QAnon Followers Turn To Online Support Groups After Trump Leaves Office
Support groups designed to help former QAnon followers have seen an influx of new members following Donald Trump’s departure from the White House.
Followers of the movement have long held on to beliefs that Trump’s first and only term would come to an end with some Earth-shattering revelation, or that his reign wouldn’t really end on January 20, but with the former POTUS now enjoying life in Florida, it seems some QAnon followers are starting to wake up to the misconceptions that took over their lives.
Ceally Smith, from Kansas City, Missouri, got hooked on QAnon theories after being recruited by her boyfriend. Though she was skeptical at first, she became convinced following the death of Jeffrey Epstein, and consequently spent one year down the rabbit hole of speculation.
The now 32-year-old spent much of her time reading and posting about QAnon, becoming increasingly convinced despite the fact that content presented no evidence or counter-arguments. She finally realised the movement had consumed her, so she broke up with her boyfriend, took six months off social media, and turned to therapy and yoga.
In interviews with Associated Press, former believers likened leaving QAnon to overcoming a drug addiction. Many need support in leaving it behind, so another former believer, Jitarth Jadeja, created a Reddit forum called QAnon Casualties to help people like himself and Smith.
In recent weeks, as Trump’s time in office came to an end, membership on the forum doubled to more than 114,000 members, with three new moderators added to keep up with the wave of newcomers.
Reflecting on the time she spent engaging with the theories, Smith commented, ‘We as a society need to start teaching our kids to ask: where is this information coming from? Can I trust it? Anyone can cut and paste anything.’
Jadeja, from Australia, stressed that the support group is ‘not about who is right or who is wrong’, but is instead available to ‘preach empathy for the normal people, the good people who got brainwashed by this death cult’.
Another support group is moderated by Mississippi computer engineer Michael Frank, who sympathises with former believers despite never having been involved with QAnon himself.
Frank expressed his belief that many QAnon believers will have had their entire worldview dashed after Joe Biden was sworn into office, stating, ‘I think after the inauguration a lot of them realised they’ve been taken for a ride. These are human beings. If you have a loved one who is in it: make sure they know they are loved.’
Ziv Cohen, a forensic psychiatrist and expert on extremist beliefs at Weill Cornell Medical College, has said that QAnon supporters are likely to respond in three general ways when faced with a reality that counters their beliefs.
While those who never fully immersed themselves in the movement may be able to move on fairly easily, those who allowed QAnon to consume their lives may migrate to radical anti-government groups and plot potentially violent crimes.
In the middle of the two are the followers who used the conspiracy theory to ‘help them make sense of the world, to help them feel a sense of control’. Rather than admit defeat, these people may revise QAnon’s narrative to fit reality.
Though her then boyfriend saw Smith’s decision to leave QAnon as a betrayal, the former believer came out of the other side feeling better. She decided to share her story in the hopes it would help and inspire others.
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CreditsThe Associated Press
The Associated Press