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To believe in QAnon is to believe, among other things, that a cabal of global elites are secretly harming children (think: 2016’s Pizzagate), that their behavior is propped up by members of the deep state, and that President Donald Trump is working to bring their crimes to an end. Adherents learned all this from Q, an anonymous figure who they believe has high-level military ties, who periodically leaves clues on the internet. He is their prophet.
QAnon is a pro-Trump conspiracy theory, yes, but it’s also more important than you might think. Adrienne LaFrance, our executive editor, spent more than a year trying to make sense of the movement and its followers. Her full, enthralling report is our latest magazine cover story.
Here are three ways to understand QAnon, as explained by Adrienne:
1. It’s a real-time participatory conspiracy theory.
The eventual destruction of the global cabal is imminent, Q prophesies, but can be accomplished only with the support of patriots who search for meaning in Q’s clues. … Surely there are people who know that Q is a fantasy but participate because there’s an element of QAnon that converges with a live-action role-playing game.
2. It’s a mass rejection of reason and Enlightenment values.
In the face of inconvenient facts, it has the ambiguity and adaptability to sustain a movement of this kind over time. For QAnon, every contradiction can be explained away; no form of argument can prevail against it.
3. It’s not going anywhere. In QAnon, we are witnessing the birth of a new religion.
Among the people of QAnon, faith remains absolute. True believers describe a feeling of rebirth, an irreversible arousal to existential knowledge. They are certain that a Great Awakening is coming. They’ll wait as long as they must for deliverance.
Conspiracy thinking, such as the kind that defines QAnon, was an American tradition from the start.