Dispatches From Q-Land is a monthly Paste series delving into the seamy underbelly of the QAnon conspiracy theory on right-wing social media platforms such as Parler, Gab and Telegram. It’s a disturbing task, but only by paying attention to these dangerous extremists can we understand the nature of their ever-evolving delusion at any given moment, and hope to understand what they might do next.
At times, as one observes the larger QAnon sphere online, you get a sense that its core believers are simultaneously drifting in two directions at once, pulled apart gradually by dueling camps that have given themselves over to fatalism on one side, and boundless, unrealistic optimism on the other. The irony is that it’s hard to say which of the two sides is actually more dangerous to the rest of us Americans.
On one side are the disenchanted Anons, who watch the constant stream of promises and predictions pass by and begin to feel a persistent undercurrent of dissatisfaction at the fact that none of this shit ever comes to pass. One might hope that they would respond to that disappointment by realizing that the people around them had been lying to them, deciding in the process to abandon QAnon conspiracy theories and come up for a breath of fresh air in functioning society. And perhaps some of them do—it’s hard to say, because a user who stops posting on Gab and disappears back into the general populace is hard to quantify. But unfortunately, many of these disenchanted Anons are in too deep, and the thought of abandoning their online communities is too painful to even consider, likely because they’ve already burned so many bridges in their home life. Instead of abandoning QAnon, these Anons respond by simply adopting more of a “If Trump and Q aren’t going to do it, then we need to get our guns and start shooting” mindset, and that is deeply concerning.
I believe this is legitimately the most dangerous type of Anon, and the most likely to go out and start shooting his neighbors.
On the other side, there are the true believers—the people who only get more certain that everything is going “according to plan” with each passing day, no matter what happens. It doesn’t matter if predicted dates pass uneventfully. It doesn’t matter what the new day’s headlines are—they can all be tied back to Q with a big enough whiteboard and enough stimulants. These folks are still certain that The Storm is coming—the apocalyptic event in which all of Trump’s enemies will be arrested and executed—and that the date is perpetually “a few weeks” away. At this point, it’s been “a few weeks” away since late 2016, but trust me, “I’m hearing that August sounds promising.”
Next month: “Hear me out guys, maybe it’s actually 10 YEARS of darkness?”
And that’s the push-and-pull of anxious personalities you’ll find in the Q-sphere these days. More of the most popular Q influencers seem to have drifted away, their accounts on sites such as Gab, Parler and Telegram going silent or being deactivated as they seemingly cut their losses and duck out of sight. Others, on the other hand, have only become more bold as they circle in a holding pattern, typing daily affirmations to keep spirits high as they wait for some miraculous event to come along and fix their enduring disappointment with the world. It’s a deeply conflicted world, with a tone that bounces back and forth between despair and euphoria from moment to moment. One day, they’re backpedaling and on the defensive, and the next they’re exulting and insisting that their triumph is at hand.
So with that said, let’s get into some more specifics on what Anons are obsessing over these days.
There is no single person within the orbit of QAnon who doesn’t trigger some kind of impassioned, ambivalent debate among Anons. Even some of the movement’s greatest boosters, like Sidney Powell or Michael Flynn, have their detractors. People spend endless reams of copy praising the likes of Mike Lindell or Lin Wood, while another commenter goes on a rant insisting they’ve actually been Deep State spies all along. And this ambivalence extends all the way to the man himself, Donald Trump. Although most Anons worship the ground that Trump walks on with a religious fanaticism they claim to reserve solely for Jesus, other Anons and Q influencers simultaneously rage against the many Trump decisions they’re incapable of understanding, largely because their view of his character is so profoundly flawed, and always has been. Unable to understand why Trump does any of the things he does (because they can’t see him as a self-serving idiot), they’re forced to switch to “fevered rationalization” mode.
