- QAnon is a decentralized, far-right political movement rooted in a baseless conspiracy theory that the world is controlled by the “Deep State,” a cabal of Satan-worshipping pedophiles, and that former President Donald Trump is the only person who can defeat it.
- QAnon emerged on 4chan in 2017, when an anonymous poster known as “Q,” believed by Qanon followers to be a team of U.S. government and military insiders, began posting cryptic messages online about Trump’s alleged efforts to takedown the Deep State online.
- QAnon followers believe that the Deep State will be brought to justice during a violent day of reckoning known as “the Storm,” when the Deep State and its collaborators will be arrested and sent to Guantanamo Bay to face military tribunals and execution for their various crimes.
- Since the 2020 presidential election, QAnon has continued to migrate into the mainstream, becoming a powerful force within U.S. politics. Across the United States, QAnon adherents—animated by false claims that the 2020 election was “rigged” or “stolen”—are running for political office, signing up to become poll workers, filing frivolous election-related lawsuits and harassing election officials.
- While not all QAnon adherents are extremists, QAnon-linked beliefs have inspired violent acts and have eroded trust in democratic institutions and the electoral process.
- Many QAnon influencers also spout antisemitic beliefs and the core tenets of “Pizzagate” and “Save the Children,” both of which are QAnon-adjacent beliefs, play into antisemitic conspiracy theories like Blood Libel.
What is QAnon?
QAnon is a decentralized, far-right political movement rooted in a baseless conspiracy theory that former President Donald Trump is waging a secret war against the “Deep State,” a cabal of Satan-worshipping pedophiles who control the world and run a global child sex trafficking ring, murdering children in ritual Satanic sacrifices in order to harvest a supposedly life-extending chemical from their blood known as adrenochrome. QAnon theories, which are popular among far-right extremists and some Trump supporters, are an amalgam of novel and well-established conspiracy theories, with marked undertones of antisemitism, anti-LGBTQ+ hate, and anti-immigrant bias.
According to QAnon lore, nearly every recent president has been a puppet put in place by the so-called Deep State, but Donald Trump was recruited by top military generals to run for president in 2016. Trump’s mission: to expose and take down the Deep State, which will take place during “the Storm,” a violent day of reckoning in which Deep State actors and their collaborators will be arrested en masse and sent to Guantanamo Bay, where they will face military tribunals and be executed for their various supposed crimes against humanity.
In the wake of the Covid-19 pandemic and 2020 presidential election, QAnon has bolstered anti-vaccine skepticism and false claims that the 2020 election was “stolen” from Trump. QAnon followers played a significant role in efforts to overturn and discredit the results of the 2020 election, including the January 6, 2021 Capitol insurrection.
What followers believe
QAnon consists of a number of deeply convoluted conspiracy theories and elevates theories ranging from Satanic blood rituals to the faked death of John F. Kennedy Jr., all tenuously centered around the belief that the world is controlled by a global cabal of Satan-worshipping pedophiles. This kitchen sink approach is a major reason why QAnon has gained such a substantial following in its relatively short life; since its 2017 inception, the movement has become a “big tent” conspiracy capable of accommodating and encompassing all sorts of theories and global events.
It’s not all doom and gloom: QAnon followers also believe there are good forces at play, men and women working within the government to thwart the Deep State. QAnon followers refer to these people as “white hats.”
According to “Q,” the mysterious insider who is “leaking” information to their followers about the plan to takedown the Deep State, the white hats stopped Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton from stealing the 2016 election. As the theory goes, the Democratic elites needed to win the presidency in order to pay back funds that the Clinton Foundation stole from other nations under the guise of 2010 emergency earthquake aid to Haiti. Rather than help Haitians in dire straits, Q claimed thatthe Clintons supposedly used the money to fund a massive child sex trafficking operation from the disaster-stricken nation.
The white hats identified the only person they consider honest and moral enough to resist the evils of the Deep State: Donald Trump, who they recruited to run for president in 2016.
