QAnon, a far-right pro-Trump conspiracy theory, has exploded in 2020. The conspiracy theory, which emerged on the internet, is all about a secret cabal of pedophiles, and has taken root in the minds of some of Donald Trump’s supporters.
One troubling aspect of QAnon — all aspects of QAnon are troubling, let’s be real — is that QAnon is inherently antisemitic. It’s an old form of antisemitism in a new package, experts say.
What is QAnon, and why is it antisemitic? We’ll break it down for you.
What is QAnon?
Briefly, QAnon is a conspiracy theory that alleges, falsely, there exists a cabal of pedophiles, run by Democrats, plotting to take down President Trump. (A cabal is a “secret political clique or faction,” thanks Oxford Dictionary.) Followers of QAnon believe that the Democrats involved include politicians like Hillary Clinton and George Soros, celebrities like Tom Hanks, and billionaires like Bill Gates, and they allege that this group molests children, and then kills and eats them (or harvests their blood). You read that sentence correctly.
The New York Times explains it as such: “QAnon is the umbrella term for a sprawling set of internet conspiracy theories that allege, falsely, that the world is run by a cabal of Satan-worshiping pedophiles who are plotting against Mr. Trump while operating a global child sex-trafficking ring.”
QAnon is also described as an “extremism network” and a “collective delusion.” QAnon Anonymous, a podcast about QAnon, calls it a “big tent conspiracy theory” because it’s constantly evolving and adding new conspiracies.
When did it begin?
On October 28, 2017, someone calling themselves “Q” began posting on a message board on 4chan, a series of completely anonymous forums.
We’ll let New York Magazine take it from here: “On October 28, someone calling themselves Q began posting a series of cryptic messages in a /pol/ thread titled ‘Calm Before the Storm’ (assumedly in reference to that creepy Trump quote from early October). Q claimed to be a high-level government insider with Q clearance (hence the name) tasked with posting intel drops — which he, for some reason, called ‘crumbs’ — straight to 4chan in order to covertly inform the public about POTUS’s master plan to stage a countercoup against members of the deep state. It was, in short, absolutely insane. However, thanks to some rather forced coincidences… and a whole heck of a lot of wishful thinking, people believed he was the real deal.”
Those initial posts snowballed. “Q” believed something called “The Storm” was coming, when “Trump would finally unmask the cabal, punish its members for their crimes and restore America to greatness.”
Yeah, us too.
Okay, where does the antisemitism come in?
We have to remember the core belief system of QAnon: the idea that Democrats are running a secret cabal, where they abduct children, kill them, and harvest their blood, all in an effort to defeat Donald Trump.
If you take out the names (Democrats, Trump), the theory can read as following: “A secret cabal is taking over the world. They kidnap children, slaughter, and eat them to gain power from their blood. They control high positions in government, banks, international finance, the news media, and the church. They want to disarm the police. They promote homosexuality and pedophilia. They plan to mongrelize the white race so it will lose its essential power.”
Sound familiar? This is essentially the “conspiracy” in The Protocols of the Elders of Zion, one of the most antisemitic documents of all time.
But we’ll get to that in a bit, because notably, the “murder children and harvest their blood” thing immediately calls to mind something called the blood libel, a centuries-old antisemitic allegation that Jews murder Christian children to use their blood for ritual purposes.
“People are going to start googling ‘killing children for blood.’ That will lead them to anti-Semitism even if they may not be initially inclined,” Magda Teter, a Jewish studies professor and author of Blood Libel: On the Trail of an Antisemitic Myth, told the Jewish Telegraphic Agency.
Back up. Can you explain what the blood libel is?
This first appeared in Norwich, England in 1144, when a boy, William of Norwich, was found dead in the woods. A monk, Thomas of Monmouth, falsely accused Jews of Norwich of ritually murdering William. Soon, similar accusations began popping up throughout the Christian world in the Middle Ages (in Gloucester in 1168, Bury St Edmunds in 1181, Bristol in 1183, etc.).
As the Anti-Defamation League points out: “When a Christian child went missing, it was not uncommon for local Jews to be blamed. Even when there was no evidence that any Jew had anything to do with the missing child, Jews were tortured until they confessed to heinous crimes. Some Christians believed that the four cups of wine that Jews drink at the Passover Seder celebrations were actually blood, or that Jews mixed blood into hamantaschen, sweet pastries eaten on the Jewish holiday of Purim.”
From the 12th to the 16th century, around 100 blood libels took place, and many resulted in massacres of Jews.
Unfortunately, the blood libel persisted long past the Middle Ages — terrible reappearances include Damascus in 1840 (“The Damascus Affair”), Ukraine in 1913, and New York in 1928 (called the Massena blood libel). Additionally, many pogroms (massacres) started because of a blood libel, like the Kishniev pogrom in 1903.
Okay, let’s go back to QAnon and antisemitism?
