RIGHT-WING CONSPIRACY THEORIES AND VIOLENCE IN THE TRUMP ERA

by Lotty Clare

Content warning: mentions of gun violence, child sex abuse

Look closely at a Trump rally and you will see banners and signs with cryptic slogans like ’Q’ or ‘WWG1WGA.’ These are the signs of a growing far right pro-Trump cult-like conspiracy theory that has slid into the mainstream and is growing rapidly. 

QAnon is complex, but the foundational belief of the movement is that there is a cabal of liberal elite satanic Democrats, bankers, and Hollywood celebrities that are involved in a global child sex trafficking trade. Supposedly, information is released in periodic cryptic posts on the far-right chat board 8chan/8kun by ‘Q’. Dedicated followers claim that Q is a high up intelligence official in the administration, and that Trump was recruited by military intelligence to stop the liberal ‘deep state’ cannibal paedophiles. In their eyes, Trump is idolised as an almost god-like figure who will destroy his enemies and save American society and indeed, the world. QAnon has an almost apocalyptic desire to destroy the existing, corrupt world order to usher in ‘The Great Awakening.’ QAnon followers think they are preparing for this Trumpian counter revolution. 

The spread of QAnon

The current instability in America combined with a pandemic has created fertile ground for conspiracy theories to grow and flourish. QAnon has reached out into a political climate of fear and has come out in strong opposition to mask-wearing policies and lent into anti-vax conspiracies. But QAnon in its earliest iterations was the 2016’s ‘Pizzagate’ conspiracy which falsely claimed that the Clintons were running a child sex trafficking scheme in a pizza restaurant. In 2019 Jeffery Epstein died under doubtful circumstances whilst awaiting trial for sex trafficking charges, subsequently, QAnon used these real cases of sex abuse as a kind of gateway into the movement. Their #SaveTheChildren tag seems like an uncontroversial statement, but this softened and appealing front for QAnon has been extremely successful in expanding the conspiracy, especially in reaching women. 

QAnon no longer just exists in the insular, male dominated dark corners of the internet…

QAnon has been historically associated with right wing fringe groups. But there now exists an entire QAnon media ecosystem, with enormous amounts of video content, memes, and more, all designed to spark the interest of potential recruits, then draw them into QAnon’s alternate reality. For example, algorithms will match holistic health people with the anti-vax movement, which will lead on to content on how the vaccine is a method of social control by Bill Gates. QAnon no longer just exists in the insular, male dominated dark corners of the internet, it is on pink coloured Instagram text squares, mum influencer Instagram stories, and then suddenly you are down the rabbit hole.

QAnon and violence 

QAnon is increasingly active offline too, and has now been flagged as a domestic terrorist threat by the FBI. Last year, a woman in Colorado was involved in a scheme with QAnon supporters to carry out an armed kidnapping raid to take her child back, whom she had lost custody of, believing wrongly the foster carers were satanic paedophiles. There have been several other examples where QAnon has certifiably spilled over into violence.

the President is sending a clear message that far right violence is an act of patriotic service, playing into QAnon’s underlying appeal of patriotic crusaders

QAnon merges with many existing conspiracies and far right groups. In the Trump era, conspiracy-motivated violence has echoed a surge in far-right violence. In Kenosha, Wisconsin, police killed Jacob Blake, an unarmed Black man, which sparked protests against police violence. A pro-Trump militia which 17-year-old Kyle Rittenhouse was a part of called ‘Kenosha Guard’ countered these protests with a call to take up arms and then paraded the streets holding guns. In a video it can be heard that the police said that they appreciated them – essentially deputising them. Kyle later shot and killed 2 people on the street, wounding several others. In St Louis amid a peaceful BLM march, the White and wealthy McCloskey couple came out of their house aiming their guns at the protestors. Portrayed by right wing media as heroes exercising their ‘God given right’, they were given the platform to speak at the RNC last month

White violence in America has always been linked with maintaining conservative ideas of morality, but now the President is sending a clear message that far right violence is an act of patriotic service, playing into QAnon’s underlying appeal of patriotic crusaders fighting enemies of of the world. Trump has given the green light to far right vigilantism throughout his whole term. In the last few months he has endorsed QAnon, called BLM protestors ‘terrorists’ and called for supporters and anti-maskers to ‘liberate Michigan’ and other states. 

Trump affirms QAnon 

Trump and the Republican party have undoubtedly been exploiting the energy of QAnon for their benefit. In a recent press conference, Trump said when questioned about QAnon:  “we’re saving the world from a radical left philosophy that will destroy this country, and when this country is gone, the rest of the world would follow“; not only legitimising QAnon but echoing their belief in a world destroying liberal order that is responsible for all of society’s ills. Trump has also amplified QAnon-promoting Twitter accounts in at least 185 instances, and there have been at least 70 Republican candidates who have run for Congress this cycle who have expressed support for QAnon. It is likely that we will see a continuing growth of QAnon and slide into the mainstream. 

