8chan founder Fredrick Brennan believes his former business partner, Jim Watkins, is behind the dangerous conspiracy theory.
Update 1/22/2021: Following the inauguration of Joe Biden on January 20th, many believers in QAnon lore have begun to question some of their convictions.
Many saw the inauguration as a final deadline for "The Storm" and the mass arrests they expected to publicly expose the cabal of deep-state Satanists. And both Jim and Ron Watkins have issued statements seeming to indicate the end of the Q era.
Ron Watkins urging his followers on Telegram to "remember the friends and happy memories we made together," and to "respect the constitution," while his father Jim Watkins posted on the reactionary micro-blogging platform Gab about the "historical value" of the Q movement and the fact that "the culture of our country changed because of it."
That much is certainly true. And in the wake of the Capitol Hill insurrection on January 6th — which saw one of Q follower shot dead, another leaving Mike Pence n ominous note, and numerous others arrested — the apparent change of heart may be inspired by concern that these cultural changes will invite unwelcome scrutiny.
Still, there is little doubt that some Q followers — as flexible as the acolytes of any other cult — will find ways to adapt their beliefs to the post-Trump era. Some are already beginning the process. Even if Q never reappears, the disturbed and unhinged worldview of Q followers is likely to remain culturally relevant for years to come.
There is a growing belief system in the US that is beginning to spread around the world.
Tied to a mystical struggle between ancient forces of good and evil that are secretly operating beneath the surface of our society, adherents believe they have been given the key to understanding the world.
QAnon Conspiracy Theory Lands On European Shores | Morning Joe | MSNBC www.youtube.com
They believe that their mysterious prophet has awakened them to a reality that you and I will soon be forced to face: that global elites from Washington DC to Hollywood are part of a Satanic (possibly Jewish) cabal of murderous, cannibalistic pedophiles who torture children in order to harvest their adrenaline-rich blood and oxidize it into the addictive drug adrenocrhome.
They believe that our civilization must be torn down to the foundations in order to be rebuilt—or perhaps just to bring on the apocalypse. And, as it turns out, the only politician heroically selfless enough to bring the whole system crashing down is the alleged peeping tom of Miss Teen USA and well-wisher of Ghislane Maxwell, President Donald J. Trump.
The billionaire accused of sexually predatory behavior by dozens of women—who is on tape saying he can grab women "by the pu**y," who used to hang out with "terrific guy" Jeffrey Epstein and joke about the financier's preference for women "on the younger side," who is refusing to provide DNA in the case of a woman accusing him of rape—that same man is secretly a crusader against elite sexual predators.
Who Believes in QAnon?
With Q believers likely in the millions—with that figure growing rapidly around the world—QAnon has a sticky capacity to pick up aspects of other belief systems in order to appeal to as broad a spectrum of credulous people as possible.
From Evangelical Christians to New-Age yogis, basically anyone liable to distrust vaccines in favor of either prayer or organic vegetables is likely susceptible to Q's message of mainstream evil and corruption.
The QAnon belief system fits neatly with the ideas about masks making people sick, 5G making people sick, or fear making people sick. Anything other than an infectious respiratory virus can be blamed for making people sick, and not nearly as many people are dying as They want you to think—They are just trying to control us for their mysterious evil purposes.
Back in April—when there was briefly a consensus on taking COVID-19 seriously—it actually seemed possible that people were going to abandon their weird conspiracy theories to focus on forming a united front to address a very real and frightening crisis. Surely people would find the reality of a deadly global pandemic much more compelling than fantasies about Hillary Clinton engaging in elaborate ritual murders. In hindsight, that was absurdly wishful thinking.
As it turned out, that April consensus would soon be undermined by Donald Trump and his ilk spouting off mixed messages, conspiracy theories, and anti-mask rhetoric. And under various states of lockdown and unemployment, increasingly disconnected, bored, and desperate people turned to weirder, darker corners of the internet for answers.
Despite (or perhaps inspired by) social media companies taking measures to purge this brand of conspiratorial misinformation, membership to QAnon groups has exploded. By some measures, it may be up to seven times what it was in March.
What makes the message particularly infectious is the way it's delivered. Originally posted on the /pol/ section of imageboard 4chan in mid-2017—amid a slew of similar anonymous posts from supposed political insiders —the cryptic "drops" delivered by a nameless informant claiming to have "Q clearance" (high-level access to classified government information) lend the whole thing a dire sense of secrecy.
As an added feature, the uncertain meaning and broken grammar of the posts allow individual followers to decode them communally—following the slogan "Where We Go One We Go All" (WWG1WGA), playing detective, and drawing conclusions that align with their personal assumptions about the world.
