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Episode
74

QAnon | America's Most Dangerous Conspiracy Theory?

First published on
July 24, 2020
Arts & Culture
-
16
minutes
Donald Trump
Conspiracy theories
The Internet
USA
US politics

This far-right conspiracy theory has gone from niche internet forums to President Trump's Twitter account.

Discover the story behind QAnon - where does it come from, what do they believe, and is it really the most dangerous conspiracy theory in America?

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Transcript

[00:00:00] Hello, hello, hello, and welcome to English Learning for Curious Minds, by Leonardo English, the show where you can listen to fascinating stories and learn weird and wonderful things about the world at the same time as improving your English. 

[00:00:22] I'm Alastair Budge and today we are going to be talking about QAnon, the strange conspiracy theory about a deep state that has gone from being a fringe, niche idea, to having candidates for Congress, proclaiming that they believe in it. 

[00:00:41] It is a weird phenomenon, but it is rather scary to see how it has managed to gain quite so many followers. 

[00:00:50] Before we get right into that though, let me just remind you that you can get all of the bonus episodes, plus subtitles, transcripts, and key vocabulary, over on the website, which is leonardoenglish.com.

[00:01:04] This is also where you can check out becoming a member of Leonardo English, and join a community of curious minds from all over the world, doing meetups, exchanging ideas, and generally, improving their English in a more interesting way.

[00:01:20] So if that is of interest, and I certainly hope it is, then the place to go to is leonardoenglish.com.

[00:01:28] OK then, QAnon.

[00:01:31] If you have heard of it, I wouldn't be that surprised. 

[00:01:35] It has been getting a lot more attention in recent years, and has not quite gone mainstream, but it has gone from hiding in tiny corners of the internet through to cable news, Trump rallies, and a powerful presence on social media.

[00:01:53] The story of QAnon starts in October 2017, when someone calling themself 'Q' posted on the message board 4chan.

[00:02:06] The message was a little cryptic, but said that on October the 30th, in a few days' time from the original message, Hillary Clinton would be arrested by US Marines. 

[00:02:20] For years, there have been conspiracy theories about Hillary Clinton, and if you've listened to our episode on conspiracy theories from a few months ago, you might remember PizzaGate.

[00:02:33] The name PizzaGate makes it sound almost innocent, but it was quite the opposite. 

[00:02:41] There were rumours circling on far right message boards that a Washington DC pizza restaurant was the centre of a child sex ring run by Hillary Clinton. 

[00:02:54] To me or you, these rumours might sound completely ridiculous, but they didn't to a man called Edgar Maddison Welch.

[00:03:04] He drove 360 miles from his home in North Carolina to Washington DC, armed with a shotgun and an assault rifle. He wanted to investigate this for himself. 

[00:03:18] So he turned up, on a Sunday at this family pizza restaurant, armed to the teeth.

[00:03:25] He was expecting to open the door and find dozens of captured children in horrible conditions. Instead, he found families enjoying pizza, or at least, enjoying it until he arrived looking like he was going to kill everyone.

[00:03:42] Q's message, on October 28th of 2017, was a continuation of this original idea, that there is a global elite, composed of people like Hilary Clinton, Barack Obama, and George Soros, that are enabled by the mainstream media, who are essentially paedophiles and that there is really only one man who can stop them: Donald Trump. 

[00:04:11] Now it might sound ridiculous. It might sound funny and it might be funny were it not actually genuinely believed by so many people.

[00:04:22] So, to go back to the original prophecy from Q, on October 28th of 2017, Q said that Hillary Clinton would be arrested. 

[00:04:33] In case you need a reminder, this didn't happen.

[00:04:37] Since then, this anonymous Q has continued to post on different message boards on various parts of the internet attracting a devoted following. 

[00:04:48] Q is referred to by followers as he, so I'll also assume Q is a man. 

[00:04:57] Anyway, Q wants people to think that he is someone who has one of the highest levels of security clearance in the United States, someone who knows what's really happening, and he is the only person who is prepared to tell the world.

[00:05:15] Q has seen this huge, global conspiracy, and he is doing something to alert the common man.

