Most rational people find it easy to dismiss the wild conspiracies that animate the Q Anon universe. Chief among them is a vast network of pedophiles that includes everyone from Tom Hanks to the Dalai Lama, to say nothing of most Democratic politicians. In addition to abusing children, Q Anon posits that this group also kills and eats the kids for adrenochrome, a psychoactive drug in their blood.
But Republicans never let a libel go to waste. Recognizing that suggesting the Pope dines on altar boys may be going too far, they instead have decided to modify accusations of pedophilia to fit the culture war template. Every once in a while, though, they can’t help drawing a straight line between the fringe and the mainstream.
That happened last week when Chaya Raichik, the rabidly anti-LGBTQ+ activist behind the Libs of TikTok account, appeared on the program of Q Anon conspiracy theorist DeAnna Lorraine for an exclusive interview. The interview was every bit as stomach-churning as you would expect, but what’s noteworthy wasn’t so much the content but the venue.
Raichik has not been a Q Anon proponent, at least not publicly. But her appearance on Lorraine’s show underscores just how little difference there is between the delusions of the Q Anon universe and the vicious rhetoric of politicians targeting the LGBTQ community.
Indeed, the discussion between Raichik and Lorraine was a meeting of, for want of a better word, the minds. The pair were obsessed with pedophilia. Raichik insisted that leftists “have no problem with people being attracted to minors.” Lorraine aimed at transgender people, claiming that “this radical transgender movement also is a slippery slope to pedophilia.”
If the word “groomer” were struck from her vocabulary, Raichik would have little to say. She would probably be proud to take credit for mainstreaming pedophilia/groomer rhetoric. As a reminder, Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-GA), who has emerged as a power player under Speaker Kevin McCarthy’s (R-CA) leadership in the House, has helped spread Raichik’s lies. She was collaborating with Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis’ (R) office last spring as the wannabe president was preparing to sign the “Don’t Say Gay” bill.
But the fact remains that the origins of the current pedophilia panic being used to attack the LGBTQ+ community now, and the drag and trans communities in particular, originated with Q Anon and remains central to the conspiracy theory. It happened to dovetail nicely with conservative evangelical condemnation of the LGBTQ+ community. Using pedophilia to attack the community and anyone who wasn’t a right-wing Republican was a handy way to turbocharge the culture war–and to pick up votes.
That’s why a soulless opportunist like Elisa Stefanik decided to call Democrats “pedo grifters” when the Biden administration distributed baby formula to immigrants. It’s why there were more references to pedophilia during Ketanji Brown Jackson’s confirmation hearings to the Supreme Court than there were to the Constitution.
For all the speculation about the GOP turning away from Trump, the problem is far broader than the ex-president. The party is being driven by the fringe, which it then mainstreams. Trump was just a symptom of that. As long as the party keeps letting people like Raichik set the terms of the debate, there will never be a difference between the fever swamps and the highest levels of the GOP. And perhaps that’s just what today’s GOP wants.