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Is QAnon on the brink of power in America? Devotees of the cultish pro-Trump conspiracy theory are on the ballot for the US elections

In Q We Trust: a QAnon fan at a rally for Donald Trump in Florida (Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images)

In Q We Trust: a QAnon fan at a rally for Donald Trump in Florida (Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images)


July 29, 2020   5 mins

One of the many lessons of President Donald Trump’s 2016 electoral victory is that it’s naive to dismiss the impact of carnival sideshows in American politics. Something that starts as a punchline to supposedly savvy political observers might enter the highest halls of power despite their scoffing. But in 2020, now that Trump is running as an incumbent rather than a brash Washington outsider, some in the US electorate are pushing a fresh fringe movement directly into the mainstream: the Trump-centred cult-like movement QAnon. Fourteen QAnon-promoting congressional candidates have secured a spot on the ballot in November by competing in primary elections. What once started as a few posts promising the imminent arrest of Hillary Clinton now has a handful of adherents within striking distance of entering Congress.

For those who haven’t gone down the rabbit hole themselves, the broad QAnon narrative is a classic “new world order” conspiracy theory with an interactive and online twist. In QAnon world, the whole planet is controlled by a cabal of satan-worshipping pedophiles. Many QAnon adherents bizarrely believe that this cabal tortures children to extract a substance known as adrenochrome, which they purport (incorrectly) contains hallucinogenic and anti-aging properties. This cabal supposedly controls everything worth controlling, including politicians, the media, and entertainment.

In QAnon lore, these villains would have continued doing their evil indefinitely were it not for Trump’s 2016 triumph. Trump is believed to be battling this cabal with the help of a group of military intelligence officials known as “Q Team”. The QAnon faithful hold that these military intelligence officials are releasing coded messages about the operation to defeat the cabal on simple messageboards. The posts from the anonymous entity known as “Q” started on the infamous 4chan board, but now Q posts exclusively on 8kun. QAnon followers believe that by decoding these imageboard posts, they can learn the truth of this dramatic, secret war of good vs. evil.

The belief that Trump is cryptographically revealing his secret plan to cleanse the world of evil rapidly made inroads in mainstream American politics. Trump himself has used his Twitter account to boost QAnon, quote tweeting or retweeting QAnon accounts more than 185 times. QAnon followers have appeared at Trump rallies ever since July 2018. After Q told QAnon followers to take the “digital soldier oath”, thousands participated, including the embattled former National Security Advisor General Michael Flynn.

However, QAnon has also been connected to domestic extremism. In February 2019, the Phoenix Field Office of the FBI warned that QAnon, and other baseless conspiracy theories, pose an extremist threat. To cite a few examples of how this threat has manifested in the real world: a QAnon follower named Matthew Wright pleaded guilty to a terrorism charge for holding an armed standoff on the Hoover Dam Bridge. In New York, a QAnon follower with a history of attempting “citizen’s arrests” of politicans named Anthony Comello faces a second degree murder charge for the killing of a reputed mob boss.

A suspected QAnon follower named Ryan Jaselskis attempted to set fire to the Washington, D.C. pizzeria Comet Ping Pong, which is often baselessly accused of being a children sex trafficking hub by believers in the “pizzagate” conspiracy theory, the major predecessor of QAnon. Recently, in response to increased targeted harassment from QAnon followers, Twitter announced that it would no longer promote QAnon content in its recommendation algorithms or search results.

The insurgent QAnon movement is causing headaches for the Republican Party leadership, who appear to be unwilling to condemn the group for fear of losing much-needed votes, but are also unwilling to give direct credence to a conspiracy theory-driven movement that is loaded with political baggage.

The GOP congressional candidates have varying levels of enthusiasm for QAnon. On the extreme end, Oregon Senate Candidate Jo Rae Perkins gushes about QAnon at every opportunity, sometimes to the consternation of her own campaign staffers. “Where we go one, we go all,” Perkins said in one video, reciting the QAnon slogan. “I stand with President Trump. I stand with Q and the team. Thank you Anons, and thank you patriots. And together, we can save our republic.” In response to the nomination of Perkins, the Oregon Republican Party issued a statement that is devoid of any enthusiasm: “By virtue of being the GOP nominee, this is what we do — support them in winning the general election.”

