What follow are three relevant excerpts from Kaleigh Rogers' 10-15-20 FiveThirtyEight article entitled "Trump Said QAnon ‘Fights’ Pedophilia. But The Group Has Made It Harder To Protect Kids.":It’s hard to argue against a phrase like “save the children.” Which, presumably, is why QAnon uses it as a hashtag. The growing online conspiracy cult has co-opted the phrase to push falsehoods about pedophiles who run the world. But in promoting its radical worldview, QAnon has made life difficult for the organizations actually trying to save children. And the results could be putting kids at risk [...].
Over the summer, Q followers began using #savethechildren to spread the conspiracy theory, and it worked. From Aug. 9 through Aug. 15, more than 12,000 public Facebook posts used the hashtag, according to the social media tracking tool CrowdTangle. The rest of the year, the hashtag tended to garner fewer than 200 posts per week.
But most of the content shared using #savethechildren was based on a Q-fueled and completely warped picture of what child trafficking looks like in this country. And that has made life difficult for the people who actually do anti-trafficking work.
“It’s extraordinarily frustrating,” said Lisa Goldblatt Grace, co-founder and executive director of My Life My Choice, an anti-trafficking nonprofit. “We’ve worked so hard for the last 18 years to shift the narrative and have people understand this is happening in our communities. QAnon instead gives folks this incredibly sensationalized ‘other’ to fear and be angry about.”
In reality, child trafficking in the U.S. doesn’t look like a bunch of Hollywood and D.C. elites performing satanic rituals on children they stole from suburban playgrounds. Instead, kids who are sexually exploited are often poor, children of color, immigrants, or some combination of the three, and they’ve often been in the child welfare system or run away from home. In 2018, 1 in 7 kids who were reported as runaways to the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children were likely victims of child sex trafficking, according to UNICEF [...].
Even if QAnon is bringing people’s attention to child trafficking in general, it’s focusing that attention specifically on a sensationalized, largely inaccurate picture of what trafficking looks like. And that can pull focus and resources away from the actual problem.
“It can lead to not only a misunderstanding of the issue, but also a wrong response,” said Borislav Gerasimov, the program coordinator for communications and advocacy at the Global Alliance Against Traffic in Women.
As an example, Gerasimov cited the gunman who fired inside a pizza shop in 2016 because he wrongly believed it was the location of an underground pedophile ring, a conspiracy theory called Pizzagate that is a precursor to QAnon. “If you portray human trafficking as something that a secret cabal is doing, the solution becomes guns and surveillance. This is totally not the solution to trafficking.”
The solutions that anti-trafficking groups advocate for aren’t about raiding pizza shops or decoding Justin Bieber’s headwear choices, they’re about improving social programs so kids don’t fall through the cracks and end up in situations that leave them vulnerable to exploitation. That’s not as easy of a sell to the QAnon crowd.
“I don’t find that I’m able to translate the kind of fervor and excitement and investment people get for #savethechildren into an investment and focus and excitement in caring for the most marginalized among us,” said Goldblatt Grace.
Click HERE to read the entire article.
(And click HERE to read my recent five-part SALON series about QAnon.)