QAnon is the shark jump of conspiracy theories, encompassing a multitude of ideas and beliefs that cover just about every aspect of human existence. It’s the mother lode. It’s almost religious in its construct, and its followers are just as zealous.
The entire concept is, of course, baseless and evidence free, if you judge the efficacy of evidence by the amount of factual, verified, and vetted information. Travis View has studied QAnon extensively, and in an article he wrote for The Washington Post, he stated their basic beliefs that:
“…there is a worldwide cabal of Satan-worshiping pedophiles who rule the world, essentially, and they control everything. They control politicians, and they control the media. They control Hollywood, and they cover up their existence, essentially. And they would have continued ruling the world, were it not for the election of President Donald Trump. Now, Donald Trump in this conspiracy theory knows all about this evil cabal’s wrongdoing. But one of the reasons that Donald Trump was elected was to put an end to them, basically. And now we would be ignorant of this behind-the-scenes battle of Donald Trump and the U.S. military—that everyone backs him and the evil cabal—were it not for ‘Q.’ And what ‘Q’ is—is basically a poster on 4chan, who later moved to 8chan, who reveals details about this secret behind-the-scenes battle, and also secrets about what the cabal is doing and also the mass sort of upcoming arrest events through these posts.”
One of their core beliefs is that there is an imminent event they call “The Storm” when thousands of members of this alleged cabal will be arrested and sent to prison, followed by a military coup of the United states by none other than the United States Armed Services.
A majority of their propaganda is disseminated through social media and a loose network of fake news websites which have the look and feel of legitimate news agencies, thus many are easily fooled and end up sharing these stories on social media or amongst family and friends.
Some of What the Q’s believe
You can count on adherents of QAnon to be fairly consistent in their beliefs, and if you query any of them, you are likely to hear similar regurgitations of the same stories. Wikipedia lists some of them as:
- Hillary Clinton’s imminent arrest
- North Korea’s Kim Jong-Un being a puppet ruler installed by the CIA
- U.S. Representative and former Democratic National Committee chairwoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz hired Salvadoran gang MS-13 to murder DNC staffer Seth Rich
- Angela Merkel is the granddaughter of Adolf Hitler.
- Each mass shooting is a false-flag attack organized by the cabal
- Barack Obama, Hillary Clinton, George Soros, and others are planning a coup while simultaneously involved as members of an international child sex trafficking ring.
- The Mueller investigation was actually a counter-coup led by Donald Trump, who pretended to collude with Russia in order to hire Robert Mueller to secretly investigate the Democrats
- Certain Hollywood stars are pedophiles
- The Rothschild family are the leaders of a satanic cult
The whole thing started out of something known as “Pizzagate,” which is a belief that was initiated by Alex Jone’s Infowars website that states Hillary Clinton was running a child sex trafficking ring out of the basement of a Washington, D.C. pizza parlor. Ironically, the establishment in question has no basement.
An individual who identified himself as only “Q” started message board on 4Chan, which has a history of hosting white nationalists and white supremacists. Q level clearance in the US Government represents a high level of access.
Since then, QAnon has shotgunned countless conspiracy theories, some of which have influenced violent attacks, including charges of terrorism and kidnapping. And their influence is growing rapidly, especially on social media where the QAnon conspiracy theorists are increasingly publicizing and sharing their beliefs. Some of these rabbit holes go pretty deep, and frankly get quite bizarre.
When you consider the restraints put upon the population due to the coronavirus pandemic, there are many who are worried, frustrated, and scared. They are looking for answers, and do not have the patience to wait for real science to take its course, and they have a general distrust of the media and government. Many of those who gravitate to QAnon are already adherents to various other conspiracy theories such as Chemtrails, 9/11 being a hoax perpetrated by the US government, the moon landing never happened, etc.
Based on three years of data, extremism researcher Marc-André Argentino, a PhD candidate at Concordia University, found that the majority of Facebook interactions related to QAnon have occurred since the pandemic began. More than 49 million of the 74.2 million interactions on QAnon Facebook groups took place between March and July of this year, Argentino found, and of the 1.64 million members of QAnon Facebook groups that have existed since October 2017, 1.2 million have joined since March.
Speaking of the Media
One of the stalwart arguments of QAnon is their collective belief that all news media (save the ones they endorse) cannot be trusted, and most of the stories presented are false. This is largely in line with the beliefs towards the media held by many who identify as conservatives. They often use the phrase “we are the news now” and and that they and their sources of information are the only ones that can be trusted. All other media, especially the mainstream media, are lying.
The distrust of the media is growing exponentially. Facts are no longer important, as the media outlet any one individual trusts is no longer based on accuracy and integrity, but on personal ideology. That we have a current president who exacerbates this problem further deteriorates the situation. If Trump, who has supported QAnon through retweets, comments, and other means, says a news agency is fake, then regardless of anything, it is fake news. you trust is more and more a matter of your ideology.
A non-partisan Pew Research Center titled “U.S. Media and the 2020 Election: A Nation Divided” showed just how polarized we are is evidence that trust in institutions that practice fact-based journalism is eroding very quickly, particularly amongst President Trump’s Republican base, but also with right-leaning independents.
