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One Does Not “Simply Read Mein Kampf & Become a Nazi”: A Case Study of GhostEzra & QAnon Pathways to Anti-Semitism

Introduction  Anti-Semitic tropes were always present within what Travis View calls QAnon’s “big tent” conspiracy theory. Accusations of financial manipulation are frequently placed on prominent Jewish figures like George Soros and the Rothschild family. The adrenochrome theory –which supposes that the so-called “deep state” harvests the blood of trafficked children to obtain adrenochrome in order to sustain a youthful appearance—is highly reflective of the age-old medieval blood libel conspiracy theory accusing secretive Jewish groups of harvesting blood from Christian children (Lavin, 2020). Despite these examples, popular QAnon influencers and the conspiracy theories they peddled largely avoided overt anti-Semitism. Following the events of January 6th, 2021, in which a mob of violent protesters stormed the U.S. Capitol in an attempt to stop the certification of the 2020 presidential election, QAnon influencers were largely de-platformed from popular social media sites such as Twitter, Facebook, and YouTube. Attempting to salvage their following, these figures migrated to more obscure, less-regulated platforms like Gab, Parler, and especially Telegram (Argentino et al, 2021). One such influencer –GhostEzra– sustained only a modest following on Twitter, but quickly grew his Telegram following to the largest among his fellow influencers; currently boasting over 330,000 subscribers. In mid-May of 2021,…

QAnon: Alternative (Fakten) für Deutschland

Q’s Early Attempts to Cross Borders QAnon has claimed fame as a primarily American-based movement; this makes sense given that its most widely accepted myth posits (former) President Trump as a hero selected by the U.S. military to vanquish an evil, Satan-worshipping, child-trafficking cabal of Democratic politicians and liberal Hollywood figures. However, QAnon eventually developed a formidable international presence due in large part to the COVID-19 pandemic, and its conspiracy narratives adapted to local contexts in over 70 countries (Rauhala & Morris, 2020). For example, QAnon gained significant footholds in Germany, as German-language Telegram channels boast hundreds of thousands of followers, Q flags appear at covid-19 measure protests, and a youth chapter of the far-right political party “Alternative für Deutschland” (Alternative for Germany) sported Q’s most common catchphrase: WWG1WGA (Where We Go One, We Go All) on their Facebook page (Bennhold, 2020). But what if Q had directly approached foreign political contexts at the onset of the movement? What if Q drops referenced and remarked on events in other countries, as opposed to remaining a U.S.-centric conspiracy theory? To adherents of QAnon, an international dimension is not only celebrated but likely expected. After all, Joe M’s video “Q: The Plan…

Anatomy of a Deception: How Q Pulled One Over on the Anons

AUTHOR’S NOTE: This article would not have been possible without help from experts in construction and meteorology, as well as a graphic designer. Due to concerns about harassment by QAnon followers, all but the graphic designer preferred to remain anonymous; however, I am profoundly grateful to all of them. ******************************************************************************************** INTRODUCTION “The ART of illusion.” – Q drop 678 Q has told quite a few elaborate tales in their time, but none more so than the story that is documented in this article. Over the course of roughly an hour on February 7, 2018, Q posted a series of photos, claiming they were a live look at a member of the global elite being arrested in Shanghai, China. So what’s deceptive about them? Not the location. The photos were certainly taken in Shanghai – in fact, they were taken from the Shanghai Marriott Hotel Pudong East, looking out at a distinctive skyscraper called the King Tower. And at first glance, it seems like the photos were taken at the same time, just as Q said. After all, you can see puddles on a construction site behind the hotel, and they’re in the same place in all of the photos. It…

Where in the World is Q? Clues from Image Metadata

We originally published this post at Bellingcat, and are reproducing it here by permission (archived version here). The authors wish to express our gratitude to the staff of Bellingcat — especially Giancarlo Fiorella and Maxim Edwards — for their assistance in geolocating Q’s photos from East Asia, and for several stimulating conversations that didn’t make it into print. ************************************************************************************** The hunt to identify the person or group behind the QAnon conspiracy theory continues. Known only as “Q,” this individual or collective is responsible for the many posts, or “drops,” that appeared on internet imageboards between October 2017 and December 2020. It has not been an easy search. But a fresh approach has yielded more clues. Image metadata comprises many different kinds of information, some of which can speak to the origin of the image itself and, by extension, who created it. Since many of Q’s posts come with an image attached, examining image metadata can provide clues as to where Q has been — and when. We examined metadata found on images associated with 27 Q drops. We infer from the metadata that the images are screenshots taken in two time zones: UTC+8 and the Pacific time zone. UTC+8 is a time zone…

How Q’s “Lost Drops” Undermine the QAnon Myth

This piece first appeared at Bellingcat. It’s reproduced here with permission. I made a few edits and additions, most notably spelling out the full list of slurs that Q quoted (but didn’t rebuke) when writing one of the lost drops. I also added a few sentences to contextualize the slurs and explain why they’re significant. Because there is a full, unfiltered, unbowdlerized list of slurs in the piece, here’s a content warning: this post contains dehumanizing, demeaning quotes from 4chan users. I included this language to show the reader what 4chan really is, and to illustrate the kind of sewer Q was doggy-paddling around in. ———————————————————————————————————————– To earnest believers in QAnon, Q is a mythical figure of near-infinite power. Some are even convinced that Q — purportedly a government insider with privileged insight into the US “deep state” — can foretell the future. However, newly rediscovered writings from the conspiracy’s earliest days reveal a very different image of Q. These texts were written by Q, and were initially spotted by users on the imageboard first frequented by Q. In many instances, they include text identical to posts universally acknowledged as being authored by Q — yet they never entered the…

The Making of QAnon: A Crowdsourced Conspiracy

My essay outlining QAnon’s roots in 4chan culture first appeared at Bellingcat on January 7th, 2021. I’ve reproduced the text with permission (and made a minor edit to a line that never quite sat right with me). CONTENT WARNING: This document contains quotes from 4chan, which means it also contains slurs. I’ve left them unedited to convey the real tone of 4chan — it’s a racist, bilious place, and readers should feel that in their gut. ********************************************************************************************************** On January 6, chaos descended on Washington D.C. as supporters of President Donald Trump stormed the United States Capitol Building. Amid the melee, a longtime QAnon promoter known as “the Q Shaman” made his way onto the Senate floor and occupied the speaker’s rostrum. He was far from the only QAnon supporter on the scene that day: another led the charge into the Capitol. Once again, this dangerous and eclectic conspiracy is in the spotlight. It has come a long way since its birth on a forum barely three years ago. On October 28, 2017, an anonymous user browsing the /pol/ section of 4chan, a notorious alt-right imageboard, saw a post that read, “Hillary Clinton will be arrested between 7:45 AM — 8:30 AM EST on Monday — the…