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QAnon Is Becoming a Republican Dog Whistle


QAnon may be losing some of its online platforms—but the conspiracy theory is increasingly being enabled by the Republican Party.

This week, TikTok became the latest app to clamp down on QAnon, announcing a ban on content and accounts that promote the conspiracy theory. QAnon, which began in 2017 with an anonymous post on the internet forum 4Chan by someone identifying themselves as “Q” and claiming to have a high-level government security clearance, revolves around the delusion that Democratic Party operatives, Hollywood stars, and members of the “deep state” are running a satanic child trafficking ring, and that President Trump is working to stop them. The ranks of QAnon adherents have grown remarkably this year, spreading misinformation online and inspiring real-world violence. TikTok’s action follows similar attempts by YouTube, Facebook, and Twitter to slow the spread of Q-related disinformation.

But QAnon has already morphed from an online community of amateur detectives to a budding political movement, encompassing a mess of other conspiracist beliefs. Interest in QAnon has ballooned since the beginning of the pandemic and related economic shutdowns when, suddenly, many people had nowhere to go but the Internet. Between March and July membership in ten large QAnon Facebook groups grew by nearly 600 percent. During the same time period, according to a Pew survey, the number of Americans who had heard or read “a lot or a little” about QAnon doubled from 23 percent to 47 percent; 41 percent of Republicans who had heard about QAnon said they thought it was “somewhat” or “very good” for the country. According to another recent poll, a majority of Republicans believe the conspiracy theory about “deep state elites” is at least partly true.

More than two-dozen candidates who have endorsed QAnon or promoted QAnon content are vying for seats in Congress, according to Media Matters, almost all of them Republicans. Not all of these candidates are serious contenders. In Oregon, for instance, Jo Rae Perkins, who shared a video of a QAnon-related meme in which she took an oath to be “digital soldier,” is sure to lose her bid for Jeff Merkley’s Senate seat. But at least one of these candidates is all but sure to win: Marjorie Taylor Greene, running in Georgia’s 14th Congressional District.  “There’s a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to take this global cabal of Satan-worshiping pedophiles out, and I think we have the president to do it,” Greene said in a 2017 video, uploaded to YouTube this summer.


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