What is QAnon? Explaining the bizarre rightwing conspiracy theory
The sprawling internet theory, beloved by Trump supporters, has ensnared everyone from Tom Hanks to Hillary Clinton
If you happened to be watching YouTube videos on Monday morning and were struck by an urge to check in on one of America’s most beloved movie stars, you were in for a nasty surprise.
“Sarah Ruth Ashcraft says Tom Hanks is a pedophile”, read the title of the top video search result for the actor’s name. “Tom Hanks’ Alleged ‘Sex Slave’ Speaks Out”, read another top search result.
Indeed, the top five results – and eight out of the top 14 – were variations on the pedophilia theme, interspersed with the hashtags #QAnon, #Pizzagate and #Pedogate.
These bizarre results, first spotted by the NBC reporter Ben Collins, are not the result of the latest #MeToo era investigation reporting. Instead, they are the entirely unsubstantiated manifestation of a sprawling rightwing conspiracy theory known as QAnon.
Here’s our best effort at explaining what you do – and don’t – need to know about QAnon.
On 28 October 2017, “Q” emerged from the primordial swamp of the internet on the message board 4chan. In a thread called “Calm Before the Storm”, and in subsequent posts, Q established his legend as a government insider with top security clearance who knew the truth about a secret struggle for power involving Donald Trump, the “deep state”, Robert Mueller, the Clintons, pedophile rings, and other stuff.
Since then, Q has continued to drop “breadcrumbs” on 4chan and 8chan, fostering a “QAnon” community devoted to decoding Q’s messages and understanding the real truth about, well, everything.
What do followers of QAnon believe?
It’s hard to say. The conspiracy theory is generally pro-Trump and anti-“deep state”, but it is not exactly coherent, and – like many conspiracy theories – is flexible enough to adapt to any new developments that might disprove it.
New York magazine and the Daily Beast have written articles explaining more of the basic beliefs of QAnon, but chances are that the more you read about it, the more confused you will be. Imagine a volatile mix of Pizzagate, InfoWars and the Satanic Panic of the 1980s, multiplied by the power of the internet and with an extra boost from a handful of conservative celebrities.
So celebrities believe in QAnon?
Before she was fired from her own sitcom for her racist tweet about Valerie Jarrett, Roseanne Barr raised eyebrows with a series of tweets that invoked QAnon. Barr’s tweets focused on the supposed existence of hundreds of pedophile rings, including in Hollywood, that Trump is personally breaking up.
Another high-profile QAnon is Curt Schilling, the former Major League Baseball pitcher who now hosts a podcast for Breitbart.
Does anyone else believe in QAnon?
Yes, but it’s not clear how popular it actually is. Joseph Uscinski, a University of Miami professor who studies conspiracy theories, said by phone that QAnon remains a “fringe” belief held by “a very small number of people”. “Don’t confuse the popularity of this with the popularity of Kennedy assassination theories,” he said.
Most QAnon followers are Trump supporting evangelicals, Uscinski said, who are predisposed to believe a pro-Trump, anti-liberal narrative. Uscinski also cautioned against treating QAnon followers as any more gullible than other people.
“People believe all sorts of crazy stuff,” he said. “We shouldn’t come at this from the standpoint that most people believe sane stuff and this is just crazy. Like all conspiracy theories, this has a foot in reality.”
The idea that the “deep state” is working to take down Trump might be far-fetched, he said, but chances are there were many government bureaucrats who did not welcome his presidency. As for accusing beloved stars like Hanks of being pedophiles:
“Bill Cosby was America’s dad,” Uscinski pointed out. “Now it turns out he’s a serial rapist. So how much should we be blaming people for thinking ‘Hey, maybe there’s something beneath the surface?’”
Does any of this really matter?
Sort of. Not because it’s true, but because people who believe it’s true might act on that belief.
“We need to be really careful, because we have a history of witch-hunts,” said Uscinski.
Can we get back to the part about YouTube?
