With support from the University of Richmond

History News Network

History News Network puts current events into historical perspective. Subscribe to our newsletter for new perspectives on the ways history continues to resonate in the present. Explore our archive of thousands of original op-eds and curated stories from around the web. Join us to learn more about the past, now.

How QAnon Catchphrases Took Over the KBJ Hearings

Republican senators questioning Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson at her Supreme Court nomination hearing didn’t explicitly mention QAnon or its putative oracle, Q. They didn’t mention the child sex trafficking ring run by a global cabal of Democratic politicians, financial, media and Hollywood elites, medical establishment professionals and the satanic pedophile Hillary Clinton. They didn’t mention the Storm, the day these cabalists will be rounded up and executed. And they didn’t mention QAnon’s North Star, former president Donald Trump, who is secretly dismantling the pedophile ring.

They didn’t have to. QAnon, a sprawling set of baseless conspiracy claims, is built on nods and winks, which has allowed it to move from the fringes to the center of American politics without toppling the mainstream conservative politicians who are courting its adherents. All Sen. Josh Hawley (R-Mo.) had to do to set the stage for the hearing was allege in tweets beforehand that Jackson’s record on sex offender policies “endangers our children.”

Never mind that Hawley’s attacks have been fact-checked and found wanting or that they were never raised in previous nomination hearings, for Jackson or for Trump judicial nominees with similar records. The allegations were not about the facts. The goal was to portray Jackson, and by extension Democrats, as players in the QAnon narrative that public institutions are overrun with child predators. The attacks also represented a test of what conservatives would accept. Would the conservative establishment recoil? With few exceptions, the answer was no. Senators including Lindsey O. Graham (R-S.C.), Tom Cotton (R-Ark.) and Ted Cruz (R-Tex.) jumped on the child predator bandwagon and were rewarded with slots on Fox News to repeat their allegations.

QAnon counts at the ballot box, but saying the Q part out loud can still come with costs. “I know nothing about it,” Trump said shortly before the 2020 election. “I do know that they are very much against pedophilia. They fight it very hard, but I know nothing about it.” Signaling with plausible deniability, however, is sufficient to cater to this constituency, and QAnon showed up in force both at the polls and at the Jan. 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol.

It’s a big constituency. Polls vary but show a shockingly high level of support for these conspiracy claims, concentrated among Republicans. A recent Economist-YouGov poll found that 16 percent of Republicans have a “very” or “somewhat” favorable view of QAnon, and 49 percent of Republicans said it was “definitely” or “probably” true that top Democrats were involved in elite child sex-trafficking rings.

Read entire article at Washington Post