I usually write about conspiracy theories, not for conspiracy theorists. This one is different. This is a piece for people who have been part of the Q Anon movement. Specifically, the people who are beginning to get tired of its endless empty promises, and are starting to get skeptical.
(For everyone else, if you aren’t familiar with Q Anon or the promises he’s made about December 5, here is a concise overview. And here’s a little background on some specific ways Q’s predictions have failed, and how it ties in to other conspiracy theories.)
So here we are again. Q and the Q Anon community made a lot of promises about #D5, and then nothing happened. Just like when he predicted that Hillary Clinton was about to be extradited, or that Trump would lead a huge military parade, or that martial law was going to be imposed. And the response is going to be the same as it was all those times: First, Q and a few true believers are going to urge everyone to “trust the plan” and make more vague promises about how the pain is surely coming any day now for those damned Democrats. Second, they’ll go back to his vague, mumbled promises and try to connect them to whatever news they can find from the 5th to manufacture the appearance of an accurate prediction.
This time, if you weren’t already aware, Q and his most dedicated followers have been predicting Big Things for December 5. Exactly what Big Things depends on what and how much you read between the lines of his choppy little nuggets; Q mostly stopped making specific predictions after a series of embarrassing failures. He learned the lesson of horoscope writers and started making vague, open-ended predictions, so that no matter what happens he can always go back and claim to have predicted it. But people wouldn’t pay attention to Q if he didn’t promise apocalyptic drama, so whatever you think he’s predicting, it’s supposed to be a big deal.
So it’s no surprise that Q created a lot of extravagant, impossible expectations. Some people thought that JFK Jr. would turn out to be alive and well, having been fighting the Deep State in secret all this time—maybe even as Q himself. Or Trump would announce that Mueller has actually been playing on his team all along, using the Russiagate investigation as a distraction while secretly investigating Democrats. Or maybe the DOJ would suddenly pull the trigger on 60,000 sealed indictments and start shipping tens of thousands of liberals, Satanists, child molestors, cannibals, Democrats, and/or Jews to Guantanamo Bay, to be tried and shot dead by military tribunals.
But none of that happened on December 5th. I’m very confident about that, even though I’m writing and posting this on the 4th. That’s because by now, we all know that Q is a LARPer. He makes bogus predictions because he doesn’t know what’s going to happen any more than you do. The only difference is, he’s figured out a good scam for getting attention and being crypto-famous. Instead, we’ll get lots of excuses about secret maneuverings delaying things behind the scenes, and true believers demanding that we all Trust the Plan and stop asking why Q is always wrong.
I won’t pretend that I was ever a Q believer. I’m a skeptic who studies and writes about conspiracy theories. But what I’ve seen over the last year is a lot of people drifting from the Q camp towards the skeptic camp. They wanted to believe in his fire-and-blood predictions, but got tired of the inevitable disappointments. And so the odds are, even if you were ever on the Q train, you’re a doubter now. And why not? How many times does a self-declared prophet have to get it wrong before you’re allowed to realize he’s just making it up as he goes along?
So I thought I’d share some thoughts for people leaving the Q camp—a leaflet to grab on your way out the door.
You got scammed. You didn’t just wake up one morning randomly believing that a secret agent man was airing the Deep State’s dirty laundry through staccato fortune cookie-sized blurbs and childish rhetorical questions. The person or people behind the Q account scammed you by lying to you. The victims in this story are the people who fell for Q’s lies and spent their time, energy, and even money on bogus promises. (Yes, money. A lot of people are making money off of Q merchandise. The people posting as Q are probably making some of it. If they aren’t, well, this wouldn’t be the first time someone ran a scam to get attention rather than cash.)
