Inside QAnon, the Conspiracy Cult that’s Devouring America

A fast-growing group of celebrity-crazed conspiracy theorists believes JFK Jr. is alive, Adam Schiff runs a sex ring on the Sunset Strip, and Donald Trump is God—and it’s more influential than you think

Late last June, a visitor scrolling through the Wayfair website noticed something curious. Several ordinary-looking cabinets featured there were listed at rather lofty prices tags. Further examination revealed that the cabinets—and other seemingly price-inflated products—bore the names of girls such as Samiyah and Yaritza. In an ordinary world, such a discovery would not be remarkable: Ikea and other furniture retailers routinely name their products after women, the price for a professional steel cabinet can be surprisingly steep, and it turned out that a computer glitch had caused an incorrect price to be assigned to a Wayfair pillow.

But this is no ordinary time and that was no ordinary visitor. She was Amazing Polly, an influencer with QAnon—the cultish conspiracy movement obsessed with global elites and pedophilia that has boomed in the past two years. “My spidey senses are tingling,” Polly posted on Twitter. “What’s with these ‘storage cabinets?’” The post seemed to languish before resurfacing as a bizarre question in an obscure Reddit chat room devoted to conspiracy theories: Was Wayfair trafficking children in overpriced cabinets? Seven days later, the multi-billion-dollar retail giant found itself at the center of a global conspiracy theory that claimed the company was running a massive child-sex-trafficking ring.

With the aid of thousands of self-styled “investigators,” speculation spread so hysterically on social media that scores of national news reporters investigated, and a national human-trafficking hotline operated by Polaris since 2007 was flooded with hundreds of calls, diverting resources from callers actually in need. Wayfair issued a statement denying it was a front for a human-trafficking ring, but believers dug in their heels, turning on Wayfair’s founder and his wife, embroidering new and ever more fantastic charges. Meanwhile, social-media influencers posted memes that matched the names of Wayfair products with those of girls listed in old missing-persons reports. Three days after the initial Reddit post, the Wayfair conspiracy theory had been mentioned on Twitter over 1.2 million times from 564,000 user accounts. One of the girls who was allegedly trafficked inside a Wayfair cabinet, Samiyah Mumin, posted a video on Facebook in which she slammed conspiracy theorists for taking attention away from a real problem: “Y’all know how many people is actually missing?”

QAnon has become the most potent force in American politics that most Americans have never heard of.

It was the latest example of a modern phenomenon: politics and pedophilia and anonymous internet warriors descending suddenly on unsuspecting people and companies. Until recently, few knew much about QAnon. The right-wing conspiracy movement emerged in 2017 as a result of cryptic clues posted on the internet that portray a world in which Donald Trump works secretly to vanquish a coven of global elites, including top Democrats and Hollywood celebrities, who torture children, traffic them for sex, and even eat them. Flagged as a violent threat by the FBI, banned from Twitter and TikTok, and avidly courted by the Trump campaign, QAnon has become the most potent force in American politics that most Americans have never heard of. In a few short years, QAnon-associated accounts have metastasized on Facebook, Twitter, and TikTok at an unprecedented rate. The pandemic has further fueled its growth, uniting anti-vaxxers and COVID deniers with the Sandy Hook skeptics already part of QAnon’s growing coalition. That coalition apparently also includes everyone from Roseanne to porn queen Jenna Jameson to former National Security Advisor Mike Flynn. (The general, a QAnon icon, recently released a video of himself and his family earnestly reciting the QAnon pledge.)

There are thousands of groups and pages devoted to QAnon on Facebook, with millions of members and followers, according to an internal Facebook report leaked to Ari Sen and Brandy Zadrozny of NBC News. A popular Reddit group called the Qult Headquarters now offers support to the estranged families and friends of QAnon converts. The group, dedicated to debunking the conspiracy theory and deprogramming its devotees, has more than 24,000 members. Once a strictly American phenomenon, QAnon has gone global. There is evidence of QAnon presence in 71 countries and on every continent save for Antarctica, says Concordia University researcher Marc-André Argentino.

