Tag Archives: QAnon

The March of Those Christian “Soldiers”

Marching backwards…

Last Tuesday, the Indianapolis Star reported on the explosion of anti-Semitic incidents on IU’s Bloomington campus. National headlines trumpet passage of anti-LGBTQ legislation (“Don’t say gay!”) and mean-spirited attacks on transgender youth. The Ted Cruz’s of the GOP and the Tucker Carlsons of rightwing media warn against the “feminization” of American men and the “dire threat” posed by (nonwhite) immigrants.

The fears and hatreds that feed these behaviors are exploited by the Christian Nationalists who have come to exercise disproportionate influence in American life by turning  a political ideology into a version of Christianity, and insisting that only adherents of that version are authentically American.

In a recent column, Jennifer Rubin considered that influence–and confluence. In a column about the confirmation hearings for Supreme Court nominee Ketanji Brown Jackson, she wrote:

.Democracy functions only with restraint, good-faith application of procedural rules and devotion to the principle that the other side gets to govern when it wins. That concept is now an anathema to the GOP. As Thomas Zimmer has written for the Guardian, “Many Republicans agree that the Democratic Party is a fundamentally illegitimate political faction — and that any election outcome that would lead to Democratic governance must be rejected as illegitimate as well.”

That view of illegitimacy often stems from Christian nationalism. As Robert P. Jones, chief executive of the Public Religion Research Institute, explains, “A worldview that claims God as a political partisan and dehumanizes one’s political opponents as evil is fundamentally antidemocratic.” He tells me, “A mind-set that believes that our nation was divinely ordained to be a promised land for Christians of European descent is incompatible with the U.S. Constitution’s guarantee of freedom of religion and equality of all.”

The New Republic–among others–has also looked at what it called “The Shock Troops” of Christian Nationalism, and the wealthy theocrats funding them. 

The article focused on a little-known foundation, the James and Joan Lindsey Family Foundation, and what it characterized as “a vast and steady flow of contributions” to  organizations in that Christian nationalist movement: the Family Research Council, Focus on the Family, WallBuilders, a media company called Mastermedia International, and the Council for National Policy, a networking group for movement leadership.

“We are a Christian country. And the Founders were—definitely—and our founding documents were written under prayer each day of the writing,” Joan Lindsey has said. On the eve of the 2020 election, she announced that “this election will either preserve faith’s sacred place in our country or destroy it.”

The most recent effort backed by the Lindseys is something called “The Church Finds Its Voice,” a new entrant in what the article identifies as “a long-standing pattern in the Christian nationalist movement of backing projects to turn America’s network of tens of thousands of conservative churches into a powerful partisan political machine.”

The article is lengthy, and includes multiple other examples of Christian Nationalist activism.  It’s chilling; one leader of the movement is quoted as saying that “every election is a contest against absolute evil, and the consequences of failure are almost too dire to imagine.” To suggest that these activists are motivated is to understate the situation. Rightwing media has convinced them that Trump was anointed by God to protect Christians from those who would not only dislodge them from their privileged position but would also strip them of their rights and liberties.

Numerous accounts of the January 6th insurrection have focused on the ubiquity of Christian Nationalist symbols, and expressions of belief that God was on their side. As the deeply religious Michael Gerson has observed, transforming opponents into infidels provides an opening for racism and anti-Semitism.

The anti-Semitism being displayed at Indiana University is just one aspect of the Christian Nationalist worldview, but it is a fairly major element of it. An analysis by the Washington Post found that Christian Nationalism, support for QAnon, and anti-Semitism to be tightly linked.

Since Christian nationalism is a worldview holding that the United States was created by and for Christians, it may not be surprising that they dislike non-Christians. On average, the most ardent Christian nationalists subscribed to four of the eight anti-Semitic tropes presented; those most opposed to Christian nationalism subscribed to an average of one. Christian nationalists were more likely to believe each individual trope but showed the strongest support for the mistaken ideas that “Jews are more loyal to Israel than to this country” and “Jews killed Jesus.”

Christian Nationalists who had bought into nutty QAnon conspiracy theories were even more anti-Semitic. QAnon reinforces a number of anti-Semitic tropes: that Jews control the banks, the media and the government, and that Jews are the ones behind the Deep State.

The problem is, those “Christian soldiers” own today’s GOP.

 

 

Grievance, Trust And Conspiracy

A long essay in The Washington Post a few weeks ago made an effort to demystify America’s current embrace of conspiracy theories.

The author acknowledged that Americans have always been susceptible to these theories, and that mass delusions, disinformation and conspiracy mongering are hardly unique to America. Granted, the internet has made dissemination of these beliefs far simpler, and more visible to those of us that don’t engage with them, but that isn’t a measure of how prevalent they are.

I read the essay with considerable interest, because–really! What sorts of people believe the most prominent versions going around these days? The essay described a couple of them:

QAnon followers believe that former president Donald Trump spent his time as president battling a cabal of Satan-worshiping “deep state” Democrats who traffic children for sex, a paranoia that has often led to valuable resources being diverted away from real missing children cases. Since the 2020 election, they have also come to believe that Trump’s loss was the result of massive fraud, a disproved conspiracy theory that has in turn created a real threat to our democracy and elections. Going further than the 7 in 10 Republican voters who believe the same election conspiracy, Q followers also assure with prophetic zeal that Trump will be reinstated imminently. Mass arrests of the country’s corrupt elite and a “Great Awakening” will follow, they say.

