They Walk Among Us …

Last week, I re-blogged a post by Gronda titled ‘What Is This QAnon Group All about?’.  I find the very concept of this group so disgusting and reprehensible that I hadn’t had the heart to write about them, so I was happy to find that Gronda had.  A day or so later, I came across a piece in The Washington Post that sent chills down my spine.  What follows is a piece written by Post reporter Isaac Stanley-Becker, based on an interview with a “real-life believer” in the concept of QAnon.  It is not for the faint of heart, and frankly it made me want to simply walk away. I apologize that this post is a bit longer than I normally do, but I thought the entirety was important.

QAnon: Meet a real-life believer in the online, pro-Trump conspiracy theory that’s bursting into view

By Isaac Stanley-Becker, August 3 

QAnon member

Paul Burton, left, who is a believer in the QAnon conspiracy theory, with his father, Tom Burton. (Provided by Paul Burton)

After I wrote about QAnon, an online conspiracy theory that leaped on Tuesday from the far reaches of the Internet to the audience at President Trump’s rally in Tampa, an email arrived in my inbox from a man named Paul Burton.

He described a colleague and me as “Bezos’ boys,” referring to Jeffrey P. Bezos, the owner of The Washington Post, and asked, “How’s your fishbowl?” meaning, I presumed, a place open to public view and subject to critique. “LOL!” he added.

I responded, asking if he would be interested in speaking with me about his belief in QAnon. Much about the philosophy remains mysterious, even contradictory. But the central idea, which has no basis in observable reality, is that “Q” is the government insider, or cadre of insiders, leaving clues on digital message boards about a countercoup underway to vanquish deep-state saboteurs and their ring of elite allies, including Hillary Clinton and George Soros. 

Less clear to me, given the anonymity that shrouds the threads on which the theory has spread, was the nature of the people who find it credible. How did they come across Q’s “crumbs” of information? What made the tenets of QAnon — tinged with racism and anti-Semitism — convincing to them? What were their day jobs?

We had a short back-and-forth in which Burton suggested several resources to expand my understanding of Q and its mission, which I read. He said they would convince me that the theory had merit, which they did not; QAnon is a hodgepodge of outlandish ideas.

Then he called me. We spoke for 45 minutes early Friday morning.

Burton, 55, doesn’t claim to be representative of QAnon’s following. He lives outside of Atlanta and works in real estate and as an operations manager for a university. He hasn’t met any other believers in person but estimated they number more than 1 million. (Based on activity on message boards and membership in Facebook groups, this appears to be an exaggeration.)

But Burton is one example of the flesh-and-blood Americans who have bought into a theory whose growth online has had actual consequences, including inspiring an armed man to descend on the Hoover Dam in June, demanding the release of a Justice Department report about James B. Comey and Hillary Clinton that had already been released. In the spring, QAnon gave fuel to a fanciful effort undertaken by an armed group called Veterans on Patrol to find evidence of a child sex-trafficking ring in Tucson.

What became clear from our conversation is that Burton’s belief in QAnon stems from his frustration with how authority over information and verification is allocated. He resents what he perceives to be the self-righteous assumption of expertise made by members of the media and academia. He told me he worked in academia, and when I asked him to elaborate, he said he meant he was “an armchair philosopher. I make my impact where I can. I have no desire to be high-profile.”

Burton thinks that QAnon presages “the most devastating impact possible on the deep state, as they call it, and on the evildoers and on the fringe leftists and on the violent antifa groups and devastating effect on the Soros money as well as liberal Democrats.” He doesn’t think the “storm” — the community’s term, drawn from Trump’s reference last year to “the calm before the storm,” for the president’s conquest over the deep state — will involve violence, unless, Burton said, it comes from “the left.”

Perhaps more significant, though, Burton thinks QAnon marks the emergence of long-hidden communities of people who want to decide for themselves what the truth is.

