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If QAnon isn’t the most far-reaching hoax of the century, it deserves my apology. The conspiracy theory’s followers insist that global elites spend their down time enjoying membership in a sex-trafficking, baby-eating cult. “Q” is said to be a close associate of Donald Trump who, in turn, is childhood’s only hope.

Inquiring minds ask how, in the name of the My Pillow guy, were people pulled into the vortex of the QAnon mythology? My research team sifted through the evidence. Some insights follow.

The team’s overriding finding is that America is the land of the free and the home of the easily led. In the 1990s, Ray Santilli produced film of an alien autopsy performed by the military near Roswell, New Mexico. Santilli later admitted his film was a “restoration” (read, fabrication) of a lost film he claimed to have seen. He had used sheep brains and chicken innards in his do-over. Nevertheless, many people continue to believe in the alien autopsy story.

“The War of the Worlds” was a 1938 Orson Welles radio drama based on H.G. Wells’ sci-fi novel. Surprisingly, many listeners who tuned in after missing the show’s introduction mistook its realism for an actual attack from Mars and came to believe the end of the world was at hand.

Televisions teem with searches for Bigfoot, ghosts and more. Thus, it isn’t a leap to learn that many Americans have thrown in with those who indignantly fight against make-believe toddler noshers.

In our childlike acceptance of what is bogus, Americans are not alone. England’s crop circles were taken as evidence of visitors from outer space. Actually, the arty designs were the creation of two pranksters who demonstrated their techniques in 1991. Even so, the circles continue to be taken as evidence of aliens. The list could go on.

Many QAnon believers were drawn in only because they sincerely desired to help children. My researchers mathematically calculated that the intensity of a person’s misunderstanding of the nature of evidence, if multiplied by the hours spent watching “The Bachelor,” reveals one’s coefficient of belief in Q. Disconfirming evidence is taken as proof of a cover-up. When the FBI designated QAnon a domestic terrorism threat, it meant the FBI was in on the plot.

Q’s primary conduit for communication with the world is a father-son pair, Jim and Ron Watkins, who live in the Philippines. Q most likely is the younger Watkins, whose motivation was to drive viewers to his website, 8kun (nee 8chan), which has featured hate speech and porn, according to a recent HBO documentary.

Followers concluded that the routing of Q’s messages through the unlikely pair was necessary to ensure Q’s security. Among the enrapt, that was solid proof of Q’s existence.

Q, or maybe Ron Watson, announced that the Bidens, Clintons, Obamas and hundreds of others would be arrested during the Jan. 20 inauguration ceremony. But when the prediction bombed, some believers burned their membership cards. Others cling to hopes that a Donald Trump takeover of government will occur, perhaps on Columbus Day or some other holiday which, by employment of brain-befogged mental gymnastics, will be a date connected to ending cannibalistic child abuse.

Thirty years from now, children will hear the tale of QAnon and, while praying for an answer in the negative, will ask their grandparents whether they had believed in the strange story.

Joseph Wyatt is a Gazette-Mail contributing columnist and emeritus professor at Marshall University. Reach him at Wyatt@Marshall.edu.

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