[00:05:25] But Q doesn't always give precise instructions. There are a lot of riddles, a lot of clues, and a lot of confusing, ambiguous statements. 

[00:05:36] And of course, almost all of the time, his predictions don't come true. 

[00:05:43] Yet still, his following grows. 

[00:05:47] Now, we aren't going to spend that much time discussing the actual conspiracy theories proposed by Q, but I'll give you a little summary.

[00:05:57] So, there's this idea that there is a global paedophile ring led by Hillary Clinton, that all world leaders know about, and that the mainstream media won't talk about.

[00:06:09] They believe that Donald Trump knows about it, and he is tirelessly fighting to bring down the establishment, to bring down the deep state as they call it.

[00:06:19] Q's followers look for clues in everything that Trump does, and they interpret things like Trump wearing a yellow tie to mean that the Coronavirus isn't real, to there being a Q Clock, which is used by some QAnon fans to try to take some meaning from the exact times that either Q posts a message, or Donald Trump sends a tweet.

[00:06:48] There are parts of the QAnon faction that believe that JFK, President Kennedy, actually faked his death, that he may even be Q himself, and that he will return to the world stage to be Donald Trump's running mate for re-election in November 2020.

[00:07:11] And, perhaps even harder to believe is that Trump is actually Q, and he is busy giving encrypted messages about national security to his followers. 

[00:07:24] The people who believe this do so because they look at his tweets and see references to him admitting that he is Q. 

[00:07:35] For example Trump tweeted 'œI am giving consideration to a quarantine', then the next day he tweeted "I am a great friend and admirer of the Queen and the United Kingdom".

[00:07:47] The theory goes that if you cut out most of the words and letters, you can make the sentence. "I am Q". So with the tweet 'œI a

[00:08:09] Now, to you or me, I hope at least, these ideas might seem ridiculous.

[00:08:15] But to millions of people in America, they represent the truth.

[00:08:21] There was a report by the Guardian newspaper that found that there were 3 million members of QAnon Facebook groups, and that's just Facebook. The most popular QAnon Twitter accounts have hundreds of thousands of followers, as do the ones on YouTube.

[00:08:39] We aren't going to get into a discussion here about the rights and wrongs of whether social media platforms have the responsibility to take down content based on conspiracy theories, but what is undeniably true is that Facebook and YouTube have helped introduce people to ideas like QAnon who would probably never have encountered them without it. 

[00:09:07] The way in which the algorithms of these platforms work is that they show you things that they think you would like. And companies that make money from your attention, they want to keep you on their platform for as long as possible.

[00:09:23] But, this report by the Guardian found that you don't need to join QAnon groups to be recommended QAnon groups by the Facebook algorithm

[00:09:34] If the Facebook algorithm sees that your behaviour is similar to the behaviour of members of QAnon groups, then you can be suggested to join QAnon related groups. Facebook will introduce you, without you having shown any prior interest actually in QAnon. 

[00:09:54] Similarly, with YouTube, that dangerous bar of 'recommended videos' that I'm sure we have all been occasionally caught up by will also show you QAnon videos if the algorithm thinks you might enjoy watching them, and that they can generate advertising revenue from you sticking around to watch them. 

[00:10:16] Now, whether this is right or wrong is a different question, but it certainly has meant that a lot of people have been hooked in to QAnon by the algorithms of these social media platforms.

[00:10:30] What is worth talking about though, is some of the reasons why QAnon has attracted so many followers.

[00:10:39] Firstly, Q, the person, encourages his followers to do their own research. 

[00:10:46] He claims to be providing facts about goings on at a high level of government, however the big thing about Q is that he wants to empower normal people to find out things on their own. The only commandments are to not trust the mainstream media, and be sceptical about anything that you might hear from the government.

[00:11:11] This is extremely powerful, as not only does it make the entire thing seem like a big scavenger hunt, a big game where you are looking for clues, but it also makes it far easier to just ignore any evidence that you might read about in the news, putting it down as completely false, just 'fake news'.

