- Stephanie Hegarty
- BBC World Service
A year ago, on January 6, 2021, supporters of then-US President Donald Trump stormed the Capitol in Washington.
Many of them were believers in the conspiracy theory QAnon, who viewed Trump as the hero who would defeat the Satan-worshiping global elites.
In spite of lack of evidence and the fact that QAnon’s predictions have not come true, millions of Americans continue to believe in these macabre stories.
It was an idyllic afternoon on the long beach that laps the California coast. A school of dolphins meandered past, and families ate sandwiches on the sand as they went in and out of the water.
He had come here to meet Kim, who had gotten out of her car for a walk with her giant poodle, Travis, restless after two hours in Los Angeles traffic.
Kim has blonde hair and a warm smile. She used to be a professional boxer but took a dog grooming course after lose an eye being attacked by a stalker.
Travis, a graceful pet, is his best friend, guide, and model. Today her hair was trimmed in a mohawk style, dyed purple, along her back.
As we walk along the beach, Kim and I mostly talk about dogs and breeds. Then Kim stops abruptly in front of a garbage can.
“Look,” he said, pointing wildly with one hand and tugging on Travis’s leash with the other, “they put him in our faces.”
It was a cartoon of children playing in the sand asking people not to litter.
By “they” he refers to the so-called global clique that QAnon’s followers say they control our politics, our media and carry out all kinds of heinous crimessuch as trafficking in children for satanic rituals.
Kim Carpentier is a strong supporter of this theory.
That global clique puts up posters everywhere, Kim says, like the one he just saw on the garbage can.
One year after the assault on the Capitol
I was in the United States investigating where the QAnon conspiracy is now, a year after it was part of the attack on the Capitol.
In 2017, self-described Qs began posting anonymous messages with clues about this conspiracy.
Q claimed to have high-level security clearance in the United States government and internal clue about the fight of a small number of military and intelligence officers against the elite.
Donald Trump, according to Q, was at the center of this fight against evil. No one knows for sure who Q is, or if it was a joke or experiment.
Of what there is no doubt is that millions of people have been captivated for this message.
A poll by the Ipsos Mori organization, to which the BBC had exclusive access, found that 7% of Americans believe that an elite group of Satan-worshipers running a child sex ring is trying to control the politics and media of the United States. country communication.
The percentage of believers in this theory has decreased from last year. So a similar poll put it at 17%.
Yet nearly one in three Americans say they don’t know whether it’s true or not.
“Many people were supposed to be arrested”
In 2020 I reported on the rapid rise of QAnon during the pandemic. Back then I met Nick Nittoli, a longtime hip-hop musician and producer and a longtime conspiracy theorist.
QAnon was just the latest conspiracy he had tackled. Told me that believed the pandemic was a hoax and that it was a plot by the elite to control us.
When I traveled to the United States last November I met Nick again and it seemed that something had changed.
“A lot of people were supposed to be arrested and that didn’t happen,” he told me.
Nick also caught covid when he was invited to a conspiratorial podcast. He passed it on to his girlfriend and they both got pretty sick. Although they recovered, he was frightened. Now he regrets saying that the pandemic was not real.
But although he hesitates, Nick does not abandon the QAnon conspiracy.
The battle of the homeless
From the outside it is difficult to understand. I have joined various QAnon online groups and seen much of the so-called evidence of this alleged conspiracy.
After being banned on various social networks, they now share their content on less massive forums such as Telegram, Gab or Bitchute.
I have received hundreds of messages from people with these “evidences”, but to me I don’t find them convincing at all.
One of the videos Kim sent me before our meeting looked like a trailer for a cheesy Hollywood movie. He claimed that the ship stuck in the Suez Canal was intentionally placed there to rescue trafficked children on board.
But why does Kim find all of this so real? Like many of QAnon’s followers, Kim is smart. When I was a child, people often said that I was a deep thinker.
But when Kim talks about QAnon walks in is a state that is difficult to describe. It’s a kind of tirade where your thoughts rarely end before jumping to the next one.
She seems desperate to get her words out before they interrupt her. It is something that I have noticed with many of the QAnon fans that I have spoken with.
I also ran into Rachel Bernstein, a marriage and family therapist in Los Angeles, who has been dealing with many cases involving QAnon.
He has seen families caught up in the conspiracy and also people trying to escape from it.
He considers them intelligent and thoughtful, but with complex inferiority. As if they desperately need to prove how smart they are and that they are part of something great.
This suited Kim. “I was a weird girl,” she told me.
It seemed to me that she is used to being the underdog. He’s been through a lot of trauma: the attack in which he lost his eye, for example, and how he witnessed two murders.
QAnon is the last battle of the helpless. For Kim, it is not paranoia, but the hope that good will triumph over evil.
But towards the end of our conversation he said something disturbing. “We are taking back our country, I am ready to take to the streets. I can’t wait to fight.”
I immediately remembered another QAnon fan I spoke to. Let’s say her name is Lisa.
He has 10 children and 13 grandchildren in Kentucky. In one of our many telephone conversations, she told me that some friends of hers were arming themselves like never before because “we are at war.”
I wasn’t sure if he was just talking or was serious. But what was clear was the power that conspiracy theory has over these people.
When he talks about what will happen to the elite, Kim’s words are dark, almost threatening. But at the same time she is loving and kind.
“When the war is over, it will be like the Nuremberg trials, they will come for the mainstream media“, he tells me, while we watch the sunset before the sea.
“That’s me,” I remind him.
“No, you are just a baby. You only work for them. When they come for you, I will defend you,” he tells me.
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Eddie is an Australian news reporter with over 9 years in the industry and has published on Forbes and tech crunch.