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QAnon Women in Politics Part Two: QAnon Careers

QAnon Women in Politics Part Two: QAnon Careers
29th April 2021 Blyth Crawford
Blyth CrawfordMarc-André Argentino
In Insights

Over the last year, the QAnon conspiracy has cemented itself as part of the furniture of the American political landscape, and women have played a crucial role in making the conspiracy a household name. Part one of this miniseries which examines women’s roles within the QAnon political sphere, highlighted the ways in which female QAnon Congressional candidates promoted the conspiracy as part of their campaigns for political office in 2020. This next part will instead concentrate on the careers women established for themselves after, or as a result of, the election, demonstrating that women continue to be at the very forefront of QAnon’s foray into the political mainstream.

QAnon Congresswomen

Clearly the most prominent QAnon women to have established political careers are Lauren Boebert of Colorado and Marjorie Taylor Greene of Georgia – the only QAnon-supporting candidates running for Congress in 2020 who were successful in winning seats. During their campaigns, both Boebert and Greene could be defined as showing ambivalent support for QAnon as at first they each seemed to embrace the conspiracy or used it to appeal to a wider audience, before later denying their support.

Lauren Boebert refrained from ever directly identifying as a QAnon supporter throughout her campaign and has claimed that she does not follow the conspiracy theory. However, she seemed to encourage support from QAnon believers during an appearance on the “Steel Truth” show what has promoted the conspiracy theory. On the show, she confirmed that she was “very familiar” with the Q movement, and that, although it was “more [her] mom’s thing,” she hoped the conspiracy was real as it would only mean “America is getting stronger and better and people are returning to conservative values.” Similarly, Boebert also appeared on ‘Patriot’s Soapbox’, a highly popular YouTube show for viewers who are incredibly invested in QAnon, and which shows a live feed of viewers constantly sharing theories about the conspiracy at all times. While again, Boebert was careful never to explicitly endorse QAnon, her appearance was undoubtedly a signal to the QAnon community.

By contrast, Greene, who has historically embraced a wide range of conspiracy theories, appeared more directly engaged with QAnon, writing favourably about it on a conspiracy news website. According to QAnon researcher, Travis View, Greene was involved in QAnon as early as November 2017. She has also directly quoted Q drops on her Facebook page during her Congressional campaign in 2018, a detail which differentiates her from later adopters of the conspiracy who may not engage directly with posts by Q.

As reported by Eric Hananoki with contributions from Alex Kaplan, Greene has also claimed that Democratic National Committee staffer Seth Rich who was murdered in 2016, was killed by MS-13 gang members secretly employed by the Obama administration. The false claim stems from QAnon followers who interpreted early posts made by Q mentioning the gang as hints that the Democrat party covertly employed MS-13 as undercover hitmen to assassinate their political enemies. These facts suggest that not only was Greene an early adopter of the conspiracy theory, but she was also deeply entrenched in the surrounding QAnon community, referencing more obscure aspects of the theory than her fellow candidates during her Congressional campaign.

Indeed, throughout her campaign Greene appeared to endorse QAnon a number of times, posting hashtags affiliated with the conspiracy on her social media pages, and reportedly endorsing Q on Twitter and encouraging her followers to contact her with any questions about the conspiracy they may have. However, in August 2020, Greene attempted to distance herself from her reputation as a QAnon supporter, claiming that she had abandoned the conspiracy after “finding misinformation” within it. But, as Travis View and Alex Kaplan have noted, this claim seems unfounded, as Greene continued to engage with the conspiracy after she had allegedly abandoned her support, and has since described Q as a “source” filled with “patriotic sentiment.”

Since beginning their terms as Congresswomen, both Greene and Boebert have pushed various conspiratorial narratives including the reignited “Stop the Steal” conspiracy, which claimed that Donald Trump won the 2020 election, and of which Greene was one of the most dominant voices. The conspiracy has been linked both to QAnon, and as one of the key narratives which encouraged the 6 January insurrection.

Greene has also embraced a host of other conspiratorial narratives, filing articles of impeachment against President Biden, claiming he leveraged his position as Vice President to avoid Ukrainian officials investigating his son, Hunter. The claims have been widely discredited following a formal inquiry, although they have remained favourite talking points among hard-line Republicans, and the QAnon community.

