Should You Read It? Reviewing "The Storm is Upon Us" by Mike Rothschild.
I finally am reviewing the long-awaited book on QAnon by Mike Rothschild: “The Storm Is Upon Us How QAnon Became a Movement, Cult, and Conspiracy Theory of Everything”, published by Melville House and is 300 pages long.
What is Covered?
The book is broken down into three parts and 13 chapters. Part one which forms the first 6 chapters of the book, examines the origins of the QAnon movement. In this section Mike covers some of the historical and cultural phenomena that lead to the environment where QAnon was birthed, he covers the mechanics of Chan culture, the geopolitical environment, as well as some the initial actors that dabbled in this space. Mike's examination of the origins of the movement shows that he has been researching and analyzing QAnon content since the movement's inception. He's not focused on the recent growth of the movement, in light of the pandemic, rather he is aware of the early ebbs and flows of the movement, the various streams of thought, as well as, the key Q drops or political events that led to the continued growth of Q Anon. Mike also covers some of the early scams and conspiracy theories that began the Q Anon movement with a special focus on the role that Antisemitism plays within the QAnon ecosystem.
The second part of the book covers four chapters which examines the many crimes and acts of violence perpetrated by Q Anon adherents, as well as the growth of Q Anon in 2020 as well as the failures of social media platforms to take early action against the movement. Mike pays special attention to incidents such as Plandemic or the Save the Children hijacking. He is aware of the important role that memes play with QAnon ecosystem especially as individuals in his base perceive themselves as digital soldiers first and foremost. He also pays attention to the role that QAnon played in digital ecosystems ahead of the 2020 election and the role that certain politicians and elected officials played in leveraging the movement.
in the third part which is 3 chapters long. The first chapter in this section covers various perspectives on what people think QAnon is or is not. Mike interviews or engages with the work of many experts to provide as many possible perspectives and explanations as to what Q Anon is and he does a very good job demonstrating that there is no easy way to explain what this phenomenon is and highlights how complex it is to label an amorphous movement like QAnon. I personally would like to have had a clear final decision by Mike on where he stands and how he thinks we should discuss and labelled the movement, though on the flip side this might not have been the best way to end the specific chapter this is just my own personal gripe. The second chapter in the final section Mike does a good job at challenging some of the key QAnon conspiracy theories and debunking them while also providing the logic as to why some individuals would believe them. this is not something that is not easy to do without entirely mocking QAnon believer; however, Mike does a pretty good job. The final chapter is where my covers ways in which to help people who want to get out of the QAnon movement. He does a pretty good job of providing information from his personal experience as well as some insight from other experts; however, I do not think it's perfect. His explanations are good if you are dealing one-on-one with someone you know personally which may be the case for most of those who read this book; however, he does not cover or examine ways that we could take a larger approach at dealing and helping larger swaths of QAnon adherence to exit the movement. This is not necessarily a bad thing, as I know, this is not Mike's expertise though it could have been an interesting inclusion at this part of the book. But at this point I'm probably nitpicking.
What It Is and What It Is Not
The book is written for a general audience, this is not an academic book, this is not about national security or about violent extremism. Nevertheless, this book may be useful to those focused on the study of violent extremism as a way of initiating them and informing them about the QAnon movement. What Mike has managed to put together is a primer on a complex phenomenon and threat that is accessible to anyone. Mike does not underplay the threat posed by the movement nor does he oversell it. It is written in a way where the reader will feel a certain sense of anxiety about the phenomenon, it creates a sense of urgency as you are reading it and this, I believe is intentional by the author of the book.
The book does not drown the reader in the jargon encoded language often found in Q Anon as well as by those of us who covered the movement. At times we are so deep inside of our research and analysis that we forget that the majority of what we consume and write about is not widely known. Doing this is a disservice to those who read us and whom we have a responsibility to inform. In his book Mike has found the perfect balance and answered the question how much detail does a general audience need.
The way that Mike explains details, as well as the glossary he provides in the back, is sufficiently informative for anyone working or interested in this space for a long time or someone who is new to this space to understand what is going on. Mike also demonstrates a clear grasp of the mechanics behind QAnon and ‘Q,’ he understands the digital ecosystem and he engages with the drops in a way that is constructive and informative without getting lost in the weeds. Mike also tackles some of the complex conversations about the QAnon movement, even positions he does not agree with; however, he does not disparage them. When he does disagree, he provides constructive counterarguments and explanation as to why he positions himself in such a way though this is not something that may have been afforded to him by those who disagree with Mike.
Mike did a good job in engaging with all the QAnon experts who have been working on this topic four years. He engaged with experts of various backgrounds and specialties, as well as various researchers and observers.
What his book does not cover, and this is because it was completed after these events happened is the current iteration of Q Anon following the events of January 6th the impact of deplatforming, and continued evolution and metastasizing of QAnon. As a primer Mike obviously glosses over many of these topics. However this provides opportunities to experts and researchers to take elements of this book and provide a deeper dive, more data, and more in-depth knowledge about specific phenomena related to this movement.
Do I recommend it?
Having read the book twice, I would indeed strongly recommend purchasing and reading this book if you are interested in any way about the QAnon movement. If you know someone in your life who has been indoctrinated into the QAnon movement, Mike's book can serve as a good primer to better understand what that person close to you believe in and is going through. Experts who work in the field of violent extremism in counterterrorism should also use Mike's book as a primer on QAnon if you have never engaged with the movement, as the content of his book will lead you down the right path when it comes to wanting to start to research and study this complex movement. His bibliography is also a wealth of sources that can be used for further research into QAnon. It will provide a list of the experts that anyone who wants to engage with on this topic should reach out to even if they do not fit your standard definition of a subject matter expert.
I do have some things in the book that I disagree with, but this is not necessarily about the content but more about my own bias as a researcher where I see things differently than Mike and I don't think there's anything wrong with that. If you're interested my biggest complaint would be how Mike engages with the topic of QAnon as a cult, I personally would have liked to have seen a little more engagement on how QAnon is similar to a new religious movement (again this is a bias of mine). The other complaint I have is Mike did focus a lot on the Christian Identity Nexus and QAnon which I don't think is as big as some of the more charismatic evangelical connections to QAnon. Charismatic Christianity is more present than CI and we are seeing more often in the news, charismatic pastors and churches fall into QAnon beliefs.
Anyways pick up the book give Mike Rothschild a follow and let me know if reviews of books like this are useful at all.