Donald Trump was supposed to be the main event at his rally in Tampa, Florida, in early August. Instead, thanks to a number of people in the crowd sporting T-shirts emblazoned with the letter ‘Q,’ and others who held cardboard ‘Q’ cutouts aloft during Trump’s speech, the focus quickly shifted away from the president and toward the meaning of the ubiquitous letter.
The story behind the Q, or QAnon, has been in the works for nearly a year. It started with a cryptic post on 4Chan in October, 2017, and has since blossomed into a sprawling, full-blown alternative theory of everything.
QAnon is a tale woven by an anonymous person (or group of people) posting under the codename “Q” and purportedly holding high-level security clearance. They claim to know the “real” story of Donald Trump’s administration. Q posts cryptic clues — “crumbs” — for his followers to dissect, so they can unravel the truth together on Reddit, YouTube, and Facebook.
The “truth” Q alludes to? That Donald Trump is fighting the “deep state,” a corrupt conglomerate of institutions and elite individuals that looks out for its own interests to the detriment of regular Americans. The “deep state” cabal includes the Clintons, the Obamas, and the Bush family, George Soros, members of the intelligence community and mainstream journalists (who are are often portrayed as CIA informants). Q’s revelations about Trump’s war with the “deep state,” some believe, will spark a second revolution.
“QAnon is the people that believe in what Trump is trying to do to change our country,” one Q follower told CNN’s Gary Tuchman outside the Florida rally.
The details of the war Trump is allegedly conducting are now sprawling. Q’s clues have revealed, for example, that Robert Mueller’s probe into Russian meddling in the 2016 campaign is really a front for Trump’s own investigation into systemic corruption and the “deep state.” Some even believe there’s an international pedophile ring at the center of it all.
“QAnon is the people that believe in what Trump is trying to do to change our country.”
Others have taken the Q story to extreme lengths. In June, a QAnon follower named Matthew Wright armed himself with a shotgun and blocked traffic on the Hoover Dam, demanding the release of an internal report by the U.S. Justice Department into its handling of the Hillary Clinton email probe. The report had already been released to the public. Wright was arrested. In another case, QAnon adherents convinced themselves that a homeless encampment in Tuscon was actually a stop-off station in a child-trafficking ring. Police investigated, and found no evidence to suggest that was the case.
Q’s followers have adopted a rallying slogan, which they wore on T-shirts at his Tampa rally: WWG1WGA, or “Where we go one, we go all.”