Over the past year, I haven’t been quiet about QAnon’s harmful influence within the spirituality and wellness communities, but I haven’t been as vocal as I should have been. By some fluke of fate I had a front row seat to the explosion of QAnon theories in the spiritual, mystical and wellness communities that once welcomed my social justice mind and queer, mystical heart. Today I can’t even bear to look at that time without feeling shame for staying as long as I did. And that guilt persisted during the Insurrection on January 6th.
Most are calling this QAnon incursion into spiritual and wellness circles conspirituality. But for me, calling it “lightwashing” feels more accurate because of the use of “love & light” narratives to absolve oneself of responsibility for collective action on social harm. Even if I didn’t personally get caught in the QAnon spiral of doom, I watched helplessly as whole groups of lightworking, spiritual friends were lightwashed into this strange, cruel, incongruent reality. I feel a responsibility to share what I learned during that time, a responsibility to share what insight I have about their beliefs and behaviors and why it is so perniciously awful.
Exploiting the vulnerability of the pandemic
I first became aware of QAnon in late 2017 when I started seeing an increased presence of “We are Q” signs prominently bouncing around at Trump rallies. Since I’m suspicious of anything that aligns with the former president’s self-aggrandizement and violent rhetoric, I did a bit of research to find that it was yet another 4Chan spin-off, this time with a constructed mystique of anonymity, creating a mystery for the relentlessly overstimulated incels of 4Chan to chew on and later weaponize against women (more on that later)
It was a violent movement from the start, cheering on a bloody end: predicting “The Storm” which presumably is when Trump would round up prominent Democrats, arresting them and eventually executing them. QAnon can’t exist without its lust for blood.
Here is what the New York Times was saying in August of 2018:
The paranoid worldview has crossed over from the internet into the real world several times in recent months. On more than one occasion, people believed to be followers of QAnon have shown up — sometimes with weapons — in places that the character told them were somehow connected to anti-Trump conspiracies….”The biggest danger is you are one mentally unstable person away from the next massive incident that defines whatever happens next,” Mr. (Ben) Decker said.“From 2018: Explaining QAnon, the Internet Conspiracy Theory That Showed Up at a Trump Rally” The New York Times, 8/1/2018
And although I had researched QAnon enough to recognize its dangers, I went down the rabbit hole just enough to see the face of their message, insidiousness of its tactics and goals. I hoped, rather than believed, that it would just go away.
But once the pandemic hit, the helplessness and uncertainty we felt during that time created the perfect avenue to exploit our own internalized issues. Many were so used to self-medicating their pain and fear with a girl’s night out after work or taking in the game with the guys, that without these social outlets or coordinated message from the government, we had little else to rely on but the media that had already become infected with shades of doubt that cause them to either defensive or defiant in their commitment to truth. And even the most reputable sources were getting it wrong in those early days.
QAnon had already successfully aligned itself to anti-government messaging, sowing distrust of the press so it was easy to exploit this opportunity to ride the wave of a whole lotta time with nothing but our phones in our hands pandemic energy. It wasn’t just boredom, it was having to sit with the sudden existential dread of what our lives have become, the traumas we shoved under the surface, the precarious death march that fuels economic “success” crushing us under the weight of its incongruence. QAnon took advantage of the deep disconnection we tolerate for our own selves, our own families, our own sincere desires.
People I respected and admired for their integrity, intelligence, and empathy were reposting anti-masker talking points, sharing not just fake news, but lethally fake news. I had a lot of difficulty being around people who advocated the kind of selfishness that would have seen the vulnerable elders in my family dead, that was killing a whole generation of Native American wisdom at alarming rates. I couldn’t relate to people who didn’t understand the collateral impact of their actions.
I saw false claims of mail ballot fraud on my social media feed as early as April. Colorado integrated statewide mail-in ballots in 2013 and it has one of the most robust systems out there, so I knew these claims were just plain propoganda. Yet, the social justice attorney in me saw these seeds of doubt taking hold, growing excuses to further disenfranchise voters in Novemeber. The pandemic was already going to hamstring many state systems that relied on in-person voting, but this had even larger implications.
