- QAnon conspiracy theorists planned March 4 as their next big date, claiming Trump would be inaugurated.
- Some of the movement’s influencers are now claiming that conspiracy theory is a false flag.
- The conspiracy-theory movement is already looking forward to its next goal post.
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When President Joe Biden was inaugurated on January 20, the QAnon conspiracy-theory community set its sights on March 4, the day they baselessly believed former President Donald Trump would actually be inaugurated and retake power.
QAnon, the false far-right conspiracy theory alleging Trump is fighting a “deep state” cabal of human traffickers, chose March 4 because it used to be the inauguration date for American presidents, before the ratification of the 20th Amendment in 1933. Trump International Hotel prices reportedly skyrocketed last month as QAnon believers planned to flock to Washington, DC, for the imagined inauguration.
But now, QAnon influencers are backtracking via another conspiracy theory, claiming that the March 4 date is a false flag event planned by outsiders to “make the whole movement look dumb,” as David Gilbert reported for Vice.
One Wednesday post on a QAnon Telegram channel with 195,000 subscribers called the plan “BS.” In January, that same channel told their followers, “The start date for the new Republic is March 4.”
Another channel run by a major QAnon influencer with 71,000 subscribers made a similar claim on Wednesday morning. “March 4 is a Trap,” the post said, sharing a screenshot of a “Q drop” – a cryptic message from the anonymous message board who began the conspiracy-theory movement in 2017 – that included the March 4 date and the word “trap.”
"Q knew," the post said. "Q" has not posted on the message board, 8kun, since December 2020.
On an anonymous message board that's popular within the QAnon community, one post Wednesday morning echoed the same sentiment. "This whole March 4th warning reeks of false flag incoming," the post said.
The March 4 conspiracy theory comes after the failed prophecies predicting Trump would win the election, or that the results would be overturned on January 6, or that Trump would actually be the president inaugurated on January 20.
QAnon's top leaders turning on the movement's latest goal post ahead of Thursday, March 4, is an unsurprising move from the conspiracy theory's influencers, according to Nick Backovic, a contributing editor at fact-checking website Logically, where he researches misinformation and disinformation.
Shifting blame onto others and disavowing certain events is common practice for extremists, Backovic told Insider. "It's sort of a disclaimer," he said. Framing the March 4 date as a false flag event gives QAnon influencers an opportunity to waive responsibility if need be.
In many cases, far-right extremists have blamed their own groups' violence on Antifa, the antifascism movement. Former President Trump was so focused on accusing Antifa of threatening the country that he shifted law enforcement's focus away from the threat of far-right domestic terrorism, The New York Times reported.
Even after the January 6 insurrection, conspiracy theorists - and some Republicans in Congress - baselessly alleged that Antifa was responsible for storming the Capitol, not Trump supporters. While testifying before Congress on Tuesday, FBI Director Christopher Wray said there was no evidence Antifa was involved in the deadly riot.
QAnon leaders are likely also trying to dissuade believers from getting too invested in the March 4 mythology, because every time the movement's goalposts pass, some people leave the community, Backovic said. "QAnon is not intact - it's definitely lost some followers along the way after what happened in January," he said.
Though March 4 will soon pass without Trump's inauguration, there's already evidence that the community is preparing for new dates, like March 20, while some are looking forward to Trump's potential presidential run in 2024.
"I think it's an indication that some of them are in for the long haul," Backovic said.