Members of the Jewish community – even in Atlanta – are not immune to the conspiracy theories spread by QAnon, a social media phenomenon full of anti-Semitic ideas, according to several researchers on the subject consulted for this story.
“There were Jews wearing kippot in the riots in the U.S. Capitol,” which also included Q flags and shirts, noted Arieh Kovler, a British-born corporate communications specialist who has long studied extremism on the internet and now lives in Jerusalem.
Some Jews, he said, entered the QAnon world through support for former President Donald Trump. “The Jewish believers are usually strong Trump supporters who slipped into Q,” he told the AJT in a Zoom call. Other Jews, including several in Atlanta, say they are unfamiliar with QAnon, but they espouse several of the QAnon beliefs, including that the 2020 election was stolen from Trump, according to those interviewed for this article.
It’s obviously impossible to gauge exactly how many Jews buy into the QAnon beliefs. Kovler says they sometimes use fake names. “They don’t necessarily advertise they’re Jewish.”
That wouldn’t be surprising because QAnon is a “very anti-Semitic movement. Its text of drops [messages] are full of anti-Semitic tropes that have been around for millennial,” said Mike Rothschild, a Los Angeles area-based researcher who is writing a book about QAnon. He said that there have been several references to the Rothschild family [no relation to him] and a seeming obsession with Hungarian-born Holocaust survivor George Soros.
Originally German, the Rothschilds established a banking empire and have long been philanthropists who have, among other areas, supported Israel. The family name is used to allege worldwide control of finance by Jews. Multi-billionaire Soros supports progressive ideas around the world and is a widely used trope to represent Jewish influence. Both names have been disparaged by Georgia Congresswoman Marjorie Taylor Greene, who Kovler refers to as a “conspiracist for rent.”
QAnon was initially considered a fringe phenomenon. Now, however, especially since the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol, the Federal Bureau of Investigation warns that QAnon poses a domestic terror threat. “Q” has claimed to be a top intelligence officer with knowledge of Trump’s war against a global cabal of pedophiles, sex traffickers and wide-ranging conspiracies, including that the Sept. 11, 2001 attack on the United States was a hoax and that the Mossad killed President John F. Kennedy.
So, how are Jews attracted to QAnon? According to Marilyn Mayo, senior research fellow with the Anti-Defamation League’s Center on Extremism, there are two main ways Jews – especially women – are pulled into the QAnon community.
One is through the anti-vaxxer movement which is “prevalent in the Orthodox community,” Mayo said. Acknowledging that this group includes some of her closest friends, Mayo describes them as vegan or extremely health conscious. “The pandemic makes people more prone to conspiracy theories. When there are worldwide crises, people want to know why this is happening. They are looking for answers.”
The second way Jews are enticed by QAnon is through the belief that children are being kidnapped. “The hashtag Save the Children used by QAnon folks brought many Jews [and non-Jews] to the conspiracy community,” notes Mayo.
That belief harkens back to the Pizzagate conspiracy that started in 2016 and falsely blamed Hillary Clinton with operating a sex-trafficking ring out of the basement of a Washington, D.C., pizza restaurant. An armed North Carolina man who believed the alleged plot actually drove to the restaurant and was arrested. QAnon burst onto the internet social media scene less than a year later.
Mayo points out that conspiracy believers showed up again at the pizza restaurant the night before President Joe Biden’s inauguration – an inauguration QAnon supporters believed would never happen. QAnon supporters of Trump, who they consider their “savior,” believed he would retain the presidency, according to the AJT sources.
In fact, some QAnon believers became disillusioned with the conspiracy community when the prediction of Trump staying in power came to a dead-end. A number of Atlanta Jewish women had agreed to speak with the AJT about their beliefs until the Jan. 20 inauguration. According to Mayo, some believers are “pivoting,” saying Biden’s inauguration is just part of the overall plan. Some are focusing their efforts on March 4, the original date of presidential inaugurations in the United States. Others are leaving the movement.
Rothschild believes the “disillusionment is only temporary. They will find a way to reconcile what happened. The vast majority are too imbedded into it. They’ve sacrificed so much for it, their health, family. Most people want to believe. There’s very much a feeling of this movement understanding me, while my family doesn’t. My family thinks I’m crazy. It’s very cult-like.”
Rothschild, whose book, “The Storm is Upon Us,” will be published in October, said that he doesn’t speak to Q believers as part of his research. “They are very evasive,” he said. “But I spend a lot of time talking to family and friends, those who are left behind by it.”
He believes that the Jan. 6 riots were just the beginning. “I could foresee an act of mass violence and it could be directed against Jews,” he said. “Jews are always the first target. But we should all be concerned, not just Jews. We can’t ignore QAnon and hope it will just go away.”
Whether or not some of the Jewish believers understand the anti-Semitic underpinnings of QAnon, many have been eager to share their beliefs with friends, much like evangelical Christians are driven to “witness” to Jews.
This may actually provide an opening for friends or family members to intervene, Mayo said.
“Today, there are so many people who don’t know what truth is. People are in a bubble,” Mayo said. “If you hear family members talk about pedophiles, learn how to challenge them by asking questions. That’s the best way to reach people. They’re in a rabbit hole and it’s hard to pull them out. Ask them for evidence.”
ADL, meanwhile, is keeping its eye on what QAnon may morph into. “We’re still living through a pandemic and a very polarized society. What happens when people are angry and feel disenfranchised and what ideologies might they espouse?” Mayo added. “There’s always stuff percolating, on all sides. Our job is to expose it.”