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Complexity

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QAnon and the mechanics of belief

Mike Pence is a pedophile who has been replaced by a clone. But Mike Pence also had the power to reject Electoral College votes and overturn the 2020 presidential election results. In April 2020, the U.S. military liberated 35,000 sexually abused children from hidden tunnels beneath Central Park. There’s a video of Huma Abedin and Hillary Clinton ritually killing a child for its adrenochrome. The pandemic isn’t real, and Bill Gates has created a vaccine that will change your DNA and control your mind.

This is just a sample of QAnon supporters’ many beliefs, some of which openly contradict each other. As Hari Kunzru observes in the January issue of Harper’s Magazine, QAnon is less concerned with finding the root cause of society’s purported ills than it is with laying out, in ever more intricate terms and with ever more involved symbols, how entrenched those ills are. If the guesswork and speculation surrounding the Kennedy assassination provides a benchmark of popular American suspicion, then Q has “the feel of something new, a blob of unreason against which the Kennedy narrative seems quaint, almost genteel,” Kunzru writes. Various preconditions figure into the rise of Q at this historical moment—the aesthetics of contemporary political theater, the accelerant nature of the internet—but beneath them all is a human yearning for simplicity, for an incomprehensible world to make sense according to our preferred terms.

In this episode, Violet Lucca talks with Kunzru, a novelist and Harper’s new Easy Chair columnist, about the antecedents and present-day mechanics of QAnon. They discuss the myths of its origins, its fraught internal logic, and its “impoverished understanding of how power actually works.”

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January 2024

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