QAnon, you might have heard about it. But even if you haven’t, you’ve probably heard some of its claims.
And you probably have a lot of questions.
Do QAnon followers really believe that child-eating satanic cults control our lives? And Donald Trump is the savior of humankind? Where did it come from? How did it become so popular?
What the hell is going on?
Like most people, before writing this guide, I mostly considered QAnon a joke. But learning about its origins and watching events unfold in real-time as I was writing, it all started to make a lot more sense.
QAnon’s rise from internet obscurity to a global phenomenon is a complicated, surreal, and troubling tale of a world plagued by anger, division, lies, and loneliness.
Hopefully, by the time you finish reading, you’ll understand QAnon (and its appeal) a little better. And in doing so, you’ll be prepared for the next chapter in this wild, crazy story.
What is QAnon?
In a nutshell, QAnon is a conspiracy cult that started on 4chan (an anonymous imageboard) and quickly spread into mainstream politics and culture.
QAnon followers believe:
A secret global cabal of Satan-worshipping politicians, celebrities, billionaires, and Catholic church leaders control the world. They traffick children to engage in ritualistic pedophilia and eat the children to harvest a life-extending chemical, adrenochrome, from their blood.
According to QAnon, Donald Trump is aware of all this and has been secretly waging a complex battle against the cabal and their collaborators in the US government – known as the ‘Deep State.’
When he’s successful, thousands of cabal members will be rounded up and imprisoned in Guantanamo Bay. Mass unrest will break out across the US, which the National Guard will brutally suppress. Eventually peace will prevail.
Over the years, QAnon has grown more complex, weaving in threads from older conspiracy theories and co-opting current events (i.e., Jeffrey Epstein’s arrest, Coronavirus, 5G conspiracies). An increasing number of public figures have been exposed as villains and cabal leaders, from George Soros and Bill Gates to model Chrissy Teigen and Pope Francis.
It’s also grown more Biblical and apocalyptic. Many in QAnon now believe that God chose Donald Trump to lead the struggle, along with his ‘digital soldiers’ (a term for QAnon followers).
Comments from a discussion on a QAnon website
After Trump overthrows the evil cabal, God will deliver salvation to the human race, and there will be utopia on Earth for all eternity.
All of this has been exposed by an anonymous figure calling himself Q.
Who is Q?
The mystery behind Q’s identity is key to the conspiracy.
Theories about Q’s identity can be divided into two categories: what his followers believe and what investigators have concluded.
Quick note: by all accounts Q, or the person behind Q, is generally accepted to be a man.
What QAnon Followers Believe
While theories abound, here are the most commonly held.
1) Q is a high-level Trump admin official working in the White House.
The original ‘Q’ account on anonymous imageboard 4chan went by the name of ‘Q Clearance Patriot.’ Aside from making predictions based on access to classified information, the account provided numerous ‘proofs’ of authenticity.
However, none of the predictions ever came true and most of the ‘proof’ was publicly accessible (or easily fabricated) information.
‘Q Clearance’ is a real ‘Top Secret’ security designation in the US government. However, it comes from the US Department of Energy and has no connection to the White House or national security.
Now that Donald Trump is no longer president, Q’s status is unclear.
2) Q is a group of people close to Trump
Q often refers to himself in the first person as ‘we,’ and his posts frequently change in style, sentence structure, and syntax.
As a result, many followers believe QAnon is now the combined effort of a small team, perhaps recruited by the original Q.
While there’s no evidence to suggest they had any access to classified information while Trump was in office – or to Trump’s White House – plenty of evidence suggests numerous people are behind Q’s posts (explained below).
3) Q was hijacked. It’s no longer the same person/people.
Early in the saga, Q claimed his 4chan account had been infiltrated and moved to a new platform, 8chan (now rebranded as 8kun).
The idea that somebody hijacked Q’s identity and is now posing as Q is popular. It explains a lot of inconsistencies in the whole conspiracy theory.
Alex Jones has promoted this idea, claiming in 2018 to have spoken directly with the ‘people’ behind QAnon and stating:
“I was on the phone this morning talking to some folks who were… involved in QAnon. They say ‘Hey, that’s been taken over, we’re unable to even post anymore, that’s not us anymore.’ I’ve talked to QAnon… they are saying QAnon is no longer QAnon.”
4) Donald Trump is Q
As the messianic savior at the heart of QAnon, it makes sense that Trump could be Q all along, hiding his identity in yet another ingenious plot.
There’s a lot of reasons this makes no sense. Let’s list a few: Trump doesn’t use a computer; he has issues with basic spelling and grammar; he couldn’t do it on his own and keep it a secret; he’s no longer president.
What Investigators, Journalists, and Researchers Have Concluded
We may never know the original Q’s identity. Imageboards like 8kun go to great lengths to hide their users’ identities.
However, plenty of evidence suggests that the Q persona was quickly taken over by a small group of men who saw QAnon as an opportunity to amass great influence and power.
Most experts on QAnon, including 8chan’s founder Frederick Brennan, believe the Q’s account is controlled by 8kun’s American owners: Jim Watkins (a former internet pornographer based in the Philippines), and his son, Ron.
Jim Watkins, owner of 8kun (formerly 8chan)
Like everything in QAnon, the Watkins’ takeover of Q is an incredibly complicated story.
However, evidence can be summed up as follows:
- Users on imageboards can never change their account passwords, which are also incredibly easy to hack. Once an account’s password is revealed, anyone can hack and post from that account.
- Q’s first 8chan account was hacked almost immediately after joining the platform. His password was revealed as ‘matlock.’ Throughout the entire QAnon saga, random people have hacked Q’s many accounts and posted on 8chan boards – including journalists covering the conspiracy. Q even accidentally posted his password more than once, which didn’t help.
- 8chan’s moderators and admins have been forced to constantly re-verified Q’s ‘true identity’ due to the hacks. As a result, since 2017, the people running 8chan (and later, 8kun) have had numerous opportunities to take over Q’s account and pose as him.
- The first person suspected of doing so is Paul Furber, the moderator who ran Q’s fist 8chan board. Furber was the first true QAnon evangelist, promoting it on Alex Jones’ Infowars show and creating the first QAnon Reddit and Youtube channels.
- In 2018, 8chan’s owners Jim and Ron Watkins took notice of QAnon’s rise – and it’s potential. Through a series of convoluted events, some staged by the Watkins’, they locked Furber out and took sole control of Q’s 8chan account.
- The Watkins’ then changed Q’s account settings to make it more secure and ensure Q can never leave 8chan.
What Are Anonymous Imageboards?
Imageboards are a type of internet forum that started in Japan, where they remain a powerful cultural force. Imageboards are similar to real-life bulletin boards, as users post photos, images, and text covering a wide variety of topics.Users can create specialist boards that focus on a specific topic, which often become a form of anonymous community.
Imageboards use ‘tripcode’ software instead of traditional user registration to ensure user anonymity. Tripcodes are a form of digital signature taken from a user’s password that allows them to sign their posts without revealing their identity.
The anonymity imageboards provide is the main reason for their popularity – and their infamy.
English-language imageboards like 8chan, 8kun, and Endchan are notorious for hosting dangerous, fringe communities that have used the platforms to plan, encourage, and carry out violence, harassment, and murder.
Only the Watkins’ can confirm whether they control Q or not. But for further proof, consider the following:
- Q’s writing style changed significantly once he came under their control.
- When 8chan went offline in August 2019, Q didn’t post anything for months, not even on other platforms like 4chan.
- When 8chan re-emerged as 8kun, Q started posting immediately and appeared to have special priority permissions only available to site administrators. Ron Watkins is the only site admin.
- Machine learning analysis has suggested that two separate people are writing Q’s posts.
- Ron Watkins left 8kun in November 2020. Q stopped posting on the site shortly after.
Q’s final post on 8kun (as of January 2021)
To learn the full story behind how Jim and Ron Watkins (potentially) took over Q and now control the entire conspiracy from behind the scenes, check out the Reply All podcast episode ‘A Country of Liars’.
10 Biggest QAnon Predictions (That Never Happened)
Q’s predictions are core to the entire belief system based around him.
