No doubt you’ve heard of it. You’ve probably wondered about it. Where did it come from? What are its beliefs? Why is it in the news? Is it evil? Is it crazy? Is it a threat?
What the heck is QAnon anyway?
It all began with an anonymous post. The forum or platform called 4-chan is a notorious online wild west of content that pushes the envelope in many ways. In Oct. 2017 an intriguing post appeared from a user named “Q Clearance Patriot.” It foretold Hillary Clinton’s arrest and posed cryptic questions about military intelligence, POTUS & other things. 4-chan had a history of anonymous posters claiming to reveal inside information prior to Q.
He (giving indications of being male) got a lot of people’s attention, & then posted other things in later days. He became known as “Q” because he was thought to be an intelligence officer or military official with “Q Access,” which is the highest level of clearance in the Dept. of Energy. He led followers to believe that he had top level access to sensitive information such as nuclear weapons designs. His posts over time have often been vague and open to plenty of speculation.
These posts gathered a growing following of conspiracy-minded people from different places. A sizeable movement of adherents has grown even overseas (esp. Europe). It tended to draw in adherents of already existing conspiracies and the chatter helped to build a web that connected many of them in the minds of followers. Within the world of QAnon you will find discussions about Roswell and the moon landing, as well as 9-11. Every event, in their view, is far more than meets the eye.
The Basic QAnon Conspiracy
Over time the cryptic revelations of Q to his growing audience has constructed a conspiracy that essentially says the following: corrupt leaders, both American & foreign, are part of a secret and evil system of child trading, child-torture and pedophilia. Sometimes the accusations include Satan-worship and/or cannibalism. These villains are deeply embedded in governments, including our own. Often some Hollywood people are lumped into the sordid affairs. The key thing is they are extremely powerful. They control everything, the conspiracy says.
But, the story continues, the destruction of this cabal is imminent, particularly through the efforts of Trump to defeat them. Trump is the pivotal figure meant to bring it to light & thwart it. True patriots who believe in God and America must join the effort by following the “breadcrumbs” that Q is giving them, which are clues he is leaving to help expose it all.
Q has made it a point to appeal to ideas of patriotism and Christian faith. He is able to play on the widespread distrust of media that already exists. Common phrases he uses in messages are things like “Enjoy the show” (that is, the coming apocalypse), and “Nothing can stop what is coming.” He speaks of the “calm before the storm” and often tells people to “trust the plan.” He likes to point to odd things that happen, whether in foreign affairs, in COVID-19 stories or in things like election irregularities, and ask “Are you paying attention?” or “Are you awake yet?”
Followers have found clues everywhere. They would look for meaning in subtle things like words beginning with the letter Q in Trump’s tweets (such as tweets in 2020 with the word “quarantine”). They scrutinized Trump’s words in press conferences and interviews, finding hints here or there. Even his hand gestures were observed carefully for signals that might be sent. Because Trump has tended to amplify or retweet things in his favor, he did so several times for QAnon related accounts (unwittingly by all indications). Each instance gained great attention by Q-adherents.
As to the identity of Q, speculation has abounded. Some followers believe it is Trump. Some think an official near Trump. Close observers note that over time, Q has had to change platforms, and many think there is more than one Q. Within the QAnon community are those who appear not to take it as seriously. Trolls blend into the group often to monitor or make sport of those in the discussions. It is so spread out & loosely affiliated that it is extremely difficult to nail down their exact views, attitudes or plans. Sub-groups seem to exist that are not terribly alike other than the fact that they buy into the general outline of the Q conspiracy. Still, some in the QAnon world have proffered specific points of conspiracy that are way out there.
The Zaniest Fringe Conspiracies
Among some of the more outlandish conspiratorial suggestions in the QAnon community have been these:
- That a coup against Trump was plotted by Obama and Hillary Clinton, with support from George Soros and others.
- That German chancellor Angela Merkel is actually the granddaughter of Hilter.
- That the Kim Dynasty of North Korea is a puppet regime installed by the CIA.
- That evidence exists of certain celebrities drinking babies’ blood.
- That some of the evil elites that traffic children are extracting and harvesting a natural compound from their pituitary glands called “adrenochrome” (produced by purposefully inducing fear in the children). This compound, they believe, can be sold on the black market but mostly is used as a recreational drug and/or youth restoration treatment.
- That JFK, Jr. (whose small plane crashed off Martha’s Vineyard n 1999) was killed at the behest of Hillary Clinton
- that JFK, Jr. faked the crash & is deep in hiding as an ally to Trump; it was believed by one faction that he would emerge from hiding to replace Pence as Trump’s 2020 running mate (with a few even believing that JFK, Jr. is, in fact, Q).
- That Michelle Obama is a man masquerading as a woman.
- That Rep. Adam Schiff raped the body of a dead boy at the Chateau Marmont in Los Angeles.
