When Donald Trump holds one of his rallies, seemingly harmless signs pop up in the crowd. They have a simple “Q” or “QAnon” written on them. However, what these signs represent is a cult with sticky tentacles reaching deep into the brains of Trump followers.
One of the women who used to be firmly entrenched in the group now believes that the man who goes by “Q” was actually Trump’s longtime friend Roger Stone. He defines himself as a dirty trickster, so creating a cult of Trump followers would not be out of line with his previous dirty political acts.
It appears QAnon made false claims about Trump’s so-called enemies, said they were involved in “an international criminal ring.” The cult bizarrely claimed that anyone who disagreed with the president did this: trafficked humans, sometimes ate children, and performed in other strange habits. For some reason, that has drawn members during QAnon’s short life of one year.
Isolating members of the QAnon cult from those who love them makes it similar to other cults. The Daily Beast interviewed four of the group’s members, but only showed their first names. Two of them are strong believers, and two have started to feel some doubts about the group.
QAnon conspiracy researcher, Travis View, monitors the movement. He has noted a stronger effort to separate people from their family and friends:
‘People in the QAnon community often talk about alienation from family and friends. Though they typically talk about how Q frayed their relationships on private Facebook groups. But they think these issues are temporary and primarily the fault of others. They often comfort themselves by imagining that there will be a moment of vindication sometime in the near future which will prove their beliefs right. They imagine that after this happens, not only will their relationships be restored, but people will turn them as leaders who understand what’s going on better than the rest of us.’
Cult expert Rachel Bernstein told Wired that people who meet online in conspiracy movements are radicalized by the group creating an alternative family:
‘When people get involved in a movement, collectively, what they’re saying is they want to be connected to each other. They want to have exclusive access to secret information other people don’t have, information they believe the powers that be are keeping from the masses, because it makes them feel protected and empowered. They’re a step ahead of those in society who remain willfully blind. This creates feeling similar to a drug—it’s its own high.’
Kimberly and Marjorie are full-out believers. They belong to a Canadian QAnon group. Marjorie said:
‘My friends have told me they are tired of seeing my political postings…after having a friendship with her for 60 years, she humiliated me on my Facebook page. There are other incidences as well. I keep it to myself that I follow QAnon. Some of my other friends follow as well.
‘I haven’t always been with these feelings I have now. I haven’t always felt the way I feel now. I’ve done a complete 180. There are people in my family that don’t understand as well. I’ve lost some friends, people I’ve known since high school that I’m Facebook friends with, for an example. They just blocked me, or decided I’m not their friend, or unfriended me. Who the heck came up with that definition of friend anyway? That’s OK. It is what it is.’
Kimberly’s boyfriend does not like QAnon, so she wears headphones to hear the group’s tapes and to keep the peace:
‘I live in headphones now. My boyfriend is… I don’t know how to describe it. We have very different views. He does not think this QAnon thing is anything except nonsense. I drastically disagree.’
Kimberly was one of the QAnon members who was unhappy that the group separated them from their friends and family. Over the holiday these people felt the loss especially smartly. She said QAnon was:
‘…something I’ve been researching on my own, by myself pretty nonstop, 24/7 since probably July-ish. And then it’s grown more and more and more and more and more and more intense for me.’
‘That tells me somebody’s paying attention. So I know maybe that person has some interesting things to share, so I might (look at) their profile. Whatever they’re doing, if I like what it is, I’ll comment on it.’
‘It gives me hope. As far as I am concerned, real friends respect your opinions, not call you down.’
Serena left the cult. She explained that it was not easy to leave QAnon:
‘There’s different stages when you get out. When I first got out I said ‘oh my goodness, I need to warn everybody. I need to warn them.’ But then I was attacked and threatened so harshly. And then I was just so sad, like in a mourning stage, and then I had to laugh because it became so ridiculous. It was the only way I could cope.’
She came from a military family, and her father was in the CIA. Supposedly, Q was a military insider, but that did not ring true to her:
‘I followed Q’s drops (forum posts). I watched all the videos. I’m semi-retired, so that’s all I did all day. I was so excited. It was really a thrilling, exciting time. Q dropped Bible verses in their entirety. I mean like pages of Bible verses. I was immediately crestfallen. It just broke my heart. I immediately knew there is no way that military men are sitting around working on national security trying to rally the patriots that they would risk that leaked channel by putting Bible verses on there… I knew when I saw those Bible verses that it was a marketing scheme targeting conservative Christians for donations, merchandise sales, and profit with a political agenda of some kind.’
Megan and Matthew have become skeptical about the group, especially after former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn turned state’s’ evidence against Trump. She said:
‘When I get together with family for the holidays. I stopped trying to tell them. I stopped. Nobody wants to hear it. They say you’re a conspiracy nut and you’re looking at wacky stuff on the internet.’
She began watching someone on YouTube who challenged Q’s claims:
‘That kind of saved me. I also studied cults in the aftermath. I believe these people are brainwashed. There are several things they [Q] do. One is isolate their followers and turn their followers against all other sources.’
According to View, an internet circle is not a complete substitute for family. Yet, it can “simulate support:”
“There’s a sense of fellowship in the QAnon community. They imagine that they’re all members of a small group of people who know about a coming glorious age in America. This fellowship isn’t the same actual familial relationships, but it’s a workable substitute when relationships with family becomes frayed. So this creates a vicious cycle: they fall down the rabbit hole of QAnon, which hurts their real life relationships, and causes them to fall down the rabbit hole even further.’
Featured image is a screenshot via YouTube.