The untold truth of QAnon

So your mom just told you she believes President Trump is working to save the world from a cabal of Satan-worshiping cannibals and pedophiles who are operating a global child sex-trafficking network. She didn't come up with it all by herself — this is actually the premise of the frightening conspiracy theory that has swept across the United States since it first made an appearance on the anonymous imageboard 4chan in 2017. That original 2017 post by the anonymous "Q" was most likely a single poster, but the theory began to spread among Trump supporters.

According to The New York Times, the ludicrous far-right (very, very far-right) hung out on the fringes of society for most of its time, broiling under the surface of the tensions of ever-widening gaps of political differences in the country today. As the presidential campaigns heated up in recent months, however, and those political differences grew even starker in light of the coronavirus pandemic and Black Lives Matter protests, posts relaying false information related to the theory have flooded social networks like Facebook and Twitter. The movement has tried to appropriate other activist causes, as well, such as anti-vaxxers and anti-human-trafficking movements in order to expand its base of believers. Multiple media outlets — from Salon to the BBC to NBC News to The New York Times ... the list goes on — have repeatedly called the theory "debunked," "convoluted," "baseless," and more.

The QAnon theory has made the leap into the real world

The bad press hasn't stopped the outlandish ideas from spreading and even making the dangerous leap from the internet into the real world. In February, The New York Times reported several instances of people taking action, sometimes violent action, in the name of QAnon. It cited a California city council member who quoted QAnon mumbo-jumbo in an official public meeting, ending her remarks by saying, "God bless Q." A man in Arizona took a crowbar to a historic Catholic chapel while raving about QAnon child sex trafficking theories. QAnon proponents have also been more and more prevalent at Trump rallies in recent months.

In what is perhaps the most unnerving example of this trend, QAnon supporter Marjorie Taylor Greene won a highly contentious Republican primary in an extremely conservative district in Georgia in September, and some analysts are sure she will win a seat in the House of Representatives on November 3. The Guardian reported that President Trump called her a "future Republican star."

As for Trump's response to the idea that he's saving the world from pedophiles and cannibals, he claimed to not "know much about the movement." Mother Jones reported that he went on to say that he's "heard these are people who love our country." And as a Media Matters investigation found, the president has repeatedly amplified QAnon supporters on Twitter, despite his equivocations when asked about it directly.