‘Q Knows’: Conspiracy Theory, Trump Supporters and 2020 Election
By Wen Guan M.A. in Sociology, George Washington University
The anomie and deviance are picking up its pace in 2020. In this presidential election year, the boundary between QAnon adherents and the Trump supporters are fading away. The QAnon adherents, who are confirming themselves on the conspiracy theory, gathered to support Trump in many states and cities. They also have found a niche on social media and within the Republican Party. Although some platforms such as Facebook has banned the QAnon-related groups now, they still believe the mythology that QAnon is a way to ‘uncover’ the rampant child trafficking and devil worship among powerful elites in their ‘deep state’.
Why people chose to believe the conspiracy theory, is that because of the misinformation, or is that because these arguments could actually serve as an easier approach for the powerless to conceptualize the reality? By the spiking of these “unbelievable and irrational’ behaviors, it is one symptom of the deepening divide in American politics and alienation in this society. The QAnon followers believe that the Democratic establishment and much of the Republican elite are deeply corrupt, and that Mr. Trump was the one and only, delivered to save America. The uncertainty on democracy during the last four years did have some unexpected side effects. The standard social norms and social values people believed in for decades has been shrinking. The public found that no matter what they do, the economic recession, waves of unemployment, institutional inequality, poor healthcare, and living conditions shall never be get rid of. The conventional social instructions lost their trust in people and especially during the global pandemic. Covid-19 made people out of resources and suffer more. In the meantime, it is not only the QAnon, even the people who explicitly dismissed QAnon as lunacy also developed similar conspiracy theories. Simply based on the pandemic, there are various versions from ‘outright hoax’ to ‘being wildly overblown’. A core belief is that it is one prelude of an apocalyptic showdown which only be saved by a ‘Great man’ to transform America. Some conspiracy theory calls the transformation the “Great Awakening.” As a Trump rally attendee’s license plate written: “Q Knows.”
When people have no hope or directions, it is easy to believe these conspiracy theories or worship the mysterious power, which probably does not exist at all. Finding certainty from uncertainty. This global pandemic tore the previous social bounding down. Conspiracy theories to some extent provide the new attachment, commitments, involvement and beliefs which meet the demands of people in the void. As the revised self-control theory implies, social control and self-control can be the same thing. Social learning and bonding could not only be implemented in the intervention process of the anti-social behavior, but also could become one of the explanations for current abnormal social behaviors.
For example, QAnon believers ‘photoshopping the president into famous great-man images, like the iconic painting of George Washington crossing Delaware, with a grinning Mr. Trump pasted over the face of America’s first president’. They believe the reason that Mr. Trump was facing so much resistance from Democrats and even some Republicans is that Trump is trying to expose all of the corruption.
QAnon promoter would like to believe this chaotic world is fabricated with some cryptic messages and Trump is the one who can decode these messages. While the social control from the power side will definitely not let this opportunity slip away. Growing evidence shows that QAnon followers are being used by some politicians for the transformation-- turning QAnon into a political movement at both local and state levels. As a way to seek their political aims in and beyond for running the Congress, many prominent Republicans are fanning the flames; they are amplifying and further exaggerating the imagined powers from one single person.
When people cheer for Trump’s recovery from Covid-19 because his DNA is named USA and was blessed with ‘god-tier genetics’;
when people wearing QAnon shirts and hats are commonplace;
when people make offensive remarks about Black people, Muslims and LGBTQ people openly during Trump rallies, presenting themselves as the most loyal Trump supporter and praising white supremacy;
that is exactly what the social control as a whole exerting through self-control.
Being critical, rational and conscious is not the ideal way for governance. People are always looking for something to hope and something to blame, which can make them feel attached. Elites, however, will never open a chink of the door to their class. The feeling of involvement provided by the conspiracy theories is the driving force of QAnon believers and Trump devotees.