QAnon’s biggest prediction has failed — but don’t expect the conspiracy-fueled cult to go away
If conspiracist authoritarian cults like QAnon were based on anything remotely resembling a rational or evidence-based worldview, the events of the past week would have destroyed it utterly. After all, not only was the intrepid, all-controlling/all-seeing hero of their meta-theory—Donald Trump—roundly defeated at the polls, but the anonymous persona at the center of the cult has dropped from sight.
And indeed, a number of believers have had their world shaken, as a Washington Post report on the state of QAnon makes clear: "My faith is shaken" is becoming a common refrain on Q message boards. But QAnon is not going away anytime soon—although it may morph into an even more radical cult now, especially as it drifts farther away from the already-faint tethers of reality.
Certainly, in a cult revolving around an omnipotent, all-seeing hero who in their mythology is reliably ten steps ahead of the nefarious liberal criminals overseeing a global pedophilia ring about to be brought to ground, the notion of a legitimate defeat at the polls is inconceivable. And predictably, many Q believers are so far choosing to believe Trump's claims that he'll prove he won the election in the courts, and that the media are lying.
The silence from the anonymous figure known as "Q," who posts his cryptic messages at the anything-goes message board 8kun, for the entire week since the election has some followers shaken. His last post, early in the morning of Election Day, featured a massive American flag with a quote from Abraham Lincoln, and a vow: "together we win."
Even though Q's silence is not atypical—he has gone silent for several weeks at a time previously—it nonetheless has some followers in a frantic state: "HOW CAN I SPEAK TO Q????" one wrote. "MY FAITH IS SHAKEN. I FOLLOWED THE PLAN. TRUMP LOST!!!!!!!!!!! WHAT NOW?????? WHERE IS THE PLAN???"
"Have we all been conned?" another user asked Saturday on 8kun.
Those concerns, however, are being assuaged by other leading influencers within the cult. The QAnon account Praying Medic, which has more than 400,000 Twitter followers, soothingly explained that Trump's strategy was still in motion to the many supporters who "had to be talked off the ledge" in the past. Praying Medic tweeted: "He's going to stick the knife in and twist it. He has no plans to leave office. Ever."
"Some QAnon followers are bewildered, but most are still trusting the plan," Travis View, a conspiracy theory researcher, told David Gilbert at Vice. "Honestly, QAnon is so Trump-centric that there's little hope of followers accepting defeat until Trump does. And even then it's not a guarantee."
The evidence-free theme around which QAnon platforms have coalesced is one that is built to survive well into a Biden administration and beyond: Namely, that Biden is attempting to illegally steal the election, and is doing to with the assistance of the "deep state" and the "liberal media." It's an idea that's been promoted on Twitter by Trump himself, by leading Republican politicians, and multiple other prominent right-wing figures.
After Trump had settled on this narrative, the QAnon world focused on building up an accompanying rationale. One of the biggest QAnon accounts, under the moniker JoeM (aka @StormIsUponUs), posted his own theory about the meaning of it all:
Think again of the constants:
1) Biden will never be president.
2) The Left are celebrating his victory.
3) We have a 2 month hard deadline.
Now, extrapolate. This means turbulent and destabilizing times are imminent. It will require the kind of smoking gun that leaves no room for interpretation. It means habbenings like we haven't yet experienced. There is no other way, shit's about to get real.
Thinking a few chess moves ahead, how angry will the Left be when it turns out Biden didn't win? I think this is their way of "priming the pump" for rioting, looting and violence that will make the last few months look like a Sunday school picnic.
For many major QAnon figures, Inauguration Day—January 20, 2021—looms as a bright red line for the movement. Many are predicting the event won't even take place.
"A lot of the influencers are really establishing that as the final deadline, this is something we haven't really seen before," Frederick Brennan, the founder of 8kun, told Vice. Much of the movement's success at eluding accountability for its long record of failed predictions, he says, involved the main players in the movement hedging their bets with some kind of out if a prediction didn't come about.
"They were wrong a lot before but were always able to fall back on the complexity of the plan," Brennan said. However, "they're really marrying themselves to no inauguration. Certainly after Biden is inaugurated the Q landscape will change dramatically."
Some believers, however, are already fatalistic, saying the results are just more evidence that Q was right all along, and that the nefarious globalist Democrats and the "deep state" secretly control society at all levels. Not that this deters them or persuades them to rethink their life choices.
Rather, as Gilbert reports, "there are dozens of reports from family members of QAnon supporters showcasing how the election result has not diminished their beliefs, but has in fact reinforced them."
"We knew the left was going to do everything they could to delay this," wrote a major QAnon Instagram influencer, as The Atlantic's Kaitlyn Tiffany reported. "Trump won & they're trying to rely on fraudulent mail in ballots. it's not going to work. Trump knew they were going to do this, too. he is prepared."
"This is the part of the movie where voter fraud and the media's role in perpetuating that fraud, which has been going on for decades, now becomes crystal clear to everyone who is paying attention," another QAnon supporter posted on Instagram. "PATRIOTS ARE IN CONTROL," reminded other major Instagram accounts, who also urged followers to "trust the plan [and enjoy] the show."
On Twitter, Tiffany noted, there was a similar shift in sentiment: "Trust Trump. He knew this was coming. He said so for months," one supporter tweeted. "In the coming days the REAL Patriots will be identified," wrote another. "Fight and win or die fighting."
Another sure sign that QAnon will continue to spread well after the election regardless of its outcome: A QAnon candidate is on the verge of winning an election to the New York Assembly from Brooklyn, of all places. Republican candidate Mark Szuszkiewicz, who unapologetically promotes QAnon ideas, leads the Democratic incumbent by 2,822 votes.
Rita Katz, the executive director of SITE Intelligence Group, which monitors online extremism, told the Post that she expects the QAnon following will continue to grow and metastasize online.
"It's a dangerous network. It's a dangerous movement that truly believes that Biden and other Democrats are killing kids," Katz said. "And now, with Biden's projected victory, the QAnon movement believes with the same zealous certainty that the whole thing is a sham. And that's a major problem, because … these aren't a bunch of harmless keyboard warriors—they're adherents of a movement that has resulted in real-life violence."
A video posted by View on Twitter shows how resilient QAnoners can be, with one well-known influencer holding forth in a video:
For those of you who are worried about Joe Biden being your president, do not fear, he is not and will not. Trump went golfing today. He went golfing yesterday. He's not worried. Have you ever known Trump not to fight back? This will not stand. Trust the plan. Where we go one, we go all.
"Most Q followers are still deep in denial," observes View. "And they're probably going to stay there until Trump concedes and/or on inauguration day. Maybe even beyond then honestly. Soon we're going to discover the resilience of the QAnon milieu in the face of powerful disconfirmation."
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