March 4th was supposed to be a terrible day. Based on reports of a possible attack tied to the fact that the online cult QAnon had identified March 4th as the day their predictions were about to come true 5,000 National Guard troops were ordered to stay in the Washington, DC Capitol Police Department internally warned of a Q-fired militia, and FBI officers noticed that it was also on alert. congress Shut down operations for the day.
And then nothing. No conspiracy, no protests, no Q. March 4th was a limp, parched non-citizen.
Data has always played a pivotal role in the Q cult – the unsubstantiated conspiracy theory that there is a global cabal of sex traffickers who worship children, and that former President Donald Trump is part of a just plan to bring these evildoers to justice. The group’s predictions are often tied to a date on the horizon when Trump’s opponents will be arrested and the global sex trade ring will be exposed. The latest date was March 4th, but before that it was was January 20th. And before that it was December 5th. And before that, a date in “Red October”.
For a long time we didn’t have to encircle these dates in our own calendars. After the attack on the Capitol included some QAnon supporters, the group’s timeline caught the attention of law enforcement agencies. Even if the data doesn’t signal the fall of a global cabal, perhaps it could help us prevent another deadly attack. Just as a doomsday cult constantly revises its calculations to account for failed predictions for the end of the day, QAnon always moves the goalposts when its big day arrives. It is the cult that weeps the wolf.
Take March 4th as an example.
To understand March 4th we need to start with all of the other March 4ths that preceded it. QAnon has long warned that a “storm is coming” and that at some point the shady group of democratic and prominent elites – supposedly pedophiles who eat babies and drink children’s blood – will be brought to justice. When exactly this will happen has been a moving goal since Q’s inception.
Some of the earliest messages from “Q”, an anonymous person or group of people claiming inside knowledge on which the QAnon conspiracy theory is based, specified when these arrests would begin. An October 2017 post alleged that “Hillary Clinton will be arrested on Monday – the morning of October 30, 2017 – between 7:45 am and 8:30 am EST.” If not, new data was released. Gradually, Q’s posts became vague, allowing followers to project meaning onto cryptic messages to decipher what was going to happen and when. That way, if nothing happened, it was simply because Q followers had misinterpreted the script-like letters, not because Q was a hoax. The result was an ever-evolving ephemeris of dates that culminated in a fever of anticipation for January 20, 2021. Most QAnon supporters believed that on inauguration day Trump would reveal that he had indeed won the election, instituted martial law, and publicly started trials and executions of those in the Cabal.
When this prophecy failed, just like all previous ones, Many QAnon followers were heartbroken. Some even decided to give up the movement altogether, saying they felt betrayed. But others just went back to the drawing board, hoping to find another date to hang their hopes on. At this point, March 4th was picking up speed.
Despite the often illogical nature of QAnon predictions, the March 4th date was not torn out of nowhere. As an important date, it is completely before QAnon. For much of US history, inauguration day was actually March 4 through Ratification of the 20th amendment In 1933 it was changed to January 20th decades-old conspiracy theory A group known as the Sovereign Citizens Movement claims that the United States government was converted into a City of London Society sometime in the 1870s, and every president since Ulysses S. Grant has been out of wedlock. According to this far-flung consideration, U.S. birth certificates and Social Security cards are actually ownership contracts, whereby U.S. citizens are owned by this huge, foreign-owned corporation. Though the sovereign citizens’ conspiracy is even more elaborate, QAnon’s supporters only picked up the parts that served them and decided that on March 4th the United States “corporation” would be dissolved and Trump would take office as the 19th legitimate office would be president.
This theory was published in QAnon circles in early 2021. On January 11th, a user wrote down the basics of the theory in a Q-Telegram chat room. “Trump will NOT be sworn in as the 45th President of the United States on January 20th. Trump will take office as the 19th President of the United States on March 4th,” said the post. “I really don’t know all the details that go with it. Just know that the end goal has always been the destruction of this 1871 company and the return of America to the people like the Democratic Republic that it always wanted to be.” On January 1st, Canadian Q vlogger Michelle Anne Tittler published a video in which she reads the same text that became popular when January 20th failed to deliver, as Recode reporter Rebecca Heilweil written down. The video was posted on legacy video websites, and the March 4th idea continued to spread to mainstream platforms like Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, and Tick tockas well as on telegram and QAnon message boards. By January 22nd, the theory had spread so widely that Reuters conducted a fact check expose the rumor. Tittler’s YouTube profile was eventually removed for violating the site’s policies, but not before the March 4th video had generated nearly 1 million views. The cross posts of their video on BitChute and rumble were currently viewed 124,000 and 66,000 times respectively.
