The release of the Mueller report this week marks the supposed end of one of the great conspiracy theories of our time: #QAnon. The idea behind QAnon, if you need a refresher, was that a high-level government employee with knowledge of Mueller’s investigation was posting on anonymous message boards like 8chan, alleging that the Mueller investigation into Trump’s campaign was actually a smoke screen. In fact, the story goes (I think — it gets muddy), Mueller and Trump were working together to expose corrupt elite Democrats who are part of a global pedophile ring, or something. It was Pizzagate on steroids, and it captured the imagination of a vocal minority of the MAGA crowd, all waiting and believing that Q was telling the truth.
Obviously, Q’s predictions were never going to be proven true. Q’s posts are often vague and noncommittal, allowing his or her followers to fill in the blanks with their own projections. A potent subgenre of Q-decoding videos cropped up on YouTube as “citizen journalists” sucked up the attention of presidential supporters desperately grasping at straws (crafty merchandisers also sucked up a fair amount of money too).
But as Mueller’s investigation dragged on and Trump cohorts began getting indicted, the Q conspiracy devolved into less of an elaborate scheme and more of a frame of mind. It turned from a double-crossing spy-movie plot into wishful thinking. The Mueller report used to be the endgame, now it is only the beginning. With some heavy massaging and redacting, Attorney General William Barr did his job and delivered a verdict of “no collusion,” validating the central Q belief that the charges were bogus, even if the actual theory of QAnon went belly-up. As it stands now, Q followers — the ones who used to believe in mantras like “Trust [Jeff] Sessions” — are now positioning the Mueller report as just the first step in a much longer process. Consider this tweet from prolific Q pundit Praying Medic.
A Q post from late February 2019 ends like so:
DO NOT TRUST THE FAKE NEWS MEDIA.
YOU ARE THE MAJORITY.
MUELLER > DECLAS > OIG > TRUTH > JUSTICE
THE GREAT AWAKENING.
YOU ARE THE NEWS NOW.
That third line plays out a chain of events that Q acolytes are still hoping for. It starts with Mueller, and then moves into “declassification.” In this case, that means revealing details about investigations into the FBI’s investigation of the Trump campaign in 2016, and supposed abuses of power that entailed. This is the investigation that involves former FBI agent Peter Strzok and Lisa Page, whose anti-Trump text messages have become a right-wing fixation, as well as characters like James Comey and the consulting firm Fusion GPS. The whole thing is known as #SpyGate.
“OIG,” the third step, refers to a report from the DOJ’s Office of the Inspector General, which is looking into allegations that the DOJ and FBI abused their power and the FISA system while investigating Trump’s campaign in 2016 and it’s connection to Russia. This is now a standard right-wing talking point.
Just yesterday afternoon, House intel committee member Devin Nunes, a loyal Trump lackey, put out a statement blasting the quote-unquote real conspiracy. “The biggest takeaway from the entire Russia hoax is that our nation’s counter-intelligence capabilities should never again be abused to target an administration’s political opponents,” he said. The statement identified the supposed conspirators as “the media, Fusion GPS, Democratic Party leaders in Congress, the Clinton campaign, and partisan intelligence leaders.”
After the “declas” and “OIG” comes the last two vague stages of Q 2.0: “truth” and justice.” Who knows what that means. The guillotine? Jail? Locking her up? Some mean tweets? Who’s to say. My point is that, for the most part, QAnon is now almost completely aligned with mainstream Republican grievance politics. The general sequence of events is the same. Now that Mueller’s job is done, the Department of Justice can investigate the real issue, which I guess is the allegation that Democrats colluded with the intelligence community/deep state and the media to prevent Trump from taking office. Q believers will apparently do anything to keep the dream alive, even if that means tweaking their thinking to better align with mainstream right-wing consensus and processes already in motion.