At the stroke of noon on January 20, the QAnon mass delusion of a vast pedophile conspiracy populated by Democrats, coastal elites, and organs of the deep state, and whose exposure would prevent the ascension of Joe Biden to the presidency, smashed into the brick wall of reality, leaving its adherents disoriented and angry.

Since at least the invention of the printing press, in the 15th century, and likely before, contagious conspiracy theories have swept through societies, and their births, exponential growth, and anticlimactic collapses have followed a characteristic historical trajectory.