For QAnon followers, Wednesday, January 20, is the day when everything will finally fall into place.
They believe that Joe Biden won’t be inaugurated. They believe Donald Trump will retain power. They believe there will be a blackout across the United States. They believe martial law will be declared and “the storm” will finally arrive with mass arrests exposing the “deep state” pedophiles and their cannibalistic child sex trafficking ring.
They believe all this, despite years of failed prophecy, wildly inaccurate predictions, and Trump’s overwhelming defeat in November’s presidential election.
Of course, none of these things will actually happen on Wednesday—and that is possibly the most worrying thing of all.
While Biden’s inauguration on Wednesday will be the final straw for some QAnon followers, experts who’ve tracked this movement from its inception say that a fractured QAnon community, banned from mainstream platforms and driven to obscure corners of the internet, is not going away, and could turn even more violent.
“My main concern is that one of the stronger factions is going to be a faction of what are essentially sovereign citizens—the narrative that the election was really won is not going anywhere,” Fredrick Brennan, who is the former owner of the 8chan message board and now campaigns to expose those behind QAnon, told VICE News.
“There's no way for these people to continue in the world believing that the ‘deep state’ has taken over the government and that they need to win back the Republic other than by killing Democrats,” Brennan added.
QAnon supporters have already shown their proclivity for violence when they played a central role in the deadly insurrection at the Capitol on Jan. 6, and Brennan’s prediction that QAnon will become more violent in the wake of Biden’s inauguration is in keeping with a trend seen online in the days since the Capitol attack.
Since Twitter purged over 70,000 QAnon accounts earlier this month, and Parler was de-platformed, QAnon followers have found new homes on networks like Clouthub, Telegram, and Gab.
But this move to darker corners of the internet has resulted in some more extreme groups trying to radicalize these people.
“In white supremacist and neo-Nazi Telegram groups, discussions have centered around strategies to infiltrate pro-Trump chats and ‘red pill’ what they have termed as ‘Parler refugees’ with carefully constructed narratives and propaganda,” Meili Criezis, who studies white supremacist radicalization at the Global Network on Extremism & Technology, wrote in a recent report.
Looking through the popular QAnon channels and groups on Gab and Parler on Tuesday shows that while some believers are beginning to question the conspiracy theory’s wild claims, most followers are “holding the line” and “trusting the plan” that Trump will prevail and Biden’s inauguration won’t happen.
Many followers shared a variation on the theory that Biden has already been arrested or killed and that a body double or a CGI version of Biden will be speaking in Washington, D.C. on Wednesday.
Their trust appeared to pay off when a Telegram channel appearing to belong to General John Hyten, Vice Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, began touting QAnon conspiracies, claiming that “nothing can stop what is coming” and “THE TRUTH WILL SHOCK THE WORLD.”
The account was fake and was ultimately deleted, but not before over 220,000 people subscribed.
But there are some people who have finally realized that they may have been duped all along:
While QAnon followers have flooded Telegram and Gab with posts and updates in recent days, there is one voice who has been conspicuously absent: Q.
The anonymous person or group that posts as the movement’s leader has not posted an update since Dec. 8, and they have only posted four messages in total since Trump lost the election.
The resulting power vacuum will create an opportunity for the influencers and grifters who have come to dominate the QAnon landscape in the last 12 months.
“Q is pretty rudderless at the moment without Q's drops to guide it, and when Q goes quiet, the big influencers tend to take over the direction the movement goes in,” Mike Rothschild, who is writing a book about QAnon’s impact on people’s live, told VICE News.
“Most are too busy right now holding on to hope about Trump pulling a royal flush at the last second, but once that's gone, the power vacuum will be very real—and followers will need someone to guide them into Q's next direction.”
But whatever happens on Wednesday, the one thing for sure is that QAnon is not going to disappear.
“[Biden’s inauguration] will be a devastating blow to what the narrative is now but it will not end the movement,” Mike Rains, a Massachusetts-based QAnon researcher, told VICE News.
“Some people will find a need to fight on against the Deep State and they’ll start looking for new heroes and new means by which to engage them.”