QAnon Isn't the Issue Here, and That's Important
Plus, my upcoming book launch and a multimedia bonus
|Anthony Russo||May 27|
It is so weird to have been in front of a trend for so long. When I started writing Dragged Into the Light (out now!) one of my primary concerns was that people wouldn’t “get” how convoluted conspiracy theory culture was.
In fact, one of my favorite editorial comments was “Sorry. WTF are you talking about?” That was before the Nashville Christmas Bomber took his reptilian conspiracy theories to hell with him.
The same editor sent me this story from NPR about similarities between QAnon and the Satanic Panic of the 1980s and 1990s. Honestly, it’s a flimsy case (which the story recognizes) but there are connections.
More important for me, though, is that I’ve never been much of a hot-take writer. It takes me too long to nail down my thoughts on a story or issue. Even when I do, I don’t really want to be part of the hot-take conversation. I’m not nuts about living in a world where people are expected to have a considered opinion on everything at the ready.
Sometimes, I’m lucky and something that has been on my mind is also in the news. The only use of the word “QAnon” is in the introduction to the book, written long after I’d completed all of my drafts. I didn’t put it in the story because it was too nebulous to explain within the narrative, but it was a word that needed no explanation by the time the book was done.
I wrote recently about not having a story to go with an idea and struggling to hammer an idea into a story rather than waiting for one to present itself. This is the second time in a month there has been an idea in my head when the story to go with it dropped in my lap.
Last year, just before the apocalypse, I had a minor Facebook tiff with the Town of Delmar, Maryland (where I live). They didn’t want to pay for police officers and couldn’t even hire enough to have a full-time force.
This town is congenitally against taxes no matter what the cost. For instance, we don’t recycle because that’s another tax our elected officials think we just couldn’t bear.
Recently, the only cop we had on duty was beaten to death. I was ready to write about it because of nearly a decade of covering the town as a reporter coupled with an older argument about whether the town should take better care of its police.
My point is only that the stars have to align for me to have something to say that other people aren’t saying already, which is rare. When it came to writing about the Satanic Panic claims, the stars aligned again.
I worry about the easy labels and dismissive postures we tend to take when we don’t like or deeply disagree with something. I worry that in our rush to file things neatly into boxes we can check we sacrifice the opportunity to understand.
The number of people who identify as “empaths” is shocking in a culture where empathy has taken to its sickbed, and I wonder why that is.
I am not an empath. You probably aren’t either. It takes a herculean effort to remember that other people are human beings just like us. Frightened, fragile, and doing the best they can with the information at hand.
It is exhausting to try and put yourself in the shoes of people who under the sway of professional hate-mongers. It’s nearly impossible to resist slamming an ideological foe, putting them in place with snark and facts. But like any other failing, it’s critical that we recognize when we do it and try to take the extra second to be a little less mean and a little more understanding.
Did I Mention My Book Is Out?
Dragged Into the Light got a really insightful (as well as positive) review from the Tehben Book Club. If you’d like some great perspective on the story from a neutral third party, I definitely would start here.
I also was on the Follow the Woo podcast which (for reasons I’m keeping to myself) might have been the best career or even life decision that I made. Please take a listen to the show intro at the very least.
I’m pretty sure you’ll be on board after that anyway, but the show host, Fen Alankus does a brilliant job of parsing the gray places between organized religion, skepticism, and faith. It was as good a conversation about spirituality and faith that I’ve had.
SPOILERS: In her closing thoughts, Fen talks about the internet and wonders how much better we could be if we traded screen-time for meditation. I’m stealing that in both my life and when people ask me about how to deal with friends or relatives who are so locked into conspiracies they’ve lost touch with themselves and their own core beliefs.
Music to Read By
While I was working on the book, there were a couple of songs that fit thematically with chapters. When I realized how many there were I decided to put together a playlist. My wife Kelly had to help me because I don’t listen to many artists who still produce records. I’m excited for you to check it out.
I think it’s fun to listen to all on its own, but if you listen to the song after each chapter, that might be fun.
Last of the Promos
Finally, I’m putting together a bunch of talks and signings. They’re all on my Facebook Events page.
Enjoy your weekend. I know I’ll enjoy mine. I’m driving to Atlanta and hoping to deliver on my promise to use Instagram more.
Disclosure: I use an affiliate link when I post the Amazon version of the book to squeeze an extra 2 cents out of them.