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

Fauci says White House effort to discredit him is "bizarre"

Photo: Joshua Roberts/Getty Images

Anthony Fauci told The Atlantic on Wednesday that efforts by certain White House officials to discredit him are "bizarre" and that it "ultimately hurts the president" to undermine a top health official in the middle of a pandemic.

Driving the news: Fauci's comments come on the heels of a USA Today op-ed by White House trade adviser Peter Navarro, who claimed that Fauci has been "wrong about everything" related to the coronavirus that the two have interacted on. Fauci told The Atlantic: “I can’t explain Peter Navarro. He’s in a world by himself.”

3 hours ago - Health

Oklahoma Gov. Kevin Stitt tests positive for coronavirus

Oklahoma Gov. Kevin Stitt. Photo: Alex Wong/Getty Images)

Oklahoma Gov. Kevin Stitt (R) announced on Wednesday he has tested positive for the coronavirus and will self-isolate, Tulsa World reports.

Why it matters: The 47-year-old Stitt is believed to be the first governor in the U.S. to test positive. He attended President Trump's rally in Tulsa last month, which the county's health department director said likely contributed to a surge in cases in the region.

Updated 4 hours ago - Politics & Policy

Coronavirus dashboard

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

  1. Global: Total confirmed cases as of 2:30 p.m. ET: 13,397,167 — Total deaths: 580,388 — Total recoveries — 7,449,477Map.
  2. U.S.: Total confirmed cases as of 2:30 p.m. ET: 3,459,053 — Total deaths: 136,900 — Total recoveries: 1,049,098 — Total tested: 41,764,557Map.
  3. States: Alabama's GOP governor issues statewide mask mandate — Oklahoma Gov. Kevin Stitt tests positive.
  4. Politics: Fauci says White House effort to discredit him is "bizarre" — Trump says Navarro shouldn't have written op-ed attacking Fauci.