The QAnon conspiracy theory is showing up more Donald Trump MAGA rallies than it ever has before, and with more prominent displays of signs and merchandise. While the conspiracy theory is largely panned by the press and even a fair amount of Trump supporters, the longer Trump plays to that extreme base that has bought into it lock, stock, and barrel, the more converts it is picking up, and the more dangerous it is becoming. The first sign that began worrying many experts, is that people into QAnon don’t recognize it as a conspiracy theory. They talk about it in terms of it being a movement, a prophecy, and their American duty.
The entire QAnon narrative started from a Trump Quip and then evolved into something that was just for the lulz on 4chan, 8chan, and eventually Reddit, seeing how many people would buy into it. The more people that got involved following it, the more outrageous it got. According to TIME, depending on which message board you follow, it explains the state of the economy, the sinking of the Titanic, even that Robert Mueller is working in cahoots with Trump to ferret out the liberal elites for trial and punishment. The ambiguity of the clues ensures that anything a person wants the clues to mean, they can mean.
It is stunning to me how many ppl in this #TRUMPTAMPA crowd have QAnon signs or t-shirts. That is not a healthy sign for GOP or for America.
— Adam Smith (@adamsmithtimes) July 31, 2018
Until recently, aside from the scattered billboards asking “Who is Q?” and people wearing QAnon clothing, you didn’t see very many people at Trump MAGA rallies wearing QAnon gear, as reported by Inquisitr. Signs were limited to one or two per rally. No one talked about it much when milling around at MAGA events. Then, Roseanne Barr began professing she believed the conspiracy theory was real and former baseball player turned Breitbart podcaster, Curt Schilling backed her up on it according to Inquisitr, and it spread. In general, QAnon lived online, but now, it is becoming mainstream, and experts believe that might make it dangerous.
Social media, particularly Facebook as of late, has proved to be the perfect incubator for QAnon, with countless groups springing up to spread the word of QAnon, and for “bakers” as they call themselves, to share theories. According to Quartz, it has also allowed for adding people to those groups and linking them into existing groups supporting Trump to spread the conspiracy theory even farther. The use of Facebook rather than the chans, Reddit, or even Twitter, allows the theory to reach the average Trump voter more effectively than any other platform. The Chicago Post posited that the QAnon conspiracy theory allows people who feel helpless get a sense of control over something, but it comes at a price.
“Conspiracy theories, various experts say, grow out of the mind’s need to feel something other than helpless in the face of a changing and complicated world. But the appeal of such mindsets can encourage the unhinged to act in ways that can pose a danger to the rest of us.”
In the real world, QAnon devotees have acted in ways that can only be deemed as irrational according to NPR. According to the Chicago Post, one man who believed QAnon is related to Pizzagate fired an AR-15 several times inside of a Washington D.C. Pizzeria. He thought a ring of pedophiles were harming children in the basement and he was going to save them. But there were no pedophiles in the basement harming children. In fact, there wasn’t even a basement.
— Brian Stelter (@brianstelter) July 30, 2018
Michael Avenatti was harassed outside of his office by a man that told him he was there on a mission from Q. As per Inquisitr, there was the Armored truck on the Hoover Dam in which a man demanded the release of an IG report alluded to by Q, which unbeknownst to the person had been released weeks earlier, and the list goes on and on. Tom Hanks has been a QAnon target, and now search returns for “Tom Hanks pedophile” are ranking high and there are thousands of them according to NBC. Stephen Spielberg is similarly libeled. Billy Baldwin has been one of their targets for saying that QAnon is ridiculous. Valerie Jarret became a target because QAnon followers are blaming her for Roseanne Barr’s recent problems. According to NBC, people that question QAnon, criticize Trump, or defend anyone QAnon targets, becomes a target them self. Physical harm or not, it is damaging to these people.
I just got off the phone with QAnon…
He told me that he is actually a Democratic Party conspiracy funded by The Illuminati and George Soros to identify all of the crazy, hillbilly, Jonestown, Cult 45, lunatic fringe members of MAGA.
(Shhhh… don’t tell anyone!!) pic.twitter.com/gG1LRy7rB0
— Billy Baldwin (@BillyBaldwin) August 5, 2018
People are starting to act on the messages that they are interpreting the clues to be, and so far no one has died because of it, but there is no guarantee that it will always be that way according to Brooke Binkowski, the former managing editor at the fact-checking website Snopes.com.
“You don’t know who is spreading [the conspiracies] and why, or who is picking them up and why. You can’t really confront the people who are responsible for these to their face or on social media, because you don’t know who is doing it.”
It's hard to see example after example of the most pernicious conspiracy theories being pushed by YouTube and think they are taking this problem seriously at all https://t.co/pcZ8Ks0Hol
— Joe Bernstein (@Bernstein) July 30, 2018
This all leads back to QAnon being a potential danger because while Trump didn’t have anything to do with starting it, he has been known to push conspiracy theories, most notably related to Barack Obama’s place of birth, as reported by the Washington Post. He does nothing to dispel or discourage QAnon from flourishing among his base or at his rallies according to Michael Wood, who specializes in the psychology of conspiracies and is a lecturer at the University of Winchester.
“Trump hasn’t talked about Q specifically, but the popularity of Q probably owes something to Trump’s general usage of conspiracy theories — on the campaign trail, in speeches, in tweets and so on. People’s idea of what are acceptable political beliefs depends, to some extent, on what kind of cues they get from political elites. Trump is, by usual standards of U.S. politics, quite a conspiracy theorist. So it makes sense that his base has followed suit.”