The 2016 US election pushed Mary* to embrace the bizarre conspiracy theory. Her fiance told me he just ‘fell apart’ Everyone remembers where they were when Trump won the election. Alex and Mary* remember it especially well. It was the night their relationship fell apart. Alex and I first met in 2012. I went to dinner one night with him and his fiancee, Mary. I remember her as a bright, intelligent woman with a passionate interest in animal rights. Fast forward to the evening of 8 November 2016, and a gaudy reality TV star was on the verge of being elected president of the most powerful country on Earth. As Alex and Mary watched state after state fall for Donald Trump, it became clear that the beginning of this new chapter in American history would mark the end of their marriage.
During the 2016 presidential campaign, Mary had become a dedicated conspiracy theorist, paving the way for her embrace of a bizarre conspiracy theory known as QAnon. “I had a nervous breakdown,” says Alex. “I couldn’t wrap my mind around the whole Trump thing and all the weird stuff Mary was getting into. I just fell apart.” Mary is unambiguous about the reason their marriage ended. “It is 100% my fault. I came in as one person and left as another.”
QAnon has become a linchpin of far-right media—and the effort to preemptively delegitimize the election.
Whether President Donald Trump wins or loses, some version of QAnon is going to survive the election. On the day of the vice-presidential debate between Mike Pence and Kamala Harris, the individual or group known as “Q” sent out a flurry of posts. “ONLY THE ILLUSION OF DEMOCRACY,” began one. “Joe 30330—Arbitrary?—What is 2020 [current year] divided by 30330? Symbolism will be their downfall,” read another, darkly hinting at satanic numerology in Joe Biden’s campaign text-messaging code.
Vague, foreboding messages that could mean anything or nothing—these are the hallmarks of QAnon, the far-right conspiracy theory, built around Q’s postings on internet message boards, in which Trump is heroically battling a global cabal of devil-worshipping pedophiles. But something noteworthy lurked in Q’s final post of the night: “SHADOW PRESIDENT. SHADOW GOVERNMENT. INFORMATION WARFARE. IRREGULAR WARFARE. COLOR REVOLUTION. INSURGENCY.”
Color revolution. This was the first time Q used the term. Originally a reference to mass protests such as the one in Ukraine in 2004, when citizens wearing orange clothes and carrying orange banners rallied to bring down a government, it became a catchphrase that authoritarian governments use to discredit pro-democracy movements as the handiwork of the CIA. Q was using color revolution in just that way. more...
By Geoff Earle, Deputy U.s. Political Editor For Dailymail.com
A new poll in the wake of President Trump's refusal to denounce QAnon shows that half of his supporters believe a bizarre conspiracy claim that Trump is working to shut down a secret Democratic-run pedophilia ring. The results, contained in a Yahoo News / YouGov poll, comes after Trump clashed in a town hall forum when interviewer Savannah Guthrie invited him to condemn the group and its bizarre theory. It reveals the potential political pressure the president believes he is facing, with many of his supporters subscribing to a bizarre idea he refused to denounce.
A 55 per cent majority of voters have still not heard of the group, according to the poll. And among all registered voters, a vast majority do not subscribe to its bizarre view about a secret child sex ring, 51 to 25. But it is another matter when examining Trump supporters. Among them, a full 50 per cent believe the idea, according to the survey, with 17 per cent saying they don't believe it and a third 'not sure.' By contrast, just 5 per cent of Joe Biden voters believe the claim. 'I know nothing about QAnon,' Trump said at the town hall when asked to condemn their conspiracies. more...
Analysis by Donie O'Sullivan
(CNN Business) I spent my last two Saturdays going to two very different QAnon events. One, in Los Angeles, was a march through Hollywood that portrayed itself as an anti-pedophilia protest. Its organizers were careful not to explicitly embrace the QAnon conspiracy theory even as they implicitly signaled they support it and repeated its disinformation — much like what President Donald Trump did during an NBC town hall last week. The other event, "Q Con Live," took place in a conference room at a resort in Scottsdale, Arizona. It was a meeting of some of QAnon's most passionate peddlers — but it could have easily been mistaken for a grassroots meeting to help re-elect the President.
What both showed is that for many of its supporters QAnon is not just a set of conspiracy theories. For them, it's a way to distract themselves from the failures of a President they see as the hero of a fight against an all-encompassing villainy, to elevate themselves by casting his critics and political opponents as those villains, and to not have to pay attention to all of the US' very real problems, like Covid-19 and systemic racism.
A march in Hollywood
"Pedophiles, you are on notice! - Q" one person's sign at the event in Hollywood said. Along with other material, including a QAnon symbol, the sign featured a picture of Trump heroically pointing, with the words "And I mean you Hollywood" added underneath. And then there was a hashtag: #SaveTheChildren. more...
By Maegan Vazquez, CNN
Washington (CNN) President Donald Trump doubled down on his refusal to denounce QAnon conspiracy theorists, saying in a nationally televised town hall Thursday night that "they are very much against pedophilia" and he agrees with that sentiment. In a heated exchange, NBC News' Savannah Guthrie asked Trump if he could state that the prevailing conspiracy devised by QAnon was not true. "I know nothing about QAnon," Trump responded. "I just told you," Guthrie said. Trump fired back, saying, "What you tell me doesn't necessarily make it fact."
