QAnon Is Meant to Spread Fascist Mythology and Distract From U.S. Failures
The effort to mainstream conspiracy is meant to distract from the true mechanisms of exploitation and alienation, while allowing for the continued consolidation of capital and upending norms with power grabs. As liberal institutions fail and capitalism continues to deliver uncertainty, the extension of a false mythos — that promises to yield revolutionary change and free the masses — gives allure to desperately confused people. While the U.S. battles the throes of political crisis, large death tolls from the pandemic, along with an economic meltdown — the hope for the Q prophecy to manifest and affirm a mythical past by “Making America Great Again,” while ushering in Trumpian-autocracy is gaining more steam on the right. Ultimately, the promotion of conspiracy signals the diversion tactics of fascism.
The Ideological Scaffolding of Q
QAnon is a far-right conspiracy theory — now morphed into a fervent cult — that professes that President Donald Trump is secretly exposing a bipartisan cabal that runs the Deep State. Along with Satanic Hollywood’s involvement in an international pedophilia ring, both the bipartisan elite and the film industry seek to thwart his presidency. Ironically enough, Q followers have half ignored a well-documented child trafficking scheme — involving Jeffrey Epstein, a leading figure in Q lore — along with prominent politicians and their demigod, Trump. The end result of the Q rabbit-hole is into Trumpian-autocracy — ushered in through martial law that will crush the secret elite — which proponents call “The Storm” or “Great Awakening.”
The cult generated from an October, 2017, post by a user named “Q” — claiming to have Q level security clearance in the U.S. military. Q’s posts were initially found on the internet’s back pages of 4chan and then moved to 8chan and 8kun. The online-forums are known for the rightward radicalization of incels, young alienated reactionaries, and future mass murders. While Q is likely multiple people, the posts include “drops” that contain cryptic prophecies and asinine rationalizations, always shedding a positive light on Trump and his agenda.
The theory’s complexity is tedious, offering adherents factions within the “movement” to choose from along with never-ending, incoherent “proofs” to validate the rambling prophecies. While some QAnon proponents ascribe to the theory the deceased JFK Jr. is alive and is an avid Trump supporter who lives in Pennsylvania, others believe drinking bleach cures COVID-19. Differences aside, all Q adherents believe that the deity-esque Trump and his administration’s blatant incompetence and corruption is secretly a Machiavellian plot orchestrated by the President to take down evil. Along with perplexing lore, Q’s ideological origins are just as hard to pin down, yet its preconceptions likely date back to the genesis of the American militia movement which then morphed into Obama-era conspiracies.
America’s militia movement came out of the 1992 federal shootout with Randy Weaver, the 1993 raid of David Koresh’s Waco-based compound, and the 1995 Oklahoma City Bombing. Seen as resistance to tyranny by many on the right, the militia movement surged to 858 groups — bringing along its conspiracies that a secret elitist junta is disarming the citizenry, dissolving the federalist system by installing martial law, and enslaving Americans while throwing dissidents into camps. Of course, this never materialized — leading the militia movement to subside in the W. Bush years — yet the ideological framework would give rise to future false narratives.
In the wake of the 2007 financial crisis and the economy on the brink of collapse, Barack Obama ascended to the Presidency appealing to sentiments of “hope and change.” For many on the right, this euphemistically signaled the impending Obama take-over that would create a new era of totalitarian identity-politics while ushering in either fascism or marxism. In the months prior to Obama securing the Democratic nomination in 2008, the militia movement experienced a resurgence. Conspiracies ranging from birtherism, to the former president’s secret Islamic affiliation, and the Jade Helm 15 military operation as a scheme to enact martial law permeated throughout the right. Throughout Obama’s tenure conspiracy theories had become increasingly mainstream among the Republican base and pushed by rightwing media.
As the administration’s second term ticked down, conspiratorial blame was shifted toward Hillary Clinton and other high-ranking Democrats through Pizzagate — the most recent theory that gave direct rise to Q. The online conspiracy — promoted on 4chan, 8chan, and Twitter — claimed that Clinton and top-advisor, John Podesta, had been operating a child sex dungeon in the basement of a Washington, D.C. restaurant. The posts resulted in a vigilante raid, perpetrated by a far-right extremist. After storming the restaurant with an AR-15 and multiple sidearms, the lone wolf gunman discovered that the building in fact had no basement.
Obama-era conspiracies were promoted by Trump and Roger Stone — a longtime far-right propagandist — both curiously moving on to promote Q in the Trump-era. The effort to mainstream Q isn’t just limited to Trump and Stone though, close allies and other leading Republicans have espoused support — while now 73 Republican candidates running for office in 2020 are true-believers.
