#Savethechildren, alternately #saveourchildren. Rarely do we see a hashtag that is at the same time so specific and yet so vague. Who doesn’t want to save children? But from what? And how?
Recently, other questions have been raised: Do you really want to save the children? Or do you want to use this noble goal as a pathway to indoctrinate suburban soccer moms and others into QAnon?
QAnon, by the way, is a wide-ranging conspiracy theory centered on the belief that President Donald Trump is waging a secret campaign against enemies in the “deep state” and a child sex-trafficking ring run by satanic pedophiles and cannibals.
“The idea was that there was a criminal network engaged primarily in the sexual exploitation of children,” Michael Jensen, a senior researcher at the National Consortium for the Study of Terrorism and Responses to Terrorism at the University of Maryland, told The Daily News last week. He was interviewed for an article we published about how the #saveourchildren movement was showing up in Galveston County.
“This group was made up of powerful, rich elite liberals — the Clintons, the Obamas, folks in Hollywood like Tom Hanks and his wife,” Jensen said of the conspiracy theory. “In later years, it’s gotten more extreme, to ideas that they consume the blood of children and engage in Satanic rituals.”
Trump is central to the conspiracy theory, QAnon purports, because only he and his administration can resist the lure of money and power the elites hold and root out the problem, Jensen said.
“One thing QAnon supporters have done, quite cleverly, is co-opt a mainstream slogan to bring more people into their world and introduce them to their ideas,” Jensen said.
It’s disturbing enough that any group would manipulate the well-intentioned efforts of people concerned about the welfare of the world’s children just to spread conspiracy theeories and attempt to skew our shared reality.
But the worst part of this is that as word of the feared connection between QAnon and #saveourchildren spreads, it undermines or casts suspicion on the efforts of people and organizations that truly are trying to save our children. They toil tirelessly to stop such atrocities as child abuse, neglect, pedophilia, child labor, female genital mutilation, child pornography, child sex trafficking, child marriage, child rape as a weapon of war, as well as other less intentional conditions such as food insecurity, homelessness, barriers to education, lack of accessibility to health care, scarce or unsafe drinking water, poor hygiene or sanitation, etc.
If saving the children is your goal, by all means, join the rallies to draw attention to all the ways children need saving. But remember a few things:
• If something feels off, it probably is. Share your information judiciously, if at all, and be aware of who you connect with.
• More importantly, remember that a rally alone won’t do much at all, especially one that goes no farther than the end of the block. A march on Washington or protesting outside a politician’s office might be a different story. At smaller local rallies, look for people with information about who you can reach out to and what you can do in an effort to actually make something happen.
• Better yet, do some research on your own to find legitimate organizations that advocate for children in the United States and around the world. Start with the originator of the #savethechildren hashtag, the actual Save the Children organization, www.savethechildren.org.
For information about human trafficking of all kinds and to support survivors of all ages, look into Global Alliance Against Trafficking in Women, Polaris Project, the National Human Trafficking Hotline and GoodWeave, which aims to end child labor.
That’s just a start.
There are so many things our children need saving from and so many ways cruelty and inhumanity slither through the shadows.
Rallies are well and good — when they aren’t being co-opted by crazies. But education, positive action and advocacy and the giving of time, talent and, yes, treasure can go much further toward making the world a better, safer, saner and more just and beautiful place for us all, right here and now.
As for the future, it does start with the children.
• Margaret Battistelli Gardner