A variant of the sinister far-right QAnon conspiracy campaign has been launched in Britain. Until now largely confined to the internet, it is morphing into a street movement. Local political activist and writer Simon Magorian investigates.
Those who opposed the English Defence League will remember their malign and bogus attempts to associate Muslims with paedophilia. Similarly, QAnon has been busy libelling leftists and liberals as child abusers. It is therefore no surprise that many of the same people involved in the EDL are QAnon supporters. The movement’s other hobby horses include anti-vaccination – they argue that Bill Gates will put microchips into COVID vaccines – and mask-wearing because, they claim, the 5G network is the actual cause of the virus.
QAnon weaves together these modern concerns with some of the oldest and nastiest conspiracy theories around. At the movement’s core are anti-Semitic narratives about the Rothschild banking family’s undue influence over world affairs that are scarily redolent of Nazi ideology. In addition, QAnon indulges in Islamophobia, homophobia, anti-Roman Catholic rhetoric and, inevitably, crazed talk about the Illuminati.
QAnon started with a mysterious figure calling him/her/itself ‘Q Clearance Patriot’ and claiming to be a high-ranking intelligence officer revealing ‘deep state conspiracies.’ ‘Q’ has continued to publish mysterious posts in apparently coded language.
It is tempting to view QAnon followers as mere cranks, but they now represent a genuine societal threat.
The ‘Pizzagate’ conspiracy theory was a precursor to QAnon, which has since incorporated it into its belief system. During the 2016 presidential campaign, a fake news story held that Wikileaks had revealed emails showing that Hillary Clinton and the US Democratic Party were running a child sex ring from the basement of a Washington, DC pizza parlour.
It was all nonsense, of course. But it had consequences. A North Carolina man travelled to DC to investigate the matter. He fired his rifle inside the restaurant before being arrested and later imprisoned. Thankfully, no one was injured.
In 2019, the FBI deemed QAnon a domestic terror threat, stating that such conspiracy theories encourage ‘both groups and individual extremists to carry out criminal or violent acts’.
QAnon maintains that elite networks of paedophiles are not only abusing children but murdering and eating them. Of course, child trafficking, paedophilia and the killing of children are material realities, but QAnon’s concerns about these issues are pure fantasy. More bizarre still are allegations of Hollywood celebrities sacrificing children in satanic rituals and harvesting adrenochrome – a drug enjoyed by said celebrities, it is claimed – from the pituitary glands of the dead.
Other supporters maintain that these satanic ceremonies involve the drinking of children’s blood. To horror fans, this may sound like one Clive Barker reboot too many. But it also recalls the infamous ‘blood libel’, an anti-Semitic canard that accused Jews of killing Christian infants in order to use their blood in religious rites.
Such hateful lies formed one of the ideological building blocks for Hitler’s genocide of the Jews.
Any cult – and it is reasonable to call QAnon a cult – typically has a seemingly infallible leader. In their mythology it is Donald Trump who is heading a crusade against paedophiles and the ‘deep state’.
Benevolent billionaire strongmen are a feature of American popular culture narratives, however unconvincing the notion might be. In the novels of Sam Crescent, secret super-rich bikers rescue the victims of sex trafficking. There is also, of course, Bruce Wayne of the Batman comics and films. In a recent TV reboot of Sinbad, the titular character was changed from a working-class sailor to a shipping magnate.
But the idea of Trump (whose wealth and business success is exaggerated anyway) as saviour is not going to persuade everyone, so he has been largely excised from the ‘SaveOurChildren’ sites being mobilised by QAnon enthusiasts.
One of the many problems with Trump being hailed as an enemy of the traffickers is that his policies have inadvertently helped them. His ‘border control’ crackdown has led to illegal immigrants being scooped up and dumped over the Mexican border, often into the hands of criminal gangs.
According to US journalist Sonali Kolhatkar, ‘Dr Amy Cohen, executive director of Every Last One, explained to me in an interview that under the Trump administration’s so-called “Remain in Mexico” program, “the United States has been essentially feeding vulnerable migrant children and families to cartel traffickers in Mexico continuously.” The program, officially known by the Orwellian-sounding title of “Migrant Protection Protocols” (MPP), sends immigrants seeking entry into the United States across the border to Mexico to await the adjudication of their cases. While the Department of Homeland Security claimed that MPP would “decrease the… ability of smugglers and traffickers to prey on vulnerable populations,” in fact it does the opposite.
‘Cohen elaborated on this horrific phenomenon: ‘Migrants are dropped off with nothing on the other side of the border, with no shelter, with no protection, with no food, with no money. And within minutes, they are picked up by cartel gangs that are waiting.” As a child and family psychiatrist who works closely with traumatized migrant children, she did not mince words, saying that families are, “kidnapped and used for extortion, which is a form of trafficking. Sometimes they are tortured. Sometimes they are raped. Children are compelled to watch. Sometimes children themselves are raped.”’
