The 'Q' movement is a pro-terrorist Trumpian cult
Well, we seem to be getting closer to the national realization that this thing that calls itself "QAnon" is, at heart, just another partisan iteration of the same far-right conspiracy theories that have plagued conservatives since forever ago. The New York Times has another look at the growth of "Q" nonsense in the Republican mainstream, and while it doesn't contain anything new, it does more forcibly connect the batshit conspiracy theorizing of gullible, gullible supporters to the cowardice—and complicity—of Republican leaders.
The most plausible explanation for the Q hokum, in which an anonymous supposed member of the Deep State drools out accusations against anyone deemed to be enemies of Donald Trump in comically performed pseudo-riddles, remains the obvious one: It is the work of chan-style trolls, part of that internet corner's grand tradition of crafting gaudily improbable hoaxes to distribute for no other purpose than to see who they can draw in. It may turn out to be the first domestic terrorism group founded for funsies—though at this point, those connected to the movement have focused their claims and targets enough to make it clear that stoking incidents of real-world terrorism is, in fact, the current goal.
Like the 2016 proliferation of European "fake news" sites aiming to generate advertising traffic by inventing hoax political stories, Q conspiracies have been tailored to American conservative tastes because American conservatives are the richest (read: most gullible) targets. Fox News conservatives have been fed decades of tawdry but false information, all packaged with advertising pitches to buy gold, or "survival" equipment, or hyper-expensive pills sold through conservative mailing lists and on conservative programs relentlessly. It is an audience of laboratory-grown suckers, people who have been whittled down over the years to a base of the most credulous, and therefore profitable, marks.
But—and this is a big but—there's an undercurrent here that's getting more and more ... let's say blatant, as actual news events slap Q claims back and forth and sideways month after month after month.
The QAnon claim is that most or all of the world's most famous powerbrokers, including politicians, actors, nonpartisan government figures and so on, are secret ultra-pedophiles and child traffickers. But the revelation of Trump ally Jeffrey Epstein as precisely that did not make a ripple. Instead, the "real" traffickers are unanimously people who oppose Donald Trump, and most especially those who report what looks to be criminal behavior by Trump.
The QAnon claims burst into Republican popularity after Donald J. Trump was accused of sexual assault by two dozen women, after his taped bragging about committing sexual assaults, and after a long public history of being an eager pervert—whether it be the purchase of a top beauty pageant as apparent ticket to ogle nude teenagers or the mysterious and Epsteinesque "Trump modeling company." Instead, the movement holds Trump up as the mockingly dubious "hero" fighting against society's sex predators. He is alleged to be doing this secretly, with Good Genes and near-godlike powers, and the movement remains absolutely immune to news cycle after news cycle in which their own predictions prove to be fan-fiction bunk.
This week, Trump ally Rudy Giuliani was revealed to have been secretly filmed (as part of a new Borat movie, of all things) fondling himself in front of a youthful female "interviewer." Without getting too far into a description of that particular chunk of nightmare fuel, it continues the pattern of 1) Republican 2) conservative 3) Trump-allied 4) powerbrokers revealed as tawdry often-sexual-assaulting ultrapervs. From Wynn to Epstein to Broidy to Falwell to Rudy, there is a very robust claim to be made that the QAnon suspicions of an enormously powerful cabal of sex freaks are indeed well-founded—and that they radiate from the Republican National Committee's finance offices, from Mar-a-Lago, or both.
All these real-world crimes and bizarre improprieties, however, are dismissed by the QAnon faithful. Nope: They are convinced that the True Pedophiles are "Democrats" and "globalists," and that four years of the nation's top Republican figures getting caught with their pants around their ankles are the fictional part.
It should be obvious from that history, then, that isn't a conspiracy base that gives a damn about pedophilia and child sex trafficking, and if anything the "movement" has sabotaged law enforcement's attempts to pursue sex traffickers by flooding lines with false claims pointing to everyone but the true culprits.
This is a group born to defend criminal acts by the powerful, not combat them. It does so using the precise playbook Trump himself uses when caught committing apparent tax fraud, foreign extortion, or embezzlement: The projection defense. It's not me, it was that other guy. It has always been that other guy. No matter how much the evidence proves it was me, the evidence is mere conspiracy and the truth is its opposite.
As Trump's charity foundation was revealed to be little more than a passthrough for the Trump family's personal spending—resulting in the family being barred from future charity boards—an organized effort to portray the Clinton's own family foundation as corrupt erupted from longtime conservative hoax-peddlers. As Trump personally profited off the presidency with the aid of his sons and favorite daughter, a new hoax emerged claiming that Actually it was the Biden family that was doing that thing. It is the far-right response to revealed Republican wrongdoing. Even Benghazi!, a far-right led claim that four American deaths in a terrorist attack were the result of something-something Hillary Clinton (it was never, even at the end, consistent in what the something-something was supposed to be) was a cheap version of the inquiries held after 9/11, probing what the Republican-led government knew in advance and why that information was not processed into action.
