How do you rescue someone you love from the clutches of an internet conspiracy cult?
Do you maybe tell them that the operator of the “most prominent” website devoted to the unhinged, fact-free QAnon conspiracy theory was recently rumbled as a senior vice-president at Citibank?
According to reports, Jason Gelinas was a “longtime Wall Street IT expert” with a noteworthy professional interest in data mining. He perhaps knew better than most how susceptible people are to advertising when they’re angry and they’re frightened; reports claim he was earning $US3,000 a month from Q-adherents on his Patreon site, and suspected of compiling data on 10 million site visitors willing to believe – without evidence – that a network of Hollywood satanists run vast underground camps where raped children are milked for blood. It’s an unquestioning credulity that would have any marketer salivating.
Alas, the truth has done little to dissuade QAnon believers from the fictions of their conspiracy mythology. Unsurprisingly, the “Pizzagate” conspiracy that was QAnon’s forerunner should have fallen apart when an adherent wielded an assault rifle in a Washington pizzeria because he believed Hillary Clinton and her associates were running a child sex ring in its basement. The gunman found no Clinton, no children and no basement – and yet the themes of the conspiracy endure, and internationally. Yes, we have a QAnon problem in Australia now, too.
The conspiracy is finding ready purchase because those themes are already culturally familiar, sourced from millennia of antisemitic tropes that falsely accuse Jews of drinking the blood of Christian children; it’s no coincidence Jewish identities like George Soros and the Rothschilds are referenced in attacks. The present amplification coincides with the pandemic’s ratcheting up of individual anxiety at the same time it’s obliged people into finding longed-for socialisation on the internet.