Those familiar with the far-right group, QAnon, know that the group espouses major conspiracy theories. One of those theories, Pizzagate, was started by users of the website 4Chan in 2016 after WikiLeaks published emails hacked from the account of Hillary Clinton’s campaign manager, John Podesta.
One of those emails was between Podesta and owner of Washington D.C. pizzeria, Comet Ping Pong, James Alefantis about the pizzeria hosting a possible Clinton fundraiser. It didn’t take long for 4Chan users to theorize a child trafficking ring run by Clinton and Podesta out of Comet Ping Pong’s basement.
The Pizzagate conspiracy theory came to a head on December 4, 2016, when North Carolina native Edgar Maddison Welch stormed Comet Ping Pong with an AR-15 rifle, a .38 pistol, and a knife looking for the pizzeria’s non-existent basement.
Comet owner Alefantis stated a scathing inditement of false news after the incident:
“What happened today demonstrates that promoting false and reckless conspiracy theories comes with consequences. I hope that those involved in fanning these flames will take a moment to contemplate what happened here today, and stop promoting these falsehoods right away.”
While the talk of Pizzagate died down in mainstream media after that, it became a part of QAnon’s narrative spreading mistruths about the conspiracy theory on social media. This campaign of misinformation brought a resurgence to the theory this year.
The latest person to be targeted by QAnon is California State Senator Scott Wiener, who represents San Francisco. Existing California law allows judges to decide to not add people to a sexual offender registry at a certain age who possibly might violate statutory rape laws. An example of this is a 19-year-old having sex with a 17-year-old, however, this only applies to vaginal intercourse with such acts as penetration by fingers or anal and oral sex would be out of the judge’s purview. LGBTQ advocates contend this unjustly penalizes individuals that do not engage in penile-vaginal intercourse.
Wiener, an openly gay man, introduced SB-145, which would correct the issue, to the California Senate. Alt-right blogs have written gross exaggerations like the law would protect pedophiles and prevent a 22-year-old from being put on the sexual offender registry for sexual conduct with a 12-year-old. Current law doesn’t inevitably keep people off the registry but allows judges the preference to decide. The law also applies to individuals that have sexual contact with youths under the age of 14. The only change Wiener’s legislation makes is allowing judges to give equal consideration to different sexual acts.
According to Mother Jones, Wiener started receiving threats directed at him for the bill on August 1st. Some threats were sent to Wiener’s email account, but the majority of messages appeared on his Instagram account.
Wiener commented his frustration over Instagram’s parent company, Facebook for allowing the harassment:
“Social media platforms need to do a lot more to deal with toxicity that is so damaging to society. I know it’s hard. I get that they don’t want to be thought police. Not everything is clear cut, but some things are. What’s happening here is clear cut, when you have all these comments calling me a pedophile, when you have all these homophobic, anti-Semitic remarks.”
While it is unclear the source of Wiener’s harassment, the typical indicators of QAnon involvement, a focus on child trafficking and pedophilia accusations without credible proof, are present.
Added to this are four candidates with QAnon affiliations running for seats in the United States House of Representatives: Marjorie Taylor Greene, Jo Rae Perkins, Lauren Boebert, and Mike Cargile. If elected, the far-right group would reach mainstream status like the Tea Party.