Is Qanon a Tragedy, a Danger, or a Terrorist Group?
Freedom of religion is one of America’s top values and deserves respect. Terror groups, on the other hand, have no place in a civilized society
A significant number of Qanon followers, according to NBC News reporter Ben Collins, believe the end-point of their religion will be reached when Donald Trump takes back control of America, unleashes police to mass-arrest elected and other high-profile Democrats, and Qanon followers then engage in an orgy of violence and murder against Democratic Party-aligned neighbors, friends and family.
Already, one believer has murdered two of his children, saying they had “serpent DNA” and had to be killed to save humanity. There’s evidence that a majority of the people who stormed the US Capitol on January 6th, leading to more than a half-dozen deaths and nearly overthrowing our republic, were solidly within the Qanon cult.
This isn’t quite as weird as it sounds; mass death or even murder of unbelievers, often for political or “End of Days” rationales, is a familiar trope within multiple world religions.
Over the years I’ve spent a lot of time in Israel, which is frequently the target of evangelists trying to convert Jews in anticipation of the End Times.
Many of these evangelists are quite upfront about their belief that in the end times, in preparation for the return of Jesus, all but 144,000 of the roughly 7 million Jews in Israel must die. And those who survive will all be converted to Christianity and “wear the names of the Father and Son on their foreheads throughout eternity.” When that happens, Jesus comes down from the sky.
It’s a belief that millions of Christians — and a solid majority of white Evangelicals — fervently hold, and one of the reasons why there’s so much support for Israel among the Republican white Evangelical movement: that’s where the mass death has to happen to bring back Jesus.
Jim Jones and David Koresh were proponents of such End Times beliefs, among others, and Hitler leaned heavily on Christian themes and prophecy to justify his slaughter of Jews, Gypsies and gays.
“In defending myself against the Jews, I am acting for the Lord,” Hitler said. “The difference between the church and me is that I am finishing the job.”
There are similar death-cult movements within Sunni Islam, most famously offshoots of the Wahhabism that’s as widespread in Saudi Arabia as Evangelical Christianity is in the United States.
In both cases, the death-cult aspect of these religions has emerged in just the past two centuries; the most spectacular unveiling of Wahhabism’s willingness to kill was seen by the world on September 11, 2001 at the former World Trade Center in New York City.
The genocide of Muslim Rohingya people in Myanmar by the Buddhist majority (mostly promoted via Facebook, which has been accused of complicity in the slaughter) was justified, they said, by the religion of Buddhism, which is generally considered one of the more peaceful among the world’s great faiths.
Much like the “Old Testament” documents numerous slaughters called for or approved by G-d (particularly in the Book of Joshua), the Hindu Vedas detail multiple, sometimes genocidal wars, both as metaphors for the “battle for inner peace and enlightenment,” and as actual historical stories.
So what are we to make of the apparent reality that several million Americans — many sucked into this by Facebook and other social media, just like the killers in Myanmar — are followers of a religion that either predicts or calls for the murder of Jews and Democrats?
So far they’ve racked up an impressive record, by American cult standards. They include, as reported by Lois Beckett at The Guardian:
“An Arizona resident blocks a bridge near the Hoover Dam with an armored vehicle. He later pleads guilty to a terrorism charge.
“A California man is arrested after being found with what appeared to be bomb-making materials in his car, in an alleged plot to blow up a satanic display in the capitol in Springfield, Illinois.
“In Staten Island, a 24-year-old man allegedly murders a leader in the Gambino crime family.
“A QAnon supporter allegedly smashes up the Chapel of the Holy Hill in Sedona, Arizona, while shouting about the Catholic church supporting human trafficking.
“Montana police arrest a QAnon supporter from Colorado in connection with an alleged kidnapping scheme.
“A Kentucky mother is charged with kidnapping twin daughters.
“A man is charged with intentionally derailing a freight train near the navy hospital ship Mercy in Los Angeles.
“A woman is arrested after driving to New York and allegedly making threatening statements against Joe Biden and Hillary Clinton.
“A Boston man leads police on a 20-mile car chase while livestreaming himself talking about QAnon.
“Corey Hurren, a reservist in the Canadian Rangers, allegedly rams a truck through the gates of the prime minister’s residence in Ottawa.
“A Texas woman is arrested after allegedly chasing and crashing into a car, then telling police she thought she was chasing a pedophile
“Utah woman arrested in Oregon for allegedly kidnapping her young son”
All, apparently, in the name of Qanon, the religion that has now become the core of their lives.
And that doesn’t include the better-known instances, like the guy who shot up a pizza joint near DC looking for the basement where Hillary Clinton hid children whose blood she was going to drain to obtain adrenochrome.
Or the fellow who blew himself up in front of the AT&T building in Nashville to stop the lizard people.
One theory is that a “tribe of the mentally ill” are finding each other through Facebook and other social media and being led by Donald Trump, himself a case study in mental illness.
