Don’t ignore Trump fanning the flames of QAnon conspiracy theories
In this Aug. 2, 2018, file photo, a protester holds a Q sign at a campaign rally for President Donald Trump in Wilkes-Barre, Pa. | Matt Rourke / AP

President Donald Trump and other GOP members are publicly legitimizing an anti-Semitic conspiracy theory group that has sparked violence in the past. They have brought what should have stayed on the fringes of the dark inter-webs to the center stage. This is something that should be cause for alarm.

What happens when a conspiracy theory catches fire in such a way that it sparks real world violence? What happens when those in power fan the flames of this theory for their own political gain?

QAnon supporter and GOP Congressional candidate Marjorie Taylor Greene in a campaign ad. Trump has referred to her as a “future Republican star.” | Screenshot / YouTube

These are questions being grappled with as the internet-born conspiracy theory known as “QAnon” has gained traction in the non-virtual world. The Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) recently labeled QAnon a domestic terror threat. President Donald Trump, on the other hand, has called QAnon believers “people that love our country” whom he appreciates.

QAnon is a conspiracy theory that plays on a number of themes, one being anti-Semitism, with an overall narrative that a secret political group (a cabal) of Satan-worshipping Democrats and Hollywood elites are running the world behind the scenes. QAnon believers say that these Democrats engage in human-trafficking, pedophilia, and child murder.

Yes, you read that right.

QAnon also states that Trump and his close allies are the only ones capable of rescuing the world from this cabal of Satan-worshipping Democrats. They believe Trump is working behind the scenes to dismantle the “deep state” (members of government agencies believed to be involved in the secret manipulation of the people), and is expanding Guantánamo Bay in order to send all the offenders there.

It should come as no surprise that in the QAnon theory Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama are two prominent figures among the Satan-worshipping Dems.

The name QAnon refers to a mysterious character named “Q,” who claims to be a top government employee with Q-level security clearance, and thus access to top secret information. Q has made plenty of false claims online since emerging on the 4chan message board in 2017, but the Anons (what followers of Q are called) continue to peddle the lies here in the United States and other countries.

Conspiracy theories are nothing new to the culture of the United States. For decades, people and groups have come up with theories to explain infamous events and phenomena. The search for missing Teamsters union leader Jimmy Hoffa, the assassination of John F. Kennedy, and the supposed extraterrestrials at Area 51 all come to mind.

Oftentimes conspiracy theories are considered unorthodox and far-fetched by most of the general public. One might even call many theories harmless. However, there have been times in history when conspiracy theories, especially those based in ignorance and hate, have brought about violence, illness, and destruction.

QAnon already has a history of violence.

“Save the children”

If some of the theories it has about pedophilia and the “evil” Hillary Clinton sound familiar, it is because QAnon was born out of the infamous Pizzagate conspiracy theory that gained traction during the 2016 presidential elections.

Pizzagate, a conspiracy peddled by right-wing media, claimed that the Washington, D.C., pizzeria named Comet Ping Pong was in cahoots with Clinton and others, serving as a base for a child sex-trafficking ring. The story led a man named Edgar Maddison Welch to shoot up the pizza parlor with his AR-15 rifle, believing that there were children locked inside the restaurant’s basement who needed to be saved.

Repackaged and expanded since Pizzagate’s time, QAnon has emerged steeped in more half-truths and biblical references, making its followers believe that they are engaged in a war between the forces of good and evil.

The expansion of this conspiracy theory has grown immensely through the help of social media platforms such as YouTube, Facebook, Twitter, and 4chan. These platforms reach millions of people daily, and there are accounts and chat groups on them which count hundreds of thousands of participants engaging with and sharing the theories of “Q” to hundreds of thousands more.

Social media juggernauts Facebook and Twitter have recently cracked down on some QAnon groups, but the smoke surrounding this conspiracy is sign of a hard-to-put-out fire of misinformation that’s already been burning for some time. On YouTube, QAnon videos can garner millions of views. The 10-part QAnon docu-series Fall of the Cabal has close to two million views per video, with part one having over five million. Being a film critic, I subjected myself to watching the series (as to spare others the pain) and was bombarded with a slew of falsehoods masquerading as truths and “research.”

In the film, the movement of Black Lives Matter is painted as being filled with provocateurs orchestrated by a powerful elite who want to cause disruption and disunity (a sentiment also shared at the 2020 Republican National Convention by speaker Rudy Giuliani). Members of the cabal are said to drink the blood of children to gain some sort of youthful power. This sentiment is a modified rehash of the old anti-Jewish idea of blood libel—which is the accusation that Jewish people use the blood of Christians for religious practice.

All of the professional press are said to be under the power of the cabal and not to be trusted. This goes back to Trump’s continued attacks on journalism and claims of “fake news.”

