A Thursday New York Times article raised concerns that Texas Republicans could be appealing to supporters of the fringe internet conspiracy.
Updated Aug. 21 at 3:40 p.m. to include a The New York Times statement that the paper did reach out to the Texas Republican Party for comment.
WASHINGTON — When the Texas Republican Party introduced its new slogan “We Are the Storm” late last month, it raised some eyebrows over a perceived connection to the QAnon conspiracy theory, which uses the same slogan.
At the time, newly elected party Chairman Allen West told a reporter with Austin station KXAN-TV that the slogan comes from a poem from an unknown source that he often quotes in speeches: “The devil whispers into the warrior’s ear ‘you cannot withstand the coming storm.’ The warrior whispers back ‘I am the storm.‘”
“I don’t know about anybody else and I’m not into internet conspiracy theories,” West told the station at the time.
On Thursday, The New York Times reported on the slogan’s ties, calling it “an unusually visible example of the Republican Party’s dalliance with QAnon.”
QAnon is an internet-driven conspiracy theory that claims President Donald Trump, a Republican, is engaged in a battle to save the world from a cult of Satanic pedophiles.
But Texas GOP spokesman Luke Twombly said The Times never reached out for an explanation, and there’s no indication in The Times’ story that the party was contacted.
“It is disappointing to see an outlet – once considered the gold standard in journalism — fall to new lows by again engaging in fake news in order to paint conservatives and Republicans as conspiracy theorists,” the party said in a statement Friday. “The New York Times should be ashamed of themselves, and we look forward to their correction, apology, and retraction.”
A spokesperson for The Times told KXAN that the paper did reach out to the Texas GOP for a comment for the article and did not receive a response.
The Texas Democratic Party slammed its rivals over their slogan following the publication of the article, calling on the GOP to condemn the theory and distance itself from its followers.
“The Republican Party is being led by an internet cult that believes in dangerous, extreme far-right conspiracy theories,” spokesman Abhi Rahman said in a statement. “West can try to deny it’s connection, but it’s there in plain sight for everybody to see. Greg Abbott, John Cornyn, and the rest of the Texas Republican Party must take a public stand against QAnon and disavow this motto. There is no wiggle room.”
The FBI has labeled QAnon a potential domestic terrorism threat.
QAnon’s theory says prominent Democrats — including former President Barack Obama, Trump’s 2016 opponent Hillary Clinton and Democratic mega donor George Soros — are the enemies who want to extract hormones from the blood of children and derail Trump’s efforts to rescue the American public, according to the theory that has no basis in reality. As the theory goes, Trump was recruited to run for president in 2016 by top military generals in order to break up the criminal conspiracy and end its control of American politics and the media.
The theory was born in 2017 on 4chan, a notoriously toxic anonymous messaging board, when a post from someone known only as “Q Clearance Patriot” appeared. The poster, who is now simply referred to as “Q,” claimed to be a high-ranking intelligence official with access to information about the cult and predicted “The Storm” — when Trump exposes the cult of pedophiles and brings its members to justice.
Showing up online, in elections
Once a fringe phenomenon, Twitter, Facebook and other social networks have become hotbeds for false QAnon information on the election, the Black Lives Matter protests and the coronavirus pandemic, forcing the networks to purge hundreds of accounts from their platforms.
Online movements to raise awareness about human trafficking, like “#SaveTheChildren,” have been invaded by followers of QAnon as a way to spread their baseless claims.
The theory has also surfaced in elections, most recently with the Republican nomination of Marjorie Taylor Greene, an avowed supporter of QAnon, to a Congressional seat in Georgia. Since her nomination, Greene has attempted to distance herself from the conspiracy, saying it no longer represents her views. The district is heavily conservative, almost ensuring her election to the U.S. House of Representatives in November.
Trump himself has all but endorsed the movement, claiming in a Wednesday news conference that he doesn’t know much about it, but said its followers are “people who love our country” that “supposedly like me.” Trump also endorsed Greene following her election, calling her a “future Republican Star.”
“Is that supposed to be a bad thing or good thing?” he responded Wednesday when a reporter explained the central premise of the theory. “If I can help save the world from problems, I am willing to do it. I’m willing to put myself out there. And we are actually.”
The Texas GOP even has its own recent history with courting conspiracy theorists.
The 2015 Jade Helm 15 conspiracy theories were brought into the mainstream when Gov. Greg Abbott ordered the Texas State Guard to monitor routine military training exercises taking place in the state over fringe concerns that the exercise was a cover for a hostile takeover of the U.S.
But despite the flirtation with conspiracy theories from members of the Republican Party, polling shows followers of QAnon make up a very small percentage of the population and support for the conspiracy doesn’t correlate with party affiliation.
The Texas GOP said it has no plans to change its new slogan, but Joseph Uscinski, a political science professor at the University of Miami who studies conspiracy theories, said the slogan could still act as a dog whistle for followers of QAnon and should be changed.
“Whether it was intended to do that or not, it will,” he told The Dallas Morning News Friday. “The intentions are different than the outcomes in this case. I don’t know what Allen West intended, but this certainly is a dog whistle for QAnon supporters.”
The party thumbed its nose at the calls for a new slogan on Thursday evening.
“BTW, our #WeAreTheStorm merch is flying off the shelves,” the Texas GOP’s Twitter wrote. “Order yours today and annoy the fake news media.”