Followers of the extremist ideology QAnon saw their hopes once again dashed Wednesday as President Trump left Washington on the final day of his presidency, without any of the climactic scenes of violence and salvation that the sprawling set of conspiracy theories had preached for years would come.
As Trump boarded Air Force One for his last presidential flight to Florida, many QAnon adherents — some of whose fellow believers had earlier this month stormed the Capitol in a siege that left at least two QAnon devotees dead and others in jail — began to wonder whether they’d been duped all along.
When one QAnon channel on the chat app Telegram posted a new theory that suggested Biden himself was “part of the plan,” a number of followers shifted into open rebellion: “This will never happen.” “Just stfu already!” “It’s over. It is sadly, sadly over.” “What a fraud!”
But while some QAnon disciples gave way to doubt, others doubled down on blind belief or strained to see new coded messages in the Inauguration Day’s events. Some followers noted that 17 flags — Q being the 17th letter of the alphabet — flew on the stage as Trump delivered a farewell address.
“17 flags! come on now this is getting insane,” said one post on a QAnon forum devoted to the “Great Awakening,” the quasi-biblical name for QAnon’s utopian end times. “I don’t know how many signs has to be given to us before we ‘trust the plan,’” one commenter said.
One QAnon channel on Telegram with 40,000 subscribers noted that the last sentence of Eric Trump’s farewell tweet — “ … the best is yet to come!” — was also a common slogan for QAnon adherents, failing to mention that the phrase is a commonly used cliche. Another QAnon channel with 35,000 Telegram subscribers, devoted to the “Great Awakening,” highlighted Trump’s final remarks as president: “We will be back in some form — Have a good life. We will see you soon.”
“It simply doesn’t make sense that we all got played,” one QAnon channel on Telegram said.
Some of the most notable figures in QAnon’s online universe said they were having a change of heart. After Biden’s inauguration, Ron Watkins — the longtime administrator of QAnon’s online home, 8kun, who critics have suspected may have helped write Q’s posts himself, a charge he denies — said on Telegram that it was time to move on.
“We need to keep our chins up and go back to our lives as best we are able,” said Watkins, who in recent months had become one of the loudest backers of conspiracy theories suggesting Biden’s win was a fraud.
“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,” Watkins added. “As we enter into the next administration please remember all the friends and happy memories we made together over the past few years.”