Wednesday, August 1, 2018

QAnon, 4chan's latest cesspool, recycles and expands upon the fake #pizzagate conspiracy theory

This QAnon garbage has been around for almost a year, but is making a lot of news lately. So what is it? QAnon is yet another group of conspiracy theorists from 4chan. It is one part PizzaGate and other parts of pro-Trump conspiracies. Much of the political stuff is beyond the scope of the focus of this blog, but for a decent analysis of the group, read the second Vice article below. What is relevant is now we have roving bands of adherents to this QAnon group getting local authorities to investigate homeless camps under the guise of stopping human trafficking. Believers in the QAnon conspiracy hold that President Trump is a “brilliant four-dimensional chess player” using the Mueller investigation as a smokescreen to root out the murderous, Satanic, pedophilic deep state. (It’s a Trump-era catchall conspiracy: Pizzagate + Seth Rich + the Illuminati.) Among those accused of pedophilia by QAnon are many Hollywood celebrities from Tom Hanks to the rapper Eminem. 

QAnon is using the oldest trick in the book-- labeling opponents as "pedophiles" o discredit the critics. 

Again, unlike PizzaGate, QAnon isn't just about sex crimes; it is a conglomerate of Pro-Trump extremist conspiracy theories created by 4chan intended to troll the ignorant masses.

By Matthew Gault
Jun 7 2018, 12:54pm

#QANON Conspiracy Theorists Are Hunting for 'Child Sex Camps' in the Arizona Desert
A veteran’s charity in Arizona is hunting pedophiles in Tucson and asking the internet for help.

On May 29, Lewis Arthur and Veterans on Patrol (VOP)—a Tucson area charity that helps homeless veterans—stumbled upon a makeshift homeless shelter and decided it was a child sex trafficking dungeon. Arthur and company found a barbie doll, straps on a tree they said were used to bind children, Playboy magazines, a stroller, and an empty septic tank. According to Arthur and the group, these were the markers of a child sex trafficking operation.

Now, the group is patrolling interstate 19 in Arizona and demanding that authorities declare a state of emergency. Conspiracy theorists on the internet have pointed to the VOP operation and the discovery of the camp as proof of the Qanon conspiracy theory, which claims that a cabal of shadowy groups funded by various elements of the Democratic party are running a worldwide child sex slave trafficking operation. It’s like Pizzagate combined with The DaVinci Code. A representative of the Tucson Police Department told Motherboard over the phone that an investigation of the area revealed no evidence of human trafficking.

The conspiracy theory started on 4chan’s /pol/ board in October of last year when an anonymous user started posting cryptic messages. The user claimed to be a highly placed government official who was sitting on a wealth of information about the sex cult. From there, it gets complicated.

Qanon has been percolating on the internet for a year now and it’s a weird conspiracy theory that has no shreds of actual evidence behind it. But that doesn’t stop people from believing it. And—as Pizzagate showed when a shooter showed up at a pizza parlor in Washington DC with a rifle—internet conspiracies can have real-world consequences.

Arthur and his team didn’t begin the hunt for pedophiles with Qanon in mind, but Arthur has thanked the Qanon community in several videos and, on June 3, the VOP’s official Facebook page posted a link to a Qanon 8Chan thread. “Post all photos gathered as evidence,” the post said. The 8chan thread contained numerous references to Qanon, the Illuminati, and the occult.

On June 4, Infowars guest and founder of Veterans For Child Rescue, Craig Sawyer posted his take on the situation to YouTube—he thinks VOP discovered a child sex trafficking site. Sawyer has made a name for himself investigating what he says are pedophile conspiracies, and he often reposts references to Qanon and its assorted conspiracies on Gab, a Twitter alternative popular with the right. In a June 5 Facebook live video, Arthur said he didn’t want to talk to the media, and authorized Sawyer to handle media queries about the situation. I attempted to reach Sawyer for comment via Facebook and email, but didn’t hear back.