QAnon's main conspiracy theories -- none based in fact -- claim dozens of Satan-worshipping politicians and A-list celebrities work in tandem with governments around the globe to engage in child sex abuse. Followers also believe there is a "deep state" effort to annihilate Trump and that the President is secretly working to bust these pedophilic cabals. The President claimed that all he knows about the movement, which has had a prevalent presence at his campaign rallies, is that "they are very much against pedophilia" and that he agrees with that sentiment. Followers of the group -- which has been labeled a domestic terror threat by the FBI -- have also peddled baseless theories surrounding mass shootings and elections and have falsely claimed that 5G cellular networks are spreading the coronavirus. more...
Story by Bronte Lord and Richa Naik, CNN Business
One day in June 2019, Jitarth Jadeja went outside to smoke a cigarette. For two years he'd been in the virtual cult of QAnon. But now he'd watched a YouTube video that picked apart the last element of the theory he believed in. Standing there smoking, he would say later, he felt "shattered." He had gone down the QAnon rabbit hole; now, having emerged from it, he had no idea what to do next.
'QAnon only hurts people. It has helped nobody.'
QAnon is a virtual cult that began in late 2017. The most basic QAnon belief casts President Trump as the hero in a fight against the "deep state" and a sinister cabal of Democratic politicians and celebrities who abuse children. And it features an anonymous government insider called "Q" who purportedly shares secret information about that fight via cryptic online posts. Travis View is a conspiracy theory researcher who co-hosts the podcast "QAnon Anonymous." The theory's believers "always fantasize that they are saving children and they're bringing criminals to justice," View says. "But QAnon only hurts people. It has helped nobody." more...
The couple made their donation in August before a scheduled fundraiser with Pence was canceled after their promotion of the QAnon conspiracy theory came to light.
By The Associated Press
WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump recently accepted $1 million in campaign contributions from a couple whose vocal support for the QAnon conspiracy theory led to the cancellation of a fundraiser they were supposed to host for Vice President Mike Pence last month.
The couple, Caryn and Michael Borland, have shared QAnon memes and retweeted posts from QAnon accounts, The Associated Press reported in September, which led to the cancellation of a Montana fundraiser. The conspiracy theory includes baseless, farfetched allegations about liberals and satanism and child sex trafficking as well as claims that Trump is fighting entrenched enemies in the government.
New campaign finance disclosures released Thursday night show Trump's joint fundraising effort with the Republican National Committee accepted $1.03 million from the couple, which they donated in late August before the fundraiser was canceled. Their son, whose occupation is listed as “student," contributed an additional $580,000 around the same time, the records show. more...
Guardian investigation finds more than 3m aggregate followers and members support QAnon on Facebook, and their numbers are growing
By Julia Carrie Wong
Guardian investigation finds more than 3m aggregate followers and members support QAnon on Facebook, and their numbers are growing. In early May, QAnon braced for a purge. Facebook had removed a small subset – five pages, six groups and 20 profiles – of the community on the social network, and as word of the bans spread, followers of Q began preparing for a broader sweep. Some groups changed their names, substituting “17” for “Q” (the 17th letter of the alphabet); others shared links to back-up accounts on alternative social media platforms with looser rules. More than just another internet conspiracy theory, QAnon is a movement of people who interpret as a kind of gospel the online messages of an anonymous figure – “Q” – who claims knowledge of a secret cabal of powerful pedophiles and sex traffickers. Within the constructed reality of QAnon, Donald Trump is secretly waging a patriotic crusade against these “deep state” child abusers, and a “Great Awakening” that will reveal the truth is on the horizon. QAnon evolved out of the baseless Pizzagate conspiracy theory, which posited that Hillary Clinton was running a child sex ring out of a Washington DC pizza restaurant, and has come to incorporate numerous strands of rightwing conspiracy mongering. Dedicated followers interpret Q’s cryptic messages in a kind of digital scavenger hunt. Despite the fact that Q’s prognostications have reliably failed to come true, followers rationalize the inaccuracies as part of a larger plan.
By Donie O'Sullivan and Konstantin Toropin, CNN
New York (CNN Business) Authorities in Oregon are pleading with the public to only trust and share information verified by official sources about the unprecedented wildfires sweeping the state. The pleas come as law enforcement agencies described 911 dispatchers being overrun with calls about a false online rumor that "Antifa" members had been arrested for setting the fires — a claim promoted by the anonymous account behind the QAnon conspiracy theories. The incident highlights how online conspiracy theories, a sustained right-wing campaign to create increased fear of anti-fascist groups, and amplification of false claims by QAnon followers, have real consequences.