In the early days of QAnon, they were quite explicit and easy to decode. As the years have dragged on, Q’s predictions have become more cryptic, vague, and difficult to interpret.
The most famous Q predictions have included the following:
- October 2017: In his first post, Q stated that an arrest warrant had been issued for Hilary Clinton (HRC) and she would be arrested. Extradition orders were in place in case she tried to flee. Hilary Clinton has never been arrested.
- November 2017: In the same post, Q predicted mass riots would break out in early November 2017, while cabal members tried to flee the US, and the US military would have to crackdown on the dissent. This event would be known as ‘The Storm.’ No such events occurred.
- Dec. 2017: A report would be released revealing that Barack Obama is Satan. To date, no such report has emerged.
- March 2018: The ‘Five Eyes’ security alliance between the US, UK, Australia, New Zealand, and Canada ‘won’t be around much longer.’ All evidence suggests the alliance remains strong and continues to operate.
- March 2018: The ‘Five Eyes’ security alliance between the US, UK, Australia, New Zealand, and Canada ‘won’t be around much longer.’ All evidence suggests the alliance remains strong and continues to operate.
- March 2018: A ‘smoking gun’ video proving all the various claims made against HRC would be released. It never happened.
- Numerous occasions: Q repeatedly claimed US Senator John McCain would resign. McCain remained a senator until his death in August 2018.
- Numerous occasions: Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg would resign and Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey would be forced out of his company. Both would subsequently attempt to flee the US. Both remain at their respective companies and continue to reside in the US.
- January 2020: 45,000 sealed indictments would be released detailing all the evidence against the elite cabal. Mass arrests would follow, along with purges of the FBI, CIA, and all levels of government. The Storm and the Great Awakening would follow shortly after.
No such indictments have ever been released, nor the mass arrests, or government purges.
- October 2020: JFK Jr., who died in a plane crash in 1999, would re-emerge after 21 years in hiding, team up with Trump at a rally in Dallas and become his re-election running mate.
Trump was scheduled to appear in Wisconsin that day, with no rally planned in Dallas.
- Numerous occasions: Donald Trump, as US president, would overthrow the elite puppet masters secretly ruling all human society and deliver salvation to all humankind. Trump lost his re-election campaign, having failed to deliver on Q’s promise, and left office on January 20th, 2021.
Why Do People Still Follow QAnon’s Predictions?
If Q’s predictions keep proving false, why do people still believe and follow?
A lot of research has been done on doomsday prophecies and cults, especially in the US. Studies show that while common sense suggests people would lose interest in Q’s predictions once enough didn’t come true, that rarely happens.
Instead, the most ardent followers double down and simply revise their original interpretations of the prophecies. The cryptic nature of Q’s posts makes this especially easy and rewarding.
Q uses chess as an analogy to explain… something
5 Examples of ‘Proof’ Uncovered by QAnon Supporters
The following is not an extensive list; it’s simply meant to demonstrate the nature of QAnon’s spread and the wild theories it creates.
- Donald Trump Secretly hired Robert Mueller.
The QAnon community believes that the 2017-19 special investigation into Donald Trump’s ties with Russia was an elaborate scheme orchestrated by the president.
Trump apparently staged his conspiracy with the Russians so he had a reason to recruit Robert Mueller into his cause (in this scenario, Robert Mueller is a Trump ally).
Trump and Mueller could now work together to stop a coup attempt by Barack Obama, Hillary Clinton, and George Soros.
In doing so, Trump once again proved his messianic wisdom and superior strategizing.
- George HW Bush sends a warning to the deep state.
After he died in 2018, former US president George HW Bush lay in state at the Rotunda of the US Capitol in Washington DC for three days.
One fervent QAnon supporter noticed that the stonework on the Rotunda floor formed a Q.
Bush is considered an enemy of Q, and this was seen as a message to the deep state, warning them about QAnon.
- Jeffrey Epstein’s arrest and death
In July 2019, the billionaire financier and socialite Jeffery Epstein was arrested on numerous charges related to prostitution, sex trafficking, and abuse of teenage girls. Epstein had abused girls as young as 14 and procured many for his powerful and wealthy friends.
Three weeks after his arrest, Epstein died in his cell of an apparent suicide.
Epstein’s arrest and ‘mysterious’ death – along with his relationships with many powerful men – were seen as the greatest validation of QAnon’s predictions and claims. Q referenced Epstein and his private island (where many of his crimes took place) numerous times before Epstein’s arrest, as far back as November 2017.
Contrary to what many of his followers will tell you, Q wasn’t sharing or uncovering anything new.
Epstein was arrested in 2008 and charged with procuring a child for prostitution and soliciting a prostitute. After pleading guilty, he received an incredibly light (and controversial) conviction. Investigators identified 36 girls allegedly abused by Epstein.
The case was well known in rightwing circles for years, due to Epstein’s close relationship with Bill Clinton and the influence his social status had in his light conviction. Q wasn’t sharing anything you couldn’t already read in pro-Trump Facebook groups.
And like everyone else using Epstein to smear the Clintons, Q left out one important fact: Donald Trump was also close friends with Jeffrey Epstein. He’s been photographed with Jeffrey Epstein numerous times. They were neighbors.
Donald Trump, his wife Melania, and Jeffrey Epstein
Donald Trump is on record joking about Epstein’s attraction to girls ‘on the young side.’
The same Donald Trump is apparently fighting to bring down an evil cabal of child sex trafficking cannibal elites.
How can the savior of QAnon be in cahoots with one of its most prominent villains? This has never been explained.
- The Wayfair Child Trafficking ‘Scandal’
In June 2020, a QAnon believer and self-styled detective noticed that online furniture brand Wayfair was selling expensive metal cabinets with girls’ names like Neriah and Yaritza.
This was nearly a year after Jeffrey Epstein’s sex trafficking operation had finally been exposed.
The conclusion was simple: Wayfair must also be involved in the global child sex trafficking operations that QAnon is working to expose.
The completely baseless ‘theory’ gained so much traction and that Wayfair was forced to eventually release a statement denying any role in any sex trafficking crimes.
- Mass Arrest of Celebrities During Covid-19
Shortly after contracting Covid-19 in 2020, Tom Hanks appeared as a guest host on Saturday Night Live with a shaved head, recording from his home.
Many in the QAnon community decided there was only one explanation: Hanks had finally been arrested and detained at home. The Storm was clearly about to start.*
Tom Hanks recording from home
Over the following months, home-made videos of disheveled celebrities were deemed further proof of ongoing mass arrests.
Furthermore, the ‘weakened’ state of each celeb, clearly visible in the videos, resulted from a lack of adrenochrome. Under house arrest, they had been cut off from their supply of children.
*Hanks had shaved his head for a movie role.
Origins & Background
Conspiracy theories and cults are nothing new.
And while QAnon’s rise can seem incomprehensible when viewed alongside its outlandish beliefs, it’s origins can be traced back to some of the oldest conspiracy theories in the world.
In fact, QAnon’s greatest success may simply be repackaging and reinventing the most resilient conspiracy theories for the internet age and combining them into one big, all-encompassing belief system.
To spread QAnon to the broadest possible audience and recruit members from all across the US (and the world), the people behind it merged the pre-internet recruitment tactics from well-known cults with 21st-century internet culture, game design, and social media.
The roots of QAnon can arguably be traced back to 1903 when the earliest version of The Protocols of the Elders of Zion appeared in the Russian Empire. The Protocols… was a forged document claiming to describe a Jewish plot to take over the world.
Despite being debunked in 1921, the text has remained popular and widely available for over a century. Henry Ford (founder of the Ford car company) published 500,000 and distributed them across the USA. It continues to influence anti-Semitic conspiracy theories about secret cabals taking over (or already controlling) the world.
Over the next 100 years, as American trust in government and society collapsed (due to scandals like Watergate), conspiracy theories thrived. Every recent major event in American history seems to have a corresponding conspiracy theory: the moon landing, JFK’s assassination, 9/11, the 2016 and 2020 presidential elections.
Meanwhile, with the rise of the internet, fringe ideas like the Illuminati, the New World Order, and shape-shifting, blood-drinking lizard people running the planet started to gain wider audiences.
