I’d like to continue what I started yesterday. I wasn’t finished with the Malcom Gladwell book Talking to Strangers last night and its last hour was something. The conclusions it drew together and a throw away line for the beginning of the next book I started listening to and the overall theme of Eye of the World made me realize a few things.
The first is the true danger of conspiracy theories like QAnon and the disinformation campaigns we see on social media is that they are rewiring our very human natures. Gladwell writes in Talking to Strangers that we are naturally trusting. Our default setting is to believe other people and when we change that very bad things happen.
His big example of this is police officers. He mentioned a study from the 1990’s that found that increased patrols and traffic stops helped reduce crime when it was done in the areas of a city where crime was concentrated. The problem was when this idea spread nationwide it didn’t stay isolated to the areas where crime occurred and you ended up with harassment by police the disproportionately targeted people of color.
I think you know where this ended up. We are now struggling to return to a more community focused brand of policing and police are quitting in droves because they can’t imagine policing in a way where they aren’t suspicious of everybody.
It is a necessary change in society but think about what it did to police officers and community relations. Nothing good came from police rewiring their minds and having a war on the public. After listening to this I started listening to Memory Man by David Baldacci and early on the main character looks at a car and sees one of those honor roll bumper sticker and comments about telling predators where the child goes to school. Where they can be kidnapped if someone were so inclined.
Yes, the main character of this novel is a former cop so his mind being rewired to automatically distrust and assume the worst of people makes sense but I had heard this sentiment somewhere else. I had seen it in a Facebook post shared by a friend that has shared other QAnon stuff.
If you don’t know what QAnon is you are blessed and I won’t sum up their actual beliefs but the basic premise is everyone that doesn’t think exactly like you is evil and wants to have sex with your children. It is a belief system meant to override our human nature of trusting our fellow humans and rewire our minds to be distrustful of everyone around us all under the guise of keeping our children safe.
QAnon borrows heavily from other cult like organizations spreading a message that the enemy is everywhere. They could be disguised as your neighbor, the barrister at Starbucks, your child’s dance instructor, or anyone else anywhere else doing anything at all. Seemingly normal actions can be made to fit into this plot of a nefarious underground child sex ring.
You know that saying about the path to hell. It applies to QAnon as well and what is a better intention than keeping your children safe, but when you refuse to trust you make yourself untrustworthy and that is what whoever is behind QAnon wants. The most insidious thing that can be done to a society is to turn it against itself and the easiest way to do that is the turn a large segment of the population in to Darkfriends serving a big lie.