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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 to Save the World,”  by far the most viewed QAnon “introductory” video was exactly that: a plan to save the world. The video featured several international figures such as Mohammed Bin Salman, Vladimir Putin, and Queen Elizabeth. Even Joe M himself proudly hails from South Africa. Like “The Plan to Save the World,” QAnon owes its international following to widely used platforms like Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, and eventually Telegram- platforms that are far removed from the vile bowels of imageboards like 4chan or 8chan (Rothschild, 2021). However, thanks to the exhaustive work of The Q Origins Project’s data scientist Robert Amour and his new searchable thread database (still in prototype, but we will eventually make it available to the public) we discovered two relatively early Q drops (171 & 173) placed not in the Calm Before the Storm threads in which Q typically posted, but in ordinary 4chan /pol/ threads.

Both threads posed questions on Germany’s future and called for internet political activism in the wake of Chancellor Merkel’s failure to form a Bundestag coalition after national elections in 2017. The Free Democrats party (FDP) pulled out of talks to form a so-called “Jamaica Coalition” (because yellow, green & black are the colors of its corresponding parties) with the Greens party, the Bavarian Christian Social Union (CSU), and its sister party: the Merkel-led Christian Democratic Social Union (CDU). Ultimately, this left Merkel with three options: a minority government with either the FDP or the Greens; seeking out a coalition with the Social Democrats party (SDP); or a new round of elections (Serhan, 2017) This was not the sort of content Q was typically concerned with, nor was it what you’d call a wildly popular topic on /pol/. It was a definite niche, and Q’s presence in these threads was surprising.    

Drop 171 appeared in a late November 2017 thread  whose original poster (OP) outlined the results of the election with some additional commentary, and a call for activism. The OP labeled the far-right anti-immigrant and anti-Muslim “Alternative für Deutschland” (AfD) party as “ourguys,” the CDU/CSU bloc as “‘conservatives’” (using quotation marks, likely to convey sarcasm), the FDP as “liberals, but not in the American meaning” as they are pro-business, and the SDP, Linke, and Greens as social democrats, socialists, and “tree huggers,” respectively. The OP indicated that new elections were very likely and would yield more votes for AfD. The OP also urged anons to “meme” for the formation of a “black, blue, and yellow coalition” (CDU/CSU, FDP, and AfD), as this would be the most stable option for a “natural German population.”

This remark clearly alludes to a fear of a “great replacement” through immigration by Muslim refugees, often referred to as “Eurabia” in European far-right circles. “Eurabia” is a term coined by British author named Bat Ye’or, who suggested that Muslims are trying to overtake white Europeans through immigration and high birthrates (Miller-Idriss, 2020). This is an extremely common fear on 4chan, as we can see from the fact that subsequent anons chimed in to support this view, oppose further refugee immigration, and claimed that a black/blue/yellow coalition would “save” Europe and Western Civilization. Others contributed ideas for memes that centered on a theme of “it’s ok to be White” and including citations to reputable sources like “government reports,” reflecting classic conspiracy theorist justification methods which mirror academia (Barkun, 2013). Overall, “Eurabia” narratives seemed to resonate strongly among the majority of anons in this thread and they demonstrated strong overall support for AfD and their anti-immigration platforms. Also, it contained no shortage of the usual racial slurs one would find in a 4chan /pol/ thread.

Q’s interjection was brief and to the point: “good will always defeat evil,” likely testing the waters to gauge reactions in a foreign political thread. The OP noted that they felt “honored” and while many anons extended varying degrees of admiration, others were simply curious as to why Q had lurked beyond his regular threads in /cbts/.  

Drop 173 appeared in a similar thread started by a (seemingly) British anon who initially expressed slight contentment with Merkel and her perceived willingness to support Brexit because “she wants a good deal for German businesses.” The thread then instantly took-off with several clear allusions to “white replacement” and “Eurabia” narratives, complete with a host of racial slurs, neo-Nazi references, and disparaging words for Chancellor Merkel. However, the culprit of these narratives evolved from Merkel and Germany’s government to the European Union (EU) as a whole. The sentiment espoused by these anons reflected a conspiracy plot in which the EU (to varying degrees) facilitated mass migration in order to benefit wealthy elites (through cheap labor and debt placement), that mainstream media lied to Europe about this and as a result, European men and women actively supported and voted for their own decline. Q, in his contribution, repeated drop 171 by saying “good will always defeat evil,” but added “no rigging/blackmail this time. Wizards and Warlocks. -Q”. A few anons reacted as apparent fans, while one expressed frustration at their vagueness (go figure) and another cynically told Q to go back to his “LARPing thread.”

Both drops are further indications that Q was not only comfortable among an audience that espoused a particular worldview (clear, shared fears brought on by supposed declining ethnic purity in “the West”), but actively sought out environments dominated by “white replacement” and/or “Eurabia” narratives.

 It’s not surprising that this sort of “white replacement” and/or “Eurabia” narrative is highly reflective of former President Trump’s rhetoric regarding sanctuary cities, migrant “caravans,” and the subsequent decline of American “greatness” as a result. Such narratives (real or imagined) also manufacture a distressed emotional state, which plays a significant role in the overall acceptance of conspiracy theories (like those promulgated in the QAnon movement) used to explain said crisis (Sunstein & Vermeule, 2009). Similarly, people may turn to conspiracy theories when they feel as though the particular group (nationality, political party, religious group) in which they belong to believes itself to be undervalued or threatened (Uscinski & Parent, 2014; Douglas et al, 2019).

