33 votes

Thousands of people are trying to leave QAnon, but getting out is almost impossible

28 comments

  1. [8]
    NaraVara
    Link
    Thought this was an interesting article about what it’s like to try and self-reprogram out of Q cult mentality. I never really understood why QAnon seemed to get such strong buy in from “mommy...

    Thought this was an interesting article about what it’s like to try and self-reprogram out of Q cult mentality. I never really understood why QAnon seemed to get such strong buy in from “mommy blog” types. My impression was always that this was really aggro gun nutters until I started seeing footage of the rallies. This article goes through some of the dynamics that drove its popularity there pretty well.

    Seems like the lack of mental health resources are really both exacerbating people getting drawn into it and making it harder to get out. More than anything I’m struck by the impact of anxiety and isolation on this. People almost seem like they’re self-harming by constantly looking for this stuff and putting themselves in a headspace of fear and perpetual threat.

    The bits about needing to get people to where they can recognize that they’ve been manipulated is interesting. This is what you do with children or women who have been in abusive relationships. But at least there it’s a discrete agent responsible for it. Being victimized by a weird cultural gestalt is hard to wrap your head around.

    19 votes
    1. [6]
      mtset
      Link Parent
      My experience with mommy bloggers is that they tend to slowly radicalize over time - being a mother is hard, and being on the internet is hard as well. So, they can: become radical leftists who...

      I never really understood why QAnon seemed to get such strong buy in from “mommy blog” types. My impression was always that this was really aggro gun nutters until I started seeing footage of the rallies.

      My experience with mommy bloggers is that they tend to slowly radicalize over time - being a mother is hard, and being on the internet is hard as well. So, they can:

      • become radical leftists who want to address systemic issues to create a better future for their children,
      • become "autism moms" who want to do eugenics to make sure nobody ever has to go through what they feel is an unfair burden of caring for a child who is less than perfect in their eyes, or
      • go full right wing and blame all their problems on the Jews, immigrants, queers, or all three.
      17 votes
      1. [3]
        rosco
        Link Parent
        If you can point me to a mommy blogger who has become a radical leftist I'd love to see it. I have never run across that type of radicalization.

        If you can point me to a mommy blogger who has become a radical leftist I'd love to see it. I have never run across that type of radicalization.

        7 votes
        1. [2]
          mtset
          Link Parent
          The thing is, I mostly know these types in person. I think they usually stop blogging and start organizing. :)

          The thing is, I mostly know these types in person. I think they usually stop blogging and start organizing. :)

          4 votes
          1. rosco
            Link Parent
            Haha, that's pretty awesome to hear!

            Haha, that's pretty awesome to hear!

            1 vote
      2. [2]
        NaraVara
        Link Parent
        Yeah. The LuLaRoe documentary on Amazon Prime recently kind of went through this process as well. Just the social isolation of motherhood seems to make people desperate for any kind of connection...

        Yeah. The LuLaRoe documentary on Amazon Prime recently kind of went through this process as well. Just the social isolation of motherhood seems to make people desperate for any kind of connection and attempt to claw their way into some kind of financial independence. Getting the social connection seems to motivate more of the engagement with this stuff than anything.

        5 votes
        1. Kuromantis
          Link Parent
          The Atlantic has an article on that desire for financial independence and the MLM-company, and it's definitely a good read.

          Yeah. The LuLaRoe documentary on Amazon Prime recently kind of went through this process as well. Just the social isolation of motherhood seems to make people desperate for any kind of connection and attempt to claw their way into some kind of financial independence.

          The Atlantic has an article on that desire for financial independence and the MLM-company, and it's definitely a good read.

          For all of LuLaRoe’s manifold flaws and dubious practices, it was able to see what its followers wanted. MLMs, in part, capitalize on the near-universal desire of working parents to truly manage a work-life balance: to participate in the economy and realize achievements for themselves while also spending meaningful time with their children. “I was just told that I could be home with my kids, and I could make money, and I love clothes,” one LuLaRoe vendor tells the directors.

          6 votes
    2. [2]
      Comment removed by site admin
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      1. rogue_cricket
        Link Parent
        It sincerely seems like an absolutely miserable way to live. They come off as frightened people who are in constant anticipation of society-ending cataclysms because the dates keep getting pushed...

        It sincerely seems like an absolutely miserable way to live. They come off as frightened people who are in constant anticipation of society-ending cataclysms because the dates keep getting pushed forward when the previously predicted one inevitably doesn't occur. From looking at /r/QAnonCasualties, it seems many of them suffer social damage as well - their families and friends cutting ties with them and say they have become a person who is constantly angry, obsessed with this one thing on the internet to the exclusion of their previous interests and social circles. Some of the top posts there are about how these people got so scared and wrapped up in QAnon doomsaying that they committed suicide in anticipation of whatever collapse they thought was coming. It does not seem like a good mental space to occupy.

