Politics

The QAnon and anti-vaccine movements are merging, but it’s not exactly surprising

These developments aren’t too surprising, though. We have seen time and time again that people willing to believe one conspiracy theory are typically eager to add as many other conspiracy theories to the mix as their allies throw at them. If you already believe that world elites are secretly kidnapping children so that sweet, sweet chemicals can be extracted from their blood, and that all this is being done in basements that nobody can find and is facilitated by every law enforcement agency on the planet, it’s not a hard lift to pile and something something nanochips on to that paranoia.

That’s the very nature of conspiracy theories. Because they don’t make sense and are based on absolutely no evidence to begin with, adding bits to make it even more implausible that are similarly based on absolutely nothing is the most natural progression. We saw it even in the days when there was an actual person writing the nonsensical “Q” posts: Everything from numerology to the layout of tile floors was brought to bear to “prove” all manner of connections.

It began as a pro-Trump conspiracy suggesting that Donald Freaking Trump wasn’t a tax-dodging grotesquery accused of raping children, Trump was actually a secret mastermind trying to expose how all his enemies were really doing those things. It spread to rapidly include anyone who so much as said a peep against Trump in the “secret pedophile” claims. By the time the original troll behind “Q” himself bowed out, likely after a string of domestic terrorism incidents convinced him that his online hobby was in danger of exposing him to some actual prison time, devotees had convinced themselves that a host of dead celebrities were going to descend from heaven somewhere in the vicinity of the Texas School Book Depository.

The message those dead celebrities would bring? It’s time to begin gargling bleach and drinking your own pee, everybody. Oh, and save the children from pizza restaurants. It’s all on the handouts that will be provided.

The inclusion of anti-vax beliefs was a natural one, fitting perfectly into the “the world’s secret elites are secretly trying to do something horrible to us” paranoia that forms the one and only coherent thread tying every other invention together. But for anti-vaccination conspiracy leaders, QAnon provides something of more tangible value. The anti-vaccine movement took a tremendous hit from the discovery of Wakefield’s deceits; what the group’s leaders need most, at the moment, are new willing audiences to help fund and promote them.

From Wakefield to Robert Kennedy Jr., anti-vax leaders have been willing to link up with everyone from Q podcasts to German neo-Nazi crowds in order to get a bit of public stage time. There’s also been a spate of new televangelist antivax cross-pollination, with both sides hoping for a boost from the other. And yes, that too has resulted in some recent deaths.

This great merging is likely to continue; more specifically, there’s no real reason why it wouldn’t. Leaders from all three groups are relying on the same pool of willing gullibles, people willing to believe statements more outrageous than anyone else is willing to provide them with. It’s not a large pool, but they can share it. They will share it.

I’m going to add a last reminder here, which is that “QAnon” is not a victimless movement, even if we ignore the various incidents of domestic terror it has inspired. The premise of the movement is cribbed directly from longstanding antisemitic “blood libel” conspiracy claims promoted as justification for the Holocaust; a “secret cabal” of Jews was premised to run the world, even controlling world governments, and were alleged to consume “Christian” babies. The theory Q adherents allegedly stumbled upon is precisely the same, but using “elites” as the stand-in for “Jews”—itself a common modern trope in far-right and neo-Nazi circles. The movement’s false claims about false child trafficking have harmed real-world investigations of child trafficking by swamping anti-trafficking groups and officials with absurd hoaxes while painting pictures of trafficking that only disinform the public as to how and where it really happens.

And, of course, the whole bit is premised on protecting real accused sex predators, like Donald Trump and Matt Gaetz, from scrutiny by spraying disinformation about all those who have or are investigating them. QAnon is a pedophile protection racket wrapped in a century of antisemitic tropes, and I’m willing to bet at least some of its top current leaders know it.

As for why the anti-vaccine movement wants to be associated with that, we can only speculate. But the anti-vaccine movement has long pressed for children to not be protected from deadly diseases that we now know how to protect them from. “Save our children” has been the last thing on their minds from the beginning.




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