In a joint intelligence bulletin earlier this week, the FBI and Department of Homeland Security delivered a jarring warning to state and local law enforcement: violent domestic extremists “motivated by the QAnon conspiracy theory” might be mobilized to action because they believed Donald Trump would be inaugurated on March 4.
But the date came and went without serious incident. It wasn’t that the false and sprawling conspiracy theory that accuses “Deep State elites” of running a secret pedophile ring was losing steam. Rather, it was at least in part because QAnon followers smelled a trap.
In the weeks leading up to March 4 — the day in QAnon lore when Trump was actually supposed to be inaugurated for a second term, thus taking the country back from the Joe Biden — QAnon influencers had been discouraging their massive audience to avoid attending any event on that day, suggesting that any planned gatherings would be “false flag operations” designed by the government to make them look bad.
“FOR ALL YOU SHILLS, MSM LURKERS AND NORMIES VISITING TODAY – Q HAS TOLD US MARCH 4 IS A TRAP,” a user posted Thursday on GreatAwakening.win, one of the larger QAnon web forums. “THEREFORE ANYTHING THAT HAPPENS IS NOT US!!”
A week earlier, the message was the same on another large private QAnon channel on Telegram, an app that has increasingly become the home of right-wing extremists kicked off of Twitter and Facebook.
“Serious warning from Anon’s [sic]: Stay away from ANY event being held on March 4th!” a moderator wrote on February 26. “Something is potentially cooking and we don’t need to be a part of it. Any of it!”
As it turned out, social media mentions of the term “false flag” — an event orchestrated to make one’s enemies look culpable for acts of violence — skyrocketed in the days and weeks after the Jan. 6 Capitol riot. Inhabitants of QAnon safe spaces — forums, chat rooms, websites — became aware they were suddenly being monitored by law enforcement and media, alarming them in the run-up to March 4. [Continue reading…]