In many ways, Donald Trump’s speech over the weekend in Youngstown, Ohio, was standard fare for the former president; predictably bitter, he warned of America’s decline into a crime-riddled hellscape and lashed out at the media, Hunter Biden, the FBI, and the Justice Department. “We are a nation that has weaponized its law enforcement against the opposing political party like never ever before,” he stated, and baselessly suggested the government was hiding evidence that he actually won the election. But Trump’s appearance at the rally in support of Republican Senate nominee J.D. Vance took a strange and dark turn Saturday when dramatic music suddenly began playing over the arena’s loudspeakers.
The last several minutes of his speech had a soundtrack—a film-score-like tune that resembled an anthem for followers of QAnon, the far-right conspiracy theory and political movement that portrays Trump as a messiah figure saving America from an international cabal of elite, Satan-worshipping pedophiles. As the song played, rally attendees raised their arms in cult-like unison, flashing a one-finger salute, a raised index finger, which appears to reference the foundational QAnon motto, “Where we go one, we go all.” The song, to followers of Q, appeared to be a 2020 track released under the title “Wwg1wga.”
Trump’s team has denied using this QAnon anthem in Ohio. In a statement to The New York Times on Sunday, Trump spokesperson Taylor Budowich said, “The fake news, in a pathetic attempt to create controversy and divide America, is brewing up another conspiracy about a royalty-free song from a popular audio library platform.” Trump’s team used this same defense last month after the former president shared a video that featured the song on his social media website, Truth Social, telling Vice the song is unrelated to QAnon and is called “Mirrors,” by TV and film composer Will Van De Crommert. Both Google and Apple’s music-detecting apps identified the song as “Wwg1wga” by an artist using the name Richard Feelgood, per Media Matters, and analyses showed the two songs to be virtually identical.
Regardless of the Trump team’s denials, Q disciples immediately recognized the song choice for what it was, as noted by Media Matters senior researcher Alex Kaplan.
The former president has shown an increased preoccupation with the far-right conspiracy theory and political movement ever since the FBI’s search of his Mar-a-Lago home. Last week, Trump reposted an image of himself donning a Q pin on his lapel alongside the slogan “The Storm Is Coming” (another Q motto that refers to a violent day of reckoning in which Trump’s enemies will be rounded up and potentially executed on live TV). In late August, Trump used his Truth Social account to repost a “Q drop”––a message supposedly authored by the movement’s anonymous creator, who claims to be a government official with a Q-level security clearance––before later deleting it from his profile.
Meanwhile, Truth Social itself has become a cesspool for the sorts of QAnon content and influencers that Twitter, Facebook, and Reddit have clamped down on. Trump has boosted this development by promoting dozens of Q-linked accounts in the past month, according to an Associated Press analysis. Amid Trump’s attempts to ingratiate himself with the movement, QAnon—an ideology that the FBI first identified as a domestic terrorist threat in 2019, according to a memo obtained by Yahoo News at the time—continues to have dangerous and deadly ramifications offline. In Michigan earlier this month, after a 53-year-old man shot and killed his wife and wounded their daughter, and was then killed by police, his other daughter said her father’s obsession with the conspiracy theory drove him to violence, per NBC News. And in Pennsylvania, a 61-year-old man armed with a loaded firearm allegedly entered a Dairy Queen a week and a half ago and told police he was trying to “kill Democrats and liberals,” per local news.
Trump began directly acknowledging QAnon while still in office. “I do know they are very much against pedophilia,” Trump said in 2020 when he was asked about the movement. And while his support for the conspiracy theory remained more muted during his presidency, Trump’s subtle winks and nods have grown into more blatant promotions of the movement that openly calls for killing his political rivals.