As life in these United States has gotten steadily less civil and more hostile, I have had increasing “flash-backs” to a scene from the movie “An American President.” The scene is near the end of the film; it’s a press conference where the President (played by Michael Douglas) finally has had it with Bob Rumson, the candidate from the opposing party. The entire speech is great, but this is the dialogue that sticks with me:
We have serious problems to solve, and we need serious people to solve them. And whatever your particular problem is, I promise you Bob Rumson is not the least bit interested in solving it. He is interested in two things, and two things only: making you afraid of it, and telling you who’s to blame for it.
The speech especially resonated with me (and undoubtedly with other members of historically marginalized populations), thanks to centuries of experience with being the scapegoats for society’s ills. Jewish history, for example, has made me an especially nervous observer of the GOP’s QAnon cult, with its uncanny echoes of Nazi propaganda.
The “QAnon” movement is not a set of new conspiracy theories, but a recasting of some of the most popular neo-Nazi, white supremacist, antisemitic themes of the last century for broader conspiracy consumption. Nazi-era antisemitic conspiracy theories declared that “Jews” were secretly controlling the world, that they were working to undermine governments and cultures, and that they drank the blood of children in secret rituals.
QAnon’s version is identical: A shadowy cabal of “globalists” is secretly controlling the world, is working to undermine governments and cultures (for example, through a “great replacement” of Americans with new nonwhite immigrants, as supposedly funded by wealthy Jewish American George Soros), and is secretly trafficking children to harvest compounds from their blood. The most bizarre of Nazi and neo-Nazi themes have found eager new homes in the brains of supposed “real” Americans who have invariably settled on the same targets and solutions as their neo-Nazi enablers: Round up the “globalists”—meaning liberals, socialists, Democrats, those who fight for LGBT rights, those who treat immigrants with decency—and jail them. “Lock them up.” Purge them.
Observers have been warning that the movement has begun exhibiting a less-veiled antisemitism.
Recently, John Sabal, identified as an “influential QAnon promoter” recommended a notoriously neo-Nazi film to his followers–a film identifying Jews as the architects of communism, World Wars I and II, and the sabotage of Naziism. “Europa – the Last Battle” is a 10-part film that claims Jews created Communism and deliberately started both world wars as part of a plot to found Israel by provoking the innocent Nazis, who were only defending themselves. Sabal told his 70,000 followers that it was “The most important historical film of all time.” (When Vice News reported the recommendation, Sabal claimed he hadn’t actually watched the film and didn’t know it was anti-Semitic. Right.)
While this film has been shared by some of QAnon’s more fringe and extremist figures, the fact Sabal feels emboldened to share it so publicly is a testament to how antisemitic thinking has become normalized within the movement…
When one follower did attempt to criticize Sabal for posting the link, other members of the channel quickly attacked that user, claiming they were some sort of undercover agent of the “deep state.”
Others credulously claimed the user criticizing Sabal had misunderstood the film: “I’m sorry that’s what you took away from our neo-Nazi film. It’s really about how killing the Jews is necessary and good because they’re not real Jews,” one of Sabal’s followers wrote.
QAnon believers are an increasingly important part of the GOP. When the Sabal story broke, he was preparing to host a conference featuring a significant number of Republican lawmakers, including two sitting Arizona Representatives, Wendy Rogers and Sonny Borrelli. Multiple Republican candidates were scheduled to speak, including candidates from the swing states of Michigan, Arizona, and Nevada.
This is not an isolated example. As Hunter noted in his post,
Conservatism in general is increasingly flirting with antisemitic speech and candidates: In Idaho, a Republican with a long history of antisemitic speech, one who claims “all Jews are dangerous,” is enjoying his local party’s support for joining the local school board.
Call it QAnon. Call it fascism, Nazism, racism. It’s all about fear of the “other”–all about having someone else to blame for what is wrong with one’s life. People of color, Jews, Muslims, LGBTQ folks…you know–“those people.”
After WWII, we can’t claim ignorance of where this sort of thinking leads.
I used to think it couldn’t happen here. I was wrong.