I reached Arthur by phone on June 6. “You have one minute,” he said when he picked up the phone. I got halfway through my introduction before he cut me off. “If anyone from the media has questions they have to come down and volunteer for seven days.” He then hung up the phone. I followed up via Facebook messenger but have not heard back.

Arthur has been around town demanding the police take action. On June 6, he went to the police department and streamed the interaction via Facebook live. The police politely engaged with him and promised to follow up on any leads he might find. “My city is aware of what I’m getting ready to do,” Arthur said after leaving the station. He then promised that searchers would find child pornography in the area if they would only look for it, and begged for volunteers to come to Tucson and join the cause.

Arthur, VOP's leader, is putting out missives on Facebook. He wants people to send supplies and come join what he says will be a three-month operation. On June 3, he posted a video from the top of a tower. He refused to come down until the police agreed to search the area around the homeless camp with dogs trained to find dead bodies.

This isn’t Arthur’s first time looking for attention from America’s militia movement. Arthur was at both the Bundy standoff in Nevada in 2014 and the occupation of the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge in 2016.

“In a movement that’s full of drama queens, he’s the empress,” JJ MacNab—a fellow at George Washington University’s Program on Extremism—told me over the phone. “He’s not going to get the militia that he’s hoping for because he is persona non grata in that movement. He’s the only person to be kicked out of Bundy Ranch and Malheur.”

Again, the Tucson Police Department told Motherboard it has found nothing to suggest that human trafficking has happened at the site. In its videos, VOP pointed to straps of cloth bound around trees as evidence of makeshift shackles for victims. It pointed to a stroller as evidence that children had been in the area.

“Lots of times people in homeless camps will use tether straps or cloth, anything to help hang clothing, food or even trash to keep it off the ground and away from animals,” Tucson Police Sgt. Pete Dugan told Snopes. “You will see myriad types of things that they collect and use. There was a crib there that had a bunch of stuff in it along with all kinds of different things. But there was no evidence of any human trafficking or any criminal activity in that area.”

The Tucson Police Department representative also told Motherboard that the Police became aware of the camp on May 29, and went to search the area. “Detectives, and command staff conducted a thorough inspection of the site, spoke to the reporting parties, and collected evidence,” the Tucson police department said in a June 4 press release. “Based on the department’s investigation to this point, there is no indication this camp is being used for any type of criminal activity, including human trafficking. Yesterday, an unsubstantiated assertion was made that a body might be buried at the site. A cadaver dog was used to check the area with negative results.”

On June 6, in the video Arthur posted from the police station, cops revealed that they had responded to a call from concerned drivers along I-19 who saw men posted on a billboard with AR-15s overlooking the highway. The cop then explained, calmly and patiently, that the camp had been constructed by property owners sympathetic to the plight of immigrants crossing over the Mexican border. They wanted people to have a shelter along the hard trek through America. The site has since been bulldozed.

Agents with the Department of Homeland Security Immigration and Customs Enforcement had also been to the area to investigate. It told local news station KGUN that, “they are familiar with the site as a homeless camp and are continuing to monitor it. They say they have found nothing that would validate the claims of possible human trafficking.”

Yet Arthur and the VOP continue to patrol the area on the hunt for pedophiles. Arthur posted a video at 12:30 EST from a local UPS on June 6 where he showed supplies people had sent to help the mission. Some of it will go to help homeless veterans. Arthur also said he had two patrols out looking to rescue children. “We’re encouraging everyone to come down. We’ve got a lot of territory to cover,” Arthur said in a Facebook live video. “This doesn’t stop. We’re still running nonstop 24/7. If you’re sitting there wondering, ‘are we still gonna be there tomorrow,’ we’re going to be here until these individuals are found or they’re so dismantled and disrupted that they can’t do this.”

VOP is well known in the community, and has done a lot of good work, according to people who have worked with its members. Normally, VOP patrols Tucson’s highways, bridges, and tunnels for homeless veterans. When it finds someone, it does what it can to get them back on their feet. For the moment, it has shifted to chasing down internet conspiracy theories.

