What Is QAnon, the Viral Pro-Trump Conspiracy Theory?

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By now, you’ve probably heard of QAnon, the internet conspiracy theory that has taken hold among many on the American right.

But you may still have questions about what exactly is going on.

QAnon was once a fringe phenomenon — the kind most people could safely ignore. But recently, it has gone mainstream. In 2020, QAnon supporters flooded social media with false information about Covid-19, the Black Lives Matter protests and the presidential election, and recruited legions of new believers to their ranks. A December poll by NPR and Ipsos found that 17 percent of Americans believed that the core falsehood of QAnon — that “a group of Satan-worshiping elites who run a child sex ring are trying to control our politics and media” — was true.

QAnon has also seeped into the offline world. Followers of the movement participated in the deadly Capitol riot in January, and other QAnon believers have been charged with violent crimes, including kidnappings, assassination plots and the 2019 murder of a mafia boss in New York. A terrorism bulletin issued by the Department of Homeland Security in late January warned of increasing violence from domestic extremist groups, including conspiracy theory communities like QAnon.

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