The cultish devotees of the QAnon conspiracy theory showed up in force at Trump’s rally in Grand Rapids, Michigan last night, causing alarm on Twitter. One Q follower filmed himself walking down the line of rally attendees waiting to hear Trump speak with a sign that said “Make noise for Q,” and make noise they did.
Ben Collins, who reports on the QAnon conspiracy theory for NBC News, shared the video on Twitter:
Write off the sheer prevalence of the Qanon cult at your own risk.https://t.co/wnUqe2oflB— Ben Collins (@oneunderscore__) March 29, 2019
The 20-minute-long video demonstrates how large the Q movement—which the Washington Post calls a “deranged conspiracy cult”—has grown to be, and it’s pretty chilling.
I've been covering Qanon for a year, and the amount of pro-Q people in this video from yesterday's Trump rally line in Grand Rapids is absolutely shocking. This is just a portion of it. pic.twitter.com/hTDGEnPsEi— Ben Collins (@oneunderscore__) March 29, 2019
(In case you’re tempted to think they’re just making noise to make noise, several of these Trump supporters are shouting QAnon slogans, such as “where we go one, we go all.”)
The QAnon conspiracy theory is a jumbled mess and it’s spread by an anonymous person or persons on 8chan known as “Q.” Claiming high-level security clearance and access to President Trump, Q dribbles out vague “clues” for followers to decode.
The beginning montage from Idiocracy left out the part where all the dumbest people rise up & murder everyone else because of of online posts https://t.co/nG1YlsfZyN— Johnny McNulty and the Total Exonerations (@JohnnyMcNulty) March 29, 2019
The central claim of the theory is that high-level Democrats and celebrities are involved in a massive child trafficking ring (either for cannibalism, sex, or both) which the mainstream media helps cover up. Additionally, Trump, with the help of Robert Mueller and others, will bring these Democrats and “elites” to justice, locking them up in Guantanamo Bay and trying them before military courts. Followers of Q have been linked to a number of crimes, including two murders and a catastrophic wildfire in California.
Hi there - Qanon is a terrifying death cult. It would be good for everyone to pay attention to its spread. https://t.co/ulbCcaWvrr— Tommy Vietor (@TVietor08) March 29, 2019
Thanks to a lack of guardrails in the Republican media ecosphere, the QAnon cult is threatening to go mainstream. An alarming number of right-wing celebrities, local Republican lawmakers, and other Trump-friendly media personalities have either pushed the theory or boosted those who do. President Trump himself has promoted a QAnon Twitter account several times, and even hosted a Q devotee at the White House.
Before this election cycle is over, a Republican candidate for office will be recorded saying “where we go one, we go all” at a rally, and, when called on it, deny everything and try to gaslight everyone. https://t.co/Iu2heRP3QU— Matthew Gertz (@MattGertz) March 29, 2019
Collins followed up with a tweet lamenting the “systemic failure” that created fertile ground for the conspiracy theory to spread, and others joined him.
So many things in American society had to fail for this many people to believe one party is run by an actual Satanic cabal that eats children, and Trump, Jesus and Bob Mueller are secretly ending it.— Ben Collins (@oneunderscore__) March 29, 2019
Social media companies helped it grow, but this is widespread systemic failure.
QAnon is a failure of critical thinking, but it's also a failure of community. People with thriving familial and social circles simply don't waste their lives pretending John Podesta eats babies and Michelle Obama is actually a man. https://t.co/mLJOAat8UI— Mike Rothschild (@rothschildmd) March 29, 2019
This is the thing that guts me.— Myke Cole (@MykeCole) March 29, 2019
It’s not just Trump.
It’s US. This is US. This is a significant portion of Americans.
If I hear one more politician say “this is not who we are,” I’ll puke.
This *is* who we are, and until we admit it, we can’t start to fix it. https://t.co/QR8ZeGduhk
The success of the QAnon conspiracy is the result of a series of failures, but at its heart is a rejection of traditional media, even the fringes of what could be considered as such. That’s why most of the blame for QAnon belongs with the Republican Party and their right-wing media allies, especially Fox News.
The decades-long attack on mainstream media by the GOP and Fox News helped to unmoor a portion of their supporters from reality while creating a demand for “news” that reflected their views. Rather than satisfying this demand, the GOP’s relentless promotion of outlandish conspiracy theories during the Obama years—from Benghazi to birtherism—contributed to a social-media-fueled positive feedback loop of increasingly unhinged demonization.
It’s difficult to see how this dynamic corrects itself, or even if it will. If not, the QAnon phenomenon might not just be a quirk of the Trump era, but a harbinger of the dark future of the Republican Party and American politics overall.