Other politicians have refused to acknowledge their QAnon-promoting past. For example, Marjorie Taylor Greene, candidate for Georgia’s 14th district, at one point was an active QAnon promoter. In one December 2017 video, she said that “many of the things that [Q] has given clues about and talks about have really proven to be true”. She has since not responded to inquiries about her QAnon beliefs.

Though Trump congratulated her victory, other Republican leaders threw their weight behind Greene’s opponent in the August 11 runoff election — but not because of QAnon. Rather, GOP leaders condemned Greene due to uncovered Facebook live videos comments in which she makes bigoted comments and promotes anti-Semitic tropes. A political action committee affiliated with conservative mega donor Charles Koch has also requested a refund of their donation to Greene’s campaign. Despite all that, Greene is currently the favored candidate to win both the runoff race and the general election.

At least one congressional candidate has distanced herself from QAnon since entering the general election. Lauren Boebert of  Colorado appeared on two QAnon livestream shows while campaigning. During a live streamed interview with QAnon promoter Ann Vandersteel, Boebert said “everything I’ve heard of Q — I hope this is real.” She has since said she doesn’t follow QAnon and called it “fake news”.

While QAnon followers aiming for national offices tend to draw the most attention, QAnon followers are also running for state offices. There are currently 12 known state-level candidates who have endorsed or given credence to the conspiracy theory or promoted QAnon content. One of these, Kevin Bushey, a Republican candidate running for District 151 of the Maine House of Representatives, is even a leader of a Zoom-based QAnon church that reads “Q Drops” — messages posted to image boards — alongside bible verses.

Even setting aside the absurdity of QAnon’s premise and the domestic extremism, the movement itself is nothing but a drain on society. Followers often get so obsessed with the practice of “decoding” Q posts that they alienate their own family and friends. QAnon followers clogged the National Human Trafficking Hotline with bogus tips, making it more difficult for real victims to seek help. They sometimes even take credit for the work of actual investigative journalists.

But as a political movement, QAnon is a stunning success story. What other cause has adherents poised to be elected to Congress just three short years after inception?

It’s reasonable to ask how many of these candidates promote QAnon because they are true believers and how many think they may gain an electoral advantage by promoting QAnon. Candidate Jo Rae Perkins, in reference to her outspoken love of the movement, said in an interview: “It’s a very, highly calculated risk that I’m taking. Most people play it a lot safer than I do. It’s either pure genius or pure insanity. It’s one of the two. The voters are going to have to be the ones that make that decision.” As this is the first election year with a robust crop of QAnon candidates, it is also the first test of QAnon’s electoral viability. 

In November, in addition to learning whether or not President Trump will be elected to another four-year term, the vision of QAnon’s political future will be clearer. There is some historical precedent for a movement fixated on conspiracy theories gaining a significant share of power in American legislative bodies. The first third party in the United States, the Anti-Masonic Party, was dedicated to the proposition that freemasons were running a shadow government and were secretly plotting to control the world. Though the Anti-Masonic Party was short lived, at their peak in 1833 they controlled 10.5% of the House of Representatives. 

However, the QAnon community has an advantage that the Anti-Masonic Party didn’t: the ability to organise remotely online. Perhaps that won’t be enough to overcome the grudging support of Republican leadership and the stigma associated with a movement that has promoted absurd claims like that JFK Jr. is secretly alive or that there are “mole children” being rescued from Central Park in New York City.

But perhaps the advantage of social media organising will be crucial, allowing QAnon to achieve levels of political power that the Anti-Masons couldn’t. As always, it’s unwise to count out the carnival sideshow, no matter how wacky it appears.


Travis View is a writer, conspiracy theory researcher, and co-host of the podcast “QAnon Anonymous.”