By May it really really hit home when a friend was arrested as part of the Boogaloo movement. He and I parted ways over a year ago in person due to his increasingly violent rhetoric about kids deserving to be in cages. I had admired his honorable service in the Army and he had a passion for serving other wounded vets. But his arrest reminded me that domestic terrorism was so much closer to me than I anticipated. The shadow looming over our country was much larger than I expected.
QAnon: A Self-Peptuating Doomsday Machine
As I said at the beginning of the pandemic, we have had to face some really difficult truths about ourselves. We have been invited to sit with our own shadow selves, the traumas of the past that influence our collective future. We have been invited to heal ancestral wounds (#BLM) and take responsibility for a better tomorrow. But considering how many of us were medicating our deep, core wounds with superficial fluff before (myself included!), I am utterly unsurprised that many chose to medicate their fear with a steady diet of specially curated fluffy paranoia delivered direct to their smartphones.
Which is all that QAnon was. The structure, encoded with a “secret language” and cheeky codes was just the structure to hold the bait of this particular mousetrap. By constructing a mythos around of some mysterious lone wolf with top-secret insider information who goes by “Q”, it is definitely better than the nothingness we had to face. The bait of medicating loneliness by pouring our energy into crusading for sex-trafficked children was really attractive for some. For others, it was playing out the violent fantasies that weren’t being played on the big screen.
QAnon is a cultish game designed to draw people further in, like a series of escape rooms that eventually draw you into a haunted house that you can never escape. “Q Droppings” were steeped in code and cheeky innuendo that only, *like, the smartest-of-the-smart can really appreciate* wink-wink. By providing that self-aggrandizing narcissistic feedback, they were inviting deeper exploration of their fringe, alternate world of Trump-as-Savior-of-humanity. Affirming the cleverness of every Chad and Karen that they are indeed so very special and thus are in a secret society that has access to higher knowledge.
The existential dread supplied by the pandemic, made worse by Trump’s own actions, exposed vulnerabilities in our sacred systems, fueling further distrust. This created the perfect opening for a new structure of reality, one supplied by QAnon, to supersede the decaying paradigm, to exaggerate quiet doubts, inspired by the air of uncoordinated uncertainty. And just like in Doctor Who when the Doctor took down Prime Minister Harriet Jones by introducing just six words, I feel like QAnon has given us the same ripple effect in multiple systems, populations, and issues, all of them hoping for a bloody, ugly end.
The set-up was almost too perfect.
The sinister strategy of calling it a ‘Great Awakening’
But the insidiousness was only starting. We were now approaching the “Great Awakening”. By utilizing that phrase, that imagery, QAnon was able to align itself and piggyback onto the ready-made channels of engagement within the wellness and spiritual woo community, spreading their message even further to folks already activated, vulnerable, searching for change, ready to consume answers.
Many of us, myself included called this a “Great Awakening” and saw this time as an opportunity to raise the consciousness of the world to a more loving, cooperative, and compassionate level. We felt that the pandemic and the rise of this divine feminine energy could help us dismantle big systems of oppression so we could rebuild ourselves into a more peaceful, equitable world. Climate change and the systemic inequalities encountered in my work needed a wider solution. My social justice heart felt this was a valid path for change. In fact, the business I launched at this time integrates that into the core mission. Nothing had been more consistent with my message over the past 30 years. In many ways, I felt I had been built for this kind of Great Awakening. This was serendipity!
Because the pandemic was offering a very real opportunity to delve into our authentic selves, a lot of us leaned into that opportunity, both to manage the stress of the pandemic as well as to pivot into larger roles of service. I was one of many who were invited into various circles that were attempted to do just that. We shared space in powerful meditative practices that helped us “work the Christ consciousness grid” (describing an energetic structure surrounding the earth that supports the intuitive insight that supports a higher level of connection and awareness). This felt like a prime opportunity to “find my tribe” of leaders who believed that in recovering a divine feminine message, we could bring a healing balance to a world overruled with toxic patriarchy. I even felt an alignment in the signals – opportunities to tell my story, offered entirely out of nowhere. It felt like a deep, cosmic, feminine kismet.
