The Parasocial Fantasies of QAnon
For the mothers of QAnon, a vote for Marjorie Taylor Greene is a vote for themselves.
At the start of the summer of 2020, members of the far-right conspiracy theory QAnon launched a patriotic publicity campaign. Equipped with MAGA hats, camouflage jackets, or assault rifles they produced short videos of themselves reciting the U.S. military’s oath to uphold the Constitution. They released these videos across a litany of social media apps, each tagged with #TakeTheOath. Suddenly, the once anonymous movement had thousands of members sharing their faces all across the internet, and America was able to see how so many of these conspiracy theorists looked and sounded. Unsurprisingly, many young, white, self-serious men growled out their lifted civic code, but littered among these would-be minutemen were more familiar faces: with blonde hair, blue eyes, and a touch of mascara to hide the signs of aging, QAnon was starting to look like a suburban mom.
Mothers’ presence in QAnon was nothing new. The #SaveTheChildren campaign that flared up with every viral story of child trafficking had roped in enough mothers for them to form a distinct coalition among the conspiracy theory’s ranks. However, these moms were going public with vlogs, TikToks, and YouTube channels as one of QAnon’s most notorious (former) members lurched closer to a federal congressional seat.
Georgia representative Marjorie Taylor Greene, who has since denounced her conspiratorial beliefs and forgiven herself for being tricked into believing them, matters more to QAnon than she does to the peach state. Like any public official (save Trump) QAnons have their reservations about her: is she a puppet of the deep state, does she actually believe in Q, can she stay uncorrupted? But her lasting appeal can be explained by a simple fact: she looks like the women from the #TakeTheOath campaign. Perhaps more importantly, she sounds like them.
When Greene was recently tasked with defending herself in the House, she gave a speech that did little to absolve her of her abhorrent beliefs. On conservative and conspiratorial social media, excerpts of her speech were circulated and celebrated. More critical reviews came from liberals, who noted her lackluster oration and vapid charisma. In her speech, I didn’t see the viral hits produced by the likes of representatives Katie Porter or Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, whose silver tongues and sharp wit have routinely placed them at the top of social media trends. Instead, I saw the bleach blonde mothers in their California Ranch kitchens reciting a military oath. Her meandering cadence, stuttered delivery, awkward jokes, simple sentences, and logic that appealed to key themes of American identity such as religious obligation and domestic protection were all reminiscent of the mothers championing the #SaveTheChildren movement. The speech’s ecstatic response from the right didn’t reflect an extemporaneous triumph; it reflected its audience’s self-congratulatory attitude. It was as if the mothers of QAnon had made it to the big league, and, while Greene might deny it now, they kind of have.
While the Democratic Party champions its diverse coalition of politicians and officials, the Republican Party’s most prominent Black conservatives perpetuate the myth of racial colorblindness. They don’t claim to be a party of diverse identities but one of homogeneous ideals. It’s no surprise then, that they wind up with homogenous identities. For the white, suburban moms of QAnon, they have voted for themselves to have power, and they don’t mind the wandering speeches and lack of personality—it’s like having a conversation with one of their own.
The unfortunate truth is that objectification and white supremacy drives male support of Greene. From a conspiracy theorists who regularly post picture of women sporting the American flag as a two-piece, it’s unsurprising that their love of Greene is as sexual as it is political. In the replies of social media posts from or depicting prominent conservative women—Kellyanne Conway, Sarah Palin, Michele Bachmann, Kayleigh McEnany, Kaitlin Bennett—there are men needlessly discussing the things they would like to do with those women, often buffering their sexualization with remarks about their real American beauty (white skin, blonde or brunette hair, and slim figures). In fact, they’ll make the same kinds of remarks about Democratic women, but this time frame their misogyny with tacit racism or classism. Greene represents the kind of woman they want to see all over America in addition to in their beds.
In this way, Greene fulfills fantasies much as Trump did. Trump was the fantasy of the American Dream, of wealth and power and sex, of regular guys running things. Greene is the fantasy of the suburban mother making it to Congress, and she is herself the fantasy wife. A vote for her is a vote for their imaginations, support for their fantasies.
On the homogeneity of the parties, from Pew Research: