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San Diego’s Republican Mayor, Kevin Faulconer, appears to have embraced the QAnon conspiracy cult. According to an Instagram post (archive) on Sunday 13 September, Faulconer believes that California Governor Gavin Newsom recently legalized paedophilia. This post, based on a basic misunderstanding of California SB145, reiterated several QAnon-aligned conspiracies.
Among myriad sources, QAnon draws on the Protocols of the Elders of Zion—an anti-Semitic fiction which influenced the Nazis—as well fears of child sex trafficking, ideas about the “deep state”, some pseudoscience about adrenochrome, and the belief that all these secrets are being revealed by an individual or group named “Q”. The theory holds that the country is governed by a “cabal” of child abusers who faked 9/11 and run the “deep state”—an imagined, unelected and unaccountable government pulling the strings behind the scenes. This cabal, according to QAnon cultists, kidnaps children and keeps them underground to abuse them and feed on their blood. They think Donald Trump was put in power to fight the “cabal” and if he fails to be re-elected the country will be forever in the hands of the child-sex-trafficking deep state.
Faulconer’s post alleged that, under SB145, “a 24-year-old can have sex with a 14-year-old and it [would]not be predatory.” What SB145 actually does is bring treatment of LGBTQ+ people in line with treatment of cisgender heterosexual people under California law. Currently, judges can choose whether or not heterosexual teens aged 14-17 who participate in consensual sex acts end up on the sex offender registry if their sex act is with someone within ten years of age. LGBTQ+ teens in the same age range having consensual sex with someone under 18 would previously have automatically been placed on the registry. Sex with a minor is, and remains, illegal. It just now equally illegal regardless of what type of sex it is.
QAnon conspiracy theorists have taken this law and combined it with very thinly disguised homophobia to claim that the bill and it’s author Scott Weiner seek to legalize paedophilia. Weiner has been the target of homophobic and anti-Semitic abuse in recent weeks, with one DM to his Instagram account reading ““You’re dead. Dead. Dead. Dead. I’ll publicly execute you. I’m gonna embarrass you. Pedophile [sic]” according to a story in Mother Jones. This kind of unhinged threat is common among Q supporters, who have been identified as a domestic terrorist threat by multiple government agencies.
Apparently, Faulconer is buying into the theory. In the weeks before SB145 was signed QAnon websites worked themselves into a fury about their conception that it legalized child rape. Faulconer apparently got his information on the bill from these theories and not the text of the bill.
Faulconer will be ineligible for re-election this November but his seat is most likely to be taken by popular openly gay Democrat Todd Gloria. This seems relevant in Faulconer’s decision to go “mask off” with homophobic bigotry. Faulconer has previously been relatively progressive, supporting Pride month in San Diego and openly dismissing calls for anti-abortion legislation in the city. This turn towards bigoted conspiracies seems to reflect the general move of the Republican party in recent years towards open prejudice rather than concealing hatred in language about economic policy.
Comments on Faulconer’s post seem evenly split between San Diego citizens asking Faulconer to correct the post and people posting comments about QAnon, the Clintons, Epstein, and the right wing campaign to recall Gavin Newsom. Faulconer himself seemed poised to run for governor in 2018 but has declined to do so.
Faulconer would be far from alone in believing in QAnon, a complicated web of right wing conspiracy theories. QAnon has deep roots in the GOP. Elected officials across the country have been parroting the theory in an attempt to gain the support of the thousands of cultists recently radicalized during lockdown when social media consumption has combined with isolation to create a perfect growth medium for conspiracy. Q Anon followers have already murdered, committed acts of terrorism, and kidnapped people.
San Diego’s local GOP is reeling from its own issues with anti-semitism and bigotry. Local right-wing groups are also enmeshed in conspiracy theories. East County San Diego groups Defend East County and Exiled Patriots have recently held “anti child trafficking” rallies in their towns and local pseudo-militia group La Mesa Civil Defense has used Facebook to allege that wildfires in the area were started by Antifa.