In that context, QAnon's relentlessly partisan far-right claim that a Republican Party visibly awash in corruption—with a series of Trump lieutenants and allies being led off in handcuffs for everything from sex trafficking to foreign influence-peddling to election crimes—is "actually" a group of heroes working to expose the corruption of their enemies looks less like a coincidence than a pattern.
Isn't this just a more spittle-flecked version of what Fox News personalities have been peddling for years? That the news as it is reported by your eyes and ears is false, promoted by "elites" in order to deceive you, and that the real news is how ingenious conservative figures are despite policies that have caused clear ruin, and how malevolent non-conservative figures are for opposing them? Is that not the very definition of Sean Hannity's evening broadcast? The theme of every conservative book?
There's not a lot of daylight between the QAnon version of reality and that promoted by Glenn Beck's now-famous chalkboards, or Tucker Carlson's parade of "alt-right" fascist-adjacent guests. The online versions of each conspiracy are always more vigorous than the versions the Fox hosts themselves provide, but they each grow from similar stock. They intertwine more often than not.
Then there is the other, deeper origin of QAnon claims. The movement's guides insist not only that there is a secret global cabal of child sex traffickers, but that the ultimate purpose of the plot, run by "globalist" figures, is to harvest those children's fluids for consumption.
There's not an educated person alive who doesn't recognize that theory. It is the blood libel conspiracy theory that has been promulgated by anti-Semites for literally hundreds of years, but made most famous in Nazi Germany for a variation very close to the Q version.
The QAnon claim does not bother to go too far afield from the versions peddled in the 1920s and 30s. "Globalists" is used to mean "Jewish," as it is by most modern neo-Nazi adherents; rather than "blood" of children, a specific compound is named this time around in near-comical pseudoscientific gibberish. The premise of a secret group of global "elites" running the world from the shadows is the claim from the Henry Ford-peddled hoax Protocols of the Elders of Zion; the omnipresent inclusions of George Soros and "Hollywood" as alleged conspirators are lifted directly from neo-Nazi fever dreams, anti-Semitic tropes that were willingly taken in as staples of Republican Party rhetoric long before Q-anything arrived on scene.
So it's clear that the originators of QAnon are well-versed in neo-Nazi and anti-Semitic propaganda, and are particularly interested in repopularizing it for a modern audience. Why those messages reverberate so very strongly among the Fox News-watching Republican base, and the merging of these conspiracies to become inextricably linked to Trumpism, is not hard to imagine. That it would achieve true cult status, with some adherents willing to commit terrorist acts in deluded efforts to prove conspiracies invented in someone else's head, may only be evidence of the omnipresent undercurrent of good violence that has burrowed itself into the American psyche in a hundred other forms.
If anything, the rise of Q belief as increasingly mainstream Republican phenomenon, complete with its own candidates and in-movement codes, appears to be the natural culmination of multiple conservative trends, all balled together in one malevolent, hyper-cynical lump:
Fox News and conservative talk radio provided a large Republican base already trained to disbelieve news uncomfortable to the party, a base literally willing to deny reality in favor of pleasing fictions. A set of gullibles that could easily be transformed into deplorables.
The white supremacist and white nationalist movement provided the conspiracy itself, a bog-standard edition of "evil global cabal that has secretly undermined world governments" that has been a staple of neo-Nazi movements in this country and in others.
American militia movements are providing, in a literal sense, the ammunition: A far-right collection of malcontents who insist that violence against nonright citizens is essential, glorious, and nigh.
The Republican Party's own widespread embrace of corruption, nearly all of it centered around Trump, has all but required more and more outrageous conspiracy theories as official party defense.
That all of this would combine into kleptocratic fascism is not surprising. That its enablers did not, at any point along the way, reflect on the likely outcome of the combination is damning.
It remains vitally important to see QAnon for what it is, and no more. It is an amateur-led trolling effort based primarily on the same ambiguous nonsense-spewing used by fortune-telling hucksters, but one led by amateurs steeped in anti-Semitic claims and rhetoric popular among neo-Nazi and "alt-right" subcommunities. It is Alex Jones by way of fortune cookie, or Jim Jones by way of sudoku. It is a scam intended for the most gullible. Its adherents should be pitied. It is the fascist version of the hula hoop or the pet rock, a hip new trend that will someday be confined to your parents' attic, mysterious artifacts of pop culture tremors since vanished.
And mocked. As racism-embracing nitwits incapable of discerning truth from fiction despite having access to nearly all of human history tucked in the space before a single wandering thumb, its adherents should be mocked. There is not enough mocking of willful, self-absorbed, self-interested gullibility these days, which is why it spreads so prolifically. If you willingly listen to Fox News hosts lie to you night after night and become irate at contrary information, you are a self-built fool and should be treated as such. If you believe that Donald Trump, serial sex abuser, pedophile-adjacent thug is the good Christian hero who will secretly reveal that everyone aside from him is the dribbling pervert he appears to be, however, you are something closer to a half-sentient wart. You should be pilloried as one of the true suckers of the planet.
Congratulations, all those willing to fall for transparent anti-Semitic gobbledegook rather than admit you got played by a skeevy lifelong con man. You certainly have revealed yourselves.