When Jo Rae Perkins walked over to greet us for the very first time, she did not introduce herself or ask our names, the first thing she did was move her hand across her face and say, “What are these things on your faces?”I couldn’t hear her, so I walked closer. Perkins, who is running for the US Senate after winning the Oregon Republican primary, made clear in the first minute of our meeting that she does not believe in the science behind wearing masks in the middle of the deadliest pandemic the world has seen in 100 years.“What did you say?” I asked her.“What are these things?” Perkins repeated circling her mouth with her hand.“What are what things? What are you asking?” I responded“Those things covering your faces, I can’t see you guys?”“Oh, masks?” I said“Oh, thank you,” she said.“Do you not believe in wearing masks?” I responded.“Do you see one?” Perkins replied.“I do not. But what’s your answer?” I said.“No,” Perkins said“Why not?” I replied.“They do absolutely nothing to protect you,” she said confidently.So I asked, “How do you know that? Are you a scientist?”“No, I don’t need to be a scientist. I’ve done tons of reading,” Perkins retorted.“Oh. Are you a doctor?” I asked.“I don’t need to be a doctor either. I know how to read,” she said with a chuckle.
At the time we talked, America had lost nearly 170,000 lives to Covid-19, and the nation’s top scientists continue to say masks help stop its spread. Top economists say a nationwide mandate could curtail economic pain. Perkins is convinced otherwise. She scoffs at advice given by America’s top infectious disease expert Dr. Anthony Fauci, and she believes that the Covid-19 death toll is being manipulated.“I totally believe that that the numbers are doctored,” Perkins said. “Because they can destroy the economy. They can blame it on President (Donald) Trump, that the economy is not doing good. Look at how phenomenal the economy was doing.”She is convinced of this because of who she talks to and what she reads, which she says is varied. Her reading also includes missives from an anonymous poster on message boards called “Q.”
“Q is a resource for information,” Perkins says. “I can read all these articles. It’s kind of like a clearing house. And that’s what I really like about Q. That’s one thing that I like, the other thing is that there are questions in the Socratic method … Go do your own research, figure it out for yourself,” Perkins says pointing out that there are articles in the “Q” posts from many different news outlets including CNN and The New York Times.In reality, “Q” is the purveyor of an outlandish conspiracy theory called QAnon.
But she is also one of several Republican candidates for office who have linked themselves to QAnon theories in one way or another as these candidates bring what was a conspiracy theory born on the internet’s dark fringes into the mainstream of Republican politics.
It sounds like a standard oath of office pledge, but she has not won a political seat yet and the digital soldiers’ line is part of the pledge taken by supporters of the QAnon conspiracy theory to show their loyalty to what they see is a noble cause.View says ultimately their commitment to the QAnon ideals can be dangerous to democracy as we know it.“The real danger is that, QAnon, because it deviates so far from what is real that it could lead to politicians, creating legislation, not based upon real world concerns, but rather about, enforcing their conspiratorial beliefs,” View says.
I pointed out one glaring one glaring inaccuracy. On October 28, 2017, the anonymous “Q” posted, “Hillary Clinton will be arrested between 7:45 AM — 8:30 AM EST on Monday — the morning on Oct 30, 2017.” That never happened.But when I asked Perkins about it, she responded with a question of her own, “Do you know, beyond a shadow of a doubt, are you a 100% sure that she was never arrested?”“Are you a 100% sure she was?” I asked.“No. I’m not,” Perkins said adding that she is a “critical thinker” and doesn’t have proof of Clinton’s arrest but clearly isn’t convinced one way or the other.She goes on to say that “sometimes misinformation is necessary” to flesh out the truth.Some who believe in QAnon conspiracies “don’t believe things because of like actual, you know, evidence. They believe things because it excites them. It excites them to be a part of this grand story. So, as a consequence of that, really no amount of real reasoning or counter-argument or debunking is very effective on them,” View says.
An internal FBI memo from an Arizona field office obtained by Yahoo News determined that conspiracy theories like QAnon are a domestic terrorism threat. Several people who mentioned QAnon beliefs have already taken violent actions. The FBI memo mentions what appears to be the first QAnon related terrorism incident, View notes. It says a man in Arizona who was involved in a June 2018 standoff where he drove an armored vehicle on the bridge above the Hoover Dam and blocked traffic while demanding the release of documents that QAnon conspiracy theorists believe will expose members of the deep state.