Child protection groups are complaining that QAnon is pushing them aside. The issue of child protection is so popular, and Americans are now so terrorized about it, that people are drawn to QAnon’s claims without knowing much else about the organization—or even caring.
Millions of intelligent QAnon followers believe that the Democratic Party is literally part of a worldwide devil-worshipping, child sex trafficking conspiracy. President Trump said he believes “very strongly” that QAnon is fighting a “deep state” of pedophiles; only two months ago, he tweeted his 86 million followers accusing Joe Biden of being a pedophile.
And so QAnon has launched a series of campaigns, such as Child Lives Matter, hijacking the hashtags #SaveTheChildren and #SaveOurChildren on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter. QAnon screams about the critical dangers that child molesters and sex traffickers pose to our kids, motivating Americans to go to angry rallies and launch vigilante actions.
QAnon has implicated popular figures in the political, entertainment, media, and religious establishments, including Oprah Winfrey, Pope Francis, and (of course) Hillary Clinton—all allegedly part of an underground engaged in kidnapping, raping, and killing kids just like yours.
Understandably, mainstream groups like Save The Children and National Center for Missing and Exploited Children (NCMEC) don’t like being pushed aside, and don’t like their mission (and donations) being overtaken by enraged conspiracy-minded people.
But while protecting children is, of course, serious and important work, some groups who have pursued this campaign for a decade or more have meticulously created the exact circumstances in which QAnon can flourish.
As I documented 3 years ago, NCMEC, for example, has
* aggressively spread the myth of “stranger danger”
* wildly inflated the incidence of child abduction
* expanded their organizational mission, conflating their various activities in the public’s mind (for example, they “rescued” children temporarily separated from their parents during Hurricane Katrina)
* blended categories, such as pedophilia, child molesting, and sex trafficking to create enormous numbers of victims and potential victims
* expanded the definition of “child sexual exploitation” beyond any reasonable limits
* demonized adult pornography, manufacturing danger out of this remarkably common behavior
* popularized Amber Alert and urged increasingly harsh sex offender laws, frightening the public without increasing kids’ safety
* used statistics in a cynical fashion—with concepts like “at risk for exploitation,” “potential victims,” and “children gone missing”
How many American children are kidnapped each year? How many are sexually tortured and killed? How many are sold by traffickers? These are knowable facts.
And the fact is that these numbers are extraordinarily low (how many such cases do you know personally?). Most kids who go missing return within 24 hours. Most of those who don’t are taken by a parent in an ugly custody struggle.
But it’s hard to raise money to rescue 1,000 children in a country of 74 million kids. And it’s hard to raise an organization’s public profile if the problem it’s addressing isn’t an “epidemic.”
So groups like NCMEC work hard to persuade Americans to ignore the science and law enforcement data. They want Americans to believe in sex trafficking rings, worldwide conspiracies, and the fragility of their communities to protect children.
Just today, for example, they announced that “the European Union is about to surrender in the worldwide battle to protect children,” and begged readers to “prevent a global catastrophe.”
By promoting a moral panic about pedophiles, child molesters, and sex offenders, seasoned with horror stories about prostitution and pornography, they’ve helped turn America away from fact, embracing emotion and conspiracy.
Enter QAnon—more sophisticated at seducing people into conspiracy theories than NCMEC or “To Catch A Predator” ever dreamed. With a few simple (albeit insane) concepts, they can explain everything that troubles people: why complex problems exist, and why solutions are elusive.
NCMEC wants you to believe their conspiracy theories, not QAnon’s.
Memo to child “advocates” who lie to inflame emotion to raise money: Sow the wind, reap the whirlwind.
Save the children? Let’s save the old-fashioned belief in fact.