“Their hearts are in the right place, but I’m not sure about the method,” Bruce Hamilton, the director of Tucson Veterans Serving Veterans, told me over the phone. “I work alongside them every other day. They do great stuff.”

Hamilton said he understands VOP and Arthur’s concern but he thinks they have made a lot of assumptions about what they’ve found. “These guys are reactionary,” he said. “They’re very high strung. But they’re on a mission, they’re looking for vets all over the place but their methods are different.”

Hamilton hasn’t seen a large influx of outsiders coming to help VOP hunt down pedophiles, nor does he think the group is particularly dangerous.

But Qanon is dangerous. It’s a new spin on an old American cultural myth—cabals of elite predators who prey on children. There’s no actual evidence to back any of this up, but the fantasy has persisted online for more than a year and now it’s made the jump to real life. Arthur and VOP are patrolling the Arizona desert, chasing shadows and bothering local law enforcement, egged on by anonymous conspiracy theorists following their every move from behind a computer screen. So far, no one has been harmed, but what's happening in Tucson right now is a good reminder that the tentacles of crazy internet conspiracies reach into the real world.

By Justin Caffier
Jun 12 2018, 5:23pm
A Guide to QAnon, the New King of Right-Wing Conspiracy Theories
George Soros, the Illuminati, and Snow White are all controlling the world according to a 4channer who has spawned a legion of supersleuths.

oseanne Barr’s recent career-ending tweetstorm didn't just lead to her eponymous sitcom being cancelled, it demonstrated what the ugliest side of the right-wing internet looks like. As the New York Times reported at the time, Barr's tweets weren't just racist, they occasionally delved into into the widening black hole of insane conspiracy theories known as QAnon.

Who or what is QAnon? Just asking that question sucks you into a world that's like Pizzagate on bath salts, a galaxy-brained, 4chan-bred conspiracy theory that has apparently convinced an alarming number of adults that all kinds of preposterous things are true.

The whole mess started on October 28, when an anonymous user going by the handle “Q” started a thread on 4chan’s /pol board titled “The Calm Before the Storm.” In a series of posts, Q claimed to be a high-level government employee with Department of Energy Q clearance and access to Top Secret–level information about Donald Trump, the Democrats, and the hidden big-picture machinations of the US government.

Wielding the plausible-enough-sounding details and sprawling shadow government plot of a lesser Dan Brown novel, Q began slowly painting a picture of a reality far different from the one we live in. The resulting QAnon conspiracy theory states that Trump is not under investigation by Robert Mueller. Instead, Trump is merely playing the part of hapless conspiratorial criminal while covertly helping the special counsel pursue their true quarry: Barack Obama, Hillary Clinton, John Podesta, and all the other liberal boogeymen. (It gets a LOT crazier than that, but that's the core plot.)

All of this was spelled out through cryptic hints, which seems to be half the fun for people who get into it. Before long, there were countless YouTube channels, subreddits, and message boards dedicated to collectively piecing his hints together with digital red string. One QAnon-based subreddit has more than 31,000 subscribers. On YouTube, QAnon-themed videos can have tens of thousands or even hundreds of thousands of views. It's even bled out into the real world, with conspiracy theorists claiming they had found pedophile camps in the Arizona desert. So this nonsense isn't likely to go away any time soon.

To sort out what this web of spurious claims consists of—and to help you identify when someone is dipping their toes into it—here's a guide to the conspiracy.


Not wishing to divulge too much information and risk potential exposure, Q drip-feeds their followers with info dumps called “breadcrumbs” so that, just like Hansel and Gretel, these theorists can be led out of the forest of fake news. The very existence of these crumbs raises questions about why someone purporting to wage a righteous and successful campaign against evil would leak anything, let alone easily crackable clues that could compromise their anonymity or the overall mission, but that line of reasoning doesn’t seem to be a concern for QAnon’s acolytes.


