“The main thing that I learned about conspiracy theory, is that conspiracy theorists believe in a conspiracy because that is more comforting. The truth of the world is that it is actually chaotic. The truth is that it is not The Iluminati, or The Jewish Banking Conspiracy, or the Gray Alien Theory.
The truth is far more frightening — Nobody is in control.” (Alan Moore)
Recently, an acquaintance on FaceBook has started posting stories on their feed that comment on raids around the country that “recover” or “find” hundreds of missing children. The stories always include the hashtag # S a v e O u r C h i l d r e n (I’ve spaced it out so that it does not appear in searches).
And my big question is: what do I say to this person?
The hashtag for saving children is part and parcel of QAnon’s long-term strategy to infiltrate every aspect of society. Who wouldn’t be happy that children are rescued? Why not share the image of rescued children? Who wouldn’t want to share the above hashtag? You’d have to be heartless not to.
Just don’t do it.
Well, what is QAnon? It seems to have emerged in 2017, largely on the online 4Chan boards. QAnon is “headed” by an anonymous figure, Q. No identity has been established for Q. Some believe that Q is an individual from the future relaying information via quantum computing. Others believe that Q is deeply rooted in the US government and is releasing top secret information.
One of the primary tenets of QAnon is that world governments (not just the US government) are controlled by a “deep state,” by a cabal of blood-drinking pedophiles. These individuals also control big business, the pharmaceutical companies, Hollywood and the entertainment industry. They are very busy.
QAnon began with a typically conspiratorial post in late 2017 suggesting that Hillary Clinton was about to be extradited for the crime of stealing money under the guise of earthquake relief funds in order to fund a massive international child trafficking and pedophilia organization. That post spread to other fora, and it was off to the races. These conspiracy theories quickly spread to Reddit, Facebook, and Youtube (among others). QAnon was behind the pizzagate rumors, for example.
QAnon adherents believe that some individuals in government and industry are actively working against the deep state. These individuals are called “white hats.” They also believe that the deep state or cabal will be brought to justice by Donald Trump. Adherents of QAnon look to Trump for signs, and, indeed, Trump himself has retweeted QAnon material.
All of these theories have capitalized on, and perpetuated deep distrust in government and politicians. And to be fair, we all have reason enough to distrust politicians. We could simply look at their craven acceptance of lobbying money and the influence that lobbyists and corporations have over them to distrust politicians. But QAnon argues that they all follow Satan, that they sexually abuse children and drink their blood after sacrifice. It really does sound like a D-grade horror film script.
And, yet, it has become more and more normalized and more and more accepted in disparate parts of society.
QAnon and QAnon adherents seek to leave the confines of the dark corners of the web and come out into the light of day. Much like the racists have in the Trump era. One, perhaps unlikely, place is the yoga and lifestyle community. QAnon has targeted lifestyle groups on Facebook and Instagram. They appeal to many of the values that someone who practices yoga might consider. They speak of a Great Awakening. They say that “where we go one, we go all.” Those ideas resonate with the beliefs and practices of yoga and spirituality. Practitioners of yoga are often distrustful of mainstream media, of mainstream medicine, of the pharmaceutical industry. But Q followers use these points in order to spread the larger ideas of QAnon.
Q followers have also seized on the Corona virus pandemic to sow disinformation and distrust. They argue that it was created and released by the deep state. They argue that the lockdowns, the social distancing, the mask requirements are all ways for the government to control us. They also argue that the vaccine will be a way for the government to administer a microchip with the shot. In short, QAnon fosters and foments the mask deniers and anti-vaxxers. And, ultimately, they prolong the pandemic itself.
As a final example, the Q followers have taken over the Save Our Children movement. The movement itself seems innocuous enough. Who would not want to save children from trafficking and from sexual abuse? However, QAnon has attempted to take over the hashtag (which is why I am not repeating it here). They have posted banners around the country. They have posted memes on Facebook and other social media. However, once viewers click on the post, they are lead to QAnon’s messages about the deep state and pedophile politicians. Children are trafficked. Children are abused. But QAnon and the use of the hashtag distract from real rescue efforts and shift the focus to conspiracy theories.
We have plenty of things to work on in our world: gender disparities and violence; sexual discrimination and marginalization; violence toward LGBTQ* individuals; racial inequality and violence against people of color; environmental degradation; the valuation of money and property over people. The list goes on. And we need to actively work to improve all these things. Q is not the answer.
QAnon suggests it can and will lead to a better world. But make no mistake, QAnon is a dangerous philosophy that capitalizes on often justified distrust. It fosters a deep distrust in social institutions. It sows division and discord. It undermines belief in science and truth. It traffics in vile racial, ethnic, and sexual stereotypes. It uses the plight of children to further its own ends. So, I have a new hashtag.
Ritch Calvin is an Associate Professor of Women’s, Gender, and Sexuality Studies at SUNY Stony Brook. He is the author of Feminist Epistemology and Feminist Science Fiction and editor of a collection of essays on Gilmore Girls.