‘QAnon Shaman’ Jacob Chansley attended the Capitol riots (Picture: Getty)
In the last few years, the US has seen a growing rise in the number of QAnon supporters, who revolve their belief around a completely unfounded conspiracy.
The group rose to prominence during the Capitol riots in January 2021, where many of those who stormed the government building branded ‘Q’ flags and several known QAnon activists were spotted.
The conspiracy theory will now be looked at in greater detail by Channel 4, for its documentary ‘The Cult of Conspiracy: QAnon’.
So, what do the activists support and what is the beliefs of those who are involved in the movement? Here is an explanation of all things QAnon.
What is QAnon?
QAnon is the umbrella term given to a string of conspiracies which has gained traction in right-leaning political activists in the US.
Supporters generally believe President Trump waged a secret war on an elite Satan-worshipping paedophile cabal in government, business and the media.
Those who they believe to be among the Satan-worshipping paedophiles are former presidential candidate Hillary Clinton, the wealthy Rothschild family and billionaire George Soros.
Others who have been accused by QAnon of being involved in the Satan cabal include Barack Obama, Oprah Winfrey and Tom Hanks.
The supporters had made many inaccurate predictions, including that President Trump would have Ms Clinton arrested and Biden’s inauguration would not go ahead.
According to QAnon lore, former President Donald J. Trump was recruited by top military generals to run for president in 2016 to break up this criminal conspiracy and bring its members to justice.
The theories go so far as to suggest Ms Clinton will be executed, while others would be tortured in Guantanamo Bay on their day of reckoning.
While prominence of the group has declined since Trump’s defeat in the 2020 presidential elections, the online presence of the conspiracy theorists has led to false narratives about Black Lives Matter, Covid-19 and the US government.
In December 2020, a poll by NPR and IPSOS found 17 percent of Americans believed there was a Satanic peadophil ring operating among the US elite.
The FBI had suggested those who share extreme beliefs, which are completely unfounded, on social media could be found guilty of domestic terrorism.
Where did QAnon start?
QAnon was started by an anonymous post on web forum 4chan, in October 2017.
The poster signed off as ‘Q’, and claimed to have a level of US security approval known as "Q clearance".
It has since emerged that no one person is the anonymous Q, though the use of sites 4chan and 8chan mean the people responsible have largely gone undetected.
According to a Reuters report, Russian-backed Twitter accounts played a role in propagating QAnon claims as early as November 2017.
Throughout 2018 and 2019, sites were set up which shared over 5,000 cryptic messaged by the anonymous account.
The coded posts have been called ‘Q drops’, and social media has largely been used to spread the wide ranging conspiracy theories which have evolved from the central ‘paedophile ring’ belief.
Who is ‘QAnon Shaman’?
‘QAnon Shaman’ is a name which US right-wing activist Jacob Chansley used to refer to himself, during the time in which he was involved in storming the Capitol building.
The prominent conspiracy theory supporter was pictured wearing horns and a bearskin headdress, with a US flag painted on his face during the January 6 riots.
He has since been sentenced to 41 months in prison for his involvement in the riots, one of the longest sentences handed out to those involved.
On November 17, he was sentenced after he told the FBI when arrested on the day of the riots that he had come to Washington DC "at the request of the president" that all "patriots" come to the city.
During his trial, Chansley likened himself to Ghani, pleading with the court that he hoped to "evolve" and was "wrong for entering the Capitol".
"I have no excuse," he said, adding that he had asked himself "what would Jesus do?"
"What if we all judge Gandhi based on that he beat his wife before his spiritual awakening?” he said.
Chansley now claims to have disavowed Mr Trump and QAnon.
In September, his attorney told the court that his client was "non-violent, peaceful and possessed of genuine mental health issues".
Other prominent supporters have also distanced themselves from the group.
On the day of Biden’s inauguration, Ron Watkins, a former site administrator for 8chan and a de facto leader among QAnon adherents, suggested it was time to "go back to our lives as best we are able.”
What has President Trump said about the movement?
The former US president has been linked to several Twitter accounts which tout QAnon propaganda.
As early as 2017, he was retweeting comments about QAnon beliefs and support, and has done little to denounce the movement.
On August 19, 2020, Trump told a press conference: "I don’t know much about the movement, other than I understand they like me very much, which I appreciate.
“But I don’t know much about the movement."
He has also insisted that supporters of the movement are "people who love our country,” and suggested their main message was that they are against paedophilia.
When asked by an NBC reporter if the belief that he is "is secretly saving the world from this satanic cult of pedophiles and cannibals", was accurate, he responded: "Well, I haven’t heard that, but is that supposed to be a bad thing or a good thing?"
In October 2020, less than three months before the Capitol riots and during the height of the presidential election, he also told a reporter who asserted the ‘Satanic cult’ claims were untrue, "I don’t know that. And neither do you know that."
When is the Channel 4 documentary on TV?
The Cult of Conspiracy: QAnon airs on Channel 4 at 9pm on Tuesday 7 November.
It will be available on All4 shortly after broadcast.