If you are not frightened by what the former Republican Party has become in the grips of Donald Trump, you should be after this bizarre QAnon cult rally in Youngstown, Ohio for J.D. Vance on Saturday.
Lauren Sue reports at Daily Kos, ‘This is the week when Trump became Qanon’: Crowd responds with bizarre hand sign at Trump rally:
After former President Donald Trump regurgitated the racist “great replacement” theory, and otherwise trashed America in an odd endorsement of Republican Senate candidate J.D. Vance, portions of a crowd of more than 6,000 attendees raised their single fingers in the air. It was an alarming move for social media users who described the gesture as remarkably similar to the Nazi salute. Investor and journalist Morten Overbye called the crowd a “fascist cult.” CNN analyst Juliette Kayyem said the hand symbol was the sign of conspiracy theorists championing the QAnon theory.
Note: I would point out that fundamentalist Christians also point to the heavens with one finger. You see Christian athletes do this every time they hit a home run or score a touchdown. “Rather than an aberration, the fascination with conspiracies at the heart of Trump-era White evangelical Christian nationalism is symptomatic of a distinctively modern manifestation of evangelicalism’s obsession with end-time prophecies. These form a surging and resurging current throughout late twentieth and twenty-first century evangelicalism.” QAnon, Conspiracy, and White Evangelical Apocalypse. QAnon is a quasi-religious far-right political personality cult of Donad Trump.
“This is the week when Trump became Qanon,” Kayyem tweeted. “This isn’t a political statement; it just is, however, disturbing. The week began with images of Trump on Truth Social wearing a Q pin and promoting their slogans, it ends with Q music and the Q ‘one’ sign by crowd at his rally.”
Just a reminder that the "Storm" referenced below is the big end date for QAnon, when Trump is supposed to round up all of his political enemies and hang them in public after a brief military tribunal.
I have no idea if he knows this, but he shouldn't be playing around with it. pic.twitter.com/T2kg32wmfg
— Ben Collins (@oneunderscore__) September 13, 2022
This is the week when Trump became Qanon. This isn’t a political statement; it just is, however disturbing. Week began with images of Trump on Truth Social wearing a Q pin and promoting their slogans; it ends with Q music and the Q “one” sign by crowd at his rally. https://t.co/FrCXo8qiA4
— Juliette Kayyem (@juliettekayyem) September 18, 2022
Exactly what members of the Youngstown crowd were trying to communicate by raising their fingers in the air may be up for debate, but the message from the former president at the rally was far less subjective. He supports Vance but not nearly as much as Trump supports himself.
Journalist Andrea Pitzer reported that although Trump bragged about a sold-out crowd during the rally, the arena, which has a capacity of less than 10,000 people, had a back section that was empty.
So, praise to those who did report it already. And a word of caution to those so horrified by the culty/Q aspects of last night that they reposted audience pictures that make it look like a sea of people. It wasn't a lot of people, but it's easy to accidentally further the myth.
— Andrea Pitzer (@andreapitzer) September 18, 2022
Trump described himself as a victim of an “unhinged persecution” in which witnesses of the January 6 insurrection he is accused of inciting were forced to turn against him. “They take good people and they say, ‘You’re going to jail for 10 years … unless you say something bad about Trump, in which case you won’t have to go to jail,’” Trump said.
This is straight out of the The Authoritarian Playbook.
He also alleged that the government “spied” on his campaign, “and nobody wants to do anything about it.”
“Can you imagine if I spied on the campaign of—forget Biden—how about [the back guy] Obama’s campaign?” Trump asked. “Can you imagine what (the punishment) would be? Maybe it would be death. They’d bring back the death penalty.”
Trump, so absorbed in his own public defense, even seemed to forget the reason he was at the rally and started taking shots at Vance. “J.D. is kissing my ass,” Trump said. “He wants my support so bad!”
Trump humiliated J.D. Vance. This is not the kind of endorsement a candidate wants. Tim Ryan shoud be cutting ads with this clip this week.
It wasn’t a completely off-base political analysis. The number of Republicans overly devoted to the insurrectionist former president seems to be ever-growing, with some of the more prominent ones also in attendance at the Ohio rally.