Trump’s demands to receive credit for the COVID-19 vaccine, for instance, continue to rankle a great many Anons, who are forced to rationalize why their beloved leader would continue to push a deadly vaccine they simultaneously believe will be responsible for the deaths of millions. Trump has even gone so far as to literally refer to himself as “the father of the vaccine,” but Anons are somehow able to dance around the resulting cognitive dissonance to rationalize that they can continue supporting Trump without being in favor of the vaccine they think will kill millions. In their fantasy land, these millions of people they believe will die are just “acceptable” losses, and Trump is in no way to blame for those losses despite his advocacy for the vaccine. Other, more overtly bloodthirsty Anons, meanwhile, see the vaccine as a weapon that Trump is strategically using against liberals—they believe “their side” knows not to receive the vaccine despite Trump’s instructions, and that it’s instead being wielded as a weapon against the “bad guys.” In this scenario, the millions of supposed deaths are a good thing, because the right people are dying.
TRUMP IS USING 5G TO TAKE OUT THE LIBTARDS, DON’T YOU GET HOW OBVIOUS THIS IS?!?!?!
Elsewhere, legions of Anons are still puzzling over aspects of the Jan. 6 Capitol riots, and particularly Trump’s response to the riots. Although the former President’s support for, and failure to condemn those rioters on Jan. 6 on Twitter ranks among his most despicable acts, many Anons are actually angry at Trump for not supporting the rioters more as they languish in jail, awaiting their trials. Even Gab CEO Andrew Torba, a man whose entire operation couldn’t exist as it does today without Trump, MAGA and QAnon, loves to disparage Trump when the former president fails to live up to the holy Christian warrior aesthetic this group somehow managed to craft for him. Torba frequently rages, for instance, about the fact that Trump has failed to publicly fight for the Jan. 6 rioters who stormed Congress in an effort to stop our democratic process from carrying out.
The CEO of Gab is angry that the former President isn’t publicly helping domestic terrorists get out of jail.
In the eyes of Torba, or the average Anon, Trump should apparently be using some sort of Former Presidential Executive Decree in order to spring these people from jail, in exchange for the fact that they carried out their own little crusade in his name on Jan. 6. The fact that Trump has remained silent about these rioters for months naturally inspires other Anons to come up with theories that insist he’s secretly working to help them behind the scenes, because the alternative is admitting that their leader doesn’t care about all the people who will be going to prison for decades for following his instructions. The irony is of course that Trump absolutely does not care about anyone but himself.
“Just because you’re not seeing Trump magically get these people out of jail, doesn’t mean he isn’t magically doing exactly that. I don’t have to physically SEE the Tooth Fairy to know that she’s flesh and blood.”
There’s no Trump-related topic, however, that draws so much discussion as the idea and desperate hope that the former President would somehow be “reinstated” in the ever-near future, returning magically to the Presidency despite the fact that there’s no provision in the Constitution that would allow a former president to somehow depose the current one. That doesn’t stop Anons, sworn defenders of the Constitution, from saying things like “who cares about the Constitution?” when the topic of Trump’s return is broached, though.
Seeing an Anon actually type the words “who cares about the Constitution?” made my brain physically revolt against this entire exercise.
The natural response is to wonder who could possibly have given Anons this idea that Trump was going to become President again … oh wait, Trump also legitimately believes he’ll become the President again as soon as August, according to some reports. This is the man who, until Jan. of 2021, had access to the U.S. nuclear arsenal. Let that thought sink in.
And really, if even Trump is somehow able to convince himself that he’ll magically be allowed to return to the Presidency via a method that exists outside of the U.S. Constitution, how much can you really blame the average Anon for attaching all their hopes to it? We’re talking about people who have fled any corner of the web that contains evidence-based discourse, in order to surround themselves with feverish speculation driven by wish fulfillment. You can’t throw a stone on Gab without hitting someone affirming their belief that “the entire election was a sting” operation, or that Trump will be sitting in the Oval Office a month from now, in a gloriously restored U.S.A.
Pro tip: If you want your unhinged ramble to be taken seriously online, make sure to pepper it with crazed pet names like “DemonRats,” so people know you’re legit.
