As recently as March, "QAnon" was still a mostly fringe phenomenon. The conspiracy theory, which posits that a vast Democrat-led pedophile racket operates at the heart of the U.S. government, was well known among President Donald Trump's hardcore MAGA base, but too hot for anyone in the mainstream to touch. But this summer, the world's darkest and most outlandish political conspiracy is gaining new adherents and influence among conservatives. That's what Mother Jones's Ali Breland reported this month, after a recent press briefing in which President Donald Trump gave an approving answer that the QAnon community has been eagerly awaiting: "I don’t know much about the movement other than I understand they like me very much," he said. "I’ve heard these are people who love our country."
Trump's not alone. The movement has demonstrated real and growing power. Michael Flynn, the former head of the Defense Intelligence Agency and Trump’s first national security adviser, boldly aligned himself with the conspiracy theory on July 4th, when he posted a video reciting a common QAnon motto; QAnon enthusiast Marjorie Taylor Greene just won the primary election for Georgia’s 14th Congressional District; several other Republicans running for Congress have shared QAnon hashtags and used its catchphrases. Followers have been able to launch harassment campaigns so big and vitriolic that several high-profile targets—Wayfair, Oprah Winfrey, and Chrissy Teigen—felt the need to publicly respond. Q’s followers have also mobilized to antagonize and harass a state senator in California in a vicious attempt to get him to drop legislation aimed at addressing LGBTQ inequality. QAnon’s damage is too big to ignore, and so we’re replaying a refreshed and updated version of our February 2020 episode featuring reporter Ali Breland, who takes you inside the conspiracy, traces its roots, and assesses its future.