‘No one has a strategy. There's a lot of tactics, there's a lot of plans, there's a lot of ideas… but the professional fields are underfunded. The activist fields are completely in disarray, underfunded and understaffed, and volunteers online are not mobilised.’
So says Caleb Cain, a recent defector from the ranks of believers in the QAnon conspiracy. Like Ashley Vanderbilt – whose story I told in my last blog – and apparently like millions of others in the USA, Cain came to accept the bizarre idea that Donald Trump is/was leading the fight against a hidden elite of cannibalistic, Satanist paedophiles who secretly control the country.
Cain has set up a group for young recovering QAnon supporters – Future Freedom – but he doesn’t think it’s enough, given the scale of the task facing him and like-minded others.
But why should anyone outside of the USA worry? No QAnon here, surely?
A growing problem – globally
Au contraire, says The Economist – we should all be concerned. ’Once a fringe theory attractive primarily to Americans, during the pandemic [QAnon] spread as far away as Japan, incorporating local concerns wherever it reached. Each country’s version tends to follow similar contours: a group of shadowy agents pulling the strings behind the scenes must be defeated.’
In short, QAnon is just one manifestation of a movement that’s proliferating globally, mainly via the dark corners of the internet. And at the heart of this movement is a strategy to encourage a profound mistrust of ‘liberal elites’ – the media types, artists, jurists, scientists, business people and politicians who (they say) are ultimately responsible for the mess we’re in.
This is where the spreading of deliberate misinformation has been so effective, as the faults and errors of these liberal elites have been used to hook the unsuspecting, even those who would seem the least likely recruits for what is ultimately the cause of white supremacy.
So, what is to be done?
A people’s strategy
Well, as Caleb Cain notes, what’s missing is a strategy – so how about we make one? How about we formulate a people’s strategy that anyone willing can support in their own way, wherever they are, so that even though we’re acting individually we can also know that we’re acting together, with a common purpose?
There are many factors driving the rise of this movement – personal, political, social, economic – but fundamental to them all, I suggest, is the issue of who and what to trust. And it seems to me that it is precisely here that the struggle must be engaged – and won. To alter the power of any political movement — including those that readily use violence to attain their goals — one must seek to identify, then strengthen or weaken, key human relationships, based on trust and empathy.
Consider the story of Maajid Nawaz, now a presenter on LBC radio but at one time a recruiter for the Islamist group Hizbut-Tahrir (HT). He was totally committed to the cause but became disenchanted during the five years he spent imprisoned in Egypt for Islamist activity.