But what I didn’t know at the time I was using that hashtag is that it had been closely associated with the message of QAnon. For all my research and knowledge, I was awfully naive about this connection. As as I joined these various circles of connection, I’d start to hear phrasing that either had fallen straight out of Trump’s mouth (such as suggesting taking hydrocholoquine) or as part of larger, anti-masker disinformation campaigns. Not wanting to superimpose my judgment, I’d I would kindly offer facts and insights that could pivot the conversation towards truth, thinking I was doing my part to be a bridge to understanding. While I gave them perhaps too much benefit of the doubt, I would use my credentials to talk down these suggestions, hoping to position myself as a trusted guide. Leading from within, right?
But ultimately, the QAnon messaging machine runs faster than the weekly calls I was having with these groups. By using the hashtags, by buying into the “great awakening” and “5D consciousness”, I was just another cog, a pawn in Q’s ugly game to advance their infiltration of “love & light” mystic woo culture. I just didn’t know it at the time, but I would soon learn.
Self-fulfilling prophecies built on “I did my research”
Like a storm that picks up speed and power as it comes closer to shore, the QAnon “storm” grew during April and May. Its followers were emboldened by dramatic predictions that would have made even Nostradomas slow blink. The folks I knew, all kind and loving people, were increasingly squealing with gleeful delight imagining the violent destruction of our democracy. They believed the illusions of living entirely outside of any government at all, true sovereignty and “freedom”. They were told that the oncoming “Storm” would round up members of the “deep state”, Democratic members of a secret “Cabal”, that engaged in sex trafficking of minors to *check notes * eat them in Satanic rituals.
None of this rang true for me and alarm bells were going off in my head. None of it jived with my lived political experience and legal training. I studied group dynamics for years and they lacked understanding of how to organize people, how to enforce shared values, how to manage simple conflict. Their vapid conclusions made it apparent just how little they thought of the intersections of both identity and oppression, the complex interconnectedness of our systems, or the inappropriate level of authority they were placing in “starseeds“. They made very little room for the most vulnerable among us, the folks I had been serving for the past 5 years.
Now, I have seen some corrupt politicians in my time and I and have no illusions about their evil deeds, but to pull off an organized, secret cabal that had so many different branches of evil was just…not feasible. They were imagining some organized group of villains, like Hydra or the Legion of Doom, was at the helm. They often talked about the Matrix as proof (and yet, were trans-exclusionary each time they talked about the creators of that movie) or that Disney movies might have a hidden penis in them (they didn’t know that already?). That they were taking their cues from the most dismissively dim of popular culture and urban mythology from the 1990’s should have been a hint of the level of “rigorous inquiry” they were actually giving to these theories.
The cognitive dissonance in these friends was apparent but the sociologist in me wanted to see it from the inside. To understand why…so I could understand how to stop it. I felt like the divine was deliberately provoking and baiting me when one of them told me that the character of Q from Star Trek: The Next Generation, held “hints to the endgame of QAnon”.
I finally decided to analyze the material for myself – I followed a few links, much of which focused on “sovereign citizen” propaganda that was inherently anti-Semitic and overwhelmingly patriarchial. Is this what these divine feminine priestesses were salivating over these days? Yikes.
Not only was the legal information patently wrong (admiralty law, are you fucking kidding me?) but the inclusion of tell-tale hoax signals was also nearly unforgivable. Rife with juvenile imitations of legalese passed off as truth, credentials that are illegal to use in certain contexts, and misattributed quotes (quoting a 1960 speech from Regan but passing it off as him warning us in 1982 about GW Bush), the clear errors in these videos should have been easy for anyone to catch. Combined with the obvious anti-Semitic sentiment and dubious legal truths these beliefs were packaged in such a way that they confirmed their own biases over truthtelling professionals like me.
