Epstein is a real pedophile. Why are QAnon and Pizzagate so focused on fake ones? - 2019-07-18
Conspiracies centering on the vulnerability of children are neither new nor distinctly American. Wild claims of Jews killing Christian children and using their blood in rituals—the "blood libel"—date back to at least the 12th century and have popped up every so often since then, and long before that Christians were suspected of performing similar rites. "Hurting children is one of the worst things you can say someone is doing. It's an easy way to demonize your enemy," says Kathryn Olmsted, a professor of history at the University of California-Davis, who has studied conspiracy theories.
Why do child-abuse conspiracies explode into public consciousness at certain moments? Explanations offered for the peculiar resonance of Pizzagate and QAnon tend to focus on pathologies in the media ecosystem—epistemic bubbles, polarization, the unruly growth of social media. But years before the fracturing of mass culture and the dawn of Reddit and 4chan, the McMartin accusations fed a national spectacle during which scores of people were wrongly accused of sex crimes against children.
The continuities between the McMartin case and Pizzagate suggest a broader explanation for pedophile conspiracies: They aren't the residue of malfunctions in our media culture. They're an outgrowth of the normal workings of reactionary politics.