[00:11:36] If you get into a state where the only truth is the truth that you want to find, based on this global conspiracy that you know to be true, and anything that anyone says to contradict this is just a lie, then it must be difficult to escape from this situation.

[00:11:57] One other thing that I was surprised to find out about QAnon is that some of the biggest supporters of it, some of the most visible personalities that talk about QAnon do actually seem quite calm and level headed, at least from an outsider's perspective.

[00:12:18] The most famous one, who has over 700 thousand followers between YouTube and Facebook, is someone called David Hayes, who goes by the username 'praying monk'.

[00:12:31] Now, I watched a few of his videos on YouTube, and I was expecting to see someone shouting, gesticulating madly, and who seemed a little crazy. 

[00:12:44] Yet he was actually very composed, calm, and seemed relatively rational. So there are these people who are the 'front' of Q, who have really helped legitimise what would otherwise be a completely mad idea.

[00:13:01] And this legitimacy has led to supporters from more and more mainstream parts of society, and QAnon has moved from obscure corners of internet forums to the political stage. 

[00:13:17] There were 50 congressional candidates who pledged support for QAnon, you see QAnon flags at Trump rallies, and Mike Pence, the Vice President, even retweeted a picture of him meeting a man with a QAnon badge. So it is getting everywhere, and this is something that a lot of people are quite afraid of. 

[00:13:41] In 2018, it was classified by the FBI as a domestic terror threat in an internal memo, given that a lot of its followers have committed crimes in the name of conducting their own investigations, inspired by Q. 

[00:13:58] Shortly before this a Californian man had been arrested with bomb-making materials, claiming he was going to launch an attack to make people aware of Pizzagate, and there was another incident of a QAnon follower in Nevada who was found in an armoured truck blocking the Hoover dam and demanding the release of the report on Hillary Clinton's emails.

[00:14:28] So while Q still remains anonymous, providing supposedly top-secret clues about the goings on of the deep state, his followers continue to grow, gaining more and more power, and enabled by a president who retweets their memes, and distributes their message.

[00:14:48] Q's supporters believe a great awakening is coming, all will be revealed, and the world will be righted

[00:14:56] I'm not so sure about that, but what I will do is end this episode with one of Q's catchphrases

[00:15:06] Trust the plan. Enjoy the show. Nothing can stop what is coming.

[00:15:12] Ok then, that is it for today's episode on QAnon. 

[00:15:20] It is a pretty weird, scary idea, but the fact that so many people do believe it means it's at least worth trying to understand.

[00:15:32] As a quick reminder, if you would like the subtitles, transcript, key vocabulary, and all of the bonus episodes, then you can find all of that lovely stuff over at leonardoenglish.com.

[00:15:45] And one final reminder, if you do want to do something very kind that will only take you 30 seconds, then please do leave a review of the show on your favourite podcast app. I read every single one, and they all leave a smile on my face.

[00:16:01] You've been listening to English Learning for Curious Minds by Leonardo English.

[00:16:07] I'm Alastair Budge. You stay safe and I'll catch you in the next episode.

[END OF PODCAST]


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[00:00:00] Hello, hello, hello, and welcome to English Learning for Curious Minds, by Leonardo English, the show where you can listen to fascinating stories and learn weird and wonderful things about the world at the same time as improving your English. 

[00:00:22] I'm Alastair Budge and today we are going to be talking about QAnon, the strange conspiracy theory about a deep state that has gone from being a fringe, niche idea, to having candidates for Congress, proclaiming that they believe in it. 

[00:00:41] It is a weird phenomenon, but it is rather scary to see how it has managed to gain quite so many followers. 

[00:00:50] Before we get right into that though, let me just remind you that you can get all of the bonus episodes, plus subtitles, transcripts, and key vocabulary, over on the website, which is leonardoenglish.com.

[00:01:04] This is also where you can check out becoming a member of Leonardo English, and join a community of curious minds from all over the world, doing meetups, exchanging ideas, and generally, improving their English in a more interesting way.

[00:01:20] So if that is of interest, and I certainly hope it is, then the place to go to is leonardoenglish.com.

[00:01:28] OK then, QAnon.

