QAnon – a term you (unfortunately) need to know

Bruce Maples (bruceinlouisville@gmail.com)
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If you go to Fancy Farm this weekend, or attend a Trump rally somewhere, you may see some people wearing clothing items with the letter Q on them. Or, you may see posters with Q, WWG1WGA, or a white rabbit on them. If you do, you’ve just been introduced to the latest internet-driven conspiracy movement: QAnon.

QAnon is a movement, in the same way that Medusa’s headdress was a snake. Once you start digging into it, you realize that what it was last week is not what it will be next week. It is constantly evolving, adding new pieces and new proponents. But, for the sake of an introduction, I will try to give you the basics.

It started with cryptic messages posted on 4Chan, an internet message board where users post anonymously. The messages were posted by someone named “Q Clearance Patriot,” with the pseudonym indicating the person held the Q level of security clearance within the U.S. government.

This person (or persons) named Q posted in a thread called “The Calm before the Storm,” indicating that a storm was coming, when President Trump would round up all the bad people who had been doing the bad things. It was generated by a statement Trump made to a reporter, which has become a key theme of the worldview of the QAnon adherents:

Here is where things get a little, uhm, crazy:

  • Supposedly, Q is a government insider who knows about multiple wide-ranging secret plots to either do very bad things (child sexual abuse, for one) or to do things attacking Trump and his administration.
  • Obviously, Q has to post in such a way as to not reveal Q’s identity, so the messages are short and cryptic. Readers are supposed to follow the messages to figure out the story – thus, the messages are called “breadcrumbs.”
  • The president’s tweets are also part of the secret messaging, so they are studied as well.
  • And supposedly, the president and the military are working together to take down this massive cabal, which includes every president prior to Trump, as well as the “deep state” and pharmaceutical companies. The goal of this evil group? Enslave the American people.
  • The Anon part of the name can refer to both Q (who is obviously anonymous) and the followers of the movement, who sometimes call themselves “the Anon.”
  • There are a number of code words and symbols associated with the movement, including a white rabbit, a coming Storm, the saying “Trust the plan,” and the initialism WWG1WGA (“Where we go one, we go all”).
  • The ultimate end of the QAnon worldview is this: Donald Trump has a plan, he is executing that plan, and in the end hundreds of anti-American, evil people will be arrested, tried, convicted, and sentenced, including the Clintons, the Obamas, George Soros, and pretty much every Democrat and liberal you can name.

Suffice it to say, I’ve just scratched the surface of this “movement.” And, you may be thinking, Who cares what some fringe people think?

Here’s the problem: It’s moving from the fringe, gaining followers and spokepeople. It showed up at Donald Trump’s recent rally in Floriday. And, it is causing people to take actions beyond just reading Q’s latest posts and discussing what they might mean.

  • One man barricaded himself in his car on Hoover Dam, armed with a rifle and a handgun, and demanded that the “real” report on the FBI by the OIG be released.
  • Michael Avenatti, Stormy Daniels’ lawyer, has been followed and threatened by persons claiming to be part of QAnon.
  • Roseanne Barr and Curt Schilling are proponents of the QAnon worldview, and have spread its message view tweets and videos.
  • A number of celebrities and politicians have been accused of being part of the pedophile conspiracy.

So, at a time when legitimate news outlets are called “fake news” by the president, and when it is becoming more and more difficult to bridge the partisan divide, now we have a group of conspiracy theories rolled into a ball and inserting themselves into the political landscape.

Will they lead to more than just talk? The #Pizzagate episode shows us that these types of conspiracy theories can lead some to violence. Let us hope that QAnon stays in the dark recesses of the internet, and that leaders across the spectrum denounce it for what it is: a worldview that feeds on itself, divorced from reality.

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