WILMINGTON, N.C. (WGHP) — A strange gesture has begun cropping up at recent rallies helmed by former president Donald Trump.

Trump paid North Carolina a visit late last month to campaign for Ted Budd, who is running for Richard Burr’s Senate seat, at a rally held in Wilmington. Vendors who follow Trump rallies called it “light” and many people left after Trump finally took stage 45 minutes late. Vendors apparently told Star News Online this mass exodus is typical, with attendees preferring to see Trump for a few minutes and then beat traffic.

At the rally, Trump told attendees that he and his family face “torment, persecution and oppression.”

Photo taken during a Michigan “Save America” rally. (Photo by JEFF KOWALSKY/AFP via Getty Images)

Towards the end of the night, some in the crowd raised a single finger as a song played.

This gesture was spotted at a similar rally in Ohio and has cropped up sporadically at other rallies since. The origins of the gesture are unclear.

It had been touted on the internet as somehow affiliated with QAnon, but journalists who follow the conspiracy theory expressed skepticism about that claim, according to CNN.

The Independent was quick to dub this a QAnon salute, stating that several people in the crowd at the Wilmington rally were wearing QAnon merchandise.

Regardless of the origins of the gesture, it is now recognized exclusively through its association with QAnon.

Organizers have, in the past, tried to limit QAnon’s visibility at Trump’s rallies. A tweet purports that security staffers were shutting down people trying to do the salute during the Wilmington rally. In June, a clip went viral of a Proud Boy being asked to remove insignias before entering a rally, being told that no Proud Boy or QAnon items could be worn inside. There seems to have been a shift in recent months.

The Independent spoke to a rally goer wearing a Q hat who approved of what she believed was signaling from the former President. “I think it’s wonderful,” she’s quoted as saying. She then told The Independent she wouldn’t be voting in the upcoming election.

There has also been controversy over the song playing at several of Trump’s “Save America” rallies. The instrumental track could be found online under the name “WWG1WGA,” uploaded by someone under the name “Richard Feelgood,” leading some to call it the “QAnon Theme Song.” It appears that the track is a licensable piece of music from composer Will Van De Crommert entitled “Mirrors” that was re-uploaded with a “Q” themed title.

“WWG1WGA” is an abbreviated catchphrase used by QAnon. It stands for “Where We Go One, We Go All,” which was originated in the 1996 Jeff Bridges film “White Squall” and coopted by the conspiracy theory.

The composer of the original track has filed copyright claims, stating he had never been informed it had been licensed for use at political rallies.

QAnon Explained

The QAnon conspiracy theory is one that gained steam online when an individual began posting what has come to be called “Q Drops,” first one 4chan, then 8chan which later rebranded as 8kun. These drops were purported to be from a government official with “Q-level” clearance, touting a “coming storm” in which a shadowy cabal of evil-doers would be exposed and executed or arrested.

QAnon is what people would call a “big tent” conspiracy theory: it is able to incorporate a lot of different conspiracy theories, like flat earth, 9/11 “trutherism” or “Pizzagate,” into its mythos. The entity known as “Q” posts cryptic messages on the anonymous message board 8kun and followers decipher the messages. Q is identified by a specific “trip code” that is used to confirm the same person is posting while remaining anonymous.

The conspiracy heavily leans on Donald Trump as being a sort of savior figure, and that the “Deep State” is working against him as he tries to expose the cabal of corrupt pedophiles and Satan worshippers. The conspiracy has evolved beyond just the text of Q’s posts to incorporate things like “adrenochrome harvesting,” which is the claim that celebrities and politicians kill and consume infants for adrenochrome in order to stay young. This harkens back to the antisemitic conspiracy of blood libel and the Protocols of the Elders of Zion, which is the antisemitic conspiracy that is the precursor to most modern conspiracism.

Q went silent for over 500 days before returning with new posts in late June.

It’s unknown who may be behind the Q title, but it’s speculated that Jim or Ron Watkins has taken over posting for the original Q, who may have been Coleman Rogers.

Jim Watkins owns and runs 8kun, the forum where Q posts. His son Ron recently ran for a Republican Congressional seat in Arizona, coming in last in the primary. Ron was an administrator of 8kun until November 2020 when he resigned. Q’s final post before his long absence was in December 2020.

QAnon and Truth Social

Outlets have recently reported increased visibility of QAnon-themed content on Trump’s Truth Social account, where he has actively ‘Retruthed’ (Truth’s version of retweeting) many accounts affiliated with the conspiracy theory.

However, Trump’s engagement with the movement on social media is not new, as journalist Travis View, who co-hosts a podcast about QAnon, has archived on Twitter.

On Monday, Trump tagged a QAnon account while posting on Truth Social. Last month, Trump “retruthed” a photoshopped picture of himself with a “Q” pin and a QAnon-themed video that featured images of Trump holding a flag inside a Q logo, and phrases such as “the silent war continues.”

Advertisers on Truth Social also appear to be courting the conspiracy theory. Recently, an ad selling a combination solar-powered flashlight, phone charger and radio by a company called “Patriot Survival” raised some eyebrows when the ad featured several Q-adjacent buzzwords like “the coming storm.”

The website for Patriot Survival contains even more QAnon references, according to Vice.

“The deep state are using the global warming hoax to build the narrative for the oncoming blackouts,” the website says. “We can see this happening in California already. The cabal are running out of chess moves, and when the flood of information begins they will cut the power to stop the spread of information.”

Vice continues that this radio/light combination is widely available, but on Truth Social it seems to be specifically targeting believers of QAnon.

“An aggregation of cranks sitting at home”

In a column published in the Chicago Sun-Times last Friday, Gene Lyons opines that QAnon followers won’t “take to the streets” to “save” Trump or his political career.

(AP Photo/Manuel Balce Ceneta, File)

Multiple people running for office have amplified QAnon. Representatives, like Marjorie Taylor Greene, have supported QAnon in the past but attempted to distance themselves from the conspiracy later. Ohio House candidate J.R. Majewski, currently under fire for reportedly lying about the nature of his military service, has also tried to distance himself from previously touted QAnon rhetoric.

Lyons also called QAnon “an online phenomenon, an aggregation of cranks sitting at home alone getting all worked up over silly fantasies. Political pornography,” and speculated that it would soon be “history.”

However, multiple people who have been charged or convicted in the January 6 riot, which had the explicit intention of securing the election for Donald Trump, have reportedly had connections to QAnon.

Doug Jensen, an Iowa man who chased a Capitol officer up the stairs, told the FBI he wanted to be the “poster boy” for the events as they unfolded. He was photographed wearing a Q shirt during the riot.

Additionally, Jacob Chansley, known as the “QAnon Shaman” was sentenced to more than three years in prison.

There have also been multiple murders connected to QAnon, as recently as last month, when Igor Lanis allegedly shot and killed his wife and dog and wounded one of his daughters before being killed by police. His daughter posted on Reddit and then spoke with multiple media outlets about QAnon’s influence over her father.

In 2019, a mob boss named Frank Cali was allegedly killed by Anthony Comello, a QAnon believer. In 2020, Chris Hallett was allegedly killed by Neely Petrie-Blanchard after she had become convinced he was part of the “cabal.” In 2021, Matthew Taylor Coleman allegedly killed his two young children after becoming convinced they had “serpent DNA.”

The body count attributed to QAnon is very real, regardless of how demonstrably false the claims made by Q are, or how ridiculous they sound to people.