Ever since Trump’s election, Q, Trump and the white hats have been embroiled in what QAnon adherents view as an epic battle with the Deep State. QAnon followers believe a team of military and government insiders, posting under the “Q” identity, is leaking information to the public in order to enlighten them to “the Plan” and quell any civil unrest that may occur when “the Storm” begins. QAnon adherents call this process “the Great Awakening.”
The successful completion of the Plan hinges on hundreds of thousands of alleged sealed indictments, supposedly being compiled by the Department of Justice against the prominent Democrats, Hollywood celebrities, business leaders and other elites who make up the cabal. These indictments are set to be unsealed during a violent day of reckoning known as “the Storm,” when the cabal and its collaborators will promptly be arrested and sent to Guantanamo Bay, where they will face military tribunals and possible execution for their crimes. The Storm takes its name from a comment then-President Trump made during a photo op held before a White House military dinner on October 5, 2017, in which he remarked that the dinner was “maybe the calm before the storm.” When a reporter asked, “What storm, Mr. President?” Trump responded, “You’ll find out.”
Q has repeatedly suggested that the “storm” was imminent, even going so far as to claim that certain members of the cabal, such as Hillary Clinton and John Podesta, would be arrested on certain dates. While those dates have all come and gone with no arrests, QAnon adherents have remained steadfast in their support for Q, who has explained away these failed predictions by claiming that the arrests had to be delayed for various reasons and that “disinformation is necessary” to throw the Deep State off the white hats’ plan.
As the QAnon movement grew and migrated to more mainstream social media platforms, it developed numerous subplots, such as the far-fetched conspiracy theory that John F. Kennedy Jr. is still alive and will become Trump’s new vice president, that various politicians and celebrities (such as Michelle Obama) are transgender, that you can order trafficked children online from Wayfair and that tweets from various celebrities and politicians about the deaths of their dogs are secret messages about members of the Deep State being arrested or executed (i.e., “dog code”).
Amidst the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic, the QAnon and anti-vaccine communities have become increasingly intertwined. In the early days of the pandemic, QAnon adherents latched onto theories that the Covid-19 virus was a bioweapon, created by the Deep State to help sway the results of the 2020 election and usher in a “great reset.” QAnon followers have also promoted numerous false claims and disinformation about Covid-19 vaccines, claiming that the vaccines are being used to implant microchips to track people, that the vaccines can alter people’s DNA and that the vaccines are being used to sterilize and kill off parts of the population. Russia’s invasion of Ukraine in February 2022 has ushered in additional theories about the Covid-19 virus’ origins, with some QAnon adherents claiming that the virus is a bioweapon created in U.S.-funded bioweapons labs in Ukraine.
The QAnon movement has continued to evolve following Trump’s defeat in the 2020 presidential election, incorporating new conspiracy theories and other forms of extremism. QAnon adherents have repeatedly promoted false claims that the 2020 election was “rigged” to rationalize their belief that President Joe Biden is a “fake” president and will soon be removed from office, with some even going so far as to claim that former President Trump is still in control. Devolution, an outlandish conspiracy theory created by QAnon influencer Patel Patriot (Jon Herold), posits that Trump, aware that the Deep State was planning to “steal” the 2020 election, “devolved” the U.S. government via an Executive Order right before he left office and is still secretly president, working with the military behind the scenes to expose China and the Deep State for teaming up to steal the election. QAnon supporters have also repeatedly claimed that Trump will eventually be reinstated as president. One of the earliest forms of this reinstatement theory settled on the date of March 4, 2021, promoting a sovereign citizen-linked theory that former President Trump would return to power on that date, succeeding former President Ulysses S. Grant as the 19th president. Although nothing happened on March 4, some QAnon adherents have continued to promote the belief that Trump will soon be “reinstated” as president.
It is important to note that several aspects of QAnon lore mirror longstanding antisemitic tropes, and multiple QAnon influencers, such as GhostEzra (Robert Smart), IET (Craig Longley), Negative48 (Michael Protzman) and QAnon John (John Sabal), have been known to peddle antisemitic beliefs. The belief that a global “cabal” is involved in rituals of child sacrifice has roots in the antisemitic trope of blood libel, the false theory that Jews murder Christian children for ritualistic purposes. In addition, QAnon has a deep-seated hatred for financier and philanthropist George Soros, a name that has become synonymous with perceived Jewish meddling in global affairs. And QAnon’s ongoing obsession with a global elite of bankers also has deeply antisemitic undertones.
