What Is QAnon? (Part 1 – A LARP is born)

(Need More Context? – Read Part 0.5 Here)

People asked me “Fiona, what is a LARP?” A LARP is either when a bunch of nerds get together and act out a kickass fantasy in the woods IRL, or it’s when your racist uncle puts on a confederate soldier’s uniform and pinkie swears that he’s only doing this because of his deep and abiding love of history.

However, in both of those cases, you have to put in some effort, just look at the kickass picture below. One of the most infuriating things about Q is just how lazy of a LARP it is.

A picture of a person dressed in fantasy robes, wearing a fencer's mask, and holding a bladed weapon in a field.
This is how you do a LARP right.
Image by Ralf Hüls, Sascha Rathjen – CC-BY-SA 4.0

FBIAnon had fizzled out by 2017, occasionally popping up to do a pointless Q&A where nothing came true. Fun way to pass the time on /pol/, but not really anything more than that. But no worries, on the 28th of October, 2017, a new and improved FBIANon, named Q, came into the world with this bold and totally accurate prediction:

Picture of an archived 4chan post which reads: "Hillary Clinton will be arrested between 7:45 AM - 8:30 AM EST on Monday - the morning on October 30, 2017."
You can totally see why people insist Q is infallible, right?

(For the rest of these posts I’m going to steal an idea from Jan Bobrowicz and deliver Q drop via the medium of Garfield.)

Make the Mark Work For You

Three posts were made on that first day and immediately they hit on the winning formula. Sure, there was the blatantly untrue prediction of Hillary Clinton’s arrest, but they also asked open ended nonsense questions. Ask any conman and they’ll tell you that getting the mark to put work in on your side is the best way to reel them in.

Here’s an example from the third ever ‘Q drop’:

Panel 1: Garfield standing next to a hole in the ground saying 'Where is Huma? Follow Huma'
Panel 2: Garfield standing next to Otie, who has a bone in his mouth in the hole
Panel 3: Otie is shaking his head. Garfield is saying 'What is the military code? Where is AW being held? Why?
Otie thought about listening to Garfield and getting pilled, before realizing he was spouting nonsense. Because even a dumb-shit imaginary dog can avoid radicalization with a little extra thought.

For the record, Huma is Huma Abedin, ex-wife of Anthony Weiner (who is AW), and former Hillary Clinton employee. At the time, Anthony Weiner was in Federal Medical Center, Devens, which according to Wikipedia is: ‘a United States federal prison in Massachusetts for male inmates requiring specialized or long-term medical or mental health care.’ He was there because he’s a white man with money whose lawyers said he had a sex addiction.

I have no idea what military or what code that question is referring to. Neither do you, because Q never provides answers. Not that it matters. You’re actively crafting this story together. What do you want it to mean? Congratulations, you cracked the code! Please enjoy the temporary dopamine boost and sense of achievement.

The worst part is, to write about this, I have to put in work. By doing so it looks as though I accept the premise that the questions were worth answering. Even if I dismiss the questions as nonsense, I have engaged. That’s how they reel you in.

And that’s why this is a game. If I were passively consuming predictions or just reading a Q&A I might get bored, but at this early stage QAnon is a LARP in a meaningful sense because by answering the nebulous open-ended questions you become an active participant and player.

Harassment Gets Baked Into The Crust

Q likes to call their posts ‘crumbs’ or ‘breadcrumbs’, and Q followers like to say they are ‘bakers’. I’m not entirely sure how you bake bread from already existing crumbs but let’s work with what we have.

As we will see in later parts, QAnon acolytes love to harass people. If you thought (as they do) that someone was a cannibalistic pedophile, you’d probably harass them too. This isn’t an offshoot or a case of something ‘getting out of hand’, it’s a core feature of the game.

You notice I didn’t go stalk Huma Abedin in my answers above. I don’t care where she is. I hope she’s happy now she’s not married to a lying pervert who chats up children. Q really cares. Four out of the first ten Q drops say to follow or check in with where she is. Why? Like I said, Q doesn’t provide answers. You decide!

In all panels, Garfield is lying down and a thought bubble is coming from his head. They say:
Panel 1: Where is Huma?
Panel 2: Follow Huma Tomorrow. Human
Panel 3: Where is Huma Today?
This is normal. Everything is fine.

Join me next week for part 2 where we explore early Q narratives, and watch the original creators desperately try and bail from the monster they made.

