In October, Hope Not Hate released a report on QAnon, written by David Lawrence and Gregory Davis, with the first half concentrating on an overall summary, while the second half explores QAnon in the UK specifically.
The report shows how David Icke laid the groundwork for QAnon in the UK, by spreading his own lizard-themed version of Satanic panic for decades.
Hope Not Hate commissioned a poll into QAnon’s UK popularity.
According to their findings, 19% had heard of QAnon, while 79% had not, with 6% being unsure. Young people were more likely to be aware of QAnon’s existence.
One in ten said they were supporters of QAnon, while a quarter of the people polled agree or strongly agree that “Secret Satanic cults exist and include influential elites”. Even more worryingly, 17% agree or strongly agree that “Jews have disproportionate control of powerful institutions, and use that power for their own benefit and against the good of the general population”.
The report then delves into the QAnon street movement. Unsurprisingly, there is quite a bit of overlap between QAnon and anti-lockdown protesters. The movement itself is in flux, without any sort of cohesion, the only thing common among participants is various conspiratorial beliefs.
The established British far-right groups have not yet fully embraced QAnon — support has been on an individual basis — though that very well could change in the future.
The comprehensive overview of QAnon in the first half of the report is one of the best I’ve read. It differentiates between what it calls “Orthodox” and “Eclectic” QAnon, draws attention to the antisemitic tropes inherent to it, explains its connection to the baseless Pizzagate conspiracy theory, lays out how it changed from its inception to today, and how the global coronavirus epidemic helped to popularise it.
It also features a chapter on the role of social media.
I think it’s fair to say that without the criminal negligence of Facebook, Youtube and Twitter, QAnon would’ve remained as obscure as it was during the early days. While this chapter provides important data, I feel the writers are way too soft on the companies mentioned above. They write that: “Each company has been criticised in the past for their failure to tackle extremist ideologies such as white supremacism and Islamic extremism, but one could argue that their platforms were merely reflecting wider societal phenomena. In QAnon, they have been responsible for allowing a new movement to be born and raised on their platforms...”
In fact, they did more than that. Facebook, in particular, continued to actively promote QAnon content to users, not just host it. QAnon recommendations continued to pop up even after they promised to stop the practice and to crack down on the spread of the movement. Under capitalism, the desire for private gain will win over public good every time. The writers’ hope that the social media giants will learn from this episode seems incredibly naive.