Origins and spread
On October 28, 2017, a post cropped up on 4chan’s profoundly racist, sexist and xenophobic /pol/ (politically incorrect) board. Sandwiched between racist commentary and a post speculating about a non-existent Hillary Clinton sex tape, the post offered a stark news flash: “HRC extradition already in motion effective yesterday with several countries in case of cross border run... Expect massive riots organized in defiance and others fleeing the US to occur.” Over the next few days, the user (who first introduced the moniker “Q Clearance Patriot” on November 1, 2017 and began signing their posts as “Q” the following day, November 2, 2017) made a series of cryptic predictions referencing the Mueller probe, the Clintons, George Soros and Barack Obama, hinting at a vast conspiracy within the U.S. government. “Priority to clean out the bad actors to unite people behind the America First agenda. Many in our govt worship Satan,” an October 29, 2017, post warned.
Initially lost in the cacophony of 4chan, Q’s posts were brought to the attention of Pizzagate adherent Tracy “Beanz” Diaz, who shared them with her sizable audience. Within weeks, discussion boards dedicated to Q popped up on Reddit, widening the audience for the fledgling conspiracy theory. Not only was Reddit significantly more user-friendly than the bewildering boards on 4chan, it already had a thriving community of conspiracy theorists who were more than happy to take the QAnon ball and run with it. From there, the theory spread to even more mainstream platforms like Facebook, YouTube and Twitter, where users, real and fake, shared and amplified the increasingly serpentine theory. As the theory became more widespread, QAnon slogans and symbols became a common sight at Trump rallies, where adherents parsed every word and gesture from the President, looking for hints about the Plan or Q. Even Trump joined the fray, repeatedly retweeting noted QAnon influencers and slogans.
While Q started out posting on 4chan, they did not stay there for long. In late November 2017, Q moved to 8chan, another imageboard site, citing concerns that 4chan had been “infiltrated.” Q continued to post on 8chan until the site was shut down in August 2019 following a mass shooting in El Paso, Texas. Q began posting again in November 2019, when 8chan returned to the web as 8kun.
QAnon’s popularity skyrocketed in 2020 amidst the Covid-19 pandemic, emerging as a central hub for anti-lockdown activists, anti-vaxx conspiracy theorists and alternative health and wellness communities. Shared suspicions of government mandated Covid restrictions and Covid treatments made QAnon and these communities natural bedfellows. Those shared suspicions, combined with general anxiety about the pandemic and increased time spent indoors and online, enabled QAnon to draw in and radicalize individuals around the globe. An analysis conducted by the Institute for Strategic Dialogue, a London-based think tank, found that QAnon-related posts exploded on mainstream social media platforms between March and June 2020—nearly 175 percent on Facebook, 77.1 percent on Instagram and 63.7 percent on Twitter. Q drop aggregator sites and social media made it easy for people to learn about and discuss Q’s posts without ever having to wade through the cesspool of racist and antisemitic content on 8kun to find them.
One of the reasons QAnon has been able to gain so much popularity in its relatively short lifespan—in comparison to other conspiracy theories—is because it actively encourages followers to become part of the story; it empowers followers to uncover the hidden truths of the world themselves and to educate others on what they've learned. In many posts, Q encourages their audience to put the pieces together themselves, to “do your own research” so to speak, thereby allowing QAnon adherents to fill in the numerous blanks with their own musings and paranoias.
The participatory nature of QAnon also benefits the platforms on which it spreads because content that encourages user engagement is favored by social media algorithms, drawing more people to the site. The more QAnon content is amplified, the more followers and “researchers” engage with it, resulting in high levels of user activity and an increased likelihood that it will be suggested to more people who use their platform. For example, an experiment at Facebook in 2019 illustrated how its algorithm recommended QAnon groups to a fictitious user called Carol Smith, despite the user expressing no overt interest in conspiracy theories.
