What is QAnon? Critics have called it a cult, an unhinged right-wing conspiracy theory. And the FBI considers it a potential domestic terrorist threat.
But Donald Trump thinks that they’re fine people.
“I don’t know much about the movement other than I understand they like me very much, which I appreciate,” Trump said in the White House briefing room on Wednesday.
“I’ve heard these are people that love our country and they just don’t like seeing it,” he continued. The “it” in that case is the widespread protesting in cities such as Portland, Oregon, and Washington, DC.
The online group, which can no longer be dismissed as fringe-dwelling, tinfoil-hat-wearing weirdos, reveres Trump. In fact, he is central to many of QAnon’s theories about the “deep state.”
The generally held belief is that Trump will dismantle the world’s corrupt power structures from within and bring the liberals to justice. This is the group that believes Democrats are Satan-worshipping predators who traffic children through pizza parlors.
Trump might not be familiar with the particulars of the theories, but he’s clearly glad to play the hero. “If I can help save the world from problems, I’m willing to do it,” he said when asked about the group. “I’m willing to put myself out there. And we are, actually, we’re saving the world from a radical left philosophy that will destroy this country.”
Acting presidents don’t often endorse online conspiracy theories. In fact, like so much of Trump’s time in the White House, it’s unprecedented.
Where did QAnon come from? It appears to have started in October 2017, on the message board site 4chan. An anonymous person with the username “Q” began posting messages about a vast criminal conspiracy sweeping the world.
Although it started on 4chan, QAnon’s messaging spread quickly to middle class white Americans who are active on social media. They seem to have flourished during the pandemic, pushing the conspiracy theory that coronavirus is a deep state hoax.
The group was particularly active on Facebook, but that may be changing. Facebook just announced that it removed “over 790 groups, 100 pages and 1,500 ads tied to QAnon.” The social media titan also restricted almost 2000 groups and an additional 440 pages. The company also owns Instagram, and they shut down another 10,000 accounts on that platform as well. Last month, Twitter banned QAnon accounts, while TikTok has deleted hashtags related to the group.
None of the conspiracies hold up under scrutiny. If you come across QAnon content on social media, it’s best not to engage with it at all. You may have friends or family who share these conspiracy theories. Unfortunately, the cult-like nature of the group makes it very difficult to argue using logic or facts.