An account that identifies itself as the “official Twitter account for the Hillsborough County Republican Executive Committee” spread the 8chan-originated baseless conspiracy theory called QAnon by tweeting out on July 4th a YouTube explanatory video. While not verified by Twitter, the account is linked on the official website for the Florida county GOP.
Supporters of the QAnon (also known as “The Storm”) conspiracy theory baselessly believe that President Donald Trump’s cryptic October 2017 comment alluding to a “calm before the storm” was in reality a hint at a master plan he has set in motion to kneecap members of the “deep state” while dismantling pedophilia rings supposedly tied to powerful celebrities and politicians. Anonymous posts on anonymous internet forum 8chan signed by “Q,” who claims to be “a high-level government insider with Q clearance,” set “The Storm” in motion. Trump supporters claim the posts are clues informing the public of Trump’s plan, shared on the message board to circumvent what they believe is mainstream media’s anti-Trump agenda.
Prominent right-wing media figures are increasingly using their public platforms to add fuel to the fire and legitimize the anonymous posts. Breitbart's Curt Schilling amplified QAnon on his podcast, both celebrity Trump supporter Roseanne Barr and Fox’s Sean Hannity pushed the bogus claims on Twitter, while conspiracy theorist site Infowars tasked Jerome Corsi with the QAnon beat, only to backpedal when QAnon supporters started attacking Corsi after he criticized “Q.” Turning Point USA’s executive director and Donald Trump Jr. confidante Charlie Kirk also spread bogus statistics seemingly originated in the QAnon universe on a now-deleted tweet.
These conspiracy theories matter. “Pizzagate,” a similar pedophilia-focused conspiracy theory fueled by far-right media during the 2016 presidential election inspired a shooter to open fire inside a Washington, DC, family restaurant. Not only can the same happen again, it has already started. A man is facing terrorism charges in Arizona for just recently using an armored vehicle to stop traffic on a bridge near the Hoover Dam. His demands and his letters have both been linked to the QAnon conspiracy theory. And now that conspiracy theory has been endorsed by an element of the Republican party.
UPDATE: The Twitter account of Hillsborough County Republican Executive Committee has deleted its QAnon tweet.