It wasn’t a completely off-base political analysis. The number of Republicans overly devoted to the insurrectionist former president seems to be ever-growing, with some of the more prominent ones also in attendance at the Ohio rally.
Rep. Marjorie “Q” Greene called Trump the “one true leader” of the Republican Party. “He’s the one we elected in 2016 and the one we re-elected in 2020, who won the election,” she said, promoting utter lies. While “fresh off appearing to kick a climate activist on video” as Rolling Stone put it, Greene also mocked Democrats concerned about climate change.
“We know that cheap gas won’t last,” Greene said at the rally. “You want to know why? Democrats worship the climate. We worship God.”
MyPillow CEO Mike Lindell, another Trump supporter, also referenced God in saying he “prayed” then-Senate candidates Raphael Warnock and Jon Ossoff would win in runoff elections last January because it helped cement the claim of widespread “election crime” happening in the United States.
There is no such evidence of widespread election fraud, by the way—a fun fact Republicans choose to ignore alongside their fear-inducing leader.
These are appeals to end-times evangelical White Christian Nationalism and GQP tribalism.
“We are a nation in decline,” [end-times prophecy] Trump said at the close of his speech. He failed to mention he is a large reason why.
The Rolling Stone report cited adds, Cult Vibes: Trump Ends Rally In Bizarre Fashion, Leaving Crowd Mesmerized:
At the end of Saturday night’s Trump rally, something strange (well, more strange than usual) happened. As the former president delivered the eight-minute monologue that concluded his speech, dramatic strings music began to play in the background and a portion of the mesmerized crowd raised their hands with their pointer fingers extended in an odd salute.
Trump's rally in Youngstown, Ohio, ends with the dramatic music playing. Strange vibes. pic.twitter.com/wMQwAJ5QfU
— Aaron Rupar (@atrupar) September 18, 2022
The song has not been definitively identified, although some — including The Daily Beast’s Will Sommer — said it is titled “WWG1WGA” after the QAnon slogan, “Where we go one, we go all,” and is affiliated with the movement. The New York Times’ Maggie Haberman speculated Trump may have used a song titled “Mirrors” by film and TV composer Will Van De Crommer. But, as a music professor who analyzed “Mirrors” after Trump used it in a video told Vice in August, the two songs are “identical.”
“I have listened to both [“Mirrors” and “WWG1WGA”] closely several times now, and I have 100% professional confidence these recordings are identical, not even a reinterpretation of a composition, but the same recording,” David Dominique told Vice News.
Media Matters also analyzed the two songs using software called Audacity and “found their audio profiles to be virtually identical.”
The rally song is only the latest development in Trump’s apparent embrace of QAnon. Earlier this week, Trump posted to Truth Social a photo of himself wearing a Q lapel pin with the words “The Storm is Coming” — another phrase used by the Q movement — superimposed on the image. The “storm,” believers say, is a reference to Trump’s return to the presidency when he will punish his enemies in the Deep State.
The MAGA/QAnon quasi-religious far-right political personality cult of Donald Trump is every bit the threat to American democracy that President Biden warned it is. It is metastasizing into a malignant cancer in our body politic.
David Leonhardt warns in a lengthy analysis at the New York Times, ‘A Crisis Coming’: The Twin Threats to American Democracy (excerpt – but read his entire piece):
The United States has experienced deep political turmoil several times before over the past century. The Great Depression caused Americans to doubt the country’s economic system. World War II and the Cold War presented threats from global totalitarian movements. The 1960s and ’70s were marred by assassinations, riots, a losing war and a disgraced president.
These earlier periods were each more alarming in some ways than anything that has happened in the United States recently. Yet during each of those previous times of tumult, the basic dynamics of American democracy held firm. Candidates who won the most votes were able to take power and attempt to address the country’s problems.
The current period is different. As a result, the United States today finds itself in a situation with little historical precedent. American democracy is facing two distinct threats, which together represent the most serious challenge to the country’s governing ideals in decades.
The first threat is acute: a growing movement inside one of the country’s two major parties — the Republican Party — to refuse to accept defeat in an election.
