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The Making of QAnon: A Crowdsourced Conspiracy (Bellingcat)

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On January 6, chaos descended on Washington D.C. as supporters of President Donald Trump stormed the United States Capitol Building. Amid the melee, a longtime QAnon promoter known as “the Q Shaman” made his way onto the Senate floor and occupied the speaker’s rostrum. He was far from the only QAnon supporter on the scene that day: another led the charge into the Capitol.

Once again, this dangerous and eclectic conspiracy is in the spotlight. It has come a long way since its birth on a forum barely three years ago.

On October 28, 2017, an anonymous user browsing the /pol/ section of 4chan, a notorious alt-right imageboard, saw a post that read, “Hillary Clinton will be arrested between 7:45 AM — 8:30 AM EST on Monday — the morning on Oct 30, 2017,” and decided to respond. This user would later adopt the name “Q Clearance Patriot” (soon shortened to “Q”). Q hinted that they were a military officer in President Trump’s inner circle; their writings — almost 5,000 posts to date — gave birth to the QAnon conspiracy theory.

Q’s first “drop”

Most accounts of QAnon present this first “Q drop”, as Q’s posts are known by their acolytes, as the starting point of the Q movement. This is mistaken for two reasons. One is trivial: Q first gained an audience with a different set of drops, because their earliest efforts sank without a trace and weren’t rediscovered by anyone on 4chan until November 11 that same year. The other is deeply significant: Q’s origins can’t be divorced from the culture of /pol/, which was a rich slurry of racism, anti-Semitism, and (especially relevant here) right-wing conspiracy theories.

Therefore, QAnon was both an outgrowth and an evolution of /pol/ culture: not only were many of Q’s claims already popular on /pol/, but Q borrowed key themes and ideas from predecessors. The key to understanding the roots of Q is to understand the culture of /pol/.

But first, we need to understand the myth.



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