Greene also continues to engage with elements of QAnon, seeming to wish to capitalise on support from within the conspiracy community by subtly signalling to her pro-QAnon followers. Recently, her team created a video, shared by Greene featuring Facebook comments from fans supporting Greene for “draining the swamp” and exposing the “deep state”, both key catchphrases used by QAnon supporters.

Women as Political Figureheads

 Outwith the women who ran for Congress on a QAnon ticket, Sidney Powell, a former lawyer for Trump, is one of the most prominent women on the political stage who has openly promoted the QAnon conspiracy.  Her proximity to the former president and support for QAnon narratives and conspiracy theories made her an immediate star in QAnon circles in 2020, while she has also irked older QAnon influencers that she overshadowed. Even after the inauguration of President Biden, Powell continues to play an influential role in QAnon and conspiracy theorist circles.

Powell was part of Trump’s legal team and represented Michael Flynn, Trump’s former national security advisor – who also supports QAnon and famously took the “digital soldier oath” on 4 July 2020 as part of his Independence Day celebrations. Powell rose to prominence after the US election in November 2020, as she built a legal case against Joe Biden and the Democrats that argued they did not actually win the election. In a statement during an interview on Fox Business, she described the case she was mounting as a “Kraken” that, when released, would demonstrate Biden had not won the election legally.

QAnon adherents, Trump supporters and conspiracy theorists all amplified Powell’s case under the hashtag #ReleaseTheKraken in support of the legal campaign to challenge the election results. Powell’s case played an important role in feeding a highly popular conspiracy theory that Trump would be inaugurated on 20 January rather than Biden.

In court documents (riddled with typos and grammatical errors) filed as part of her case, Powell made unfounded claims of voter fraud, and repeated disinformation about voting machines used in the election. In particular she repeated the claim amplified by Ron Watkins – a former admin of 8chan and 8kun, and son of Jim Watkins who owns the site – that the Dominion voting system was used to steal the election, and claimed that foreign interference involving China, Venezuela and Iran helped Biden win the election.

In addition to pushing narratives from, or aligned with, QAnon and representing both Trump and Flynn, Powell has appeared multiple times on well-known QAnon-affiliated streams and engaged with or retweeted QAnon influencers and used QAnon references in her tweets. Because of all of this, Powell rapidly became a QAnon favourite. When she was, eventually, banned from Twitter in January 2021 after violating the site’s Coordinate Harmful Activity policy, Powell created a Telegram channel, which currently has 483,000 members and has become a central hub for “neo-QAnon” content.

Powell can be described as neo-QAnon as she neither directly interprets Q-drops or is deeply enmeshed in the QAnon ideology, but she has built a following of conspiracy-minded actors and Trump supporters, who consume QAnon-adjacent content. For example, she is a keynote speaker, along with Michael Flynn, at the “For God and Country Patriot Roundup” event taking place in Dallas on Memorial Day on 31 May, which is organised by a well-known QAnon influencer and his wife, and caters to the QAnon-adjacent hard-line MAGA crowd. In April, Powell was also a speaker at the right-wing “Health and Freedom Conference” in Tulsa, which ended in Covid mask burnings.

As Powell has surpassed many of the older more established QAnon influencers in terms of prominence, she has drawn criticism for the fact that some followers of the conspiracy were relying solely on her posts to interpret QAnon content. After some internal disagreements within the conspiracy community, other influencers eventually pushed back against this criticism and implied that Powell is an ally of the QAnon community, but that her word on interpreting Q content should not be seen as gospel. Although the content she posts on social media is perceived as apocryphal by some QAnon influencers, the rank and file of the community and those who are QAnon-adjacent still turn to her for hope about the election results being overturned. To them, Powell continues to be seen as an anti-government voice in Trump-supporting circles.

Powell’s position of power as a lawyer and her proximity to those who were in power, as well as the fact that she acts seemingly without consequences, mean that the content she posts on social media should still be viewed as a potential threat vector. More importantly, where some older QAnon influencers have stagnated in their narratives and aspiration, particularly after Biden’s inauguration, Powell has forged forward, continuing the QAnon mythos and consistently pushing new conspiracy theories. This, in particular, has meant that both her fan base and influence continue to grow. Thus, in terms of having established a career within the political QAnon sphere, Sidney Powell must be recognised as one of the female figureheads at the very forefront of the movement.

