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.



“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 MUST have been the same day, right?

But a close examination of the photos proves that the puddles were simply frozen, and rather than being a series of live photographs taken an hour apart, the photographs were taken days or (as two experts suggested) weeks apart. This has implications for establishing Q’s whereabouts, because in addition to the exact hotel from which they took the photographs, we’ll be able to pin down when they stayed there.

To do this, we will rely on satellite imagery and weather data; as you’ll see in more detail below, these will allow us to narrow the time the photos were taken to some point between December 2017 and February 2018 – most likely late January.

At some point after the photos were taken, Q carefully (and, it must be said, cleverly) stitched them together into a completely fake narrative – and less than an hour before posting the photos, Q appeared to gloat about it by mentioning “the ART of illusion.”  

In this article, we’ll pick apart that illusion and discuss what it tells us about Q.

Image credit: @23m5sec / Twitter

(You can see the infographic in its native resolution at


“People asked for arrests. Gave one example…. Trust the plan.” – Q drop 691

On February 7, 2018, Q posted drops 682-688, which were meant to tell a story: namely, that the “Q Team” was conducting an operation live on camera for the audience on 8chan. To tell this story, Q relied on a mixture of text and photos (summarized in the infographic below and shown in detail in the next section).

“We see you (live)” said drop 682. Then, over the next several drops, Q wrote: “Final guest arrived;” “2 minutes;” and “Goodnight.”  In drop 688, Q directed anons to “focus on substance upon window,” because “upon entry…” – and there Q trailed off, but explained in drop 692: “Window opened ahead of time to prevent pressure blast,” which presumably would have been from a flashbang (a usually-nonlethal grenade that emits a blinding light and makes a loud noise, disorienting people within the room).

“[Last discussion on this subject],” added Q, and indeed it was – because within the hour, Q steered the conversation around to the malfeasance of “Big Pharma,” which is sure to be a hit with conspiracy theorists of any stripe.

One might hypothesize that Q changed the subject for fear that, if anons lingered too long on the photos, they might notice discrepancies. If so, it was a reasonable fear.

Every construction expert interviewed for this article said that the photos could not possibly have been taken in the one-hour timespan Q supplied. Some were polite (“No question” that it couldn’t have happened in an hour), some were blunt (“Physically impossible.”), and some were emphatic (“Bull fucking shit. Not in this world or anywhere else.”). But all agreed that close inspection of the photographs would have laid Q’s deception bare to anyone with the right experience.


“You have so much more than you know. SO MUCH!” – Q drop 679

Figure 1 — the photo attached to drop 682. Note the construction site on the right.

Figure 2 — a close-up of Figure 1, showing only the top floors of King Tower. Note the open window; it’s a key part of the story Q wants to tell.

Figure 3 — the photo Q posted in drop 683. Note construction site.

Figure 4 – the photo from drop 684. More of the construction site is visible.

Figure 5 — image from drop 685

Figure 6 — image from drop 687, explained in drop 692 as a window that had been opened ahead of time to vent pressure from an explosion.


“Find the markers [street/surroundings updates].” – Q drop 1455

The construction site in the background of these photos shows that the pictures were taken on two separate dates and stitched together.

In the earliest photo, which was used in drop 682, excavation has begun but no other significant progress has been made on the construction site.

In the subsequent photos, construction has advanced by leaps and bounds – far more than would be possible in a single hour, or indeed a single day, according to the experts interviewed for this piece.

Figure 7 – close-up of the state of the construction site in the photo from drop 682. Note that, while digging has begun behind the crane (in the space highlighted in red), the construction has gone no further; the ground hasn’t even been leveled.

Figure 8 — a close-up of the construction site in the photo from drop 683. Looking behind the crane, you can immediately see that construction is far more advanced. Ground has been leveled, steel has been laid down, and supplies have been brought in. The workers are standing atop what’s either a slab or wall forms. According to experts, this work would take days or weeks.


 “Happy hunting Anonymous. SET THE TRUTH FREE.” – Q drop 630

The photos above were posted on February 7, 2018, within an hour of each other. But if they weren’t taken at the same time they were posted, when were they taken? We have two pieces of evidence.

First, we have satellite photos showing the progress of construction at this site. We’ll begin with those.

Figure 9 — Google Earth Pro satellite image of the site, August 23, 2017. The future construction area (circled in red) is covered by vegetation.

Figure 10 — Google Earth Pro shot of the construction site (31.2475°N 121.5875°E), Dec 11 2017. The green-highlighted area corresponds to the area behind the crane in Q’s drops.

Note that in figure 10, above, neither the excavation seen in drop 682 nor — obviously — the work that was done after that is in evidence. Therefore, we can be confident that the photos were taken after December 11, 2017.

