As most are aware now, QAnon is a deranged collective delusion that has consumed tens of thousands, if not hundreds of thousands of Americans, who believe that a cabal of Satan-worshiping pedophiles running a global child sex-trafficking ring is plotting against President Donald Trump. QAnon will soon reach into Congress, after
Marjorie Taylor Greene — a believer in the QAnon delusion — won her Republican primary in Georgia and faces no general election opponent.
In this week’s episode of Gimlet’s Reply/All podcast, PJ Vogt explores not just the origins of QAnon, but theorizes — based on very compelling evidence — the identity of Q, the person (or persons) behind the delusion. I believe that 90 percent of the QAnon delusion lies in the mystery of Q and that revealing his identity will gradually demystify the delusion once Q’s followers begin to understand who he truly is.
Do the thousands of people who have devoted themselves to this delusion know that the guy behind it is a middle-aged former Army mechanic turned Internet porn guru? Is it any surprise that the man behind a delusion devoted to believing that Democrats are running a child sex-trafficking ring is also the owner of 8Chan, a site known for its role as a forum for child pornography (as well as being linked to white supremacism, hate crimes, and multiple mass shootings)? The man’s name is Jim Watkins:
In the 1990s, Jim Watkins invented a site called “Asian Bikini Bar” in order to work around Japanese laws regarding censorship of pornography. In 2014, Watkins seized control of 2channel, which is basically Japan’s right-wing version of 4Chan. Meanwhile, a man named Fredrick Brennan owned 8Chan, which took off when 4Chan banned discussion surrounding Gamergate, and all those white supremacists, racists, et. al, moved over to 8Chan. It got so big so quickly that Brennan couldn’t afford to host it any longer because no one would advertise on it. So, Jim Watkins took control of it from Brennan in exchange for a job and a home to live in the Philippines, where Jim Watkins lives with his wife, whom he met and married three weeks after moving to the Philippines in 2001. Watkins is described thusly in The Washington Post:
Watkins’s path from a porn merchant to the keeper of what one former ally called a “cesspool of hate” appears to have grown out of his desire to capitalize on the seedier corners of the Internet, hopping between dot-com trends and positioning himself as an eccentric luminary in the communities he helped cultivate.
And on 8Chan, the site he owns:
The site had hundreds of forums or boards devoted to topics such as video games, porn, guns and anime. But its most active and infamous board — known as “/pol/,” for “politically incorrect” — was devoted almost entirely to conspiracy theories, white supremacy, trolling of the mainstream Internet and attacks on racial minorities, Jews, Muslims, liberals and women, among many others. Before going offline, the site had an average of 1.7 million unique visitors every month this year.
How he came to be Q is a fairly complicated backstory, and if you want the full lowdown, Reply/All does a tremendously nice job of covering it. The tl;dr version is this: In 2017, a bullshit artist who was a moderator on 4Chan, Paul Furber, created Q (along with some other Internet trolls), and it took off when Furber appeared on Alex Jones’ Infowars to talk about Q’s conspiracy theories. Thereafter, Furber and others created a QAnon subreddit to more easily disseminate and manipulate Boomers who didn’t know how to navigate 4Chan. However, a bunch of people cracked Paul Furber’s passcode, so that anyone could post as Q. In an effort to “authenticate” Q, 8Chan’s moderator, Ron Watkins (Jim Watkins’s son) basically decided who was allowed to be Q by authenticating him, meaning Ron Watkins knew exactly who Q was because Ron Watkins authenticated him.
Later, after three mass shootings were linked to 8Chan, the site was taken offline. Q disappeared for three months and only reappeared when 8Chan came back online, leading many — including a number of journalists and 8Chan researchers — to believe that Jim Watkins took over the identity of Q himself, particularly since he was the only person with that sort of access to a flickering 8Chan, and since it appeared that the Q-drops (or postings) changed in manner and tone after 8Chan resurfaced.
Earlier this year, Watkins also started a super PAC called “Disarm the Deep State” to promote candidates who supported QAnon. That Super Pac is using most of its money to pay for advertisements on 8Chan — notably, it’s basically 8Chans’ only advertiser. So, at the very least Watkins is working closely with Q, hired Q, or is Q himself, and he’s using Q to enrich himself and amass online influence.