And if some of those conclusions—about Robert Mueller working with Donald Trump, Hillary Clinton being executed in secret, or JFK Jr. faking his death to live as a man named Vincent Fusca—turn out to be wrong, that's only one refutation of a particular interpretation. No amount of evidence can touch the infallible source itself.
Unlike Pizzagate, which came before it, there is no Comet Pizza for a delusional gunman to invade—looking for kidnapped children. In that instance, when he discovered that there were no abducted children locked in the basement—because there was no basement at all—he and others were forced to acknowledge that they had some fundamental details wrong.
But when it comes to the cryptic ambiguity of QAnon, followers find evidence of the worldwide pedophile conspiracy all around them.
You might think that in a world where actual elite sexual predators like Harvey Weinstein and Jeffrey Epstein were able to operate in the semi-open for years—using their power and influence to shield them from consequences—that there would be no need to construct elaborate fantasies.
Surely, with all their public connections to prominent cultural and political figures—some portion of whom were active participants in predatory behavior—QAnon adherents could simply extrapolate those relationships into the web of the secret pedophile network. While they certainly do that, even using phony, sloppily-made flight logs to Epstein's private island to implicate a then-teenaged Chrissy Teigen…that's not enough.
No, true devotion to Q means seeing evidence of Satanist activity everywhere. Let's say you're shopping for furniture online and stumble across an overpriced item with an odd name. Do you think, "That's weird, seems like a mistake?" No, you immediately start Googling the name to find a missing child with the same name. Boom, Wayfair child trafficking conspiracy revealed.
There's something undeniably noble about the role these people have assigned themselves in the imaginary reality they live in. They cut themselves off from friends and family, from church leaders and anyone else trying to convince them that they aren't living in a dystopian detective novel as part of the underground resistance. They give up everything to fight the deep state pedophiles.
Their altruistic convictions, coupled with their incredibly skewed worldview, can unfortunately lead to some very dark places. In addition to nearly chasing Chrissy Teigen off Twitter with a dedicated harassment campaign, nd inspiring a handful of violent incidents, QAnon has disrupted real, valuable activism.
In July, Q believers co-opted the #SaveTheChildren hashtag and organized rallies that lured in a lot of well meaning people with no idea about the conspiracy theory behind it. All that energy might have actually been useful if directed toward increasing awareness of the realities of child trafficking—and perhaps promoting some legislation to help fight it.
But the QAnon cult isn't interested in any of that. The only part of the government you can trust is the Trump administration, and anyone who tells you that child trafficking is not primarily the work of an elite Satanic cabal is probably working for the elite Satanic cabal—if Tom Hanks is one of the bad guys, anyone can be.
So how do you fight the spread of misinformation that is so resistant to refutation and authority—with a community that fiercely reinforces it? Maybe you can't.
Maybe QAnon is destined to become the full-blown cult that it is quickly trending toward—luring in confused and directionless people to trade their money and their real-world relationships for a sense of purpose and an online community of fellow believers. And maybe that cult will react very badly—violently—to a "deep state" victory in the form of Donald Trump losing reelection in November.
But if we want to avoid that outcome, perhaps the best chance we have is to expose the identity of Q.
Unlike many cults—which rely on the charismatic appeal of the leader—QAnon works because of the leader's anonymity. It allows followers to imagine Q as a perfect embodiment of their ideals, working deep inside the structures of government power.
In this framing, Q must conceal their identity and communicate through coded messages in order to continue operating in the upper echelons of the American government. If Q instead turned out to be a pig-farming smut peddler living in the Philippines…that might change things.
As it turns out, the founder of 8chan (since rebranded as 8kun)—where Q has posted those coded messages since abandoning 4chan in November of 2017—has been claiming to know the identity of Q for some time now. According to him, Q is in fact a pig farming smut peddler living in the Philippines—and also the current owner and operator of 8kun…
In 2014, 8chan's founder, Fredrick Brennan, first partnered with a man named Jim Watkins, who had recently acquired the domain for Japan's most popular message board 2channel—through questionable methods.
Brennan had founded 8chan at the age of 19 to operate as a version of the troll-haven imageboard 4chan, but without moderators to interfere with "free speech" (i.e. hate speech and worse). After partnering with Watkins—then around 50—Brennan moved to the Philippines to work with him more closely.
Pictured: Fredrick Brennan (left) and Jim Watkins (right)
At the time, Brennan was a vocal proponent of the misogynist "Gamergate" movement, and while he still holds onto some of the ideas of that movement, it's clear that he has matured a great deal and abandoned notions of free speech absolutism. In tweets he has disavowed much of the toxic behavior associated with gamergate and claims to have "moved on."