Far-right media also dutifully plays its role in disseminating the Q hoax. Mainstream outlets like Fox News have permeated outlandish conspiracy into a wider audience, while Q also reaches out to fringe ultra-reactionaries. White supremacist outlets, Breitbart and One American News Network, and commentators like Jesse Waters and Pizzagate-truther and reactionary grifter, Jack Posobiec have all taken part in attempting to mainline Q into the veins of America’s rightwing.
While the normalizing of Q stems from an engulfing Republican apparatus, it’s note-worthy that most loyal devotees are in Trump’s increasingly deranged base. Like far-right media and Trump, conservative capitalists that fund the Republican machine — while likely not Q zealots themselves — benefit from the seepage of conspiracies into public consciousness. While capitalism decays and the wealthy seek to retain power, Q appears to be a coordinated campaign. The injection of a fundamentalist mythos and the false promise to restore “greatness” diverts focus from material reality and unjust structures while attempting to concentrate political, economic, and identitarian power.
Conspiratorial Mythos: A Classic Tactic of Fascism
Like the previous version of fascism that arose out of the Great Depression and austerity following World War I, contemporary outlandish mythology is meant to mislead for the seizure of power and to cover-up blatant corruption while protecting a volatile economic hierarchy.
The financial ruin in the Weimar Republic enabled the Nazi propaganda machine — initially funded by corporate interests — to push constant conspiracy. Ranging from a Jewish plot to dominate the world and a scheme to promote Bolshevism, to restoring the greatness of a fabled Aryan “master race,” the propaganda was meant to give a false explanation to the failures of the system while giving dogmatic supporters a goal to cling to. Mussolini’s Republican Fascist Party similarly engaged in skewing perception through conspiracy, while Spain’s dictator, Francisco Franco, pushed further antisemitic, Masonic, and Communist plots. While the program of old has evolved, the ideological underpinnings of diversion through mythology are still present.
Trump and the emerging form of neo-fascism can’t rely on the contrived mythos from past despots to provide an explanation behind U.S. decline. He instead uses dog-whistle George Soros-sponsored conspiracies, Islamic and immigrant schemes to subvert Western culture and “identity,” and Q to further fill the mythological void. Overt gestures toward antisemitic conspiracy, open displays swastika armbands, and throwing up a Nazi salute while yelling, “Seig Heil,” have mostly been traded out. The fascist of today favors coded rhetoric highlighting a “globalist” Deep State ploy, a liberal Hollywood cabal engaged in a pedophilia ring, claims of hostile invasions, and donning red baseball hats that read, “Make America Great Again.” These conspiracies — new and old — give way to a false sense of reality and fanatical support while offering adherents mythological lore and fabled goals to replace a material analysis.
Conspiratorial Allure Amid Exploitation and Alienation
Q has undoubtedly led to acts of raving violence, yet this online cult is also dangerous because of their preconceptions. While the bulk of their ideological lore remains gibberish to a lucid person — their underpinnings contain a kernel of truth. There is something deeply disturbing with the state of U.S. politics and capitalist economics. People are seeking an explanation and salvation from a system that shifted to the far-right and corporate economic rule in the 1980s.
The appeal is what makes the Q cult dangerous. For those unable to conceptualize the material reality and understand why modern life has grown pseudo-apocalyptic and increasingly precarious, conspiracy becomes that much more alluring. Q offers an explanation, albeit false, and gives proponents hope that Trump will give them deliverance from imagined pathologies. The result for Trump and his allies creates distraction from material reality and alienation, while creating a zealous base.
Over the last several decades, resources have increasingly shifted from the ordinary to less than 2,200 individuals — who now hold more wealth than the bottom half of the world. While worker productivity and corporate profits soar, wages in the U.S. and much of the world remain stagnant as the cost of living skyrockets. A U.S. bipartisan political duopoly, owned by opposing factions of the business class, along with the rapid decline and delegitimizing of liberal institutions, has resulted in the abject failure to shield downwardly mobile people. By promising to deliver revolutionary change and free the masses, Trump uses conspiracies like Q to attract confused, desperate, or hateful people into his fold.
As capitalism becomes more unstable, conspiratorial rationales and loyalty to a god-like leader, who is offering salvation from a broken system, becomes more enticing. Through creating an altered version of reality, a fanatical and violent base is lulled further into a false dream, benefitting the leader and his goals. To understand this historic moment, it must be recognized that a classic tactic of fascism is the promotion of false reality, the goal of restructuring a fabled past (Make America Great Again), and conspiracies. Q, along with other rhetorical pitches by Trump and his allies, is ultimately meant to divert attention away from the true mechanisms of alienation and exploitation allowing for consolidation of political power and capital.