January 21, 2021
QAnon is a nebulous and wide-ranging conspiracy theory that encompasses a host of other conspiracy theories. It has spread from the backwaters of the internet onto mainstream platforms where it has built a substantial following among mainstream Republicans and other supporters of former President Trump. Since the inauguration of President Biden, adherents have been scrambling for purpose and direction.
It can be challenging to keep track of a conspiracy theory as amorphous as QAnon, but a few key terms and phrases have remained consistent throughout the theory’s lifespan.
This document will explain the most common ones. For more in-depth information about QAnon’s origins and impact, please refer to the COE backgrounder.
- Q is a reference to “Q level clearance,” a top-secret clearance level within the Department of Energy. Anon is short for anonymous. Users of image boards like 4chan and 8kun (formerly 8chan) refer to themselves as anons.
- Where we go one we go all.” Apart from QAnon itself, WWG1WGA is the most common term/hashtag in Q circles. It underscores the community and “togetherness” element of a movement where everyone is a “digital soldier” in the battle to expose the Deep State.
- Do your own research (and variants such as “Do the research”)
- This expression serves as a rallying cry for some QAnon supporters, encouraging them to “do their own research” to prove Q narratives (about the “Deep State,” cabal of pedophiles, children being tortured and cannibalized) are true. Of course, many QAnon supporters simply turn to QAnon influencers for information, which only confirms their beliefs.
- Make America Great Again. This initially had nothing to do with QAnon, but the movement, reflecting its fervent support of former President Trump, has adopted it. However, the use of “MAGA” on its own does not signify belief in the QAnon conspiracy theory.
- The Great Awakening
- The Great Awakening refers to Q’s dissemination of information, which began in October 2017. Followers of Q believe that they are part of a vast intelligence operation designed to slowly awaken the American people to the truth about the Deep State.
- The Deep State
- The Deep State refers to the entrenched powers within U.S. government institutions that work on behalf of the Cabal. These are the men and women who ensure that the elites’ Satanic desires are carried out and covered up.
- The Cabal
- The Cabal is the shadowy group of overlords who control the world. Suspected members include Oprah Winfrey, George Soros and extra-terrestrials.
- The Storm
- Alternatively, “The Storm is Coming/We Are The Storm.” This is a reference to a much-anticipated future event that is central to QAnon lore: that the Justice Department is holding hundreds of thousands of sealed indictments against Democratic politicians and other members of the elite, enumerating their many crimes, mostly related to sex trafficking. At some point, these indictments will be made public and arrests of Deep State actors will begin.
- Sealed indictments
- See above
- Ten days
- A prophesized period of unrest that will correspond with The Storm, which has led to vivid speculation about any news story or event referencing 10 days. When former President Trump contracted COVID-19 it was speculated that he needed to quarantine for 10 days. QAnon followers believed this was confirmation of upcoming mass arrests.
- The Plan/Trust the plan
- QAnon claims a plan is in place to defeat the Deep State and the Cabal. Everything that happens, even former President Trump’s apparent blunders or negative news coverage, is all part of that plan. Q asks the followers to blindly trust that things are happening behind the scenes, and that everything will work out as long as they trust the President and the plan.
- Adrenochrome is a real chemical compound produced by the oxidation of adrenaline. It is also a fictionalized drug in works by authors like William Burroughs and Hunter S. Thompson. QAnon believers claim that the elite, particularly in Hollywood, harvest adrenochrome from the adrenal glands of trafficked children, using it as an elixir to stay youthful.
- Mole/tunnel children
- During the early months of the COVID-19 pandemic, the government set up a makeshift hospital in New York City’s Central Park. At the same time, the U.S. Navy volunteered the hospital ship USNS Mercy to the city to aid overflowing hospitals. QAnon claimed that the tents in Central Park were there to hide holes in the ground that would be used to rescue the many children who were allegedly being trafficked in tunnels under the park. These rescued children would be taken to USNS Mercy. This theory gained additional traction because the Q subway line runs under the park.
- Save the/our children
- QAnon hijacked this hashtag from a legitimate campaign to raise funds for an anti-trafficking organization and it quickly became a massively successful tool for bringing new people into the movement. The Save the Children campaign elevated QAnon’s visibility via nationwide protests and led the Proud Boys to align themselves with QAnon. #Savethechildren also became a convenient way to spread QAnon disinformation online, making it difficult for social media platforms to distinguish between legitimate content and QAnon nonsense.
- Alternative spelling of QAnon, since Q is the 17th letter of the alphabet. Used to avoid blocking algorithms on social media.
- Q sent me/us
- Shorthand for declaring allegiance to Q.
- Q frames the fight against the Cabal and Deep State as a fight between good and evil, and there is a significant Christian/Evangelical undercurrent to the QAnon movement. Thus, the enemies of Trump are often described as Satanic.
- Sex cult/cannibalism/ritual murder
- In its effort to demonize political enemies, QAnon frames them in the most abhorrent, dehumanizing ways possible. This explains its reliance on narratives like Satanism, pedophilia, cannibalism and ritualistic abuse/murder.
- Pizzagate was QAnon before there was QAnon. In 2016 a completely unfounded conspiracy theory cropped up claiming that Democrats were running a child sex trafficking ring out of Comet Ping Pong, a Washington, D.C. pizza restaurant. The conspiracy led Edgar Madison Welch to make his way into Comet Ping Pong in December 2016 and discharge a military-style rifle.
- A variation of QAnon that focuses solely on the pedophilia aspect, claiming that the Cabal’s purpose is to supply children to Democratic pedophiles.
- Fight like a Flynn
- The expression refers to Michael Flynn, retired U.S. Army lieutenant general and former national security advisor in the Trump administration. Flynn was forced to resign after it was revealed that he had unauthorized communications with Russian diplomats; he was indicted for lying to the FBI. Trump pardoned Flynn in November 2020. Flynn, who has become a major QAnon influencer, has held speaking engagements across the country, urging Trump supporters to keep fighting for Trump to be reinstated as president, and to get involved in local politics. Many QAnon supporters see him as a hero for the cause and have begun using variations of “fight like a Flynn” in their social media posts.