This weekend, Chrissy Teigen and her husband John Legend got embroiled in a hot mess of conspiracy theories, (completely unfounded) pedophilia allegations, and general internet insanity. If you missed out on the craziness because you were, you know, actually spending time offline with your loved ones this New Year’s, here’s an in-depth explainer:
It all began the week prior, when Teigen started livetweeting her experience on the Hell Plane known as All Nippon Airways Flight NH175. Basically, she was on an eight-hour flight to Tokyo that had to turn around and return to LAX four hours in after the airline reportedly discovered that one of the passengers was on the wrong flight. Teigen’s tweets on the whole affair quickly went viral (as most things she posts about do), which attracted the attention of some of the internet’s seedier players. Specifically, the alt-right conspiracy-theorist crowd.
This in itself is nothing new. If you check the mentions of any celebrity you’ll see insanity and vulgarity abound. That’s just how the internet is. However, what made this incident different was that Teigen called them out:
This is, unfortunately, what transformed Teigen (and subsequently, her family) from just another celebrity online into the perfect target for the ire of the alt-right. Nothing motivates the most disturbed parts of the internet like attention, and Teigen’s tweet provided a larger spotlight than any member of this community had ever seen before (and would likely ever see again).
The effort to capitalize on this moment was spearheaded by none other than Liz Crokin, a so-called “citizen journalist,” popular among the craziest sects of alt-right Twitter and YouTube. Saturday evening, Crokin tweeted out multiple photos of Teigen’s 1-year-old daughter (which she’d lifted from Teigen’s Instagram and Snapchat) to her 50,000 followers with the caption “Chrissy Teigen’s daughter dressed as a hotdog, Alice in Wonderland & a pineapple but note [pizza] emoji! #followthewhiterabbit #Qanon #TheStorm.” In the replies, her followers quickly jumped on Teigen’s use of a pizza emoji as “definitive proof” that Teigen was involved in a (completely made up) child sex/abuse ring they believe includes all members of Hollywood and basically the entirety of the Democratic party.
This quickly caught the eye of Teigen herself, and later her husband, John Legend, who rightly felt beyond uncomfortable over this clear violation of their family’s privacy, not to mention the completely unfounded allegations tying them to the debunked Pizzagate conspiracy theory. “Alright. I debated saying something about this but I’m pretty disturbed over here.” Teigen said in a tweet. “The fact that there are people with these … thoughts … is really scary. [A]pparently dressing my daughter as Alice in Wonderland and a hot dog and having a pizza emoji on Snapchat has to do with pizzagate and being uhhhh darksided …”
The matter quickly devolved into an aggressively public argument between the two. (Though, the word “argument” may lend too much credit to Crokin, who merely tweeted baseless conspiratorial accusations, while Teigen responded like a reasonable adult who’s spent the last year living in reality.) And though Teigen’s husband even got involved, and Twitter eventually took away Crokin’s verification badge, the whole thing never exactly seemed resolved. It merely ended because Teigen stopped responding, and set her Twitter account to private.
In the aftermath of this, many outlets have attributed Crokin’s obsession with Teigen and her family to the Pizzagate conspiracy. However, that’s just the tip of the iceberg. Crokin and her ilk are firm believers in the new, absolutely ridiculous conspiracy that’s been sweeping the grimiest parts of the internet as of late: the Storm.
The Storm conspiracy is sort of like Pizzagate, but worse in basically every way imaginable. Believers think that a high-level government official has been communicating top-secret information about the Trump administration to them through 4chan, the wholly anonymous anything-goes website where neo-Nazis and misogynists gather and talk about crazy stuff like eating raw onions to increase their sperm count. They call this mysterious government official QAnon (hence the hashtags) because the poster has promised them he totally, definitely has Q-level security clearance (never mind the fact that that’s a Department of Energy term … ), and thus they believe he’s telling them super-classified stuff.
As for the message itself, welp, it’s a doozy to say the least. According to Q, Mueller & Co.’s investigation into Donald Trump is just a cover-up, and they’re really investigating Clinton and Obama, who — in addition to being in cahoots with Russia, Saudi Arabia, and, of course, ISIS — are also the satanic leaders of a global child-sex-trafficking cabal while simultaneously feasting upon human adrenal glands in order to increase their power. Unfortunately, this explanation only scratches the surface of the craziness contained within the conspiracy as a whole, but it’s enough to begin to understand how Crokin and her followers could get deluded enough to drag Teigen into all of this.
In the minds of believers like Crokin, all of Hollywood and the so-called political elite are corrupted beyond return. They often speak of “a true evil” that’s been let loose in the world, and insist it’s up to them and them alone to stop it. In this fantasy world, they don’t have to confront the fact that they probably made a poor choice when voting for our nation’s next president, nor are they faced with the reality of the depressing daily-news cycle. Believing in the Storm conspiracy gives them illusions of grandeur. Lifts them out of their humdrum, depressing lives and transports them smack dab in the middle of a spy novel featuring them as a principle player.
And as insane as this all sounds, it’s beyond popular. YouTube videos about QAnon and the Storm garner hundreds of thousands of views mere hours after being uploaded. Subreddits dedicated to parsing Q’s messages have sprung up and gained a surprisingly steady following. Just checking the dedicated hashtags for the conspiracy is a depressing act. Moments like these, with Teigen, bring the full brunt of their insanity to the surface for a brief moment, yet there’s nothing random or sporadic about these outbursts. They aren’t just the actions of one crazy person with a surprising amount of followers on Twitter, they’re symptoms of a much larger, possibly untreatable, disease — one that seems to just be getting started.