QAnon, Slender Man, and Our Paranoid Surveillance Society

What do internet-born urban legends tell us about deep-rooted societal anxieties?

Colin Horgan
Published in
14 min readAug 28, 2018


Photo: Rick Loomis/Getty Images

DDonald Trump was supposed to be the main event at his rally in Tampa, Florida, in early August. Instead, thanks to a number of people in the crowd sporting T-shirts emblazoned with the letter ‘Q,’ and others who held cardboard ‘Q’ cutouts aloft during Trump’s speech, the focus quickly shifted away from the president and toward the meaning of the ubiquitous letter.

The story behind the Q, or QAnon, has been in the works for nearly a year. It started with a cryptic post on 4Chan in October, 2017, and has since blossomed into a sprawling, full-blown alternative theory of everything.

QAnon is a tale woven by an anonymous person (or group of people) posting under the codename “Q” and purportedly holding high-level security clearance. They claim to know the “real” story of Donald Trump’s administration. Q posts cryptic clues — “crumbs” — for his followers to dissect, so they can unravel the truth together on Reddit, YouTube, and Facebook.

The “truth” Q alludes to? That Donald Trump is fighting the “deep state,” a corrupt conglomerate of institutions and elite individuals that looks out for its own interests to the detriment of regular…