Krebs, director of the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency—to Qanon it was already baked in the pie as fact.
Because of the violent nature of their followers and tactics at times, the FBI has classified Qanon as a domestic terrorist group. Between the Republican leaders pushing the narrative that ANTIFA and other liberal groups are the ones perpetuating the violence, along with having the moral high-ground of stopping pedophilia, this form of terrorism isn't going away any time soon. Of course, convincing all their followers that what they are doing is right in every way and shifting the focus of violent tendencies off themselves and on to a group that they know for a fact in their heart is evil and must be stopped, are all keystones to their plan—"Operation: Hey, Look Over There."
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