"It is a trap!": Inside the QAnon attack that never happened

As it turned out, social media mentions of the term “false flag” — an event orchestrated to make one’s enemies look culpable for acts of violence — skyrocketed in the days and weeks after the Jan. 6 Capitol riot. Inhabitants of QAnon safe spaces — forums, chat rooms, websites — became aware they were suddenly being monitored by law enforcement and media, alarming them in the run-up to March 4.

“A lot of them have been de-platformed, a lot of groups have shut down, a lot of people have been arrested, leaders in the movement have become subject of FBI interrogation, even arrest,” said Jared Holt, a research fellow at the Atlantic Council’s Digital Forensic Research Lab, where he specializes in following right-wing extremists. “So these groups are not in a place where they feel comfortable, in this moment, organizing any sort of mass event in the open. And if you can’t do it openly, you are automatically going to limit participation.”…

But unlike January 6 — the concrete, indisputable date of the actual ratification of the Electoral College results and thus the presidency — a March 4 inauguration had always rested on a nebulous theory, even by the standards of QAnon lore. That theory, based on a misreading of an 1871 law, claimed that March 4 was the actual, legal date of the inauguration, and that Biden had been falsely sworn in on January 20 — perhaps as a feint, or perhaps as president of a globalist-backed corporation.