Debarkle Chapter 67: Vox and Q

Starting in 2017 and spreading through the alt-right in 2018 and then further beyond in subsequent years, the compendium of conspiracy theories known as Qanon has become so complex that an adequate account is beyond the scope of this project. For those looking for a more detailed account of the key figures instrumental in propagating the Qanon conspiracy theory, the HBO documentary “Q: Into the Storm” by Cullen Hoback[1] is worth watching. For information on the broader movement, its influences and variations, the entertaining Qanon Anonymous podcast[2] has been covering the phenomenon since April 2018.

The precipitating element of the conspiracy theory was a series of enigmatic and anonymous postings on imageboards (first 4Chan and later 8Chan) by a supposed intelligence agency insider who used the codename “Q”. The content of these posts was both very thin and very cryptic, with much of the surrounding lore and beliefs being constructed by fans of the theory. “Fans” is, I believe, the correct term to use here as the Qanon movement resembled fannish culture in multiple ways including the importance of fan theories, and often anarchic (even if ideologically reactionary) decentralised structure as a movement and the shared social experience of participants. Where Qanon differs from more conventional fandoms was the extent to which its participants do not believe they are dealing with fiction.

The lens I do have for looking at Qanon is, of course, Vox Day but while Day heavily embraced and promoted Qanon and Qanon beliefs, readers should be mindful that Day’s interest was in what became a more narrow core of Qanon associated beliefs — essentially those ideas most directly connected to white nationalism and anti-leftism, the basic “payload” of the movement.

As discussed in chapter 28, Vox Day was an active promoter of the /pol/ board of the imageboard 4Chan. It was from 4Chan that Day aligned himself with GamerGate in 2014 and from 4Chan that he coopted images and slogans for the “great meme wars” in the lead up to the election of Donald Trump in 2016[3].

As with GamerGate, Qanon had already gained some traction before Vox Day adopted the movement from 4Chan in December 2017. By this point, the discussion of Q had already expanded to include the more accessible forum of Reddit and was also being promoted as a legitimate source by former World Net Daily columnist Jerome Corsi. Corsi had been a promoter of a number of conspiracy theories including the so-called “Birther” theory about Barack Obama (see chapter 51) as well as conspiracy theories about the 9-11 attacks on the World Trade Centre. At this point, the conspiracy theory was mainly known as “The Storm” and for Day this was a simple extension of the 2016 Pizzagate conspiracy theory.

Pizzagate coverage had declined once the 2016 Presidential election was over but Vox Day was still a believer in the lurid claims. In his first post on Q, Day affirmed his continuing belief:

“I’m always mystified by the claims that Pizzagate has been “debunked” because an actor showed up at the restaurant in DC and fired a single shot at the floor. It’s a bizarre pseudo-argument that doesn’t even rise to the level of logical fallacy; they might as legitimately claim that Pizzagate has been debunked because Adrian Peterson had a 100-yard rushing game for the Arizona Cardinals.”

https://web.archive.org/web/20180223103836/http://voxday.blogspot.com/2017/12/storm-is-new-pizza.html

Despite the many structural similarities with GamerGate, the Qanon/Storm conspiracy theory at this point lacked the same intrinsic calls to action that GamerGate had. There was no obvious pseudo-consumer revolt or directed harassment campaign attached to it as such[4]. Rather, as Day’s post revealed, it was about rationalising beliefs leftover from the events of 2016.

Pizzagate had held a promise for its followers that the election of Donald Trump would bring to light the true extent of the conspiracy. Long before Pizzagate, conspiracy theories about the Clintons had been popular among the right dating back to the 1990s and more mundane beliefs among Republican supporters included the idea that Hillary Clinton had engaged in criminal behaviour in connection to her time as Secretary of State during the Obama administration. Despite Donald Trump’s “lock her up” rhetoric during the 2016 campaign, the harsh reality for many conservatives was that there was still no sign of any kind of official action against the Clintons. Of course, this was because there was no legal basis for any kind of charges against Hillary Clinton but that was not an acceptable conclusion. Instead, Qanon offered an alternative scenario: The Storm.

