- QAnon is a US-centric conspiracy theory movement, but is attracting supporters beyond its shores.
- Security officials in Belgium and France say that their agencies are reconsidering earlier decisions to ignore the movement, conceding that it could bring about violence in their countries.
- A Belgian official argued that QAnon offers similar comfort to its followers to Islamic extremism, and may attract similar personalities.
- An official in France said that he and his colleagues are not focusing strongly on QAnon now, but that he would not be surprised if that were to change.
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Europe’s domestic intelligence and law enforcement services have apprehensively watched the QAnon conspiracy theory migrate from the US, and now consider it a significant security concern.
The assessment was given by two security officials contacted by Insider, both of whom spoke on condition of anonymity given the nature of their work.
QAnon advocates claim that the US controlled by a cabal of politicians, celebrities and media figures who engage in child abuse and pedophilia.
Its supporters believe that President Donald Trump will eventually move against these people, and seek clues from an unknown government insider known as Q.There is no evidence to support the theory, none of its foretold reckonings have taken place.
Nonetheless, its popularity has grown in recent years, despite efforts from social media companies to evict QAnon from their platforms. It has also garnered followers in Europe.
A Belgian counter-terrorism official told Insider that many European services like his own are now rethinking an earlier decision to ignore QAnon as a solely American phenomenon.
He drew parallels between QAnon and jihadist movements which have traditionally occupied intelligence agencies.
The source, part of Belgium’s Federal Police, said: “I worked on jihadis and al Qaeda, ISIS for over 20 years and now I am looking at the secular American version.”
“This Q thing is very similar to jihadism in several ways that are not obvious at first, for example: Both are cults of magical thinking. Jihadis are drawn to the cause because they find comfort in a black-and-white morality in a complex world.
“And then they get to participate in a new version of reality, one where they aren’t just a flawed person but they’re heroes in a battle that normal people are too ignorant to even see.”
“So it turns out the world isn’t a complex place where making the right choices and understanding things around you can be a challenge,” the official continued.
“It’s a very simple place where there’s good and evil and you get to be good and oppose evil. And you’re no longer some Moroccan kid from Molenbeek [a Brussels neighbourhood associated with jihadism], you’re a Holy Warrior protecting the true Islam. Or you’re no longer some normal suburban person with a boring job: You are on the front lines battling a lizard-person death cult.”
When asked if fears of Q related violence in Europe were legitimate, the official said they probably are.
He said: “I’d be more concerned if I was American because obviously most cult believers won’t engage in violence â€” just as most adherents of Salafism never become violent jihadis â€” but a handful probably will.
“But everyone having easy access to all sorts of guns in the US makes it more dangerous. Most of our jihadi attacks these days are mentally ill people waving knives and I expect we could see the same from Q. But in Europe there’s less of a chance the person will have an assault rifle.”
A French police official based in Paris said that a long list of other concerns mean that significant resources have yet to be assigned to QAnon. But, he said, that could change.
“French love conspiracies, half our country thinks the Masons run the world and the other half thinks the Masons should,” said the police official.
“I think the cult of Q will find adherents among the crazier parts of the [Yellow Vest] protesters and that there will be violence. But I wouldn’t expect the French establishment to do much about crazy violent white people until someone gets killed.”
Both the French and Belgian officials pointed to Germany as the most worrying venue for QAnon in Europe.
An official from the German domestic intelligence service, the Federal Service for the Protection of the Constitution, declined to comment directly.
But, when asked if a recent New York Times piece on the rising threat of QAnon in Germany was accurate, the official said “absolutely it is part of an overall concern about the radical right.”