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Ian Thorpe
Ian Thorpe
3 years ago

“In QAnon world, the whole planet is controlled by a cabal of satan-worshipping pedophiles.”
I’m not sure that’s any more credible than the idea that the world is run by 12 foot tall, shape shifting, turquoise lizards, but after the COVOD – 19 shambles it seems feasible that the world is run by a shadowy cabal that does not have the best interests of us ordinary punters at heart.

politicallyperkins
politicallyperkins
3 years ago

JFK used the term Where We Go 1, We go all. Gen. Flynn adds that to the books he autographs. But what I personally find most odd, is that everytime articles are written, rarely do they not state something along the lines as “n QAnon world, the whole planet is controlled by a cabal of satan-worshipping pedophiles.” – yet you show ZERO proof.
Neither do any of those who call the Q posts a conspiracy, which by the way, to conspire means to divise an illegal or harmful action/plan.
Also, those who are bent on calling the Q posts a conspiracy also forget to mention all of the articles posted by the MSM on specific topics. And that is much of what the Q posts are. A collection of reposts of MSM articles, tweets, videos. Here is an example of a post from 6/17/2020 #4476. “Old playbook[s] still used today?
Then v Now
Compare & Contrast
THEN:
https://www.theguardian.com
“The Associated Press news agency entered a formal cooperation with the Hitler regime in the 1930s, supplying American newspapers with material directly produced and selected by the Nazi propaganda ministry, archive material unearthed by a German historian has revealed.”
“To that extent it is fair to say that these pictures played their part in disguising the true character of the war led by the Germans.”
HOW DID HITLER GAIN POWER?
WHAT EVENTS CREATED [POPULATION DEFIANCE [extremism]] THE INSURRECTION?
https://www.bbc.co.uk/bites
Global economic depression?
Reparations?
Huge rise in unemployment?
“Germans began to lose faith in democracy and looked to extreme parties on the both the Left (the communists) and the Right (the Nazis) for quick and simple solutions.”
“When people are unemployed, hungry and desperate, as millions were in Germany between 1930 and 1933, they often turn to extreme political parties offering simple solutions to their problems. Between 1930 and 1933 support for the extreme right-wing Nazis and the extreme left-wing communists soared.”
NOW:
MSDNC “peaceful protests”
MSDNC propaganda campaign?
MSDNC information warfare campaign?
MSDNC “POTUS MUST BE REMOVED” push years 1-now?
https://twitter.com/robbyst
COVID-19 > global economic depression?
[D]party > BLM race push_reparations?
COVID-19 > huge rise in unemployment [40mm]?
Insurrection [riots, city takeover(s), remove police (weaken), property destroy, assault(s), murder, release by [D] Gov/Mayor(s) back-to-streets (safezone(s)), division, hostility, race war, etc.?
END GOAL THEN V NOW?
GOVERNMENT CONTROL.
Understanding the past helps to understand the present.
Q”
Simply drawing parallels then asking questions.
Furthermore, we have Freedom of the Press, which means we should be able to read what is in the press.
Just because a person reads something, does not mean they agree with everything that is printed or written.
The majority of the people I know who read the Q posts, enjoy the Socratic method, where we are challenged to find the answers for ourselves. To conduct our own independent research.
Now I am sure that every reader on the blog of which I have never ever heard of before, will agree, that they all want to love and be loved, wants a roof over their heads, food on their table, feel safe and secure in their own homes and would like the governent to stay out of their day to day lives. I would presume everyone here also wants to define their own personal success.
And they do not want to be told what they can and cannot read or believe.
Finally, I am amazed at how many articles are written to try and prove that every Q post is fake and without merit, by people who are trying to prove it is all fake. If that is the case, then what do say about all of the reposts of the articles written by the MSM, reported by the MSM, tweeted by those who are the only authoritative voices we are to listen to? Are those also fake?
I am not crazy, nor am I blind. I read, watch and listen to a multitude of publications, digital, in print, on the tube, on the radio, etc. I want to make sure if I am going to speak out on any given subject that I have done my due diligence to look at issues from multiple views. In otherwords, I think and analyse critically.
Last comment: The phrase Where we go one, we go all, is just another way of saying, One for All, All for One or we are in this together; or if a field goal kicker misses the point, causing the team to lose, they all lose together, or if successful and they win, they all win together.
If America fails as a Republic, We all Fail. If America succeeds as a Republic, we all win!
The choice to analyse everything you read, listen to, watch is yours.

