On Inauguration Day, QAnon Groups Only Grew

Published on January 21, 2021

Reporting on Inauguration Day largely focused on the handful of QAnon supporters that seem to have lost faith in the movement altogether. But now, even as predictions failed to come into fruition once again, thousands of believers are pouring into private groups and discussions on apps like Telegram for support and guidance during this time.

QAnon, the online movement that has fueled extremist behavior in recent months—including the January 6th insurrection—believes that the world is run by a secret cabal of elite pedophiles made up of leaders within the Democratic Party. The group believes that former President Trump has been working to expose the cabal and incite mass arrests, and that all of the action would culminate in one major event they refer to as “the storm.” Prediction dates for the storm change, mostly because they never happen and Q influencers have to keep coming up with new dates to prepare for.

On Telegram, a group dedicated to discussing news stories that contribute to the QAnon doctrine grew by 30,000 subscribers on Inauguration Day alone. Within the group, even as dozens of loyal followers expressed their frustration in another missed deadline for the commencing of “the storm,” even more expressed an outpour of support and faith in the anonymous leader. But now with Trump out of office, some are searching for a new prophet to look toward for a sense of hope that the conspiracy theory is true.

Q, an anonymous account that started on 8chan when the conspiracy theory first appeared in 2017, is believed by followers of the conspiracy theory to be a high level government official with “Q” intelligence clearance, one of the highest levels of intelligence in the United States Department of Energy. Experts believe that Q is actually a few people, one of whom is allegedly Jim and Ron Watkins, the owner of 8kun and his son. Jim Watkins also allegedly owned domains that hosted child pornography, even as his IP address could be tied to active QAnon accounts on websites like 8kun, the 8chan alternative that popped up after 8chan was shut down in 2019.

“We are an army of digital soldiers and we have the truth on our side. This is what they are afraid of. Where We Go One We Go All! God bless you,” reads one viral copypasta that circulated QAnon group chats and chat rooms on Thursday. Other posts instruct followers to “hold the line,” a common term used among believers that implies there may be a civil war among believers and the fictional cabal, though it’s unclear that these instructions refer to any planned acts of violence as other messages instruct followers to remain peaceful.

While the Trump campaign certainly entertained QAnon believers throughout the 2020 election and after, Trump’s loss of power will not signal the end of QAnon. Believers often referred to Trump’s secret plan to take down the cabal as the “Trump card.” Members of the Trump Administration often say things like “the best is yet to come” to instill hope in Trump’s followers that there is a big surprise coming. Often, nothing happened.

Ron Watkins, who also contributed to much of the Dominion conspiracy theory, helped funnel many Trump supporters into QAnon by hinting that the election was stolen by the cabal in an attempt to stay in power. At that point, virtually every politically-charged conspiracy theory existed under the QAnon umbrella before it culminated in the January 6th insurrection at the U.S. Capitol.

But Trump was never the only defining figure within the QAnon movement, he was simply a political figure that used the conspiracy theory to further his agenda during the 2020 Presidential Election. Devout followers of the former president may be coming to terms with the reality that Trump never had a secret plan up his sleeve, but have not given up hope in QAnon altogether. Some are hopeful that Trump—or a member of his family—will return in 2024. Others are looking toward figures like Michael Flynn for guidance, holding out hope that the former National Security Advisor will offer guidance.

“Sorry for my loss in faith yesterday, I’m working on myself .. but I’m back and ready to hold the line” reads one comment on a QAnon message board. Thousands of other comments echo similar sentiments, often claiming that God has a greater plan to commence the storm in other ways. Others have begun to look at old Q posts with new eyes, predicting new dates for a potential commencement of the storm. Some still have hope that Trump will be the President again this year through a military coup.

Today, as millions of QAnon supporters grapple with the possibility that Trump may have been a false prophet, they begin searching for signs of a new leader, awaiting only the next instruction from Q. “Trump was just a road block that messed their plans up for a while,” said one follower referring to the cabal, which believers think runs the U.S. Government.

Telegram has not responded to Grit Daily’s requests for comment.

Julia Sachs is a former Managing Editor at Grit Daily. She covers technology, social media and disinformation. She is based in Utah and before the pandemic she liked to travel.

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