The National  Memo Logo

Smart. Sharp. Funny. Fearless.

Monday, December 09, 2019 {{ new Date().getDay() }}

Tag: child trafficking

Why The QAnon Cult Is Obsessed With Child Trafficking And Kiddie Porn

Reprinted with permission from Alternet


Ben Gibson, a failed Republican congressional candidate who shared QAnon content on social media, was arrested in December on four counts of child pornography. A few months earlier, Joshua Jennings was arrested on first-degree murder charges for allegedly killing his girlfriend's 10-month-old daughter. Investigators found that Jennings had plastered the QAnon associated #savethechildren hashtag all over his Facebook wall, interspersed with rants about killing pedophiles.

The central tenet of QAnon is that a cabal of Satan-worshipping pedophiles controls all major institutions that must be cleansed by Donald J. Trump in a wave of purifying violence. Given that, it's odd that the faithful are so tolerant of child sexual exploitation in Trumpland itself. Trump used to party with billionaire child sex criminal Jeffery Epstein, and in 2002 described the financier as "a terrific guy," adding: "It is even said that he likes beautiful women as much as I do, and many of them are on the younger side."

George Nader, high-ranking diplomatic advisor to Donald Trump and QAnon favorite General Mike Flynn, is serving 10 years in prison for child pornography and trafficking a minor for sex. Ruben Verastigui, a senior digital strategist for the Trump campaign, was arrested in early February on federal child pornography charges. Trump's 2016 Oklahoma campaign chair and a Trump delegate from Kentucky are currently doing time for child trafficking.

QAnon's preoccupation with child porn is a result of overlapping themes in chan culture, conspiracy culture, Evangelical culture, and parenting/wellness culture. The theory gelled in poorly moderated spaces where actual child porn and jokes about it were a fact of life.

QAnon was born in the fetid swamps of 4chan imageboard, where the speech was free and child porn was available to those who knew where to look. Child porn was officially against the rules, but the chans were founded as forums for unbridled free speech, so their moderation protocols are purposefully lax. Pedophilia jokes and tropes fit 4chan's shock-jock ethos. The unofficial mascot of 4chan is a character known as Pedobear.

Needless to say, the vast majority of chan users are not pedophiles, but a loosely moderated, anonymous imageboard dedicated to pushing the limits of free speech will inevitably attract more than its share of unsavory characters.

Pizzagate, the forerunner to QAnon, came about because 4chan users read John Podesta's hacked emails and mistook Podesta's genuine love of food for a coded language that was already in circulation on 4chan.

"Pizzagate exists because 4chan users had slang for child porn, like 'cheese pizza' (derived from 'CP')," explains Q Origins, the anonymous researcher who pieces together the prehistory of QAnon on the Q Origins Project Twitter feed, "This is why those same people glommed on to the idea that pizza was pedophile slang."

"Q" of QAnon fame was one of many chan users ("anons") who posed as anonymous government insiders doling out cryptic clues for readers of 4chan's Politically Incorrect board, /pol/. This genre was so common that anons nicknamed it "LARPing" (a derisive comparison to "swords and shields" live action role-playing). LARPers like FBIAnon and MegaAnon explored many of the same themes as QAnon, but never went mainstream. Q Origins speculates that QAnon has a life beyond the chans because of Q's ability to tone down the overt racism and sexism of /pol/ to a level closer to what you'd see on Fox News.

QAnon draws on all the conspiracy theories that came before it. Crimes against children, specifically ritualistic atrocities, figure prominently in conspiracy theories throughout history. You can hear the echo of Blood Libel allegations against the Jews in QAnon's belief in a Satanic cabal of child abusers.

Like all conspiracy theories, QAnon reflects the hopes and fears of its co-creators. If you spend a lot of time on an imageboard that's saturated with pedophilia references and studded with actual child porn, child porn probably seems like even more of a threat than it does to the average person.

The early QAnon evangelists brought the fledgling faith to the larger world, starting with YouTube and Alex Jones' media empire, InfoWars. This was a critical step in QAnon going mainstream. Chans are an insular world that is only navigable by people with a fair amount of technical sophistication and a high tolerance for obscenity and abuse. QAnon's spread across more user-friendly platforms, particularly Facebook, brought the theory to a normie audience, including evangelical Christians.

