Q-Anon conspiracy theory, domestic terrorism and the threat to democracy
By Cassandra Drumond
There were many groups behind the January 6th attack on the Capitol, fueled by conspiracies and disinformation which led to the insurrection. Many symbols were on display that night on t-shirts, and other articles of clothing.
Meili Criezis, program associate at Polarization and Extremism Research Innovation Lab (PERIL) at American University in Washington, helped produce a report on Q-Anon. Criezis explains: “I think it’s important to start from the beginning and see how Q-Anon first came to be. It actually stemmed from another conspiracy theory many have heard of called Pizzagate, which is rooted from another conspiracy theory, which asserted that there is a satanic ring of Democrats who were abusing children. And that these perpetrators were located around the country at various restaurants. There was someone posting on the site 4Chan known as Q and that person posted vague tips about what was going on inside the cabal of the elite government. This person claimed to have a high level of clearance in the government, known as Q clearance, and this person was supposedly trying to help everyone on the outside connect the dots and overturn the government. The Q-Anon conspiracy became popular because it hit Youtube and was promoted by a Youtuber who had a large following. Then it gained more traction and made its way into conservative spaces, with individuals like Sean Hannity and Suzanne Barr picking it up.
Two major elements of this conspiracy are that the world is controlled by a satanic cabal of pedophile elites and the that these individuals will be executed on the day the reckoning arrives, which is also known as the storm. A large segment of GOP supporters believe in this conspiracy theory, at least in part, and this is something the party must contend with.”
Colin P. Clarke, assistant teaching professor at Carnegie Mellon’s Institute for Politics and Strategy and previously a senior political analyst at RAND where his research focused on terrorism, insurgency and criminal networks, further elaborates: “When we talk about the far right, that is big umbrella with several different groups underneath. Those include the Proud Boys, the Three Percenters and many other groups, including religious Christian evangelicals and Neo-Nazis. What most do not know is these are unified for what they are against rather than what they are actually for. There’s also a lot of anti-Semitism, which is what connects a lot of these groups. Right now, there is a big dilemma in the federal government and other groups on terminology, I think this will be one of many challenges on how to combat this threat. We have the acronym REMV, which stands for racially and ethnically motivated violence and we have DVE, which stands for domestic violence extremism. Another major challenge is we don’t have a designated domestic terrorist designation, the closest thing that we have is foreign terrorist organizations and that does not exist domestically. There is hope with the new administration that they will fight domestic terrorist groups.”
Ricardo Cruz Moreno, theologian specializing in Latino churches and former president of the multi-ethnic group of the Presbyterian Church in the United States, explains religious ties in conspiracy theorist groups: “There were many Christian symbols on display during the assault at the Capitol. We saw the Bible, the cross and the rosary. We saw people kneeling and praying. The question is why do Christians participate in these events? Nearly 70% of Latinos are religious and identify as Catholic, according to Pew Research Center, 15% are born again Evangelicals and for evangelical Protestants, the bible is very central to their beliefs. They have a literal understanding of the bible and apply it to the present context. One portion is prophetic and apocalyptic literature, which they focus on. A huge majority believe that the Bible describes the end of time. Author Tim LaHaye is best known for a series of books on apocalyptic fiction titled Left Behind, which describes the Earth after the rapture. The twelve series book had a large influence with over 65 million copies being sold as of July 2016. The argument is that the end of the world is near and would occur through the work of demonic forces operating through human institutions. Also, we’ve never had a president who has done as much to push right-wing Christian agenda on social policy or give hardline evangelicals such exclusive access to the president. The embrace of a strong figure like Trump flows logically from the authoritarian nature of evangelical theology and subculture. Ultimately, it is important to check all sources where information comes from. Check different sites. Gather information from different sources, especially during this time of great division and online disinformation.”