“I think if Biden wins, the world is over, basically”

On a cigarette break outside their small business in Ozaukee County, Tina Arthur and Marcella Frank told me they plan to vote for Trump again because they are deeply alarmed by “the cabal.” They’ve heard “numerous reports” that the COVID-19 tents set up in New York and California were actually for children who had been rescued from underground sex-trafficking tunnels.

Arthur and Frank explained they’re not followers of QAnon. Frank says she spends most of her free time researching child sex trafficking, while Arthur adds that she often finds this information on the Russian-owned search engine Yandex. Frank’s eyes fill with tears as she describes what she’s found: children who are being raped and tortured so that “the cabal” can “extract their blood and drink it.” She says Trump has seized the blood on the black market as part of his fight against the cabal. “I think if Biden wins, the world is over, basically,” adds Arthur. “I would honestly try to leave the country. And if that wasn’t an option, I would probably take my children and sit in the garage and turn my car on and it would be over.”…

Experts who follow disinformation say nothing will change until Facebook and YouTube shift their business model away from the algorithms that reward conspiracies. “We are not anywhere near peak crazy,” says Mele. Phillips, the professor from Syracuse, agrees that things will get weirder. “We’re in trouble,” she adds. “Words sort of fail to capture what a nightmare scenario this is.”

But to voters like Kelly Ferro, the mass delusion seems more like a mass awakening. Trump “is revealing these things,” she says serenely, gesturing with her turquoise-tipped fingernails. Americans’ “eyes are being opened to the darkness that was once hidden.”

After yoga in the morning, Ferro says, she often spends hours watching videos, immersing herself in a world she believes is bringing her ever closer to the truth. “You can’t stop, because it’s so addicting to have this knowledge of what kind of world we’re living in,” she says. “We’re living in an alternate reality.”