QAnon, pronounced (Kew-A-non) is a disproven far-right conspiracy theory that believes that a secret cabal of Satan-worshipping, cannibalistic paedophilic ring secretly runs the ‘Deep State’ and conspired to overthrow US President Donald Trump. I know, it sounds ridiculous, far-fetched and possibly the easiest conspiracy to discredit. However, the latest NPR poll found that 17% of Americans believe in the core ideas of QAnon. Roughly 55,760,000 of Americans believe that the Deep State is being run by cannibalistic, Satan-worshipping paedophiles. That is more than the populations of South Africa, South Korea, Spain, Colombia and Canada. QAnon has become mainstream, it is no longer a small chatroom in some dark corner of the internet, it is real, dangerous and infectious.
Despite the seemingly comedic core beliefs, the founders of QAnon have been cunning. They have evolved QAnon to become an umbrella of internet conspiracy theories. They embrace popular theories like UFO cover ups, 9/11 and Kennedy’s assassination and utilise social friction like the BLM and “Plandemic movement” as a vehicle to gather more public support. QAnon is accessible to anyone who believes that society is not what it seems, a deep suspicion of governance has been a key element of QAnon foundations. It has become a “Big Tent Conspiracy Theory” one that supports multiple theories and does not isolate itself. A large proportion of QAnon focuses on top Democrats, who they claim, are the main perpetrators of the Deep State. President Joe Biden has been at the forefront of QAnon’s crusade, they accuse him of being a paedophile who harnesses Adrenochrome, a lifesaving chemical, from his child victims. This is no longer a mindless cult that parades the internet spewing misinformation and unpopular conspiracies. It is popular, it has an active support group and as the Atlantic said, it is “the birth of a new religion”.
On October 2017, an anonymous post was made by someone called “Q Clearance Patriot”, who became known as “Q”. He predicted that a war was imminent, and that global conflict would soon culminate in “The Storm”. The New York Times believes that “The Storm” is a refence to a cryptic comment made by Trump in October 2017 when posing with military generals; “Maybe it is the calm before the Storm”. Q’s prediction gained traction, he developed a network of loyal followers who everyday awaited “Q drops”; Q Drops are posts made by Q that explain the latest conspiracy theories and supposedly unmask members of the satanic paedophile ring, such as Tom Hanks and Oprah. Q-drops are discussed among QAnon members, who work together to try untangling and decipher the meaning behind posts, the teamwork element of the Q-drops was a catalyst in the exponential growth of the group.
Q’s identity is still unknown. He could well be an individual but could also be multiple people. His identity is near impossible to find. Originally “Q drops” were posted onto a website called ‘4chan’ and then ‘9chan’, which was then removed by Google after its connections to the El Paso shooting that claimed 23 lives. Q now operates on 8Kun, a new site supposedly run by the founders of 9chan that provides completely anonymous posting and end to end encryption on all profiles. Q is completely invisible on the internet.
QAnon is being compared to a multitude of ‘addictive’ activities such as gaming, religion, parties and social forums. It does not focus solely on political issues and instead has morphed into a social community. The interactions between members that invite participants to engage in a fictional reality has enabled QAnon to accumulate a huge and engaged support base. The following is diverse, unlike most extremist groups it is not largely made up of young men. There is not a definitive factor about a member, not even education. There are Harvard graduates, like Valorie Gilbert, and CEO’s such as Citigroup Senior Adviser who have all embraced and publicly supported QAnon. Their beliefs have also penetrated the US Government. At least 35 current or former Congressional candidates have openly supported the conspiracies. Donald Trump retweeted many QAnon followers during his presidency and when quizzed on his stance he said, “If I can help save the world from problems, I am willing to do it”. Representative Marjorie Taylor of Georgia actively supports QAnon and has refused to backtrack on multiple comments that align with far-right conspiracy values. Donald Trump’s campaign focused on people who had felt left behind, overlooked and ignored by politicians and Wall Street for years. QAnon gives a voice to these people, members of the organisation feel part of an elite community that wields real power and influence. They no longer feel alone and have united all of their societal qualms through QAnon. Endorsements form highly educated and famous individuals has only deepened their belief.
It would be fair to assume that as QAnon is an online phenomenon and it could only influence the virtual world. However, QAnon has transgressed into reality and triggered substantial societal shifts. The Capital Hill Riots were attended by many QAnon believers who were fighting against “The Steal”, a conspiracy theory created by Donald Trump and then peddled by the group. Following the riot, twitter identified and removed a staggering 70,000 accounts that had gathered support for and planned the insurrection. The FBI has labelled QAnon a “Conspiracy theory-driven domestic extremist” organisation that threatens the foundation of American democracy. US domestic intelligence agencies are worried about the spread of these ideas, it is one thing to polarise American politics and deepen the partisan divide, it is another to convince 55 million people that a ring of high profile cannibalistic paedophiles are working to oppress them. Whilst a lot of QAnon is rooted in cliché and anti-sematic ideas, it operates differently and has managed to remove the stigma of being a small, close-minded and unintelligent group. It is deeply participatory – individuals online are caught in “rabbit holes” , according to the NYT, that create an addictive and entrancing portal in which QAnon ideas are subtly conveyed to the reader. Members of the House of Congress are actively calling for resolutions to reduce the ability of QAnon to “radicalise individuals at an alarming speed”. The organisation has led to countless violent acts, in March 2019 a 24-year-old man allegedly murdered the leader of the Gambino crime family as he believed he was a member of the Deep State. In April 2020, a man was charged for intentionally derailing a freight train near a navy hospital in Los Angeles as he was suspicious that the Coronavirus was part of the Deep State cycle. Most prominently, the Capital Hill riots which took the lives of 5 people and injured 140. QAnon is directly involved in violent actions and illegal activities, this is not a harmless digital social group.
QAnon resembles modern America’s susceptibility for conspiracy theories and tribal behaviour. The organisation rejects rational and aims to bring about conflict by isolating and polarising individuals from society. It exploits nostalgia, loneliness and extorts unusual aggression and suspicion from law-abiding citizens. The misinformation spread by QAnon attacks every aspect of American society and divides the country along distinct lines. This movement, in my opinion, is the most dangerous threat to American democracy and civilisation since World War 2. The government does not know how to control as QAnon relies on untraceable “foot soldiers” to spread the word. It is like a Pyramid Scheme on steroids. Donald Trump’s campaign proved that there are millions of Americans who no longer feel a part of normal society. QAnon is providing a new way of living and it is one that rejects the very fibre of the traditional American Life.