no idea what this is but it looks bad
Reading Time: 7 minutes (Natanael Melchor.)
Reading Time: 7 minutes

Hi and welcome back! News of the COVID-19 surge has been unrelentingly awful. One theme dominates that news, too: almost all of the people dying in this surge are unvaccinated. Sure, some of those unvaccinated folks just never got A Round Tuit. But a lot of others have turned out to be victims of the QAnon conspiracy theory and moral panic. Today, let’s examine the wages of QAnon: the people who most believe its creator’s lies are now becoming the pandemic’s most plentiful victims.

no idea what this is but it looks bad
(Natanael Melchor.)

(Previous QAnon posts: Evangelical Leaders Have Finally Noticed QAnon; How the Satanic Panic Led Straight to QAnon; QAnon Finally Gets Personal for Ed Stetzer; How Evangelical Leaders Gift-Wrapped Their Flocks for QAnon; The REAL Cabal for QAnon: the Friends They Made Along the Way; Ed Litton Wants Evangelicals to Stop Listening to QAnon ‘Fables‘; Why QAnon is Attacking Evangelical Leaders Lately.)

When We First Had Hope.

This July 21st story from is becoming all too familiar these days. In it, an Alabama doctor describes the early days of the pandemic:

“Back in 2020 and early 2021, when the vaccine wasn’t available, it was just tragedy after tragedy after tragedy,” [Dr. Brytney] Cobia told this week. “You know, so many people that did all the right things, and yet still came in, and were critically ill and died.”

And then, a light appeared at the end of the death-tunnel: a vaccine came out! Then another, and another! People rejoiced and crowded into clinics to get their jab(s).

Life finally felt like it might go back to some kind of normal.

But it didn’t.

In fact, we’re now in the middle of a pandemic surge — for the worst possible reason.

‘It’s Too Late’: Regrets and Tears in the ER.

In this new surge, almost everyone suffering and dying in it is unvaccinated.

In a Sun-Herald story from July 15, a doctor tells us that only one COVID-19 patient he’s seen in his hospital was actually vaccinated — and that was a while ago!

Often, when these new COVID-19 patients get admitted to Dr. Cobia’s own hospital, they make an interesting request:

“One of the last things they do before they’re intubated is beg me for the vaccine. I hold their hand and tell them that I’m sorry, but it’s too late.”

And then, all too often, this doctor must watch these unvaccinated patients die — no matter what she does.

Afterward, she hugs their families and advises them to honor their newly-departed loved one’s memory by getting their goddamned vaccines already.

A False Belief That Kills.

Everywhere, we see stories like this.

Another doctor echoes what Dr. Brytney Cobia said:

“When they come into the (hospital) system, they say, ‘Can I get vaccinated?’ And at that point, you can’t.”

Yes, these patients have learned, all too late, that the vaccine isn’t anything like their social-media friends and far-right false-news sources claimed it was.

Many of the new surge victims, like Olivia Guidry, a nurse who should have known better, even spread anti-vaxx views on her social media. She claimed the COVID-19 vaccine “manipulates your DNA” and advised against getting it in the strongest possible terms. And then, Guidry, too, died of COVID-19 in July.

An elderly pastor’s daughter, Trumpist, and “staunch conservative,” Linda Zuern, went much the same way. Before contracting COVID-19, she’d been a very active and strident COVID-19 denialist.

A California man who attended a Hillsong church, Stephen Harmon, spread all kinds of vaccine lies on his social media. He mocked those who got their shots, called door-to-door vaccine surveyors “dorks,” and then got very sick with COVID-19. He died of it, defiant and demanding miracle healings from Jesus to the end. The pastor of Hillsong, Brian Houston, lamented his death — and said he didn’t agree with Harmon’s views, for all the good that did.

Recently, a Maryland woman begged unvaccinated people to “learn from” her recently-departed husband’s vaccine hesitancy.

Alas, the people who most need to learn that lesson are the least likely to listen to her. They have been consumed by QAnon conspiracy beliefs.

Possibly the Deadliest Belief of QAnon.

The alt-right, far-right, Christian-right crowd has always been susceptible to anti-vaxxer lies.

We’ve talked about it before. They suffer from excessive confidence in their own ability to “do the research,” which they pair with an inability to accurately discern good and bad information sources.

Top these traits off with an innate distrust of tribal enemies (in this case, actual good information sources, who routinely draw upon reality to contradict the tribe’s beliefs) and an excessive, misplaced trust in tribal leaders, and you get a perfect storm just waiting to destroy all those in its path.