“There are millions of very smart middle-class nerds — men and women of all races — that have normal lives, and they have no desire to work for The Washington Post or work on Wall Street or get their name in headlights and receive a plaque in front of 300 people,” he said. “They want to live their lives, but they happen to be extremely bright or creative or intuitive or unbelievable researchers who are just living humble lives. Now there’s an Internet, and they can plug into a community.”

QAnon, he said, is about circumventing the media’s standards of verification and “speaking directly to the people, just like Trump is doing.”

Burton lives in the Atlanta area with his wife — “she’s not very political,” he said — and two children. In his spare time, he likes to take his family to the park, where they play with a drone that belongs to one of his kids.

“I have a smartphone that I’m addicted to just like most people out there,” he said. “I read an article today that said that 50 percent of adult Americans’ time is spent on media of some type.”

He said he uses Twitter but abstains from most other forms of social media. “Twitter to me is a tailored news feed,” he said. “I try to stay plugged in with sharp, good people out there on the Internet — and in real life.”

The son of a civil engineer for the Navy, Burton grew up all over the country but completed most of his schooling in Southern California. He studied finance at San Diego State University. He liked to sing when he was young.

He said his father, now 88, was a “Southern Democrat,” a supporter of conservative white Democrats in the South, who became a “Reagan Democrat,” part of a massive defection of white voters from the Democratic Party that helped realign the two groupings in the second half of the 20th century.

“I grew up in the glow of the [Ronald] Reagan presidency,” said Burton, who was a registered independent for much of his life but declared himself a Republican 10 or 15 years ago. Part of what accelerated his drift to the right, he said, was the rise of the Clintons’ “corrupt empire,” as he put it, which he said was documented in “Clinton Cash,” a 2015 book by Peter Schweizer, a collaborator of Stephen K. Bannon, who was then head of Breitbart News and later became, briefly, Trump’s chief strategist.

The Clintons, he said, “subverted” Barack Obama, whose presidency, according to QAnon, caused mounting dissatisfaction in the military, where Burton has been led to believe the seed of “Q” was planted.

“Apparently military brass in the Pentagon got sick and tired of it, and they found a candidate that they could discuss everything with,” Burton said. “And apparently they went to Trump and asked Trump to run.”

I asked him why these renegades chose Trump. “They probably thought he would win,” he said.

Burton came to believe this, or at least most of it — “I don’t believe 100 percent of anything,” he told me — when he saw a post on Twitter in December of last year about someone or something operating under the alias “Q,” plotting a “countercoup of the clear coup that was underway.”

“I was just mildly interested,” Burton told me. “You know, with anything, my bullsh– detectors are up. And I always assume something is bullsh– until you sort through it, and you realize it is or isn’t, connect dots with things you know.”

There have been only a few other online theories, he said, that have piqued his interest. “Here and here,” he said. “Nothing like this.”

QAnon just struck him as immensely logical, he said: “Sometimes the best ideas are the most obvious.”

His method of political analysis, he said, is akin to the way he reads the Bible. “I don’t listen to what churches and priests interpret. I go to the most direct translation and read directly Jesus’ words and what Jesus did.”

He thinks Trump “is doing an amazing job,” and he believes the president is one of 10 people who compose Q. In his mind, two others are also civilian — most likely Stephen Miller and Kellyanne Conway, top White House aides — and seven are military.

He said discounting QAnon comes from the same blindness that caused mainstream pundits to discount Trump. The problem, he said, is one of bubbles, and the fact that people in Washington assume that everyone thinks as they do.

“D.C. is seen as pigs at the trough, and Trump was seen as somebody who would go in and overturn the apple cart,” Burton said. “People don’t care that he talks about grabbing the ‘you know what,’ just like they didn’t care about [Bill] Clinton.”

Evidence that Trump’s plot is working, Burton said, lies in the planned retirement of some of his most vocal critics in Congress. Many Republicans, not all opponents of the president, are leaving their seats at the end of the year. “If you read through the Q posts,” Burton promised, “it’s clear he’s been sending signals for us.”