        I guess I can't really get in their heads, but I should hope that if I was behaving erratically enough that my friends and family could no longer tolerate my behaviour, I would at least have a modicum of doubt.

        Of course, that's just one of the many psychological weaknesses that cults leverage: there are many people who are so allergic to self-awareness and admission of fault that it's more comfortable for them to double down on a fringe belief, even to the point of absurdity, than it is to consider for even a second that they could be wrong.

        ETA: As a side note, while I did do my best at a good-faith answer to your question, it does not come off as sincere on your part. Being straightforward about your opinions rather than coy will make a big difference in the quality of the discussions you will be involved in and the willingness of other people to engage with you productively. It is a courtesy to others.

        9 votes
      2. Removed by admin: 9 comments by 3 users
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  2. [5]
    monarda
    Link
    Thank you for posting this. I have an old dear friend I can no longer really talk with who has gone down the rabbit hole. It's so bizarre because they used to be one of the most open, caring,...

    Thank you for posting this. I have an old dear friend I can no longer really talk with who has gone down the rabbit hole. It's so bizarre because they used to be one of the most open, caring, inviting, and accepting people I knew. I get so angry when we speak that I have mostly ghosted them, but this article makes me wonder if I should still try to maintain the friendship - they still try to connect. I do wish there were more to the article as I wasn't ready for it to end.

    17 votes
    1. [3]
      tomf
      Link Parent
      it's funny and sad. I was about to comment essentially the same thing about an old friend I reconnected with two years ago. She's gone all-in with the Covid conspiracies and refuses to even talk...

      it's funny and sad. I was about to comment essentially the same thing about an old friend I reconnected with two years ago. She's gone all-in with the Covid conspiracies and refuses to even talk about it because '[she] doesn't share her sources with people who aren't willing to hear alternative news'.

      It is a difficult spot to be in. I'm certain she'll get out of it one day, but its near-impossible to hold a conversation until then.

      13 votes
      1. [2]
        Gaywallet
        Link Parent
        I just want to point out that both you and @monarda are wonderful people for keeping space in your heart for these people. This sounds very tough and is not a burden that I would ever be willing...

        I just want to point out that both you and @monarda are wonderful people for keeping space in your heart for these people. This sounds very tough and is not a burden that I would ever be willing to take on. In this way you're much stronger than me and I'm glad people like you exist. 💜

        11 votes
        1. tomf
          Link Parent
          <3 <3 it can be incredibly taxing. I may be wrong with the one, but I think she'll eventually come around. The main hurdle for her vs the others I've known who have been hesitant or antivax is...

          <3 <3 it can be incredibly taxing. I may be wrong with the one, but I think she'll eventually come around. The main hurdle for her vs the others I've known who have been hesitant or antivax is that she's isolated in this wacky christian bubble.

          The sad thing is how the excuses changed and became more radical. At first it was the lack of FDA approval, then it wasn't tested enough, finally the deeper conspiracies came out --- Bill Gates, 'chips', people dying from the vaccine, population control, tracking, and ultimately, 'its poison!'

          8 votes
    2. NaraVara
      (edited )
      Link Parent
      That sucks. I've cut out a few people in my life who went into the Q-hole. I was never that close with them, so I didn't think I had any realistic chance of reforming them. Interacting with them...

      That sucks. I've cut out a few people in my life who went into the Q-hole. I was never that close with them, so I didn't think I had any realistic chance of reforming them. Interacting with them was just frustrating me to the point where it was negatively impacting my quality of life. They had already long ago written me off as a "racist" (against Whites, naturally) and a "libtard" so there's just no potential for dialogue there.

      8 votes
  3. knocklessmonster
    Link
    The profiles are about what I expected, to be honest: Scared people who found a community, and of the ones who got out, realized they were in too deep and had lost every connection close to them....

    The profiles are about what I expected, to be honest: Scared people who found a community, and of the ones who got out, realized they were in too deep and had lost every connection close to them. The cult comparison is apt because there's a gradual decline into the blind following of a charismatic leader, which ultimately leads to the estrangement of everybody close to you and a distrust in any systems that will help you break free (the distrust of psychologists mentioned in the article is a big flag).

    8 votes
  4. fredo
    (edited )
    Link
    There's a great new podcast called Was I in a Cult? that I highly recommend. It's a unique mixture of respectful lighthearted comedy, personal insight, and deeply disturbing stories. It haven't...

