QAnon[a] (/ˈkjuː.əˌnɒn/) is a political conspiracy theory that later evolved into a political movement. It originated in the American far-right political sphere. QAnon centers on false claims made by an anonymous individual or individuals known as “Q”. They claim that a cabal of Satanic, cannibalistic sexual abusers of children operating a global child sex trafficking ring conspired against former U.S. President Donald Trump during his term in office. Some experts have described QAnon as a cult.
Followers of the conspiracy theory say that Trump was planning mass arrests and executions of thousands of cabal members on a day known as “the Storm” or “the Event”. QAnon supporters have named Democratic politicians, Hollywood actors, high-ranking government officials, business tycoons, and medical experts as members of the cabal. QAnon has also claimed that Trump stimulated the conspiracy of Russian interference in the 2016 U.S. presidential election to enlist Robert Mueller to join him in exposing the sex trafficking ring, and to prevent a coup d’état by Barack Obama, Hillary Clinton, and George Soros. QAnon is described as antisemitic or rooted in antisemitic tropes, due to its fixation on Jewish financier George Soros and conspiracy theories about the Rothschild family, a frequent target of antisemites. It also has roots in another internet conspiracy theory, Pizzagate. QAnon’s conspiracy theories have been amplified by Russian and Chinese state-backed media companies, social media troll accounts, and the far-right Falun Gong-associated Epoch Media Group.
Although it has its origins in older conspiracy theories, the first post by Q was in October 2017 on the anonymous imageboard website 4chan. Q claimed to be a high-level government official with Q clearance, who had access to classified information involving the Trump administration and its opponents in the United States. Q soon moved to 8chan, making it QAnon’s online home. Q’s often cryptic posts became known as “drops”, which were later collected by aggregator apps and websites. The conspiracy theory expanded into a viral phenomenon and quickly went beyond Internet culture, becoming familiar among the general population and turning into a real political movement. QAnon followers began to appear at Trump reelection campaign rallies in August 2018, and Trump amplified QAnon accounts on Twitter through his retweets.
Since its emergence in American politics, QAnon has spawned movements around the world. The exact number of QAnon followers is unclear, but the group maintains a large online following. Following increased scrutiny of the movement and its hashtags, mainstream social media companies such as Twitter and Facebook began taking action to stop the spread of the conspiracy theory.
QAnon followers have perpetrated acts of violence on numerous occasions. Members of the movement actively took part in the 2020 U.S. presidential election, during which they supported Donald Trump’s campaign and waged information warfare in an attempt to influence voters. After Joe Biden won, they were involved in efforts to overturn the results of the election. Several associates of Donald Trump, such as General Michael Flynn and two members of his legal team, Lin Wood and Sidney Powell, have promoted QAnon-derived conspiracy theories. When these tactics failed, Trump supporters – many of them QAnon followers – attacked the U.S. Capitol on January 6, 2021. The Capitol Riot was a watershed moment for QAnon and led to a further, more sustained social media crackdown on the movement and its claims.
QAnon and the plot to break reality.
A year on from the Capitol Insurrection in Washington DC on 6 January 2021, Gabriel Gatehouse journeys into the dark undergrowth of modern America. He’s looking for the origins of the story that drove the crowds to storm the heart of US democracy. From conspiracy-soaked barrooms in 1990s Arkansas, via spies in hotel rooms in the shadow of the Kremlin, to anarchic chatrooms on the early internet, this is a search for the answer to one big question: did this just happen, or is somebody trying to break reality?
Episodes to download
SOURCE: BBC Radio 4