[00:01:31] If you have heard of it, I wouldn't be that surprised. 

[00:01:35] It has been getting a lot more attention in recent years, and has not quite gone mainstream, but it has gone from hiding in tiny corners of the internet through to cable news, Trump rallies, and a powerful presence on social media.

[00:01:53] The story of QAnon starts in October 2017, when someone calling themself 'Q' posted on the message board 4chan.

[00:02:06] The message was a little cryptic, but said that on October the 30th, in a few days' time from the original message, Hillary Clinton would be arrested by US Marines. 

[00:02:20] For years, there have been conspiracy theories about Hillary Clinton, and if you've listened to our episode on conspiracy theories from a few months ago, you might remember PizzaGate.

[00:02:33] The name PizzaGate makes it sound almost innocent, but it was quite the opposite. 

[00:02:41] There were rumours circling on far right message boards that a Washington DC pizza restaurant was the centre of a child sex ring run by Hillary Clinton. 

[00:02:54] To me or you, these rumours might sound completely ridiculous, but they didn't to a man called Edgar Maddison Welch.

[00:03:04] He drove 360 miles from his home in North Carolina to Washington DC, armed with a shotgun and an assault rifle. He wanted to investigate this for himself. 

[00:03:18] So he turned up, on a Sunday at this family pizza restaurant, armed to the teeth.

[00:03:25] He was expecting to open the door and find dozens of captured children in horrible conditions. Instead, he found families enjoying pizza, or at least, enjoying it until he arrived looking like he was going to kill everyone.

[00:03:42] Q's message, on October 28th of 2017, was a continuation of this original idea, that there is a global elite, composed of people like Hilary Clinton, Barack Obama, and George Soros, that are enabled by the mainstream media, who are essentially paedophiles and that there is really only one man who can stop them: Donald Trump. 

[00:04:11] Now it might sound ridiculous. It might sound funny and it might be funny were it not actually genuinely believed by so many people.

[00:04:22] So, to go back to the original prophecy from Q, on October 28th of 2017, Q said that Hillary Clinton would be arrested. 

[00:04:33] In case you need a reminder, this didn't happen.

[00:04:37] Since then, this anonymous Q has continued to post on different message boards on various parts of the internet attracting a devoted following. 

[00:04:48] Q is referred to by followers as he, so I'll also assume Q is a man. 

[00:04:57] Anyway, Q wants people to think that he is someone who has one of the highest levels of security clearance in the United States, someone who knows what's really happening, and he is the only person who is prepared to tell the world.

[00:05:15] Q has seen this huge, global conspiracy, and he is doing something to alert the common man.

[00:05:25] But Q doesn't always give precise instructions. There are a lot of riddles, a lot of clues, and a lot of confusing, ambiguous statements. 

[00:05:36] And of course, almost all of the time, his predictions don't come true. 

[00:05:43] Yet still, his following grows. 

[00:05:47] Now, we aren't going to spend that much time discussing the actual conspiracy theories proposed by Q, but I'll give you a little summary.

[00:05:57] So, there's this idea that there is a global paedophile ring led by Hillary Clinton, that all world leaders know about, and that the mainstream media won't talk about.

[00:06:09] They believe that Donald Trump knows about it, and he is tirelessly fighting to bring down the establishment, to bring down the deep state as they call it.

[00:06:19] Q's followers look for clues in everything that Trump does, and they interpret things like Trump wearing a yellow tie to mean that the Coronavirus isn't real, to there being a Q Clock, which is used by some QAnon fans to try to take some meaning from the exact times that either Q posts a message, or Donald Trump sends a tweet.

[00:06:48] There are parts of the QAnon faction that believe that JFK, President Kennedy, actually faked his death, that he may even be Q himself, and that he will return to the world stage to be Donald Trump's running mate for re-election in November 2020.

[00:07:11] And, perhaps even harder to believe is that Trump is actually Q, and he is busy giving encrypted messages about national security to his followers. 

[00:07:24] The people who believe this do so because they look at his tweets and see references to him admitting that he is Q. 

