Editorial | QAnon takes advantage of the isolated and turns them violent

Igor Lanis shot his daughter, wife and dog a few weeks ago, killing his wife and severely injuring his daughter and he later died in a shootout with police. Lanis had no history of violence or threats prior to the shooting. His youngest daughter says he was a completely normal father — that is, until he discovered the QAnon conspiracy theory.

Lanis’ daughter says that during the pandemic, her father became extremely isolated when he was working at home and started spewing theories about President Trump and the COVID-19 vaccine, falling deeper and deeper into QAnon theories. She said, “nobody could talk him out of them.”

The QAnon conspiracy theory was born and bred on the internet, which is what made it so easy for it to become entrenched in people’s psyches. The theory then became more mainstream when politicians such as Marjorie Taylor Greene, and even President Trump to some extent, mobilized voters who believed in this theory. As of December 2020, 17% of Americans believed in the major tenant of QAnon — that “a group of Satan-worshiping elites who run a child sex ring are trying to control our politics and media” — and that number is growing today.

While Lanis’ story is one of the extremes, he is not the only person who has fallen down this slippery slope of conspiracy theories. The most lonely and isolated people in this country find these theories and latch on in a way that makes it hard to shake. QAnon is becoming extremely dangerous as more and more people become hooked on the conspiracy theory and commit heinous acts such as the riots on Jan. 6 and the murder of Lanis’ wife.

Conspiracy theories target people who are already skeptical of how the world works. However, when seeing conspiracies often — particularly through social media — and not getting exposed to any other perspective, it is easy for people to fall into this trap and not be able to think about anything else. Igor Lanis fell down this trap. While being socially isolated during the pandemic and frequently seeing conspiracy theories online, Lanis couldn’t avoid it. These conspiracy theories often turn mild-mannered people, like Lanis, into violent ones which is extremely dangerous.

When people believe something as disturbing as QAnon, it may make them feel that the only way they can be safe is to be violent. We saw this after the Jan. 6 riots at the Capitol. Our friends, neighbors or even our family members could fall down this pipeline and commit heinous acts of violence if they become so isolated that they feel that anything they see is right and anything that anyone else says is wrong.

Lanis’ story is also not the only one of its kind. A California man killed his two year old son and 10-month-old daughter because he believed in the QAnon theory that his wife had passed down “serpent DNA” to their children. Stories like these are bound to continue if QAnon and conspiracies like it are not put to rest. Social media sites need to monitor posts that are clearly spreading false information and politicians need to stop adding fuel to the QAnon fire — if they don’t, more innocent people could lose their lives and loved ones.