QAnon began as a single conspiracy theory. But its followers now act more like a virtual cult, largely adoring and believing whatever disinformation the conspiracy community spins up.
Its main conspiracy theories claim dozens of politicians and A-list celebrities work in tandem with governments around the globe to engage in child sex abuse. Followers also believe there is a “deep state” effort to annihilate President Donald Trump.
There’s no evidence that any of what QAnon claims is factual.
Followers make unfounded claims and then amplify them with doctored or out-of-context evidence posted on social media to support the allegations.
The anarchical group’s birth, and its continued seepage into mainstream American life, comes on the coattails of the Russian disinformation campaign that targeted US elections in 2016.
While the Russian campaign had an apparent objective — influence voters to elect Trump — QAnon is decentralized, having no clear objective aside from its popular slogan, “Question everything.”
Anyone can create a conspiracy, offer evidence to support it and tag it with QAnon hashtags to spread it. But no one is held responsible for the trail of chaos and disinformation it leaves behind.
How QAnon began
QAnon’s origins are emblematic of what it has evolved into: An unfounded, out-of-context claim made to support an allegation, which is easily discredited.
It all goes back to a cryptic, anonymous post on October 28, 2017 on 4chan, an online message board that frequently features extremist and bigoted content. The individual, which followers would later call “Q,” claimed that Hillary Clinton was going to be arrested.
There was no arrest.
But similar posts pushing baseless claims of arrests and “deep state” action kept appearing on 4chan. It’s unclear who was behind the posts, or if the ones that followed were posted by the same person — 4chan posts are anonymous.
Believers claim that their “Q” is so knowledgeable because of their claim to security clearance within the US government.
QAnon supporters have likened the initial posts, and subsequent ones, to Hansel and Gretel-like breadcrumbs, or “drops,” as they call them now.
At the time, CNN reached out to Cemex and representatives for Tom Hanks and Oprah Winfrey but never received a response.
Believers claimed on several social media sites that a Boca Raton, Florida, house belonging to Oprah was seized by police in a child sex trafficking sting and roped off with red tape.
Another person on Twitter made a post, which garnered thousands of shares, falsely claiming that Tom Hanks, who tested positive for coronavirus in Australia, was actually arrested for pedophilia. The post said that other A-list celebrities would soon be arrested.
The GOP and QAnon
“Everything I heard of Q — I hope that this is real because it only means America is getting stronger and better, and people are returning to conservative values, and that’s what I am for,” Boebert, the front runner for the House seat, said in a May interview.
Her campaign manager, Sherronna Bishop, told CNN in a statement that despite those comments, Bishop “does not follow QAnon.”
CNN has reached out to the Republican National Committee and President Trump’s campaign for comment on QAnon and the GOP candidates’ comments on the group but has not heard back.
CORRECTION: An earlier version of this story misstated the date of a Trump rally in Tampa, Florida. It was held July 31, 2018.
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