two quotations on prophecy

Washington Post:

When one QAnon channel on the chat app Telegram posted a new theory that suggested Biden himself was “part of the plan,” a number of followers shifted into open rebellion: “This will never happen”; “Just stfu already!” “It’s over. It is sadly, sadly over.” “What a fraud!”

But while some QAnon disciples gave way to doubt, others doubled down on blind belief or strained to see new coded messages in the Inauguration Day’s events. Some followers noted that 17 flags — Q being the 17th letter of the alphabet — flew on the stage as Trump delivered a farewell address.

“17 flags! come on now this is getting insane,” said one post on a QAnon forum devoted to the “great awakening,” the quasi-biblical name for QAnon’s utopian end times. “I don’t know how many signs has to be given to us before we ‘trust the plan,’” one commenter said. Yours truly, in How to Think:

In 1954 three social psychologists, Leon Festinger, Henry Riecken, and Stanley Schachter, read in the newspaper about a religious cult whose leader, a woman they called Marian Keech — her real name was Dorothy Martin — was prophesying the end of the world. Keech claimed that she had received messages from the inhabitants of a distant planet named Clarion, and from them she had learned that the world would be destroyed by a great flood on the twenty-first of December 1954. (She received these messages through automatic writing: she felt a tingling in her arm and a compulsion to write, but when she wrote, the words that emerged were not her own, nor in her handwriting. This was the method of communication the beings from Clarion chose to use to warn the world of its imminent destruction.) Those who heeded this warning and joined Keech’s group would be rescued by the arrival of a flying saucer from Clarion.

Festinger, Riecken, and Schachter pretended to be true believers in Keech’s message so that they might infiltrate and study the group. They had formulated a twofold hypothesis: first, that Keech was a charlatan; and second, and more interesting, that when the falsehood of her prediction was revealed her followers would not abandon her but rather escalate their commitment to the cause. […]

When the promised rescuers did not show up, and the threatened flood did not arrive either, the group was shaken. But then Keech felt once more the desire to write, and the message from Clarion was immensely reassuring: there was indeed a flood, but not a flood that kills, rather one that saves: “Not since the beginning of time upon this Earth has there been such a force of Good and light as now floods this room and that which has been loosed within this room now floods the entire Earth.” Because of their faithfulness, they had been spared, and not just the little band of believers, but the whole world! And it was now incumbent on them, further messages explained, to break their habits of privacy and secrecy and to share with everyone, insofar as they were able, this “Christmas Message to the People of Earth.” (To which one can only add: God bless us every one!) See Festinger, Riecken, and Schachter’s book When Prophecy Fails.