The group’s followers also include some mentally unbalanced people who have latched onto the QAnon ideology with a fervor that has broken into real life in dangerous ways. Defense lawyers for the man charged in the murder of the underboss of the Gambino crime family in New York City, say their client is obsessed with conspiracy theories and believed the mobster was a member of the “deep state.” (The same man had previously attempted to make citizen’s arrests of Schiff and Congresswoman Maxine Waters.) The landscaper arrested for igniting the 2018 wildfire that burned nearly 20,000 acres of Orange County and destroyed a dozen homes had posted dozens of conspiracy videos on his Facebook page, including some about a satanic cult that ruled the world and a mysterious U.S. intelligence insider who is working with Donald Trump to thwart it. A QAnon believer and self-identified member of the alt-right Proud Boys in Seattle killed his brother in January by stabbing him in the head with a four-foot-long sword, later claiming he thought his brother was a lizard. In June of last year, an armed man inspired by a QAnon post barricaded himself in an armed vehicle and blocked traffic on the Hoover Dam bridge for hours. He was demanding the Justice Department release a (nonexistent) secret report on Hillary Clinton’s use of a private email server that a QAnon influencer had claimed was being stashed at the dam.

Despite its outlandish allegations, the group has also become an increasingly influential player in GOP politics. Fourteen QAnon supporters are running for Congress in 2020; two, including Marjorie Taylor Greene of Georgia, a GOP candidate and avid conspiracy theorist with a history of making racist comments, seem poised to win. Despite early objections from a few party members, she has encountered little opposition from party leaders or the president. In fact Trump, who frequently retweets out QAnon conspiracy accounts, warmly congratulated the candidate on her victory. At this stage in its growth, QAnon “is driving conversation on the online right,” says Kevin Roose, the tech columnist for the New York Times. “Many of the stories that end up trending on Twitter or Facebook are there because QAnon found them and pushed them. It is a lot bigger and more influential than people realize.”

The basic premise of QAnon is this: “Q” is a top government insider close to the president who has proof that global elites secretly enslave and torture children and extract from their blood what they believe is a life-extending chemical named Adrenochrome. Q’s targets range from Democratic politicians like the Clintons, Adam Schiff, and the Obamas to globalist moguls like Bill Clinton and George Soros to celebrities like Tom Hanks and Chrissy Teigen. Trump and his military allies are working secretly to unmask all these evildoers and make sure that they are carted off to Guantánamo and hanged for their crimes. The enemies of QAnon are, in nearly every case, enemies of Trump, which experts say is no coincidence. “At the end of the day, this conspiracy theory is targeting the Democratic establishment,” says Cristina López G., who studies QAnon for the liberal research group Media Matters for America. “To believe Q requires rejecting mainstream institutions, ignoring government officials, battling apostates, and despising the press,” wrote journalist Adrienne LaFrance in The Atlantic. “One of Q’s favorite rallying cries is ‘You are the news now.’ Another is ‘Enjoy the show,’ a phrase that his disciples regard as a reference to a coming apocalypse: When the world as we know it comes to an end, everyone’s a spectator.”

The steady drip of accusations spurred an army of “digital soldiers” who wanted to be part of the Great Awakening, which they envisioned as the triumphant unmasking of the global cabal that has been suppressing American liberties since the assassination of JFK. (That event ushered in a new age of conspiratorial distrust of the government and the elite establishment that has grown ever since. Ironically, many Q supporters believe that JFK Jr. is alive and faked his death in a plane crash to bring the evil globalists to justice.)

Followers employ numerology and Illuminati symbols to decode the cryptic messages Q leaves on anonymous message boards; they believe that the malefactors advertise their misdeeds openly using codes and symbols, and that Trump secretly signals “proof” of the story’s legitimacy, like when a supporter asked Trump to use the phrase ‘tip top,’ which Trump later used at the 2018 White House Easter Egg Roll (standing beside a white Easter Bunny, no less).

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Screenshot from Facebook

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Rep. Eric Swalwell will face QAnon believer Alison Hayden in the 2020 election. Hayden endorses QAnon theories that Kamala Harris uses a body double and that the coronavirus pandemic was a “planned event.”