They abanandoned one machine of toxic patriarchy to serve as cogs in the wheel for yet another, all the while calling it “freedom”.
But in using the term “awakening” QAnon was able to seep into the consciousness of a group of white folks who were already primed to disassociate from their own complicity, tapping into the latent, unexamined white supremacy of these groups. In connecting themselves to “#SavetheChildren, they could piggyback their message to every open-hearted, empathetic divine feminine practioner who believed in protecting children and promoting goodness and justice. These communities were quite easily manipulated into serving as conduits of communication to further spread links and memes that ultimately promoted the very violence that made them abandon BLM. They abanandoned one machine of toxic patriarchy to serve as cogs in the wheel for yet another, all the while calling it “freedom”.
Trying to envision a world where groups of evil villains all coordinate together in a secret conspiracy for the same goal is not as easy as it sounds. The conspiracy would have to be so immensely large, with so many immediate payouts that it would have been obvious by now. They’d have to coordinate the role of media, government, corporations, popular culture, tech, and education for the same goals, coordinating the everyday administrative tasks of multiple industries for a coordinated coup. How do they not break down into legal dysfunction and lethal conflict? Do you know how many paper-pushing administrative lackeys you’d have to coordinate for that kind of conspiracy? How many would actually have to care about their job enough to do the evil works Q says they have? Every villain I’ve met is entitled, impatient, paranoid and greedy. They aren’t really socialized to get along – they see shadows in every corner and suspect even their closest friends and family as enemies.
That they thought the hero of this story was Trump was even worse since he really has become the biggest, dumbest, luckiest and most fantastically paranoid villain of all time. The man cannot even stay on task for one speech, much less a years-long coordinated effort of rooting out a global cabal. He lacked the sophistication of knowledge and political acumen that would have been required to defeat such an impossibly multi-layered global conspiracy, if one actually did exist. Scooby and Shaggy could have revealed all faster than that bloated, rotting orange of a President. He couldn’t even keep his own businesses afloat without begging those same conspirators for loans and extorting his political office just so he could golf on our dime. Yes, this is the picture of a “savior” who cares about truth and justice – okay, Marcia.
For most of us, this would be a common sense conclusion. But the to special few, especially who were “smart enough to see the truth”, who “did their own research”, they became so enamored with their own brilliance at figuring out this global conspiracy that they became impervious to actual common sense and logic. Common sense was tossed aside as “old programming” by white women who were propping up this new sparkly messaging for patriarchy and white supremacy.
In the escape room example, they’re the ones who waste everyone’s time insisting that a knot on the wood paneling is actually hiding a clue. Ignoring that the paneling has been hanging for decades as simply an unfortunate design choice, they simply luck out that the clue happens to be leaning against a table that happens to be on the same side of the room. The paneling wasn’t the clue, they just happened to luck out that the real clue happened to also be in proximity. But for them, this becomes evidence that “trusting their intuition” was the magic ingredient that made them find the clue, not the logical analysis of the rest of the team. To them this is evidence of a small, but glorious manifestation of their own magical knowledge. The loop just keeps repeating, reinforcing their false conclusion.
Even more concerning was the degree to which they chose to violate their own moral and legal boundaries to prove their allegiance to Q. One was using their top-secret clearance at his defense contractor job to allegedly “confirm” the QAnon theories. Another was throwing out all of her Tom Hanks’ movies including her kid’s favorite Toy Story DVDs because Hanks’ was alleged to be part of this satanic, pedophiliac cabal. She claimed that because he was “hiding in Greece to avoid justice” it proved Q right. Another was betting how long it would be until we finally learn that Hillary Clinton was actually a lizard alien. All of them, all love & light types, were giggling about these things, excitedly waiting and actively envisioning a violent uprising, mass arrests, summary executions as evidence of their “higher consciousness”.
After all they “did their research”.
