Behind the QAnon Conspiracy Theory

Angelina Astic, Copy Editor

Known as a far-right pro-Trump internet conspiracy theory group, QAnon has served as a home to many extremists through online forums since 2017. After the Jan. 6 insurrection on Capitol Hill, the Department of Homeland Security issued a terrorism bulletin for the first time in a year to warn Americans of increasing threats from domestic extremists, one of those being QAnon.

One of the main components of the theories is that many celebrities in Hollywood, high-ranking Democrats and certain key religious leaders participate in a cabal of Satanic-worshipping pedophiles who engage in cannibalism. This theory includes the belief that many of those in the group also consume the children they abuse in order to harvest a chemical compound known as Adrenochrome. Believers state that the members use this chemical to preserve their youth.

Starting in Oct. 2017, an anonymous account began posting messages on 4chan, a social media platform previously known for its meme-based content. This account, which supposedly belonged to a top-ranking U.S. government official, began to publish messages, known as “Q-drops,” to keep followers informed. Each message published by the account included a “Q” signature at the end, confirming to followers that the intel provided came from a supposed credible source. 

After a tenure at 4chan, Q made the switch to 8chan, where they remained until removed from the internet. Q now releases information through the 8kun website, where users must prove through a “tripcode” that they have authored the same anonymous posts. 

Usage of encoded cryptic military-style messaging has remained key to Q’s posts. The coded references include abbreviated versions of the names of high-ranking current and former government officials, including former Secretary of State Hilary R. Clinton and President Barack H. Obama. Many other individuals have been mentioned in the posts, too, with one of them being journalist Anderson Cooper, who followers believe has a role in the cabal as well. 

This alleged “official” has proclaimed himself the “Q Clearance Patriot.” The title references the Q access authorization which members of the U.S. The Department of Energy receives. This level of security clearance provides officials with access to information which falls under National Security Information, Secret Restricted Data, Top Secret Restricted Data and Formerly Restricted Data. This information includes access to key intel regarding nuclear arsenal, as outlined in the Atomic Energy Act of 1954. 

Social media has played a large role in the spread of QAnon conspiracy literature. Many followers previously made Facebook groups and Twitter threads to share Q’s posts and updates with fellow followers. They would then engage in conversation with one another, trying to understand the meaning behind each component of the messages.

The most important components of the QAnon conspiracy include the belief that President Donald J. Trump came as a messiah for the group and has been leading the “war” against the cabal. Q has stated that he has access to information, which his followers believe proves the truth of the statement, as well as the fact that Trump often mentions “the Storm.”

In a press conference during Oct. 2017, the same month in which Q began posting updates to their followers, Trump made mention of the “calm before the storm.” QAnon followers believe this said “Storm” refers to an upcoming widespread “unmasking” of members of the cabal and would lead to massive arrests and charges made against said members.  

Many followers also believe that Trump has left them clues and speaks directly to them, starting with “the Storm” remarks. Anytime Trump says the number 17 (which coincides with Q, the seventeenth letter of the alphabet), raises his hand in a “Q” shape or wears a pink tie (code for a child being abducted), followers believe that he is addressing them specifically. 

Certain politicians have previously come out in support of the QAnon theory, such as Republican Representatives Marjorie Taylor Greene and Lauren Boebert. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell and other key politicians have denounced QAnon theories and stated that Greene’s spread of baseless theories continue to be detrimental to the GOP.  

Many of those present at the Jan. 6 insurrection at Capitol Hill believed that Trump had the election stolen from him, a theory known as #stopthesteal that circled the internet for months after the election. A portion of these insurrectionists followed the QAnon conspiracy, following one of the principles of the conspiracy known as “When We Go One We Go All.” The insurrectionists who went to the Capitol felt that they had the power to overturn the election, an attempt that proved unsuccessful.

Since garnering more attention after the insurrection, QAnon followers have announced that Mar. 4, 2021 is the date when Trump returns to Washington, D.C. to serve his second term in office. This theory, which officials have declared as false, continues to spread on social media as followers prepare for the upcoming date.