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The rise of QAnon isn’t surprising. Americans have long been sucked into conspiracy theories

By Clarence Page, Tribune Content Agency on

Although both challengers have dodged questions about their Q support, both also have tweeted the QAnon hashtag #WWG1WGA (“Where We Go One We Go All”) and been identified in national news media with as many as a dozen other Republican congressional candidates who have been linked to the movement.

One of them, Republican Angela Stanton King, who is running for the late civil rights icon John Lewis’ congressional seat in Atlanta, stormed out of a video-recorded interview when a reporter for The Guardian asked about her QAnon-friendly tweets.

In short, if your mental picture of QAnon is a bunch of young white internet geeks with too much time on their hands, think again. Surveys of believers in conspiracies cut across virtually all lines of age, race, gender, income, political affiliation, occupations and educational levels.

People on both the political left and right believe in conspiracies roughly equally, University of Miami political scientists Joseph Uscinski and Joseph Parent found in their 2014 book “American Conspiracy Theories,” although each side finds different cabals.

Among other factors, racial identities matter. African Americans are more likely to believe that the CIA planted crack cocaine in inner-city neighborhoods, studies have found, while white Americans are more likely to believe that the government conspires to tax the rich and support “welfare queens” on the way to turning this country into a socialist utopia.

Sounds like a typical election year to me. But QAnon in the social media age adds the extra edge of a continuing drama — like a radio serial with a little cannibalism and child-kidnapping thrown in for extra spice.

That’s an old propaganda technique. Throw in enough stomach-turning shock and our reptilian instincts can overwhelm our better judgment, especially when we’re susceptible to “confirmation bias,” our tendency to believe what we want to believe, whether it stands up to scrutiny or not.

 

Conspiracy theories have an appeal because they offer a sense of reassuring simplicity in a complicated world. For example, to the conspiracist there are no coincidences. Every turn of bad news must have some sinister decision makers behind it.

Unfortunately that’s why the simplest explanations for bewildering complexity tend so often to be dead wrong.

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(E-mail Clarence Page at cpage@chicagotribune.com.)

© 2020 CLARENCE PAGE. DISTRIBUTED BY TRIBUNE CONTENT AGENCY, LLC.

(c) 2020 CLARENCE PAGE DISTRIBUTED BY TRIBUNE MEDIA SERVICES, INC.
 

 

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