An internal bulletin circulated in May by the FBI’s Phoenix field office lists “conspiracy theory-driven domestic extremists” as a growing threat. And it specifically calls out QAnon—the bastard lovechild of Pizzagate and Trump fetishists—as one of those groups that deserves observation. But on the same day this information became public, Donald Trump had QAnon followers on stage to kick off his rally in Ohio.
As Yahoo News reports, the FBI assessment believes that QAnon and similar conspiracy theories “very likely will emerge, spread, and evolve in the modern information marketplace, occasionally driving both groups and individual extremists to carry out criminal or violent acts.” And the bulletin warns that such incidents may increase as we head into the election cycle. Backing up that analysis is information on a series of recent arrests—including arrests that haven’t been publicized—related to beliefs in conspiracy theories.
In recent testimony, FBI director Christopher Wray made it clear to legislators that “a majority of the domestic terrorism cases that we've investigated are motivated by some version of what you might call white supremacist violence.” But the QAnon conspirators don’t seem to fall under the umbrella of what the FBI is treating as race-related violence, even though some of its promoters have also been tied to explicitly white-supremacist conspiracies.
The FBI bulletin also mentions other conspiracies promulgated by Trump favorite Alex Jones and InfoWars. That includes theories that center around the idea of the “deep state” that have been openly pushed by Trump and other Republicans explicitly trying to undermine the FBI and other agencies. It also includes conspiracies claiming that mass shootings are “a pretext for the government to seize or outlaw firearms.”
But as Just Security notes, even as the FBI is noting the danger of these conspiracies, Trump is actively encouraging them. Because they create the kind of divisions and mistrust that he is depending on for 2020.
Media Matters has tracked a number of violent incidents directly connected to the QAnon conspiracy, including one in which a Washington man impaled his brother with a sword. But, despite the fact that the whole idea is blatantly ridiculous, Trump has supported the conspiracy from the beginning. That’s included retweeting QAnon supporters not once, but dozens of times. And he’s used those retweets not just as a shout-out to conspirators, but as a means of attacking both government officials and Democratic politicians.
Each of these retweets, along with statements that Trump has made mirroring “predictions” from the supposed source of the conspiracy, has thrilled the Q-conspiracists. And on Thursday night Trump put Q-believer Brandon Straka on stage at the start of his campaign rally to issue the conspiracy’s “Where we go one, we go all,” rallying cry.
Donald Trump is actively promoting a theory that’s meant to undermine the government and encourage violent action. He’s made that conspiracy a not-so-secret part of his campaign, to the extent that Q-related banners and T-shirts are common at Trump’s rallies. The Q-believers are right about one thing: It’s not a conspiracy that Trump is supporting them. He’s supporting them, and helping to promote their serial lies and warped version of reality.
All of which, warns the FBI, isn’t just likely to get someone killed: it already has.