Milwaukee, Wisconsin – President Donald Trump was in the middle of his speech in Milwaukee when a spectator was struck by a gesture he made with his fingers.
Chrisy, a 51-year-old woman who only wanted to give her first name, seemed to see that Trump formed the letter “Q”, considered by some to be the sign of QAnon, a conspiracy theory of the extreme right that supports the Republican president.
QAnon has been infiltrating the political arena for over a year. The trend shows no signs of diminishing as Trump begins his reelection campaign in which fans of conspiracy theories and other marginal groups are attending his raucous rallies.RELATED
Trump has retweeted accounts that promote the QAnon. His supporters arrive in mass at their meetings with clothes and hats with symbols and slogans of the QAnon. At least 23 current or former Congress candidates in the 2020 election cycle have endorsed or promoted the QAnon, according to media analyst agency Media Matters for America, which compiled evidence on the internet to support their count.
Conspiracy theorists are not the only marginal characters who are attracted to Trump’s demonstrations. The Oath Keepers, an anti-government group formed in 2009 after the election of President Barack Obama, has been sending “security volunteers” to escort rightists to pro-Trump rallies.
Kathryn Olmsted, a history professor at the University of California at Davis, says it is unclear whether the QAnon has attracted more believers than other conspiracy theories that have crossed American politics.
“What is different now is that there are people in power who are spreading this conspiracy theory,” he said. He added that Trump’s conspiracy rhetoric seems to encourage a part of his base. “Finally there is someone who says they are not crazy.”
Conspiracy theories are nothing new, but experts fear that social networks and the volatile political climate have increased the threat of violence. An FBI bulletin in May warned that extremists driven by conspiracy theory have become a threat of internal terrorism. The newsletter specifically mentions QAnon.
A Trump campaign spokeswoman and a White House spokesperson did not respond to emails seeking comment. When asked about QAnon in 2018, then White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said Trump “condemns and denounces any group that incites violence against another person.”