Since QAnon is so expansive — constantly evolving, more conspiracies being added — there’s just so much antisemitism, it’s hard to cover it all.
As we said above, QAnon’s conspiracy theory is basically a “rebranded Protocols of the Elders of Zion.” The Protocols is 24 chapters of antisemitic lies about Jews (read more here) that touches on all the antisemitic tropes we’re about to go over. Plus, central to the Protocols is the blood libel.
Let’s break down a few more tropes that are embedded in QAnon ideology (all of which are also found in Protocols):
1. George Soros, the Rothschilds, and the general idea that “wealthy Jews are controlling the world”:
QAnon followers believe a key member of the “cabal” is billionaire Jewish philanthropist George Soros. Soros has long been a target of antisemitic conspiracy theories. Members of QAnon Facebook groups were calling for the execution of Soros just this month; Media Matters identified popular posts relating to Soros, and almost every one “had at least one blatant death threat in the comments, including suggestions to shoot him, hang him, and more.”
Also involved, they believe, are the Rothschilds, the wealthy British banking family that happens to be Jewish. The Rothschilds sit at the center of numerous antisemitic conspiracies that they control the world. (Many people think that the Bank of England is owned by the Rothschilds or that the Rothschild family owns most of the world’s wealth. Again, super false.) The Rothschilds are alleged to be behind the Illuminati, the New World Order, the British Royal Family, and now this “cabal” at the heart of QAnon theories.
Marjorie Taylor Greene, a Republican congressional nominee and QAnon follower, has shared this conspiracy theory. Recently, Jewish Insider uncovered a 2018 posting from Greene that accused Soros and the Rothschild family of being part of this supposed cabal plotting against Trump.
2. “Zionist Occupied Government”:
QAnon forums repeatedly reference not only the Elders of Zion, but the idea of a “Zionist-occupied government,” which is yet another antisemitic conspiracy theory that says Jews control governments of Western states.
This ties back to Jewish support for Democrats. As JTA writes: “QAnon adherents are latching on to widespread Jewish support for Democrats, especially as the election approaches.”
“In terms of Elders of Zion, calling out Hollywood, which tends to be Jewish, calling out specific Jewish congresspeople as pedophiles. Also, it tends to be that Jewish people align more with Democrats. They use that against us to basically say that Jews are pedophiles,” Eric Feinberg, who works at the Coalition for a Safer Web, explained.
Which brings us to…
3. Jews control Hollywood and the media:
Yet another classic antisemitic canard! If there was a bingo card of antisemitic tropes, QAnon would have BINGO in literally all possible ways.
Much of the focus of QAnon is not just on Democrats and George Soros, but on Hollywood celebrities like Tom Hanks, Ellen DeGeneres, and Oprah. This calls to mind the antisemitic idea that “Jews control Hollywood,” which is more broadly part of the idea that “Jews control the media.” Once again, this trope is inspired by the Protocols.
“If they are going to mention the whole package of conspiracy, of blood, of media, of money, even without mentioning Jews, you can definitely get that kind of implicit anti-Semitic message about controlling the media, government and whatnot,” Magda Teter told JTA. “You don’t have to be explicit and then those who know, know.”
4. “Great replacement”:
Another part of the QAnon theory is the idea of the “Great Replacement.” This is a white nationalist conspiracy theory that is also — you guessed it! — antisemitic. It’s rooted in the idea that the white population is being replaced by non-white immigrants. As JTA explains, it “alleges that Jews are orchestrating the mass migration of nonwhite immigrants into predominantly white countries in order to wipe out the populations there. It says those supporting the refugees are using ‘immigrant pawns’ to commit ‘the biggest genocide in human history.'” (You can also see parts of this theory pop up in the antisemitic conspiracy theories surrounding Soros, especially during the 2015 migration crisis in Europe.)
Marjorie Taylor Greene — who will likely be elected to the House of Representatives this coming November — shared a video in 2018 that repeats the “Great Replacement” theory. It was also a core part of the ideology of the Pittsburgh synagogue shooter, the Christchurch mosque shooter, and behind the “Jews will not replace us” chants when neo-Nazis marched in Charlottesville.
Also related: Where there’s antisemitism, there’s neo-Nazis and white supremacists. Do we even need to explain why they’re antisemitic? They hate Jews, simple as that.
The idea of a global conspiracy is inherently antisemitic; “globalists” has become a dogwhistle for “Jews.” QAnon is about a global group of evil people controlling the world — again, this is inherently antisemitic.
6. We could keep going…
Some followers of QAnon are also 9/11 truthers, which contains a subset of people who say Israel and/or the Jews are responsible for 9/11. Antisemitic!
Us too, pal.
Hard to say. Our plan is to continue to call out QAnon for what it is: a hateful, antisemitic conspiracy theory that must be unequivocally condemned.