The Storm is Upon Us by Mike Rothschild

Reviewed by E.B. Heath

Like so many aspects of QAnon, what once was a bridge too far is now a collapsing structure that we’re all stuck on.  (p.219)

 Many readers might believe that investing time to comprehend the logic of QAnon would be as productive as chasing a feather in a raging nor’easter.  Surely, the leaders of the free world will sort themselves out.  Hopefully before the whole country is sucked into a dimension that makes Alice in Wonderland appear a model of political and social sanity. Respectfully, readers, it’s time to make time!

For those who know next to nothing about this phenomenon that swept America and now has gone global (I admit to being in this cohort), Mike Rothschild’s well-researched book The Storm is Upon Us is an excellent place to start.

Q is a person claiming to be a high-level military intelligence officer.  And that is as much as he discloses about his identity – hence Anon.   Q posted vague comments on a web platform, used by right-wingers, hinting at a secret war that would rid the world of child trafficking rings, the end of deep state, and – bit of an over-reach here – everything that was evil.  Basically, Q co-opts every available conspiracy theory – past and present.  There is a definition of deep state on page 11, so fanatical readers will have to examine for themselves, I just can’t go there.

Mike Rothschild takes us through QAnon’s history, from the initial hashtags to being a significant force supporting Donald Trump and the Republican Party, to the storming of the U.S. Capitol.  He demonstrates the obtuse nature of the ‘drops’ (Q’s comments), which devotees deciphered like a puzzle.  Many of which contained prophesies regarding mass arrests and executions of paedophiles etc.  None of which ever transpired!  He also discusses who might actually be Q.  There are many suspects.  Mike believes it is probably an undistinguished 4chan LARP (Live Action Roleplaying Game) that caught on because it played into the good guy triumphant over bad guy cliché.  He also investigates foreign influences, not necessarily initiating but promoting via re-posting, Russia being on top of the list.

 Most interesting is the investigation into what is motivating devotees to believe the unbelievable. Taking a detour around the strong undertones of fascism going on, he explains human age-old susceptibly to conspiracy theories as fundamental to QAnon’s success.  In How We Became Human and Why We Need to Change, (reviewed on this site) Tim Dean explains that fear, suspicion and moral outrage is wired into our genes, once useful for survival in our primitive state has become dangerous in modern global world.  Q seems to be manipulating ancient genes in a bid to forward right wing politics.

Mike takes a calm, non-judgemental approach to understanding QAnon followers, staying away from terms such as ‘brainwashing’.  Interviews with ex-members revealed that they felt as if in the grip of an addiction, getting progressively fearful.  Consulting experts on how QAnon could be understood did not produce a definitive answer, although it does have aspects of a cult minus the presence of a dictator as leader.  Often Q goes absent for months and his disciples take over, imagining what is happening, or might happen.  That said, I couldn’t help but think that should Trump be re-elected at any stage the dictator variable might soon materialise.  Or perhaps the Internet has become a virtual dictator, harmonizing the outrage and fear of the masses, so drowning out rational thought.  But I digress …

Like Australians who supported Pauline Hanson, QAnon people feel that they have lost a voice in American politics, losing out in the global economy.  Plus, there is a general feeling of disquiet about corruption in Washington; the call to ‘drain the swamp’ probably refers to this issue. Given that QAnon constantly mentions paedophiles and child sex-trafficking rings, it could be assumed that the revelation of widespread child sexual abuse, within churches and other trusted institutions, has caused deep level angst throughout society. It is unsurprising that such heinous crimes have resulted in widespread fear and a desire for retribution.  But Q’s method of spreading wild disinformation to drive discourses of fear is greatly hindering coherent inquiry or any chance of progress.

In the final chapters ‘Debunking QAnon and Its Prophecies’, ‘Where We Go One: How to Help People Who Want to Get Out of Q’, and ‘Friends and Happy Memories’, Mike details how QAnon has caused families to break apart, and in extreme cases resulted in psychosis and attempted murder, in short leaving a trail of social chaos, and absolutely no ‘happy memories’. Well-researched advice is provided for those caught in the storm of Q’s fantasy and how they might help friends and family members who show signs of wanting to end their affiliation with QAnon.

One interpretation of QAnon followers is that they feel so much is wrong with American Democracy and they have a strong need to do something.  In the process, they have turned away from long standing elite leaders, who they feel have let them and America down.  They might be right.  But fear and hate-mongering is only making matters worse.

No passion so effectually robs the mind of all its powers of acting and reasoning as fear.

Edmund Burke (1729–1797)

The Storm is Upon Us

by Mike Rothschild

(2021)

Hachette

ISBN: 978-1-80096-038-1

$32.99; 300pp

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