On Tuesday, NPR's All Things Considered took a deep dive into the roots of the QAnon conspiracy theory — and drew a straight line to it from the "Satanic Panic" that swept through America in the 1980s, in which preschool teachers were suspected of abusing children in rituals to appease the devil.
"Decades later, echoes of that same fear had emerged in QAnon," reported Noah Caldwell, Ari Shapiro, Patrick Jarenwattananon, and Mia Venkat. "The seemingly novel conspiracy theory has grown in far-right political circles since November 2017. Adherents of QAnon believe that a shadowy cabal kidnaps children, tortures them and uses their blood in Satanic rituals. The alleged perpetrators in QAnon are Democratic politicians — not preschool teachers, as had been the case in the 1980s — but the accusations are eerily similar."
"One of the earliest bellwethers of the satanic panic came in 1980, with the publication of Michelle Remembers, a memoir co-written by Canadian psychologist Lawrence Pazder and his patient Michelle Smith," said the report. "The book graphically details abuse that Smith claimed to have suffered as a child at the hands of a Satanic cult — abuse that she had allegedly forgotten, but eventually recovered through her work with Pazder." This triggered a nationwide panic that ultimately led to a preschool teacher in Manhattan Beach being accused of abusing hundreds of students in secret tunnels. "Attempts to find tunnels underneath the preschool failed, and since the trials, several of the students who accused Buckey of abuse have admitted their stories were fabricated."
The report compared all of this to QAnon, which, instead of a book, began with anonymous posts in an online message board.
"In November 2017, an anonymous user named 'Q Clearance Patriot' posted for the first time on the message board 4chan. An NBC News investigation later found that three other users initially promoted and spread those early posts, beginning the transformation of QAnon from an obscure online forum to an influential conspiracy theory taking root in far-right American politics. As QAnon spread, so did the belief among its adherents that a Satan-worshipping cabal of elite politicians was ritually abusing children — and, specifically, draining them of a chemical compound called 'adrenochrome,' which they believe is then ingested as a drug."
In addition to the moral panic elements, QAnon — which posited former President Donald Trump as the savior of humanity working to bring down the cabal — draws inspiration from a number of other longstanding conspiracy theory movements.
For instance, it features a number of tropes about consuming the blood of children, something common in the anti-Semitic "blood libel." More recently, its adherents adopted a bizarre theory from the Sovereign Citizen movement that the United States has been a "corporation" since the 1870s, and that Trump was supposed to resurrect the "real" United States on March 4 (which obviously did not happen).
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