But for Burton, QAnon isn’t really about Trump. It’s bigger than the 45th president. Bigger even than American politics.

It’s about the screen that Burton believes conceals the truth about nearly everything we encounter. “I don’t read all the fluff,” he told me. “I go directly to the information and find out what they’re talking about. What are these posts, what are these tweets?”

“If you just clear your mind, tabula rasa, you’ll believe it, too,” he said.

This, my friends, is the mentality we are up against.  Those of us who seek a return to respectability and accountability in our government, must find a way to overcome or contend with this mentality and the people who ascribe to it.  Frankly, I’m not sure where to even begin.  Perhaps a hot shower is as good a place as any … somehow I feel a bit grungy.

38 thoughts on “They Walk Among Us …

  1. Reblogged this on It Is What It Is and commented:
    QAnon … un-freaking-believable!! … in this day and age and in the mighty, imperialistic US of A!!
    ‘This, my friends, is the mentality we are up against. Those of us who seek a return to respectability and accountability in our government, must find a way to overcome or contend with this mentality and the people who ascribe to it.’
    Beyond … WOW!!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Dear Jill,

    These groups have and will exist but you are right, this time is different. This time a US president is giving it the veil of normalcy. This is like allowing a group like ISIS to be acceptable. There is an analogy. ISIS was not dealt with sooner because they suited the purpose of a country like Turkey who hated the Kurds so much, they surreptitiously supported them behind the US backs because ISIS was fighting the Kurds.

    What President Trump is providing a safe haven, normalcy to groups that traffic in hate, etc. This is not normal.

    Hugs, Gronda

    Liked by 1 person

  3. According to this Paul Burton : “QAnon is…about speaking directly to the people, just like Trump is doing.” Would this include Trump speaking directly to the California people about the wildfires, ridiculous blaming and without any mention of concern or sympathy? I rather doubt that Trump’s brain has sufficient wattage to run QAnon, other than supplying the lies. QAnon is leading a group of mentally unhinged followers, but they are frightening. I would like to clear my mind of QAnon! Thank-you!

    Liked by 2 people

    • Of course you are right that his brain lacks sufficient capacity, but if you consider the outright lies the group is perpetuating, then maybe. The one that made me nearly choke was when he said “Kellyanne”!!! America’s Number One Bimbo??? Seriously??? 🤣🤣🤣 They truly are a scary bunch, for there are those who will take them seriously, just like the Pizzagate conspiracy, which nearly ended in bloodshed. We are living in frightening times.

      Liked by 2 people

  4. Does nobody see this as I do, a way to break into this group and subvert it to your own needs? Think about it? Find out what a “Q” tweet is, and start adding ideas that counter what they are doing, very slowly at first, of course, but developing a counter conspiracy they can latch onto.
    Find out where they get their information from, and use it against them. Cause infighting. Do whatever is needed to disrupt them. That what the CIA did to the hippie movement, and the Black Panther movement, and it worked wonderfully for them. Why not for QAnon too?

    Liked by 2 people

    • Hmmmm … something to ponder on. I had not even given that any thought, and I’m not sure to what extent it would succeed, for there is really no well-organized resistance movement, only a bunch of us who are repulsed by this whole thing and use whatever means to make our voices heard. But I shall ponder … 🤔

      Liked by 1 person

      • Research. Or get someone to research for you. Where do these people meet? How do they identify themselves to each other? How do they sign their tweets? It’s all probably very simple to duplicate–the less organized they are, the easier it is to infiltrate.
        And once you know the who, the how, and the where, the rest is a piece of pie. By then I should be out of the hospital and looking for something to do. I’m betting I would be good at it…

        Liked by 1 person

        • You definitely have started my wheels turning … I know pretty much where they post … 4Chan & 8Chan websites, which make my skin crawl, but perhaps it would be worth paying a visit. I’m betting you would be good at it too! Get well first, then you can jump right in! I hope you’re doing well … I haven’t heard from Gail yet as of this writing, but hope to before much longer. I sent you hugs and good vibes today!