[00:07:35] For example Trump tweeted 'œI am giving consideration to a quarantine', then the next day he tweeted "I am a great friend and admirer of the Queen and the United Kingdom".

[00:07:47] The theory goes that if you cut out most of the words and letters, you can make the sentence. "I am Q". So with the tweet 'œI a

[00:08:09] Now, to you or me, I hope at least, these ideas might seem ridiculous.

[00:08:15] But to millions of people in America, they represent the truth.

[00:08:21] There was a report by the Guardian newspaper that found that there were 3 million members of QAnon Facebook groups, and that's just Facebook. The most popular QAnon Twitter accounts have hundreds of thousands of followers, as do the ones on YouTube.

[00:08:39] We aren't going to get into a discussion here about the rights and wrongs of whether social media platforms have the responsibility to take down content based on conspiracy theories, but what is undeniably true is that Facebook and YouTube have helped introduce people to ideas like QAnon who would probably never have encountered them without it. 

[00:09:07] The way in which the algorithms of these platforms work is that they show you things that they think you would like. And companies that make money from your attention, they want to keep you on their platform for as long as possible.

[00:09:23] But, this report by the Guardian found that you don't need to join QAnon groups to be recommended QAnon groups by the Facebook algorithm

[00:09:34] If the Facebook algorithm sees that your behaviour is similar to the behaviour of members of QAnon groups, then you can be suggested to join QAnon related groups. Facebook will introduce you, without you having shown any prior interest actually in QAnon. 

[00:09:54] Similarly, with YouTube, that dangerous bar of 'recommended videos' that I'm sure we have all been occasionally caught up by will also show you QAnon videos if the algorithm thinks you might enjoy watching them, and that they can generate advertising revenue from you sticking around to watch them. 

[00:10:16] Now, whether this is right or wrong is a different question, but it certainly has meant that a lot of people have been hooked in to QAnon by the algorithms of these social media platforms.

[00:10:30] What is worth talking about though, is some of the reasons why QAnon has attracted so many followers.

[00:10:39] Firstly, Q, the person, encourages his followers to do their own research. 

[00:10:46] He claims to be providing facts about goings on at a high level of government, however the big thing about Q is that he wants to empower normal people to find out things on their own. The only commandments are to not trust the mainstream media, and be sceptical about anything that you might hear from the government.

[00:11:11] This is extremely powerful, as not only does it make the entire thing seem like a big scavenger hunt, a big game where you are looking for clues, but it also makes it far easier to just ignore any evidence that you might read about in the news, putting it down as completely false, just 'fake news'.

[00:11:36] If you get into a state where the only truth is the truth that you want to find, based on this global conspiracy that you know to be true, and anything that anyone says to contradict this is just a lie, then it must be difficult to escape from this situation.

[00:11:57] One other thing that I was surprised to find out about QAnon is that some of the biggest supporters of it, some of the most visible personalities that talk about QAnon do actually seem quite calm and level headed, at least from an outsider's perspective.

[00:12:18] The most famous one, who has over 700 thousand followers between YouTube and Facebook, is someone called David Hayes, who goes by the username 'praying monk'.

[00:12:31] Now, I watched a few of his videos on YouTube, and I was expecting to see someone shouting, gesticulating madly, and who seemed a little crazy. 

[00:12:44] Yet he was actually very composed, calm, and seemed relatively rational. So there are these people who are the 'front' of Q, who have really helped legitimise what would otherwise be a completely mad idea.

[00:13:01] And this legitimacy has led to supporters from more and more mainstream parts of society, and QAnon has moved from obscure corners of internet forums to the political stage. 

[00:13:17] There were 50 congressional candidates who pledged support for QAnon, you see QAnon flags at Trump rallies, and Mike Pence, the Vice President, even retweeted a picture of him meeting a man with a QAnon badge. So it is getting everywhere, and this is something that a lot of people are quite afraid of. 

[00:13:41] In 2018, it was classified by the FBI as a domestic terror threat in an internal memo, given that a lot of its followers have committed crimes in the name of conducting their own investigations, inspired by Q. 

