"Won't somebody please think of the children!"
Why are pedophile rings & mole children the central narrative of conspiracy theories in 2020?
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You’ve heard it on The Simpsons over and over again.
“Won’t somebody please think of the children!”
It’s a running gag, and it speaks to a tactic often used by charities for us to open our pockets and give our money, all our money.
It’s a plea that goes straight to our emotional core, because children are these innocent creatures that need protecting. It doesn’t matter how rubbish your argument is, you can always win by saying “Won’t somebody please think of the children!”
Protecting children is this deep-seated thing in us. It’s a social contract we’re born with which says, at all costs, we must protect the children.
It’s why we’re fucking glued to our screens when a man runs in and catches a kid falling from a burning building.
It’s the thing which makes us so angry at pedophiles and means that in cinema, seeing a child (or worst of all, a baby!) harmed is pretty much the worst thing you can put on screen.
Anyone who’s seen A Serbian Film or Mother! can attest to that.
And appealing to our need to save the children is a huge calling card in the current spate of ridiculous conspiracy theories crippling the internet.
Conspiracy enthusiasts use it, because it works.
That’s why over the weekend, an online store in America called Wayfair had to release a statement to the media saying they were definitely not trafficking in human children.
It was a serious press release that was only released because of the growing storm of people that genuinely thought an online retail store was selling thousands of children as sex slaves.
The theory QAnon followers had come up with is that because expensive cabinets and pillows had item names that allegedly matched those of missing children, the items were actually the missing children, up for sale, on their website.
So many people got on board, #wayfairgate began trending on Twitter, and Wayfair was getting so much online abuse they had to release this statement:
“There is, of course, no truth to these claims. The products in question are industrial grade cabinets that are accurately priced.”
Basically: “We are selling cabinets, not children, okay?!”
Wayfair is a bit like Amazon, in that they also on-sell other people’s items… which according to QAnon adherents, meant it was even more likely they were selling children.
And you know how sometimes things on the Amazon marketplace are super-expensive, because the seller is just trying to make as much money as possible, and the item is often personalised or unique?
Well, that’s what happens on Wayfair’s site, too:
“Recognising that the photos and descriptions provided by the supplier did not adequately explain the high price point, we have temporarily removed the products from site to rename them and to provide a more in-depth description and photos that accurately depict the product to clarify the price point.”
But it wasn’t enough to calm people down. Neither were very sane explanations for all this stuff (like the fact “first names” are often used for items, even at other stores like IKEA).
It was too late. The theory was out in the atmosphere. It had oxygen.
And it spread.
It spread across Facebook, it spread across TikTok, and it spread across Twitter.
Disturbingly, you’ll notice Steve above is verified. He’s got the stamp of approval from Twitter, which means this nonsense will just fly even further (this analysis over on Twitter is a great deep dive into how this stuff flew, exactly).
And it doesn’t stop there. Another verified account, Angela Stanton King, also casually tweeted about the Wayfair conspiracy theory, asking if perhaps Ghislaine Maxwell (Jeffrey Epstein’s right-hand woman, currently in custody) was the one who’d tipped authorities off.
(She spelt Maxwell’s name wrong lol).
Her subtext of course being that this whole child trafficking thing was real.
The thing is, Angela King isn’t just some troll in a basement — she’s the Republican candidate for Georgia’s 5th congressional district.
Sidebar: she’s also Martin Luther King Jr’s niece. I’m sure he’d be proud.
I suppose before I make her sound too legitimate, she was convicted in 2004 on federal conspiracy charges, and was recently pardoned by Donald Trump. Of course Trump is also known for commuting sentences of some really upstanding Americans:
Oh, Angela King has also been really shitty to the LGBTQI+ community over the years, like the time she compared the “LGBTQ movement” to — yes, it all comes back to this — pedophilia.
But my point is, it’s just another example of some fairly big heavy hitters getting on board the QAnon train. Which freaks me out, a little, tbh.
It’s not the first time the emotive call to “save the children” has helped suck people into a conspiracy vortex.
We saw it during Pizzagate, where Hilary Clinton apparently had kids locked in the basement of a pizza joint.
As we all know, that ended with a man turning up with guns to save them. He opened fire — thankfully no one was hurt. He’s now in jail.
Earlier this year, as COVID-19 madness swept the world and the internet, deformed mole children were apparently being rescued from under New York’s Central Park, where they’d been held captive by the Deep State and George Soros.
That was back in April, and the tweets are still out there, as provably false as ever:
“Please, everybody pray for those children!”
You can’t write this stuff, you know? I mean, fuck!
What’s so frustrating is that child sex trafficking is a real thing.
It’s a real problem.
With real victims.
But it’s not this QAnon bollocks, and it’s much more complicated.
It’s much less bad-Hollywood-movie, and infinitely more horrible than the vague brushstrokes put forward by the QAnon faithful.
The United Nations writes about trafficking here, and it’s worth a read considering July 30th is ‘World Day Against Trafficking in Persons Day’.
