At 9:02am on April 19, 1995, a bomb ripped through the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City. A third of the building was destroyed. One-hundred-and-sixty-eight people lost their lives, including 19 children at the facility’s daycare. Images of tiny bodies being pulled from the rubble are seared into the national memory.
The nation’s horror magnified when the suspect’s identity was revealed days later. The deadliest terrorist attack on American soil until 9/11 was perpetrated by a U.S. citizen, a decorated Army war veteran from a white, blue-collar family who’d become a militant far-right extremist. He’d become distrustful of government and wanted revenge, taking out his wrath on our nation’s civil servants.
Twenty-five years later, America seems poised to see it happen again.
The bomber’s identity shouldn’t have come as a surprise. Militant far-right extremists have a well-documented propensity for violence.
Today, the right-wing extremist theory is the baseless QAnon conspiracy theory. QAnon has become a sort of dark star absorbing various flavors of extremism. Alarmingly, far-right militias have recently joined the ranks of QAnon. The Daily Dot has uncovered evidence that multiple extremist militant groups have adopted the conspiracy theory that is as unfounded as it is bizarre.
And groups already distrustful of and willing to go to war with the government being fed a narrative about shadow actors pulling the levers of power behind the scenes make for a toxic combination.
The primary QAnon theory holds that President Donald Trump is trying to take down a global satanic pedophile cabal and a government insider known as Q is providing clues about impending mass arrests (that never happen) via vague, coded “Q-drops” on 8kun.
QAnon followers widely believe that cabal members, such as Tom Hanks and Celine Dion, are baby-sacrificing, blood-drinking pedophiles addicted to adrenochrome, a fictitious drug they supposedly harvest from children’s brains.
The outlandishness of QAnon hasn’t thwarted its growth, however. A recent internal report by Facebook found that millions of users identified as followers. Tens of thousands of those people are members of far-right militia groups on the platform.
QAnon has already inspired acts of terror, violence, and kidnapping. There’s no telling what heavily-armed militants will do in its name if they belief its message.
The Oathkeepers (also “Oath Keepers”) is “one of the largest radical anti-government groups” in America, according to the Southern Poverty Law Center. Members include tens of thousands of current and former law enforcement and military personnel.
In recent months, Oathkeepers had begun sharing QAnon theories on its public page where it had 550,000 members.
Beneath a link to an episode of “Red Pill Politics” that included discussion about a police officer who was arrested for child porn, a member of the Oathkeepers wrote, “We get a mass of people to go to our state house they will see we are sick of pedophiles.” Another responded, “Who ever vote for Joe Biden must be a pedophiles [sic].”
Fellow SPLC-designated anti-government extremist group National Liberty Alliance has also begun espousing QAnon on Facebook of late. SPLC reports that National Liberty Alliance is an anti-government sovereign citizen movement, though it denies it.
A recent post by National Liberty Alliance falsely claims that Bill Gates predicted the pandemic, a theory popular among the QAnon faithful.
The public page, which has 9,000 members, escaped deletion in Facebook’s crackdown. This week, Facebook removed thousands of groups, ads, and pages dedicated to QAnon. It also changed its policies to restrict the reach of the conspiracy theory, while also targeting militia and antifascist groups, saying in a statement that the groups “demonstrated significant risks to public safety.”
Oathkeepers was among those deleted. Many remain.
This week a member of the public Facebook page, which remains live as of this writing, warned members not to use racist language and memes. “We are 3% and patriots,” they wrote in part.
They may not want racist language, but Brotherhood of Constitutional Patriots doesn’t seem to take any issue with QAnon.
Also this week, a member urged the others to show up to all state capitols on Aug. 22 to “save the children,” a new Q phrase; support open carry, oppose lockdowns and mandates, and restore the Constitution.
Veterans on Patrol (VOP) may have been one of the first far-right extremist groups to adopt QAnon.
Described by SPLC as a “vigilante group,” VOP was first involved in a Pizzagate-style conspiracy in 2018, when it claimed to have uncovered a child sex trafficking hub. Police quickly dismissed the claim as unfounded. The so-called hub was actually an abandoned homeless camp.
That didn’t stop VOP. Since then, the group, which goes by VOP in AZ on Facebook, where it has 4,000 followers, has continued its vigilante attempts to ferret out pedophiles, usually along the U.S.-Mexico border.
VOP has also adopted QAnon, frequently posting jargon associated with the conspiracy theory, such as WWG1WGA (“where we go one we go all”) and #SaveOurChildren, which has recently been adopted by believers, along with #SaveTheChildren, in an effort to evade detection by tech companies.
QAnon has crept onto National Freedom Alliance, another public group that Facebook thus far hasn’t removed.
This week, one National Freedom Alliance member falsely claimed that there was a satanist symbol on the podium when Democratic vice presidential nominee Sen. Kamala Harris (D-Calif.) spoke at the convention.
A Pizzagate meme recently posted on the page prompted comments including, “Justice for the children!!!!!!! Evil demons need to be disposed of!!!!!!!!” and “Too many people are willing to turn a blind eye.”
Dimitrios Kalantzis of Life After Hate, an organization dedicated to helping people leave the violent far-right, isn’t surprised that these groups are adopting QAnon.
“It makes complete sense, if for no reason other than white supremacist groups have long peddled in conspiracy theories,” Kalantzis told the Daily Dot.
QAnon is a natural fit for far-right extremists. Conversely, racist right-wing extremism may be a natural fit for QAnon.
After former First Lady Michelle Obama’s Democratic National Convention speech, members of *Q*A-N-O-N🐸Support Group, an active private Facebook group with 7,000 members that has thus far escaped the platform’s wrath, posted appalling racist and transphobic content about her.
And a recent post on the now-defunct QAnon We Are the Storm about a rally that turned violent at the Confederate memorial at Stone Mountain, Georgia inspired comments hoping for more violence.
“Do that shit here shoot to kill Trump 2020,” said one.
Several opined that the conflict was pre-planned to trigger more violence. One quoted David Icke, a major proponent of the theory that there is a secret lizard Illuminati.
Experts agree that both militant extremism and QAnon are dangerous. McVeigh wasn’t the first or the last militant right-wing extremist, a group that includes many white supremacists, to commit a mass killing. QAnon has inspired numerous acts of violence since a gunman opened fire on Comet Pizza because he believed it was the site of Pizzagate, the 2016 conspiracy theory from whence QAnon was born.
Together, the two may make for a potent, and deadly, elixir.