As the idea gained momentum in the QAnon community on March 4th, it also caught on in the news media. Dozens of stories identified March 4th as the group’s newest goal post and cited it as a possible continuation of the January 6th uprising.
However, January 6th and March 4th differed on a number of important points. January 6th attracted a lot more than just QAnon followers. It was a rally sponsored by Trump who invited the thousands of his supporters who came to DC that day. In addition to the QAnon believers, there were also right-wing extremists Militia groups with background To encourage violence known to be planning come that day to the Capitol. It was also an undeniably significant date that was significant in the sense of QAnon, cryptic riddles, but not in the practical sense: January 6th was the day that Congress confirmed the results of an election that millions of Americans thanks to Trump’s mistakenly believed to be fraudulent lies. January 6th had all the ingredients necessary for a dark result, but law enforcement wasn’t prepared.
In contrast, March 4th was focused almost entirely on QAnon, and there was little consensus even among that group. This is the norm for data in the QAnon almanac. When someone identifies a date of interest, dozens more followers are drawn to the idea, which then leads to debate and reflection in the community. Followers share evidence for and against a specific date, noting that Q – who hasn’t posted since December, the longest period of silence since the company began posting in 2017 – rarely provides more accurate dates.
But even when there is widespread consensus among Q followers on a specific date like January 20th, QAnon rarely calls for action more extreme than “popping popcorn.” A large part of the Q philosophy is that research is done on your computer. When big events happen, all the Q followers need to do is sit back and enjoy the show. The message reads “This day you will turn on your television”, not “This day we will go out into the streets”. This is such a well-hewn tenet of the QAnon cult that other right-wing groups often criticize QAnon for promoting complacency rather than the kind of violent insurrection these groups prefer.
“QAnon is based in part on the fantasy that you can change the world in really great, revolutionary ways, just by sitting at your computer and sharing memes,” said Travis View, co-host of the QAnon Anonymous podcast, who followed the Movement for years. “Jan. 6 was unique because it was an event specifically promoted by Trump. You really need the great advertising power of these influencers to motivate QAnon followers to do something in the physical world. “
Either way, as soon as the media began to post the March 4th date, this coverage threw a lot of cold water on the thought. As quickly as the idea came up, it was turned back. Back on February 9th, Jordan Sather, a QAnon influencer, posted on Telegram that he felt the March 4th date was “planned disinformation” in an attempt to “get people to spread probably nonsensical theories that making the whole movement look stupid “. Very quickly, the prevailing theory under QAnon was that March 4th was either psychological surgery or a false flag. Q supporters began to reject the idea and derisive media coverage of the date.
“March 4th is the baby of the media,” wrote MelQ, a QAnon influencer at Telegram with over 80,000 subscribers, on March 2nd.
Law enforcement in and around DC could well have had reliable information suggesting a more organized March 4th event that may have been suppressed by increased security. We can’t know for sure. I asked for a comment from the U.S. Capitol Police, but only them referred me to her previous statementwho do not cite QAnon or any other group by name.
QAnon is by and large not a violent movement, and popular Anons “holidays” will not be the best place to predict violent events according to security experts I’ve spoken to.
“There are organized white supremacist and right-wing extremist militant groups who repeatedly commit violence and that is the greatest element lost in law enforcement consideration of these issues. They tend to view them as events in their own right,” the said Former FBI agent Michael German, a member of the Brennan Center for Justice. “You are not looking for violence that the same people committed in the weeks, months and years before the Capitol attack. That would be important evidence of their intent. “
Instead, law enforcement agencies should focus on individuals and groups with a known history of violence and rely on information to predict and prevent violence – rather than random data thrown around on Q forums. That’s not to say we should dismiss QAnon as harmless: after all, there are QAnon followers who have been involved in violent conspiracies, including one male Arrested in Wisconsin last week for threatening to commit a “mass casualty” event. And even beyond these runaways, the QAnon movement, including its ever evolving calendar of predicted disasters, carries its own very real risks of undermining trust in our democratic institutions in very real, insidious and growing ways.
“We have to worry about Q, not because it’s about overthrowing the government,” said Mia Bloom, professor of communications at Georgia State University and an expert on QAnon and extremism. “We have to worry about Q because the long-term effect attacks democratic values.”
The cult that cried the wolf is not one whose cries should be written off for good.