At its core, The Storm was the belief that the conspiracies at the heart of US and World politics were so vast, that Trump was engaged in a hidden counter-conspiracy against the forces of evil. For Vox Day those forces were literally Satanic nor was this a new belief but a fundamental part of his theology. Back in 2002 Day expressed this with a small amount of equivocation in his World Net Daily column:

“The Christian view, in particular, puts forth the notion that our world is ruled by an evil supernatural being, one who long ago usurped humanity’s God-given sovereignty. This being, Satan, is not only self-aware, but has been intelligent enough to fool the mind of man from the very start, beginning with the first temptation in the Garden of Eden.”

https://www.wnd.com/2002/02/12907/

Throughout his career, Day had expressed the apparently sincere belief that the world was ruled by Satan and would use the terms “god of this world” or “god of this age”[5] as synonyms for the devil. More broadly, Day’s stance was a multiple-gods resolution of the “problem of evil”[6] where the conventional Christian God was the supreme deity of the cosmos but a less conventional Satan was the god of Earth in a fallen state and responsible for bad things that happen from war to natural disasters.

This theological belief fitted in neatly with the Pizzagate/Qanon backstory that the powerful people in the world were all part of a Satanic cult. However, Day’s practical application to the meta-conspiracy theory was to look for more concrete signs that Donald Trump was moving against the imagined evil cabal. In early 2018 a literal storm caused delays at JFK airport but Day speculated that this might be just a cover story for The Storm. He also revealed the primary function of Qanon at this point during Trump’s term of office.

“It’s easy to get impatient. But don’t. These things play out over time; Rome wasn’t corrupted in a day and she won’t be cleaned up in a day either.”

https://web.archive.org/web/20180119184422/http://voxday.blogspot.com/2018/01/coincidence-or-storm.html

Trump had not locked up Hillary Clinton and he hadn’t built a border wall and Mexico certainly wasn’t going to build a border wall. Trump’s less wealthy supporters had not seen much material improvement in their lives and fundamental issues in America from access to healthcare to inadequate infrastructure to ongoing foreign wars had not seen changes. However, in the fictional reality of Qanon, Trump was busy fighting Satanic globalists and sex-traffickers but in secret.

The Qanon conspiracy theory had already rolled into itself pre-existing conspiratorial beliefs including past satanic panics, the more recent Pizzagate theory, the globalist conspiracy theories prompted by President George Bush Senior’s use of the term “New World Order” and the panoply of conspiracy theories surrounding Bill and Hillary Clinton. Underneath those conspiracy theories were older anti-semitic conspiracy theories from the 1903 Protocols of the Elders of Zion fraud to the ancient anti-Jewish blood libel.

Yet another shocking school shooting in February 2018[7] prompted Day to promote the theory that school shooters were teenagers under hypnotic mind control by the FBI in a bid to promote stricter gun laws — a belief he also linked to Q.

“Fortunately, given the ongoing progress of the God-Emperor in his campaign against the corrupt bureaucrats, we should find out the truth regarding these sociopathic operations in the reasonably near future. I suspect this sort of thing only scratches the surface of what Q and others warn is literally beyond imagination.”

https://web.archive.org/web/20180326173134/http://voxday.blogspot.com/2018/02/fast-and-furious-ii.html

The full “truth” was always on the verge of being revealed!

By March 2018, Reddit had decided to take action against the subreddit that had become a popular place for discussing the so-called “Q-drops” from 4Chan[8]. While Qanon lacked a specific call to action from its followers, the “CBTS” subreddit (“calm before the storm”) had increasingly become home to violent rhetoric and extreme views. Reddit closed down the group but Qanon’s followers had already expanded from a small group following the posts initially on 4Chan and then on the rival 8Chan[9].

As mentioned above, 8Chan had been the creation of GamerGate supporter Frederick Brennan as a site with even fewer rules than 4Chan. As a consequence, it had become home to shocking and illegal material such as child pornography[10]. Despite Day’s supposed anti-paedophile campaign, the highly dubious nature of 8Chan did not prevent him from promoting Qanon, which had become the main source of the traffic to 8Chan. The imageboard was no longer controlled by Brennan who had sold the site to an American internet entrepreneur based in the Philippines called Jim Watkins, who operated the site with his son Ron[11]. While the identity of the person behind Q is unknown, it is likely that Jim and Ron Watkins had substantial control over the Q account once it had moved to 8Chan.

