The Qanon conspiracy theory has become arguably the most influential conspiracy in the world. For those who are not yet aware, the theory posits that Donald Trump is fighting a war against a shadowy cabal that is responsible for all that is bad that is happening in the United States, and indeed the whole world. According to Qanon believers, this evil cabal is torturing kids, and/or using them in their rituals for blackmail, and/or sacrificing them to Satan. Clues as to the plans by the good guys – led by Donald Trump, naturally – to put a stop to all of this are posted to a message board by someone named Q (also called Qanon), who is revealing all of this information in order to awaken people and prepare them for things to come. According to the theory, the anonymity of the message board is the only place safe enough to post this information, away from the mainstream media which prevents the truth from getting out.
That is the Qanon belief in brief, and there are longer and more detailed articles elsewhere on the internet about the Qanon movement and its beliefs and influences, but what I want to address is an element of the theory that is often overlooked. It relates to something called ‘Adrenochrome’: according to Q followers, Adrenochrome is a substance produced in the brains of children when they are terrified and even tortured, their fear creating the chemical. The elites then, apparently, use this substance to make themselves younger, or ingest it as a psychotropic drug and become hooked on its amazing high.
Interestingly, although Adrenochrome has become a key part of the Qanon belief, ‘Q’ has never once mentioned it: at the time of writing, there have been 4952 posts (‘drops’) by ‘Q’, and not a single one mentions Adrenochrome. Q mentions crimes against children, and the rituals done to them, but nothing about a supposed magical drug. Yet the Adrenochrome belief is everywhere in the Q community; it has become part of the movement to such a degree that most believers would be shocked to learn their “prophet” has never mentioned it – it appeared organically.
This organic development is interesting. We can see it in the evolution of Qanon from a previous conspiracy theory, ‘Pizzagate’, which was a precursor to Qanon and alleged that an evil cabal was torturing kids and committing acts of paedophilia in the basement of a Pizzeria. All of the ‘information’ regarding this conspiracy was found in the hacked emails of American political consultant John Podesta, which according to Pizzagate believers were filled with coded messages and weird symbolism involving Pizza. Some argue that it was the Pizzagate conspiracy where this narrative of Adrenochrome as a drug of the elite was brought up – though its origins predate that theory, too.
David Icke, a famous conspiracy theorist, has spoken for years about the elites consuming blood of their victims; Jay Meyers another prolific conspiracist, has also talked about it. Some even point to the book Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas by Hunter S Thompson, which mentions Adrenochrome as a drug that gives an amazing high. So where did it come from?
A point I often stress when understanding conspiracy theory is that they constantly repeat and reuse old narratives. These narratives are adapted to fit the latest fears and paranoias of society, but their main structure remains the same. When it comes to Adrenochrome, the old narrative it takes and repackages is about another old myth: the Blood Libel.
To understand Blood Libel, we need to go back to medieval Europe, and as such look to one of the oldest false accusations against Jews: that they ritualistically kill young Christians. Many versions of this anti-Semitic slur posit that the reason for these heinous crimes is the intention of using Christian blood for Jewish rituals. This Blood Libel has had a vast influence on anti-Semitic narratives for centuries. One such example is the case of Simon of Trent – his death was particularly important for this type of narrative, and it serves as a blueprint for Blood Libel as such.
As the story goes, the body of a young Christian called Simon, in the city of Trent, was found in the water cellar of a member of the city’s Jewish community. Understandably fearing being framed for a murder, the finder of the body reported his grisly discovery immediately. Unfortunately, this honesty counted for nothing, and the entire Jewish community was arrested and tortured, and a story was created to justify the response: that the Jewish community killed Simon, and did it in a way to specifically mock Christians: crucifying the child before using his blood in their religious rituals, even putting it in their bread, in a mockery of the Eucharist.
What we see in this false narrative is that notion that Jews mocked Christianity by carrying out a murder in a macabre, sacrilegious way, used the victim’s blood for strange rituals, and consumed flesh in the form of bread. These are very strong symbolic tropes: attacking the youth of the community, mocking their religion, and twisting their rituals by eating bread made with the corpse of a Christian. It doesn’t matter that none of it ever actually happened; it was a powerful image used to attack Jewish communities. The same imagery has served as the base of most cases of supposed Blood Libel.
So is Adrenochrome connected to the Blood Libel? There are some very clear points of similarity between the two, with the ritualistic use of young victims’ blood, child sacrifice, and the perversion of Christian rituals. The next question, naturally is: why? Why readapt an accusation against Jews and apply it to a new conspiracy belief? Quite simply, it was a powerful persuasive narrative in the time of Simon of Trent, and it remains so today.
The Blood Libel narrative was designed and molded through hate, to prey on primal fears. It talks about killing children – the innocents who are the future of a community. It is built on the perversion of traditional values – the drinking of blood and consuming it in bread, just like in Christian communion. When we look at Adrenochrome narratives, we see clear similarities: children killed for rituals that are a mockery of Christianity (as they are dedicated to Satan). We see the torture of those same kids, in order to steal their lifeforce to guarantee a high or to make the recipient live longer – an unhealthy dose of decadence thrown into the mix.
I would argue that Adrenochrome grew organically in the Qanon community because they needed another way to hate their enemies. If ‘Q’ wasn’t going to add anything beyond vague “crimes against children and rituals” then the followers would have to fill in the gaps for themselves. With the anti-Semitic Blood Libel, they had a deep well of centuries of conspiracy theory narratives to choose from, and they picked the elements that fitted this modern paranoia best.
This act of dipping into well-trodden conspiracy tropes to strengthen the fears of the day is nothing new – we saw the same elements crop up in the Pizzagate belief, and before that in the Satanic Panic. These ideas, even organically, pick the elements of what went before that fit their new fears best, and adapt them to fit the panic of the day.
As ever, conspiracy theories always adapt, and always evolve – as long as we have fears, prejudices and paranoias, they always will.