The Quiet Damage

The Quiet Damage

By: Jesselyn Cook (CA)

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The riveting story of QAnon’s devastating impact on the American family, grappling with the seductive allure of disinformation, the trauma it causes, and how we might set ourselves free.

The QAnon conspiracy theories—which posit that a nefarious cabal of elites is secretly ruling our society, poisoning our bodies, and harming our children—have come to represent the peculiar mania driven by social media disinformation campaigns and its dire consequences on our politics. But what’s often overlooked is the raw destructive power these theories have on the American family. In an age in which partisanship has created deep divides within the home—between parents and children, brothers and sisters, husbands and wives—the extreme belief structure of QAnon widens those divides into seemingly insurmountable chasms, leaving people lost, confused, and broken. With studies showing that nearly 19% of Americans believe in QAnon-related theories, the true toll of QAnon on our mental and social health is as vast as it is urgent to confront.

In The Quiet Damage, celebrated reporter Jesselyn Cook unfolds the heartbreaking stories of five representative families from couples young and old to rural white parents to urban Black siblings, to show how QAnon shattered bonds once believed unbreakable. Cook paints a portrait of American suffering, of the vulnerabilities that have left people susceptible to outrageous theories promising order and control in a world where both are increasingly in short supply. Charting the arc of each believer’s path from their first intersection with QAnon to the depths of their cultish conviction in the theory’s promise, to—in some fortunate cases—their rejection of conspiracy thinking and the mending of broken bonds, Cook offers a fascinating look into the psychology of how and why ordinary people come to believe the unbelievable. Her reporting lays bare how we have been taken hostage by grifters who profit from a network built on false hope—and how we might eventually release our loved ones, and ourselves, from their grasp.

At once a riveting account of the American family in crisis and a sociological exploration of the hidden costs of our global crisis of disinformation, The Quiet Damage is profound, brilliantly researched, and beautifully written.

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Penguin Random House

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