[00:13:58] Shortly before this a Californian man had been arrested with bomb-making materials, claiming he was going to launch an attack to make people aware of Pizzagate, and there was another incident of a QAnon follower in Nevada who was found in an armoured truck blocking the Hoover dam and demanding the release of the report on Hillary Clinton's emails.

[00:14:28] So while Q still remains anonymous, providing supposedly top-secret clues about the goings on of the deep state, his followers continue to grow, gaining more and more power, and enabled by a president who retweets their memes, and distributes their message.

[00:14:48] Q's supporters believe a great awakening is coming, all will be revealed, and the world will be righted

[00:14:56] I'm not so sure about that, but what I will do is end this episode with one of Q's catchphrases

[00:15:06] Trust the plan. Enjoy the show. Nothing can stop what is coming.

[00:15:12] Ok then, that is it for today's episode on QAnon. 

[00:15:20] It is a pretty weird, scary idea, but the fact that so many people do believe it means it's at least worth trying to understand.

[00:15:32] As a quick reminder, if you would like the subtitles, transcript, key vocabulary, and all of the bonus episodes, then you can find all of that lovely stuff over at leonardoenglish.com.

[00:15:45] And one final reminder, if you do want to do something very kind that will only take you 30 seconds, then please do leave a review of the show on your favourite podcast app. I read every single one, and they all leave a smile on my face.

[00:16:01] You've been listening to English Learning for Curious Minds by Leonardo English.

[00:16:07] I'm Alastair Budge. You stay safe and I'll catch you in the next episode.

[END OF PODCAST]


[00:00:00] Hello, hello, hello, and welcome to English Learning for Curious Minds, by Leonardo English, the show where you can listen to fascinating stories and learn weird and wonderful things about the world at the same time as improving your English. 

[00:00:22] I'm Alastair Budge and today we are going to be talking about QAnon, the strange conspiracy theory about a deep state that has gone from being a fringe, niche idea, to having candidates for Congress, proclaiming that they believe in it. 

[00:00:41] It is a weird phenomenon, but it is rather scary to see how it has managed to gain quite so many followers. 

[00:00:50] Before we get right into that though, let me just remind you that you can get all of the bonus episodes, plus subtitles, transcripts, and key vocabulary, over on the website, which is leonardoenglish.com.

[00:01:04] This is also where you can check out becoming a member of Leonardo English, and join a community of curious minds from all over the world, doing meetups, exchanging ideas, and generally, improving their English in a more interesting way.

[00:01:20] So if that is of interest, and I certainly hope it is, then the place to go to is leonardoenglish.com.

[00:01:28] OK then, QAnon.

[00:01:31] If you have heard of it, I wouldn't be that surprised. 

[00:01:35] It has been getting a lot more attention in recent years, and has not quite gone mainstream, but it has gone from hiding in tiny corners of the internet through to cable news, Trump rallies, and a powerful presence on social media.

[00:01:53] The story of QAnon starts in October 2017, when someone calling themself 'Q' posted on the message board 4chan.

[00:02:06] The message was a little cryptic, but said that on October the 30th, in a few days' time from the original message, Hillary Clinton would be arrested by US Marines. 

[00:02:20] For years, there have been conspiracy theories about Hillary Clinton, and if you've listened to our episode on conspiracy theories from a few months ago, you might remember PizzaGate.

[00:02:33] The name PizzaGate makes it sound almost innocent, but it was quite the opposite. 

[00:02:41] There were rumours circling on far right message boards that a Washington DC pizza restaurant was the centre of a child sex ring run by Hillary Clinton. 

[00:02:54] To me or you, these rumours might sound completely ridiculous, but they didn't to a man called Edgar Maddison Welch.

[00:03:04] He drove 360 miles from his home in North Carolina to Washington DC, armed with a shotgun and an assault rifle. He wanted to investigate this for himself. 

[00:03:18] So he turned up, on a Sunday at this family pizza restaurant, armed to the teeth.

[00:03:25] He was expecting to open the door and find dozens of captured children in horrible conditions. Instead, he found families enjoying pizza, or at least, enjoying it until he arrived looking like he was going to kill everyone.

