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QAnon and your crazy uncle - John Samuel Tieman

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12 Punto 14 Punto 16 Punto 18 Punto presents the article "QAnon and your crazy uncle" by John Samuel Tieman.

“Do you have a favourable or unfavourable opinion of QAnon?” To that question, asked in January by an Economist/YouGov poll, only 5% of Democrats gave a “favourable” answer. But a whopping 30% of Republicans favour QAnon. And 31% of Republicans answered “don't know”, which, while not an endorsement, is not a rejection.

QAnon, often called simply Q, is a far-right, online conspiracy community akin to a cult. What do they believe? Their claims could fill pages. Briefly, the primary Q narrative claims that a cabal of Satan-worshipping, cannibalistic paedophiles run a global child sex trafficking ring. They drink the blood of babies. They also run the U. S. government. Decades ago, this “deep state” took over the United States. In order to combat that “deep state”, the military recruited Donald Trump. That's the core narrative. There is also a myriad of subplots. Here's just a handful. The pandemic is a Chinese biological weapon. This biological weapon was designed by Democrats in order to derail Pres. Trump's reelection. Bill Gates also planned the pandemic. One core belief is that Donald Trump won the 2020 election. Some in government are reptilians. And on and on. It's delusional.

Many Americans have a cousin, brother, uncle, friend who believes in Q. Many a Sunday dinner has ended with voices raised and doors slammed. Can healing happen?

Mark Smaller, a former President of the American Psychoanalytic Association, is working with Congress on the “Threat Assessment, Prevention And Safety Act”, formally entitled “A bill to develop a national strategy to prevent targeted violence through behavioural threat assessment and management”. As formal as that sounds, his vision is quite intimate.

Dr Smaller recently was interviewed by a magazine, “Hour Detroit”. According to Dr Smaller, most folks present their beliefs in Q as concepts based on ideology. However, a deeper dive into the believer's psyche reveals someone who is “particularly troubled” and “has become particularly isolated”. They often feel helpless. Joining a group of like-minded folks can give a sense of being understood and connected.

How do we reach that uncle enthralled by Q? Dr Smaller suggests starting with the simplest question, “Can we talk about it?” It's the beginning of “a long process to undo what's going on.” QAnon offers a sense of belonging. But Q can be dangerous to the individual as well as the community. “So you’ve got to respond to the individual, and you have to respond to the concerns of the larger group.” In a few words, the healing begins by identifying and acknowledging the rage, the anger, the injury. “Your impulse is to not talk about these areas of disagreement, to avoid yelling and being upset. But the most important thing is to be counterintuitive, and to try to begin to have a conversation.”

In the interest of full disclosure, I know Mark Smaller and greatly admire his work. As I admire his ideas here. None of which stops me from having some questions. Mark's vision is essential of one-on-one dialogue. (His vision reminds me of Martin Buber's “I And Thou”.) But what do we do about people who view cooperation as an impediment? Many QAnon followers don't see governance, for example, as a goal. They think the government should be destroyed. Mark's vision is also an intimate and optimistic one. My vision is darker. Pres. Trump got 74,222,958 votes in the last election. If 30% of them believe in Q, that's 22,266,887.4 crazy people. How do we intimately dialogue with so many people?

That said, Mark Smaller gives hope for the republic, and hope for our most intimate relationships. He speaks this simple truth. QAnon can be defeated, and relationships can be restored, by, in a word, love.

2021.05.17 / 12:27
John Samuel Tieman
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