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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.

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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 canonical body of those posts, known as “Q drops”.

Illustration © Bellingcat

These “lost drops” are significant because they offer a glimpse at the “person behind the curtain” — they show the everyday behaviour of whoever was writing the drops, forming a missing link between the Q persona and the true personality of the author(s) behind Q. Thus, the lost drops reaffirm something Bellingcat has suggested — that Q’s origins can be traced not to the hallways of the Pentagon but to a message board known for its puerile humour and offensive politics. In this it was yet another crowdsourced conspiracy by a bored “anon” on 4chan — distinguished, at first, only by its success.

Most Q-watchers believe at least two different authors, or groups of authors, have written the Q drops over time. This article describes only the first author, “Original Q,” since the lost drops fall squarely within Original Q’s time period (generally held to extend from October 28, 2017 to January 4, 2018).

What are the Lost Drops?

The “lost” drops are so called because they are not acknowledged as “canonical” Q drops — meaning the posts by Q that are presented on all or almost all Q drop aggregators.

Q’s first known post was made on October 28, 2017. The following day, Q posted two sets of drops: one in the morning (drops 3-5, with the last drop at 9:47 AM Pacific time) and another in the evening (6-13, with the first drop at 6:48 PM Pacific time).

But that wasn’t all Q posted.

I have so far discovered 13 posts by Q which are not yet part of the canon: six from October 29, 2017 placed between canonical drops 5 and 6; five from October 30, 2017 nestled between canonical drops 13 and 14; and two from November 1, 2017 between drops 33 and 34.

Six of Q’s lost drops (made across two different 4chan threads on October 29, the second day of the Q persona’s activity on 4chan) are particularly revealing. These lost drops, which I refer to as drops A to F, are the focus of this article.

Comparing them with the texts of Q’s earliest drops reveals some important clues about Original Q. This insight is key to understanding the relevance, and verifying the authenticity, of the lost drops.

One of the most striking things about these lost drops is that they occur on the second day of Q’s known activity.

Whoever was writing them was still settling into the role, and voice, of Q.

Q Out of Character

These lost drops see Q acting more like an “anon” (as anonymous users of the image boards are known) than a powerful, well-informed insider.

In the canonical drops, the “Q” persona is calm, cool, and collected. After all, Q’s role is ostensibly to dispense crucial information at some personal risk. Thus Q strikes an authoritative tone — Q very seldom interjects into long conversations, nor argues with anons who disagree with them.

But the lost drops of October 29 don’t follow that pattern. In these posts, Q’s behavior is out of character, but Q’s content matches Q’s themes so well that it is even recycled into later, canonical drops.

This dissonance makes sense in light of the fact that this was only the second day of Q’s activity, and whoever was writing these posts hadn’t quite found the right persona yet. The content is appropriate for Q, but the behaviour is that of a run-of-the-mill anon, which suggests that the author was in fact a run-of-the-mill anon acting as they usually did.

In one illustrative example on October 29, Q made a post; noticed the content above what they’d just posted and immediately whipped up a furious response.

Let’s look at how that exchange began. Here, Q replied to an anon who had written a lengthy screed about how “according to the (((polls))), just a little under half” of white women had voted for Trump. The anon’s post ended by claiming that white women “hate diversity, niggers, sand niggers, fags, dreamers, illegals, etc just like everyone else.”

This is very on-brand for 4chan, but it’s not the type of post Q would typically reply to. It’s striking how rarely Q engages with the overt racism and antisemitism so typical of imageboard culture. Original Q toned down their more explicit racism, and except for this one instance, didn’t even quote posts that were overtly racist. Later in the QAnon story, this strategy turned out to have recruitment benefits: it let new converts read Q’s earliest drops without encountering anything as distasteful as the passage quoted above, giving the illusion that Q existed in a much more respectable context than was really the case.

So this refusal to get down in the mud with 4chan’s more overt racists wound up serving Q well. But the Q persona simply wasn’t well-developed on October 29, so the person behind the keyboard dashed off a reply  to that ugly, slur-filled post— one that focused not on the racism, but on Q’s contempt for anyone who would be so naive as to believe that polls were real: “You actually believe poll results are an accurate gauge of measure? Polling is controlled and skewed (even Fox News).”

