QAnon “shaman” Jake Angeli, Washington, DC, 1/6/2021 © Johnny Silvercloud / Shutterstock

“The place we go one, we go all.” This tagline from the now notorious QAnon conspiracy has been seared into our hive minds because the insurrectionist occasions of January 6 on Capitol Hill. The query now turns into, the place do Q’s followers go from right here? Their “coming storm” prophesied that Donald Trump would seize energy, overthrow the deep state and arrest a cabal of Devil-worshipping, pedophilic Democrats. Fortunately for everybody else, this storm was little greater than a day drizzle. Nevertheless, the menace from these conspiracies stays.

Flashpoint America: What the Hell Is Occurring?


A lot has been written in regards to the radicalization of QAnon adherents because the coup try, and there may be an out there physique of labor for anybody courageous sufficient to wade into this conspiracy pool. There have additionally been in depth follow-up makes an attempt to dissect the QAnon mindset since President Biden’s inauguration, given Donald Trump’s failure to ship on the guarantees made by Q.

Turbulence Forward

Whereas some are taking a sure satisfaction in watching the QAnon worldview crumble, the state of affairs is poised to develop much more advanced. This presents a good deeper problem to the long-term social and political well being of the US. Observers who’re commenting on the disillusionment of QAnon communities now that Biden’s presidency has turn out to be a actuality are lacking the purpose, since actuality was by no means the purpose to start with. The purpose has at all times been escapism — absconding right into a world of fan fiction the place the entanglements of our political and financial lives may be distilled right down to memes, nameless “transmissions” and a binary alternative between good and evil, stuffed with legions of heroes and villains. None of this will likely be deserted any time quickly, not to mention gracefully.

Due to this, there may be deep turbulence forward, particularly what to do with doubtlessly thousands and thousands of people that now adhere to an untethered ideology. These digital communities should not going to fade, nor are they merely going to acknowledge the absurdity of their methods and are available again to the mainstream. Doing so would undermine the funding they’ve made within the conspiracy that has consumed them, forcing them to acknowledge that their estrangement from household, buddies and colleagues is definitely of their very own making. There’s additionally one other dimension, one which goes even deeper. Letting go of the conspiracy and admitting that their beliefs are misplaced is to additionally acknowledge that they allowed themselves to be deceived and manipulated.

Having this expectation is a heavy carry and one that can not be anticipated with out packages or mechanisms that assist private disengagement. Arab international locations battling extremism have pioneered these sorts of deradicalization packages and have been working them for years. Sadly, packages like this which are presently out there within the US don’t exist on the size wanted to be efficient. What we’re left with is far more rudimentary and reactive, permitting us to solely assess the pathways these people are taking and the way their digital communities are supporting their radicalization.

There are 5 most important QAnon archetypes presently in play. Every has a job in both disrupting or scaling the radicalization behind the following model of the conspiracy. The primary group are those that may be reached. These will likely be people who perceive they unwittingly fell into one thing and are on the lookout for a manner again to their lives pre-QAnon with a minimal quantity of embarrassment. The second group are these nonetheless consuming the conspiracy however who’re negotiating their perception system inside it as Biden settles into his presidency. The cracks have began to kind for these people, and it may go one in all two methods: Both they’re reached and introduced again into normative political and social life or they are going to evolve within the path of the brand new conspiracy.

The third group are the enablers who’re nonetheless dedicated to trafficking in conspiracy whatever the kind it may be taking. They’re the content material creators, communicators, logistical planners and recruiters. They’ve affect inside their digital communities, which they are going to shield by espousing no matter model of the conspiracy retains them most related.

The fourth group are the ideological drivers of the conspiracy, these not solely with probably the most followers and content material however these able to articulating probably the most radical points of the conspiracy. Most of the earlier ideological leaders of QAnon have dropped out as a consequence of a lack of legitimacy inside these digital communities. However in doing so, they’ve left behind a vacuum. This house is now being crammed by opportunists who have to make much more outlandish claims as a manner of creating their bona fides to the thousands and thousands of followers on the lookout for what comes subsequent, accelerating the potential for radicalization.

Flip to Anger

The fifth group is probably the most worrisome and the place intelligence gatherers and federal regulation enforcement will have to be most targeted. These are people who acknowledge the conspiracy was a lie, however nonetheless preserve all of their underlying resentments, particularly white grievance. This may flip to anger, which may be simply exploited, not simply because they understand QAnon was a lie, however as a result of they consider they have been deserted by the identical politicians who advised them the election was stolen. These people will likely be on the lookout for new digital communities which are much less eager on fan fiction and extra liable to direct motion as a manner of exercising their grievances. They are going to be prime targets for white supremacist teams and militias who want to recruit, plan and have interaction in violent motion. The recalibration of those relationships is already ongoing.

Believing the followers of QAnon have misplaced religion within the conspiracy in any significant manner is naive. Their actuality is versatile. Spend a couple of minutes in any QAnon Telegram channel, and you’ll see that the unreality of their beliefs is barely accelerating. A brand new conspiracy is already claiming that Trump will turn out to be president once more on March four beneath a “restored republic,” which hyperlinks to a perception that the US was dissolved within the 19th century. People who’ve retreated from normative social and political life into their conspiracy-driven digital communities will proceed to search out methods to thrive as a result of they haven’t any different alternative. Their emotional funding within the conspiracy has turn out to be their private identification. That is solely going to make the conspiracy extra harmful and the radicalization stronger. 

The FBI can’t arrest its manner out of this downside, nor can the tech firms be counted on to manage their very own platforms in a manner that addresses the complexity of those huge challenges. Whereas radicalization is nothing new, it’s new within the American context. It is a information frontier in its infancy and one we’re wholly unprepared for — for all the explanations that led us to this place to start with. If left unaddressed, we would quickly discover ourselves ready the place our unreality has certainly turn out to be our actuality.

The views expressed on this article are the writer’s personal and don’t essentially mirror’s editorial coverage.