That was the case last night at the president's rally in Tampa, where he endorsed U.S. Rep. Ron DeSantis in his bid against state Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam in the GOP gubernatorial primary.
As a sort of welcoming party for the president an Internet collective, formed by way of websites like Reddit and 8Chan, that goes by the name "Q," short of "QAnon," made an appearance. It was their biggest yet, too.
Essentially, QAnon followers describe themselves as amateur online detectives, or "bakers," who try to piece together tidbits of vague information available online, also known as "bread crumbs," left for them online by a mysterious individual who goes by "Q," who claims to be a government official with high-level clearance.
It gets weirder: Apparently, Q's clues have left his followers to conclude that Special Counsel Robert Mueller's investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election is actually an elaborate cover-up. According to their digital lore, Mueller is working with Trump to rid the nation of vicious liberal elites, most of whom they accuse of murder, such as Academy Award-winning actor Tom Hanks, former President Barack Obama, U.S. Sen. John McCain and 2016 presidential candidate Hillary Clinton.
Beckoning back to the Pizzagate conspiracy theory, QAnon followers believe these liberal elites have been running intricate child sex rings for years. They go further by saying that there is a "storm" coming, as in Trump and Mueller are working to throw these pedophiles in jail.
NBC News reporter Ben Collins described the group as "Pizzagate on bath salts" via Twitter.
People like to call Qanon "Pizzagate on steroids," but it's really both emotionally and socioeconomically Pizzagate on bath salts.— Ben Collins (@oneunderscore__) July 31, 2018
At Tuesday night's rally, however, they weren't high or stoned on anything but the gospel of Trump, who, over the course of the last three years, has done a tremendous job at chipping away at the truth according to the public record. In turn, we've seen an unprecedented decline in trust in the media.
In 2005, according to a poll from Gallup, at least half the country had a "great deal" or "fair amount" of trust and confidence in the media. By 2016, however, with the add-in of Trump's consistent erosion of the truth, that same figure stood at just 32 percent. Last year, it rebounded to 41 percent among Democrats. Among Republicans, it was as low as 14 percent.
Then there's the Internet and all its far-out conspiratorial glory, which has only served as kindling for the dumpster fire keeping some conspiracy-peddling politicians warm.
Take U.S. Rep. Matt Gaetz, R-Fort Walton Beach, and his complicated relationship with the truth as an example: He once filed a bill based on a crowd-sourced conspiracy theory one of his staffers found on r/The_Donald, a subreddit notorious for hosting unfounded theories and anti-Islam tendencies.
As recently as last weekend, U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz, a Texas Republican, pushed back against Facebook for banning conspiracy theorist and InfoWars founder Alex Jones. Cruz, a former constitutional lawyer, claimed that the social media platform was infringing on Jones' First Amendments rights.
"Am no fan of Jones – among other things he has a habit of repeatedly slandering my Dad by falsely and absurdly accusing of him killing JFK – but who the hell made Facebook the arbiter of political speech? Free speech includes views you disagree with," Cruz said via Twitter.
Am no fan of Jones — among other things he has a habit of repeatedly slandering my Dad by falsely and absurdly accusing him of killing JFK — but who the hell made Facebook the arbiter of political speech? Free speech includes views you disagree with. #1A https://t.co/RC5v4SHaiI— Ted Cruz (@tedcruz) July 28, 2018
Welcome to the new normal, folks.
Just a sample of the sad scene we faced at the Trump rally in Tampa. I’m very worried that the hostility whipped up by Trump and some in conservative media will result in somebody getting hurt. We should not treat our fellow Americans this way. The press is not the enemy. pic.twitter.com/IhSRw5Ui3R— Jim Acosta (@Acosta) August 1, 2018
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