President Donald Trump isn’t actually President Donald Trump – he is in fact an undercover agent on a top secret mission to rid the world of evil and prevent a coup by liberal elites who also happen to be paedophiles.
This is the truth world according to QAnon, a conspiracy theory astonishing in its breadth and deeply worrying in its reach and influence.
While it might be easy to dismiss such outlandish claims, authorities in the US are taking the threat posed by its followers seriously – and it was recently reported that the FBI has classed QAnon as a domestic terror threat.
One apparent supporter was even spotted at a pro-Brexit protest in the UK in March.
So what the hell is QAnon? Well, let us take you down the rabbit hole...
It all began with one mysterious comment...
During a press conference in October 2017, President Trump – stood alongside US military top brass – said: “You know what this all represents? Maybe it’s the calm before the storm. Could be, the calm. The calm before the storm.”
TRUMP: "Maybe it's the calm before the storm."— Kyle Griffin (@kylegriffin1) October 5, 2017
REPORTER: "What storm Mr. President?"
TRUMP: "You'll find out." (via Satellite News) pic.twitter.com/bWMzGrDPNa
Despite being pressed by reporters, Trump didn’t elaborate on his ambiguous warning.
In a normal world, this would have been the end of it – another bizarre comment from a president famous for making bizarre comments.
But this isn’t a normal world.
The tweet, posted in 2017, came at a deeply divisive moment in American politics, where fake news was on the rise and conspiracy theories were running rife. It was seized upon by the darkest recesses of the internet, and was transformed into the story that drives QAnon.
Who started it?
An anonymous person, or perhaps a small group, known as Q, who claims to be a government insider with secret knowledge about what is going on the upper echelons of the US government.
They first surfaced on the website 4chan, a few weeks after Trump’s comment. The site is known one of the darker and more disturbing corners of the internet, where extremism is rife.
Q, or Q Clearance Patriot, to give them their full name, started a thread titled “Calm Before The Storm” and over subsequent weeks and months they laid out what would become QAnon.
What’s with the weird name?
“Q Clearance” is a reference to the highest level of security clearance in the US government, with access to government secrets.
If there really are aliens in Roswell, this person would know about it. Unless they’re fibbing of course....
What other proof is there that Q is who they say they are?
None. Aside from the name and posts like the one below, Q has offered up no proof whatsoever that they are who they say they are.
OK, what so does Q say?
Q releases information in vague and cryptic posts called “breadcrumbs” which his followers piece together, hence they are known as “bakers”. The end result? Theories called “dough”.
A cracking example of this occurred in June 2018, when a long-exposure camera picked up the light on an air ambulance over Whidbey Island near Seattle, creating a moody shot of the morning clouds with a bright streak on the left-hand side.
But what else does it look a little bit like? A missile. Q posted the pic with the caption: “This is not a game. Certain events were not suppose [sic] to take place.”
Enter the bakers, who quickly deduced it was a plot to shoot down Air Force One and kill the president.
Adding to the intrigue, Trump tweeted the same day the picture was taken and misspelt the words “missile” and “stopped”.
The fact that I am having a meeting is a major loss for the U.S., say the haters & losers. We have our hostages, testing, research and all missle launches have stoped, and these pundits, who have called me wrong from the beginning, have nothing else they can say! We will be fine!— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) June 11, 2018
And yeah, you can guess what Q’s followers read into that...
Some researchers claim the object in sky is the cone of a missile, next to AF1?— Melanie Lauren (@Sweetemmilyn) June 13, 2018
Attempted assassination? UFO?
Stopped by our own submarine? Or was our submarine hacked, used to launch a missile?
"Launch" from Whidbey Island was Sunday 6/10 3:56am#Qanon pic.twitter.com/W80fz4HztP
Here are a few more specific claims Q and his followers have made:
- Angela Merkel is Hitler’s granddaughter
- Kim Jong-Un was installed by the CIA to keep the world in a permanent state of near-apocalyptic nuclear doom
- Tom Hanks is a peadophile
- The entire conspiracy is also laced with anti-Semitism and claims Jews such as George Soros and the Rothschild family are helping pull the strings of this giant liberal, world-controlling peadophile network.
Perhaps one of the most incredible claims is that Robert Mueller’s Special Counsel investigation into possible collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia, was actually instigated by Trump himself.
According to the QAnon version of events, Trump pretended to collude in order to recruit Mueller to secretly investigate the Democrats who are, if you’ll remember, mostly paedophiles.
Q’s followers were convinced the Mueller investigation would actually end with the indictments of Hilary Clinton and Barack Obama among others, but the fact this didn’t happen hasn’t put any of them off.
Surely no one actually believes all this?
Alas, they do. There are quite a few of them, and they can regularly be spotted at Trump’s campaign events. Here’s one with a massive Q around his neck in Pennsylvania in August of last year...
And here’s another enthusiastic supporter last July...
Here’s Tammy, an adherent who in another video filmed at a Trump rally claims she is a family doctor, explaining why she’s a Q acolyte in a video that recently went viral on Twitter.
“Remember this moment. Please remember where you were and the circumstances the very first time you asked who, or what, is Q?
“And here’s why: Q is you. And Q is me. Q is logic. Q is a plan to save the world. Q is not a secret, but Q is secretive. Carefully-crafted, secret information that anyone can have access to.
“Q will one day be in every history book. Q is the best thing that has ever happened to you. So remember, remember this moment, permanently.”
A QAnon follower explains how she responds when somebody asks her "What is Q?" pic.twitter.com/jDtZpjBRL7— Travis View (@travis_view) August 6, 2019
So what’s the big deal if a few Trump supporters believe this?
Well, we’ll hand over to the FBI to explain this one:
“The FBI assesses these conspiracy theories very likely will emerge, spread, and evolve in the modern information marketplace, occasionally driving both groups and individual extremists to carry out criminal or violent acts.”
So in sum, these aren’t your average “the moon landings were faked” conspiracy theorists, the US authorities are concerned some may use the story in order to perpetrate and justify violence.
And there’s precedent. QAnon is seen as an offshoot of the PizzaGate conspiracy in which a false claim that Hillary Clinton was running a child trafficking network from the basement of of a pizza shop in Washington DC escalated into an almost fatal conclusion.
On December 4 2016, Edgar Welch decided to check the rumours for himself and armed with an assault rifle, drove from North Carolina and fired shots into the restaurant.
No one was hurt and Welch gave himself up to police after finding no evidence of child slaves being held there.
This article originally appeared on HuffPost.