Followers who analyze Q’s posts, known as “breadcrumbs” or “Q drops,” call themselves “autists” (This is a reference to what chan board users call "weaponized autism," complementing the ability of QAnon followers to find and make connections between Q's posts and random topics and events, and does not necessarily imply that the users are autistic) or “bakers.” They decode the “crumbs” to make “bread,” threads that weave together Q’s posts to create a better understanding of the clues and information they reveal. “Baking” creates the illusion that Q is bestowing valuable information. Several Q bakers, such as Jordan Sather, intheMatrixxx (Jeff Petersen) and RedPill78 (Zak Paine), have amassed thousands of followers online, becoming influencers who continue to shape and lead the QAnon movement today.
Evolution following 2020 election
Q made a total of 4,953 posts between October 28, 2017, and December 8, 2020, disappearing shortly after Trump’s defeat in the 2020 presidential election, which Q had assured followers Trump would win. Q re-emerged after more than 18 months of silence on June 24, 2022—the evening Roe v. Wade was overturned by the U.S. Supreme Court in the Dobbs case—making a handful of posts before disappearing again.
Despite Q’s long absence, deplatformings from major social media sites following the January 6, 2021 Capitol insurrection and disappointment over Trump’s defeat in the 2020 election, QAnon has continued to thrive.
In the wake of the January 6 insurrection, mainstream social media platforms cracked down on QAnon, purging almost every significant QAnon influencer along with thousands of rank-and-file followers. While this should have been a crippling blow to the community, many of QAnon’s top influencers had already banned together to create a single Telegram channel to promote their content. Knowing that the bans were coming, they were able to direct their followers to this channel, and the QAnon movement migrated from Twitter and other mainstream platforms to Telegram, where it remains active today.
This movement to alternative (and mostly unmoderated) platforms, along with Q’s absence, has given rise to new influencers in the QAnon community and has created an opportunity for QAnon to merge with other, more extreme movements and ideologies.
GhostEzra (identified by Logically.ai as a Florida man named Robert Smart), who first emerged on Twitter in December 2020, is one of the largest QAnon influencers on Telegram; he is openly antisemitic and pro-Hitler, repeatedly sharing Christian Identity material claiming that modern Jews are “fake" and that white Europeans were the true Israelites. In 2022, GhostEzra began to openly question Q and Trump, possibly weaning his followers away from QAnon and push them towards more extreme, antisemitic content.
Michael Protzman, an antisemitic QAnon influencer known as “Negative48,” gained national attention in November 2021 when he and hundreds of his followers gathered in Dallas’ Dealey Plaza to await the return of JFK, JFK Jr. and Jackie Kennedy, who Protzman claims faked their deaths and predicted would reappear in Dallas to reappoint Trump as President. Over the course of 2022, Protzman and a small group of followers (who call themselves “Protzmanians”) have criss-crossed the country to attend Trump rallies; some journalists have described the group as a cult.
Other QAnon influencers, such as Ann Vandersteel, have openly embraced the beliefs and tactics of the anti-government sovereign citizen movement. Sovereign citizen gurus Bobby Lawrence and David Straight, who teach sovereignty with a QAnon bent, have held dozens of “American State National” seminars across the United States in 2021 and 2022, teaching QAnon adherents about the importance of becoming an “American State National” in preparation for when Trump is reinstated as president and “restores” the U.S. as a “constitutional Republic.” (Note: American State National is a term used by sovereign citizens and some QAnon adherents to refer to themselves, reflecting their belief that they are not citizens of what they perceive is an illegitimate, tyrannical federal government.)
Following the launch of Trump’s Truth Social platform in February 2022, many QAnon adherents migrated to the site, although Telegram remains the platform of choice for many Q followers. The appearance of a “q” account on the platform energized many in the QAnon community, with some speculating that the account, which regularly interacts with former Trump administration official Kash Patel and Truth Social CEO Devin Nunes, is being operated by the original Q poster. While the “q” account has announced it is a fake (it’s most likely a troll account created by the platform’s developers), the account’s posts are being archived in online Q drop aggregators and decoded by some QAnon adherents. Some researchers and journalists have speculated that the Q poster may have re-emerged on 8kun in June 2022 because they felt threatened by the imitator account on Truth Social.
