Aug 1, 2018

Go deeper: The QAnon conspiracy theory showed up at a Trump rally

Photo: Thomas O'Neill/NurPhoto via Getty Images

Among the rally-goers at President Trump's Make America Great Again event in Florida on Tuesday were followers of a growing right-wing conspiracy theory — the QAnon crowd.

The big picture: A conspiracy theory that started in fringe online chatrooms has leaped to major political events. Whether President Trump does or does not know about the movement isn't of concern to "the anons," as they call themselves, since they often find signs of his support in almost anything.

What is QAnon?

To understand the movement, it's important to understand its language.

  • "Q" is an anonymous internet user who claims to be a top government official. Per The Washington Post, Q is "waging war against the so-called deep state in service" to Trump.
  • "Anons" are supporters of Q, The Daily Beast's Will Sommer reports.
  • Q drops "bread crumbs," deeply vague hints, for "bakers," the users who then rush to decipher them.
  • All of this is leading up to "the storm," which is when the QAnon community believes Trump will purge the government of criminals and deep state operatives.

According to Sommer, the main idea behind the movement is that every other president before Trump was corrupt and involved in serious criminal activity. The military then recruited Trump to run for president in order to stop it.

What they're saying

On fringe chatrooms like 8chan — an even more niche version of 4chan, the nefarious online message board — the QAnon believers are viewing real-time events through a different lens. Per The Post:

  • Special counsel Robert Mueller is a "white hat," or hero of the movement, who was hired by Trump to expose Democrats.
  • People from Tom Hanks to Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton are running a child trafficking ring. (This particular theory, commonly known as Pizzagate, had real-life consequences when a gunman entered a pizzeria in D.C. back in 2016 under the impression it was being used to hide trafficked children.)
  • Those that don't support Trump, including Sen. John McCain and Hillary Clinton aide Huma Abedin, "wear ankle monitors that track their whereabouts."

Believers in the theory say that Trump has signaled to them, encouraging the movement, per Sommer:

  • "Trump uses his hands to make a 'Q' sign as a signal to them."
  • A QAnon supporter requested that Trump use the phrase "tip top" during his State of the Union. He didn't, but he did say it during a speech at the White House Easter Egg Roll, which was good enough for the anons.
  • Trump's cryptic comment last year at a dinner with military leaders — "Maybe it's the calm before the storm" — was grabbed onto by the movement (hence, "the storm" mentioned above).
The bottom line

While QAnon supporters are certainly just a small minority of Trump supporters, their presence at a relatively mainstream presidential event is indicative of an ongoing erosion of norms at Trump rallies.

Go deeper

Coronavirus dashboard

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

  1. Global: Total confirmed cases as of 5:30 p.m. ET: 1,582,904 — Total deaths: 94,807 — Total recoveries: 351,201Map.
  2. U.S.: Total confirmed cases as of 5:30 p.m. ET: 454,304 — Total deaths: 16,267 — Total recoveries: 24,962Map.
  3. Public health latest: U.S. has expelled thousands of migrants under coronavirus. public health orderDr. Anthony Fauci said social distancing could reduce the U.S. death toll to 60,000.
  4. Business latest: The Fed will lend up to $2.3 trillion for businesses, state and city governments — After another 6.6 million jobless claims, here's how to understand the scale of American job decimation.
  5. States latest: FEMA has asked governors to decide by today if they want testing sites to be under state or federal control.
  6. World latest: Boris Johnson is moved out of ICU but remains in hospital with coronavirus.
  7. In Congress: Senate in stalemate over additional funding for small business relief program.
  8. What should I do? Hydroxychloroquine questions answeredPets, moving and personal healthAnswers about the virus from Axios expertsWhat to know about social distancingQ&A: Minimizing your coronavirus risk.
  9. Other resources: CDC on how to avoid the virus, what to do if you get it.

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How to understand the scale of American job decimation

Data: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics via St. Louis Fed; Chart: Naema Ahmed/Axios

Sentence from a nightmare: 6.6 million Americans filed for unemployment last week, a decline from the previous week's 6.9 million.

The big picture: Over the past three weeks, 1 in 10 working-age adults filed for unemployment, Axios' Courtenay Brown notes.

Biden rolls out new policies in effort to court Sanders supporters

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The Biden campaign announced two new policies on Thursday on health care and student debt that are squarely aimed at appealing to supporters of Bernie Sanders, who ended his campaign for the Democratic nomination on Wednesday.

Why it matters: The policies don't go as far as Sanders' platform, but they signal that Biden is serious about incorporating elements of his former rival's agenda in an effort to help unify the Democratic Party and defeat President Trump in the general election.