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Dr. Q, Medicine Man
The pseudonymous oracle is back with his brand of enigmatic bullshit. 👁️ Plus: Dispatches from Canada Day. 🇨🇦 And airships! 🎈
Just after 5pm on December 8, 2020, the man behind the curtain posted a link to Twisted Sister’s objectively horrible (do not @ me) We’re Not Going to Take It, and promptly disappeared.
It was a particularly on-brand exit for Q, the shadowy figure behind the 20th century’s most pervasive and influential conspiracy movement: Cryptic, with strong boomer vibes.
It was the culmination of a journey that was, in a word, complicated.
The movement we identify as QAnon emerged from the idea that Hilary Clinton and a cabal of deep state Democrats were in bed with Jeffrey Epstein, procuring a raft of children to be trafficked — and ultimately sacrificed — through a network of underground lairs. After this idea emerged online (and led to a guy to show up with a rifle to one of those supposed child sex dungeons) a number of 4chan users began cosplaying as intelligence officials, insisting that classified intelligence confirmed the whole dastardly affair. One anonymous user in particular, who claimed to have ‘Q’ security clearance (which would make him a senior official with the Department of Energy) became a leading influencer in that space and came to be known simply as Q. Soon, he hopped over to 8chan, where administrators Jim and Ron Watkins crafted a dedicated tripcode (while most chan users are anonymous, 8chan hands out these unique codes to a chosen few) to help identify Q. Over the years, that tripcode changed repeatedly, and it became clear that multiple users had been using Q’s account — despite being, supposedly, a senior intelligence official, Q seemed to have trouble creating secure passwords. In the years that followed, Q regurgitated all manner of conspiracy theories, including lifting ideas from the anti-semitic forgery Protocols of the Elders of Zion to rehashing the Bush-planned-9/11 stuff. Central to Q’s whole ethos was that Donald Trump was a master planner, and that every time it seemed he was weak he was, in fact, strong. Soon, Q intoned, all of Trump’s enemies would be brought before a military tribunal and tried for treason. QAnon spread worldwide, influencing a plot to kill the Canadian prime minister and inspiring a planned French coup. The movement spawned all manner of crazy offshoot theories, including the idea that the deep state child trafficking cabal was extracting a chemical compound from children’s brains and that COVID-19 is a Chinese bioweapon. Just as it became clear that Trump would be leaving the White House but just before a legion of his fans, including scores of QAnon followers, tried to overturn the results: Q disappeared.
Until this week.
Walking back in the door after 18 months, like he had just stepped out to buy cigarettes, Q picked up right where he left off.
Given that Q is arguably one of the most influential political figures in America, let’s break down his return:
Is this the same Q, or some new Q on the block?
What exactly does Q want this time?
How is QAnon responding to their eponymous leader?
And what happens next?
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Over the past couple of years, we’ve made some pretty serious strides towards unmasking Q.
There had been suspicions for some time that the Watkins had a role in pulling the levers that made Q talk, given that Ron was the moderator on Q’s dedicated message boards that always stepped in to confirm the new trip codes after a previous account was breached. Jim, meanwhile, had been developing a megalomaniacal lust for power: Q seemed like a very useful vehicle for that.
Fredrick Brennan, who founded 8chan before selling it to Jim, offered up some very compelling circumstantial evidence that Jim and Ron were, in fact, Q. (Brennan continued working for 8chan for a time all selling the site, but resigned in disgust at 8chan’s increasingly toxic and dangerous influence, and now vocally calls for the site to be shut down.)
The story of Brennan’s escape from the Philippines, where 8chan is based, and how he came to point the finger at the Watkinses is depicted in the HBO doc series Q: Into the Storm. It is absolutely worth watching.
Suffice it to say: While there was likely multiple Q puppetmasters in the early days, but the Watkins almost certainly took control of the Q account for the majority of its run.
The Watkins involvement might offer clues about why Q stopped, as well.
