People legitimately felt paranoid and anxious through this election as neighbors and friends expressed confidence that martial law and an overthrow of our government was imminent. I have resisted attacking people for spreading these lies, but part of me is not happy with the unnecessary anxiety so many experienced. Spreading this misinformation was irresponsible. Many have now pivoted to everyday issues of policy disagreement with the current administration, which is a relief. Admitting they were part of a misinformation campaign based totally on fiction would be appropriate and help their credibility moving forward.
Because things are plausible, they can become our reality. Every one of us has had things figured out wrong at some point. It is a weakness of our condition. Some are much more susceptible than others, and strong beliefs can go a long way in motivating people to action. There were too many Q type posts about a “storm,” child pedophile rings, and Trump’s secret mission to break it up. There was a belief that there would be mass arrests before or during the inauguration. This narrative was espoused in secret by an anonymous individual. The story was plausible, fantastic, and made up.
We’re now in a political environment where lies can effectively influence not only our elections but our lives. The gravity of this particular conspiracy affected people on a personal level. Artificially raising the stakes beyond actual circumstances proved to be tragic to many people’s lives at the capitol. Families lost their loved ones to death, jail, and a fake cause. Many others were ready to overturn a legitimate election and insist Mike Pence violate the constitution by not certifying the state vote counts. Democratic elections have to be protected even when the other side wins. Claiming to have evidence of rigging and fraud in every setting except the courtroom is unacceptable.
The combined conspiracies of Q and election rigging wreaked havoc on public trust for our elections, but that same susceptibility to belief without evidence can persist. Distrust in media because of bias should not lead to faith in even less reliable sources. These stories were completely divorced from reality, yet they gained traction with people all over the country. If too many of us can be manipulated in this way, we will not be ok.
Right now, someone is planning how to capitalize on our country’s ability to believe things without evidence. Lies and misinformation can shake us to our core, and this election cycle has made that reality plain to every country, group, and troll who would see our country fail.