QAnon spreads across globe, shadowing COVID-19
The QAnon movement is spreading around the world, turning an outlandish conspiracy theory revolving around President Trump into one of the nation’s most dangerous exports.
Flags and banners brandishing one of the conspiracy’s mottos — “WWG1WGA,” an acronym for “where we go one, we go all” — dotted the crowd at a rally against lockdowns in Germany last month.
And when Trump visited Japan in 2019, he was greeted by cardboard cutouts of the letter Q.
These aren’t just isolated instances either. Researchers have found large QAnon communities in more than 70 countries.
The original conspiracy theory was tightly focused on an alleged cabal of “deep state” figures and Hollywood elites running child trafficking rings that Trump was working with the military to expose. But it has since evolved into a meta-conspiracy theory that pushes its anti-institution and anti-Semitic strains more explicitly.
Experts who spoke with The Hill about the theory’s spread said it has become worse because of the coronavirus, which itself is the subject of many conspiracy theories. This helped create a perfect storm fostering distrust in established government and public health institutions.
“Pandemics fuel a lot of questions and make people very skeptical, especially in cases when what we would consider to be credible and trustworthy institutions all of a sudden themselves don’t seem to have the right answers or are not aligned on how to manage the situation,” Anna-Sophie Harling, head of media evaluation startup NewsGuard’s Europe team, said in an interview.
“Conspiracies are rooted in the idea that we’re all being lied to by some greater authority or voice and QAnon perfectly ties into that.”
The hyper-viral short documentary “Out of the Shadows” fueled baseless theories linking the coronavirus’s origins to Bill Gates, 5G towers and the World Health Organization, Alex Newhouse, digital research lead at the Center on Terrorism, Extremism, and Counterterrorism at the Middlebury Institute, told The Hill.
And as institutional distrust grew, QAnon, which pushed a lot of the disinformation in the first place, was able to grab a foothold.