Shocked by Trump’s Loss, QAnon Struggles to Keep the Faith

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Last weekend, as jubilant Democrats danced within the streets to rejoice the election of Joseph R. Biden Jr. because the nation’s 46th president, QAnon believers had been on their computer systems making an attempt to make sense of all of it.

“Biden will NEVER be president,” wrote one QAnon believer, nonetheless firmly caught within the denial stage of grief.

“Trump knows what he is doing,” wrote a member of a QAnon discussion board, properly on his option to bargaining. “He is letting the Dems, technocrats and media publicly hang themselves.”

Some QAnon believers, nonetheless, had been already inching towards acceptance.

“We’re losing,” one tweeted. “Not sure I trust the plan anymore. Not sure there even is a plan.”

These are attempting occasions for believers in QAnon, the baseless conspiracy concept that falsely claims the existence of a satanic pedophile cult run by high Democrats. For years, that they had been assured that Mr. Trump would win re-election in a landslide and spend his second time period vanquishing the deep state and bringing the cabal’s leaders to justice. Q, the pseudonymous message board person whose cryptic posts have fueled the motion for greater than three years, instructed them to “trust the plan.”

But since Mr. Trump’s defeat, Q has gone darkish. No posts from the account bearing Q’s tripcode, or digital person identify, have appeared on 8kun, the web site the place all of Q’s posts seem. And general QAnon-related exercise on the location has slowed to a trickle. (On a latest day, there have been fewer new posts on 8kun’s most energetic QAnon board than on its board for adult-diaper fetishists.)

There are additionally indicators of infighting amongst QAnon’s interior circle. Ron Watkins, a 8kun administrator who some believed was Q himself, introduced on Election Day that he was stepping down from the location, citing “extensive battles” over censorship and the location’s future. His father, Jim Watkins, a professed QAnon believer who owns 8kun, has been singing hymns on his livestream and posting debunked claims about voter fraud, however has not given any indication of when Q may return.

Q’s sudden disappearance has been jarring for QAnon believers, who’ve come to depend upon the account’s posts, or “drops,” for updates and reassurance.

“They feel really defeated by the deep state, even if they’re not admitting it in public,” mentioned Fredrick Brennan, the founding father of 8chan, 8kun’s predecessor website. Mr. Brennan, who has left the location and grow to be a vocal critic of Mr. Watkins, mentioned QAnon believers purchased into the concept that Mr. Trump was totally in management, even because the polls confirmed he had a slim probability of profitable.

“They were not expecting him to lose, and they were not expecting Fox News to call it,” he mentioned. “It was really psychologically damaging.”

Over the previous few months, QAnon followers have been banned from most main social media platforms, deflating the motion’s momentum and depriving it of its only organizing instruments. Large Facebook teams and YouTube channels with a whole bunch of hundreds of subscribers disappeared in a single day, and a few of QAnon’s most distinguished promoters have been diminished to peddling conspiracy theories on fringe web sites.

The crackdowns have damage QAnon’s grifter class — the self-appointed leaders who make a residing promoting Q merchandise, writing QAnon-themed books and organizing offline Q occasions. But in addition they disconnected rank-and-file believers from the communities the place they gathered to debate the information, decode the most recent drops and plan for the long run.

“QAnon believers were hoping for direction if Trump lost, and not only are they unable to hook into Q, there have also been moves by platform companies to remove other sources of entertainment and leadership,” mentioned Joan Donovan, the analysis director of Harvard’s Shorenstein Center.

Election Day was not a complete loss for QAnon. Marjorie Taylor Greene and Lauren Boebert, two Republican congressional candidates who’ve praised the conspiracy concept, received their elections and can be sworn in subsequent yr.

But Mr. Trump, the central heroic determine in QAnon’s fantasy, is not going to. And with out an enabler within the White House, it stays to be seen whether or not the motion’s days are numbered.

“QAnon believers are used to having Q’s predictions not come true,” mentioned William Partin, a analysis analyst on the nonprofit Data & Society who has studied the QAnon motion. “Sometimes people get disappointed and quit, others try to adjust the overall narrative to make the setback part of some larger plan. But it’s very difficult to do that kind of adjustment with something as large as losing the presidential election.”

Some QAnon watchers I spoke with speculated that in a Biden presidency, a few of the motion’s most distinguished influencers would quietly peel off into adjoining conspiracy concept communities — stirring up fears about little one intercourse trafficking as a part of the “Save Our Children” motion, for instance, or sowing mistrust in a Covid-19 vaccine.

QAnon supporters additionally might throw themselves behind extra mainstream conservative efforts to dispute the election’s outcomes. Already, some QAnon influencers have been selling “Stop the Steal” rallies in states the place Mr. Trump and his supporters have made baseless claims of voter fraud.

In some methods, QAnon believers are properly positioned to assist Mr. Trump recast himself because the sufferer of a Democratic coup. They are skilled and savvy content material turbines, with an urge for food for far-fetched conspiracy theories and delayed gratification. They are additionally a part of a hyperpartisan viewers accustomed to questioning official narratives. A Morning Consult survey carried out over the weekend discovered that seven out of 10 Republicans now doubt that the 2020 election was “free and fair.”

Some QAnon believers are already latching on to a bogus conspiracy concept generally known as “Operation Hammer and Scorecard,” which falsely claims {that a} supercomputer and a software program program had been used to vary tabulated vote totals. (Christopher C. Krebs, the director of the Department of Homeland Security’s cybersecurity company, known as the speculation “nonsense” and urged individuals to not fall for it.) Others have begun spinning a convoluted fantasy that Mr. Trump had secretly positioned invisible watermarks on ballots in an effort to entrap Democrats in a voter fraud scheme.

None of the consultants predicted that QAnon would disappear, or mentioned that these seduced by the speculation would magically snap out of it. In some methods, they mentioned, the motion has outgrown its founding myths.

“QAnon is about cultivating this way of knowing, by tying together all these stories and posts and creating a compelling narrative that offers an alternative to the mainstream press,” Mr. Partin mentioned. “That will persist, whether or not Q is posting.”

So far, no plan has emerged for what QAnon believers will do when Mr. Trump’s presidency does, in truth, come to an finish, particularly if Q is now not there to steer them to a brand new concept.

On a podcast on Friday, two distinguished QAnon influencers, recognized by their on-line handles InTheMatrixxx and Shady Groove, urged their fellow believers not to surrender hope. The election could be confirmed fraudulent, they agreed, and Q’s prediction of a Trump victory would look much more prescient in hindsight.

“We’re winning, folks,” InTheMatrixxx mentioned.

Shady Groove agreed.

“This is not what you thought winning would look like,” he mentioned. “But trust me.”

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