The Village Mouse— The sinking of the friend ship, pt. II
- Published: November 18, 2020
If you missed my first installment of “The Sinking of the Friend Ship,” this series is about my 23-year friendship with a fellow Antioch College alum, her coming out as part of the “gays for Trump” crew and her dissolving ties to leftist ideology. I call her Pasiphae, or P, and discuss my reactions to P’s dumpster dive into the cult of QAnon, and her continuing actions on social media touting the far-right conspiracy theory Donald Trump refuses to denounce.
A few months ago, I asked Pasiphae to describe the turning point when she discovered QAnon. We made a deal: I would listen to her story, we would continue our correspondence, and I would write about our communication for the Yellow Springs News. Our initial conversation was civil, even enjoyable. Expressing a mutual appreciation for our efforts to mend our friendship, we ended our call as always, with “I love you,” and “talk again soon.”
Pasiphae identified lockdown as her watershed moment. The unavoidable shut down of the hamster wheel of life, the rat race, forced her to look more closely at “the bigger picture,” to recognize that “things were happening” to which she hadn’t been paying attention. On a gray day in February, a family member called and asked Pasiphae if she had heard about the virus in China and advised her to head home and hunker down before it reached the U.S. “It felt apocalyptic,” she said, walking through the city surrounded by people. “Knowing about this virus before anyone” affected her already wild imagination. At the same time, she was experiencing a forced remodeling due to flooding so when she headed home, it was to isolate inside a “shell of a house.”
Pasiphae describes learning about QAnon through a friend of a friend who “said things that made sense.” She began surfing the web, watching documentaries and listening to podcasts related to QAnon. To board the Q-train one must accept that mainstream media and corrupt politicians are in cahoots and that countless “liberal elite” conspirators are committing crimes significantly more heinous than your run-of-the-mill governmental corruption. And you have to have faith that Donald Trump, scouted by high ranking military officials, is actively fighting this “deep state,” whose members manage human trafficking rings, worship Satan, engage in cannibalism and harvest “adrenochrome” from young people to stop aging and enhance their own physical beauty.
Chipping away at Q-falsehoods with calm rhetoric proved tedious. I kept thinking: this stuff is batty. Too many people have to hide too many crimes, not to mention Donald Trump is connected to some of the alleged members of the cabal. P shrugged off my counter claims, which is easy when you think Trump is a secret agent. If he is seen with Jeffrey Epstein, it’s his cover; he’s working the case. When Pasiphae mentioned John F. Kennedy as if he were alive, I replied, “He’s dead.” She responded, “Oh I meant JFK Jr.,” and I said, “He’s dead too, Pasiphae. He died in a plane crash, remember?” I learned to anticipate Pasiphae’s silence after my fact checking. She would just move on to a new subject.
Digging around for QAnon claims regarding Kennedy (I realized she meant Robert F. Kennedy Jr.), he is a figure tied to one of many ominous promises of Q: the coming of “the storm,” a future day of reckoning when President Trump will round up all corrupt liberals and have them arrested, ending the evils of the deep state. There were more far-out ideas strung together within the QAnon conspiracy web, some of them campy. The reptilian humanoid theory, for instance, involves fiendish space lizards masquerading as politicians and celebrities, taking over Earth, depopulating it with COVID-19 and poison vaccines. Pasiphae admits it sounds “loony” and claims she finds it too far-fetched. But what makes QAnon any less far-fetched? Though she finds an alien reptilian takeover unbelievable, Pasiphae names Kerry Cassidy as a favorite cyber influencer. Hunting around, I found Cassidy on the “Public Intelligence Blog” under the heading: “The History of the Draco & Reptilians and rescue of the children.” Cassidy is described as “perhaps the top U.S. expert on stellar civilizations and the war that is playing out here on earth.” If you scroll down on the blog’s page you will see links, including a: “full cabal Q video series,” and advertisements like: “5G Radiation: Are You Protected?”
After my knee-jerk shock over my friend’s divergence, I realized I had always considered Pasiphae to be higher risk for believing cultic logic. Throughout our long friendship, she shared many different conspiracy theories her family discussed. For years, she resisted pressure to behave accordingly. Other claims of a pseudoscientific nature, she entirely bought. “Mandy! Where are your earbuds?” she’d say to me if I put my cell phone to my ear because cell phones “fry your brain.” She encouraged me to carry my phone in a bag, and if I insisted on stowing it in my pocket, I needed to stow it with the battery facing outward, away from my body.
I deemed these concerns harmless. I knew the claims circling in her family, that 5G would wreak havoc on bodily systems, technology caused mysterious ailments, Western medicine was a corrupt capitalist racket and there already are natural ways to treat and even cure cancer, and vaccines cause autism. These benign theories fell in the category of “tall tales” I consumed as a child. If I sat too close to the television, I’d go blind. If I cracked my knuckles I’d end up with terrible arthritis. I certainly did end up with arthritis, but, at Antioch College, I learned the maxim: correlation does not equal causation.
How did two Antiochians end up on opposite poles of the political divide? Talking to Pasiphae reminded me that Antioch was also a bastion for magical thinkers, and Yellow Springs, where we spent many formative years was, after all, a destination founded on a mythos of healing waters, magical ley lines, a place to safely live outside — but also, deconstruct — the box. I complained to Pasiphae that she was not thinking critically, but rather just devouring whatever Q fed to her through QAnon propaganda. She replied: “It’s funny how both sides think the same thing about the other.” Maybe she had a point. I am guilty of going with the flow, ignoring every good part of the Donald Trump presidency and devouring partisan rhetoric. Pasiphae described that, at first, out of annoyance, she could not even listen to Trump talk. Could I make an attempt at listening?
Next month’s column will conclude the series on my dialogue with Pasiphae.