QAnon, True Detective and Lower-Class Horror

Updated: Nov 15

by A.E. Beverley

"If QAnon exposes a twisted imagination within the lower-class’ minds, it reveals a rot in our society’s soul"
Still: 'True Detective' (Season One, HBO)

The rich cannibalise your children. But not in the way you suspect.


Blood libel’s in the news again.


Hillary Clinton, Hollywood stars, and their financier friends – some of them art collectors – rip the faces off missing children and drink their blood to get high off Adrenochrome, a drug that exists in the pineal glands of babies which is released when they’re afraid, or in pain. This is the basic premise of the QAnon conspiracy.


The rite that paedo elites supposedly derive pleasure from is an old one; the same inversion of the Christian mass, demonically turned toward child killing, which Jews have been accused of again and again since the day of Thomas of Monmouth onward.


The American press suggests the majority of adherents to the Hillary Clinton/Satanic elite child-sacrifice premise also believe Donald Trump’s moving to arrest the ‘liberal elite’ behind this. While that is the basic premise of QAnon, more people now believe in a child-trafficking elite than share that particular conspiratorial mindset. Concurrent to these flights of fancy emerging, the very real Jeffrey Epstein story broke, which genuinely implicated world leaders, celebrities, and media personalities in sex crimes against girls.


August saw the UK’s first ‘Save Our Children’ protest in London. Hundreds of normal-seeming Brits marched against the Satanic cabal kidnapping our children, torturing them, and drinking their blood. Writers in The Guardian and The Independent describe the imagination of these types as “lurid” – deserving of that bourgeois nose-wrinkle at the lower classes’ lack of intellectual hygiene.


Their imagination is, of course, lurid, in a similar way that my Nana’s was, when she’d tighten her grip on my arm at Tommyfield Market, and told me never to follow a stranger, no matter what they promised was in their car.


Following kind strangers was how Hindley and Brady’s victims ended, to be ever concealed, on a sullen, misty moor.


***

I grew up in the post-industrial North, which is a place with many rooted people. After 10 years flitting from urban centre to urban centre – sometimes in Europe – I returned home.


Rooted people incline toward suspicion of the rootless. Rootless people leave their communities and families, heading to the cities without a second glance. Like writers, they betray what once held them dear. Those who remain behind are loyal to people and place. Those gone, are in it for themselves.


The eagerness to get on and up makes dents in the landscape of places left behind. Abandoned industrial buildings with trees cresting through the upper window are as much a testament to the “brain drain” as they are an Empire in decline.


The last election saw the Conservatives win seats in former Labour heartlands in the Midlands, Yorkshire and the North-East. After a running a campaign which pitted the cities’ effete against earth-salty provincials, I envision their success as partly down to an old hatred of Jewishness’ signifiers, in parts of the country where there are no, or very few, Jewish people.


Anti-Semitism thrives off the fear of a threat from within. Threats take many shapes; all of them strange, all diverse from the rooted form.

Related: Is the City becoming Obsolete?


“Liberal, metropolitan elite” and the hated “citizen of everywhere, citizen of nowhere” are familiar pejoratives, which the Conservative party used to deride those with left-wing sympathies in the previous elections.


The signifiers which surrounded ‘the loony left’ in the previous election cycles share the same associations as those used to persecute Jews throughout history. Swap Priti Patel or Nigel Farage’s ‘metropolitan’ for ‘cosmopolitan’ and you have the favoured anti-Semitic trope of the Soviet Union, ready-made. This doesn’t require a logical leap, or a skip.


***

My Great Grandmother, a wayward Catholic, lived in a sin with a Polish Jew, who’d survived the camps. His Jewish family died in front of him.


Viktor spent hours talking with my Grandpa about the War. How he smuggled his way from Poland to Brindisi, with one battered pair of shoes, and decided to take the boat to England, instead of America, on a whim. He didn’t keep kosher.


A friend of mine once said to me: “The majority of my friends aren’t Jewish, and I don’t keep kosher, I don’t really practice. If I did, if I was more visibly Jewish, what’s the chance we’d all be so friendly?”


