Online and in real-life demonstrations, two viral conspiracy theories are increasingly coming together.
At first glance the sole thing they seem to possess in common is their vast distance from reality. On one hand, QAnon: a convoluted conspiracy theory that contends that President Trump is waging a secret war against Satan-worshipping elite pedophiles. On the opposite , a swirling mass of pseudoscience claiming that coronavirus doesn’t exist, or isn’t fatal, or any number of other baseless claims. These two ideas are now increasingly coming together, during a grand conspiracy mash-up. it had been apparent on the streets of London last weekend, where speakers addressing thousands of followers at an anti-mask, anti-lockdown demonstration touched on both themes. Posters promoting QAnon and a variety of other conspiracy theories were on display.
On Sunday, President Trump retweeted a message claiming truth number of Covid-19 deaths within the us was a little fraction of the official numbers. The tweet was later deleted by Twitter under its policy on misinformation. The account that posted it – “Mel Q” – remains live, and may be a copious spreader of QAnon ideas.
QAnon’s main strand of thought is that President Trump is leading a fight against child trafficking which will end during a day of reckoning with prominent politicians and journalists being arrested and executed. Mel Q is simply one among many QAnon influencers who have also been plugging coronavirus disinformation. “Coronavirus may be a cover-up for… child sex trafficking – a serious issue during this world and no-one wants to report about it,” one typical email read. Another man came touch to elucidate how his mother – who attended the protests – has been led down the rabbit burrow over the course of the pandemic, taken in first by coronavirus conspiracy theories and now by QAnon. There has long been overlap between QAnon influencers and pandemic conspiracists, but the weekend protests in London and other cities round the world were the most important offline demonstration so far of their increasing ties. “Proponents of Covid conspiracies have found ready-made audiences within the QAnon crowd and the other way around ,” says Chloe Colliver, senior policy director at the Institute for Strategic Dialogue (ISD), a think factory focused on extremism. “In the face of the pandemic, conspiracy theories paint a world that’s ordered, and controllable,” explains Open University psychologist Jovan Byford. “Conspiracy theories flourish when social machinery breaks down and available ways of creating sense of the planet prove inadequate for what’s happening . “While the pandemic has increased the general potential audience for such ideas, the QAnon and coronavirus strands also are linked by a preoccupation – or obsession – with children and their safety.