On mainstream social platforms, QAnon mushroomed out from angry alt-righters to infect accounts previously dedicated to crystals, yoga, and manifesting.
One of the stranger subplots in the long, weird story of 2020 is the millennial wellness community’s embrace of a radical, nonsensical, easily debunked QAnon conspiracy theory whose central belief is that high-level Democratic politicians (aka “Democratic elites,” aka the “deep state”) are running a global child sex-trafficking operation. As the theory has spread, QAnon followers have incorporated a tangle of other theories into the mix, among them that the government exaggerated the pandemic and that the 2020 presidential election was rigged.
A major reason that QAnon messaging was so successful on social media is that many influencers didn’t know (at least at first) that the language they were slipping in between stories on meditation and essential oils was linked to a conspiracy theory whose main goal was to prop up Donald Trump.
Instead, these influencers were just doing what influencers do: following the metrics. “If something interests you, and every time you post about it, you get more followers or subscribers, that’s helping you a lot,” says Kelly. It’s not that they didn’t believe what they were posting. But, she adds, “we’re persuaded into what we believe a little more strongly by the response of those around us.”
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