`Where We Go One, We Go All’: The Philosophy of QAnon


Matt Rourke

In Wilkes-Barre, PA, QAnon supporters gather outside a Donald Trump campaign rally in August 2018.

When thinking of outrageous conspiracy theories, what comes to mind? Is the earth flat? Was the Holocaust a hoax? Did the CIA kill John F. Kennedy? Over the past five years, a movement that has had the most impact on the conspiracy world is the anonymous, zany, and often dangerous QAnon.

“QAnon started the year after the 2016 election with the posts on 4chan, which is an imageboard. Everything it has ever said is probably false,” said Upper School history teacher Dr. Matthew June.

For example, one of the main arguments of the movement is that Donald Trump won the 2020 election. The Electoral College would certainly disagree.

QAnon’s radical ideas are shocking to many. “It’s probably the craziest thing to happen in the mainstream world of politics since Watergate,” said Maeve Healy, senior and Co-Editor-in-Chief of Discourses.

Senior co-head of the White Identities and Anti-Racism affinity Freddi Mitchell agreed. “It is bananas. It is literally just bananas.”

Rutgers University Professor of Journalism and Media Studies Jack Bratich, a QAnon expert, said, “The core element that holds the movement together is a belief in a global cabal or deep state that is evil and has corrupted politics. They are also all Trump followers, as they see him as a savior, often an agent of God, that is going to eliminate evil. Some of the more outlandish theories are shared by some, but I believe there isn’t a single QAnon supporter who isn’t also a MAGA [Make America Great Again] movement believer.”

The crusade started out with the pizzagate theory. The speculation falsely claimed that the Comet Ping Pong pizza restaurant in Washington D.C. had a child sex trafficking ring in its basement, organized by Hillary Clinton and her former campaign chair, John Podesta. After investigations, it was reported that there was no child sex trafficking ring, and that the restaurant does not even have a basement. Following the claims, a gunman stormed inside demanding justice for the children.

According to Dr. June, one of the QAnon theorists’ pizzagate claims stated, “Democrats and Hollywood elites eat babies.” In addition to being part of the QAnon hypothesis, eating babies, or blood libels, has dated back to accusations against the Jewish people since the 1800s. This premise contributes to the many anti-Semitic beliefs that QAnon believers relish.

“From what I have seen, [QAnon] seems to be directed at Jews and Jewish organizations. For example, the Rothschild conspiracy theories,” said junior Naomi Altman who is a co-head of the Jewish Student Connections club at Latin.

The Rothschilds were a wealthy Jewish, family in the 19th century. As a form of anti-Semitism, people began to claim that they were in control of global finances. “The Rothschilds control the wealth, they plan wars, and they are the root cause of a lot of problems, which is not true, but it is what is being spread,” said Naomi, adding that, “Globalist is often used as a code word for Jew or Jewish person.” The use of the word globalist suggests that Jewish people are only concerned about their well-being and their money.

Another longtime conspiracy adopted by QAnon is the denial of the Holocaust. This year in honor of Yom HaShoah, or Holocaust remembrance day, the Latin Upper School had the privilege to host a Holocaust survivor, Eva Paddock, to speak about her experiences during World War II. Ms. Paddock offered the community another reminder of how real the Holocaust was, and how relevant it still is today. Naomi emphasized this point, saying, “It is something that is very important to me: That the Holocaust isn’t forgotten, distorted or lied about.”

QAnon first began posting after former President Donald Trump’s inauguration in 2017. Supporters of the movement believe that their leader, Q, is a secret government insider with access to unreleased information. The first post, or Q Drop, stated that Hillary Clinton was about to be arrested for her participation in the pizzagate scandal. Clinton was never arrested. Followers also believed that Donald Trump was sent to protect children from the Democrats.

“I just think there is really big hypocrisy in QAnon,” said Freddi. “They support Trump, who has been accused of sexual violence with women, but they see him as this godlike figure.”

The majority of Q drops were written in code. For example, a drop on October 7, 2020, said, “Joe 30330 Arbitrary? What is 2020, current year, divided by 30330? Symbolism will be their downfall. Q.” Many supporters would spend their days reloading Q’s 8chan page, a website Q used, waiting for a post then would immediately begin filming videos analyzing and decoding Q’s messages. They dubbed themselves “Qtubers.” Additionally, followers adopted the slogan, “Where We Go One, We Go All,” as a part of their lifestyle. They wear shirts, carry flags, and ironically, have masks with the slogan.