I didn’t answer.


When I was at school, the Muslim kids minded their own, while we white Brits sucked, fucked, drank and smoked at endless parties. What bridge can we build, that fosters sympathies between depravity and piety?


***


Robert Peel, former Conservative Prime Minister, stood up in the Houses of Parliament and argued against allowing Jewish people to become parliamentarians. He claimed that “The Jew is not a degraded subject of the state; he is rather regarded in the light of an alien – he is excluded because he will not amalgamate with us in any of his usages or habits.”


Alienation and exclusion are now features of contemporaneity, not bugs. In my version of reality, there’s art gallery openings and cocktails in coupés, marble stairs to tumble down in party dresses, and foreign boys to kiss. Instead, lads I grew up with got the Amazon warehouse and the football club, haze thick rich air windows up, in a VW Golf overlooking hostile moorland. Today, I might still be good to share a smoke and talk aliens, immigration, sex and with these boys, but I’m not confident.


When I log on, I see posters from Melbourne to L.A. who criticise capitalism in fabulous clothes, and share the latest bright essays. I realised recently that I’ve – parasocially, perversely – considered these strangers my peers for some time.


I neither knew, nor cared, what content my old schoolmates and fellow constituents were getting.


If I was more aspirational, perhaps I’d happily pretend these people don’t exist, or are irrelevant to me, because I magnificently elevated above my circumstance.


But I’m still in the shit.


Whether you acknowledge it or not, we all are.


***


While I wait for a train to the city one morning, a boy in all black Nike holds a glare like he hates me. His look slides off my £300 coat; I understand why.


***


Polite society deserves scorn for any shock claimed at the rise of the QAnon and “Save Our Children” stuff. Suspicion has been on the tongues of the right for years now.


Polite society persists in refusing to sympathise with parts of the country where, under clouds of weed smoke, boys with no prospects convey their thoughts on the Illuminati mind-control cabal, about to establish the New World Order after the 07/07 terror attacks, or the London Olympics, or the next event, when the takeover never comes.


When you can’t see power, and don’t recognise how its force is exerted upon you (but feel the crush, nonetheless) its operations take on a fantastical aspect. Demons scuttle at the corner of your eye.


Schools don’t explain economics to children; how the market moves in an algorithmic swarm, which assigns prosperity with confidence, and takes it away in fear.


This summer, I saw kids I’d gone to primary school with, and kids I’d partied with as a teen – nice people, some who work in factories or in schools, some who volunteer for the benefit of their community – share stories on socials of secret child trafficking networks, who moved children at the pleasure of the rich and powerful.


My Mum works at school with a Special Educational Needs Coordinator, who insists that the pandemic is fake. In Todmorden town centre, ‘CONronavirus’ is spray painted on the shutters of a closed local bar. A lady at the local sandwich shop believes the government is fudging the figures, for nebulous reasons.


I asked a friend who grew up in an analogous place how much QAnon talk she saw on socials this summer. She saw: “An alarming amount.”


The conspiratorial imaginary in nowhere places isn’t niche, anymore; it’s common conversation.


Most people who discuss the rise of conspiratorial thought can’t sympathise with suspicions of the halls of power, being as close to them as they are. But, despite knowing the beast by the shape of its horns, I can.

***

I recently rewatched True Detective, series one. Russ is the original QAnon-er; everyone derides him as crazy for thinking a paedo elite are at work in the Bayou, but he nevertheless persists, and is proven correct.


True Detective is a rare television show, as it’s clearly the product of a lower-class imaginary. The people Russ and Marty contact, on their journey to the underworld, are heavy with disease, sickness and addiction, which isn’t emphasised for sensation; it evidently just is. The families of their interview subjects are cobbled together, with Aunts taking care of nieces, children living with Grandparents. This is one face of the family unit among the feral underclass, drenched in poverty and strife.


The protagonists’ suspicions, that the rich are cannibalising their children, is a particularly low-class concern. In these places, addiction devours children, or they’re vanished into the social security system, puncturing space in the community that remains.


