A friend told me today that she and her husband are working to get a former colleague out of Afghanistan. Pro bono lawyers are making phone calls, translators are trying to find reliable coyotes to get him out. Not to Pakistan (Taliban will certainly follow him there - he worked with the Infidels you see) but to UAE. He has a wife (pregnant) and a young daughter. He has two teenage sons. So far it is just him they are after. Of course when his daughter gets older the Taliban will force her into a marriage with one of their ranks. This is how this goes.
Yesterday the Taliban stopped him in the street. Not recognizing him the asked who are you he said I am just a driver for [some rich man] and they let him go.
My friend and I thought about options: who do we know with this or that nationality in Europe/Africa/Australia/Canada who could help him quicker, is Pakistan a last resort, what is going to happen to his sons (his wife, daughter safe for now). We aren’t naive about the prospects. She and I have both tried to do this work before both at different times, different deadly circumstances, different areas of the world.
Later in our conversation she said do you remember the so and so friend of mine who I think might be in qanon?
Of course I do.
My friend went on. The Woman and her family (wealthy living in Upstate NY) sold everything and moved to small piece of land outside Miami - in a matter of two weeks.
Sort of like the Hajj I said or you know a pilgrimage to Lourdes: Mar-a-Lago.
The woman is growing the family’s food and homeschooling the kids. It’s just what is best for her and her family, she told my friend. New York is being run by fascists who want to make people get vaccinated. Florida, it seems, isn’t. The Woman went on to explain that she will be getting rid of her iPhone soon (she doesn’t trust Apple anymore) and wanted to know if my friend wanted to stay in touch on Telegram.1 My friend (tactful, patient) said I don’t use Telegram because it is used by qanoners. There was silence on the end of the phone and then the conversation moved along.
The Woman doesn't believe that many people have really died of COVID19 asking my friend I mean, did you see any bodies yourself?
No of course not - my friend read it in The Times.
The Woman said: I don’t trust the Times anymore. People are making it up. Are we really supposed to believe that that many people died because you would think funeral homes would be backed up (they were - and we had FEMA trailers and public parks used to temporarily hold the dead in the early days). The Woman went on with all the things you expect from an anti-vaxxing qanon’er.
My friend couldn’t believe this once incredibly progressive woman who used to work for NBC News could have turned into an anti-vaxxing q-anoner who pulled up stakes and moved to a chunk of land in Florida virtually overnight.
I said: it’s a cult. It didn’t happen overnight. Sure, she picked up and moved over the course of two weeks to Florida where they have no friends whatsoever, but the qanon message took hold some time ago. The Woman was already somewhat paranoid (she was convinced they had bedbugs back when bedbugs were blowing through NYC in 2014. They didn’t) and eschews medicine medicine.
My friend was still incredulous. This seemed so crazy.
It’s like Jonestown I told her. She laughed a little but knows me well enough to expect me to have put a lot of thought into Jim Jones.
The people at Jonestown didn’t decide overnight - or over the course of two weeks - to move to Guyana from The Peoples Temple in the San Francisco area. Jonestown - the massacre - started decades earlier in Indiana with a message even I could have gotten down with.
This is from an article I wrote for TIME in 2018:
To clarify - I would have been down with the gospel of inclusion - he integrated his church when other supposed men of God wouldn’t. And, of course he sold monkeys door to door. Anyway - that is the little bit, the desegregation of the pews, that hooked his followers in Indiana.
A decade later and despite Jones already beginning his slide into pills and madness, his devoted flock followed him to California. And then things really took off. Membership grew. The Temple bought land and started a commune - very 1970s. By the time whispers of abuse, rape, assault - by Jones and his inner circle - started swirling it was easy for true believers (the ones drawn in by that gospel of inclusion) to ignore and explain away.
When Jones told his people: we are moving to Guyana because we are being persecuted (they weren’t - an investigative story about Jones - and the politicians he was in bed with - was about to break) people believed him.
I like to think that had the Jonestown victims (and they were murdered; very few willingly died, many were shot in the back as they tried to flee and babies were fed syringes of flavor-aid and cyanide) not been isolated in South America they may have started to realize: WTF are we doing? As Jones insanity became impossible to escape (hopped up on pills, talking for hours on end over a PA system, waking everyone for White Night drills, pills, drugs, abuse) maybe some would have taken a chance and left on foot or gotten to a phone, called the cops, family or friends. But Jones took all their money (for the common good) family ties were severed (Jones wouldn’t allow dissent) and finally they were in the actual middle of the jungle.
It took over 20 years for Jonestown to happen. And just one grain of common cause. For Jones he leveraged Civil Rights era agitation with a message of inclusion.
I laughed and told my friend well if the Florida Woman’s acreage starts filling up with like minded people fleeing Upstate she should worry. Then my friend told me they already had.
Belief, we decided, is a bizarre thing. Faith in something seen or unseen can be brave or just fucking stupid. But it is powerful. Facts aren’t facts, the news is fake, COVID is just like a cold, grab em by the pussy, and January 6th? Meh. Time to put that behind us all.
note: about a month back I told my friend (who isn’t a journalist who tracks this kind of stuff) oh sweet Jesus DO NOT use Telegram that shit is qanon!