High-flying PR executive, 35, who was admitted to a psychiatric unit after being ‘groomed’ by QAnon says it’s easy to dismiss followers as ‘idiots’ but insists she was lured in by ‘plausible’ claims she found on online yoga pages
- Melissa Rein Lively, Arizona, hit headlines for destroying display of Covid masks
- Claims she was ‘groomed’ after finding the theories on wellness and yoga pages
- Hit rock bottom after being admitted to a psychiatric unit after an intervention
- She was left feeling suicidal and says experience has ‘taken 20 years off her life’
A high-flying PR executive who claims she was ‘groomed’ by QAnon says her ‘entire world view collapsed’ after stumbling across the online conspiracy theory group on yoga and wellness pages.
Melissa Rein Lively, 35, from Arizona, hit headlines last year after footage of her went viral, showing her destroying a display of face masks before telling police she was a ‘a spokesperson for the White House and QAnon’.
She had been indoctrinated into QAnon – a conspiracy movement who believe Donald Trump was waging war against a cabal of Satanic, cannibalistic pedophiles who make up a ‘deep state’, pulling the strings of governments around the world.
Isolated during lockdown, Melissa first came across the group’s content while browsing ‘spirituality, wellness, health and yoga groups’ on social media – but quickly fell down a dangerous rabbit hole.
Appearing on Finding Q, a podcast investigating the shadowy figure behind the movement by British journalist Nicky Woolf, she said that she was left suicidal after joining the group and the strain of the experience took ’20 years off her life’.
‘I know it’s really easy to look at this on the face and say “These people are idiots”, but I’m telling you this is some of the most well produced, well written things that were very plausible, and I realise there is a huge industry for conspiracy theories.’
Melissa Rein Lively, 35, from Arizona (pictured) claims she was ‘groomed’ by QAnon after stumbling across the online conspiracy theory group on yoga and wellness pages
‘I absolutely call it a cult in every single way,’ she said. ‘It destroyed me completely, collapsed my world view and landed me in a psychiatric evaluation facility.
‘For me, being a successful person in my life, I never thought I would be in a situation like that and it was rock bottom.’
Melissa had first heard about Covid-19 in January when her brother called her from China, panicking, and warning her that a new virus was spreading quickly around the country.
A self-confessed germophobe, Melissa was terrified and took her brother’s advice to bulk buy masks and gloves – an attitude she says was later ‘totally reversed’ after joining the conspiracy group.
Isolated during lockdown, Melissa first came across the group’s content while browsing ‘spirituality, wellness, health and yoga groups’ on social media
During lockdown Melissa admits she was ‘lonely’ at home and was spending a lot of time online, soon stumbling on seemingly innocuous posts from the conspiracy movement on pages related to her interests.
‘When they call it a rabbit hole, it starts up at the top, near the surface with very innocuous information and as you click and click and click the algorithm does it’s thing,’ she said.
‘Over time it becomes more and more extreme and the confirmation bias you’re experiencing changes the way you think and grooms you to believe a separate set of beliefs that you had before.
‘If I had seen right off the bat, Hilary [Clinton] is a baby-eating pedophile, I would have been like “Okay no”.’
She says that one way users become indoctrinated by the group is by linking certain conspiracy theories – telling browsers that if they believe one, they should naturally believe the other.
‘It’s incredible and mind-blowing how effectively QAnon has managed to create an umbrella about every conspiracy theory imaginable,’ she said. ‘That’s how the thinking is really transformed and groomed.
‘If I looked at like a venn diagram, there’s an area in the middle where all of those interests and beliefs meet. One way people were appealed to by QAnon, what I realised to be the entry point for QAnon, was “vaccines are dangerous”.’
As her feed was being drip fed content from the group, Melissa became less in touch with reality and began to believe the content she was consuming entirely,
‘You stop looking at things from a critical, “is this true, is this true?” especially in times of a crisis. You start looking at everything from the perspective of “What else are they lying about?”.’
Internet users who are browsing QAnon content are often shown posts asking them whether they want to ‘take the red pill’ – a reference to the 1999 film The Matrix, taking the red pill means being willing to learn a potentially unsettling or life-changing truth.
