The meme, which Trump shared on Truth Social, included an illustration of a “Q” on his lapel and two QAnons wearing the slogan: “The storm is coming” and “WWG1WGA” (Let’s go together, we all go). A few days later, he held a rally in Youngstown, Ohio, where he delivered some of his speeches that sounded like a QAnon-related song. As he did so, a group of his followers began to point towards the sky in unison.
“Once we saw that, we realized we might have a problem,” a Trump aide told CNN. The former president’s team spent hours online after the demonstration trying to understand what the salute meant and where it might have come from, sources said.
Some believed the crowd pointing a finger (index finger) toward the sky was a reference to Trump’s “America First” platform, said a Trump aide who spoke to CNN on condition of anonymity. Another said they thought it referred to “God first,” while others thought it might be a reference to the QAnon motto, “where we go one, we all go.”
Even among academics and pundits who follow QAnon and other disinformation online, the answer to what this all means is unclear; they didn’t see that one finger salute.
But Truth Social’s publication was welcomed by conspiracy theorists, who believe in the existence of an evil cabal and see Trump as their hero.
“At this point, anyone who denies that Q was a legitimate operation affiliated with the Trump administration is in deep denial,” read a QAnon-supported Truth Social account with 120,000 followers.
Trump seems to have linked QAnon to issues in the past. However, some aides, who were not authorized to speak publicly, dismissed concerns about their boss’s behavior, citing a “boomer’s” unreviewed social media post.
His group has continued to use a song at recent rallies after some of his supporters noticed it had QAnon connections in early August.
Trump aides believe the former president reposted the meme not because it was referring to QAnon, but because it was fashioned like a “Game of Thrones” poster, pointing out that it resembled a poster Trump carried to a Cabinet meeting as president.
Whether he realizes it or not, some experts say what Trump is doing is dangerous. “What we have is a former president, a potential candidate for the presidency of the United States, legitimizing what is essentially a cult,” Greg Ehrie, a former FBI special agent who now works for the Anti-Defamation League (ADL). said CNN on Tuesday.
The FBI warned last year about QAnon’s potential to incite violence, and some of the people involved in the January 6, 2021 attack on the US Capitol were wearing or carrying QAnon paraphernalia.
The former president has been known to post on his Truth Social account, often without vetting the accounts or content he uploads, according to a person close to Trump. “The QAnon stuff is way over the top,” said one Trump adviser, describing the approach generally in his orbit.
Another person who spoke to Trump recently told CNN, “I’ve never heard him talk about Q and I can’t imagine he’s a supporter or knows much about it.” However, Trump’s aides “have distanced themselves from that kind of thing.” Trump’s team has a policy of asking supporters at his rallies to remove QAnon-themed shirts and posters while inside the venue.
However, Trump has refused to completely abandon the move, which the FBI has warned is dangerous.
And while major social media platforms like Facebook and Twitter have had policies banning explicit QAnon content since 2020, the Trump-era conspiracy theory is thriving on Truth Social.
“I think it’s his responsibility to avoid this kind of nonsense,” said another Trump ally.
A song with echoes of QAnon
As for the song, which Trump played at a QAnon-related rally last Saturday night, Trump spokesman Taylor Budowich publicly dismissed concerns about the music as a “pathetic attempt to create controversy and divide America.”
But privately over the weekend Trump’s team wanted to know his background.
There seem to be two versions online except for the same songs. One, which goes by the QAnon tagline “WWG1WGA” and is available on Spotify, is by an artist named Richard Feelgood. Another, called “Mirrors”, is by a renowned composer. Trump’s team says they pulled the song from the latter, using stock music software.
The song was first used by Trump in a video at the Conservative Political Action Conference in Dallas in early August. The video score was pulled from a music service called Storyblocks by an assistant who was looking for “dark” and “epic” tunes, a person familiar with the music selection told CNN. Another source said that it was chosen for the adaptation after listening to copyrighted songs, adding that the song did not go through any vetting process before being used in the video.
However, they continued to use it. Trump shared a video on Truth Social where music accompanied the campaign-style footage, which he then played at a rally in Pennsylvania earlier this month to highlight his latest remarks.
Although an aide noted that a small group of supporters raised their fingers at the rally in Pennsylvania, the group didn’t think much of it. Trump was excited about the impact of the music on his speech and the song’s upcoming appearance in Ohio, where the crowd’s reaction went viral last Saturday.