- That Robert Mueller was actually in league with Trump, who was using the Russia investigation (against him) to do a secret counter-investigation of bad actors in the deep state.
QAnon has elements of a cult, and gets a lot of mileage from using Christian language and Bible verses. The Book of Revelation is, no doubt, a popular topic. Christian terminology and a patriotic spirit are the lure and gateway for many average people who don’t know much about QAnon. Many discussions do not feature the most bizarre elements discussed above.
Like other apocalyptic religious cults, QAnon has offered a number of predictions that did not come true. The following are among the failed prophecies of Q:
- That Mark Zuckerberg would be forced to leave his position at Facebook and then have to leave the U.S.
- That Jack Dorsey of Twitter would likewise be forced out.
- That a car bombing would take place in London in Feb. of 2018.
- That there would be a mass suicide of several Trump enemies in Feb. of 2018.
- That late in 2017 a huge event called “the Storm” would rock America. Many of them believed this event would include enemies of Trump (like Hillary Clinton) being arrested and sent to Guantanamo Bay.
- That Pope Francis would be arrested and charged with numerous crimes.
- That a big military parade by Trump would “never be forgotten” (The parade never took place due to cancellation).
The Influence of QAnon
Nobody seems to be able to provide a reasonable estimate of how many people are true believers in this nutty movement. Overall polls show that barely half of Americans know anything about it. There’s also a subreddit of over 45,000 people who were once believers but now say they have come out of the cultish world of QAnon.
For all of their obsession with Trump, he never seemed terribly interested in them. When finally asked specifically about QAnon, he said he didn’t know very much about them but added, “I understand they like me very much, which I appreciate.” When told about their belief that he is fighting a global pedophile ring, Trump asked jokingly, “Is that supposed to be a bad thing?”
Despite the fact that it is known by everyone that Trump is always reluctant to speak ill of those who praise him, the press mostly ran the story as ‘Trump refuses to denounce QAnon,’ while many QAnon enthusiasts online celebrated what they decided was an endorsement.
The FBI determined in 2019 that some within QAnon were dangerous & presented a thread of domestic terrorism, due to things being said in some corners of the QAnon world. There have, in fact been a few incidents of violence connected to the movement. In March of 2019 in New York City, a man named Anthony Comello shot and killed Francesco “Franky Boy” Cali, an alleged part of the notorious Gambino crime family.
It turned out Comello was a man whose psyche was less than stable, and he had become deluded by things posted in QAnon forums. He had actually brought handcuffs to arrest Cali before it went sideways. Later it was discovered that Comello had previously gone to the residence of Mayor de Blasio to arrest him, as well as to a Federal Courthouse to arrest corrupt politicians, before being turned away by security in both cases.
Comello is an example of how a mentally unsound person can become obsessed enough with the conspiracies of QAnon to believe he has been given a mandate, whether by God, an angel, or Trump, to take action.
But not everyone who could pose a threat suffers from a diagnosable condition. Back in 2016, prior to Q’s appearance, a similar conspiracy led to a nearly explosive incident. After emails from former high-ranking Clinton official John Podesta were leaked online, including mention of a local DC family pizza and recreation establishment called Comet Ping Pong, a conspiracy on 4-chan circulated, saying that the basement of the izza joint was the secret cite of ritualistic child abuse. Secret clues from the emails were supposed to confirm this theory.
All of this led Edgar Maddison of North Carolina to be alarmed. An otherwise sane, law abiding, and religiously devout husband and father, Maddison believed something had to be done. Maddison had a sense of compassion for those who suffer as victims, which had once led him to join a church group that travelled to Haiti to help earthquake victims. Now he believed he had to rescue children being ritually abused. He armed himself & drove his Prius to the restaurant, determined to get into the basement and possibly free the victims or arrest the perpetrators as a dutiful citizen. Upon going in and discovering that they had no basement, Maddison realized the conspiracy was wrong. So he laid down his AR-15 and went out to give himself up to the police arriving on the scene.
The “Pizzagate” event led to questions about what kinds of things were happening in the forums on 4-chan and other places. The arrival of Q was thus recognized by some people as potentially problematic for more incidents like these, the culmination of such worries being evident in the January 6, 2021 storming of the federal capitol by mobs of people, many of whom were steeped in the theories of QAnon.
Critique of the Movement
You may wonder why or whether a section with this title is really necessary. Is it not obvious what is wrong with this movement? Does it not go without saying?
Perhaps, but it is important to point out clearly a few things regarding how to assess properly the QAnon phenomenon.
