There is new cult on the horizon. True to its American heritage, it is evangelical and conspiratorial at its core. It is deeply political but like the progressive movement, it has most of the components of religion. And consistent with all the eccentricity that has engulfed the world since the advent of Donald Trump, it began with a post on 4Chan. We are, of course, referring to QAnon.
In the world of QAnon, Donald Trump is the messiah who will rescue the United States of America from the cesspit of moral depravity that the country currently finds itself in. According to the Cult of Q, the incumbent US President is surrounded by powerful enemies on all fronts. And his adversaries are Satan worshipping, child-raping, blood-drinking pedophiles.
QAnon imposed itself on the national consciousness after the recent storming of Capitol Hill where numerous Q cult figureheads were believed to be involved. And as we shall see, it could pose similar challenges in the future as well.
What are the origins of QAnon?
QAnon began with a post on the anonymous free speech image board 4Chan. Sometime on October 2017, a user made a series of posts and signed off as Q. From the very first post, QAnon predicted the imminent arrest of Hillary Clinton. Since then, he/she/they has/have predicted that a lot of powerful people of the perverse establishment will be rounded up and sent to jail.
QAnon predicts a moment of reckoning for the United States with Donald Trump as the people’s champion. It has been consistently predicted that the incumbent US President will be reelected to office for a second time even after Joe Biden’s victory in the polls became clear.
‘Trust the plan’ became the core message of the Cult of Q and every event, no matter how bad it appeared for Donald Trump, was reinterpreted as part of ‘The Plan’. In the world of Q, Trump’s reelection as president is certain, everything else is just noise.
The precise origins of Q are disputed as is the individual or group’s actual identity. However, it is generally believed that the person(s) are part of the National Security Administration (NSA) or, at least, with close ties to it and in possession of a Q-level clearance.
Q’s messages are quite cryptic, by design one tends to believe, and considerable effort is made towards deciphering their true meaning.
The Esotericism and Mysticism of the Cult of Q
Q’s texts are called ‘breadcrumbs’ or ‘Q drops’ and it falls upon devoted followers to interpret them for others. While hardly any of the predictions made by Q have come true, it has not deterred his ardent followers from their steadfast faith.
According to those who have followed the movement closely, QAnon followers have an inherent disdain for mainstream sources of information. If some information is coming from a mainstream institution, it is not to be trusted. Instead, QAnon followers rely on ‘citizen journalists’ on YouTube and other platforms for news.
It has to be emphasized here that the Cult of Q believes that the Trump phenomenon is not merely a political movement, it is battle for the between Good and Evil, the righteous and the wicket and Truth and Falsehood. As such, Trump’s victory as the People’s Champion is guaranteed because the Good always wins and Truth alone Triumphs.
Q’s ‘breadcrumbs’ themselves are loaded with religious imagery. One of them said:
One party discusses God.
One party discusses Darkness.
One party promotes God.
One party eliminates God.
Symbolism will be their downfall.
The Great Deceiver(s). […]
Have Faith in Humanity.
Have Faith in Yourself.
UNITED WE STAND.
There has been an attempt by institutions to dismiss the whole cult as a mere conglomeration of conspiracy theorists but as is evident, it is much more than that. The Q Cult Mythology does not merely dispute a particular fact or the narrative regarding a particular event, as conspiracy theories usually do, instead, it is ontologically at odds with other worldviews.
The Cult of Q presents an entirely alternative framework through which to perceive the world. True, it borrows much of it from Christianity and combines it with modern political dogma but what is evident is that the disagreements over interpretations of particular events are a consequence of the framework while with mere conspiracy theories, it’s the theory itself that tends to alter the individual’s perception of the world in specific ways.
For instance, UFOs, alien abductions, the John F. Kennedy assassination are all sources of a multitude of conspiracy theories. But people do not use these conspiracy to interpret completely unrelated events, that is, such conspiracy theories are not all encompassing. QAnon, on the other hand, is all encompassing in that the battle between Good and Evil is of doctrinal significance to it.
