“Q” and the blood libel

I avoided this subject for a long time due to the degree of stupidity it contains, but it became too present in public debate not to talk about it. We live in times of persecution: those thought to be witches, heretics, pagans and apostates are the target. And I'm not referring to the few theocracies still functioning in some countries, but to the 21st century, Westernized and post-Cold War world. I remember when, at school, in the bygone 1990s, a certain history teacher briefly touched on the subject of the witch hunts that occurred in the threshold between the late medieval and early modern periods. I vaguely remember him saying how this affected groups that didn't have any real power, mainly women and Jews. When it occurs to me that school I frequented for most of my childhood and adolescence was a Catholic school, this becomes even more admirable.

I don't know how it is now. I hope it hasn't changed much. The brotherhood that maintained that school wasn't known to be strict and it didn't censor humanities teachers, but maybe that changed. Sure, the majority of my teachers who are still alive probably voted for Bolsonaro, but even so, knowing that many didn't vote for him brings me some solace. But this solace is too small, and it doesn't remove the sadness and despair of knowing that, most likely, a significant portion of the people I knew during my childhood and adolescence, both in school and outside of it, became zombies at the hands of the bizarre idiocracy promoted by the internet, by extreme websites and by social networks such as Facebook, WhatsApp and Telegram.

This is true for both Brazil and the United States, the country where I attended the last year of high school and college. It comforts me knowing that at least part of the people I know in America didn't support the orange-man, but it is sad knowing that many of them defend and still support him, maybe even the majority. That being said, this week, many Americans gathered in Dallas, Texas, to wait for John F. Kennedy, Jr. to come back. To them, JFK Jr. didn't die in an airplane accident in 1999, but pretended to be dead and went into hiding somewhere, where he has been planning a triumphal comeback as Trump's vice-president — and Trump would be sworn in as president by a military coup that would depose the current president, Biden. And what is the source of this incredibly crazy conspiracy theory? The online cult known as QAnon, that has already arrived in Brazil, after leaving the United States and arriving in Europe, Australia and other places.
Illustration showing the death of Simon of Trent, by Hartmann Schedel, 1493.

During many decades, several bizarre conspiracy theories were exported worldwide by the American far-right, a process that has accelerated in the last 20 years with the absurd expansion of the internet. Almost everyone has heard of things such as New World Order, globalism, Illuminati, reptilians and other nonsense. Nonsense such as the idea that flying saucers and ETs are really demons disguising as technologically advanced aliens in order to undermine Christianity — after all, the Bible doesn't mention intelligent life on other planets. You don't believe me? Google it. You will find that even famous evangelical preachers talk about it, both in the United States and in Brazil. And look, I didn't even mentioned conspiracy theories about geocentrism and flat Earth, which supposedly are “facts” hidden by NASA. By the way, NASA supposedly also hides the fact that we never went to the Moon or even left the atmosphere for that matter.

QAnon is the direct heir of other conspiracy theories, like the ridiculous Pizza Gate. Supposedly, members of the “rich, liberal and socialist American elite” used secret codes related to pizza in order to traffic and sexually abuse children. This idiotic belief culminated in a shooting at a pizza place in North Carolina. In 2016, an almost 30 year old man invaded a pizza place near where he lived and ordered the employees to show him the dungeon where the children were kept. One other detail: this pizza place was supposedly used by members of this “billionaire socialist liberal elite”, and Hillary Clinton was allegedly among them. Luckily, no one was severely injured. The place didn't even have a basement, let alone a dungeon. The man was arrested and sentenced to 4 years in prison.

He was a right-wing white man. Short sentences for right-wing extremists would become the norm in the years that came. On January 6, 2021, QAnon followers invaded the Capitol building, in Washington DC, right after a speech by Trump, with the goal of subverting the election result that gave Biden the victory. Other than a few poor souls that believed in the lie that the American far-right isn't racist, the vast majority of the rioters at the Capitol was white and sympathized with neo-Nazi racialism. Police officers were beaten with fists, kicks and sticks. One of them heroically died on the spot. Only one of the invaders was killed. She was shot while trying to break into the building and beat up police officers.

The dead invader became a martyr for QAnon believers. She was even honored by former president Trump in interviews this year. Even though many of those who participated in the invasion of the Capitol were taken to court, arrested and sentenced, the sentences themselves were relatively soft. Now compare this to what happens to blacks, Latinos and center-left protesters in the United States, which are almost always treated with violence by the police. In the words of many who watched the invasion live on television: if those people weren't mostly white, we'd be seeing hundreds of bodies near the Capitol building. But what exactly is QAnon?

