- Believers in the “QAnon” conspiracy theories are increasingly making their presence known offline, including at President Donald Trump’s campaign rallies.
- The theories hold that a cabal of elites, including celebrities, Democratic Party leaders, and the deep state, are the source of all evil and that Trump will conquer them all.
- The complex set of interwoven theories revolve largely around promoting a positive interpretation of Trump’s leadership.
Dozens of President Donald Trump’s supporters wore T-shirts emblazoned with the letter “Q,” held signs reading “We are Q,” and shouted support for “Q” while waiting in line for President Donald Trump’s rally in Grand Rapids, Michigan on Thursday evening.
The paraphernalia refers to a set of pro-Trump, right-wing conspiracy theories known as “QAnon,” which falsely hold that the world is run by a Satanic cabal of elites, led by Hillary Clinton and the deep state, and that Trump – with help from secret allies including special counsel Robert Mueller – will expose and defeat them.
As a “QAnon” adherent walked the length of the line outside the rally holding a sign reading, “Make Noise for Q,” hundreds of Trump supporters cheered and called out, “Where we go one, we go all,” a QAnon slogan.
I've been covering Qanon for a year, and the amount of pro-Q people in this video from yesterday's Trump rally line in Grand Rapids is absolutely shocking. This is just a portion of it. pic.twitter.com/hTDGEnPsEi
— Ben Collins (@oneunderscore__) March 29, 2019
How 'QAnon' emerged
In October 2017, an anonymous person who claims to have access to top-secret information (and a so-called Q-level government security clearance), began posting cryptic messages on an online message board known as 4Chan. The vague notes are written in poem-like verses, which QAnon followers call "breadcrumbs," or clues to understanding Trump's secret counter-coup against evil.
Followers believe there will be a "Great Awakening" before a "storm" - an idea derived from the president's unclear reference last year to "the calm before the storm" - during which Trump will conquer elites, globalists, and the deep state. And Democrats including Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama will ultimately find themselves locked up in Guantanamo.
The complex set of interwoven theories revolve largely around promoting a positive interpretation of Trump's leadership, and they're infested with racism and anti-Semitism.
Fabricated child sex rings
Central to the conspiracy are the baseless accusations that certain Hollywood celebrities and Democratic politicians are involved in a child sex trafficking operation. Last week, QAnon followers promoted the false claim on Twitter and Reddit that Tom Hanks and Steven Spielberg are pedophiles and that the Mexican cement company Cemex is helping to run a child sex ring.
'QAnon' in the mainstream
The conspiracy has in recent months worked its way from the radical fringes of the internet to mainstream platforms, including Twitter, YouTube, and Reddit.
Celebrities with well-known right-wing beliefs, including comedian and disgraced actress Roseanne Barr and former Boston Red Sox pitcher Curt Schilling, have appeared to endorse the group on Twitter. Barr used the QAnon slogan, "Where we go one we go all," abbreviated to "WWG1WGA," in one message.
we r the army of truth-wwg1wga
— Roseanne Barr (@therealroseanne) June 20, 2018
QAnon followers have begun to make public appearances. In April 2018, hundreds marched in Washington to protest the Department of Justice. And in June, a Trump supporter at a rally in Duluth, Minnesota wearing a shirt emblazoned with the "QAnon" logo was given VIP access.
During the rally, Trump approached the man in the "Q" shirt and gestured towards him. The group's supporters took the incident as evidence of the theory's validity.
— VIPAnon (@Q_ANONBaby) June 21, 2018
"QAnon" - which is pronounced as the letter "Q" followed by "anon" - made a strong showing at an August 2018 Florida rally, prompting reporters and others in attendance to document their presence.
It is stunning to me how many ppl in this #TRUMPTAMPA crowd have QAnon signs or t-shirts. That is not a healthy sign for GOP or for America.
— Adam Smith (@adamsmithtimes) July 31, 2018
More people repping Q at the campaign rally in Tampa. pic.twitter.com/IPD289AUwQ
— Travis View (@travis_view) July 31, 2018
It is unclear whether the president knows about QAnon or is aware that some of his supporters subscribe to the group.
When asked at an August 2018 press briefing whether the president "encourages the support" of QAnon members, White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said Trump "condemns and denounces any group that would incite violence against another individual and certainly doesn't support groups that would promote that kind of behavior."
But the president has long promoted conspiracy theories, including the "birther" conspiracy about Obama's place of birth.