Conspiracy Theories and Disinformation Over Social Media Similar to Beauty Queen’s Crusade Against Gays in Seventies

The similarities between Anita Bryant and the alt-right group, QAnon are in their lies and disinformation. (Photo Credit: Screenshots of videos from SuchisLife and PBS NewsHour YouTube channels)

In 1977, singer Anita Bryant started a campaign to combat a local ordinance in Dade County, Florida which would bar discrimination based on sexual orientation for employment, housing, and public services.  This movement used fear-mongering, lies, and stereotypes to demonize the gay community.  The most dangerous lie Bryant told was gays were “trying to recruit (our) children into homosexuality.” As a result of Bryant’s crusade built on lies, the ordinance was repealed and public sympathy for the gay and lesbian community lessened. 

The name for this crusade was “Save Our Children” and while it has no direct connection to the hashtag phrase showing up along with “Save the Children” on social media in present day, the group behind the surge in the social media trend, QAnon, espouse similar beliefs as Bryant. Like Bryant, QAnon supporters use lies, fear-mongering, and disinformation to smear those they consider threats.  This has been especially true in QAnon’s attack on the company, Wayfair.

To understand how dangerous QAnon is, it is important to know the history behind the fringe group.  Born out of the conspiracy theory Pizzagate, QAnon followers believe that Hillary Clinton, along with other politicians, celebrities, and entrepreneurs are secretly pedophiles and that President Donald Trump is the one that will save them from the “deep state.”

Even more, the same people who believe in the conspiracy theories of QAnon also were more likely to believe in the false claims made in the ‘Plandemic’ videos that made the rounds on YouTube in May.  QAnon and groups like it used this disinformation to create a discourse in the American public which partly resulted in the anti-mask sentiment across the country.

The common denominator between Anita Bryant’s crusade and QAnon is the use of the baseless accusations of pedophilia used to embolden and empower the causes that both represent.  In an article from Wired, Emma Grey Ellis explained why the use of this smear tactic is commonly used:

Alleging that your enemy preys upon children is an ancient propaganda tool that’s been used by everyone from medieval Catholics to the Soviet Union. It’s a powerful indictment because it trades on fundamental human fears. It’s designed to otherize the opposition and sabotage any sympathy you might have for them. It’s a ubiquitous tactic because it works.

However, like the many other groups who used pedophilia as a weapon, QAnon doesn’t care who they hurt when they launch this accusation at anyone who opposes their views. A current example of this is California State Senator Scott Wiener, who introduced a bill to the state’s Senate that would modify California’s statutory rape law to be fairer toward LGBTQ individuals deemed legal adults. The bill and Wiener became targets from possible QAnon individuals who claimed the bill would make pedophilia legal. This assertion has been deemed false by Reuters.

Wiener received calls and emails with accusations the Senator supported pedophilia and death threats.  The bill passed the California Senate and awaits Governor Gavin Newsom’s signature to become law. Harassment of Wiener continues to this day on his Instagram.

Another popular target recently is drag queens.  In many communities across the country, local libraries partnered with drag queens in the community for programs called ‘Drag Queen Story Hour.’  These programs also became the focus of conspiracy theories within alt-right groups as a breeding ground for child trafficking and pedophilia.

The obsession of pedophilia and child trafficking allegations by QAnon supporters also undermines efforts by non-profits such as the Polaris Project, Love146, and ECPAT-USA through the efforts of coordinators of these anti-trafficking organizations to debunk many conspiracy theories perpetuated by QAnon followers not to mention how the appropriation of the legitimate ‘Save the Children’ hashtag by QAnon caused Facebook to block the hashtag briefly.

The scariest part concerning the QAnon movement is that there are currently 20 QAnon affiliated candidates running for United States Congress and these candidates have been praised by President Trump

If a large number of these candidates win their respective races, it would legitimize the QAnon as a possible caucus similar to the Tea Party. How would this development affect the LGBTQ community? The Los Angeles Blade speculated:

If QAnon beliefs come to be the de facto position of an ascendant GOP, it is only a matter of time before they “save the children” by coming after LGBTQ people in ways that make the Lavender Scare look tame.

The Blade also talked about the possible two scenarios to play out in November:

If Biden wins, and Democrats retake the Senate, then perhaps the QAnon = Tea Party analogy will apply—with QAnon being even more extreme, violent, and explicit in rejecting the legitimacy of the President than the Tea Party was. But relatively powerless.

If Trump remains President as of January 21st, 2020, however, then the analogy falls apart completely. If the Tea Party had achieved its goals in 2010, the Affordable Care Act would have been defeated, and the US would have implemented some sort of draconian austerity plan to slash the federal budget deficit. If QAnon has its way, thousands upon thousands of Democratic leaders and government workers will be sent to concentration camps. This might sound far-fetched, but we’re already actively following the template for modern single-party states.

The reality of a dystopian society may seem like an overdramatic reaction, but it isn’t. When we have a president who values loyalty and praise over uniting a country to protect it from a pandemic or calls the press ‘the enemy of the people’, it speaks volumes as to where this country could be headed if Trump is reelected.

 

Sources: Freedom For All Americans, The New York Times, The Atlantic, BBC News, NPR, NBC News, Wired,Reuters, California Legislative Information, Vice, Mother Jones, Associated Press, Los Angeles Blade, NGLCC

Writer’s Note: This article contains opinions of one contributing writer and may not reflect the views of Instinct Magazine itself or fellow contributors

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