By acknowledging QAnon, does Trump support it?
- QAnon (Q, meant to signal Q-level security clearance) is a far-right conspiracy theory claiming President Donald Trump is waging war against elite pedophiles in the government, business, and the media.
- QAnon first came on the scene in 2017 on the imageboard 4chan.
- On Thursday, August 19, Trump was asked about the QAnon movement and responded with general remarks such as “I have heard that it is gaining in popularity...I don’t know, really, anything about it other than they do, supposedly, like me,” while also staying on message about his administration “saving the world from a radical-left philosophy that will destroy this country.”
- Later Thursday, White House Press Secretary Kayleigh McEnany clarified President Trump does not support the QAnon movement.
- QAnon has now become a global movement, as conspiracies “reach new heights during the pandemic as people around the world desperately search for community and any way to make sense of the chaos.”
- In June, in promotion of Trump’s Tusla rally, middle-son Eric Trump posted to Instagram an American flag with the Q-related acronym at the bottom “WWG1WGA,” which stands for “Where we go one, we go all.”
The issue here is not whether Trump 'supports' QAnon. It's the fact that he expressed appreciation for the movement's support for him, adding that 'these people love our country'. This is alarming for several reasons. The FBI has named QAnon “conspiracy theory-driven domestic extremists,” and they've had their accounts removed on social media platforms. Only last month, Twitter removed 7,000 QAnon accounts. Facebook followed Twitter's lead this month, removing 900 pages and 1,500 advertisements, as well as limiting the reach of 2,000 Facebook groups and 10,000 Instagram pages. Limiting these identities' ability to disseminate information, which is both untrue and capable of fomenting significant unrest, protects the social media-using public from QAnon's harmful rhetoric.
As Chris Cillizza has pointed out in his article for CNN, Trump has also praised Marjorie Taylor Greene, who has recently won a primary in Georgia's 14th District. Greene is a vocal supporter of QAnon, known for her belief that Muslims should not be eligible for elected office in the U.S. Trump specifically referred to her as a 'future Republican star'. It would belabor the point to repeat some of Greene's more outlandish statements. The point is simply this: Trump is ignoring QAnon's reputation for violence and domestic terrorism and flirting with a dangerous fringe group in plain sight. This is unprecedented comportment for a U.S. President. It's also unacceptable and demonstrably dangerous to normalize the hateful and destabilizing rhetoric of this movement, which has already rendered two notable acts of domestic terrorism.
Trump's acknowledgment of QAnon does not mean he supports it. It should be evident to anyone paying attention, Trump is addicted to praise, and seizes every opportunity to exploit poll numbers, statistics, or any favorable mention of himself or his policies. This is evident by his response to a reporter's question about what he thinks about QAnon 'well, I don't know much about the movement, other than I understand they like me very much, which I appreciate.' The fact that Trump turned the question into an opportunity to compliment himself rather than endorse QAnon is noteworthy.
It's clear Trump was unfamiliar with QAnon and its focus when he said 'these are people that don't like seeing what's going on in in places like Portland and places like Chicago and other cities and states.' In fact, QAnon is most concerned with exposing child sex trafficking rings, and the 'deep state' elites they claim are responsible. Trump's lack of awareness of QAnon's mission speaks to the fact that he's not closely aligned with it.
Trump is opportunistic when it comes to positive publicity. When questioned about QAnon (after he was informed of its focus), his remarks seized on a perceived opportunity to garner favorable coverage when he said, 'if I can save the world from problems, I'm willing to do it.' Far from being a QAnon associate, Trump is purely interested in looking for a chance to influence the media's message about him for a change. His acknowledgment of QAnon is merely the latest example.