QAnon Is Using Misinformation To Spread Hate - The Way Cults Do

By Cheryl Rainfield, October 2020

A personal plea: if you are speaking out against QAnon I’m glad, but PLEASE don’t discredit satanic cult survivors while doing so. We are still fighting to be believed and heard, even after everything we’ve survived.

Misinformation is a powerful tool used to discredit people speaking out about oppression and misuse of power, and because it usually draws on people’s insecurities and feelings of powerlessness, it often spreads quickly.

QAnon creates and spreads conspiracy theories, including that Trump is supposedly fighting a secret band of pedophiles, satanic child-sex trafficking rings, and murderers who are high-ranking US Democrat politicians, Hollywood actors, and philanthropists. This is particularly absurd when the people QAnon are targeting are fighting against oppression, and Trump is the one who is openly spreading hatred, racism, homophobia, misogyny, and violence, while  encouraging white supremacy. And the people QAnon are attacking are the ones that they think will bring down Trump. QAnon is anti-Semitic, drawing heavily on The Protocols of the Elders of Zion—an anti-Semitic conspiracy theory used by Hitler—and saying that the Rothschild family control all the banks. They are also racist, saying that the Black Lives Movement is responsible for all sorts of ills including wildfires, that Black Lives Matter members are pedophiles, and that Jewish people or Chinese people intentionally created the coronavirus.

QAnon’s misinformation is so full of hatred and racism that you’d think it would be easy to dismiss (except for people who are prejudiced). But QAnon’s misinformation is convincing to some people because it draws on both their fears and on kernels of truth (such as that child sex-trafficking and cult abuse exist). And since we’re in the middle of a pandemic, where many people are feeling helpless and afraid, conspiracy theories spread even more. People want to feel that they have some control over the situation, someone to blame, or that they’re in on secret information.

QAnon actively spreads their misinformation on social media, where they are especially active on Facebook and Twitter. They make “documentaries” about their conspiracy theories (such as that the pandemic is fake), suggesting that the government will suppress them because the government doesn’t want people to know the “truth.” And they’ve co-oped other movements and hashtags that are legitimately fighting against violence and child abuse such as #SaveTheChildren, intermingling some real stats about child sex-trafficking with their misinformation (which led to an increase of false reports to child trafficking hotlines).

QAnon is using tactics that cults use. They’re spreading misinformation, saying that people who are speaking out against oppression and abuse are engaging in those very reprehensible acts. They’re also using threats, scare tactics, and conspiracy theories to discredit and silence those people—which intentionally moves the attention away from people like Trump, who are actively creating real harm and oppressing others. And even the extreme conspiracy theories that some QAnon members spread, such as that aliens are among us, are also used by cults. Cults deliberately use conspiracy theories in their abuse, using props and costumes to convince their child victims that they’ve been raped by aliens or Elvis. 

And, like cults do, QAnon skews facts or beliefs toward their own lies that they want people to believe, just the way the False Memory Syndrome Foundation worked to discredit sexual abuse and cult torture survivors.

Cults use these techniques so that they can continue abusing and maintain their power. Since QAnon is highly racist and anti-Semitist, it is likely made up of predominantly white heterosexual men and some women who are trying to retain their power and maintain the oppression that exists in our society—and of course keep Trump in power. Frightening!

I am a cult torture survivor; my parents and extended family were part of intergenerational, interconnected cults. A satanic cult was only one of the cults that my abusers were members of. They were also involved in KKK, Nazi, Masonic, and other cults. It took me years of remembering the abuse, which I dissociated to survive, running away from my abusers, being found and re-abused, running away again and remembering more, to finally get safe. I spent years fighting against lies they told me, such as that they would kill me if I remembered and talked about the abuse. And there are many more survivors still struggling to get safe, or who are suffering in silence, afraid of people’s reactions when they do speak out. We know well how people don’t want to believe that such extreme, horrible acts of abuse and torture can still occur or be perpetrated by abusers who look like regular people. We know how hard it is to find the courage and strength to talk about the abuse, only to be not believed.

I have been dismayed by the number of normally oppression-aware people who—in their attempts to prevent disinformation and conspiracy theories spread by QAnon—completely dismiss cult torture survivors by saying it is all “satanic panic,” and that cult abuse doesn’t really happen. This discredits cult torture survivors like me, and it’s exactly what cults want to have happen.

The term “satanic panic” has been used frequently in popular media to attempt to discredit satanic cult torture survivors, especially during times when many survivors are talking about their abuse and other people are actually listening and supporting them. The term builds on people’s natural aversion to such horrific acts, and their not wanting to believe that in our supposedly civilized society such extreme torture and abuse happens. For example, in the McMartin preschool case, where cult abuse occurred, even when evidence was found—the underground tunnels and chamber, as well as animal bones—exactly where the children said they would be—people still didn’t want to believe that the cult abuse happened, and worked to discredit the children who spoke out. 

This is also a tactic used by the False Memory Syndrome Foundation—a group of parents who were accused by their adult children of child sexual abuse. The now-defunct foundation deliberately used misinformation and fear tactics in the media to discredit and silence sexual abuse survivors and their therapists. The foundation claimed that survivor memories could not be trusted. The foundation was highly funded and supported by many advisors and professionals who were later discredited in the scientific community. At least one member, Ralph Underwager, openly praised pedophilia. They took the media by storm, with hundreds of articles and interviews that all focused on child abuse cases that they claimed were false accusations. Yet the “False Memory Syndrome” has never been accepted by the American Psychological Association or any other mainstream psychological diagnostic system as a legitimate diagnosis. We know that traumatic memory is real, and professionals in the field can dispute all the foundations’ arguments—yet the damage they did to survivors’ and therapists’ credibility remains. Let’s not let that happen with QAnon attacking people working for good.

QAnon convinces some people because it preys on their fears and prejudices while incorporating horrific truths like the reality that child-sex trafficking and cult abuse happen. They then twist those truths with lies to attack Black people, Jewish people, and cult survivors, and people working to end oppression.

Cults are based on hatred—the KKK and Nazi use racism, specifically towards Black people and Jewish people, and all of the cults use misogyny, the hatred of women. They also encourage the spread of hatred and oppression. So does QAnon.

So I hope that you will fight QAnon’s misinformation—but that you will not discredit cult torture survivors while you do so.

©Cheryl Rainfield, 2020

For more evidence that cult abuse exists and happens, read the articles and resources at Survivorship and S.M.A.R.T.

Written by Cheryl Rainfield, award-winning author of SCARS, STAINED, and HUNTED.

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