Joe Biden’s inauguration on Wednesday marks not only the historic start of a new presidency, but also, for countless Americans, the devastating end of a long scam.
For believers in QAnon, the far-right conspiracy theory that sees Donald Trump as a divine figure secretly battling a cabal of deep state pedophiles who control the government, things weren’t supposed to happen this way. way.
Month after month, year after year, “Q”, the shadowy leader of this online movement, aided by his army of social media influencers, had promised them that a token “storm” was coming. Mythology was that on Wednesday, finally, the Bidens, Obamas and Clintons would be arrested and executed for child sex trafficking, treason and other crimes. Trump, having finally conquered evil, would remain in power.
It was the moment they were desperately waiting for.
In digital havens for far-right extremists, such as Gab and Telegram, QAnon groups have turned into virtual meetings so they can react to the ceremony in real time. At the start of the event, the members could hardly contain their joy – or their desire for bloodshed.
“WELCOME TO THE GRAND FINAL !!!” excitedly launches a user in a group of 185,000 members on Gab. “Anyone else want to throw up with excitement?!?!?!” asks another person in the middle of a rapid flow of messages crossing a Telegram channel with 34,000 members. Others salivate at the idea of beheadings and sexual violence against prominent Democrats. Several posts are too grotesque to publish.
At 11:45 a.m., however, as Kamala Harris is sworn in for vice-presidency, the crowds grow anxious.
“Well, that popcorn just got cold,” writes one QAnon supporter. «When do the arrests start ?? ” another wonders. Followers continue to cling to hope as they count the minutes before the long awaited “great awakening”.
But by noon, with a smiling Biden laying his hand on the Bible to be sworn in as the 46th President of the United States, reality strikes.
“I can’t stop crying. Shit. Why?” someone writes. “It’s over,” concedes another. Some are already wondering how they will possibly be able to rebuild the bridges with the loved ones they had rejected because of their obsession with Q.
Quickly, the attitude within QAnon online communities thus changed from joy to shock and misery: “NOTHING HAPPENED FUCK !!!”; “So now we have proof that Q was total bullshit”; “I feel sick, disgusted and disappointed”; “Have we been duped ???”; “You have all deceived us”; “HOW DID WE BELIEVE THIS FOR SO LONG?” ARE WE ALL IDIOTS? ”
Meanwhile, several QAnon devotees perform medal-worthy mental gymnastics to keep the illusion alive. A few suggest that the video showing Biden becoming president is fake and that he is in fact locked behind bars. Others postulate that Biden himself worked with Trump from the start to dismantle the “deep state,” and that he would be the one to launch the army on the alleged traitors. Many are begging to be patient: “Q wouldn’t do that to us. He wouldn’t let us down. Do not lose hope.”
But even some of QAnon’s most important influencers finally reluctantly admitted that it was time to move on. MelQ, a major QAnon frontman, turned off comments on her Telegram channel as Biden’s swearing-in drew near and members seemed to lose faith, in order to “put everyone’s breath”. But once the ceremony was over, she changed her refrain. “Ok let it all hang out,” she wrote, later adding, “We’re going to go through it all together.”
Ron Watkins, the former administrator of 8kun – a platform that has long been vital to Q’s communication with his followers – has also given up. “We gave it our all,” he told his nearly 120,000 Telegram subscribers. “Now we need to hold our heads up high and get back to our lives as best we can.”
Even Joe M, one of Q’s earliest and most well-known supporters, hinted a few days ago that QAnon could be a ruse: “Next week, either Q turns out to be a well-meaning hoax … or us.” we are all about to witness the separation of the Red Sea and a new biblical chapter in human civilization, ”he wrote on January 16.
Wednesday afternoon, he was not ready to accept defeat: “My faith is not in Q or in ‘the Plan’. My faith is in the proud and tenacious Americans and in everything they have always stood for, ”he assured tens of thousands of users of his Telegram channel. “No matter how dark this day may seem, this faith is indestructible.”
Certainly, this is not the end of QAnon or the immense damage it has inflicted on American society. The movement, which the FBI considers a domestic terrorist threat, has already evolved and regrouped to regain control of its members time and time again, and it has planted deep roots in a range of other communities: yoga lovers, faith groups, classroom, anti-vax networks – the list is long.
The massive radicalization of Americans by QAnon is part of Trump’s legacy. One of the biggest challenges for the Biden administration will be tackling it.
It is now unclear which direction the conspiracy theory will take; many and fervent supporters swear to keep moving forward without being discouraged. For today, however, the group has suffered a defeat.
“WE WERE SCAMED FOR BELIEVING Q !!!” bemoaned a Telegram user.
This text initially posted on HuffPost USA has been translated from English.