There’s a reason you got scammed. Time for some serious self-reflection. The Q scam isn’t a good scam. He’s making some very silly predictions, and predictions that keep failing. When the rest of the world pointed and laughed at Q believers, it turned out that they were right and Q was wrong. So why did you keep believing when it was obvious to everyone else that Q was lying? That turns out to be a hard and interesting question. The answer is not that you’re stupid. Smart people fall for dumb scams all the time. In fact, a lot of people think that smart people are more likely to fall for dumb scams, because they’re able to construct better, more credible justifications for believing something they want to be true. I can’t explain why you personally fell for the scam, because it’s different for every believer. But based on how the human mind works, it probably had a lot to do with Q’s secret weapon: the community of Q believers. People like you helped sell the Q scam to you, and if you participated actively in that community, you probably made it more credible to other people in turn. That means…
You might have helped scam others. Q on his own is just another anonymous hoaxer, yelling gibberish into a crowd. It’s the Q Anon community that made that gibberish stand out from the background noise of nonsense on 4chan. That’s because we listen to the people in our networks much more carefully than we listen to strangers, and we believe them more easily. Sometimes that means friends and family, but it also applies to the people you interact with on Facebook, Reddit, Twitter, or whatever other social media blackens your desk. Random ranting on 4chan doesn’t move the needle for many people, but once a few of them start sharing it… and then a few of their connections start sharing it… and a few of their connections start sharing it… well, sooner or later you have people believing that the Army is about to round up Democrats. If you’re exiting the Trump train, you were on the receiving end of this game of shouty nonsense telephone. But were you also a node who shared it with others? If so, do you have any portion of the responsibility for misleading them? I couldn’t answer that question for you—I can’t even make you think about it. But it is worth thinking about.
Not everyone will get out. Look at the Q Anon movement today. It’s still full of people—although less than there were at the beginning of the week—claiming that whatever hit the headlines proved his prophecies to be true, and demanding that everyone Trust the Plan and WWG1WGA, forever and ever, amen. It’s a lesson in how the brain works. It doesn’t matter how much evidence there is proving that Q is making it up as he goes along; for some people, the pain of admitting it was a hoax is greater than the pain of believing in that hoax. The costs of believing are less than the costs of reconsidering, so they won’t reconsider. When you see the die-hard Qists trying to keep the movement running, what separates you from them? How were you able to pull your head out of the rabbit hole, and why haven’t they? Again, I can’t answer that question, and again, the answer’s going to be different for everyone. And again, this is still something that’s important to think about.
This isn’t the last scam. The hardest point is last. Earlier I said that even, maybe especially, smart people fall for dumb conspiracy theories. And that’s true. But it’s also true that people who fall for conspiracy theories like Q will keep falling for conspiracy theories. There are lots of explanations for why that’s so, some of which are probably right. But even if we don’t fully understand why it’s true, we all know that it’s true. And that means that you, dear ex-Qist, are very likely to fall for some new conspiracy theory before long. That’s one reason why it’s worth thinking about how you got out of this one, and why the dead-enders didn’t. The “mental hygiene,” or good habits of skepticism and reasoning, that it takes to question Q Anon are also good defenses against getting tricked again. But not perfect defenses, not by a long shot. So maybe the best takeaway here is simply to remember, and really believe, that you can be fooled and that you have been fooled in the past. (And yes, that applies to everyone. I’m a conspiracy theory skeptic, and I try to remind myself all the time that I can be fooled and that I have been fooled in the past.)
So what lessons do you think people should take from the Q Anon hoax? I’d love to hear your thoughts, here or on Twitter.
My thought is that it’s sad that so many people, most of which are likely good, decent people, were and are caught in a harmful alternative reality. I realize I’m not your audience here, but it’s still sad.
Most are decent people?
From the amount of bloodlust (wanting to see political opponents hanged) and anti-Semitism I’ve seen from q’ers, I can’t concur
That’s a reasonable criticism, but I think that relatively few Q believers are actively anti-Semitic. (In fact, I think relatively few self-professed believers actually believe. I think it’s mostly performative.)
