From Drew Harwell and Craig Timberg's 11-10-20 WASHINGTON POST article entitled "‘My Faith Is Shaken’: The QAnon Conspiracy Theory Faces a Post-Trump Identity Crisis":
President Trump’s election loss and the week-long silence of “Q,” the QAnon movement’s mysterious prophet, have wrenched some believers into a crisis of faith, with factions voicing unease about their future or rallying others to stay calm and “trust the plan.”
The uncertainty has been compounded by the abrupt public resignation, also last Tuesday, of Ron Watkins, the administrator of Q’s online sanctuary on the message board 8kun.
Q has gone quiet before. But the abrupt lack of posts since last Tuesday — Election Day, which the anonymous figure had touted for months as a key moment of reckoning — has sparked speculation and alarm among the movement’s most ardent followers.
Some QAnon proponents have begun to publicly grapple with reality and question whether the conspiracy theory is a hoax. “Have we all been conned?” one user wrote Saturday on 8kun.
Wrote another: “HOW CAN I SPEAK TO Q???? MY FAITH IS SHAKEN. I FOLLOWED THE PLAN. TRUMP LOST!!!!!!!!!!! WHAT NOW?????? WHERE IS THE PLAN???”
Trump’s defeat threatens to undermine the tale that Q, a supposed top-secret government operative, has woven over years: that Trump and his allies would soon vanquish a cabal of “deep state” child abusers and Satan-worshiping Democrats, exiling some to the U.S. detention facility in Guantánamo Bay, Cuba.
QAnon believers treat Q’s thousands of cryptic posts as scripture, and many stretch to connect them to real-world events, often in nonsensical ways. Some prominent Q believers said Trump’s back-to-back golf outings over the weekend were proof that the president was in control and that all was going according to plan.
Others connected Rudolph W. Giuliani’s bizarre Saturday news conference at Four Seasons Total Landscaping, on an industrial block in Philadelphia between a crematorium and an adult-video store, with two Q posts in the past year in which he used the words “landscape.”
One QAnon account, known as Praying Medic, told its more than 400,000 Twitter followers that many supporters “had to be talked off the ledge” in the past week but that Trump’s strategy remained in motion. Praying Medic tweeted: “He’s going to stick the knife in and twist it. He has no plans to leave office. Ever.”
Travis View, a researcher and co-host of the podcast “QAnon Anonymous,” said he expects that whoever is behind the Q “drops” — as Q’s messages are known — is just waiting to see how things shake out. Q has disappeared for weeks at a time before, shaking some loyalists, including during a three-month absence last year following a public revolt over the message board’s ties to real-world terrorist attacks.
In the meantime, QAnon’s devoted fan base has been left to struggle with the meaning of Trump’s election loss — which many argue was actually a win.
“The majority reaction from QAnon followers has been outright denial,” View said. Many expect Trump will seal his reelection through his team’s so-far-unsuccessful legal skirmishes, and “if that doesn’t happen and Joe Biden is inaugurated on Jan. 20, the cognitive dissonance will be absolutely as big as it’s ever been for QAnon followers.” [...]
Rita Katz, the executive director of SITE Intelligence Group, which monitors online extremism, said she expects the QAnon following will continue to grow online, regardless of who created or operated its presence online.
“It’s a dangerous network. It’s a dangerous movement that truly believes that Biden and other Democrats are killing kids,” Katz said. “And now, with Biden’s projected victory, the QAnon movement believes with the same zealous certainty that the whole thing is a sham. And that’s a major problem, because … these aren’t a bunch of harmless keyboard warriors — they’re adherents of a movement that has resulted in real-life violence.”
The FBI said last year that QAnon and other “conspiracy theory-driven domestic extremists” represented a major terrorism threat. Its supporters have been linked to kidnapping plots and violent threats, including in 2018, when an armed man in Arizona barricaded a bridge at the Hoover Dam with an armored truck.
QAnon followers have more recently pushed one another to keep the faith. On the far-right message board Gab, one user reposted a Q drop from June: “These are the times that try men’s souls.”
For some core QAnon believers, who call themselves “digital soldiers,” the election seemed to fuel new calls for violent action in the real world.