QAnon faces a turning point in the wake of President Joe Biden’s inauguration.
The inauguration ran counter to the movement’s baseless conspiracy theory that former President Donald Trump would return for another term to confront a solitaire of satan-worshiping pedophiles who run the Democratic Party.
With Trump no longer in office, some supporters have abandoned their faith and tried to do good to family and friends that they had alienated on their winding path to an alternative reality originally put together on 4Chan bulletin boards.
But others have renewed their pledge of allegiance to “Q,”
It is unclear what will happen to QAnon when March 4 has passed without the coup they have predicted will be carried out. The movement could increasingly find itself throwing supporters who might be recruited by white supremacist and far-right militia groups that largely share a common enemy in Democrats and political elites. But it is likely that the movement will not crumble completely given that it has primarily required followers to follow the cognitive dissonance.
“Conspiracies always have a way of explaining what’s going on because the whole point is different versions of reality,” said Amy Iandiorio, an investigative researcher at the Anti-Defamation League’s Center for Extremism.
QAnon disciples believe March 4 is the day Trump returns for another term
QAnon supporters began talking about March 4, which began in early to mid-January, after some were disappointed that the January 6 uprising at the U.S. Capitol did not create a series of predicted military trials and executions, which they referred to as “the storm. “But the latest conspiracy theory really started to gain momentum in February after Biden’s inauguration, and as QAnon supporters sought” different ways to explain their way out of the current reality now that there is a new administration, “Iandiorio said.
Their rationale for this unproven belief – and the significance behind the date of March 4 – is perhaps not surprisingly complex and based on a series of misinterpretations, conspiracy theories and outright lies. But this is how the theory goes:
QAnon believers claim that the U.S. federal government secretly became a corporation under a law they believe passed in 1871 but does not actually exist, making every president inaugurated and every constitutional amendment passed in the years since illegal.
But on March 4, the story goes, Trump returns as the 19th president, the first legitimate president since Ulysses S. Grant, with former Secretary of State Mike Pompeo as his vice president. Why March 4? That is it the original date on which presidents were inaugurated. The inauguration day changed to January 20 with the passage of the 20th Amendment in 1933 – the same year that Franklin D. Roosevelt ended the gold standard.
This is actually relevant to the conspiracy theory: QAnon believers claim that Roosevelt transferred power to a group of shadowy foreign investors who have since controlled the U.S. government when they end the gold standard. (Trump sought to bring the gold standard back while he was in office.)
“Trump is back on March 4. By constitution. Read it. Read a book and teach yourself, ”wrote user Wesley McBride on a Telegram channel for people migrating from Parler after Amazon Web Services launched the right-wing social media site from its servers.
Of course, no part of their theory is true or even reasonable. It’s all disinformation designed to explain why Biden is currently president – a reality that contradicts their fantasy that Trump is a kind of messianic figure destined to create a new republic, when he really is a twice accused ex-president who lost re-election and would rather encourage a mob than admit defeat.
Part of the conspiracy theory repeats one from the extremist movement of the “sovereign citizen”, which is anti-government and taxation and has a history of racism and anti-Semitism. The FBI has identified the movement that has been behind violence against police officers as a domestic terrorist threat. It also believes in a conspiracy theory that shadowy government figures seized control of the system established by the country’s founders in 1933 with the end of the gold standard – one in a long line of conspiracy theories designed to “desire Jews in general,” as my colleague Zack Beauchamp writes.
But it does not appear that at this point in time there is a significant overlap between compliance with the sovereign civic movement and QAnon.
“This seems to be a case of QAnon supporters reflecting the principles of some sovereign civic beliefs without necessarily sharing the same space,” Iandiorio said.
The March 4 conspiracy theory has spread across both mainstream and alternative right-wing social media platforms. In the wake of the Capitol attack, mainstream sites such as Twitter, Facebook and YouTube have pushed to dismantle users who post conspiracy theories and violent hate speech, albeit on TikTok, a platform that skews toward a younger audience, posts that Trump is returning The 2nd election period on March 4 has still grown.
Many QAnon followers have also migrated to largely unmodified social media platforms such as Gab, MeWe, Telegram, CloutHub, Rumble and Parler, which recently returned online. However, some users have been skeptical about efforts to rationalize how Biden is now president.
“[Y]You’ll have to stop believing those things … The military is not arresting anyone. No one is sent to Guantanamo Bay. No courts or hangings. Just move on, ”said user Kevin in the Telegram channel.
There are currently no signs of mass mobilization on March 4, but that may change
At this point, it seems unlikely that the QAnon community will be capable of mass mobilization on March 4th.
Prices at the Trump International Hotel in Washington, DC, have risen to more than $ 1,300 on March 4 (starting at $ 476 just a week later). But people are not organizing to get to DC in the kind of numbers that were expected for the “Stop the Steal” rally on January 6, which Trump himself handed out an invitation to his supporters.
But the QAnon movement still has a week to make plans, and there is a possibility that those plans may involve violence. Individual QAnon supporters have previously used violence, including Matthew Wright, who is serving an eight-year sentence for participating in an armed standoff with police at Hoover Dam. Other supporters have been behind two kidnappings since 2018, a kidnapping plan, a burglary of the Canadian Prime Minister and at least one murder.
“We know that people can be animated and motivated by this sense of loss or the sense of community that they see QAnon about giving them in their alternative versions of reality,” Iandiorio said. “When one is aware that this is a population of people who are very deeply ingrained in a conspiracy, one cannot discount that there may be potential for violence.”
The Metropolitan Police Department told Newsweek that it had not issued any permits for scheduled events on March 4, but law enforcement and defense officials appear to be preparing for possible QAnon-related activity that day.
Rep. Adam Smith, the top Democrat on the House Armed Services Committee, said during a hearing last week that the U.S. Capitol Police had requested that 4,900 National Guard troops remain in DC through March 12 because of such concerns.
A Capitol Police spokesman said in a statement that their department “is constantly analyzing intelligence and working with local, state and federal law enforcement officials to prepare for any threats that come our way, including March 4th.”
While defense officials have not at this point identified a specific threat from QAnon supporters, Smith told Republicans during last week’s committee hearing that they should do more to combat misinformation about the results of the 2020 election to prevent future threats.
“I agree that the threat environment is smaller, but if you want to know what drives the threat environment, it would be useful if every single elected official and person in a position of power in this country publicly acknowledged that Joe Biden was the duly elected president in a free and fair election, ”he said. “To what extent people still run this narrative, the narrative is then taken and put into really crazy sets of arguments.”