Its messaging can seem cryptic, even nonsensical, yet for tens of thousands of people, it explains everything: What is QAnon, where did it come from, and is the Capitol insurgency a sign of where it’s going next?
On October 5th, 2017, President Trump made a cryptic remark in the State Dining Room at a gathering of military officials. He said it felt like “the calm before the storm”—then refused to elaborate as puzzled journalists asked him to explain. But on the infamous message boards of 4chan, a mysterious poster going by “Q Clearance Patriot,” who claimed to be in “military intelligence,” began the elaboration on their own.
In the days that followed, Q’s wild yarn explaining Trump’s remarks began to rival the sinister intricacies of a Tom Clancy novel, while satisfying the deepest desires of MAGA-America. But did any of what Q predicted come to pass? No. Did that stop people from clinging to every word they were reading, expanding its mythology, and promoting it wider and wider? No.
Why not? Who were these rapt listeners? How do they reconcile their worldview with the America they see around them? Why do their numbers keep growing? Mike Rothschild, a journalist specializing in conspiracy theories, has been collecting their stories for years, and through interviews with QAnon converts, apostates, and victims, as well as psychologists, sociologists, and academics, he is uniquely equipped to explain the movement and its followers.
In The Storm Is Upon Us, he takes readers from the background conspiracies and cults that fed the Q phenomenon, to its embrace by right-wing media and Donald Trump, through the rending of families as loved ones became addicted to Q’s increasingly violent rhetoric, to the storming of the Capitol, and on.
And as the phenomenon shows no sign of calming despite Trump’s loss of the presidency—with everyone from Baby Boomers to Millennial moms proving susceptible to its messaging—and politicians starting to openly espouse its ideology, Rothschild makes a compelling case that mocking the seeming madness of QAnon will get us nowhere. Rather, his impassioned reportage makes clear it’s time to figure out what QAnon really is — because QAnon and its relentlessly dark theory of everything isn’t done yet.
A Book to We’re Excited About in June at the AV Club
A Non-Fiction Book You Should Read this Summer at LitHub
A CNN’s ”Reliable Sources” Book to Read this Summer
A Most Anticipated Book of June at Alma Magazine
“Reads like a thriller, with cliffhangers that leave you eager for the next episode . . . The Storm Is Upon Us is an impressive piece of research and a gripping read.” —The Sunday Times (London)
“Compelling, comprehensive, meticulously-documented.” —Booklist, Starred Review
“[It is] vitally important to understand the collective fabulisms of this shadowy Trump-era conspiracy cult, and how it somehow floated from the murky backwaters of online message boards to the very top of the Republican Party. To do so, you’d best start with Mike Rothschild’s The Storm is Upon Us (because it kind of is).” -LitHub
“Rothschild provides an enlightening history of the QAnon conspiracy theory… a disturbing and well-informed look at the darker side of modern American politics” —Publisher’s Weekly
“Given the odds that someone you know buys into QAnon doctrine, Rothschild’s rabbit-hole dive is a valuable guide.” —Kirkus Reviews
“Balancing humor with meticulous detail, Mike Rothschild is an ideal tour guide for your journey into the depths of the rabbit hole that is QAnon, and even shows you a glimmer of light at the exit.” —Cullen Hoback, director of Q: Into the Storm