Trump is the main politician QAnon believers support and worship. The movement began during his presidency, and posts slowed down after he lost the 2020 election. “These little movements in cults, they might go underground for a while if their leader isn’t in power,” said Maeve. “I don’t think it is ever going to go away, which is pretty scary to me.”

In the past, Trump has been known to back up the groups that support him. “Trump’s rantings about the deep state certainly fueled QAnon,” said Professor Bratich. “He never delivered the clear message or announcement that he supported QAnon or about ‘the Storm’ that the followers were looking for. But he didn’t denounce or distance himself from the movement either, which allowed them to think that Trump was being a masterful communicator.”

Initially, Q drops were posted on 4chan, an anonymous imageboard website. However, in 2018, after Q suspected that the board they were using was being hacked, they switched to a similar website, 8chan. While the two websites are practically interchangeable, there is one difference. On 8chan you can create your own board, whereas on 4chan, you need the permission of the website administrator. 8chan was notorious for its seemingly unmonitored content. After the El Paso shooting, Christchurch shooting, and Poway shootings were all live streamed onto the site, it was removed from the surface web.

Recently, HBO premeried a documentary entitled Q: Into the Storm, a project that was three years in the making. The filmmaker has a list of suspects he believes to be Q and narrows it down to father and son 8chan owners in the end, Jim and Ron Watkins. Throughout the documentary, all of the accused are male-identifying people.

“Personally, I tend to assume that somebody like QAnon would be male or male identifying,” said Maeve. “I believe that the computer world and the tech world is particularly dominated by men. As for how it sort of influences societal views on women, I think that that is in the hands of Q. Most of what Q says makes no sense to me.”

Professor Bratich agreed, saying, “QAnon definitely has conventional gender roles in its belief system. Speculations on who Q is could be part of that gender ideology, though I think it has to do more with the fact that Q posted on male-heavy platforms like 4chan and 8chan, as well as the fact that Trump’s insiders (of which Q is allegedly one) are mostly men.”

There has not been a Q drop since December 8 of last year. After Trump lost the election, QAnon supporters fought back, claiming the election was rigged, but ultimately they lost the battle. During President Biden’s term thus far, there have not been any new QAnon moves, but the misleading information that Q spread will follow Americans for years to come.

“I think that it is still going to be a thing during Biden’s presidency. What is really going on to stop it? Clearly, QAnon can transform into a violent movement,” said Freddi. “What is going to stop misinformation when they have a Democratic president who they hate?”

Dr. June said, “In terms of the election, I think that is going to be the most lasting effect. Q as a person and a poster from what I understand has essentially gone away since the inauguration. Ultimately Q’s last big movement was that this election was stolen.”

“Many former QAnon followers are still actively seeking ways to mobilize, whether it’s local level politics or preparing for civil war. Plenty are continuing anti-vaccine campaigning,” said Professor Bratich.

There have been inquiries about whether or not President Biden will address or take steps to disprove QAnon. However, the government cannot ban a movement because it would also bring religious groups into question. For example, in 1976, neo-Nazis were marching around Skokie with visual propaganda and chants. At the time, 57.86 percent of Skokie’s population was Jewish, many of whom were Holocaust survivors. Cook County representatives, as well as the mayor of Skokie at the time, Albert Smith, spoke in court explaining it could lead to violence. Conclusively, as long as protests remained peaceful, the Nazis were allowed to exercise their First Amendment rights.

In the political climate of 2021, confirmation bias has become a phenomenon. The news is filtered to what the viewer wants to see. “I feel like the people who already believe in it are already lost causes,” said Freddi. “How do you get out of it? How do we teach people not to believe in it in the first place? That is not going to happen. That is the people who watch Fox News, and Fox News is never going to do a segment on how terrible QAnon is.”

While Q is currently inactive, nobody knows what the future holds for the movement. “What lives on is the core idea that there is a deep evil in the U.S. government and that what is needed is to restore a mythic past,” said Professor Bratich. “This is rooted in a white Christian nationalism that I think will continue to grow.”