Some Anons do in fact acknowledge that there’s nothing in the Constitution that provides a way for someone like Trump to simply topple Biden without a literal military coup. And therefore, that’s exactly what they claim needs to happen.
I’m giving this my official “end of the summer is when the revolution begins” guarantee!
It’s also important to note that there is indeed a constant undercurrent of “none of this is happening, guys” pessimism and acknowledgement of reality that is happening at the fringes of these conversations. As these guys constantly move their goalposts and change the dates of when Trump is meant to be back in power, there’s a vocal minority who actually do remember all the failed predictions that have come and gone.
Someone capable of basic pattern recognition? On Gab? Don’t you know you’re not wanted here?
If there’s one aspect of observing Anons that is truly evergreen, it’s the fact that they want so badly to witness grand, sweeping punishment be visited upon all the other Americans they perceive as enemies. This desire for violence, disguised as “justice” against a group of subhuman people they believe are a cabal of Satanic child murderers, gives them a justified and righteous way to fantasize about such spectacles as public executions and mob justice without having to feel guilty or bloodthirsty. It’s nothing less than the normalizing of psychopathic thinking and behavior, cloaked in a thin veil of patriotism that makes all the desire for violence not only okay, but something to be applauded. Or in other words:
Now we’re heading into really ugly territory.
Anons want this kind of vengeance so badly that sometimes they’re incapable of waiting, instead deciding to confabulate scenarios where they’ve already won, and these executions are being carried out in secret. This is why some Anons believe political figures such as the Clintons or Mike Pence are already dead—their pathological need for their own version of “justice” makes them believe obvious pipe dreams about secret “military tribunals” that are rounding up and executing all the bad guys in secret, while perfect duplicates of those executed people conveniently walk among us. The thought of these gestapo-style executions is what keeps these Anons going every day; it comforts them like a letter from a friend might provide comfort to someone who wasn’t a sociopath.
“Also, the Deep State resurrected Julia Child as a soulless golem, but brave Patriots chased her into an abandoned windmill and burned it down with 4th of July fireworks. Praise Jesus!”
This is what extreme American nationalism looks like, where you wake up in the morning telling yourself that each day brings you one step closer to the glorious moment when the Founding Fathers’ dreams are realized via “marching people to the gallows.”
These types of beliefs end up inextricably linked to other stories in the news cycle, such as the still-unfolding and neverending sham election audit in Arizona, which continues to be incompetently carried out by a company with no election-auditing experience, run by a guy who was literally posting election conspiracy theories in the days after the election was carried out. Anons who lust for violence, meanwhile, imagine that as soon as “the truth” finally comes out—which of course they imagine as something like a revelation straight from heaven itself—Americans everywhere will grab their guns and pitchforks to start rounding up all those who have committed “treason.”
And of course, Anons will be in charge of shaming other Americans during this orgy of bloodshed, if they don’t want to participate in mob justice.
Frequently, the Anons forget that when you’re espousing radical, fascist ideas it’s usually best to act as if violence would be a “sad necessity.” Instead, Anons seem more likely to think of violence as a reward—something they get to witness (or participate in) in exchange for having faith in Trump and “the plan.” They don’t bother to pretend that it would be a bad thing—instead, they post online how it’s “time for a purge” and how they’re in favor of “public castration.” Yeah, you read that right.
No really, you read that correctly: “Public castration.”
Keep that one in mind, the next time you’re trying to restore your faith in humanity with “deep down, we’re all the same” reassurances. The person in a MAGA hat you see in line at Walmart might very well be going to bed at night dreaming of the time when they’ll get to witness “public castrations,” as if that isn’t a deeply disturbing thing to wish for. Truly, it’s moments like this when it becomes so difficult to conceive of how these folks are able to construct a narrative where they are the good guys. And yet, that’s the kind of thing you must come to terms with as you keep a watchful eye on the bastions of QAnon.