Saturday 31st October 2020
The QAnon movement is spreading confused myths that the US is ruled by Satanists. The corona pandemic plays into the hands of conspiracy theorists. The number of followers is growing worldwide. Experts fear that the movement will permanently shake trust in medicine.
Not only the coronavirus has spread across the globe in the past few months. Promoted by the pandemic, the conspiracy myths of the QAnon movement have found more and more followers worldwide. Whether in Los Angeles, London, Berlin or Melbourne – the capital Q, the symbol of the movement, can be seen in all demonstrations against the measures to contain the virus.
The pandemic is a conspiracy by pedophiles, warn the protesters. Vaccinations and 5G cell phone technology should be used to control people. While these claims are unfounded, the number of people who believe them has skyrocketed since March.
“In some ways the pandemic has advanced conspiracy theories like QAnon perfectly,” says Mackenzie Hart, who researches disinformation for the London-based political institute ISD. “Not only do people need to stay inside and spend more time online, but they’re scared too. And when people are scared, conspiracy theories offer simple answers.”
QAnon-related posts on major online platforms exploded between March and June, according to an analysis by the ISD. In other words, exactly at the time when the corona infections were increasing worldwide and the governments were trying to stop the spread with strict exit restrictions and contact bans. The increase was almost 175 percent on Facebook, 77.1 percent on Instagram and 63.7 percent on Twitter.
Many QAnon messages are anti-Semitic and right-wing radical
QAnon has its origin in the USA. A user named Q started posting cryptic messages in an anonymous internet forum in October 2017. Q claims he works for US intelligence and has access to classified information. His messages, called “Q-Drops”, were then discussed and disseminated by his followers in the traditional online media.
QAnon’s basic claim is that the United States is ruled by a criminal and satanic organization that includes former Presidents Bill Clinton and Barack Obama and various Hollywood stars. Donald Trump, on the other hand, is fighting these dark forces. Many of the QAnon messages are anti-Semitic and right-wing radical, and some supporters are willing to use violence. According to the US Federal Police FBI, the movement poses a risk of extremist violence.
QAnon is still the strongest in the USA. In the United States, conspirators often show up at Trump’s campaign rallies. When asked about the QAnon movement, Trump refused to condemn it in the TV duel last week. “I don’t know anything about QAnon,” said Trump. However, he liked the group’s stance against pedophilia. In August, he described QAnon’s followers as “people who love our country” and was flattered that they support him. Trump’s Democratic challenger Joe Biden, on the other hand, calls the conspiracy myth “completely bizarre” and “embarrassing and dangerous”.
“This is an anti-scientific movement”
The major social media platforms that had to deal with QAnon in the USA long before the pandemic saw themselves being forced to proceed more restrictively in view of the growing prevalence. For example, they are changing the recommendation algorithms, which experts say helped spread the content in the first place. Hundreds of thousands of accounts, ads, and hashtags related to QAnon have been blocked or restricted on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, YouTube, and TikTok in the past few months.
But the baseless messages continue to circulate and are often spread by celebrities. Politicians, entertainers and influencers are among them. Many do not seem to be aware of the full extent of the bizarre myths of QAnon. The movement recently hijacked the hashtag of a campaign against child trafficking. As a result, well-meaning influencers referred to QAnon hashtags, providing an even larger forum for unsustainable claims about an elite of child molesters.
Experts fear that QAnon could seriously damage the fight against the coronavirus by shaking trust in medicine with its thesis that people are manipulated by vaccinations. “This is an anti-scientific movement,” says US vaccine researcher Peter Hotez. “This is an incredible health threat.”