For a certain kind of Republican, it is hard to imagine anything worse than the party founded by Abraham Lincoln transmogrified into the party of Donald Trump. Some of those Republicans have openly abandoned the once Grand Old Party, while others quietly await a reform or restoration. Only a few have acknowledged so far that the authoritarian and racist trends in their party cannot be blamed on Trump alone and were visible well before he took over.
Yet as awful and dangerous as Trump undeniably is, there may be something worse ahead for Republicans. That thing is called QAnon, the online phenomenon that has declared war on an international conspiracy of elitist pedophiles and cannibals, which, of course, doesn't exist.
The burgeoning movement, supposedly directed by a mysterious government official known as Q, already has established itself as an alternative source of authority within the Republican Party. Congressional candidates who support or endorse QAnon, such as Marjorie Taylor Greene in Georgia, are likely to be sent to Washington from solidly Republican districts where they won primaries. It is astonishing to realize that nearly 80 QAnon supporters stood for election in this cycle, nearly all of them Republicans.
So what was once regarded as a quaint and kooky conspiracy theory has become a destructive cult, as anyone who has encountered one of its true believers can attest. The durability of their delusion was demonstrated when Pizzagate, the original QAnon conspiracy, was explosively disproved a couple of years ago by one of its most fervent adherents. Armed with a semiautomatic rifle, the poor dupe drove from North Carolina to Washington, D.C., determined to rescue children from the Democratic Party pedophiles. He shot up the Comet Ping Pong pizza restaurant where they were supposedly held and found nothing except a one-way ticket to prison. His excuse, aside from terminal stupidity, was that he had meant well. He was lucky nobody got killed.
Since that fiasco unfolded, however, QAnon has grown by the millions, not only in the United States but abroad. And as the cult has grown, it has revealed the truly sinister — and utterly unoriginal — ideology at its core.
"QAnon Is a Nazi cult, Rebranded," writes Dr. Gregory Stanton, a genocide expert who has served in the State Department and taught at George Mason University. On the JustSecurity website, Stanton explains that QAnon propaganda is overflowing with its own versions of traditional anti-Semitic and conspiratorial themes — notably the blood libel that accused Jews of stealing and murdering Christian children to drain their blood for Passover matzoh, and the hoary claim that Jewish bankers are scheming to take over the world.
Promoted and amplified by the German Nazis and their allies, those absurd slanders motivated the slaughter of millions of men, women and children. Beyond the anti-Semitic attacks on George Soros and other Democrats, it is easy to find gross prejudice and racism on any QAnon message board. Stanton's analysis is blunt: "The world has seen QAnon before. It was called Nazism. In QAnon, Nazism wants a comeback."
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.
Wherever the QAnon storm originated, it is now clearly a project of the Russian intelligence services, which direct their internet armies to spread and amplify the cult's messages on Twitter and elsewhere. QAnon adherents are featured on Russia Today, the cable outlet controlled by the Kremlin. The movement's fervent flag-waving echoes the super-patriotism of the Nazi-controlled Bund during the '30s, when Germany sought to infiltrate the Republican Party.
While the FBI recently warned against the possibility of widespread violence provoked by QAnon, there has been a slew of murders and other mayhem attributed to the cult's followers. Its most fanatical devotees are undoubtedly a potential source of trouble if and when their idol Trump loses to Joe Biden.
What may be most disturbing about QAnon — beyond its repulsive ideology, its rejection of rationality, its cult practices and its obvious foreign sponsorship — is that, so far, Republican leaders have failed to repel its ongoing takeover of their party. Indeed, too many have supported QAnon candidates like Greene, who recently brandished a gun to threaten Democratic members of Congress.
Those Republicans had better wake up — or QAnon's extremist cult will consume their debilitated party.
To find out more about Joe Conason and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate website at www.creators.com.
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