The University of Maryland’s National Consortium for the Study of Terrorism and Responses to Terrorism notes that 68 percent of the open Qanon followers arrested at the US Capitol on January 6th who had also committed crimes before or after that coup attempt “have documented mental health concerns, according to court records and other public sources.”
Their psychological issues included “post-traumatic stress disorder, paranoid schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, and Munchausen syndrome by proxy.”
The “Qanon Shaman” of so many iconic 1/6 pictures has now pleaded mental illness as his reason for showing up at the Capitol, as have two others who “were found to be mentally unfit to stand trial and were transferred to mental health care facilities.”
Of the six women arrested on 1/6 who’d also committed crimes before or after the coup attempt, the researchers note, “all six…have documented mental health concerns.”
But that’s probably far too glib an explanation: tens of millions of Americans are members of odd cults, many that believe in the end times, and most mental health professionals would be reluctant to call them all mentally ill.
Mainstream Christians teach their children about a guy who has flying reindeer, after all, and most Americans profess to believe in a Jewish guy 2000 years ago who rose from the dead after walking on water and turning water into wine.
Another theory is that Qanon is meeting some deep social or psychological need for people who otherwise feel marginalized in society. A year of lockdown from Covid could certainly exacerbate this loneliness and search for community and belonging.
Or maybe it’s just the power of Facebook’s algorithm and new “group” system. At the very least, it’s been mobilizing Qanon-friendly/aligned white people across small-town America.
Last summer on a warm Sunday night in the small Oregon town of Klamath Falls about 200 locals showed up downtown with guns, baseball bats, and whatever other weapons they could find around the house to fight off the busloads of Black Antifa marauders who they believed Jewish billionaire George Soros had paid to put on a bus in Portland and was sending their way.
Of course, George Soros had done no such thing and there were no busloads of Black people. But the warnings were all over the Klamath Falls Facebook group, and, it turns out, similar Facebook groups for small towns all over America.
Literally, from coast to coast, that weekend white residents of small towns showed up in their downtown areas with guns, rifles, hammers, and axes prepared to do battle with busloads of Black people being sent into their small white towns by George Soros.
Nobody's sure whether these messages, which activated frightened white people across the nation, came from local white supremacist groups trying to gauge if they could actually kick off a second American Civil War, or whether they came from some foreign government trying to tear America apart.
But they worked.
In the tiny town of Falls, Washington, frightened white people brought out chainsaws and cut down trees to block the road leading to their town.
In South Bend, Indiana police were overwhelmed by 911 calls from frightened white people wanting to know when the “Antifa buses” were arriving.
And in rural Luzern County, Pennsylvania, the local neighborhood social media group warned people that busloads of Black people were “organizing to riot and loot.”
Similar stories played out that week from Danville, California to Jacksonville, Florida, as documented by NBC News.
A few weeks ago, Facebook announced they were banning Qanon groups from the platform, but if their history banning rightwing extremism and Covid lies is any indication, it’ll have little impact.
So what do we do about cult-aligned neighbors who are fantasizing about killing Jews and Democrats?
The FBI has already designated the group as a domestic terrorism threat, although the laws against domestic terrorism are somewhere between weak and non-existent.
And for good reason: if you’re a progressive, for example, would you want the force of the federal government coming after you for “domestic terrorism” during a Trump or Josh Hawley administration? That’s exactly what’s happening in Russia, Hungary and Turkey at this moment, by way of taking down political opponents of those authoritarian regimes.
Deprogramming cult members is a terribly weak game of whack-a-mole. One of my closest friends worked with Ted Patrick back in the 1980s deprogramming cult members who’d been kidnapped or lured away from their cults. It was the tiniest of drops in the bucket, although the deprogramming industry may re-emerge as Covid wanes.
Or are most of these people just so deeply craving social connection and meaning in their lives that Qanon is, for the moment, meeting those needs?
If so, and that was probably the case with many of the cults that were widespread in the 1970s and 1980s, odds are as the cult is discredited they will fall away and join organizations that offer a healthier outlet for their social and activist needs.
That’s certainly what happened in the 1980s around the McMartin Preschool “ritual satanic child abuse” allegations that bear such a striking resonance to Qanon’s assertion that Democrats are drinking children’s blood in new Satanic rituals.
Given that millions of Americans are now members or followers of Qanon, it’s also possible the religion will undergo the same kinds of transformation that many of today’s smaller but mainstream religions have.
The Seventh Day Adventists, for example, started out as a doomsday cult and are now a healthy and respectable Christian sect. Ditto for the Mormons, the Salvation Army, and, some would argue, the Jehovah’s Witnesses.
On the other hand, if the emerging leadership in Qanon continues to center the religion around deifying Trump and fantasizing about killing Jews, Democrats and elected officials, it’ll continue to evolve more and more in the direction of being a political hate group like the Klan, which has its own set of Christian-align and antisemitic theories.
To that end, the FBI is now tracking the movement.
It’s not surprising that America — which has been an incubator for weird cults for much of our history, particularly in the 1600s and the late 19th century — has come to this place with this newest cult, which is now spilling over worldwide.
