The tightly knit but strangely solitary world of QAnon cult members

Sometime ago, I wrote about the mercurial rise within about a year of the QAnon phenomenon, one of the more bizarre political developments of the internet age, that says that Donald Trump is a genius who is cleverly drawing his enemies out into the open before he and his allies in the military suddenly swoop and arrest all of them. The evildoers include “the global banking elite, death squads operating on orders from Hillary Clinton, deep-state intelligence operatives, and Pizzagate-style pedophile rings.”

That alone should discredit this theory but not so for the true believers. Kelly Weill writes that the people who strongly believe that QAnon is telling the truth about what is going on are finding that the people around them are sick of hearing about it and either wish they would shut up or are shunning them.

The Daily Beast spoke to four Q believers—two die-hards and two who are beginning to experience doubts—who claim to have been isolated from loved ones, as well as a former Q believer who now thinks the isolation helps reinforce QAnon support. The Daily Beast is withholding their last names at their requests.

Travis View is a researcher monitoring the QAnon conspiracy. Over the course of the movement, he’s seen believers discuss a growing estrangement from loved ones.

“People in the QAnon community often talk about alienation from family and friends,” View said. “Though they typically talk about how Q frayed their relationships on private Facebook groups. But they think these issues are temporary and primarily the fault of others. They often comfort themselves by imagining that there will be a moment of vindication sometime in the near future which will prove their beliefs right. They imagine that after this happens, not only will their relationships be restored, but people will turn them as leaders who understand what’s going on better than the rest of us.”

Cult expert Rachel Bernstein previously told Wired that online conspiracy movements can radicalize people by creating a tight-knit community, insulated from the rest of the world and its facts.

“When people get involved in a movement, collectively, what they’re saying is they want to be connected to each other,” Bernstein told Wired. “They want to have exclusive access to secret information other people don’t have, information they believe the powers that be are keeping from the masses, because it makes them feel protected and empowered. They’re a step ahead of those in society who remain willfully blind. This creates feeling similar to a drug—it’s its own high.”

As real-life friends slip away, some Q fans have taken solace in the online QAnon community.

The online circles aren’t a replacement for family, View said. But they can simulate support for people who need it.

“There’s a sense of fellowship in the QAnon community,” he said. “They imagine that they’re all members of a small group of people who know about a coming glorious age in America. This fellowship isn’t the same actual familial relationships, but it’s a workable substitute when relationships with family becomes frayed. So this creates a vicious cycle: they fall down the rabbit hole of QAnon, which hurts their real life relationships, and causes them to fall down the rabbit hole even further.”

This idea that there are mysterious forces working behind the scenes who will suddenly emerge and usher in a golden age by arresting and providing summary justice to evildoers, plus the followers obsessively trying to decipher clues as to when all this will happen, reminds me strongly of the Christian rapture mentality and so it should not be a surprise that the mysterious Q targets Christians by quoting Bible passages.

Jim Jeffries interviewed four QAnon followers back in August. No wonder their friends and family members are steering clear of them.


  1. Art says

    QAnon is, until the ‘new and improved’ version comes along, the ultimate, all-inclusive, comprehensive, encyclopedic conspiracy story. It has, almost literally, everything. It includes shape-shifting space aliens, economic manipulations, AGW as a plot to plunder the wealth of nations, cannibalism, and damn-near every other bad, or potentially bad, thing that anyone can imagine. Which might illuminate what it really is: A container and label for everything a particular subset of people thing is, or might be, wrong with reality. If you thing your underwear doesn’t last as long as it should there is room under the QAnon big tent for you to stuff in a story about how there is a nationwide, or worldwide, plot out there to make your underwear fall apart sooner than later. Get a few dozen people to cite your addition and it will stick and become a permanent part of the larger story progression.

    The progression of QAnon has been very much like how fan fiction builds upon and embellishes and provides back-story for the original story line. While Star Wars started as one film it has grown to many films, books, animated series, independently produced plays and videos. It is huge, with enough size and depth to get lost in, and it grows larger by the day. Given time and generalized acceptance of particular additions they gradually become cannon.

    QAnon is fan fiction on the established, already large, conspiracy cannon. But it isn’t just that. It is so deep and wide that it has developed its own magnetic pull and begun to suck in what were only a few years ago entirely different story lines. Name a conspiracy and there is a high probability that it has been attached to QAnon. It has developed a life of its own as an alternate reality. People are falling in and getting lost.

  2. DavidinOz says

    @2 -- NordVPN. I use it to switch countries all the time.

    Back to topic --

    This sounds very similar to the way young Muslim men in AU suddenly become radicalized. It always seems to be a shock to family, they thought they were good boys studying their religion when “wham” they became a “terrorist”. The need to belong is a strong human need, and is amplified when there is, or appears to be, an exclusion from society, be it racism, religious prejudice, lack of dating success, etc.

  3. Mobius says


    IMHO, don’t bother. I never read Name of the Rose, but loved the movie. But FP just seemed to run on and on. It finally did get somewhere, but mostly just fell flat on its face. At least, that’s my take.

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