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Book Review: Operation Mindfuck: QAnon & the Cult of Donald Trump by Robert Guffey
I wish I knew how to handle writing about this with a touch light enough that my handful of friends and acquaintances and friends’ family members who’ve gone down the Q rabbit hole would take the cottontail out of their ears and hear me. I’m an average person in middle America with a college education from an unprestigious satellite IU campus and a 2006 Toyota Sienna still jangle-bangling down the road and several kids and a full time job and a knack for writing that mostly manifests in poetry. In no sense of the word am I part of or allegiant to powerful elites.
Operation Mindfuck: QAnon & the Cult of Donald Trump by Robert Guffey tackles the conspiracy theories Q draws from, the history of the Q phenomenon, and the eventual attempts by mobs at least partially influenced by Q, and certainly influenced by Donald Trump, to overturn the 2020 Presidential election. The book is well-researched, with a full Bibliography of notes that reference and identify each quote from each source that Guffey cites. Guffey, additionally, has a long background studying conspiracy theories and their origins.
Not with innuendo, but with clear reference to documented text and speech, Guffey tells us the origin of various elements of the Q conspiracy, which is a pastiche that draws in so many people in part, Guffey says, because it has so many different sides and supposed connections to current events that a Q enthusiast can pick and choose whatever elements of Q they are most attracted to. Guffey points, for example, to the Satanic panic of the 1980s as a touchstone of the hysteria over supposed Satan worshipping elites in entertainment and politics. But he goes as far back as the 19th century, noting a satire of the Freemasons that later was perverted into political propaganda by the original Nazis, and that has hung around on the fringes where “the real story of what’s happening in the world” has maintained a presence ever since.
In other words, Guffey is not a lightweight. He knows how to write a real book.
I am avoiding cherry-picking a lot of specifics from Guffey’s book, in part because part of the pleasure of reading it comes from learning the various threads of conspiracy and their connection to the current political situation that he lays out in cogent and, mostly, un-hyperbolic prose, but also in part because I don’t want any readers who may be followers of Q to get bogged down in protesting this or that detail. Guffey’s “big picture” is much, much more cogent and plausible than Q’s.
I will note, though, that Guffey watches multiple episodes of a popular Youtube channel in the Qniverse, signs up for their email newsletter, and has no trouble pointing out that most of their version of the Qniverse is a vast repository of hints and allegations that touch on just enough verifiable facts in the world that the credibility of the crazy, in some people’s minds, is enhanced. Guffey points out that the reason Q is believable at all is because, as a matter of known fact, we all understand that very wealthy and very powerful people in society are screwing over the average everyday person all the time. There are some obvious conspiracies, Guffey notes, on verifiable record, such as the Sackler Pharmaceutical family deliberately enriching themselves by creating a national crisis of opioid addiction.
In a word, we know we’re getting fucked, we have an idea of who’s fucking us, and we want to know both what’s really going on and what we can do to stop it. This is the paradigm the Qniverse offers, however outrageous the details and however gullibly Q followers pivot to acceptance of tyranny as solution to the manipulation of public opinion and to greater and greater poverty in America, that constant sucking sound we hear of money and resources getting Kirby’d up from the lower classes, landing safely in the clutches of the more privileged ones.
We know human trafficking occurs all over the world. Is the most likely explanation of this activity, then, the notion that there’s a bunch of underground tunnels and detention centers where tens of thousands of children (whose disappearance, somehow, we have no way to verify) are slaughtered and tortured to provide chemical or dark-spiritual sustenance to politicians and celebrities? Do Hillary Clinton and Nancy Pelosi have to gargle blood and worship Satan to be bad people, or are they maybe just regular-bad, as in, a couple politicians who people with different views detest? Is the real fallout of attention to Q Youtube, right wing fringe “news” sources, and the like the actual dehumanization of people unlike Q’s largely white following? Is the “real point of it,” as a Q follower might say, actually to encourage people to vilify black people and brown immigrants and gay people and trans people so that when folks start behaving violently in retaliation for these groups’ mere existence, those of us not in harm’s way say, not my business, and pat ourselves on our self-satisfied hineys for being real Christ-followers? Have any of you who’ve bought in taken a step back and looked at the evidence of what Q really is in that way?
A friend who is involved told me the “real” information is there, on those Youtube broadcasts, in those fringe media productions, you just “have to dig for it.” The same friend suggested that he got to “the real stuff” in a search engine search – google or other – by scrolling three or four pages down into the hits – because most people don’t bother to look that far. Well, okay. So what additional criteria do you have that help you determine whether or not this information is not just propaganda and bullshit? The only thing I’ve ever heard my friend argue in response to this is that he just knows.
Plenty of fringe groups on the right are well aware that they hate LGBTQ, black, and brown people and that their known goal is to maintain a culture dominated by White Christians (in a style of Christianity with a notable absence of Christ-like behavior) in which White people will not be “erased.” Plenty of these groups – Proud Boys, Oathkeepers, and so on – have guns. Lot and lots of guns. And I want to believe at least some of the Q followers don’t realize, quite, how they’re adding fuel to those fires. That the facepaint and furs one of the Q celebs wore to an insurrection as a lark accompanied ex-military members with zip ties who expected to detain and perhaps execute politicians. I mean, I hate Mike Pence. Strongly. Probably for reasons different than yours, if you think he wasn’t supposed to certify the election. But the solution is not to watch as he gets hanged.
I worry – in all seriousness – about what happens in this country when it’s open season on all the people they wish they could eradicate. Proud Boys are already bullying members of society who’ve freely attended something as optional and innocuous as “story time with drag queens,” are already getting pulled out of U-Hauls to foil plans to riot at Pride Festivals. What happens when these boys – boys is a good term – swarm a Pride festival or a BLM protest with guns drawn? Who does the shooting? Who gets shot? And do you want to be among the people who, effectively, bought into and propagated and provided ammunition for the killers?