Conspiracy theory QAnon gains traction in Britain and the US

A woman wearing a sweatshirt for the QAnon conspiracy theory gestures during a pro-Trump rally on October 11, 2020 in Ronkonkoma, New York.

Photo credit: Stephanie Keith | AFP

What you need to know:

  • Online, the Guardian said it found references to QAnon had increased five-fold between April and August.
  • A major blow against the conspiracists was delivered when Facebook and Instagram banned QAnon material.

As if the world isn’t crazy enough, a far-right conspiracy theory that talks of heroic President Donald Trump waging war against child-eating Satanists is spreading across social media.

Known as QAnon, the theory advances claims that are so absurd they would make a terrible movie – for instance that a cabal of Hollywood stars and liberal American politicians control the world but a secret government source named Q is gathering a patriot army led by President Trump to fight back.

Amazingly, and some would say dangerously, this ridiculous theory has gained traction around the world to the extent that the US Congress is debating a Bill to condemn it, while The Guardian newspaper in London reported that a nascent street movement linked to QAnon has organised at least 15 protests across England, Scotland and Wales.

Online, the Guardian said it found references to QAnon had increased five-fold between April and August.

Among those spreading the conspiracy, it said, were “paedophile hunter” groups whose members sometimes pose as children to entrap sexual predators. Also, 10 pro-Brexit pages and 28 far-right pages had shared QAnon content, receiving 26,000 interactions.

Extremist groups

A major blow against the conspiracists was delivered when Facebook and Instagram banned QAnon material. Previously, the social media giant said it would remove QAnon only if it promoted violence.

 A spokesman said Facebook had removed 790 groups and 100 pages and placed restrictions on more than 10,000 Instagram accounts,

Now, he said, it would remove all QAnon or QAnon-linked pages, groups and accounts.

Mr Gordon Davis at Hope not Hate, a charity that monitors extremist groups, said, “We welcome action from Facebook. It is hard to put into words how dangerous this narrative is.”

Mr Jonathan Greenblatt of the Anti-Defamation League, said, “We hope they will follow up with evidence showing how the ban is being enforced.”

QAnon draws on the predecessor conspiracy theory, Pizzagate, which was prevalent during the 2016 US presidential election, as well as much older anti-Semitic conspiracies.

* * *

A 12-year-old girl, Charley Patterson from Cramlington in northern England, was bullied mercilessly by her schoolmates, both online and in the classroom.

She was constantly derided as a “lesbo-emo freak,” apparently meaning an over-emotional lesbian, and was told that the only way she would make her family proud was if she killed herself.

Though she blocked people on social media, she was unable to play computer games without getting nasty messages.

At school, other children ganged up on her and Charley began to suffer from mental problems and to cut herself.

Last month, Charley returned from school and went straight to her bedroom. It was there, soon after, that an older brother found her dead. Her father desperately tried CPR but it was too late.

An investigation is now under way involving multiple agencies and Charley’s school, Cramlington Learning Village.

Her mother, Jay, called on parents to warn their children against bullying. She said, “Teach them that words aren’t just words, that words can hurt. And don’t use the excuse that ‘kids will be kids’, that’s not good enough.”

* * *

I have been reading Paul Theroux’s Dark Star Safari, an account of his overland journey from Cairo to Cape Town back in 2001.

Along the way, he revisited Makerere University and a school in Lilongwe, Malawi, both places where he taught as an idealistic young American volunteer in the 1960s.

Underdevelopment

Devastated by the decrepitude that he found, he sketches out his theory that some governments in Africa depended on underdevelopment to survive – bad schools, poor communications, a feeble press and ragged people.

“They needed poverty to obtain foreign aid and they needed ignorance and uneducated and passive people to keep themselves in office for decades. A great education system in an open society would provide rivals, competitors and an effective opposition to people who only wanted to cling to power.”

Theroux confesses it is heresy to say such things, but viewing Africa nearly two decades after he wrote those words, are they worth pondering?

* * *

The following headline appeared in the local newspaper:

‘Half the city council are crooks’

Councillors went mad and demanded an immediate retraction.

Next day, the headline read:

‘Half the city council aren’t crooks’

* * *

From cyberspace: Dear seller, a month ago, I ordered and paid for a book, How to Scam People Online.Please tell me when I will receive it.

* * *

Two boys were arguing in class when the teacher walked in and asked them what was going on. One of the boys replied. “We found a 10 dollar bill and decided to give it to whoever tells the biggest lie.” Shocked, the teacher said, “You should be ashamed of yourselves. When I was your age, I didn’t even know what a lie was.”

The boys gave the 10 dollars to the teacher.

gerryo69@hotmail.com