No doubt seeing the community he'd created become a haven for neo-Nazis, pedophiles, and mass shooters played a part in his growth. He resigned as the head of 8chan in 2016, selling the company to Jim Watkins. In 2018 he severed ties with Watkins and 8chan entirely and in 2019—following a string of mass-shooters posting their manifestos on 8chan—began actively calling for the site to be shut down, accusing Watkins of being "senile."
That was enough for Watkins to have Brennan charged with cyberlibel under the Philippine Cybercrime Prevention Act of 2012. Facing possible prison time—likely a death sentence for Brennan, who suffers from a genetic condition commonly known as brittle bone disease—Fredrick Brennan fled the Philippines back to the US earlier this year.
So perhaps he has a bit of a vendetta against Jim Watkins—who has denied being or having any close connection to Q. Nonetheless, the case Brennan makes is compelling, and Watkin's biography makes him sound like exactly the kind of person who would pretend to be a secret government informant in order to manufacture a conspiracy and prop up the presidency of Donald Trump.
Who Is Jim Watkins?
A helicopter mechanic and recruiter for the U.S. Army at the time, Watkins got his computer training through the military, but he left the service during the dot-com boom to fully invest himself in "Asian Bikini Bar" and the related ventures of his company, N.T. Technology.
Since then Watkins has moved to the Philippines, got married, started a pig farm, founded a conspiratorial right-wing news outlet called The Goldwater (that also fetishized Asian women), hijacked the domain of 2channel, and took over 8chan—which has since been under scrutiny by the Philippines' National Bureau of Investigation for allegedly enabling the distribution of child-abuse materials.
Why would a government informant working to expose a global pedophile ring choose to operate on a website that has itself been labeled as a pedophile ring?
Is it the only place on the Internet where a secretive Government insider can be certain that coded messages won't be traced or altered? Or is Jim Watkins—who labels any criticism of his site as "a smear by the press"—driving traffic to his platform and using it to throw some smears back at the mainstream media? After all, how can the mainstream media judge 8chan's content if they are implicated in the Satanic pedophile cabal?
Evidence of Watkins' Connections to Q
This is not to say that Watkins invented QAnon. There are other likely suspects for that. But, perhaps, around the time that QAnon announced that 4chan had been "infiltrated" and switched to posting on 8chan in late 2017, Watkins may have taken over the role—which would explain how Q developed an interest in yoga and fountain pens...
@DylanReeve He can post as Q at any time. 8chan now entirely relies on Q traffic, as I've shown, all other users h… https://t.co/iZy6JAUGg9— Fredrick Brennan (@Fredrick Brennan) 1598416563.0
At this point, QAnon is responsible for most of the traffic to the rebranded 8kun, and Watkins has not only promoted and defended the conspiracy theory and its merchandise through various venues, he even started a super PAC called Disarm the Deep State, with a stated mission to "mobilize a community of patriots in order to remove power from Deep State members."
The PAC has bought ads for QAnon-friendly candidates—with more than one QAnon adherent likely to enter congress next year. And a number of those ads happen to be running on 8kun…
Watkins being at the helm of the movement would also explain some of QAnon's antisemitic underpinnings and obsession with propping up a fascist leader, as Watkins previously used his news site The Goldwater to spread messages such as, "The third reich of germany corrected a crashing economy, and was brilliant in transforming Germany from a broken nation to a superpower in a rapid, methodical way."
Perhaps Watkins noticed that Donald Trump's brand of fascism (though replete with the usual trappings of nationalism, violent authoritarianism, xenophobia, aggreivement, false nostalgia, and militarism) lacked the structure of conspiratorial occultism that served the Nazi party so well. Maybe he felt he could provide that added structure from the sidelines.
But probably the most damning evidence that Watkins is, if not himself posting as Q, at least closely tied to whoever is, is the fact that 8kun and the most popular source for verifying and aggregating Q's posts both use the same IP address through an obscure Internet security service known as VanwaTech—a service which Fredrick Brennan claims was developed specifically to serve Watkins and 8kun.
A theory going around is that Vanwatech (@LimTheNick) is not an independent company, but is in fact itself owned by… https://t.co/fhGj33JIcM— Fredrick Brennan (@Fredrick Brennan) 1571306600.0
If, as this seems to indicate, Watkins operates both 8kun and QMap.pub, Brennan argues that there is nothing to stop Jim—or perhaps his son Ronald Watkins—from posting as Q and faking the "tripcode" verification system.