For years now, YouTube has been a quagmire of conspiracy theories, the more outrageous and thinly sourced the better. Under pressure from the mainstream media for the platform’s tendency to promote inflammatory and false information in the aftermath of mass shootings and other breaking news events, YouTube has introduced reforms that it claims will promote more “authoritative” news sources.
A YouTube spokesperson provided a statement that did not directly address the Guardian’s questions about the Hanks videos, but noted that the company’s work to “better surface and promote news and authoritative sources” is “still in its early stages”.
By Monday afternoon, hours after the Guardian first queried YouTube, the search results for “Tom Hanks” had reverted to videos of the actor’s appearances on various talk shows. Search for “Tom Hanks pedophile”, however, and you’re back in the world of QAnon.
At a rally in Florida last night, President Donald Trump did his usual schtick of talking about tariffs, voter ID laws, and other expected Trump-y things. But the crowd around him represented something newand different and a bit terrifying. Many cheering him on held signs that said: “We are Q.” Others had T-shirts referring to this mysterious “Q.” To onlookers, this seemed like bizarre nonsense. But these people were giving voice to a growing conspiracy theory that is just now hitting the mainstream.
It all centers around a thing called QAnon, which is a sort of extension of the #Pizzagate conspiracy theory. It started in the dark corners of the internet and has expanded to Facebook and YouTube, and now is rearing its face in real life. It began with an anonymous poster, known as Q, who left cryptic messages on forums like 4chan. These messages were said to have come from a source with the highest government clearance and direct access to Trump. The messages alluded to an alternate reality where every top political headline was, in fact, a false flag.
Through these bizarre reference-filled messages—left sporadically on online forums over the last many months—Q was essentially describing a world where Trump was secretly indicting all of his political foes, which include the Clintons, John McCain, and the Obamas. The Mueller investigation, according to this insane narrative, was actually a secret operation to expose these corrupt Democrats who control the current world order. In fact, many of these top liberal politicos have already been indicted and are secretly wearing ankle bracelets, according to QAnon believers.
There are a lot more insane elements to this conspiracy theory, but I’m sure you get the gist. (I recommend you listen to the Reply Allpodcast episode about QAnon if you want to learn more.)
Now it seems that QAnon doesn’t just live as a weird online pastime, but is taking over Trump-centric events. This follows a pattern similar to #Pizzagate, which inspired a man to go to an innocent person’s pizza shop and shoot a gun. Trump followers now believe this new conspiracy theory to be real, and they are expressing their support at Trump rallies.
What makes QAnon such a bizarre movement is that it’s an underdog fairytale for a party already in control. As the Daily Beastwrites, “QAnon is unusual, according to University of Miami professor Joseph Uscinski, because it offers Republicans an alternate view of the world when they already control nearly the entire government. Usually, ‘conspiracy theories are for losers,’” Uscinski said.
But it seems like things are still bad for Trump supporters, and instead of looking into the bleak reality of why our times are so bad, they’re promulgating an escapist narrative that still gives them hope. It somehow makes things even more depressing.
Fans of bizarre ‘QAnon’ cult show up in droves at Trump rally with signs and t-shirts promoting group inspired by #Pizzagate pedophilia conspiracy theory
Followers of the online conspiracy were seen in the audience at President Trump’s Tampa rally, waving signs and wearing t-shirts
QAnon perpetuates talk of a ‘deep state’
It launched the Pizzagate plot that claimed without evidence top Democrats were running a pedophilia ring
Trump did not acknowledge the group or its followers in his remarks
He has talked about a ‘deep red state’ and conspiracies in the past
Followers of QAnon were spotted at President Donald Trump‘s rally in Tampa on Tuesday night, wearing t-shirts and waving signs that read ‘we are Q’ and indicating the online conspiracy theorists are moving from the internet to the campaign trail.
The QAnon conspiracy theories – said to be started by someone in the Trump administration although that has not been proven – has perpetuated talk of a ‘deep red’ state and launched the Pizzagate plot that claimed without evidence top Democrats were running a pedophilia ring.
