On Friday night, the official Twitter account for the 3rd Special Forces Group (Airborne) did something relatively innocent: it posted a photo of a pair of Army special forces soldiers conducting night operations.
— 3rd Special Forces Group 🇺🇸 (@3rdSFGroup) August 8, 2020
U.S. military social media accounts, manned by public affairs officers, frequently post photos of various training exercises and operations to showcase their capabilities. Indeed, this particular photo is sourced to a UH-60 Black Hawk Helicopter exfiltration exercise at Hurlburt Field in Florida that took place on August 15, 2019.
But this particular tweet went especially viral for all the wrong reasons: it garnered outsized attention from devotees to the QAnon conspiracy theory who saw a secret message hidden within.
I can't even begin to explain the batshit insane intricacies of the QAnon phenomenon, but the gist of it is this: President Donald Trump is secretly waging a campaign against a global network of elite pedophiles while a “storm” of revelations about the nefarious role of Democrats and deep state operatives in undermining the United States is on the horizon — all of which is becoming public knowledge thanks to a gaggle of keyboard detectives following the “bread crumbs” of intel from “Q,” an anonymous poster who claims high-level security clearance and prophetic insights into America's coming apocalypse.
Here's a small sample of folks who thought they saw a sign from 'Q' in the 3rd SFG (A)'s tweet:
Looks like a Q
— TheCaptain808 (@TheCaptain808) August 8, 2020
I see a Q
— NurseRita (@RitaJune69) August 8, 2020
The Storm !
— Philippe Bee (@PhilBee20) August 8, 2020
Is that supposed to be Q?
— J. Vigeant (@j_vigeant) August 8, 2020
GOD bless and protect you all and thank Q for your service Patriots!
— Jewel (@saltyjewel) August 8, 2020
The entire QAnon phenomenon isn't just a harebrained internet fable. Adherents have shown up in force at Trump rallies in recent months, and terrorism experts even see the movement as a threat to national security, according to a new report from West Point’s Combating Terrorism Center that places the conspiracy theory in the context of the recent rise of violent domestic extremists in the United States.
“QAnon … represents a militant and anti-establishment ideology rooted in an apocalyptic desire to destroy the existing, corrupt world to usher in a promised golden age,” the report says. “This position finds resonance with other far-right extremist movements, such as the various militant, anti-government, white nationalist, and neo-Nazi extremist organizations across the United States.”
But here's the thing: while QAnon fanatics may see 'Q' everywhere, sometimes a photo is just a photo. When reached for comment, a 3rd SFG(A) PAO direct Task & Purpose to this response to the outpouring of conspiracy theorists on Twitter:
It’s not a Q. It is in fact a complete circle partially hidden by a Soldier. I know, because I am the public affairs officer in charge of this account.
— Rick Dickson (@rickdicksonreal) August 8, 2020
There you have it, folks. When the 'storm' does arrive, don't expect the 3rd SFG(A) to be on your side.