QAnon enters new period of danger, opportunity

Former President Trump’s exit from office marks a new period for QAnon, and a new opportunity for those interested in stifling it.

Many of the conspiracy theory’s followers were disillusioned Wednesday when President Biden was sworn in without incident.

QAnon forums, chat rooms and message boards briefly went into disarray, as influential figures within the community had been pushing the story that Trump would interrupt the inauguration to imprison and execute his political opponents in the “Great Awakening.”

Although the prediction was by no means the first to miss the mark, some QAnon supporters were notably thrown by the news and began questioning whether they have been tricked.

This presents a window to get some members out of the community and reconnect them with their family and friends, according to experts on conspiracy theory groups.

Steven Hassan, an expert on drawing people away from cults, told The Hill that the best way to reach out to people lost to QAnon is to start simple, emphasizing empathy and kindness.

“Reach out to family and friends who have been in the Trump world, including QAnon, and start by just saying ‘Hi, how are you, I miss you,' ” he said. “Try to manage your own reactions so you don't get triggered and get angry and say hurtful things.”

Quashing the unsubstantiated theory, which posits that Trump is working to expose a shadowy group of Democratic elites that run vast child trafficking rings, will take a lot of effort, experts told The Hill.

And experts warn that the conspiracy theory is unlikely to just disappear. In fact, such theories often have staying power. And in a worrying development, some influencers in the movements had already begun this week to spin Biden’s inauguration into a success.

Many online spaces erupted with posts claiming the inauguration was all part of the plan, with explanations ranging from Biden’s oath being fake to the United States not being a real country anymore.

QAnon groups on more fringe platforms like Telegram have grown since the inauguration, Rolling Stone reported Friday, raising concerns among extremism researchers that the community is being targeted by more dangerous far-right groups.

QAnon has isolated thousands of Americans. On one subreddit, r/QAnonCasualties, family members have shared hundreds of painful stories about how the conspiracy theory has destroyed their relationships with those who have been sucked into it.

Followers of the conspiracy frequently say it has cost them personal ties and emotional damage.

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