inFact with Brian Dunning inFact with Brian Dunning


QAnon Explained in 3 Minutes

A rapid-fire history of one of the craziest conspiracy theories of all time: QAnon.

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By now you've probably heard that QAnon is a far-right populist conspiracy theory in which a global cabal of prominent Democrats, Hollywood celebrities, and Jewish bankers secretly comprise a "Deep State" secret government, which on the side, also runs a worldwide pedophilia ring for their own amusement. In the QAnon fictional universe, then-president Donald Trump was the only one heroic and powerful enough to save the world, through mass indictments and arrests of Democrats.

Well, obviously, none of that ever happened. So if all of this was fiction from the beginning, what was its source? In October 2017, someone began posting on anonymous Internet message boards calling himself "Q Clearance Patriot", Q clearance being a security clearance level at the Department of Energy. Q claimed to be an insider in the Trump administration, and for years posted predictions of mass arrests of Democrats. Though none of the anonymous Internet troll's predictions ever came true, many Trump supporters nevertheless rallied around him and adopted him as a sort of messiah.

Obviously it's not credible that an insider in Trump's inner circle would have leaked these sensitive releases of classified information in secret behind the administration's back — that would have been treasonous. So the QAnon conspiracy must assume that Q was making these Internet posts with the full knowledge and consent of the government. Thus, it follows that the Trump administration determined that announcing tomorrow's indictments was best, and anonymous postings to message boards best known for pornography, racism, and assorted illegal content was the most appropriate channel to make these presidential announcements.

So how can ordinarily smart people believe something so obviously irrational as QAnon? A lot of academic research has been funneled into figuring this out. In recent decades, globalization has led many people to feel disenfranchised and unrepresented, people who'd grown accustomed to feeling safely entrenched in predictable, homogenous, traditional communities. Sociological studies tell us that the less we feel in control of our own lives, the more likely we are to believe there's a conspiracy against us, and to embrace anything that promises to fight that conspiracy. Q happened to appear just at the right moment, when millions of Americans felt their accustomed way of life was under fire, and their wounds were fresh from having eight years of progressive values wash over them during the Obama administration. Q was the savior they sought.

— Brian Dunning

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References & Further Reading

Cluley, G. "Bad news conspiracy theorists. QAnon codes are just a guy mashing his keyboard." Computer security news, advice, and opinion. Graham Cluley, 14 Aug. 2018. Web. 20 Jul. 2020. <>

Gilbert, D. "Inside the War to Kill Off 8chan — and Crush QAnon." VICE. VICE Media Group, 18 Oct. 2019. Web. 20 Jul. 2020. <>

Harwell, D., McLaughlin, T. "From helicopter repairman to leader of the Internet's darkest reaches: The life and times of 8chan owner Jim Watkins." The Washington Post. Nash Holdings, 12 Sep. 2019. Web. 20 Jul. 2020. <>

Kurtzleben, D. "GOP Candidates Open To QAnon Conspiracy Theory Advance In Congressional Races." NPR News. National Public Radio, 1 Jul. 2020. Web. 20 Jul. 2020. <>

LaFrance, A. "The Prophecies of Q." The Atlantic. The Atlantic Monthly Group, 1 Jun. 2020. Web. 20 Jul. 2020. <>

Sommer, W. "QAnon Believer Teamed Up With Conspiracy Theorists to Plot Kidnapping, Police Say." Daily Beast. The Daily Beast Company LLC, 4 Jan. 2020. Web. 21 Jul. 2020. <>

Van Prooijen, J. "The psychology of Qanon: Why do seemingly sane people believe bizarre conspiracy theories?" Think. NBC News, 13 Aug. 2018. Web. 20 Jul. 2020. <>

Watkins, A. "He Wasn’t Seeking to Kill a Mob Boss. He Was Trying to Help Trump, His Lawyer Says." The New York Times. The New York Times Company, 21 Jul. 2019. Web. 21 Jul. 2020. <>


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