President Trump’s defeat and the week-long disappearance of its anonymous prophet have forced supporters of the baseless movement to rethink their beliefs: ‘Have we all been conned?’
President Trump’s election loss and the week-long silence of “Q,” the movement’s mysterious prophet, have wrenched some QAnon believers into a crisis of faith, with factions voicing unease about their future or rallying others to stay calm and “trust the plan.”
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.
“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.”
“Do not worry. Do not be afraid. THERE IS A PLAN. IT IS A GOOD PLAN,” the QAnon supporter Major Patriot tweeted last week.
I think it will be very interesting to see how this shakes out. The conspiracy theory has seemingly gotten a lot of people tightly in its grip. Some will be disillusioned and fall away, but I think it will not completely dissipate. In Leon Festinger's famous 'When Prophecy Fails', the main evidence is drawn from a UFO cult, which prophesied that our space brothers would come meet them on a certain day to save them from the apocalypse. Needless to say, neither the apocalypse nor the aliens arrived.
In response, one might think people would leave the cult in disgust due to the failure of prophecy. But that didn't happen. Festinger theorized that to relieve the cognitive dissonance of the failed prophecy, the group became even more 'evangelical' in spreading the news. If more people believed it, certainly it can't be wrong. The 5 criteria Festinger lists for when this might happen certainly seem to apply or potentially apply to Qanon:
- A belief must be held with deep conviction and it must have some relevance to action, that is, to what the believer does or how he or she behaves.
- The person holding the belief must have committed himself to it; that is, for the sake of his belief, he must have taken some important action that is difficult to undo. In general, the more important such actions are, and the more difficult they are to undo, the greater is the individual's commitment to the belief.
- The belief must be sufficiently specific and sufficiently concerned with the real world so that events may unequivocally refute the belief.
- Such undeniable disconfirmatory evidence must occur and must be recognized by the individual holding the belief.
- The individual believer must have social support. It is unlikely that one isolated believer could withstand the kind of disconfirming evidence that has been specified. If, however, the believer is a member of a group of convinced persons who can support one another, the belief may be maintained and the believers may attempt to proselytize or persuade nonmembers that the belief is correct.
So how would such a thing manifest? The belief in Trump's reelection (and the subsequent arrests of bad people) is sufficiently specific.
Obviously, at the moment Trump remains president and is showing a brave face about winning the election, despite the facts on the ground.
Ultimately, I deem that supporters will have to face the facts and it will become clear on Inauguration Day if not sooner. Over the next weeks, the cognitive dissonance is going to grow, twisting the screws on their psyches.
If I had to hypothesize, the ones who 'keep the faith' in the conspiracy theory will decide that Trump has become transformed into some sort of esoteric President. A secret president, still bent on his mission. And of course, they will continue to need to convert others to their conspiratorial beliefs. And sadly, they will see themselves as Trump's esoteric army. There's a potential for danger.
There are dozens of reports from family members of QAnon supporters showcasing how the election result has not diminished their beliefs, but has in fact reinforced them.
Right in line with the theory.
[M]uch of the real harm being done by QAnon is being seen by friends and families of believers. On the QAnonCasualties thread on Reddit, for instance, people talk about how the narrative that the election was stolen is having horrific real-world impacts.
Under the headline “I hoped I’d never have to write this” one Reddit user wrote: “My aunt who was ultra QAnon shot herself earlier today, she left a note saying she was terrified the cabal was coming for her and her kids because of Trump's loss.”