Celebrity Gossip Has a QAnon Problem
Is it ever okay to speculate that Hollywood celebrities are drinking the blood of children?
Gossiping about celebrities is fun because you don’t know them personally and therefore you can’t hurt their feelings or directly ruin their lives. The idea that celebrity gossip could ever be dangerous is silly. For example, let’s say I told the woman who cuts my hair (whom I am always trying to entertain) that Jay-Z supposedly threatened to have Chris Brown murdered because Chris Brown keeps claiming to be part of the Illuminati, and Jay-Z is often associated with the Illuminati, and also Jay-Z doesn’t want anyone to think that he would ever hang out with Chris Brown even if they were both in the same, centuries-old secret society, which they’re not. No one on the planet could possibly be harmed by this hypothetical exchange with the woman who cuts my hair. It’s just very funny!
Or maybe that’s no longer true. Maybe celebrity gossip has a different character now, amid ceaseless worries over disinformation and conspiracist thinking. We’re experiencing an epistemological crisis, smart people keep telling me, so you have to wonder whether the habit of passing around possibly made-up information about famous people and their secret lives is contributing to whatever that precisely is. Reading and sharing gossip used to be a mindless escape. Now it seems to come with responsibility.
Earlier this month, BuzzFeed News’s Katie Notopoulos reported on concerns among longtime fans of the anonymous, omniscient-seeming blogger Enty, who runs a popular blind-item blog called Crazy Days and Nights. Some have apparently been disturbed by the site’s recent, gossipy posts about Bill Gates, and by others alleging that Hollywood stars are participating in a “rape club.” “It’s really disturbing to see this right-wing conspiracy-theory bullshit show up in gossip,” one former fan told Notopoulos. But according to the story, “gossip fans and QAnoners share a core belief: that behind closed doors, celebrities are doing unspeakable things.”
Read: Have you heard? Gossip is actually good and useful
The idea that Enty has been pulled into the QAnon conspiracy theory had been floating around for a while. (Pajiba’s Kayleigh Donaldson referred to his site as “QAnon Central” back in May.) Enty started writing in 2006, and many of his blind items have been lurid and impossible to prove; there is plenty of murder and Satanism, and he once had a three-part story about an A-list actor who would purchase huge pieces of fresh fish, then wrap them up and throw them out in public bathrooms. Enty has also shown an interest in some of the same famous people who fascinate QAnon devotees—for instance, the Swedish DJ Avicii, believed by conspiracy theorists to have been murdered because of his knowledge of a child-trafficking ring.
But this represents just a sliver of Enty’s offerings. He far more often writes up standard gossip, about cheating and drug use and embarrassing mishaps, and he has never endorsed the view that Democratic politicians and Hollywood celebrities are blood-drinking pedophiles who deserve to be executed. When I spoke with Enty recently, he suggested that readers may now simply see his style of celebrity gossip in a different light, given their cultural immersion in right-wing conspiracy theories. “I had been writing the same kind of stuff long before QAnon existed,” he said, “but now that QAnon exists, it seems like QAnon.” For example, he published blind items about the NXIVM cult, in which women were branded and referred to as slaves, long before its leaders were indicted for sex trafficking in 2018. “If I was to write that now, I think people would say, ‘Wow, he’s gone Q.’”
Enty described most of what he publishes as “stuff that tabloids wouldn’t do now but they would have done 10 years ago.” He noted an industry-wide shift that occurred when celebrities started using Instagram and other social platforms to snatch back power from paparazzi and reporters, leaving outlets such as Us Weekly and People to play nice and beg for crumbs of access. The tastes of younger audiences who grew up in the celebrity-gossip environment that followed can be manic and unpredictable. The beloved, crowd-sourced Instagram account DeuxMoi, which started posting early in the pandemic and now has more than 1 million followers, often flags “sightings” of celebs with no interesting context, or else posts items so bland that they must have come from publicists. Meanwhile, on TikTok, the red yarn is out of control: There was a whole season of combing Justin Bieber’s Instagram posts and music videos for clues as to his possible long-ago victimhood at the hands of a child-sex-trafficking ring; the platform is also home to the second coming of an old Tumblr conspiracy theory about a former member of the boy band One Direction, who is supposedly secretly married to another former member of that band, and also not the real father of his son, who could be a child actor but was once believed to be a plastic doll.