Recent cases in which former US President Donald Trump appears to embrace the QAnon conspiracy theory are raising concerns among some lawmakers, veteran law enforcement officials and cult experts.
Trump shared a photo of himself wearing a Q lapel pin, overlaid with the QAnon phrases “The Storm is Coming” and “WWG1WGA,” an acronym for “Where We Go One, We Go All” ( where one goes, we all go) on his Truth Social account on September 12.
Trump has amplified at least 50 separate accounts promoting QAnon since joining and actively using his online platform Truth Social, according to Alex Kaplan, a senior fellow at Media Matters for America, a left-wing media watchdog.
“In case it wasn’t too CLEAR right now, President Trump himself is making it UNDENIABLE that he is aligning himself 100% with Operation Q,” John Sabal, an organizer of QAnon-focused conferences, posted on his channel. from Telegram.
Sabal has previously stated that the US military is obligated to remove President Joe Biden from office, whom the conspiracy theorist called an “actor red.”
QAnon debuted five years ago on a fringe online platform. Cryptic and false statements were repeatedly posted by an anonymous commenter known as “Q”, who claimed to be insiders with the US government.
Many supporters of the movement, based on those posts, have come to believe that Trump is engaged in a secret war against “deep state” enemies, including former Democratic Party presidential candidate Hillary Clinton, whom Trump defeated in 2016. strange conspiracy, Clinton and other Democrats are part of a cabal of devil worshipers who kidnap children to abuse and even eat.
The former president, while not openly repeating that belief, frequently espouses other related conspiracy theories without credible evidence, including that the results of the 2020 presidential election were altered to deny him a second term.
“A vile group of corrupt and power-hungry liberal globalists, socialists and extremists in Washington have been waging war against the working people of Ohio,” Trump said at a Sept. 17 rally in Youngstown. “Our greatest threat continues to be the sick, sinister and evil people within our country.”
At his campaign rallies
A tune played at the Ohio event that was nearly identical to a QAnon anthem titled “Wwg1wga” (an acronym for “where one goes, we all go”). The same song was previously heard at a Trump rally in neighboring Pennsylvania and in a recent video linked to the former president.
As the music played during the Youngstown event, many in the audience pointed an index finger in the air, which some observers say denotes the “one” in the QAnon catchphrase. Some online commentators, including Walter Shaub, former director of the US Office of Government Ethics, compared the footage to fascist rallies from the 1930s and 1940s.
Others on social media contended that the gesture, which had not previously been seen at Trump rallies, was too vague to be definitively linked to the QAnon movement, noting that it could have been a reference to the “America First” theme that Trump has invoked since he ran for president in 2015.
The salute is also identified with the non-political Salvation Army, a Christian movement founded in the mid-19th century.
“Fake news, in a pathetic attempt to create controversy and divide America, is preparing another conspiracy over a royalty-free song from a popular audio library platform,” said Taylor Budowich, a spokesperson for Trump’s post-presidential office, a VOA in response to a query attempting to clarify questions about the music and greeting at the rally.
‘The last gasp of a dying cult’
The Ohio event “was a QAnon festival,” according to Barbara Comstock, a former Republican member of Congress, who noted on CNN, that the rally’s “weird QAnon music” and obsequious gesture, while downplaying the significance of Trump’s apparent hug to the controversial movement.
Noting that the event was sparsely attended compared to the former president’s previous rallies, Comstock called the rally “the last gasp of a dying cult.”
Frank Figliuzzi, a former deputy director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, maintains that Trump is embracing the QAnon movement in desperation, and the former president is aware of how dangerous it is.
“Not only do I think he knows, but I think that’s what draws him to this. He’s like a moth to a flame,” Figliuzzi said on MSNBC.
With Trump facing trouble on multiple legal fronts, his attraction to QAnon can be compared “to the last act of a desperate man,” Figliuzzi added.
The former FBI official also expressed concern that Trump, perceived as the sect’s political leader, is desperately advocating violence.
“The members step up and force the ending, whatever it is,” Figliuzzi said. “That’s what worries me, and we’ve learned since January 6 that it only takes a small number of people to do that.”
On January 6, 2021, thousands of Trump supporters stormed the United States Capitol in an attempt to prevent lawmakers from counting electoral votes to formalize Joe Biden’s victory in the presidential election. More than 900 people have been arrested and charged with crimes related to the attack.
When he was president in 2020, Trump said he didn’t know much about QAnon, adding that he couldn’t refute its conspiracy theory.
“If I can help save the world from trouble, I’m willing to do it,” Trump responded when asked if, in line with QAnon’s belief, he was saving the country from a satanic cult of child sex traffickers.
According to a study published in February, about 16% of Americans are QAnon believers, while this year about 80 candidates who believe in QAnon have been on the ballot for political office in 26 states, including the Republican candidate for governor in Maryland, according to the online news site Grid News.
QAnon is “an armed, delusional terrorist movement,” according to Laurence Tribe, a professor emeritus at Harvard Law School, who on Twitter called Trump’s open embrace “a terrifying sign that he’s desperate, and noticing Realizing that he will be charged, he is preparing to wage open war against the United States of America. It is a testament to our tolerance that he is not under arrest.”
Trump is “realizing the population is getting tired of him. Many Republicans see him as more dangerous, and he’s escalating into violence,” said Steven Hassan, a licensed mental health counselor who predicted in his 2019 book. The Cult of Trump: A Leading Cult Expert Explains How the President Uses Mind Control (The Trump Cult: Leading Cult Expert Explains How the President Uses Mind Control), that Trump would resort to calls for violence if he were not re-elected in 2020.
Hassan told VOA Perceiving Trump as a figurehead whom fringe group leaders try to manipulate rather than lead any conspiracy movement, QAnon is prominent.
QAnon was specifically named by the FBI in a 2019 intelligence bulletin as one of the fringe political movements likely to motivate some domestic extremists to commit criminal and sometimes violent activities.
Since then, QAnon has been linked to violent incidents.
There is a sordid history of conspiracy theories and bias to influence the American electorate, including the anti-immigrant and anti-Catholic movements.
“Conspiratorial thinking is an American disease. It’s in our bloodstream,” according to Richard Shenkman, author of the book Political Animals: How Our Stone-Age Brain Gets in the Way of Smart Politics. (Political Animals: How Our Stone Age Brains Get in the Way of Smart Politics)
“It’s been there from the beginning. Even the Founding Fathers were susceptible to conspiratorial thinking. They believed they were the victims of a European conspiracy, particularly in England, to keep them down,” Shenkman said.
horrific revelations, an anti-Catholic book, was widely read in 19th-century America, though it was quickly exposed as a hoax. In the book, a Canadian nun recounted stories of wicked priests and barbaric penances meted out to captive young women.
A Catholic was not elected President of the United States until John Kennedy defeated Richard Nixon in the 1960 election.
Conspiracy theories often target religions, races, and other minority or vulnerable groups as scapegoats for economic problems in a society.
“Most American presidents end up bordering on conspiratorial thinking and littering the public square with nonsensical ideas, but they have been very careful not to put the mud on themselves,” Shenkman told VOA. “The difference between Donald Trump and every other president we’ve ever had is his willingness to cross that line and just do the dirty work himself. It’s phenomenal that he seems to have no qualms about it,” he said.
Even if Trump and QAnon fade, conspiracy theories are unlikely to disappear from American politics, Shenkman said.
“During periods of unease, like our current period, people find [las teorías de conspiración] attractive because they want easy answers” to complex economic and social problems. “We want certainty, and conspiracy theories are good that way. They give you a nice, simple answer,” she said.
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