2021 was the year that QAnon inevitably and sadly went mainstream as more and more people learnt about the wild conspiracy people and the cult-like following the group has achieved in the United States.
Unless you were a devout follower of the conspiracy - which believes there is a deep state Satanic paedophile cannibal plot undermining Donald Trump's presidency - or just couldn't take your eyes off the hellscape of the Trump administration, then there is a good chance that QAnon didn't mean much to you before 2021.
A number of stories about the conspiracy’s followers and their beliefs had earned some mainstream attention due to their presence at Trump rallies, but it wasn't until the horrific events of 6th January in Washington DC that they spread more widely.
As we all know by now, thousands of Trump supporters violently stormed the US Capitol building injuring hundreds of people in the process, mostly police officers, and leaving five dead. To date, more than 700 people have been charged with the crimes that occurred on that day.
One of the most worrying elements of that fateful day was the prominence of the letter Q, which adorned many of the people involved in the riot. Q is the mysterious figure behind the conspiracy who used to drop information on websites such as 4Chan about upcoming events that were supposed to happen in US politics, none of which have ever happened.
A wider interest in QAnon grew from that day forward but as many would soon find out this conspiracy had believers right at the heart of US government and was dominated by fanatical followers who were willing to believe even the most farcical of conspiracies.
Marjorie Taylor Greene and Lauren Boebert
The 2020 US election saw more than two dozen people who have expressed a belief in QAnon stand as congressional candidates for the Republican party. Two of these who actually managed to get elected to congress are Marjorie Taylor Greene of Georgia and Lauren Boebert of Colorado. Moreso than maybe any other members of Congress this year, Boebert and Greene have attempted to undermine president Joe Biden and other Democrats with a series of deplorable tactics. In the past, the pair have either expressed an interest or belief in some QAnon conspiracies, such as 9/11 denial and claiming school shootings are staged, but have since attempted to distance themselves from the following.
Joe Biden's inauguration
Perhaps the biggest indication to QAnon followers that their conspiracies were just a bunch of ramblings from an online forum was the day of Joe Biden's inauguration as the 46th president of the United States. Followers believed that Trump would declare martial law on the day through the 'Emergency Alert System' and carry out mass arrests as Biden was being sworn in. That obviously didn't happen and nothing even remotely accurate has happened in regards to Q since. Not to be deterred, some Q followers kept the faith and simply changed the goalposts with some even claiming that Biden was part of QAnon all along.
Another QAnon influencer has embraced the theory that Biden has been part of QAnon all along. https://t.co/lMpepMTrnl
As the interest in QAnon grew it was inevitable that a defence of the conspiracy and its rabid followers would happen on Fox News. It took just 20 days for Tucker Carlson to inevitably give his two cents on the issue with the anchor rallying against the negative press aimed at the followers and a Democrat legislation aimed to stop QAnon theorists from obtaining or holding a federal security clearance. The conservative commentator added: "Once politicians attempt to control what you believe, they are no longer politicians. They are, by definition, dictators." If that wasn't enough just a few weeks later Carlson then 'mockingly' claimed that he couldn't find any information about the phenomenon because QAnon didn't have an official website.
Tucker Carlson says he couldn't find any evidence that the Qanon conspiracy theory even exists, like theres nothing… https://t.co/GyCqb5ME3M
Anderson Cooper interviews a man who thought the CNN anchor ‘ate babies’
As the initial outrage from the Capitol Riot quietened down, more and more people who confessed to having once followed QAnon started to come out of the woodwork and talk to major news networks about what they used to believe. One of the most notable examples of this was an interview that CNN's Anderson Cooper did with a man called Jitarth Jadeja who told the anchor that he used to believe that Cooper "ate babies." Jadeja, who stopped believing in QAnon in 2019, also admitted that people in the following thought Cooper was a 'robot' and that the people behind the mysterious Q figure were "fifth-dimensional intra-dimensional extraterrestrial aliens called blue aliens."
The QAnon Shaman
One of the most enduring images of the January 6th Capitol Riot was a shirtless, howling, heavily tattooed man wearing a fur hat and horns. He was quickly identified as Jake Angeli, also known as the QAnon Shaman. Since that fateful day, Angeli has spent the majority of 2021 in jail and is now serving a 41-month prison sentence but prior to that his year went from public enemy number one to a bit of a punchline. Firstly he went on a hunger strike for three days because he wasn't being fed organic food in jail and then his lawyer tried to claim that Angeli wasn't involved in the riot because he tried to stop someone from stealing a muffin. Thankfully he now seems to regret his involvement on January 6th saying there was "no excuse" for him to be in the building on that day.
