Updated at 7:40 p.m. ET on December 10, 2021

There’s a new PDF making the rounds of the internet called “Election fraud, Foreign Interference & Options for 6 JAN.” It’s basically a “how to coup” PowerPoint presentation, and while its provenance can’t be confirmed, it includes a lot of the talking points you’ve heard Donald Trump surrogates use. But it also includes wild diagrams of various paranoid fantasies that the Trump administration used to shop the Big Lie—for example, the idea that China has some nefarious connection to our voting machines. Many of these look like something right out of Trumpworld’s favorite conspiracy theory, QAnon.

It’s been a year since QAnon—which postulates the wacky fantasy that Donald Trump is the savior of humanity secretly working behind the scenes to stop a cabal of child-eating Democrats—went silent. Q hit the mainstream in 2017 via “dumps” posted by a “Q Clearance Patriot” (an anonymous account claiming Q-level security clearance) on the infamous message board 4chan. There are various anti-Semitic tropes also thrown into the mix, but ultimately, QAnon is a kind of hodgepodge of many baseless conspiracy theories, recentered on the premise that Donald J. Trump, former reality-television host, will save humanity.

When I first started reading about QAnon, I found it, like the idea of Trump as president, too silly to be true. A lot of Democrats thought Trump running would be a “good thing”—that he’d be easier to beat because of his complete and utter lack of political knowledge and his blistering racism and stupidity. I remember many a night when my husband told me that there was no way that guy with the implanted wig would be president. This conventional wisdom held until November 8, 2016.

To read the rest, subscribe to The Atlantic.

Already a subscriber? Sign in