Many people might think that the most interesting part of President Trump’s rally in Florida on Tuesday was when he claimed that shoppers needed photo IDs to buy groceries.
But those in the know noticed something else: many attendees wearing clothing or holding signs featuring the letter Q. The letter is a reference to “QAnon,” a vast conspiracy theory with striking anti-Semitic elements that has emerged from some of the darkest corners of the internet and is rapidly spreading in popularity — especially among Trump’s base.
What is QAnon?
QAnon centers on a mysterious figure known only as “Q,” who infrequently posts cryptic messages on the anonymous internet message board 8chan. Posters on that site, and its sister site 4chan, were some of the important popularizers of the “Pizzagate” conspiracy theory, alleging that Hillary Clinton and other Democratic operatives were running a pedophile ring underneath a Washington, D.C. pizzeria.
Like Pizzagate, QAnon alleges that numerous high-level forces are controlling the country behind the scenes — but unlike most other conspiracies, it claims that those forces are not out to get Trump, but to protect him.
Q claims to be a high-ranking government official with top security clearance, but there is no proof of this.
Q has said, and Q’s more confusing messages have been interpreted by followers to mean, that Trump is not only innocent of collusion with the Russian government, but is actively working with Special Counsel Robert Mueller to unmask Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama’s collusion with Russia. There is no proof of this, either.
According to QAnon believers, a coming “storm” prophesied by Trump and Q will publicly reveal the treachery of politicians and the “deep state” against Trump, as well as the alleged pedophilia of Tom Hanks, Steven Spielberg and other well-known Hollywood celebrities. Not only is there no proof of this, but YouTube had to change its algorithm to stop videos about the unsubstantiated pedophilia charges from rising to the top of its search results.
just some extremely normal people at an extremely normal political rally for an extremely normal president https://t.co/0Gxa9sa81Bpic.twitter.com/9Z2pDX9zCg— Andrew Kirell (@AndrewKirell) July 31, 2018
Q predicted that this would happen “over the course of the next several days” last November. Needless to say, it has not occurred, but that does not stop QAnon from growing in popularity or for any bit of recent news to be wrapped into “proof” of the conspiracy.
Who believes this stuff?
It’s unclear. University of Miami professor Joseph Uscinski, who studies conspiracy theories, told the Guardian that QAnon beliefs are only held by “a very small number of people,” most of whom are Trump-supporting evangelical Christians.
“Don’t confuse the popularity of this with the popularity of Kennedy assassination theories,” he said.
At the same time, though, QAnon followers are able to rocket their videos and hashtags to the top of sites like YouTube and Twitter.
And sometimes their actions have spilled into the real world: A man was arrested last month after barricading himself inside an armored truck on top of the Hoover Dam in protest of a Justice Department report often cited by QAnon followers. True believers also held a march outside the White House in April. In the past month, QAnon has popped up on a billboard in Georgia and at multiple Trump rallies.
Does this conspiracy theory feature nefarious Jews?
Of course it does!
QAnon followers believe that billionaire financier and philanthropist George Soros is part of the cabal planning Trump’s overthrow, as are members of the Rothschild family. Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein is frequently slammed by QAnon; members believe that the longtime Republican official is stymying Mueller from revealing the “truth” about Democratic malfeasance.
One sign at the rally referenced Seth Rich, a Democratic National Committee who was killed in 2016. Police believe that his death was likely the result of a botched robbery, but conspiracy theorists believe that his death was connected to, and possibly retribution for, the hacking of DNC servers (there is no proof of this).
Surprisingly, or perhaps not, one of the most prominent supporters of QAnon is Jewish actress Roseanne Barr, who was recently fired from her eponymous show for tweeting a racist slur. Many of her posts mentioning the conspiracy theory, including those tying it to Soros or pedophilia, have since been deleted.
QAnon also received a surprisingly credulous write-up in the Jewish magazine Tablet from “Homeland” writer Ted Mann.
This story "EXPLAINED: What’s Anti-Semitic About QAnon, The Trump Base’s Latest Pet Theory?" was written by Aiden Pink.