NEWS
22/07/2020 14:27 BST | Updated 23/07/2020 09:23 BST

What Is QAnon? The Wacky Conspiracy Theory Twitter Is Cracking Down On

"Q is you. And Q is me. Q is logic. Q is a plan to save the world."

President Donald Trump isn’t actually President Donald Trump – he is in fact an undercover agent on a top secret mission to rid the world of evil and prevent a coup by liberal elites who also happen to be paedophiles.

This is the truth according to QAnon, a far-right conspiracy theory astonishing in its breadth, deeply worrying in its reach and gobsmacking in its ludicrousness.

While it might be easy to dismiss such outlandish claims, Twitter this week announced it would crack down on accounts that spread it, describing it as “behaviour that has the potential to lead to offline harm”.

If that wasn’t enough to convince you, last year the FBI classed QAnon as a domestic terror threat.

And it’s not just contained to the US – one apparent supporter was even spotted at a pro-Brexit protest in the UK in March last year..

So what the hell is QAnon? Well, let us take you down the rabbit hole...

It all began with one mysterious comment...

During a press conference in October 2017, President Trump – stood alongside US military top brass – said: “You know what this all represents? Maybe it’s the calm before the storm. Could be, the calm. The calm before the storm.”

Despite being pressed by reporters, Trump didn’t elaborate on his ambiguous warning.

In a normal world, this would have been the end of it – another bizarre comment from a president famous for making bizarre comments.

But this isn’t a normal world.

The tweet, posted in 2017, came at a deeply divisive moment in American politics, where fake news was on the rise and conspiracy theories were running rife. It was seized upon by the darkest recesses of the internet, and was transformed into the story that drives QAnon.

Who started it?

An anonymous person, or perhaps a small group, known as Q, who claims to be a government insider with secret knowledge about what is going on in the upper echelons of the US government.

They first surfaced on the website 4chan, a few weeks after Trump’s comment. The site is known one of the darker and more disturbing corners of the internet, where extremism is rife. 

Q, or Q Clearance Patriot, to give them their full name, started a thread titled “Calm Before The Storm” and over subsequent weeks and months they laid out what would become QAnon.

What’s with the weird name? 

“Q Clearance” is a reference to the highest level of security clearance in the US government, with access to government secrets.

If there really are aliens in Roswell, this person would know about it. Unless they’re fibbing of course....

What other proof is there that Q is who they say they are?

None. Aside from the name and posts like the one below, Q has offered up no proof whatsoever that they are who they say they are.

4Chan
QAnon

OK, so what does Q say?

The overall gist is that Trump is trying to save America from a deep state network led by the likes of Hillary Clinton, former president Barack Obama and billionaire financier George Soros.

Q releases information in vague and cryptic posts called “breadcrumbs” which their followers piece together, hence they are known as “bakers”. The end result? Theories called “dough”.

A cracking example of this occurred in June 2018, when a long-exposure camera picked up the light on an air ambulance over Whidbey Island near Seattle, creating a moody shot of the morning clouds with a bright streak on the left-hand side.

But what else does it look a little bit like? A missile. Q posted the pic with the caption: “This is not a game. Certain events were not suppose [sic] to take place.”

8Chan
QAnon

Enter the bakers, who quickly deduced it was a plot to shoot down Air Force One and kill the president.

And yeah, you can guess what Q’s followers read into that...

Here are a few more specific claims Q and their followers have made:

Perhaps one of the most incredible claims is that Robert Mueller’s Special Counsel investigation into possible collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia, was actually instigated by Trump himself. 

According to the QAnon version of events, Trump pretended to collude in order to recruit Mueller to secretly investigate the Democrats who are, if you’ll remember, mostly paedophiles.

Q’s followers were convinced the Mueller investigation would actually end with the indictments of Hilary Clinton and Barack Obama among others, but the fact this didn’t happen hasn’t put any of them off.

Surely no one actually believes all this?

Alas, they do. And they’re not just tinfoil-hat wearing people confined to their basements.

Here’s Tammy, an adherent who in another video filmed at a Trump rally claims she is a family doctor, explaining why she’s a Q acolyte in a video that recently went viral on Twitter

“Remember this moment. Please remember where you were and the circumstances the very first time you asked who, or what, is Q?

“And here’s why: Q is you. And Q is me. Q is logic. Q is a plan to save the world. Q is not a secret, but Q is secretive. Carefully-crafted, secret information that anyone can have access to.

“Q will one day be in every history book. Q is the best thing that has ever happened to you. So remember, remember this moment, permanently.”

OK Tammy.

Even more worryingly, QAnon adherents are even making their way in to the upper levels of the US Republican party.

Take Angela Stanton King for example. She’s running for the US House of Representatives and is being funded by Republicans.

She’s also met, been retweeted and even pardoned by Donald Trump.

While she denies believing in QAnon, she has regularly tweeted its slogan and also tweets things like this:

So what’s the big deal if a few people believe this? 

Well, we’ll hand over to the FBI to explain this one, who last year designated the movement a domestic terror threat – that’s how seriously they’re taking it.

“The FBI assesses these conspiracy theories very likely will emerge, spread, and evolve in the modern information marketplace, occasionally driving both groups and individual extremists to carry out criminal or violent acts.”

So in sum, these aren’t your average “the moon landings were faked” conspiracy theorists, the US authorities are concerned some may use the story in order to perpetrate and justify violence. 

Statista
QAnon

And there’s precedent. QAnon is seen as an offshoot of the PizzaGate conspiracy in which a false claim that Hillary Clinton was running a child trafficking network from the basement of of a pizza shop in Washington DC escalated into an almost fatal conclusion. 

On December 4 2016, Edgar Welch decided to check the rumours for himself and armed with an assault rifle, drove from North Carolina and fired shots into the restaurant.

No one was hurt and Welch gave himself up to police after finding no evidence of child slaves being held there.

Despite it being absolute nonsense, PizzaGate still has its adherents, most notably Robbie Williams.