Most of us have had the experience of walking Seattle’s streets and encountering poor souls who are in the midst of psychotic episodes or strung out on drugs. Their plight is a sad and disturbing hallmark of our times. Yet, there are others among us – people who look as normal and sane as anyone else – who are equally disconnected from reality. And those people may present an even greater problem for us all.

Meth and heroin are not the drugs these people consume. Their drugs are QAnon political fantasies and the ludicrous conspiracy theories of right-wing charlatans, such as Alex Jones. Alarmingly, it is becoming apparent that these people are not an isolated bunch of oddballs; they are legion.

A case in point is a local man named Michael Protzman, a Federal Way resident who is leading the QAnon followers who have gathered at the site of President John F. Kennedy’s assassination in Dallas expecting the deceased president’s deceased son to show up and reinstate Donald Trump as president of the United States. This, of course, is utter delusion, but one would be hard pressed to convince Protzman and his followers of that fact.

Since human beings first were able to communicate and form complex social arrangements, there have been people who believed in myths and fantastical tales. In pre-scientific times, that could be explained and excused. But, in the 21st century, we are far more able to separate fact from fable. Nevertheless, a disturbingly large share of us still prefer bizarre falsehoods to hard facts.

The other night on his MSNBC broadcast, Brian Williams ran a couple of video clips of modern-day vendors of preposterous claims. One was a TV pastor who insists billions of people will die from COVID-19 vaccinations. He branded Bill Gates and Anthony Fauci as murderous Nazis for pushing the vaccine. The other clip showed an online conspiracist who guarantees it will soon be revealed that Donald Trump has already become the actual king of the world. 

Those two examples of the countless scenarios being pushed in extremist right-wing media reminded me of a story my sister told me a year ago. She was accosted by one of her neighbors, who was deeply distraught because online sources had convinced her that the Chinese army was on the verge of invading the United States from secret bases in Canada. The fact that the invasion never happened – or that John F. Kennedy Jr. is never going to rise from the dead or that billions will not die from getting the vaccine – makes no difference to those who believe these bizarre tales.

The people among us who lend credence to these falsehoods appear impervious to logic and facts. When one prediction fails to materialize, they simply move on to the next delusion. And because there are millions of these dangerously befuddled folks among us, they are a growing threat to a democratic system that relies on an informed and rational electorate to succeed.

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