One week after the deadly insurrection at the Capitol, there are still more questions than answers on whether any lawmakers or police assisted the pro-Trump rioters.
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The “#Storm” envisioned on far-right message boards had arrived. And two women who had died in the rampage — both QAnon devotees — had become what some were calling the first martyrs of the cause.
The siege ended with police retaking the Capitol and Trump being rebuked and losing his Twitter account. But the failed insurrection illustrated how the paranoid conspiracy theory QAnon has radicalized Americans, reshaped the Republican Party and gained a forceful grip on right-wing belief.
Born in the Internet’s fever swamps, QAnon played an unmistakable role in energizing rioters during the real-world attack on Jan. 6. A man in a “Q” T-shirt led the breach of the Senate, while a shirtless, fur-clad believer known as the “Q Shaman” posed for photographers in the Senate chamber. Twitter later purged more than 70,000 accounts associated with the conspiracy theory, in an acknowledgment of the online potency of QAnon.
The baseless conspiracy theory, which imagines Trump in a battle with a cabal of deep-state saboteurs who worship Satan and traffic children for sex, helped drive the day’s events and facilitate organized attacks. A pro-Trump mob overwhelmed Capitol Police officers, injuring dozens, and one officer later died as a result. One woman was fatally shot by police inside the Capitol. Three others in the crowd died of medical emergencies.
QAnon devotees joined with extremist group members and white supremacists at the Capitol assault after finding one another on Internet sanctuaries: the conservative forums of TheDonald.win and Parler; the anonymous extremist channels of 8kun and Telegram; and the social media giants of Facebook and Twitter, which have scrambled in recent months to prevent devotees from organizing on their sites.
QAnon didn’t fully account for the rampage, and the theory’s namesake — a top-secret government messenger of pro-Trump prophecies — has largely vanished, posting nothing in the past 35 days and only five times since Trump’s election loss.
But QAnon’s prominence at the Capitol raid shows how powerful the conspiracy theory has become, and how quickly it has established a life of its own. On fringe right-wing platforms and encrypted messaging apps, believers are offering increasingly outlandish theories and sharing ideas for how they can further work to overturn the results of the Nov. 3 contest — with violence, if necessary.
The fervent online organizing seen ahead of last week’s assault has begun building again. A QAnon group on Gab has gr
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