From my childhood to today, I have always enjoyed a good conspiracy theory. Alternative theories about the moon landing, UFO sightings, and discussions about cryptids were and are — to this day — fascinating to me.
So, if you’re rage reading this, know that I’m not trying to shame you. I don’t even think believing in unproven theories is necessarily unhealthy. We all need something to believe in. I, for one, have believed some pretty crazy shit in the past.
In fact, I don’t have any difficulty believing that there are a lot of rich assholes, including Hollywood elites and politicians, involved in unproven sex trafficking rings. Powerful people can get away with doing horrible things, no question.
Now, does that mean that I believe every popular conspiracy theory about those elitist sex trafficking rings, including that The Queen and Hilary Clinton are using it to murder infants so they can consume their blood and live forever? Definitely not, but hey, I’m trying to meet those of you who do believe in them halfway.
The Big Amalgamation
The conspiracy about celebrities drinking the blood of youth is no joke. Although it’s inception is most often credited to a recurring joke by Hunter S. Thompson that started 1971, it wasn’t until the mid 2000s — the age of internet access and Photoshop — that it reached large circles.
The theory revolves around a gross misunderstanding of the compound adrenochrome, with some believing that drinking large amounts of it can actually make people age slower. The most popular modern interpretation of the theory is that children and infants produce the most amounts of adrenochrome when they’re scared, and that people implicated in the theory such as Tom Hanks will rape children to extract the greatest volume of drinkable adrenochrome. Some believers also maintain that infants and/or children are often killed immediately after being raped.
The fantasy gained (and is still gaining) some traction following certain movies like Monsters Inc., as conspiracy theorists maintained that the plot of that movie — and others — were a way for whistleblowers in Hollywood to bring attention to adrenochrome harvesting from children. Ie. the fuel used in Monsters Inc. was really being used to cheat death, and that the real monsters were Hollywood actors and high profile politicians.
If that ruins a timeless Pixar movie for you, I’m really, really sorry.
Since 2016, we’ve all been hearing about it a hell of a lot more because of the popularity of Qanon. If you hear the name often but you’re unfamiliar with the specifics, Qanon is the label sometimes used for the conspiracy theories touted by an anonymous 4Chan user and his/her/their followers. I can’t possibly summarize the movement in one article but there are two key points about the theories themselves that are crucial to the movement:
1. There is a large ring of celebrities and politicians that are part of a cult-like child sex-slave trafficking ring.
2. Donald Trump is leading a secret battle to stop them.
By extension, most or all of Trump’s associations with sex traffickers like Epstein and Maxwell, his history of sexual misconduct, and even his sexual comments about teenagers are believed to have been “undercover” work to gain the trust of sex traffickers. Basically, Trump only pretended to be into teenage girls and may have committed some sexual assaults in order to get other perverts to think he’s one of them. One Qanon theory out there even goes as far to allege that Trump did rape that 13 year old girl from the 2015 lawsuit filed against him, but he only went through with it to gain Jeffrey Epstein’s trust.
To anyone thinking through the key points in Qanon’s belief system for five to ten seconds, an obvious problem with posting these theories on social media (as they’re often spread) is that if Trump is waging a secret war, working undercover to expose child sex traffickers, talking about it on 8Chan, YouTube, and Facebook would probably blow his cover.
Unless, perhaps, you’re a Qanon follower and you subscribe to a belief system that means all of the world’s most powerful heads of government have the means to run international pedophile rings, but not the means to watch your public YouTube video about it.
There are millions of Qanon followers, and while they might seem somewhat funny to follow at first, there are very serious, real world consequences to the movement’s actions. In the mid-2000s when my friends and I read adrenochrome conspiracy theory threads, they were something we treated as a sick joke from internet trolls. Now, people are shooting up pizza parlors over them.
Cults Are Mainstream Now, Deal With It
Last week the United States Republican Party made less headlines than they should have as news broke that they donated to the campaign of avid Qanon follower and Republican nominee for congress, Marjory Taylor-Greene. The endorsement proved that whether or not Republican party officials believe in the movement, they can no longer deny supporting it. Prominent followers also include the head of New York City’s second largest police union (known for proudly displaying his Qanon merch in news interviews), 24 other Republican candidates for Congress, and several Fox news personalities.
Qanon followers have organized all over social media and in towns across the United States and recently made headlines for being labelled as a “domestic terror threat” by the FBI. Which shouldn’t have been a surprise, really. After all, if you believed that there were hundreds of children being kept as slaves underneath a pizza parlor, wouldn’t you feel obligated to free them?
According to one recent study of over 1500 United States voters, only 16% of Trump voters would dismiss the movement entirely, with even fewer — 12% — saying that they did not believe in Qanon’s core belief*. Any way it’s measured, a large fraction of Republicans believe in some part of the ideology.
*Worded in the form of the question: “Do you believe that President Trump is working to dismantle an elite child sex-trafficking ring involving top Democrats?”
What This Means For Canadians
In Canada, roughly 40% of Progressive Conservative party voters identify close enough with United States Republicanism to support Trump from abroad. Support is growing every day for Maxime Bernier’s PPC, a further right party with views on immigration that more closely mirror U.S. Republicanism. But, right wing voting blocks aren’t necessarily the entirety of Canadian susceptible to fall in to right-wing conspiracy rabbit holes.
There’s a growing anti-truth, anti-journalism sentiment in every spectrum of Canada’s political landscape. Lockdowns and layoffs have left Canadians in vulnerable positions to be targeted for recruitment. Being out of work and having ample time to browse social media channels that breed conspiracy theories, while also suffering from unmatched anxiety, is the perfect storm to fall in to a conspiracy cult.
Before being kicked off of Facebook for spreading dangerous misinformation about Covid-19, Canada’s largest anti-lockdown group, which had loose connections to some prolific Neo Nazis, recruited more than 20,000 members. From spending a great deal of time there, I can say with confidence that the vast majority of those I’ve spoken with and have observed from a distance don’t consider themselves alt-right. Anti-lockdown rallies in Vancouver featuring antisemitic speakers and dense alt-right presence have went from gathering dozens to gathering thousands in only a few months.