The screen is dark with eerie music playing in the background. The music reaches a crescendo, and a flaming Q appears as a deep voice reveals, “8 million children are missing!” According to the video, the children are being bred specifically for their blood and body parts, they are missing birth certificates so there is no way to trace them, and our (U.S.) government is doing nothing about it—in fact they are participating in the blood lust. The only person on the planet, who can save the children, is Donald John Trump.1
Welcome to the universe of QAnon.
QAnon is a baseless conspiracy theory from the darkest underbelly of the Internet. Named after the Department of Energy’s highest level of security clearance, a Q clearance is related to access to nuclear weapons’ designs but not to other national security concerns.2 The conspiracy theory conceives that former President Trump is fighting a battle against a “deep-state” cabal of Democratic saboteurs who worship Satan and traffic children for sex or for their blood.3
QAnon burst onto the scene in October 2017 with predictions that the National Guard was about to arrest Hillary Clinton. On October 28, an anonymous user browsing the /pol/section of 4chan, a notorious alt-right imageboard, saw a post that read, “Hillary Clinton will be arrested between 7:45 AM—8:30 AM EST on Monday—the morning on Oct 30, 2017.” This user would later adopt the name “Q Clearance Patriot” (shortened to “Q”). Q hinted that they were a military officer in former President Trump’s inner circle; their writings—almost 5,000—gave birth to the QAnon conspiracy theory.4
This original Q post was on the 4chan site, which was launched in 2003. There have been several “chans,” including 2chan, 4chan, and 8chan. Historically, the chans, which originated in Asia, were the purview of involuntary celibates (incels), anarchists, and nihilists before spreading to the United States. The 4chan site hosts discussion boards dedicated to different topics, from anime and manga to video games and porn.5
As QAnon evolved, it moved from 4chan to other social media platforms, and its messages spread to Facebook, Instagram, Parler, TikTok, and even to Nextdoor and Peloton. In a short four years, QAnon metastasized from a fringe movement on anonymous message boards into a cultlike movement, with millions of followers around the world—one that has captured the imagination and practically seized control of the Republican Party.6 More surprisingly, it has ensnared many women, causing incalculable damage to families and resulted in murders, kidnappings, and intense partisanship in U.S. politics, as you will read in this book.
There were 97 QAnon-supporting candidates in the 2020 primaries, of which 22 Republicans and 2 Independents were victorious and ran in the November 2020 elections. In 2021 a freshman senator from Georgia was removed from her committee assignments; a second freshman senator from Colorado is being investigated for aiding and abetting a failed coup. And, instead of shunning the baseless conspiracy, the Republican Party appears to have embraced it. Statistics show a steady climb in the percentage of QAnon believers in the United States from 5 percent in 20197 to 10 percent in 2020 to 17 percent in February 2021. An NPR/Ipsos poll revealed 17 percent of Americans believe a group of Satan-worshipping, child-enslaving elites want to control the world. Equally disturbing is that another 37 percent aren’t sure whether the allegations are completely false.8
David Gilbert from Vice News explained that:
QAnon followers come from all walks of life—they are liberals, conservatives, PhDs, lawyers, doctors. There are highly educated people that fall into these movements and it is dangerous and remiss to pigeon-hole QAnon followers according to educational attainment or social status.9
Marc-André Argentino, a PhD candidate from Montreal who studies the conspiracy, criticized the Democratic National Committee when they launched a $500,000 ad campaign in February 2021 that offered the GOP a choice between being “the party of QAnon or appealing to college educated voters.” Argentino insisted that QAnon comprises people of all educational levels, and he railed on Twitter: “Can we stop saying these are uneducated people, that they are crazy and wear tinfoil hats?”10
The increasing number of people who believe in QAnon and the range of socioeconomic and educational strata to which it appeals mean that it is highly likely someone in your family or among your friends believes that QAnon is real.
What is QAnon? Why do ordinarily sane people believe something so outrageous? How did we get here? And can we fix the problem?
This book seeks to answer all of these questions. We examine the possible identity of Q, trace the origins of QAnon to long-entrenched anti-Semitic tropes, explore why women have been especially vulnerable to QAnon, and explain psychologically how Q has managed to take root in the U.S. body politic.
1. Amanda Seitz, “QAnon’s ‘Save the Children’ Morphs into Popular Slogan,” AP News (October 28, 2020). https://apnews.com/article/election-2020-donald-trump -child-trafficking-illinois-morris-aab978bb7e9b89cd2cea151ca13421a0
2. Q sensitive allows access to special nuclear material (SNM) category 1. An employee with a Q sensitive clearance has access to nuclear weapons design, manufacture, or use data; disclosure could cause exceptionally grave damage to the nation. Q nonsensitive allows access to special nuclear material (SNM) category 2. The higher the SNM category, the more readily the material could be converted to a nuclear explosive device. Categories 1 and 2 require special protection, such as armed guards. “DOE Classification and Security,” (n.d.). https://fas.org/sgp/ classdoe.htm; Izabella Kaminska, “Is QAnon a Game Gone Wrong? | FT Film,” Financial Times (October 16, 2020). https://www.ft.com/video/ 372cac40–0f6f-498b-8c19–7b635142296e
3. Kevin Roose, “What Is QAnon, the Viral Pro-Trump Conspiracy Theory?” New York Times (March 4, 2021). https://www.nytimes.com/ article/what-is-qanon.html
4. “The Making of QAnon: A Crowdsourced Conspiracy,” Bellingcat (January 7, 2021). https://www.bellingcat.com/news/americas /2021/01/07/the-making-of-qanon-a-crowdsourced-conspiracy/
6. Roose, “What Is QAnon?”
7. Will Sommer, “Inside the Completely Nutso Universe of QAnon: An Explainer for the Conspiracy Theory That’s Taking over the GOP,” Daily Beast (August 21, 2020). https://www.thedailybeast.com/what-is-qanon-a-deep- look-inside-the-nutso-conspiracy-theory-infecting-our-politics
8. Ramona Duoba, “QAnon: The Search for Q,” Provokr (January 26, 2021). https://www.provokr.com/ tv/QAnon-the-search-for-q/