If you’re unfamiliar with the conspiracy theory known as Qanon, congratulations on living a normal life unbroken by the stupidity of the internet. I truly envy you. That said, this isn’t some insignificant internet dreck. A man likely wrapped up in this conspiracy murdered his father over his father’s protestations of his extremism. T-shirts advocating the theory are being sold on Amazon. One of its promoters met Trump in the Oval Office. This is a prime example of how extremism on the internet has real-world consequences. An incredibly large group of people believe absolute hogwash that threatens the very foundation of our democracy.
Here’s how the unhinged conspiracy theory goes:
Robert Mueller is not investigating Trump.
In fact, they’re supposedly working together to uncover a sprawling, worldwide pedophilia ring run by Hollywood and the Democrats. Trump simply feigned collusion with the Russians as a cover story so they could work together in secret.
People believe this conspiracy theory that’s basically Pizzagate on bath salts.
Lots of them.
The basis for these beliefs?
An anonymous 4chan poster named “Q,” who claims to have access to classified information (and who many followers of Qanon believe is Robert Kennedy, who was assassinated in 1968). Q posts vague claims which are then pieced together, Charlie from It’s Always Sunny In Philadelphia-style, with proclamations in the future from Trump serving as some amorphous proof of Q’s claims. That said, not all of Q’s assertions are nebulous, and we need to point out a specific and vitally important one that has hilariously not come to fruition.
All of this madness was supposed to culminate in a massive event this past Sunday, where Robert Mueller and Trump would parade Democrats and members of Hollywood around in chains for all to see. It, uh, obviously didn’t happen.
All jokes aside, this is an incredibly serious threat to our democracy. People are putting their hopes and dreams into anonymous posters on a website famed for neo-Nazi activity. There is no convincing these folks of their wrongness. If you think that the military parade not happening on Sunday dissuaded folks from the cause, think again. Go to any Qanon message board on the web and you will see infinite rationalizations for how it’s not ready yet, or there are supposedly new developments in the case. If you have a conservative friend or relative ranting about pedophilia, they’re likely talking about Qanon. It is a self-perpetuating fairy tale for right-wing extremists, and it’s just a matter of time before one of its targets gets hurt.
Jacob Weindling is a staff writer for Paste politics. Follow him on Twitter at @Jakeweindling.