Font Size
QAnon supporters at a rally, wearing red MAGA shirts. CCBY Marc Nozell via Wikimedia Commons
The QAnon Effect: How a Conspiracy Network is Channeling Anti-Semitic Myths to Upend the Church and Politics
October 15, 2020
The cosmic war between good and evil, a hero in the White House, and the threat of election day violence -- why we cannot ignore the spread of the conspiracy network QAnon.
QAnon supporters in red MAGA shirt. Creative Commons image by Marc Nozell
Lost in a Web of Lies: How QAnon Changed Everything October 15, 2020
Religious scholar Magda Teter traces the QAnon conspiracy theory to the medieval period when the anti-Semitic myth known as the Blood Libel first emerged and informs the false beliefs in a Satanic cabal operating a pedophile ring protected by elites. What makes this period different is ready access to vast troves of misinformation, and groups online, that promote the belief that the President is the only one who can destroy the cabal. The rise of social media and the ability of users to create their own spheres of influence has given rise to new eco-systems of misinformation that feed off Nazi propoganda circulated widely in the early 20th Century – attracting a new generation to one of the oldest forms of racial hatred.

A Millenial from Texas raised in a conservative family, Kelly Wolfe, considered herself prepared for anything..,that is until she discovered the power of conspiracy theories to pervert and distort conversations and relationships with people she loved.  Wolfe describes how falling in love with a man who later became drawn into QAnon opened her eyes to how vulnerable well-intentioned people are to the conspiracy theory.  Wolfe discovered how deep the distrust of the media and recognized experts runs.  Wolfe opens up and gets personal in this candid conversation with the hope of encouraging a more compassionate way to engage with those lost in the web of misinformation and lies.

In March 2020, while covering Wolfe's story on Covid-19 for The World, Senior Reporter Emily Belz discovered a growing number of Christians dealing with QAnon or rather, struggling to understand what it is and why so many were falling under its sway.  As she dug deeper she found pastors and other religious leaders struggling to combat the power of an online propaganda machine powered by numerous Christian influencers -- especially women.

Magda Teter. Professor of History and Shvidler Chair in Judaic Studies at Fordham University., and author most recently of Blood Libel: On the Trail of an Antisemitic Myth. She has received fellowships from the John Simon Guggenheim and Harry Frank Guggenheim foundations and was Mellon Foundation Fellow at the Cullman Center, New York Public Library.

Magda Teter. Image courtesy Fordham University

Magda Teter

Blood Libel: On The Trail
of an AntiSemitic Myth

by Magda Teter
Harvard University Press

Emily Belz, Senior reporter for WORLD Magazine. She is a World Journalism Institute graduate and previously reported for The New York Daily News, The Indianapolis Star, and Philanthropy magazine. You can read her article about Kelly Wolfe’s experience with QAnon here.

Emily Belz. Image courtesy The World magazine.

Emily Belz


Amarnath Amarasingam. Image courtesy Queens College, Ontario
Prophecy and Cryptic Messages: Is QAnon A New Religious Movement? October 15, 2020
The impact of QAnon’s growth is being felt in relationships.  A growing number of pastors, community leaders, and families are turning to mental health experts and counselors for advice. In this segment, Steven Hassan, a mental health counselor and the founder of the Freedom of Mind Resource Center, offers a framework for identifying signs of radicalization.  Hassan relies on first-hand experience with conspiracy networks and cults having joined the Moonie family in the 1970s.  He offers tips and suggestions on how to talk with loved ones and explains why separating from the pipeline of disinformation is the critical first step.  Hassan is the best-selling author of Combatting Cult Mind Control and The Cult of Trump.

Then we dive into QAnon conspiracy culture with a radicalization expert from Queen's University - Professor Amarnat Amarasingham.  In this extended conversation, he describes what makes this movement unique, and how the framing narrative of a cosmic war and end of time themes are common features of “new religious movements” that have emerged throughout American history.

Amarasingham describes how technology and societal factors contribute to the growth of the movement along with Trump’s refusal to reject and condemn the conspiracy - a communication that according to Amarasingham would be powerful.  Instead, Trump signals support by amplifying QAnon disinformation using his Twitter account.

Absent Presidential leadership on the issue, he argues that law enforcement, civic leaders and the public need to talk openly about the threat of disinformation and conspiracy theories that sow fear.  He warns that unlike other fringe movements, the signs suggest violence is especially likely if the President invites the movement to resist the outcome of the election.

Steven Hassan, M.A., M.Ed., LMHC, NCC Expert on Undue Influence, and unethical hypnosis, and author most recently of the best-selling book The Cult of Trump, from Simon & Schuster. He is a licensed mental health professional, cult expert, and undue influence expert.

Steven Hassan. Image courtesy Steven Hassan

Steven Hassan

The Cult of Trump by Steven Hassan. Simon and Schuster

The Cult of Trump
by Steven Hassan

Simon and Schuster


Amarnath Amarasingam, Ph.D. Assistant Professor in the School of Religion at Queen’s University in Ontario, Canada, Senior Research Fellow at the Institute for Strategic Dialogue, and Associate Fellow at the International Centre for the Study of Radicalisation, London.

Our theme music Breath Deep is copyright MC Yogi.

Additional music for this week’s episode: Milkwood, Clay Pawn Shop,
Base Camp,
and Order of Entrance by
Blue Dot Sessions; Pensif by Kevin/MacLeod/Incompitech;
Curious Proccess by Podington Bear; Past Regrets by Audiobinger
– all licensed under
Creative Commons By Attribution 4.0