QAnon is a far-right conspiracy theory detailing a supposed secret plot by an alleged "deep state" against U.S. President Donald Trump and his supporters. The theory began with an October 2017 post on the anonymous imageboard 4chan by someone using the name Q, who was presumably an American individual initially, but probably later became a group of people, claiming to have access to classified information involving the Trump administration and its opponents in the United States. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/QAnon
According to Travis View, who has studied the QAnon phenomenon and written about it extensively for The Washington Post, the essence of the conspiracy theory is that: "...there is a worldwide cabal of Satan-worshiping pedophiles who rule the world, essentially, and they control everything.
On October 30, 2016, a Twitter account that posted white supremacist material and presented itself as run by a New York lawyer claimed that the New York City Police Department (NYPD) had discovered a pedophilia ring linked to members of the Democratic Party while searching through Anthony Weiner's emails
Media outlets have described QAnon as an "offshoot" of the discredited Pizzagate conspiracy theory.
A person identifying as "Q Clearance Patriot" first appeared on the /pol/ board of 4chan on October 28, 2017, posting messages in a thread titled "Calm Before the Storm", which was a reference to Trump's cryptic description of a gathering of United States military leaders he attended as "the calm before the storm". “The Storm” is QAnon parlance for an imminent event when thousands of alleged suspects will be arrested, imprisoned and executed. Q later moved to 8chan, citing concerns that the 4chan board had been "infiltrated".
On multiple occasions, Q has dismissed his false claims and incorrect predictions as wilful misinformation, claiming that "disinformation is necessary". This has led Australian psychologist Stephan Lewandowsky to emphasize the "self-sealing" quality of the conspiracy theory, highlighting its anonymous purveyor's use of plausible deniability and noting that evidence against the theory "can become evidence of [its] validity in the minds of believers". Author Walter Kirn has described Q as an innovator among conspiracy theorists in his approach of enthralling his readers with 'clues' rather than directly presenting his claims: "The audience for internet narratives doesn’t want to read, it wants to write. It doesn’t want answers provided, it wants to search for them."
There has been much speculation regarding the motive and the identity of the poster, with theories ranging from the poster being a military intelligence officer, to Donald Trump himself, to the posting campaign being an alternate reality game by Cicada 3301.
The Italian leftist Wu Ming foundation has speculated that QAnon has been inspired by the Luther Blissett persona, which was used by leftists and anarchists to organize pranks, media stunts, and hoaxes in the 1990s. "Blissett" also published the novel Q in 1999.
QAnon may best be understood as an example of what historian Richard Hofstadter called in 1964 "The Paranoid Style in American Politics", related to religious millenarianism and apocalypticism. The vocabulary of QAnon echoes Christian tropes—for instance "The Storm" (the Genesis flood narrative or Judgement Day), and "The Great Awakening", which evokes the historical religious Great Awakenings from the early 18th century to the late 20th century.
Rachel Bernstein, an expert on cults who specializes in recovery therapy, says that "What a movement such as QAnon has going for it, and why it will catch on like wildfire, is that it makes people feel connected to something important that other people don't yet know about. ... All cults will provide this feeling of being special."
Travis View, a researcher who studies QAnon, says of it that it is as addictive as a video game, and offers the "player" the appealing possibility of being involved in something of world-historical importance. According to View, "You can sit at your computer and search for information and then post about what you find, and Q basically promises that through this process, you are going to radically change the country, institute this incredible, almost bloodless revolution, and then be part of this historical movement that will be written about for generations." View compares this to mundane political involvement in which one's efforts might help to get a state legislator elected.
On June 28, 2018, a Time magazine article listed the anonymous "Q" among the 25 Most Influential People on the Internet in 2018. Counting more than 130,000 related discussion videos on YouTube, Time cited the wide range of this conspiracy theory and its more prominent followers and spreading news coverage
An FBI "Intelligence Bulletin" memo from the Phoenix Field Office dated May 30, 2019 identified QAnon-driven extremists as a domestic terrorism threat, the first time a fringe conspiracy theory had been labelled as such. The memo cited a number of arrests related to QAnon, some of which had not been publicized before. The memo says that "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."
On May 5, 2020, Facebook announced its removal of 5 pages, 20 accounts, and 6 groups linked to "individuals associated with the QAnon network" as part of an investigation into "suspected coordinated inauthentic behavior" ahead of the 2020 United States election.