The widely ridiculed attempts to paint the teenage survivors of the Parkland school shooting as a group of “crisis actors” has drawn attention to the subculture of far-right conspiracy theories. And although the Parkland fantasies popped up in response to a current event and were almost instantly debunked by mainstream media outlets like CNN and the New York Times, these conservative fantasias tend to brew and gain strength under the radar for months, like Pizzagate, which bedeviled Hillary Clinton’s 2016 campaign. Its successor is The Storm.
Where did The Storm come from?
The Storm began to churn in October on /pol/, a subforum of the anonymous message board 4chan. On the 28th, a poster who called himself “Q” and claimed to be a high-ranking government operative, warned of an upcoming “storm” that would sweep Washington. He said the country was in the “calm before the storm,” a phrase spoken during a military photo op by President Trump which had caused nervous speculation about Trump’s nuclear intentions toward North Korea.
That seemed silly on its face, but the thread actually grew in popularity as “Q” sketched his tale. In “Q”‘s telling, there was no Russian conspiracy to assist the presidential campaign of Donald Trump, and he is not under investigation by special counsel Robert Mueller. Instead, it was the Clinton campaign and the Obama administration who had colluded with Russia for some reason, and Trump was only pretending to be a friend of Putin so that justice could be done.
What The Storm conspiracy theory claims
“In this fantasy world, all of the far right’s wildest dreams come true: Q promises that Clinton, Obama, Podesta, Abedin, and even McCain are all either arrested and wearing secret police-issued ankle monitors, or just about to be indicted; that the Steele dossier is a total fabrication personally paid for by Clinton and Obama; and that the Las Vegas massacre was most definitely an inside job connected to the Saudi-Clinton cabal,” says New York magazine.
As the tale expanded from 4chan to other social media, it became clear that the narrative framework was vague and elastic enough to contain all manner of outlandish drama. “If you search the hashtags #TheStorm and #Qanon on Twitter, you will find users connecting the prophesies of “Q” to—well, pretty much anything,” says Newsweek. “Do you incorrectly believe that Clinton aide Huma Abedin was doing tacit work for the Sunni Islamic organization Muslim Brotherhood during Obama’s tenure as president? That will be revealed in the forthcoming ‘storm’ of information, if you want. Do you imagine that the rapper Jay Z, who recently drew Trump’s ire for remarks he made about black unemployment, is in cahoots with Soros, the billionaire philanthropist? ‘The storm’ will expose that nonexistent plot in time.”
So when is The Storm due? The timing keeps changing. “Q” used his alleged tip-top-secret government clearance to assert it was coming in November. The month came and went with the atmosphere unstirred. But that didn’t discourage the faithful. Nearly four months after “Q”‘s first posting, The Storm has continued to spiral out of control on Reddit, YouTube and Facebook — a year after those platforms took steps to shut down Pizzagate by banning the propagators of that BS.
It seems the theory will just have to burn itself out. “What is there even left to try? We know that stopping the conversation doesn’t work,” sighed New York. “Neither do the facts.”