#BlackLivesMatter was the true awakening
All I cared about was dismantling of old systems built on patriarchy, racism, superiority, cruelty. I want more trauma informed, heart-centered priorities in our government and in our world. But they wanted full elimination of all systems including health care and education. They were more concerned that they might have to provide proof of vaccination to travel to an erotic 4 day retreat in Bali, than the collateral deaths they’d prevent the workers at the resort. I was distressed at how quickly violent theories and a glib skepticism of the deadliness of COVID was deepening in these circles. This is not what I’m about and I didn’t want to get swept up in the rising tide.
By the time George Floyd was murdered by police, sparking international protests around the globe demanding justice, “black lives matter”, I knew these white women well enough to brace for impact. Those first few days they initially responded with “I know I need to do better” and succumbed to the guilt enough to support black creators and organizations, recognizing the injustice of that murder. Confronting white suprmacy is a necessary part of creating a better world.
But the goodwill lasted perhaps a week before it started turning ugly.
They started to chant a chorus of “all lives matter” refusing to listen to why that wasn’t helpful. It was woven into the hashtags of persistently sparkly “good vibes only” brands. People shifted back, as predicted, using #nonviolence and MLK quotes to excuse themselves from engaging in anti-racism work. They took time to denounce the looters and argue with black women, while speaking lies and gossip to undermine protesters. They rejected “defund the police” although they still applauded the downfall of systems. Yet, they also patiently, passively nodded along to my lectures on systemic traumas without hearing the irony in my voice as I connected the two. They started peddling popular antifa red herrings that were patently untrue. They also shared documents that “proved” BLM was under the control of the cabal and thus was a vehicle for money laundering on behalf of Democratic pedophiles.
Excuse me… what did you say?
This was the blatant backlash of their white supremacy, jealous of not being the center of all things spiritual and feminine. This is a clear effort to use the power of their whiteness to punish black women, indeed any woman of color, for the audacity of turning the mirror on their complicity in these oppressive systems. They didn’t need Q to engage in this, it had been happening for time eternal, but Q made it easier for the message to spread and burrow deeper into their consciousness. In connecting BLM to a fantasy cabal of high-profile celebrity pedophiles, they effectively declared that anti-racism was directly funding child sex trafficking.
Weaponizing women against themselves
Q was moving mainstream, but not fast enough to influence the election. It wasn’t going to get there on the righteous anger of white men, been there, done that…no, it needed the false profits and practiced feint of wounded white women. These spiritual women who were starting to find a true divine feminine force within were manipulated into invoking the magical practices of the goddess to #SavetheChildren, or at least the Q-branded white girl victimized version of it. Q offered these women not only a convenient escape from the horrors of facing their own complicity in the violence of racism, but a rapid increase in followers and media presence. It was a win-win.
Remember when I said that 4Chan found a way to weaponize Q against women above? This was it. This was the mother-load in more ways than one. I feel it was a huge turning point for Q, gaining the support and aesthetic of the perpetually positive yet deeply wounded white women. They needed the women who had manifested their way out of miserable marriages, health scares, and shitty jobs to capitalize and monetize those messages so they could have access to those channels of faithful followers. They needed women on the ground as community organizers to be their megaphone, to mobilize the public into a righteous fury. They needed women to work for Q, the very entity that was espousing beliefs that would otherwise burn them at the stake.
It permeated within weeks. On July 4th a friend sent me some paperwork that “proved that BLM was funding sex trafficking”. It was just… a normal balance sheet for a nonprofit. When I asked her to explain how this proves anything, she got the budget categories wrong and then told me my experience as the director of a nonprofit dept was irrelevant because I can’t possibly understand this information using “old paradigm thinking”. The way she defended this false equivalency made it even more sickening and disruptive because the cruel irony is that racism is a significant risk factor for child trafficking. Roughly 75% of trafficked youth are non-white. #SavetheChildren indeed.
