An online conspiracy theory that began life in dark corners of the web has surfaced in campaign grounds. So how has QAnon wormed its way into the election?
An online conspiracy theory that began life in dark corners of the web has surfaced in campaign grounds. So how has QAnon wormed its way into the election?

QAnon: How US conspiracy group appeared in QLD election

A WHISTLE stop campaign tour by a small party against mandatory vaccination was hardly the place to expect the tendrils of a paranoid extreme right group to emerge.

It was during a modest gathering by the Informed Medical Option Party in Fogarty Park that like a silent alarm, they showed themselves.

A placard propped up against party posters declared "No to Bill Gates ... No to Fake News ... #Wake Up;" each declaration was a trope of QAnon, an adaptable and intensely paranoid theory that has seeped into popular consciousness in Queensland since the pandemic lockdown.

About two dozen supporters cheered IMOP's Queensland Senate candidate Allona Lane and the candidate for Barron River, Adam Rowe.

During his speech, Mr Rowe referred to standing up against a "New World Order."

"The awakening has begun," Mr Rowe said.

He may not have been aware of it, Mr Rowe's speech was dotted with recycled QAnon-isms.

QAnon, which emerged from the corners of the internet in 2017, has swept through the US like a mass hysteria and is inching its way through Australian electorates among disparate and on face value, opposed political movements.

Ms Lahn spoke after the rally.

In an interview recorded by a party supporter, she distanced herself from QAnon.

"I have never posted QAnon ever ... I am for truth, transparency and accountability," Ms Lahn said.

Screen shot from a QAnon video posted on the Allona Fit to Parent Network Facebook page. WWG1WGA, a common QAnon slogan, stands for Where We Go One, We Go All.
Screen shot from a QAnon video posted on the Allona Fit to Parent Network Facebook page. WWG1WGA, a common QAnon slogan, stands for Where We Go One, We Go All.

The party secretary also stated that IMOP "has no affiliation with the QAnon phenomenon."

Over the last six months and since the crackdown by Facebook and Twitter on openly QAnon accounts, the online conspiracy theory has evolved in Australia.

Often people who post subjects that parallel or related to QAnon are not aware that they are doing so.

Common QAnon themes include a conviction that the world is subject to a shadow deep state, an elite cabal of cannibal paedophiles has engaged in widespread and organised child sex trafficking, unverifiable pseudo science, and that Donald Trump is a Messianic figure who will save the world.

Of the 20 Queensland candidates listed on the IMOP party website in September, 14 had made or shared QAnon related posts on Facebook including the 'Plandemic' documentary, videos by QAnon followers and a now famous video of 'America's Frontline Doctors' spruiking hydroxychloroquine as a cure for COVID-19.

IMOP currently has 31 candidates for the Queensland election listed on its website.

The 'doctors' include Dr Stella Immanuel, who has preached that infertility issues and endometriosis is the fault of women who sleep with demons.

In July, Ms Lahn posted an openly QAnon video on the Allona Fit To Parent Network Facebook page, and the same month IMOP's candidate for Hill, Tara Garozzo, posted a now removed QAnon cover photo.

Qanon background photo posted by the IMOP Party's Innisfail candidate Tara Garozzo
Qanon background photo posted by the IMOP Party's Innisfail candidate Tara Garozzo

Her Twitter Feed remains supportive of QAnon and Donald Trump.

"If that is what is on her page, it is private, that's her call," Ms Lahn said.

The senate candidate said she had not hashtagged QAnon her own Facebook accounts.

She said she hoped Donald Trump did well in the upcoming presidential elections.

"We just want a happy, abundant future," Ms Lahn said.

Tara Gorozzo's Twitter feed is supportive of QAnon and Donald Trump
Tara Gorozzo's Twitter feed is supportive of QAnon and Donald Trump

QAnon's bipartisan appeal is its wholemark; that members of a seemingly left-leaning grassroots party would share and post material from the extreme right.

Senior lecturer of Political science at the University of Queensland, Dr Frank Mols said this blurring was not a new phenomenon in popular politics.

"In Europe, populist radical right parties knew quite well that you can gel together the extreme right and the extreme left," Dr Mols said.

"There is nothing new here, QAnon is very much an example of something much older."

On the other side of the Australian political spectrum as IMOP stands One Nation.

Queensland Senator Malcolm Roberts, in Cairns to push for an Office of Scientific Integrity, has posted social media rails against the UN, Antifa and Black Lives Matter, and is vocally supportive of President Trump on social media.

In turn he has stirred QAnon sentiment, with followers of the theory posting their beliefs on his Facebook page.

Pro QAnon messages posted on One Nation Senator Malcolm Roberts' Facebook page
Pro QAnon messages posted on One Nation Senator Malcolm Roberts' Facebook page

"Senator Roberts is a big supporter of Donald Trump and often shares posts so as to inform his own social media followers of current events in the US," a spokeswoman for the Senator said.

"Senator Roberts has little to no knowledge of QAnon or their agenda, his workload does not allow him to spend time following US politics that closely."

Dr Mols said the North American character of QAnon had rubbed off locally and had a telling effect on state and federal electorates.

"We are underestimating the influence of QAnon in Australian politics, watch this space, Dr Mols said.

"The theme is very much anti establishment, it dawns on you that there is a very North American evangelical Christian theme; there is an end of times, a new world order, George Soros and Bill Gates are sharing some dark secret."

 

We are underestimating the influence of QAnon in Australian politics, watch this space

 

Dr Mols said the paranoia and misinformation inhereint in QAnon was not new.

"A lot of this seems new; the actual stories are really, really old," he said.

"Fascism in the 1920s and 30s used exactly these same tropes; Nazi Germany was quite proloific and the Soviets picked up those same techniques."

More recently, the troll farms in Russia which accelerated the QAnon's early spread in the US had their roots in the Cold War.

"These troll factories are inflating Trump support," Dr Mols said.


"In the last few days Microsoft detected another surge ... there is a danger of underestimating what it can do."

In the leadup to the US federal elections, watchdog Media Matters has identified 92 current or former congretional candidates who have embraced QAnon.

Dr MOls said the pandemic had exposed community vulnerability to QAnon.

"There is a sense of disempowerment, there is a hyper urge to see patterns everywhere, a sense of powerlessness - (QAnon) is a way for people to claw back authority."

IMOP's Adam Rowe has declined to be interviewed.

"I fail to see any advantage for our Party engaging with you or your paper as the piece you are writing will very likely be nothing more than a hit piece to discredit our Party in order to further push the Government Pharmaceutical agenda," Mr Rowe wrote responded to the Cairns Post.

Ms Garozzo has been asked for comment.

 

peter.martinelli@news.com.au

 

Originally published as QAnon: How US conspiracy group appeared in QLD election



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