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January 12, 2021 by

QAnon: An Anti-Semitic Conspiracy Theory Sweeps the Nation

Editor’s note: After last week’s Capitol riot and attack featured prominent QAnon flags and symbols, and a figure known as the “QAnon Shaman” was arrested for his role in the insurrection, the connection between the QAnon conspiracy theory and violent racist and anti-Semitic far-right movements is firmly in the spotlight.

But what is QAnon? How exactly is it anti-Semitic? And why does it count so many women among its adherents? Read on for a special preview from our forthcoming winter issue:

Some call QAnon a “conspiracy theory,” but that’s too simple a definition. QAnon is more like a collective delusion. The Global Network on Extremism and Technology, a think tank studying how terrorists use technology, based at Department of War Studies at King’s College London, defines QAnon as “a militant and anti-establishment ideology rooted in a quasi-apocalyptic desire to destroy the existing, corrupt world order and usher in a promised golden age.”

Up until the election, Q-followers shared one core belief: That Donald Trump will lead a holy war against Satan, aka “the deep state.” In other words, people and institutions associated with liberals, from Hollywood to George Soros. All of these people, Q-ers believe, are really a gigantic pedophile ring that kidnaps children and harvests their blood.

Sound familiar? There’s an obvious subtext of anti-Semitism in these tropes. The Jew as devourer of Christian children, who controls the banks and the world. These images date from the Middle Ages. In the 20th century, they got incorporated into the “Protocols of the Elders of Zion” and then the Nazi propaganda machine.

We shouldn’t expect QAnon to go away, but to continue mutating and multiplying. Especially now: Catastrophic times are when conspiracy theories thrive (think the Middle Ages, when people blamed the Black Death on the Jews). To that add the fact that for the last ten months, people are isolated at home, glued to their Facebook and Instagram accounts.

As people try to make sense of it all, they pick up the QAnon content hiding behind benign-seeming hashtags and posts. Last summer, Instagram followers, as they scrolled through the site’s panoply of images showing candy-sweet home- and-child-oriented consumer products, were also reading that the web-based furniture company Wayfair was really a child trafficking ring.

The crazy rumor soon was ripping through social media like a bat out of hell. The Q craze has spread all over the globe, according to Marc-André Argentino, a doctoral student at Concordia University who researches QAnon. According to Argentino, QAnon has migrated via social media into more than 70 countries. It has been particularly embraced by the far right fringe in Germany, the New York Times reported in October. Moreover, here in the States, even with Trump gone, QAnon remains in the mainstream. In November, more than a dozen QAnon supporters, all Republicans, ran for Congress. Two— both of them women—won: Marjorie Taylor Greene and Lauren Boebert, from Colorado.

In fact, it turns out that QAnon especially appeals to women.

And this is why, in addition to being a Jewish issue, QAnon is an unrecognized feminist one as well.

Many of today’s far-right movements are testosterone-driven—think Proud Boys and Oath Keepers—replete with muscular imagery. QAnon, on the other hand, attracts women—especially mothers—associated with Trump’s “base”: White, Christian, and not college-educated. Likely what happened is that women seized on those aspects of QAnon content that fed preexisting fears—pedophilia, for example—and made it their own. Within the broad anti-trafficking movement, there has always been a moralistic streak, and this movement seizes on that.

Women are organizing anti-child-trafficking rallies, and posting like mad using #Savethechildren and its countless hashtag variants (#childtrafficking, #DefundHollywood, etc.), where they rant about how Joe Biden is a pedophile, and claim that the Etsy site sells child porn.

QAnon content has also been creeping into yoga and wellness sites, where you can now find posts in girly fonts about Covid- 19 being fake news, and how vaccinations are really a government-led attempt to kill your children—all against backgrounds of pale soothing colors. Argentino, the Concordia University researcher, calls this phenomenon “pastel QAnon.”

“These influencers provide an aesthetic and branding to their entire pages, and they in turn apply this to QAnon content, softening the messages, videos and traditional imagery that would be associated with QAnon narratives,” Argentino wrote on Twitter in September. “This branding is the polar opposite of ‘raw’ QAnon.”

In 1930s Germany, women went crazy for Hitler, and the Nazi Party specifically targeted them through their propaganda machine. Six weeks after Hitler took power in 1933, an exhibit entitled “Die Frauen” opened in Berlin, and Hitler’s propa- ganda minister Joseph Goebbels gave a speech. “This is the beginning of a new German womanhood,” Goebbels said. “If the nation once again has mothers who proudly and freely choose motherhood, it cannot perish. If the woman is healthy, the people will be healthy. Woe to the nation that neglects its women and mothers. It condemns itself.” At this time of extreme anxiety throughout the world, when misinformation gets transmitted via social media in one second, it bears repeating that the Nazis used whatever media they had at the time to broadcast their vile message. They used children’s books, posters, movies, board games.

How primitive such media seem today! Yet they managed to convince Germans of the necessity of a Final Solution to the Jewish “problem.”  So even if Twitter made it easy for Trump to whip up the angry masses, history teaches us that without it he would have found other ways to spread his propaganda. Last week’s terrifying events may force social media platforms to get their act together–but QAnon is not going away.