I started commenting more publicly, pushing back with my messaging, going so far as to confront a prominent psychic who cheered on Trump’s various corruptions. Asking whether they were just sowing intentions to create the same corrupt systems they were railing against, I was threatened by a few of their followers for even daring to speak up to her. Soon, my social justice message was quietly excised and erased. Fewer likes when I posted about systemic inequality or our responsibility as leaders to confront racism. Passive-aggressive interruptions in conversations dropped dates for interviews and collaborations.
All it took was for good people to do nothing.
All of it sent me a clear message – this was yet another place where I did not belong. Their snide sniggering, declaring that politics and partisanship were beneath them, while still cheering on theories that centered Trump as a savior, made it clear they were deep into cult think – a path I would not follow. They went as far as to say that people living with disabilities are just “stuck in their own trauma” completely invalidating my lived experience both as a woman with a disability as well as a public interest attorney serving that population, my population. I knew that very soon my fiercely independent, queer, Chicanx, disabled, progressive Dem ass would be considered “too political” at a time when the election was at risk and my knowledge and experience were utterly critical.
While I felt an obligation to stay there as a truthteller, the more they aligned themselves with QAnon and increasingly violent imagery of government uprisings, praising Trump “even though we really dislike him”, the more I felt increasingly unsafe. I fully left these circles near the time of the election, giving me space and time to even articulate this reality.
Their tolerance was justified because it was easier to sit on cotton candy thrones of saccharine ruin than ensure racism, sexism, ableism, and transphobia aren’t woven into the golden towers of enlightenment they convinced themselves they were righteously building.
Just like the Catholics who came to Mass to show off their piety, I watched as people “all lives mattered” themselves into excuses for systemic trauma. Pointing bejeweled fingers and outstretched yogic toes at people “stuck in their suffering” while backing a despot who gleefully imposed suffering while blubbering on about being a victim of mainstream media. They accepted his “inelegant words” because he was going to expose this alleged child sex ring.
I watched as many I respected spiraled down the charlatan’s staircase of lies and deceit. I tried to hold true to the integrity of my beliefs, sharing my expertise in law, policy, and spirituality that was utterly relevant, but increasingly dismissed. It wasn’t enough that I had a significant and unique education earned through lived experience and scholarship. By daring to advocate for the removal of Trump from office I was viewed as one of the “sheep” who was still asleep. They couldn’t jump fast enough to slam shut the windows of collaborative opportunity, shoving me out of energetic doors so they didn’t have to face the reality I was giving them, a grim truth they didn’t want to face: their own violent addictions to white supremacy and patriarchy.
I represented an uncomfortable and scary reality that made them feel bad about themselves, for their racism, their ableism, their erasure of marginalized people. My presence was a promise that I wouldn’t let them leave anyone behind, that I would always speak up for the people they chose to ignore. Messages they were far too eager to reject to avoid the dark accountability their souls had accumulated, a mirror that reveals unflattering levels of complicity and complacency. Relying on true old paradigms of the dualities of good vs evil, they bought and sold a conservative Judeo-Christian characterization of Luciferian evil, obscuring the more ordinary kind of evil they were practicing each day with their denial, erasure and disassociation.
They tried to”lightwash” their own shadow. In ejecting and erasing marginalized voices they absolved themselves of responsibility or empathy for those more vulnerable than them. They oversimplified interlocking systems of injustice by telling those victims that they were choosing their victimhood. Instead of recognizing and living the oneness they preached, they doubled down on narratives of separation and superiority, leaving people behind because their own #5DAscension was more important than practicing the empathy and connection they preach.
And yet, they too were choosing their own reality, one that is significantly driven by their whiteness. Aligning themselves with messages that utilize divine feminine concepts and practices to reinforce coercively toxic messages, mimicking patterns of patriarchy’s affinity for clear hierarchies of power. They became patriarchy’s puppets, pouring their love and magic into cauldrons labeled “peace and harmony” which were ultimately used to construct a toxic masculine nightmare: a bloody insurrection.
I’m pretty sure good vibes won’t be able to lightwash the blood from their hands this time.