QAnon Has at Least Once Critical Difference From the Satanic Panic

This is about self-identity, not religious belief

Tony Russo


Photo by Ehimetalor Akhere Unuabona on Unsplash

I think of QAnon as an umbrella, a lifestyle more than a strict set of beliefs. As with the over-broad term “Christianity,” multiple QAnon followers have multiple interpretations about the hows and whys of specific conspiracies. It was one of the things I first noticed researching my book Sherry Shriner’s online cult.

NPR recently ran a story presenting similarities between the current madness and the Satanic Panic from the previous century. The story suggests a lineage of mass-hysteria and makes something of a case for QAnon being the latest in that line, a mass-hysteria that will fade.

God, I hope they’re right, but I have some concerns.

Origin Stories

The story dates QAnon at around 2017, which is fair I guess, but Sherry Shriner and a ton of people like her have been singing this song since the turn of the century.

While we don’t have a super-firm date on QAnon, the Truther movement it encompasses was born on September 12, 2001. That’s a hard date. The child-trafficking aspect, as the NPR story points out, is much older than that and even more nefarious.

If you’re not familiar, the Satanic Panic was a cultural phenomenon in the 1980s and 90s wherein people became convinced the country was being overrun with satanic cults who abused children and participated in ritual murder. Innocent people went to jail over suspicion they’d committed crimes as cultists.

The Washington Post ran a story a while back that suggested pervasive child abuse among members of the religious right was an engine that kept this trafficking story running.

The number of people I spoke to or read about in my research who had “shadowy figures” sneaking into their room at night haunts me. Some people need a spectral evil other because the alternative is too much to countenance.



Tony Russo

Pencil-sharpening enthusiast, journalist, author of “Dragged Into the Light”