On Friday, the FBI responded, saying, "reports that extremists are setting wildfires in Oregon are untrue." "Rumors spread just like wildfire," the Douglas County Sheriff's Office warned in a Facebook post Thursday, adding that staff had been "overrun with requests for information and inquiries on an UNTRUE rumor that 6 Antifa members have been arrested for setting fires" in the area. That specific claim had been amplified by "Q" — the anonymous person or people behind QAnon — only 12 hours earlier. Early Thursday morning, "Q" posted a link to a tweet from Paul Joseph Romero Jr., a former US Senate candidate who lost his Republican primary in May, that falsely claimed the Douglas County Sheriff's Office had six Antifa "arsonists" in custody. Speaking to CNN Saturday, Romero claimed, "My original tweet is not 100% accurate, there is no question about that, but it is mostly accurate," and said he wanted to draw people's attention to his belief that arsonists are responsible for a lot of the fires. More...
By Daniel Burke, CNN Religion Editor
(CNN) Parker Neff was scrolling through conservative posts on Facebook when he saw an unfamiliar hashtag: #WWG1WGA. Recently retired after serving as a Southern Baptist pastor for more than 20 years, his time was free and curiosity piqued. "I started looking into it online," Neff said. "Doing some research." And with that, the 66-year-old retiree, and soon his wife, Sharon, fell down one of the internet's most dangerous rabbit holes. It didn't take long for Neff to find the hashtag's meaning. "Where We Go One We Go All" is one of several mottoes of QAnon, a collective of online conspiracists. The pastor and his wife, who live in Arcola, Mississippi, began watching the vast collection of QAnon videos posted online by "researchers" who decipher the cryptic messages of "Q," an anonymous online persona who claims to have access to classified military and intelligence operations. Since its inception in 2017 QAnon has quickly metastasized, infiltrating American politics, internet culture and now -- religion. more...
By Nancy Dillon - New York Daily News
Entering the world of QAnon is like stumbling into a fringe fantasyland embracing every crackpot conspiracy theory of the last two decades. Adherents believe one of Lady Gaga’s getups at the recent MTV Video Music Awards was coded confirmation she’s part of a secret cabal of devil-worshiping pedophile cannibals. They think a color-blocked star used on signage at the Democratic National Convention is a cleverly disguised depiction of the Sigil of Baphomet, a symbol of the Church of Satan. Many believe Hollywood and Democratic elites engage in the ritualistic torture of children to harvest a mythical, psychedelic drug called Adrenochrome from the kids’ tiny adrenal glands.
Some suggest Tom Hanks and Idris Elba got coronavirus from tainted Adrenochrome. Others made the easily debunked claim Hanks’ quarantine in Australia was cover for an arrest linked to the demonic plot. Lots are convinced countless kids are being held prisoner by a human trafficking ring with secret tunnels under Central Park. More...
By Travis M. Andrews
There was a time not long ago when the letter held no special meaning for Jacob, a 24-year-old in Croatia. The 17th letter of the alphabet, usually followed by “u” in English words. What else was there to know? He certainly never expected it to end the tightknit relationship he shared with his mother. But Jacob, who grew up in the United States, told The Washington Post that he has cut all contact with his mother now that she’s become an ardent believer of the QAnon conspiracy theories. Though they long held different political beliefs, they had “a really, really strong relationship,” he said. “We were inseparable.” He had no reason to think anything had changed. But during the holidays in 2019, “our relationship just completely tanked.”
QAnon can be traced back to a series of 2017 posts on 4chan, the online message board known for its mixture of trolls and alt-right followers. The poster was someone named “Q,” who claimed to be a government insider with Q security clearance, the highest level in the Department of Energy. QAnon’s origin matters less than what it’s become, an umbrella term for a loose set of conspiracy theories ranging from the false claim that vaccines cause illness and are a method of controlling the masses to the bogus assertion that many pop stars and Democratic leaders are pedophiles. more...
Explaining the “big tent conspiracy theory” that falsely claims that President Trump is facing down a shadowy cabal of Democratic pedophiles.
By Kevin Roose
If you’re spending a lot of time online these days — and thanks to the pandemic, many of us are — you’ve probably heard of QAnon, the sprawling internet conspiracy theory that has taken hold among some of President Trump’s supporters. But unless you’re very online, you likely still have questions about what exactly is going on. QAnon was once a fringe phenomenon — the kind most people could safely ignore. But in recent months, it’s gone mainstream. Twitter, Facebook and other social networks have been flooded with QAnon-related false information about Covid-19, the Black Lives Matter protests and the 2020 election. QAnon supporters have also been trying to attach themselves to other activist causes, such as the anti-vaccine and anti-child-trafficking movements, in an effort to expand their ranks.
QAnon has also seeped into the offline world, with some believers charged with violent crimes, including one QAnon follower accused of murdering a mafia boss in New York last year and another who was arrested in April and accused of threatening to kill Joseph R. Biden Jr., the presumptive Democratic presidential nominee. The Federal Bureau of Investigation has warned that QAnon poses a potential domestic terror threat. Last week, QAnon reached a new milestone when Marjorie Taylor Greene, an avowed QAnon supporter from Georgia, won a Republican primary in a heavily conservative district, setting her up for a near-certain election to Congress in November. After Ms. Greene’s win, Mr. Trump called her a “future Republican star.” More...