The conspiracy theorists claim to be protecting the kids from sex trafficking.
At first glance, one of QAnon’s favorite conspiracy theories — that Democrats are running a vast pedophile ring — could seem so absurd that it’s laughable. But it has very real, and dangerous, consequences. The latest: QAnon followers are stopping migrant children at the border in a move that experts warn is only meant to further spread their propaganda, according to a new report from The New York Times.
The group, led by Jason Frank, camps out near Sasabe, Arizona and often meets children with hamburgers, hot dogs, or other types of food. Then, as The Times reported, they cue up Facebook Live and share real-time video of the children’s arrival.
News that QAnoners are confronting migrant children at the border should definitely raise eyebrows. But when speaking with The Times, Frank claimed his group’s actions were all about saving those children. “They are being trafficked, sex trafficked. That’s the No. 1 trade. The money, that’s where it’s at now,” he said.
Not everyone agrees with Frank’s assessment. Stacey Sutherland, an official with the Arizona Anti-Trafficking Network, told The Times, “We haven’t heard about migrant children brought in to be sex workers or slaves. At the border, it’s overwhelmingly people who paid to be smuggled.”
Perhaps the biggest concern about the QAnoners actions at the border is the information they collect. The Times reported that Frank’s group asks kids to give them the addresses and phone numbers of family members or friends they’re meeting, so the group can contact them.
“We believe the conduct of this group is illegal and extremely dangerous,” Margo Cowan, a public defender in Pima County, told The Times, noting that such actions could be considered harassment.
Of course, that’s not where the absurdity ends. In one case, The Times reported that Frank brought 15 migrant children from Guatemala to his campsite. After giving them food, he handed out “Let’s Go Brandon” T-shirts with a picture of President Joe Biden, then formed a prayer circle. If you’re unfamiliar, the phrase is basically used by conservatives to mean, “Fuck Joe Biden.”
While Frank claims his group is operating from a place of concern, conservatives have long used claims of pedophilia or grooming to attack vulnerable populations. Last May, a report found nearly 25% of Republicans believe the country is "controlled by a group of Satan-worshipping pedophiles." And in March, Florida Governor Ron DeSantis’s spokeswoman, Christina Pushaw, claimed that opposing the state’s “Don’t Say Gay” bill made you a pedophile.
As Mia Bloom, an expert on extremist radicalization and the co-author of “Pastels and Pedophiles: Inside the Mind of QAnon” warned The Times, “The kids are a prop for them to use to spread their message. They are instrumentalizing the children for internal propaganda and to further their political agenda.”