QAnon fueled Trump’s voter fraud grievances. Now, it helped cause a mob to storm the Capitol.

Charged by social media, QAnon’s threat reaches a breaking point

QAnon shaman

On January 6, a mob supporting President Donald Trump stormed and occupied the United States Capitol, inflamed by the president’s false claims of voter fraud during the 2020 election. The event may not have happened without QAnon’s influence, and QAnon supporters were present among the mob. 

Since losing his reelection to President-elect Joe Biden, Trump has pushed multiple false claims of voter fraud. Many of those false claims originated with and spread via accounts supporting the QAnon conspiracy theory, which started on far-right message boards. This is unsurprising given that for over three years, the conspiracy theory was allowed to spread nearly entirely uninterrupted (and in fact algorithmically helped) and build an influential infrastructure on social media platforms, even though it was tied to multiple violent acts and an FBI field office issued a warning about it. 

In particular, Trump has pushed a conspiracy theory that voting machine company Dominion Voting Systems created and stole votes for Biden, which has been significantly fueled by QAnon accounts and the administrator of the site where the central entity of QAnon is based. Trump has also surrounded himself with figures connected to QAnon who are egging on his voter fraud beliefs, such as attorney Lin Wood, attorney Sidney Powell, former Overstock CEO Patrick Byrne, and former national security adviser Michael Flynn; some of them have in turn relied on QAnon accounts and claims to voice their own voter fraud allegations.

QAnon’s extensive influence on Trump was again clear when on the morning of January 6, he spoke to his supporters and repeated some of these QAnon-connected claims, urging them to march toward the Capitol. His supporters then stormed the building, and not only were QAnon supporters among them, they helped lead some of the efforts. One man wearing a QAnon shirt appeared to lead a part of the mob confronting a police officer.

Another group destroyed The Associated Press’ equipment, with one person yelling, “We are the news now,” a phrase used by QAnon supporters.

And a QAnon “shaman” named Jake Angeli -- who has been participating in voter fraud protests -- literally stood on the Senate chamber dais.

Additionally, a woman who was shot and killed during the storming was also reportedly an ardent QAnon supporter.

Social media platforms only a few months ago started cracking down on QAnon (an effort which has been partly successful at best). But by then, the conspiracy theory had made extensive inroads into the American political process -- including receiving positive remarks from Trump. Some of its supporters had been threatening and urging violence to keep Trump in office. And with the January 6 events, QAnon’s corrosive, violent influence has reached right at the heart of American democracy.