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Yes, Qanon is a dangerous, destructive cult
PROVIDENCE, R.I. (AP) — Ceally Smith spent a year down the rabbit hole of QAnon, devoting more and more time to researching and discussing the conspiracy theory online. Eventually it consumed her, and she wanted out.
She broke up with the boyfriend who recruited her into the movement, took six months off social media, and turned to therapy and yoga.

“I was like: I can’t live this way. I’m a single mom, working, going to school and doing the best for my children,” said Smith, 32, of Kansas City, Missouri. “I personally didn’t have the bandwidth to do this and show up for my children. Even if it was all true, I just couldn’t do it anymore.”

More than a week after Donald Trump departed the White House, shattering their hopes that he would expose the worldwide cabal, some QAnon adherents have concocted ever more elaborate stories to keep their faith alive. But others like Smith are turning to therapy and online support groups to talk about the damage done when beliefs collide with reality.
The QAnon conspiracy theory emerged on fringe internet message boards in 2017. At root, the movement claims Trump is waging a secret battle against the “deep state” and a sect of powerful devil-worshipping pedophiles who dominate Hollywood, big business, the media and government.

It is named after Q, an anonymous poster who believers claim has top-secret government clearance and whose posts are taken as predictions about “the plan” and the coming “storm” and “great awakening” in which evil will be defeated.
It’s not clear exactly how many people believe some or all of the narrative, but backers of the movement were vocal in their support for Trump and helped fuel the insurrectionists who overran the U.S. Capitol this month. QAnon is also growing in popularity overseas.

Former believers interviewed by The Associated Press liken the process of leaving QAnon to kicking a drug addiction. QAnon, they say, offers simple explanations for a complicated world and creates an online community that provides escape and even friendship.
Smith’s then-boyfriend introduced her to QAnon. It was all he could talk about, she said. At first she was skeptical, but she became convinced after the death of financier Jeffrey Epstein while in federal custody facing pedophilia charges. Officials debunked theories that he was murdered, but to Smith and other QAnon supporters, his suicide while facing child sex charges was too much to accept.

Soon, Smith was spending more time on fringe websites and on social media, reading and posting about the conspiracy theory. She said she fell for QAnon content that presented no evidence, no counter arguments, and yet was all too convincing.

“We as a society need to start teaching our kids to ask: Where is this information coming from? Can I trust it?” she said. “Anyone can cut and paste anything.”
After a year, Smith wanted out, suffocated by dark prophesies that were taking up more and more of her time, leaving her terrified.
Her then-boyfriend saw her decision to move on from QAnon as a betrayal. She said she no longer believes in the theory, and wanted to share her story in the hopes it would help others.
“I was one of those people too,” she said of QAnon and its grip. “I came out on the other end because I wanted to feel better.”

Another ex-believer, Jitarth Jadeja, now moderates a Reddit forum called QAnon Casualties to help others like him, as well as the relatives of people still consumed by the theory. Membership has doubled in recent weeks to more than 119,000 members. Three new moderators had to be added just to keep up.
“They are our friends and family,” said Jadeja, of Sydney, Australia. “It’s not about who is right or who is wrong. I’m here to preach empathy, for the normal people, the good people who got brainwashed by this death cult.”
His advice to those fleeing QAnon? Get off social media, take deep breaths, and pour that energy and internet time into local volunteering.

Michael Frink is a Mississippi computer engineer who helps administer a QAnon recovery channel on the social media platform Telegram. He said that while mocking the group has never been more popular online, it will only further alienate people.
Frink said he never believed in the QAnon theory but sympathizes with those who did.
“I think after the inauguration a lot of them realized they’ve been taken for a ride,” he said. “These are human beings. If you have a loved one who is in it, make sure they know they are loved.”

QAnon supporters will respond in different ways as reality undermines their beliefs, according to Ziv Cohen, a forensic psychiatrist and expert on extremist beliefs at Weill Cornell Medical College of Cornell University.
Those who only dabbled in the conspiracy theory may shrug and move on, Cohen said. At the other extreme, more militant believers may migrate to radical anti-government groups and plot potentially violent crimes. Indeed, some QAnon believers have already done so.

