QAnon Conspiracy Increasingly Popular with Antigovernment Extremists
Antigovernment extremists, including some who’ve committed violent acts, are increasingly subscribing to and propagating the QAnon conspiracy theory, which asserts that pro-Trump forces will soon take down the so-called deep state.
A series of events linked to QAnon supporters includes:
- The capture of nearly 300 migrants at gunpoint on the U.S.-Mexico border
- The firebombing of a Minnesota mosque and attempted firebombing of a Champaign, Illinois women’s health center by an Illinois militia
- An armed Nevada man’s blocking of traffic with an armored vehicle on a bridge near Hoover Dam
- The arson by a California man of the Washington, D.C., restaurant Comet Ping Pong, which is at the center of the patently false Pizzagate conspiracy theory
Sovereign citizens, border militias and antigovernment Three Percenter groups have latched on to Q as well.
QAnon followers posit that Q, an anonymous user of the internet forum 8chan (and previously 4chan), is a government agent with a top security clearance who’s battling the deep state and the shadowy cabal which really runs the government – including Hillary Clinton, Barack Obama and James Comey – on behalf of President Trump.
The QAnon faithful await “The Storm,” a coming purge of deep state operatives, who will be shipped off to Guantanamo Bay.
“The interesting thing about QAnon is it actually has an extraordinary amount of faith in the government and legal processes,” Travis View, a QAnon researcher and co-host of the QAnon Anonymous Podcast, told Hatewatch. “It sounds incompatible with the sovereigns or the antigovernment stuff, but they imagine that there’s going to be a perfectly clean and legal process to have an extraordinary revolution. I think that’s where the overlap is – a deep distrust in the normal institutions of the federal government, obviously the alphabet agencies and all that. They think that the military – and they think Q is military intelligence – is going to enforce the true law of the land to get rid of the deep state.”
Three members of the “White Rabbit Three Percent Illinois Patriot Freedom Fighters Militia” faced federal hate crime charges for firebombing the Dar al-Farooq Islamic Center in Bloomington, Minnesota, on August 5, 2017, and the attempted firebombing of the Women’s Health Practice in Champaign, Illinois on November 7, 2017.
Q first appeared online in October 2017, but the charged militia members – Michael Hari, Michael McWhorter and Joe Morris – appear to have adopted the militia’s “white rabbit” name in homage to Q. QAnon followers encourage one another to “follow the white rabbit,” and the same month that Q appeared, Hari, the militia’s ringleader, published a document called “The White Rabbit Handbook” on Amazon.
In January, McWhorter and Morris pleaded guilty to the charges; Hari’s trial is set for fall 2019.
In July 2018, Matthew P. Wright, an unemployed Marine veteran, used a homemade armored vehicle to block traffic for 90 minutes on the Mike O’Callaghan-Pat Tillman Memorial Bridge leading to the Hoover Dam, resulting in a 90-minute standoff with law enforcement before Wright was apprehended. Wright was armed with an AR-15 rifle, a handgun, multiple magazines of ammunition and a flash-bang device.
From the Mohave County (Ariz.) jail, Wright sent letters to President Trump and other elected officials that sign off with “where we go one, we go all” – the QAnon motto (hashtagged #WWG1WGA on social media). The letter to Trump also references the “Great Awakening,” another name for “The Storm” that Q followers believe will bring down the deep state. On both letters, Wright affixed his fingerprint over his signature, a method frequently used by sovereign citizens.
Wright’s trial on terrorism and weapons charges is pending.
And in January of this year, 22-year-old Californian Ryan Jaselkis reposted a QAnon video on his parents’ YouTube account – pushing the theory that the world is run by a Satanic pedophile ring under the control of Hillary Clinton and other celebrities – before he attempted to burn down Comet Ping Pong, the pizzeria at the center of the Pizzagate conspiracy theory.
Sovereigns and other antigovernment groups
“There is plenty of sovereign citizen/QAnon crossover,” QAnon researcher View told Hatewatch, citing tweets that show QAnon followers alleging information from Q means admiralty law, which sovereigns are against, as opposed to common law, which is supported by sovereigns, will soon end.
“The interesting thing about sovereign citizens is they always imagine they know about certain legal loopholes, they know about the deeper law or something,” View said. “You see that a lot in QAnon, too. They think they understand the law on a level that most people don’t or most experts don’t understand, and when the true law is followed, that will lead to the purge or the new government that they imagine should happen.”
At least one sovereign citizen guru, self-proclaimed “Judge” Anna von Reitz, has recently peppered her online missives with QAnon references, likely because of QAnon’s popularity and ability to attract viewers.
“The people that follow Q have a lot of free time, they’re super online, they’re willing to watch and read and engage a whole lot,” said View. “I think a lot of people, the leaders of these kinds of movements, realized that there’s an audience here.”
Veterans on Patrol (VOP), a group originally run by longtime antigovernment advocate Michael Lewis Arthur Meyers, became full-fledged conspiracists in 2018 when members stumbled upon a skull, a tree with straps attached to it, and other items they believed were used for immigrant child sex trafficking in the Arizona desert.
Meyers later claimed that the trafficking was part of a conspiracy perpetrated by the Cemex company, Hillary Clinton, Mexican billionaire Carlos Slim, the local FBI and others. Law enforcement investigated and deduced that the skull and the other items were not sex trafficking related, but before their claims were thoroughly debunked, VOP put out a call to action, inviting individuals to join them in the desert.
Among those who deployed to VOP’s base of operations were members of the antigovernment extremist group Oath Keepers and a number of Q supporters, who also supported their efforts online. VOP and its successor group AZ Desert Guardians harnessed Q’s appeal, using similar speech and hashtagging their social media posts with the Q salutation WWG1WGA.
United Constitutional Patriots (UCP) is an armed group situated along the U.S./Mexico border, detaining undocumented migrants and claiming that the unchecked invasion of immigrants will lead to an impending civil war in the U.S.
The group is led by Johnny Horton Jr., aka Larry Hopkins, whose criminal past includes impersonating a police officer. Hopkins was arrested by the FBI last weekend following UCP’s latest migrant roundup for being a felon in possession of firearms and ammunition.
The group regularly disseminates Q’s messages on UCP’s official YouTube livestream. Members toss off remarks like “thank God for Q and Q+, that’s Trump,” actively look for Q messages and claim that real news is based those messages.
Q recently played a prominent role in another antigovernment livestream from American Patriots III% leader Scot Seddon. During the Facebook Live video on April 6, 2018, Seddon had member Shana Veillette from Washington State on the show, who identified herself as a QAnon follower. Seddon is not, but his response, rather than denouncing it, was to say, “I know lots of smart people that believe in Q.”
Q supporters also appeared at rallies organized by Chris Hill and his III% Security Force militia, in Nevada and North Carolina.
While QAnon seems, for now, to be a commonality rather than a motivating cause for antigovernment extremists, the online community of QAnon supporters is fertile recruiting ground. “The thing about QAnon is it’s very attractive to people who are isolated, and I think that’s a trend you’re going to continue to see,” said View.
Photo credit PAUL RATJE/AFP/Getty Images