QAnon’s weirdest obsession: Why does the radical far right fear the Masons?

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In my most recent nonfiction book, “Operation Mindf**k: QAnon & the Cult of Donald Trump,” I focused extensively on a “QTuber” named Rick Rene, because I viewed him then and now as the perfectly imperfect microcosm of the entire messed-up QAnon universe, which perceives the Democratic Party as an elaborate cover for Satanic/Masonic pedophiles seeking to transform the Earth into a “one-world government.”

In an email he sends out to all new subscribers, Rene relates his superhero origin story: “I’m a dad and a Christian and love the Bible. I used to fill my time teaching Bible classes at my church and coaching my kids in sports.” Then his son, he says, started sending him links to various online right-wing conspiracy theorists. They “seemed pretty out there,” Rene writes, definitely not material he was seeing “from the Mainstream Media or the News Apps on my phone.” But the more he listened, Rene says, the more he “became intrigued enough to research these ‘crazy theories,'” or, in the now-familiar phrase, to do his own research. Rene claims he didn’t vote for Trump in the 2016 Republican primary (another familiar theme) but soon had “taken ‘the red pill,'” which in QAnon speak means choosing to believe that everything Donald Trump says is true, along with a lot of other implausible things Trump doesn’t quite say.

Rene no longer teaches Bible classes at his church. Instead, he advocates for the destruction of American intelligence agencies. In his Sept. 30, 2021, episode, Rene casually said of the FBI that we need to “blow it up and start over again from scratch!” On July 6, 2021, he waxed poetic about what he hoped would be the imminent destruction of the Washington Monument and the Statue of Liberty.

Why would a purportedly churchgoing, God-fearing Texas patriot pray for the violent destruction of such American landmarks? Because he and thousands of other evangelicals believe they were secretly constructed by Freemasons, who are essentially Satanists, and therefore must be obliterated.

This rhetoric has led not just to increased threats against such landmarks but to actual acts of destruction. On July 6, 2022, a curious monument known as the Georgia Guidestones (often referred to as “America’s Stonehenge”), one of that state’s most popular tourist attractions, was largely destroyed in a late-night bombing under the cover of night. That came just a few weeks after Republican gubernatorial candidate Kandiss Taylor (whose red, white and blue campaign bus was emblazoned with the slogan “JESUS GUNS BABIES”) had announced that destroying the “Satanic” guidestones was a key element of her platform.

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