QAnon and the future of the Right

Unsurprisingly, many people in America feel divided and uneasy about the future of the country and feel a sense of injustice about the way things currently lie. The QAnon belief system, where truth and lies are blurred, offers a simple answer. As election day looms and in the weeks after, we should expect to see increased urgency and calls for action within QAnon, as well as in the Trump support base as a whole. QAnon adherents may see it as their duty to take action into their own hands to fight the perceived enemy. For people deep into QAnon and linked far right extremist groups, violence is necessary to save the world. A conspiracy theory doesn’t have to be real for it to change the world. It is sometimes difficult to discern where QAnon starts and ends, but it will continue to grow and evolve in tandem with the growth of right wing populism, climates of fear, and lack of online content moderation. I fear it is making the right stronger as it both unifies and expands far right ideology.

Featured image credit: Becker1999 (Flickr)


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THE RISE OF POPULISM IN 21ST CENTURY POLITICS

by Matt Musindi

Politics has become more divisive and polarised than ever, and it is the populists who have been the main beneficiaries of these political divisions. A populist is someone who consistently promises to channel the unified will of the people. Going off this definition, most political parties in liberal democracies are populist and yet this is not the case – why?Continue Reading

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by Mary O’Driscoll

Despite the visceral reaction that some may experience at the sight of the terms ‘far-right’ and ‘youth movement’ sat next to each other, the rise of anti-immigration far-right youth movements in European countries cannot be contested. Not only are far-right political parties moving closer to the mainstream, but young people are getting involved in movements opposing immigration. The values of far-right nationalist political parties such as National Rally (previously known as National Front) in France, Austria’s Freedom Party, and the League in Italy have been embodied in youth movements such as Generation Identity- a group that made the jump across the channel to the UK in 2017. With the painfully hypocritical border-focussed rhetoric of Trump’s United States, and the equally ironic anti-immigration discourse of a Brexit Britain, many people are under the impression that ‘Western’ countries are too generous to newcomers.Continue Reading

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by Cherry Somersby

Content warning: Article mentions suicide.

The political transition we have seen in NUS over the last 12 months would have been unthinkable this time last year. The student movement has risen to the growing need for radical action this year, building groundbreaking, vital campaigns, presenting a powerful response to the many crises modern students face.

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By Chris Jarvis

Yes, yes, we all know that 2016 has been an unmitigated cluster-fuck, with rising fascism, worsening humanitarian crises and intensifying conflict. In moments of darkness, many of us turn to the arts world – especially music – for comfort, for release, for explanation. With David Bowie, Prince, George Michael, Glenn Frey, Paul Kantner, Maurice White, George Martin, Phife Dawg, Erik Petersen, Leonard Cohen, Nick Menza, Greg Lake, Sharon Jones, and too many others all having passed away, many have found music to have also fallen on dark times.

That notwithstanding, 2016 has been a year of some undeniably and uniquely brilliant music too, especially music that espouses messages of a better world, of political analysis, of radical alternatives. Here are the 20 best of those radical releases from the past year.

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by Matilda Carter

There’s something darkly comical about Michael Sheen’s intention to abandon acting in favour of defeating the far right. An esteemed actor, deeply immersed in the world of theatre and art, jetting off to Port Talbot to tell working class Welsh people, caught up in a wave of revolt against the ‘metropolitan liberal elite’, what to do. It couldn’t be any more counter-productive if the embodiment of this elitism, Tony Blair himself, had made the journey — although I suppose someone who has played him is good enough.Continue Reading

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by Mike Vinti

This week, racial tensions in America have been reignited by the fatal shootings of Alton Sterling, Philando Castle and five members of the Dallas police. The response from the the majority of people of all races has been one of shock and sadness, with many black musicians and artists using their platforms to voice their solidarity with the victims and their support for the BlackLivesMatter movement.

Beyoncé and husband Jay-Z both released statements following the attacks, with Jay-Z even releasing his first new song – Spiritual – in years to support the BLM movement. UK rappers Stormzy and Novelist, two increasingly political artists in their own right, have spoken out, highlighting the issue of police violence in the UK as well as the US. RnB icon Miguel has recorded a song listing the names of black Americans killed by police with plans to update it every week. These are just some of the interventions made by high profile musicians in the last week. Continue Reading

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by Zoe Harding

Who’s the Australian prime minister?

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The other reason you might not know is because Australian politics is a turbulent sea of leadership challenges and political manoeuvring. Since 2007 five different prime ministers have been in office — Labor’s Kevin Rudd from 2007 to 2010, was deposed by Julia Gillard, who led a different Labor government until 2013 when Rudd pushed her out again. The infighting was one of the reasons for the rise of the infamous Tony Abbot later in 2013, who ruled for two years before being booted out of office by Malcom Turnbull, the current Liberal Prime Minister, in September 2015.