The intentionally user-unfriendly nature of both 4Chan and 8Chan meant that second and third-hand promoters of the Qanon conspiracy theory were essential to the spread of the idea. Their promoters would also add their own speculation and theories to attempt to make sense of the essentially cryptic nature of the terse messages from Q. Vox Day would promote the site Neon Revolt as a major source for his own Qanon speculation. Revealingly Neon Revolt would warn fans of Qanon not to seek out the original messages on 8Chan.

“A final word of caution about the chans: While you can go there and seek out the relevant Q boards for yourself, I wouldn’t recommend it if you’re brand new to all this. On top of them being purposefully hard to use (in order to keep the “normies” out) you might end up seeing things you might otherwise not wish to see. Remember how I said these platforms are free-speech forums? That means that literally anyone can post just about anything – and that means bad actors, too, attempting to derail researchers with all manner of pornography, gore, shilling, etc. If you’re not seasoned and somewhat desensitized to internet culture, you probably walk away feeling a bit sick.”

https://web.archive.org/web/20180711232011/https://www.neonrevolt.com/2018/07/11/who-is-qanon-an-introduction-to-the-qanon-phenomenon-qanon-greatawakening/

By mid-2018 serious incidents directly related to Qanon were occurring, such as two in Arizona where a man in May occupied a cement plant claiming it was a front for a child sex trafficking ring and another man in a homemade armoured car blocked the roadway over the Hoover Dam claiming he was on a Q-inspired mission[12].

Vox Day was also tapping into the messianic nature of Qanon, expressly adopting Biblical language to talk about “The Storm”

“The Storm is coming. We don’t know the day or the hour, but it is coming. And we should quite literally thank God for Donald Trump and Vladimir Putin, both of whom stand between us and all the raging, raving, rancid evil of the Cabal. Pray for their upcoming meeting, pray that both men be granted wisdom and courage, and pray that they are victorious over the evil that seeks to destroy Christianity, Christendom, America, and Russia.”

https://web.archive.org/web/20210808102002/http://voxday.blogspot.com/2018/07/qanon-users-guide.html

However, this was July 2018 and Trump had still not arrested Hillary Clinton or built a border wall or made America great again by any reasonable metric. At the start of 2019, the waiting for Trump to do something amazing was even getting to Vox Day and he announced that if Trump didn’t build the border wall then Trump would be fired[13].

In the meantime, Day had decided to tap into the other aspect of the Qanon phenomenon: money.

Alt-Hero: Q

Qanon was not just popular among his target audience, the spread of the conspiracy theory was funnelling more people towards far-right/white nationalist sites. Q-related content was driving clicks across the web including on social media sites such as Twitter and Facebook. Day’s comic book ambitions were also at their height, so naturally, he found a way to tie them together.

Vox Day’s most significant recruit to his stable of comic books had been the veteran writer Chuck Dixon[14] who had already worked on a number of projects by mid-2018 for Arkhaven. Day commissioned Dixon to write a Q themed comic set in his Alt-Hero universe. Qanon by this point existed in multiple forms (Christian-dominionist, new-age spiritualism, aliens…[15]) but the proposed series focused on the spy-thriller version of Qanon: a secret war between good and evil security agencies within the US government.

As with other Comicsgate-related projects, Alt-Hero: Q (as it was entitled) was to be a crowdfunded project and Day chose the mainstream crowdfunding site IndieGoGo. Promoting the campaign, Chuck Dixon explained the premise in an interview:

“What we’re presenting is an action/thriller hero that I’m really excited to be creating. We’ll be inserting him into stories of global cabals and dark conspiracies that threaten not only world peace but the basic human rights of the individual. Our guy, Roland Dane, is an experienced law enforcement professional who has to drop out of the system to act as an operative for the mysterious organization he knows only as Q. Roland is a little rough around the edges and his methods are often direct but he’s one man trying to make a difference for all of us.”

https://boundingintocomics.com/2018/08/29/arkhaven-comics-and-chuck-dixons-alt-hero-q-trends-1-on-indiegogo/

The campaign appeared to be successful but at the last minute, IndieGoGo’s Trust & Safety department closed the campaign, refunding contributors. Other campaigns associated with Arkhaven Comics were not shut down (such as the Jon Del Arroz/Richard Fox Ember War comic) but IndieGoGo did not provide a detailed public reason for their action.

