MIT Technology Review today published an in-depth article titled ”Evangelicals are looking for answers online. They’re finding QAnon instead” – likening its ability to stoke the flames of fear to the ‘Satanic Panic”, a phenomenon which occurred in the 1980s and 1990s, when rumours of secret occult rituals tormenting children spread quickly among religious believers.

The article argues that conspiracy theories like QAnon and PizzaGate have once again found a target in more conservative evangelicals – the same demographic which embraced the panic and spread it like wildfire creating fear in suburban neighbourhoods.

The tenets of QAnon are specific: that Trump is the chosen one to finally destroy a ring of Satanic pedophiles long protected by access to elite positions of authority, and that Q will provide the clues to lead followers to the truth. But the movement has mingled with so many other conspiracist causes and ideologies that it is now possible to be a carrier of QAnon content online without actually knowing what you are spreading. QAnon is now driving anti-mask activism and health misinformation campaigns, for example. There are QAnon politicians running for Congress. The beliefs have an affinity with apocalyptic Christianity, too, and there are resonances with Christian nationalism. 

MIT Technology Review article, published 26/10/2020

The strongest callback to the Satanic Panic from half a century ago is the latest evolution of the QAnon conspiracy: A rally around the #SaveTheChildren hashtag which focusses on the exploitation and human trafficking of children by a cabal of Satanic pedophiles.

#SaveTheChildren and #SaveOurChildren hashtags began to spring up across social media after a (since debunked) theory that Wayfair, an online furniture company, was shipping suspiciously high-priced cabinets that theorists believed were named after missing children. The theory went, that this was a tactic human traffickers and pedophiles used to secretly signal and sell victims to one another. 

QAnon has come a long way from the seedy shadows of the /pol/ messageboard on 4chan in 2007 to now even courting controversy in the White House.

One clear difference between the Satanic Panic and this latest conspiracy is the ability for the internet to take it a whole new level and spread the theories far and wide with the click of a button.

Daniel James
Authored by Daniel James

Daniel is a Melbourne-based multimedia journalist with international experience as an editor, producer, designer and artist at some of Australasia’s biggest newsrooms. A longtime commentator and reporter on internet culture, he now journals his observations on digital life and counterculture for Boldly.

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