In the middle, he said, are those who looked to QAnon “to help them make sense of the world, to help them feel a sense of control.” These people may revise QAnon’s elastic narrative to fit reality, rather than face up to being hoodwinked.
“This isn’t about critical thinking, of having a hypothesis and using facts to support it,” Cohen said of QAnon believers. “They have a need for these beliefs, and if you take that away, because the storm did not happen, they could just move the goal posts.”
Some now say Trump’s loss was always part of the plan, or that he secretly remains president, or even that Joe Biden’s inauguration was created using special effects or body doubles. They insist that Trump will prevail, and powerful figures in politics, business and the media will be tried and possibly executed on live television, according to recent social media posts.
“Everyone will be arrested soon. Confirmed information,” read a post viewed 130,000 times this week on a popular QAnon channel on Telegram. “From the very beginning I said it would happen.”

But a different tone is emerging in the spaces created for those who have heard enough.
“Hi my name is Joe,” one man wrote on a Q recovery channel in Telegram. “And I’m a recovering QAnoner.”
The ideal subject of totalitarian rule is not the convinced Nazi or the dedicated Communist  but instead the people for whom the distinction between fact and fiction, true and false, no longer exists -- Hannah Arendt.

I have three words: Marjorie Taylor Green. 'Nuf said
Intelligence is not knowledge and knowledge is not wisdom, but they all play well together.
Every political organization in America is a dangerous, destructive cult.
A Humanist approach:

I write this while listening to this video. 

Part of the fault lies with an algorithm that drew her and many others into an insidious cult. She had her problems, but note well that the Internet can draw people into a comprehensive system for understanding everything... even if the source is catastrophically wrong. It is easy to let the algorithm lead one in one direction, and sometimes the algorithm might lead one into something innocuous or even enriching, like bird-watching, ancient Greece, or the music of J S Bach. Having a fascination with the closest living relatives of dinosaurs, a civilization whose clear-headedness became a model for modern Humanity, and music more daring than any other composed for over a century after his death is harmless.  Even such pseudoscience as UFO's, young-earth creationism, and a flat earth is comparatively harmless (although I would steer a child away from such for being as detrimental for his intellectual development as pornography is for his moral development). Developing a passion is a good thing. So you end up getting some costly wader boots and driving to swamps where the cranes are. Or instead of going on a predictable trip you end up traveling to see the Bach Museum in Eisenach and the Parthenon in Greece. 

Q-Anon is horrible. It distorts the world into a dangerous arena in which dangerous conspiracies prevail (even though I can safely state that competent people do not use conspiracy when they can achieve their ends by some less troublesome means. The typical conspiracy is more like the fictional "Phyllis Diedrichson" (Barbara Stanwyck) in Double Indemnity  seduces an insurance agent to sell her a policy on a husband that she considers expendable and bribes others into being accomplices after the fact in the plot. The plot unravels because the conspirators don't know what they are doing. Nobody does conspiracy well; people have to be clever and ruthless enough to think that they can do the dirty deeds but have the illusion that they are wise enough to get away with it. It's easy for me to refute the Protocols, the infamous libel of Jews as part of some insidious plot from birth through senescence due to some 'racial' origin on the ground that the successful Jews that I have encountered personally or by learning about have mostly gotten what they have without any need for conspiracy. No conspiracy made Lauren Bacall a great actress, Beverly Sills a great singer, Richard Feynmann a great physicist, or Itzhak Perlman (or Isaac Stern, Pinchas Zukerman, Fritz Kreisler, or David Oistrakh) a great violinist... and any highly-successful Jew in public office in America is successful largely for winning the votes of gentiles in states, none of which has anything like a Jewish majority. (At this point I can debunk the conspiracy theory that Jews were underrepresented as victims on 9/11: New York City, long renowned for a highly-visible Jewish minority, is even more Puerto Rican, Italian-American, and Irish-American than "Jewish". Carl Sagan may have been Jewish, but Neil DeGrasse Tyson isn't, and they are obvious parallels in their achievements.  

Conspiracies are mostly for losers.  

Let's start with the pedophile angle. Everybody seems to hate pedophiles except pedophiles themselves, and I would suspect that most pedophiles loathe themselves for what they are, as they know how hated they are. . They are not heavily concentrated in one part of the political spectrum, as would be so with the KKK or Trotskyites.  The people involved in the circle of the late and unlamented Jeffrey Epstein is a small group of high-profile people. (And to Hell with them! That includes one of my favorite movie makers and a member of the British royal family). Cannibalism? Spectacularly rare... and disgusting. 


She was looking for spirituality and natural healing, which are not harmful in themselves... but Q-Anon hijacked her search. If I am to guess what Q-Anon really is, it has at most murky leadership capable of creating its own parallel culture in secretive opposition to the mainstream.
The ideal subject of totalitarian rule is not the convinced Nazi or the dedicated Communist  but instead the people for whom the distinction between fact and fiction, true and false, no longer exists -- Hannah Arendt.


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