Eventually, they all started to overlap, merge, and compliment each other.
People used the internet to ‘connect the dots’ and share wild theories based on flimsy and false information. ‘Alternative facts’ became acceptable – long before the Trump administration gave them a name.
Anonymous imageboards, subreddits, and Facebook groups made conspiracy theories a communal activity. Lonely, isolated people could gather online to share tips and investigate the evidence.
The only thing they were missing was a leader. Somebody to tie everything together in an easy-to-understand package and provide much-needed guidance and inspiration.
Q, or the people behind him, saw an opportunity to fill that gap and build an entire movement. In doing so, he took age-old conspiracy theory tropes and added some innovations.
Here are the five most successful innovations that helped QAnon spread like wildfire.
Most conspiracy theories relate to past events, like the Moon landing and JFK’s assassination, in which the outcome is known and final. While you can uncover the truth, you can’t impact or influence the events that occurred.
Others happen at such a high level, like Area 51, that ordinary folks can never hope to infiltrate them.
QAnon is happening right now.
Even better, Q actively engages his followers and encourages them to get involved. He provides ordinary people with the power to determine the course of history, save the planet, and bring about salvation for the human race.
Not to mention saving children from a Satanic cabal of cannibal sex traffickers.
Rather than helplessly standing by as the world collapses, QAnon followers get to solve clues, decode messages, uncover conspiracies, and harass evildoers. In fact, many of QAnon’s most infamous claims didn’t originate from Q himself, but were invented by his followers.
For these reasons, experts have compared QAnon to a Live Action Role Playing Game (LARP) or a board game.
The problem is, the players don’t realize they’re in a game. And it’s ruining lives.
2. Co-opting Current Events
QAnon’s greatest skill is taking seemingly unrelated events and assimilating them into the all-encompassing narrative about evil, child-eating cabals secretly running the world. His posts are littered with random news stories that have no obvious connection but apparently hint at something much bigger.
Jeffrey Epstein’s arrest and death in 2019 were the first well-known example, exposing the world to a legitimate sex trafficking operation catering to rich and powerful men. For many, it also validated Q and everything he had predicted up to that point.
But 2020 gave QAnon it’s greatest, most tragic, gift of all: the Covid-19 pandemic.
As governments worldwide struggled to control the coronavirus’s spread, Q was quick to exploit the crisis and quickly started including references to Covid-19 in his posts.
From there, Covid-19 misinformation became integral to QAnon and spurred its rapid growth across the globe in 2020.
QAnon followers have tied everything they fear in 2020 together into one giant ‘big tent’ conspiracy: Covid-19, vaccines, 5G, Big Government, surveillance, fake news, liberals, Bill Gates, George Soros, and much, much more.
And at the heart of it all is Q, providing answers and explanations, connecting the dots no one else can see.
It’s worth mentioning that Q has never posted about 5G or Bill Gates and has only mentioned vaccines three times. His followers assimilated these issues into the conspiracy based on their own ‘investigations’.
3. Exploiting Social Media
Without social media, there is no QAnon.
If QAnon had never graduated from anonymous imageboards like 8chan, most of us would have never heard about it.
But early promoters knew that social media was key to bringing QAnon to the masses. And they succeeded.
By exploiting the business models and algorithms of Facebook, Reddit, Twitter, and Youtube, QAnon was able to spread like wildfire, unchecked for nearly three years.
Through Facebook groups, Twitter hashtags, subreddits, and Youtube recommendations, QAnon pulled millions of scared, isolated people down its rabbit holes, feeding them ever more extreme conspiracy theories and misinformation while providing a twisted sense of purpose and community.
He was going to Make America Great Again and repel the forces of Islam, immigration, socialism, homosexuality, and minority rights.
By the time these companies were forced to take action, it was too late. QAnon’s supporters numbered in the millions. It was mainstream. It had infiltrated everything from the White House to online yoga communities.
Once Facebook, Twitter, and other platforms started clamping down on QAnon, it merely adapted.
The most faithful migrated back to fringe platforms like 8kun, Endchan, Telegram, and Parler*. Mainstream QAnon supporters found ways to spread a more palatable message, tricking the algorithms and people with new messages, hashtags, and more subtle scaremongering.
*In January 2021, after 100s of Trump supporters attacked the US Capitol building, Google and Apple removed Parler from their stores. Shortly after, Amazon Web Services stopped hosting the app, essentially shutting it down. Each company cited acts of violence being planned on the app as the primary motivation.
4. An Unlikely Messiah Figure
Most cults portray their leader as the messianic figure delivering salvation. However, Q is different. Despite leading QAnon, he doesn’t claim to be its savior.
That role is given to Donald Trump.
To outsiders, there’s very little about Donald Trump’s demeanor (or his life) that suggests he’s even interested in overcoming evil.
But Donald Trump was viewed in almost Biblical terms long before QAnon.
Ever since he ran for president in 2015, Christian Conservatives in America have heralded Trump as a hero. He promised to stop the tide of change and bring back old fashioned values and decency.
He was going to Make America Great Again and repel the forces of Islam, immigration, socialism, homosexuality, and minority rights.
Meanwhile, his rhetoric and demeanor on the campaign trail and racist dog whistles appealed to disillusioned white identity, anger, and grievance in poor communities across America.
These two trends quickly converged, and the Donald Trump cult of personality was born. Over the years, with every fresh scandal, it has only intensified. No other US President has enjoyed the unwavering loyalty Donald Trump receives from his base.
While Trump eventually lost the 2020 US election, nearly half the country still voted for him. And now, following the results, they believe the election was stolen – with zero evidence.
QAnon didn’t create the hero-worship of Donald Trump.
The person (or people) behind the movement simply capitalized on his most zealous supporters’ passion and exploited the mythology millions of people had already built around his persona. Trump, for his part, enthusiastically embraced all of this and used it to his advantage.
5. Merchandising and Profiteering
QAnon is more than just a conspiracy cult. It’s also a brand. And a highly lucrative one at that.
From the very beginning, sly opportunists saw the business potential for promoting QAnon to as broad an audience as possible. They created an entire industry of QAnon propaganda and merch, from clothes, flags, and books, to bumper stickers and coffee.
While many of these products were once sold on Amazon and Etsy, they also created independent e-commerce stores, websites, and brand operations.
A QAnon coffee store
QAnon believers are the perfect customer.
They’re intensely loyal to the brand. They love flaunting that loyalty for the whole world to see. And they will enthusiastically consume anything that brings them closer to Q and the truths he can reveal.
QAnon branded clothes and merch also serve another purpose.
Wearing a QAnon t-shirt is like a sports jersey.
It shows everyone you’re part of the tribe – a true believer. And you’re not ashamed or embarrassed to show it.
When you’re at a Trump rally or doing your groceries, and you see someone else sporting some QAnon gear, there’s an immediate kinship. You’re not alone. They get you when no one else does. They know the same secrets as you.
The people peddling QAnon coffee and books for profit know all this.
They know that people will buy into anything that brings them deeper into Q’s inner circle. They know $22 for a book is a small price to pay for ‘enlightenment’ and a deeper connection to Q. They know that many QAnon followers have a deep need to belong and that buying a QAnon bumper sticker will fulfill that need, if just for a few minutes.
What’s the Appeal of QAnon?
Even with the popularity of conspiracy theories and QAnon’s innovations, it can still be incomprehensible that anyone would join a cult with such insane, easily debunked beliefs.
So, why are so many people drawn to QAnon? To answer this question, you need to look beyond its claims and beliefs and think about what QAnon offers people.
In the early 21st century, psychologists in the USA started studying the appeal of conspiracy theories and their correlations with cults. Their research has made some important conclusions:
- All successful conspiracy theories address negative emotions like fear, pain, suffering, grievance, neglect, isolation, and paranoia.
- Conspiracy theorists are often unable to handle change and uncertainty well, both in their personal lives and at a societal level.
- They display a tendency towards ‘conspiracist ideation,’ the attraction to simple narratives of good vs. evil, and hidden forces determined to destroy their lives.
