If you were trying to design a magazine to tantalize, excite, and frustrate QAnon believers, you could hardly do better than a 1997 issue of George. Due to the peculiarities of history, the muscular free market, and the fact that we live in hell, copies of the issue—which is taglined “Survival Guide to the Future”—have recently sold for thousands of dollars on eBay. The magazine has become one of the minor holy objects passed around by the Q crowd as evidence of the truth of their addled quest.
George enjoyed a short but infamous run, often inextricably tied with the rocky fortunes of the Kennedy family itself: It was published from 1995 to 2001, and co-founded and edited by John F. Kennedy Jr. himself, who wanted to cover politics, he said, like pop culture. That led to some truly surreal situations, as Esquire wrote in a 2019 retrospective, like Drew Barrymore posing as Marilyn Monroe, with whom JFK Sr., is, of course, famously suspected to have had an affair. The magazine folded about 18 months after Kennedy, his wife Carolyn, and her sister Lauren Bessette were killed when he crashed a small aircraft into the Atlantic Ocean just off Martha’s Vineyard.
Some QAnon followers believe JFK Jr. is alive and well, living in light disguise and appearing at QAnon conferences. Depending on which QAnon devotee you ask, the real, living JFK Jr. is a man named Vincent Fusca, or another man named Juan O. Savin, both big wheels in the QAnon circuit. Another faction, led by a man named Michael Protzman, spent about a month and a half milling around Dallas, awaiting what Protzman promised would be the Christ-like returns of JFK Sr., Jr., and Jacqueline Kennedy. (When that did not happen, Protzman led a group to a Trump rally in Arizona, claiming Trump was JFK in disguise, which also didn’t quite pan out. His group, however, is still active.)
Against that psychedelically weird context, the significance of the 1997 Survival Guide to the Future makes more sense. The cover features a waspy-hipped space vixen—Dutch model Karen Mulder—saluting jauntily; inside, JFK Jr. has a lengthy interview with Bill Gates, preserved on archive.org, where the two talk about the ways that the nascent internet is changing politics.
“The internet is scalable,” Gates proclaims, “in the sense that if something really catches your eye, you can become as educated and involved on the subject as you want to be.” Indeed.
Another supposed quote from the Gates interview was the subject of a Snopes debunking; he was said to have predicted that the planet would be “choked to extinction by a lung-attacking virus.” In fact, that quote is from a different article—a group of predictions about the future by a collection of writers, including science writer and psychoanalyst Arno Karlen, who wrote the “lung-attacking virus” prediction.
Due to the prescience of the cover alone, the magazine has been an object of fascination for the Q crowd for quite a long time. In January 2020, QAnon expert Travis View, one of the co-hosts of the QAnon Anonymous podcast, noticed that an enterprising Amazon seller was listing it for $25,000, apparently hoping, he wrote dryly at the time, “to capitalize on the QAnon community's devotion.” (View’s real name is Logan Strain; he’s been clear that he uses a pseudonym as an added layer of protection from the people he covers, but was nonetheless himself the subject of a very strange Washington Post story not long ago, implying that his use of the View name was unethical.) At one point, View added in a follow-up tweet, Fusca was seen circulating at a Q event wearing a T-shirt with a George cover on it, hinting far more broadly than usual at what Q believers think his real identity is.
“I think it's newsworthy,” View told Motherboard of the George cover, “as an illustration of the absurd JFK Jr. mythology within some segments of the QAnon community.” An equally strong draw, though, he points out, might be the tagline about Hillary Clinton being indicted. The full article about her isn’t preserved online, but in 1997, the Clintons were still fighting through the swamp of the Whitewater scandal, and special prosecutor Ken Starr told an appeals court that Clinton could be indicted. (Clinton’s lawyer told the Associated Press at the time, “To say Mrs. Clinton is the subject of investigation is obvious, but to imply there is any real basis for it is ridiculous.”) Hillary Clinton was, of course, never indicted for anything, and Ken Starr went on to play a starring role in the Monica Lewinsky scandal. (Conspiracy YouTubers have shared issues of the magazine, and the pages they display show that the article was indeed about Whitewater.)
All of this leads us to the current situation, where a search for the phrase “survival guide to the future” on Twitter or various QAnon forums brings up endless discussions about how COVID-19 was a plandemic, JFK Jr. is alive and well, and Bill Gates is the root of every conceivable evil.
A search on eBay shows that 11 copies of the magazine have recently sold—between November 2021 and late January—for amounts ranging from $730 to nearly $2400. Three eBay sellers are currently listing the magazine for even more, between $2,000 to $3,499.99. At least two other enterprising people are selling T-shirts with the cover on them, for a far more affordable price. Several minor conspiracy personalities on YouTube essentially just read the magazine out loud.
In the end, the curious place this magazine issue holds in conspiracy culture is one more depressing data point to illustrate how conspiracism is seeping into every aspect of our lives, the ways we view one another, and the ways some of us look back on even minor elements of history. Unless, of course, you happen to own a mint-condition copy of a particular 1997 issue of George magazine—then it’s just a great opportunity.