September 20, 2022 - 8:00am

At a recent campaign rally for Ohio Republican Senate candidate JD Vance, Donald Trump walked onstage to a song entitled “Mirrors” by Will Van De Crommert — something that Media Matters, a Left-leaning media watchdog group, claimed was actually a song called “Wwg1wga” by the artist Richard Feelgood. The latter song’s title references the QAnon motto “where we go one, we go all” and serves as a de facto anthem for the group, which has developed a sort of secular theology around the premise that Trump is engaged in heroic battle against pedophilic elements who control the entire world (his anticipated victory is captured in the hopeful phrase “trust the plan”). 

The Trump team’s denial that they had repurposed the QAnon anthem was belied by other contemporaneous Trump nods to the group, including a recent post on his Truth Social network in which the same music is played in a series of clips. In one, the former President can be seen criticising the Biden administration while in another, he is wearing what appears to be a QAnon pin in an image captioned “the storm is coming.”

Predictably, this has sent “fash-finding” commentators like Keith Olbermann into conniption fits. Never one to let concern about hyperbole get in the way of a viral tweet, Olbermann fired off a post that read “After Saturday’s rally, the modified Sieg Heil, the music, the QAnon madness…Trump IS America’s Hitler.” 

The more nuanced explanation is likely that Trump — an enthusiastic if not especially careful salesman — is throwing yet more far-Right doggerel at the walls in the hopes that some of it will stick, unconcerned with its broader implications. Certainly clearer heads concerned with the problem of systematic underage sexual abuse raised by situations like l’affaire Epstein would recognise the folly of perpetuating a zany conspiracy theory that has made the underlying point it attempts to prove a matter of ridicule in polite society. 

Of course, this has never stopped Trump before. He rose from reality television stardom to national politics on the back of his support of “birtherist” demands of former President Barack Obama. Trump was still riding that wave in 2013 — two years before he launched his presidential campaign — noting that the issue “made me very popular” and remarking that he still didn’t know whether Obama’s true origins had been convincingly established.

He continued in this vein after winning the 2016 presidential election. In 2017, he remarked that there were “very fine people” on both sides of the violent protests in Charlottesville. And during a presidential debate in September 2020, he responded to Joe Biden’s denunciation of the Right-wing Proud Boys by telling members to “stand back and stand by.”

The larger question of whether Trump means any of what he says or posts hangs heavy in the air — and he surely wants it to remain suspended there. For opponents like Olbermann as well as his most fervent proponents, he is the bright orange sun around which all the hot takes and game theorising revolves. 

However, it is entirely possible he means nothing at all, given that he also enters political rallies accompanied by the not-so-subtle strains of the professional wrestler The Undertaker’s theme and hits from Broadway composer (and former Trump Tower resident) Andrew Lloyd Webber’s songbook

Meanwhile, he remains one of the more strident pro-vaccination Republicans — the release of which he highlights as a significant accomplishment of his administration — as well as the man who delivered on mainstream conservative goals of reshaping the American Supreme Court and slashing corporate tax rates from 35% to 21%. It is unlikely that anything he does now, up to and including shooting someone in the street, could sway public opinion one way or the other; his haters hate him, his supporters “trust the plan,” and Right-leaning voters will hold their noses and vote for him. Embracing Q is just more red meat for his Right-wing base — and they love him for it.

Oliver Bateman is a historian and journalist based in Pittsburgh. He blogs, vlogs, and podcasts at his Substack, Oliver Bateman Does the Work