- They have a deep mistrust of government.
Source: Pew Research
When you consider millions of people have joined QAnon, the research detailed above signals a disturbing conclusion: American society is plagued by mass grievance, anger, division, insecurity, loneliness, and isolation. This is not a new issue – it’s been building for decades.
Sociologists, activists, and policy-makers have been campaigning for years to highlight the dangers of letting these issues fester unaddressed.
But with the rise of QAnon in 2018, it became clear just how desperate people have become, seeking a form of community and stability in a cult that was spawned in the darkest corners of the internet.
Furthermore, QAnon gives people easy villains to blame for their woes (Democrats, elites, billionaires, Jews, global institutions, etc.) and empowers them to fight back. In doing so, they’re no longer a victim – they become a hero in an epic battle of good vs. evil.
If they’re killed in the struggle, as one QAnon supporter was during the US Capitol attack at the beginning of January 2021, they’re not criminals or rioters; they’re a martyr for the cause.
It can feel like Qanon came out of nowhere. You never heard of it, until suddenly it was everywhere, all at once.
But while QAnon’s rise from internet obscurity to mainstream political force and national security risk was rapid, it’s surprisingly easy to trace. Everything about QAnon happened out in the open.
QAnon first emerges online. It quickly spreads from fringe forums to the White House.
October 6: US President Donald Trump hosts a dinner for military leaders at the White House.
He tells reporters present: “You guys know what this represents? Maybe it’s the calm before the storm. Could be the calm, the calm before the storm.”
He refuses to explain the statement.
October 28th: The first QAnon post is published on fringe internet forum 4chan – an anonymous imageboard known for hosting controversial communities.
The post is titled “Calm Before the Storm.” The author, identifying as Q Clearance Patriot, claims to have access to high-level intelligence that Hilary Clinton would soon be extradited. The National Guard would be activated on Oct. 30th, and mass rioting would ensue shortly after.
None of these predictions would come true.
November: Two 4chan moderators, Paul Furber and Coleman Rogers, team up with a small-time Youtuber Tracy Diaz to spread Q’s message to a wider audience. They create the first QAnon Reddit community and Youtube channels.
American actress Roseanne Barr tweets about QAnon, raising it’s profile significantly. She continues sporadically tweeting about QAnon until Mar ‘18.
For the first time, Donald Trump elevates QAnon, quote tweeting @MAGAPILL, a Twitter account that regularly promotes the conspiracy theory. He includes a link to its website.
December: Mainstream press first starts reporting on QAnon.
QAnon infiltrates right-wing media in the US. First known acts of violence and terrorism inspired by the cult.
January: Fox News host Sean Hannity tweets a QAnon hashtag for the first time.
Q moves to 8chan, claiming his 4chan board has been ‘infiltrated.’ 8chan is notorious for connections with white supremacy, anti-Semitism, child pornography, and mass shootings across the US. Paul Furber manages Q’s 8chan board.
March: Reddit bans Furber, Rogers, and Diaz from its platform and closes their subreddit due to incitement of violence and sharing private information of individuals.
June: In the first known act of violence inspired by QAnon, a gunman holds up traffic on Hoover Dam for 90 minutes. He’s arrested and detained on terrorism charges by Nevada police.
July: The first televised record of QAnon supporters appearing at Trump rallies.
In one shot from a rally – broadcast on Fox New – Trump is partially blocked by a sign reading ‘We Are Q.’ 10s of millions of people are exposed to QAnon for the first time.
White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders refuses to denounce the group when asked about it later.
A security expert analyzes QAnon’s coded messages and claims they’re just random typing with no meaning.
August: Conspiracy theorist and QAnon promoter Michael LeBron tweets photos of himself with Donald Trump while touring the White House.
October: Police arrest a man for starting a wildfire in California that burned 20,000 acres. The suspect appears to have been inspired by QAnon and Pizzagate.
December: Police arrest another man found with bomb-making material in a different state. QAnon once again appears to be an inspiration.
The US election kicks off. Donald Trump and his campaign fully embrace QAnon and its supporters.
March: The largest group of Q supporters on record attends a Trump rally.
Inspired by QAnon, Anthony Carmello murders Gambino crime family underboss Frank Cali outside his home. Carmello appears in court with QAnon symbols and MAGA phrases written on his hands.
May: Internal FBI memo identifies QAnon as a domestic terror threat.
July: Bill Mitchell – a broadcaster and QAnon promoter – attends a White House ‘social media summit’ hosted by Donald Trump to celebrate his online media supporters.
Jeffrey Epstein is arrested for trafficking minors for sex for himself and procuring them for friends. His arrest is seen as validation for Q and his followers. The community mostly ignores Epstein’s well-publicized friendship with Donald Trump.
August: Warm-up act at a Trump rally uses the “WWG1WGA” QAnon motto. He later denies it’s connected to Qanon.
Trump’s re-election campaign releases a ‘Women for Trump’ ad on Youtube featuring prominent QAnon signs and slogans. It later deletes the ad.
8chan is shut down for connection to white supremacist shooting in El Paso targeting the local Hispanic community, in which a lone gunman murders 23 people.
After a few false starts, 8chan re-emerges online as 8kun, hosted by a Russian company known for facilitating cybercrime.
Q accounts start posting on 8kun shortly after. Endchan also becomes a popular forum for QAnon followers.
A study shows that Trump has amplified QAnon at least 258 times since its birth. This includes retweeting or mentioning 150 Twitter accounts linked to QAnon, often multiple times a day.
Jeffrey Epstein dies in his cell before being charged. Questions around his death elevate conspiracies about his connections with elite figures. QAnon grows significantly.
November: British monarch Prince Andrew gives a disastrous interview discussing his friendship with Epstein. His comments and allegations made against him by numerous women fuel QAnon’s spread in the UK.
December: Trump retweets a prominent QAnon influencer and organizer of QAnon marches.
QAnon goes global.
Fear, uncertainty, and misinformation about Covid-19, vaccines, 5G, and Jeffrey Epstein’s arrest and death create a perfect storm for QAnon to gain a following in over 70 countries.
Social media companies attempt to clamp down on QAnon communities, but many fear it’s too little too late.
Donald Trump loses the 2020 election. While some QAnon followers lose faith, many double-down and decide it’s further proof of the cabal’s power.
February: Trump, his admin, and re-election campaign repeatedly engage with QAnon figures and followers and release media with QAnon featuring prominently.
March: At the start of the Coronavirus pandemic, Fox News host Sean Hannity promotes a Covid-19 conspiracy started by QAnon on his radio show. It’s an early example of a growing trend throughout 2020: the convergence of QAnon with anti-vaxxer, 5G, New World Order, and Coronavirus conspiracies into one big, messy, paranoid worldview.
March-June: QAnon activity doubles on Instagram and Twitter. It triples on Facebook, due to the popularity of QAnon Facebook groups and the nature of its algorithms.
April: A man derails a train in Los Angeles, targeting a nearby US navy hospital ship’. After his arrest, he quotes QAnon numerous times.
June: Q encourages followers to take a “digital soldiers oath.” The Twitter hashtag #TakeTheOath starts trending.
July: Twitter bans thousands of QAnon accounts and changes its algorithms to reduce its spread.
A reservist in the Canadian Rangers allegedly rams a truck through the gates of the prime minister’s residence in Ottawa. The suspect had previously used his personal and business social media accounts to post conspiracy theories around QAnon and Coronavirus.
July 4th: An American independence day, Trump retweets QAnon accounts 14 times throughout the day.
The next day, Michael Flynn – a convicted criminal, Trump associate and former national security advisor – posts a Twitter video taking the QAnon oath with his family.
August: Trump is asked about QAnon during a press conference. He replies:
“Well I don’t know much about the movement other than they like me very much… which I appreciate… I’ve heard these are people that love our country. So I don’t know really anything about it other than they do supposedly like me.”
An internal report published by Facebook shows that the top QAnon groups on the social network contain over 3 million members in the USA alone. In total, thousands of groups and pages dedicated to QAnon are found across Facebook. The company takes steps to remove groups and restrict QAnon activity. However, both continue to flourish.
