Foreign Policy

QAnon is Trumpism now

Q is dead. Long live QAnon.

From one point of view the conspiracy movement leaves 2020 in tatters with mass madness. Its shadowy leader is in the wind. Two elected members of Congress who once praised the movement now insist that they want nothing to do with it. The elected presidential candidate went up in flames on election day. His crazy name has become a household punchline.

And yet the underlying ideas behind the movement can be more influential than ever. QAnon believers have made the effort to make 2021 their year on the anonymous message board 8chan and on the far-right social media platforms Parler and Gab. With only a few weeks to go before Joe Biden's inauguration, the conspiracy club has worked feverishly to deliver the flawed research and nonsensical allegations that enable President Donald Trump to continue to claim a false victory.

The past year was massive for the former conspiracy theory. Even when the general public woke up to QAnon's grandiose theories, from believing in Democratic Party-run child trafficking rings to heartfelt Satan worship, its followers were rising. Michael Flynn, who briefly served as national security advisor to Trump, has joined the movement. Polls have shown that the supporters of the secret leader Q are likely to be in the millions, not thousands. And it has gone global: you can spot the iconic Q flag at far-right rallies across Europe, QAnon supporters have tried to arrest Canada's easily accessible politicians, and a close friend of Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison is a prominent QAnon influencer. At the center of it all stood Q, the anonymous person who for years showered her followers with a barrage of innuendos and encrypted messages.

But when elections came and went on November 3, 2020, and the results showed that Trump – who shyly encouraged QAnon – was the loser, Q went silent. The only piece of information posted on the 8chan message board last month was a glowing president's propaganda video that has now been viewed 1.5 million times.

The QAnon gang have always been a self-motivated bunch, but they have relied on the Title Q for pointers and directions. In her posts, Q rarely offers new intelligence, but often confirms or mixes theories that are already seeping away on 8chan. QAnon's supporters had little to do with their de facto leader and had an election result that they could shoot on their own.

And while her research is almost always frivolous and fantastic, it has laid the foundation for the emaciated lawsuits of QAnon-affiliated attorneys Sidney Powell and Lin Wood, replenished the daily broadcasts on One America News and Newsmax, and laid the foundation of Trump's own claims, the Choice to overthrow. Almost every piece of supposed evidence brought up by Trump's cheerful gang of election thieves – the so-called Kraken, who were supposed to get the courts to switch states from blue to red – was invented, expanded, or at least reinforced by his legion of QAnon believers. And Trump himself enthusiastically promoted them.

Take the complex network of conspiracies surrounding Dominion Voting Systems. In 2018, the QAnon forums on 8chan claimed the Toronto-based electoral society was closely affiliated with George Soros and the Clinton Foundation, demonstrating the company's complicity with a satanic deep-state conspiracy. On November 2nd, the eve of Election Day, a user posted on 8chan that he had just heard from a "well-known intelligence analyst" and begged him to look into Dominion. "You don't have to win the election. You just have to create distrust of our elections," the user wrote, allegedly quoting the nameless intelligence analyst.

On Nov. 8, Powell appeared on Fox News promoting the theory that Dominion machines switched votes from Trump to Biden – a suggestion that has since been debunked through scrutiny of the tables by several states. A few days later, the president tweeted about Dominion's alleged involvement in the theft. That theory, which has never been substantiated, is now an integral part of Trump's fraud claim. (Trump actually won many counties that use Dominion systems.)

Sometimes it can be difficult to trace the origins of these conspiracies, from 8chan to the president, but sometimes they make it easier. Both Wood and Mike Lindell – My Pillow CEO, One America News supporter, and prominent Trump supporter – recently tweeted a direct link on 8chan pointing to a report of alleged election fraud that "Americans are preparing for war “Warned. ”

On the recent leaked phone call between Trump and Brad Raffensperger, Georgia's Republican Secretary of State, Trump is voicing all sorts of theories put forward by QAnon. From an alleged “professional electoral fraudster” to selectively edited videos claiming that fraudulent ballots had arrived, the president has repeatedly exposed conspiracies, most of which arose on 8chan and Gateway Pundit, a right-wing extremist conspiratorial site .

It's a new legitimacy for QAnon. However, it leaves the movement in an uncomfortable bond. On the one hand, it has become a kind of opposition research body for the Republican Party – or at least for Trump's party. On the other hand, it's still esoteric in many ways, promoting all kinds of crazy beliefs regarding mass kidnapping of children and satanic rituals that are too much even for the 2021 Republican Party. Long-standing nonsense about British conspiracy theorist David is baked in QAnon Icke's belief in lizard people and anti-Semitic theories sprang from the protocols of the elders of Zion, as well as recent delusions about 5G towers that caused COVID-19 and anti-vaccination propaganda.

On New Years Day, these theories appear to have pushed Anthony Quinn Warner to detonate a bomb in downtown Nashville, killing himself and injuring eight others. While it's not clear whether Warner was a QAnon supporter, there are already established examples of the theory moving from the online world to real terrorism.

QAnon's belief in nonsense hasn't stopped him from reaching the president so far, though it likely limits his popular potential. Q is also facing a more pressing issue as they have asked QAnon supporters to trust the plan too often. With various predictions coming and going without action, Hillary Clinton is still walking around untethered; No widespread ring of child trafficking in a deep state has ever been exposed. John F. Kennedy Jr. has not resurfaced – one prediction was crucial: Donald Trump would be re-elected as president to continue the mission. When Biden takes office, Q's credibility as the armed forces ambassador can be irreparably damaged among their supporters forever.

It appears that Q recognized this built-in expiration date.

As foreign policy has already written, there is a Q behind the curtain. Ample evidence suggests that Jim Watkins, the owner of 8chan, is the main hands behind Q and is manipulating the movement for his own purposes. Exactly why he would want to give up his place at the head of the increasingly influential mob is an open question, but some clues may lie with his son: Ron.

Amid Election Day disaster, Ron Watkins, who moderated the main QAnon message board on 8chan and verified that the Q posts were from the real Q, whatever that means, announced his sudden resignation from his moderation duties.

Within a few days, however, Watkins reappeared as a pre-eminent conspiracy theorist. He has more than 500,000 followers on Twitter and his election fraud concerns have been picked up by One America News, the Gateway Pundit and other right-wing media outlets. The president has retweeted Watkins five times since Election Day – most recently a series of tweets on Jan. 3 that Trump contemplated postponing Biden's inauguration to give him more time to reverse the results.

Watkins has gone from reviewing Q's posts to being an integral part of Trump's post-election news in a matter of weeks.

QAnon as it exists now can be done for. But in many ways it doesn't matter. QAnon's conspiracies, pseudo-research methods, imaginary connections forged in bulletin board and string, and belief in an omnipresent deep state will live on. QAnon has infected a constellation of media companies that contain information that doesn't need to be so much true as to feed the octopus. A gathering of Congress and Senate Republicans will refuse to accept election results based on claims that do not stand up to scrutiny. Millions of Americans have bought the idea that a far-reaching conspiracy has changed the outcome of the election. They can all also embroider the letter Q on their coats.

It's a terrible turn of events for American democracy, but it's great news for the Watkins clan, who have apparently turned in their nom de Plume and come out of the shadows, building more influence and power than anonymity.

Ultimately, QAnon has become redundant because Trump himself did everything in the movement. While the mass delusion has always been obsessed with lizardmen and Jewish families who secretly control the world, the core of its mission is to defend the president. During this crusade, many have openly wondered whether Q is actually Trump himself. With the outgoing president now enrolled on the mission himself, it could be a prophecy that the move got right: Trump is the new Q in every way.

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