I am fascinated by cults and the people who join them. And the mother of all political cults is QAnon. As many people know by now, this was a Trump-supporting cult that believed that the Democratic party and other prominent people were part of some global conspiracy of pedophiles and that Trump was a genius strategist who was carefully planning to, in a dramatic denouement, expose them all and arrest and execute them. There are a lot more layers to this cult’s beliefs and I am just giving the highlights.
Naturally they did not accept that Trump had lost the election and thought that he would be able to reverse the outcome. As the day of Biden’s inauguration came close, excitement built up among them and they seemed to expect that just as he was about to be sworn in, federal agents would run down the steps and arrest him and all the other dignitaries and execute them, and that Trump would emerge as their victorious leader. Yes, really. (The people are watching w-a-a-a-y too many action/fantasy films.)
When nothing of the sort happened, there was shock and disbelief and, for many, disillusionment.
For believers of QAnon, the far-right conspiracy theory that holds Donald Trump as a deity-like figure secretly battling a “deep state” cabal of pedophiles who control the government, things weren’t supposed to go down this way. Month after month, year after year, they had been told by “Q,” the group’s shadowy online leader, and Q’s army of social media influencers, that a symbolic “storm” was coming. The mythology held that on Wednesday, at long last, the Bidens, Obamas and Clintons would be rounded up and executed for child sex trafficking, treason and other crimes. Trump, having finally conquered evil, would remain in power.
This was the moment they had desperately been waiting for.
Inside digital safe havens for far-right extremists, such as Gab and Telegram, massive QAnon groups turned into virtual watch parties reacting to Wednesday’s ceremony in real time. As the event began, members could hardly contain their joy — or their desire for bloodshed.
“WELCOME TO THE GRAND FINALE!!!” someone cheered in a 185,000-member Gab group. “Anyone else wanna puke with excitement?!?!?!” another person asked amid a rapid stream of messages coursing through a 34,000-member Telegram channel. Others salivated over the idea of decapitations and sexual violence against prominent Democrats. Several messages were too grotesque to publish.
By 11:45 a.m., though, as Kamala Harris took her vice presidential oath of office, the crowds grew anxious.
You should follow the link to see how they reacted when … nothing happened.
Some are giving up on the cult.
Some QAnon conspiracy theorists, in public and private internet forums and chat rooms, were despondent Wednesday as their prophecy of an Inauguration Day coup to keep Donald Trump in power failed again as President Joe Biden was sworn into office.
The situation left some QAnon adherents with no choice but to write off the conspiracy theory entirely, but others continued to maintain that it was still developing.
QAnon supporters believed Wednesday’s inauguration was an elaborate trap set by the former president, wherein Democrats would be rounded up and executed while Trump retained power. Various other doomsdays theorized by the QAnon community have also come and gone without incident.
But in contrast with the events of those days, Biden’s inauguration leaves the community with little daylight. As their predictions failed to come true, radicalized QAnon members expressed their sense of betrayal on messaging apps like Telegram and forums named after their failed doomsday scenario, The Great Awakening.
While Biden took the oath, a top post on a QAnon forum read “I don’t think this is supposed to happen” and wondered, “How long does it take the fed to run up the stairs and arrest him?”
Even some key people are giving up and accepting reality.
Later in the day, Ron Watkins, one of the most influential figures in the QAnon community, called on his followers to move on – to the surprise of many observers.
The son of Jim Watkins, the man behind 8chan and 8kun – message boards filled with extreme language and views, violence and extreme sexual content on which “Q” posts – the younger Watkins has been one of the main purveyors of election conspiracies and played a vital role in encouraging some QAnon supporters to gather in Washington DC on 6 January.
“We gave it our all,” he said to his 120,000 subscribers on Telegram.
“Now we need to keep our chins up and go back to our lives as best we are able.”
But not everyone is going to drop out of the cult. Some are still believers, thinking that Trump still holds the power and that Biden is his puppet, doing his bidding. Why such an elaborate scheme? Don’t ask …
Some influential accounts told followers to keep the faith and not give up so easily.
One popular Telegram channel reassured its 130,000 subscribers that Mr Trump and the “Q” team were still in control behind the scenes, and the “evil deeds” of the deep state would be exposed “over the next four years”.
Some doubled down, criticising those who in their view had rushed to judgement.
One claimed Mr Biden was running his administration as an inmate inside a military compound, but he “doesn’t know it yet”.
Other QAnoners are being recruited by other white nationalist and neo-Nazi groups, so that is not good.
Some people seem to feel a desperate need to be part of some cult and they will likely keep moving from one to another.