The first QAnon conference, Q Con Live!, is held in Jacksonville, Florida.
September: Mike Pence is scheduled to attend an event hosted by QAnon supporters. He eventually cancels his appearance.
A report is published detailing how ‘Pastel QAnon’ – a softer, less outwardly extreme version of the conspiracy – has spread throughout new age and wellness communities worldwide. People report seeing examples of Pastel QAnon in Facebook groups dedicated to yoga, natural births, parenting, fitness, mental health, and much more.
October: Trump is asked to denounce QAnon publicly in a televised interview. He responds:
“I know nothing about it. I do know they are very much against pedophilia. They fight it very hard. But I know nothing about it. What I do hear about it is that they are very strongly against pedophilia, and I agree with that. I mean, I agree with that. And I do agree with that very strongly.”
The QAnon community views his comments as an explicit endorsement.
The FBI arrests 13 men for plotting to kidnap Governor of Michigan Gretchen Whitmer. Evidence suggests at least 7 of the men involved previously showed support for QAnon.
Esty removes all QAnon merchandise from its marketplace. Amazon makes little effort to follow Etsy’s example. QAnon books and merchandise are widely available to purchase from numerous sellers on Amazon until 2021.
Youtube’s CEO states that QAnon doesn’t break the platform’s rules, despite the constant incitement of violence and targeting individuals for harassment. Shortly after, the company modifies its algorithm to reduce the viewership of QAnon content. It also changes its hate and harassment policies slightly to address QAnon.
November: Trump loses the US presidential election, failing to fulfill Q’s prophecies and bring about the Great Awakening.
Two QAnon supporters are elected to the US House of Representatives. Lauren Boebert and Marjorie Taylor Greene are both members of the Republican party.
Research suggests at least 24 congressional candidates running in the 2020 elections supported QAnon.
Lauren Boebert and Marjorie Taylor Greene, QAnon supporters elected to Congress
December: Evidence suggests QAnon has a presence in 70+ countries on every continent but the Antarctic.
QAnon slogans, language, and memes have also infiltrated social justice movements like the Movement for Black Lives and genuine anti-trafficking efforts.
January: Trump holds a rally in Washington DC on January 6th, spreading lies and conspiracy theories to the audience and encouraging his supporters to march on the US Capitol and stop the certification of Biden’s election victory.
Shortly after, thousands of rioters attack the Capitol building while congress is in session, in what is later deemed a violent insurrection and an attempt to topple the US government. Many rioters film themselves as they commit acts of treason.
Later, its revealed attackers were armed with guns, explosive, pepper spray, and cable ties – apparently planning to take members of the US government hostage (or execute them on air). Many had openly co-ordinated the attack on social media in advance.
QAnon has a large presence in the crowd, with many of its leading influencers featuring prominently in news reports on the attack.
Five people die, including outspoken QAnon follower and military veteran Ashli Babbit, and hundreds are eventually arrested.
In response to the attack, Twitter purges an additional 70,000s QAnon accounts, Amazon finally starts removing QAnon products from its marketplace, and Google and Apple take action against Parler and Telegram – two apps becoming increasingly popular with QAnon.
Donald Trump is impeached a second time for leading the insurrection and finally concedes defeat to Joe Biden.
On January 20th, Biden is inaugurated as the 46th President of the USA. Trump quietly leaves office on the same day, taking up residence in his Florida resort Mar-a-Lago.
Trump’s failure to fulfil QAnon’s prophecies and the quiet, anticlimactic transition of power create a split in QAnon.
Some start to question their loyalty, struggling to understand Biden’s victory, the failure of the January 6th attack, and Q’s many false prophecies. A small minority finally accept they’ve been lied to and made fools of.
Message posted on a popular QAnon 8kun board, posted Jan. 6th
However, most QAnon followers double down, quoting Trump’s son Eric in his farewell speech: “The best is yet to come”.
2020 US General Election
It’s impossible not to discuss the 2020 US General Election without assessing QAnon’s role.
US President Donald Trump was an early promoter of the conspiracy, shrewdly exploiting it for his political gain. While he has at times denied knowing anything about QAnon, he’s given it numerous indirect endorsements and frequently elevated QAnon accounts on Twitter.
Trump isn’t the only person in rightwing politicals who has seized on QAnon for personal gain.
As QAnon infiltrated mainstream political consciousness, it was rejected almost completely by Democrats and their voters, but found a welcoming embrace in the Republican Party. Numerous people running for office within the party or working in its administration have been outspoken in their support for QAnon.
Many more have either signaled support or appreciation for QAnon by wearing Q badges, using its hashtags, or co-opting it’s most popular slogans. In August 2020, the Texas Republican Party chose as its new slogan “We Are The Storm” – although it denied this had anything to do with QAnon’s slogan “We Are The Storm.”
Aside from Trump, at least 24 QAnon supporters ran for office in the Senate and House in the 2020 General Election, many of them members of the Republican Party. Two were elected: Republicans Lauren Boebert and Marjorie Taylor Greene.
The increasing alignment between the Republican Party and QAnon came to a climax on January 6th,2021, when thousands of Trump supporters marched on Washington, led by the President himself, and eventually attacked the US Capitol building.
The crowd was full of QAnon supporters, including the two most infamous rioters:
- Jake Angeli – who drew huge attention after storming the Capitol building while topless, wearing a giant horned fur hat, and carrying a 6ft spear – is considered a leading QAnon influencer and calls himself the “QAnon Shaman.” Angeli was arrested after the attack and charged with multiple crimes.
- Ashli Babitt, a woman who died after being shot by security protecting the building. The day before the riot, Babitt posted the following on Twitter: “Nothing will stop us… they can try but the storm is here and it is descending upon DC in less than 24 hours… dark to light.”
After the riot’s chaos, followed by four more reported deaths, Trump eventually caved to pressure and reluctantly condemned the attack. He also conceded defeat and announced he would peacefully transfer power to Joe Biden.
Now that Trump has lost re-election and left the White House, will QAnon lose its appeal and shrink back to the dark corners from whence it came and fade away?
A Qanon follower on 8kun grows frustrated
Trump’s loss and the lack of a ‘Great Awakening’ has inspired some QAnon followers to openly question their faith and vent their frustrations. Some have vowed to leave the movement behind.
Even Ron Watkins – who many believe runs Q’s 8kun account – told followers in January 2021:
“We have a new president sworn in and it is our responsibility as citizens to respect the Constitution regardless of whether or not we agree with the specifics… As we enter into the next administration please remember all the friends and happy memories we made together over the past few years.”
Meanwhile, Q hasn’t posted anything since 9th December, 2020.
Unfortunately, evidence and online chatter suggests QAnon will continue to grow underground throughout 2021 and beyond. Consider the following:
- Trump refuses to accept defeat, despite conceding the election, and continues to claim the vote was rigged. QAnon agrees. In fact, the ‘rigged’ election is simply proof of the cabal’s true power. They may have won this round, but the fight will continue.
- Two members of the US House of Representatives are outspoken QAnon believers. In total, over 24 candidates in the 2020 general election were known QAnon supporters. QAnon is now part of the US government.
- QAnon is no longer just an American phenomenon. It has successfully spread across the globe, taking on new shapes and forms to fit in with regional issues everywhere it goes.
- Most of QAnon’s core conspiracy theories predate the movement itself. Some have survived over 100 years. They’re resilient, and they were already growing in popularity before QAnon. Even if the ‘QAnon’ brand loses value, the anti-Semitic, racist beliefs at its core will remain.
- Donald Trump plans to run for re-election in 2024. Unless he is successfully impeached, he’ll most likely start campaigning in 2021. If he does, QAnon will be ready and waiting to support him.
- QAnon continues to infiltrate new online communities, like wellness and natural parenting. More and more people are spreading QAnon ideas without even knowing.
Experts who have studied QAnon since the beginning, along with the conspiracies and cults that inspired it, agree that only a small minority of followers have accepted the truth since Joe Biden’s election.
Many expect QAnon to shrink and go quiet in the short term, while it’s most ardent followers become even more radicalised. However, unlike before, they probably won’t be so vocal about their plans in future.