[00:03:42] Q's message, on October 28th of 2017, was a continuation of this original idea, that there is a global elite, composed of people like Hilary Clinton, Barack Obama, and George Soros, that are enabled by the mainstream media, who are essentially paedophiles and that there is really only one man who can stop them: Donald Trump. 

[00:04:11] Now it might sound ridiculous. It might sound funny and it might be funny were it not actually genuinely believed by so many people.

[00:04:22] So, to go back to the original prophecy from Q, on October 28th of 2017, Q said that Hillary Clinton would be arrested. 

[00:04:33] In case you need a reminder, this didn't happen.

[00:04:37] Since then, this anonymous Q has continued to post on different message boards on various parts of the internet attracting a devoted following. 

[00:04:48] Q is referred to by followers as he, so I'll also assume Q is a man. 

[00:04:57] Anyway, Q wants people to think that he is someone who has one of the highest levels of security clearance in the United States, someone who knows what's really happening, and he is the only person who is prepared to tell the world.

[00:05:15] Q has seen this huge, global conspiracy, and he is doing something to alert the common man.

[00:05:25] But Q doesn't always give precise instructions. There are a lot of riddles, a lot of clues, and a lot of confusing, ambiguous statements. 

[00:05:36] And of course, almost all of the time, his predictions don't come true. 

[00:05:43] Yet still, his following grows. 

[00:05:47] Now, we aren't going to spend that much time discussing the actual conspiracy theories proposed by Q, but I'll give you a little summary.

[00:05:57] So, there's this idea that there is a global paedophile ring led by Hillary Clinton, that all world leaders know about, and that the mainstream media won't talk about.

[00:06:09] They believe that Donald Trump knows about it, and he is tirelessly fighting to bring down the establishment, to bring down the deep state as they call it.

[00:06:19] Q's followers look for clues in everything that Trump does, and they interpret things like Trump wearing a yellow tie to mean that the Coronavirus isn't real, to there being a Q Clock, which is used by some QAnon fans to try to take some meaning from the exact times that either Q posts a message, or Donald Trump sends a tweet.

[00:06:48] There are parts of the QAnon faction that believe that JFK, President Kennedy, actually faked his death, that he may even be Q himself, and that he will return to the world stage to be Donald Trump's running mate for re-election in November 2020.

[00:07:11] And, perhaps even harder to believe is that Trump is actually Q, and he is busy giving encrypted messages about national security to his followers. 

[00:07:24] The people who believe this do so because they look at his tweets and see references to him admitting that he is Q. 

[00:07:35] For example Trump tweeted 'œI am giving consideration to a quarantine', then the next day he tweeted "I am a great friend and admirer of the Queen and the United Kingdom".

[00:07:47] The theory goes that if you cut out most of the words and letters, you can make the sentence. "I am Q". So with the tweet 'œI a

[00:08:09] Now, to you or me, I hope at least, these ideas might seem ridiculous.

[00:08:15] But to millions of people in America, they represent the truth.

[00:08:21] There was a report by the Guardian newspaper that found that there were 3 million members of QAnon Facebook groups, and that's just Facebook. The most popular QAnon Twitter accounts have hundreds of thousands of followers, as do the ones on YouTube.

[00:08:39] We aren't going to get into a discussion here about the rights and wrongs of whether social media platforms have the responsibility to take down content based on conspiracy theories, but what is undeniably true is that Facebook and YouTube have helped introduce people to ideas like QAnon who would probably never have encountered them without it. 

[00:09:07] The way in which the algorithms of these platforms work is that they show you things that they think you would like. And companies that make money from your attention, they want to keep you on their platform for as long as possible.

[00:09:23] But, this report by the Guardian found that you don't need to join QAnon groups to be recommended QAnon groups by the Facebook algorithm

[00:09:34] If the Facebook algorithm sees that your behaviour is similar to the behaviour of members of QAnon groups, then you can be suggested to join QAnon related groups. Facebook will introduce you, without you having shown any prior interest actually in QAnon. 

