At a Trump rally last night in Florida, a nutball agglomeration of conspiracy theories appeared to go mainstream:
Believers in “QAnon,” as the conspiracy theory is known, were front and center at the Florida State Fairgrounds Expo Hall, where Trump came to stump for Republican candidates. As the president spoke, a sign rose from the audience. “We are Q,” it read. Another poster displayed text arranged in a “Q” pattern: “Where we go one we go all.”
The symbol appeared on clothing, too.....
In the black hole of conspiracy in which “Q” has plunged its followers, Trump only feigned collusion to create a pretense for the hiring of special counsel Robert S. Mueller III, who is actually working as a “white hat,” or hero, to expose the Democrats. Barack Obama, Hillary Clinton and George Soros are planning a coup — and traffic children in their spare time....
In the world in which QAnon believers live, Trump’s detractors, such as Republican Sen. John McCain of Arizona and Hillary Clinton aide Huma Abedin, wear ankle monitors that track their whereabouts. Press reports are dismissed as “Operation Mockingbird,” the name given to the alleged midcentury infiltration of the American media by the CIA. The Illuminati looms large in QAnon, as do the Rothschilds, a wealthy Jewish family vilified by the conspiracy theorists as the leaders of a satanic cult. Among the world leaders wise to satanic influences, the theory holds, is Russian President Vladimir Putin.
QAnon flirts with eschatology, fascist philosophy and the filmmaking of Francis Ford Coppola. Adherents believe a “Great Awakening” will precede the final storm foretold by Trump. Once they make sense of the information drip-fed to them by “Q,” they will usher in a Christian revival presaging total victory.
More, from the Daily Beast's Will Sommer:
... the general story, outlined in a pro-QAnon video ..., is that every president before Trump was a “criminal president” in league with all the nefarious groups of conspiracy theories past: the global banking elite, death squads operating on orders from Hillary Clinton, deep-state intelligence operatives, and Pizzagate-style pedophile rings. In an effort to break this cabal’s grip, according to Q, the military convinced Trump to run for president.
Now Trump and his allies in the military are poised to arrest all these wrongdoers, shipping many of them off to Guantanamo Bay. That coming purge has been dubbed “The Storm” by QAnon fans, who claim Trump referenced it when he referenced “the calm before the storm” in October.
I don't know why QAnon's visibility suddenly increased last night. It may be that interest in the nutball worldview has grown organically and the Q folks simply decided to be out and proud about their beliefs. Or perhaps they're being pushed into the limelight by whoever is spearheading the con. Sommer, who's been following QAnon since its inception, tells Chris Cillizza that he has no idea who's putting up the "Q" posts that drive the movement:
There are a lot of theories about who Q is. QAnon people believe in fanciful ideas like, maybe it's Trump or Dan Scavino or Michael Flynn....
I think Q is just some random person or group of people who started a troll that has gotten way out of hand. Or maybe, as with so many things these days, it's a Russian psy-op!
If it's a psy-op -- on the part of Russia or one or more pro-Trump Americans -- this certainly seems like an appropriate time for it to go mainstream. Mueller may issue a report on possible obstruction of justice this month. Paul Manafort's trial is under way. Mariya Butina has been arrested and twelve Russians have been indicted. The Trump faithful want to believe in an evil so vast it dwarfs what the rest of us are talking about (and is a funhouse-mirror version of what we're talking about).
But I keep thinking about something The Washington Post's Philip Bump just wrote:
President Trump’s campaign rallies are meant to center on one thing and one thing only: Trump. He holds the rallies, years before he’s on the ballot again, because it gives him two things that he greatly enjoys, a microphone and an adoring audience.
The coverage of those rallies and their popularity with his base, though, means that non-Trump issues seep into the public consciousness. Slogans, random individuals, people promoting causes. Trump is the main attraction, but sideshows can draw the spotlight.
One did on Tuesday. A number of people at Trump’s rally in Florida held signs or wore shirts referring to “QAnon”...
But why this? Why now? Why is this something that has managed to take root among supporters of Trump?
I don't think QAnon-style thinking is just a sideshow. I think it's the point of conservatism now. Not every pro-Trump conservative believes the specific QAnon theories, but they all believe that their enemies -- who now include not just all Democrats but every Republican who won't genuflect to Trump -- are unspeakably evil. You can give this an anodyne name like "negative partisanship," but it's far beyond that. Conservatives don't just believe the rest of us have bad ideas. They don't just think we're dangerously wrongheaded. They think we're the epitome of pure, satanic, civilization-threatening evil. They may not believe that we're all pedophiles, but they think we're all as evil as pedophiles. They may not think we're all directly tied to an elitist conspiracy intended to enchain and impoverish everyone on the planet who isn't part of the plot, but they think we're evil enough to do anything, including that and more.
So I'm not sure that Trumpism requires Trump at all. Trump is the center of a personality cult because he's the first politician at his level who seems to regard us as the unholy monsters that rank-and-file conservatives believe we are. Moreover, he seems to relish the idea of a holy war against us.
But if Trump were out of the picture, or if he seemed to waver in the fight, they'd still think that we're pure evil. Trump isn't the point -- the fight against us is the point. Trump is just, in their belief, the greatest fighter they've had.
So Q shirts at a Trump rally make perfect sense. They love Trump, but what they really want is the fight, and the fight is Q.
The video at the top is the one referenced above by Will Sommer. It's worth watching, just so you know how far around the bend your right-wing neighbors have become.