QAnon began after Trump was sworn in. It started in American far-right internet forums. Allegedly, an anonymous top member of the government with access to documents and highly secret information — “Q clearence” — created a fake account in one of these forums to reveal dates in which bombastic revelations and events would occur. The fulcrum of this conspiracy theory is this: they believe that there is an elite cabal composed of rich socialist liberals that not only sexually abuses children, but also take their blood in order to extract a magical hormone capable of rejuvenating and causing extreme pleasure in those who consume it.

All of this would be done in the name of Satan, of course — the conspiracy leaves this information ambiguous enough to allow the believer who isn't religious to think that the satanic elite is just a bunch of decadent and sick individuals. But the vast majority of QAnon believers is religious in some way, and they truly believe this satanic elite is in league with the Devil. One of the original QAnon predictions that didn't happen was that the Trump government, together with the military, would arrest and execute this evil elite in an event they called “The Storm”.

After this failed prophecy, several others were made, but none became reality. The conspiracy theory adapted itself. Trump lost the elections, so they had to come up with the lie that there was widespread fraud, and that Trump would return to power with the help of the military. Even the covid-19 pandemic was incorporated into the conspiracy theory. It's common for QAnon followers to believe that the vaccines contain satanic-communist nanochips that destroy people's free will. The idea of a rich group acting in the shadows to hurt innocent children with the goal of obtaining supernatural favors may seem creative, but it isn't. For centuries, mainly during the Middle Ages, but not only, Christians accused Jews of doing this. There's even an expression for this sort of false accusation: blood libel.

In many occasions during the European Middle Ages, hundreds of Jews in villages and towns were tortured and executed in brutal ways, including burning at the stake, after being accused of killing children in satanic rituals performed to extract their blood. One of the most famous cases is that of Simon of Trent. In 1475, a Franciscan preacher showed up in the Italian city of Trent and performed sermons in which he vilified local Jews, who had arrived there only a few years before, and had raised a small but prosperous community. Soon after the sermons, Simon, a 2 and half year old boy disappeared. His father asked the authorities to search for him, including at Jewish properties, something that was done. The boy wasn't found anywhere. However, not long after that, Simon's body was found underwater by an employee of Samuel, the rich leader of the local Jewish community, after he went to fetch water in the cellar. The cause of death was determined to be blood loss.

Samuel himself, together with other Jews, informed the authorities of the discovery, something that was omitted during the trials afterwards. The entire Jewish community of Trent was arrested and tortured. Fifteen men, including Samuel, were burned alive. One of the men converted to Christianity and was spared, but his conversion was voided after he was caught participating in a Jewish ceremony, so he was also burned alive. Desperate, the women managed to argue that they didn't participate in the satanic ritual due to their gender, which was considered to be true by the authorities. They were freed from prison after the pope intervened. A century later, Simon of Trent was beatified by the pope Sistus V. It was only in 1965 that pope Paul VI suppressed the veneration of Simon due to its explicit antisemitic character.
Some unsuspecting individuals might think that there are no antisemitic elements in QAnon, but they're wrong, antisemitism is very much present among QAnon followers. There have been cracks in the community of QAnon followers over this issue, and a major portion of QAnon followers went with the antisemitic camp. It isn't surprising that, during the invasion of the Capitol, many of the rioters were photographed with t-shirts that contained horrific sayings about Jews. One of them stated that six million dead at the Holocaust wasn't enough.

Those who think this disgusting conspiracy theory didn't find fertile ground in Brazil are also mistaken. Pro-Bolsonaro WhatsApp and Telegram groups have a clear majority of QAnon believers. When someone doesn't believe in every single point of the conspiracy theory, they believe parts of it. It's tragic and comical at the same time, since even though we can laugh at their stupidity, they are dumb enough to follow a conspiracy theory that is embraced by Anglo-Saxons and Nordic people in white countries such as the United States, Germany and Australia — people that would never accept Brazilians among their ranks, even those Brazilians that consider themselves white and love to show their European citizenship, which they inherited from the great grandparents.
Even among prominent pro-Bolsonaro politicians this damned conspiracy gained ground. The image bellow shows one of them posting the following: “Baal, satanic deity, Canaanites and Jews sacrificed children in order to receive his graces. Today, history repeats itself.”
Like I said in the beginning, we live in times of persecution, and those considered to be heretics, apostates, witches, mages, sorcerers, or simply sinners, are targets. And it looks like it is only starting. A declining empire produces, alters and amplifies the spreading of bizarre beliefs, which in many cases are violent. Civilization as whole, which encompasses the current decadent empire but is larger than it, ends up absorbing such bizarre beliefs, and end up producing monstrosities when adapted to local reality — especially in certain peripheries. Since I belong to one of these peripheries, I confess that I'm very much afraid of the future.

by Fernando Olszewski