The Red Pill Festival served as a rendezvous point Saturday for those who traffic in anti-government conspiracy theories and as a recruiting event, given credibility by a lineup of state lawmakers from the Christian conservative wing of the Republican party.
What I found interesting, though, was the next step in pandemic denial. Here’s a fellow who had COVID-19, is suffering from serious respiratory issues and in a wheelchair, and he still refuses to accept the reality of the virus.
Steve Black, a 72-year-old from Spokane, was directing cars to the parking lot from the back of a utility vehicle. Saturday’s event was the first time he had been out of the house for about a year after COVID-19 left him with some challenging health issues, he said. He surmised COVID-19 was a “political thing, and I wouldn’t be surprised if they sprayed it out of the air.”
Asked to clarify, he said “chem trails,” a debunked suggestion that condensation trails from aircraft is actually a government ploy to crop-dust citizens with some nefarious substance.
Wow. It’s easier for him to believe the US government is intensionally hosing its citizens with a poison to kill them than to think a disease, of the kind that has plagued humanity for millennia, might be responsible? Impressive twisty logic there, guy.
And then we have the father of a survivor of the Parkland shooting. For years, I sent my kids off to public school every school day, and if one of my children had suffered through that kind of terror, I’d be totally wrenched, I’d feel like I’d never be able to offer enough love and support to compensate. Not this guy!
He was part of the final graduating class of survivors of the 2018 shooting, and they all had just marked the third anniversary of the day 17 people were killed, nine of whom were Bill’s classmates.
But Bill also had to deal with his father’s daily accusations that the shooting was a hoax and that the shooter, Bill, and all his classmates were paid pawns in a grand conspiracy orchestrated by some shadowy force.
Bill had worked hard to get over his survivor’s guilt after the shooting, but for the past five months, his own father has been triggering it all over again.
“He’ll say stuff like this straight to my face whenever he’s drinking: ‘You’re a real piece of work to be able to sit here and act like nothing ever happened if it wasn’t a hoax. Shame on you for being part of it and putting your family through it too,” Bill said in an anonymous post on Reddit last week.’
How could this be? You know the answer: QAnon.
As is true for many who fell down the QAnon rabbit hole in recent years, Bill’s dad’s descent coincided with the pandemic.
“It started a couple months into the pandemic with the whole anti-lockdown protests,” Bill said. “His feelings were so strong it turned into facts for him. So if he didn’t like having to wear masks it wouldn’t matter what doctors or scientists said. Anything that contradicted his feelings was wrong. So he turned to the internet to find like-minded people which led him to QAnon.”
But until January, that was as far as it went. Then Bill’s father saw a video of Georgia Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene harassing Parkland survivor David Hogg in 2018, while he was visiting Washington to advocate for stricter gun control. Greene has repeatedly voiced support for QAnon and claimed the Parkland shooting was a hoax.
“He is a coward,” Greene told her followers.
Ever since then, Bill’s father has become convinced the shooting his son survived was a so-called “false flag” event and that the shooter was “a radical commie actor.”
Q isn’t going away soon, but it will go away. One of the things I note in all these stories is how most of the fanatics are my age or older — it’s a movement of the decrepit. We’ll all die off eventually, and I expect the younger folk out there to do better.