Someone is mailing QAnon-themed material to residents of Minneapolis suburbs, the Intercept reported on Thursday, and it’s not clear who’s doing it or why.
QAnon is a conspiracy theory that mashes various strands of paranoid thinking into a convenient narrative: That a worldwide network of Satanic pedophiles, comprising elites in everything from the Democratic Party to Hollywood, are engaging in the mass trafficking and ritual murder of children. “Q” is an unknown individual or individuals who has regularly posted on image boards like 4chan, 8chan, and 8kun claiming to be a high-ranking military or intelligence official and asserting that virtually every policy and statement that comes from the Trump administration is part of an elaborate, secret war against said pedophiles.
This stuff is all patently ridiculous and transparently false, but QAnon has surged via social media channels, with membership in QAnon groups on Facebook alone reportedly in the millions before an (ineffective) crackdown in August. It’s also taken on the characteristics of an extremist ideology and has been linked to violent crimes such as a June 2018 incident where a man blocked the Hoover dam with an armoured truck, the murder of a Mafia boss in 2019, and other arrests of people allegedly planning attacks. Aside from being blatantly racist, Islamophobic, and anti-Semitic, QAnon members have engaged in far-ranging harassment and disinformation campaigns, and they’ve increasingly allied themselves with anti-vaxxers and armed far-right groups.
Despite or perhaps because of this, the Trump administration has encouraged its growth, seeing it as a collection of its most diehard supporters. Much of Trump and the Republican Party’s conspiratorial rhetoric thematically falls right in line with the paranoid worldview of QAnon supporters, even if they haven’t parroted the specific claims of Trump’s secret war against a global child trafficking cabal. At least six QAnon-promoting Republican candidates for Congress — including projected victor Marjorie Taylor Greene — are running in 2020. In other words, it’s the future of the GOP.
According to the Intercept, at least four households, a liquor store, and a Papa John’s all in St. Louis Park, as well as three households in Plymouth, received unsolicited Q-themed mailers this week. The packages contained what appeared to be physical photos of images on a monitor — rather than, say, a printed document or screenshots — displaying a variety of bizarre and disturbing images. Those included rants about pedophilia, a list of pro-QAnon YouTube channels, captions about “The Battle Between Good and [EVIL],” and photos of the last four presidents alongside a picture of Morpheus from The Matrix and a gallows. Some of the packages had photos of Jesse Jackson and Al Sharpton accompanied by the message “CALLING THESE TWO GUYS ‘REVEREND’ IS LIKE CALLING DOGSHIT TOOTSIE ROLLS.”
The Intercept reported that the envelopes for the mailers were hand-signed for delivery to “Resident Neighbour” and had fake return addresses. The various recipients were able to find each other on Nextdoor, a neighbourhood watch app (which has had its own issues spreading thinly-sourced, bigoted propaganda.) Some initially concluded they had been targeted for the creepy mail because they had Black Lives Matter signs in their yards, but according to the Intercept, their neighbours with similar signs didn’t receive any QAnon-related mail.
Area resident Luke Healy told the Intercept that the mailers appeared to be expensive, as they were printed on high-grade photo paper, and his had at least three stamps. “At least they’re supporting the USPS,” Healy said.
Jared Holt of Right Wing Watch, a investigative reporter who monitors QAnon, told the Intercept that some of the YouTube channels were “totally obscure” and indicated a deep familiarity with the contours of the QAnon movement.
“It’s hard to understand what the sender hoped to accomplish, but it’s clear that whoever is sending the mail is severely escalating in their radicalisation,” Holt told the site.
The president recently refused to commit to a peaceful transfer of power if he loses the 2020 elections in November, and the Department of Homeland Security has identified far-right extremists as the most dangerous domestic terror threat, one which poses the “greatest risk of lethal violence” during the elections. Beyond that, QAnon isn’t going anywhere. Friends and family members of QAnon supporters who recently spoke with BuzzFeed characterised it as an obsessive digital cult whose members have stood by it through divorces, poisoned relationships, and social ostracism.
“It’s been a nightmare, honestly,” one family member told BuzzFeed. “She has changed her voicemail to say that COVID is a hoax, Hollywood is filled with pedophiles, and to vote early for Trump. I was so scared after returning home from the summer visit that I told my boss about it, and told her if I ever go missing to start with my mum and her boyfriend.”
The anonymous sender of the packages isn’t the only one trying to scare suburbanites with dubious claims about sex trafficking. It’s basically the GOP party line at this point. The National Republican Congressional Committee, the campaign arm of the GOP’s caucus in the House, has been airing ads in districts across the country accusing Democratic lawmakers of intending to release sex offenders on the nation’s playgrounds.