The past 72 hours have been a rollercoaster of emotions for Trump supporters — especially the millions who have bought into the web of online conspiracies that fall under the umbrella of QAnon.
Ever since a violent mob, including some with ties to the cultlike Q movement, invaded the U.S. Capitol in a failed attempt to stop Congress from certifying the results of the presidential election, Q believers have been trying to reconcile what did — and didn’t — happen in Washington this week with their own conspiracy-ridden world view.
Did the bombshell evidence they had been promised that the election had been stolen really exist? If so, why has it still not been released? Did Trump actually concede after months of insisting the vote had been rigged, or was there a secret message hidden in the video statement put out by the White House Thursday night? Was that even really Trump in the video? And what will happen now to the ring of Satanic pedophiles that Trump was supposed to destroy?
For three years Q followers have been telling one another to “trust the plan.” But the plan, whatever it is, doesn’t seem to be working.
Initially, as footage emerged from inside the besieged Capitol building Wednesday afternoon, many within the online world of QAnon seemed to celebrate the fact that one of their own — a prominent QAnon influencer named Jake Angeli, aka the QAnon Shaman — appeared to be among those leading the charge.
Shirtless, heavily tattooed and wearing a horned fur hat, he was hard to miss. “The community was really pumping [Angeli’s] image,” said Marc-André Argentino, a PhD candidate at Canada’s Concordia University who has closely studied QAnon. Argentino told Yahoo News that he observed many QAnon followers enthusiastically sharing photos of Angeli posing inside the hall of Congress and on the Senate dais.
But their delight quickly turned into denial as it became obvious that the invaders had no actual plan and the occupation descended into an orgy of selfie-taking, juvenile vandalism and violence that resulted in the deaths of at least four participants. (A Capitol police officer was also injured in the attack and later died.)
Argentino said he soon saw QAnon followers pivot to spreading the preposterous belief that the mob of rioters, who had marched on the Capitol from a Trump “Save America” rally outside the White House less than an hour before, was actually made up of left-wing provocateurs in MAGA hats.
“All of a sudden, when they realized … that it wasn’t the revolution they expected, then they really pushed the false-flag narrative,” Argentino told Yahoo News. Like so many other events in QAnon’s warped version of history, Wednesday’s attack on Congress had morphed into a “part of this massive plan to try to destroy America” and more specifically, Trump.
The belief that Trump is locked in a good-versus-evil battle to save America from a nefarious cabal of “global elites” and “deep state” government officials has been QAnon’s core narrative since its early days on the internet fringes. Also central to the QAnon belief system is both an apocalyptic faith in the imminence of “the Storm,” a day of reckoning in which members of this non-existent cabal will be arrested en masse, and an almost limitless ability to rationalize repeated failed predictions for when the “Storm” will take place.
It is unsurprising that QAnon followers would be receptive to Trump’s efforts to delegitimize the outcome of the presidential election, and also largely undeterred by the failure of that effort. In the hours and days since the Capitol Hill riot, many have been vacillating between devotion and disillusionment, particularly following the release of a video Thursday night in which Trump appeared to finally acknowledge that he would soon be leaving the White House, albeit stopping short of an admission that most Americans had, actually, voted for Joe Biden.
While some interpreted Trump’s pre-recorded comments as a concession, others divined a more hopeful message in his ambiguous promise to supporters that “our incredible journey is only just beginning” and resolved to continue to “trust the plan.”
Dave Hayes, a popular QAnon influencer known as “Praying Medic,” suggested on Twitter that while Biden might be inaugurated despite “stealing an election and getting caught,” there’s nothing to stop Trump’s supporters from “physically removing” Biden from the White House. (Hayes’ Twitter account has since been suspended).
Many others refused to believe that Biden will even be sworn in, noting that Trump’s video never mentioned the president-elect by name, and suggesting that the “new administration” he was referring to was actually a new Trump administration, perhaps replacing the suddenly out-of-favor Mike Pence with a more accommodating vice president, such as Michael Flynn.
“Wording is key..he never said biden..period,” read one comment on the QAnon message board, the Great Awakening.
Even after all the failed attempts to overturn the election in court and now in Congress, some Q followers clung to hope that hidden evidence of vote rigging by various foreign governments, Democrat officials and other “elites” like George Soros, could be brought to light before January 20.
In another conversation posted to the Great Awakening, Q enthusiasts declared that mounting calls in Congress for Trump to be impeached a second time was evidence that elected officials are “terrified” of facing “imminent repercussions for their treason.”
“Even with all the ‘bad news’ we’ve been getting lately, I’ve never actually had more hope than right this minute,” wrote one poster.
That self-reinforcing denial demonstrates how “QAnon is resilient to any type of fact or information from the mainstream media,” making it “almost impossible” to counter, Argentino said.
But not everyone is content to continue trusting the “plan.”
Many have expressed disillusionment and frustration in the aftermath of Wednesday’s attempted insurrection, particularly toward figures like Lin Wood, a Trump ally and pro-QAnon attorney who emerged along with former Trump lawyer Sidney Powell as a prominent voice in the “Stop the Steal” movement, an effort to overturn the election through the courts. Though their lawsuits were rejected over and over for lack of evidence, lack of standing or amateurish drafting (one of Wood’s briefs misspelled his own name) their bogus claims of an international conspiracy involving Democrats, rigged voting machines, and foreign governments resonated with Trump loyalists, including followers of QAnon.
Over the last several weeks, Wood has claimed to have troves of evidence that would soon be released, proving the election was rigged and triggering the arrests of all those involved. And many QAnon followers believed him.
“You led us all on for weeks. I will never forgive you for that,” read one of several angry comments in response to a post shared by Wood on Parler shortly after the release of Trump’s reluctant concession tape Thursday.
Another commenter wrote: “Lin, Trump gave up. We’re done!”
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