People who say Donald Trump doesn't do any work outside the golf course are wrong. It takes effort to be actively boosting not one, but two white supremacist domestic terrorist groups, one military in the "boogaloo"/second Civil War, the other political in this whole Q idiocy conspiracy nonsense.
On July Fourth, before President Donald Trump spoke to the nation from the White House lawn, he spoke indirectly to another community on Twitter: QAnon.
That afternoon, he retweeted 14 tweets from accounts supporting the QAnon conspiracy theory, a sprawling and ever-mutating belief that a mysterious government official who goes by “Q” is leaving online clues about a messianic Trump’s secret plan to dismantle a cadre of Washington elites engaged in everything from pedophilia to child sex trafficking.
It wasn’t the first time Trump has nodded — accidentally or not — to QAnon followers on Twitter. But Trump's QAnon-baiting has gone into overdrive in recent months. According to a Media Matters analysis, ever since the pandemic began, Trump has retweeted at least 90 posts from 49 pro-QAnon accounts, often multiple times in the same day.
Those around Trump have followed suit. Eric Trump, the president’s son, recently posted a giant “Q” on Instagram as well as the hashtag version of the community’s slogan: “Where we go one, we go all.” White House deputy communications director Dan Scavino sparked glee on Facebook when he posted a photo with Q symbology in it back in March. Over on Parler, the niche Twitter alternative and MAGA hub, Rep. Devin Nunes of California, one of Trump’s most strident congressional defenders, directed people to The Dirty Truth, a video producer who has promoted QAnon-related conspiracies in the past.
And over that July Fourth weekend, Michael Flynn, Trump’s first national security adviser, recorded a video of himself taking the QAnon loyalty pledge, a slightly altered version of the U.S. oath of office.
All this has occurred with barely any pushback from Trump or Republican leaders — or even much acknowledgment that the phenomenon exists. And the engagement has continued even as the FBI has labeled the amorphous online community a potential source of domestic terrorism after several people radicalized by QAnon have been charged with crimes, ranging from attempted kidnapping to murder, inspired by the conspiracy theory.
To Trump’s critics, the reason is simple enough: QAnon followers are some of Trump’s biggest boosters. They show up at rallies. They promote the president’s narrative online, even coming up with their own conspiracy theories to protect him. And as the president struggles in the polls amid criticism over his handling of the coronavirus pandemic and response to nationwide protests over police killings, there are political benefits to engaging Trump’s most fervent fan base.
“It's easy enough for them to say OK, well, because of that, we can accept this other crazy level of behavior because those people love the president,” said Rick Wilson, a former GOP strategist and co-founder of the Trump-critical Lincoln Project. “They unequivocally support Donald Trump.”
For the uninitiated, QAnon refers to a conspiracy theory centered on the existence of a shadowy government official known simply as “Q,” who communicates with his followers through various online channels, dropping cryptic, Nostradamus-esque notes hinting at the elite’s secret machinations. QAnon alleges that the global elite, all part of a pedophile sex trafficking ring in Washington, are responsible for an amalgamate of baseless conspiracies, ranging from the murder of a Democratic National Committee staffer to widespread satanic worship and deliberately spreading the novel coronavirus.
In the QAnon mythos, Q and Trump are working toward an event called “The Storm,” the day that he finally arrests thousands of these elites and ships them to Guantanamo Bay. Occasionally, QAnon followers see various setbacks as The Storm in action; others have attempted to explain the lack of mass indictments through science fiction.
“Supposedly, I'm already in Gitmo and my clone is speaking to you right now,” Wilson said.
QAnon followers are hungriest for signs that the Trump administration is watching them — an errant hand-wave, for instance, can result in hundreds of followers insisting that Trump had drawn a “Q” to acknowledge them. But rather than leave it in the realm of “Da Vinci Code”-esque symbology, Trump’s actions, as well as his repeated insistence that the “deep state” is conspiring against him, have given them even more reason to believe in him.
And to QAnon followers, Trump’s regular retweeting of their messages indicates that he or someone on his team is acknowledging their work.
Yeah, there's a lot of crossover between the Boogaloo Boys and the Q Balls. But it's all straight up Cult of Dear Leader stuff, Facism 101, here. We've already seen both groups kill. They are straight-up terrorists.
And the closer we get to Election Day, the more likely it will be for Trump to call on them to unleash deadly violence all over the country in order to help him stay in power.
Don't laugh at these guys. We're in the growing stages of a populist uprising that could lead to a death toll on par with COVID-19.