Vox Day threatened legal action but eventually stated that he and backers of the campaign would go into arbitration with IndieGoGo. The outcome of that arbitration was never publicised but Day claimed victory[16]. Without a third-party crowdfunding platform, Day collected funds from followers more directly, eventually publishing some issues of the comic in 2019.

2019

At the start of 2019 America was still not “great again”. The border wall was unbuilt and despite the many portents, clues, and wild speculation, there was no actual sign of mass arrests or a “Storm”. Even Day was beginning to tune out.

“Here is some logical thinking: act while the window of opportunity is open. People are disappointed, bored, and if they haven’t already lost interest in the topic, are rapidly doing so in light of the series of what look like ongoing retreats on the part of President.

My perspective is that if it happens, great. But I’m not interested in actively following along anymore. I’m certainly not with the black-pillers, who are always looking to justify their hopelessness no matter what happens, just so they can say they were right to never believe in anything. I still hope that the God-Emperor is willing and able to take action to at least try to save the American nation from the global evil that is seeking to destroy it.”

https://web.archive.org/web/20190914053250/http://voxday.blogspot.com/2019/02/too-little-too-late.html

Day would waver in his promotion of Q in the first half of 2019, partly distancing himself from the conspiracy theory but then returning to it on the rationale that the negative mainstream publicity about Qanon was evidence that there must be something to the theory.

The re-arrest of the super-wealthy paedophile Jeffery Epstein[17] in July 2019 brought new excitement to Q followers. Epstein’s associations with many high profile politicians and thought leaders appeared to lend weight to the idea of a global conspiracy of abuse by powerful people. Among the right, Epstein’s connections to the Clintons was strongly emphasised, whereas his long-standing connections to Donald Trump were naturally ignored. Epstein’s subsequent suspicious death in his jail cell in August 2019 was officially deemed a suicide but inevitably led to widespread speculation generally that he had been assassinated because of the compromising information he had on many powerful people.

Day regarded Epstein’s death as a sign confirming that Pizzagate had been true all along.

“Here is my prediction: Pizzagate will, sooner or later, be largely confirmed to be true, most likely sans a few of the more lurid and cartoonish elements, and, as with the Epstein case, will turn out to be more sinister and of larger scale than even the conspiracy theorists initially believed.”

https://web.archive.org/web/20210808122023/http://voxday.blogspot.com/2019/07/pizzagate-reconsidered.html

By the end of 2019, Day was once again predicting that “The Storm” was imminent[18].


Footnotes

42 thoughts on “Debarkle Chapter 67: Vox and Q

  1. Fred Clark at Slacktivist has pointed out that if they learned the conspiracy didn’t exist the reaction would be less “Thank god — I was horrified to think even Clinton and George Soros would be that evil” but “Well shoot!” They want to believe they’re heroes fighting the greatest evil ever known; they want to believe the people on the other side are monsters. So they fool themselves.

    Liked by 3 people

    1. Bingo. As this chapter points out, believers need Q and other conspiracy theories to “ rationalis[e] beliefs leftover from the events of 2016”, I.e. to sustain their political fantasies.

      Like

  2. Watching X-Files for my Alien Visitors book is really unsettling in the current political climate. We have Scully telling a Congressional committee they should investigate a Deep State cabal (not by that name, of course) and discovering smallpox vaccines all include genetic markers to track us shows how long these bugaboos have been around in some form or another.

    Like

    1. Most of these conspiracy theories have been around in some form for a long time. The stuff about evil sex traffickers kidnapping young white women goes back at least to the 19th century, if not further, and it never ever dies. You still get a lot of earnest and otherwise sane people trying to fight a 19th century phantom. Ditto for secret cabals ruling the world. Vaccine conspiracy theories have been around as long as vaccines themselves. A lot of these child trafficking conspiracy theories are updates on the old blood libel canard.

      Conspiracy theories make great fiction, too, hence the popularity of the X-Files. It’s only a problem when people start to believe that all that stuff is real and not just a cool story.