Figure 11 — a Google Earth Pro shot of the construction site dated April 28, 2018, included for comparison only. Construction is far more advanced.

The satellite photos, then, give us a timeframe: the photos of the Shanghai King Tower were taken between December 11, 2017 and February 7, 2018. And the state of the construction tells us that at least a few days, and possibly even weeks, separate the photo in drop 682 (figure 1) from the photos in drops 683-684 (figures 3 and 4).

But can we narrow it down any further? We can, because of our second piece of evidence: the puddles in the construction site appear to be identical in all three photos. This suggests that the ground – including the puddles – was frozen during the entire timespan in which the photos were taken.

So when, within a date range of December 11-February 7th, would the ground have been frozen?


“What might be said to discredit factual proofs coming?” – Q drop 636

You can think of Wolfram Alpha as a search engine that only works for hard science, hard math, and hard data – the latter being especially handy for our purposes.

So it should come as no surprise that it can find Shanghai’s weather in the relevant period. 

Figure 12 — daily temperatures in Shanghai

As you can see, the air temperature often didn’t dip below freezing in Shanghai. But according to a meteorologist I consulted, who wished to remain anonymous for fear of harassment from QAnon followers, the ground can easily be colder than the air – and it’s “not uncommon [for the ground] to be icy in the morning and melt during the day.”

So the temperature alone can’t narrow it down. But what about precipitation? After all, those puddles came from some source – either from rain or from water used in construction.

Rain seems likeliest; if you refer back to figure 8, you’ll notice that the puddles aren’t close to anything that might need to be hosed down. Moreover, a construction-industry veteran notes, anyone who was “hosing for dust control… would quit hosing before you formed huge puddles like that. So I think rain or snow is the only logical source of the water.”

Fortunately, Wolfram Alpha also has precipitation data for Shanghai – which should help us narrow down the range of dates when these photos could have been taken.

Figure 13 — precipitation in Shanghai, December 2017-February 8, 2018

We already know that the photo was taken between December 11, 2017 and February 7, 2018. There were two rainy periods during this span – late December 2017 to early January 2018, and mid-to-late January. (Incidentally, this data was taken from an airfield within a few kilometers of the construction site – it may not be a perfect match for the construction site’s weather, but should be pretty good.)

To narrow down the time these photographs were taken, we need a period where rain would likely freeze overnight and stay frozen for a span of days or weeks.

When we view the rain chart next to the temperature chart, we immediately see that temperatures were well above freezing during the December-to-January window, but below freezing in late January.

Thus, we conclude that Q was most likely present in Shanghai (and, specifically, the Shanghai Mariott Hotel Pudong East, from which the photos were taken) for at least several days in late January to early February 2018, and that the photos date from this same period.


“FAKE NEWS’ purpose is to project FALSE NARRATIVES.” – Q drop 1858

These photos, and the Q drops that contain them, are artifacts. They tell us something about the person or person who created them.

By narrowing down the period in which the photos were taken, not only do we confirm when Q was at the Shanghai Pudong, but we learn an interesting fact: these aren’t old, pre-QAnon photos that Q happened to be browsing through before realizing: oh, what luck! I can use these photos to tell a story that anons will take as proof that the Q team is real!

No, the photos date from after they’d assumed the Q persona, so that it seems likely that Q took these photos in a deliberate effort to bolster their narrative.

From this, we learn something about Q’s character. It takes a lot of forethought and consideration to capitalize on the production potential of a particular scene, note multiple minor but useful details of that scene, and construct a narrative around those details to advance your existing storyline.

In addition, we now know for a fact that Q was present in the Shanghai Marriott for, most likely, at least a week (rather than a single day) between late January and early February of 2018. And based on image metadata, we strongly suspect that when Q posted these pictures, Q was in the UTC+8 time zone–which includes all of China and large swaths of East Asia as well.

However, the same trove of metadata shows that the vast majority of Q’s images were posted from the Pacific time zone. Thus, Q was presumably traveling — and not residing — in East Asia when these pictures were posted.

Combined, these facts show Q was a member of a particular economic class (Q either travels for business or can afford to travel for pleasure) and that Q enjoys a particular lifestyle (Q stays in nice hotels for extended periods).

Finally, this episode reveals a bit about Q’s audience. The anons very quickly geolocated the photos to Shanghai, finding the distinctive King Tower within minutes. But none of them took the time to make a really detailed examination of the photos. They were swept up in confirmation bias and wanted, as always, to believe.

So, to the audience, this was exactly what Q wanted it to be: proof of Q’s bona fides. Then as now, they saw what they wanted to see.