For followers of QAnon, Inauguration Day was never supposed to happen. There was going to be an uprising, assassinations, and Donald Trump was supposed to remain in office, victorious. On January 20, as Joe Biden was being sworn in as the 46th president, Shannon Foley Martinez sat down to make a video that spoke directly to followers of Q as the transfer of power peacefully occurred. “Many of you are grappling with a sense of confusion, betrayal, shame, embarrassment, and anger. That you’ve been led astray and lied to,” she says in a calm, patient voice. “I want to urge you to stay alive.”
Martinez is a former white supremacist who helps empower individuals to leave violence-based lifestyles and ideologies. Over the past year, QAnon has become one of the most powerful conspiracy theories in the county, fueled by people trapped at home, scared and uncertain, with a troll-in-chief fanning the flames of disinformation.
Seyward Darby, author of Sisters in Hate: American Women on the Front Lines of White Nationalism, recently spoke with Martinez about what can be done in this disorienting, transitional moment to reach out to followers of QAnon and begin the long, tenuous process of drawing loved ones away from conspiracy theories.
Seyward Darby: I recently watched your video addressing QAnon followers on Inauguration Day as well as one where you spoke to the loved ones of Q believers. I’d been thinking about how to approach people who are deep inside of extremist beliefs about the January 6 insurrection and the transfer of power to the Biden administration. And then, lo and behold, there were your videos. Why did you make them?
Shannon Foley Martinez: I was part of the violent white supremacy movement from the time I was 15 until the time I was 20. (I’m 46 now.) My entire adulthood has been centered around the idea of trying to understand how I embraced those ideas. How did it even happen?
What connections do you see between believers in QAnon and white supremacists?