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Understanding the QAnon Phenomena

Part 1: Here’s what we’ve found.

Source: TheDigitalArtist/pixabay

For the past few years, like many in the field of mental health, we’ve been educating ourselves, researching, and contemplating the “Q" phenomenon. And like our fellow mental health professionals, we are concerned that people we know and are close to, including family members, may be part of this divisive and sometimes violent social movement.

The search to understand what has been happening in our families, communities, nation, and worldwide, has led to obvious questions: Who or what is Q? What does Q believe, and what is it’s message? What’s QAnon? And why do Q supporters believe him/them? Although we continue to study this complicated situation, we’re at a point where we can distill and share some of what we’ve learned with our readers.

In Part 1, we’ll explore Q, Q’s beliefs and messages, and QAnon in general. Part 2 addresses the dangers of QAnon, why people believe conspiracy theories, and what we can do collectively and individually if someone we know is a QAnon supporter.

Who or what is Q

Considered to be an enigma, Q has been thought by supporters to be an individual male or a group of men with deep ties to their government, including the military. The letter “Q” is significant as it supposedly represents the high-security level of the individual or group known as “Q." (A “Q” governmental clearance is a United States Department of Energy (DOE) security clearance equivalent to a U.S. Department of Defense Top Secret clearance and Critical Nuclear Weapon Design Information. DOE clearances apply to access specifically relating to atomic or nuclear-related materials. The clearance is issued to non-military personnel only. This presumptive “clearance” adds weight to Q’s messages, known as “Q drops.")

For years, Q, an unknown person(s), started posting encrypted messages specifically for hackers on a misogynistic message board known as 4Chan, a purportedly “free speech” site known for posting videos and comments about the deepest, darkest levels of pornography. But at the start of 2017, Q switched servers to another misogynistic message board called 8Chan. 8Chan is owned by Jim Watkins, an American who lived in the Philippines. 8Chan is controlled by Mr. Watkins’ son, admin director Ron Watkins — aka CodeMonkeyZ — who lived in Japan and Korea. But most people who follow Q don’t go to 8Chan, they go to Q collective/archival sites because 8Chan is too dark for most people. (Don’t go there.)

According to a recent 4-part documentary series on HBO, Q: Into the Storm , Ron Watkins likely assumed the identity of Q in early 2017. Watkins is a highly intelligent introvert, extremely knowledgeable in computer systems and analysis. According to the series, he could be charming and manipulative, a loner and a liar, a cynic who “treats the world like it’s a game, looking to embrace infamy.” All of these are psychopathic tendencies. In the last episode, we glimpse his lack of empathy as he boasted to his father on January 5, 2021, that he was about to drop “the mother of all bombs." The next day, he messaged that Mike Pence was seeking to replace Donald Trump as president. Further fueled by Donald Trump’s remarks that day, we don’t have to wonder why the insurrectionists who stormed the Capital on January 6 built a gallows and chanted “Hang Mike Pence."

What does Q believe/message?

Q’s most powerful posts are outrageous conspiracies. Over time, these conspiracies morph as they are embraced by millions of followers who may not realize they are part of these conspiracies. For instance, Pizzagate—the belief that high-profile Democrats and celebrities had a secret underground dungeon in the basement of a pizzeria in Washington, DC, where children were kept for sacrificial purposes. (Note: the pizzeria doesn't have a basement.) Paradoxically, this eventually led to hijacking the name of a long-established worldwide non-profit intent on improving the lives of children. This organization, Save the Children , now shares its name with a Q conspiracy that insists that those on the left and other “elitists” across the nation are sex traffickers and pedophiles.

Here’s a list of a few Q conspiracies, some of which are dated or have morphed:

  • There is a worldwide cabal of Satan-worshiping pedophiles who rule the world. This is also known as The Deep State, a shadowy network of politicians and bureaucrats secretly collaborating to control the government behind the scenes. Donald Trump was elected to put an end to this cabal. It was also asserted that if not for Q, no one would know about this threat.
  • There is an imminent event, The Storm (based on Trump stating early in his presidency while with military leaders in the White House that this was “the calm before the storm”) in which thousands in the cabal would be brought to justice.
  • Hollywood elites engage in harvesting adrenalin extracted from children’s blood to produce a psychoactive drug. (This conspiracy is rooted in anti-Semitic myths.)
  • Covid-19 is a Chinese bioweapon; or, its eruption was designed in part by Democrats to derail Trump's reelection chances.
  • Bill Gates, his foundation, or both planned the pandemic.

What’s QAnon?

QAnon is a movement that experts call a “digital cult” due to its pseudo-religious qualities and a zealous belief that Donald Trump was their savior. Last year, QAnon theories and content made their way into mainstream social media like Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube. On those platforms, the false or misleading material gains traction among people who have no idea they're immersing themselves in QAnon.

According to Alvin Change, one of the first authors to write about QAnon , early followers weren't “a homogeneous group, other than their interest in Trump.” However, there were common themes, such as being mostly male and interested in gaming, cryptocurrency, men’s rights, martial arts, and mysteries.

Our next post examines how dangerous this movement is and what we can do if people we know are QAnon supporters.