What will become of its adherents when QAnon burns out? History suggests that it will not simply disappear. As the late James Randi, magician and debunker of paranormal claims, put it, “the resilience of the duped” is incredibly strong. Successive crusades continued their violent attempts to bring about the apocalypse for centuries. Indeed, the crusades continue to inspire violence, from Anders Breivik in Norway in 2011 to the Christchurch mosque shooter and his crusades-and-white-supremacist reference-laden rifle to Donald Trump Jr.’s Crusader rifle. The Great Disappointment gave birth to a successor church that reinterpreted it, that would later have splinter groups that tried to bring about the apocalypse. Even after the death of the core of the Branch Davidians and their leader, that small sect survives.
The most dire threat is that the death of the apocalyptic movement may become fodder for domestic terrorism—Timothy McVeigh, after all, went to Waco to observe the siege, and McVeigh and Nichols blew up the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City in 1995 on the second anniversary of the Waco fire.
QAnon may die, but its poisonous legacy is here to stay, and in a time of increased threat of right-wing militias, may be deadly. Its adherents cannot simply be brought back out of the cold until they reject the conspiracy, its beliefs, and its motives—history has shown us far too many examples of how apocalyptic movements refuse to die.