Meanwhile, QAnon followers fed up with the constant disappointment and lack of action are gravitating towards more militarised far-right groups promising to take matters into their own hands.
The best way to approach QAnon post-Trump is to accept that it will survive and thrive even without him in office.
Like all great American brands, from Coca Cola to Tesla, QAnon was quickly exported worldwide.
While the conspiracy is a quintessentially American phenomenon, QAnon’s ability to shapeshift, transform, and co-opt a wide range of issues (both real and imaginary) has allowed it to spread like wildfire across the globe. From Brazil to the Balkans, Japan to Australia, QAnon and it’s ideas have found audiences and supporters in over 70 countries.
While it’s difficult to trace precisely when QAnon reached individual countries for the first time, it’s clear that the 2020 Coronavirus crisis played a huge role. As the virus spread and governments struggled to combat it, entire economies shut down. The world was engulfed with mass fear, panic, and anger.
Combined with well established global conspiracy theories around vaccines, 5G internet, and powerful elites, the Coronavirus crisis was fertile ground for QAnon. Q claimed to provide a clear explanation for all the uncertainty and a solution to the fear.
And everywhere it goes, QAnon assimilates with local fears and grievances. From EU skepticism in Great Britain to far-right nationalism in Japan, QAnon’s conspiracies give global context to local ‘problems’ and provide easy targets for those who feel left behind in the modern world.
QAnon addresses the British royal family
QAnon is so successful at assimilating with local conspiracy theories that many people around the world who follow its beliefs have never even heard of QAnon. Great Britain is the best example of this, where QAnon-affiliated ideas have gained mainstream acceptance, despite many people never hearing about QAnon.
Terms and Language
Once you know how QAnon followers speak, you start to understand how widespread it has become. Their codes, slogans, and hashtags may look harmless or even nonsensical to an outsider, but they encapsulate everything about the cult and its success.
And you can find them everywhere.
Where We Go One We Go All (WWG1WGA)
‘Where We Go One We Go All’ is the rallying cry of QAnon.
It first appeared in a Q post from January 2018 and quickly took off, with the hashtag #WWG1WGA skyrocketing across social media – until it was banned.
The prominence and popularity of “Where We Go One We Go All” shows the greatest appeal of QAnon: it brings lonely, scared, isolated, and angry people together and gives them a sense of belonging, shared purpose, and community.
‘Q Drops’ is the term for Q’s posts, in which he ‘drops’ clues and codes for supporters to decipher and share.
Decoders, Digital Soldiers, and Bakers
QAnon researchers and supporters give themselves many titles. Some have come directly from Q, while others have developed over time via community adoption.
The most popular titles given to people operating in the QAnon ecosystem are:
- Decoders: The people who have learned how to interpret Q’s increasingly cryptic posts and decipher their true message. Whenever a Q prediction fails to materialize, decoders will go back and attempt to refine their interpretations.
- Bakers: Q’s posts are “breadcrumbs” of information that insiders (usually decoders, but also regular believers) can turn into ‘dough’ and create… cake?
- Digital Soldiers: A term that predates QAnon, it was first coined by Michael Flynn in 2016 to describe Donald Trump’s online supporters. It’s since been embraced by QAnon followers who self-identify as Digital Soldiers, with Flynn as one of their leaders. A role he, in turn, enthusiastically embraced.
See also: crumbs, dough, Patriots.
The Storm is one of the most fundamental beliefs that drive all of QAnon.
Taken from the Trump press conference that inspired the entire conspiracy theory, The Storm is an ill-defined day of reckoning, when Donald Trump will order the mass arrest of the entire evil cabal running America (and the world).
The liberal elite, the Deep State, ‘opposition’ media figures, Democratic politicians, anyone who betrayed Trump – they’ll all be rounded up and convicted for their numerous crimes.
Then, the US military can take over the country and deliver salvation and utopia on Earth.
The Storm has been predicted numerous times and never taken place, just like the 2012 Mayan apocalypse and every other doomsday prophecy.
See also: Calm before the Storm; CBTS.
The Great Awakening
The stated goal of QAnon is to wake up the sleeping masses. To show them the truth of what Q has uncovered, to expose the global elite and puppet masters, and inspire us all to rise up and take back control of our lives and destinies.
This global event is referred to as the Great Awakening and will quickly follow the Storm.
The phrase ‘The Great Awakening’ is deeply ingrained in American Christian history. Historians have identified four periods between the 18th and 20th centuries in which Christian religious enthusiasm surged to the point of a ‘Great Awakening.’
See also: The Awakening.
The Deep State
The Deep State is an idea that has been floating around the fringes of American society for decades.
According to believers, the Deep State is a secret group of influential government workers embedded in every level and branch of the US government. Depending on the period, the Deep State is acting to sabotage the current US president and promote its dark agenda instead.
In the past, the Deep State was interchangeable with government bureaucrats and civil servants.
In the Trump/QAnon era, the Deep State has grown to include anyone opposing Trump’s agenda and attempts to defeat the evil child-eating Satanic cabal running the world. Its reach has also extended beyond the US government and incorporated business leaders, celebrities, civil rights activists, and many more.
The most prominent figures are the usual QAnon villains: Hillary Clinton, Barack Obama, Bill Gates, George Soros, Liberals, ‘disloyal’ Republican politicians, progressives, Jews, and so on.
Even Trump’s allies aren’t safe from a Deep State smear.
US attorney general Bill Barr and Vice President Mike Pence – two of Trump’s most loyal servants – have been exposed as ‘deep staters’ after betraying Trump by upholding US law and defying his attempts to overturn the 2020 election results.
Dr. Anthony Fauci is also widely considered a member of the deep state for not showing Trump sufficient loyalty.
Adrenochrome is a chemical compound that is a byproduct of adrenaline.
It’s a real substance with very limited medical uses. While some small studies investigated adrenochrome’s effects on the brain, they were deeply flawed and inconclusive.
The idea of ingesting adrenochrome ‘recreationally’ can be traced back to three distinct, darkly counter-cultural novels: Aldous Huxleys’ The Doors of Perception; Anthony Burgess’ A Clockwork Orange; Hunter S. Thompson’s Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas.
QAnon believers claim that Democratic and liberal Hollywood elites kidnap, torture, and rape children to extract adrenochrome from their live bodies through Satanic ritual.
‘Elites drinking human blood in Satanic rituals’ is ancient conspiracy theory steeped in anti-Semitism, dating back to the 12th Century Crusades. Henry Ford believed a version of this related to the Rothschild’s and other Jewish families.
QAnon is just the latest, modernized version of this twisted anti-Semitic myth.
It’s also oddly similar to the storyline of lovable Pixar classic Monsters Inc., as many QAnon believers have pointed out.
“Enjoy the Show”
The ‘Show’ refers to the coming apocalypse-style Great Awakening, as foretold by Q.
His followers, who have long expected the Great Awakening, will be able to sit back and enjoy the spectacle, knowing that the chaos is all part of the plan and salvation will follow shortly after.
The red pill is an idea taken from The Matrix movie.
The movie’s main character has to pick between taking the blue pill, thus remaining oblivious to the truth about the world they live in, or the red pill. If he takes the red pill, he’ll wake up to the truth about existence and all the dark secrets and powerful forces shaping his false reality.
The idea of ‘taking the Red Pill’ to ‘wake up’ spread through cyberculture quickly and gained particular prominence among Men’s Rights Activists and self-styled pickup artists.
QAnon followers firmly believe in the ‘red pill moment’ – when you consume so much QAnon misinformation that you finally wake up.
They now work tirelessly so everyone else can share the experience.
MAGA is an acronym for Donald Trump’s election slogan: Make America Great Again.
For many, the phrase is loaded with racist, white supremacist undertones and glorifies a time before black people and minorities in the USA started fighting for equality and basic human rights.
MAGA has morphed into a culture of its own, well beyond just an election slogan, representing diehard allegiance to Trump and what he represents to his followers.
MAGA culture and QAnon supporters have enthusiastically embraced one another, creating popular phrases like ‘MAGA-Pill’ (a portmanteau or MAGA and Red Pill).
