If there is a single thread that links QAnon’s origins, its current state, and where the conspiracy theory is likely to go in the short- to medium-term, it’s antisemitism. QAnon’s antisemitism has been most visible at two points: its beginnings – when it emerged from the swastika-studded fever swamp that is 4chan – and the present, when the most popular QAnon influencer, GhostEzra, is an open Nazi who praises Hitler, admires the Third Reich, and decries the supposedly treacherous nature of Jews.
This is not to say that antisemitism was absent, or even dormant, between QAnon’s beginning and the current moment. During that period, some of QAnon’s foremost proponents – including its single most successful recruiter – indulged in overt antisemitism.
However, when QAnon exploded off 4chan and 8chan into the wider internet, the movement attracted a crowd that was less habitually antisemitic than the early adopters had been. Only in recent months, after President Joe Biden’s inauguration, has this comparatively mainstream crowd begun to drift away. Those who remain are, by definition, more deeply committed than the ones who’ve left.
Before we delve into the movement’s history, though, it would probably be wise to explain what QAnon is.
QAnon is a sprawling conspiracy theory that alleges (among other things) that Hollywood and the upper echelons of the Democratic Party are controlled by a cabal of Satanic pedophiles. The eponymous Q of QAnon, according to the theory’s lore, is part of a team of military intelligence operatives and high-level civilian insiders (the “Q Team”) that will eventually dismantle the cabal, in collaboration with former president Donald J. Trump. Ostensibly to prevent mass panic during the apprehension of the cabal, Q chose to leak the general outlines of this plan to the online communities of 4chan and, later, 8chan.
By sharing the plan, Q claimed, part of the population would be forewarned and could explain the benevolent nature of Q’s actions to their neighbors, who might otherwise find it suspicious that all of Trump’s enemies were being arrested, then given show trials and executed.
QAnon began on 4chan but spread rapidly to the more-mainstream internet, first by way of Reddit communities such as r/conspiracy and then via other social media.
Between October of 2017 and December of 2020, Q made almost 5,000 posts (known as “Q drops”). Within six months of Q’s first posts, some of Q’s followers had created sites called “aggregators.” The aggregators collected Q’s content and presented it in a medium far removed from the open-sewer atmosphere of 4chan and 8chan, making it more palatable to “normies” – the kind of people who would likely never visit 4chan or 8chan, in part because the culture there is so repulsive.