Conspiracy theory Trump won’t denounce
There's a dangerous conspiracy theory circulating in the background of the disputed US election result.
Collectively, they form part of a "deep state" covering for each another and trying to undermine the President's efforts to expose them.
So deeply rooted are the beliefs among the QAnon faithful, they are convinced that a day of reckoning is coming and that deep state affiliates - Hillary Clinton included - will be arrested and prosecuted.
The theory is so depraved and so dangerous that the FBI has labelled those who preach its truth "conspiracy theory-driven domestic terrorists".
You might think Mr Trump himself would denounce such a ludicrous idea. But you would be wrong.
In a now-infamous back-and-forth with a reporter in August, he celebrated the movement and its believers.
REPORTER: The QAnon movement appears to be gaining a lot of followers. Can you talk about what you think about that and what you have to say to people who are following this movement right now?
Mr TRUMP: I don't know much about the movement other than I understand they like me very much. I have heard it is gaining in popularity. These are people that don't like seeing what's going on in places like Portland. I've heard these are people that love our country.
REPORTER: The crux of the theory is this belief that you are secretly saving the world from this satanic cult of paedophiles and cannibals. Does that sound like something you are behind?
Mr TRUMP: Well, I haven't heard that but is that supposed to be a bad thing?
Mr Trump's lauding of a conspiracy theory that sees followers drive hashtags and co-ordinate abuse of perceived enemies online - and increasingly offline - is part of the reason it has such strong support.
It's also why the theory has taken hold even more in the days since Democrat Joe Biden won the US presidential election.
As Kaitlyn Tiffany wrote in The Atlantic, "In a world view dominated by the belief that Democratic elites have rigged the system, a Biden victory wouldn't be a repudiation - it would be further evidence of a scandal. And the longer, closer and more drawn-out vote-counting is, the more baroque the theories can become."
So here we have a theory Mr Trump refused to denounce that now fits neatly into his own baseless narrative - that the Democrats colluded with election officials across the country to rig the election and remove him from the White House.
That theory has seen Mr Trump cut off by major news networks during press conferences and censored by Twitter. It has been debunked by major news outlets including The New York Times which found "no evidence of voter fraud" after contacting officials in every US state.
It should come as no great surprise that Mr Trump is leaning so heavily into the same theories spouted on message boards where anonymous users can say what they like with little or no proof to support their claims.
His own son, Eric Trump, promoted QAnon in a post on Instagram ahead of a rally in Tulsa, Oklahoma. His 1.5 million followers didn't even blink, such is QAnon's reach into Trump heartland.
The president’s middle son, a main campaign surrogate, posting a QAnon message on Instagram. pic.twitter.com/bT11puXuDs— Dave Weigel (@daveweigel) June 20, 2020
Politico reports that Mr Trump is receiving support from around the world and that Europe's QAnon movement "is in full effect, pushing online posts and showering encrypted message groups with claims that Joe Biden is trying to steal the US election".
On Twitter, there is more of the same from the President. More claims the media is "fake" and that they are conspiring against him. It's classic QAnon stuff.
"The Fake Pollsters at @ABC/@washingtonpost produced a possibly illegal suppression Poll just before the Election showing me down 17 points in Wisconsin when, in fact, on Election Day, the race was even - & we are now preparing to win the state. Many such "deplorable" instances!" he wrote in one tweet.
"People will not accept this Rigged Election!" he wrote in another.
Meanwhile, president-elect Joe Biden is getting on with the job ahead of him.
America, I’m honored that you have chosen me to lead our great country.— Joe Biden (@JoeBiden) November 7, 2020
The work ahead of us will be hard, but I promise you this: I will be a President for all Americans — whether you voted for me or not.
I will keep the faith that you have placed in me. pic.twitter.com/moA9qhmjn8
Originally published as Conspiracy theory Trump won't denounce