HIGH POINT, N.C. (WGHP) — A Washington Post reporter emailed Elon Musk to get his thoughts on QAnon and Elon Musk responded “lol.”
Elon Musk’s Twitter takeover has been rife with controversy — few aspects of it have not garnered some degree of criticism or confusion — and, now, some of his decisions have conspiracy theorists associated with QAnon viewing him favorably.
Musk tweeted, “Follow” with a rabbit emoji on Dec. 12, Media Matters reported. The phrase “follow the white rabbit,” a reference to “Alice in Wonderland” that was popularized by “The Matrix” films, has been used as a rallying cry of sorts for QAnon over the years, causing many QAnon believers to feel like Musk is now on their side.
“One person in Musk’s inner circle, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss Musk’s views, said he uses the claims merely to win the internet’s most prized currency: attention,” the Washington Post writes.
What is QAnon?
QAnon is a far-spanning, all-encompassing conspiracy theory that has alienated people from their families, jobs and lives, even when it’s not driving them to commit actual crimes.
The esoteric apocalyptic conspiracy theory is a “big tent” theory that encompasses many popular conspiracies that came before it, founded on the belief that a high-ranking governmental official (one with “Q” clearance) is posting anonymous messages, primarily on the 4chan clone 8kun, from inside the government about the shadowy “Deep State” who have evil intentions that can only be thwarted by insiders, primarily former President Trump.
The conspiracy has also grown to prominently feature common, antisemitic conspiracies like blood libel, with the belief that the “elites” are trafficking and harvesting children for adrenochrome, a chemical compound of epinephrine.
Primarily followers evangelize about “The Great Awakening” and “The Storm.” This is the idea that one day people across America will “wake up” to the conspiracies that QAnon promotes and that “the storm” will happen, and massive amounts of “Deep State Agents” will be rounded up and executed.
In 2016, a North Carolina man stormed into a Washington, D.C., restaurant due to his belief in the Pizzagate conspiracy theory, which some have called a precursor to QAnon and has been folded into broader QAnon beliefs.
The debunked ideas of a pizza parlor being the center of a child trafficking operation, or Nancy Pelosi eating babies, or John F Kennedy Jr. being alive and Donald Trump’s next vice president, or the idea that America has been a corporation since the 19th century, or the Earth being flat are all conspiracies that some might find laughable. Some might be amused by the notion of people vehemently believing the words of an anonymous poster (the New York Times refers to forensic linguists who point to South African software developer Paul Furber and later 8kun owner Jim Watkins or his son Ron, who came in last in the Republican primary for an Arizona Congressional seat) who has failed to return proven predictions. However, despite how farfetched these conspiracies may seem to the average reader, they have inspired very real damage and violence.
In the name of “Q”
QAnon has been cited in multiple homicides, kidnappings, other crimes and even planned coups. They are deeply entrenched in election denialism and spreading misinformation about vaccinations and the COVID-19 pandemic.
Jim Watkins, the owner of 8kun and suspected “Q” author, has allegedly put a bounty on the founder of 8chan, attempting to get him extradited to the Philippines.
At a Wilmington Trump rally in September, a gesture that has become associated with QAnon was seen and people there explicitly expressed support for the movement, on top of a trend of Trump amplifying QAnon on TruthSocial, to the point where even advertisers on TruthSocial began targeting ads towards QAnon believers.
Last month a Triad man was arrested after allegedly threatening to murder an FBI agent, and court documents show his TikTok accounts were full of the same type of conspiratorial language used by QAnon adherents, though without explicit mentions of “Q” specifically. Many believe that QAnon’s type of conspiracism has infiltrated far-right circles to the extent that many people will espouse beliefs codified or popularized by QAnon without ever engaging with it directly.
On Monday, Human Rights First released a report that goes into detail about how QAnon exploits the US military and veterans to perpetuate an agenda that “threatens democracy.”
- December 2019: Cynthia Abcug was arrested and charged in Colorado with conspiracy to kidnap one of her children. She was sentenced in November.
- March 2020: Neely Petrie-Blanchard was arrested and charged with kidnapping after taking her two daughters who had been in the sole legal custody of their grandmother.
- October 2020: Utah mother Emily Jolley allegedly abducted her son during a supervised visit. She had posted QAnon beliefs on her social media.