As followers of Q’s breadcrumb trail, QAnon believers refer to themselves as bakers, conveying both their commitment to the cause and a fundamental misunderstanding of how bakeries work.


Dough is the sum total of all the leads, answers, and concrete info gleaned from previously collected and analyzed crumbs dropped by Q. Bakers “bake” this dough by creating new threads online that puzzle out the most recent crumb drops. Some bakers, clearly not catching on to the Hansel and Gretel symbolism, have been known to refer to this dough as “batter.”


Sometimes Q likes to play pretend as Mr. Robot and drops crumbs presented like a bunch of Alex Jones cue cards or unintuitive file names. These are called "stringers" and with each new post Q sends his followers on goose chases to find the greater meanings.

Two real stringer examples:

Newport Beach.
Hotel GM.
What happened @ these hotels?


The Storm

This phrase stems from a cryptic October 8 musing from President Trump while he was surrounded by military brass at a photo opp. Trump opined that the relatively uneventful moment was “the calm before the storm.” This, of course, prompted the journos on hand to press the president about what that meant. He offered no further explanation other than an equally cryptic “you’ll find out.”

While Trump, a known bullshitter, was clearly just pulling generic vaguely-intimidating phrases from his ass to sound cool, this moment resonated with Q, clearly inspiring his initial /pol post a couple of weeks later.

Bakers have since come to regard the Storm as the overarching heroic operation being carried out by Trump et al to take down the deep state villains, liberal pedophile rings, and all the money-loving globalists/Jews working behind the scenes to oppress the hapless average American.

Bakers find proof of the Storm’s effects and validity with every news article where any sort of human trafficker or child predator is apprehended. Thwarting pedophiles, an ongoing mission ferried over from the less organized Pizzagate era of right-wing conspiracy theorizing, seems to be a borderline fetish for this crowd.

Lightning emoji

This is just a way for QAnon people to refer to the Storm when they want to save characters or be cute with their usernames.


The foot soldier goons of the QAnon-verse, clowns are the CIA agents, NSA operatives, and various other spooks attempting to suss out Q’s identity and bring the Storm’s mission to a halt. Bakers will often “expose” clowns they think have been planted in their forums.

Great Awakening

Borrowing from the term for different periods of Christian revival throughout American history, the QAnon Great Awakening will be the pre-Storm era of enlightenment achieved by bakers who successfully crack Q’s hints. While not always overt, a vein of Christo-fascism runs through the QAnon narrative. “Godspeed” is a common valediction offered in Q’s crumbs or between bakers. This subtext of noble Christian supremacy helps to bolster the latent anti-Semitic and Islamophobic elements of the conspiracy’s big picture.

Really, though, this Great Awakening is just “red-pilling” for people who believe themselves to be above something as low-brow as a term from The Matrix.

Follow the White Rabbit

Try as they might, these folks can’t resist references to the Wachowski siblings' sci-fi trilogy and Q, borrowing the directives given via computer screen to Neo in The Matrix, has craftily urged his horde to follow the white rabbit. The white rabbit in question could represent anything from the Playboy bunny and Hugh Heffner to the Catholic Church to a New Orleans artist with the last name Podesta—no relation to John—who happens to work with bunny-suited mannequins.

Alice and Wonderland

Why stop at white rabbit when there’s so much more to mine from Lewis Carroll’s stories? While some bakers have referred to Obama as Alice, most steer clear of such gender-bending casting and assign that role to Hillary Clinton. And where else would her Wonderland be than Saudi Arabia, a magical land full of hookahs and Clinton Foundation payoffs?

Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs

There doesn’t seem to be a consensus in the QAnon community about who these recurring codenames refer to. Some say Snow White is Julian Assange, others believe it's the CIA. Some think the dwarfs are targets being eliminated by the storm, others think they are seven supercomputers operated by the intelligence community.