Scattered throughout the audience in the Florida State Fairgrounds Expo Hall were Trump supporters showing their support for QAnon.
Followers of the online conspiracy were seen in the audience at President Trump’s Tampa rally
Followers held up signs during the rally as Trump listens to gubernatorial candidate Ron DeSantis speak
Trump did not acknowledge the group in his remarks
One man and woman wore matching white T-shirts with the YouTube logo inside a giant ‘Q.’ The video website came under criticism this week for becoming a platform for the conspiracy theories, who used the site’s facilities to spread baseless claims that some Hollywood celebrities are pedophiles.
The rally also had a thread on 8chan, an anonymous image board also known as Infinitechan or Infinitychan, The Washington Post reported.
‘Pray Trump mentions Q!’ one supporter wrote.
The president did not acknowledge the group or its followers in his remarks but he has touted conspiracy theories in the past, such as his claim that President Barack Obama was not born in the United States and how he tried to tie Sen. Ted Cruz’s father to the man who assassinated President John Kennedy.
Other prominent names have bought into QAnon or acted upon a post from it.
Porn star Stormy Daniels’ lawyer Michael Avenatti sought police assistance after the promoter of the conspiracy theory posted a photo of a man outside of his office to the message-board 8chan.
Avenatti posted a version of the photo on Twitter in an appeal to the public for information.
‘We are trying to identify the man in this picture, which was taken outside my office yesterday (Sun) afternoon,’ Avenatti wrote. ‘We will NOT be intimidated into stopping or changing our course.’
Actress Roseanne Barr has posted on twitter ideas and theories that have roots in QAnon.
QAnon posted this photo of a man outside of the office of porn star Stormy Daniels’ lawyer Michael Avenatti
QAnon also claimed a pedophile ring at Comet Ping Pong, a Washington D.C. pizza place
Also known as ‘The Storm’, the QAnon theory is based on a series of anonymous and highly cryptic posts on the message board 4Chan, which purport to be written by a high-level insider at the Trump White House.
Q is a reference to ‘Q-clearance’, the Department of Energy security classification that offers the broadest level of access to Top Secret and Secret Restricted Data granted by the US government.
Though Q’s posts are sometimes cryptic to the point of nonsense, in broad strokes the theory maintains that Trump is locked in a secret battle with ‘evil’ elements at the highest level of government.
Trump himself has reference battles against the ‘deep state’ – employees in the government he claims are working against his administration.
One conspiracy theory to come out of ‘Q’ was Pizzagate, purporting that top-level Democrats are engaged in satanic child sex abuse and child sex trafficking that included the involvement of Washington D.C. pizza restaurant Comet Ping Pong.
One of Q’s only specific predictions, that Hillary Clinton’s campaign manager John Podesta would be arrested on November 3, did not come to pass.
Nevertheless, the theory fired the imaginations of many who envision The Storm as an imminent domestic military crackdown and purge targeting the Trump Administration’s foes.
Trump touts his popularity with Republicans at Florida rally
Trump has spoken on a ‘deep red state’ in the past
Followers of QAnon believe there is a ‘deep red state’ in the government
The group is moving from the internet to the campaign trail
QAnon is said to be started by someone in the Trump administration although that has not been proven
Additionally, some interpreters of the conspiracy theory maintain that Special Counsel Robert Mueller is secretly working for Trump, preparing tens of thousands of sealed indictments targeting agents of the ‘deep state’ and allies of Clinton.
Fans of the QAnon theory, who call themselves anons, have spent countless hours piecing together the ‘crumbs’ dropped in the anonymous posts, which began in October.
As one fan explained in a post shared by Q on Monday: ‘REAL ANON’S are here as we follow the EVIDENCE (documented verifiable evidence), we are building the TRUTH of our HISTORY so we can expose and dismantle the corruption that has PLAGUED our world for millennia.’
