Q: Why it shouldn't be welcome in your gym
Conspiracy theories are not new, but they have become quite the talking point in recent months as the country gets closer to Election Day. QAnon is the go-to conversation piece as the group is backed by elected officials from the state, all the way up to President Donald Trump. But what is? Why should martial artists be concerned? Those are the types of questions that need addressing to better understand the real issue at hand.
Though QAnon is a term that many are hearing for the first time in media, it dates back to 2017. According to Kevin Roose of the New York Times, the first anonymous post by an account calling itself “Q” appeared on a website known as 4chan. 4chan is a site that is well-known for claiming to be a space of “free speech” but instead allowing toxic posts lauding racism, pedophilia and other dangerous behavior to roam unchecked. Since then the movement has continued to mutate into the growing narrative known today.
A high-level definition is this “movement” is based in debunked conspiracy theories that flourish online. Within QAnon the idea is there is a massive, world-wide pedophilia ring that is run by Democrats, billionaires, and Hollywood personalities. Supposedly, President Donald Trump is leading an investigation into this group and is on the verge of a crackdown, with the name “the Storm” being tagged as the day of a planned arrests on all the individuals involved.
QAnon also promotes misleading and false information about COVID-19, Black Lives Matter, the upcoming elections and much more. The belief and actions that stem from these conspiracy theories led the FBI to designate QAnon as a potential domestic terror threat back in 2019. Belief in conspiracy theories have been linked back to criminal instances such as the Pizzagate shooting that occurred in Washington DC by Edgar Maddison Welch. These instances show that people are willing to act in belief of these false angles, which is why QAnon is becoming a major concern.
But why should martial arts practitioners care? Because conspiracy theories and martial arts have long been odd bedfellows even before the advent of mixed martial arts. Karim Zidan of Bloody Elbow released a piece that highlights multiple names in MMA that have promoted conspiracy theories on their platforms. The same can be said across Brazilian Jiu Jitsu. Individuals such as Gordon Ryan, Renzo Gracie, Jeff Glover, and others openly use their social media platforms to elevate conspiracy theories, giving them credence with their large base of followers.
Some will use the false-equivalence of conspiracy theories are akin to differing political opinions, but this is not anything like a Republican versus Democrat debate. Conspiracy theories have long been used to promote actions that lead to oppressive outcomes. Martial arts academies which are supposedly a place for all in the community, should not practice in the promotion of beliefs that marginalize and oppress anyone. If you see leaders in your gym doing so, challenge them on how they can do that and push the idea that anyone is welcome on the mats. Conspiracy theories are meant to segregate some and find a cause to all the ills society is experiencing. How can those in those marginalized groups feel welcome to come train if they see popular instructors spewing these hatful narratives? Or it is OK to accept money from them while being opposed to every other facet of their existence?
Conspiracy theories may seem like simple questioning of thought, when they are twisted narratives meant to subjugate. They do not belong in martial arts. Just like many other behaviors that are being thrust to the forefront in the industry.