In one scene, Russ looks out of the window of his and Marty’s town to say: “I hate it here. Nothing grows in the right direction.”

***

My first job out of university was in South-East England. At some “introduce-yourself” roundtable, I spoke to my colleagues a little bit about Oldham: “A former industrial town, decaying cotton mills everywhere. The population’s been on the decline since the 1960s. There were race riots in 2001... I never want to go back.” After I finished, the faces around the table were edgy, twitchy, quiet. It’s taken me years to understand why.


A few weeks after that, my ‘team’ was showing each other our family homes on Google Maps. A girl I worked with, nice enough, who occasionally sported an YSL handbag on her arm (although her salary couldn’t support it), whose Dad worked in imports, looked at the house I’d grown up in, and me, and said: “Oh, that house looks like it could be in Brighton. It can’t be that bad, there, surely?”


The best I could manage was the house wasn’t near the £600,000 it might cost in Brighton.


I realised later that those who’ve quietly enjoyed calmly comfortable, bourgeois lives, can’t imagine places without aspiration – and would prefer not to. The reality that there’s parts of this isle where people cannibalise each other jeopardises their clean, clear, in control worldview.


Oldham, Matthew Rees

***


Decay isn’t as evident in British cities as it is on the outskirts. If you require ocular proof that financial markets rush across the surface of the earth like locusts, extracting value from people and places, only to abandon them, once satiated, for people and resources easier to exploit, turn your head toward the landscape of Northern England.


Once, 360 cotton mills held 16.4 million spindles spinning in Oldham, which provided employment for 30% of the town’s population, and developed industries surrounding the cloth trade.


Prosperity brought Swiss watch shops and tea houses, which don’t exist anymore. Confident workers, who fought for decent conditions, became vocal unionists, socialists, suffragettes, abolitionists; people with a sense of solidarity. Not anymore.


In 2016, Oldham was named England’s most deprived town. A town’s judged deprived based on how low the wages are, how badly its people suffer from disabilities, the height of its unemployment rate, the absence of qualifications, the prevalence of crime. Here, nothing grows in the right direction.


People in places like this find truth in QAnon’s lurid spectacle that they don’t get in mainstream political discourse. Life is brutal; your loved ones can vanish; the powerful have corrupt desires.


If QAnon exposes a twisted imagination within the lower-class’ minds, it reveals a rot in our society’s soul – which the powerful create, and perpetuate, but don’t want to own.


We will tear our neighbour from limb, before we lock our eyes on the right target, in these putrid conditions which deny the mind’s blossoming.

***


A cross stands at Auschwitz.


Pope John Paul II wanted a Church built there.


Jewish protestors marched, to insist the Church would not “Christianise the Shoah.” An American Jewish group asked that Catholics “Stop praying for the Jews killed in the Shoah. Let them rest in peace as Jews.”


Caritas is a vessel, overflowing, which can take lovers to hostile waters, dark depths. According to Catholic doctrine, outside the Church, there’s no salvation. Nevertheless, you should resist reaching toward Purgatory, and Evangelising the dead.


John Paul II described the Holocaust as the “Golgotha of the modern world”. But in the 20th century, the Christian God’s flesh didn’t perish among thieves. He died among Jews.


Christians believe that suffering brings redemption. Only drowning men can see Him; all men are sailors, until the sea frees them. I would like to propose that some suffering is objectless – but I can’t believe it.


When one Empire falls, another rises. Perhaps when you lose, I gain.


“What consequences are to be drawn from the Holocaust?” Jewish theologian Jacob Neusner asked. “I argue none are to be drawn, none for Jewish theology, and none for the lives of Jews with one another.” His statement is a great refusal of the sad passions and a bold step toward liberation, which absolutely does not apply to me (an Anglo, a Christian, a Gentile).


Especially when my people persist with old evils.

A.E. Beverley is an essayist and poet from North Manchester


The Radical Art Review is a non-profit cooperative platform fuelled purely by people power for those who think art holds the potential for social transformation. We publish the thoughts, philosophies, and stories of all who dare to dissent. We seek to inform, to empower, and to dream collectively of a better tomorrow.

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