See also, Republicans in key battleground races refuse to say they will accept results:
In competitive races for governor or Senate in Arizona, Florida, Kansas, Michigan, New Hampshire, North Carolina, Pennsylvania and Texas, GOP candidates declined to say that they would accept this year’s result.All but two — incumbent senators Ron Johnson of Wisconsin and Marco Rubio of Florida — have publicly embraced Trump’s false claims about 2020, according to a Post analysis.
[M]any Republicans have sought voters’ support — and Trump’s — by repeating his false statements about a stolen election. Democrats have warned that such claims put democracy in peril. Candidates willing to deny the results of a legitimate election, they argue, can’t be trusted to oversee future votes.
The violent Jan. 6, 2021, attack on Congress, meant to prevent the certification of President Biden’s election, was the clearest manifestation of this movement, but it has continued since then. Hundreds of elected Republican officials around the country falsely claim that the 2020 election was rigged. Some of them are running for statewide offices that would oversee future elections, potentially putting them in position to overturn an election in 2024 or beyond.
“There is the possibility, for the first time in American history, that a legitimately elected president will not be able to take office,” said Yascha Mounk, a political scientist at Johns Hopkins University who studies democracy.
The second threat to democracy is chronic but also growing: The power to set government policy is becoming increasingly disconnected from public opinion. [The tyranny of the minority.]
The run of recent Supreme Court decisions — both sweeping and, according to polls, unpopular — highlight this disconnect. Although the Democratic Party has won the popular vote in seven of the past eight presidential elections, a Supreme Court dominated by Republican appointees seems poised to shape American politics for years, if not decades. And the court is only one of the means through which policy outcomes are becoming less closely tied to the popular will.
Two of the past four presidents have taken office despite losing the popular vote. Senators representing a majority of Americans are often unable to pass bills, partly because of the increasing use of the filibuster. Even the House, intended as the branch of the government that most reflects the popular will, does not always do so, because of the way districts are drawn [gerrymandering].
“We are far and away the most countermajoritarian democracy in the world,” said Steven Levitsky, a professor of government at Harvard University and a co-author of the book “How Democracies Die,” with Daniel Ziblatt.
Jennifer Rubin writes, “Trump’s frightening rally in Ohio shows the media still doesn’t get it”, https://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/2022/09/19/trump-ohio-rally-qanon-media/
Donald Trump has gone full QAnon. As he spoke during a rally for Ohio Republican candidates on Saturday, a soundtrack associated with the conspiracy theory played. That elicited one-armed [raised index finger] salutes — another QAnon symbol — from many attendees.
The display bore an uncanny resemblance to the infamous Nazi salute. The delusional incitement and zombie-like response should put to rest the notion that President Biden (or anyone) should be “reaching out” to these people. They are unreachable, and pretending otherwise misleads voters.
No Republican should ever escape an interview or news conference without being asked to condemn this monstrous event. The cynical GOP leaders who know that Trump is unfit for office and that many of his cult followers have become violent should not be treated as ordinary party hacks. They are enablers of a dangerous movement. Yet they continually evade persistent, aggressive questioning.
Compare this with the mainstream media’s response to Biden’s recent speech condemning the MAGA movement. Biden — though he generously (and inaccurately, in my book) distinguished the movement from the Republican Party writ large — highlighted the MAGA movement’s far-right extremism and its refusal to ascribe to the basic tenets of democracy (e.g., renunciation of violence, sanctity of elections). Yet many in the mainstream media turned up their noses. “Biden should have been more welcoming,” they said. “He’s too divisive!”
And herein rests the fundamental failure of the mainstream political media. Far too many continue to disguise the political reality we face. They refuse to use appropriate descriptors to describe Republican conduct, such as “fascist” or “racist.” Instead, they mislabel radical authoritarians as “conservatives.”
If this were a foreign country, the media would accurately describe the MAGA movement as a far-right cult. Yet in the United States, too many reporters cannot help themselves in normalizing the movement.
“It seems to be very deep in the mainstream press’s DNA to strain for equality when none exists,” said Margaret Sullivan, media critic and author of the upcoming memoir, “Newsroom Confidential: Lessons (and Worries) From an Ink-Stained Life.” She adds, “Maybe journalists just don’t have the language to truly get across how disturbing and abnormal some of this stuff is. If so, it’s high time to grapple with that.”
