This afternoon, a clip of Rep. Gerry Connolly made the rounds on political junkie Twitter. He reprimands the increasingly infamous Rep. Jim Jordan for, of course, gaslighting. “All the gaslighting that we just heard, does not change facts,” Rep. Connolly said. “I didn’t vote to overturn an election — and I will not be lectured by people who did about partisanship.”
I watched it twice. I even smiled. But my snickering was quickly replaced by the grief and dread that has taken most of my emotional bandwidth over the last few years: We don’t have time for this.
We don’t have time for the Marjorie Taylor Greenes, the Jim Jordans, the Ted Cruzes, the Josh Hawleys, the Trumps. We don’t have time for Q.
I’ve crossed the hump of my mid-twenties and I’m due to give birth in the next two weeks. This will be my first, but likely only, child. Despite having a steady income, a stable marriage, owning a home, and having dreams of three or four kids, I struggle with guilt about the world I’m bringing this child into.
In my short lifetime, I’ve witnessed the beginnings of ecological collapse brought on by biodiversity loss. I’ve witnessed the world financial system repeatedly fail, by design, working people. I’ve heard the phrase “once in a generation” used to describe events that I now expect to occur on an annual basis like the holiday shopping season.
Each day, we are bombarded with propaganda that wants us to believe there is something normal, maybe even natural, about corporations receiving massive profits for providing basic human needs like health care, food, and shelter. Our criticism of this is halted by gaslighting, hour by hour, that begs us to quietly and obediently accept that we can’t create a better world. Where people experience genuine fear or doubt about the quality of the future for ourselves and our children, conspiracy theories are planted. They reel people in and away from mobilization and learning. This practice, too, is extremely profitable and effective.
Part of me had empathy for people who have been drawn into the Q Anon misinformation ecosystem. Like a menu, there’s something for everyone who has experienced doubt or distrust. From UFOs and September 11th to global organizations and human trafficking or endless war, one can choose to be blind to the fascist, racist threads that weave these conspiracies together into “The Plan.” In this world, Trump and Epstein are enemies, not friends; the global cabal is Satanic, not capitalist; the culture war is a real danger to personal freedom, not a manufactured strawman to mobilize whiteness.
My parents are living in this ecosystem. They were perfect targets. Truly self made small business owners who lacked a quality education, they became accustomed to seizing the day, teaching themselves what the needed to know, and forging their own path to success. Right-wing talking points rang true to their experiences. As our systems began to fail them, the world went digital. Their fears, failures, and suspicions were easy for algorithms to target, exploit, and profit from. Twenty years ago they would have laughed at what they believe now. This was not an overnight process.
But no one forced my parents to consume these podcasts, blog posts or join these forums. Indeed, they rejected every opportunity given to them by me — their millennial daughter — to become more digitally literate. They were expressly not interested in learning basic fact checking skills, how Facebook made its money, or how photo editing and deep fakes work to generate “evidence” for misinformation campaigns.
Why? Well, they don’t want to be wrong. They don’t want to feel like they’ve been duped. So they’re choosing to hang on.
My parents find a natural comradery in people like Marjorie Taylor Greene or Simon Parkes. They like to be told that no one in government or media can be trusted, that experts are false prophets, and the truth of all things will be revealed to them first. These themes are common in Evangelical rhetoric, too.
I understand how my parents got here, but I no longer have empathy for them nor followers of Q Anon. These are people who, despite all evidence of demonstrable harm to our culture and the people we share this society with, prefer a manufactured reality. These are people who cling so desperately to their chosen conspiratorial narrative that they’re in denial about the presence of white nationalists in their thought movement.
People — in the working class, the media, and the political class — are scrambling for a solution to this. Some have even suggested a kind of commission that can facilitate the rehabilitation of our fellows. For a while, this prospect interested me. If Germany was able to recover their society from the scourge of Nazism, Q Anon couldn’t be hard to tackle, could it? But the closer I get to the due date of my daughter, the more infuriated I become with these half-assed efforts in bipartisanship, in forgiveness, and in “healing.”
The truth is that Q Anon is nothing compared to the crises we’re facing over the coming decades. This isn’t to say it’s not dangerous — January 6th proved that it is, and any movement that accepts white nationalists is inherently violent. But Q itself isn’t the problem. It’s a psychological distraction from the material and systemic issues that deserve our complete, undivided attention.
We need to be arguing and legislating around climate policies, education reform, systemic economic changes, equitable tax brackets, social safety nets, and a peace-first foreign policy. We face radical problems that demand radical solutions. It’s unrealistic, even fatal, to put so much effort into political compromises that are ultimately meaningless. Every algorithm that surfaces Q content, every thinly veiled antisemitic forum post, every leader who sows suspicion and doubt for personal gain, and every legislator who rejects democratic norms or climate realities is taking up oxygen in the room better spent on facilitating material change.
The working, tax-paying people of the United States deserve the opportunity to demand more support, accountability, and direct action from our elected officials. The human race as a species deserves better systems and living standards. We need to make it through the next century of destruction and disruption from climate change and wealth inequality. We are not invincible. We are deeply vulnerable. Right now, the Q Anon movement and its enablers are baggage to even the discussions of progress and survival.
We don’t have time for this. It’s time to firmly lay Q and MAGA to rest as the nonsense that they are, before the real emergencies overtake us and our livelihoods.