We may never find out if this is true, and even if we do, it's likely that many QAnon adherents would never believe it—following the mantra of "do your own research" in order to confirm their biases, rather than listening to any legitimate sources of information.
But maybe, if we can spread this information about Watkins to enough prospective targets, we can prevent more people from falling prey to QAnon's cultic conspiracy movement. Maybe we can prevent more families from losing their loved ones to paranoia and delusion. Maybe we can prevent American Fascism from reaching its full, terrifying potential.
President Donald Trump—whose every move is already interpreted by QAnon followers as being secret messages directed toward them—was asked about QAnon at a recent press conference, and stated: "I don't know much about the movement other than I understand they like me very much, which I appreciate."
When the reporter followed up, noting that the movement believes him to be "secretly saving the world from this satanic cult of pedophiles and cannibals," he seemed to embrace the idea without much concern for its absurdity, saying, "Well, I haven't heard that, but is that supposed to be a bad thing or a good thing? ... If I can help save the world from problems, I'm willing to do it."
The view was actually...interesting?
Donald Trump Jr. appeared on this morning's episode of The View with his partner Kimberly Guilfoyle as part of the promotional tour for Trump Jr.'s new book, Triggered: How the Left Thrives on Hate and Wants to Silence Us.
Meghan McCain Confronts Donald Trump Jr. on His Father's 'Character' | The View www.youtube.com
If the purpose of the interview was to provoke as much drama and incoherent cross-talk as possible, it was a wild success. The insanity opened with Meghan McCain at her passive-aggressive best, insisting that people "miss the soul" of America, and asking if Trump Jr. felt good about his father insulting the gold star Khan family. From there things devolved into defensive accusations of blackface and rape-minimizing, rehashing of the Trump-McCain feud, and Whoopi Goldberg loudly pleading for an unspecified someone to apologize. Meanwhile, whoever runs Trump Jr.'s Twitter account was already on the offensive, digging up the video of Joy Behar discussing her "beautiful African woman" costume from 50 years ago.
How is it not blackface?
As the interview continued, Trump Jr. deflected questions about Ukraine—and his tweet containing the name of an alleged whistle-blower—by calling out ABC and CBS for cooperating in the reported firing of an employee who recently leaked footage of anchor Amy Robach. The footage in question exposed an apparent top-down effort to bury the Jeffrey Epstein story. Jeffrey Epstein, of course, was the wealthy financier at the center of an elite pedophile ring who didn't kill himself in his cell in the Metropolitan Correctional Center in August.
Try to ignore the fact that this was leaked by Project Veritas...
Apart from this public service, the whole interview was a mess. It should have been obvious to anyone watching that it was not going to go well. Along with the extensive history of vitriol passing between the Trump family and the hosts of The View, Trump Jr.'s appearance was a dead giveaway. He looked gaunt and waxen, his forehead slick with a sheen of cold sweat, eyes wild, red, and swollen with exhaustion. It was hard not to be reminded of Kendall Roy in the season two premiere of Succession. The haggard interview where his sister says he's "like a sweaty corpse," and his brother-in-law compares him to "an unshaven candle."
Of course Kendall Roy's rough appearance in that interview is tied closely to his cocaine addiction. While it would be inappropriate to suggest that Donald Trump Jr. has any relationship with stimulants, it would explain his frenzied cadence as he declared that "it is worth it, when I go around the country, and I see people who are affected by these policies, who are getting to live their American dream again," his words tripping over each other in the race to slip past his bleached-white teeth.
Triggered was published on Tuesday and has received rave reviews for containing delightful stories, like the time Donald Trump let Trump Jr. play video games with Michael Jackson and how that means he's not racist. It's available now, wherever awful ghostwritten books are sold.
Jeffrey Epstein's Exorbitant Lifestyle: Private Islands, Conspiracy Theories, and Networks of Corruption
Epstein's lifestyle was unimaginably creepy, but it's indicative of a larger problem.
Jeffrey Epstein was found dead in his jail cell on Saturday, having been accused of sexual abuse by nearly 80 women.
He leaves behind a legacy of destructive opulence.
Epstein lived a lifestyle of unchecked consumption. The billionaire possessed a number of extravagant homes. His Manhattan townhouse allegedly cost $77 million and contained disturbing oddities—such as a hall full of fake eyes that were initially created for injured soldiers. It also contained a photorealistic mural that featured Epstein in jail, surrounded by prison guards, as well as a life-sized female mannequin that hung from a chandelier.
