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What's Ahead For QAnon After Biden's Inauguration?

MARY LOUISE KELLY, HOST:

QAnon followers believe in a variety of conspiracy theories, but the central one, the primary one is that the world is being run by Satanic pedophiles and that former President Trump will bring them to justice. This theory has zero facts to support it - it's not true - and that is something believers are reckoning with in a new way now that President Biden has taken office. Will Sommer is a reporter at The Daily Beast and author of an upcoming book about QAnon. Will Sommer, welcome.

WILL SOMMER: Thanks for having me.

KELLY: Tell us what exactly QAnon believers expected to happen yesterday.

SOMMER: Sure. So QAnon believers, they really focus on this kind of moment where they thought Trump was going to arrest and execute all their enemies and send them to Guantanamo Bay. And so they were really anticipating that this would be kind of the moment and, you know, maybe the National Guard troops in D.C. would come in and arrest Joe Biden, and Trump would jump up and say, like, we caught them stealing the election. And I'm going to be president for four more years. And obviously, that is not what happened.

KELLY: Yeah. I mean, just hearing you say those words out loud, it sounds fringe. It is fringe. And yet there are a lot of people who believed this really might happen.

SOMMER: Absolutely. I mean, the polling we get on QAnon is, you know, at least in the high single digits percentage of people in the country that believe in it and sometimes more, at least tens of thousands of people. You know, I was in these QAnon forums and chat rooms. And even like an hour before the inauguration, people were saying, you know, this is my Super Bowl. I can't wait to see Biden arrested and kind of this utopian world under Trump come to fruition.

KELLY: And then what happened is obviously that did not happen, and Joe Biden was sworn in.

SOMMER: Yeah. I mean, the mood turned very dark, obviously. I mean, this was - it was sort of even in the minutes leading up to it, people started saying, like, wait, what's happening? You know, why isn't - why did Trump go to Mar-a-Lago instead of, you know, kind of staying behind to become president again? And, you know, really the mood I saw was - it was almost like physical pain. It was people saying, oh, I want to throw up, or people saying, you know, I'm humiliated because I've been telling all my friends and family, and I've, like, alienated people by talking so much about QAnon. And now I look like a fool.

KELLY: Well, and that last point - feeling like they'd been made to look like fools - as I was looking through some of the comments, there's a lot of that, of people starting to question maybe, saying, were we duped, was this all wrong?

SOMMER: Yeah. I mean, I think certainly in the aftermath of the inauguration, I think we're seeing some people say, you know, this is kind of like their final break with QAnon after following it for years. But on the other hand, I think a lot of people have kind of recovered - in a bad way - and decided, well, you know, I'll just get - you know, maybe I misunderstood QAnon and it's still real. And maybe it's just going to take a little longer for Trump to come back.

KELLY: So what happens to the movement now?

SOMMER: Yeah. I mean, I think potentially it splinters. I think - you know, I think some people will leave. My concern is that people decide, you know, these are people who have been told that kind of the worst stuff you can imagine is happening in our government and Trump was supposed to solve it. And then now he's out out of office. Potentially, do these people decide to take matters into their own hands? I mean, we know there were a lot of QAnon believers involved in the violence at the Capitol. Do we see another incident like that?

KELLY: It sounds like you're describing the possibility that the threat doesn't just go away, but that it fractures into something else and that something else could potentially be more dangerous.

SOMMER: Absolutely. And, you know, even on the sort of more mundane aspect, I mean, this is something that has, you know, fractured thousands of families at least, you know, has really sort of driven, you know, a lot of people into this kind of weird state of unreality. And, you know, yes, they have committed murders. They've done terrorism. And so, I mean, I think, unfortunately, this is a threat, even with Biden in office, that is going to be with us for a while.

KELLY: And worth noting, Q has survived failed prophecies before, so lots to keep our eyes on in the coming days with this. Will Sommer, thank you.

SOMMER: Thanks for having me.

KELLY: Will Sommer is a politics reporter at The Daily Beast, and he has a book soon to come about QAnon. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

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