QAnon, Human Trafficking & “The Sound of Freedom”

How Ideologues Are Weaponizing a Dead Theory

In my previous article on the QAnon phenomenon, I discussed the origins and impact of this conspiracy theory, and how it turned into a movement that exhausted itself in the January 6th riots. But now, in a bizarre twist, the theory is being resuscitated in a way that is turning a movie promoting an anti-child-trafficking message into another “culture war” issue. Indeed, rather than simply letting the QAnon theory die a natural death, certain cultural commentators are slapping the QAnon label onto those who believe there are organized child abduction networks.

Is Sound of Freedom the Latest Iteration of QAnon?

Consider the recent controversy over the new film, Sound of Freedom, staring Jim Caviezel (pictured above). Based on the work of Tim Ballard, a contemporary anti-trafficking activist who has rescued thousands of victims from sex slavery, the film raises awareness of modern-day human trafficking. However, the mainstream media is dismissing the movie as a resuscitated version of the QAnon theory.

Rolling Stone Magazine called the movie a “Box office triumph for QAnon Believers.” Similarly, The Washington Post recently discussed how this movie is “linked…to the QAnon conspiracy cult.” Why? Because  the film is about busting up a child sex trafficking ring. While the Post’s article concedes that “The film doesn’t explicitly reference QAnon talking points,” and that “Sound of Freedom isn’t QAnon propaganda, exactly,” nevertheless they still conclude that Sound of Freedom is “a QAnon dog whistle.”

Countless other left-leaning media outlets have made similar claims. The argument often goes something like this:

  1. One of the tenets of QAnon theory was that there were vast networks of child traffickers that President Trump was planning to expose.
  2. The movie, Sound of Freedom, is about networks of child traffickers.
  3. Therefore, Sound of Freedom is basically a repackaging of the QAnon conspiracy theory.

This makes about as much sense as saying that because the theory of the Loch Ness Monster is about the lake in Scotland known as Loch Ness, it follows that anyone who talks about this lake must be a covert peddler of the monster theory, perhaps intending to dog whistle those who are obsessed with Nessie.

In a mind-bending twist, even the fact that Sound of Freedom doesn’t have anything relating to QAnon is being used as evidence that it is really about the debunked theory. For example, when Guardian author Charles Bramesco wrote that Sound of Freedom is “the QAnon-adjacent thriller seducing America,” he quickly pointed out that, of course, you won’t find QAnon content in the movie, but that is precisely their strategy: “The first rule of QAnon: you don’t talk about QAnon where the normals can hear you.” Bramesco’s logic makes about as much sense as saying that my neighbor must be a mafia boss because he seems like he isn’t, and of course an effective mafia boss would be skilled at appearing normal.

Is QAnon Offering Cover to Human Traffickers?

My concern is larger than merely the controversy surrounding Sound of Freedom. A more fundamental concern is that those crying QAnon are turning sex trafficking activism into a contentious culture war issue at best, and a bizarre conspiracy theory at worst. What would be the consequences if those who attempt to raise awareness of sex trafficking come to be seen as the equivalent of YouTubers who can’t stop talking about Big Foot or the Hollow Earth theory? 

Make no mistake, child trafficking is real, and it operates through organized networks. I have reported on organized child trafficking here and here after being personally involved with rescuers and victims in the Spokane area. But don’t take my word for it: the State department reported that in 2021, approximately 27.6 million people were in forced labor in America alone. Moreover, we know that, worldwide, approximately 27 percent of trafficking victims are children.

Even CBS Evening News recognized the reality of sex trafficking when they did a 2014 report on Tim Ballard, after he helped break up a trafficking ring in Colombia. This was the very man the media is now dismissing as QAnon-adjacent.

If it is no longer possible to speak about the travesty of organized trafficking without being tainted by the scepter of QAnon, then who benefits? The human traffickers benefit. Human traffickers would love nothing more than for their activity to be dismissed as just another discredited conspiracy theory. Indeed, those who position anti-trafficking activism as QAnon-adjacent may even inadvertently be giving cover to the human trafficking industry.

A Human Issue

My colleague at Salvo, Terrell Clemmons, recently discussed concerns raised by Eduardo Verástegui, the producer of Sound of Freedom.

When Verástegui first learned of Ballard’s work eight years ago, he said, he couldn’t sleep for days. “What can I do to end child trafficking? he asked himself. People think child trafficking happens somewhere else, said Verástegui, but it’s everywhere, especially in our own backyard. The U.S. is the top world consumer of child sex and pornography in the world, and Mexico is the number one provider of children being trafficked to supply the demand.

I think we can learn from Verástegui’s straight-forward response: fighting sex slavery should be a concern to every American. We must resist attempts to reframe the human trafficking debate as a controversial “culture war” issue, let alone something that can be dismissed as QAnon adjacent. Trafficking is not a left vs. right issue, but a deeply human issue that should be a concern to every one of us.

Further Reading

  1. Women and Children Last: The Dark Reality of Modern Slavery in America, by Terrell Clemmons
  2. The Drug That Fuels Human Trafficking, by Robin Phillips
  3. The Fight Against Worldwide Child Slavery & the Sex Trade, from the Jordan Peterson podcast
  4. Human Trafficking in the Pacific Northwest, by Robin Phillips
  5. Sound of Freedom Official Trailer
  6. How Sex Traffickers Use Social Media and Modeling, by Robin Phillips

has a Master’s in History from King’s College London and a Master’s in Library Science through the University of Oklahoma. He is the blog and media managing editor for the Fellowship of St. James and a regular contributor to Touchstone and Salvo. He has worked as a ghost-writer, in addition to writing for a variety of publications, including the Colson Center, World Magazine, and The Symbolic World. Phillips is the author of Gratitude in Life's Trenches (Ancient Faith, 2020) and Rediscovering the Goodness of Creation (Ancient Faith, 2023) and co-author with Joshua Pauling of We're All Cyborgs Now (Basilian Media & Publishing, forthcoming). He operates the substack "The Epimethean" and blogs at

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