She saw shadows. She always has. She was spiritual, not Christianshed left that behind when she left Waco in her early twenties. She entered Wicca, super witch, a friend said. She was fun, happy, a bit wild. Just a normal girl. I’ll call her Evelyn, because she’s in a way a hostage now, a captive of her beliefs. There are Evelyns everywhere. This Evelyn was in Austin. She worked when she could, sometimes she danced, undressed. She had a boyfriend who took care of her. Shed never had much luck in keeping a job. Shed walks back and forth between his family in Waco and his friends in town, from right to left, red to blue. She was very good at listening, said a friend, a liberal lawyer Evelyn called a freedom fighter. She was gullible, says another friend, the one who introduced Evelyn to QAnon shortly after the pandemic, for shit and laughs.
This is how Evelyn came to believe that the lost shadows seen in Wicca as the nuances of life were in fact the satanic forces that devotees believed to be a government insider dropping cryptic clues via forums of discussion of Donald Trumps decades-old plan to destroy the deep. the state believes it controls the Democratic Party. She followed the white rabbit, as the believers of QAnon say, she went to the rabbit hole. She came to believe that the darkness the hangar had always been sensitive to was not part of the light but was at war with it. That the shadows turned flesh and the flesh turned political and that Trump’s love embraced because she loved her family, abandoning her once liberal views, demanded the hatred of her enemies: the cabal. Democratic elites sacrificing children, a monstrous network of not only pedophiles but cannibals, adrenal harvesters for children (all the better to stay young), for a bad concoction in one part of Botox and two parts in libel blood, the old idea Matzo Jews have of the blood of Christian babies.
Am I to say that none of this is true? I do. But the illusion is just as dangerous as if it were.
On the morning of August 12, Evelyn decided it was time to #SaveTheChildren, as the hashtag co-opted by Q. She got into her old little red two-door Pontiac Fiero. Shed was later tested at twice the limit, but that didn’t slow her down. Shed lay awake for days doing research. This is what QAnon followers call their hours spent on YouTube videos, podcasts and in-depth study. The algorithms fed her. She fueled the algorithms, creating memes for Twitter and Instagram. Send his discoveries by SMS to his friends. We tried to warn him: you are used.
I see things, she replied.
Three in the morning, 4 in the morning, 5 in the morning, said the friend who now regrets introducing Evelyn to QAnon. Evelyn didn’t realize her friend found it funny. His friend didn’t know Evelyn took him so seriously. One hundred percent, said the friend now, like the Bible, like it was gold. When she realized what was going on, the friend tried to talk to Evelyn. Go to sleep, she pleaded. I can’t, said Evelyn. I don’t sleep until Trump does. Like Q, she thought her president was working tirelessly to prepare for the storm, the salvation of democracy through the executions of the cabalists, all of them.
At 9:22 a.m. that morning, Evelyn found one. It was evident that the cabalist was driving a white van, the one used by the kidnappers in the movies. Also the kind used by caterers in real life. The caterer had his little girl with her. Evelyn jumped up to a light and started screaming. The caterer hit the gas. Evelyn climbed back into her Fiero and returned to the lookout. Soon she saw another shadow. A young Latinx woman driving a Dodge Caravan. Evelyn veered into the middle turn lane to try to force the trailer out. The driver, a 19-year-old girl on her way to enroll in community college classes, attempted to transform into a police station. Evelyn crashed into the trailer. The student saw a cop in a parking lot. She screamed, honking. She kept hitting me, said the student. Eight times, she thinks, maybe more. Half of my body went numb.
If Evelyn hadn’t hit a concrete pylon, she could have committed murder. And if Shed did that, she could be as infamous as Kyle Rittenhouse, the killer of Kenosha, 17, whose original defense attorney said Rittenhouse fired the first shot of the Second American Revolution. Instead, Evelyn is just a woman who has gone too far or, from QAnon’s perspective, not far enough. That she might have descended into a different sort of chaos if Trump and Q hadn’t been there to feed her illusion shouldn’t make us feel safe. Because Trump is there, and he also sees shadows.
There is no turning point when the world is getting out of hand, so Trump’s interview with Fox News Laura Ingraham, which airs on August 31, moved as you read this by a dozen more distractions and disasters n was not so much a new low as complete erasure. the meaning of pre-Trump terms such as the new low. Now there is only the abyss. Were all together, and Trump is here too. This is why it is worth stopping, as we rush into November and the certain violence that will follow any outcome, to consider Trump’s words to Ingraham.
Photographs by Gregory Halpern / Magnum Photos.
Biden, he says, slumped in a chair, Biden is, I don’t even like to mention Biden (fact-checking: he does) because he doesn’t control anything. These have been Trump cards calling Biden a puppet since at least last fall.
Ingraham tries to normalize himself. The media Trump approves of doesn’t just repeat his words, they whitewash them. Ingraham asks who is pulling the strings. She proposes the people of Obamas, which is triple fold: at the same time a plausible suggestion of continuity; a racist dog whistle; and a bone for QAnon, whose followers know the people of Obamas are pedophile cannibals. It’s the kind of yes and message that usually elicits a smirk from Trump, a comedic insult to the soul.
Not this time. He leans forward, his hands eerily clasped between his knees, and breaks eye contact, looking away. Her voice takes on texture. People you’ve never heard of, people who are in the shadows, people
Dark shadows, said Ingraham. What is that? It’s not a question, it’s a redirect.
No, says Trump, like he knows how he sounds. People you haven’t heard of, he repeats. In the past, when Trump talked about the Bidens puppeteers, he wanted you to think you knew who he was talking about. Reasonable Republicans figured it was Nancy Pelosi and Chuck Schumerjust, as many Democrats say Mitch McConnell controls Trump. Racists overheard him calling AOC and the Squad, sassy women of color. And the deepest reading was George Soros, maybe the Rothschilds.
But something different is happening with Ingraham. He doesn’t imply that she knows who he’s talking about, but insists that she doesn’t. He’s not one of the usual suspects. Nobody and everyone, unnamed and everywhere. When he looks away it’s as if only he can see them, an intimate moment not between Trump and Ingraham, but between Trump and his own mind. Witnessed a man crossing a line.
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