Many Spy readers probably have no clue about Heaven’s Gate, and that’s OK. It happened in March 1997, so 24 years ago. A quick precis: Heaven’s Gate was a California cult, led by Marshall Applegate. He convinced 47 followers they should wear the same black uniforms, the same brand of new black/white Nike basketball shoes (“Decades”), climb into bunk beds, cover themselves with a purple sheet and commit suicide.
If they did so, and 39 did, their souls would be transported to a spaceship trailing a nearby comet called Hale-Bopp, and be immediately beamed to heaven. Applegate had selected 8 to remain on Earth to serve as a communication center and to recount their story.
Fast forward to March 2021, when a poll sponsored by the Public Religion Research Institute, was undertaken. The 5625 American respondents were queried about the degree of their belief in or support for, the QAnon conspiracy theory. It was launched anonymously on social media in 2016-2017 and continues to evolve.
Just a reminder, QAnon’s storyline is much more complex and considerably more effective than Heaven’s Gate. It asserts that power in the United States is in the hands of a cabal of satan worshiping pedophiles who traffic in children. Moreover, it is the duty of real American patriots, to depose the pedophiles, with violence if necessary, and restore the country’s rightful order.
One of the more recent extrapolations accepted by a QA scism, holds that a biblical-scale storm will sweep away these evil elites and restore the rightful leaders.
It has generated a large cult following, which the poll measured. Given the small number of respondents, the results only indicate the scale and nothing more. The poll’s political party percentages below are too precise, but believable as one is more a Qanon acolyte than another.
2021 Poll Results:
15% of Americans believe the basic fact of powerful devil-worshipping pediphiles controlling the US.
14% of Americans fall into the category “QAnon Believers” who accept all the above.
Republican – 25%
Democrats – 7%
Independents – 12%
55% of Republicans fell into a poll category “QAnon Doubters”, i.e. disagreed with most, but didn’t reject..
58% of Democrats were “ QAnon Rejectors”.
The fundamental question is why Heaven’s Gate was dismissed by media and polled America as simply crazy, while QAnon was not? One believer, armed with a gun invaded a Washington, D.C. Pizza restaurant, to rescue children confined in its basement. It had no basement and the police removed the believer.
Is the latter accepted by millions and the former by 45 because it’s related to political beliefs, i.e. QAnon arose as something of a supplement to the currently labeled “Big Lie”, that former president Trump actually won reelection, but Democratic fraud stole it?
Or has QAnon become something of a game with secret codes and special vocabulary and the mystery of Q’s identity and fun to follow
Or is America in the 21st Century considerably more gullible than it was in the 20th.
Tom Timberman is an Army vet, lawyer, former senior Foreign Service officer, adjunct professor at GWU, and economic development team leader or foreign government advisor in war zones. He is the author of four books, lectures locally, and at US and European universities. He and his wife are 24 year residents of Kent County.