Reddit – Still Evil

There’s been a lot of weird revisionist history around Reddit recently. The Atlantic wrote a piece praising them for not currently being a hotbed of QAnon conspiracies, completely overlooking the fact that Reddit helped spread it in the first place. In fact, Reddit was so instrumental in the early spread of QAnon that they got a shoutout in a Q drop.

They praise their swift action on /r/Pizzagate, but in the same post remark on how /r/TheGreatAwakening had 70,000 members. If you want to know how bad it got before Reddit deigned to step in, read this incredibly detailed post about just one harassment campaign organised by Q acolytes.

But all that is in the past. There’s been a big push to make the Anti-Evil Operations team more visible. Has that made a difference? Not really.

Reddit – Still Pushing Conspiracies

I wanted to make a new Reddit account recently. I used an email address from a domain that I owned, and knew had no other user accounts (BurnYourFeelings.com)

Going through on-boarding, here were the first suggestions I got.

Image of Reddit page which is recommending communities to new users. The two relevant ones are 'r/conspiracy_commons' and 'r/conspiracytheories'
Why, Reddit? Why do you do this?

I asked someone else I knew to create an account on a domain I had a level of control over. Here’s what came up:

Image of Reddit page which is recommending communities to new users. The two relevant one is 'r/conspiracytheories'
They’re serious about pushing this apparently….

A complete throwaway with a fake email address does produce completely generic results, removing the ‘Just For You’ section entirely, so this has to be personalized somehow. A quick glance at this blog shows you that I’m no stranger to browsing conspiracy boards. UBlockOrigin doesn’t block every cookie. So that’s it. That’s the solution, right? No harm, no foul. Just serving up relevant content.

What Are They Recommending?

Reddit has no way of knowing why I’m browsing conspiracy boards. The algorithm might be watching me, but it isn’t watching that closely. Much like Facebook, Reddit is now creating a tailored road-map to ‘pill’ me.

Here’s a selection of posts from /r/conspiracy_commons the day I signed up (please note that I took my sweet time writing this so this first bunch are old)

A Q/COVID-denalist grifter!

A reddit post with the title 'Fight with us people of the UK!!'
You too can get coaching on…something. Only £20 p/h!

A QAnon/Hollow-Earth true believer!

A Reddit post with the title 'What did Seth MacFarlane mean by this? A character dressed as Steven Spielberg molesting an Asian boy while singing The Goonies theme. It's probably nothing'
Seth MacFarlane likes to make jokes in poor taste. That is the explanation.

Racist memes from user Murder_All_Marxists, who deleted their own account. Reddit was apparently fine with the username.

A Reddit post with the title 'Slavery is still active in Africa'
This isn’t even a conspiracy.

In defense of the folks at /r/conspiracy_commons, today’s selection (15th October) was less actively horrendous, but number five on ‘Hot’ was still QAnon propaganda.

A reddit post with the title 'Evidence against Biden, Obama and Clinton goes Public! Deep State Scrambles as MORE EVIDENCE Revealed!
This is exhausting.

Just to re-emphasize. This is content that Reddit was actively recommending to me as a new user. I can’t find statistics on how many new accounts there are a day, but there are apparently 430 million active users right now. How many people are being recommended similar content??

Why Does It Matter?

If you hang around places like /r/QAnonCasualties you can get a real sense of what happens in the lives of people taken in by these posts. On the day I registered, I came across this incredibly telling and sad post.

A Reddit post with the title 'Does anyone here feel the constant sadness and hollowness once you are not distracted?'
Apparently this post was deleted. I’m not shocked.

There’s a human cost to algorithms. The anti-COVID propaganda seen here has an actual body-count. Democracies are being eroded by QAnon and Deep State content that pushed people into an alternative reality. And on the micro-level, divorce proceedings are being started, people are losing their kids, parents are alienated from their children.

Reddit can do better.

#SaveOurChildren – QAnon Comes to London

(This blog post was also published to WT.Social with permission. You can see my interviews with attendees here)

On August 22nd, at 3pm exactly, ~100 people sat by Wellington Arch to participate in a “global guided meditation”. Children all over the world were being kidnapped, murdered, or cannibalized by a nebulous group called ‘the elites’. But more than anything, the organizers claimed, this was a spiritual war.

