All hail, the Recovering Provocateur!

My day starts with my family member playing and reading all the Trump-related memes.
“Don’t you know what’s going on?”
“No, what?”
“They found massive fraud in the elections in Arizona and they’re going to find it in the other states…”
“O.K. let me know when that happens.”
I need proof, I say—a lot. When it comes to QAnon you must.
“It’s not QAnon,” she says.
“Maybe not in name. It’s just Qanon-lite.”

She’s always been so sweet, but something has changed. She believes these things: that unseen forces of devil-worshiping pedophiles are entrenched in our government, that Trump was cheated out of the election, that there was a “red wave” and will be again, etc. I say etcetera because there is so much that goes into this belief system.

A Somewhat Reversal

Back in college, at least undergrad, I would have been completely on this bandwagon. Conservative political cartoons on my window for all to see, inciting unneeded arguments in the art and literature (my major) departments, never letting an opportunity to incite trouble go to waste. Rush Limbaugh (lightweight) was my guru.

Hello, my name is J.C. and I’m a recovering provocateur.

As college ended, I became very ill and also, alone. My friends had moved on and I eventually developed a camaraderie with new friends who were more moderate. I never totally gave up my conserv credentials, but I started to read voices like George Will and Charles Krauthammer. I admired William F. Buckley, Jr’s erudite, incisive retorts issued with alacrity.

Even up to the 2020 election, I was a Trump supporter, not a diehard, but as a fear of the alternative. The refusal to concede the election and the ensuing January 6 events changed my opinions. It ended in an assault on a symbol of democracy, a secular sacrilege.

“This nation is done for.”
“What are you going to do?”
“I’m moving to Portugal.”
She’s from Brazil so that makes sense–I guess.

I don’t deny that there are some truths to what she believes (such as the Jeffrey Epstein events), but this is mixed up with, at-times, dangerous nonsense. That volatile mixture is the problem that gave birth to Jan. 6.

She sits at her desktop computer watching the false videos, articles, blog posts, semi-religious meetings, and of course, memes. Throughout the election season and after–including the Capitol attack—she has had opinions which I never heard her hold before. Though the severity of the case has lessened with time, she still follows a cadre of commentators and preachers who are charlatans. The fact that these people were wrong about the “Red Wave” and Trump’s sure victory in the election does not seem to matter. But anyone would be wary of secular prophets who were wrong as often as these people are.

Outlawing the Source?

We all know about the promise and problem of social media giving everyone a platform. While important new voices have emerged, the worst actors are promoting misinformation and crackpot ideas. On some issues, the facts are not even agreed upon. Combating viral online phenomena is like whack-a-mole: new ones will take their place when the old ones die. Facebook and Twitter are trying to police content, but the idea of open platforms for free expression may be at risk (not all content is created equally).

Steve Bannon, former vice president of now-defunct Cambridge Analytica, was among the sources responsible for exciting known Republican and populist constituencies in the 2016 election. They essentially created Trump, his trademark unpredictability, Make America Great Again nationalism, “businessman acumen,” and his standing up for religious and conservative ideals. He was “fighting back” (“he’s a bulldozer”) against globalists, social justice warriors who push trans and abortion rights, college campus socialists, and others who mock conservative values. Bannon and Cambridge Analytica broke American society.

But it’s about the flouride, Mandrake

How bad has QAnon been at my house? I didn’t realize the extent until the day before the inauguration, Jan. 19.
“This is all to do with JFK’s assassination and the extraterrestrials they’re hiding at Area 51.”
I am not kidding or exaggerating; that is literally what the topics were.
“He’s still going to be president. No one can oppose God. [Preacher name] saw gold dust and an angel in church and he said that God is going to send emerods against his enemies.” (I don’t know what this means.)
Trump would still be inaugurated in some unforeseen constitutional manner. This is not only anecdotal. On the same day, conservative talk show host Sebastian Gorka had to talk down from the ledge a caller who also believed the inauguration was not going to happen.
In the satirical anti-McCarthyist movie “Dr. Strangelove or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb,” Base Commander Jack D. Ripper speaks of communists contaminating water sources with flouride:
“I can no longer sit back and allow communist infiltration, communist indoctrination, communist subversion, and the international communist conspiracy to sap and impurify all of our precious bodily fluids.”
Conspiracies about Germany, Italy, compromised computer systems, and satanic forces opposing God’s chosen candidate are not far off.

Channeling T.S. Eliot: November-December-January were the cruelest months, breeding conspiracies out of dead cyberspace, mixing the memory and desire for the Red Wave and Cyrus the bulldozer.

A New Hope

Then, I hoped that the January 20 event itself would stop all the YouTube sermons of certain Christian prophets and my sweet relative would get away from the memes and videos. But the Trump prophecy evolved into–yes even today–an adamant belief that Biden will be deposed and Trump will be inaugurated once more.
“The election was a landslide for Trump. Biden is not my president. He’s illegitimate.”
That a president is illegitimate is not a new belief, but when you add the hope that Trump is coming on a white horse to claim what is his, it certainly is a perplexing one. (The latest iteration of the meme nightmare is that Bill Gates is purposefully killing people through the vaccine because he wants population control.)

I am not an enemy of my relative. I do hold the purveyors of this sometimes-vile nonsense at fault. Their prior surety of prophecy is hazy now, just needing to be reinterpreted as news occurs. The prophets on YouTube and elsewhere are still peddling survival gear and generators, and like so many times before, kicking the Apocalypse can down the road to another day just over the horizon. Again per Eliot, the die hard followers seem to be stuck in a burnt-out wasteland without memory, drinking from the River Lethe.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m a conservative and I believe all that bible stuff. But having to debunk the intellectually-impenetrable, creeping, hidden forces behind every event is, as they say now, exhausting. I am not unconcerned about some of the things happening in the world, but I can only do so much.
Nevertheless, things are going on outside my home life. Yes, she goes out and meets new people, but not with the best results: last week we went to Balboa Park and she struck up a conversation with a stranger that ended in an argument about Covid vaccines.


I’m really not into the fight anymore, and I think I’m gaining patience with some QAnoners because they are as passionate as I used to be and people make mistakes. We all have to be wary of specious beliefs on the Internet, avoid the temptation to provoke neighbors, and read some non-confrontational favorites again. My relative has feelings and, perhaps, needs right now.

My tactics include:
* Not ridiculing my relative for her beliefs
* Resisting using tactics that cause greater animosity
* Emphasizing American community to overcome mutually exclusive identities
* And if it comes up, speaking to the ex-president’s violations of conservative beliefs

So what should we be striving for in regard to our neighbor? Withhold the visceral and promote magnanimity, not vengeance.

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