QAnon, a growing national movement that promotes a bizarre conspiracy theory that believes President Donald Trump is engaged in a covert war with a global cabal of powerful, Satan-worshiping elites who control the world and run a child sex ring, has recently crossed over from the fringe to right-wing and Republican politics. In early August, QAnon supporter Marjorie Taylor Greene won a Republican primary, where she’s now nearly certain to win a House seat in the November election. Trump has embraced Greene as a “future Republican star.”
The group, which has a major presence on social media, promotes false information about Covid-19, the Black Lives Matter protests and the 2020 election. QAnon supporters have also worked to infiltrate other conservative activist groups, such as the anti-vaccine and anti-child trafficking movements.
There have been several criminal incidents involving QAnon followers, including one member who is accused of murdering a mafia boss last year and another who was arrested for allegedly threatening to kill current presidential candidate Joe Biden. The FBI has warned that QAnon poses a potential domestic terror threat. Between The Lines’ Scott Harris spoke with Amanda Marcotte, senior political writer for Salon.com, who discusses her recent article, “Is QAnon the New Christian Right?”
AMANDA MARCOTTE: QAnon is this conspiracy theory that really formulated online in the days after Trump’s election. It started on 4chan when a user claiming to be a high-level official in the Trump administration started making pretty ridiculous claims that a lot of Trump’s more bizarre behavior was not what it seems. That in fact, it’s part of his elaborate plan to take down what Q said was a worldwide pedophilia conspiracy. He’s accused most Democratic officials and politicians of being involved in this pedophilic conspiracy. He has accused Oprah Winfrey and Tom Hanks of being in it. And he says that Trump has a secret plan to take all these pedophiles down. He also accuses them of being Satan worshipers and cannibals.
Unfortunately, as ridiculous as that sounds, huge numbers of people, I would say probably we’re looking at millions at this point have some investment or are entirely sold on the QAnon conspiracy theory. Their Facebook pages are wildly popular. Their Twitter accounts were wildly popular until Twitter purged a bunch of them. At Trump rallies, QAnon merch sells just as well, if not better than Trump merch. And you know, it is a ridiculous conspiracy theory. But you see these kinds of ridiculous conspiracy theories crop up over and over again in history to justify well, frankly, fascism. You know, it’s very reminiscent of in Nazi Germany, how the Protocols of the Elders of Zion — a document accusing Jewish people of being involved in a similar conspiracy — was very popular and was used to justify the Holocaust.
SCOTT HARRIS: Now you speak about the self-righteousness of adherents to this conspiracy theory to QAnon, which makes them particularly dangerous. They say they’re protecting sexually abused children. So when they go up against their “enemies,” their belief is they’re protecting defenseless children. So some of these people believe any length that they go to is justified, whether it be violence or something else in the interest of protecting these children.
AMANDA MARCOTTE: Yeah. And it’s clearly a psychological rationalization because people that adhere to QAnon show no evidence outside of their belief in this conspiracy theory about carrying out sex trafficking — caring about children’s welfare or caring about anything of that nature. It really is sort of a way to rationalize a pre-existing desire to believe that violence against Democrats and violent suppression of the opposition is okay. And to justify it by saying it’s about stopping violence against children.
It reminds me quite a bit of the anti-abortion movement, which has been playing the same game for years, claiming that they oppose abortion rights because of life and the babies and all that. But when you actually look at their records outside of protesting abortion clinics, trying to take away women’s rights, doing violence against abortion providers and you look to have they ever invested in health care for children? Have they ever done anything to help women go forward with their pregnancies as they want to? The answer is no, they don’t actually care about children.
SCOTT HARRIS: Now, Amanda, we didn’t touch on some of the parts of the article where you discuss the fading evangelical right movement. And its long-standing relationship with the Republican party and your thoughts that this new cult in QAnon could be something that’s going to crop up to replace the evangelicals in the GOP.
AMANDA MARCOTTE: The reality is QAnon functions the same way the evangelical movement did. For many decades, basically my entire life, the evangelical right has existed to put a moral gloss on immoral policies, right? They have defended racist policies, sexist policies, supply side economics, aggressive, unnecessary overseas wars. Republicans have done all these things and they’ve gotten away with it because they have all these ministers who are running around saying, “We’re the moral ones because of X, Y, and Z” but mostly because they are sex scolds and prudes, right? That kind of works.
But I think in the past five or six years, I think what’s happened is the American appetite for being the sex police has really kind of diminished and people just don’t care as much anymore. So now you have QAnon kind of stepping forward with a different way to say, you’re the good guy if you’re a Republican, because — and now it’s just a completely ridiculous conspiracy theory. But the whole point of it is the Republican party has pretty consistently backed immoral policies for decades. And they’re getting worse under Donald Trump. And as they get worse, they need more and more excuses for why they’re not bad people and QAnon is kind of stepping in to fill that role.
Marcotte is author of the book, “Troll Nation: How the Right Became Trump-Worshipping Monsters.”