To Carusone, the threat doesn’t come from the movement’s delusional theories—it comes from the permission structure it gives to its adherents to attack outsiders. “The ideas are actually a rationalization for harming basically everybody that QAnon brands as an enemy,” he said
But QAnon adherents gaining access to power isn’t theoretical by any means. Not only does the House GOP caucus already have several QAnon members; at the local level, Q believers in positions of power are roiling American cities and towns.
Take Grand Blanc, Michigan, where the recent election of local school board member Amy Facchinello has become a locus of controversy. After former high school senior Lucas Hartwell unearthed a series of social media posts dating back to 2017 suggesting Facchinello’s support for the conspiracy theory, some members of the community began calling for her resignation.
A recent school board meeting on May 24 devolved into a contentious debate that forced a 10-minute break in order to defuse tensions, according to CNN. Prior to the meeting, a group of students, retired teachers, and parents had gathered outside to protest Facchinello’s post on the board, where she has just begun serving a six-year term. The demonstration was rife with signs featuring giant strike-throughs of the letter “Q.” One sign said, “Amy Q Resign.”
Hartwell and others say believing in QAnon is simply disqualifying for anyone dealing with education.
“It’s a platform that’s based on everything a school district should stand against, everything education should stand against,” said Hartwell. “And that’s the most upsetting part to me, that somebody who has the future of children believes these things that are so outlandish and so harmful to not just our community, not just our children, but to our nation and the world.”
But Facchinello also has supporters who say she’s great with the kids and is simply being targeted for her political beliefs, a sentiment shared by Facchinello.
“I think it’s the false narrative to try to cancel Trump’s supporters,” says Facchinello, who was part of the Trump campaign in Grand Blanc.
When CNN asked her about a tweet on her account using the common QAnon slogan “WWG1WGA”—which stands for “Where we go one, we go all”—Facchinello framed the abbreviation as “an inclusive message.”
Facchinello supporters and detractors have become embroiled in a debate over questions of free speech and whether followers of such conspiracy theories simply set a bad example or pose a real threat to the community.
An answer to those last two questions may have been offered by one of Facchinello’s defenders, current high school junior A.J. Smith, who plays on the lacrosse team with her son.
“I think personally, QAnon, parts of it are real,” he said. “I mean, people say it’s just conspiracy, but some of it’s pretty real. Some of it’s ridiculous, obviously.” Smith added that “shady things” are happening in Washington, D.C., and Hollywood.
Sure, shady things happen everywhere—no argument there. But if our country produces a crop of young people who are open to drinking in the toxic sludge that QAnon is dishing out, then America’s future really will turn rather stormy.