It is fascinating to compare the Q following to the Rapture Watchers…I’m sure many Qists are Rapture Watchers as well. Rapture watchers over the last 200 years (I’m ball parking here) have splintered into several groups…pre and post tribulation…date setters vs. anti-date folks etc. The Q followers are starting to exhibit many traits that mimic the Rapture community. The date-setters vs. those opposed to setting dates…eating popcorn and Enjoy the Show folks vs Revolutionists demanding action…the ones who scream for blood, actually most scream for blood…which I find highly troubling coming from the group calling themselves “Christians”..Anybody up for a good ole fashioned Crusade my fellow christian soldiers?? Rapture folk are not dangerous…that don’t scream for violence..although many do await in great anticipation for everyone to suffer tribulations while they fly off with Jesus…Radical christians are dangerous people…and Q is arming his followers. Cheers.
Reblogged this on Talmidimblogging.
I would recommend the book “Mistakes Were Made But Not By Me” to anybody exiting a long period of believing something that turned out to be wrong – not just conspiracy stuff.
The Q stuff is interesting not just because of the huge amount of believers but because of how flexible it is. It flows around most idle scrutiny like a good myth, which of course it is, but it has the little nodes of “evidence” for the requisite emotional payoff that keeps people invested. Q him or themselves is a LARPer, true, and the Q conspiracy is an ARG. It’s for this reason that it’s unlikely to die any time soon, unless the author/s pack it in.
First I blocked you and all your maggot pals! Filthy reprobate!
Q? Who believes that tripe? Simpletons.I’m as hard core as a conservative gets! I support the Hebrews you filth! You can take you “racist” tripe and shove it!
A wise man laid that out…
“A racist is a conservative winning an argument against a liberal”~Dr. Dr. Thomas Sowell
Yes twit! I voted for Trump! Better things fall from a camels anus than Hillary and Bernie is a POS so darn lazy he got kicked out of a hippy commune! You if want either of those you are a total fool.
I want somebody like Allen West or Dr., Sowell. We couldn’t handle Walter E. Williams we’d all starve.You need to print your bull$hit and use it for bird liner!
Don’t even bother responding. I’ll never see it.
This is what is wrong with our educational system. Close minded “teachers” with minimal cranial capacity.
This article is, of course, lacking facts or any statements of substance.
“It’s a conspriacy” is not a valid argument and directly indicates a lack of intellect. Emotional statements are not facts.
This is the state of current liberalism (a mental disease) in schools. Hopefully we can purge our schools of this “scientism religion”. Education should be teaching real subjects, engaguing in honest, open debate.
Your logic is flawed and lacks any degree of intellect discussion to take seriously.
I would like to know what particular gripes you have had with the article?
I would like to know what specifically in the article leads you to think that “This article is, of course, lacking facts or any statements of substance.” instead of stating as such, then saying nothing.
Surely, you wouldn’t make that claim instinctually and leave it at that, right?
What happened on December 5th?
Despite trends in increased cranial capacity among ancient hominin ancestors generally correlating with increasing cognitive abilities, when you get to humans, brain size doesn’t correlate with intelligence. That’s been well studied and debunked.
Signed, someone with a Ph.D. in biological anthropology.
ps what did the article get wrong?
Why can’t I like your response?
I only get the “like” option when I use the WordPress control panel, the little bell icon at the top-right of the screen when logged into WordPress.
You went for line drawings and you fucked up you fuckin’ idiot
You brain-washed yourself you mother fuckin’ stupid cock suckers, because you never studied your Holy Homework. That’s two capital H’s there, all the rest are lower case in any fuckin’ case. Supreme Court, you are not the fucking Supreme Court of anything, except Hell! For the next ten-thousand years you will shovel your shit and eat it, because you’re on repeat mother fucker. It just started backwards and you can’t do a fuckin’ thing about it. The public are gonna take back every fuckin’ thing that you took away from them you mother fucker.
Can you point to anything you actually disagree with in the article? This kind of comment does not show anything incorrect in it.
Hey! That’s Raleigh’s rant from an early Sublime album…crazy, but just cut and paste trolling. Cool though…I love that album!
