Despite these delusions, Ms. Gilbert – a self-described mystic who wrote four books with titles like “Swami Soup” – struck me as primarily a New Age eccentric who might need some off-screen time. She despises the mainstream media, but she agreed to be profiled and we kept in touch.
In a series of conversations, I learned that she had long suspected that elites came from her time at Harvard, when she felt out of place with people she considered snobby-rich children. As an adult, she joined the anti-establishment left, advocated animal rights and supported the Standing Rock oil pipeline protests. She admired the hacktivist group Anonymous and looked up to whistleblowers like Julian Assange and Edward Snowden. She was a registered Democrat for most of her life, but she voted for Jill Stein, the Green candidate in the 2016 presidential election, after deciding that both major parties were corrupt.
Ms. Gilbert’s journey to QAnon began in 2016 when WikiLeaks released a ton of hacked email from the Clinton campaign. Shortly after, she saw posts on social media about something called #Pizzagate. She’d studied conspiracy theories before, but Pizzagate – who falsely suspected that powerful Democrats were pulling a child sex trafficking ring out of a pizzeria in Washington, and that all of this was coded in the Clinton emails – blew her away . If it were true, she thought, it would combine all of their suspicions about elites and explain the terrible truths they had covered up.
“The world opened up to me in Technicolor,” she said. “It was like the Matrix – everything was just being downloaded.”
Pizzagate prepared Ms. Gilbert for QAnon, which she discovered through a British clairvoyant YouTube videos. It quickly took over her life and tore her politics sharply to the right. Apparently overnight, her Facebook feed switched from Change.org petitions and cute animal photos to Gateway Pundit links and “Killary Clinton” memes.
Like many die-hard QAnons, Ms. Gilbert has a purely virtual attachment to the movement. She said she has never attended a QAnon rally or even met another QAnon believer in person. She works from home as a freelance audiobook storyteller, rarely leaving her apartment and mocking when I ask her if she would ever take up arms for Q
“I’m a digital soldier,” she said. “I work through the computer.”
She was not at the Capitol riot and denied that QAnon was a violent movement. She said there was no evidence that the attendees were QAnon believers and suggested that they may have been anti-fascist activists in disguise – all things that have been widely exposed. She sounded frustrated that Mr. Biden had been certified as an election winner – something Q had never predicted – but she said it didn’t shake her faith.