Last week, a federal election began across the country to elect all 226 members of the Australian parliament.Continue Reading

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by Gunnar Eigener

Content warning: mentions xenophobia

“Then what is the answer? Not to be deluded by dreams
To know that great civilisations have broken down into violence,
and their tyrants come, many times before.”

–Robinson Jeffers, ‘The Answer’

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These are just some of the recent events that continue to expose the deep flaws within Western societies but none more so than the ease with which politicians are able to con the public into believing blatant untruths and the ability of the public to turn, literally overnight, into unpleasant, frothing-at-the-mouth racist, xenophobic animals. In the case of the UK, these two flaws are actioned by a minority of people, yet seem to encompass the behaviour of the entire country — a perception enabled by another deep flaw, the media.Continue Reading

WE ARE WHAT WE VOTE

illustration adna fruitos democracy

by Gunnar Eigener

Content warning: mentions racism, xenophobia, homophobia, mass shooting, murder

Our world seems to be approaching a turning point. Donald Trump is now, essentially, a nominated US presidential candidate. The chances of the UK leaving the EU are realistic, potentially paving the way for German and French referendums. Resistance to antibiotics is climbing to dangerous levels just as the Zika virus furthers its reach. The damage to the environment continues unabated. A man walked into a nightclub and killed many innocent people, either in the name of religion or because he was, sadly, unable to connect with his sexual identity. There seems to be a sense of things unraveling across the globe.

While this might understandably seem like the end of days to some, the truth is slightly blander although maybe just as unpalatable. We have allowed ourselves to get to this point. Us. You and me. Certainly not always by choice but we have allowed a system to continue that relentlessly sabotages us over and over. Time after time we let in those we know deep down will do us no good. Certainly the system seems rigged and that we are, in essence, voting for the lesser of how ever many participating evils there are. But the lesser evil is still evil. It’s not hard to understand why Russell Brand pushed the notion of not voting.Continue Reading

THE FAR RIGHT IN BRISTOL

by Freddie Foot

The refugee crisis and the attacks in Paris has led to a reevaluation of European values and Europe’s overall unity. It has also stoked existing islamophobia and anti-immigration politics in the UK.

Those who were at, or read about, the far-right protest in Bristol in October would have noticed the organisers were the ‘Bristol United Patriots’ (BUP), a far-right group who ‘will defend our country our families and our culture against any threat to the peace and security of our nation’. The demonstration centered on opposing the housing of Syrian refugees while there was a British homelessness epidemic. The BUP had stated that “This demo is to highlight the homeless situation amongst the ex-service personnel living rough in Bristol and Somali rape gangs operating in this area. All nationalist and patriotic groups are welcome to fly their own flags.”

While Bristol has a strong history in anti-fascist activities and a relatively weak far-right, it is still worth understanding this new group and its intentions in the city. Readers will be pleased to know that it was difficult to look into the history of the far-right in Bristol. No one from the BUP wanted to speak to me about the protest or their organisation and seemed extremely defensive when I approached them.Continue Reading

THE FORCE AWAKENS: GROWING SUPPORT FOR RIGHT AND LEFT WING POLITICIANS

By Josh Wilson

In Star Wars there are (arguably) three major factions; the Jedi, the Sith and the Galactic Republic. The Jedi strive for peace and harmony in the galaxy, whereas the Sith work for personal gain and power over others. The Republic is a democratically run institution that attempts to foster trade and good relations between planets and species.

In politics there are also three major groups; the far Left, the far Right and Centrists. The far Left work for economic equality through state implemented wealth redistribution. The far Right tend to use divisive and racist policies to create growth for a minority of people and to solidify their economic and political power. Centrists, who can often be seen to lean to the left or the right, tend to argue for free markets, promotion of trade and limited state intervention.

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by Nick O’Brien

We are Norwich is a broad anti-racist coalition formed to resist the visit of the English Defence League to Norwich in November 2011. We were supported back then actively by over twenty different local trade union branches, religious organisations, and community groups.  We also received support from the Union of UEA Students.  Since then we have kept active, holding a carnival in support of immigration in the centre of Norwich, and putting on cultural evenings with musicians and poets such as Hollie McNish.

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THE FLAG OF HATE RISES OVER EUROPE

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by Chris Jarvis.

With results from all countries except Ireland, the European elections depict a bleak picture. Across the continent, an array of hard right parties has seen electoral success as the vote has swung in their direction. Ranging from the latent, little Englander racism of UKIP, to the Muslim hating nationalism of the Front Nationale and the openly fascistic Golden Dawn, they all, at root, have a core based in the politics of division, the politics of fear and the politics of hate.

Of course, they are not all the same. UKIP are not wholly comparable to Golden Dawn, whose representatives have holocaust deniers among their ranks or Hungary’s Jobbik, whose Deputy Parliamentary leader has referred to those with Jewish ancestry as a threat to their nation’s security. To claim them as the same would be to downplay the truly repugnant and terrifying anti-Semitism of some of the parties who will be taking seats in the new European parliament.

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