In Brief

One in four Britons believe in QAnon-linked conspiracy theories, study finds

Influence of the far-fetched theory has spread alongside the coronavirus pandemic

A movement that has been identified as a terror threat by the FBI after beginning life among Donald Trump’s most unhinged supporters is finding fresh support in the UK, according to new research.

The QAnon conspiracy theory emerged from “a supposed intelligence agent” known as Q, who “maintains that Donald Trump is actually a white knight waging a secret war against a powerful cabal of elite Satanist paedophiles using a secret language involving pizzas and harvesting children’s blood to create an immortality elixir”, says Wired.

Now, belief in those claims appears to be spreading. Of 2,000 people quizzed in a survey commissioned by the charity Hope Not Hate, 5.7% described themselves as supporters of QAnon.

And “larger percentages supported broader, linked conspiracies”, The Guardian reports. One in four (25%) of the survey respondents said they believed that “secret satanic cults exist and include influential elites”, and 29% endorsed the idea that “a single group of people who secretly control events and rule the world together”.

QAnon’s “language and ideas” appear to have spread hand-in-hand with Covid-19, “making their way into existing online communities and protest movements” across Europe, says Politico.

“If you feel like you’re losing control of your life, you’re more likely to believe in these conspiracy theories,” Jonathan Bright, a senior researcher at the Oxford Internet Institute, told the news site. “The coronavirus supercharged things.”

Sometimes the link is more direct. “In Britain, QAnon’s messages and memes have increasingly popped up in social media communities and at street demonstrations against lockdowns, mandatory face coverings and vaccination plans,” The Guardian reports.

Since the conspiracy encourages a mistrust of other sources of information, its supporters often resist attempts to debunk even the most extreme ideas.

“Unfortunately, I know first-hand that almost anything you say to them will be dismissed, ignored or rationalised away,” one former adherent told the New Statesman.

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