Mattathias Schwartz looks at the Pro-Trump QAnon conspiracy theory, for the New York Times. A Trail of ‘Bread Crumbs,’ Leading Conspiracy Theorists Into the Wilderness:
Go hungry for too long, and a lot of strange things will start to look like food. The smallest morsels become precious, especially if you believe they form some kind of trail with a meal at the end. This is true not only of physical sustenance; it is true of knowledge as well. You always find scattered crumbs — inscrutable analogies, esoteric equations, unverified allegations from anonymous sources — gathered around those questions about which we know the least.
For months now, one such anonymous source — an internet user called “Q Clearance Patriot” or “Q,” posting on anarchic, underbelly-of-the-internet message boards like 4chan and 8chan — has been spreading its “crumbs” across the web, offering up a running commentary on the state of the nation in a gnomic and paranoid style. To call the result a mere “conspiracy theory” doesn’t quite do it justice, shortchanging both its utterly absurd wrongness and its vast pseudo-explanatory power. Q’s prophecies are something closer to a grand unifying conspiracy theory, one that incorporates older absurd theories (stretching back to the Kennedy administration) and continuously spins off new tendrils, glomming itself onto news events as they unfold. Good and evil, it claims, have mustered two warring teams; the fate of humanity hangs in the balance. The heroes are the military (especially the Marines) and President Trump, who is secretly cooperating with Robert Mueller to, some disciples imagine, uncover a global ring of sex-trafficking pedophiles. And even this risks making it sound more realistic than it is.
What’s most striking about the Q phenomenon is how many people take it seriously. #QAnon billboards have started showing up beside highways in Georgia. Q’s supporters have turned up en masse, with signs and T-shirts, at Trump rallies. Roseanne Barr tweets about it. In June, an armed man was arrested after blocking traffic near the Hoover Dam; in jail, he reportedly wrote a letter to Trump including Q’s motto: “Where we go one, we go all.” Trump shows no particular inclination to discourage the theory. In August, he posed for a picture with the former talk-radio host Michael Lebron, who promotes Q theories online, inside the Oval Office.