QAnon, the right-wing conspiracy theory community, had another bad day Thursday.
Following the letdown of January 20 — when, contrary to QAnon belief, former President Donald Trump did not declare martial law, announce mass arrests of satanic paedophiles and stop President Joe Biden from taking office — some QAnon believers revised their predictions.
They told themselves that "the storm" — the day of reckoning, in QAnon lore, when the global cabal would be brought to justice — would take place March 4. That is the day that US presidents were inaugurated until 1933, when the 20th Amendment was ratified and the date was moved to January. Some QAnon believers thought that it would be the day that Trump would make a triumphal return as the nation's legitimate president, based on their false interpretation of an obscure 19th-century law.
Law enforcement agencies, worried about a repeat of the January 6 riot at the Capitol, took note of QAnon's revised deadline and prepared for the worst. The Department of Homeland Security and the FBI sent intelligence bulletins to local police departments warning that domestic extremist groups had "discussed plans to take control of the US Capitol and remove Democratic lawmakers." And the House of Representatives canceled plans to be in session Thursday after the Capitol Police warned of a possible QAnon-inspired plot to stage a second assault on the Capitol.
But the Capitol was quiet Thursday, and QAnon supporters did not erupt in violence. Trump remains a former president, and no mass arrests of paedophiles have been made.
Even before their latest prophecy failed, QAnon believers were divided about the movement's future. Some movement influencers who originally promoted the March 4 conspiracy theory had walked back their support for it in recent days, insisting it was a "false flag" operation staged by antifa or other left-wing extremists in order to make QAnon look bad.
On Thursday, as it became clear that no storm was underway, some QAnon believers defiantly maintained that there was still time for Trump to stage a coup and take office. One Telegram channel devoted to QAnon chatter lit up with false claims that Bill Gates, Dr. Anthony Fauci, Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and other prominent officials had been arrested or executed for treason already and that "doubles and AI clones" had been activated to preserve the illusion that they were still alive.
But other believers contested those claims and appeared resigned to postponing their day of reckoning yet again.
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"It may not happen today," one poster on a QAnon message board wrote. "But when it happens, everyone will see it! As Q predicted. And yes, it will be much much sooner than in four years. We are talking about days (weeks max)."
Written by: Kevin Roose
Photographs by: Alyssa Schuka
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