Connection to mainstream U.S. politics
Despite a profound lack of any supporting evidence for Q’s outlandish predictions and claims, QAnon has successfully made the leap from the paranoid catacombs of online subculture into America's mainstream conservative movement, attracting a large contingent of Trump supporters and even national politicians.
Former President Donald Trump is partly to blame for QAnon’s ability to gain traction among his supporters and the Republican Party. For years, Trump has hinted at support for the movement, refusing to condemn QAnon during media appearances and boosting QAnon accounts on Twitter over 315 times during his presidency. QAnon followers view Trump’s boosting of QAnon content as an endorsement of their beliefs, a sly acknowledgement to them that he and Q are working together to takedown the Deep State.
Since the launch of his Truth Social platform in spring 2022, Trump has shared over 130 posts from QAnon accounts, such as posts featuring an image of himself wearing a Q lapel pin and others that feature popular QAnon slogans such as “WWG1WGA” (short for “where we go one, we go all”) and “NCSWIC” (short for “nothing can stop what is coming”). Recent Trump rallies have featured a video, which Trump has also posted on Truth Social himself, that features a song QAnon followers believe is called “WWG1WGA.” Trump's increasingly explicit endorsements of QAnon are a dangerous development, lending credence to a movement that had been responsible for numerous acts of violence and renewing QAnon adherents’ hope that “the Storm” is on the horizon.
2020 Election and the January 6 insurrection
QAnon has fully embraced false claims that the 2020 election was “stolen” from former President Trump, merging it with theories about Trump’s battle with the Deep State. Some QAnon followers believe that the election was "rigged” by the Deep State; others believe that Trump’s loss is all part of the plan and that he is still pulling the levers of the U.S. government behind the scenes. QAnon influencers have used election denialism to attract new audiences, enabling them to increasingly intermingle with mainstream Trump supporters and members of the Republican Party.
QAnon followers have played a significant role in efforts to overturn and discredit the results of the 2020 presidential election, promoting false theories that Dominion voting machines switched millions of votes for Trump to Biden and that the 2020 election was rigged using satellites controlled by the U.S. Embassy in Rome with the help of the Vatican. Sidney Powell and Lin Wood, two pro-Trump lawyers who filed numerous lawsuits attempting to overturn the 2020 election, have repeatedly associated with the QAnon community; Wood himself has also openly endorsed Q on numerous occasions. (Powell is being sued for defamation as a result of her claims that the voting machine company rigged the 2020 election, in a $.3 billion federal lawsuit brought by Dominion Voting Systems, Inc. Last month a federal judge in Washington D.C. threw out Powell’s counterclaims.
QAnon followers also played a significant role in the January 6, 2021, Capitol insurrection. Out of the more than 900 people arrested for participating in the insurrection, at least 66 are known to be QAnon adherents, based on data compiled by ADL as of September 2022. Jacob Chansley, the so-called “QAnon Shaman,” attracted global media attention for the shaman-inspired attire he was wearing as he stormed the Capitol; he was sentenced to 41 months in prison in November 2021 for his role in the insurrection. Ashli Babbitt, who was shot and killed by a Capitol police officer as she tried to climb through a shattered window into the Speaker’s Lobby, was also a QAnon supporter. Another attendee Roseanne Boyland, who also had a history of interest in QAnon, died following the insurrection allegedly due to being trampled. Dozens of other rioters were seen wearing QAnon clothing or carrying QAnon-themed flags and signs as they stormed the Capitol building.
Involvement in U.S. elections
While QAnon followers continue to rally around efforts to overturn the 2020 election results, they are also looking ahead to the 2022 midterm and 2024 presidential elections, fearful that those elections—like 2020—will also be “rigged.” Across the United States, QAnon adherents—animated by false claims of election fraud—are signing up to become poll workers and watchers, volunteering to be precinct committee members and surveiling ballot drop boxes. For example, ahead of Arizona’s 2022 primary election, a group of individuals, including at least one QAnon adherent, held a drop box “tailgate” party in order to keep an eye out for suspected “mules” (a term used to refer to ballot harvesters). On Telegram, Truth Social and greatawakening.win, a popular QAnon forum, dozens of QAnon adherents have posted about signing up to become poll workers for the 2022 election cycle. Such activities raise serious concerns about QAnon adherents interfering with upcoming U.S. elections, by tampering with election equipment or trying to prevent voters from legally casting their ballots.