An examination of the core claims of QAnon
There is no point addressing the particular predictions by QAnon, all of them that I have personally seen have turned out to be false and untrue. But I say there is no point in examining the individual claims by the Cult of Q for the same reason that I believe there is very little value in arguing with a devout Muslim whether the prophet of Islam actually flew on a donkey.
Instead, there is a lot that could be learned by examining the overall worldview of the particular group. Most importantly, it could give clues into why and how the movement gained so much popularity and the motivations that have fueled its rise. And as we shall see, three of the core positions of the cult are things that most ordinary people will find themselves agreeing with either in parts or in full.
One claim that is at the heart of the QAnon movement is that the class of elites in the United States is truly evil. As we have said earlier, it is believed that they are a bunch of Satan-worshipping pedophiles. Again, the belief that the ruling US political establishment is evil is something that has widespread popularity among the US populace.
Progressives are convinced that the ruling establishment is corrupt and vile. An overwhelming majority of Republicans believe the same. A second Q position is that the evil bunch of elites are conspiring with each other to oppress the American people and drain the country of its resources.
Again, even this is not a belief that is unique to the Cult of Q. Some call it the Military-Industrial Complex, some call it the Deep State, some call it Illuminati, some call it the Surveillance State, different people call it by different names but the claim that ruling establishment is conspiring in secret to retain its dominance and perpetuate its cycle of oppression is an extremely popular belief.
And let us not lie to ourselves. There is truth to it. The Deep State actually exists. It has become more than evident during the presidency of Donald Trump. It is a different matter altogether that vast sections of Democrats are happy that it exists because the mainstream propaganda was that the Deep State was preventing Trump from enforcing his fascist inclinations.
In reality, the Deep State was working overtime to prevent Trump from withdrawing troops from foreign soil and ending ‘forever wars’. Again, this is not a fringe belief by any means. Former US President Eisenhower himself warned of the military-industrial complex and progressives warn of it to this day.
Julian Assange and Edward Snowden exposed the dark underbelly of the Surveillance State and events since then have exposed that intelligence agencies sort of operate outside the control of elected representatives.
An expert on a mainstream news channel in the United States threatened incumbent US President Donald Trump that he should not go against the intelligence agencies because they have a thousand ways to get back at him. And hardly anyone bat an eyelid. Others were expressing immense gratitude towards the Deep State. So after all of this, the existence of it cannot be denied.
Now, let us again revert to the specific Q belief that the western elites are Satan-worshipping pedophiles. While I am personally unsure about the first part, it cannot be denied that western elites do appear to have a massive pedophilia problem.
Since Trump’s election as president, prominent Democrat and husband of close Hillary Clinton-aide Huma Abedin, Anthony Weiner pleaded guilty to a charge of transferring obscene material to a minor. In simple words, he sent a minor a photograph of his genitalia. He was convicted and sent to prison and forced to register permanently as a sex offender.
The, of course, we have Jeffery Epstein, a high-profile pedophile who apparently committed suicide in prison. But it will be hard to find a single individual who believes that he committed suicide. “Epstein didn’t kill himself” actually became a meme. But even so, it was also labelled a conspiracy theory despite that it is completely impossible to believe the official version of events.
Then, we found out that Prince Andrew of the British Royal Family was deeply involved with Jeffery Epstein and he was credibly accused by at least one individual that he abused her when she was a minor. Subsequently, he resigned from all public roles.
Jeffery Epstein also had connections with important people in the American ruling establishment, one of the most prominent being former US President Bill Clinton. There is a lot of suspicion regarding Clinton’s involvement to be fair. He has been previously accused of rape by multiple women and he is reported to have travelled in the pedophile’s infamous ‘Lolita Express’.
Under such circumstances, it is foolish to dismiss beliefs that a significant section of the American elites is committing child sexual abuse. Furthermore, we do know that mainstream media conspires to bury information regarding sexual predatory behaviour by influential individuals. Mainstream media did try to cover up the crimes of Harvey Weinstein before they eventually broke out.