Getty Images

Alison Hayden, a QAnon believer running for California representative Eric Swalwell’s seat in Congress, told me she is optimistic QAnon will bring “cures for cancer” and halt “technologies of light and sound manipulation that make us crazy and angry.” For a political outsider and conspiracist, Hayden’s bona fides are fairly “establishment.” She was educated at UC Berkeley and the London School of Economics before working in global finance at Citibank and Charles Schwab & Co. and becoming a district-level Republican delegate.

Although QAnon is a national phenomenon, California—the birthplace of fantastical movements from Scientology to Satanic Panic—has proved to be an especially fertile breeding ground for the group. So it’s no surprise that of the 14 QAnon-identified congressional candidates on the November ballot, five are from California, a state that also figures prominently in QAnon lore. Hollywood is the stage for many of Q’s wildest allegations. No major group since the Church of Scientology has turned the American hunger for celebrity to greater advantage. But while Scientology opened celebrity centers to recruit stars like John Travolta and Tom Cruise, and used them as pitchmen for its much-maligned and equally bizarre belief system, QAnon does the opposite: it positions stars as deranged villains on whom believers can vent their personal hatreds. If Scientology is the cult of celebrity, QAnon is the cult of anti-celebrity. Says Will Sommer, a staff writer for the Daily Beast who has covered QAnon since it emerged from a trollish corner of the internet in 2017, “Q takes the classic idea of Hollywood as this decadent and depraved sort of Babylon and pushes it to the most baroque, exaggerated extreme.” Every celebrity who has died tragically, from chef Anthony Bourdain to Soundgarden lead singer Chris Cornell, was murdered, they aver, to prevent them from blowing the lid off the demonic cabal.


QAnon is the big-budget sequel to Pizzagate, the viral phenomenon rooted in a sinister reading of emails hacked from the personal account of Hillary Clinton’s campaign manager, John Podesta. When the FBI declared QAnon a domestic terrorism threat last year, the intelligence bulletin warned of members “claiming to act as ‘researchers’ or ‘investigators’ [who] single out people, businesses, or groups which they falsely accuse of being involved in the imagined scheme.” That’s what happened in 2016 after a self-declared FBI insider on 4chan declared that the phrase “cheese pizza” in the Clinton emails was a secret code for child pornography. Alex Jones hyped up that claim on Infowars, and helped spawn thousands of Pizzagate-supporting sites on the Internet, who identified the basement of a suburban D.C, pizza parlor as a primary hub of child-trafficking activity. In response, an enraged North Carolina warehouse worker named Edgar Maddison Welch drove 300 miles to the Washington pizzeria Comet Ping Pong and fired a military-style assault rifle inside, believing he was saving victims of child trafficking. As it turned out, there was no basement at the restaurant. “The intel on this wasn’t a hundred percent,” Welch later told the New York Times from jail.

QAnon co-opted the characters and storylines of Pizzagate the way a major Hollywood studio might co-opt a hit indie film, says Travis View, host of the podcast QAnon Anonymous. And though the Pizzagate conspiracy wilted for a time, the trollish “chan culture” of anonymous internet forums from which it emerged reinforced its generative premise: judgment is near for devil-worshipping elites who defile children. With QAnon, the stakes are raised and the saga gets an improbable hero: Donald Trump.

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Joe Raedle/Getty Images

It all started rather innocuously. During a White House dinner for military commanders on October 5, 2017, Trump made a mysterious comment that got conspiracy theorists talking. Gesturing to his guests, Trump said: “You guys know what this represents? Maybe it’s the calm before the storm.” He didn’t elaborate, but online his vague statement triggered a storm of online speculation. Then, on October 28, someone appeared on the anonymous image board 4chan claiming to be a Trump-supporting military or intelligence insider with “Q”-level clearance—a rare government security designation that allows access to top secret documents. “HRC extradition already in motion effective yesterday with several countries in case of cross border run,” begins the series of messages, which predicted the imminent arrest of Hillary Clinton. The prediction was wrong, of course. (They always are; it only encourages supporters to go back and reinterpret them.) But the notion that a super-secret government agent was feeding intelligence directly to the American public took off in the MAGA-sphere.

