What is QAnon?

The phenomenon of QAnon may have come seemingly out of nowhere to some, but will be familiar to many as a much older series of conspiracy theories that have been used repeatedly throughout history to stoke fear and hysteria, thus controlling populations more easily.

At its core, QAnon is a recycling of the Protocols of the Elders of Zion conspiracy theory — the belief system that drove the Nazi ideology and led to the genocide of over 6 million Jews, gypsies, gays, and Others who made Hitler mad. It’s wrapped in a bunch of other dangerous myths, paranoid delusions, and invented β€œalternative facts,” but shares its common DNA with the kind of conspiratorial paranoia that led to the deaths of over 75 million people in World War II.

And anti-Semitism itself was much older still — Hitler was merely piggy-backing on a deep Big Lie from thousands of years ago, rooted in Biblical slander of an entire people throughout recorded time. That allowed him to reach a large group at scale via their hackable pre-existing beliefs, and ride them towards his own bloody sunset.

QAnon’s spread greatly benefits from this long historical memory, by getting a generous marketing boost from sheer familiarity as a “hand-me-down” through the ages. It also benefits from an authoritarian mentality growing louder in America, with a predilection for magical thinking, the paranoid political style, and a tendency towards conspiratorial thinking. It shares significant DNA with another sprawlingly popular conspiracy theory, cultural Marxism.

Why is QAnon so crazy?

Why do people believe in conspiracy theories like QAnon? Psychologically, it soothes believers into a sense of false security in thinking the world a simple place controlled mechanistically by a handful of shadowy evil elites. It makes things seem easily knowable, even if it’s batshit crazy invented from whole cloth. Conspiracy theories also give them a sense of meaning — even if it is completely fake.

QAnon and other conspiracy theories seem to tap into all of our brain’s biases, mental heuristics, and cognitive weaknesses. Researcher Nick Carmody indicates it as a uniquely-flavored version of the Baader-Meinhof phenomenon, aka frequency illusion: