‘QAnon’ ('Anon' for anonymous) is the name given to a pro-Trump conspiracy and ‘sectarian’ phenomenon that appeared in October 2017 on the forums 4chan and 8chan (since renamed 8kun). Its followers believe in the existence of a satanist pedophile criminal organization (the ‘Cabal’) involving prominent figures from the Democratic Party as well as the Clintons, Obamas, Rothschilds and George Soros.
Followers of QAnon believe that a mysterious senior US official with access to classified 'defence secret' information regularly delivers predictions under the pseudonym ‘Q’ (a letter corresponding to a level of clearance from the US Department of Energy), in the form of enigmatic questions or hidden messages. These pseudo-predictions (the first message from 'Q', for example, falsely announced the imminent arrest of Hillary Clinton, referring to her by her initials 'HRC') are deciphered and interpreted by online users involved in the movement.
QAnon is a movement closely associated with its support for former US president Donald Trump (2016-2020). Its followers believe that Trump is secretly working to dismantle the 'Cabal' and its child trafficking networks, as well as the ‘Deep State’ that protects it and acts in the shadows against the American president. ‘Q' never made any secret of his support for Trump, and the the letter Q was increasingly brandished by supporters at his political rallies. Trump himself has maintained a skilfully choreographed vagueness, claiming "no knowledge" of the movement while welcoming its support and its fight "against pedophilia".
For many observers, QAnon draws its main themes from classic antisemitism. For instance, the concept of a 'cabal' with widespread international influence aligns with the myth of a global conspiracy. Additionally, the belief in a highly influential covert group kidnapping children to obtain a substance known as adrenochrome, which supposedly grants eternal youth, has parallels with ancient antisemitic narratives or blood libels that have accused Jews of ritual murders.
QAnon supporters created a whole universe of symbols and slogans such as the hashtags #WWG1WGA (‘Where we go one, we go all!’), ‘Trust the Plan’ and ‘#ReleaseTheKraken’ in the weeks following Trump's defeat in the November 2020 presidential election. The most convinced followers, leaning towards a millenarian 'End Times' doctrine, are waiting for ‘The Storm’ or the ‘Great Awakening’, an event supposed to sweep away the corrupt political class and finally reveal the hidden truth to the world.
While a poll in May 2021 showed that 15% of Americans were sympathetic to the QAnon theories, the Covid-19 pandemic helped to internationalize the movement. The health crisis acted as a catalyst, attracting many Covid-sceptics around the world who were opposed to the way their governments handled the pandemic. While the movement had remained essentially American until then, pro-QAnon conspiracy Youtubers and media appeared in different parts of the world in 2020. They included Quebec video-maker Alexis Cossette-Trudel, Switzerland's Ema Krusi, France's Silvano Trotta and Antoine "Q" Cuttita, Léonard Sojli's Les DéQodeurs channel and the Qactus.fr website. In January 2021, Marlène Schiappa, the French Minister for Citizenship, placed the QAnon movement under surveillance.
Far from being confined to a strictly virtual universe, the QAnon movement has on several occasions found expression in reality through sometimes violent actions, as in the ‘Pizzagate’ affair. In France, the abduction of an 8-year old girl by supporters of far-right conspiracy theorist Rémy Daillet-Wiedemann was based on fantasies very close to the QAnon universe, although it did not formally adhere to it.
QAnon were also highly invested in the false information launched by Trump of a ‘stolen election’ in the 2020 US presidential election, which saw Joe Biden prevail over their champion. Many QAnon supporters were on the front lines during the invasion of the Capitol on 6 January 2021, when Trump's supporters attempted to forcibly interrupt the certification of Biden's victory by Congress. Many believed until the last moment that Biden's inauguration, a few weeks later, would be interrupted by his arrest by the police and Trump's re-induction as president.
Although the identity of the person or persons behind the "Q" account has not yet been established with any certainty, a number of clues point to Jim Watkins and his son Ron, the two men who, in July 2016, bought 8chan, the forum hosting the QAnon discussions. Watkins made his fortune in the 1990s by creating a website dedicated to Japanese child pornography, where you could find criminal content featuring very young girls.
To go further:
What Happens When QAnon Seeps From the Web to the Offline World (The New York Times, 9th of February 2020)
The Prophecies of Q (The Atlantic, 14th of May 2020)
The Atlantic Daily: QAnon Is a New American Religion (The Atlantic, May 14 2020)
The Genesis of a Conspiracy Theory, The Institute for Strategic Dialogue (ISD), July 2020
Into the Abyss: QAnon and the Militia Sphere in the 2020 Election, Georgetown University, March 2023
(Last updated on 12/18/2023)