Did you know Hitler was really a British spy? No? How about that Elizabeth II’s reign is illegitimate and the true King of England is a man named Joe?
It should go without saying that both these statements are utter nonsense. But they have gained considerable traction among QAnon online conspiracy theorists – whose influence is leaking offline and into the real world.
Since it emerged in late 2017, Q, an anonymous internet user claiming special knowledge (with ‘Q-clearance’) of Satan-worshipping paedophile rings at the heart of government and elsewhere, has become the new frontline in conspiratorial incitement. Recently QAnon related Twitter accounts have been promoting the bizarre claims of a man called Joseph Hallett who has allegedly submitted a claim to a court that he is the heir to the throne. He spins the tale that George V was in fact the illegitimate son of Tsar Alexander III of Russia. This has apparently all been covered up because the royal family, having been nearly bankrupted by the battle of Waterloo, sold their ‘breeding rights’ to the Rothschilds, who retained said rights until 2019.
To those of us who work to understand and address antisemitism, the weaving of the Rothschilds into this mad web of ludicrous claims is no surprise. Rothschilds, like Soros, is a codeword used, particularly in conspiracy circles, to mean wealthy, powerful Jew.
Digging deeper into Hallett’s backstory provides proof – if it were needed – of vile antisemitism. He has written a book under one of his aliases called ‘Gifting the United Nations to Stalin’. Its description on Amazon reads “The Jews are not good rulers of the planet”. Clearly no-one has broken it to the author that we Jews don’t run the planet at all. What else has Hallett written? That’s right, a book about how Hitler was a British agent.
The fact-checking site Logically has delved into how Hallett has interacted with the QAnon community online. It reveals how online activists from that community have used linked hashtags and codes as gateways between different groups on social media, expanding the reach of the Q message. These efforts have become so successful that some individuals have shared these conspiracies, completely unaware of the Q origin. However, once hooked, people are drawn down rabbit holes of hatred and induced to believe that the world is controlled by a shady network that kidnaps children, runs the government, finance, and religion, and is allegedly taking power from the white race. And this networked is financed by – any guesses? George Soros.
That incitement spreads from the internet and contaminates our public spaces. Q accounts inspired a far-right German faction ‘Reichsburger”, aka citizens of the Reich, to storm the German parliament in August. In fact, on a recent visit to Germany, a British Member of Parliament was approached, potentially by a member of this group, and told to read Hallet’s Hitler spy novel. In Britain, more than 50 5G masts were burned down, following another Q conspiracy. Meanwhile, President Trump, who has retweeted QAnon linked accounts, famously said of Q supporters “I understand that they like me very much, which I appreciate”. The Texas Republican party co-opted the slogan “We Are the Storm”, a well-known Q salvo, and many congressional candidates have signalled support for Q. What happens if they are elected?
In recent weeks, mainstream social media platforms have gone further to act against Q accounts. This is good but far too late. It has been months and years of a slow drip-feed of conspiratorially engaging content that has enticed people into hate-filled communities, with antisemitism at their heart. Social media has been the lifeblood of Q and platforms have failed in their duty of care to users. The potential impacts on democracies across the world are frightening. Dealing with this type of legal but harmful content is just one of the steps that will need to be taken in the UK when our Government legislates to address online harms. That legislation should come now. It is already too late.
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