Pizzagate emerged during the 2016 US presidential election after Russian operatives hacked Hillary Clinton’s campaign advisor and leaked his emails online, pre-dating QAnon by over a year.
Promoters of Pizzagate claimed the emails contained coded messages linking a Washington DC pizzeria, Comet Ping Pong, with a child sex trafficking ring run by high-level Democratic party officials, including Clinton.
Many conservative websites and far-right media figures actively spread the Pizzagate, which quickly went viral and remains deeply ingrained in the US psyche.
The owner and staff at Comet Ping Pong received numerous death threats and continuous harassment. In December 2016, a man was arrested for firing his rifle into Comet Ping Pong. The suspect was intent on saving the children he believed to be imprisoned within.
Q referenced Pizzagate for the first time in May 2018, and his followers quickly embraced the defunct conspiracy theory.
See also: Pedo-gate
QAnon’s takeover of the #SaveTheChildren hashtag is the most troubling example of how easily it adapts and spreads online.
Save the Children is a well-respected global NGO founded in 1919 to champion children’s rights and provide emergency aid during conflicts and natural disasters.
As social media platforms clamped down on QAnon and its hashtags, promoters of the conspiracy co-opted #SaveTheChildren to bypass restrictions and spread into new communities.
Sadly, it worked. By the end of 2020, QAnon had infiltrated parenting, yoga, wellness, and child welfare online communities.
It’s now often incredibly difficult to separate genuine child welfare messages from QAnon propaganda in such communities.
See also: #SaveOurChildren, #FreedomForTheChildren, #SaveOurKids, #PedoHunters
HRC is shorthand for Hilary Rodham Clinton, Q’s first target. Clinton has remained the no.1 target for many QAnon believers and conspiracy theorists ever since she ran for president in 2016.
Her husband’s relationship with Jeffrey Epstein is considered irrefutable evidence of their role in child sex trafficking. QAnon has mostly ignored Donald Trump’s close friendship with Epstein.
The ‘Clinton Body Count’
The Clinton Body Count is a conspiracy theory claiming Bill and Hilary Clinton have ordered the assassination of over 50 of their associates.
The theory predates QAnon (it started in the 90s) but has been enthusiastically adopted and promoted by QAnon followers.
The Clinton Body Count has gained increasing mainstream acceptance in 2020, openly discussed numerous times on Joe Rogan’s podcast.
In a June 2020 post, Q encouraged his followers to ‘take the oath.’
Without any further details, numerous followers began uploading videos of themselves taking an oath of allegiance to Q and the QAnon movement.
People continue to upload videos ‘taking the oath’, including Trump associate Michael Flynn and his family.
Operation Mockingbird is an alleged 1960s CIA influence campaign that sought to manipulate news media and journalists in the US to spread pro-government propaganda.
Operation Mockingbird’s existence has only ever been a Cold War conspiracy theory. However, it’s an idea based on factual events, including a large-scale wiretapping operation called Project Mockingbird, in which JFK’s government eavesdropped on American journalists.
QAnon followers have fully embraced Operation Mockingbird. They believe the operation never ended and continues to influence the media and news for over 50 years. Operation Mockingbird is responsible for spreading anti-Trump fake news and any story or fact that contradicts QAnon.
Coined by Trump representative Kellyann Conway in 2017, ‘alternative facts’ were originally a simple way to defend and justify Trump’s many lies and falsehoods.
As QAnon gained momentum, its followers depended on ‘alternative facts’ to explain the conspiracy theory’s wildest lies, false predictions, and misinformation.
Believing alternative facts is a mark of pride. It shows you’ve woken up and know the real truth, unlike the ignorant masses that continue accepting objective, provable, and legitimate facts.
QAnon Celebrity Supporters
Despite QAnon targeting celebrities in many of its conspiracies and attacks, it’s still found plenty of supporters in the world of entertainment.
While some celebrity QAnon supporters appear to be milking it for exposure, the cult also has some well known celebrity true believers.
The comedian and former sitcom star has a long history of controversial statements and tweets, which eventually led to her TV show being canceled in 2018. She was one of the earliest notable QAnon promoters. She tweeted about the conspiracy in November 2017, just weeks after it started.
In 2018, Barr tweeted praise for Donald Trump, claiming he had ‘broken up pedophile rings in high places everywhere.’ A baseless claim, it’s also a trademark of QAnon. Barr later claimed she was referring to Trump naming April “Child Abuse Prevention Month.”
Woods, better known these days for spreading right-wing propaganda, disinformation and conspiracy theories than his acting career, referenced QAnon in 2018 with the following tweet: “I’m holding back my thoughts on #Q. Let’s see where the wind blows.”
Since then, he’s included QAnon tropes in numerous tweets, including an accusation that first lady Michelle Obama embraced “Harvey Weinstein, Bill Clinton, and other Democrat rapists and child sex traffickers.”
The far-right media personality has made a career out of exploiting loathsome conspiracy for personal and financial gain. Most notoriously, Jones has repeatedly claimed that two school shootings in 2018 in which 20 children and 14 teenagers were murdered were a political set up. Jones also claimed nobody had died in the shootings.
Alex Jones has been an enthusiastic supporter of QAnon from its earliest days. In 2018, he claimed to be in personal contact with Q.
In 2020, Jones made a speech claiming that ‘establishment perverts and pedophiles’ are running society and encouraged his supporters to ‘kill as many of them as possible.’
In January 2021, Jones appeared to break with Qanon and lose patience with the constant disappointments.
The former UFC fighter and supporting star of Disney’s The Mandalorian has come under increasing scrutiny for sharing and amplifying numerous Cov-19 and election fraud conspiracy theories in 2020.
Many of her social media posts include explicit references to QAnon tropes about government control, missing children, Pizzagate, and more.
The former pornstar has been outspoken about real abuses in the porn industry for years. Since 2019, however, Jameson has started amplifying QAnon conspiracy theories, using her own real-life experiences and the Jeffrey Epstein scandal to legitimize extreme claims about child sex trafficking by ‘elites.’
This has included tweeting: “If you think Epstein is somehow unique, you’re sadly mistaken . . . there are MANY Epstein’s that make him look like an amateur. Child hunting games, sacrifice, torture of children as young as 2. The elite.”
Jameson also claimed to overhear conversations between guests at a popular upscale French hotel, discussing child hunting ‘parties.’
Jenna Jameson’s ex-husband, another UFC fighter, has repeatedly promoted QAnon in interviews and on social media. In the summer of 2020, he started selling QAnon apparel on his website.
Probably the biggest podcast host in the world, Joe Rogan hasn’t commented much on QAnon. However, he is a well-known conspiracy theorist and frequently promotes and shares debunked conspiracy theories, lies, and falsehoods on his show.
He also gives a massive platform to fellow conspiracy theorists he considers friends. In 2020, he welcomed Alex Jones and Joey Diaz on to his show (Diaz appeared twice) and let them discuss the merits of QAnon with almost no pushback.
Rogan is also a popular UFC commentator.
Most people only became aware of QAnon in 2019 and 2020. Many also still think it’s just another weird internet cult.
However, QAnon has been inspiring acts of violence, harassment, and terror since early 2018. And not just online.
Violent Incidents Inspired by QAnon
The following are the most notable acts of violence committed or planned by QAnon supporters between 2018 and 2021.
This list is not a complete record. It’s simply a demonstration of QAnon’s growing influence in increasingly violent acts.
- June: A gunman uses an armed truck to block traffic on Hoover Dam for 90 minutes. In a video message, he claims to be on a mission from QAnon.
- October: A man is arrested for starting a wildfire in California that burned 20,000 acres of land. He appears to have been inspired by QAnon and Pizzagate.
- December: Police arrest a man found with bomb-making material in Illinois. He planned to “blow up a satanic temple monument” to raise awareness of Pizzagate, the New World Order, and QAnon.
- March: Anthony Carmello murders Gambino crime family underboss Frank Cali outside his home in Staten Island, New York. Carmello appears in court with QAnon symbols and MAGA phrases written on his hands. His defense lawyers use Carmello’s obsession with QAnon as evidence of mental unfitness.
