Uncovering QAnon

WSS staffers Renee Gould ’22 and Annie Schwartz ’23 explain how QAnon grew from a conspiracy to a global movement.

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Cassandra Michaels

WSS staffers Renee Gould ’22 and Annie Schwartz ’23 delve into the world of QAnon.

Disclaimer: this article includes mentions of child abuse, sex trafficking and grotesque topics. 

Most people have heard of the conspiracy theory known as QAnon, from its coverage by many news sources, to politicians giving credence to it, to President Trump refusing to discredit it. Despite that, most students are completely unaware of what the theory even is, how it started, the steps major companies have taken, and the real-world effects. 

First of all, the basics of QAnon: QAnon is a conspiracy theory that originated from a 4chan user utilizing the pseudonym ‘Q.’ Q claimed to be a high ranking military officer, and left cryptic messages on the site. 4chan users tried to solve Q’s riddle-like postings using Trump speeches, tweets, news articles and other sources to validate the central theory that high-ranking Democrats, such as Hillary Clinton and Joe Biden, are a secret society of occult child sex traffickers with President Trump fighting, and winning, against them. Depending on the depth of belief in QAnon conspiracy theories, the claim of  a child sex trafficking ring evolves into pedophilia, or child abuse, or even harvesting blood from abused children. Sometimes they’re cannibals. Often Hollywood elites get thrown in alongside Democrats. There’s also a supposedly upcoming event, known as the Storm. That is when President Trump will round up all members of the secret society and put them in Guantanamo Bay.

Then there are the responses, from politicians and companies alike. Generally, Democrats have ignored or outright denounced the QAnon conspiracy theory, however, a handful of Republicans, including President Trump, have either refused to denounce it or have publicly supported it. President Trump has been asked outright about QAnon, and refused to denounce it, claiming that he knew nothing about the theory. However, he went on to mention that he’s heard there are people who love America, are very against pedophilia and like him. This implied to believers that he was giving credence to the theory, and was in support of their actions. QAnon believers extend this to President Trump’s remarks on the Proud Boys, a group of white supremacists, and claim that the Proud Boys are on their side, and may even help during the Storm. 

Then there are the responses from Republicans. Though many Republicans have denounced QAnon conspiracy theories or have simply ignored them, some have publicly supported them. At least 86 former congressional candidates have expressed interest, if not support, of the QAnon conspiracy theory. For example, Marjorie Taylor Greene, who won in Georgia, has publicly supported the QAnon conspiracy theory. On top of all that, over two dozen state legislators have expressed interest or support in the QAnon conspiracy theory. 

Major companies, on the other hand, have taken multiple steps to stop the spread of QAnon conspiracy theories. Twitter took actions back in July, removing 7,000 QAnon posts, and has promised to stop promoting or recommending QAnon conspiracy theories. Facebook and Instagram took actions in August by designing new rules to stop users from joining QAnon groups, banned QAnon-associated hashtags, and has kicked thousands of QAnon groups who encouraged violence. Then in October, they removed QAnon pages, groups, posts, and accounts regardless of promotion of violence. Finally, YouTube has also gone against QAnon by taking steps in October. YouTube has removed tens of thousands of QAnon videos, and removed hundreds of QAnon channels and has promised to take further action against the spread of the QAnon conspiracy theory. However some companies, such as Amazon, have taken no steps to stop the spread of QAnon conspiracy theories, and have often even promoted it. 

So far, the QAnon conspiracy theory has resulted in twelve acts of violence. Some of which included kidnapping or attempted kidnapping, and one of which involved a civilian allegedly killing a leader of the Gambino crime family, and yet another one involved a car chase streamed on social media with five children in the back of the car while their father spoke about QAnon. Many of these attempts at violence were thwarted without major injuries or death. 

As restrictions have appeared to stop QAnon’s spread, the people behind the conspiracy theories have found creative ways to not only continue connecting with other believers on social media, as well as indoctrinate non-followers into the QAnon conspiracy theory. One way this is happening is with the tag ‘save the children’. Though the initial message is positive —to help children in need — QAnon conspiracy theorists have taken over the tag, using it as a front to spread the conspiracy theories.