Why QAnon, the conspiracy theory around the Mueller inquiry, isn’t over
One would think that a conspiracy theory that’s based on the idea that special counsel Robert Mueller and President Donald Trump are working together to expose thousands of cannibalistic pedophiles hidden in plain sight (including Hillary Clinton and actor Tom Hanks) and then send them to Guantanamo Bay would be doomed. Mueller’s investigation has ended and Attorney General Bill Barr’s summary of Mueller’s report has been published — all without any mention of pedophiles, cannibals, or child murderers.
One would be wrong.
As evidenced by Trump’s Thursday night rally in Grand Rapids, Michigan, QAnon — a conspiracy theory that took root in online forums before bursting into the public eye in early 2018 — is alive and well.
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
It’s not just left-leaning or mainstream outlets that have argued the conspiracy theory’s inherent, and pervasive, ridiculousness. Major supporters of the president have denounced QAnon as a “grift” and a “scam.” Many of the conspiracy theory’s allegations — like that Hillary Clinton was executed by lethal injection in February — are patently false (and wild).
But the people who follow QAnon don’t care. In their view, QAnon — a conspiracy theory that alleges hundreds of thousands of child-eating pedophiles are due to be arrested any day now by Trump and Mueller (oh, and John F. Kennedy Jr. is alive) — is bringing America together.
If you truly loved America, and you came across Q, you would support it even if you thought it was a guy in his mother’s basement because of the good it is doing in uniting our fractured nation. MAGA who denounce Q are frauds.
— Joe M (@StormIsUponUs) January 31, 2019
A quick refresher on #QAnon
QAnon is a conspiracy theory based around an anonymous online poster known as “Q” — a pseudonym that comes from the Q-level security clearance, the Department of Energy equivalent of “Top Secret.” Beginning on October 28, 2017, Q began posting on the 4chan message board /pol/ about Hillary Clinton’s imminent arrest. Followers of Q became known as QAnon, and they began awaiting “The Storm,” during which all of Trump’s enemies, including Rep. Adam Schiff and others, would be arrested and executed for being murderous child-eating pedophiles.
I wrote about QAnon last year, when the conspiracy theory first gained attention in mainstream circles. And as I wrote then, most, if not all, of Q’s posts and predictions were unadulterated nonsense.
In a posting on November 1, 2017, Q said that on November 3 and 4, John Podesta, chair of Clinton’s 2016 campaign, would be arrested, military control would take hold, and “public riots would be organized in serious numbers to prevent the arrest and capture of more senior public officials.” Q posted, “We will be initiating the Emergency Broadcast System (EMS) during this time in an effort to provide a direct message (avoiding the fake news) to all citizens. Organizations and/or people that wish to do us harm during this time will be met with swift fury – certain laws have been pre-lifted to provide our great military the necessary authority to handle and conduct these operations (at home and abroad).”
Obviously, none of this happened. There were no public riots or mass arrests or the use of emergency broadcasts. (In fact, the Emergency Broadcast System went out of service in 1997, replaced by the Emergency Alert System.)
But none of QAnon’s most fervent followers seemed to care. And even with the release of Barr’s summary of the Mueller report — which, though very short, would probably have mentioned the indictments of Barack Obama, Bill Clinton and Hillary Clinton had they been included in the document — QAnon believers aren’t deterred.
We will never see the end of QAnon
And that’s why, despite everything that’s taken place over the last week, QAnon will persist — because QAnon wasn’t built on facts, but on almost religious fervor. In fact, that’s how most conspiracy theories work. As I wrote last year:
Conspiracy theories like QAnon are “self-sealing” — meaning that evidence against them can become evidence of their validity in the minds of believers, according to Stephan Lewandowsky, a professor at the University of Bristol who studies conspiracy theories and conspiracists. Trying to disprove a conspiracy theory thus usually only serves to reinforce it.
Take conspiracy theorists who believed, falsely and without evidence, that Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsberg had secretly died earlier this year and her death was being withheld from the American public by the government. As SCOTUSblog found in a case study it conducted, RBG conspiracy believers whom the blog confronted with evidence that the justice had not, in fact, passed away, reacted by leaning into the conspiracy theory even further.
Two users insisted that Ginsburg was dead. According to one, with over 15,000 followers: “Nope, that’s a body double if ever there was one.” And as another user, with over 435,000 followers, suggested, “That’s total hoax and a planned delay – bet she’s dead.”
And that’s just one conspiracy theory. QAnon — which began relatively simply as a conspiracy theory about the Mueller investigation — now includes references and allusions to the Pizzagate conspiracy theory and “false flag” mass shootings. That means that the end of the Mueller investigation won’t end QAnon. Nothing will.
… failed predictions and misplaced expectations haven’t damaged the size or enthusiasm of the QAnon community. They persist in their faith that high-level Democrats will be arrested at any moment, weathering several more disconfirmations of Q’s legitimacy and trustworthiness. Some QAnon followers even claim that failed predictions are irrelevant, because dates that pass without incident serve the purpose of tricking the evil “cabal” they imagine they’re fighting.
Like 9/11 trutherism and moon-landing truthers, QAnon, it appears, is with us for good.