‘WE are NOT about violence, subversion or control. WE are simply providing FACT based information FREE of charge to the WORLD,’ the anon added.
WHAT IS QANON? CONSPIRACY THEORISTS SHOWED UP TO SUPPORT TRUMP AT TAMPA RALLY
At a rally in Tampa, Florida, Tuesday evening in support of Representative Ron DeSantis, President Donald Trump hit on familiar themes, boasting of being America’s most popular Republican ever, attacking the “fake media” and drawing chants of “Build the wall.”
Sharp-eyed viewers may have noticed a plethora of signs held aloft by members of the crowd not emblazoned with the customary Trump slogans but with “We Are Q” or “QAnon.”
Others wore a T-shirt with a large Q encircling a YouTube logo. Slogans also referred to Seth Rich, a Democratic Party staffer whose death last year became the focus of baseless right-wing conspiracy theories.
President Donald Trump speaks during a campaign rally at the Florida State Fairgrounds Expo Hall in Tampa, Florida, on July 31. The crowd included conspiracy theorists QAnon.GETTY IMAGES
What Is QAnon?
The signs and T-shirts allude to QAnon, a sprawling right wing conspiracy theory that alleges, among other things, the existence of a top-secret child sex trafficking network run by senior Democrats.
It emerged last year on the 4Chan messaging board, when an anonymous commentator, known as “Q,” began posting cryptic messages.
Writing on the Daily Beast, Will Sommer, who monitors right wing media in the U.S., explained the core of the theory.
“The general story,” he writes, “is that every president before Trump was a ‘criminal president’ in league with all the nefarious groups of conspiracy theories past: the global banking elite, death squads operating on orders from Hillary Clinton, deep-state intelligence operatives, and Pizzagate-style pedophile rings. In an effort to break this cabal’s grip, according to Q, the military convinced Trump to run for president.”
Adherents believe that when Trump in a speech last October referred to the “calm before the storm,” he was alluding to a coming purge of criminal elites: “The Storm.”
Joseph Uscinski, a University of Miami professor and expert on conspiracy theories, told The Guardianthat QAnon supporters are a tiny “fringe,” mainly made up of Trump-supporting evangelicals.
Support for Q Anon hasn’t just manifested itself in signs held up at Trump rallies.
YouTube is flooded with videos by QAnon followers, with NBC News reporting Monday that the top search results for several Hollywood celebrities on the site were videos by conspiracy theorists baselessly alleging their involvement in “deep state”-linked child abuse rings.
In April QAnon supporters rallied in Washington, demanding the truth, while QAnon followers were involved in a search by a veterans charity for child sex traffickers in the Arizona desert in June.
But support for “deep state” conspiracies can also have violent consequences.
In 2016 a man burst into a popular Washington pizzeria and fired several shots with an automatic weapon. He told investigators he acted after reading online conspiracy theories linking the establishment to a child sex ring run by Hillary Clinton—the so-called “Pizzagate” conspiracy.
He was sentenced to four years in prison in June 2017.
President Trump spoke at a rally in Tampa, FL this evening, supporting Florida Representative Ron DeSantis, who is running for governor. Trump’s speech hit many familiar talking points: he defended his increased tariffs, spoke about the need for voter ID laws, and bragged about bringing “Merry Christmas” back to department stores.
But viewers who knew what to look for may have noticed a common theme in the audience (apart from their age and skin color). Quite a few attendees carried signs reading “We are Q.” Others wore t-shirts emblazoned with a large Q surrounding the YouTube logo. One held a sign advertising the Instagram account @hisnamewasSethRich.
Daily Beast senior editor Andrew Kirell posted screenshots of these signs on Twitter, along with a link to a Daily Beast story about the absolutely bonkers right wing conspiracy theory known as QAnon.
If this is your first time hearing about QAnon, you’ve been exceptionally lucky. The conspiracy theory began coalescing last October, after an anonymous commenter on 4Chan known as “Q” began posting a series of cryptic messages. These confusing messages were then “interpreted” by Q fans, who began spreading his gospel around the internet, through the human centipede of right wing media, and even more terrifyingly, in real life.
