Tuesday, July 24, 2018

HuffPo take on Q

By Andy Campbell

On June 15, when he packed his AR-15 and drove an armored vehicle onto the bridge near Hoover Dam, Matthew Wright had a mission. He’d gleaned it from a berserk conspiracy theory that circulates mainly online, and now here he was, offline, near a very real dam, with a not-at-all-virtual rifle.

As he blocked traffic, he held up a sign. “Release the OIG report,” it read. He wanted the same thing that so many others that subscribe to the all-encompassing QAnon conspiracy theory want: some sort of proof of a “deep state” conspiracy, run by the liberal elite and Hollywood, to commit and then cover up an array of atrocities, from child sex trafficking to false-flag shootings. And they thought they would find at least some damning evidence in the Department of Justice’s inspector general report on the FBI’s handling of the Hillary Clinton email investigation.

The report he was looking for had actually been released the day before, and it didn’t have any of the information he and the rest of the QAnon followers sought. Of course, the theory’s adherents believe there’s another inspector general’s report they haven’t seen, one with all the “true” information, and they’ll fight to get it.

On the day he was arrested in Arizona on a variety of federal charges, Wright was acting as a soldier for “Q.” That’s the handle of an anonymous poster on equally anonymous message boards 4chan and 8chan and on Reddit since late last year. In letters Wright wrote from jail, intended for President Donald Trump and various government offices, he signed off with the QAnon motto: “For where we go one, we go all.” He also referred to a “Great Awakening,” another likely allusion to QAnon.

Nobody was harmed in the bridge standoff. But Wright’s crusade, along with a handful of other recent incidents, gives us an idea of what QAnon looks like when it emerges from its online cave, blinking in the sun. And it’s a little terrifying.

It Seemed Harmless For A Minute There...

As conspiracies go, QAnon isn’t even faintly plausible. It’s every conspiracy, all at once, an orchestra tune-up of theories. It involves Hollywood, former presidents and the Democratic Party joining up to commit various heinous crimes. And on the other side is an anonymous hero named Q, who claims to have high-level government clearance.

A surface-level glance at QAnon threads on Reddit, 4chan and 8chan will make you cringe well before it’ll scare you. In one post, commenters wondered whether Q was winking at them by making the lights flicker during President Trump’s White House speech last week. The post reads in earnest: “What if the lights going out during the press conference was... the cue(Q)?”

In another, a Redditor used one of Q’s posts to surmise that Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton’s entire family fabricated the Parkland, Florida, school massacre to “advance the anti-2nd agenda.” Commenters agreed and expressed their anger with all the maturity and expertise of a high school film studies class.

“It’s just like watching V for Vendetta in how the people would trade away their freedom for security,” one commenter wrote.

“The more I’m reading about the Q posts, the more it brings me back to that movie,” said another. “False flags, under-age exploitation, and a top level conspiracy even among a major religion.”

There are hundreds of these posts. Choose any conspiracy you like ― false-flag shootings, underground child sex dungeons run by elite predators, unreleased Justice Department reports that, if made public, would put Hillary Clinton in jail ― and you’ll find them being discussed on QAnon forums.

The Daily Beast’s Will Sommer wrote a great primer on the theory. It essentially goes like this: “Q” started posting weird messages on 4chan last November, leaving “breadcrumbs” for the online masses to find evidence that several top Democrats are about to be sent to Guantanamo Bay, special counsel Robert Mueller is actually investigating Hillary Clinton, etc. Nobody knows who “Q” actually is, and there’s no evidence that the person (or persons) posting under that handle has (or have) any high-level security clearance.

It’s easy to roll your eyes at the QAnon conspiracy theory, in much the same way it was easy to dismiss Pizzagaters as a bunch of lunatics — right up until the moment one of them, Edgar Welch, showed up in Comet Ping Pong pizza parlor in Washington, demanded to know where the child sex dungeon was and fired an assault rifle. 

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