- Feb 27, 2010
QAnon grew out of Pizzagate (see below) and the Mueller Investigation into links between the 2016 Trump Campaign and Russia. But it has deeper roots, and a cult of this type may have been gestating for some time before this:QAnon is a conspiracy theory based around an anonymous online poster known as “Q” — a pseudonym that comes from the Q-level security clearance, the Department of Energy equivalent of “Top Secret.” Beginning on October 28, 2017, Q began posting on the 4chan message board /pol/ about Hillary Clinton’s imminent arrest. Followers of Q became known as QAnon, and they began awaiting “The Storm,” during which all of Trump’s enemies, including Rep. Adam Schiff and others, would be arrested and executed for being murderous child-eating pedophiles.
- The child-stealing Satanic cult panic of the 1980s
- The X-files TV-series popularised deep state elite conspiracies
- 9/11 "Truthing", which itself had roots in the multitide of JFK assassination conspiracy theories
- Conspiracy theories grow in times of eocnomic dislocation and uncertainty. They offer a simple (and wrong) explanation to complexity
- An anti-science, anti-evidence, pro-"magical thinking" trend in popular media and politics, arising from rejection of vaccination, of evolution and of climate change.
- The Birther conspiracy theory that President Barack Obama was not a legitimate American citizen.
- The "fake news" stories spread by Russian Internet Trolls in 2016, especially the Pizzagate incident where an innocent pizza parlour was named as a place where Democrats conducted child abuse orgies in the basement. This led to a tragi-comic "rescue" effort by a man with a shotgun. The pizza place did not even have a basement.
In 2017 polls, between 31% and 45% still believed the Birther fable, and Trump never fully disowned it. Other polls showed approximately 50% of Republicans believed the Clinton hacked e-mails contained code words for pedophilia and ritual satanic abuse.
Clearly, this has way passed any amusement a bizarre of beliefs may provide. Trump should disown QAnon, but he will not. It is not harmless. Trump's disgraced former National Security Adviser apparently took a QAnon oath. The cult has attracted violent ultra-libertarian members. Russian Trolls are spreading its messages. The imagery of chid abuse evokes the medieval "blood libel" that Jews used Christian children in ritual sacrifice. There are reports that it has spread internationally through Facebook, which has only belatedly (as usual) begun to ban its content.
But QAnon will never be eliminated. It is not a conspiracy theory any more, it has grown to the status of cult or a religion, with a special mission, a revelatory narrative, rituals and arcane knowledge. This gives it a powerful social bonding for people who join, and such social bonding is nearly impossible to break.
Movements like this have always existed, but have generally been small. This is possibly the first one using the medium of the Internet. It may be the first many, and what comes after may be worse.
At this stage it can only be contained. A very negative outcome would be for it to gain a grip on the Republican Party, and win the ability to influence its caucus. A major political party espousing irrational and self-harming beliefs, setting Americans violently against each other, would be almost as bad as Margaret Atwood's fictional Gilead in The Handmaid's Tale.
A major party in a functioning democracy cannot allow irrational fringe beliefs to flourish within it. Those who think they they manipulate the believers are liable to be consumed by them. The Republican Party must take a hard look at itself.
Polls show vast numbers of people don't know what they're talking about.
Why a conspiracy theory with an expiration date will endure.
The outlandish conspiracy gets a boost from Donald Trump
President says followers of movement, which claims Trump is fighting ‘deep state’ paedophiles, ‘love our country’
[Trump's] latest remarks were greeted with jubilation within QAnon communities online, including remaining Facebook groups that are scrambling to deal with a crackdown announced by the platform on Wednesday. QAnon followers have long awaited acknowledgment from Trump and will probably view it as confirmation of their worldview.
A Republican candidate who subscribes to the baseless QAnon conspiracy theory prevailed Tuesday night in a House primary runoff in Georgia.