In addition to these local, grassroot efforts, some QAnon adherents have also run for political office. The ADL Center on Extremism (COE) has identified more than 80 candidates running for federal, state and local office in 2022 who have openly expressed support for QAnon or have regularly affiliated with known QAnon adherents. The America First Secretary of State Coalition, co-founded by Washington state-based QAnon influencer Juan O’ Savin, seeks to elect far-right candidates to Secretary of State positions in key swing states in order to gain control over the administration of the 2024 presidential election. If elected, these candidates could play a key role in determining how electoral votes from their states will be allotted in 2024, which could spark a constitutional crisis.
While some of these QAnon-linked candidates have already been defeated or dropped out, and it is unknown how many of those remaining will win the November 2022 midterm election, the pervasiveness of the theory is striking. Likewise, the ability of some QAnon-linked candidates to advance to the general election—combined with elected officials and other candidates openly pandering to the community—indicates that the once-fringe beliefs held by QAnon followers have become acceptable among mainstream conservatives and the Republican Party.
Since the 2020 presidential election, elected officials and political candidates across the United States have repeatedly associated with the QAnon community, speaking at QAnon-linked conferences and appearing on QAnon podcasts. In October 2021, several elected officials and candidates spoke at the Patriot Double Down conference hosted in Las Vegas, Nevada by antisemitic QAnon influencer John Sabal (QAnon John). The Reawaken America tour, a series of controversial far-right conferences hosted by far-right conspiracy theorist Clay Clark and former national security adviser Michael Flynn, routinely bring together QAnon influencers, election fraud conspiracy theorists, anti-vaccine activists, religious figures and elected officials and political candidates. These events allow QAnon adherents to intermingle with elected officials and candidates, enabling them to share their fringe beliefs with a more mainstream audience.
Who is Q?
Nobody knows who is behind the “Q” identity, although rumors abound. From the very first posts in late 2017, Q’s identity has eluded the hordes of self-proclaimed Q researchers who obsessively pore over every detail of every post. Because of the anonymous nature of the imageboards where Q posts, the real identity of the poster is almost impossible to ascertain.
QAnon believers claim Q is a team of less than 10 individuals within the top echelons of the U.S. military and government with access to classified information, who have chosen this moment to reveal the nefarious conspiracy outlined in the Plan. Q is a reference to “Q clearance,” a top-secret clearance level within the U.S. Department of Energy. There is no evidence to suggest that the individual(s) behind the Q posts is a government employee or has access to classified information. Q’s “information” is so cryptic and vague that the author could be anyone.
Some QAnon followers believe the Q poster could be someone close to former President Trump, such as Dan Scavino, Michael Flynn or Steve Bannon, or even Trump himself. A smaller faction believe that Q is a man named Austin Steinbart, who claims to be posting as Q from the future using quantum technology.
While Q posts anonymously, they use a “tripcode” (a unique digital signature created by scrambling an imageboard user’s password) that allows their followers to distinguish their posts from those of other users and imposters. Tripcodes are notoriously easy to crack, however, and Q's tripcode has been compromised several times. When Q returned on 8kun in November 2019, they posted photos of a pen and notebook that had been shared in earlier posts on 8chan to confirm that they were the original “Q.”
Ron and Jim Watkins
Independent researchers and journalists have long speculated that former 8kun administrator Ron Watkins, and his father, Jim Watkins, who owns the site, are behind the Q posts. In the final episode of Q: Into the Storm, a 2021 HBO documentary series produced by Cullen Hoback, Ron Watkins stated on camera that he had spent “almost ten years, every day, doing this kind of research anonymously. Now I’m doing it publicly, that’s the only difference... It was basically what I was doing anonymously before but never as Q.” Watkins quickly corrected himself, saying “Never as Q. I promise. Because I am not Q, and I never was.” Hoback, along with other journalists and researchers, have viewed this slip by Watkins as an admission that he is “Q.”