Yes, it’s intensely fucked up that it needs to be a day, but here we are. This is the real stuff.
“Since 2003 the UN Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) has collected information on about 225,000 victims of trafficking detected worldwide.
Globally countries are detecting and reporting more victims, and are convicting more traffickers. This can be the result of increased capacity to identify victims and/or an increased number of trafficked victims.
Every country in the world is affected by human trafficking, whether as a country of origin, transit, or destination for victims.
Traffickers the world over continue to target women and girls.
The vast majority of detected victims of trafficking for sexual exploitation and 35 per cent of those trafficked for forced labour are female.
Conflict further exacerbates vulnerabilities, with armed groups exploiting civilians and traffickers targeting forcibly displaced people.
Data also shows that trafficking happens all around us as the share of persons trafficked within their own country has doubled in recent years to 58 per cent of all detected victims, according to the 2018 UNODC Global Report on Trafficking in Persons.”
And yet we’re not talking about that, are we?
Instead, kids on TikTok and adults on Twitter are drawing false conclusions about overpriced items on a website, reading way too deeply into mentions of Comet Ping Pong, or imagining mole children under Central Park.
Fucking mole children!
And it’s not just bored, scared basement-dwellers pushing this stuff, and it’s not just celebrity chefs and reality TV stars, either.
As I’ve pointed out in earlier Webworm’s, Donald Trump himself regularly retweets QAnon accounts — essentially giving them the thumbs up.
Often this is because these accounts have said something that’s boosted his ego.
But keep in mind that in the QAnon narrative, Trump is the saviour that will eventually call in “The Great Awakening”, revealing the real people behind all the pedophile rings and liberal plotting.
So when Trump retweets heroes in the QAnon world, to them he’s essentially proving that what they believe is real. That he’s in on it.
And these are the motherfuckers that will vote for him, because they aren’t always in basements. Sometimes they leave the house, highly motivated to shake things up and keep their man in power.
And sometimes they’re running for Congress. And sometimes they’re the President.
As 2020 forges on, expect to see more “innocent children” at the centre of the conspiracy narratives that unfold around us.
See it, recognise it, and stay well away.
With those two faces glaring out at you, I am going to go back into hiding, fearful of what fresh new horrors will appear this week.
Talk soon, thanks for reading this episode of Webworm, and please stay well and safe.
Oh, PS: Last week I created an open thread, which asked — tongue-firmly-in-cheek —whether it was more embarrassing to believe in QAnon or Scientology.
The debate was actually really smart and fun to read, and made me really proud of the lil’ community forming around Webworm.
You can read all those comments here, but this one in particular from reader Bentia stood out to me, particularly in light of what I’ve written about today:
“As an American, I’m certain that no one who is an active Scientologist could ever be elected into political office, that is clearly not the case with QAnon, so on that basis alone, I consider QAnon to be more dangerous.
Scientology, much like a vampire, can only ruin your life if you allow it in. At this point, there have been more than enough documentaries, books and television shows showing the dangers of joining Scientology that I can only feel bad for the children who get sucked in when their parents end up joining.
You’ve been warned more than enough times that emperor not only has no clothes but he will drain you financially and when he can’t get any more money out of you, he will conscript you into eternal servitude.
QAnon is actively dangerous because it is being spouted off as fact by the Cheeto in Chief and therefore, has to show up on the nightly news and even with journalists who do their due diligence and attempt to explain that QAnon is a baseless conspiracy theory, that does nothing to sway his followers who, of course, believe that the media is part of it.
Critical thinking is not widely taught in The US, in big part because the Religious Right can't stand it and there is no fighting them.
That there is a big overlap between Evangelicals (who I can easily blame for at least 85% of America's problems) and QAnon believers is no accident, as long as you are painting the Left as corrupt, they will believe anything you throw at them.
My only consolation is that QAnon will now have to deal with the Beyhive and no way are they prepared for that.”
Amen to that, Bentia.
Do you think that when old mate Donald disappears in January (Yes, I'm calling it now) and stops giving them air, they will crawl back into their Doomesday bunkers for another 8 years? Or will they double down with all the extra Democrats to blame things on ? Man, even as I type that I already know the answer.
It seems counter-intuitive that conspiracies abound when things are at their worst. I would have thought that a good conspiracy would take flight when everything else is ok, just to get the adrenaline flowing. But what we face now is awfully serious. Yeats with his "centre cannot hold" was onto something. All that has anchored us to some form of common understanding is coming apart and the line between fact and fantasy is getting mighty fuzzy. Speech is free, but it shouldn't be cheap. Say whatever comes into your head and someone, somewhere will believe its true and before you know it, it's true enough to shape the world around it. When churches give pedophilia their blessing and children are trafficked around the world, why not put your own spin on it? A few trending hashtags and one's sad, disillusioned life can mean something. I think some people are thinking way too much about the children and not in a good way. David, thank you for the quality of your output.