CHICAGO, Ill. -- By now, you may have heard about the extreme right-wing conspiracy theory known as “QAnon.” Its followers believe in a secret “deep state plot” against President Donald Trump. On Wednesday, for the first time, the president not only acknowledged the conspiracy theorists, but praised them.
“These are people that don’t like seeing what’s going in in places like Portland and places like Chicago and New York and other cities and states. And I’ve heard these are people who love our country,” said Trump.
Last week, GOP candidate, 9/11 conspiracy theorist and QAnon supporter Marjorie Taylor Greene won her house primary runoff election in Georgia.
“Cheryl Mills said to Hilary Clinton I’m going to sacrifice a chicken in my backyard to Moloch. If that’s not evidence that there’s Satan worship in our government…” said Greene in one video posted online.
Experts say the win was a signal that conspiracy theorists are breaking into the political mainstream. President Trump tweeted out his support for Greene after the win and congratulated her.
"She comes from a great state and she had a tremendous victory, so absolutely, I did congratulate her," said the president at a White House press briefing last week.
People who study QAnon say it’s a virtual cult that pushes a baseless global conspiracy that a cabal of Satan-worshipping pedophiles who traffic children are led by prominent Democrats and celebrities like Hilary Clinton and Tom Hanks.
“There’s a once in a lifetime opportunity to take this global cabal of Satan worshipping pedophiles out and I think we have the president to do it,” said Greene in an online video.
The movement was started in 2017 by an anonymous poster claiming to have classified information about a secret plot by the so-called “deep state” against President Trump and his supporters.
"I don't know much about the movement other than I understand they like me very much, which I appreciate," said Trump to reporters on Wednesday when asked about his take on the QAnon conspiracy theorists who support him.
Followers use the hashtag: #wwg1wga, short for their motto: “Where we go one, we go all.”
In June “Q” encouraged followers to take a “digital soldier’s oath,” something former Trump national security adviser Michael Flynn did via tweet on July 4.
“Conspiracy theories arise in moments of crisis in society,” explained Dr. Daniel Jolley, a senior lecturer at Northumbria University who studies the psychology of conspiracy theories.
“If a credible source is saying ‘yes, I endorse this particular viewpoint’ that is going to have a bit of a way where people start taking more notice to what the person is saying,” said Jolley
An unpublished intelligence bulletin from the FBI last year listed QAnon among “conspiracy theory-driven domestic extremists” that very likely motivate “criminal and sometimes violent activity.”
Still, according to liberal watchdog group Media Matters for America, 20 candidates – 19 of them Republican – who have expressed support for QAnon have qualified for the November ballot.
This week, Illinois Republican Adam Kinzinger posted a YouTube video calling for leaders to disavow QAnon.
“Denouncing conspiracy theories shouldn’t be the exception. They really should be the rule,” said Kinzinger in the video.
And while Twitter and Facebook have blocked thousands of “Q” supporters, Jolley says that may not be enough.
“The conspiracy theories are not a new thing. So, if I remove them from social media, that may stop the reach, they will still exist. They would just exist at other platforms.”