“We are Q” signs and T-shirts littered a Trump rally in Tampa, Florida on Tuesday night. The slogan represents a growing group of conspiracy theorists, QAnon, who are among Trump’s supporters.
The crowd quickly turned ferocious as CNN reporter Jim Acosta attempted to broadcast from the scene over chants of “CNN sucks,” “fake news,” and “go home.” There is a real fear that as the QAnon group becomes more active, its followers will increase.
Just a sample of the sad scene we faced at the Trump rally in Tampa. I’m very worried that the hostility whipped up by Trump and some in conservative media will result in somebody getting hurt. We should not treat our fellow Americans this way. The press is not the enemy. pic.twitter.com/IhSRw5Ui3R
— Jim Acosta (@Acosta) August 1, 2018
What is the Conspiracy?
“Q” is the anonymous leader, a person or group of people who claim to work for the government and possess a top-level security clearance. The theory goes that Special Counsel Robert Mueller isn’t actually investigating the Trump Administration and Russian Interference in the 2016 presidential election. Rather, Mueller was appointed by Trump to investigate a worldwide governmental criminal network, with its kingpins in the Democratic Party.
The conspiracy’s followers agree that Hillary Clinton, Barack Obama, and John Podesta are at the forefront of the investigation, but anonymous chat boards have also mentioned the involvement of other Trump Administration opponents such as John McCain (R-Ar), as well as the Freemasons, Illuminati, filmmaker Francis Ford Coppola, the Rothschild family, and Satan, according to The Independent.
“Q” leaves “breadcrumbs” in the anonymous chat forums that reference how real-world political events are linked to the criminal network. Sometimes, these are clear explanations. Other times, they are cryptic, coded messages and riddles that followers must decipher among themselves.
According to the New York Times, followers believe the United States Military convinced Trump to run for the 2016 presidential election in order to help sweep up the criminal network that was running the country and beyond. Clinton and others are supposedly involved in worldwide pedophile rings and have some suspicious linkages with Vladimir Putin. They are all wearing ankle monitors to track their locations and will eventually be jailed during “the storm.” This quote is in reference to Trump talking about the “calm before the storm” in a meeting with military leaders last year.
What is its Scale?
“Q” originally started posting in October 2017 on 4chan and 8chan, and is now active on the /r/GreatAwakening subreddit board with 49,000 followers. Believers have become less anonymous, with the conspiracy leaking out into social media platforms. The largest Facebook group has almost 40,000 members, and the most viewed explanatory youtube video has over 300,000 views.
An NBC report showed that in April 2018, an app called “QDrops” ranked in the top 10 most popular paid application in the Apple store. Additionally, celebrities such as Roseanne Barr and Curt Schilling have also actively tweeted their support for the conspiracy.
On June 20, Barr tweeted, “we r the army of truth-wwg1wga.” “wwg1wga” is short for one of QAnon’s slogans, “Where we go one, we go all.”
Why Should We Be Worried?
It may be easy to disregard “Q” as no more than a harmless brand of fringe internet-users with baseless claims, but members of the group have already held several vicious protests in the name of their conspiracy.
In June, one man driving an armored vehicle and wielding two firearms shut down a highway near the Hoover Dam. He then held up a sign that said, “Release the OIG report.”
The original report on former FBI Director James Comey’s handling of the Hillary Clinton e-mail investigation had already been released the day prior, but “Q” had claimed that the Justice Department Office of the Inspector General had an additional report that revealed more information on the Democratic Party’s criminal activities.
On Sunday, “Q” posted a picture of a man wielding what appears to be a knife, while standing outside of the office of Michael Avenatti, the lawyer for Stormy Daniels.
Daniels is an adult film actress suing Trump over a nondisclosure agreement and other alleged illegal payments made to her by Trump’s personal lawyer, Michael Cohen, before the 2016 election. According to Daniels, the agreement was made to silence her about an affair she had with Trump in 2006 so as not to damage his image during the campaign. QAnon theorists believe she and Avenatti are simply out to defame the president.
Avenatti responded to the threat on Twitter, saying, “The more conspiracy theorists attack me, the more confident I become. It shows they see me as a significant threat to Mr. Trump and his continuation in office. They should, because I am.”
White House Spokeswoman Sarah Sanders criticized the actions of QAnon at the Tampa rally during a White House press briefing on Wednesday.
“The president condemns and denounces any group that would incite violence against another individual and certainly doesn’t support groups that would promote that type of behavior,” she said.
There is an unfortunate likelihood that the actions of QAnon could escalate into real violence, much like the Pizzagate conspiracy theory of 2016. Anonymous Pizzagate followers believed that D.C.’s Comet Ping Pong Pizza was the location of a child sex ring that involved Democrats like Clinton and Podesta. It lead to a man shooting off a rifle inside of the parlor in December 2016.