For a conspiracy theory that’s been marked by a litany of failed predictions, disappointments, de-platforming, and infighting between factions; QAnon remains remarkably popular.
This is the theory that Trump is about to unleash a massive wave of indictments against the deep state, and anonymous Trump administration official known only as Q is leaking foreknowledge of events to acolytes on far right social media.
And despite the endless exhortations that the great purge of America’s enemies is coming “next week” or “soon,” none of these arrests or events have materialized.
Every prediction Q has made has either failed completely or only been right because it’s so vague that it could be applied to anything – a cold reading tactic called “shotgunning.”
Yet QAnon has now been going for over a year, and inexplicably seems to get more popular every time it gets some mainstream attention.
Given the utter failure of Q’s proposed fascist fantasy of purges and tribunals to come to fruition, why is this still happening? Why are we even talking about this?
Why does anyone think this completely outlandish and totally un-evidenced conspiracy theory is actual real and proven by evidence?
And in particular, why is QAnon so popular with baby boomers, an older cohort that spend a lot of time online and really, really should know how to spot a batshit crazy conspiracy theory, yet seem to be struggling with it.
Here are a few reasons why Q continues to be popular – and why it’s proving so hard to finally debunk:
- It tells an involving story.
QAnon is full of arrests of powerful people, intrigue in the highest corridor of powers, late night flights to avoid prosecution, troops in the streets, and upheaval. It’s got twists, turns, highs, lows, and eventually it all turns out okay.
And it does it in a way straight out of an Ian Fleming novel, with secret codes, mysterious meetings, code names, bizarre deaths, powerful armies battling in the darkness, and, of course, a dashing hero in a stylish suit (ok, that part is a stretch.)
Never mind that none of that has happened. Neither has anything in “Goldfinger.” Yet we still watch it and enjoy it. QAnon tells a compelling story, and people love a compelling story – even if it’s outlandish.
- It’s active, not passive.
Q constantly encourages his followers to get involved, and gives them plenty of unsolvable puzzles to solve.
He tells them to dig, researching his posts and Trump tweets to put together the clues that he can’t or won’t, and to make memes glorifying Q and Trump, bringing the gospel of the Great Awakening to the normie masses.
Most of this is pointless make-work. The “research” involves events that never happened and connecting clues that don’t connect, and therefore could reach any number of outcomes. A typical Q post is so vague and rhetorical that it could mean whatever you want.
Even so, the need to “dig and meme” gives people a way to feel like they matter, and like they’re making a difference in the fight against good and evil.
- It’s a community.
Unlike many other conspiracy theories, many Q believers are baby boomers who have gone through major life transitions, and are left with a small real life community of people around them.
They also spend a great deal of time online, and have the space to chase online rabbit holes down deeper and deeper – sometimes lacking the ability to discern that these rabbit holes actually lead nowhere.
During that digging, they invariably hear about QAnon, and they find other people just like them! This is why the de-platforming of r/greatawakening was such a blow to the community – it took away a safe place for Q believers to compare research and discuss ways to aid in the Great Awakening. That place was taken by Voat, a much more anarchic and right-wing leaning cesspool full of unabashed antisemitism and racism.
Everyone wants to believe in something that someone else believes in, even if that thing is totally insane.
- It explains why things are the way they are.
QAnon posits that a cabal of evildoers rules the world, and that everything they do is planned out and publicly flaunted. In Q’s world, nothing is random, everything is connected, and there are no coincidences.
Powerful people have those positions not simply because they worked hard, or got lucky, or came from money – all of those explanations are too simple. They must have murdered and schemed their way to the top.
And Q is all about shining a light on that murdering and scheming – assuming it ever happened.
People believe conspiracy theories, because they bring order to chaos. The cabal having total control is the ultimate expression of this – and gives believers something to fight
- Q offers a plan – and demands you trust it.
“Trust the plan” is a key phrase to Q, insinuating that while the cabal might be orchestrating everything, Q and Trump have it all under control. There’s a plan, and all you have to do is trust it.
Republicans lost the midterms? Part of the plan. Q’s predictions fail over and over again? Part of the plan. You lost your job because you spend so much time making Q memes? Part of the plan.
Q is particularly good at exploiting this, usually offering up an alternate explanation or paean to followers quickly after a failure of the deep state to be destroyed.
A perfect example was this week, when the already-delayed testimony of US Attorney John Huber, said to be the trigger for the takedown of the Clinton Foundation, fizzled out even before it happened, with Huber not taking the stand.
Q managed to keep the faithful happy with a Q&A session on 8chan answering questions about whether the Earth is flat (no), if JFK Jr. is alive (no), and of course, will American citizens be held in concentration camps without due process or constitutional protection (yes!).
6. He makes his followers feel good.
Ultimately, this is why Q is still popular – he rewards his followers. He posts a lot, calls out “VIP” posters wearing Q swag at Trump rallies, tells them they’re doing a good job, and claims that he fights for them.
Never mind that these things are done solely to keep the scam going. It doesn’t matter to people deep in the weeds. But being recognized by Q does. And so they keep believing. And Q keeps spinning his web.
Will the web collapse? At some point, probably. At some point, something related to “the great awakening” has to happen in order for this fantasy to keep going, right?
Or is QAnon so big that it no longer necessitates the foundation event that created it?
After all, plenty of religions have been waiting eons for a messiah to come. What’s a few more 8chan shitposts compared to that?