Where should one look for evidence of an emerging egregore? Of various criteria indicating extraterrestrial or super-natural life—growth may be the easiest to demonstrate. Besides obvious markers like increasing size and number, an investigator might also look for anxiety and resistance in the social environment, a response to the newcomer’s expanding presence.
We read in the media warnings about the growing strength—in numbers and political influence—of the movement called QAnon.1 Twitter recently pulled more than 150,000 QAnon related accounts, and Facebook identified thousands of active QAnon groups and pages at its site. Since 2017 QAnon has developed a strong presence on Facebook, YouTube and Discord. Progressives have begun a jeremiad to discredit QAnon by exaggerating its more extremist conspiracy ideas, including the president’s fight against a secret organization of Satanic pedophiles in media and government, the suspicion that Covid-19 was created by the “deep state”, birtherism, U.F.Os, and so forth. But one person’s conspiracy may be another’s evangelism.
Go to recent political developments and one can see other aspects of a viable egregore, namely reproduction and irritability. QAnon now supports dozens of candidates in state and national primaries, one of whom—Marjorie Taylor Green of Georgia—is favored to win in the general election.2 Cross-pollination of QAnon memes with established political and social organizations has helped the movement to multiply rapidly. QAnon slogans appear in Texas Republican Party materials, and the president has reportedly retweeted QAnon followers at least 201 times. Political leaders who criticize the movement or warn of its growing clout are beginning to receive some pushback on line.
One example of irritability—how the life form behaves in the presence of noxious environmental stimuli—may be the movement’s online response to Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases. Deemed to be insufficiently supportive of the president’s approach to the pandemic, and possibly compromised by previous interactions with the Obama administration, Fauci has been accused by QAnon of being a member of the aforementioned cabal of Satanic child abusers, and even a creator of the coronavirus. These and other extremist communications have led the Justice Department to provide heightened security measures for him.3
We don’t yet know if QAnon will last beyond 2020, since it seems inextricably mixed with current politics. Its focus is clearly tied to the outcome of the presidential election, often cast in apocalyptic imagery by QAnon’s followers. Yet the message—and there may be more than one—is broader than politics. Some of the content suggests a religious sensibility. Followers await “The Great Awakening”, an idea with religious and historical significance in America. The worshipful attention given its leader’s pronouncements approaches idolatry.
Go back to the beginning of QAnon, and one sees elements comparable to traditional egregoric phenomena. QAnon’s genesis is obscure, but may have come about in October 2017 when the mysterious “Q”, its prophet and progenitor, began making “Q drops”. These were veiled messages to followers on 4chan4, given scriptural authority by a source with supposed access to high level government intelligence. Harassed by the establishment, Q migrated to various platforms, limiting detection using a secret passcode known only to the enlightened. QAnon has a litany of acronyms, slogans, and themes to be chanted, even digital oath-taking to catechize neophytes. It has its own merchandise. Is this not a religion with its own object of worship?
All that is needed for an egregore like QAnon to manifest is a polarized society bereft of a shared reality. A mysterious prophet can then articulate the nature of the movement and direct its worshipful attention towards growth and materialization. Skillful use of the internet can expedite this evangelism, quickened by the apocalyptic unfolding of a pandemic. Most of all, the new egregore needs attention. As I write this, another horrified editorial in this morning’s New York Times exhorts us to pay attention to this movement—which is exactly what it needs to survive and grow.
1See for examples “From Far Right to Election Night: QAnon Gaining at Ballot Box”, NYT, 8/14/20 and “More in G.O.P. Speak the Language of QAnon”, NYT, 8/21/20.
2QAnon’s early political successes have been compared to the start of the Tea Party circa 2009.
3 “The Prophecies of Q” by Adrienne LaFrance in The Atlantic June 2020. A helpful analysis from the perspective of the liberal media.
4This may constitute a “naming event”, a kind of conjuration that brought it into being, and provided an object of focus.