The design of image boards like 4chan, 8chan, and 8kun, which conceals the real names of users, greatly enhanced the mystique of the poster, now widely known as Q.

There is no way for social-media users to know who Q is. Whoever is posting as Q uses a password-protected account that produces a unique ID, visible to other users. This is how forum-goers can verify that the account posting “Q drops” is the same over time. Q was initially believed to be one person, but it is now accepted that multiple people, in cooperation, are posting using the pseudonym, says Harvard researcher Brian Friedberg. (In November 2017, a small-time YouTube video creator named Tracy Diaz banded together with two moderators from the 4chan website, Coleman Rogers and Paul Furber, to push QAnon onto mainstream platforms, according to Brandy Zadrozny and Ben Collins of NBC News. Rogers and his wife, Christina Urso, later launched the Patriots’ Soapbox, a round-the-clock live-streamed YouTube channel devoted to QAnon coverage which they use to call for donations that are accepted through PayPal, cryptocurrencies or mail. Recent guests on the show include GOP Congressional candidate and QAnon supporter Lauren Boebert, and Erin Perrine, director of press communications for Trump’s reelection campaign.)

Whoever it may be, Q today is the Dungeon Master of the internet’s eeriest role-playing game. “With QAnon, you have this person putting out these clues in an ongoing way, so there’s something to follow along with,” says Joseph Uscinski, a political scientist at the University of Miami and co-author of American Conspiracy Theories. “There’s an online sense of group belonging, with a chant and an oath. They feel like part of current events—what’s going on right now and in the future.” Tech researchers and journalists have likened QAnon to a massive multiplayer online game. “QAnon is popular partly because the act of ‘researching’ through obscure forums and videos and blog posts, though more time-consuming than watching TV, is actually more enjoyable because it’s an active process,” Adrian Hon, chief executive of the gaming company Six to Start and a designer of alternate reality games, said in a Twitter post.

When the pandemic brought radical changes to Alison Hayden’s daily life, the 60-year-old special-education teacher turned increasingly to QAnon to make sense of it all. “Just kind of popped up on YouTube” was how she described joining the Great Awakening. Today she is one of an estimated 14 candidates for U.S. Congress who identify with the movement that believes JFK Jr. is still alive, Hillary Clinton is on trial, and Justin Trudeau is going to be executed. (This conspiracy theory, which the FBI has deemed a violent inspiration to domestic extremists, has support from all 14 candidates, according to Media Matters.)

“It’s digital soldiers amalgamating information—you wouldn’t otherwise know about various topics that are swirling the internet with a conservative viewpoint that supports the president,” Hayden says. Asked for examples, she refers to claims that Senator Kamala Harris uses a body double, the coronavirus outbreak was a “planned event,” and the Chinese armed Black Lives Matter activists with AK-47s.

How anyone takes any of this seriously is a testament to the success of what former Harvard researcher Benjamin T. Decker, chief executive of a company that investigates online disinformation, calls “conspiracy entrepreneurs”—hucksters like Tracy Diaz and Coleman Rogers who make money pushing Q-content on Q-related podcasts, chat rooms, and YouTube channels. “It’s as much about the economy of the conspiracy as the conspiracy itself,” Decker says.

Where would QAnon be today had Roseanne Barr not given it a platform in 2018? Barr blew up ABC’s hit reboot of her show when she amplified QAnon in tweets glorifying Trump for supposedly having “broken up trafficking rings in high places everywhere.” Actor James Woods has retweeted baseless conspiracy theories linking Los Angeles congressman Adam Schiff to child-sex trafficking. Porn star Jenna Jameson, another QAnon believer, claimed that The Hunt, a satire about rich liberals who abduct right-wing deplorables and pick them off for sport, was real. In a social-media post, Jameson claimed she overheard a hunt for children being discussed at the Hotel du Cap in Cannes. “Yet you collaborated to defame the only man who is fighting against them,” one guy wrote back. To which Jameson replied, “I’m not Stormy, you imbecile.”