Above all else, the docu-series says that good things are on the horizon as Trump is the savior of the people and will continue to fight for true justice and an eradication of child sex-trafficking. This demonstrates how QAnon politicizes the real issue of child abuse and human trafficking in order to demonize those that oppose Trump’s regime. This is a dangerous juxtaposition, as those who oppose QAnon could be (and often are) harassed by its followers and accused of being supporters of human trafficking.

The cultural phenomenon isn’t so much that this conspiracy theory exists, or even that it is gaining followers among the public, but rather that a sitting president, other government officials, and those seeking public office, are publicly embracing ideals steeped in hate, bigotry, and lies.

Trump is no stranger to conspiracy theories. He was one of the loudest voices in the “birther” conspiracy years ago claiming Barack Obama wasn’t eligible to be president because of the false assertion he wasn’t born in the United States. Trump recently hinted the same regarding Democratic Vice President nominee Kamala Harris.

We have seen all too recently the carnage Trump’s rhetoric can incite, as two people are now dead in Kenosha, Wisc., by the hands of an emboldened supporter of his. QAnon allows for groupings of these so-called vigilantes to place their violence under a united banner, claiming that they are saving America, children, and the world—by whatever means necessary.

Media Matters has compiled a list that shows over 70 candidates seeking congressional seats who have come out in public support of QAnon. Of those, Georgia’s Marjorie Taylor Greene, will most likely be elected in November. Greene was an invited guest at the RNC and has been praised by Trump as a “future Republican Star.”

Multimedia expansion across multiple platforms and channels and being given credence by a man that holds the highest office in the United States creates a perfect storm for QAnon to spark violence and threaten democracy.

Capitalism and conspiracy

When Hitler and his Nazi regime blamed Jewish people for the problems in Germany, putting out propaganda that pushed the theory of the “Jewish elite” as the enemy, it led to the tragedy of the Holocaust.

The QAnon conspiracy is spreading internationally. Here, Romanian supporters take part in a rally against the government’s measures to prevent the spread of COVID-19 infections, like wearing a face mask, in Bucharest, Romania, Aug. 10, 2020. | Andreea Alexandru / AP

Vaccine hesitancy, a.k.a. the anti-vaxxer movement that relies on baseless conspiracy theories that all vaccines are harmful and a form of government control, has contributed to a 30% increase in measles outbreaks globally as of 2019. This movement of misinformation has been named one of the top 10 health threats to the world by the World Health Organization (WHO). And as humanity waits for a reputable vaccine for COVID-19 the dangers of anti-vaxxers become even more of a worry for leading health experts.

These examples are just two in a long list of the damage that can be done when detrimental conspiracy theories are allowed to spread far and wide with little resistance.

As people with Q posters and “Save the Children” hashtags go out into the streets here in the U.S., there has been documented growing support in Germany, Britain, Australia, Canada, France, Italy, and New Zealand. These people may not yet be taking it to the streets in the millions, but we know from history that it only takes a few with their minds on violence to cause harm. And it doesn’t take millions necessarily to vote with these beliefs in mind in order to bring people into political power who can cause even more harm.

Conspiracy theories can gain traction in times of chaos when people feel powerless. The economic and health devastation of the global pandemic creates a fertile ground for conspiracies to grow. Theories can be created that scapegoat other groups of people or hidden shadowy figures that are said to be the reason for all the troubles in the world. Often these conspiracy theories are heavy on innuendo and assumption and light on actual theory and analysis.

It doesn’t take much digging to see that the world is filled with inequality and oppression. This is true. Yet, the baseless QAnon conspiracy that traces this oppression to Satan-worshipping Dems who eat babies can be combated with actual facts. Understanding that these inequalities stem from a system—capitalism—that is embedded with racism, sexism, and exploitation aimed at keeping a majority of workers underpaid is imperative to take the teeth out of outlandish QAnon theories.

QAnon and Trump’s regime emboldening of it cannot be ignored; they must be countered.

When working people are privy to the real culprit trampling their rights who are hiding in plain sight, it becomes clear that Trump is part of the problem, not the solution.

He is not against the so-called establishment. He is the establishment.

Empowering people with facts and evidence-based information makes this plain. This will make it clear that a theory like QAnon which places our “salvation” in the hands of a wealthy capitalist who gets richer while the rest of us fight for survival is not a movement worth getting behind.


Chauncey K. Robinson
Chauncey K. Robinson

Chauncey K. Robinson is an award winning journalist and film critic. Born and raised in Newark, New Jersey, she has a strong love for storytelling and history. She believes narrative greatly influences the way we see the world, which is why she's all about dissecting and analyzing stories and culture to help inform and empower the people.