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Study Shows Exceptionally Lonely People Gravitate Toward The Far Right, Trumpism & QAnon

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Donald Trump

Reporters and researchers who have studied Trump supporters, QAnon conspiracy theorists and the far-right have concluded that loneliness may be at the root of America’s conservative extremism.

The theory comes from the frontlines of Trump’s campaign trail and the far corners of right-wing social media, all of which exhibit a deep lack of social connection that has divided our society.

Why do people who are more socially disconnected grativate toward Trump and the far-right?

A September 2020 poll revealed that 1 in 5 Americans report having no one in their core social network, with a follow-up article stating that these socially disconnected voters were "far more likely to view Trump positively and support his reelection than those with more robust personal networks."

By contrast, Biden was seem as more favorable among people with larger social groups.

Trumpism thrives on social isolation.

This research aligns with observations from Michael C. Bender, a reporter for the Wall Street Journal who documented Trump’s campaign trail.

In a piece for The Washington Post, Bender wrote that Trump’s "most hardcore rallygoers" at a June 2019 Trump re-election event he attended in central Florida were “mostly older White men and women who lived paycheck to paycheck with plenty of time on their hands — retired or close to it, estranged from their families or otherwise without children — and Trump had, in a surprising way, made their lives richer.”

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The pandemic may have increased the political impact of loneliness.

Social media and modern culture had already made us a somewhat lonely society before the pandemic even began, but the mandated isolation that came with rising Covid case numbers didn’t do much to slow the far-right.

With most of us pushed out of our social circles and further into the depths of the internet, far-right conspiracy theories, like QAnon, thrived during the pandemic.

The subreddit r/qanoncasualties — on which people share stories of family members who have been swept up by the theory — had fewer than 3,500 members at the beginning of June 2020. By October, it had more than 28,000, and as of today, there 167,000 members in total.

The controversial movement even spread its way to Europe in the midst of the pandemic, finding new roots in other socially disconnected countries.

Life and relationship coach Keya Murthy tells us that a lonely person is vulnerable to these kinds of movements.

“Such a person goes looking for purpose, meaning, friendships, and something to keep themselves going. Conspiracy theories and far-right movements feed lonely people with a sense of why nothing works in their favor,” Murthy says.

“They were looking for reasons as to why they were unhappy and lonely and conspiracy theories fill in the gaps for them.”

The paradox of the pandemic was that we were pushed apart just as we needed to work together, leaving lonely people searching for meaning and order in new places.

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Why loneliness pushes some people to the far right.

Loneliness has long been considered a precursor for extreme ideologies that exist on the far left in some capacity as well.

Hannah Arendt, who wrote “The Origins of Totalitarianism” in 1951, said that totalitarianism “bases itself on loneliness, on the experience of not belonging to the world at all, which is among the most radical and desperate experiences of man.”

It is from this mental state that Trump and other far-right leaders have been able to breed extremism by using the language of love and playing on their isolation.

“Their subconscious mind runs one tape ‘people in power are against us, are evil and need to be confronted.’” Murthy says, “They believe that they are not being told the truth and so create their own truth.”

After his supporters had done his dirty work at the January 6 Capitol Insurrection, Trump told his supporters, “We love you.”

The language makes these people feel part of something, it makes them heard and seen.

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Alice Kelly is a writer living in Brooklyn, New York. Catch her covering all things social justice, news, and entertainment. Keep up with her Twitter for more.