Phones across the country buzzed Wednesday afternoon for the first national test of FEMA’s presidential-level emergency alert system.
For most people, the test, which resembled a text message, passed with nothing more than a quick glance at their phones and a mocking tweet about it. But believers in the pro-Trump QAnon conspiracy theory, the moment had titanic implications.
Believers in QAnon—a conspiracy theory based on a series of internet clues posted by an anonymous character named “Q” that posits a world in which Trump and the military are engaged in ceaseless, secret war with globalist Democratic pedophiles—think the text could mark the start of “The Storm,” a fantastical MAGA dream in which Trump’s political enemies will be arrested and tried at military tribunals.
“That is how we will receive orders if all else fails,” wrote one QAnon believer on the 8Chan internet forum. “We are the next generation Minutemen! Standing by Sir!”
“SO HAPPY!” wrote another. “THANK YOU 45!”
The text itself was as mundane as a nation-wide emergency test could be. While it came to phones as a “Presidential Alert,” it wasn’t sent out by Trump. FEMA controls the system.
“Presidential Alert: THIS IS A TEST of the National Wireless Emergency Alert System,” the test read. “No action is needed.”
Nevertheless, QAnon diehards cheered it as the perfect way for Trump to test how to deliver earth-shattering news to the entire country. On the internet forum 8Chan, QAnon fans also noted that the test message was 17 words long—a significant number for believers in the conspiracy theory, because “Q” is the 17th letter of the alphabet.
“The alert itself has 17 words,” wrote one pro-QAnon Twitter user. “#NoCoincidence.”
Others focused on the portion of the message that said “no action is needed,” which they saw as an echo of their motto: “Trust the plan.” That section of the test message, they believed, was a sign that Trump and the military are in control of the government and would soon settle all the country’s problems.
Despite their excitement, QAnon believers had originally anticipated a much bigger announcement to be delivered during the Wednesday test. Some speculated that Trump would use the vehicle to announce the imminent confirmation of Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh, or the firing of Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, or even the broadcasting of arrests of high-ranking Democrats.
“Q,” the mystery poster behind QAnon, had himself fueled the anticipation. In a series of posts, Q said that the date of the test had been moved to coincide with Kavanaugh’s confirmation and claimed that Rosenstein was “standing down.” In another, Q claimed that the test would mark the start of “RED OCTOBER,” an increasingly QAnon-world concept in which Democrats are utterly crushed in various ways before the month is over.
“Goodbye, Mr. Rosenstein,” read one Q post that referenced the test.
According to Travis View, a researcher who has tracked QAnon’s growth, some QAnon believers claimed beforehand that they knew the exact wording the test message would take. Going off a months-old Q post, they claimed that it would be a message from Trump saying, “My fellow Americans, the Storm is upon us.”
When the test message said nothing like that, QAnon believers rallied and claimed it was still proof their theory was real.
“In typical QAnon fashion, the fact that this didn't happen in this order won't be a problem in the QAnon world,” View told The Daily Beast.