What exactly is QAnon? Is it a cult? And if it is a cult, does it represent any sort of danger to Americans — or indeed, the world?
We see it most clearly at Trump rallies or pro-Trump demonstrations: attendees waving a giant letter “Q” with an American flag background, or other QAnon related signs. They wear shirts saying “We Are Q,” or those with the cryptic slogan “WWG1WGA” on it. There have also been recent rallies in various US cities of concerned citizens allegedy seeking to “Save the Children.” And more recently, QAnon has started making inroads into the Republican Party, with the nomination of Joe Rae Perkins in Oregon; Marjorie Taylor Green in Georgia; and Lauren Boebert in Colorado.
What in the world is going on?
Recently, when asked by a reporter whether or not he supports QAnon and its followers, Donald Trump gave one of his famously vague, but open-to-interpretation answers: “I don’t know much about the movement other than I understand that they like me very much, which I appreciate. I have heard that it’s gaining in popularity. I’ve heard these are people who love our country and they just don’t like seeing it” (referring to the protests and violence in places like Portland, OR). Moreover, Trump has retweeted or amplified QAnon-related Tweets over 200 times in the last few years.
Within hours, followers of QAnon registered that statement by Trump as a positive endorsement of their movement.
What Exactly is QAnon?
QAnon, which is shorthand for “Q anonymous” (since most of its members want to remain covert), is an ever-growing internet conspiracy theory, aided and spread largely by social media platforms, such as: TikTok, Facebook, Twitter and Instagram, Reddit, YouTube videos, chatrooms, e-books, blogs and websites — but mostly through far-right sites like 4chan, the now-deleted 8chan, and now 8kun. “News” outfits such as OANN, Breitbart and Fox News have also spread elements of the conspiracy theory. In the last year or two, QAnon has moved into the mainstream with the help of influencers such as Alex Jones, Jerome Corsi, and Sean Hannity, among others. As mentioned, Donald Trump’s more-than-tacit approval of QAnon followers is viewed as a major win; in QAnon parlance, Trump himself is referred to by the code word “Q+”.
As mentioned earlier, QAnon is also making serious inroads into the Republican Party, with numerous current Congressional candidates identifying as QAnon supporters; it is also infiltrating many evangelical churches in America. Many people posit that in terms of evangelicals in particular, and their susceptibility to the theories involved, the QAnon phenomenon is akin to the so-called “Satanic Panic” that swept through American evangelicalism back in the 1980s.
Adrienne LaFrance of The Atlantic traces out the context of the conspiracy theory when she says, “In its broadest contours, the QAnon belief system looks something like this: Q is an intelligence or military insider with proof that corrupt world leaders are secretly torturing children all over the world; the malefactors are embedded in the deep state; Donald Trump is working tirelessly to thwart them. (‘These people need to ALL be ELIMINATED,’ Q wrote in one post.) The eventual destruction of the global cabal is imminent, Q prophesies, but can be accomplished only with the support of patriots who search for meaning in Q’s clues. To believe Q requires rejecting mainstream institutions, ignoring government officials, battling apostates, and despising the press.”
Julia Carrie Wong, in an article in The Guardian, defines the movement as follows: “‘QAnon’ is a baseless internet conspiracy theory whose followers believe that a cabal of Satan-worshipping Democrats, Hollywood celebrities and billionaires runs the world while engaging in pedophilia, human trafficking and the harvesting of a supposedly life-extending chemical from the blood of abused children. QAnon followers believe that Donald Trump is waging a secret battle against this cabal and its ‘deep state’ collaborators to expose the malefactors and send them all to Guantánamo Bay.”
The Core of QAnon Beliefs
Therefore, as we have seen, the heart of the QAnon conspiracy theory (which essentially grew out of the original “Pizzagate” conspiracy theory about a year before Q’s first “drop”), is as follows: there are highly placed government officials, leading Democrats, Hollywood celebrities, and mega-wealthy individuals who form an evil cabal — a Satan-worshipping pedophile and child sex-trafficking ring. In their Satanic rituals, they also murder children and harvest a life-giving chemical from their pituitary glands, known as “adrenochrome.” But the good news? Donald Trump is working hard to bring them all down, as mentioned, and will one day bring all the wrongdoers to justice — a future apocalyptic event known as “The Storm.”
Abby Ohlheiser of Technology Review lays it out when she states: “The tenets of QAnon are specific: that Trump is the chosen one to finally destroy a ring of Satanic pedophiles long protected by access to elite positions of authority, and that Q will provide the clues to lead followers to the truth. But the movement has mingled with so many other conspiracist causes and ideologies that it is now possible to be a carrier of QAnon content online without actually knowing what you are spreading.” In other words, buying into one conspiracy theory (such as Pizzagate) often leads followers to embrace other theories that are interconnected in a web-like fashion.