‘We don’t want to do this anymore’: The expletive-filled breakdown which led to Melissa being hospitalised
The video was uploaded on the Instagram account of Melissa Rein Lively, who ran a public relations company in Scottsdale, Arizona and was reposted on Twitter on June 4th, 2020.
‘Finally we meet the end of the road. I’ve been looking forward to this s*** all my f***ing life,’ she said as she films a rack selling various face masks inside a Target store.
She then proceeds to aggressively rip the masks from the shelves and fling them onto the floor.
‘This s***’s over, this s***’s over, this s****’s over. Woo! I don’t need this s***. We don’t want any of this anymore, this s***’s over,’ she’s heard saying as she spreads the masks across the ground.
Two Target employees then approach her as she makes her mess and say,’ Ma’am can you please stop’.
‘Why? You let everyone else do it. Why? I can’t do it cause I’m a blonde, white woman? Wearing a f***ing $40,000 Rolex? I don’t have the right to f*** s*** up?’ she fumes.
A second video, filmed on Instagram Live on the profile of The Brand Consortium, the marketing brand Lively is the CEO of, shows police arrest her at her home following the Target incident.
In the clip Lively claims she’s a spokesperson for QAnon and the White House.
‘I was hired to be the QAnon spokesperson,’ she said in the clip adding police can ‘call Donald Trump and ask him’ claiming she can’t share any ‘classified information’.
‘I don’t remember the exact moment I took the red pill,’ she said. ‘I remember seeing those graphics, which were basically screengrabs from that movie, and I remember thinking “Of course I’m going to take the red pill because I want to know the truth”.’
After taking the ‘red pill’, Melissa became totally consumed by the group’s core believes, including that ‘a shadow government that is pulling all of the strings behind the scenes’.
‘I believed that there was a mechanism by that shadow government to perform a genocide on the global population by implementing a health crisis, a man made bio-weapon like Covid-19.
‘I believed there was a massive pedophilia ring that politicians and business elite participated in with human trafficking and sacrifice of children for personal Satanic use.’
Her view of Covid also changed, with the PR executive confessing she was sucked in by the ‘completely alternative view’ of the pandemic, claiming the crisis was a hoax created for political reasons.
As Melissa’s relationship with her husband worsened, so did her health, and by July 4th she was living at a hotel, was experiencing panic attacks and was spending as many as 20 hours a day online.
‘I was just alone in a hotel room by myself,’ she said. ‘Without my family, without my dogs, without my husband, I just felt so much rage and anger towards everything that had happened, everything in my life piled up on that day, watching my life in shambles.’
On that day, Melissa uploaded an Instagram video of herself throwing masks on the floor and yelling at two Scottsdale Target employees, while boasting about her $40,000 Rolex.
In a second video, Lively filmed police arriving at her home after her husband alerted the authorities as she told the officers she was a spokesperson for the White House and QAnon and had been on the phone to Donald Trump ‘all the time.’
When asked about her memory of the incident, she said: ‘It was a complete blackout. The things I was doing and saying, it was so far out of my character.
‘It was absolutely rock bottom and I needed help, there was no way I was going to come out of that situation on my own.’
She says ‘breaking point’ came when her husband sat her down and gave her an ultimatum – forcing her to choose between the conspiracy group and her family.
‘At that point I felt I had stepped into my own mission and if the world was ending and they were coming to take us all to concentration camps then I was going to fight tooth and nail to save people and especially save children, she said.
‘So I looked at my husband and said “No”. I will absolutely choose my mission because I know what I need to do, judgment day is any day now.’
After her husband staged an intervention, Melissa was admitted to hospital where she was diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder and spent weeks in therapy.
Now, eight months on from the incident, Lively (above) has spoken out to reveal how her actions were the result of being ‘pretty effectively radicalized’ by QAnon which ultimately left her ‘robbed of my life’
Melissa says that she ‘absolutely’ wants to know who the person or group behind the cryptic messages from a character called ‘Q’, which first appeared on anonymous user site 4chan in October 2017.
‘I believed the whole story, that it was somebody with Q level clearance close to the president in the government with access to declassified information, she said.
She added: ‘I am certain this has probably taken 20 years of my life. The level of stress, the level of utter humiliation, obviously the enormous financial cost, the mental and physical toll this had on me personally, at one point in this experience I considered suicide. ‘
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