[As] the GOP becomes more brazen, the media seems to shrink further from its responsibility as truth-tellers and democracy advocates. Our democracy hangs in the balance.
QAnon began as a revival of the “satanic panic” conspiracies of the 1980s, but has now morphed into a quasi-religious right-wing political personality cult of Donald Trump. Religious beliefs play a big role.
If you are not famliiar with the “satanic panic” conspiracies of the 1980s, here is a recap from last year. “America’s Satanic Panic Returns — This Time Through QAnon”, https://www.npr.org/2021/05/18/997559036/americas-satanic-panic-returns-this-time-through-qanon
The first time sociologist Mary de Young heard about QAnon, she thought: “Here we go again.”
De Young spent her career studying moral panics — specifically, what became known as the “Satanic Panic” of the 1980s, when false accusations of the abuse of children in satanic rituals spread across the United States.
Decades later, echoes of that same fear had emerged in QAnon. The seemingly novel conspiracy theory has grown in far-right political circles since November 2017. Adherents of QAnon believe that a shadowy cabal kidnaps children, tortures them and uses their blood in satanic rituals. The alleged perpetrators in the QAnon conspiracy theory are Democratic politicians — not preschool teachers, as had been the case in the 1980s — but the accusations are eerily similar.
“Every moral panic has to have a folk devil,” says de Young, the author of The Day Care Ritual Abuse Moral Panic. “It has to have a person — or more likely a group of people, whether real individuals or fantasized individuals — who are the devils in the middle of all of this.”
One of the earliest bellwethers of the Satanic Panic came in 1980 with the publication of Michelle Remembers, a memoir co-written by Canadian psychologist Lawrence Pazder and his patient Michelle Smith. The book graphically details abuse that Smith claimed to have suffered as a child at the hands of a satanic cult — abuse that she had allegedly forgotten but eventually recovered through her work with Pazder.
The book was a bestseller, and Pazder became the leading academic voice warning about the dangers of “ritual abuse.” He also began to consult with prosecutors in criminal trials, including the case that would spread fears of satanic abuse even farther around the country: the McMartin Pre-School trial.
“I thought it was the case of our times,” says Danny Davis, attorney for defendant Ray Buckey. Buckey, a teacher at Virginia McMartin’s preschool in Manhattan Beach, Calif., was accused of abusing one of his students in 1983. By the following spring, the accusations had grown to include hundreds of children, and rumors swirled that the students had been abused in satanic rituals at cemeteries and in tunnels underneath the school.
“Whatever it was that happened was social contagion, and it’s that simple,” says Davis.
Davis decided to study historical examples of witch hunts and allegations of satanic behavior in order to prepare his defense. “I saw clearly there’s a process on a timeline that starts with some sort of scandal or change in the society that develops a very forceful, agreed-upon accusation against a target or scapegoat. And the scapegoat is then quickly destroyed,” he says.
The McMartin Pre-School case became one of the longest and most expensive criminal cases ever tried in the United States. It ended when Buckey was acquitted of dozens of charges in 1990.
Attempts to find tunnels underneath the preschool failed, and since the trials, several of the students who accused Buckey of abuse have admitted their stories were fabricated.
But the lack of physical evidence in cases like the McMartin Pre-School trial didn’t stop allegations of satanic ritual abuse from spreading during the 1980s. National broadcasts like 20/20 ran long specials featuring children claiming to have been abused by satanists. Academic conferences discussed recovered memory and satanic abuse, and psychologists like Pazder began to train law enforcement to recognize warning signs in their communities.
“This was a snail mail approach to spreading a moral panic,” says de Young.
[There were satanic cult murder panics in Atanta, Georgia and in New England, as I recall. Some prosecutors built their careers on “occult murder” prosecutions using Pazder and his recovered memory theory.]
By contrast, the early rise of QAnon was entirely digital. In November 2017, an anonymous user named “Q Clearance Patriot” posted for the first time on the message board 4chan. An NBC News investigation later found that three other users initially promoted and spread those early posts, beginning the transformation of QAnon from an obscure online forum to an influential conspiracy theory taking root in far-right American politics.
As QAnon spread, so did the belief among its adherents that a Satan-worshipping cabal of elite politicians was ritually abusing children — and, specifically, draining them of a chemical compound called adrenochrome, which they believe is then ingested as a drug.
