What Is QAnon? What We Know About the Conspiracy-Theory Group

Adherents of a right-wing group that believes former President Donald Trump was under assault by Satan worshipers were among the mob that stormed the Capitol

When Rioters Stormed the Capitol: How the Day Unfolded

A congressional exercise in the peaceful transfer of power devolved into deadly chaos when a pro-Trump mob stormed the Capitol. Hours after the riots, Congress reconvened and certified President-elect Joe Biden’s victory. Photo: Lev Radin/Pacific Press via ZUMA Wire

The conspiracy-theory group known as QAnon has grown in popularity in recent months. It has spread from fringe internet message boards to mainstream platforms and has become a political issue, and on Jan. 6, its adherents were among the most prominent members of the mob of former President Donald Trump’s supporters who stormed the U.S. Capitol in Washington. Here is what we know about QAnon, the conspiracy theory behind it and how it started.

What is QAnon?

QAnon is a far right-wing, loosely organized network and community of believers who embrace a range of unsubstantiated beliefs. These views center on the idea that a cabal of Satan-worshipping pedophiles—mainly consisting of what they see as elitist Democrats, politicians, journalists, entertainment moguls and other institutional figures—have long controlled much of the so-called deep state government, which they say sought to undermine Mr. Trump, mostly with aid of media and entertainment outlets.

What Is QAnon, the Viral Pro-Trump Conspiracy Theory?

Explaining the “big tent conspiracy theory” that falsely claims that former President Trump is facing down a shadowy cabal of Democratic pedophiles.

Signs referring to the QAnon conspiracy theory — with a Q —  appeared at rallies for President Donald J. Trump.

Credit…Al Drago for The New York Times

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By now, you’ve probably heard of QAnon, the internet conspiracy theory that has taken hold among many on the American right.

But you may still have questions about what exactly is going on.

QAnon was once a fringe phenomenon — the kind most people could safely ignore. But recently, it has gone mainstream. In 2020, QAnon supporters flooded social media with false information about Covid-19, the Black Lives Matter protests and the presidential election, and recruited legions of new believers to their ranks. A December poll by NPR and Ipsos found that 17 percent of Americans believed that the core falsehood of QAnon — that “a group of Satan-worshiping elites who run a child sex ring are trying to control our politics and media” — was true.

QAnon has also seeped into the offline world. Followers of the movement participated in the deadly Capitol riot in January, and other QAnon believers have been charged with violent crimes, including kidnappings, assassination plots and the 2019 murder of a mafia boss in New York. A terrorism bulletin issued by the Department of Homeland Security in late January warned of increasing violence from domestic extremist groups, including conspiracy theory communities like QAnon.

QAnon has also made inroads in Republican politics. Representative Marjorie Taylor Greene, a first-term congresswoman from Georgia, has become the most prominent QAnon-affiliated lawmaker in the country. (Ms. Greene, who posted in support of QAnon on social media, has said she regrets her posts, but continues to promote many QAnon-supported conspiracy theories.) Elected Republicans at the state and local levels have also expressed support for QAnon.

QAnon | Meaning, Beliefs, & Conspiracy Theory | Britannica

QAnon is an incredibly convoluted theory, and you could fill an entire book explaining its various tributaries and subtheories. But here are some basic things you should know.

 

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QAnon is the umbrella term for a set of internet conspiracy theories that allege, falsely, that the world is run by a cabal of Satan-worshiping pedophiles.

QAnon followers believe that this cabal includes top Democrats like President Joseph R. Biden Jr., Hillary Clinton, Barack Obama and George Soros, as well as a number of entertainers and Hollywood celebrities like Oprah Winfrey, Tom Hanks and Ellen DeGeneres and religious figures including Pope Francis and the Dalai Lama. Many of them also believe that, in addition to molesting children, members of this group kill and eat their victims to extract a life-extending chemical called adrenochrome.

According to QAnon lore, former President Donald J. Trump was recruited by top military generals to run for president in 2016 to break up this criminal conspiracy and bring its members to justice. Many of these cabal members will soon be arrested, the theory goes, and some will be imprisoned at Guantánamo Bay, while others will face military tribunals and be executed.

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