And so sage was burned, gongs were rung, and the tranquility was only shattered when a man approached the crowd to scream: “Where were you when those peadophiles were grooming all those white kids, huh? You didn’t give a shit then! Shame on you. You didn’t care about those white kids.”

QAnon has officially come to Britain.

Who Are The Believers?

Event Organizers Leading the March (CC-BY-SA 4.0 YesThatFiona)

The crowd seemed to be evenly split into three camps:

The Crunchy Moms
As the march was centered around such an adult and disgusting subject matter, I was surprised to see so many people attending with their kids. Concerned mothers wanting to be on the right side of history made a strong showing. They helped to lead the meditation, which they took extremely seriously, and a few cast some very forceful spells at the end of the day.

Although they claimed that their kids weren’t aware of what was going on around them, it seems doubtful that signs saying ‘Kill All Pedos’ and chants about children being snatched off the street will go completely over their heads.

The Q Converts
There was a strong showing of people pilled from the internet, although none of them could say exactly where they first became aware of Q. These were the people overtly concerned with symbology, frazzledrip, and COVID being a hoax.

People With Issues Around Their Children
There was a subsection of attendees who obviously had issues with their own children. These were the people who wanted to talk about the courts, or the one gentleman who started crying talking about “fighting for my kids”.

What Do They Believe?

QAnon Follower Holds Up A Homemade Sign With Supposed Pedophilic Symbology (CC-BY-SA 4.0 YesThatFiona)

One of the more surprising things I learned was that most attendees did not believe in the infallibility of Q. Q was “one source” of information, but not correct about everything, and nobody said the words “disinformation is necessary”, for which I will be forever thankful.

A good half of the people I spoke to said that they had known about “this” forever. Although both the US and UK had a Satanic Panic in the 80s, the legacy of pedophile hysteria that overtook Britain in the 90s lives on. Add to that history the very real case of Jimmy Savile and the subsequent Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse and it’s easy to see how the UK is primed to simply incorporate QAnon conspiracies into the existing ecosystem.

There was absolutely no mention of Hillary Clinton, and Trump was draining the swamp, which was great, but didn’t have a lot to do with us. George Soros and the Rothschild family made their obligatory appearance, but only one person seemed to be aware that they were spouting antisemitic conspiracy theories. When I pointed out to one couple that all the people they were demonizing were Jewish, they were extremely emphatic that they weren’t aware and didn’t care about that.

The entire UK government seemed to be forgotten. The Queen and Lord Rothschild were the actual rulers of Britain, and the UK heads of the pedophile cabal. Strangely enough, there were no UK-centric saviors. In fact, there didn’t seem to be a savior at all. Just one long list of evils perpetuated by a nebulous elite.

How Has Q Changed Them?

The world’s jolliest QAnon follower (CC-BY-SA 4.0 YesThatFiona)

In a crowd of fellow believers, the mood was light and there was a real sense of camaraderie between attendees. However, when asked about their lives outside of this event, and how their new worldview had changed them, they all had only bad things to say.

People couldn’t sleep, people couldn’t talk about anything else, people’s entire worldview had been shattered. There was no mention of losing loved ones, but even these short self-reports give a depressing insight into the world of a QAnon follower.

When asked how they were looking after their mental health, everyone said “I smoke a lot”. The blanket of cigarette smoke covering the crowd spoke to the truth of that claim. The few day drinking attendees also said this was how they dealt with the stress of living in the world Q has convinced them is real.

This all only applied to the new converts. The older crowd who has known this “forever” reported no change in their lives at all since Q emerged.

When Does This End?

Save Our Children Attendees March Passed Westminster Abbey (CC-BY-SA 4.0 YesThatFiona)

The short answer, according to the attendees, is that it doesn’t. One QAnon devotee did cling to the belief that there would be mass arrests with pedophiles being put into gitmo, but to everyone else, this was a forever fight.

There are more walks scheduled throughout the year, including satellite groups like Sovereign Citizens and “doctors” who believe COVID is a hoax. With no end goal, it’s difficult to know where this misplaced rage will go. After I left, the crowd bum-rushed Buckingham Palace to call out Prince Andrew, but should Q turn their attention to less well guarded individuals, perhaps the witch-hunts of the 90s will return. We can only hope there will be less collateral damage.

BLM/QAnon crossover shirt (CC-BY-SA 4.0 YesThatFiona)