A Career in Conspiracy

A final caveat should be given to the female QAnon Congressional candidates who have attempted to launch formal careers within the far-right online media ecosystem. The 2020 Congressional race attracted some candidates who had already made names for themselves within this sphere, such as Nevada Republican Congressional candidate and American actress Mindy Robinson, who has hosted the online Conservative talk show and blog “Red White and F You” since 2018. On the associated blog Robinson has promoted conspiracies about election fraud, media bias, and Pizzagate, and has attracted a modest following on social media.

However, one candidate in particular appeared to attempt to leverage her pro-QAnon Congressional campaign to reignite her status within the far-right media ecosystem. Republican candidate DeAnna Lorraine Tesoriero was formerly a “red-pill dating coach” on the New Right Network’s podcast ‘Make Love Great Again’. She had been involved in the fringe right for some as an advocate of the Men’s Right’s Movement fighting perceived “discrimination towards men,” prior to her run for Congress in California’s 12th district. Alex Kaplan has noted that she had also made social media posts about QAnon as early as August 2018, making her one of the earlier adopters of the conspiracy. In 2020, she also played a major role in amplifying the “film your hospital” social media campaign which encouraged followers to film hospitals which appeared empty from the outside in order to imply that coronavirus was a hoax.

While she was ambiguous about her support of QAnon in an interview with The Daily Beast, Lorraine repeatedly tweeted about QAnon and repeated QAnon phrases throughout her political campaign, eventually attracting the attention of Alex Jones, host of the infamous far-right conspiracy theory multimedia outlet “InfoWars”.

In September 2020, having lost the California primary, Lorraine began as a host on Infowars. In this new position, she was able to spread a wealth of misinformation. As a host she promoted the far-right “Great Reset” conspiracy theory, the notion that coronavirus vaccinations contained “microchips” to track members of the global population, the erroneous claim that Michelle Obama is a transgender woman, as well as a host of QAnon-affiliated conspiracies. Her position as a presenter demonstrated how in some cases QAnon candidates were able to leverage their support for conspiracies into further involvement with the far-right media scene.

However, Lorraine’s success was short-lived and she was eventually fired from Infowars in late December 2020. Her exit from Infowars, coupled with her permanent suspension from Twitter, appear to have vastly impacted the audience DeAnna Lorraine is able to reach. While she has continued to work on media projects affiliated with the so-called “MAGA Movement”, the Reddit sub associated with her latest documentary project has only six members.

Conclusion

The US 2020 elections for political office was the first event where women emerged as a major political force in support of QAnon. Most importantly two women who believe in – or have at least signalled support for – an ideologically motivated violent extremist ideology now have seats in the House of Congress, one of the most important political platforms in the world.

The importance of this cannot be overstated. Their presence in the House of Congress, and, by extension, the campaigns run by other female Congressional candidates, demonstrates that women are willing to mobilise offline for an extremist ideology in a non-violent way. Now not only are two women attached to the extremist QAnon ideology in positions of political power and playing a role in dictating policy, their positions in Congress have the potential to legitimise QAnon in the eyes of new prospective adherents. This means that they may have some influence over radicalising individuals into QAnon. It is also likely that Greene and Boebert may have some mobilising capability over existing QAnon supporters who they – particularly Greene – continue to signal to from their positions as elected officials.

The position of other women such as Sidney Powel alongside Green and Boebert, reinforces their capacity to legitimise the conspiracy. Powell in particular has become one of the leading influencing voices with a vast reach among hard-line MAGA neo-QAnon supporters. Her career as part of Trump’s legal team and her perceived proximity to the former president have solidified her as one of the most important female figureheads within the QAnon political sphere. Finally, the (somewhat fleeting) success of DeAnna Lorraine Tesoriero as an InfoWars host shows the easy ebb and flow between the QAnon sphere and the wider far-right social media ecosystem, and is demonstrative of women’s potential influence in both.

All in all, women have been central to QAnon’s ascent into the political mainstream and Marjorie Taylor Greene and Lauren Boebert have, in some ways, broken the glass ceiling for female ideologically motivated extremists by taking up positions as publicly elected Congresswomen. Their political wins, coupled with the high-profile political careers of other women attached to the conspiracy, are demonstrative both of the important role women play as leaders within QAnon, and the potential danger the conspiracy poses to the integrity of the US political system. Their presence in the House of Congress is also likely to embolden other prospective female (and male) QAnon candidates to run for office in the next election. In order to fully comprehend the multivarious dangers posed by QAnon becoming a feature of American and international politics, understanding women’s roles within the conspiracy is a vital initial step.