Investigative journalist Paola Ramos produced a video story for Vice News that focused on the QAnon conspiracy and its connection to the trending hashtag #SavetheChildren. “The central belief [of QAnon] is that Democrats and celebrities are trafficking children and drinking their blood,” Ramos reports in the Vice video.
QAnon is a conspiracy theory that far right-wing people support where the belief is that there is someone within the government telling people to trust that the truth will come out and mass arrests of prominent Democrats and celebrities will happen. Supporters of QAnon are pushing #SaveOurChildren into a growing movement.
“You have at least four million people, according to some reports, that believe lies,” Ramos said in an MSNBC interview with anchor Alicia Menendez. “[While] believing there are Democrats and celebrities that are eating the blood of children and that Donald Trump is their champion and..[is] going to sort of expose this.”
(Paola Ramos speaking to QAnon supporters/Still from MSNBC Interview)
Amanda Olivo kept seeing posts on her feed that said #SaveTheChildren. As a mother, these posts demanding the awareness of abuse and trafficking of children caught her attention.
“It made sense because I always wondered why there was no movement about missing children being sex trafficked or why there were such loose laws on or around pedophilia,” Olivo said in an interview with Luz Collective. The “loose laws” she mentions refers to the different sentences a perpetrator faces between child trafficking versus rape.
Conspiracy theories of political figureheads and celebrities being involved in an underground child sex trafficking ring officially broke out of the internet and took to the streets since the Child Lives Matter Rally on July 31, in Hollywood, California. QAnon sympathizers were behind this rally, and many like it around the country, claiming to bring attention to child rape, torture, and trafficking. Many began renaming Hollywood as Pedowood, asserting that not only political figureheads but celebrities, producers, writers, and others in entertainment are harvesting the chemical adrenochrome from the blood of children. People at the rally held posters that tied #SaveTheChildren to the debunked conspiracy theory Pizzagate.
Followers of Pizzagate believe that children are being taken from their families and brought into an underground child sex trafficking ring where elite Democratic buyers, like the Clintons, participate. Edgar Maddison Welch was imprisoned for firing off a rifle in a local pizza business that, according to the theory, was an undercover hub for child sex trafficking. It was not. In the Vice report, Ramos spoke to Child Lives Matter rally attendees who are heard saying “Pizzagate is real.”
Since becoming aware of Pizzagate, Olivo has sought out more information to be aware of pedophilia and learning about child sex abuse. Another mother who supports the #SaveOurChildren movement is A’dri Cerda.
“It’s ridiculous to not support ending child sex trafficking because you believe it might be tied to a political conspiracy theory being used to motivate people to re-elect Trump,” Cerda said in an interview with Luz Collective. “If we can’t be united, as a country, in fighting something as horrific as child sex trafficking, then we are inevitably doomed.”
A recent bill signed to reform how judges decide who gets on the California sex offender registry gave QAnon supporters what they perceived to be some real-world validation of Pizzagate.
Earlier this month, California Governor, Gavin Newsom signed a bill that brings parity to criminal sentencing in how a judge is able to use discretion in cases where a court has found that a person has had vaginal intercourse with a minor that is at least 14 years old and the age gap between the two is less than 10 years. For example, if a 19-year-old person had sex with their 17-year-old partner, this bill gives judges the power to determine if the adult needs to register as a sex offender. Before the law, judges could only use discretion in cases that pertained to vaginal penetration allowing for potential discrimination in sentencing for LGBTQI people.
This bill moved Qanon supporters to spread posts online that equate Newsom’s policy as one condoning pedophilia, which is another false accusation. The author of the bill, State Senator Scott Weiner, has endured attacks online, including death threats, by QAnon supporters.
“You truly have to understand that [QAnon followers] live in a fictional world where facts don’t matter and in any other scenario you and I would say this is kind of crazy,” Ramos said on MSNBC. “In Donald Trump’s America, this is a result of four years of his presidency.”
In Ramos’ Vice News story, interviews span from QAnon supporters to protestors to former House candidates who ran as Republicans in the primaries. Marjorie Greene is one of the QAnon-linked Republican candidates on the November ballot in Georgia. Other states with QAnon-linked Republican candidates are Arizona, California, Colorado, Hawaii, Illinois, Nevada, New Jersey, Ohio, Oregon, and Texas. Ramos sounds the alarm on the danger of conspiracy theories being pushed by people seeking political office or by people already in office like the President.
During a Press Conference in August, President Trump did not condemn QAnon when questioned about the group, alarming the CEO of the Anti-Defamation League, Jonathan A. Greenblatt.
“QAnon conspiracy theorists spread disinformation and foster a climate of extremism and paranoia, which in some cases has led to violence. Condemning this movement should not be difficult,” said Greenblatt, as quoted in this New York Times piece. “It’s downright dangerous when a leader not only refuses to do so, but also wonders whether what they are doing is ‘a good thing.’”
It is Trump’s refusal to condemn QAnon that also concerns Ramos. “Trump refuses to disavow [QAnon] mostly because he knows that in the next 60 days he needs those votes. To me this is forming into a political movement and potentially into a pretty real voting block,” Ramos said in the MSNBC interview.
The uproar by QAnon about the sexual assault of children does not seem to include concern over reports of children experiencing this while in U.S. detention centers. Since the Trump administration’s “zero tolerance” policy that separates children from their families, there have been complaints about thousands of children experiencing sexual assault. Claims are made that these reports are being taken seriously, however, none of them have been publicly handled.
“I don’t think [#SaveTheChildren is] bringing attention to children being held [by] ICE,” Olivo said.
As parents, Cerda and Olivo have genuine concerns about the issue of child sex trafficking which leads them to support #SaveOurChildren. According to Ramos, the danger behind the popularity of the hashtag lies in conflating the issue of sex trafficking with false conspiracies pushed by QAnon.
“We’re talking about child sex trafficking,” Ramos said in the Vice video. “There’s a difference between cases and making a generalization that Democrats are inciting this.”