By Meagan Day
On August 19, President Donald Trump gave a nod of approval to believers in the QAnon conspiracy theory, which maintains that the president is secretly fighting to save the world from an elite satanic pedophile network, calling them “people that love our country.”
One week later, on August 26, Fox News host Tucker Carlson sympathized with Kyle Rittenhouse, a teenager who killed two Wisconsin Black Lives Matter protesters and maimed another. Carlson suggested Rittenhouse felt he “had to maintain order when no one else would.”
At a glance, these provocations might appear disconnected. But they are deeply intertwined. In the span of a week, Trump and Carlson both gave the green light to extremist elements on the Right, QAnon conspiracy theorists on the one hand and armed pro-police adventurists on the other. In the process they each drew on the same bedrock narrative: that the streets of America — especially Democrat-run cities, but nowhere is safe — are teeming with lawless agents of anarchy who flout authority, terrorize innocents, and threaten civilization itself. Thus besieged, right-wing extremism of one variant or another is not really extreme at all. It is rational, even heroic and patriotic.