The Dangerous Rise of the Alt-Right Conspiracy Group QANON


By Eunho Jung, Assistant Junior Editor

As countries all over the world went into lockdown with the rise of the coronavirus, millions of Americans returned to the comforts of their home. Sales of video-streaming services and exercise equipment soared, as did the spread of QANON conspiracy theories. By September 2020, U.S. adults’ knowledge of the alt-right conspiracy group increased from 23 percent to 47 percent. But what exactly is QANON?

The group is reportedly led by “Q”, a so-called government insider, who claims that President Donald J. Trump and Robert Mueller are saving the world from cannibal pedophiles from figures such as Hilary Clinton, Barack Obama, and the Hollywood elite. They believe America is run by Satan-worshippers and a worldwide human trafficking ring. This conspiracy group began on 4chan, the bulletin board known for creating and spreading memes, but has recently gone mainstream. It is fueled by its supporters, mostly conservative and Republicans. As they have been gaining more attention, they have been spreading false information about COVID-19, Black Lives Matter, and the 2020 election. “Q” also has theories for the Islamic terrorist group ISIS, Pizzagate, and the assassination of President JFK. The posts made by “Q” are similar to riddles, and the supporters try their best to decipher the messages. But who is “Q”? Some believe President Kennedy faked his own death and set to reveal the ring of pedophiles. Others believe Donald Trump Jr. is helping his father expose the “corrupt” elite. 

However, this group has been linked to several alleged criminal acts: two killings, a kidnapping, a church’s vandalism, and a heavily armed standoff near the Hoover Dam. It is quite clear this is fueled by President Donald Trump’s approval and praise for their group. When asked by a reporter to address QANON, he showed his approval, “I’ve heard these are people that love our country.” Furthermore, two QANON supporters have won seats in Congress. Majorie Taylor Greene, representing the 14th district in Georgia, won a House seat in this recent election. Her campaign was led by her racist, anti-semitic, and Islamophobic remarks. In the past, she has posted multiple videos praising QANON and Donald Trump. Her presence in the legislative branch poses a danger to democracy. 

Today, its main presence exists on mainstream social media such as Twitter, Facebook, and YouTube. However, it wasn’t until recently that these sites began taking action against this harmful group. On October 6th, Facebook announced that it would ban all groups, pages, and posts related to QANON. Similarly, Twitter removed thousands of accounts that spread conspiracy messages. Yet, they still have a stronghold in the mainstream media. In the age of modern technology and easier access to the internet, it is essential that groups like QANON have no place on social media.

However, junior Noah Heller at Wayne Hills High School finds some essence of truth in QANON. “While I can’t confirm the existence of QANON, the claims they make are for the most part valid,” he says, “I find it very interesting how aggressively the mainstream media attempts to discredit them. It really makes you wonder what their true motivation is.” Heller, an avid Trump supporter, strongly believes that this is a moral issue that transcends beyond political alignment.

Opposingly, Scott Wiener, a former target of QANON, strongly warns Americans about this conspiracy group in his opinion piece in The New York Times. Wiener, a member of the California State Senate, is a progressive, gay, Jewish Democrat who is working to end LGBTQ+ discrimination. In essence, he is the perfect target for QANON supporters. “People have sent me the vilest messages possible,” he says, “One threatened to send my decapitated head to my mother.” This was a direct result of Wiener’s introduction of Senate Bill 145 to end discrimination against LGBTQ+ youth in the California State Senate. Following shortly, QANON supporters began to post and spread inaccurate information about this bill; they promoted the idea that this bill legalized sex with children. “QANON isn’t simply a misinformation problem. It’s an outgrowth of our troubled times, when people who have survived decades of extreme income inequality are now suffering through a horrific pandemic,” Wiener vouches, “They are turning to conspiracy theories because they think there’s nowhere else to turn.”

In the political wildfire of 2020, along with the recent presidential election, conspiracy groups like QANON continue to divide our country even further. The simplicity of beginning a wildly inaccurate rumor that spreads like wildfire is alarming. Being able to differentiate between fact and opinion could possibly be one of the most essential qualities. However with the Trump administration leaving office, they have lost their savior and leader. What does this mean for QANON?