This one is even more bizarre (if possible):

This one — bordering on messianic and based in part on numerology — involved the slain president’s son, who himself died in a plane crash in 1999. Here on the grassy knoll, they believed, John F. Kennedy Jr. would soon reemerge more than two decades after having faked his own death, or would perhaps be reincarnated outright. The resurrected son of the assassinated father, they assured, would become Trump’s vice president.

The author assured readers that–looney-tunes as these seem–they emerge from a long history of similarly outlandish beliefs. He traced a variety of these irrational stories through the nation’s history–remember all those witches in Salem? The “alternative” theories about the assassination of JFK? The insistence that Barack Obama was really born in Kenya?

Why do such theories thrive here–and under what circumstances? I’m not a psychiatrist and I don’t play one on TV, but think the following paragraphs explain a lot. (It always comes back to racism…)

Here in the United States, conspiracy theories have always been exacerbated by our unique racial, ethnic and religious pluralism, according to Goldberg and other historians.

As populist myths, conspiracy theories allow their believers to feel part of a “true” American community, as special defenders of it. They thrive, the historical record shows, amid the mistrust that exists between people and communities.
Americans have often embraced conspiratorial stories and lies with particular vigor during moments of pronounced uncertainty wrought by social and technological change. And conspiracy theory opportunists throughout U.S. history have found myriad ways to exploit these particular American fissures.

Students of these theories tell us that they are about certainty, belonging and power. They flourish because they resonate with people who are fearful and/or dissatisfied with their lives–people looking for someone to blame for whatever it is that they fear or whatever has gone wrong. As the author says,

To understand the lure of conspiracy theories and alternate realities, you have to interrogate what people get out of believing such things. You have to understand the human emotions — fear, estrangement, resentment — that underlie them.

The author also explains why we are hearing so much more about these trips into la-la land.

Over the past 20 years, sweeping technological change has dramatically accelerated the speed with which conspiracy theories can spread and has made it easier for people with fringe beliefs to find one another. I have seen in my reporting time and again that conspiracy theory communities online can often become more important to believers than their offline relations, a new kind of self-segregation that can eviscerate even family bonds. In our chaotic and divided moment, the stories we believe say something about the factions we belong to, like the music we listen to or the clothes we wear.

The Internet has not only made it easier for conspiratorial communities to organize, but it has also made conspiracy mongering substantially less arduous. No longer do those trafficking in conspiracy theories have to write books or stitch together grand presentations for maximum effect.

Add in the erosion of trust in American institutions, including government, and the very human tendency to see simple incompetence as something darker and more intentional–the need to identify a culprit who did it (whatever “it” was) on purpose…and the next thing you know, you’ve got Jewish Space Lasers.

We live in weird times.

I Know It’s Tacky To Laugh…

I’ve seen several references to this…event…in Texas, but I think Juanita Jean–she of the World’s Most Dangerous Beauty Shop, Inc.–has the best description. She titles it “I Love Yew, Texas.”

Well see, the QAnon people are coming to Dallas because there’s gonna be a slamdinger of a show!

Some staunch believers of QAnon think that JFK Jr is in fact alive and well, and plans to make a return to public service and announce a tilt at the White House as vice president on the ticket of Mr Trump, who has not yet announced a 2024 run but is widely considered by many to be the favourite to win the Republican nomination if he does so.

And it’s not just JFK, Jr – it’s the entire Kennedy clan showing up. However, it’s not clear if it’s all of them or just the dead ones. Word is that they are meeting on the grassy knoll, except they spelled it grassy noel, which in Texas translates to Christmas in the wheat fields.

Her best line, though, invokes Indiana’s former embarrassing Governor.

And if you’re wondering who comes back from the dead to be vice president, you need only look as far as Mike Pence. So there ya are.

Actually, I’ve been mulling over the fact that, in January, Mike Pence actually did something admirable–he refused to take part in the coup attempt. He followed the law, and refused to refuse to certify ballots. (Granted, when it comes to Mike Pence, the bar for “admirable” is very low…) As long as I’ve known him (and that is ever since we were both Republican candidates for Congress in the 1980s, so a long time) it is the only admirable thing I’ve ever seen him do–and the irony is that in today’s GOP, doing the right thing and respecting the rule of law has probably been the kiss of death to his presidential ambitions. (Not that I think those ambitions were very realistic in any event, but then, who would have  thought anyone would vote for the pussy-grabber…?)

Democrats are constantly being criticized for “elitism,” for “looking down on” unsophisticated/uneducated /rural “real Americans.” I think this is largely a bum rap: I don’t know any liberals who sneer at people simply because they lack a degree or live in a rural  area or even because they vote Republican. I do know people (and I’ll admit to being one of them) who shake our heads and perhaps even snicker at folks who look for Hillary Clinton’s child trafficking headquarters in the (non-existent) basement of a pizza parlor, or who blame California wildfires on Jewish space lasers, or who ingest horse dewormer rather than listening to their doctors and getting vaccinated…Admittedly, the people who turn up at protests with grossly misspelled signs also get a chuckle .