Surprisingly, this last bit does have one foot in reality. At the dawn of the computing age, from the 1950s to 70s, IBM and seven other manufacturers (e.g. Honeywell, RCA, UNIVAC) worked on major mainframe computation projects for government agencies. At the time, IBM, the biggest player of the bunch, was referred to as Snow White, with each of the other company machines taking on a nickname of one of the Disney dwarves. Over time, conspiracy theorists have mythologized these powerful computers into Hal 9000–style villains autonomously pulling strings or being controlled by nefarious deep state brass.

Operation Mockingbird

This is the alleged CIA plot dating back to the 1950s wherein the agency gained control of the media in order to control the masses via propaganda. Every Washington Post article about potential Russian collusion is Operation Mockingbird. Robert Deniro saying “fuck Trump” at the Tonys: Operation Mockingbird. This article: 100 percent Operation Mockingbird.

 The Triangle

QAnon is essentially the greatest crossover event in conspiracy theory history. Q folds in references to all the greatest hits like Freemasons, MK Ultra, and the symbology of the Illuminati. The triangle, a staple of Illuminati lore, plays into Q’s story as a representation of the three mega-wealthy families that control the entire world. These are often represented as plus signs for some reason, despite there being no mystery within or outside of the community as to what those plusses represent.

So, just who are these powers that be? Well, you probably already guessed Soros (+). Q has also dusted off the oldie-but-goodie Rothschilds (++). The third and final contender is the House of Saud (+++), the ruling royals of Saudi Arabia.

Family (Y)

Ever the storyteller, Q has insinuated that the Soros clan overthrew a fourth, unnamed powerful family to take their spot as the third-richest lineage on the planet and has left it up to the bakers to figure out just which famous family that might be. Theorists have yet to collectively determine who Y is, but current contenders for the title include the Bushes, the Rockefellers, and *record scratch*—the Merkels?!

The Titanic and the Olympic

Apparently, JP Morgan sunk the Titanic— that he’d actually switcheroo’d with a copy ship, the Olympic—in order to found the federal reserve. (Just go with it.)

This fringier topic only comes up occasionally in the QAnon bubble, as Q has never directly referenced it in a crumb, but I’m including it here anyway it because it's A) hilarious and B) a great example of how the bakers have folded in every preexisting conspiracy into their gumbo of insanity.

Photo via Anonymous
Fantasy Land
The cabal of evil countries controlled by the Triangle want the world permanently on the brink of nuclear apocalypse. What better a way to keep the world’s population docile and controllable? But for that they need a scapegoat threat. So they formed a new nation and installed a “madman” puppet leader that can easily be controlled to keep the ruse alive. According to the bakers, this is what the CIA did with North Korea and the Kim family.

Screengrab via YouTube: Screen Hoopla
Ankle Monitors
According to QAnon boards, the Storm has already busted some lower-tier deep state consiglieres like Huma Abedin, Chelsea Clinton, and John McCain. But in the good guys’ infinite mercy, they’ve decided to allow these evildoers—who they have accused of facilitating the kidnapping, rape, and murder of children—to go about their day-to-day lives as normal, so long as they wear ankle monitors. This has resulted in every photo of QAnon conspiracy villain in a maxi dress, orthopedic boot, or flared pant leg to be scrutinized in an attempt to see if someone is attempting to hide their tracker.

BDT is an acronym for Blunt and Direct Time as well as the Bangladeshi taka, the country's unit of currency. I really have no clue what they’re going for with this one. Something about some thwarted potential terrorist being born in Bangladesh as proof of Q’s bona fides?

Godfather III

Another unsolved topic with a few competing theories, some say Q’s references to the papacy-centric Coppola film are meant to implicate the Catholic church in the global pedo ring. Others think it’s about how the Rothschilds own the Vatican after lending them some money in the 1800s. Some just think it’s an allegory for the whole swamp draining thing.

Whatever the connection to his larger tapestry, master troller Q got a bunch of dummies to watch a bad three-hour movie searching for clues and, for that, I doff my cap. Keep up the good work, Q.

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