Adopting “Save the Kids” as a mantra helped save QAnon in a number of different methods. It created a sort of “QAnon Lite” on-ramp — a problem QAnon believers may discuss overtly with out scaring off potential recruits with weird claims about Hillary Clinton consuming infants, and one that would cross practically unnoticed in teams dedicated to parenting, pure well being and different nonpolitical subjects.
Typical of the brand new, understated QAnon model are Fb movies by which mother and father sound the alarm about pedophiles brainwashing and preying on youngsters. These movies, wrote Annie Kelly, a researcher who wrote a Occasions op-ed about QAnon’s enchantment to girls this month, make for “compelling and dramatic content material” that’s “simply shared in different parenting teams with little indication of their far-right origins.”
Since stopping youngster exploitation is a matter that has broad and bipartisan sympathy, QAnon’s anti-trafficking rebranding has additionally allowed politicians to enchantment to QAnon supporters with out explicitly mentioning the speculation. And seeding misinformation about youngster intercourse trafficking on platforms like Instagram and TikTok has allowed QAnon to faucet right into a youthful and fewer explicitly pro-Trump demographic.
“It’s bringing down the typical age of a QAnon follower,” Mr. Argentino stated. “In 2019, this was primarily a boomer motion. Now we’re seeing millennials and Gen Z getting on board.”
Mr. Argentino’s analysis exhibits simply how efficient QAnon’s “Save the Kids” pivot has been. Along with spurring in-person rallies all around the world, the motion has develop into some of the potent forces on Fb. Tales about youngster exploitation and human trafficking routinely find yourself being among the many most-shared information articles on the positioning, and a few QAnon-adjacent scandals — such because the uproar over Netflix’s “Cuties” documentary, which was mentioned for weeks inside QAnon Fb teams earlier than it was condemned by Republican lawmakers as selling youngster sexualization — have crossed over into mainstream political discourse.
There may be nothing mistaken with expressing considerations about youngster exploitation, which is actual and dangerous. However QAnon’s embrace of the “Save the Kids” motion has created its personal harms. Respectable anti-trafficking teams have reported being flooded with calls from QAnon believers passing on false and debunked suggestions, forcing the teams to divert sources away from their precise work. QAnon believers have organized virulent harassment campaigns towards individuals they accuse of being pedophiles, together with celebrities like Chrissy Teigen and Ellen DeGeneres.
And a few QAnon followers have pursued acts of vigilante justice towards the imagined “cabal” they imagine is working an underground youngster sex-trafficking ring. Final yr, a Colorado girl was arrested on suspicion of plotting with different QAnon supporters to have her son kidnapped from foster care. (The girl, Cynthia Abcug, has pleaded not responsible.)