As someone who has been deeply involved in the Internet, both personally and professionally since its commercial inception, I watched the 6-Part QAnon Series on HBO, “Into the Storm,” with a sense of “insider info” that many do not share. I did so, because the series was supposed to uncover the answer to the question, “Who is Q?”
However, after watching it, and seeing the historic changes in the way the Internet is used to proliferate misinformation, create division, and foment violence, the real question for me changed.
It’s no longer a matter of “Who Is Q,” but far more important, “WHY is Q?”
Watching the HBO series, and knowing more than the average person about how the Internet works, it became fairly obvious to me that the “Real Q” didn’t matter, because at best, it was all just a LARP (Live Action Role Playing), and at worst, one of the most irresponsible and dangerous uses of the Internet since its inception.
One would argue that the “Alt-Channels” of the Internet have long been the hiding/playground for the very worst of human nature, with illegal activities ranging from child/snuff porn, black market sales of drugs and weapons, and almost anything else you can imagine that could possibly happen with well-cloaked anonymity.
But this was different. This “movement,” (and I use that term very loosely), has grown to become one of the most destructive, most insidious, and truly dangerous of any in decades. The numbers are staggering. The results even more so. No longer just a collective of conspiracy nuts who dance around half-truth like Klansmen dance around burning crosses, the influence of QAnon has reached into the tens of millions of users/followers/seekers. It has devastated friends and families, our political system, and has emboldened the worst actors to promote the very worst ideals, in ways that seemed unimaginable even ten years ago.
The simplicity with which this happened should be terrifying to everyone, and should also be one of the most motivating arguments for stricter regulation of the Internet, including the need to tie liability to the providers that host, benefit and profit from the actions of their users.
For most folks, QAnon is a new aspect of the “Alt-Right” that only became a serious entity to the general public, during the last election cycle and the insurrection on January 6th. But in fact, QAnon is simply a product of decades of internet-based conspiracy channels that got their start in the “nerd culture” of gaming, and then grew with the hardening of divisions in politics and religion.
QAnon is a direct reflection of our “Free Society” as a whole. Since the advent of widespread use by the general public of the Internet, we have gone from the now seemingly silly and arcane “Chat rooms” of early AOL use, to literally thousands of nested, hidden (and not so hidden) forms of instant communication, on virtually any possible topic, and with little or no real moderation or restriction of said content.
And even worse, the government agencies and Congressional Committees that oversee the regulation (or in this case lack of regulation) of this omnipresent system, are so far behind the curve, so far behind in basic understanding, and are to a degree, culpable as complicit players in keeping the Beast Uncaged.
However, to really understand “QAnon,” you have to understand the “How?” part, along with the roots of “Why?”
Most current media explanations of the “roots of QAnon,” start with the rise of “Alt-Channels” like 4Chan and 8Chan.
To encapsulate the rise of QAnon, you have to understand the basics of how the Alt-Channels rose to prominence. 4Chan, 8Chan (AKA 8Kun) were actually started as a place for unmoderated, wide-open threads for “Image Boards” which were mostly a huge collection of anonymous Memes, and links to YouTube, Reddit, and Instagram posts of “deeper content.” Unregulated, in every sense of the word.
As the HBO doc lays out, 4Chan was originally started by Frederick Brennen, a true “child of the Internet” whose physical disabilities (born with osteogenesis imperfecta ) forced him into a life of digital existence, and a lifetime of hating to be restricted by censorship on the Internet. The channel became more than he could handle (the traffic exceeding his original programming and traffic), and the true “villains of the story,” father and son team, Jim and Ron Watkins, stepped in to “save” his brainchild.
Watching the special…one is struck by just how ludicrous these “genius types” truly are. They are the archetypes for the nerd stereotype…living alone…obsessed with getting back at “normal,” by living lives that are anything but. They are self-professed “anti-socials,” who are part of the “disenfranchised gaming culture,” the likes of which started the extremely misogynist “Gamer Gate” who spent their time attacking women, in the most degrading language imaginable.
Watching snippets of the lives that the Watkins live in exile in various Asian locals, make it clear just how far they will go to stay “off the grid” of traditional Internet hosting. 4-chan, became 8-chan, because they COULD. They are pathetic by any traditional standards of culture, or civility. And like it or not, THEY CONTROL THE TRAFFIC…THEY HOLD THE KEYS…To MILLIONS of users, posting anonymously.
However, the REAL QUESTION…is WHY DID QAnon grow and prosper?