Simon Jenkins
Simon Jenkins
3 years ago

That’s a great response and thank you taking the time to write it all

Stephen J
Stephen J
3 years ago

Always good to hear direct from the horse’s mouth, thanks.

However, I would argue that fascists/nazi’s are from the extreme right. Surely they are just further to the right than bog standard commies? That is why pivotal figures like Adolf and Benito moved seamlessly between the two positions.

The right (and it is right) is conservatism (with a small c).

gurkipicklebrine
gurkipicklebrine
3 years ago

This is a message board. Keep it short, sweet, little and often or nobody will read you.

Lydia R
Lydia R
3 years ago

It’s hardly surprising that people believe conspiracy theories when you see how Epstein and his paramour managed to evade justice all these years.

Eugene Norman
Eugene Norman
3 years ago
Reply to  Lydia R

Yes. In fact there’s a conspiracy theory that the craziest conspiracy theories are planted. If a guy on the internet or a radio jock believes that Epstein was an asset of some agency or other, but also opines that the Martians and lizards run the UK then you discount both.

Jeff Krinock
Jeff Krinock
3 years ago
Reply to  Lydia R

My goodness – we entertain ourselves endlessly with stories of conspiracy, from Roman history to Shakespeare to Hollywood garbage. Under what silly spell are we to believe that our post-WWII era is somehow profoundly different than the last 2000 years or so?

Sean L
Sean L
3 years ago

**QAnon narrative is a classic “new world order” conspiracy theory**

Is it supposed to be by accident that Europeans are becoming ethnic minorities in their own lands; that Europeans have no more right of abode in Europe than new arrivals from across the globe and face political persecution for daring to publicly notice the fact; imprisonment for “racism” under “terrorist” legislation for organising against their own extinction? Which on current trends is mathematically guaranteed without any bloodshed. How does that not qualify as New World Order?

Brian Dorsley
Brian Dorsley
3 years ago
Reply to  Sean L

I’ve noticed the same as you. Defending one’s own culture is deemed a racist act.

Sean L
Sean L
3 years ago
Reply to  Brian Dorsley

True but only for Europeans – but I expect you’re aware of that already…

Tiana Grey
Tiana Grey
3 years ago
Reply to  Sean L

Interesting line of thought. I’ve never contemplated it that way.
When reasoning with your argument, it does in a way, seem logical. The pro-immigration (or even pro-illegal immigration) agenda could possibly be one of the first baby steps to the “new world order”. Globalism is blatantly precious to the Left.

Sean L
Sean L
3 years ago
Reply to  Tiana Grey

I’d suggest ‘globalism’ *is* left: globalist / ‘elite’ v nationalist / ‘populist’ defines a political rivalry around which the same interests coalesce. That they’re often mutually antagonistic doesn’t alter that. Trotskyite ‘Refugees Welcome’ ‘socialists’ are on same side as global capital to whom they otherwise imagine themselves opposed. Similarly sexual deviants / feminists etc side with Islamic puritans.

Splintering rivalries is the norm throughout human existence at every level. Russia and US fought on same side then turned their fire on each other. European teenagers siding with black power activists is no different in principle.

Globalism is de facto coalition of interests whose unifying principle is dissolution of the nation state as principle of political loyalty for Europeans, such that Europeans should have no more right of abode in their own lands anyone else.

BLM racial resentment mobilised in the service of ‘globalist’ interests. Which isn’t to say the resentment isn’t real, only that it’s being recruited for ends which bear no relation to the motives of the rioters and looters themslves or their more earnest ‘intellectual’ soulmates.

Seb Dakin
Seb Dakin
3 years ago

So in one corner we have the forces of the Woke Inquisition, infected by poisonous memes that have escaped from the ivory tower labs in which they were nurtured and should have remained confined, and in the other corner are people who believe that President Trump is working on a secret plan to cleanse the world of evil and is the only thing keeping in check pedophiles who torture children to extract hallucinogenic chemicals. And both these groups are likely to have adherents elected.
Turtles, baby, turtles, all the way down.

