A friend asked me to let him know when I was next publishing a blog. I was flattered that he was missing my prose, but I have been moving into our new place and working on the church’s upcoming Strawberry Festival – a fundraiser for charity — and didn’t have time. Probably the biggest reason is that I haven’t been watching the news lately. So there has been nothing to titillate or infuriate my thought processes.
That all changed this weekend when my man and I headed for north Florida and the funeral of an elderly and much-beloved wife of one of my old bosses. We arrived Friday and met up with some former co-workers – delightful, intelligent people who I have known for decades. Reasonable, rationale people, I thought.
Our dinner together was moving along nicely until I asked my former coworker if he was still doing The New York Times crossword puzzles in ink in less than 30 minutes.
“My wife won’t let me read The Times anymore,” he said, straight-faced.
Now there’s a woman that understands that the paper of record has lost its way, I thought at that moment. I also agree that The Times – and many other papers today – cannot be trusted to print the unvarnished facts. Just the truth as their liberal or conservative reporters view it.
Then the wife spoke up. “You know that John F. Kennedy Jr. and Michael Jackson are still alive,” she said, deadly serious. “And that Mother Theresa headed a large trafficking organization and is the mother of Anthony Fauci.”
I nearly choked on my Pinot Noir. Out of the corner of my eye, I could see my man giving me the “these are your friends, what the hell is wrong with them” look. The other people at the table sat there in stunned silence.
The wife proceeded to pull out her cell phone and pass around pictures of what JFK Jr. and Michael Jackson look like today from their places of hiding.
“Hmmmmmmm,” we all said in unison.
She continued: “Jeff Bezos has already been arrested for his crimes and a hologram is taking his place.”
“Hmmmmmmm,” we repeated again.
Surprisingly, we remained silent as she continued with stories of how all the criminals, like Bill Gates, would soon be taken out (aka killed) when the great uprising takes place. I mean what can you say in the face of those comments?
Then something in my brain clicked. I had heard about the great uprising before from my Polish cleaning lady who was kicked off Facebook for passing along conspiracy theories. Conspiracy doozies is perhaps a better term.
“Oh wait, this is QAnon, isn’t it?” I got no confirmation but didn’t need it. That’s exactly what my coworker’s wife was talking about. I was surprised that having been proven wrong so many times, it still had any credibiity.
“So, what newspapers do you read if not The Times or The Journal,” I inquired.
“The Epoch Times,” she responded.
“And who publishes that?”
She didn’t know. But as soon as dinner ended, I looked it up. Wikipedia says The Epoch Times is a far-right newspaper and media company believed to be affiliated with the Falun Gong new religious movement. It has websites in 35 countries and opposes the Chinese Communist Party. In 2019 it was reportedly the second-largest funder of pro-Trump advertising and has spread QAnon and anti-vaccine “misinformation.”
There was lots more that smacked of mystery and intrigue, but it was a rabbit hole I wasn’t prepared to go down on the eve of a friend’s funeral.
This morning, back in my cozy condo in south Florida, I saw an article on the Internet that claims that two independent teams of forensic linguists have identified a South African software developer as the original writer behind QAnon.
What it didn’t say was where he came up with some of his outrageous ideas and how two smart, seemingly rational people like my former coworker and his spouse could embrace what the rest of us think is crazy talk.
I mean it is crazy, isn’t it?
Or is it true that somewhere in the deep woods of Tennessee Elvis is celebrating his 86th birthday with peanut butter and banana sandwiches and members of his old posse and planning his new Resurrection Tour. Pass it on.