On Friday night, normie America stared mouth agape at its collective Twitter account, astonished at tweet (since deleted) that newly-reborn sitcom star Roseanne Barr posted.
Pimps all over the world? Trump breaking up trafficking rings everywhere? The hell?
Most people had no idea what the hell Barr was talking about, but anyone who’s spent time in the fetid swamp of online conspiracy theories knew exactly what she was talking about: the #QAnon theory that posits President Trump at the center of a plot to bust Satanic sex rings infesting the highest levels of the Democratic Party and Hollywood – with an insider called Q dropping secret knowledge of what’s to come.
If Q is right, tens of thousands of horrific sex criminals – everyone from Barack Obama to John Legend to Elon Musk – are about to be arrested, tried in secret, and sent to Guantanamo Bay or simply shot outright. Their captives will be freed, their wealth taken and redistributed to the people, Trump will be vindicated, and peace will reign for good.
I’ve written a lot about #QAnon recently, because it’s the hot new right wing plot, and because I find it endlessly fascinating. It’s a conspiracy that encompasses everything around it, full of mystery, dread, and hysteria. It’s a ponzi scheme, but one offering only knowledge, not dodgy investments. And it lets its believers feel smugly superior, while allowing them to sweep their hatred of Democrats under a rug of concern for children. What’s not to like?
If you’re Roseanne Barr, there’s a lot to like.
Barr is an unabashed conspiracy theorist, and has been for years. She’s a perfect example of the psychological phenomenon of “motivated reasoning” – believing in something outlandish because you already believe other outlandish things.
She’s espoused conspiratorial beliefs in countless tweets and interviews. She’s a chemtrail believer, claims Palestinians own black slaves, touted the MKULTRA mind control conspiracy, and frequently retweets the demented accusations of some of the worst fake news sources on the internet.
She’s also been a vocal supporter of Donald Trump, and has heaped scorn on Hillary Clinton – even using a fake conspiracy theory about child trafficking in Haiti as an excuse to not vote for her.
With all that in mind, a conspiracy theory that makes Donald Trump a hero triumphantly vanquishing the evil Hillary Clinton (for child sex trafficking, no less!) is a fastball right down the middle for Roseanne. It’s no surprise at all that she believes in #QAnon, and has even spouted praise for it in the past.
But does she actually believe it? Or is she just winding people up on Twitter and grabbing some belated attention for the return of her show? Is it kidnapped children that Barr is bringing attention to, or herself?
She likely believes it’s at least possible, because that’s a common rhetorical crutch for conspiracy theorists – “I’m not saying it’s true or not, I’m just asking questions.”
There’s also this tweet, sent the day after the original kerfuffle:
Is the child trafficking she originally mentioned a problem?
Obviously, child sex trafficking exists. But is it true that Trump has presided over a massive uptick in trafficking and sex crime arrests?
No, it’s not. The only source for that claim is a freelance journalist and hardcore #QAnon believer named Liz Crokin, who wrote a breathless piece called “Why the MSM Is Ignoring Trump’s Sex Trafficking Busts,” claiming that a “staggering 1,500-plus arrests” took place in Trump’s first month.
But those numbers are cooked, full of arrests that have nothing to do with child sex abuse or Donald Trump. There’s no Trump-led crackdown on child sex trafficking, and no compelling evidence of a Trump-led mass arrest of highly placed Satanic pedophiles.
So why does she believe there is?
Extensive research has shown that fervent conspiracy belief dovetails with social exclusion, difficulty resolving biases, and schizophrenia-spectrum disorders.
Barr is a gifted comedian, but has also shown a tendency to believe whatever gets in front of her, as well as struggles with mental issues. She’s bounced around among political and religious persuasions (spending her childhood as both an Orthodox Jew and an evangelical Mormon), and suffered a serious brain injury due to a car accident at 16. She once claimed to have seven distinct personalities, and in 2011, she told Oprah Winfrey “I had, and still in some ways, have and always will have some mental illness.”
But while most people can consume and share conspiracy theories with no repercussions to the outside world (only the people in their own circle), Barr has maybe the biggest microphone she’ll ever have right now. That she’s using the rebirth of her show to bring mainstream attention to child sex trafficking is laudable.
But the fact that she’s doing it through the demented and dangerous #QAnon theory is not.