And forgive me if I fail to take seriously the QAnon lunatics who traveled to the “grassy noel” to await the reincarnation or whatever of JFK, Jr.

Let’s be candid: Today’s GOP is profoundly unserious about governing. Its base is filled with crackpots of various kinds, and the party’s elected officials and political leaders are virtually all spineless panderers to those crackpots. Thanks to gerrymandering, vote suppression and weaponizing of the filibuster, they’ve managed to prevent Congress from engaging in anything resembling actual governing.

If we couldn’t laugh, we’d cry.

 

 

 

The More Things Change…

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.

As someone named Hunter posted to Daily Kos,

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.)

As Vice also reported

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.

 

 

QAnon: Nazism Repackaged?

I haven’t written about the QAnon conspiracy, because it has seemed so ludicrous. Remember the deranged believer who traveled to a DC pizza parlor to rescue children being held in the basement–only to discover that not only weren’t there any children, there wasn’t even a basement…?

Most rational Americans dismissed both the shooter and the conspiracy that motivated him as elements of a small wacko fringe.

Still, a growing number of reports suggest a troubling growth of the cult, and I read somewhere that  at least 80 self-identified adherents had run for Congress in GOP primaries. (At least two emerged victorious–one for Congress in Georgia, one for Senate in Delaware.) And in a recent poll, 33% of Republicans responded that they believed QAnon was “mostly true,” while another 23% said they believed it was “partly true.”

If–like me–you’ve been vague on the disturbing beliefs and origin of the conspiracy, a recent article from Salon provides details:

QAnon, known for their outrageous conspiracy theories, believe that the U.S. government has been infiltrated by an international ring of pedophiles and Satanists and that President Donald Trump was put in power to battle them. And Gregory Stanton, president of Genocide Watch and an expert on the history of anti-Semitism, believes that there are parallels between QAnon’s outrageous views and the views that Nazis promoted in Germany during the 1930s.

Describing QAnon’s views in an article published by Just Security on September 9, Stanton writes, “A secret cabal is taking over the world. They kidnap children, slaughter and eat them to gain power from their blood. They control high positions in government, banks, international finance, the news media and the church. They want to disarm the police. They promote homosexuality and pedophilia. They plan to mongrelize the white race so it will lose its essential power. Does this conspiracy theory sound familiar? It is. The same narrative has been repackaged by QAnon.”

The parallels are certainly frightening. The anti-Semitic 1902 pamphlet, “The Protocols of the Elders of Zion,” is apparently central to both. Stanton points out that QAnon’s ideology is a “rebranded version” of that pamphlet, and that its membership has grown especially rapidly in Germany. (Others have connected QAnon to the Fundamentalist Christian belief that before Jesus returns, believers will be “raptured” to heaven and will  avoid the “tribulation”–a period in which the Antichrist will attempt to rule via a “one world government” and force people to adopt the “mark of the beast.”) 

Drilling down: QAnon members core belief is that a secret, Satan-worshiping cabal is taking over the world. They believe that the members of that cabal kidnap white children– just white children– and keep them in secret prisons (like the one presumably located in the pizza parlor’s nonexistent basement) that are run by pedophiles. They also believe that the “cabal” slaughters and eats children to gain power from the “essence” in their blood. It’s here that we can clearly see the parallels with the blood libel charges against Jews, who presumably needed the blood of white Christian children for our matzoh. (These are clearly people who have never eaten matzoh, which is utterly devoid of moisture of any sort…)

This mythical cabal controlled the American presidency under Clinton and Obama, and it lurks in a ‘Deep State’ financed by Jews, especially George Soros and the Jews who “control the media.” Its members want to disarm citizens and defund the police, to promote abortions and homosexuality, and especially to open borders and allow brown illegal aliens to invade America and mongrelize the white race.

The racism embedded in all this is hard to miss. It’s also hard to believe that people who actually believe any of this are sufficiently competent to tie their shoes in the morning, let alone function otherwise.

Yet we are told that this “movement” has grown by the millions.

Like Donald Trump, who appears to be a fan of QAnon because it worships him, and like the Nazis before them, the followers of QAnon seem bent on revenge and retribution for mythical offenses. They babble endlessly about “The Storm” that is coming, by which they appear to mean a coup followed by a bloodbath. That, too, is reminiscent of Nazi style. Maybe they should just call themselves Storm Troopers.

One reason for QAnon’s explosive growth may be that–according to the FBI– promulgating QAnon has become a project of the Russian intelligence services, which have their internet armies spreading it online. So far, at least, Republican leaders have refused to denounce it, essentially acquiescing to its ongoing influence in the marginally less insane cult that is today’s GOP (although, as more outlets have been reporting on the conspiracy’s influence within the Republican Party, Talking Points Memo reports Pence did drop his planned attendance at a Montana fundraiser hosted by QAnon supporters.) 

Welcome to loony-tunes land. If it weren’t so potentially dangerous, it would be hysterically funny….