Understanding the Conspiracy Theory That Swept Our Nation

QAnon just won’t die. Like the many-headed hydra from Greek mythology, the beast seems only to grow stronger with each attempt to put it down. 

In this article, I want to offer a primer on what QAnon is, where it came from, and how it became a political movement. Then, in a follow-up article, I’ll explore how pundits in the mainstream media are now leveraging the QAnon theory to discredit the film Sound of Freedom and cast aspersions on those who would raise alarm about child trafficking networks.

What is “QAnon”?

The “QAnon” theory started in October 2017 when a user calling himself “Q” posted an image to the anonymous image board website “4chan.” The anonymous Q, or “QAnon,” claimed to be a high-level government official with a level of security clearance known as “Q clearance.” In Q’s early posts, he claimed that Hilary Clinton was about to be arrested in a sting operation that would lead to massive social unrest.

Q went on to post other images that, many believed, proved he/she had close access to the president (for example, pictures supposedly from within Air Force One). Using these images to establish credibility, Q began publishing thousands of mysterious posts known alternatively as “drops,” “Q drops” or “breadcrumbs.” These drops included cryptic statements like:

  • “Some things must remain classified to the very end”
  • “Follow the White Rabbit”
  • “Nothing can stop what is coming”
  • “I’ve said too much”

Between these and other enigmatic statements, QAnon gradually leaked a body of information that proffered insight into what was really going on inside the Trump administration. A growing contingent of Trump loyalists interpreted the body of Q-drops to mean the following:

There exists a secret network of child molesters and cannibals, who are operating a global child sex trafficking ring. The elites in government, finance, media, business, and Hollywood are in cahoots with this cabal and tried to prevent Donald Trump from getting elected. The President knows about this cabal and is biding his time, waiting for the right opportunity. In the meantime, President Trump is content to appear to be fighting a losing political battle. However, when the time is right, he will round up his political enemies, institute martial law, and bring the pedophiles to justice in a day of reckoning known as “the Storm.”

As QAnon kept adding to this narrative with breadcrumbs supposedly originating near the top, the theory mushroomed in popularity. By September 2020, the Pew Research Center reported that most Americans had heard of QAnon. 

My Involvement With QAnon

From 2017 to January 2021, many took the QAnon theory extremely seriously. How do I know? Because during this period I lived in North Idaho in the midst of what I have elsewhere described as a Trump personality cult. Numerous friends in this community pinned their hope for America in the predictions offered in successive Q-drops. Although I tried to extricate myself from as many of these conversations as I could, sometimes this was not possible (for example, when I was riding in the car with friends, or was stuck in a room with colleagues at work). 

While listening to my friends discuss QAnon, I understood its appeal. QAnon, whoever he (or she) was, functioned in the popular imagination as a kind of reverse Deepthroat, leaking information about how an administration that seemed to be flailing was actually operating according to plan - a plan that would soon break into the open. For those who had pegged their hopes on Trump, that was welcome news. The theory offered hope that, if we just waited long enough, the Hillary Clintons and Bill Gateses of this world would finally get their comeuppance. 

My friends in North Idaho were not the only ones who took QAnon seriously. It started to be commonplace to see Q placards, symbols, and clothing at Trump rallies. Some pastors even incorporated Q quotes into the worship. Amazon's online marketplace began selling QAnon-related merchandise, while over 100 QAnon-based books appeared on Amazon. The QAnon movement even attracted international attention (in 2022, three QAnon groups existed in Japan). 

QAnon Shaman

The QAnon theory burnt itself out with the January 6 protests as Americans watched rioters storm the Capitol, some of them waving QAnon flags and banners. Every news channel showed footage of an individual calling himself “QAnon Shaman” wearing face paint, a headdress made of animal fur, and horns. 

“QAnon Shaman” was the name for Jacob Chansley, the 33-year old man from Phoenix who had previously been an amateur content creator under the pseudonym “Yellowstone Wolf,” and “Lone Wolf.” On the day of the riots, Chansley carried a sign to the Capitol saying, “Q Sent Me!” 

Chansley was not QAnon,  even though he adopted the name. Rather, with his face paint and horns, Chansley came to function as a symbol for how freakish and volatile the QAnon movement had become. 

Who Was QAnon?

So who was the real QAnon? We still don’t know. He is unlikely to have been a genuine insider at the Trump administration since the individual claimed to have knowledge of impending events that never materialized (see this list of false predictions proffered by Q). The person may have been a propagandist of the Christopher Blair type, trying to bait conservatives to make them appear stupid. Or QAnon may have been a genuine Trump enthusiast desperate to offer hope to fans of the President at all cost. It is even possible QAnon may have originated from someone wanting to create a national joke like the Birds Aren’t Real Conspiracy Theory

But I am less interested in the man behind the curtain and more interested in how QAnon is now being leveraged by leftists to turn sex trafficking into another “culture war” issue. That will be the topic of an article tomorrow.

has a Master’s in Historical Theology from King’s College London and a Master’s in Library Science through the University of Oklahoma. He is the blog and media managing editor for the Fellowship of St. James and a regular contributor to Touchstone and Salvo. He has worked as a ghost-writer, in addition to writing for a variety of publications, including the Colson Center, World Magazine, and The Symbolic World. Phillips is the author of Gratitude in Life's Trenches (Ancient Faith, 2020), and Rediscovering the Goodness of Creation (Ancient Faith, 2023). He operates a blog at

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