Trump’s embrace of QAnon raising concerns about future political violence

Former President Trump appears to be embracing the unfounded theories of the extremely far-right QAnon community and it's raising concerns about future political violence. Mike Rothschild, author of "The Storm Is Upon Us: How QAnon Became a Movement, Cult, and Conspiracy Theory of Everything," joined Amna Nawaz to discuss.

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  • Amna Nawaz:

    For more on the former president and what appears to be his more overt embrace of QAnon, we turn to Mike Rothschild, author of the book "The Storm Is Upon Us: How QAnon Became a Movement, Cult, and Conspiracy Theory of Everything."

    Mike Rothschild, welcome to the "NewsHour." Thanks for joining us.

    So, that overt embrace that some people say that they're seeing at these Trump rallies, what do you see? When you look at the rallies, from the messaging, to the merchandise, is it a more overt embrace of this dangerous conspiracy theory?

    Mike Rothschild, Author, "The Storm Is Upon Us: How QAnon Became a Movement, Cult, and Conspiracy Theory of Everything": What I'm seeing at the Trump rallies is absolutely a more overt embrace of QAnon.

    It looks almost like a church service, with the swaying and the music and the two-way worship. This is a former president who is facing some real jeopardy. His back is really against the wall. And when your back is against the wall, you turn to the people who have always been in your corner.

    And, for Trump, this is the QAnon movement. These are people who have stuck with him through everything that's happened. Every loss has just reaffirmed their faith in his greatness and his eventual victory.

    So, when Trump looks at the QAnon movement, he sees a group of people who look at him as an almost messianic figure. And he is reflecting back to them the love that he's — that he's been given by them.

  • Amna Nawaz:

    There's been a lot of headlines, a lot of attention to pay to some of these elements. There's a song, in particular, that seems to be associated with people who follow QAnon. And Trump actually has used it in a video.

    It has also been played at rallies, like this one last weekend in Ohio. Just take a quick lesson.

    Donald Trump, Former President of the United States: We are a nation that has weaponized its law enforcement against the opposing political party like never, ever before. We have got a Federal Bureau of Investigation that won't allow bad election-changing facts to be presented to the public.

  • Amna Nawaz:

    Now, Mike, the Trump team says this has nothing to do with QAnon, the music, but tell me what you're seeing online.

    How is this music being perceived and received by people who believe in this conspiracy theory?

  • Mike Rothschild:

    So it's important to understand that there are really two songs going on here.

    The first is the piece that the Trump campaign says they have been using. It's a royalty-free piece called "Mirrors." The second song is by this Richard Feelgood person. And it's called "Wwg1wga," which stands for where we go one, we go all. It's the key QAnon catchphrase.

    Now, the Trump campaign says they're using "Mirrors." They're not using the QAnon song. The QAnon people say, well, this is our song. It's got its title. This is him acknowledging us. It's him patting us on the head and telling us we're doing a great job, and he's on our team, and we're all going to win together.

    What this really is, is, it's that messianic stance. It's them looking at him as this savior figure, and Trump looking at them and saying, well, these people love me, I'm going to give it back to them.

    So it's a two-way relationship of everybody kind of patting each other on the back and giving each other the thumbs-up and saying, hey, we're going to win this thing together. And the rest of us are just trying to figure out what is really going on here.

  • Amna Nawaz:

    We have to underscore here we are talking about a baseless and dangerous conspiracy theory, one that fueled the January 6 insurrection, one that the FBI and Department of Homeland Security have issued warnings about because of potential violence from members.

    So, help us understand why this overt embrace now. I mean, are we talking about a significant and powerful voting bloc here?

  • Mike Rothschild:

    I think it's important to separate actual Q believers from the mass of Republicans.

    Q is a very specific thing. It has its own branding, its own iconography. And a lot of Republicans, even a lot of very Trump-devoted Republicans, will say, I'm not one of those Q people. I don't believe in that stuff. That's not me. But they believe in all the same things.

    They believe the election was stolen. They believe that violence might be necessary to get Trump back in office. They believe the pandemic was a hoax. It's all the same thing. So, ultimately, the branding and the iconography of QAnon doesn't mean as much as it used to, because this is a movement who had — that has very violent tenets. It's based on a bedrock of mass arrests and executions.

    And it's being embraced by the mainstream Republican Party, even if they have dropped some of that branding and some of those catchphrases. So they — these people have really embraced what QAnon stands for, even if they haven't directly embraced QAnon.

  • Amna Nawaz:

    So, Mike, when you have someone with the power and platform of former President Trump overtly embracing this conspiracy theory, now, there's a lot of talk about what can be done about it.

    How do you respond to it? How should journalists cover it? How can companies and authorities and officials respond to it? What do you say to that?

  • Mike Rothschild:

    Well, we have to take it seriously.

    This is a movement that is — that revolves around violence. And it's not the kind of thing that a former president or any real elected official would embrace. They would want nothing to do with this. These would be the crazy people. We don't talk about that.

    The president has now thrown his hat in with a very violent fringe group, and it has to be taken seriously. It has to be respected. We can't just write it off as some crazy Internet stuff. This is now mainstream politics. This is the leader of the Republican Party, the presumptive nominee for 2024.

  • Amna Nawaz:

    That is Mike Rothschild, author of the book "The Storm Is Upon Us: How QAnon Became a Movement, Cult, and Conspiracy Theory of Everything."

    Mike, thanks for your time.

  • Mike Rothschild:

    Thank you.

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