QAnon Conspiracists Buoyed By Trump's Truth Social Embrace
Credit: Screenshot from Truth Social
October 1, 2022

Donald Trump’s recent open embrace of the QAnon conspiracy cult that deifies him has predictably metastasized into full-on identification. This became clear at his Sept. 17 rally in Youngstown, Ohio, where QAnon fans in the audience raised their fingers in a coded salute while Q-derived theme music played over the loudspeakers. Over the past couple of weeks on his Truth Social chat platform, he has repeatedly posted and reposted Q-derived memes and hashtags, including ominous suggestions of future Jan. 6-style insurrectionist violence.

Just as predictably, those hordes of QAnon cultists have been rapturous over what is now his open public embrace and how it normalizes them. After Trump posted an ominous Q meme—one reading, “Nothing can stop what is coming. Nothing”—a popular Q account reposted it, saying: “It doesn’t get more Q affirming than that. It’s almost like he’s trying to tell us something. Boom!”

While Trump’s Truth Social platform—intended to be a MAGA alternative to Twitter—has been a financial fiasco, his account there nonetheless has over 4 million followers. And in recent weeks, Trump’s account has produced a steady diet of openly QAnon-based content.

One post featured a video clip that opens with an image of his face with a large “Q” superimposed over it, accompanied by the text: "Information Warfare. It's time to wake up." The video then proceeds to show a montage of memes featuring Trump: “Moves & countermoves, the silent war continues. Q.” “Stand by, shit is about to get real.” “WWW1WGA” [the popular hashtag for the QAnon war cry, “where we go one, we go all”]. “We know all, we see all” [with an image of Trump holding a card with “Q” on it].

One of the memes shows Trump talking on a phone. “Empty it totally,” its text reads. “I said drain it, completely. Yes, the globalist traitors, commies, thieves, satanists, pedos, all of ‘em!”

Another meme tells his followers to prepare for a "storm" and then displays a graphic showing the U.S. Capitol: "It's going to be biblical." (QAnon fanatics played a central role in organizing the Jan. 6 insurrection.)

Experts who track QAnon conspiracism seem to agree that Trump’s motives for embracing the cult are fairly transparent: It’s about politics, and particularly Trump’s desperation to rally his troops amid the multitude of legal troubles he currently faces, believing he still has a shot to regain the presidency. Mike Rothschild, author of The Storm is Rising, told Salon’s Kathryn Joyce that his loyalists have become his only constituency:

I think it is desperation, and trying to keep faith with the people who have been in his corner the most fervently. He's losing support; people are walking away from this. They're just sick of it. And you also have to remember that he's doing this on Truth Social. This is not a widespread mainstream application; nobody's using it other than Trump people. So he's signaling to the people who are already in his corner—knowing that they love him, that they will do anything he asks them to do—because those are the only people he's got left, really.

“If we think it’s in Trump’s best interests to really heighten the polarization in the country and cast everything in these sort of doomsday terms if Democrats retain power, then I think it makes a lot of sense for him to promote QAnon,” Will Sommer of the Daily Beast told Aaron Rupar and Thor Benson. “They literally think this is a battle between heaven and hell.”

Rothschild observes that QAnon has shifted dramatically since Trump lost the 2020 election, becoming far less dependent on “Q drops” from the original anonymous “Q” who posted material on the 4chan and 8kun message boards with cryptic claims about Trump and the supposed global pedophilia ring that is at the heart of their conspiracy theories. Nowadays, their topics of paranoid conversation are more likely to originate with LibsofTikTok, Christopher Rufo, or Fox News.

“A lot of the really weird stuff has been left behind, but QAnon's ideas are much more mainstream than they ever were before,” Rothschild says. “The idea of an all-powerful government that conspired to keep Trump out of office, and staged COVID-19 just to make sure that there could be mail-in voting fraud, and then that the election was stolen. All of these things are now mainstream Republican tenets. You can't be successful in the modern GOP if you think that the 2020 election was fair. And a lot of that comes from the normalizing of conspiracy theories that you got with QAnon.”

As Sommer explains, this fits Trump’s political agenda for returning to the presidency, primarily by subverting if not overthrowing democratic institutions:

I think Trump sees QAnon as the sort of ultimate Trump fan club. These are guys who by comparison make many Trump devotees look pretty lightweight. The average Trump fan thinks he was the greatest president ever and can save America, but these are people who see him as a messianic figure who is basically going to defeat the devil. Of course, they also think all of the people opposed to him are satanic pedophiles.

We can’t see inside his head, but I think he’s in these kind of dire straits legally, potentially politically, and I think he’s trying to throw some bait to rev up his hardest core fans.

MSNBC’s Zeeshan Aleem observes that in many regards, this has always been the inevitable endgame for Trump’s war on American democracy:

It's because this isn't about winning by democratic means. It seems likely that Trump recognizes that QAnon followers represent his best bet at forming a militant vanguard for his ever-increasingly authoritarian political movement. Dozens of QAnon believers have already committed acts or attempted acts of vigilante (and domestic) violence. They were key players in the Jan. 6 insurrection. And they're at the center of a new kind of politically infused spirituality that blends proto-fascist thinking, conspiracy theory and Evangelical Christianity. As ... Anthea Butler describes it, these followers "imagine themselves part of the 'end times' and saving the nation." They're primed to do whatever it takes to restore Trump to power, out of a belief that it's essential for civilization and humanity.

Rothschild explains that, while QAnon’s narrative is absurd and its followers ridiculous, this isn’t a frivolous matter, because its real-world consequences have become so wide-ranging, and its spread has become normalized:

So this is now a movement that has transcended the person or people who started it. It doesn't need Q drops anymore. In fact, it's arguably better if there are no more Q drops, because the Q drops tend to be cryptic and weird and they keep people away. If a movement really wants to grow, you don't want anything like that. You want it to be very obvious, very approachable. You want anybody to be able to fall into it, and that really happened during the pandemic. A lot of people came to QAnon without any knowledge of what the Q drops were, without any particular affinity for Donald Trump. They just knew something was wrong and somebody was lying to them. So the biggest danger in QAnon is how adaptable it is to discarding its previous self and adapting into something new.

Also these ideas have now become so mainstream in the Republican Party that you can completely radicalize yourself into QAnon without ever having read a Q drop or knowing anything about Q. You just fit into this world and it turns you on to more and more conspiracy theories.

This brings to mind a recent University of Chicago Project on Security and Threats report identifying an active American insurrectionist movement comprising some 21 million people. These radicalized Trump followers believe that “Use of force is justified to restore Donald J. Trump to the presidency” and that “The 2020 election was stolen, and Joe Biden is an illegitimate president.” About 63% of them believe in the Great Replacement theory, while 54% subscribe to far-right QAnon conspiracism.

It also notes that this insurrectionist movement is made up of “mainly highly competent, middle-aged American professionals,” leading the researchers to warn that their continuing radicalization “does not bode well for the 2022 midterm elections, or for that matter, the 2024 Presidential election.”

Published with permission of Daily Kos

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