A storm of wild conspiracy theories is coming to the halls of U.S. Congress.
Georgia Republican Marjorie Taylor Greene is poised to become the first elected U.S. official to support QAnon, a baseless conspiracy theory that imagines President Donald Trump as a warrior for God against a cabal of Satanic deep-state pedophiles (and maybe lizard people?) within the United States.
And the president couldn’t be happier.
“Congratulations to future Republican Star Marjorie Taylor Greene on a big Congressional primary win in Georgia against a very tough and smart opponent,” Trump tweeted Wednesday morning. “Marjorie is strong on everything and never gives up — a real WINNER!”
Greene, 46, defeated neurosurgeon John Cowan in a runoff for the Republican congressional nomination in Georgia’s 14th district on Tuesday. The win all but guarantees her election to Congress in a deeply Republican district that backed its last GOP candidate with 76 per cent of the vote.
“WE WON! Thank you for your support! Save America. Stop Socialism,” Greene tweeted late Tuesday.
Greene is a Georgia businesswoman and a vocal Trump supporter who frequently touts his pro-gun, pro-border wall and anti-abortion stances. In June, for example, she warned “Antifa” against “invading” northwest Georgia in a gun-toting campaign ad after Trump issued his own warnings about the phantom threat.
She is also a professed supporter of the QAnon hoax, which the FBI labelled a domestic terror threat last year.
She also has a history of expressing racist, anti-Semitic and anti-Muslim views. She’s shared many of her far-right views through videos posted on her social media channels, where she has amassed tens of thousands of followers.
Videos unearthed by Politico in June show Greene warning others about an “Islamic invasion” of the U.S. government, comparing Black Lives Matter to the Ku Klux Klan and pushing various conspiracy theories about Jewish billionaire George Soros, a Hungarian-American philanthropist. Soros, who is a Democratic Party donor, is often imagined as the puppetmaster behind various far-right conspiracy theories.
Another video from 2019 shows Greene chasing down David Hogg, a survivor of the 2018 school shooting in Parkland, Fla., to berate him for his support of gun control.
Several high-profile Republicans spoke out against her before Tuesday’s primary. House Minority Whip Steve Scalise of Louisiana backed her opponent Cowan, while Rep. Jody Hice of Georgia revoked his endorsement for Greene after the videos surfaced.
Nevertheless, a growing number of Republican candidates have embraced QAnon, openly supporting the far-right movement on the campaign trail and echoing some of its slogans on social media. More than a dozen candidates have pushed the theory, the New York Times reports.
However, Greene appears to be the first QAnon supporter to actually secure a path into Congress.
What is QAnon?
Someone claiming to be a government insider — identified only as Q on the site — posted several messages to the forum in 2017, when they claimed that Barack Obama, Hillary Clinton, George Soros and many other Democrats were part of a secret sex cult run by powerful elites. Q claimed those figures were about to be arrested in “The Storm,” and teased a “Great Awakening” when the elites in society will be cast down by Trump, who Q portrayed as the ultimate political outsider.
None of that happened, but Trump supporters nevertheless started weaving these posts, called “Q drops,” into a grand narrative that differs depending on who you ask.
“What’s central to the QAnon community is the belief that the whole political system is corrupt,” Travis View, a conspiracy theory researcher and co-host of a podcast on QAnon, told the L.A. Times.
He added that the community is built around QAnon influencers who interpret or “decode” Q’s messages for laypeople, spinning them into digestible stories.
Believers eventually started showing up at Trump rallies with “Q” written on T-shirts and signs, and later developed large communities on Facebook and Twitter. Trump has also flirted with the group, retweeting many of their messages without explicitly speaking out about them.
Game designer Adrian Hon recently compared QAnon to alternate reality video games, which encourage people to make obscure connections and weave together disparate bits of information into a broader story.
“QAnon pushes the same buttons that ARGs do, whether by intention or by coincidence,” Hon said in a viral Twitter thread, which was later covered by the New York Times. “In both cases, ‘do your research’ leads curious onlookers to a cornucopia of brain-tingling information.”
“A central component of QAnon is the crowdsourcing of narratives,” Marc-Andre Argentino, a QAnon researcher at Concordia University, wrote in the Conversation earlier this year. “This bottom-up approach provides a fluid and ever changing ideology.”
Argentino says interest in QAnon has spiked in 2020, and the conspiracy theory may be on the path to becoming a religious movement.
Social media companies have also noticed the trend and tried to do something about it. Twitter culled about 7,000 accounts linked to QAnon last month, while Facebook deleted a QAnon group with some 200,000 members last week for bullying, harassment, hate speech and pushing false information that could lead to harm.
Surviving QAnon users applauded Greene’s victory on Wednesday and celebrated Trump’s Twitter endorsement.
“The Republican establishment was against me,” Greene said on Tuesday night.
“The D.C. swamp is against me. And the lying fake news media hates my guts. It’s a badge of honour. It’s not about me winning. This is a referendum on every single one of us, on our beliefs.”
—With files from Reuters and The Associated Press