- [May: An internal FBI memo identifies QAnon as a domestic terror threat due to the increasing number of violent acts it’s inspiring.]
- September: A QAnon supporter smashes and desecrates the Chapel of the Holy Hill in Sedona, Arizona, while shouting that the Catholic Church supports child trafficking.
- December: Police in Montana arrest a woman for conspiring to kidnap her children from their foster care. Cynthia Abcug had planned a ‘QAnon kidnapping raid’ to rescue her children in Colorado from the Satan worshippers and pedophiles imprisoning them (the foster family). After the plot failed, she traveled across the US, evading police with help from a network of QAnon supporters.
This is the first known QAnon-inspired kidnapping case, but many more have followed.
- April: A man intentionally derails a train in Los Angeles. He admits to targeting a nearby navy hospital ship, the Mercy, due to ‘suspicious activities involving the coronavirus’ and hoping to ‘wake people up.’
- June: A man live streams a 20-mile car chase from the police, talking about Qanon and shouting ‘QAnon help me!” His five children are also in the car during the chase.
- July: A Canadian Rangers reservist allegedly rams a truck through the gates of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s residence in Ottawa. Shortly before doing so, he shared numerous posts promoting QAnon.
- October: The FBI arrests 13 men for plotting to kidnap Governor of Michigan Gretchen Whitmer. Evidence suggests at least 7 of the men involved have previously shown support for QAnon.
- November: Kyle Rittenhouse, a 17-year-old boy who shot three unarmed Black Lives Matter protestors in Kenosha, Wisconsin, hired a QAnon supporter, L. Lin Wood, as his defense attorney.
- January: At a rally on January 6th, Donald Trump and his associates encouraged thousands of supporters to storm the US Capitol building while Joe Biden’s victory was being ratified.The subsequent attack by a mob of armed Trump supporters, in which 5 people died, has since been declared an insurrection, attempted coup, and one of the darkest days in American history.QAnon followers were at the forefront of the attack, believing it was the start of The Storm and Great Awakening
While not all QAnon followers resort to physical violence, harassment and intimidation are fundamental to the movement.
QAnon followers believe God has chosen them to defeat their enemies, persecute the Satanic, child-eating elites, and rise up against the Deep State.
For most, that means constantly bullying and abusing people online.
When QAnon chooses a target – most often a celebrity or politician, but sometimes regular people and business owners unwittingly linked to the latest QAnon ‘scandal’ – followers are encouraged to find them on social media, publish their contact details, locate their homes and workplaces, and bombard them with threats and intimidation.
Death threats and accusations of pedophilia are common.
Model Chrissy Teigen has become QAnon’s most well-known celebrity target. While they have bigger targets (Hillary Clinton, Barack Obama, etc.), the abuse Teigen experiences shows the impact QAnon can have on an innocent person’s life.
In 2017, a Twitter user accused Chrissy Teigen of being connected to Pizzagate in some vague way. Teigen became an immediate target for mass harassment online, worsening every time she tried to publicly counter her abusers on Twitter.
After QAnon falsely accused Teigen and her husband, John Legend, of traveling on Jeffrey Epstein’s plane, the harassment escalated to the point that Teigen blocked over 1 million Twitter accounts from her profile, deleted 10,000s of Tweets, and sought legal advice to force Twitter to intervene.
However, the harassment continued and intensified.
In October 2020, Chrissy Teigen announced on social media that she had miscarried and lost her baby. She was attacked mercilessly across Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram by 1,000s of QAnon followers, claiming the miscarriage was karma for all the children she’s eaten, and no one should feel sympathy for a pedophile.
Chrissy Teigen’s case may seem extreme, but it’s not. She is just one victim of relentless online abuse from QAnon followers.
Thousands of people like her have been attacked online in far worse ways. They’ve had their workplace and home addresses exposed, putting them in physical danger, causing them to lose their jobs, and ruining their lives.
How You Can Support QAnon Believers
As QAnon has grown and consumed 100,000s of peoples’ lives, communities have also grown in response to support people affected by the conspiracy.
If a friend or family member has become consumed by QAnon and you’re worried about their wellbeing, there are steps you can take to help them.
Deprogramming someone who has fallen victim to a conspiracy cult like QAnon isn’t easy. It takes time and patience, but it can be done.
Before approaching them, consider the following.
1. Understand the history and context
Understanding where QAnon came from and why it appeals to people is crucial. You’ll have context for any claims the person makes and be able to counter them more effectively. The QAnon believer will also see that you’ve made an effort to understand them instead of dismissing their ideas outright.
2. Don’t be insulting or mocking
Laughing or making them feel stupid is the worst thing you can do when talking to someone who believes in a conspiracy or cult. Their beliefs are deeply tied to their sense of identity. Laughing at them will only create tension and harden those beliefs even more. They’ll also dismiss anything you say.
3. Listen, ask, and empathize
Fact-checking a QAnon believer and pointing out all the reasons they’re wrong isn’t going to achieve anything. They’ve invested in an entire belief system and alternate reality with a complex web of ‘alternative facts.’
If you want to break someone out of QAnon, engage them by listening to their concerns. Ask them questions about how they found QAnon, why it appealed to them, and any fulfillment or value it provides.
If you can, show genuine interest and curiosity. Build a common bond and highlight the values and interests you share. Tell them you also want to end child sex trafficking.
Then, slowly, start to introduce ideas and suggestions that may create some doubt. For example, is abusing celebrities on Twitter actually going to end sex trafficking? Maybe there’s a more productive (non-violent) way to spend your time?
4. Acknowledge that conspiracies do exist
Unfortunately, some of QAnon’s conspiracy theories are based on factual events. Conspiracies do happen. Jeffrey Epstein was guilty of running a child sex trafficking ring for wealthy men; the Catholic church has spent decades covering up abuses by its clergy; the CIA, FBI, and US government have a long history of spying and experimenting on US citizens;
If you acknowledge examples of real-life scandals and conspiracies that inspired QAnon’s wildest, most troubling claims, a QAnon believer may be more open to hearing your opinions and being challenged.
5. Don’t approach them alone
If you know someone who promotes and believes in QAnon, reach out to their friends and family and see if you can coordinate approaching them.
Treat the situation like supporting someone in a toxic relationship. Gather a small group of peers and intervene together. It takes the pressure off you, and they’ll be more likely to listen to your collective concerns.
6. Take the conversation private
Commenting on someone’s public posts isn’t going to change their mind. We all know this by now.
Instead, if someone you know posts something troubling, send them a private message. They’ll be less defensive and argumentative, more likely to let their guard down, and more open to having a thoughtful conversation.
7. Be patient
Nobody changes their mind on a belief system as complex as QAnon overnight.
Like escaping a cult, breaking free of QAnon can take a long time. Helping someone leave it behind requires fortitude and patience. You may face weeks (or even months) of insults and disappointments before you start to see progress.
8. Don’t be afraid to walk away
At the end of the day, if your wellbeing and mental health are is compromised by engaging with a QAnon believer, it’s okay to walk away.
Some people are too far gone, and you might not be the right person to help them. If the conversation is too stressful, antagonistic, or unproductive, you can stop and move on.
If you need inspiration or help, check out r/QAnoncasualties and r/reQovery. They’re two Reddit communities started to help people leave QAnon and support those who have been hurt by the conspiracy.
In early 2021, QAnon was a little over 3 years old – and facing a major crisis.
Donald Trump was kicked out of office, failing to fulfill Q’s prophecies; the attempted insurrection failed to overthrow the US government; and after months of silence, it appeared Q had abandoned his followers altogether.
So, what happens next?
Nobody knows for sure, but one thing is guaranteed: the grievances, anger, and conspiracies that inspired QAnon’s meteoric rise from fringe internet forums to global cultural force are stronger than ever.
While the QAnon brand may fade back into internet obscurity, the lies and false beliefs it created will continue to spread unless drastic action is taken.
QAnon – and all its craziness – has laid bare the divisions and social ills that have been plaguing society for years. We can continue to ignore them and wait for the next QAnon to emerge, more violent and better organized – or we can start to address these complex but urgent issues.
Our futures may very well depend on which course of action we choose.