The List: Six reasons QAnon is a load of crap

Andy Downing
adowning@columbusalive.com
Donald Trump supporters hold up phones referring to the QAnon conspiracy theory at a campaign rally in Las Vegas on Feb. 21, 2020.

If you happened by the Ohio Statehouse this past Saturday, you might have noticed a group rallying to “Save the Children.” 

The event had its roots in a loose network of national protests that have sprung up in recent weeks ostensibly to raise awareness of child trafficking, but which havelargely been created by QAnon supporters or sympathizers, serving as soft soil for introducing the conspiracy to a wider audience. Hence the Columbus appearance of multiple people holding signs that referenced the heavily debunked “Pizzagate” conspiracy, which went viral in 2016 and claimed (absent evidence) that high-ranking Democrats were part of an underground child trafficking ring run out of Comet Ping Pong pizzeria in Washington, D.C. Pizzagate has recently been revitalized within QAnon circles, a growing conspiracy the FBI has dubbed “a domestic terror threat.”

As with everything else stupid in 2020, QAnon is currently thriving, takingan ever-increasing foothold in Republican politics, which doesn’t bode particularly well for the post-Trump future of the party.

All of this despite the fact that QAnon is legitimately ridiculous— a mishmash of bug-eyed, easily debunked claims, anti-Semitic language, COVID denialism and Trumpist cult building. In a functioning society, anyone who espoused a legitimate belief in its ramblings would be ridiculed, shamed and chased from the town squarerather than put up as a candidate for higher office

Unfortunately, that’s not where we are with things these days. Indeed, afterAlive posted a piece about the Columbus Save the Children rally that included mention of the Q-based Wayfair conspiracy,which falsely suggested furniture wholesaler Wayfair was involved in child trafficking, this writer received multiple emails from readers just “asking questions” about the baseless claims. Some of the furniture items made available for sale shared names with “missing or exploited children,” one person wrote. “Any thoughts?” 

Actually, since you asked, I do have some thoughts. Here are just six of the reasons that QAnon is a load of crap.

1. It has positioned President Donald Trump, of all people, as the savior to trafficked children

QAnon followers embrace an intertwined series of beliefs based on web postings from individual “Q” (a designation within the U.S. Department of Energy denoting the highest levels of security clearance) who claims to have inside knowledge. At the center of the conspiracy is the belief that Trump is secretly fighting a cabal of child-sex predators that includes prominent Democrats, Hollywood elites and “deep state” allies. The same Trump who has a list of sexual misconduct allegations longer than a CVS receipt and who once appeared on TV speculating about his then 1-year-old daughter’s breasts

2. QAnon is arguably making the pandemic worse

Of all the misinformation shared by QAnon, wildly outlandish beliefs about the coronavirus might be the most immediately damaging. Just this week, a Q believer made false claims about COVID death statistics in a Twitter post that was later shared by Trump (the post has since been removed by Twitter). And for months Q followers have boosted medical disinformation and downplayed the threat of the virus, claiming COVID is a Democratic hoax designed to bring down the Trump presidency. Expect QAnon and anti-vaxxers to form like a fear-mongering Voltron after a COVID vaccine is developed.

3. It is rooted in anti-Semitism

Whitney Phillips, assistant professor of communication and rhetorical studies at Syracuse University and co-author of the forthcomingYou Are Here: A Field Guide for Navigating Polluted Information, noted that the idea of a “deep state” is an established conspiracy in conservative circles that has roots in anti-Semitism. “Both historically and also as it’s articulated in modern conspiracy theorizing, ‘the deep state’ is either implicitly or explicitly anti-Semitic, exemplified by how often George Soros is brought into the conversation as the ultimate bogeyman,” Phillips said. “It’s ‘international bankers.’ It’s ‘globalists.’ All of these long-standing [anti-Semitic] code words.”

4. It has grown increasingly vague and outlandish with time

In order to keep Trump centered as the hero figure, QAnon has had to continually shift and stretch its interpretations of current events as a means of explaining away the president’s growing list of scandals. In the Q universe, for instance, Robert Mueller wasn’t investigating Trump for colluding with Russia, but was in fact secretly teaming with the president to investigate and bring down Hillary Clinton. 

5. The president loves it despite the collateral damage it could cause

Trump has always refused to distance himself from anyone who expresses support for him, no matter how vile their actions (see: the “very fine people” who rallied in Charlottesville and the teenagerwho shot and killed two Black Lives Matter protesters in Kenosha, Wisconsin). The same goes for QAnon, of which Trump once said, “They like me very much, which I appreciate.” According to Media Matters, Trump has shared posts from Q-related Twitter accounts 216 times, undoubtedly fueling the conspiracy’s growth and acceptance. This despite the fact that the conspiracy undermines public trust in government, has a corrosive effect on public health and boosts white nationalism and anti-Semitism.

6. It distracts from actually saving children

QAnon creates fictitious narratives about how trafficking occurs, which can be damaging to the cause to which they say they are trying to bring awareness."What happens when those myths get out there, is that the people who have the money, the power, the resources, the influence, hear these stories about snatching and grabbing people from Kroger in the suburbs or something, and then they start … making moves to bring resources to communities that already have a lot of protective factors," Celia Williamson, Director of the Human Trafficking and Social Justice Institute at the University of Toledo, told WTOL. "And when you have limited resources, you move them away from kids who are the most vulnerable. So, not only ... [is it] not a 'do no harm,' it's like you are actually doing harm."