QAnon conspiracy theorists are not going anywhere. Although the movement to imprison the secretive cabal of blood-swilling pedophile elites suffered a serious setback when its messiah, Donald Trump, lost the presidency to Joe Biden, QAnon believers are winning local elections across the country, and there is a nonzero chance that one of these people will win the presidency in 2024. Trump himself seems to have never taken the movement seriously, but the next president could very well be a true believer.
Why is the movement still going so strong? Why does it refuse to dissipate, even as its many prophecies are repeatedly proven false? The answer is that there are obviously much deeper forces at work — forces inside the psyches and material backgrounds of typical QAnon believers.
Almost a century ago, a similar rich and powerful nation which was nonetheless ravaged by economic problems also found itself electing a conspiracy theorist to power. Adolph Hitler stunned leftists of all stripes by gaining enough votes in the 1932 election to become Chancellor of Germany — winning by a margin similar to those enjoyed by Republican presidential candidates in modern American elections. (The Nazis won 37% of the vote in 1932; Trump won 46% of the popular vote in 2016.)
Hitler himself was obsessed with the idea of blood purity and the syphilitic contamination of the Aryan race by “foreign stock.” He believed that Jewish businessmen were conspiring with what he called the Asiatic Judeo-Bolsheviks in the Soviet Union to annihilate Germany — just as modern American fascists and conservatives believe that Hollywood elites and woke CEOs are working with China and Black Lives Matter to destroy the United States. In a further parallel, the idea of “blood libel” — that Jews were secretly drinking the blood of Christian children — extends back to the Middle Ages, and was itself a response to the growing power of Jewish bankers, who were the only people in Europe at the time permitted to lend money at interest (while they were simultaneously forbidden to earn their daily bread by any other means). Blood libel also readily found its way into Nazi propaganda.
At first, no one could explain Hitler’s electoral victory. The Nazis had been a marginal political party only a few years before. The Social Democrats — the liberals who had controlled Germany since the end of the First World War — blamed the communists for splitting the vote, although if every communist in Germany had voted for the Social Democrats, they would still have lost to the Nazis by two points. In contrast, the communists offered only a marginally better explanation for Hitler’s rise, declaring that the Nazis had “befogged” and entranced the masses.
Only Wilhelm Reich, a communist psychoanalyst who also happened to be doing extensive clinical work with German workers and small business owners at the time, had any sort of deeper explanation for the Nazi victory. In his seminal work, The Mass Psychology of Fascism, Reich claims that the typical Nazi voter — and the typical German fascist — is essentially a religious, often rural small business owner suffering from the lingering effects of child abuse or heavy sexual inhibition, particularly in his or her youth. (Other researchers have verified that most Nazi voters in 1932 were religious and rural small business owners; the word “Nazi” itself was an insult in Germany in the ’30s and referred to reactionary country bumpkins. Nazis at the time referred to themselves as National Socialists.)
Terrified of losing his business to competition or communism or Antifa in trying economic times, but also experiencing a sort of Stockholm Syndrome-like worship of the capitalist system — where the system itself becomes an unconscious stand-in for the abusive father, whom the fascist both loves and fears — the German or American fascist falls prey to conspiracy theories in order to explain how a flawless socioeconomic system like capitalism could ever run into significant problems — like The Great Depression in the early ’30s or the continuing Great Recession today. He is overjoyed by the sight of marching soldiers and police officers, and feels a passionate love for the fatherly Leader. Though it is obvious that even small business owners would benefit both materially and psychologically from overthrowing the capitalist economic system that literally drives them out of their minds, many of these people nonetheless happily committed slow-motion suicide as Hitler put Germany on course for a second world war it could not possibly win. Reason, furthermore, has almost no effect on these people. Convincing QAnon people to abandon Trump or the Nazis to abandon Hitler has about the same chance of success as convincing a child to disown his father. It’s possible, but extremely unlikely in the absence of intense “de-programming” or “re-education” of the kind which once converted the Last Emperor of China into a communist gardener.
It should come as little surprise that America’s Republican Party draws on the exact same voter base as the Nazis in 1932: rural and religious small business owners are notoriously reliable Republican voters. At the Capitol Riot only a few months ago, most of the rioters themselves turned out to be small business owners, off-duty cops, veterans, or elected Republican officials. And, as some research now shows, QAnon believers are obsessed with the idea of child sex rings because they themselves are frequently victims of childhood sexual abuse.
Putting Biden — a slightly more polite version of Trump — in the White House is probably only going to increase the power of QAnon in the USA. Thus far Biden and the Democrats have done absolutely nothing to pull up this massive and growing weed by the root. (It does not help that eight women have accused Biden of improper sexual behavior and that lengthy video compilations exist of his curious predilection for smelling the hair of young girls.) But most liberals appear to believe that it’s enough to have the Democrats in control. As long as people with that magic (D) next to their names have some kind of power, we can safely return to brunch. It doesn’t matter if Democratic officials spend the next few years twiddling their fingers while complaining that everything good is impossible because of Joe Manchin.
In contrast, Reich believed that everything must change at the most radical level in order to destroy fascism once and for all. He himself is the originator of the term “sexual revolution,” and was a strong advocate of free abortion for all on demand — also known as repealing the Hyde Amendment, which Biden falsely claimed he would do during his 2020 presidential campaign — as well as freedom for consenting adults to explore their sexual desires. But as a communist, Reich also advocated for what he called “work-democracy” — the urgent need for workers to take control of every home and workplace in the world and guarantee necessities for all.
If we remove the potential for sexual abuse and ensure that no one on Earth has any fear of running out of necessities, we will likewise remove the potential for fascism and QAnon. But so long as the intensifying capitalist feedback loop of material and psychological circumstance remains, all we can expect is that everything will get a whole lot worse. Because only the surface of the United States has changed, and because the deeper psychological and socioeconomic gears in the machine are only spinning faster and more violently, it seems safe to predict that we are almost certainly on course for a catastrophe the likes of which few of us are even capable of imagining.