"You guys know what this represents? Maybe it's the calm before the storm," President Donald Trump told reporters ominously as he posed with military commanders and their spouses in October 2017.

Since then "The Storm", partly in reference to this moment, has taken on life as a conspiracy theory wrapped up in conspiracy theories on pro-Trump message boards on online forums.

The Storm boils down to the idea that the US president is working to wipe out the effects of globalisation, a concept much hated by his supporters. To achieve this, he will apparently dismantle the 'deep state'.

This widely discredited conspiracy theory suggests that the US government is secretly run by a cabal of officials and elite members of finance and industry in a way that negates democracy.

The term has also been used to describe the leadership in Turkey and Russia. On top of this, every move Trump makes is a victory for The Storm - regardless of how it appears or is reported.

How do they know this? Because they are tipped off by a user known as QAnonymous, or QAnon, whose name references Q: the highest level of security clearance in the US.

They believe that this Q figure, who first posted on 4Chan on 28 October, has taken to message boards like 4Chan and 8Chan - widely regarded as the Wild West of the internet - to share the top-secret goings on in the highest reaches of power.

President Donald Trump references a "storm" during a photo opportunity in the White House

The topics discussed include Pizzagate. This saw websites falsely spreading the rumour that the Democractic Party was running a child trafficking ring in the basement of the Comet Ping Pong fast food restaurant in Washington DC - culminating in a gunman opening fire there in November 2016.

They also wrongly believe that Clinton and Obama murder and rape children, possibly because they are satanists or are being blackmailed by the CIA; and that the Las Vegas shooting was an inside job linked to a deal between Saudi Arabia and Clinton, according to an NY Mag report which delved into QAnon's posts.

One QAnon post read:

Cryptic messages include: "Mockingbird

HRC detained, not arrested (yet).

Where is Huma? Follow Huma.

This had nothing to do w/ Russia (yet)."

In this message, QAnon appears to mention Hillary Clinton, Huma Abedin, the vice chair of Clinton's 2016 campaign, and the ICA program Operation Mockingbird. Messages are generally similarly vague, in a way stokes debate about a myriad theories. These are documented and pored over by The Storm devotees in PDFs running hundreds of pages long.

By December 2017, these ideas were being discussed in videos and posts on more mainstream websites including YouTube and Twitter.

However, those who believe The Storm are not sure who is behind the tip-offs or "crumbs". Some suggest it is Dan Scavino, the White House director of social media. Others say it could be Trump himself.

Donald Trump
The Storm is partly in reference to comments President Donald Trump made at a press meeting SAUL LOEB/AFP/Getty Images

"These people are actually definitely being fooled by a random internet troll," argued Will Sommer, who monitors right-wing sentiments and writes the newsletter Right Richter.

"Despite The Storm's vastness, though, the message is simple: Trump is pulling off a string of victories over his enemies, but in secret; and everything that looks like it's bad news for Trump is actually, secretly, good news," he wrote in the most recent issue of the newsletter.

But The Storm believers are adamant that, although the most likely explanation is that a sophisticated internet troll is behind QAnon's posts, QAnon is a government insider. They point to apparent predictions, including one "crumb" where QAnon used the word "small", and Trump later tweeted about Small Business Saturday.

As The Storm theory picks up pace, Fox News host Sean Hannity has tweeted about QAnon and it has been discussed on the TV network RT.

Sommer reasons that while the theory is likely too extreme for most of those on the right wing to contemplate, he is concerned that it "perpetuates and builds on the same kind of material that sent a gunman into Comet Ping Pong".