Waif Error: Why the Wayfair Conspiracy Theory Took Off

Last week, America’s weekly conspiracy obsession shifted from “who’s giving away all those fireworks” to “wait, is Wayfair actually trafficking children through their website?”

Thanks to a few price anomalies that either made stuff look way more expensive than it actually was or just didn’t seem right, and some office cabinets anthropomorphized with human names; the Peaceful Researchers and Trafficking Experts of the internet determined that the furniture and decor clearinghouse was actually selling kids that had gone missing – disguising them in broad daylight as office cabinets and other furniture with the names of missing kids, and posting their prices for everyone to see.

And the internet went crazy.

Anything involving imaginary child trafficking is going to catch on with QAnon, and this one hit hard. Within hours, QAnon followers were running wild with accusations, research threads, connections, and even more children being “sold,” disguised as throw pillows and curtains that didn’t have any business costing five figures. These folks really believed that a publicly traded company was selling missing kids online for anyone to buy, and doing so in a way that could be cracked with just a few Google searches and leaps in logic.

Of course, it gets more complicated than that, like most conspiracy theories do. Really diving into the Wayfair conspiracy theory (and please, don’t bother) brings you across endless tangents about Russian search engines, SKU numbers, adrenochrome, Tom Hanks, Reddit, the Clinton Foundation, Ghislane Maxwell, and various higher-ups at Wayfair who don’t actually exist.

But to be clear, nothing about any element of it is true. Wayfair is not selling trafficked children, and most of the children determined to be on the market were actually either runaways or had been taken by relatives and were already long home safe. In fact, the vast majority of child traffickers are probably smart enough to not do their horrible deeds on a public website easily found by “internet researchers.” It seems awfully risky when you can just use secure apps and burner phones and not have anyone figure out what you’re doing.

So I’m not going to debunk what’s already been debunked by Snopes, NBC News, Reuters, and Wayfair itself. But what I do want to touch on is why some people fell so hard for this. It makes *zero* sense for Wayfair to take this kind of risk “selling children” in public – not that traffickers buy children using easily traced credit cards on barely-secure public websites.

Yet it drove huge engagement, snagging millions of views for videos and Twitter threads over multiple platforms. And it forced a bunch of high-level news outlets to write about it, because, hey, it was news – not because it was real, but because enough people believed it was real that it had to be pointed out why it wasn’t real.

So why did the QAnon movement and the people who see sex traffickers under every rock get so caught up in it so fast? Here are some reasons, gleaned from my several years of observing Q believers; and my years before that investigating conspiracy theories in general:

QAnon followers have been trained to believe that the things told to them by people they trust are real, no matter how outlandish. In fact, the more outlandish, the better.

The Wayfair conspiracy theory was picked up by a bunch of the biggest names in the QAnon community, people with six figure followings who have made careers out of their “authority” in that world. It’s this appeal to authority that gave the conspiracy theory the patina of legitimacy, even when it had none. This is why QAnon gurus and interpreters are so important to the movement: when Q himself is silent, they have the microphone and the ear of a lot of people. That’s power.

QAnon followers have been trained to see virtually every person of any prominence who is not a die-hard Trump acolyte who is connected to powerful Democrats as a pedophile, child-trafficker, and upper-level criminal.

In the world of QAnon things are assumed to be evil and depraved until they’re proven to not be. Of course, it’s much harder to prove that a person is NOT a pedophile or trafficker, simply because of the difficulty of proving a negative. So Q believers had no trouble buying into the idea that Wayfair was secretly selling kids disguised as cabinets and throw pillows, because they’ve already sucked up so many other people and entities into their conspiracy. What’s one more? Ultimately, if they’re right, they’ve saved countless children, and if they’re wrong, then what’s wrong with asking questions and investigating?

QAnon followers are conditioned to see hidden deep state codes and “comms” in ordinary, everyday communications. Therefore, they see these codes everywhere, working backwards to determine what they “really” mean.

We’ve already seen many examples of Q believers taking Trump typos, random pictures of dogs or corn, out-of-context tweets, pieces of jewelry, or even notes at a funeral as “communications” sent by the deep state to its own members, done in broad daylight. So it’s no stretch at all to see the same phenomenon at work with Wayfair.

QAnon followers are conditioned to think that powerful people do their misdeeds in public, using complex webs of symbols, codes, keys, and images that only other powerful people understand – until Q helped them crack the code.

To the vast majority of people, traffickers selling kids through a public website is an absurd idea that’s falsified by everything we know about how criminals communicate. But to Q, these “comms” are done in order to secretly taunt us without us knowing it. They’re lording over us with their superiority and brazen criminality. QAnon followers also believe, thanks to Q, that “everything has meaning” – nothing is random, nothing is coincidental, and nobody uses symbols or iconography for aesthetic reasons – only to virtue signal to fellow travelers. So what Wayfair was doing COULDN’T be anything other than trafficking – it’s simply not possible that these symbols and names could be random or glitches. Because nothing is random or glitches.

QAnon followers are generally immune to efforts to debunk what they believe, so every Q skeptic pointing out ways the Wayfair conspiracy theory was incorrect only deepened their belief.

All of the people who attempted to debunk the Wayfair conspiracy are part of the conspiracy, as Q logic goes. So of course they’re going to run cover for the traffickers and pedophiles – they’re all part of the same deep state that Q is gunning for. And in Q world “those who scream the loudest have the most to hide.” It’s a wonderful bit of self-fulfilling logic that immediately dismisses any critic of the conspiracy theory as someone who has something to gain from debunking it. How very convenient.

Ultimately, QAnon is flexible and complicated enough to encompass almost anything that comes its way, no matter how nonsensical. The more lurid, the more bizarre, the more repellent to “normies,” the better it is. These are not people dealing with the same reality the rest of us are in, but see theirs as the only “reality” that’s actually real.

In the face of all that, it’s no wonder that they immediately jumped on the idea of a major company selling children online and making no effort to hide it – it fits perfectly into the world they’ve already created.

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