Those of us who are part of the mainstream media often refer to the attack on factual reporting “The War on Truth” because there is a concerted effort to discredit reliable, factual, vetted, and verified information as “fake news,” and replacing it with some of the most outlandish, ridiculous, and utterly mind-boggling conspiracy theories. When Barack Obama announced his candidacy for the presidency, the conspiracy theorists went full-tilt by presenting everything they had in their arsenals to discredit him, most of which were thinly veiled or overt racism.
Although never really going away, many conspiracy theories largely disappeared from the mainstream. Of course they were still shared with enthusiasm on social media and more unstable sources like Infowars, Brietbart, World News Daily, One News Now, and the plethora of other right-wing go-to sources for “gotcha” click bait. So, yes, conspiracy theories continued to be spread like a rash, but not much was reported on the mainstream media, or even staunch right-wing outlets like Fox News.
QAnon has effectively breathed new life into the realm of conspiracy theories by tying together a series of wild tales and unfounded claims, then telling anyone who will listen to “connect the dots” and they will see how it all falls together. The problem is, the dots connect like giving a five-year-old a connect-the-dots painting game. Yes, there will be dots connected, but the picture as whole will be jumbled mess of artistic gibberish. Like for like.
People will always choose in whom or what to believe. They do not always know, however, when they are being played. Unfortunately, more and more of humanity are falling victim to hoaxes and conspiracies, and perpetuating the problem by putting their faith into information outlets that seem to have only one purpose, and that is to spread lies and misinformation. For whatever their reasons are, one thing remains consistent. They are successful in their efforts, and the result is a growing population of people who no longer rely on truth, accuracy, integrity in reporting, and honesty in the dissemination of information that can be vital to our very survival.
The Guardian states:
QAnon followers’ enthusiasm for misinformation is not confined to politics; as the coronavirus pandemic took hold, the groups became a hotbed for medical misinformation – something Facebook has claimed to be working hard to combat. Analyses by Gallagher, the social media researcher, and the New York Times demonstrated how QAnon groups fueled the viral spread of “Plandemic”, a 26-minute video chock full of dangerously false information about Covid-19 and vaccines.
Facebook’s algorithms appear to have detected this synergy between the QAnon and anti-vaccine communities. Several QAnon groups are flagged with an automated warning label from Facebook that reads, “This group discusses vaccines” and encourages users to go to the website of the Centers for Disease Control for reliable information on health.
It appears that anti-vaccine propagandists are also taking notice, and attempting to capitalize. Larry Cook, the administrator of Stop Mandatory Vaccination, one of the largest anti-vaxx Facebook groups, has begun incorporating QAnon rhetoric into the medical misinformation he peddles, as well as making explicit invitations to QAnon believers to join his group.
Cook has begun referencing the “deep state” and stoking fear of forced vaccination and “FEMA camps”.
“I have discussed the concept many, many, many times that vaccines destroy our connection to God and that we are in a spiritual war with Principalities of Darkness that have a death wish for our children, and humanity at large,” he wrote in one QAnon-inflected post. (Cook also uses the site to aggressively promote his various products and a subscription-only platform for “medical freedom patriots”.)
But the potential for damage from QAnon goes well beyond. For those individuals who truly believe in the QAnon narrative, the crimes of the “cabal” are so grievous as to make fighting them a moral imperative. “They’re talking about a group of people who are operating our government against our wishes and they’re molesting and torturing children and destroying our society,” said Joseph Uscinski, a professor of political science who studies conspiracy theories. “It’s an incitement to violence.”
WBUR provides this list of further reading:
- The Atlantic: “The Prophecies of Q” — “The origins of QAnon are recent, but even so, separating myth from reality can be hard. One place to begin is with Edgar Maddison Welch, a deeply religious father of two, who until Sunday, December 4, 2016, had lived an unremarkable life in the small town of Salisbury, North Carolina.”
- Washington Post: “How the Trump campaign came to court QAnon, the online conspiracy movement identified by the FBI as a violent threat” — “Outside the Las Vegas Convention Center, Kayleigh McEnany raised a microphone to a mega-fan and asked what it felt like to be acknowledged by President Trump at his February rally in Sin City.”
- The Atlantic: “The Coronavirus Conspiracy Boom” — “COVID-19 has created a perfect storm for conspiracy theorists.”
- Washington Post: “Who supports QAnon? Here’s what our poll finds.” — “The QAnon conspiracy theory surged back into national news recently when Twitter announced that it had banned numerous QAnon-affiliated accounts for coordinated harassment.”
- USA Today: “What is QAnon and where did it come from? What to know about the far-right conspiracy theory” — “A growing right-wing conspiracy theory has garnered national attention after Twitter announced it was removing and suspending accounts associated with it.”
- Associated Press: “Misinformation on coronavirus is proving highly contagious” — “As the world races to find a vaccine and a treatment for COVID-19, there is seemingly no antidote in sight for the burgeoning outbreak of coronavirus conspiracy theories, hoaxes, anti-mask myths and sham cures.”
- The Atlantic: “The Normalization of Conspiracy Culture” — “The catastrophe wasn’t what it seemed. It was an inside job, people whispered. Rome didn’t have to burn to the ground.”
Here some videos on QAnon: