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Conspiracy Theorists Poisoning Our Country

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Commentary:  A few years ago I was scammed by callers claiming to offer a great deal on my satellite TV service. I felt bad about losing the money, but felt worse about being duped.

 

It’s a human reaction. All of us like to think we’re too savvy to be taken in, and it stings the pride to admit it when we’re not.

 

A few months ago, an HBO documentary exposed Ronald Watkins, a 30-something porn-addled techie living in Asia, as “Q,” the secretive mastermind behind the Qanon phenomenon.

 

Q was supposed to be somebody in the highest reaches of the federal government, with access to all top-secret classified documents. Former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn was once thought to be a possible candidate.

 

Q spoke to his followers through “Qdrops,” cryptic predictions that were spread on the Internet platform that Watkins managed from overseas. The prophecies of Donald Trump’s return to power following his election loss have gone unfulfilled, despite the efforts of the movement’s most impassioned followers at the U.S. Capital on Jan. 6.

 

And now, even some of Qanon’s most ardent believers are having to wrestle with the possibility that maybe Tom Hanks doesn’t murder children so he can drink their blood in an effort to increase his sexual prowess.

 

Qanon followers have been duped, and the whole country knows it.

 

And so, where do those who swallowed that fish tale, hook line and sinker, go from here? Are they relieved to learn that the butchered children they have anguished over these past several months never existed?

 

Probably not. For most, their pride won’t allow that.

 

Last month, the FBI issued a report on Qanon, at the request of U.S. Sen. Martin Henirich of New Mexico. The report warns that, even though the last Qdrop fell more than six months ago, the threat posed by Qanon followers still remains.

 

“The participation of some domestic violent extremists who are also self-identified Qanon adherents in the violent siege of the U.S. Capitol on (Jan. 6) underscores how the current environment will likely continue to act as a catalyst for some to begin accepting the legitimacy of violent actions,” the report warns. 

 

The report also warns that some followers will grow impatient waiting for further instructions, and will take action on their own.

 

It partly blames the pandemic, which gave many Americans too much time at home on the Internet where the movement was spawned; the lack of content oversight on Internet sites such as the one managed by Watkins; and the involvement of high-level officials in the Trump administration for helping to fuel the conspiracy theories.

 

Watkins may not be some top-secret government agent, but he’s no dummy. He exploited the emotions that all of us feel when we hear about real stories of abused children. More than that, he exploited the bitter hatred that far too many Americans have toward those with different political views.

 

The fact that so many of us were willing to believe the most horrific allegations imaginable about our political rivals probably tells us as much about where we are as a nation than it does about them.

 

It’s easy to blame the Internet. How else could somebody like Ronald Watkins have such an enormously harmful impact on our country? But balming the Internet is a little like shooting the messenger.

 

We all need to change the message of our political debate.