Followers of the extremist ideology QAnon saw their hopes once again dashed Wednesday as President Trump left Washington on the final day of his presidency, without any of the climactic scenes of violence and salvation that the sprawling set of conspiracy theories had preached for years would come.
As Trump boarded Air Force One for his last presidential flight to Florida, many QAnon adherents — some of whose fellow believers had earlier this month stormed the Capitol in a siege that left at least two QAnon devotees dead and others in jail — began to wonder whether they’d been duped all along.
When one QAnon channel on the chat app Telegram posted a new theory that suggested Biden himself was “part of the plan,” a number of followers shifted into open rebellion: “This will never happen.” “Just stfu already!” “It’s over. It is sadly, sadly over.” “What a fraud!”
But while some QAnon disciples gave way to doubt, others doubled down on blind belief or strained to see new coded messages in the Inauguration Day’s events. Some followers noted that 17 flags — Q being the 17th letter of the alphabet — flew on the stage as Trump delivered a farewell address.
“17 flags! come on now this is getting insane,” said one post on a QAnon forum devoted to the “Great Awakening,” the quasi-biblical name for QAnon’s utopian end times. “I don’t know how many signs has to be given to us before we ‘trust the plan,’” one commenter said.
Over thousands of cryptic posts since 2017, Q, QAnon’s unidentified online prophet, had promised that Trump was secretly spearheading a spiritual war against an elite cabal of child-eating Satanists who controlled Washington, Hollywood and the world. Believers in these false, rambling theories had counted down the hours waiting for Trump to corral his enemies for military tribunals and mass executions in a show of force they called “the Storm.”
But on Wednesday, as reality dawned, QAnon promoters who had gained thousands of online supporters by promising to decode Q’s arcane posts — and profited off their audience, by selling QAnon merchandise or online subscriptions along the way — scrambled to spin the truth of Trump’s election loss or shift the goal posts of a deadline four years in the making. [Continue reading…]