St. Clair Shores woman shares her story after leaving QAnon conspiracy group

DETROIT – Many of the followers of the political conspiracy QAnon are bent on violence against politicians and many took place in the deadly siege on the U.S. Capitol Building.

QAnon has made national headlines with baseless claims helping to create chaos in the wake of the 2020 U.S. General Election.

For those who were able to get away from the toxic conspiracy, their way out may be a way for the rest of the country to move forward.

For Lenka Perron, like many others, spiraled into the online conspiracy QAnon in the wake of the 2016 U.S. General Election. She said she was a life-long democrat. a supporter of Sen. Bernie Sanders and that she felt alienated from the world she grew up in.

“We’re all angry,” Perron said. “We’re angry at the Democratic Party. We’re not seeing any accountability.”

Then came the first taste of the conspiracy. She spent hours digging through emails stolen by Russian hackers between then-candidate Hilary Clinton and her top aides. She was convinced they were a part of a plot to save the United States.

“It was within that sense of injustice, and rage and disappointment that we really started coming together and sort of doing our own research and connecting the dots,” Perron said.

Those connections are often hazy, but made perfect sense to QAnon followers with the help of Q, an anonymous poster on the website 8Chan -- a frequent home for conspiracy theorists, white supremacists and violent vitriol.

READ: How online hate inspires domestic terrorism

Since 2017, Q claimed to have high level government clearance and would leave cryptic clues to be deciphered. The clues fueled a wild conspiracy that powerful members of the Democratic Party and news media were members of a pedophiliac, cannibalistic Satan worshiping cult with former President Donald Trump standing as a divine hero against them.

The theory eventually spread to Reddit, Facebook and Instagram and found its way to people like Perron.

Many followers believed Trump would initiate mass arrests and executions of Democratic Party leaders. Many of those same followers were intent on acting out that fantasy Jan. 6.

READ: Some in the GOP parrot far-right talk of a coming civil war

Perron said she was never all-in, but understands why others would be.

“When people don’t feel secure, when they don’t feel safe, when they don’t feel like they can put a roof over their heads, give their children health care, equal education or what have you, they turn to something where you feel powerful, like you can make it happen,” Perron said. “And you do become dependent on it because you feel like you’re making a difference.”

The dependence is isolating with followers shutting out family members and friends. Those who try to reason against the conspiracy only became agents of it destined to be swept up in the “storm.”

Perron said her exit came in early in the QAnon movement. She said a devotion to a president with multiple accusations of sexual assault and his own ties to the wealthy pedophile Jeffrey Epstein and a clear agenda against the Democratic Party didn’t seem to add up, but the conspiracy still boasts millions of followers around the world.

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Some are beginning to reckon with the lie they’ve been fed, while others have dug in deeper.

“They’re actually alienating their own family and they are OK with that. That’s the saddest part,” Perron said. “If you studied cults behavior, that’s exactly what happens.”

Perron said for those looking to help, patience is better than persuasion, but the outlook is bleak.

“I’m not sure that people can be reached,” Perron said. “I’m a big believer that it’s going to take the individual doing their own work and coming to their own realization that this doesn’t fit.”

READ: Moving on from QAnon? Experts say these tips could help

About the Authors:

Dane is a producer and media enthusiast. He previously worked freelance video production and writing jobs in Michigan, Georgia and Massachusetts. Dane graduated from the Specs Howard School of Media Arts.