Keeping up with QAnon where Hollywood is concerned is an exercise in contradiction. Followers “tend to have a disdain for Hollywood, so much so that they think Hollywood is running satanic pedophile rings,” Uscinski says. “I’ve seen strains of this theory suggesting they turn child actors into shoes.” Yet quotes and ideas borrowed from Hollywood movies have become the basis of many QAnon’s most popular slogans and storylines, he points out.

The idea for “adrenochrome,” the supposed life-extending elixir that QAnon followers believe is extracted from the blood of children by the global elite, can be traced to the scene in Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas when Johnny Depp, as Hunter S. Thompson, hallucinates after supposedly ingesting the compound. (In real life, adrenochrome is a synthetic compound used to stanch bleeding.) Two of the most popular QAnon rallying cries, “The calm before the storm” and “Where we go one, we go all,” can be heard in the trailer for director Ridley Scott’s forgettable 1996 sailing drama, White Squall. (The top comment on a YouTube post for the trailer—“Thumbs up if Q sent you here”—has been liked 5,700 times.) The premise of The Matrix—that reality as we know it is a vast, artificially controlled simulation—resonates well with Q’s worldview, says Marc-André Argentino, a Ph.D. candidate at Concordia University who is writing a book about QAnon. “The Matrix’s blue-pill/red-pill scene is used to frame the choice to either be a part of the Great Awakening or to remain ‘asleep,’” Argentino writes in Religion Dispatches. (As top QAnon influencer Joe M. put it, “Everything is staged and you are watching a movie.”)

“Someone do a movie on these pathetic NUTCASES I beg you,” model Chrissy Teigen tweeted from deep inside an online “swarm” of QAnon followers in July. QAnon scours the social-media feeds of Hollywood stars like Teigen, Tom Hanks, and Oprah Winfrey, looking for clues that they are linked to the late sexual predator Jeffrey Epstein. “Finding me talking about toddlers and tiaras in 2013 and thinking you’re some sort of fucking operative,” Teigen wrote to one. At the peak of the barrage, the mother of two blocked more than a million user accounts and deleted 60,000 of her old tweets. Within days, Twitter permanently suspended 7,000 QAnon accounts on the platform, restricted 150,000 more, and banned Q-related terms from appearing in trending topics.

After Hanks contracted the coronavirus, a QAnon influencer and convicted bank robber named Tommy Gelati, who once co-hosted a Barstool Sports podcast with actor Michael Rapaport, began speculating that Hanks’s haircut proved that he was secretly hosting Saturday Night Live from prison. After a producer randomly appeared in a window on the set of The Ellen DeGeneres Show, QAnon influencers speculated that he was a police officer and that DeGeneres was under house arrest.

“Just got a phone call that my name is trending. And being trolled for some awful FAKE thing,” Oprah Winfrey tweeted on March 17, after a conspiracy theory embraced by the QAnon community claimed she was arrested in a global sex-trafficking ring. “It’s NOT TRUE. Haven’t been raided, or arrested. Just sanitizing and self-distancing with the rest of the world.” A Facebook post from June shared more than 32,000 times reads, “It’s crazy many ppl don’t know Oprahm on house arrest for Sex trafficking kids, as well as Ellen, Tom Hanks, Clinton’s.”

Also widely circulated is the “arrest/execution list,” which name-checks the entire cast of Friends as “arrested & waiting tribunal,” except for Courtney Cox, who is “arrested & under house arrest.” When celebrities posted videos of themselves from lockdown looking less than put together, QAnon gurus speculated about an “adrenochrome shortage” that was sapping their youthful energy. When Hanks contracted COVID-19, his name went on a list of presumed members of the sex-trafficking cabal, as did Lady Gaga’s, for advocating social distancing.

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Anthony Comello—with a QAnon symbol on his hand—is charged with murdering a mobster he claimed was part of a deep state conspiracy.