“These are the same kind of tropes that crop up again and again and again,” says Eleanor Janega, a historian at the London School of Economics who has studied moral and religious panics over satanism throughout history. “This idea that there’s this kind of shadowy realm of the people who control the world secretly and they’re all getting together to plot out and really delight in this kind of torture and sacrifice.”
There are, however, clear differences between QAnon and the Satanic Panic of the ’80s, the biggest being the political nature of QAnon conspiracy theories, which target Democratic politicians and hold up former President Donald Trump as a savior.
But Lawrence Wright, a Pulitzer Prize-winning author who wrote a book about the Satanic Panic, says there are still commonalities between the believers in each movement — even putting fears of satanism aside.
“They see themselves as heroic,” says Wright. “And how can you be heroic in today’s world? Well, you protect the children — you protect the children against this cabal that is out to turn them into sex slaves. How could there be anything more important than that?”
But de Young believes that moral panics eventually fizzle as hard evidence of their claims fails to materialize.
“The best available weapon we have is to counter the information with facts, is to keep pressing for more information, because it’s in the area of facts that moral panics tend to collapse,” de Young says. “They just get ridiculous, except for maybe a very small number of true believers who can tolerate an enormous amount of dissonance.”
Vice News adds, “What Is This Eerie Salute People Are Doing at Trump Rallies Now?”, https://www.vice.com/en/article/akejng/what-is-this-eerie-salute-people-are-doing-at-trump-rallies-now
The strange salute came as Trump was once again spreading lies and disinformation about the 2020 election and the FBI search on his Mar-a-Lago home. The signal was immediately compared to the “Sieg Heil” salute used by Nazi party members to greet Hitler. Some also said it was in reference to Trump’s “America First” motto.
However, for QAnon followers, the one-finger salute was taken as yet another signal from Trump that he is in their corner.
Some in the wider QAnon community also claimed the one-finger salute was a reference to the phrase “Where we go one, we go all,” though again with no evidence to back up the claims.
One offshoot of the cult even claimed credit for starting the salute: “Trump ended his speech with the song “wwg1wga” by Richard Feelgood, which is a blatant Q reference,” Michael Protzman, the QAnon cult leader who predicted that JFK would be resurrected, wrote in his Telegram channel. “During the song, we had a powerful moment where our group held up one finger. A call for unity. Acknowledgement of our one GOD. Wwg1wga. And more. It was magical and completely unplanned as many in the crowd joined us in this gesture. A gesture to say to this beautiful man, ‘We’re with you.’”
Protzman and his group were at the rally, but there’s no evidence that it was they who initiated this salute. Like many incidents, QAnon adherents will quickly claim credit for something happening in the real world after the fact and fit it around their narrative that Trump is waging a secret war to unseat the deep state.
The song Protzman referenced is one that Trump has played on several occasions, and included in a campaign-style video last month that he posted to Truth Social. However, according to Trump spokesperson Taylor Budowich, the song is “Mirrors,” by Will Van De Crommert.
QAnon supporters believe it’s a song called “WWG1WGA” by an artist named Richard Feelgood. Audio analysis by media watchdog Media Matters For America suggests that the songs are virtually identical.
However, on the pro-Trump forum TheDonald, users were confused about what exactly the one-finger salute signified.
“Why are people holding up an index finger at Trump rally?” one user wrote. Several people responded by saying it was a reference to Trump’s America First policies, while another wrote: “They’re telling President Trump that he’s number one. When they tell Biden they use their middle finger.”
Less than 24 hours after the Trump rally, Pennsylvania gubernatorial candidate Doug Mastriano held a rally during which he called for the crowd to raise their hands in what many compared to a Nazi salute.
Note: This is not new, it hs been happening since 2016. “Trump supporter explains what led to ‘Heil, Hitler’ salute at canceled Chicago rally”, https://www.chicagotribune.com/news/ct-birgitt-peterson-trump-rally-met-0313-20160312-story.html
And “‘Hail Trump!’: White Nationalists Salute the President-Elect”, https://www.theatlantic.com/politics/archive/2016/11/richard-spencer-speech-npi/508379/