Here’s the basic outline of the theory: high level Democratic operatives, including John Podesta and Huma Abedin, alongside Hollywood celebrities, are secretly involved in an incredibly complex crime network involving human trafficking, child sexual abuse, and murder (thus the reference to Seth Rich), in an effort to undermine Trump.
So far, this sounds a lot like Pizzagate, the proto-QAnon conspiracy theory that imagined a politician-run child sex cult in the basement of a DC pizza restaurant (a restaurant that didn’t even have a basement).
But unlike Pizzagate, which was in vogue during the waning days of the Obama presidency, QAnon has to explain why these people are walking free, despite the fact that the defender of all things good and holy, Donald Trump, is in the White House. To deal with this dissonance, Q disciples believe that all of these supposed child rapists and murderers have actually already been arrested by Trump. They are being secretly charged with heinous crimes in a kind of underground court. As they await judgement (which many believers think will involve Guantanamo Bay) they may still walk around freely. The only condition is that they wear ankle monitors. That’s why a lot of Q theories focus on photos of the ankles of politicians like Hillary Clinton, examining pant legs for any bumps that might indicate a hidden ankle bracelet.
QAnon is unusual, according to University of Miami professor Joseph Uscinski, because it offers Republicans an alternate view of the world when they already control nearly the entire government. Usually, “conspiracy theories are for losers,” Uscinski said,
“Normally you don’t expect the winning party to use them, except when they’re in trouble,” Uscinski said.
You could drive yourself crazy (as many have) trying to decipher the intricacies of the QAnon theory. But the reason why people believe in it is clear. Their guy won. Republicans control both houses of Congress and most state houses. Yet the boogeymen the right has taught their constituents to fear—illegal immigrants, Islam, and social progress, to name a few—seem as present as ever. There’s only one way to explain this: Donald Trump is an undercover superhero saving the world from a massive conspiracy that no one but them understands. That, or he’s an incompetent moron backed by a party that has no interest in materially improving the lives of their base.
Trump rally attendee holds up sign linked to conspiracy theory
An attendee at President Trump’s rally in Florida Tuesday night held up a sign promoting the “QAnon” right-wing conspiracy theory.
Video from the rally shows an attendee near the front of the crowd raising a sign reading “We are Q,” apparently in reference to the QAnon conspiracy. The sign was visible on livestreams of the Tampa, Fla., rally.
The QAnon theory spawned from an anonymous user on online message boards 4Chan and 8Chan claiming to be a high-level government official with “Q” security clearance.
“Q” has been responsible for the spread of several conspiracy theories, including that Trump is secretly fighting the “deep state” — a ring of government officials working to take him down.
QAnon has also been linked to the “Pizzagate” conspiracy theory that falsely accused Hillary Clinton and other high-ranking Democrats of involvement in a child pedophilia ring, which escalated when a gunman opened fire at a Washington, D.C., pizza restaurant.
The QAnon theory has gained traction with far-right figures and has been promoted by the likes of Roseanne Barr and Alex Jones, among other conservative figures. A Florida county Republican Party earlier this month tweeted, then deleted, a YouTube video outlining the QAnon theory.
Another sign at the rally referencing QAnon also mentioned Seth Rich, the Democratic National Committee (DNC) staffer who was shot and killed in Washington, D.C., last year. Right-wing conspiracy theorists claimed without evidence that Rich’s death was linked to the WikiLeaks release of hacked DNC emails.
Fox News and multiple conservative media figures are facing lawsuits from the Rich family for allegedly spreading the theory.
Twitter [today] releases ban?
Was Twitter told to by MSM to demonstrate impact?
Do you think they got the [4am] memo?
All for a Conspiracy?
Enjoy the show.
>>2391684 You are now mainstream. Handle w/ care. The Great Awakening. WWG1WGA! Q