When studying for a doctoral degree (PhD), candidates submit a thesis that provides a critical review of the current state of knowledge of the thesis subject as well as the student’s own contributions to the subject. The distinguishing criterion of doctoral graduate research is a significant and original contribution to knowledge.
Once accepted, the candidate presents the thesis orally. This oral exam is open to the public.
Disinformation and conspiracy theories have quickly developed into threats against democratic institutions, violent extremism, threats against elected leaders, and attacks on vital infrastructure. None has had a greater influence on the violent extremist community than QAnon, which emerged from the Pizzagate hoax and has developed over the past five years into a significant ideology motivated violent extremist movement. The COVID-19 epidemic has strengthened xenophobic and anti-authority narratives, many of which may have an adverse effect on national security, democratic institutions, and public health. This has contributed to its quick emergence as a significant threat actor. By spreading fake information about government actions and the virus itself online and distorting the truth to support its conspiracy theory and worldview, QAnon took advantage of the pandemic. In an effort to excuse and justify killing, some violent extremists in QAnon have accepted conspiracy theories concerning the pandemic. These tales have helped to erode confidence in both scientific knowledge and the honesty of the government. While some conspiracy theory rhetoric is a valid exercise in the right to free speech, internet discourse that is becoming more aggressive and demands for the detention and killing of particular people raises serious concerns.
This dissertation will represent an initial examination of some of the facets of the QAnon movement by examining the complex history of the QAnon as it has fluctuated and evolved, not only due to the likelihood of multiple users behind the “Q” account, but also as the sociopolitical landscape has changed since the creation of the movement. This dissertation will (1) frame QAnon as a lived religion and demonstrate that it has gone through three stages of existence: proto-QAnon, canonical-QAnon and apocryphal-QAnon. (2) It will then argue that QAnon overtimed evolved into something more than a conspiracy theory but will argue in a comparative analysis that QAnon is more akin to a new religious movement, in particular a hyper-real religion. (3) Next it will examine the role of gender and women in the QAnon movement. (4) This will be followed by an examination of how the QAnon conspiracy theories have legitimized, coordinated an targeted gender based violence. (5) Will provide evidence of the nexus of QAnon and ideologically motivated violent extremism and criminality. (6) Finally, it will examine the evolution of QAnon after the January 6th insurrection, the lost of the election by Donald Trump and the disappearance of “Q”.