Whatever happened to QAnon? – The Washington Post

As the 2020 election approached, then-President Donald Trump had two problematic groups of supporters that he didn’t want to alienate. One was the Proud Boys, an extremist group that had already earned a reputation for engaging in violence against opponents. The other was more loosely knit: adherents of the QAnon movement.

QAnon was problematic for very different reasons. While there had been crimes linked to the movement (including at least one killing), the political challenge was primarily that the most fervent supporters held views that were somewhere between bizarre and deranged. There’s an international cabal of prominent people in entertainment and the Democratic Party that worships Satan and traffics children to ingest a chemical they produce? Got it.

Those views sat at the extreme, certainly. But even more anodyne manifestations of QAnonism were dubious, centered on an anonymous figure, Q, who allegedly worked in the Trump administration and was helping the president combat the evil deeds of his enemies. Q began posting cryptic messages online a few months into Trump’s presidency, with tens of thousands of people subsequently parsing them for hidden meaning.

By mid-2018, QAnon was a prominent part of Trump rallies. Supporters held up signs or large “Q”s to get on camera, with success. By early 2019, after a spate of news stories drawing attention to the movement’s bizarre beliefs, adherents reported being asked to hide any Q insignia at the president’s rallies.

Then the election rolled around. Trump’s campaign slowly began to embrace members of the movement, recognizing its scale and loyalty to his politics. He refused to condemn even the more extreme forms the movement took and, only weeks before Election Day, even endorsed the idea that QAnon members were combating child trafficking.

Trump lost his reelection bid but worked fervently to avoid leaving the White House. That culminated in the riot at the Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021, an event at which QAnon had a prominent presence.

And then the movement mostly evaporated. Adherents still existed; Trump began elevating their content on his social media platform with regularity. But QAnon simply wasn’t the same force that it had been when he was president.

To explore the reason QAnon lost so much energy — and to figure out where it went — I spoke with The Washington Post’s Will Sommer, author of the book “Trust the Plan: The Rise of QAnon and the Conspiracy That Unhinged America.”

Sommer points to 2020 as the height of the QAnon movement’s size and influence. It wasn’t just Trump’s reelection bid, though that was important, given Trump’s role in the purported fight against the elites. It was also the pandemic and the Black Lives Matter protests — and even the death of Jeffrey Epstein, a galvanizing point of skepticism about official narratives.

Then came the election and Trump’s response to it — a response that was itself centered on a wide-ranging, unproven (and untrue) theory about a conspiracy fomented by Democratic elites to keep him out of power. QAnon adherents — who’d come to believe that there would soon be a “storm” in which their evildoing opponents were uprooted, jailed or killed — were paying attention.

“QAnon played a huge role in Jan. 6,” Sommer said. He noted that Ashli Babbitt, the woman killed by a law enforcement officer as she climbed through a window at the Capitol, embraced the movement. So did scores of others arrested for their involvement in the riot. If the Oath Keepers and Proud Boys aimed to be the spark for the unrest that began that day, Sommer explained, QAnon adherents served effectively as the gasoline.

The effort to block Joe Biden’s presidency failed. Trump moved to Florida. Q — generally believed to be a man named Ron Watkins — stopped posting new messages.

“You end up with a sort of reformulated QAnon that is sort of ‘QAnon in the wilderness,’ ” Sommer explained. “It’s no longer…

This article was originally published by a www.washingtonpost.com . Read the Original article here. .

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