Ray Zacek
Ray Zacek
3 years ago

The author of this whitewash piece is obviously in the employ of The Cabal.

john.hurley2018
john.hurley2018
3 years ago

There is no elite conspiracy.

Put simply, the government embarked on an optimistic plan of social engineering to transform New Zealand into an ‘Asian’ country; unfortunately, it did a poor job of publicising its intent or rationale. Under the slogan that a global economy required global citizens, an ambitious plan was hatched to restructure society around an Asian axis. But these initiatives moved too quickly for most people, ignored the need to consult or convince people of the importance of any fundamental shift, and did little to monitor the impact of immigration on public perception (Heeringa 1996).

Ann Fullerton
Ann Fullerton
3 years ago

I reluctantly accept there actually is a malevolent global ‘elite conspiracy’. Otherwise agree with you, though you understate New Zealand’s problem.

So our government ‘did a poor job of publicising its intent or rationale’ to remake New Zealand Asian? Why would our government even try to publicise this sellout? Too many WW2 vets and others of that generation were still alive. They remembered very well Japan’s intentions to remake NZ and Australia as Asian colonies.

Had Wellington officials admitted their traitorous intentions they might have met public resistance or even full scale revolt.

Instead? The public were kept in the dark and berated as racists. With media help. New Zealand’s always had a tame media too cosy with officialdom. Now PM Jacinda’s given them fifty million bucks from taxes to stave off their death throes, those useless prats will be even more complicit.

New Zealand laws elevate racism, homophobia and other newly invented -isms and -phobias above mere murder, torture and rape. (Just like other nations with largely European populations do! Funny that. Of course there’s no global conspiracy.) We have parliamentary parties full of broken English speakers, but are told we are racist etc etc if we object so-called ‘Labour’ and the rest have no NZ-born white worker MPs. Till a few weeks ago our two main political parties each had Chinese-born Communist MPS. They’d still be there but an election is coming up

We were put into lockdown over the covid-19 fake science and hardly anyone said boo… well, we don’t have enough free speech to loudly query official fake science. Though no one admits it.

Our officials /tame media’s line is we Kiwis are free as air to say whatever we like. Provided it isn’t what the State and its toadies call ‘hate speech’. We know hate speech isn’t free speech. We know this well because our government and their media mates tell us so. Relentlessly.

Remind me again who won WW2’s fight for democracy and freedom from foreign takeover. Whether invaders (nowadays called migrants and refugees) barge into our countries armed, or as nowadays unarmed.

mike otter
mike otter
3 years ago
Reply to  Ann Fullerton

I think its more c**k up than conspiracy: Leftist politics has overall lost votes from the 1950s onward in the English speaking world and responded to their failure at the ballot box by trying other methods. It’s their shared interests in replacing our culture, suppressing free speech and making common cause with DAESH and fans of FGM that makes them appear to be conspirators. They are too disorganised to conspire for long and fall out internally before completing a given project – antisemites v – Jews, whites versus whites, trans versus feminists etc etc

Alex Mitchell
Alex Mitchell
3 years ago

Out of all the claims made, why is only the hallucinogenic description worthy of an ‘incorrectly’ modifier? Is the rest supposed to be somehow credible by comparison?

Jake Prior
Jake Prior
3 years ago

They do use infant foreskin in anti-aging face cream. https://www.standard.co.uk/

aelf
aelf
3 years ago

Is QAnon on the brink of power in America?

No.

Next easily answered foolish question.

iamthebigaliam
iamthebigaliam
3 years ago
Reply to  aelf

4 years ago ‘no one in their right mind would vote for that corrupt buffoon’

aelf
aelf
3 years ago
Reply to  iamthebigaliam

She lost didn’t she.

Stanley Beardshall
Stanley Beardshall
3 years ago

…all supporting my long-held belief that a significant proportion of Americans are mentally unstable – lunatics running the asylum, and carrying guns…

Jeff Evans
Jeff Evans
3 years ago

Is this all so surprising in a country where a signicant proprtion believe they have been abducted by space aliens?