    There's a great new podcast called Was I in a Cult? that I highly recommend. It's a unique mixture of respectful lighthearted comedy, personal insight, and deeply disturbing stories. It haven't addressed QAnon yet, but that may happen in the future. They had an episode about the Children of God, which is mentioned in the article. The episodes are short and entertaining. It really helps understand the modus operandi of most cults, the motivations of their leaders, and what it takes to leave them.

    6 votes
  5. [13]
    stu2b50
    Link
    What I find weirdest about Q-Anon is that it's not really a cult, or at least how I think about cults. What I think is the beating heart of a cult is a charismatic leader leading from the top,...

    What I find weirdest about Q-Anon is that it's not really a cult, or at least how I think about cults. What I think is the beating heart of a cult is a charismatic leader leading from the top, usually for their own gain. They're the force indoctrinating people and leading the troops from above.

    But there's not really anything like that for QAnon. The titular Q is probably ron watkins, and speaks in gibberish on 8chan. Not exactly a bastion of charisma, not to mention they haven't posted anything in quite a while.

    There are plenty of Q "priests", but no Q pope or Q jesus. It's weirdly decentralized and sticky.

    6 votes
    1. [2]
      Comment deleted by author
      Link Parent
      1. NaraVara
        Link Parent
        Honestly I don't think it's anything as vague as the optimism. I think it's the fact that being excluded from the organs of mainstream culture and financial support forced them to develop...
        • Exemplary

        Now for black America, they've had it bad for a long time, but they've had the optimism of their situation improving slowly (if painfully) over time

        Honestly I don't think it's anything as vague as the optimism. I think it's the fact that being excluded from the organs of mainstream culture and financial support forced them to develop alternative structures for community support and engagement. I live in a historically Black neighborhood and the sense of community here is really striking for someone who grew up in an exurb. It's a big city, but many of these people know each other. They have church communities. They have community sports leagues. They are not "bowling alone."

        I think White America had become dependent for a lot of their social and identity formation on their professions, organized labor, or in government supported programs through schools, libraries, and community centers. Reaganism has hollowed all that stuff out though, so they have nothing to fall back on. The traditional churches have given way to exploitative, Evangelical movements that are more political and extractive than the institutions for community support that Black churches often are. The public services, like parks and libraries, have been allowed to decay and atrophy and a generally 'libertarian' ethic of every man for themselves has even gutted the community support programs that local business leaders used to maintain.

        I even see this with second-generation immigrants. First gen usually find a community of people from the mother-country to get involved with and they do its of community events. Their kids all play together and reinforce these. I didn't even like most of the other kids in my local town's India association but we had all been through so much together that if one of them was visiting I couldn't imagine not letting them stay in my guest room. But it seems like the ability to support and maintain these relationships of obligation and reciprocity, even when you don't particularly like or get along with a person, have kind of decayed away in mainstream American culture. It's still there in rural communities, but so many of them are so stretched they have very little to give or reciprocate.

        12 votes
    2. NaraVara
      Link Parent
      Yeah it’s a new kind of thing. The charismatic leader at the center is more like a gestalt consciousness from all the crazy shitposting online.

      Yeah it’s a new kind of thing. The charismatic leader at the center is more like a gestalt consciousness from all the crazy shitposting online.

      4 votes
    3. [6]
      fredo
      (edited )
      Link Parent
      That is the usual case for sure but there are many other factors that make something a cult, and QAnon has more than enough of those.

      What I think is the beating heart of a cult is a charismatic leader leading from the top, usually for their own gain

      That is the usual case for sure but there are many other factors that make something a cult, and QAnon has more than enough of those.

      3 votes
      1. [5]
        teaearlgraycold
        Link Parent
        Isn't that Trump?

        What I think is the beating heart of a cult is a charismatic leader leading from the top, usually for their own gain

        Isn't that Trump?

        2 votes
        1. [3]
          stu2b50
          Link Parent
          Trump isn't leading it, though. He has little to no direct contact with them, rarely even acknowledges their existence, and often does things counter to Q ideology like his recent vaccination...

          Trump isn't leading it, though. He has little to no direct contact with them, rarely even acknowledges their existence, and often does things counter to Q ideology like his recent vaccination promotion. It's very different from a Keith Raniere or Ron Hubbard, where they're clearly involved directly in the organization.

          Trump is more of a weird mythological figure for QAnon.

          3 votes
          1. Seven
            Link Parent
            It's clear that QAnon is very Trump-focused, and while he isn't the source of the movement's core texts, he does encourage them and take advantage of them for his own gain. One thing I've learned...

