Former President Donald Trump held a rally in Youngstown, Ohio, over the weekend, "during which there were many bizarre moments, including what many observers have noted appears to be echoes of the propaganda put out by adherents of the deranged and occasionally deadly QAnon conspiracy theory," CNN's Jake Tapper said Monday night, "propaganda that Trump has repeatedly and unequivocally shared in recent weeks on his social media accounts."
A Trump spokesman told CNN that the music playing at the rally wasn't the QAnon anthem "WWG1WGA" — for "Where we go one, we go all," the QAnon rallying cry — but just a royalty-free song called "Mirror." At the moment the music started playing. though, much of Trump's Youngstown audience raised one finger, in what appears to be the sign for "Where we go one, we go all."
Stephen Colbert's Late Show has a lighter explanation for that one-finger salute.
People who study QAnon don't find Trump's overt embrace of the baseless conspiracy theory to be a laughing matter. "These are people who have elevated Trump to messiah-like status, where only he can stop this cabal," Georgia State University professor Mia Bloom told The Associated Press last week. "That's why you see so many images (in online QAnon spaces) of Trump as Jesus."
As Trump asserts his dominance in the Republican Party and faces increasingly perilous legal threats, "his actions show that far from distancing himself from the political fringe, he is welcoming it," AP reports. "Trump's recent postings have included images referring to himself as a martyr fighting criminals, psychopaths, and the so-called deep state," and he reposted an image last week of him wearing a Q lapel pin behind the phrase "The storm is coming."
"The 'storm is coming' is shorthand for something really dark that he's not saying out loud," Janet McIntosh, an anthropologist at Brandeis University who studies QAnon, tells AP. "This is a way for him to point to violence without explicitly calling for it. He is the prince of plausible deniability."