[00:09:54] Similarly, with YouTube, that dangerous bar of 'recommended videos' that I'm sure we have all been occasionally caught up by will also show you QAnon videos if the algorithm thinks you might enjoy watching them, and that they can generate advertising revenue from you sticking around to watch them. 

[00:10:16] Now, whether this is right or wrong is a different question, but it certainly has meant that a lot of people have been hooked in to QAnon by the algorithms of these social media platforms.

[00:10:30] What is worth talking about though, is some of the reasons why QAnon has attracted so many followers.

[00:10:39] Firstly, Q, the person, encourages his followers to do their own research. 

[00:10:46] He claims to be providing facts about goings on at a high level of government, however the big thing about Q is that he wants to empower normal people to find out things on their own. The only commandments are to not trust the mainstream media, and be sceptical about anything that you might hear from the government.

[00:11:11] This is extremely powerful, as not only does it make the entire thing seem like a big scavenger hunt, a big game where you are looking for clues, but it also makes it far easier to just ignore any evidence that you might read about in the news, putting it down as completely false, just 'fake news'.

[00:11:36] If you get into a state where the only truth is the truth that you want to find, based on this global conspiracy that you know to be true, and anything that anyone says to contradict this is just a lie, then it must be difficult to escape from this situation.

[00:11:57] One other thing that I was surprised to find out about QAnon is that some of the biggest supporters of it, some of the most visible personalities that talk about QAnon do actually seem quite calm and level headed, at least from an outsider's perspective.

[00:12:18] The most famous one, who has over 700 thousand followers between YouTube and Facebook, is someone called David Hayes, who goes by the username 'praying monk'.

[00:12:31] Now, I watched a few of his videos on YouTube, and I was expecting to see someone shouting, gesticulating madly, and who seemed a little crazy. 

[00:12:44] Yet he was actually very composed, calm, and seemed relatively rational. So there are these people who are the 'front' of Q, who have really helped legitimise what would otherwise be a completely mad idea.

[00:13:01] And this legitimacy has led to supporters from more and more mainstream parts of society, and QAnon has moved from obscure corners of internet forums to the political stage. 

[00:13:17] There were 50 congressional candidates who pledged support for QAnon, you see QAnon flags at Trump rallies, and Mike Pence, the Vice President, even retweeted a picture of him meeting a man with a QAnon badge. So it is getting everywhere, and this is something that a lot of people are quite afraid of. 

[00:13:41] In 2018, it was classified by the FBI as a domestic terror threat in an internal memo, given that a lot of its followers have committed crimes in the name of conducting their own investigations, inspired by Q. 

[00:13:58] Shortly before this a Californian man had been arrested with bomb-making materials, claiming he was going to launch an attack to make people aware of Pizzagate, and there was another incident of a QAnon follower in Nevada who was found in an armoured truck blocking the Hoover dam and demanding the release of the report on Hillary Clinton's emails.

[00:14:28] So while Q still remains anonymous, providing supposedly top-secret clues about the goings on of the deep state, his followers continue to grow, gaining more and more power, and enabled by a president who retweets their memes, and distributes their message.

[00:14:48] Q's supporters believe a great awakening is coming, all will be revealed, and the world will be righted

[00:14:56] I'm not so sure about that, but what I will do is end this episode with one of Q's catchphrases

[00:15:06] Trust the plan. Enjoy the show. Nothing can stop what is coming.

[00:15:12] Ok then, that is it for today's episode on QAnon. 

[00:15:20] It is a pretty weird, scary idea, but the fact that so many people do believe it means it's at least worth trying to understand.

[00:15:32] As a quick reminder, if you would like the subtitles, transcript, key vocabulary, and all of the bonus episodes, then you can find all of that lovely stuff over at leonardoenglish.com.

[00:15:45] And one final reminder, if you do want to do something very kind that will only take you 30 seconds, then please do leave a review of the show on your favourite podcast app. I read every single one, and they all leave a smile on my face.

[00:16:01] You've been listening to English Learning for Curious Minds by Leonardo English.

[00:16:07] I'm Alastair Budge. You stay safe and I'll catch you in the next episode.

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