As we discussed yesterday, false beliefs about the COVID-19 vaccine form an important sub-belief in the overall QAnon conspiracy theory.

And as usual, evangelical self-interest played a major role in fostering that merge.

How Vaccine Misinformation Merged With QAnon.

For a while now, QAnon has diversified its various misinformation campaigns.

Early on in the pandemic, the poster known as QAnon (known now to be Ron Watkins, an ex-admin of 8kun, where QAnon first emerged) began floating conspiracy theories about COVID-19’s origins.

Very soon after COVID-19 became a thing, opportunists within QAnon ranks sought to sell their snake-oil miracle cures for it — like Miracle Mineral Supplement, sold by a self-styled “church” online. To go along with all these magic cures, QAnon leaders and followers alike passed around and created all kinds of misinformation about the virus. Jim Bakker even got in major trouble for hawking a similar magic cure-all.

When Donald Trump began parroting all the untrue nonsense he’d heard about COVID-19 and the vaccine, that really did seal the deal in a lot of ways for the marriage of QAnon to COVID-19 denialism. He’s still their unholy messiah and prophet, despite the ocean of evidence indicating who he really is and what his priorities actually are — and most of all, what he really thinks of the Christian Right that propelled him to office in 2016 and supported him even more strongly in 2020.

So by now, coronavirus and vaccine misinformation is as much a part of QAnon as its deranged claims about a cabal of baby-eating pedophile Democratic Satanists being fought in secret by God-King Donald Trump in between his daily golf outings and McDonald’s mukbangs.

Why QAnon Can’t Pull Back on the Wingnut Throttle.

Wingnuts are people whose beliefs do not tether to reality. Not all religious people are wingnuts. Plenty of religious people understand that there’s no magic in their beliefs. They conduct their lives tethered to reality.

But not wingnuts. Wingnuts build their worldview, opinions, and behaviors based on stuff that isn’t true. (They do so because comparing their beliefs to reality would end their Happy Pretendy Fun Time Game right quick!)

In a very real way, they completely lose their ability to judge information sources and the information they present. Worse, they learn a host of techniques they can use to protect themselves from even engaging with information that contradicts their untrue beliefs (such as antiprocess).

Once someone has crossed over into wingnut country, there’s very little chance of them returning from that unhappy land. Wingnuts don’t ever learn how to untangle truth from lies, delusions from reality. All they know how to do is fit a new claim in with their existing raft of beliefs.

If the new claim fits — maybe expanding on existing claims or dovetailing two other claims — then they accept it. If it denies their existing beliefs, then they reject it. It’s really that simple.

That’s why wingnuts only spiral further into wingnuttery. They can’t pull back on the throttle. There is no slowing down this train. It only goes faster and further off-track.

It takes a lot to break through to a wingnut.

Learning they’re about to die of the very disease they mocked because they refused to get the vaccine for it or take any precautions against it?

Oh, yeah, that often seems to do the trick.

QAnon Lies; People Die.

I fully agree with the sources I’ve given today: QAnon long ago became a national security concern. The longer QAnon’s followers fester in their dank little hidey-holes together, the worse their delusions become. And the more disappointed and frustrated they get by reality’s constant refusal to cater to their “prophetic alert[s],” the more they’re going to act out and cause trouble.

The truly unfortunate part of this whole story isn’t the striking impression of mortal regret we see in those who realize, all too late, that their misinformation wasn’t true at all and that their wingnut beliefs will likely kill them very soon.

No, it’s knowing that they’ve likely infected all kinds of other people with their belligerent tribalistic chest-thumping. At least some of those people will inevitably be those who completely reject QAnon — or who can’t help being around these delusional conspiracy theorists, like their own children and elderly parents. I’m not okay with anybody dying, but I really don’t like it when wingnuts get innocent bystanders hurt.

QAnon beliefs come with a body count. QAnon hurts people in and out of its sheepfold. That’s never been more true than it is now.

The vast majority of those bodies are and will continue to be those of actual QAnon believers. But I don’t want any bodies. I want people to do better, to learn better, to grow and become better people.

And I truly wish that growth could begin well before QAnon wingnuts show up at hospital ERs begging for a vaccine shot in between coughing fits and chest pains.

I hope someone finds a way to break through these wingnuts’ antiprocess shields before the Republican Party needs to find itself a whole new voter bloc to turn into useful idiots.


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ROLL TO DISBELIEVE "Captain Cassidy" is Cassidy McGillicuddy, a Gen Xer and ex-Pentecostal. (The title is metaphorical.) She writes about the intersection of psychology, belief, popular culture, science,...

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