AP Images

There is a limit to how much harm a QAnon Twitter swarm can inflict on an A-list celebrity. But the situation was much more dangerous for a not-at-all-famous 33-year-old Los Angeles woman who was randomly and viciously targeted by QAnon last year. Her ordeal began when Q posted an old photo to 8chan showing her on a plane with Bill Clinton. “Epstein’s plane,” Q wrote with no proof. “Who is she? Follow friends. Friends lead to others. Open source.” Soon after, thousands of tweets popped up across the Internet, mentioning her name, address and phone number. With that, she was pursued around the clock like the final woman alive to confront the killer in a slasher film. Once someone is cast as a recurring character in the pro-Trump fan fiction of QAnon, the doxxing and threats may subside, but they never end. After the woman left Los Angeles and cut off all her social media, she still pops up regularly on QAnon lists of child abductors.

According to police, belief in QAnon has inspired at least ten violent incidents, including two murders, a kidnapping, vandalism of a church, and an armed standoff near the Hoover Dam. Lawyers for the man charged in the 2019 killing of a Gambino crime family underboss say their client, Anthony Comello, is obsessed with conspiracy theories and believed the victim, Francesco “Franky Boy” Cali, was a member of the “deep state.” (Comello previously attempted to make a citizen’s arrest of Adam Schiff and Maxine Waters.) At the Hoover Dam, a man using an armored car to block traffic held up a sign that read, “Release the OIG report,” referring to a “secret” Justice Department brief QAnon had led him to believe was stashed at the dam. (No such report existed.)


In an age where the president of the United States is a “birther” and has tweeted conspiracy theories or fringe content more than 145 times while in office, it is unsurprising that QAnon has a friend in the West Wing. Trump’s embrace of QAnon has grown tighter as his poll numbers have dropped. On the July 4th holiday, before Trump spoke to the nation from the White House lawn, he retweeted accounts linked to QAnon 14 times in one day. In August, the Washington Post noted an apparent convergence between Trump’s inner circle and an ever-widening cohort of QAnon believers. White House trade adviser Peter Navarro delighted Q followers in June when he wore a Q flag pin during an interview on Fox News. (“Wow!!!!!” rejoiced one follower on Twitter. “@PeterNavarro45 is wearing a flag pin with Q on it. I have one too.”) Trump’s first national security adviser, Michael Flynn, recorded a video of himself on July 4th in which he holds up his right hand and recites an oath associated with QAnon, including “Where we go one, we go all.” During an interview on Fox News with Trump’s middle son, Eric, when host Jesse Watters praised QAnon for having “uncovered a lot of great stuff,” Trump replied, “Yeah.” Meanwhile, recent ads from the Trump reelection campaign in Nevada and Arizona feature shots of Trump followers sporting QAnon gear, and the director of press communications for Trump’s reelection campaign, Erin Perrine, appeared as a guest on Patriots’ Soapbox 24/7, a YouTube call-in show devoted to coverage of QAnon.

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On a Fox News show hosted by Jesse Watters, Eric Trump agreed with Watters’s contention that QAnon has “uncovered a lot of great stuff.”

Screengrab from Fox News

This election season saw dozens of QAnon-identified candidates running for Congress around the country, all under the GOP banner. California is no newcomer to Q politics. Former San Juan Capistrano city councilwoman Pam Patterson made news with a farewell speech in 2018 in which she prayed for God to “bless Q.” When Mike Madrid was political director for the California Republican Party in the late 1990s, Pete Wilson was governor, and the main conspiracy theory was that Mexicans were trying to reconquer the southwestern United States. Los Angeles and San Francisco were the cities where the conservative movement was its weakest, and where the conspiracy freaks felt most at home. “It was a handful of fringe activists,” recalls Madrid, a longtime Republican who co-founded the Never Trump Lincoln Project. “Now they’re the nominees—they’re the candidates!”

On July 4, President Trump retweeted accounts linked to QAnon theory 14 times.

