As tech platforms battle with QAnon conspiracy theorists, some Republicans are opening the door to the fringe group.
The QAnon world is no longer simply a social media community trafficking in conspiracy theories. It’s increasingly a new constituency for the GOP — one that’s fired up like the rest of the MAGA movement, warring with tech giants and ready to battle through Election Day on behalf of a struggling president.
Just this month, President Donald Trump has retweeted and highlighted several accounts with a history of posting QAnon content. He’s stoked conspiracy theories that originated in the QAnon world, even to the detriment of his own supporters. And along with other Republicans, he’s increasingly allowed into the arms of his MAGA movement a group that had been dismissed as fringe nonsense.
While both groups started from very different places, both MAGA and QAnon supporters share the belief that Trump is fighting conspiracies emanating from inside the Deep State — a notion Trump himself has invoked. “MAGA world kind of sees Trump as this epic hero, and QAnon does the same exact thing,” said Kristen Doerer, managing editor of Right Wing Watch, a nonprofit that tracks far-right groups.
The QAnon movement suffered another blow on Thursday when YouTube became the latest platform to block some content from QAnon believers. Facebook in August announced a ban on QAnon groups with “discussions of potential violence,” expanding it to a blanket ban on QAnon-affiliated groups and pages in early October. Twitter’s approach was narrower, simply banning nearly 7,000 accounts back in July. The Facebook and Twitter moves came in response to reports that QAnon pages had been spreading pandemic-related misinformation, as well as inspiring acts of violence nationwide.
But QAnon has already found other ways to survive. Parts of the GOP are falling into an uneasy relationship with the QAnon conspiracy theory, which alleges in part that a cabal of demon-worshipping, pedophile elites live in Washington and will stop at nothing to maintain their power.
At a NBC News town hall on Thursday night, Trump himself refused to denounce QAnon when asked about the movement. “I know nothing about QAnon. I know very little,” the president said. “I do know they are very much against pedophilia. They fight it very hard.”
The vast majority of current House Republicans have openly condemned QAnon, with all but 17 signing onto a recent House resolution calling it a “conspiracy theory.” But Republicans are starting with deal with potential QAnon adherents joining their party in Congress, and some have started reaching out to these believers. At least one sitting GOP member of Congress has appeared on programs that promote QAnon content, and even more candidates have gone to these networks to appeal for money. Major Republicans and ambassadors of the Trump orbit have appeared at events with QAnon adherents, and most notably, none has withdrawn endorsements of candidates specifically because of their affinity with QAnon — though they did make a point of withdrawing their endorsement of Greene for her anti-semitic and racist statements.
In effect, QAnon has become a voter bloc within the MAGAfied version of the Republican Party. As the official networks housing Q theories get taken down — platforms shutting down groups, Twitter cracking down on hashtags — the QAnon movement has found a home inside the MAGA movement.
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