The QAnon conspiracy theory has taken off around the world, attracting many influential followers and even more sceptics.
Although having been a common murmur in the US for years, QAnon chat has been increasingly present here in Australia since the COVID-19 pandemic, hitting us in February of 2020.
Whether it’s because we found ourselves with more time to fall into conspiracy circles and to mull about our own theories, or because we’ve heard of our own Prime Minister, Scott Morrison allegedly being linked to QAnon, it’s hard to say.
Yesterday, on June 14, 2021, ABC’s Four Corners released an episode titled The Great Awakening: a family divided by QAnon, which explores the conspiracy theory and an unconfirmed link to Scott Morrison in an episode they weren’t sure they were going to air.
The controversial episode detailed ties between Prime Minister Scott Morrison and his friend, Tim Stewart, who is known to support the baseless QAnon conspiracy theory.
We’re going to cover it all, so buckle up. Let’s start with a simple question:
In its most basic form, QAnon is a completely unverified theory that speaks to Donald Trump organising a secret war against elite Satan-worshipping paedophiles in government, business and the media.
As detailed in the Four Corners episode, avid QAnon followers believe that the world has been taken over by Luciferian paedophiles, which are represented by the radical left. The believers feel that if you don’t believe in the QAnon perspectives, then you’re a paedophile enabler.
QAnon believers have openly speculated that this underground fight will eventually result in a day of reckoning, where prominent and respected people, such as Hillary Clinton and Oprah, will be arrested and executed.
Where did QAnon start?
Back in 2017, an anonymous user posted a series of posts on the message board 4chan, signing off as “Q” and claiming to have a level of US security approval known as “Q clearance”.
These messages became known as “Q drops” or “breadcrumbs”, often written in cryptic language peppered with slogans, pledges and pro-Trump themes.
The timing of this conspiracy theory aligns with Trump’s presidency, and believers feel as though these cannibalistic paedophile figures were out to undermine Trump while he was in office.
Much like cults, it can be difficult to understand how people come to believe in theories such as QAnon. From the outside, it looks a lot like an elaborate excuse to get behind Donald Trump or right-wing politics generally, however, it doesn’t help that so many well-known and respected celebrities and political authorities have been linked as supporters and believers of the QAnon conspiracy theory.
Scott Morrison, our current Australian Prime Minister is one of the latest political authorities allegedly thought to have connections with QAnon, through his close friendship with a man called Tim Stewart.
The Four Corners episode showed footage of Morrison claiming that he found it “offensive” that people would assume he had any involvement with or support for “such a dangerous organisation” and he “clearly is not”.
Although there isn’t any hard evidence for Morrison’s support or lack thereof, the episode deeply explores the Stewart family’s concern for their son’s growing descend into an extremist political conspiracy and his close relationship with Prime Minister Scott Morrison.
Tim Stewart’s mother and sister agreed to speak out in this documentary as they have come to fear what their son and brother has displayed as a growing belief in the QAnon conspiracy, saying they feel the need to warn others.
“It’s like conversion,” Stewart’s sister Karen Stewart explained. “There’s a religious undertone to QAnon, constantly donning the armour of God and things like that, because they believe they have to fight to Satanists that have taken over the world.”
According to the Institute of Strategic Dialogue, Australia is the fourth largest country for QAnon activity online. Although we haven’t experienced the QAnon-related violence that the US has seen, Australians are becoming increasingly involved in the belief systems of QAnon in the world of online communication, which is a pretty scary truth.
The COVID-19 pandemic has brought on growth in conspiracy activity as well as affecting our mental health in more ways than just isolation. Existing in a world where something happens so fast, we’re given little to no information and are witnessing governments and cities shutting down before our eyes, it’s a trauma that many of us had never experienced before.
During such an unknown and unfamiliar time, people went looking for answers.
Tim Stewart was an early follower of QAnon, starting a blog in 2017 called Sideways Step, for “expansive thinkers and spiritual explorers”. His blog lays out the essential beliefs of QAnon, that leftist elites are running a paedophile ring that harvests children’s blood.
Stewart’s presence within QAnon became apparent when one of his Tweets – via his Twitter handle @BurnedSpy34 which has now been suspended – was included in a post by Q, known as a Q drop, that users have to decode.
Stewart’s following grew from around 1700 followers in 2018 to over 20,000 followers in late 2019 with over 20,000 followers.
As Stewart descended into the world of QAnon as an avid follower, believer and authority, his old friend Scott Morrison became Prime Minister. Stewart’s wife Lynnelle and Morrison’s wife Jenny have been best friends since high school and the four became close friends at church in the late ’90s. They were involved in each other’s bridal parties, their families claim that they’re still “best friends” and they are still actively tagging each other on Facebook photos.
It’s clear that the two couples have chosen to remain in each other’s life and that they’re close friends, by all accounts. The evidence of their friendship and connection to each other is endless.
Despite this connection, Four Corners said Mr Morrison had not answered questions on the record and his office has since told News Corp he won’t be addressing the “baseless conspiracy theories”.