November 17, 2020
IntelBrief: The QAnon Conspiracy in a Post-Trump Era: What Happens Now?
On Saturday November 7, 2020, former Vice President Joseph R. Biden, Jr. became President-elect after receiving the necessary number of electoral votes to defeat President Trump. With President Trump’s defeat, many adherents of the groundless QAnon conspiracy theory, which posits that the world is run by a global elite of Satan-worshipping pedophiles, were left wondering whether they were duped by an elaborate hoax. The QAnon conspiracy theory has been labeled by the Federal Bureau of Investigation as a domestic terrorism threat, and many tracking the movement assessed that a Trump loss in the election could precipitate QAnon-related acts of terrorism. A few days after the election, individuals who self-identified with the movement were arrested on gun charges. The arrest occurred near the Philadelphia Convention center, where election ballots were being counted and where President Trump alleged acts of fraud were being committed. Whether the arrested men were determined to carry out an act of violence or were trying to discredit the election by introducing illegal ballots remains unclear. On November 12th, after a period of quiet, Q delivered a message, ‘Nothing Can Stop What is Coming. Nothing.’ This may be seen by members as an act of war and could lead to incitement. Like many of Q's other posts, it can be interpreted in any number of ways and thus provides oxygen to a movement desperately gasping for air.
There are a wide range of scenarios that may play out in the aftermath of the 2020 Presidential election. If QAnon was an elaborate information operation conducted by a foreign government designed to create a wedge within America’s polity, the entity may now be looking to create a new narrative. On the contrary, if Q is simply a right-wing conspiracist or a compilation of conspiracists, as some experts have assessed, those behind the curtain may be cautious in observing the political scene and waiting for it to playout to its natural conclusion before dropping new observations on a more frequent basis. If this were to occur, it could possibly re-energize supporters who have begun to doubt Q’s narrative.
Another possibility is that the movement ends or splinters. There are Q influencers, such as an online personality ‘Praying Medic,’ that could try to push the movement forward under his umbrella. Since the end of the election, Praying Medic’s tweets have been particularly bombastic. While a jump from an opportunist, who monetarily benefits from pushing Q propaganda like Praying Medic, to a leader may not be the likeliest scenario, it is possible. Praying Medic has more than 430K followers on Twitter, but his resonance was damaged when YouTube removed his videos in October. Thus, with the power of visuals that only videos (and the enormous audience that flocks to YouTube that cannot be matched by alternative platforms like BitChute) can provide now being stripped from him, Praying Medic’s ability to take Q’s crown seems unlikely. Conspiracy theories have ebbed, flowed, diminished, and ended over time. If the QAnon movement ends, themes from the conspiracy theory may evolve and endure. Just as conspiracy theories surrounding world governance have evolved to the context of the current political climate, QAnon’s theories may splinter and take on new lives of their commensurate to the time.
It would, however, perhaps be somewhat premature to announce the demise of QAnon as a movement. The internationalization of QAnon’s theories is illustrative of a movement that transcends one person – President Trump. Even with President Trump’s defeat, however, he is likely to remain a key figure within the Republican Party, and thus serve as a source of continued inspiration for Q’s U.S.-based adherents. Finally, two QAnon followers, Marjorie Taylor Greene and Lauren Boebert, won congressional races and will soon enter the halls of Congress. Given these two congressional seat results, QAnon as a political movement may have new champions who can carry on the conspiracy theory that has shape-shifted in response to current events. Whether QAnon remains intact, fractures, or ends – its influence over one of the most consequential U.S. elections is apparent.