QAnon Could Splinter into 'Violent Offshoots' After Trump Exit: 'Humiliation Fuels Rage'

There are fears that followers of the QAnon conspiracy theory may be pushed into more violence as some of the most ardent believers realize they have been had and one of the movement's most important figures appears to call it quits.

The inauguration of President Joe Biden was seen as the last throw of the dice for many supporters whose faith in QAnon had been severely tested down the years.

It didn't matter that Hillary Clinton was not arrested in 2017 or that Donald Trump never took down the "deep state" during his time in office, or that he lost the election then failed to overturn the result—despite an insurrection attempt by some of QAnon's extremist followers—because "the plan" all along was a showdown on January 20.

In the days leading up to the inauguration, high-profile figures in the QAnon movement claimed Trump would implement the Emergency Alert System during the ceremony in Washington, D.C. to announce the arrests and even executions of Democratic "traitors" and satanic pedophiles—a hugely anticipated moment known as "the storm," which has been predicted on several dates down the years.

QAnon advocate Invisible_ET pushed this belief as far as he could, posting on messaging service Telegram "Enjoy the show!" minutes before Biden was sworn in.

As the ceremony ended with no mass arrests or intervention from the military under Trump's secret orders, a number of QAnon supporters described "feeling sick" and let down, announcing, "I've had enough of this," and appearing to accept defeat.

qanon
QAnon supporters posting on Telegram after Joe Biden was sworn in as the 46th president. Screenshot/Telegram

For many, the moment the towel was thrown in was a message from Ron Watkins, one of the leading figures in the movement.

Watkins is the former admin of messageboard 8kun, originally known as 8chan, which is owned by his father Jim Watkins.

The QAnon conspiracy theory first appeared on 4chan—a forerunner of 8chan—in late 2017 as a series of cryptic messages posted by a figure known only as "Q." These posts were interpreted to form the outlandish claims of the QAnon conspiracy theory.

Q's coded messages or "drops" would later appear on 8kun, although they essentially stopped around the time of the presidential election last November.

On Election Day, Ron Watkins announced that he was stepping down as the 8kun admin, fueling speculation that he played some role in posting Q's drops, which he denies.

Current mood in Q circles

"I just want to throw up"
"I'm so sick of the disinformation and false hope"
"What a waste of my life"
"I feel sick"
"Burning my flag"
"Game over"
"Where is the military"
"I'm just so confused"
"I'm just sick" pic.twitter.com/hUR2N6y1sg

— Shayan Sardarizadeh (@Shayan86) January 20, 2021

Writing on Telegram, where he has nearly 120,000 followers, Watkins seemed to concede that it was time to move on from QAnon, adding that he was "currently fleshing out" a new project.

"We gave it our all. Now we need to keep our chins up and go back to our lives as best we are able," Watkins wrote. "We have a new president sworn in and it is our responsibility as citizens to respect the Constitution regardless of whether or not we agree with the specifics or details regarding officials who are sworn in.

"As we enter into the next administration please remember all the friends and happy memories we made together over the past few years."

Many QAnon supporters saw that as the final straw, questioning why Watkins would leave the movement he has been pushing for more than three years at its most crucial time.

qanon
Screenshot/Telegram

A moderator on 8kun even took out his frustration on the site itself, deleting all the messages on the thread used by "Q" and attacking Watkins and the conspiracy theorists in a lengthy post.

"By the way, this is not a punch to your face to strike you down, you poor dumb cattle that you are... no, consider this more a shaft up your a** to wake you up," the moderator wrote.

"I have no allies nor do I want any, I am just performing euthanasia to something I once loved very very much."

The thread and most of its posts were later restored to 8kun.

Experts fear that the divisions in the QAnon movement, which is listed as a domestic terrorist threat by the FBI, and the non-appearance of "the storm" on January 20 may push its followers further into extremism.

Colin P. Clarke, director of policy and research at security consultancy the Soufan Group, tweeted: "If QAnon begins to splinter soon, we'll need to pay attention to the emergence of potentially violent offshoots.

"We know some adherents possess the propensity for extreme violence, those who feel duped could grow exceedingly desperate & seek to lash out. Humiliation fuels rage."

Author and conspiracy theory expert Mike Rothschild added: "I know it seems like QAnon is sinking into history, but Q was always made of reused parts of other conspiracy theories and scams.

"If Q is finished, all those parts will be recombined into something else—and easily pull in believers of all its previous components."

In a series of posts on Twitter, Marc-André Argentino, a researcher who studies the movement, wrote that followers would be "going through the stages of grief which will make them quite vulnerable."

"The one thing I am sure about is QAnon as a whole may change, it will likely metastasize, it will likely balkanize, and QAnon adherents no matter what they become will likely remain a threat until they can exit the QAnon space," Argentino wrote.

"Even without QAnon, without 'Q', without Trump, the core elements that lead these individuals to believe in QAnon will still remain and they will need to find outlets for their conspiratorial mindsets and their anti-democratic ideals."

Predictably, many QAnon supporters believe "the plan" is still in place—a claim they have made in the wake of every previous prediction being wrong.

"The plan doesn't care if you don't like it or understand it. Just Sayin," Invisible_ET wrote on Telegram. "This moment is for the whole world and every demographic. We will never forget what is about to happen. Ever. It had to be this way."

Others seem to have seen this coming. One of the biggest figures in the QAnon movement, Joe M, or The Storm Is Upon Us, appeared to jump ship in the days before the inauguration, telling his massive following that he would be "going dark for a while" on January 16 while holding onto a glimmer of hope that something might happen.

"Next week, either Q turns out to be an elaborate well-intentioned hoax promising a level of control that patriots never had, or we are all about to watch the Red Sea part and the unfolding of a new biblical-level chapter in human civilization. I believe it is the second one."

Joe M has yet to comment on President Biden's inauguration.

 QAnon
A QAnon logo is flown with a U.S. flag at the pro-Trump protest outside the Capitol on January 6. There are fears the conspiracy theory's supporters will become more violent. Win McNamee/Getty