ALL FOR A LARP ???😂
Thank you for the article Colin. It helped me to fully step away from the Q movement last week and to reflect on why I so easily get caught up in the latest conspiracy theory and how to develop better critical thinking skills.
I was a quiet supporter but in speaking with other quiet supporters I’d like to share some insights into how and why QAnon was something we believed.
First, I like to think I’m smart. On an Ego level I guess I should say I like to think I’m “smarter” than most people so QAnon feeds into that by making his supporters think they are in on something that most people are not. So that tells me I need to check my Ego more often. I’m not a Narcissist and neither are my friends who felt this way, but clearly I could be a little less full of myself. 😉
Secondly, it felt good to believe that there are good guys and bad guys and that the bad guys will receive justice. There was no desire for violence or death on my part, just the hopes for less evil in the world.
Now, I see Q as someone who has built that evil up to be everywhere and hidden in plain sight and something to fear. That’s not healthy for me. The Anons, like me, probably get an Ego boost from figuring things out and especially when they receive a nod from Q on social media.
I’ll be putting my energy and focus into things that bring more joy to the world instead of believing in Q and the things he says are true. Because I truly see now that even though he says he wants people to explore and think for themselves, he’s really getting people distracted from valuable things in their lives that they could be doing and creating instead of trying to figure out his latest riddle.
I’m sure I’ll be scammed again but I will spend much less time being entertained and distracted by trying to figure out what’s really going on in the world and thinking that somehow makes me more clued in. It does not!
Thank you, LisaMarie! May I ask how you interacted with the Q community, via Facebook or Twitter or some other media?
Sorry for the late reply. I didn’t receive a notification.
All my interactions with the Q community were on Twitter.
In my quest to not get sucked into the latest conspiracy theory again I’ve turned off my Twitter newsfeed for now. Facebook too.
Thank you again for helping me to make the leap. I’m out for good. 🙂
Thank you Colin for the outstanding piece. I confess I have been a Q follower, although I’ve never been critical of the Jewish race or faith. Like Q, I think some of your followers are ignorant and trite, embarrassing to the “cause” or the majority of the faithful. But to my main point, I very much enjoyed assuaging my wounds, suffered following Q over the past few months, with your well conceived and delivered points. Thanks again.
The parenthetical statement at the end of the end of the second to last graph isn’t really parenthetical, is it?
You’re right. Excessive parentheticals are a bad habit from my litigation days. I have to work to purge them from my writing, and I rushed this piece. Good catch!
The conspirators will be officially named criminally this week, Nunes has already referred 8 complaints to the DOJ. You Q doubters will now have to reconcile the report of Mueller, OIG and DECLAS of FISA. When the MSM fails you in explanation the Q drops will still be there making total mockery of your doubt because the FUTURE WILL PROVE THE PAST. LOL
Sounds like another prediction! If no “conspirators” are “officially named criminally this week,” will your opinions change?
Hi – it’s been over a week since you posted, and it looks like the prediction didn’t come through. Why not? Has your thinking about Q changed?
It’s 8/19/19…..I have been following “Q” for more than a year. I consider myself a highly intelligent, analytically-minded thinker, fully capable of separating fact from fantasy, truth from falsehood, and reality from deception……until NOW. I feel so emotionally violated, I cannot adequately put it into words. I wish there was a recovery group of some sort I could join to help me make sense of this apparently monstrous deception I’ve fallen victim to……I’m now finding myself questioning my judgement on virtually everything. The hope and faith I INVESTED in what obviously is nothing more than an elaborate hoax designed to enrich its perpetrators is gone, and I’m left with a void, a quite unbearable sense of stupidity and gullibility. Anyone?????????
The saddest part is that it isn’t actually that elaborate of a hoax. Bit good on you for facing up to reality and realizing that if you got taken in by this, what else might you have been fooled by? I wish you well on your journey.
Sorry for the delay in approving your comment! I overlooked the WordPress notification.