The GOP Is Now The Party Of QAnon

Selling fear and division is the bread and butter of Republican campaigning. But with more Americans tolerant of racial differences, Republicans are now diving into the realm of conspiracy.
Rallygoers lined up to enter the Target Center arena for a Donald J. Trump for President rally in Minneapolis, Minnesota – October 10, 2019. (Tony Webster from Minneapolis, Minnesota, United States/Creative Commons)

Rallygoers lined up to enter the Target Center arena for a Donald J. Trump for President rally in Minneapolis, Minnesota – October 10, 2019. (Tony Webster from Minneapolis, Minnesota, United States/Creative Commons)

Bob’s Burgers may be a very popular, cutesy animated show about a small, poorly run family restaurant somewhere along the Jersey Shore today, but it was almost doomed by the idea for its pilot episode, Human Flesh. In the episode, Hugo the health inspector arrives at the titular restaurant to investigate a rumor that instead of USDA Prime beef, chef Bob Belcher is using dead bodies from the irreverently named It’s Your Funeral crematorium next door, and adding their ground-up remains to his burgers.

According to the version that aired, Bob’s pathologically troublemaking daughter Louise made up the story for show-and-tell at school, feeling the need to shock her peers, and the health inspector, still in love with Bob’s wife Linda, decided to blow the obviously false rumor out of proportion for revenge, setting up a series-long grudge match in which he tries to shut down Bob’s Burgers for the tiniest possible violations he can find.

But the original plan was to make the Belchers actual cannibals whose secret was exposed, a gag the studio thought was in poor taste and would doom the show’s chances at longevity. The series creators quickly agreed and scrapped the initial concept, as well as making some major character changes, and now, 150 episodes and 10 seasons later, Bob’s Burgers is an uplifting binge-watch classic whose darkest jokes involve the sad, lonely life of Bob’s best customer and friend, Teddy the Handyman.

For the vast majority of us, this anecdote is a reminder that sticking to your original idea isn’t always wise and you should listen to constructive criticism of your creative projects. But for the right-wing echo chamber, it’s an admission of guilt by the evil cabal that runs the world from the shadows and can’t resist bragging about it in our movies and TV shows. You see, according to numerous conspiracy theories, fast food chains are killing children and adding their flesh to your burgers, turning just about everyone in America into an unwitting cannibal.

These ideas are based on long-debunked viral rumors and deliberate misquotes and out of context pictures of scandals at pathology and body broker labs. Whether the people spreading them believe what they’re saying or not is a secondary question. What’s important here is that a disturbing number of people  — usually older, more rural or exurban, and white, with a penchant for Punisher symbols or selfies wearing caps and sunglasses in their trucks as their avatars — are wholeheartedly buying into these hoaxes.

In fact, the topic of cannibalism is discussed disturbingly often on the right-wing QAnon corners social media, where the world is apparently run by Satanic cannibal pedophiles who traffic children from pizzeria basements, or send them to Mars, or keep them in catacombs to harvest a chemical from their adrenal glands “the elites” rely on for eternal youth, or some combination of all of the above. All the scenarios are drawn out in gruesome detail on social media with language that makes it pretty much impossible to tell the trolls and true believers apart, although the scary fact of the matter is that the believers are more than ready and willing to fall for just about every hoax the trolls add to their feeds.

Millions of QAnon believers now agree that everything about the world is awful and that anyone who dares to disagree with the Republican Party on any topic or criticizes President Trump on anything at all must be part of this Satanic child molesting and devouring cabal, and that the Trump administration has been supposedly trying to stop it since January 2017 and — wouldn’t you know it — will need another four years to finish dismantling this villainous syndicate.

Vice-President Mike Pence posing with members of the Broward County, Florida SWAT team, one of whom is wearing a patch of the “QAnon” far-right conspiracy theory movement – November 30, 2018. (White House employee; cropped by Beyond My Ken)

Vice-President Mike Pence posing with members of the Broward County, Florida SWAT team, one of whom is wearing a patch of the “QAnon” far-right conspiracy theory movement – November 30, 2018. (White House employee; cropped by Beyond My Ken)

These conspiracy theories are like a zombie apocalypse of the American, and in no small part global right-wing, gnawing on the brains of believers with wild abandon, and today, it comes up seemingly everywhere. Should you peek into their dark corners of the social web, you’ll come away with your mouth left slightly agape and one eye twitching from shock as you wonder why no one has called for a mental health professional to come and help these people.

Every day, Facebook and Twitter fill up with tens of thousands of posts which claim that targets of right-wing ire seen or heard from in public are actually clones or body doubles as not to tip off those yet to be “redpilled” about the fate of other enemies of the people in question: taken to Guantanamo Bay and executed for demonic child-sex-cannibal-treason. Some will even openly fantasize that a second Trump term means pay-per-view channels where you can watch their many enemies’ executions live.

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At this point, their obsession with the topic has taken over their lives, so much that their own families are starting to cut ties with them and the defining feature of the QAnon movement is other obsessive virtual cannibal hunters bombarding their distraught online friends with positive affirmations and promises to be their new family. (Just in case you’re wondering, yes, this sort of thing is definitely one of the top items on an are-you-in-a-cult checklist.)

Meanwhile, those whose families will still talk to them take breaks between starting fights with their friends, children, and loved ones out of the blue after gluing their eyes to Fox News to tell them that masks and vaccines during a pandemic are just a sinister plot by Bill Gates to cull humanity and mind control whoever is left. Terrifyingly, all of the above is mainstream thought in Republican echo chambers, something that should scare us all because, in the United States, the Electoral College can easily give a fringe minority the decisive vote over leadership and policy with zero regard for the views of a still sane majority.

