This post is part of a Paste series on the online conspiracy movement popularly known as QAnon, and the beliefs of its rabid followers, who are known as Anons. Although the content and topics being discussed by Anons are often disturbing, we believe that keeping a close eye on their unhinged beliefs is the best way to understand what believers in unfounded conspiracy theories might do next.
Hurricane Ida, an immensely powerful category 4 storm, is currently making devastating landfall in Louisiana, leaving hundreds of thousands of Americans without power and an untold number in imminent threat of physical harm or the loss of their homes. The storm has put numerous major population centers in its path, and has also come perilously close to directly hitting New Orleans, which has already been reeling in 2021 from multiple powerful hurricanes this season that have dropped record levels of rainfall in Louisiana.
At a time like this, one would hope that the nation would be able to put our petty political differences aside in the interest of the common good, pooling together whatever resources we have to render aid to the afflicted. Nothing is more important in this moment than the safety of the residents of Louisiana and beyond, as Ida continues its path of destruction. You can donate to Red Cross relief efforts here.
That’s how things would work in a sane and reasonable world, anyway. Sadly, we do not live in a sane and reasonable world.
As Ida smashes into the U.S., I’ve been up to my usual this weekend, which means keeping an occasional eye on the ever-evolving discussions happening between the proponents of the QAnon conspiracy theory known as Anons. And even for Anons, the stuff I’ve seen out of them in the last 24 hours or so has been shocking. As discussion of the hurricane has naturally kicked up on popular Anon gathering places such as the right-wing social networks Gab and Parler, a disturbing number of Anons have launched into full-blown conspiracy conjecture in which they claim that Ida is a “man made” storm, created by the evil “Deep State” entity that they believe Donald Trump is still battling even now, 10 months after losing the Nov. 2020 election to Joe Biden. To repeat: Anons believe that even the weather and natural disasters are a ploy by satanic Democrats to achieve … something. It’s very unclear.
It should not come as a surprise that the Anons advancing this theory also display a shocking disregard for the safety of their fellow Americans, despite the fact that their sworn objective is to usher in some kind of Trump-led golden age in the U.S. This is the average tone of Ida-related discussions on a site like Gab right now:
These aren’t isolated references to “man-made weather,” either. Because the greater QAnon sphere is essentially a “big tent” belief system, wherein any and all conspiracy theories are welcome inside, regardless of whether they’re relevant in any way to the political origins of QAnon, there has always been an undercurrent of belief in such topics as “weather manipulation” among Anons. They believe in things like chemtrails just as readily as they believe in the likes of folk healing and pseudoscientific household remedies against the COVID-19 virus. Any conspiracy that can be tied back to the idea of an evil “Them” controlling the world behind the scenes can be grafted to the larger QAnon whole.
To that effect, you have posts like these, all from the last 12 hours or so:
Someone pointing out the “conspiracy” that many hurricanes tend to arrive during the peak of hurricane season, while using one of the most frequently abused Anon buzzwords: “mathematically impossible.”
Someone who legitimately believes that because he can control the conditions “inside a bottle,” it’s a reasonable extrapolation to think that the federal government can control all the weather on Earth.
Someone pointing out the “conspiracy” that hurricanes tend to follow similar geographic patterns of travel, almost as if their behavior was being governed by naturally occurring air currents and the jet stream.
The obvious question any rational observer would be asking here is that if the “Deep State” could magically create hurricanes and control their exact path of travel, why would “they” (the guy above can’t decide if this is NASA, the Department of Defense, or the CIA) be unleashing them on major American cities? What would the bad guys have to gain from unfathomably evil acts that may result in the tragic deaths of thousands?
If you ask an Anon a question like that, their ready-to-go fallback will almost invariably be that any disaster (or any event in the news in general) has been purposely created “as a distraction” that is meant to engage the senses of the American public and draw their eyes away from other events currently happening that would be more damaging to the Deep State for the masses to witness. Ask the Anon to name what an event is meant to be a distraction from and you’ll get much more confused answers that vary by the day or by the minute. At this particular moment, they might say that a man-made hurricane was created to distract the media cycle away from the terror attacks in Afghanistan, or from the perpetually “just on the horizon” revelations promised by the fake election audit still somehow crawling along in Arizona. This is ultimately how Anons end up viewing every single thing in the news cycle—it’s all fake, meant to distract them from the fake news they prefer.
Typically, this sort of magical thinking unfolds in a fairly general way in QAnon circles. But it takes a special kind of delusion to look at a literal, category 4 hurricane bearing down on you and see only a “Deep State distraction” meant to drag attention away from … a continuously postponed audit that was most recently pushed back after most of the team contracted COVID.
What can one even say in response to this particular combination of heartlessness and utter delusion? We’re again left speechless, witnessing the damage that QAnon and irresponsible conspiracy thinking has been able to wreak on the American psyche in recent years.
In the meantime, we can only pray for the millions of people affected by the hurricane, and render aid in any way we can.