QAnon no longer makes headlines, but its poison still brews. This is illustrated by the improbable rumor that shook French social networks in November: kidnapped children would be sold in the form of pants or toys on the e-commerce site Vinted. A fabrication modeled on an American conspiracy theory spread in July 2020 by the QAnon conspiracy movement.

This informal collective, born online in 2017 following Donald Trump’s victory against Hillary Clinton, was gradually structured around recycled or unpublished conspiracy stories, brought together under a great unitary myth: the 45th President of the United States , helped by “Q”, a mysterious prophet supposedly close to the intelligence services, would fight against a “pedosatanist elite” embodied by the Democrats.

A catch-all mythology, QAnon had its hour of glory at the end of 2020. The non-reelection of Donald Trump and the failure of the storming of the Capitol in January 2021 put a significant halt to the movement, reduced to its most ardent followers. However, if “Q” has lost his credit as a prophet, his dark, Manichean and suspicious imagination has permeated society.

A quarter of Americans believe in a pedo-sanist elite

The observation has passed through the year 2023 in the United States: the ideas of QAnon have infused. Their distrust mixes with that, more diffuse, of the Republicans, even moderate ones. According to a CNN poll in July, 38% of Americans said they thought Joe Biden was not legitimately elected. This figure is up six percentage points since January 2021, despite the partial mea culpa of major Trumpist outlets, such as the Fox News channel, who admitted to having relayed baseless rumors.

Even the typical QAnon imagination is progressing. According to a study by the Public Religion Research Institute, an observatory of the evolution of religious thought in the United States, support for the main theses of the movement has increased from 14 to 23% of Americans. The idea that the elites would be controlled by a group of paedosatanists now convinces 25% of people who participated in this study, compared to 15% in January 2021. For 27% of them, a “storm”, according to the established term of the QAnon mythology will soon sweep them away.

Many followers are impatiently awaiting the 2024 American presidential election. Especially since, since his non-re-election, Donald Trump has been making numerous nods to the conspiracy movement. In September 2022, he put himself on stage, with the “Q” pin on his lapel, on his Truth Social network, and made one of the QAnon anthems resonate at a meeting in Ohio. In March 2023, he promised to “bring back” former national security adviser Michael Flynn, who had become one of the movement’s leading gurus. The American press is now talking about “QMaga”, a fusion between the national-protectionist Trumpism of 2019, MAGA (“Make America Great Again”), and its mystical conspiracyist fringe.

The movement benefits from an ecosystem that has become favorable, since the purchase of Twitter by Elon Musk, himself open to conspiracy theories. According to the Anti-Defamation League, tweets associated with typical QAnon hashtags increased by 91% between May 2022 and May 2023. The reason is the restoration of the accounts of important QAnon influencers, such as Michael Flynn, in January 2023. Musk also called in March for the release of Jacob Chansley, aka “Q Shaman,” the horned conspiracy theorist who broke into and posed in the Capitol.

In France, a more marginal but influential movement

What about in France? Although it is difficult to quantify the movement, certain indications suggest that it is less established than across the Atlantic. The film on child trafficking Sound of Freedom, which generated more than $170 million (€156 million) at the American box office with the support of the Trumpist complosphere, only attracted 63,000 spectators in first week in French cinemas, from November 15 to 22. But how many had already seen it, online, through pirated copies translated by hand?

An IFOP survey confirms the lesser penetration of conspiracy in France: 35% of French people surveyed say they believe in conspiracy theories, compared to 55% of Americans. It testifies to direct influence from the United States: 20% of French people surveyed believe that Joe Biden stole the 2020 election. Another sign of contamination: in 2022, the French presidential election was affected by similar rumors. They were so modeled on the United States that they incriminated Dominion voting machines, even though they are not used in France.

How have the theses of QAnon, filled with American characters and symbols, managed to take root outside America? One of the reasons is their unifying dimension, like the movement’s slogan, “where we go one, we go all”. , and its denunciation of an evil “globalist” elite, which by nature threatens the people of all countries.

Heir to the anti-Semitic stereotypes on international finance which had spread in Europe in the 1920s, she was able to tie in, in France, to the fact that President Emmanuel Macron worked at the Rothschild bank from 2008 to 2012, the name of Rothschild being the historical target of conspiracy attacks.

Conspiracy theories translated and localized

The QAnon imagination was also able to count on the relay of French-speaking influencers, from the Quebec conspiracy theorist Alexis Cossette-Trudel, who was the first of the smugglers, to the French conspiracy channel DéQodores, now ADNM, or to the specialized account Quantum Leap Translation .

Even today, a significant part of their production consists of translating, explaining and defending American conspiracy theories stemming from the QAnon mythology. The latter are at the origin of the recent unfounded rumor about Vinted.

Arriving in France, they are colored by local personalities, like Jacques Attali, already the target of anti-Semitic attacks for decades, reinterpreted as a French avatar of the “globalist elite” hated by QAnon; of Brigitte Macron, subject of transphobic rumors, like Michelle Obama before her; while the host Karl Zero, very involved in denouncing child trafficking, has become the herald of the fight against a supposed paedosatanist elite.

Several typical fake news stories continue to cross the Atlantic, as is or adapted. Thus the story of children sold in the form of coded advertisements on consumer e-commerce sites, transferred from Wayfair to Vinted in November. So again adrenochrome, a fantasy of a drug obtained by concocting children’s blood, mentioned on the set of “Touche pas à mon Poste! ” in March. So many signs of a long-term permeation of the French conspiratorial imagination.