Evangelicals played a key role in fomenting a moral panic over imaginary child sex abuse in daycares in the 1980s and 1990s while overlooking sex abuse in their own churches. It's comforting to imagine that children are abused by The Other when the reality is that most children are abused by the people closest to them.

QAnon's focus on child trafficking also became a powerful recruiting feature as the conspiracy theory spread online within the massive parenting and wellness subcultures. Appeals to #savethechildren resonated with moms and some dads who wouldn't otherwise have been interested in QAnon. After all, every 21st-century parent worries about child abuse. Everyone's against child sex trafficking. It's a lot more socially acceptable to share content that's ostensibly about stopping trafficking than it is to talk about the other side of QAnon, the prophecy of political violence and authoritarian rule.

How Trump’s Immigration Policy Makes Him An Accomplice Of Child Traffickers

This article was produced by Economy for All, a project of the Independent Media Institute.

President Donald Trump thinks of himself as a champion against human trafficking. He addressed a White House Summit on the issue in January claiming there was a "humanitarian crisis" at the border fomented by criminal organizations and that "traffickers victimize countless women and children." He signed an executive order and diverted $400 million in funding to combat the issue, boasting in his usual manner that "we have signed more legislation on human trafficking than any other administration has ever even thought about."

Read Now Show less

At Press Conference, Acosta Refuses To Apologize For Epstein Leniency

Reprinted with permission from Alternet.

Fighting fierce criticism over his handling of a high-profile sex trafficking case from 2008, Labor Secretary Alex Acosta took to a lectern before cameras Wednesday to field questions from the press.

He has come under scrutiny for the extraordinary non-prosecution deal given to Jeffrey Epstein, a financier accused of trafficking dozens of underage girls and sexually abusing them. In 2008, rather than pressing federal sex trafficking charges as a U.S. attorney in Florida, Acosta oversaw an agreement with Epstein that resulted in his pleading guilty to a lesser state charge. He served only 13 months in a local jail and scored a work release program that allowed him to go to his office 12 hours a day, six days a week. A judge has since ruled that the prosecutors violated the law in the agreement by not informing the victims about the deal.

During the press conference on Wednesday, Acosta defended his actions and refused to apologize to the victims despite multiple opportunities. Acosta placed the blame for the light sentence on state prosecutors and suggested that he only care about putting Epstein in jail. He said he was only concerned with avoiding letting a sex offender walk free.

But while he spoke forcefully in his own defense, he remained light on the details of the case at crucial points. And he didn’t explain why the state prosecutor’s inclination to go easy on Epstein would have prevented him from bringing more serious federal charges and or forced him to accept such a lax plea deal.

Ken White, a former federal prosecutor and current defense attorney, said Epstein’s non-prosecution agreement was “the deal of the millennium, one utterly unlike anything else I’ve seen in 25 years of practicing federal criminal law.”

In perhaps the most revealing moment of the press conference, a reporter asked about one particular charge — which is now part of the case being brought by the Southern District of New York against Epstein — that Acosta didn’t bring: obstruction of justice.

“Are you aware of alleged obstruction of justice by Jeffrey Epstein?” a Daily Mail reporter asked. “It seemed to be mentioned in a bail memo by New York prosecutors. Did he take efforts to intimidate prosecutors, and if he did — or harass witnesses, tamper with witnesses — why would he get what’s been called a sweetheart deal?”

“I can’t comment on the New York case, that would not be appropriate,” Acosta said.

“But were you aware of that in Florida?” the reporter asked. “I’m talking about in Florida — ”

“Sir, there’s a pending case in New York, I can’t talk about that,” Acosta shot back.

It was an odd response since he spent the whole hour-long press conference talking about charges against Epstein. It suggested that this was a line of inquiry Acosta is not inclined to go down, even while he talked extensively about other aspects of the case. So why won’t he address the potential obstruction of justice that went uncharged?

He also offered similarly obfuscatory answers when pressed on why Epstein’s agreement included a provision that said prosecutors would not pursue charges against any potential “co-conspirators.” Acosta gave vague references suggesting this was necessary to get Epstein in jail, but it’s far from clear why this would be the case. He also indicated that there wasn’t evidence of co-conspirators who were themselves abusing girls, but that doesn’t mean there weren’t others involved in the trafficking itself.

And if there weren’t any other people involved in the trafficking, why would it have been necessary to include this provision in the non-prosecution agreement?

Acosta’s press conference did little to allay doubts about his credibility or answer these remaining questions about the case.