And there are still open questions about how much of the Q activity in this country is being incited or driven by foreign actors.
Over time, Qanon will probably either become more of a mainstream religion/social club with a gradually normalizing belief set, or will continue down the antisemitic and racist rabbit hole and shrink in size as their willingness to condone violence becomes more problematic.
However this all shakes out, if a member of your circle of friends or family has fallen into the cult, cutting them off altogether may be the least useful strategy: it will just drive them deeper into the cult, seeking a replacement for lost friends and family and affirmation of their new worldview.
If they’re hoarding weapons and talking about killing Jews and/or Democrats, though, it’s a good idea to flag family members and let someone in the law enforcement community know.
Freedom of religion is one of America’s top values and deserves respect. Terror groups, on the other hand, have no place in a civilized society.
Unfortunately, it is not just white people getting taken in. I know people of color who have gotten sucked in to QAnon and other conspiracy theories as well. It's a factor of disenfranchisement across every demographic. It's a serious problem that foreign agents are exploiting and amplifying. Why wouldn't they? As you point out, few countries are not similarly afflicted. So, this economic exploitation that began in the 80s is a serious threat, not only to democracy, but to national security, and also to the future of the planet. It's the most serious threat humanity has ever faced.
Republicans have a long history of blaming the Democrats for doing what they themselves are actually engaged in. Is it projection? Is it prophylacitc cover? Most of it are things the rank and file are not even aware of. But for decades I have rankled my Republican acquaintances by showing them proof that what their party was casting blame onto others was really their own dirty laundry. That, of course, includes rigging elections and voter fraud.
It also includes other things that are much more sinister. Quick history - my best friend for decades was raised by his grandfather, a black magician, and Aleistar Crowley, another black magician from England who worked for English intelligence during WWIl, as well as U.S. intelligence. According to my friend, Aleister had a very deep dark side, which I discovered for myself when I researched his activities. While he presented himself as a very religious man, having founded the religion Thelema, he was in fact a Satanist. It was fortunate for my friend that Aleister passed away towards the end of 1947, when my friend was just nearing 14. He told me that one of the sagist bits of advice Aleister gave U.S. intelligence was to support both fundalmentalist Christianity and Satanism. He said the dynamics between the two would be like clay in their hands, and he was right.
More currently, we can observe how much the Republican party has relied on the fundamentalists, and ever more so as they have moved ever deeper into tyrannical authoritarianism. But the dark side was also very much present and wide-spread, though kept underground. Quite large Satanist groups abound, with the highest levels of authority in any given region being members. One of the largest was/is centered in Omaha. I have lost track of its existence, or lack thereof, since 2000, after 13 of our investigative group, originally organized by the mayor of Omaha and a family friend, were killed; one of them an FBI agent, the only clean agent in the Omaha office, who was run over on a downtown sidewalk the day he helped us break the story on the only one of three TV stations in town that was trustworthy. Another was a Cracker Jack investigator and former Green Beret who had been hired by the Nebraska State Legislature to look into the Satanism scandal surrounding the Franklin Credit Union, as well as his six-year-old son. The state legislature dropped the case, which centered around Lawrence E. King, Jr., director of Franklin Credit Union, who became a personal friend of H.W. Bush - and also provided young men for Bush's "midnight tours of the Whitehouse." A major mover and shaker in Washington, Jack Abramoff, went to prison, apparently for introducing King to Bush. King eventually went to prison as well, not for procuring or Satanistic pedophilia, but for embezzling from the credit union he ran.
What struck my first about Qanon was their first "conspiracy" about satanic rituals and child prostitution, even down to the pizza parlor - which in real life was directly across the street from the Omaha police department, and it had a basement. According to the FBI report by one of their most senior investigators, there were indeed Satanic rituals happening in that basement, which included the drinking of blood from infant sacrifices.
Do not think it highly unlikely that this could happen so close to police authority. They were in on it, along with the sheriff's department, the owner of the World Herald newspaper, the only daily in town, and the state attorney general, as well as the aforementined TV stations, and most of the radio stations as well. According to Alisha Owens, one of the escaped child victims who gave birth to a child by the country sheriff, H.W. and was responsible for exposing the whole operation, Bush was a fairly frequent guest at their pedophiliac orgies. According to what she told my ex partner, who is the mother of my son, he had a prediliction for 12-year-old boys. I was so happy that my son, by the time this was all starting to become known, was living in a different part of Nebraska and had already joined the Air Force.
As you can see, this all has a striking resemblence to Qanon's conspiracy. As I mentioned, I have been telling my Republican acquaintances about this sort of "projection" for decades, and I assumed this was more of the same. I also told my friends that I appreciated that the Republicans did this, as it kept me up to date on what they were up to, which infuriated them no end.
There of course is much more I could relate, but I hope this was enough to get my point across. Qanon preys on the mentally weak, but perhaps we need to look more closely at what it is they are putting out. The Republicans "project" like Hell. Literally.