From baseless associations linking 5G to health risks, high-profile paedophile rings, President Donald Trump’s secret plan to arrest elites and hoax medical supplements advertised to cure COVID-19, these bizarre theories all share one thing in common.
They’ve seemingly originated from the fringe QAnon movement – a haven for conservative conspiracy theorists.
The roots of the group originated in October 2017 on the internet chat forum, 4Chan. The anonymous poster, who went by the pseudonym of ‘Q’, began sharing what appeared to be highly-classified information about the government.
One of their central beliefs, of many, is that the world is controlled by a group of anti-Trump elites. Among the group are Democrat politicians, Hollywood heavyweights, billionaires and other people of influence.
Accusation of a child sex-trafficking ring has also been thrown into the mix, as has inferences of cannibalism.
Furthermore, Q also believes President Trump has launched a secret investigation to bring these deep state elites to justice.
The group has amassed mainstream attention as well. In August 2019, QAnon became the first a fringe conspiracy group determined by the FBI to be a Domestic Terrorist Threat. In May of this year, Facebook also removed several groups, accounts and pages linked to QAnon.
Now with coronavirus top of mind, the community has been linked to some of the most harmful and dangerous myths associated with the pandemic. Closer to home, their views have also been circulated by high-profile social media accounts.
AN INFODEMIC FLAMED BY A PANDEMIC
While initially COVID-19 was believed to be a deep state plot designed to ruin President Trump’s attempts at re-election, QAnon followers have since pivoted their approach.
Writing for The Conversation, researcher of online movements, Marc-André Argentino said they now believe the pandemic to be a “cover for the Trump administration’s secret plan to arrest deep state agents”.
An influencer within the QAnon community, David Hayes, or Praying Medic as he’s better known, has also called the virus “spiritual warfare,” stating that it will only affect those not chosen by God.
However, these are among the many ‘crowdsourced narratives’ from the community, wrote Hayes.
QAnon theorists have also implicated Bill Gates as a key-figure in the pandemic.
In several videos circulated by believers, they accuse the Microsoft co-founder of knowing about the pandemic and using the virus as a means to fan his ‘pro-vaccine agenda’.
They alleged he knew about the pandemic due to his participation in Event 201 which looked at a high-level pandemic simulation in October 2019 as well as the fact that the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation have donated to the Pirbright Institute which received a coronavirus-related patent in 2002.
However, an investigation from the New York Times determined this to be misleading.
“The patent was not for COVID-19; it was connected to a potential vaccine for a different coronavirus that affects poultry,” they reported.
One of the most malicious myths the community has spawned, however, is related to the misconception around Miracle Mineral Solution or MMS (bleach), which they’ve dubbed as a cure and preventive for coronavirus.
In the past this has also been heralded as a claim for HIV AIDS, cancer, autism and malaria.
As reported by the Daily Beast, a now suspended high-profile QAnon Twitter account encouraged their 18,000 followers to buy a MMS-based “20-20-20 spray”.
“China expanded its lockdown against the deadly new virus to an unprecedented 36 million people,” they wrote.
“New followers protect yourself with the 20-20-20 spray.”
ON HOME TUR F
Whether intentional or by chance, the beliefs strongly-held within the QAnon community have reached Australia.
Last Sunday saw over 200 anti-lockdown protesters at the steps of Victoria’s Parliament House who carried signs rallying against vaccines, restriction and 5G. On social media, ideologies linked to QAnon have also been shared among high profile celebrities.
On March 26, former Married At First Sight contestant, Haley Vernom also shared a video alleging the coronavirus pandemic was a “set up by the elite”.
“Stage a world crisis. Create panic and fear. Crash the global economy. Create dependency in the government,” she wrote in the caption.
“This is not just an illness this is a way to whip and align the masses and to take your freedom your choices out of your hands.”
Former My Kitchen Rules Judge Pete Evans has also shared theories which align with beliefs from QAnon community. On his Facebook group, the controversial anti-vaxxer has shared multiple posts which denounce Bill Gates and the creation of a COVID-19 vaccine.
Most pertinent, in a recent Instagram story he shared a graphic which links the arrest of high profile people to coronavirus, claiming they’ve committed “major crimes against humanity”. Despite this, Mr Evans has never made mention to QAnon.