Which Is Scarier? People Believing In QAnon, Or People Pretending To Believe In Order To Look 'Cool'?
Picture it! Wherever you lived! 1999! Some super cool people are talking about a band you've never heard of before. The kind of people who, because it is the year 1999, will make you feel like the biggest asshole on earth for not having heard of this particular obscure band they are talking about, probably in a coffee shop. You want to be cool, too. So when they ask for your opinion, you say "Yeah, but I really only liked their first album. You know, before they sold out," and just cross your fingers and hope that they have released more than one album. Your other option is "Oh you wouldn't know my favorite song by them because it was only released in Japan."
People pretend to know things all the time. In this day and age it's a lot easier to fake it, because of smartphones, but not everyone bothers to run to the bathroom and look up the thing they're pretending to know about. This is what seems to be happening with a lot of prominent people and the QAnon movement.
This week, Media Matters reported on Wonkette Darling, One America News Network White House correspondent, and author of a completely non-existent series of young adult mystery books for "traditional" girls, Chanel Rion. Along with Trump campaign official Erin Perrine and Utah House Candidate Burgess Owens, Rion appeared on a show on the pro-QAnon streaming network Patriots' Soapbox (available on Roku!) unironically called "The Common Sense Show," hosted by full-on believer Derik Vance.
According to the official website for "The Common Sense Show," they've hosted interviews with a number of prominent Trumpists, including:
David Webb, Brenden Dilley, Ben Garrison, Juanita Broaddrick, Sidney Powell, Craig Sawyer, Linda Collins-Smith, Tiffany Fitzhenry, Pastor Mark Burns, Barbara Flynn, Kris Paronto and Erin Perrine, Deputy Communications Director for President Trump.
After reading the interviews with Rion and Perrine, I have a conspiracy theory of my own — neither of these people has any goddamned idea what QAnon is. I also believe that Michael Flynn has no idea what it is, and that about half of the Congressional hopefuls tweeting #WWG1WGA have no idea what it is.
Let us look at Chanel Rion's interview with Vance, shall we?
DERIK VANCE (CO-HOST): I don't know how closely you follow this but I have a lot of people who were asking me to ask you if you do get the opportunity to ask Kayleigh a question next press briefing courtesy of the Patriots' Soapbox, would you ask the Q question?
CHANEL RION (OAN CHIEF WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT): You mean who is Q?
RION: I have no comment on Q or Q's identity. But, you know, this is something that, you know, Q -- Q is Q anonymous for a reason, for a very good reason, and I think that people need to respect that and if, you know, that's something that needs to be brought up by Q if he wants us -- if they want to stay anonymous, they should stay anonymous, and if they want to reveal themselves, they should reveal themselves.
VANCE: I can highly respect that answer.
I'm just gonna hazard a guess here that the only thing Chanel Rion knows about QAnon is that it's someone calling themselves Q but remaining anonymous. I could be wrong, but I feel like I know a bullshit "I did not do the reading material but I'm pretty I can wing this based on context clues" answer when I hear one.
This guess is partially based on the fact that "Q" themselves has long pushed their followers to get a reporter to ask Trump about Q, at which point, they are told, everything will be confirmed. It's a very big part of their whole mythology — in order for certain things to be set in motion, many of them believe someone must ask Trump or one of his press people "the question." This is why you'll see them in reporter's mentions demanding that they "Ask the question!" every so often.
(They already have, of course, but that didn't count for some reason)
Why would Trump — if he is the architect of the whole "plan" — reveal who Q is against their will? It does not make sense. Then again, none of this does.
I will also bet you that the reason Erin Perrine went on the show was because she believed that it would be fertile ground for attracting campaign volunteers, which it absolutely would be. Her comments on the show were about as boilerplate as boilerplate can get.
"CONSCIENCE ABE" (CO-HOST): I realize that you, that you just kind of talked about Team Trump and other places, how to get involved. But if you could send a direct message -- We have a whole group of very, very smart activists here, Erin, that use the information that we give them to take it to the battleground. But what more can -- how can we help you? Help me, help you. How can we help you be more successful as a comms team and as your soldiers on the ground? What can we do?
ERIN PERRINE: The best thing everybody can do is sign up and attend a Trump Victory Leadership Initiative training. Honestly, that is where not only do you get the best information about what the campaign is doing, but you get actively involved in being part of the 2 million volunteers that this campaign is aiming to train, to knock doors, to engage voters, to be there in the grassroots, on the ground every day up to November 3, 2020, to win a second term. They can talk to their local GOP party, their state party, come online and ask us. You can always text Trump to 88022. That's another way to engage. But our training is like nothing anybody else has ever done in any campaign ever. And that's because we back everything by data. We are completely data-driven. So come in, get trained, see what we're doing, and get involved early because now we're registering voters, but then it's going to be talking to them and then it's going to be making sure that they get their early ballots if they want those and that they get to the polls. It is a long run to Election Day and we need the support early and often.
I could be wrong. Rion has used her platform to promote a variety of stupid conspiracy theories and has retweeted multiple Q accounts, including one suggesting that Michael Flynn taking the oath was proof that Q is real.
There are, of course, true believers. A lot of them. Way too many. But I also think there are a whole lot of people who like the trappings of the QAnon movement without necessarily knowing what it is they believe (the kind of people who just really love calling themselves patriots) and also a whole lot of opportunists.
For instance, Colorado GOP House candidate Lauren Boebert was more than happy to suggest that she believed in the conspiracy theory right up until she won her primary, after which she called it "fake news."
Hey, @dccc! QAnon = Fake News Not a follower. IS THIS ALL YOU’VE GOT?— Lauren Boebert (@Lauren Boebert)1593738410.0
There is a lot that is extremely appealing about the Q movement for someone trying to promote something — whether they're trying to create their own brand or get themselves or someone else elected. It is an army of extremely online and extremely gullible people who are unwaveringly loyal to Trump and to each other. The "Where We Go One We Go All" thing is an incredibly powerful (if rather socialist-y sounding?) marketing strategy. They follow each other on Twitter and also encourage each other to follow anyone else who is a QAnon person on Twitter. They go absolutely bananas every time they hear a dogwhistle. They love being able to say "Q Sent Me" like they are real "digital soldiers" obeying commands.
There's also not a ton of risk involved in candidates or aspiring right-wing influencers gesturing towards belief in QAnon, because enough people don't really know what it's about or what the secret dogwhistles are that there is the plausible deniability of "Oh, I just thought it was a pro-Trump" thing, not a "We think a secret government agent who may or may not be John F. Kennedy Jr. is sending us clues to unravel about Trump's secret war against underground pedophile rings run by the Deep State and Hillary Clinton" thing.
We're going to see a lot more of this. It is very likely that it will be common for candidates and those who work for or with them and other right-wing influencers to make their case to "The Common Sense Show" or other shows like it, or otherwise gesture at support for Q without explicitly saying it. So now is the time to be really really loud and obnoxious about what QAnon actually is, in order to ruin that for them.
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Robyn Pennacchia is a brilliant, fabulously talented and visually stunning angel of a human being, who shrugged off what she is pretty sure would have been a Tony Award-winning career in musical theater in order to write about stuff on the internet. Follow her on Twitter at @RobynElyse