In February 2022, The New York Times reported that an analysis of the Q posts by two independent forensic linguistic teams indicated that Paul Furber, a /pol/ moderator and one of Q’s earliest promoters, authored the initial Q posts, with Ron Watkins taking over in 2018. Both men have repeatedly denied being Q.
Following Q’s return in June 2022, Fred Brennan, who founded 8chan, and researchers associated with the Q Origins Project pointed out that Q’s new drops were posted under the same tripcode Q used before they disappeared in 2020, an impossible scenario considering 8kun had rotated its “salt,” a cryptographic mechanism that converts a user’s password into a tripcode, shortly before the new Q drops appeared. This has led some researchers and journalists—and even some 8kun users—to conclude the new posts were made by Jim Watkins, an allegation he has frequently denied.
Despite its U.S.-centric lore, QAnon has amassed followers across the globe, thanks in large part to anxieties over the Covid-19 pandemic and opposition to Covid-related restrictions. QAnon was able to find a home among individuals who opposed such measures, and later Covid-19 vaccines, because of its promise that the Deep State—who QAnon believes is behind the pandemic—would soon be defeated. Data compiled by QAnon researcher Marc-André Argentino in August 2020 showed that QAnon-dedicated Facebook pages existed in at least 71 countries worldwide.
In Canada, Romana Didulo, a QAnon adherent who falsely claims to be the “Queen of Canada,” has amassed thousands of followers, raising tens of thousands of dollars in donations so that she and her entourage can travel across the Canadian provinces to hold meet-and-greets with her adoring fans.
Didulo has repeatedly called for the arrests and executions of anyone involved in enforcing Canada’s Covid-19 mandates and providing vaccinations. In November 2021, she was briefly detained by the Royal Canadian Mounted Police and subjected to a psychiatric evaluation after she issued a call for her followers to “shoot to kill” healthcare workers vaccinating children against Covid-19.
Didulo’s followers have also been known to send "cease and desist" letters to various organizations and individuals across the globe, demanding they stop engaging in “crimes against humanity.” Some have even been arrested for threatening schools and businesses.
On August 13, 2022, Didulo and around 30 of her supporters gathered in Peterborough, Ontario, where they attempted to carry out “citizen arrests” on members of the Peterborough Police Service for enforcing Covid-19 mandates. The event turned violent, and several of Didulo’s supporters were arrested by police on charges ranging from assault to resisting arrest.
QAnon also has a sizable following in Japan, fueled in large part by anti-vaccine sentiments. Japanese QAnon groups have repeatedly held protests against Covid-19 vaccines, even questioning the existence of the virus itself.
In April 2022, Tokyo police arrested several members of the Japanese QAnon group YamatoQ for allegedly barging into a health clinic offering Covid-19 vaccines to children.
QAnon has also gained a foothold among anti-vaccine activists and Covid-19 conspiracy theorists in Europe. In the United Kingdom, QAnon slogans have become a frequent sight at anti-vaccine and "Save the Children” protests.
In Germany, members of the anti-government Reichsburger movement, which bears resemblance to the sovereign citizen movement in the U.S., have adopted QAnon-linked theories to promote the belief that modern-day Germany is an illegitimate state, expressing hope that Trump will help to restore the Reich.
Although QAnon followers are primarily active online, in several cases the conspiracy theory has spilled into the real world with violent consequences. A May 2019 FBI intelligence bulletin, written by the bureau’s Phoenix field office and first reported on by Yahoo News, identified QAnon as a potential terror threat. “The FBI assesses these conspiracy theories very likely will emerge, spread, and evolve in the modern information marketplace, occasionally driving both groups and individual extremists to carry out criminal or violent acts,” the bulletin warned, citing several incidents in which QAnon adherents and other conspiracy theorists had engaged in criminal and violent acts.
While most QAnon believers are not violent and limit their involvement to furthering the conspiracy online, dozens of QAnon adherents in the United States and globally have been linked to acts of murder, violence, kidnapping and public disturbance. QAnon has been linked to at least seven murders since 2017, according to data compiled by START.
