Hello lovely people who have stumbled into my corner of the internet! Once more, I emerge!
It’s been several months since my last post, and that post was a good deal shorter than usual. I’d been working on A Big One for some time, and, well, it kinda broke me. Content Notices for this piece include suicide, child abuse and QAnon, so yeah, it’s bad.
I may have been too ambitious- a comparison between Qanon and the Satanic Panic is a subject that could fill entire libraries. But that would be a bad idea, because the subject is super depressing and could lead to a serious mental health crisis among anyone in the area.
While some have already tackled this topic, I felt there were some important tidbits that weren’t getting enough attention. In particular, I was surprised (and still am) at how little attention the background of conspiracy theorist Ron Watkins is getting. Ron and Jim Watkins may well have both profited off of child pornography, yet their Q anon fan base spends a large chunk of their time bragging about what sort of violence they’ll perform on pedophiles -who are conveniently always their political opponents and never anyone inside of their movement.
Learning more about that was rough, but it’s not what broke me. What broke me was the story of how the popular game Dungeons and Dragons became the scapegoat in a mass delusion so absurd and tragic it’s hard to even write about.
But I’ll try.
Part of the trouble for me was that I’d already heard bits of this story in a very silly context. The internet of the early 2000s/2010s had no shortage of jokes and memes about the allegedly Satanic nature of tabletop games. But it was one thing to watch a parody video, and quite another to watch this actual footage from 60 minutes in 1985.
The above link contains some clips of Patricia Pulling, a parent of a teen who committed suicide. Pulling went on to blame Dungeons and Dragons for the death of her son, and helped to spearhead a movement that persisted despite increasingly clear evidence that Dungeons and Dragons was not the cause of her child’s death. While I do not expect any parent to be thinking clearly in that scenario, I have to marvel at the media folks who enabled her and the harm that her movement caused. Correlation does NOT equal causation, and that’s something any journalist worth their polyester broadcast suit should remember.
And that, dear readers, is where my brain broke.
“Protect the children” is a powerful rallying cry that no one ever wants to stand in the way of. Unfortunately, that also makes it a very effective manipulation tactic.
As I absorbed this depressing story, I kept thinking about the Wayfair Scandal of July 2020. A few Q anon nutjobs became convinced that some Wayfair furniture listings were actually children being trafficked. Their evidence for this was……that some articles had children’s names. The way children’s furniture usually does.
The result? Phone lines of actual human trafficking aid organizations were tied up and their work was interrupted. This almost certainly harmed real children, but the Q mob faced no consequences as far as I know. They all probably felt pretty great about themselves.
I also kept thinking back to my own childhood, which involved no shortage of video games and fantasy novels. Far from being evil and Satanic, these fantasy worlds helped me process my feelings and find my courage to face the world.
More recently, The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild brought me comfort during chemotherapy, when I was unable to travel or even go outside for long stretches. Now in the COVID times, escaping to fantasy worlds here and there (in book/video game AND film form) has been a gift from the divine in terms of my mental health.
Children are important beyond words and must be protected from those who would harm them. But actually protecting children is a lot harder than posting a lot of self righteous crap to social media and collecting the grievance dopamine points. Sometimes protecting a child means breaking up a family, or causing a scandal in a tight community.
That’s about all I can manage on this topic for now. If you made it all the way to end, you should probably practice some self care because HOOOO BOY is this stuff awful. But it’s important. After all, while QAnon doesn’t make the headlines much these days, we will be living with the consequences of it’s existence for years to come.
Ya’ll take care of yourselves. May 2022 go easy on us.