            It's clear that QAnon is very Trump-focused, and while he isn't the source of the movement's core texts, he does encourage them and take advantage of them for his own gain. One thing I've learned about QAnon and the alt-right in general is that their leaders are sometimes chosen even though they may not even intend to be leaders of a fascist movement. It's what Ian Danskin calls Stochastic Totalism:

            So if you can encourage a degree of authoritarian sentiment in people, get them wanting nothing more than to be ensconced in a totalist system that will take their agency away from them, putting them in the orbit of an authoritarian leader, but no leader presents themself… can you just kind of… appoint one?

            Like, if you don’t have a leader, can you just find yourself an authoritarian and treat him like one? And, if he doesn’t give you enough directives, can you just make some up? And, if you don’t have recruiters, can you find a conservative who speaks in thought-terminating cliches just because he thinks they win arguments; find a conservative who speaks in meaningless diatribes because he thinks he’s making sense; and then maneuver those speeches and videos in front of people you want to recruit? If you’re sick of waiting for Moses to come down the mountain with the Word of God, can you just build your own god from whatever’s handy?

            5 votes
          2. fredo
            Link Parent
            Direct orders are not the only way to lead, direct, influence...

            Direct orders are not the only way to lead, direct, influence...

            1 vote
        2. fredo
          Link Parent
          Yeah... QAnon may not have a formal hierarchical structure, but there are charismatic leaders for sure.

          Yeah... QAnon may not have a formal hierarchical structure, but there are charismatic leaders for sure.

          1 vote
    4. [2]
      knocklessmonster
      Link Parent
      I'll offer a counterpoint: there is a beating heart of a charismatic leader: Q. Q is real, if not tangible. We know somebody was Q, and they really did say those things, even if Q is one or many...

      What I think is the beating heart of a cult is a charismatic leader leading from the top, usually for their own gain.

      I'll offer a counterpoint: there is a beating heart of a charismatic leader: Q. Q is real, if not tangible. We know somebody was Q, and they really did say those things, even if Q is one or many people. What has happened is the cult has reached a point where it doesn't need Q to exist anymore, and the cult is unified under this individual even you and I are saying existed at one point. Sort of like Scientology after Hubbard's death, complete with more localized leadership structures.

      3 votes
      1. Seven
        Link Parent
        Q never had a cult of personality or anything imo. Even many of QAnon's core beliefs such as the whole adrenochrome thing wasn't ever even suggested by any of the Q drops. QAnon has been...

        Q never had a cult of personality or anything imo. Even many of QAnon's core beliefs such as the whole adrenochrome thing wasn't ever even suggested by any of the Q drops. QAnon has been self-sustaining for a while, so I wouldn't say that Q himself was ever all that important.

        1 vote
    5. [2]
      post_below
      Link Parent
      Moreover, Qanon no longer really has a defined idealogy. It's become a catch all designation, from both inside and out, for people who believe far fetched conspiracy theories. It started out as a...

      Moreover, Qanon no longer really has a defined idealogy. It's become a catch all designation, from both inside and out, for people who believe far fetched conspiracy theories.

      It started out as a set of ideas about a rich, elite satanic pedophile, baby eating, secret cabal with Trump as the savior, but has since grown to include a variety of other lunacy from various sources. Q is no longer necessary.

      It's interesting that it borrows from so many older conspiracy tropes. I think what it is, more than anything, is the expression of humanity's natural inclination toward conspiracies, amplified by both the digital age and the wealth gap.

      Also interesting, I see conspiracies that originated in the Qanon crowd being shared, and taken seriously, by people who don't identify as Qanon followers or even necessarily know what Qanon is.

      It might be a mistake to try to pin it down, and then point to it as the problem, when the real problem exists underneath, in society and culture. If you could somehow magically erase all the Qanon conspiracies, other ideas would rush in to fill the vacuum. There are now hordes of people who've seen how much fun, profit and enemy destabilizing potential there is in promoting conspiracies.

      3 votes
      1. Seven
        Link Parent
        QAnon is what's called a "Big Tent" conspiracy because it fits so many other conspiracies under it. Flat earth, chemtrails, and 9/11 trutherism all can fit under QAnon, but they're not necessary...

        It's interesting that it borrows from so many older conspiracy tropes.

        QAnon is what's called a "Big Tent" conspiracy because it fits so many other conspiracies under it. Flat earth, chemtrails, and 9/11 trutherism all can fit under QAnon, but they're not necessary to the movement's core beliefs.

        2 votes
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