“Great replacement” narratives are present in both /pol/ threads, but the thread containing drop 173 produced yet another attractive feature for an entrepreneur of conspiracy theories: antecedent beliefs (Sunstein & Vermuele, 2009) of a higher-level cabal actively manipulating affairs. The thread’s anons, to varying degrees, posited the EU as a sinister actor facilitating this “great replacement” for the sake of wealthy elites, with the help of the mainstream media. This clearly mirrors the overarching QAnon conspiracy theory which presumes the “deep state” is facilitating several of the world’s modern issues to assert total control. This could also explain why Q provided some extra context in drop 173 adding “no rigging/blackmail this time.” Given that the anons of this particular thread believe European politicians (like Merkel) are acting against European interest, the idea that elections are “rigged” might rationalize their electoral victories. This suggestion should sound extremely familiar, as “rigging” was precisely the Q-adjacent conspiracy theory used to explain Trump’s defeat in the 2020 election.

The inclusion of the phrase “wizards and warlocks” became a point of phenomenal (and ultimately fruitless) discussion between the members of the Q Origins team. Previous drops point to its usage in the movie Snowden, where a younger Edward Snowden is introduced to the mass surveillance technology deployed by the U.S. government. The other young man showing him the system references the “council of wizards and warlocks,” and we’re unsure whether Q’s usage alludes to the NSA (viewed largely as allies in Q lore), the CIA (viewed as enemies) or something larger and more sinister (like the “deep state,” for example). Ultimately, the intended meaning is of only marginal importance. What matters in this instance is the vagueness of the phrase itself; it suggests some form of insider knowledge unavailable in the current thread, yet potentially available in places where Q and his minions regularly coalesce. Some studies have demonstrated links between conspiracy theories and the need to feel unique in relation to others, suggesting that conspiracy theories lead people to believe that they possess rare information which others do not have access to (Imhoff & Lamberty 2017; Lantian et al, 2017; Douglas et al, 2019).

The ultimate question remains of why Q would attempt to venture beyond the American context. Perhaps this was simply an early attempt to spread the QAnon movement overseas. Or, in light of earlier predictions failing to manifest, such as drops 34-44 which predicted the arrests of John Podesta and Huma Abedin, but which anons and Q ultimately applied to Mohammed Bin Salman’s mass arrest of Saudi officials on November 4th, 2017 (Fox, 2021), Q was trying to widen the potential “dough” source for bakers to draw from. Therefore, if the more popular predictions failed to manifest, influencers could then lean on a pool of international events to contextualize Q’s drops. Perhaps it was an attempt at both simultaneously- we’ll never really know. However, these drops shed further light on the types of audiences, narratives, and political backdrops sought out and capitalized on by Q.

Similarly, these drops highlight the importance of “influencers” in growing the overall movement. Q was only ever as powerful as the individuals who ferried drops to “normies” on platforms such as YouTube, Reddit, Facebook, or Twitter, where the movement gained the bulk of its following. Tracy Diaz and Coleman Rodgers were the earliest of these mainstreamers, starting in early to mid-November 2017 (Zadrozny & Collins, 2018). Given Rodger’s previous role in internet campaigning for the former President Trump and Diaz’s prior activity in promoting American-based conspiracy theories such as “Pizzagate” (largely viewed as a predecessor to QAnon), it isn’t surprising that their coverage took on a U.S.-based context. Regardless of whether or not the pair were made aware of drops 171 and 173, it’s unlikely that their audience would take interest in German political developments anyway. Thus, the lack of a German- or European-based influencer also limited QAnon’s ability to spread abroad early on.

References

Barkun, M. (2013). A culture of conspiracy: Apocalyptic visions in contemporary America (2) Berkely, CA: University of California Press.

Bennhold, K. (2020, October 11). QAnon is thriving in Germany. The extreme right is delighted. The New York Times.

Douglas, K.M., Uscinksi, J.E., Sutton, R.M., Cichocka, A., Nefes, T., Ang, C.S., Deravi, F. (2019). Understanding conspiracy theories. Advances in Political Psychology 40(1)

Fox, The Q Origins Project [@ResearchFQx] (2021, April 20) Q34-44 megathreads sequel: The first great disappointment. [Tweet] Twitter. https://twitter.com/ResearchFQX/status/1402252178480373765

Imhoff, R., & Lamberty, P.K. (2017). Too special to be duped: Need for uniqueness motivates conspiracy beliefs. European Journal of Social Psychology, 47(6), 724-734.

Lantian, A., Muller, D., Nurra, C., & Douglas, K.M. (2017). “I know things they don’t know!” The role of need for uniqueness in belief in conspiracy theories. Social Psychology, 48(3), 160-173.

Miller-Idriss, C. (2020). Hate in the homeland: The new global far right. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press.

Rauhala, E., Morris, L. (2020, November 13). In the United States, QAnon is struggling. The conspiracy theory is thriving abroad. The Washington Post

Rothschild, M. (2021). The storm is upon us: How QAnon became a movement, cult, and conspiracy theory of everything. Brooklyn, NY: Melville House Publishing.

Sunstein, C.R., Vermeule, A. (2009). Conspiracy theories: Causes and cures. The Journal of Political Philosophy, 17(2), 202-227.

Serhan, Y. (2017, November 20). ‘Germany is becoming more normal.’: Berlin suddenly looks unstable – just like a lot of other places. The Atlantic

Uscinski, J.E. & Parent, J.M. (2014). American conspiracy theories. New York, NY: Oxford University Press.

Zadronzy, B., Collins, B. (2018, August 14). How three conspiracy theorists took “Q” and sparked QAnon. NBC News


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