QAnon: What is it, and is it Dangerous?

According to several news sources such as CNN, many of the people who stormed the U.S. Capitol building yesterday were part of extreme factions including QAnon. So what, exactly, is QAnon?

QAnon is a group of conspiracy theorists that are reaching hundreds of followers every day. This is happening because people spend immense amounts of time on the internet due to boredom from the pandemic. It is estimated QAnon has at least 100,000 followers, according to Julia Carrie Wong from Theguardian.com. The FBI has even labeled the group as domestic terrorism. QAnon didn’t just show up entirely out of the blue, however. It has its origin and history. The popularity of this conspiracy theory has skyrocketed over the past few months. Though QAnon is primarily concerned with North American politics, some other countries like Latin America and Europe believe in it. 

QAnon followers believe an anonymous online figure called Q posts clues and information about a large-scale conspiracy where Donald Trump is in a battle with secret democrats, Hollywood elites, and billionaires such as Bill Gates.

QAnon had its start on the 4Chan and 8Chan subculture websites where people can post anonymously. 4-Chan has an alt-right user base often spreading doctored images and misinformation, says Oscar Gonzalez from Cnet.com. QAnon believers will gravitate to particular anonymous posts on 4Chan and other alt-right websites where they interpret the post as relevant to their grand conspiracy. Supposedly Q has a trip code that makes his posts recognizable from other anonymous users. Most of these conspiracies fade away, but according to Theguardian.com, QAnon had help. Three unnamed conspiracy theorists dug deep to supposedly translate Q’s posts to make it more digestible for a typical audience. 

The prime concern of QAnon followers is that they think the types of people listed above have links to pedophilia, child trafficking, and even satanism. They also believe these people drain the blood from abused children to harvest a life-extending chemical from the blood called Adrenochrome supposedly. This is derived from the anti-Semitic belief that Jewish people would murder Christian children and use their blood for drinking and baking. All of this has been debunked many, many years ago, as reported by Theguardian.com. 

Megan Cutter is the acting director of the US National Human Trafficking Hotline operated by Polaris. Polaris is a nonprofit organization that works to fight human trafficking and modern-day slavery says, NationalPublicRadio.org. Cutter states that “So far, these (conspiracies) are unproven and are taking away from the discourse around how trafficking happens.” QAnon is creating more of a roadblock for helping trafficked children. It is spreading incorrect information about how trafficking works. Megan Cutter said that QAnon believers see child trafficking as violently stealing children out on the streets and taking them away, which can be the case but is rarer. The most common child trafficking strategy is when the child knows their trafficker before they know their intentions. They build trust with the person. Traffickers will also go for more vulnerable children like children that have been abused, have poverty issues, or have faced systemic racism.  

So why should we be concerned about any of this? Unfortunately, conspiracy theories like this can have real-life implications and consequences. With the popularity of QAnon on the rise, believers can vote in candidates that have QAnon beliefs or similar beliefs. This could affect state governments, the national government, and even the presidency. In this last election, there were candidates for important government offices who do believe in this conspiracy. 

Majorie Taylor Greene, the 2020 winner of a House seat in Georgia, is a firm believer in the QAnon conspiracies. She is now recognized as QAnon’s first political victory, as reported by Kevin Roose from the NewYorkTimes.com. While Greene is a firm believer, some candidates only believe in certain aspects of the conspiracy theory. Republican candidate Lauren Boebert says she doesn’t engage with conspiracy theories. Still, she has openly stated that she hopes Q is real, according to Em Steck, Nathan McDermott, and Christopher Hickey on CNN.com. Another Republican candidate Mike Cargile says, “I started checking into it. And a lot of it I agree with. There’s are some fringe elements I don’t agree with,” An independent candidate, KW Miller, has posted numerous QAnon hashtags, engages in the conspiracies, and has promoted QAnon through Facebook ads. He claims that he does not endorse QAnon, but his followers do. Catherine Purcell, an Independent Party of Delaware candidate, has reposted many QAnon hashtags and content and claimed that not all of the posts are her beliefs, says CNN.com.

A doctor by the name of Hadi Halazun tells NBC News that on his Facebook page, a man left messages saying that, “No one’s dying” (of COVID19) and that it is all “Fake news.” Halazun tried to tell his first-hand experience with dealing with the virus. In a reply, he was told by another user that he wasn’t a real doctor because he attended concerts and music festivals. They even asked for his credentials, and once Hadi Halazun did so, he was kicked off their wall. Dr. Duncan Maru, a physician, and epidemiologist in Queens, New York, heard from his colleagues that a young man went into the emergency room. It turns out it was from drinking bleach that damaged his intestinal tract. President Trump did suggest injecting disinfectants into our bodies as a possible treatment for Covid-19.

Some think that QAnon will fizzle away now that President Trump has lost the 2020 election, but others feel that QAnon may stick around for a long time or at least awhile. What do you think?

Story by Marni Scholl
Image licensed from Vectorstock.com

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