It should have been clear in the early days of Trump’s 2016 campaign what kind of legacy he would leave behind should he win the White House. A man who gained virtually all of his initial political influence from Obama birther conspiracies, we should have seen something like QAnon coming.
For those who still don’t know what I’m talking about, here it is, as best as an outsider can describe it. It started in October 2016 with Pizzagate. A silly conspiracy theory promoted by Mike Cernovich and Alex Jones that claimed Hillary Clinton was running a child sex ring out of a pizzeria basement (the place had no basement).
The theory didn’t gain much traction in the mainstream media until after Trump won the election, and a vigilante wannabe named Edgar Maddison Welch was arrested after he open fired on the restaurant in question. He was sentenced to four years in prison. Soon after, Alex Jones apologized for spreading the conspiracy theory, but the damage was done.
Over time, the conspiracy morphed on social media channels, like 4chan and Reddit. What started with the Clintons became about Democrats and their immoral depravity. It laid the groundwork for a worldview that would soon have a name; QAnon.
QAnon, originated from a mysterious figure named, “Q,” who posted anonymously on 4chan. No one knows who it is or where they live. For all tense and purposes, they are anonymous. Hence the term QAnon. Q claimed to have high-level government clearance and slowly released droplets of wildly debunked “secret information.”
Given that most of those who follow Q are religious evangelicals, they just took him on faith. Didn’t question a thing. For all anyone knows, Q is just some old guy in a Chinese basement having some fun. As you’ll come to realize, truth and facts don’t matter here.
In the years following Pizzagate, Q created what is now a far-right conspiracy movement that believes, first and foremost, that President Donald Trump is working to dismantle a “deep state” cabal of Satan-loving, pedophilic liberal elites in Hollywood and Washington. Yes, you read that correctly. Other such beliefs include the Coronavirus being a hoax, and that Muslims are secretly taking over congress, of which there are only three.
I should also mention that QAnon believers pray for a fascist moment they call “The Storm.” It’s kind of like a Trumpocalypse. It will occur when the military rounds up, imprisons, and possibly executes Trump’s enemies: Democratic politicians, members of the “fake news” media, and Hollywood celebrities.
Most members of Qanon are similar to Donald Trump, only much more religious, vocal and potentially violent. They are far-right politically, racist, anti-Semitic, and Islamophobic. The FBI has seen fit to label the movement as a domestic terror threat in the wake of isolated incidents involving Qanon followers being implicated in multiple crimes, including armed standoffs, kidnappings and murder.
Now, this might seem scary to some, and it is, but it gets much worse. Most conspiracy theories are harmless, if not stupid. Take flat earthers for example. They’re theory belongs in the fifteenth century, but no one will be physically harmed by the belief and their numbers are still relatively few. The same can’t be said for QAnon believers. With Trump in the White House, they’re going mainstream in a big way.
According to NBC News, an internal investigation by Facebook uncovered thousands of QAnon groups and pages, with millions of their followers. Four million by some accounts. Now, they are running for national office.
QAnon actually has at least twelve candidates running in Republican primaries across the United States. While some have little chance of moving on, others, like Marjorie Taylor Greene, are almost assured a seat in Congress. Greene won her primary earlier in the week in Georgia’s heavily conservative 14th Congressional District.
Greene referred to African Americans as “slaves to the Democratic Party,” warned of “an Islamic invasion of our government” and asserted that Jewish billionaire philanthropist George Soros is a Nazi. Trump took to twitter to congratulate her, calling Greene a “future Republican Star.”
With QAnon followers about to attain national government office and top Republican officials, including the President, embracing them, they will have a voice far too loud for any far-right fringe group. Regrettably, the American public is becoming more and more susceptible to this nonsense.
QAnon, like other conspiracy theories, preys on a specific type of people. The mentally ill, the uneducated, the poor and racists of all stripes. As Covid-19 causes health and economic stress across the land, there is no shortage of people willing to buy into anything that allows them to vent their anger, forget their fears and gives them hope. It’s the basis of most religions if you think about it. I guess Jesus just isn’t good enough anymore.
Donald Trump, social media, the Coronavirus, and people like Alex Jones have all contributed to what QAnon has become. A fast-growing religious cult with Trump as god and Q as a prophet. This religion has more potential than a political movement like the Tea Party was. It will likely grow in leaps and bounds when Trump leaves the White House. It will also get more violent. Whether Trump wins a second term or not, the “storm” is unlikely to happen. What happens then?
It’s ironic in a way, their beliefs may end up being the reason Trump loses to Joe Biden in November. Their denial of the Coronavirus Pandemic and their confidence that masks are what’s killing people is, in part, what’s causing the Covid-19 to spread uncontrollably.
Nevertheless, QAnon isn’t going anywhere. They are just starting to infiltrate America’s political discourse. It’s just as likely the QAnon conspiracy cheer-leading will also move from Alex Jones to the more mainstream America One News or Fox News. If the past twenty years are any indication, there may be no recovering from that.