It is entirely my personal opinion but I am not willing to dismiss claims that western elites have a pedophilia problem.
QAnon and the distrust of institutions
A third aspect of the Cult of Q is a deep-seated mistrust of institutions and the mainstream media. While most of us are wary of institutions and mainstream media, QAnon takes it to pathological levels. Again, it has to be admitted that public institutions and the media have to take the blame for the deep mistrust.
For instance, at a time when funerals were being disallowed due to the Coronavirus pandemic, public health experts told everyone that the massive gatherings were not only permissible but a public health intervention.
While people lost their jobs due to lockdown, left-wing mobs were permitted to rampage and run riot across major cities in the United States. CNN called it ‘mostly peaceful protests’. Anthony Fauci, who is leading the US Covid-19 response, has admitted on multiple occasions that he lied to the public.
There is not a single institution in the United States that is considered authoritative by an overwhelming majority of the population. This problem has been highlighted by numerous commentators as well.
QAnon, of course, pathologizes the whole affair and comes up with a cure that is worse than the disease.
Where QAnon goes wrong: The Cope
QAnon is best understood as a coping mechanism for individuals that cannot make sense of the world. The followers primarily appear to be individuals who had so lost hope in the ruling establishment of their country that they resorted to fantastical delusions to maintain a semblance of sanity.
As some have pointed out, it is indeed a religious revival for the 21st century. Consequently, the movement has its own alternative history, numerology and other such branches. The unique feature of this revival is that Donald Trump has been incorporated into the lore as a messiah, a sort of neo-Jesus Christ.
The Coronavirus crisis has undoubtedly had an impact on the development of the same, only exacerbated by the abominable conduct of mainstream public institutions. It has witnessed a massive surge in popularity in recent times with Donald Trump refusing to denounce them as the mainstream media wanted.
According to Pew Research, nearly half of Americans had heard of QAnon by September 2020, the number had doubled in the previous six months. One in five had a favourable view of the movement. One QAnon supporter has even been elected to the US House of Representatives.
It is important to understand here that the rise of QAnon is extremely specific to the American political climate and at a time when the role of traditional religion has declined in public life. In an era of nihilistic dystopia, the cult of Q has provided meaning to the lives of its supporters, who number in hundreds of thousands if not millions.
The Cult of Q fantasizes that there will be mass arrests of powerful elites such as Soros and Hillary Clinton and others and the corrupt elites will be punished for their attempts to destroy the United States. That is highly unlikely to happen. They distrust vaccines as well and have numerous conspiracy theories about the origins of the Coronavirus.
Some subcultures within the movement have theories about aliens and other such matters as well. But the core unifying belief is the ongoing war between Good and Evil with Donald Trump as the Messiah. According to them, we are living through an ‘Age of Awakening’ which might have something to do with the fact that we are living in the Age of Aquarius by some estimates.
As one of my friends puts it, the Cult of Q is political augmented reality or an alternate reality that makes moral sense to its adherents. Much to the chagrin of the media and the political establishment, the cult is unlikely to vanish with Donald Trump. During an era of hyper-individualism and decline of traditional religion, QAnon has provided its adherent with a sense of community. Social media platforms such as Twitter and Facebook have responded by limiting the reach of QAnon related content but it is unlikely to inhibit its rise.
The danger here is the same that deep political divides within the country poses. It is not healthy for civic society when significant sections of the population start seeing the world through an entirely different lens. Diversity is not a strength. Ultimately, QAnon followers will have to contend with the fact that Donald Trump is really an incompetent buffoon and it is unclear how they will interpret the whole affair.
There have been cases where members of the Cult of Q have been involved in instances that threatened people physical harm. One has already pleaded guilty to a terrorism charge. But as of this moment, the threat of violence they pose is significantly less than that posed by mainstream political ideologies such as Antifa and others. But that has the potential to change very quickly.