QAnon: The Absurd Conspiracy Theory Infecting Trump’s Base
Updated March 29, 2019: Ahead of President Trump’s rally in Michigan on Thursday night, many Trump supporters were seen on video screaming their support for QAnon. President Trump has previously retweeted a video clip that originated on a QAnon supporter’s Twitter account.
I’ve been covering Qanon for a year, and the amount of pro-Q people in this video from yesterday’s Trump rally line in Grand Rapids is absolutely shocking. This is just a portion of it. pic.twitter.com/hTDGEnPsEi
— Ben Collins (@oneunderscore__) March 29, 2019
Much like an untreated flu can seem to fade only to return as acute bronchitis, Pizzagate, the conspiracy theory which gripped right-wing social media by accusing top Democrats of running a pedophile ring from the nonexistent basement of a pizzeria, never really went away. Instead, it returned in the far more virulent form of QAnon, which alleges that the West is ruled from the shadows by a Satanic cult of bankers, bureaucrats, and shadowy, secret cabals. If you spent enough time diving into the world of conspiracy theories, you’ll probably recognize that it’s just a remix of the same New World Order conspiracy mocked by Leo Taxil in 1890, and briefly in vogue during the early 1990s, though it still thrives in the shadows today.
In substance, QAnon is playing the same melody to the same beat. A secretive, highly placed whistleblower warning the public hints that sinister, Satan and sex-related things are happening, and rallying the forces of good to their side with vague, salacious stories and snippets. In this case, the whistleblower is a government official with clearance to see some of America’s deep, dark secrets who calls himself Q, after the clearance he purports to have. His vague, part haiku, part National Treasure-style cryptic hints started at the end of October 2017 on 4Chan’s /pol/ board and have since moved on to even deeper fringes of the conspiracy web, but not before building a sizeable following.
How did Q manage to do that? Well, in short, he claims that everything the “fake news media” tells us is propaganda from the evil, Satanic elites, and not only are President Trump and his staffers innocent of any sort of collusion with Russia or paying off porn stars, they’re actually about to send thousands of the right’s bogeymen to jail with thousands of sealed indictments just waiting to be unveiled at the right time. Some are already secretly under house arrest. And the web of evil Trump is trying to bring down is a doozy, spanning every three letter agency that ever existed and the leaders of conglomerates who are purportedly financing all of it or behind setting important events in motion.
Q’s devotees eagerly wait for his “breadcrumbs” and parse the vaguest of his hints for proof that he’s not a hoaxer doing it “just for the lulz,” call themselves “bakers” and debate which government officials and power players in the news are the saintly, pro-MAGA “white hats” and which ones are the Satanic, pedophilic “black hats” working against him. They march under the slogans “WWG1WGA” or “where we go one, we go all,” and “we are Q.” Signs bearing the latter showed up at President Trump’s rally in Tampa last night, prompting pundits to worry that the ranks of QAnon devotees reenacting the Satanic Panic 2.0 are growing at an alarming rate. Considering several incidents involving armed followers of Q in the real world, they’re right to be worried.
Interestingly enough, those devotees tend to be on the older side while the younger, tech-savvy alt-right cliques were quick to dismiss QAnon. And they have good reasons. For example, while there is such a thing as Q-clearance, it’s only pertinent to those employed at the Department of Energy and would imply that Q’s day job is reviewing the design and maintenance of nuclear weapons rather than investigating Satanists plotting to molest children and manipulate the stock market. Another red flag is that it started on a 4Chan board notorious for inventing conspiracies to troll the media and the general public for the sake of trolling. And the biggest red flag of all is the vagueness of the missives which leave readers to fill in the blanks the same way a psychic’s cold reading is meant to.
On top of that, consider just how vast a conspiracy to account for almost everything Trump’s base doesn’t like in the news being staged or fake, and every celebrity or important figure that makes them mad to be tainted by it. It would require an entire shadow government with a few hundred thousand full-time employees, hundreds, if not thousands of front companies, tens of thousands of spies and agents across the world, and billions of suspicious financial transactions. According to research into how quickly conspiracies get discovered, something this massive could’ve only been secret for a few years before major leaks began. Yet, Q alleges this has been going on for decades, and his followers tie this shadow New World Order to everything short of sinking the Titanic and backroom deals with the Reptilians from Tau Ceti.
And this is all very disconcerting because while disagreeing about the best way to fund the military or make health care affordable is just par for the course in a healthy democracy, having the party in power glued to histrionic conspiracy theories and demanding that tech companies cram them down users’ throats, or else, means we’ve left the realm of reason. The most vocal and devoted members of the GOP’s base longer care about real problems, they’re demanding that the country plunges down the same rabbit holes of hysterical fear and channels its resources into defeating imaginary bogeymen. QAnon is yet another in a long line of similar conspiracies that gripped the American right before and there’s nothing that new or special about it. But it does come at a time when the right is discarding its last moorings to the real world, and as we can see from the Tampa rally, pulling more and more Americans with it.
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