What is QAnon? A quick history

QAnon logo via Wikimedia Commons

QAnon logo via Wikimedia Commons

The conspiracy group QAnon has made headlines in the run up to the 2020 general election. What started out as a fringe internet group has slowly made its way into U.S. politics. But what exactly is QAnon?

At it’s core, QAnon is a blanket term for internet conspiracy theories that falsely claimed the world was being run by a secret group of pedophiles who were plotting against President Donald Trump, in addition to running a worldwide child sex trafficking ring. 

According to the New York Times, followers of QAnon believe that this secret group includes many prominent Democrats, specifically President Barack Obama, former secretary of state and first lady Hillary Clinton and investor George Soros. The list also includes many other celebrities and religious leaders, like Oprah Winfrey, Tom Hanks, Pope Francis, the Dalai Lama and more. It is believed that this group molests children, and the New York Times reported that many believe members of this secret group kill and eat their victims in order to receive a chemical from the victim’s blood that will extend their lives.

The New York Times reported that QAnon followers think President Trump was recruited by military leaders to end the group’s political and media power and to bring them to justice.

Many QAnon followers have also believe conspiracies about 9/11, the assassination of John F. Kennedy and the existence of UFOs. Theories keep expanding, however the central theme of a global cabal is common among all of them. “QAnon Anonymous”, a podcast about QAnon, referred to the theory as a “big tent conspiracy,” as it is constantly evolving and growing.

QAnon started on the website 4chan in October of 2017, when an anonymous user who called themselves “Q Clearance Patriot,” or “Q”, claimed to be a high ranking intelligence officer with access to top secret files relating to Trump’s “war” against the cabal. Posts by Q, called “drops” by followers, moved to 8chan and later to 8kun.

 According to the New York Times, Q claimed that “the storm,” where Trump would reveal the existence of the cabal and punish its members, would occur soon. “The storm” refers to a photo op with Trump and military leaders. During the event, Trump said “You know what this represents? Maybe it’s the calm before the storm.” QAnon believers claim this statement is proof that Trump is sending coded messages about his war against the cabal.

“Drops” from Q are often coded and difficult to decipher. Many followers download apps that collect all posts from Q, and publish and discuss the drops in Facebook groups, Discord chats, and Twitter threads. 

ABC reported that QAnon was likely linked to James Arthur Watkins, who formerly operated 8chan, and his son, Ronald Watkins, who was an administrator of 8chan and currently owns 8kun. According to reports, the two currently live in the Philippines. 

“If he’s not ‘Q’ himself, he can find out who ‘Q’ is at any time,” Fredrick Brennan, a former business partner of Watkins, told  ABC. “And he’s pretty much the only person in the world that can have private contact with ‘Q.’ He’s the only person that, through the board that ‘Q’ started on 8chan, can send ‘Q’ a direct message and get into private contact with basically the leader of this political cult that everybody wants to hear from right now.”

QAnon has become an important issue leading up to the general election on Nov. 3. When asked during a town hall earlier this month, Trump refused to condemn QAnon, instead saying “they are very much against pedophilia,” which Trump said he agrees with.

Multiple candidates for office have also made reference to QAnon in their campaigns. In Massachusetts’ 2nd District, Republican congressional candidate Tracy Lovvorn has reported that she believes some of the information presented by QAnon.

“I’ve said the whole time that I’m very aware of QAnon,” Lovvorn said in an interview with the New Boston Post. “It’s information and I don’t know a lot of the details, but ever since Jeffrey Epstein didn’t kill himself a lot of the QAnon information has been validated. Not everything, but some of it.”

Back in 2019, the FBI warned that QAnon followers presented a domestic terror threat, saying they were “very likely” to commit violent crimes as a result of their beliefs.