I find it really hard to see how this idea was arrived at in the first place, and the timing of both Bill Clinton and President Trump being implicated in the Epstein case, a real child abuse scandal and nothing to do with an imaginary satanic cabal, so I need to ask, is it possible this whole thing some sort of false flag operation?
Question #1What are the origins of the QAnon Conspiracy Theory?
I would recommend the Netflix documentary "Social Dilemma" as a good broad introduction on this topic. While it doesn't speak specifically about QAnon it discusses other Conspiracy Theories and Fake News scams (Pizzagate, Flat Earth Society) and the hand social media and free online services have in spreading them.
QAnon has its origins in the Fake News proliferation; which became a big deal in the 2016 election. It's all tied to the free online services (google, facebook, tiktok, wechat ) and how they monetize websites. One has the temptation to say, that's pennies a click that's no big deal, but don't be fooled; there is big money in manipulating and misinforming people. The crazier the headline the more people will pursue it and the more monetizable it is. You put out a site claiming an anonymous insider is giving you the straight dope on some popular politician's fight against the evil empire!! Then get enough folks to check it out, become obsessed, create their own theories: When it goes viral, every click means money, big money.
Here is a New York Times Opinion piece discussing the Problem.
The Right Way to Fight Fake News
Social media platforms need to make sure their anti-misinformation strategies are empirically grounded.
Here is a CNN Money story talking about a town in Macedonia where manufacturing fake news is their industry
Fake News Machine.
Inside a Town's who's economy is based on fake news, gearing up for the 2020 election. CNN terms their pursuit "industrial", with more than 100 fake news sites tracked back to this town after the 2016 elections.
BBC video on how fake news sites make money. click bait!.
The Billion-Dollar Disinformation Campaign to Reelect the President How new technologies and techniques pioneered by dictators will shape the 2020 election
Beyond a bit of tech savvy all you need is a compelling story. In QAnon's case a group of compelling yet unrelated stories. Better if they individually have some basis in truth, but not strictly necessary. Then you mash them together, draw parallels and relationships which are on shaky ground or don't exist, and present them as true. Making them appear credible is a technical exercise which can be engineered. With today's technology in 2016 stories could be placed in trusted news outlets; lending nonsensical stories the credibility of the organization.
- Gatekeeping Fake News Discourses on Mainstream Media Versus Social Media
- 'Fake news' lowers trust in mainstream media across party lines, study finds
- Causes and consequences of mainstream media dissemination of fake news: literature review and synthesis
Easier still they can target an audience with pre-existing beliefs which make them more likely to believe the story. This is why social media companies are worth hundreds of billions of dollars. Because they permit a previously non existent ability to pinpoint a message to someone who doesn't know the message, story, website, or alert is a highly customized monitorization of all the information the social media site has collected on the person.
QAnon mashes together
- Jeffrey Epstein
- NXIVM ( no relation to Epstein )
- Blood Transfusions as a treatment for aging (unrelated to both Epstein and NXIVM)
What we get is the Democratic Party is controlled by pediphelia vampires draining young people of their blood to stay young!! Welcome to QAnon.
it's supporters seem to be from the lower socioeconomic demographic.
I really don't think that's the case. Anybody can fall prey to 21st century conspiracy theories. My father was a mental health professional and while he passed away many decades ago his words often come back to me. The words I hear him restate on this topic is, "only smart people go crazy". These conspiracy theories prey on smart people who are open minded and interested in being informed. It's a manipulation game and a requirement is for the victim to care and be persuadable. There are other properties which make such people more susceptible, like perhaps a mistrust of traditional news sources or having a strong individual streak. Low socio economic status might be true in some cases, but plenty of successful people fall prey too.
Imagine you see a story in your facebook news feed that says Hillary Clinton uses blood transfusions to stay young, looks legit, sounds crazy. Then imagine you get are story about "blood transfusions involving NXIVM or Epstein" on an entirely unrelated google search. Then on Reddit you see a story from QANon tying both together. Epstein supplying blood to Clinton in exchange for political protection / whatever. You are thinking you just got 3 independent collaborating pieces of information. Individually dismissable collectively more persuasive. In reality you were just played. QANon sent you all three messages. They used Facebook and Google to identify you and plant the first two stories and Reddit for the last. Every Google Search, Every Youtube video search, Every Facebook news feed is highly customized based on the person, that's how social media monetizes folks who get their free services. QAnon and many conspiracy / fake news scams hook into these existing services and make money the same way lot's of internets businesses do; generating and monetizing traffic. I used a shallow 3 step manipulation pattern in describing the above, think about this extending to 10 or 20 different and seemingly unrelated contacts over days, weeks even months. Think about if they already knew you were a Trump supporter, or someone already prone to visiting sights like the New Republic or 4chan. It's like shooting fish in a barrel. It's a manipulation which is best used against someone who is interested in current events and motivated to inform themselves. And it is powerful!
Inventing a story and selling it to the public has long been a tool on many organizations work bench. Companies, Political Campaigns and Governments have long manufactured news stories. What's different now is, with modern technology just about anybody can do it, and you can make money doing it.
One way to make it creditable is to post it on a social media sight, or news bulletin board, when it get's say 10,000 likes it becomes a story larger media outlets (National Newspapers, Network News Programs ) will cover. This is called a "species jump" when a story moves from an online blog or generic site, to local news, then to national news. The authors of the posts don't require 10,000 people to actually like their story in order to jump it. They can manufacture those likes with automated software. Facebook, Google, YouTube, there's plenty of them. So they basically can manufacture the species jump themselves and in 2016 that was enough to get a story national recognition. The Software was freely available and didn't take much technical knowledge to use.
As the "social dilemma" documentary explains if you use the built in tools which are made available by Facebook, Google, etc it's even easier. These organizations sell access can target people with pre-existing leanings or susceptible to specific stories.
With the advent of AI algorithms which can write stories, and Deep Fake videos where anybody can be made to appear to be doing anything, saying anything on high quality videos. With this technology becoming cheaper and cheaper; These kinds of conspiracy theory / fake news are going to get much more difficult to identify moving forward.