No, it's not propaganda photoshop, it's the real poster for Sound of Freedom.

The QAnon Movie ‘Sound of Freedom’ Is This Year’s Most Disturbing Box Office Hit

It's ... a lot.

Alongside Indiana Jones and the latest Insidious movie, there’s another surprising (and disturbing) summer hit at the box office. Produced and distributed by a small film company after many, many others (including Netflix and Amazon) reportedly passed, Sound of Freedom is “based on the true story” of Tim Ballard (played by Jim Caviezel), a former agent of the Department of Homeland Security.

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According to Sound of Freedom, the U.S. government wouldn’t let Ballard do enough to save children from sex trafficking rings, so he quit his job and formed a non-profit vigilante group called Our Underground Railroad to save all the children. The film frames Ballard as being on a mission to save God’s children and doing the work that the United States government couldn’t.

Since its release on July 4 (because freedom!), right-wing moviegoers (and others who simply might not know of the film’s darker implications) have been flocking to see it. As of this writing, the movie, which has been endorsed by professional terrible person Mel Gibson among others, has reportedly grossed just shy of $50 million at the domestic box office. Some think it sends a message, some think it is just a movie, while others say it is pure QAnon propaganda. Buckle in and let’s go over all the controversy surrounding Sound of Freedom—it’s going to be a wild ride.

What is QAnon?

For those who have remained blissfully unaware of what QAnon is, it is a right-wing conspiracy theory cult that started online in 2017. QAnon first appeared online after Donald Trump’s election in 2016, spreading false information about a conspiracy to stop him from winning. The core belief behind QAnon is that a Satanic cult of cannibalistic pedophiles is trying to control the world and run a huge child sex trafficking ring. Despite not having any actual evidence of these claims, QAnon members have accused prominent Democrats and basically all of Hollywood of being part of this cult.

The QAnon message isn’t anything new, it just feels extra gross at a time when we should know better than to believe such outlandish fabrications. It takes something the vast majority of people find terrible and probably fear, and uses it to stir up hysteria. Fear makes people want to lock their doors and revert to more conservative gender roles to keep the proverbial children safe. Conservatives pulled the same tricks in the 1980s. Experts in human trafficking have even come out and said QAnon is hurting victims of trafficking, not helping them. All QAnon does is stir the pot and point figures at a hypothetical bogeyman rather than doing anything to help vulnerable children.

What is the controversy over the Sound of Freedom?

Although the movie doesn’t specifically talk about QAnon, the idea is still there. The Sound of Freedom plays right into the QAnon message that we should all be afraid of an all-powerful worldwide child trafficking group. Ballard actually has saved people from human trafficking throughout his 12 years working as a Homeland Security agent. Any child saved from human trafficking is to be celebrated, obviously. However, Ballard’s Our Underground Railroad seems to have a history of fabricating just how successful they are. Back in 2020, Vice published an article detailing how OUR conveys information:

The specific stories that OUR tells are intensely cinematic: bold, heroic, and extremely difficult to fact-check. They are also not the entire truth. An investigation by VICE World News focused on OUR’s operations identified a divide between the group’s actual practices and some of its claimed successes. What we found aren’t outright falsehoods but a pattern of image-burnishing and mythology-building, a series of exaggerations that are, in the aggregate, quite misleading.

Ballard has also supported conspiracy theories pushed by QAnon. In a post on Twitter, he claimed the furniture company Wayfair was selling children online, not credenzas. Of course, the claims were unfounded and Ballard had no proof, but that is the kind of thing QAnon is all about. Actor Jim Caviezel, who plays Ballard in the film, is also a QAnon believer. In 2021, Caviezel spoke at a right-wing COVID-19 conspiracy theory convention where he talked about the “real threat” of “the adrenochrome-ing of children.” The conspiracy theorists made up this story that children are being stressed to harvest a fictional drug called “adrenochrome.” The rich elites then supposedly drink or inject to keep them young. These are the men behind the “true story” of Sound of Freedom, which makes the entire movie seem like QAnon publicity packaged as an action film.

Did Disney own the rights to the Sound of Freedom?

At one point during the development of Sound of Freedom, Disney did technically own the rights. Fox Studios purchased the rights to make Sound of Freedom. Then Disney bought Fox and all the projects they owned. For obvious reasons, Disney shelved it and let it go. Yet, as you might expect, many of the QAnon fold believe it was Disney’s way of silencing the truth. Again, because they think everyone in Hollywood is out to get them and their children.

As they are a very paranoid group, QAnon members also think movie theaters are out to stop them from seeing Sound of Freedom. Tweets from these free-thinking folks have explained the dastardly things their local theaters are doing. These heinous acts have included being told the wrong theater number, the air conditioning not working in the theater, and the ac being too cold. It seems like one conspiracy plotline isn’t enough for them.

Allegations against Tim Ballard

Since the original publication of this article, several disturbing allegations have come out against OUR founder, Tim Ballard. We aren’t just talking about his use of a psychic instead of actual reality-based investigations or believing himself to be a prophet. As reported by Slate, six women have filed lawsuits against Ballard for abuse. Besides his general narcissism and “cult leader” vibe, they claim Ballard used a “couples ruse” to sexually assault them. Ballard asked women to partner with him to pose as couples interested in doing business with sex traffickers. To have the correct image, it is alleged Ballard would force the women into sexual situations including stripteases, groping, and lap dances. According to the lawsuits, Ballard said it was all in the name of looking like an authentic couple and to “prove they could ‘turn him on.'” It will be interesting to see how Ballard’s cases unfold and whether it will change the blind faith people have in his film.

(featured image: Angel Studios)


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