QAnon, the headline-grabbing, mind-boggling movement that believes the world is run by a band of Satanist paedophiles who operate a child sex-trafficking ring, has found itself in disarray following the inauguration of President Joe Biden. QAnon supporters are constantly on the lookout for signs or indications that this apparent network is about to be dismantled, its members (mostly celebrities, along with the Pope and the Dalai Lama) arrested, and the system uncovered. To followers, former president Donald Trump was the saviour who would enact this vision. For four years, message boards, secret group chats and Facebook pages have been rife with speculation about when and how “The Storm” would come. Q, the unknown figure at the heart of this conspiracy, has been dropping cryptic clues for years, predicting events that have, thus far, failed to transpire. When the presidency was peacefully transferred over to Biden, the world of QAnon fell into disarray. As the inauguration approached, supporters clung desperately to the hope that ‘Trump can call martial law, even up to five minutes before Biden’s inauguration’ . One popular theory was that Biden was going to be arrested on the inaugural platform. After both the insurrection at the capital, which many QAnon supporters partook in, and the failure of any Q theories to come to fruition, questions have arisen as to the longevity of the conspiracy theory. As Biden was being sworn in, QAnon message boards came alive with concern that, maybe, just maybe, they had been duped. On one platform, messages read, ‘I feel like we’ve all been played’. Meanwhile, a man many suspected of being Q said in a rather anticlimactic fashion, ‘As we enter into the next administration please remember all the friends and happy memories we made together over the past few years’ . Hardly the rallying call to action many were hoping for.
It could be tempting to see this as the anti-democratic threat that QAnon represents finally fading into obscurity, however, given the sheer popularity of this world view, this seems unlikely. In the UK, the term ‘save our children’ has become co-opted by QAnon to promote the idea that there is some giant undercover child sex-trafficking ring. This idea has even been adopted by well-meaning people, sharing QAnon posts online without any clue as to what QAnon means by it. One young person who attended a protest in London last year told the BBC, ‘I'm not sure if I'm QAnon, I don't follow that stuff much, but the deep state is not a secret, it's not a conspiracy theory’. People are being exploited into supporting a movement that, in reality, does not care about the problem of child trafficking, rather using the well-intentioned in pursuit of their own gains. Indeed, many are still clinging to Q and the world view they have built up around themselves, even as the central components appear to be crumbling. The idea of trusting the process and keeping the faith have become rampant in these online communities as a way of preventing people from jumping ship.
Facebook has become more active in removing accounts and groups which perpetuate the theory; however, it seems as though the terminology and concepts have become so deeply embedded that this will simply not be enough. In the US, politicians like Marjorie Taylor Greene have come to power despite (or because of) their extreme views and support for QAnon. Moving forward, as none of what Q has predicted is realised, hopefully more supporters of QAnon will realise they’ve been had. While this may not be enough to reverse the effects of such a dangerous conspiracy, hopefully it will stem the tide of anti-democratic activists that have shown they are not afraid of violence.