He doesn’t know much about the QAnon conspiracy theory, President Trump told a reporter this month. But “I understand they like me very much, which I appreciate,” he added. “I have heard that it is gaining in popularity, and from what I hear, these are people … that love our country.”
The reporter asked a follow-up: “At the crux of this theory is this belief that you are secretly saving the world from this cult of pedophiles and cannibals. Does that sound like … ” She trailed off, apparently at a loss as to where to go from there. “Like something you are behind?” “Well, I haven’t heard that,” Trump answered, “but is that supposed to be a bad thing?”
This isn’t the first time Trump has interacted with QAnon. He has shared posts from QAnon Twitter accounts, and he greeted the primary victory of a pro-QAnon House candidate with enthusiasm. However, this explicit endorsement of the theory’s believers, if not quite the theory itself, is new territory for Trump. It will bring QAnon further into the political mainstream and make this cultic movement a greater threat to the American church.
If you’re among the majority of Americans unfamiliar with QAnon, a pause for definition may be in order. QAnon is a conspiracy theory that claims that a secret cabal in government, the media, and other influential institutions is engaged in child sex trafficking, cannibalism of a sort, and the usual conspiracist bugbear of world domination and human sacrifice.
One sub-theory in the movement alleges that there’s footage of Hillary Clinton and her aide “ripping off a child’s face and wearing it as a mask before drinking the child’s blood in a Satanic ritual sacrifice.”
The QAnon movement began when an anonymous poster called Q took to the 4chan online forum—ironically, better known for its implication in child pornography and other foul dregs of the Internet—to predict Clinton would be arrested and massive riots would break out nationwide on October 30, 2017.
That day came and went, and nothing Q forecast came to pass. But here’s the genius of QAnon: For those already convinced, it’s unfalsifiable. According to Travis View, who researches conspiracy theories, “Q will say something very vague, like, ‘Watch the water,’ [and] because water covers most of the planet … there’s going to be a news event eventually that involves Trump and water. And so the QAnon community will look at that and will say, ‘Look, Trump drank a glass of water on camera. Q said, “Watch the water.” That means that Q predicted that event’—which, of course, is nonsense.”
When Q prophecies (or “drops,” as they’re called) don’t pan out, as with the initial Clinton arrest story, adherents simply conclude the cabal interfered.
The cabal is QAnon’s version of the Fall—its explanation for what’s wrong with our world. Q is the movement’s John the Baptist. Drops are its Scripture. And Trump is its messiah, ostensibly working at great personal cost to defeat the cabal and usher in a new age of American greatness.