December 9, 2023

Former President Donald Trump is again signaling an affinity with believers of the QAnon conspiracies — on Thursday evening he reposted a video originally shared by a QAnon follower containing catch phrases and that integrated Trump into imagery affiliated with the conspiracy movement.

The video includes edited images of Trump that made it appear as if he is holding a playing card with a “Q” on it and holding an American flag encircled by the letter Q. There’s also a slide with the QAnon slogan “WWG1WGA,” an acronym for “where we go one, we go all,” and a man wearing Trump’s signature red tie with a “Q” pin on his lapel. 

The former president is central to QAnon and its ideology, which envisions him as a savior. The conspiracy theory includes the unfounded belief that a cabal of famous Democratic politicians and liberal elites run a child sex trafficking ring, and that Trump will arrange for mass arrests and military tribunals of corrupt politicians, among other outlandish ideas. The FBI has warned that conspiracy theories like QAnon pose a growing domestic terrorism threat.

In a 2021 threat assessment, the FBI warned that QAnon adherents could engage in real world violence to prevent changes to “the plan” referenced in QAnon lore. A number of QAnon believers are accused of involvement in the Jan. 6, 2021, assault on the U.S. Capitol, undertaken by some supporters to try to keep Trump in power after his election loss to Joe Biden. 

In early September, a Michigan man killed his wife and injured one of his children after allegedly falling into QAnon conspiracies. A year ago, a California man took his two children to Mexico and murdered them after becoming “enlightened by QAnon,” according to an affidavit filed in the case.

In the conspiracy theory, “Q” is viewed as the primary messenger through the online message-board 8chan. Believers are convinced that a high-ranking official within the government who has  one of the highest security clearances, known as Q-level, is releasing sanctioned leaks to the public in order to motivate them ahead of prophesied mass arrests. They believe the person, “Q,” dropsp vague, often incomprehensible clues known as “Q drops.”

“In the beginning, [Trump] represented the figurehead. He was the person who had the power to make the plan come to fruition.The whole thing with QAnon was that there would be these mass arrests of the deep state and the Democratic Party, and the media, but it would be triggered by Trump,” author and conspiracy expert Mike Rothschild explained. 

The 2020 election and inauguration of President Joe Biden soon after, however, put a kink in QAnon’s timeline, Rothschild added.

“[Trump’s] role within the movement is still this leader, this almost messianic figure, who is running everything, who can outsmart anybody, and anything that seems like it’s a negative, you know, Trump losing the election, Biden being inaugurated, all the various FBI probes and all of that stuff. It’s all leading to Trump eventually winning,” Rothschild said, adding that “goalposts [of QAnon] never stop moving.”

During his presidency and his 2016 campaign, Trump would often “retweet something that had been posted by somebody who was also a Q believer or share a meme that could be interpreted as QAnon,” Rothschild said. But Rothschild believes that since losing the 2020 election, Trump has become even more direct and “emboldened” in encouraging QAnon’s fixation with him.

Trump established his own social media platform, Truth Social, after he was banned from Meta and Twitter, and he’s able to more freely post content that echoes QAnon.

“I do think he feels a little bit more uninhibited in a place like Truth Social,” Rothschild said. “He’s got a more receptive audience there. I think he and his people also understand that when he shares Q stuff, the media is going to talk about it because it’s still jarring for a former president to so openly embrace what is a prophetic death cult, essentially.”

At recent campaign rallies, Trump has played a song that many in the crowd took to be one that’s associated with QAnon. Rally attendees responded by raising their hands and pointing a finger at the sky. Days earlier, he used the song in a video ad that was posted on his Truth Social account.

“They really think that it’s Trump acknowledging them,” Rothschild said. “People have been talking about that ‘Oh, it’s the QAnon anthem.’ It’s not.” Rothschild added that the song itself has nothing to do with QAnon, but that it was used in a video Trump posted over the summer.

A Trump spokesperson did not answer requests for comment. According to The New York Times, Trump aides said the song played at rallies and posted on Truth Social is called “Mirrors.” Trump spokesman Taylor Budowich told the Times, “The fake news, in a pathetic attempt to create controversy and divide America, is brewing up another conspiracy about a royalty-free song from a popular audio library platform.”

But, The Washington Post reported that “Mirrors,” by Will Van De Crommert, was first released in 2019. In 2020, the same track appeared online as “WWG1WGA” by user Richard Feelgood, who is apparently “a man in Finland who makes YouTube videos of himself discussing false claims while wearing a teddy bear mask and sunglasses.” Van De Crommert told the Post that he did not approve of Trump’s use of the song and was exploring legal options.

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