- September 11, 2022, Walled Lake, Michigan: Igor Lanis allegedly shot and killed his wife and injured one of his daughters at their family home; he then allegedly opened fire on police as they arrived on scene. Officers returned fire, killing him. Following the shooting, Lanis’ eldest daughter, who was not home at the time of the incident, claimed in a post on the r/QAnonCasualities subreddit that her father had become obsessed with QAnon and other conspiracy theories following the 2020 election.
- August 6, 2022, Stillwater, Oklahoma: Samantha Ricks, a QAnon adherent and former follower of QAnon influencer Michael Protzman (Negative48), allegedly attempted to kidnap her two children from their foster home in Oklahoma. According to local news reports, Ricks and a man named Elijah Erlebach, who appears to subscribe to the sovereign citizen conspiracy theory, pulled up outside the foster home and grabbed her daughter as she was riding her bike outside. They planned to circle back and grab her son, but they were chased by the children’s foster father. Police quickly arrived on scene and arrested them both. Ricks and Erlebach are both facing child stealing and firearm-related charges.
- August 9, 2021, Rosarito, Mexico: Matthew Taylor Coleman allegedly killed his 2-year-old son and 10-month-old daughter after taking them from their home in Santa Barbara, California and driving them to Rosarito, Mexico. According to court documents, Coleman told federal agents that he had become “enlightened” by conspiracy theories related to QAnon and that he believed his wife possessed “serpent DNA,” claiming he killed his two children to prevent them from becoming “monsters.” He was indicted by a grand jury on two counts of foreign first-degree murder of United States nationals in September 2021.
- March 15, 2021, Pewaukee, Wisconsin: Ian Alan Olson was arrested after he attempted to attack a group of U.S. Army reservists. Olson drove his vehicle, which was covered in QAnon slogans and symbols, to the U.S. Army Reserve station in Pewaukee. While shouting “this is for America,” Olson got out of his vehicle and attempted to fire a paintball gun at two soldiers, but the gun jammed, and he was quickly tackled by the reservists and placed under arrest. Olson pled guilty to a count of attacking United States Servicemen on account of their status as servicemen and was sentenced to 14 months in prison in November 2021.
- November 15, 2020, Ocala, Florida: Neely Petrie-Blanchard of Kentucky was arrested for the murder of Christopher Hallett, an Ocala, Florida-based sovereign citizen who offered bogus court services through a company called “E-Clause.” According to court records, Petrie-Blanchard had become convinced Hallett was involved in a conspiracy to deny her custody of her children. Both Petrie-Blanchard and Hallett had embraced QAnon conspiracy theories, according to media reports. Blanchard is also facing separate charges in Kentucky for allegedly abducting her twin daughters from their grandmother’s home in March 2020.
- December 30, 2019, Kalispell, Montana: Cynthia Abcug was arrested and charged with conspiracy to commit kidnapping after her teenage daughter told a case worker that her mother had gotten into QAnon and was plotting with a QAnon follower to abduct her son. Abcug had posted on social media that she believed social workers were trafficking children, and police found QAnon paraphernalia in her home. Abcug was found guilty of conspiracy to commit second-degree kidnapping in August 2022.
- March 13, 2019, Staten Island, New York: Anthony Comello allegedly shot and killed Gambino family crime boss Francesco Cali outside his home in Staten Island. In court, Comello displayed many references to QAnon. According to statements made to his attorney at the time of his arrest, Comello believed that Cali was part of the “Deep State” working to unseat President Trump. In court filings, Comello’s attorney has argued that "Mr. Comello's support for QAnon went beyond mere participation in a radical political organization, it evolved into a delusional obsession." Comello was found mentally unfit to stand trial in June 2020.
- June 15, 2018, Hoover Dam, Nevada: QAnon follower Matthew Wright drove an armored vehicle onto a bridge spanning the Hoover Dam, leading to a standoff with police. During the standoff, Wright demanded that the government release an OIG report, which QAnon followers believed would expose the “Deep State.” Wright was armed and had more 900 rounds of ammunition in his vehicle when he was arrested. In December 2020, Wright pled guilty to making a terroristic threat and fleeing law enforcement; he was sentenced to nearly eight years in prison.
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