The Q-friendly congressional candidates running in California are either true believers or cynical self-promoters. In the first category is Hayden, who lives in the Bay Area city of Hayward. When a prominent QAnon influencer tweeted about a pro-choice New Zealand abortion law, claiming it legalizes “luciferian child sacrifice” and vouchsafed a supply of human fetal parts to the deep state, Hayden retweeted it. When someone posting as “Q Seeker” said on Twitter that his wife was leaving him over his belief in Q, Hayden advised him to keep the faith: “When it all comes out, your standing FIRM will establish your leadership in your family.”

Mike Cargile and Wendy Cruz, the Q-friendly congressional candidates in Southern California, are in the second category—marketing professionals who have paid lip service to QAnon in an attempt to boost their electability. “We’re likely to see it emerge as kind of a new Tea Party, a force within the conservative movement pushing politicians, even those who don’t believe in the secret signals of Q, to find it politically valuable to get on QAnon’s side,” says Roose.

According to a report by NBC News correspondents Brandy Zadrozny and Ben Collins, Cruz said that QAnon supporters have “legitimate concerns,” without elaborating what those were, adding that they deserve to be respected as a voting bloc. Cruz, who lives in Palm Springs, has a campaign banner hanging at the local Republican Party headquarters in La Quinta. Cargile’s Twitter bio includes #WWG1WGA, the hashtag for “Where we go one, we go all.” As Los Angeles reported in July, the California GOP quietly removed its endorsement of Cargile from its website after Media Matters revealed that his Facebook and Twitter pages were littered with the N-word and diatribes directed at Blacks, immigrants, Muslims, and the LGBTQ community. The Pomona resident also called the coronavirus a “scamdemic,” and stated that it is “nothing compared to the diseases and plagues headed this way via the rats and the homeless.”

Cargile’s opponent, Congresswoman Norma Torres, says supporters of the GOP challenger have made death threats against her online. “They’re people with extreme anti-government, anti-immigrant views,” says Torres, who emigrated to the U.S. from Guatemala as a child. Torres says she is troubled by the cloak of anonymity that shields QAnon followers. Not long after Ed Mullins, head of the second-largest NYPD union, gave an interview on Fox News with a QAnon mug in the background, Torres said, “What’s scary is, where do these people work? Could they be our classroom teachers, our police officers, our crime investigators?”

One former Republican official said the rise of QAnon seemed more pronounced because, in terms of registrations and influence, the party itself is in steep decline. “If QAnon is growing in influence, it’s because the party is shrinking and there are fewer rational voices to drown it out,” the ex-official said. (California GOP chairwoman Jessica Millan Patterson declined an interview request after learning that this story was about QAnon.)

Madrid calls QAnon “a parasite feeding off the decaying host of the Republican Party.” He adds that QAnon is an “amorphous glue” that cements what he describes as the “holy trinity of the MAGA coalition: white nationalists, gun fanatics, and conspiracy theorists.” The QAnon supporters running for Congress in California aren’t going to get elected. But Margorie Taylor Greene in Georgia and Lauren Boebert in Colorado, both identified with QAnon, won primaries in “safe” Republican districts, meaning the general election will be a cakewalk for them. (Boebert defeated a five-term congressman in Colorado’s Republican primary in June. In May, she told an interviewer “Everything I’ve heard of Q—I hope this is real. Because it only means America is getting stronger and better and people are returning to conservative values.” She has since denied she believes in QAnon.) Taylor Greene, a businesswoman and QAnon diehard, won the Republican nomination for Georgia’s 14th Congressional District earlier this month, despite hours of uncovered videos where she demeans Blacks, Muslims and Jews, and promotes a slew of conspiracy theories. Trump praised Taylor Greene after her victory was official, tweeting that she is a “future Republican Star” who was “strong on everything and never gives up — a real WINNER!”

Two Republican congressmen, Adam Kinzinger of Illinois and Denver Riggleman of Virginia, came forward on Sunday to disavow the movement and call on their colleagues to do the same. Critics say it is too little, too late.

“There’s going to be a QAnon caucus in the Republican Congress in 2020,” Madrid says. “Count on it.”

RELATED: A QAnon Supporter with History of Racist Social Media Posts Is Running for Congress in L.A. County

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