An essay about the terrifying funhouse that is Washington, D.C., in the age of Trump, QAnon, and insurrection:
Even while conspiracy or paranoia bring the truth of mainstream accounts into question, their main effect is to simplify, not to obscure; to add meaning where there is none, to imagine particles where there may or may not be any, connect dots that don’t connect, make bread out of bread crumbs, and to make life more comprehensible until it begins to constrict you. Conspiracy promises clarity. “The higher paranoid scholarship is nothing if not coherent,” wrote Richard Hofstadter in “The Paranoid Style in American Politics,” published in Harper’s in 1964. “In fact the paranoid mind is far more coherent than the real world.”
After January 6, 2021, QAnon had more followers than some major religions. The slogan of the movement — “Where we go one, we go all” — promised strength in numbers. The crowd propelled itself, like a murmuration of birds or a microwave bombardment: online messages joined forces to form a targeted weapon. The conspiracy theorists and paranoiacs who believed the election was stolen projected themselves outward, inflicting their fantasy on everyone else.