Amazingly, the #QAnon conspiracy theory is continuing to grow in both followers and mainstream coverage.
In fact, as the conspiracy has gotten weirder, it’s also gotten more mainstream.
To be clear, the supposed Trump administration insider known as Q has revealed nothing in the way of classified information. In fact, he seems to be relying more and more on wild theories and empty promises, spinning fantastical (and unprovable) tales of missile launches against Air Force One, false flag forest fires, and secret, unredacted FISA memos that will utterly take down the dreaded deep state.
Despite Q veering more and more into incoherent crankery, the circle of “autists and anons” that researches and decodes every Q “intel drop” has only gotten bigger and more vocal – becoming ever more indistinguishable from a cult in its unhinged praise.
It’s now common for groups to show up at Trump rallies wearing Q swag, Q billboards are going up in conservative-leaning states, and very slowly, and despite seemingly violating their terms of service, QAnon videos (many accusing prominent celebrities of being pedophiles) are swamping YouTube and Facebook.
At the same time, QAnon is improbably racking up more and more legitimate media coverage. Time Magazine called Q one of the 25 most influential people on the internet, and the movement has been the subject of stories from The Guardian, The Week (full disclosure, I’m quoted in that one), the Daily Beast, NBC News, and Huffington Post.
This would seem to be a time of triumph for QAnon and the feverish following he’s built up.
But QAnon might be headed toward a fracture point that splits the movement for good.
Prosperity scams like QAnon and those before it depend on over-promising, under-delivering, and making up fantastical excuses for why the promise wasn’t delivered.
In the case of QAnon, the anonymous avatar has been alluding to an earth-shaking mass purge of Democrats and pedophiles since his very first posts detailed the imminent arrest of Hillary Clinton and John Podesta.
Ten months later, more and more sealed indictments have seemingly piled up, and more and more promises have been made, but the mass wave of arrests still hasn’t happened.
To cover for this, Q has followed the prosperity scam playbook to the letter, concocting an evermore elaborate fiction to mask the basic fact that “The Great Awakening” seems no closer.
Last month saw Q declare, with no evidence other than one photo, that a missile was launched from Whidbey Island, WA, with the aim of shooting down Air Force One. When the media didn’t cover the story (because it never happened), Q doubled down, declaring that it was splashed by F-16’s carrying classified weapons, with super-lawyer Michael Avenatti somehow part of the plot.
This is classic conspiracy fluff: when your weird story falls apart, bolster it with an even weirder story.
Q is also getting more defensive, including an ALL CAPS rant against an anon who didn’t feel like things were happening fast enough, along with a number of self-reverential posts about Q’s media coverage.
In all of this madness, Q made a couple of rookie mistakes. Not only did he over-promise, he promised something specific and falsifiable. It’s a move that will surely cost him followers and credibility.
On June 26th, Q promised that July 2018 would be the month the world discovered “the truth.”
It’s July 31st, and it’s difficult to tell what “truth” has been revealed that’s good for a rabidly pro-Trump movement like QAnon. Lots of things have been revealed, including the fact that the president knew about the infamous Trump Tower meeting in June 2016, and likely made himself part of a criminal conspiracy as a result.
But that’s not what Q is all about.
Beyond that, Q has prophesied three different times that “something BIG was about to drop” related to either the “real” FISA memo, Facebook’s stock drop, or media coverage of Q.
Finally, Q post #1776 is coming up – just a few posts away as of this writing. I’ve been speculating that post 1776 will be some kind of major change in the movement, while other believers think it will finally unveil the beginning of the “Great Awakening.” It’s been set up to be huge.
It’s likely that Q and his followers will rationalize the failure of the cabal to be brought down in July a number of ways. They’ll do the same thing apocalypse preachers do – move the goalposts, say it was “only the beginning” of the great event, or that it was already revealed and we just didn’t realize it, or just pretend they never said it.
But it’s clear that at least a few Q believers need something to happen to reward their faith. After all, you can’t just promise that July will be the month the world learns the truth, then not expect blowback when nothing happens.
Q has set his followers up for at best, more goalpost moving, and at worst, a massive letdown.
And if that letdown happens, I’d expect there to be real world consequences.
It’s clear that the QAnon movement, like Pizzagate before it, has attracted at least a few broken people who are looking for some kind of savior to make their problems magically go away. They get big followings on social media, who pass around their ravings and validate their broken state with their own pain.
When these people feel like they’ve been betrayed, they have the potential to lash out.
We’ve already seen at least one incident of violence involving a Q follower, when an armed man in an armored truck blocked traffic on Hoover Dam, demanding the release of the “real” DOJ Inspector General report – just a few days after a Q post claiming there are actually four different reports, including an “unmodified, unredacted” original.
QAnon, whoever he or they are, has a responsibility to not let the movement that grew out of his drops collapse into violence. Making specific promises that don’t come true will be a great disappointment – and a broken person being disappointed is not a good combination.
There might be thousands of “anons and autists” content to wear their Q shirts and try to redpill their families – but one unhinged follower with a gun is something else.
And something that has to be prevented.
7/31/18, 4:28 PST edit:
#QAnon posted drop number 1776. It’s an extreme closeup of what’s supposed to be President Trump’s signature, with the number 1776 written in a different handwriting, and a misattributed quote from John Adams.
My guess is that this lame attempt to prove Q is Trump will be just enough to mollify fence-sitters.