After sending that response, the first thing Q would have seen was the post right above their own, which called then-Attorney General Jeff Sessions a “retard.” They immediately started defending Sessions’ honour. “Retard?,” scoffed Q. “If AG Sessions prosecuted HRC [Hilary Clinton], Obama, and the rest do you believe he would appear to remain an impartial arm of Justice? Could he then continue to serve POTUS throughout his term to accomplish other big ticket items? There is another arm handling this whereby congressional approvals are not necessary…”

These are good examples of how the average 4chan user behaves: abrasive and braying. This looks very much like the behaviour of a run-of-the-mill anon — an image which Q later tried desperately to rise above.

A Drop-by-Drop Comparison

The first lost drops (A-F) contain similarities to multiple canonical Q drops which are highly unlikely to be a coincidence.

For example, lost drop A is an exceptionally long post which contains sections of text completely identical to both the “authentic” Q drops before it (canonical drops four and five) and the canonical drop after it (drop six).

Lost drop A (link)

Compare the text in the image above to canonical drops four and five:

Canonical drop 4 (link)
Canonical drop 5 (link)

Canonical drop six is itself a mixture of text from drops four and five, with a modest amount of additional content. In other words, the author of drop A rolled together Q’s two previous posts (which are now canonically known as drops 4 and 5); in canonical drop 6, made hours later, Q deploys the same rhetorical strategy, combining the texts of drops 4 and 5.

Canonical drop 6 (link)

Lost drops BC, and E also share passages with canonical drops which follow them. Crucially, all three of these posts (as well as lost drops A and D) share the same user ID, 2ep3vYPd — meaning that they were written by the same author.

Lost drop B (link)

Almost the entirety of drop B is incorporated into drop 9. Although “Operation Mockingbird” is not mentioned in drop 9, “Mockingbird” appears twice in drop 2 and “Operation Mockingbird” appears in drops 3, 4, and 6.

Canonical drop 9 (link)

Lost drop C shares much with canonical drops 68, and 11. Like drops D and E, drop C was made in response to an anon who suggested that Department of Justice investigations rarely leaked, and especially didn’t leak to their targets. Q picked up on these themes and ran with them:

Lost drop C (link)

Compare drop C’s opening phrase to the use of the phrase “Military Intelligence / State Secrets” in both canonical drops. Drop 6, shown earlier, asks “why that might be used vs any three-letter agency;” a point which Drop C also addressed.

Likewise, drop 8 says “Military Intelligence / State Secrets” followed by “No FBI,” which echoes Drop C’s phrase “This avoids certain agencies.”

Canonical drop 8 (link)

Echoes of drop C can also be seen in drop 11, which begins with the phrase: “Key: Military Intelligence vs FBI CIA NSA.” (There is no single federal agency called “Military Intelligence,” incidentally; there’s a patchwork of agencies.)  It ends by musing that the military is “the one area of the govt not corrupt,” which parallels drop C’s claim that “the one area evil could never control was our military.”

Canonical drop 11 (link)

Although lost drop D does not share any sections of text in common with canonical Q drops, it shares the same unique ID as Q’s other posts in its thread.

Lost drop D (link)

Drop D is a response to another anon’s slur-filled post, which can be seen highlighted in red in this hyperlink. Q, notably, doesn’t seem to think the offence was worthy of rebuke or even of mention. Instead, after reading the post — which started off by using the anti-semitic (((echoes))) around the word “polls” and finished by claiming that white women “hate diversity, niggers, sand niggers, fags, dreamers, illegals, etc just like everyone else” — Q decided that the most important point to address was whether the polls were accurate.

Part of the reason QAnon was able to spread is that its followers collected and presented the Q drops on outside websites, called “aggregators,” which let people access Q’s content without having to see it in its original context, which was chock-full of slurs like these. This let converts read the sacred scripture, as it were, without having to smell the cesspit it was found in. But Q might have looked very different to prospective converts if one of the first posts they read on the aggregators had that quote in it, and Q just… ignored the blatant racism to focus on the polls. That would almost certainly have driven away at least some followers.

The next lost drop, drop E, is a response to another user who says that President Trump “needs to fire the fucking retard,” referring to then-Attorney General Jeff Sessions. It shares several features with canonical drops 45, and 6. Q’s text ends with “Have faith,” a call which also appears in these three canonical drops — drops that appeared just before and just after drop E. Moreover, note Q’s non-standard use of an underscore, which can also be observed in drop 5.

