In the late hours of Thursday night, Donald Trump reposted a montage of himself to his Truth Social followers that was extraordinary even for him. In a flash, images appeared showcasing “military criminal justice,” a “reminder” that the real insurrection occurred when Democrats cheated in the 2020 election and a cartoonish picture of Trump in a dark alley holding a baby with the line, “You Should’ve Stayed Away From The Children.”
The highlight reel also, of course, brandished the QAnon slogans “WWG1WGA” — where we go 1, we go all — and “the storm is coming.” The former president has been channeling the conspiracy theory a lot lately. At a rally last weekend, throngs of Trump supporters held up a “1” — a common QAnon tribute — in the air when they thought the “Q” theme song was being played. Days earlier, Trump posted a picture of himself on Truth Social wearing a “Q” pin with a “Q” slogan.
It’s all got Heidi Beirich worrying even more than usual.
Beirich is the co-founder of the Global Project Against Hate and Extremism and has tracked extremist movements for more than 20 years. She’s frequently testified before Congress on efforts to counter extremist groups’ recruitment and reduce hate online. She spoke to POLITICO Magazine this week after helping to organize the second annual Eradicate Hate Summit in Pittsburgh, which featured addresses from senior law enforcement and counterterrorism officials.
In Beirich’s eyes, Trump has made a decision to cozy up further to the QAnon movement in a simple bid to boost his political fortunes — and perhaps partly out of desperation. “There’s pretty much nothing weirder than QAnon out there in the world, that Democrats and Hollywood celebrities are Satanic worshipping pedophiles?” But, she adds, Trump knows these people make up part of his base, so he’s more than eager to rile them up.
Unlike many may have expected, or at least hoped, QAnon never faded away, even after Trump’s election loss in 2020 and its prophesies failed to come true. But conspiracy theories never really die, they only morph.
“It’s already a conspiracy. It’s already built on lies. So you just keep retelling the story in a different way,” Beirich says. “Trump already is the key figure for QAnon, and I think now he’s overtly assuming that role.”
This interview has been edited for length and clarity.
Joseph Gedeon: At a campaign rally recently, after it appeared that Trump had played a QAnon song, lots of people in the crowd held up a “1” to invoke a QAnon rallying sign. What did you take from that?
Heidi Beirich: Well, what I found disheartening, but also incredible, is that Trump seems to be, in recent weeks, intentionally trying to abuse the QAnon movement and move it as close to him as he can get it. So he not only played the song. as you pointed out, but the other day he was wearing a Q lapel pin with one of their …read more