For years, legions of adherents to the conspiracy theory QAnon they encouraged each other to “trust the plan,” as they waited for the day when President Donald Trump would orchestrate mass arrests, military tribunals and executions of his Satan-worshiping and child-sacrificing enemies.
Keeping the faith was not easy when Assumption Day did not usher in “The Storm,” the apocalyptic reckoning they believed was looming for prominent Democrats and enemies of Trump’s “deep state.” On Wednesday, QAnon’s followers grappled with anger, confusion and disappointment, while President Joe Biden was sworn in.
Some believers found a way to twist the conspiracy theory’s convoluted narrative to fit with his belief that Biden’s victory was an illusion and that Trump would secure a second term.
Others clung to the idea that Trump will remain a “shadow president” during Biden’s tenure. Some have even raised the idea that the inauguration ceremony was computer-generated, or that Biden himself could be the mysterious “Q,” who is allegedly a government informant posting cryptic clues about the conspiracy.
A poster supporting the QAnon movement during a march in Olympia, Washington state, in May 2020. Photo: AP
For many others, however, Trump’s departure cast doubt.
“I’m so scared now, I really feel like nothing is going to happen,” read a Telegram channel popular with QAnon believers. “I am just devastated.”
Mike Rothschild, author of an upcoming book on QAnon, entitled “The Storm is Upon Us,” said it is too early to estimate whether the wave of disappointment which swept through the ranks of QAnon on Wednesday, is either a turning point or a fleeting setback for the movement.
“I think these people gave up too much and sacrificed too much in their families and in their personal lives,” he said. “They believed in this so much that simply abandoning it is not in the realm of reality for most of these people.”
On Wednesday, when it became clear that Biden’s inauguration would take place, many QAnon messages and online groups were bombarded by provocateurs and trolls who poked fun at the conspiracy.
Supporters of Donald Trump in T-shirts with the QAnon logo, at an event in 2018. Photo: REUTERS
Some longtime QAnon members who always posted said they planned to walk away from social media, if only temporarily.
“Trump said: ‘THE BEST IS TO COME.’ I will not give up,” wrote Telegram user Qtah in an announcement to his 30,000 subscribers that he was taking a break from the networks.
Some groups seized the moment to try to recruit disillusioned QAnon supporters for white supremacy and other far-right neo-fascist movements like the Proud Boys.
On Wednesday, for example, an anonymous poster on 4chan posed in a thread that “this would be the perfect time to start posting Nat Soc propaganda on QAnon groups.” Clearly this is a very low point for Q believers, and once people break down, they look for ways to hold onto hope again. Nat Soc is the acronym for National Socialism, commonly known as Nazism.
Blocking in networks
QAnon emerged in 2017 through panels of anonymous and marginal messages online, before migrating to Twitter, Facebook, and other major platforms that were slow to purge the conspiracy theory from their sites.
Although the Facebook and Twitter platforms pledged last year to rid their sites of QAnon, the accounts with thousands of loyal followers continued until this month, when thetech companies finally deactivated thousands of users They used violent rhetoric to encourage protests over the election results in the United States Capitol on January 6.
Twitter announced that it had suspended more than 70,000 QAnon accounts in the days after the riots. Facebook, for its part, dissolved more than 57,000 pages, groups, Facebook profiles and Instagram accounts this month. Trump was also banned from using his Facebook, Twitter and YouTube accounts.
The inauguration of Democrat Joe Biden on Wednesday left many of QAnon’s supporters speechless, who hoped that Donald Trump would remain in power. Photo: AP
The crackdown caused some of the conspiracy theory’s most ardent promoters to flee to less populated social media sites like MeWe and the messaging app Telegram, where they quickly gained thousands of followers.
But suspensions by social media companies crippled conversations about QAnon on sites, and mentions of popular QAnon hashtags, such as #FightforTrump and #HoldTheLine, dropped by about 90%, according to an analysis by the intelligence company. of Zignal Labs media.
Other QAnon believers continued to find ways to promote his message on Facebook and Twitter, urging his followers to remain hopeful that Trump will find a way to stay in office or expose the “deep state” network of government leaders. what do you think they operate a child sex trafficking network.
Videos and posts on Facebook, Telegram and YouTube predicted that Trump would take over the emergency broadcast system to declare martial law and arrest prominent Democrats.
“This presidential inauguration that we are going to see coming. I tell you it is going to be the greatest thing we have seen in the history of the United States,” warned a pro-Trump singer, who promotes QAnon’s conspiracy theories, in a Facebook video seen more than 350,000 times since Monday.
The QAnon movement participated in many acts of support for Trump in the campaign. Photo: The New York Times,
But Trump’s peaceful handover of power to Biden came and went on Wednesday.
Among the most notable defectors appeared to be Ron Watkins, a prominent promoter of voter fraud conspiracy theories who helps run an online message board where QAnon’s conspiracy theories spill over.
“We gave it our all,” Watkins wrote in a Telegram post, minutes after Biden was sworn in. “Now we have to hold our heads high and get back to our lives the best we can.”
Violence and prophecies
Travis View, a conspiracy theory researcher who co-hosts The QAnon Anonymous podcast under his pseudonym, said Watkins encouraged Trump supporters to travel to Washington for the Jan.6 rally that led to the Capitol riots.
“He did a lot of damage to a lot of people,” he said. “It is responsible for a lot of pain.”
Other QAnon followers, on Wednesday spent their time connected, calling Biden president illegitimate and accusing the Democrats of electoral fraud. Republican Representative Marjorie Taylor Greene, who voiced her support for the conspiracy theories, called for Biden’s impeachment through her Twitter, Facebook and Telegram accounts while the new president was sworn in.
Other supporters continued to search for clues that QAnon’s prophecies were going to come true, with several social media posts noting that Trump’s speech on Wednesday was delivered in front of 17 American flags, a significant number for US conspiracy theorists. QAnon because the “Q” is the 17th letter of the alphabet.
“I think the game is still playing, this is not over!” Wrote a QAnon user to his 26,000 Telegram followers moments after Biden took office.
By Michael Kunzelman, Amanda Seitz and David Klepper, The Associated Press