Trump returning on 4th March
With Trump out of the White House and definitely no longer being the president (despite what some hardcore followers still think), QAnon was determined to find any way possible to get their man back in the hot seat. The most bonkers theory that was circulated in the QAnon community was that Trump was going to be reinstated as president on 4th March as the 19th POTUS because of an amendment that was passed during Franklin D. Roosevelt's presidency. Trust us, it's as confusing as it sounds and predictably didn't come true in the slightest.
Some QAnon followers are borrowing discredited arguments from sovereign citizens in order to yet again move the goa… https://t.co/HNrOTQm9ij
If Trump returning as the 19th president sounded a bit farfetched then you are not wrong. In all honesty, it was on the relatively low end of the scale of ludicrous stuff that QAnon followers invested in this year. To give you a brief example here is a top-six of some of the weirdest and most deplorable stuff that QAnon has tried to own this year.
A Parkland shooting survivor says their dad thinks the incident was a hoax
It might be funny to laugh at a distance at QAnon and poke fun at them for believing such bizarre but it is easy to forget that there are real victims of this on the other end of the scale. One of the most harrowing stories to emerge this year was an article by Vice about a Parkland shooting survivor whose Dad had become so wrapped up in QAnon that he now things that the traumatic event in his son’s life wasn’t real. ‘Bill’ originally posted his story on Reddit and had his identity confirmed by Vice said that “He’ll say stuff like this straight to my face whenever he’s drinking: ‘You’re a real piece of work to be able to sit here and act like nothing ever happened if it wasn’t a hoax. Shame on you for being part of it and putting your family through it too.”
JFK Jr is coming back from the dead
If you thought some of those theories were a bit too surreal then you've not heard anything yet. There is a long-standing theory that John F Kennedy Jr, who died in a plane crash in 1999, is not actually dead and has been living under a secret identity for more than 20 years now. Q devotees believed, even while Trump was still president, that JFK Jr was somehow going to return from the dead and align himself with Trump, either endorsing Trump for another presidential run or announcing himself as his running mate, despite the Kennedy's being Democrats. Hundreds of QAnon followers recently gathered in Texas to see mark JFK Jr's resurrection which obviously didn't happen but some people did claim to have met some deceased celebrities in disguises such as Robin Williams, Richard Pryor and Kobe Bryant. With JFK Jr's return failing to materialise some theorists began to think he was actually Keith Richards of The Rolling Stones - were not making any of this up.
Michael Flynn claims QAnon was created as ‘disinformation by the left’
In November, Trump’s former national security adviser, Michael Flynn saw some QAnon followers turn against him after he proposed a conspiracy theory about the creation of the movement. In a clip released by former Trump attorney Lin Wood, Flynn says: “I think it’s a disinformation campaign. I think it’s a disinformation campaign that the CIA created. That’s what I believe. Now, I don’t know that for a fact, but that’s what I think it is. I think it’s a disinformation campaign. I find it total nonsense. And I think it’s a disinformation campaign created by the left.”
Here we have Michael Flynn speaking to Lin Wood about ‘QAnon’, revealing he now believes it was created as disinfor… https://t.co/9LDsqOCugc
A HBO documentary claimed to have the answer to who might be behind the conspiracy
Despite all of the mania surrounding QAnon and their often tasteless conspiracies you rarely hear anyone asking who actually is Q? Well, in April, a HBO documentary called Into the Storm attempted to get to the bottom of who was behind it all. The six-part series proposed that Ron Watkins, the son of Jim Watkins, who is the owner of the notorious online forum 8chan, which is popular among Q followers. The younger Watkins was a moderator on the site and became something of a right-wing commentator during the Trump administration. Filmmaker Cullen Hoback, interviewed Watkins for the documentary and many believed this was the moment that the veil slipped and he revealed himself as Q, although others including Watkins, had other ideas.
This is the big reveal in the finale of #QIntotheStorm where Ron Watkins says too much to Cullen Hoback and lets hi… https://t.co/GthSdjKOXU
It’s likely that we’ll never find out who was behind the QAnon conspiracy and the shady figure has since gone to ground, with no ‘Q drops’ happening anywhere online since Biden became president. That being said the damage has clearly been done and now thousands of hardcore Trump supporters have brought into this conspiracy which is now ruining lives in America and threatening to damage the very heart of its democracy.