- April 13, 2021: a former French politician was accused of orchestrating the kidnapping of an eight-year-old on behalf of the child’s non-custodial mother.
- March 2019: Anthony Comello was charged with the murder of Gambino crime family underboss Frank Cali. The defense said that he had become obsessed with QAnon and that led him to attempt a citizen’s arrest on Cali.
- November 15, 2020: Christopher Hallett was allegedly shot and killed by Neely Petrie-Blanchard after she apparently became convinced he was part of the conspiracy to take her children away.
- August 12, 2021: Matthew Taylor Coleman was charged with murdering his two children, a two-year-old son and ten-month-old daughter, with a spearfishing gun. He allegedly said that he believed they had “serpent DNA” and would grow into monsters.
- September 11, 2022: Igor Lanis allegedly shot and killed his wife and dog, also injuring one of his daughters. He was killed by police. The daughter who was not shot reported that he had become obsessed with conspiracy theories in the wake of the 2020 election.
QAnon-associated coup plots
- January 6, 2021: Numerous people in the Capitol Insurrection had purported QAnon beliefs. Most famously was the “QAnon Shaman,” Jacob Chansley, and Doug Jensen, an Iowa man who chased a Capitol officer up the stairs, wearing a “Q” shirt during the riot.
- October 2021 Rémy Daillet-Wiedemann was charged with running a terrorist organization after officials say they uncovered serious plans to overthrow the French government.
- December 7, 2022: police in Germany arrested 25 people for allegedly plotting an overthrow of the German government.
Other QAnon-associated crimes, incidents
- May 2018: Michael Lewis Arthur Meyer was arrested for trespassing at a cement plant in Tuscon after live streaming on Facebook claiming it was involved in child sex trafficking.
- June 15, 2018: Matthew Phillip Wright from Nevada drove to the Hoover Dam with an armored vehicle, claiming to be on a mission from QAnon. He was sentenced to seven years. While in jail, he wrote a letter ending with the phrase “For where we go one, we go all,” which is essentially a catchphrase for QAnon, according to the Associated Press.
- March 2020: Austin Steinbart, who claimed that he was a secret agent working for Trump and that “Q” was his own time-traveling future self, was arrested by the FBI. He hacked into the records of a medical facility, obtained private information about celebrity patients, and threatened to leak the information. He pleaded guilty.
- April 2020: Jessica Prim was arrested after allegedly live-streaming her attempt to “take out” presidential nominee Joe Biden. During her arrest, Prim was reportedly crying and asking police, “Have you guys heard about the kids?”
- July 2, 2020, Corey Hurren rammed a truck through the gates of the temporary residence of Canadian prime minister Justin Trudeau. He had published QAnon-related content and hashtags on his company’s Instagram feed. In March 2021, he was sentenced to six years in prison.
- 2021: Romana Didulo, a Canadian conspiracy theorist who styled herself the “Queen of Canada” and then “Queen of the World” allegedly called on her thousands of Telegram followers to “shoot to kill” healthcare workers vaccinating children.
- October 28: Nancy Pelosi’s husband Paul was attacked by a hammer-wielding man. The suspect, David DePape, had amplified QAnon in the past. Lieutenant Governor Mark Robinson shared a meme that perpetuated a conspiracy theory about Pelosi’s attack on his Facebook, stating he “didn’t believe” the press or Pelosi about what happened.
This is not an exhaustive list. There are other less notorious incidents or less violent incidents, and likely incidents that weren’t reported. However, it illustrates the real-world impact that QAnon has had.
Musk is not the only person to dismiss the serious threat that QAnon poses. In a column published in the Chicago Sun-Times in October, writer Gene Lyons opines that QAnon followers won’t “take to the streets” to “save” Trump or his political career. Lyons called QAnon “an online phenomenon, an aggregation of cranks sitting at home alone getting all worked up over silly fantasies. Political pornography,” and speculated that it would soon be “history.”
The amount of real-world suffering that has happened, either in the name of “Q” or simply because of the impact conspiracies have on people, indicates that this is not just an online phenomenon. Multiple elected officials have expressed QAnon beliefs and subreddits like r/qanoncasualties demonstrate how fractured relationships become with friends and family who, in Musk’s words, “follow.”
As Musk promotes conspiracy theories about Paul Pelosi’s assault or stokes outrage against Anthony Fauci with conspiratorial language, the human cost of conspiracies like QAnon only seems to grow.