Just as Q went dark, in December 2020, Donald Trump — the hero in Q’s twisted fable — began seriously contesting the results of November’s election. Ron Watkins, as a self-deputized cybersecurity expert, became a surprisingly influential figure in his own right, claiming to uncover tangible proof of voting machine switching ballots. His flimsy evidence was repeatedly retweeted and cited by the president himself.
Jim was slightly less successful in his ventures, standing up a QAnon-affiliated PAC that never quite managed to raise more four figures. But the patriarch snagged some speaking gigs at far-right conferences and started racking up more subscribers for his mind-numbingly-boring livestreams.
Whatever momentum was behind them has petered out. Ron announced a bid for Congress in Arizona, where he hoped to pick up the MAGA mantle and carry it to victory. It hasn’t worked out that way. He’s being out-fundraised by more than a 10-to-1 ratio and he’ll be lucky to come a distant second.
He’s also made a complete joke of himself on the debate stage.
So, as they learn they are not more powerful than their alter-ego, what better time to put on the Q costume?
QAnon is such an effective movement because its leader is a real Cheshire Cat. So many of his musings — “drops” — are total bafflegab. But his followers find meaning in every typo, every sentence fragment, every vague allusion. Much like a doomsday cult, any Q prophecy that fails to fruition must have been an error in interpretation, inspiring his followers to redouble their efforts to find the real meaning.
But occasionally Q does point the masses in a very specific direction.
Since returning late last month, Q has waded straight into the aftermath of Roe v. Wade’s dismantling — basically reposting another users’ bizarre insinuation that abortion was used to “control generations of a populace” — and, most interestingly, taking aim at the January 6 committee’s star witness.
Cassidy Hutchinson, a former White House aide, testified that Trump knew full well that the crowd who joined him on The Ellipse on January 6 were armed, and he didn’t care. In fact, she testified, Trump was so adamant about going to the Capitol to greet the insurrectionists that he tried to grab the wheel of his presidential limo.
As Trump and a constellation of far-right conspiracy websites try and undermine Hutchinson’s credibility (without much success, thus far) Q used his trademark mysticism to suggest that the former aide was being manipulated — probably a wink and nod to QAnon’s obsession with the CIA’s (totally failed) MK ULTRA project.
Worth noting that Jim Watkins met with the January 6 committee while Ron says he’s ignoring a subpoena from the investigators. Trying to attack the credibility of the committee might be a play to preserve their own sheds of credibility with the cause.
It could be the opening salvo in a more serious attempt to try and discredit the committee’s work.
Somewhat conspicuously, we’ve seen no explicit or tacit nod to Trump in these new Q drops.
It’s undeniable that QAnon will be an asset to Trump if he runs again — so long as the movement stays loyal. It seems nearly inconceivable that QAnon would turn on the president, given how much of their lore is built around him. But, on the other hand, they believe that Wayfair was the deep state’s personal delivery agency, shipping children in dressers to Hilary Clinton’s doorstep. So, anything is possible.
Certainly, if Trump declines to run again, QAnon may deputize a new champion. If he is outwitted by a more serious competitor, QAnon could fragment or defect en masse. But, if he emerges strong, QAnon could be a crucial factor in his clinching the nomination.
Finally: What comes next?
Since Q’s abrupt departure, some of the biggest Q influencers have staked out on their own, shedding mentions of Q and instead trying to form their own cults of personality.
Many of these influencers saw Q as their booster rocket, falling away towards earth. They also believed (probably quite rightly) that trying to explain the mythos of Q to the normies was a sure-fire way to turn off possible converts.
These disparate camps were certainly useful in trying to buttress Trump’s deceitful electoral fraud claims, but since then they have gone madly off in all directions. Some have pumped the ‘biolabs’ conspiracy theory (the topic of a previous Bug-eyed and Shameless) while others have gone all in on the anti-Queer ‘groomer’ movement. (That was last week’s!) Others have become influential anti-vaxxer agitators.
