A look back on January 6th, Q-Anon, and free-speech suppression
On January 6th, 2021 Utah Stories covered the Utah State Capitol “Stop the Steal” demonstrations. We interviewed the Proud Boys, Boogaloo Boys, some Utah militia members, and Trump supporters, who were chanting “Stop the Steal!” A few attendees were waving Q flags. Various speakers were calling for more government accountability and more examination and audits of what they perceived as widespread election fraud.
The Media in Shambles and in Disarray: How We Got Here
By January 6th, only the “far right-wing” alternative media was supporting Trump’s “stolen election” claim. The right-wing mainstream media, including FoxNews, Wall Street Journal, and The Daily Wire were accepting the election results of Joe Biden’s victory. At this time the ongoing severing of Trump supporters from mainstream Republicans and the old guard had become nearly complete. Fox News lost droves of viewers. The election fraud mantra provided networks such as Alex Jones’ NewsMax and OLN a springboard in prominence and viewership.
Those are the events that the majority of us witnessed. What most of us never saw was the rise of the prominence of QAnon and his subsequent silence. Most of us didn’t even bother to ask: Where did the mysterious Q character come from? How did he gain prominence and so many adherents worldwide? And why were all Q supporters purged from all social media platforms? Finally, there are some answers.
Over the past six years, the QAnon movement has been documented and investigated by filmmaker Cullen Hoback. Recently HBO released his six-part series called Into the Storm, which documents and unravels all of the details and shows a behind the curtain view into how one anonymous LARPer (Live Action Role Player) could cause such major social unrest.
How QAnon Rose to Prominence?
In October of 2017, the Q-drops began. Drops consisted of coded clues mostly about a “deep state cabal controlling a child sex trafficking ring”. The arrest and suicide of Jeffery Epstein only added fuel to the conspiracy nature of events unfolding. But amid his rising prominence, Q-discussion, thoughts, opinions, and ideas were being banned on major social media platforms as the theories were leading to social unrest and a growing number of mostly baseless conspiracy theories. Was is the right move for social media to start banning QAnon discussion?
Enter Frederick Brennen, a young man afflicted with Osteogenesis imperfecta, which confines him to a wheelchair. Brennen coded a new social media platform called 8Chan while coming down from a mushroom hallucinations trip. As the canceling of pages dedicated to QAnon began on the larger platforms such as Reddit and Facebook; and “Gamergate” was causing users to leave another alternative messaging board called 4Chan, Brennen saw an opening to host QAnon supporters and Q-Drops on his 8Chan site.
His plan worked and Brennen’s immediate problem was that he needed far more server space and bandwidth to support the massive numbers of visitors 8Chan was receiving. Brennen then reached out to find help and found Jim Watkins who was willing to buy the platform and host Brennen in the Philippines with a company apartment and pay.
Into the Storm reveals that Ron and Jim Watkins then became the men behind QAnon and the Q-Drops, which gained a massive audience based on “secret, private government operative with ‘Q-level clearance’ who was going to expose child sex trafficking at the highest levels of government”. Q further predicted a “coming storm” in which President Trump would lead the fight of exposing deep-state cabal operatives who were undermining our democracy and freedom.
There is much more to the Q story, the rise, the supporters, and the disappearance, but I’ll leave it there. Those who wish to learn all of the details can watch Into the Storm. The most important insights the film offers go into how the “Q-mmunity” of conspiracy-minded individuals eventually fanned the flames and poured gas on the fire on the events leading up to the January 6th riots at the capital. “January 6th would certainly not have been what it was without the QAnon movement,” Hoback said recently on the Joe Rogan program.
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