The QAnon conspiracy theory holds that in addition to children being sexually abused and trafficked by these powerful and untouchable predators, making it far worse is that these mega-wealthy elites involved in the secretive cabal are utterly untouchable. They have so far operated with impunity because they are completely above the law, apparently having zero fear of reprisals for their evil actions because they’re just that powerful and connected. And what’s even more horrific than the alleged child sexual abuse and sex trafficking, according to Jane Coaston of Vox, is the murder of abused children to harvest a life-giving substance: “…not only are celebrities taking part in Satanic pedophilic rituals, they are doing so to obtain the chemical adrenochrome, which they believe famous actors and celebrities harvest from the pituitary glands of children in order to maintain their youthful appearances.” Google searches of “adrenochrome harvesting,” for example, spiked during the first few months of the Covid-19 outbreak in the United States. The fact is that during the months of lockdown, people had time and space to investigate the conspiracy in more detail; its linkages to various Covid-19 “plandemic” or “hoax” conspiracy theories are legion also.
But by focusing exclusively on the issue of child abuse and child sex trafficking — both real and insidious dangers worldwide — QAnon adherents are latching on to a very real problem that absolutely poses a huge threat to vulnerable children worldwide. The fact that child abuse and sex trafficking are in fact very real threats to children only feeds into their argument, and makes it seem plausible. Basically their line of logic is as follows: “Everybody agrees that child abuse and child sex trafficking are horrible and evil. So if you’re against us, as we talk about it and fight it by shedding light on it, you stand for child abuse.” There’s a very close connection to their support of Trump also. According to Julian Feeld of the Right Wing Watch, “Adherents of the QAnon conspiracy theory imagine Trump as a savior figure and often equate criticism of the president with support for pedophilia and infanticide.”
The Geoffrey Epstein Connection
Helping fuel this line of argumentation, and seemingly lending credence to the conspiracy theory, is the recent Geoffrey Epstein arrest — and subsequent suspiciously convenient death in a New York prison as he awaited trial. In the world of QAnon, numerous conspiracy theories swirl surrounding his “murder” — or perhaps he faked his own death and is now back to living on his private island. Either way, so the thinking goes, the global cabal had all the vested interests in the world in silencing Epstein, who may have been prepared to sing like the proverbial canary and dish out all of the dirt on all the highly-placed individuals he supplied with underage girls for so many decades.
That he was clearly connected to such high-profile, powerful figures as Bill Clinton, Prince Andrew, Donald Trump, Kevin Spacey and many others, as well as being a convicted pedophile and child pimp himself, only adds fuel to the fire. But what about his connections to Trump? Was the future president a willing participant in Epstein’s sex-trafficking operations?
QAnon followers posit that no, Trump was not part of Epstein’s child-trafficking operation; he was actually investigating Epstein, all those years ago, in preparation for bringing him down. He is clearly unconnected to any wrongdoing based on his association with Epstein, they will argue. Moreover, speculation is rife that Epstein’s associate, Ghislane Maxwell, won’t survive her time in prison either. She will most likely be murdered too, just like Epstein was, in order to silence her from speaking the truth about the cabal and its connections to pedophilia and child sex-trafficking rings, in which Epstein was allegedly a major player.
This overview of the core beliefs of the conspiracy theory movement known as QAnon is but the tip of the iceberg. Once a person begins to buy into the basic premise, they begin to find themselves drawn into a vast web of other conspiracies including, but not limited to the following: Pizzagate, as mentioned earlier; Black Lives Matter protests are fronts for antifa terrorists; various Covid-19 “plandemic” or “hoax” theories, which involves anti-masking, anti-vaxxing, and anti-science theories also.
Other related theories involve the murder of Seth Rich, which was somehow orchestrated by Hillary Clinton to silence him; Spygate and other “crimes” committed by the Obama administration against Trump; the belief that JFK Jr’s death was faked and he’ll reveal himself at some point soon, allied with Trump to bring down the cabal; the “Deep State” web of conspiracy theories; the Rothschild banking family conspiracies theories, which are linked to Illuminati theories as well as other anti-semitic beliefs; and finally, that children are being trafficked via the online furniture giant, Wayfair.
As mentioned above, ever since the Covid-19 lockdown began earlier this year, people found themselves with a lot of time on their hands, and a mounting sense of anxiety about the virus and what it meant for themselves and their families. Since QAnon’s web of theories include a lot of the “plandemic” language around the virus itself, that led a lot of people into the movement, as they began to research and read about it online. For a lot of Trump supporters already suspicious of the “deep state” and liberal Democrats, the thinking went that somehow the virus was a planned release designed to hurt the economy of the United States, thereby damaging Trump’s presidency and re-election chances in November 2020.
The reasoning was as follows: perhaps Covid-19 was a planned operation by China, designed to hurt the economies of the world and have them come out on top, in concert with the deep state and the Democrats. In fact, Trump himself, in a rally in South Dakota on February 28th, 2020, accused the Democrats of “politicizing the coronavirus” and that “this is their new hoax.” While he did not expressly state that the virus itself was a hoax, he apparently meant that their criticism of his administration’s response to it at that point was a “hoax.”
And so it is that the cult of QAnon rolls on, amplified by far-right media platforms, social media, the dark web, and by the biggest conspiracy theorist of them all — Donald Trump.
QAnon’s Cult Psychology
If you want to find out more about QAnon, and why I believe it is not only a cult but a growing threat to the world, listen in to my conversation with Chris Shelton. Chris and I explain QAnon, explore who Q might be, and unpack the cult-like psychology that fuels this ever-expanding movement.