How the conspiracy theorists behind the failed US coup settled on a new date: March 4th

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Thiago Vahia Malliagros
Thiago Vahia Malliagros is a brazilian historian focused on conspiracy theories and contemporary far right ideologies.

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Tomorrow, on March 4th – the anniversary of the day the constitution of the Nation of the USA was born – the Corporation of the United States of America will come to an end, and with that the nation of the United States will be reborn under the constitution of 1789. Biden, the leader of the Corporation, will subsequently be removed from power, and Trump, the president of the Nation of the US, will return to the office he should never have left. As such, the country of The United States of America will be brought back – it had, obviously, been secretly replaced by the Corporation.

If the previous paragraph appears confusing and weird to you, you’re not alone. However, that is the belief some members of the Qanon movement now hold about what will happen tomorrow. This belief – that the US is a corporation – permeates dozens of conspiracy theories, but I specifically want to focus on how it intersects with Qanon and the attempted coup of January 6th.

Let’s start at the beginning: the fall, when the US stopped being a country and became a corporation. Various narratives point to different moments when this happened: some say it was the creation of the Federal Reserve; others the signing of the 14th Amendment that would later grant companies legal status; and even in some rare cases it’s the Declaration of Independence itself, which some believe was merely a ploy to trick people. What they all have in common is the idea that this switch from country to corporation was done without popular support, in secrecy, and organized by forces that profited from the destruction of the USA.

For believers it is beyond doubt that, before this ‘fall’, America had a perfect period where everything was good and people were prospering, in the greatest nation on the planet. Then, in secret, all was stolen, leaving people to live in a place that is no longer a country, but a corporation focused only on profit, rather than on its population or their freedom.

The use of the term ‘corporation’ in this narrative may seem strange, but it has a specific meaning to believers: it refers not to a normal business, but one that is ruled by Contract Law. They believe that anything put into a legal document or agreed verbally must be followed at all costs, regardless as to whether the results are good or bad for those who agreed to the contract. If this were true, obviously this corporation could design contracts in a way that were always beneficial to themselves, and were impossible to break.

That is what this conspiracy, often called the Sovereign Citizen or Freemen on the Land conspiracy, is based on. It posits that all Americans are tricked by the Corporation into signing themselves away to this system. Birth certificates, they argue, are a legal contract which trick you into being part of this system. Public education teaches people to stay inside the system, owned by the Corporation. Even police officers are part of the system of control, and the way in which they ask seemingly-innocent questions is a ploy to trap someone into a verbal contract, and thus force them to submit to this giant, evil system.

This whole worldview prompts the question: why? Why would the Corporation go to all this length to create hundreds of ways to trap people? To be clear, I am not asking why, according to this narrative, a system that controls the most powerful country in the world, as well as all the banking systems, needs to trick little John Smith to sign his name away in return for a driver’s license. What I am asking is, if they really did already control everything, why would the Corporation even bother adhering to the law and their contracts? Who would punish them if they broke their own rules?

That is not usually a question asked by Sovereign Citizens. Instead, they believe that if they can just say the right things, and behave in a specific way in the eyes of the law and justice, they can escape the Corporation and live as they want to. What they usually don’t consider is, even if everything they believed was true, why would they be allowed to escape this system? If the Corporation controls all the media, law enforcement, financial system and everything else, why would they allow someone to escape?

Sovereign Citizen belief is, at its heart, a very individualistic conspiracy theory: one person by themselves can escape the system, and live freely as they please. For that possibility of personal freedom to be true, believers need to accept the all-powerful notion of Contract Law, and really believe that the Corporation lives and dies by it – that the Corporation could never and would never violate it. Without this core truth, their entire belief system fall apart, because without it their only route to the freedom they seek would be to instigate a total revolution and take down the entire system, which is much more work than to read books and watch YouTube videos about how to avoid taxes by saying the right series of special words to a judge.

That is where Qanon comes in, with its central belief that a figure called Q is dropping information about the gigantic operation run by Trump, aimed at taking down the evil cabal that is trying to destroy America. For them, the revolution plan is already in motion, the victory of the good guys against the evil cabal is secure. “Watch the show”, believers tell each other, knowingly.

Their certainty regarding the coming revolution doesn’t stop Q followers from running for congress, protesting the election, or even just continuing to share memes designed to wake people up to the great truth, but deep down they don’t believe that their actions will be key in the fight against the cabal. Qanon believers firmly believe that Trump and his allies in the army will win this war, and that efforts to help them are all well and good, but really the common folk are not expected to play much of a role in the revolution.

Donald Trump, former president of the USA

This brings us back to the 4th of March, the day the Corporation one way or another is supposed to end, allowing the United States of America, the country, to return. The belief posits that the army – which somehow hasn’t been infiltrated by the Corporation – remains loyal to the nation, and they will step in to arrest Joe Biden, Kamala Harris and all of the senior politicians Q supporters hate. With no elected leaders left to run the Corporation, it will collapse, defaulting America back to a Nation… paving the way for Trump to resume office, as the 19th President of the Nation of the United States of America.

Again, all of this can only happen once the rule of the Corporation has ended… which, believers are convinced, will happen as a result of the Corporations unerring obligation to abide by the law of contracts.

A striking thing about this whole plan is that such a belief assures its followers that nothing bad will happen – they will get Trump in the White House, just as Q has promised, and the plan will all play out perfectly, and they will be free to go back to their lives, celebrating the victory they have been promised.

You may be wondering how America got to this point. Sadly, left with nowhere else to go after the failed coup of January 6th, the 4th of March represents the union of two conspiracy communities: Qanon believers and Sovereign Citizens. Combining their belief systems relies on the evil cabal being locked into very specifc behaviors, including the unbreakable compliance with what Sovereign Citizens are convinced is Contract Law. This merging of these two committed, far-from-reality belief systems produces an incredibly powerful and persuasive narrative to help its believers rationalise all of the certainty they had about what would happen during and after the election.

The question we don’t yet have a good answer to is: where will they turn when tomorrow comes around and their promised revolution doesn’t happen? 

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