QAnon will be a threat to security for months, if not years, to come. The challenge of QAnon is only exacerbated by its growing synergy with organised religion as they seek to infiltrate wider sections of the evangelical movement.
The QAnon movement has been metastasising quickly. Its swerve toward the American radical-right was broadcast to the world during the 6 January assault on the US Capitol Building. The world saw Jake Angeli, the ‘Q Shaman’. Bare-chested and festooned with horns and fur, he seemed to exemplify the chaotic, maddening devotion to Donald Trump that this mostly online cult promulgates.
Originating in the seedier corners of the /pol/ message board on 4Chan, Q and their Anons have pushed the fascistic, antisemitic fringe theory that Donald Trump was “waging a shadow war against a cabal of Satan-worshipping, child-eating paedophiles who are conspiring to obstruct and overthrow him”. This has been popularised into a fluid belief system that violently stormed the floor of the US Congress.
QAnon’s Foray into Christianity
Italian historian and specialist on fascist ideology, Emilio Gentile makes a distinction between what he calls “political religion” and “politicised religion”.
The QAnon movement falls under the guise of a ‘politicised religion’ where a secular religion is borne out of clerical thought and values. A deep dive into Q channels on messaging service Telegram exhibits a deluge of biblical scripture and religious rhetoric – demonstrating a nexus between the fascistic and the theological.
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Unsuspecting Christians, perhaps concerned with election fraud or the very real issue of child abuse, can even be lured to QAnon through respected church leaders. The Omega Kingdom Ministry in Indiana is a prime example of this, as churches dotted across the US seek to merge QAnon with Protestant Christianity.
Q him (or her) self is portrayed as a mystic postmodern prophet with online ‘drops’ acting as sacred texts synonymous with bible verses by acolytes
The Q ideologues have clearly exploited the isolation wrought by the global pandemic – compounded by a general lack of digital literacy among congregations, and an outright mistrust of most media providers. As such, some churchgoers are turning (or being turned) to social media and ‘alternative’ media to get their facts; it is becoming increasingly hard to counter these false messages in a chaotic world full of mistrust, as everything that disproves the theory is casually cast off as ‘Fake News’.
Q devotees co-opt emotionally charged topics like ‘Save the Children’ alongside biblical language to draw ordinary Christians into the movement. This can act as a ‘red pill’ moment, or an ‘awakening’ to the alleged conspiracy around them.
By adopting this narrative alongside biblical language in propagandist posts, Q is able to relate to a wide range of devout Christians by connecting Q drops directly to the bible and integrating itself into devout Christians’ core belief system.
After the fall of Trump, these adherents are looking for hope and guidance, having fallen down the rabbit hole into Q conspiratorial thinking, and the radical-right have taken advantage to absorb supporters into the wider neo-fascist movement.
Posters on 4Chan see this as an ideal moment for Nat Soc (National Socialist) propaganda in Q groups as they attempt to cling to some form of hope and faith; while another thread believed it “wasn’t a stretch” to convince Trump acolytes that the shadow government he has been fighting against all along has been ‘The International Jew’.
The Church of Q?
Religious language and themes may appeal to some American churchgoers, but the QAnon conspiracy is doing more than just pandering to Christians. It presents itself as a kind of replacement religion or faith that may appropriate some elements of Christianity but is ultimately a syncretic movement that amalgamates these with wild conspiracy theories of a global satanic cabal.
Q him (or her) self is portrayed as a mystic postmodern prophet with online ‘drops’ acting as sacred texts synonymous with bible verses by acolytes. Similarly, Donald Trump is depicted as a modern-day messianic figure heralding ‘The Storm”; an apocalyptic end date witnessing enemies exposed and defeated. Much like any divine figure, Q is presented as an omniscient entity with a prophetic plan, replete with a Manichaean struggle between the forces of good and evil.
Invoking Trump’s words as he left office, “the best is yet to come”, the QAnon conspiracy continues to fill its followers with hope and faith that apocalyptic retribution is coming, so they must remain steadfast. This is especially a challenge for Q followers, with disappointment peaking after the failed insurrection of 6 January.
Conspiracy theories need to have believable challenges. With QAnon, the notion of “disinformation is necessary” attempts to explain why supposed prophecies fail to materialise as Q deliberately posts false intelligence in an attempt to misdirect their enemies, while also acting as a prepared excuse if things don’t go to plan; in this case, as part of a wider strategy of outing alleged enemies.
Much akin to the Christian Rapture or the coming of the Mahdi, in the Shiite Muslim tradition, QAnons believe their devotion will result in a cleansed society brought about by ‘The Storm’, in which the members of the ‘deep state’ will be executed live on television.
Many of these targets are members of the Democratic Party, the media and are in many cases Jews. These are familiar ‘enemies’ for the fascistic radical-right and suggest a potential for future violence.
Furthermore, followers who feel powerless and seek some element of control or hope in a chaotic time – especially considering the fall of Trump and the continuation of the global pandemic – use the QAnon conspiracy as a place to put their faith and make sense of the world. This brings a level of comfort that during the dualistic battle between the ‘righteous’ and the ‘wicked’, things will eventually work out.
The movement provides a sense of identity, purpose and belonging similar to an organised religion, especially through their catchphrase “WWG1WGA: Where We Go One, We Go All”.
Why is This Dangerous?
From a security perspective, the nexus between QAnon and Christianity as a politicised ideology represents an opportunity for the former to radicalise the movement after the failure of the prophecy that Trump would remain US president after 20 January 2021.
QAnon ideologues, and some Christian leaders, use this hybrid ideology to align with radical-right neo-fascist theories. They use dualistic and apocalyptic religious tropes to justify their violent actions in pursuit of a preordained future to defeat the onslaught of a ‘New World Order’.
Fascism is being appropriated by QAnon supporters when discussing ideas about ridding society of certain enemies in the pursuit of a new order
The adoption of certain rhetoric by QAnon adherents may also suggest a more extreme, fascist reawakening, or a new dawn, of the movement in recent weeks. Q-linked media has called for the righteous to confront the wicked, and for “warriors” to come to the fore in an effort to “defeat the enemies of humanity”.
Fascism is being appropriated by QAnon supporters when discussing ideas about ridding society of certain enemies in the pursuit of a new order. Q-produced videos urge a call to action from devoted ‘warriors’ in pursuit of a ‘New Revival’. This call to action appears in Telegram messages accompanying millenarian elements, which can be harbingers of directed violence.
As demonstrated at the Capitol, there are plenty of Q supporters ready to go to extremes in pursuit of ‘The Storm’. As long as this new religious movement is legitimised by co-opting aspects of Christianity, and vice versa, more violence with increasing religious undertones may be heralded by QAnon.
Author: James Hardy Research and Policy Intern at the Centre for Analysis of the Radical Right
This article is published under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International licence. Read the original at OpenDemocracy here