Qanon in GeorgiaThe Conspiracy Theory that has Become an Article of Faith
Graham Williamson reports on how the bizarre American satanic myth is now going mainstream in the Republican Party
“I don’t know how much you guys know about Q. […] Q is a patriot, we know that for sure, but we do not know who Q is, OK?”
This is how Marjorie Taylor Greene, now a congressional candidate for Georgia’s 14th district, began a 2017 Facebook live stream. Back then, Greene was just another pro-Donald Trump social media activist promoting the conspiracy theory known as QAnon.
QAnon followers believe cryptic posts from an individual named “Q”, which began on the message board 4chan in October 2017, are clues to a massive intelligence operation masterminded by President Trump. The purpose of the operation is to arrest an international Satanic child sacrifice ring led by Democratic politicians and Hollywood stars.
America will have its first congressional representative who believes that Hillary Clinton and Tom Hanks flay children alive in order to harvest and drink oxidised adrenaline from their bodies.
Little research has been done to determine how many Americans believe in QAnon. A Pew Research Centre poll from March showed 23% of Americans had heard of it, including 20% of conservatives and 47% of people who got their news from Reddit. It’s not clear how many of that 23% are believers, but for a theory that didn’t exist three years ago this is a remarkable rate of growth. With candidates like Greene emerging, it won’t slow down.
Created in 2010, Georgia’s 14th district is so solidly Republican that Democrats have only once contested it: when they did, in 2012, they lost by 45%. If Greene can defeat her primary rival John Cowan —and she is on course to — she is guaranteed to win in November. And then, in a very Trump-era first, America will have its first congressional representative who believes that Hillary Clinton and Tom Hanks flay children alive in order to harvest and drink oxidised adrenaline from their bodies.
Georgia’s recent elections have been criticised for their lack of democratic legitimacy. In the 2018 mid-term election, Brian Kemp was both the Republican candidate and the state official in charge of voter registration. The resulting corruption was inevitable. According to investigative journalist Greg Palast, Kemp’s office suppressed the registration of 534,000 mostly African-American voters. He won by some 50,000 votes.
The recent primaries, marked by the unexplained closure of precincts in African-American neighbourhoods and failure to send out thousands of absentee ballots, suggest this targeted chaos will continue. What type of officials will these campaigns produce? With the opposition vote suppressed, Republican candidates are pitching their messages exclusively at Republican voters, and what Republican voters want to hear right now is disturbing stuff.
Before running for office, Greene scrubbed her social media of anything incriminating, including the QAnon live stream. (A copy remains on YouTube) But the central messages of her campaign are paranoid enough. Her slogan is ‘Save America, Stop Socialism, Stop China’. In one campaign ad, she waves an AR-15 and demands “Antifa terrorists stay the hell out of north-west Georgia”.
When this kind of fear-mongering can form a campaign’s official messaging, it’s no wonder someone like Greene — previously on the Southern Poverty Law Centre’s radar for associating with militia leaders and describing the Christchurch massacre as a hoax — is welcome in the Republican party.
Her belief in QAnon, though, is the real preview of the role paranoia will play in this year’s election.
A System of Belief
Yes, QAnon is ridiculous. Q’s messages are vague enough to make Nostradamus blush. Believers tout ‘proofs’ such as a post where Q used the phrase “when the lights go out”, and then the lights went out during a Trump press conference… over eight months later. Then there are the “Q maps” — attempts at explanatory diagrams that look more like outsider art. The first such map encompasses the founding of the Jesuits, Mobutu Sese Seko, the Challenger explosion and the “heorin epidemic” [sic].
And yet the sprawling incoherence of the QAnon mythology is what makes it durable. Older conspiracy theories — about the moon landings, say, or Barack Obama’s birth certificate — attempted to explain one specific thing. QAnon attempts to explain everything, so believers can find ‘proofs’ anywhere —and if you’re trying to reason someone out of it they can keep coming back at you forever with more events interpreted through the lens of Q.
It also means QAnon is rarely caught out by unfolding events. Not a single Q post suggested a global pandemic was part of ‘the plan’, but within days of lockdown being imposed, adherents had decided field hospitals in New York were actually cover for a mass rescue of child sex slaves held in underground bases. These “mole children” would soon be revealed to the public as evidence of the elite’s depravity.
You may have noticed this didn’t happen, but Q has weathered failed predictions before. Q’s very first post, on 28 October 2017, predicted that Hillary Clinton would be arrested two days later. This didn’t happen either. Nor did other predictions from Q or his followers, such as Robert Mueller secretly working with Trump to bring down the deep state, or JFK Jr. revealing himself to be still alive.
Older conspiracy theories — about the moon landings, say, or Barack Obama’s birth certificate — attempted to explain one specific thing. QAnon attempts to explain everything,
None of this matters. Q claims to work in the world of intelligence where – as Q himself put it – “deception is necessary”. If some of Q’s breadcrumbs lead to dead ends, so be it – that’s the game you play when you’re running a secret operation to take down extremely powerful people while posting about it on a public forum with 27 million monthly visitors.
Adrienne LaFrance in The Atlantic compared QAnon to a live-action role-playing game, offering the addictive, collaborative thrill of decoding every new post. It also resembles a religion, and sure enough, the grimly funny sceptical podcast QAnon Anonymous recently featured undercover recordings from Indiana’s Omega Kingdom Ministry, which blends Dominionist theology with deep dives into Q posts.
So if this is a religion, and Q is a prophet, who do they worship? Let’s look back at Greene’s original Facebook video: “[Q] said that once the corruption, and the type of corruption has been revealed to the American people, it will trigger something called The Awakening […] it will cause Americans to unite behind President Trump and his administration in order to completely clean house. OK, you guys, if that happens, we will be so happy […] I really totally pray this is true.”
If QAnon was merely a salve for the wounded consciences of Trump voters, a way for American evangelicals to come to terms with voting for a singularly corrupt, base, venal individual, it would be little more than a distraction. But the “type of corruption” QAnon ascribes to Trump’s opponents is so ghoulish, it’s driving more and more adherents to action.
Just this April, QAnon follower Jessica Prim live-streamed herself travelling to “take out” Joe Biden with a selection of knives. On her arrest, she asked officers “Have you guys heard about the kids?” Other believers have blocked motorways and stalked prominent critics of Trump; one is currently on trial for killing a mafia boss he believed was part of the deep state.
And Trump, in all his vanity, loves this — he’s retweeted QAnon supporters and included Q flags in crowd shots for campaign videos. As we move towards an election where an active, growing movement believes one candidate to be a saviour and one to be a Satanist, we are faced with two possibilities. Either Trump wins, and the QAnon movement is emboldened, or he loses, and a party they have been brainwashed into thinking is a deep state Satanic child sacrifice ring takes office. In either scenario, this will not end well.