Based on how little we talk about the lunacy of this vast and overarching theme animating the political party that has America by the throat, it really doesn’t seem that we’re able to deal with the fact that millions of voters and citizens in critical swing states literally spend all day thinking about which celebrity, politician, or family member is a secret child molesting cannibal, and cast their ballots based in no small part on obsessively pursuing those thoughts in depth in social media cesspools.

And make no mistake, the party in question noticed and is openly running a dozen candidates for office backing this paranoia and trying to directly appeal to it to keep their stranglehold on government. Just to reiterate, Republicans, who control the presidency, the Supreme Court, the upper chamber of Congress, nearly 4,200 state legislative offices, and 26 governorships, are currently deliberately looking for people who spend the vast majority of their day trying to figure out which public figure they don’t like is probably molesting and eating children with the help of foreign bots, fake images made by trolls, and batshit crazy Twitter threads, and actively playing to their fantasies.

The party of Abraham Lincoln and Teddy Roosevelt, presidents who held the nation together through great upheaval and made it into a global superpower, respectively, is now the party of social media trolls and tinfoil hats. (Which, ironically amplify the very signals from which they’re supposed to protect you.) Having failed to govern in a spectacular fashion and becoming literal global laughingstocks in the process, they’re now seeking out conspiracy addicts and telling them how a failure to cast a straight Republican ballot in November means their children and grandkids will be sold into sex slavery and eaten.

But at the same time, if we look at the infamous Southern Strategy, this is par for the course for the GOP. The idea is to pit people against each other and eke out a win by suppressing votes in major populated areas while activating furious single-issue voters to rush the polls. Since the results of a 50.5% victory and a 65% victory are politically the same, Republican strategists just need to scare and outrage enough voters to put them over the top because the actual policies their party promotes are loathed by as many as two-thirds of the nation.

If racism is a loser today, as three-quarters of Americans think racial discrimination is a problem and bigotry is unacceptable, why not play along with foaming at the mouth conspiracy theorists obsessed with the subject of cannibalism under the guise of wanting to help children? All they need to do is replace subtle dog whistles for racism with not so subtle cues signaling support for the idea that anyone you don’t like is either literally eating children or is in league with Satanic pedophiles, and this is precisely what they seem to be doing, throwing bone after bone to the QAnon community while almost literally saying “wink wink, nudge nudge” as they do.

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Oh, and that part about an obsession with cannibalism isn’t just a snarky refrain. So far in 2020, there have been two widely covered instances of right-wing pundits and conspiracy theorists invoking the murder of other human beings for food as a plausible way of dealing with a crisis. By any sane, reasonable count, this is exactly two times too many. It’s also difficult not to point out the paradoxical absurdity of a movement ostensibly obsessed with rooting out all the pedophiles and cannibals in high places defending an alleged pedophile while listening for hours on end to pundits who are literally advocating cannibalism.

So, after going down the rabbithole of QAnon and other Taxil Hoax/Blood Libel reboots that dominate the right-wing conversation nowadays either for an article, on accident, or out of morbid curiosity, then listening to Alex Jones and Rush Limbaugh sing paeans to eating their fellow Americans while the president of the United States retweets them, my nerd brain short circuits and imagines GOP canvassers as literal ghouls waiting to talk to you about creative ideas for making it through the ever-worsening COVID-19 pandemic and its economic havoc.

Now, certainly, there’s always a population of conspiracy theorists in any country, but they’re supposed to be a fringe for a functioning democracy to survive. If I were to travel back in time and tell an American from 1980 that in 40 years, the world’s attention will be fixed on a nation with the world’s most advanced military and largest nuclear arsenal, where a minority hunting for imaginary cannibals despises the demographic and political majority of the nation with a searing passion, and blindly supports a president whose own mental state has been a big, disturbing question mark for years, that person would ask what the U.S. would do about this insane rogue state.

It’s important to note that the world does indeed have plenty of bad people in it and that yes, there are abusers and pedophiles protected thanks to their wealth and status in politics, entertainment, and religious institutions. But while QAnon adherents harp on Jeffrey Epstein and Hollywood producers who exploited child actors, they conveniently forget Dennis Hastert and Mark Foley, along with a long list of others, the Catholic Church’s thousand-year history of child abuse and molestation, and President Trump wishing well to an Epstein associate in jail for grooming and trafficking of minors was met with crickets, which shows just how little genuine interest they have in dealing with predators who have the same party affiliation.

They just want excuses for their desire to see their critics prosecuted and ultimately killed, filling their feeds with hatred and apocalyptic fantasies on a daily basis. And the very fact that not only does the GOP appear to tolerate this dangerous lunacy but bolsters its ranks with true believers, playing into many of their fantasies as a campaign strategy during a global pandemic that killed over 140,000 and sickened over 3.5 million Americans as of this writing, should tell you pretty much everything you need to know about the party and those who run it.

They want power simply for the sake of power, and they’re just fine with being kings and queens of the ashes because they’ll have the title and the authority to dictate how those ashes should be piled up. They do not care if we live or die in the process, and so they actively sacrifice the lives and minds of people they refuse to help transition to the modern world by abdicating their duties as elected officials. They didn’t even think twice before pulling the trigger, and this is not sane or normal by any standard of a country that wants to call itself sane and civilized.

And this why in November, the choice isn’t between two politicians with different views of where the nation should go, but a contest between an attempt to return to at least some semblance of normalcy and a maelstrom of parasitic, bloodthirsty insanity spiraling in on itself like some sort of conspiracy black hole that swallows reason while periodically belching out death rays of hate and fascism in every direction.

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Opinion // Conspiracy Theories / Donald Trump / QAnon / Republican Party