THE conspiracy theory group known as QAnon has soared in popularity over the last year, spreading from fringe internet message boards into the American mainstream.
The group, which was first formed in late 2017, is made up of a far right-wing community of believers who embrace a wild range of baseless beliefs.
Their beliefs are centered on the idea that a cabal of Satan-worshipping pedophiles, including high-ranking Democrats and A-list stars, have long controlled the so-called "deep state" of government.
During his time in office, former President Donald Trump was cast as the hero in the bizarre QAnon fable, with followers claiming he was waging a secret war against the "cabal" and was the only person standing in their way.
But the self-described movement has also embraced a wide plethora of other crackpot notions, including claims that Democrats drink the blood of children, to President Joe Biden actually being a malfunctioning robot disguised as a human.
QAnon has, particularly over the last year, gained increasing mainstream attention, bringing with it frequent and disturbing news stories.
In 2020, supporters of the group flooded social media with false information about Covid-19, the Black Lives Matter protests, and the presidential election – recruiting legions of new members in the process.
As evidence of the group's newfound reach, a poll by Ipsos in December found that 17 percent of Americans believe the group's core falsehood about the pedophile cabal.
In 2021, the group's impact was also felt offline, in the real world, when hundreds of followers of the movement took part in the deadly January 6 riots at the US Capitol in a bid to overturn the results of the 2020 election.
Prior to the riots, self-identified members of QAnon even discussed assassinating Democratic politicians including House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez online.
The violent threat the group poses to society led the Department of Homeland Security to designate QAnon an emerging domestic terror threat.
Followers of the conspiracy have also been charged with a host of violent crimes, including kidnappings, assassination plots, and the brutal murders of their own children.
QAnon has also made inroads in the Republican party, with Rep. Marjorie Taylor Green previously promoting the group's beliefs, in addition to a number of other lawmakers.
The origins of the QAnon conspiracy can be traced back to an October 2017 post on the internet forum 4chan, from an anonymous account calling itself "Q."
The author of the post claimed to be a high-ranking government insider with access to classified information about Donald Trump's secret war against the cabal.
In their message, Q said the war would eventually culminate in what he called "The Storm", which would be the Trump-led mass arrest of people in high-power positions, from Hilary Clinton to George Soros.
The Storm gets its name from a cryptic remark Trump made in a photo op in October 2017, in which told a bevy of military leaders around him: "You guys know what this represents? Maybe it’s the calm before the storm.”
Followers of Q interpreted Trump's remarks as a coded message about his plans to unmask the cabal and bring them to justice.
QAnoners also believe in, what they call, The Great Awakening.
The awakening apparently involves one single event in which the rest of the world will realize the QAnon theory was correct all along.
QAnon has previously been described as the "big-budget sequel" to the Pizzagate conspiracy theory, which went viral during the 2016 presidential election cycle.
It came after Wikileaks published the emails of John Podesta, Hillary Clinton's campaign chair.
Conspiracy theorists falsely interpreted some of the messages to be evidence that Clinton and Podesta were running a child sex ring in the basement of the Comet Ping Pong pizzeria in Washington DC.
One of them, Edgar Maddison Welch, decided to take matters into his own hands.
The 28-year-old warehouse worker, a father of two, drove to the pizzeria from his home in Salisbury, North Carolina,in December 2016 and fired three shots with an AR-15 rifle that struck the restaurant's walls, doors, and a desk.
While nobody was hurt, Welch would later tell investigators he wanted to "self investigate" the conspiracy, telling them how he'd read online the restaurant was harboring sex slaves.
It was also discovered that he'd recorded a video inside of his car before opening fire.
"I can’t let you grow up in a world that’s so corrupt by evil," he said, addressing his two young daughters, "without at least standing up for you and for other children just like you.”
QAnon's core falsehood leans heavily on the debunked narratives spun in the Pizzagate theory.
Joan Donovan, a scholar of media manipulation, social movements and extremism, told the Seattle Times that Pizzagate was an early warning of how misinformation spread online can lead to real-world violence.
“The big difference between 2016 and Pizzagate and QAnon [now] isn’t the themes … it’s the scale,” said Donovan.
“Four years later it has reached so many more people.”
As QAnon has migrated onto more mainstream social media platforms, the movement has embraced, developed, and peddled new far-flung conspiracies that have helped to attract more followers.
Many of these theories lean into already established conspiracies, such as those pertaining the assassination of President John F. Kennedy and the 9/11 terrorist attacks.
Many QAnon supporters believe JFK was set to reveal the existence of the "deep state" when he was assassinated on November 22, 1963.
They also believe the attacks on the World Trade Center buildings in 2001 were an "inside job", with the collapse of the buildings triggered by a controlled explosion at the direction of the US government.
Fredrick Brennan, a founder of 8chan who split from the site and became a prominent critic of QAnon, said he expects the conspiracy will continue to evolve to draw in more members.
"These [QAnon] influencers are extremely conniving people and they will be able to come up with new narratives that keep a large number of people focused," he told CBS.
JFK JR. 'STILL ALIVE AND WILL BE TRUMP'S VP
One of the latest bizarre theories to find prominence among QAnoners is the sensational claim that John F. Kennedy Jr. is not only still alive, but will be named as Trump's Vice President when – not if – he returns to office.
JFK Jr., the son of the 35th US President, was killed in an airplane crash on July 16, 1999, alongside his wife Carolyn and his sister-in-law, Lauren Bessette.