Of course, one child victim is one too many. But QAnon wants to portray a nightmarish world which forces many working in child welfare to react to their manufactured panics rather than doing their job of protecting children.
As HuffPost reported, ‘Polaris, which runs the national human trafficking hotline, warned in July that unsubstantiated claims “can spin out of control and mislead well-meaning people into doing more harm than good.” In August, after the century-old charity Save the Children charity issued a public statement to distance itself from QAnon’s leeched “Save Our Children” front, the nonprofit World Without Exploitationfollowed suit, casting QAnon promoters as “grifters with a hero complex.” Days later, KidSafe Foundation denounced them as “parasites” who threaten to “tarnish our reputations and harm our good works.”’
But QAnon is notorious for launching mob harassment campaigns against its perceived adversaries. The result has been that other anti-trafficking groups — having already witnessed or experienced such abuse — are reluctant to speak out against it.
The potential risk of publicly condemning QAnon and provoking its fury versus the harm of letting its conspiracy theories proliferate unchallenged is the subject of discussions playing out inside child welfare organisations across the country. Several employees who spoke to HuffPost declined to comment on the record for fear of triggering a backlash: ‘We have had conversations internally about [QAnon], and just threading the needle on trying not to anger a very mobilized group,’ said the employee of another human rights outfit in Washington, DC.
In Britain, QAnoners have not used the SavetheChildren tag for fear of litigation from a respected charity, and are instead using SaveOurChildren. They frequently point out that 118,000 children go missing every year, a misnomer because while that number is reported as missing, it does not mean they stay missing.
Full Fact reports that ‘generally, most missing children incidents are resolved quickly without harm to the child being recorded. In 98% of recorded incidents involving missing children in England and Wales, no harm was recorded, although police data does caveat this by saying that this just means cases have been closed without harm being reported by the missing child. The data behind this figure represents around half of the police forces in England and Wales. The data isn’t available for the others, nor for police forces in Scotland and Northern Ireland.’
Moreover, ‘the majority of resolved incidents (52%) end within eight hours, with 80% being resolved within 24 hours. This doesn’t include the small number of cases that are unresolved. The UK Missing Persons Unit records that 1,514 children are long-term missing, which means they have been missing for longer than 28 days in England, Wales, and Scotland (data for Northern Ireland isn’t available) and remain unresolved. Cases can remain open for a significant amount of time.’
The sad reality is that there are about 50 child murders a year, nearly all of them committed by the child’s parent or step-parent. Although it is important to point out that children have to be street-smart and aware of ‘stranger danger’, the overwhelming number of child sexual abuse cases involve someone with a familial connection to the victim.
There is obviously no room for complacency when it comes to the welfare of children, and conversely, there is no room for hysterical nonsense either.
QAnon cultists generally have a superior attitude because they feel they are better informed than their critics. ‘Wake up, sheeple!’ is a common trope. They question the motives and morality of anyone who challenges their assertions. Any criticism is seen as an attempt to tear them away from their higher moral purpose.
Most cults are eager to recruit not the gullible but the articulate who have a strong moral sense. You don’t get to know entirely what you are signing up to until you are in very, very, deep. QAnon has its own internal language and morality. Leaving its orbit can be dangerous.
I have investigated QAnon’s private Facebook group, which supports the SaveOurChildren demo in Portsmouth planned for 10th October and is building for future protests in Liverpool and elsewhere. It has already promoted similar public actions in Leeds and London.
To avoid confusion, the group’s masthead was changed by them from Save Our Children to s.o.c.f.m. (Save Our Children From Monsters). They likely did this to avoid expulsion from Facebook given that other related pages have already been removed for breaching standards.
Some of the figures and organisations cited will be familiar to those who monitor fascist activity online. The group’s admins promote far-right outfits and causes such as the Pie and Mash Squad, the North West Infidels and March for England.
Other posts summarise QAnon’s worldview: society is run by a shady cabal of the Royals, Rothschilds and Rockefellers – and, of course, the Vatican. All these bogeymen are deemed to be ‘liberals’, which is a highly dubious claim anyway.
For QAnon COVID is a hoax, ‘Plandemic’, merely a form of social control, which is why their devotees are so prominent on anti-mask demos. Black Lives Matter is, of course, just a distraction caused by our secret rulers. Concepts such as the ‘One World Government’ and the ‘New World Order’ will be familiar to observers of right-wing groups.
For the sake of fact-checking – not that QAnon cares much about this – the allegation that the Rothschild family are big players in international high finance has not been even vaguely true since the 1920s. They are now ‘old money’ who only ever had any real influence a century ago. People who bang on about the Rothschilds tell us nothing about the contemporary world, but they tell us plenty about themselves.
