This past summer was certainly a memorable time for films. As we finally become free from all of the “Barbenheimer ” memes that riddled our social media for months, one summer film remains to circle around social platforms: Sound of Freedom.
This movie is said to be based on the true stories of Tim Ballard, founder of an anti-sex trafficking organization called Operation Underground Railroad. It revolves around him quitting his job as a special agent and embarking on a dangerous journey to save children in Latin America from child sex trafficking rings.
Despite the seemingly virtuous and powerful message that this movie is sending out, it has enticed various types of discourse throughout social media – both regarding the plot and its true intentions, as well as the deceptive lives that the people behind the making of this movie live.
Throughout the time of its release, it became common to hear fervent supporters of the film encouraging others to watch it, often accompanied by the cryptic phrase, “They don’t want you to see this!” The answer to who the elusive “they” are can be found in the accounts of QAnon conspiracy theorists, who blame it on the Democratic elite.
Despite the film’s distributor denying having ties to political views or QAnon conspiracies, the support of these people – along with others such as Donald Trump and Ted Cruz – earns the spot of being what the New York Times calls “a hit” among conservatives. A writer for The Atlantic interviewed audience members after attending this film, where she noticed many appeared to be overconfident in the fact that certain politicians supported child trafficking.
This film appears to be contributing to the spreading of paranoid theories within a specific audience that seems to grow increasingly outlandish with time. These theories have ranged from a wide spectrum, from baseless claims about Hillary Clinton’s involvement in a cult engaged in child sacrifices to claims that lizard-like creatures, capable of shapeshifting into humans, are plotting global domination in the political world. Some of these unfounded beliefs, such as the infamous “pizzagate” and “serpent DNA” incidents have even incited violence among the most extreme conspiracy believers.
The connection that Sound of Freedom has to these conspiracy theories does not end with the audience members. It also is connected with the main actor in the movie, John Caviezel, who has openly declared his support of the adrenochrome conspiracy in interviews and QAnon events, where he was seen telling audiences that “it was all real” and even “happening in Africa.”
This theory – which has been believed by many QAnon and Pizzagate conspiracy theorists – is based on the belief that powerful politicians and celebrities form part of a Satanic cult that trafficks children and drains them of their blood to attain the chemical adrenochrome to maintain a youthful appearance.
This severe polarization and “us vs. them” mentality that these bizarre conspiracy theories create has the potential to destroy the trust that holds our nation together, and further incite violence against innocent individuals.
The controversies that lie behind this film do not end here. One of the movie’s funders – who was even mentioned in the credits and made now-deleted Facebook posts on the importance behind the movie’s anti-child trafficking message – was recently arrested on the charges of being an accessory to child kidnapping. The stark irony behind this situation is readily apparent.
Furthermore, USA Today has condemned the film for misinformation under the guise of these supposed “true stories”. The movie emphasized children being abducted by strangers in sketchy streets. In reality, studies show that a majority of survivors have been kidnapped by people they know, such as family members or romantic partners. This misrepresentation could lead to children disregarding potential warning signs when it comes to people they know personally, potentially putting them at higher risk of being trafficked.
All of these controversies surrounding Sound of Freedom accentuate the importance of not falling susceptible to extreme conspiracy theories and sensationalized narratives. Now more than ever, we as a society need to set the stage for more critical media literacy, ending the spread of fake news and misinformation, and providing the public with reliable information.