But according to QAnon, Kennedy faked his own death and is line to be Trump's VP when he's "reinstated" as president – another bogus claim.
To back their assertions, QAnon devotees shared a video of a middle-aged man who they claimed to be JFK Jr.
As the lore goes, JFK Jr, after faking his death, returned two decades later to help Trump "drain the swamp."
Will Sommer, author of Trust the Plan: The Rise of QAnon and the Conspiracy That Reshaped America, told The Independent that about 20 percent of Q followers believe in JFK Jr’s re-emergence, but that those who do, “100 percent believe”.
"QAnon itself is obviously pretty dangerous. It’s hard to say whether the people who believe the JFK Jr [conspiracy] are more dangerous than the QAnon people who don’t,” he said.
“Part of the problem, just like with any QAnon belief, is that it’s so bizarre that it alienates people from their friends and family.”
'BIDEN'S A ROBOT'
In a second recent and strange theory, adherents of QAnon claim to believe that Joe Biden is actually a malfunctioning robot wearing human-like skin.
The wild assertion was first propelled into the public spotlight during an interview on CNN which aired in March.
A panel of former QAnon supporters spoke with CNN reporter Alisyn Camerota about their experiences within the conspiracy movement.
One former QAnoner, Ashley Vanderbilt, said when she left the movement she knew of several members who believed that Biden was a robot.
"The person that I started talking to … that had initially got me into QAnon, he was like, 'You know, Joe Biden's not even real’," she said.
"That's why he's wearing a mask all the time, because the fake face that he's wearing, the mouth doesn't move correctly when he talks. Yeah, so they really believe that Joe Biden is not even Joe Biden."
Charlotte Rozich, another former believer, said a common belief in QAnon circles was that Biden wasn't even the president.
They claim he's acting as president from a movie-set version of the White House and is being controlled by the "deep state."
Another dangerous conspiracy theory peddled by QAnoners claims that the blood of kidnapped children is being harvested by liberal elites for a drug called adrenochrome.
The drug, they claim, offers a psychedelic experience and even holds the promise of immortality and eternal youth for those who consume it.
In reality, it's simply a chemical that's a byproduct of adrenaline. But still, the lie persists.
"Adrenochrome is a drug that the elites love," conspiracy theorist Liz Crokin says in one of her videos.
"It comes from children. The drug is extracted from the pituitary gland of tortured children. It’s sold on the black market. It’s the drug of the elites. It is their favorite drug.”
Other followers have sought to use the drug as an explanation for why there are so many children missing worldwide.
They've also claimed that Hillary Clinton and former aide Huma Abedin were caught on tape ripping off a child’s face, wearing it as a mask, and drinking the child’s blood to obtain adrenochrome.
Like other conspiracy theories, QAnons builds on centuries-old anti-Semitic tropes.
A 2017 Anti-Defamation League report found several anti-Semitic references in QAnon tweets.
"A small percentage of tweets referencing QAnon" also referenced "Israel, Jews, Zionists," as well as the wealthy Rothschild family and billionaire Democratic donor George Soros, the report says.
While QAnon harassment has not been targeted exclusively towards Jews, many Jewish figures, including Soros, have been met with anti-Semitic attacks from followers of the movement.
Some of these claims include Soros being a former Nazi, Soros “swearing to destroy the U.S.A.”, Soros owning ANTIFA and Black Lives Matter, and Soros paying people to protest against Trump.
Open Society Foundations, which Soros founded, told Reuters last year that the claims made toward Soros in these posts are “false” and “do a disservice to the very bedrock of our democracy, as enshrined in the First Amendment.”
The claim that lizard people control the world is a fringe conspiracy theory that was popularized in the late 1990s by British conspiracy theorist David Icke.
Icke alleged that "the same interconnecting bloodlines have controlled the planet for thousands of years," and blood-drinking reptilians of extraterrestrial origin had been controlling the world for centuries.
He claimed those reptiles even originated the Illuminati, a fictitious group of world leaders that conspiracy theorists believe control the world.
The theory has resurfaced many times over the years, most notably when former President Barack Obama was in office.
A 2013 poll about conspiracy theories conducted by Public Policy Polling found that 12 million Americans believed that "lizard people control politics."
While QAnon does not specifically profess to believe lizards are controlling the world, there are similarities between the two theories.
Marc-André Argentino, a PhD candidate at Concordia University researching extremism, said in a Twitter thread last year that both theories are about theodicy, or "explaining the problem of evil."
In both the QAnon and lizard-people theories, the world is being "controlled by Evil blood-drinking elites that are responsible for all the evil in the world."
He later added to Insider that both theories also share the important element that those accused of being evil require human suffering to survive.
For QAnon, elites are perceived to consume "adrenochrome," an imaginary drug supposedly secreted by children.
Lizard-people believers, meanwhile, claim that "reptilians feed off of our emotions" in the same way, Argentino explained.
In August, Q-Anon believer Matthew Coleman was arrested in Mexico after allegedly murdering his two children with a spear gun.
He allegedly told police he killed them because he thought they were "serpent monsters" and it was "the only course of action that would save the world."
We pay for your stories!
Do you have a story for The US Sun team?
Email us at [email protected] or call 212 416 4552.
Like us on Facebook at www.facebook.com/TheSunUS and follow us from our main Twitter account at @TheSunUS
Source: Read Full Article