For this, you have to understand (or at least try to understand) our current political and cultural realty. At the root of any conspiracy theory, from the wildest UFO/Bigfoot ideas to the countless conspiracy theories on everything from 9/11, Obama’s birth certificate, to the current rash of theories about the 2020 election being stolen, is a thread of truth. From a single “fact,” a vast tapestry of half-truths and outright lies are woven into movements that become so deep, so convoluted, and so based in the concept that “it COULD be true,” that common sense and pragmatism are completely discarded.
When large segments of our population believe that the earth is flat, that we didn’t really land on the moon, Sandy Hook didn’t happen, and that all “Mainstream Media” is hiding the truth on countless theories on government, an International Cabal, and one side or the other conspiring to rewrite the Constitution, QAnon was easily planted into the fertile ground of the Alt-Channels.
It has been estimated by a number of polls and studies that “Only 7% of Americans Believe in QAnon,” that represents a TON of people. If you do the math, 7% of the current U.S. population is more than 23 Million Americans. That is a giant basket of nut-cases.
So what do they believe? The list expands with each new prediction, or unfulfilled “target date,” that prophesizes the next event for “The Storm” or new revelation in a new thread about “The Great Awakening.” At the root, is the belief that Q (a supposed deep government operative), is leading this “army of righteous warriors” in saving the world from the “Deep State Satanic Cabal.” This Cabal supposedly gets its ritualistic power from drinking the blood of babies, while manipulating the world from secret, underground bunkers.
From the Wiki page, “Followers of QAnon also believe that there is an imminent event known as the “Storm”, when thousands of members of the cabal will be arrested and possibly sent to Guantanamo Bay prison or to face military tribunals, and the U.S. military will brutally take over the country. The result will be salvation and utopia on earth.” CLICK HERE FOR AN OVERVIEW
At first, 4chan and other repositories of nihilistic “humor,” were simply the playground for the “Alt-Right,” where xenophobia, white supremacy, and countless other extreme movements shared, swapped and prospered. But once the numbers grew into a sizable, and easily influenced mob, Trump and many of his crud-bucket fellow exploiters (Bannon, Stone, Miller, Flynn) jumped on board, increasing the “validity” of every post Q, or one of his “Q-Influencers” made.
While people weren’t watching (or simply distracted by Trump’s daily tweet-storms), QAnon and their voting block “made it real,” with the 2020 election of Marjorie Taylor Greene and Lauren Boebart, (who have both tried to distance themselves from QAnon). But it is hard to imagine what their actual core beliefs may be. The real exploiters are those who “walk the line” of endorsing Q, as they have done for decades with the Evangelical voting block. Cruz, Hawley, Tuberville, and a host of others are the worst of the worst…simply dodging direct questions, so as not to alienate a potential voter.
There are likely close to half of Congress, who play this dangerous game.
Taylor-Greene, Boebert, Tuberville, Hawley, Cruz and Flynn…just some of the obvious Q supporters and promoters who are in government, or in the case of Flynn, have aspirations of a Presidential run in 2024.
In her recent defamation court case brought about by Dominion Voting Systems, Sidney Powell, one of the slimiest manipulators of “facts” and a staunch supporter of Trump, “the big lie,” Flynn and Q, said this in her defense, “No reasonable person would conclude that the statements were truly statements of fact.”
In other words, anyone who believes the lies, misinformation, and outright manipulation of the truth, is unreasonable and should take the blame for their duping on their own shoulders. But apparently, more than half of the Republican party, and tens of millions of Q followers won’t/don’t believe the truth, even when it is coming from self-affirmed liars.
However, NONE of this could have happened, without lax regulations and a very convoluted (if almost non-existent) laws regarding “who is responsible.”
In following posts, I will argue strenuously for tougher regulations, including making those who profit (the hosts, Internet companies, and re-posters) liable for allowing free-form disinformation to be shared.
For the QAnon true believers, it’s about finding affirmation for their crackbrained, biased, and extreme personal beliefs.
For the politicians, it’s all about votes.
For the Internet hosts/providers…it’s all about the money.
There are countless stories that shed light on the fact that fringe Internet boards are now driving politics and culture in a dangerous direction. QAnon is just the starting point for innumerable extreme activist groups, alt-right movements, and militias. While most of America is basking in the relief of actual adults being in office and actually governing, the alt-right crazies are finding monetized and freeware channels to gather, plan, and plot, all in the name of their version of “Freedom.”
January 6th should have been a wakeup call. Instead, Q-Anon is now just another series of network “Infotainment specials,” instead of a clear precursor to future threats to our country and way of life.