But it’s hard to ignore that Q was a remarkably useful unifying force. Even if the ‘drops’ are oblique and, often, inane — they help keep the faithful rowing in the same direction.
So in recent days, you’ve seen influencers who have made nary a mention of Q in months suddenly spring to life, dissecting these Q drops with renewed vigor.
Some aren’t convinced. Doubters now see Ron and Jim lurking in the shadows, and feel that QAnon no longer needs their Q. Others think the new Q is an imposter. Still others think that the entire QAnon movement was an operation concocted by the deep state — but that it begat a patriotic movement nevertheless.
All told, it’s clear that Q’s return — for however long it lasts — will be a powerful driving force behind the conspiracy-obsessed right-wing.
Q could, of course, disappear just as quickly as he reappeared.
But there is a chance that its most important backers, from the Watkins to the major influencers, have realized that they had a great thing going with Q and that they were mad to let it go. With that in mind, they are going to put even more energy into making it an even more cohesive and muscular movement.
That would be bad.
Some updates on the “Freedom Convoy” and its lacklustre return to Ottawa below the paywall👇
I think we’re alone now.
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For those following the so-called, self-styled, mis-labeled Freedom Convoy’s return to Ottawa for Canada Day, I can report that there was much bluster and little to show for it.
Veteran James Topp pulled an impressive thousand(ish) people out to the National War Memorial on Thursday, delivering a pretty ho-hum speech about togetherness and freedom.
Topp has become the rallying point for a number of groups responsible for the original convoy to Ottawa, and has been fairly clearly been a moderating influencer on some of their whackier inclinations. With his as a figurehead, they’ve won meetings in Parliament and won over Pierre Poilievre (who initially seemed skeptical of re-affiliating with the movement, after using them to propel his bid for leadership of the Conservative Party.)
The movement is keen on running a whole summer of events, they say, and establishing a forward operating base in Ottawa. They could not, however, managed to cobble together anything beyond Topp’s brief appearance at the Cenotaph on Thursday. Even that low-key event resulted in a series of arrests.
Events slated for Friday were cancelled, leaving many of the faithful listlessly wandering around the capital amidst a sea of other Canadian flag-draped visitors — who were bemused, maybe even annoyed, at the presence of all the FUCK TRUDEAU and TRUDEAU FOR TREASON tshirts and flags.
As I wrote in VICE News last week, some in the movement are tired of the incremental approach. They want trials, and they want ‘em now!
The next few months are going to be significant for the movement. Can Topp and his newly formed umbrella organization (with the inspired title of the Canadian Citizens Coalition) translate their grassroots movement into a real political force? Does the more radical wing of the movement try and provoke a real confrontation, like storming a courthouse, to advance their cause? Does summer, and a general move towards treating COVID-19 as endemic, cause some of the faithful to hang up their “Media Is the Virus” buttons and go back to enjoying life?
One, two, or all three of those things could be true. Between you, me, and the Canadian Security Intelligence Service: I’m told that a pair of sovereign citizen types are still planning to occupy a courthouse somewhere in the country in the near future, with a plan to force the arrest and imprisonment of major political figures in this country. We’ll apparently get 24 hours notice before the main event.
I guess we’ll see!
In Wired this week, I wrote about the emerging national security challenge posed by smart vehicles. It got me thinking of the panic about the emergence of the airship as, at the time, the most significant expansion in travel — and, by extension, surveillance — in centuries.
The age of the airship may be dawning again, as I wrote in 2020. Spain is actively looking at procuring new airships to travel its long coasts, while Quebec has just decided to re-invest in a French dirigible firm (after pulling their funding in 2021 due to concerns about Chinese involvement.)
That’s it for this week. Thoughts? Comments? Suggestions for next week’s dispatch? Comment on Substack, or reply to this email!
With Klebanov within her grasp
There's just one more think she's dying to ask
They stuck a needle in her arm
Saying, "Don't do yourself more harm"
Preview photo care of Anthony Crider on Flickr.