At a rally in Florida last night, President Donald Trump did his usual schtick of talking about tariffs, voter ID laws, and other expected Trump-y things. But the crowd around him represented something new and different and a bit terrifying. Many cheering him on held signs that said: “We are Q.” Others had T-shirts referring to this mysterious “Q.” To onlookers, this seemed like bizarre nonsense. But these people were giving voice to a growing conspiracy theory that is just now hitting the mainstream.
It all centers around a thing called QAnon, which is a sort of extension of the #Pizzagate conspiracy theory. It started in the dark corners of the internet and has expanded to Facebook and YouTube, and now is rearing its face in real life. It began with an anonymous poster, known as Q, who left cryptic messages on forums like 4chan. These messages were said to have come from a source with the highest government clearance and direct access to Trump. The messages alluded to an alternate reality where every top political headline was, in fact, a false flag.
Through these bizarre reference-filled messages—left sporadically on online forums over the last many months—Q was essentially describing a world where Trump was secretly indicting all of his political foes, which include the Clintons, John McCain, and the Obamas. The Mueller investigation, according to this insane narrative, was actually a secret operation to expose these corrupt Democrats who control the current world order. In fact, many of these top liberal politicos have already been indicted and are secretly wearing ankle bracelets, according to QAnon believers.
There are a lot more insane elements to this conspiracy theory, but I’m sure you get the gist. (I recommend you listen to the Reply All podcast episode about QAnon if you want to learn more.)
Now it seems that QAnon doesn’t just live as a weird online pastime, but is taking over Trump-centric events. This follows a pattern similar to #Pizzagate, which inspired a man to go to an innocent person’s pizza shop and shoot a gun. Trump followers now believe this new conspiracy theory to be real, and they are expressing their support at Trump rallies.
What makes QAnon such a bizarre movement is that it’s an underdog fairytale for a party already in control. As the Daily Beast writes, “QAnon is unusual, according to University of Miami professor Joseph Uscinski, because it offers Republicans an alternate view of the world when they already control nearly the entire government. Usually, ‘conspiracy theories are for losers,'” Uscinski said.
But it seems like things are still bad for Trump supporters, and instead of looking into the bleak reality of why our times are so bad, they’re promulgating an escapist narrative that still gives them hope. It somehow makes things even more depressing.