The specter of QAnon now looms large over the impending November election. But, it is not the first time that a “secret society” tied to “conspiracy theories” played a role in American politics. Long before anyone heard of “Q,” the Freemasons and the so-called “Illuminati” influenced many an election.
In the 1820s, an anti-Masonic conspiracy theory dominated politics in the Northeast. It even birthed a political party, the “Anti-Masonic Party,” which ended up holding its own presidential convention and nominating the United States’ first third-party candidate.
The Freemasons has always had close ties with the early days of American politics. Several of the Founding Fathers were masons. “Masonic symbols,” can even be found on the dollar bill. Freemasonry was founded as an upper-class fraternal organization in early-18th century Britain. Membership quickly grew, and many influential American politicians and thinkers – including Benjamin Franklin, George Washington and Paul Revere – joined the ranks.
Its secretive nature, elaborate rituals and the wealth and power of its members made the Masons kind of the “founding fathers” of all conspiracy theories as well. Because of the cabal like nature of the organization, their use of arcane symbology, and because it often challenged the power of the church, conspiracies against the Masons have tended to frame the group as anti-Christian or even satanic.
It was the Masons that gave rise to another popular political conspiracy theory that continues to this day – the existence of the so-called “Illuminati.” In 1798, British author John Robison published a text arguing that a secret offshoot of the Freemasons had formed a group called “the Illuminati,” which peddled a philosophy of “cosmopolitism” bent on subverting all religions and resisting state authority.
In response, the “Anti Masonic Party” was formed, and interestingly enough, much like QAnon does to “Liberals” today, it attacked the Masons as a bunch of “rich, elitist, Satan worshipers” who were hell-bent on destroying America as we know it.
Secret Societies and Presidential Politics
During the presidential election of 1832, the Anti-Masonic Party opposed President Andrew Jackson, who was a Mason, and had planned to support his opponent, Henry Clay. But after members found out that Clay was also a Mason, the party went on to back a third-party candidate, William Wirt. The anti-Masons hosted their own convention, and Wirt actually received 8% of the presidential vote.
After the election, the Anti-Masonic Party merged with former Republicans to form the Whig Party, which would become a force in American politics for several decades.
The similarities between the followers of QAnon, the Anti-Masons, and other “conspiracy theorists that have influenced American politics cannot be overlooked. Like the anti-Masonic conspiracies, QAnon followers believe that a secretive group of elites is secretly controlling social institutions for satanic ends. Q also portends a “Great Awakening,” during which the masses will finally grasp the existence of the depraved cabal and bring it to justice.
A 2019 Emerson poll found that 5% of Americans believe in QAnon. This might seem like a small number. But elections can serve as important platforms to expand movements. At their most basic level, they expose more voters to individuals who hold certain beliefs and ideas.
Could followers of QAnon influence an election, and gain the kinds of power and representation that the Anti-Mason Party once did?
Do you think there is any legitimacy to the “conspiracy theories” espoused by QAnon? Reply using the comments below.