NPR’s Danielle Kurtzleben reports on several Republican congressional candidates who are “Open To QAnon Conspiracy Theory.”
That headline language — “open to” — covers a range of apparent attitudes among the three Republican candidates Kurtzleben looks at most closely: Lauren Boebert in Colorado, Joe Rae Perkins in Oregon, and Marjorie Taylor Greene in Georgia.
Perkins and Greene both seem to be true believers — full-time inhabitants of the QAnonsense alternate reality:
Oregon Republican Senate candidate Jo Rae Perkins, for example, said, “I stand with Q and the team” in her victory speech after winning the nomination to run against Democratic Sen. Jeff Merkley.
Marjorie Taylor Greene, a Republican congressional candidate in Georgia, said in a 2017 video that “Q is a patriot” and that she wanted to “take this global cabal of Satan-worshipping pedophiles out,” as The Washington Post has reported. (Top Republicans have rebuked Greene for her racist views expressed in online videos and reported on by Politico.)
Lauren Boebert seems to be a grifter more than a true believer. She tapped into the QAnon fever-swamp to harness the support of its true believers for her GOP primary upset of an incumbent Republican representative, but I’m not sure she’s actually one of them.
This is a person, after all, who runs an open-carry restaurant named Shooter’s Grill. Think about the business model of that. To operate such an establishment, you’ve got to be able to cater (literally) to the kind of Second Amendment cultists who strive to convince themselves that the government is perpetually on the verge of sending in black helicopters to take away our beloved guns. But the fact that you’re actually operating such an establishment means that you know, for a fact, that this paranoia is baseless. It’s possible that Boebert has just learned to live with massive cognitive dissonance, but it’s also likely that her business career informed her political career, teaching her how to tap into and profit from far-right delusions she knows to be fantasy.
Boebert appeared on SteelTruth, a show hosted by QAnon believer Ann Vandersteel, during the primary campaign. In that interview, she said she was “very familiar” with the theory and voiced support for it, though she didn’t say she fully believed in QAnon’s ideas.
“Everything that I’ve heard of Q, I hope that this is real, because it only means America is getting stronger and better, and people are returning to conservative values, and that’s what I am for,” she said. “And so everything that I have heard of this movement is only motivating and encouraging and bringing people together stronger, and if this is real, then it could be really great for our country.”
It’s worth watching the video of this exchange, which seems to show Boebert’s squirming discomfort as she tries to find the right elliptically noncommittal words to win the approval of Vandersteel — a wildly deranged far-right Web personality — and her audience. She looks like a politician who’s plowing ahead despite second-guessing the risk of courting this fringe of the Republican base:
— Right Wing Watch (@RightWingWatch) May 18, 2020
(If that video isn’t embedding properly for you, try this link from Right Wing Watch’s Twitter feed.)
Boebert spews a bit of campaign word salad before settling on the cagey language that seems to satisfy Vandersteel — “I hope that this is real.”
She doesn’t say, “this is real” or even “I believe this is real,” only that she “hopes” so. This is enough to produce an enthusiastic nod of approval (and endorsement) from fervent true believer Vandersteel (who also claims, by the way, to be a spokesperson for Donald Trump’s 2020 re-election campaign).
This phrase — “I hope that this is real” — is both deeply disturbing and perfectly apt. Consider what it is that Boebert is saying she hopes is true: what her soon-to-be colleague in Congress Marjorie Taylor Greene described as a “global cabal of Satan-worshipping pedophiles.”
Is there really a “global cabal of Satan-worshipping pedophiles” secretly pulling the levers that control government, media, art, entertainment, and business all around the world? Maybe, maybe not. But Lauren Boebert says she hopes there is.
This doesn’t seem like anything that anyone should hope to be real. Even the apparent true believers like Greene, Perkins, and Vandersteel who claim to think that it is real ought to be wishing it weren’t so. There ought to be some measure of “alas, would that it were not true” about their purportedly devout belief in this evil conspiracy. But there’s never even a whiff of such sadness or lamentation in their enthusiasm for this conspiracy. The overwhelming sense one gets from them, rather, is that they are thrilled and excited at the prospect of it. They desperately, cheerfully “hope that it is real.”
If it’s not real, after all, then where will the true believers find anything else so exciting to provide meaning for their lives? If there isn’t a massive secret global network of Satan-worshipping cannibalistic pedophiles, then what’s even the point of anything? They hope that it is real. They want it to be real. They desperately need it to be real.
But does any of that mean that any of these true believers really, truly believe that this is real? They will insist that they do. They will affirm that this is what they really believe, what they really think, what they really know. And they will insist that this is true as genuinely and sincerely as they are still capable of doing anything genuinely or sincerely.
But there’s the problem. Once you’ve given yourself over to a pack of lies like QAnon or any other variation of the ancient Satanic baby-killers libel, you belong to those lies. You become those lies. And having become a lie, sincerity and genuineness are no longer available to you. To be a true believer in such outrageous lies makes you incapable of truly believing. So do even the “true believers” really believe this stuff? Not quite, because they can no longer “really” anything.
Boebert stumbled onto a description of the closest that such true believers are still able to get to “really believing” anything: “I hope that it is real.”
I think this also captures what it is that those Second Amendment cultists Boebert feeds at her restaurant “really believe” about all of their delirious fantasies about persecution and confiscation and imminent tyranny precariously kept at bay only by their sidearms pew-pew-pew! You can’t “really believe” such fantasies when you’re sitting there at Shooter’s Grill, eating your Swiss & Wesson burger imperturbed by the evil forces of gubmint tyranny. But you can hope that it is real, because that would be exciting and thrilling and it would mean that you mean something no matter how much you’ve begun to suspect that you don’t.