About two weeks ago I wrote a piece on the Proud Boys, their cowardice, and why they are easy to condemn despite President Trump's hesitancy. I did not anticipate it being a series but whoever can predict the spasmodic mind of our nation's leader deserves a Nobel Prize. So here we are talking about yet another batshit crazy group that President Trump has repeatedly failed to condemn, including last night in front of the entire nation. Today's group, QAnon.
What QAnon is and their beliefs was best expressed by this New York Times article “QAnon is the umbrella term for a sprawling set of internet conspiracy theories that allege, falsely, that the world is run by a cabal of Satan-worshiping pedophiles who are plotting against Mr. Trump while operating a global child sex-trafficking ring.”
QAnon’s beliefs make the Proud Boys look borderline Socratic. What seperates QAnon from groups like the Proud Boys is its focus on the internet, its cultish tendencies, and the range of people it is attracting. Q was born in the bowels of the internet, also known as 4chan. It has since migrated around various freedom of speech focused sites and corners of the dark web. But more on that later. The cult aspect of QAnon is more difficult to write about. Several articles and sources refer to the movement as a cult and it's not hard to see why. The refusal to acknowledge reality, the inability to see reason, and the manner in which it pulls you in and keeps you there. There are additionally deeply disturbing personal stories that individuals have shared of losing family members to QAnons danger and an entire Reddit thread devoted to their personal stories. The title of this piece is from a quote the BBC did with a family member from one of those posts and it truly made me reflect and change my original lighthearted tone of writing. For this piece I'm going to continue to refer to it as a conspiracy theory as I do not believe I am qualified to make the judgment of a cult vs a non cult and the highest official acknowledgment of QAnon I found was an FBI report that labels them a dangerous fringe political conspiracy theory.
How QAnon works and its origins are complex, but some quick details pulled from the sources linked are that it started in 2017 on 4chan and has since migrated around dark web forums. Q refers to a clearance level in the Department of Energy and Anon is shorthand for anonymous. The idea is that there is a high-ranking member of government with this clearance level who is bravely leaking classified information to the public about President Trump’s fight against the deep state and the cannibal and/or pedophile cabals; most of whom coincidentally are democrats, progressives, or anybody who disagrees with President Trump (that may be why he will not disavow them). Who is a part of and who is against the so-called deep state is constantly changing though. Originally senior military members were in on the fight against the deep state. However as it has become more clear to the public over the course of the last few years that the military is apolitical and does not blindly follow President Trump, or any President, and instead holds true to its oath to support and defend the Constitution of the United States this narrative has fallen away. Q’s story has had to evolve around this hurdle of rationality. And that is what Q does. When the calamity and events Q predicted fail to materialize, new predictions and explanations emerge with fresh tie ins and theories. And around and around they go.
QAnon goes into cannibalism, JFK, 9/11 and more. You name a conspiracy theory and they have got it woven into their narrative somehow so that they can keep their movement rolling along. We are going to focus on the child abduction and molestation side because President Trump mentioned it last night when he cleverly contradicted himself by saying “I know nothing about it” and then in the same breath said “I do know they are very much against pedophilia”.
Two takeaways there. Let us first address the President's knowledge of the definition of the word “Nothing” which is “Not anything; No single thing”. So he clearly knows something about Q-Anon since he referred to their pedophilia conspiracy. In fact people can even quantify that he knows about Q-Anon because he has “reported to have promoted QAnon accounts to his 87.2 million followers at least 258 times from around 150 individual accounts”. Unless the President isn’t actually reading his tweets he knows what QAnon is and lied.
So, what about the pedophilia line? Is QAnon leading the fight against pedophiles everywhere and protecting our innocent youth? Unsurprisingly no, they are actually hurting it and hampering real professionals from combating pedophilia and child abduction. You may recall, in what feels like years ago, the Wayfair conspiracy where groups thought that the online furniture company Wayfair’s high prices and naming scheme were because they were secretly a market for the online sale of children. Well that was QAnon. Or at least it started with QAnon. Conspiracy theories like this are exchanged in their forums all the time but occasionally one manages to make its way into mainstream internet culture and have a more significant real-world impact, oftentimes this migration is helped along by people in power- say for instance the President of The United States sharing them on Twitter. In this case the real-world impact was thousands of people flooding the phone line for the National Human Trafficking Hotline, a vital tool used to combat human trafficking, and hampering their capacity to combat human trafficking. So rather than “fight it very hard” as President Trump would say, they hinder and hurt the fight against human trafficking.
If you watch or listen to interviews with followers of QAnon, you will often hear them say how they did research or encourage you to look for yourself and do your own research. High School students are taught better research methods and to use more credible sources than the followers of the QAnon movement. Googling YouTube clips, reading anonymous dark web posts, and listening to unnamed people rant about the storm that is coming on a podcast is not research. Reading this blog isn’t research either to be fair. I have a bias and I have not tried to downplay it in my writing. While the other writers and I do our best to draw our information from credible sources, we are not exactly going to be put up for any Pulitzers here. We are all progressives advocating a progressive agenda and are not reviewed by anyone other than ourselves. Therefore in the spirit of nonpartisanship, below I will put links to some resources you can use to conduct actual research that aren’t behind paywalls. Additionally, if you are concerned about political bias in some of the news links, I will also include a link to an organization that will inform you as to the reliability and bias of most news sources. Finally there are podcasts on Q specifically. I promise you these are not as fun and exciting to read as Q posts or even your favorite blog but their importance can't be overstated. QAnon will not be defeated by shouting, memes, or retweets. It, and many other issues, will be overcome through facts.