His private ranch was even more grandiose. At 10,000 acres, Zorro Ranch is a sprawling stretch of land, to which Epstein allegedly flew young girls, and where he abused them with the help of his supposed madam, Ghislaine Maxwell. The ranch was also a place where he attempted to impregnate hundreds of women in an effort to seed the human race with his DNA. This attempt was inspired by his distorted belief in transhumanism, a theory that the human population can be improved through artificial intelligence and genetic engineering.
Image via BBC.com
The townhouse and the ranch paled in comparison to his primary place of residence—his private island. St. James Island is located in the U.S. Virgin Islands, and Epstein purchased it in 1998. According to a contractor, Steve Scully, Epstein possessed two private offices on the island, as well as a strange blue-and-white striped temple and a lagoon full of flamingos. The island was, allegedly, the location of a variety of heinous crimes and was casually called the "Island of Sin" and even "Pedophile Island" among some of Epstein's acquaintances.
Epstein had ties to countless businesses and money-making ventures, and he had a particularly fraught relationship with Victoria's Secret, a company that may have funneled models directly to him—and from which he may have embezzled millions. He had a circle of powerful friends that included Donald Trump, Kevin Spacey, Woody Allen, and Bill Clinton. He was also a serial liar, constantly fabricating relationships and insinuating himself into the scientific and political communities, including ingratiating himself with scientists by bankrolling their research. He is an example of the way that money can pave pathways and open doors for people with little to offer other than their purported fortunes and their charisma.
Between the bizarre decor of his homes, his interest in nefarious ideas like eugenics and cryogenics, and the suspicious circumstances of his apparent suicide in a Manhattan jail, Rolling Stone was right when it published the headline, "Conspiracy theories have gone mainstream."
Many of the conspiracy theories currently swirling around the Internet center around Epstein's relationship with Bill Clinton and Donald Trump, with #TrumpBodyCount and #ClintonBodyCount trending on Twitter and Trump himself tweeting about the Clinton conspiracy. Many others believe that Epstein faked the suicide, as the cameras in the jail cell stopped working at the time of his death.
With its tangled web of lies, the Epstein case is "the end of an information ecosystem that at least feints at asking questions before pretending to have the answers," according to Anna Merlan.
Is this the end, or just a step towards chipping away illusions and unearthing the corruption inherent to America's wealthiest class? After all, it's likely that there have been thousands of Epsteins before—billionaires in bed with politicians and scientific communities who abused women without consequence and who've funded false scientific research.
Maybe social media is, in its ugly, distorted way, finally bringing the dark money and covert alliances at the heart of America out into the light. Maybe next, the Internet could come for people like the Koch Brothers, the billionaires who paid millions to shut down climate change research.
Based on the nature of social media, though, it'll be a long time before we arrive at anything like the truth.
Little Saint James Island. Image via The Cut
This past weekend, registered sex offender #JeffreyEpstein was once again arrested under new charges of sex trafficking dozens of minors as young as 14 years old.
On Monday morning, Jeffrey Epstein, the 66-year-old financier and reported friend of Donald Trump and Bill Clinton, was arraigned in federal court for luring underage young girls to his homes in Manhattan and Palm Beach, Florida and soliciting them for sex.
The billionaire was first arrested in 2005 for engaging in sex with minors. The hedge fund manager pleaded guilty to soliciting an underage prostitute and served only a year in prison—with a condition of work release that permitted him to leave the facility six days a week to continue employment.
This past weekend, the registered sex offender was once again arrested under new charges of sex trafficking dozens of minors as young as 14 years old. In a public statement, the U.S. Attorney's office said that between 2002 and 2005 Epstein lured young girls to his homes under the guise of paying for a "massage": "In this way, Epstein created a vast network of underage victims for him to sexually exploit, often on a daily basis." Indeed, of the nearly 80 young girls thought to be molested by the billionaire, most were from low-income households and particularly vulnerable to his cash-exchange ploy.
If found guilty, Epstein faces up to 45 years in prison for one count of sex trafficking and an additional count of sex trafficking conspiracy. But the prominent figure has been under investigation since last year. When authorities searched the man's Manhattan townhouse, nude photographs of underage girls were seized as evidence of Epstein's exploitation of minors. According to the indictment, which was unsealed on Monday, he not only assaulted young girls in his mansion but recruited them to return for repeated abuse and asked them to bring their friends.
Geoffrey S. Berman, the United States attorney in Manhattan, appealed to any other young women who have been abused by Epstein to come forward. "They deserve their day in court and we are proud to stand up for them by bringing this indictment," he told The New York Times. He said Epstein's "alleged behavior shocks the conscience."
On Monday afternoon, Epstein pleaded not guilty to all charges. Prosecutors are requesting that Epstein be held without bail until his trial.