Lost drop E (link)

The most compelling match is with canonical drop 16, which contains a familiar sentence: “Remember, AG Sessions cannot look like an impartial player that is out to get all former Obama team members as we need him for other important work.” It makes little sense as written — the word “impartial” is wildly out of place.

Canonical drop 16 (link)

So how did it get there? Considering the way Q’s other drops in this thread were recycled into later, canonical drops, the most likely explanation is that Q was working in a word processor (or creating drafts through some other means), splicing pieces of earlier posts into new drops.

This gives us a working hypothesis of how Q wrote the early drops: a drafting process existed, but the editing process (if it existed at all) wasn’t quite up to par.

Drop F, which appeared in a separate thread, is not authenticated by a common user ID. Rather, it is authenticated by shared passages and themes with earlier and later canonical Q drops. It bears similarities to canonical drops 102, and 3.

Lost drop F (link)

Drop F reads in part, “Some were trapped and forced into this and those people were provided a way out.” This is paraphrased in drop 10: “Good people were forced into bed with this evil under personal and family threats. Could you live with yourself helping to cover up such evil despicable acts if given a safe way out?”

Canonical drop 10 (link)

Drop F also closes with “Operation Mockingbird.” Q mentions the name “Mockingbird” twice in drop 2 and once each in drops 3, 4, 6, and 19. It’s safe to say that this was one of Q’s favourite topics in the early drops.

Canonical drop 2 (link)

Finally, the first sentence of drop F suggests liberals will suffer some kind of devastating blow on October 30, 2017; this is consistent with drop 1 (which responded to, and expanded upon, another anon’s prediction that Hillary Clinton would be arrested on the morning of that same day).

Canonical drop 1 (link)

In authenticating these drops, one final hypothesis presented itself: that they were the work of an impostor.

Recall that these posts were made between drops 5 and 6. At this point, Q was a truly obscure figure; Q didn’t gain a following until the thread containing drops 6-13. Their previous drops, 1-5, failed to spawn any lengthy discussions and in fact drew only seven replies altogether (by contrast, drops A-E were much more successful).

Since Q was a completely unknown quantity, who would bother to impersonate them?

The possibility of an impostor is further undermined by the fact that Q used text from drops A-F to build drops 6-13 which, of course, were posted subsequently.

It is improbable that the examples above, which are not exhaustive, are merely coincidences.

This leads us to the conclusion that Q was the author of these lost drops.

Another Clue to Q?

Since the appearance of that first drop in 2017, Q watchers around the world have searched for a smoking gun which might conclusively identify the individual or group behind QAnon.

Frustratingly, the lost drops cannot alone answer that crucial question. But if they can’t tell us who Q is, they can shed a little more light on what Q is — a regular anon, a denizen of 4chan, with a tone, temper and worldview to match.

In fact, the only thing which stands out is an above-average ability to play to the gallery, develop an audience, and keep them on tenterhooks, waiting for more “revelations”.

APPENDIX:

How the Lost Drops Were Found

While researching how anons responded to Q’s earliest drops, I came across thread 147191682 from October 30, 2017.

It was an extension of an earlier thread discussing Q, and included a post reading: “Great work in the previous thread anons. I saw that leaker anon post earlier in the day than the quoted thread yesterday but I think all the most important stuff was already quoted and mentioned. He first posted in a thread about Trump tweets.”

This was surprising. As none of the canonical Q drops were in a thread about Trump tweets, either the anon was mistaken or was mentioning a hitherto unknown post by Q. This October 30 post had enough information to make a search very feasible: it was “earlier in the day” than “the quoted thread yesterday,” which in context would have been the thread with drops 6-13. And it was “about Trump tweets.”

The first thread about Trump tweets on October 29 came up dry, but I hit the jackpot on the second thread — it had five lost drops, which I’ll call drops A through E.

I immediately searched 4plebs for the post ID of drop A, to see if any anons had ever discovered it. A handful had.

I’d hoped that any anons eagle-eyed enough to spot these drops might have leads on other undiscovered drops (which they did, but those drops aren’t relevant here). After reading the first five drops, I realized Q was making heavy use of terms they’d used in previous drops, and was recycling content into later drops. So I searched for some of Q’s most frequently used phrases, and “Mockingbird” led me to Drop F.

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