According to RT, ‘Elon Musk is being accused of anti-Semitism by some social media users after the Tesla chief’s Twitter response to a journalist amid a growing conflict with the media. The founder of an online publication The Online, Joshua Topolsky, asked Musk: “Do you think it’s in the interest of powerful people to A: support a free press that exposes their lies, or B: tear it down so their lies are easier to tell?” Musk responded: “Who do you think *owns* the press? Hello.”’
Graphics posted in the Facebook group by Save Our Children reveal that they sign up to the old-school anti-Semitic view that the entire media is controlled by an alliance of powerful Jews.
Another post highlights the porn star Ron Jeremy’s arraignment on charges of rape, describing him as ‘Jewish filth’ and accusing him of preying on gentile women. This is, of course, reminiscent of Nazi propaganda, most notably the film Jud Süß (1934) in which the central Jewish character rapes non-Jewish women.
I believe that the misspelling – ‘Jooish’ – is not out of ignorance or artfulness but to confound Facebook’s checkers.
With its references to ‘Islam raping children for 1400 years’, the group seems to be as Islamophobic as it is anti-Semitic. Other material is anxious about drag queens reading stories in public libraries which, in America, is apparently a thing.
However, it promotes the idea that LGBT rights are really a Trojan horse for paedophiles. It also pushes the line that trans rights are a threat to children.
Another post – marked as suspect by independent fact-checkers – libels Kamala Harris and Planned Parenthood, a respected organisation.
Needless to say, the group has no time for Black Lives Matter, claiming it to be a ‘hate group’ devoted to violence. In truth, the FBI maintains that 97% of BLM protests have been peaceful. As most people know, BLM seeks to achieve structural change through peaceful means. The Ku Klux Klan is a white supremacist terrorist outfit which used murder to terrify the black community, and is believed to be responsible for about 2,000 homicides.
To imply moral equivalence is disgusting.
For QAnon it is not just the Clintons, the Obamas, the Queen and the Rothschilds who are to blame for fantastical conspiracies. If you thought Christopher Hitchens was rough on Mother Teresa of Calcutta in his iconoclastic book The Missionary Position and film Mother Teresa: Hell’s Angel, these guys can play a whole lot rougher. I was not a great fan of hers, as many of her homes were badly run with poor medical provision. But British-based QAnoners are accusing her of child trafficking and worse, without any evidence whatsoever. Apparently, she was pimping for Jeffrey Epstein. Oh, and Dr Fauci is her secret love child. The fact she knew Hillary Clinton apparently proves her depravity.
We must not imply QAnon supporters are mentally ill, nor that they are like the harmless cranks of groups like the Flat Earth Society. It is tempting to write them off as a bunch of whimpering loonbuckets and just laugh at them. But that would be a mistake.
The idea of a ruthless cabal running the world according to an evil secret agenda is fine, but only if you’re watching a Bond movie. In truth, it offers no serious or helpful analysis of social and political problems. And blind devotion to President Trump – a man standing on a mountain of corpses waving a Confederate flag – is not the solution. Such an approach validates weary resignation and disempowers people. It mitigates against collectively organising to achieve change.
The fear is that, as the QAnon cult builds online and offline, it will come to be mobilised for more dangerous purposes. The notion that Jewish socialists and Jewish businessmen were plotting together to run the world was absurd in the 1920s. But it was widely believed in the US, UK, France, Russia, Eastern Europe and of course Germany, where the assumption helped Hitler to power and the Holocaust to happen.
We have not progressed as far as we would have liked over the last 100 years, for in the upcoming US elections no fewer than 15 Republican candidates are said to be supporters of QAnon. In the UK, we have seen large QAnon protests in Trafalgar Square and elsewhere. Joining their ranks were everyone from New Age types to people waving Mosleyite flags from the 1930s.
This is a toxic campaign that, like a ripe peach, could easily fall into the lap of a nascent fascist movement. QAnon has a hierarchy of villains to vent its anger against, but it has no record of seriously and comprehensively opposing them on political or ideological grounds. QAnon has also used violent methods against those who disagree with them.
Perhaps worst of all, its devotees can be aggressive towards abuse survivors whose lived experience does not coincide with their worldview. I was recently informed that they are encouraging people to attend online ‘colleges’ to obtain diplomas on ‘how to spot child abusers’.
More disturbingly still, they are saying they want to infiltrate schools. I will be reaching out to the NEU (National Education Union) to persuade them to work with other unions and authorities to construct a firewall against QAnon. This is necessary to prevent potentially serious damage being done to the most vulnerable in our society.
QAnon is a hate cult. It must be exposed for what it is. It must be stopped from growing. Ultimately it must be defeated.
A version of this article was originally posted on Simon Magorian’s blog.
Images from social media courtesy of Simon Magorian.