FILE - In this Aug. 2, 2018, file photo, a protesters holds a Q sign waits in line with others to enter a campaign rally with President Donald Trump in Wilkes-Barre, Pa. Facebook says on Wednesday, Aug. 19, 2020, it will restrict QAnon and stop recommending that users join groups supporting it, but the company is stopping short of banning the right-wing conspiracy movement outright. (AP Photo/Matt Rourke, File)

FILE - In this Aug. 2, 2018, file photo, a protesters holds a Q sign waits in line with others to enter a campaign rally with President Donald Trump in Wilkes-Barre, Pa. Facebook says on Wednesday, Aug. 19, 2020, it will restrict QAnon and stop recommending that users join groups supporting it, but the company is stopping short of banning the right-wing conspiracy movement outright. (AP Photo/Matt Rourke, File)

Painful Truth: Damaged reality a real danger

Whether it’s QAnon or tax-avoidance schemes, too many people believe firmly in total nonsense

Do you have a friend or loved one who believes they can get out of paying parking tickets, child support, or even criminal charges, because they’ve pledged allegiance to an obscure Scottish lord?

I’m not kidding. This is a (stupid) thing that people actually believe.

Last month, an Alberta judge dubbed it the “Magna Carta lawful rebellion scheme.” Supposedly if you pledge yourself to the service of Lord Craigmyle of Invernesshire, then in a burst of legal magic, you’re exempt from all the laws of Commonwealth nations!

It’s bunk, of course. The scheme is the latest in a 20-year string of pseudo-law scams, started in the early 2000s by “detaxing” gurus who claimed magic loopholes in the law could save you from paying Revenue Canada. A lot of people got penalized, a few went to jail.

You’d think that would be the end of it. But things just keep getting weirder, and each mutation of these schemes sucks in new victims/proselytizers.

Many people – potentially millions in North America – are no longer connected to reality as we know it. They’ve suffered reality damage, and it’s not clear if they can be healed.

The biggest recent example is the QAnon conspiracy, which is making headway in Canada – the man who crashed into the Rideau Hall grounds with a small arsenal had shared QAnon memes.

What is QAnon?

It’s nuts, is the short answer. It’s about a cabal of Deep State/Democratic Party/Hollywood celebrity folks who control a giant secret international pedophile ring and are addicted to a hormone called adrenochrome that they harvest from captive children, and it all has to do with pizza emojis and the Pixar film Monster’s Inc.

Really.

The details are so outlandish that you’d expect only a handful of tinfoil hat wearers would believe in QAnon and its spinoffs.

But after some high profile threats and attacks, Facebook recently took down some QAnon groups. Specifically, it took down 790 groups, restricted another 1,950 groups, 440 pages, and more than 10,000 Instagram accounts.

Estimates for membership in the key groups range as high as a million people. Even if people belong to multiple groups, we’re looking at hundreds of thousands of people with some level of belief in QAnon.

It used to be if you had an insane conspiracy theory, it cost money and time to promote it. Now the most credulous fraction of the population is available for free courtesy of a Facebook page, a Reddit thread, a YouTube channel. We’ve created tools for connection, and those same tools allow people to create, support, and reinforce dangerous delusions.

This is not a column that has a neat ending, I’m afraid.

QAnon is a self-generated, leaderless cult with adherents across the world.

Some of them will act on their beliefs, violently. Even if it’s only one per cent, one per cent of a million people becomes a real threat.

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