President Donald Trump was more than halfway through his speech at a rally in Milwaukee when one of his hand gestures caught the eye of a supporter standing in the packed arena. The 51-year-old woman believed the president had traced the shape of the letter "Q" with his fingers as a covert signal to followers of QAnon, a right-wing, pro-Trump conspiracy theory. Her husband said, "Was that a 'Q'?" A friend replied, "I think it was." QAnon centers on the baseless belief that Trump is waging a secret campaign against enemies in the "deep state" and a child sex trafficking ring run by satanic pedophiles and cannibals, the AP reports. What started as an online obsession for the far-right fringe has grown beyond its origins in a dark corner of the internet.
QAnon has been creeping into the mainstream political arena for more than a year. The trend shows no sign of abating as Trump fires up his reelection campaign, attracting a loyal audience of conspiracy theorists and other fringe groups to his raucous rallies. Trump has retweeted QAnon-promoting accounts. Followers flock to Trump’s rallies wearing clothes and hats with QAnon symbols and slogans. At least 23 current or ex-congressional candidates in the 2020 election cycle have reportedly endorsed or promoted QAnon. "What's different now is that there are people in power who are spreading this conspiracy theory," says Kathryn Olmsted, author of Real Enemies: Conspiracy Theories and American Democracy, World War I to 9/11. "Finally, there is someone saying they're not crazy."
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