The Foremost Problem: Anonymity
The “Anon” is a huge problem right from the start. When nobody knows what person or persons is/are the source of the information at the core of the conspiracy, this ought to raise major suspicions. With no name or identity, the mysterious “Q” could be anybody. Was Q ever able to produce information of any sort that only a high-ranking insider would know (and here I mean something confirmed)? All indications from reading the famous “drops” that Q provided over the years shows a lot of cryptic references and questions. He is coy and elusive in many respects, which may lead to intrigue but does nothing to validate his identity as someone in a high position.
Mysterious insiders are the stock and trade of fictional political thrillers. Everyone loves a guy like the famous “smoking man” of the X-Files. But consider the wisdom of entrusting yourself so fully, and investing so much, in the words of someone about whom you know nothing at all. Q is merely words on a screen. What if Q is a ruse? What if he is a highly intelligent and precocious college student? What if he is one or more persons committed to sewing confusion, discord or chaos for some sort of anarchical purpose?
Trump the Global Mastermind?
Next we have to consider the plausibility of Trump’s central role in the conspiracy. Trump is perceived, in the QAnon world, as a champion who fought, during his presidential years, a multilayered, very powerful global entity, and did so in covert ways, concealing these monumental events from most observers – all while being in the most visible and scrutinized position of any leader. Now unless the entire persona of Trump, going back decades, has been an elaborately constructed and consistently maintained façade, this seems highly implausible.
Ask yourself: Does Trump shrike anyone as the kind of person with the years-long discipline to maintain enormous secrets of this kind? Does he seem like a guy playing very high-level 4-D chess on the world’s stage, while keeping it shrouded under a persona that never slips? Was he for four years a shrewd double-operative, a genius fighting the ‘real’ battle beneath the surface of his usual presidential duties and his antics on Twitter?
Too Many Connections
QAnon is not just conspiratorial, it is hyper-conspiratorial. It is conspiracy on steroids, blending a wild cocktail of prior conspiracy theories into bigger, more bizarre narratives. It fosters what psychologists call “apophenia,” which is described as an over-eager tendency to see connections or patterns between unrelated objects or stories.
And this is beside the fact that grand conspiracies suffer notoriously from a massive over-estimation of the competence of large numbers of people to enact and execute incredibly complex schemes without detection. Otherwise routine bunglers at different levels of government are thought to have had the ability to coordinate and bring to pass something truly impressive, then keep quiet about it.
For a Christian looking at this movement, the most disturbing part of it is the surprising ease with which so many people identifying as Christians have been pulled into this bizarre orbit.
Some of the people who have become the biggest promoters of QAnon – many with hundreds of thousands of Twitter followers and viewers of their Youtube videos, and even with the sale of merchandize – like to quote Scripture and talk about their spirituality.
One such promoter of QAnon is David Hayes, aka “Praying Medic.” Before his Youtube channel and Twitter accounts were suspended, he had gained hundreds of thousands of views. He routinely talked about how God confirmed the truth of the conspiracies, mostly by communicating in dreams. “I’ve come to rely heavily,” Hayes said in an interview, “on the revelation I receive from God in dreams.”
It is very common for people in the world of QAnon to talk about God leading them to be involved, and this being their mission from God. Should I take the word of someone I don’t know at all when he claims to have special gnostic wisdom and information imparted directly from God? Can Christians really be so lacking in discernment?
Thanks for Nothing, QAnon
The internet is a sprawling universe of interconnected people, most of whom never meet in person. The proliferation of opinions, essays, reports, accounts, rumors and, yes, conspiracies, is seemingly without limit. Christians, of all people, have to practice discernment. QAnon is a world of obvious conspiracies that push the boundaries of credulity to a point that ought to make it fairly easy to reject. And we certainly should, since it’s done us no good at all.
The media will, predictably, throw an intense spotlight on something like QAnon, exaggerating its influence and threat-level. Because its main messaging comes more from a right-wing perspective, it is a safe target for otherwise cowardly elites. This is a brand of craziness they are applauded for criticizing. No courage is required.
QAnon also serves as a bogey man of sorts. In a time when people have suddenly decided that “misinformation” is a threat to end the world as we know it, something as loopy as QAnon provides mainstream, left-leaning commentators with a villain straight from central casting. This is why they often smear all conservatives with it or conflate it with “white supremacy,” even though race issues seem to play no role in Q’s messaging.
Bottom line: stay away from nonsense like QAnon. If you know people who are fully immersed in it, try to talk some sense into them. It is foolish and, in the worst cases, can lead some people to do something even as insane as, oh I don’t know, storm the U.S. capitol.
There are real problems in the world, and it’s a mismanagement of people’s energies to devote them to something like QAnon. It wastes the time and talents of people who profess to be Christians. It arms those who despise Christianity (and truth, history, reason, etc.) against us by giving them a baton with which to beat us over the head. It has, in some cases, interfered with operations fighting actual child trafficking networks.
I pray QAnon fades quickly, and its adherents return to a sound mind and solid footing on a foundation of biblical truth.
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