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          • Good morning, Jill. I am still in the hospital, but I am pretty good now. Apparently the doctors had a helluva time waking me up after my surgery. Nobody knows why. Chest pain is lasting longer than last time but hope to be outta here today or tomorrow latest.Have no idea what 4Chan or 8Chan are but sure you will let me know…
            Breakfasg just came. More larer.

            Liked by 1 person

            • Hey, dear friend!!! Sorry I’m behind and just now getting around to reading comments. Yes, Gail did a great job of keeping me updated, and I know you are in a lot of pain, but at least are on the mend. Rest and recuperate. Yes, I will give you the lowdown on these two nasties when you are up to it. Get better!!! LuL

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              • Guess what? They ended up kicking me out of the hospital today, so now I am sitting in my hotel room resting, and trying to catch up on posts and comments. Thank you for being there for me. If all goes well tonight we will be setting out for home in the morning. We might not make it all the way, but we will definitely be home Saturday, to face the wratch of the pussy-cats.

                Liked by 1 person

                • Take it easy … if it takes two days to get home, so be it! The kitties will survive, though they may be a bit miffed and make you pay for what they will no doubt see as your little ‘vacation’! 😾😾😾 Sleep well, my friend!

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  5. Jill the sad fact is the fringe groups like this will be around for a very long time. Look for thirty years the fringe has thought the Clinton’s were leading the most corrupt group of people to do everything from selling out the country by selling our uranium to Russia right on through running a child sex ring in the basement of a pizza shop that had no basement. These people can not deal with reality nor think their way around stuff with out having some conspiracy to help them out. They don’t like the media fact checking things because they want to believe what they think they know rather than the truth. One thing these people all seem to have in common is tRump, a person who can not tell the truth if his life depended on it. I think once tRump is either controlled or voted out they will fade back to the scandal news rags where they have always been. The hard part is the bigotry that has surfaced and been fed by the tRump administration, that will be hard to get rid of, but we will have to find a way to either get rid of the bigotry or keep the bigots from being able to harm others. Hugs

    Liked by 5 people

    • All that you say is true, Scottie. But … this is the first time in the history of this country that the president has condoned and even encouraged the fringe groups, supported violence and bigotry. I am the first to say that we should look back at history to put the present in perspective, but this time we are in uncharted territory, for there truly is no historical equivalent to today’s situation. If Trump is removed from office, there may be, after a time, a return to some semblance of normalcy, but frankly I don’t foresee his impeachment, for even if the democrats win every seat that is on the block in November, there will still not be enough democrats in the Senate to obtain the required 2/3 majority. I wish I could just pass this, along with the frightening escalation in racism and bigotry, off as something that will pass with time, but I am not convinced of that. I don’t know the answer, I know only that we must continue to be ‘the resistance’, to keep making our voices heard as much as we can, and keep voting the garbage out of Congress. Otherwise, we are doomed.
      Hugs!!!

      Liked by 3 people

  6. A hot shower, a nap and then a can of beans. The fringes have always been around. Difference now is that they have a voice on social media. I refuse to change my day for a nestful of idiots, but I will vote in November and 2020. Politics are like a pendulum that swings right, swings left, comes to center and repeats. Alex Jones has been kicked off FB, YouTube and Twitter. There is hope.

    Liked by 4 people

    • Hmmm … yes, the nap sounds good, too, but you can keep the can of beans and I’ll have a can of tuna instead! It is true that the pendulum tends to swing from left to right and back again. Something about this feels different, though … more ominous. Social media has definitely been a contributing factor in magnifying these nutcases, and I am glad that they finally banned Jones, though we will see how long it lasts. But these people seem to be just spoiling for a fight, and for the first time, the ‘man’ in the Oval Office is cheering them on. That, perhaps, is partly what makes it seem more frightening to me.

      Liked by 2 people

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