      Liked by 3 people

    2. Chris Carter really thought that stuff was cool, I think, and had no concept of it being an icky thing on some level to base your storytelling on. He was doing “black helicopter” stuff long after it was obvious that that had become a rallying cry for really scary militia types. But it’s pretty hard to tell what he thinks about the material a lot of the time because he’s such a muddled writer.

      Like

      1. I never watched the show regularly so it’s really eye-opening to see how it’s a grab bag of just about everything: shadow governments, Roswell, hybridizations, abductions … And that’s only looking at the Mytharc episodes that tackle the big picture, rather than the done-in-one stories.
        The murky crypticness reminds me why I never cottoned to the show. When Mulder rants at Deep Throat for giving out information in dribs and drabs and never saying anything plainly, it’s like meta-commentary.

        Like

    1. If there really was a cabal of satanic globalist sex traffickers secretly ruling the world, it’s hilarious that they believe that Trump of all people would be competent enough to fight them.

      Liked by 4 people

        1. Yes, but as always there is a germ of truth and in this case it is John G Trump, aka Donald Trump’s uncle https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/John_G._Trump
          “In early 1943, two days after the death of Nikola Tesla, the Federal Bureau of Investigation ordered the Office of Alien Property Custodian to seize Tesla’s belongings.[8] Trump was called in to analyze the Tesla artifacts, which were being held in government custody.”
          PLUS (and this is where German literature intersects) there’s this https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Baron_Trump_novels
          Hence…Donald Trump is a time traveller!

          Liked by 1 person

      1. Biff Tannen, Marty McFly’s nemesis in the Back to the Future movies, was also based on Donald Trump. Coincidence? (Yes.)

        My favorite bit of the Q mythology was the return of JFK Jr as Q, and they had at least one and I think two or three people LARPing as JFK Jr on social media. One of them was toying around with the idea of running for Congress.

        (I’m personally convinced this particular gentleman doesn’t actually own a mirror.)

        Liked by 2 people

    2. Well, if there’s one thing Donald just can’t stand, it’s talking about his accomplishments! It’s like how he gave out all that Trump Foundation money to worthy causes so secretly that no one can prove it ever happened.

      Liked by 3 people

    3. Are we talking about the same guy who palled around with Jeffrey Epstein and agreed that they both liked their women on, shall we be charitable, on the young side? Sure, he’s against sex trafficking.

      There’s a picture of Cheeto Benito on Epstein’s plane with young Ivanka, and the girl looks absolutely terrified.

      Liked by 2 people

  3. Typo Patrol:
    “The image board was no longer controlled by Brennan who had sold the site to an American internet entrepreneur based in the Philippines called Jim Watkins, who operated the site with his son Jim[11]. While the identity of the person behind Q is unknown, it is likely that Jim and Ron Watkins had substantial control over the Q account once it had moved to 8Chan.”

    Are they Jim and Jim or Jim and Ron and who is who?

    Like

  4. A couple of posts ago, you asked if one could be both a polytheist and monotheist at the same time. Now we’ve got both a God-Emperor (is that Trump? I think so) and some kind of weird quasi-Gnostic view that sees Satan as a demiurge. Dang, we’re getting into some really gnarly theology.

    The way VD addresses this stuff, I can’t tell if he *really* believes in it, or is just throwing around big words and oddball theology to rope in the suckers. I suspect the latter, but maybe that’s just my cynical side.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. I’m 100% confident he believes the theology stuff. He’s been consistent on this at every point at which I’ve seen his writing.

      The God Emperor stuff is him playing along with 4Chan trolls. The comics stuff is how he ropes in the suckers but the distinction between the three is so fuzzy as to be unclear

      Like

  5. P.S. Is there any evidence that he actually has people reading this crap and taking it seriously?

    Like

    1. I’m not sure. He claims huge web stats obviously but those claims I’m dubious of.

      The saddest legacy he’s left behind on the internet is that nonsensical Sigma male nonsense. I think he’s lost most of his influence in what was the alt-right – he’s has been in that arena I think.

      Like

      1. I figured out why he added a Lambda male (for gay people). I took his online quiz to determine your category, and scored a Sigma easily. That’s because so many of the questions are about whether you let your lust for women affect your judgment. Anyone with zero lust for women would almost have to be classed as a Sigma. So he added an “are you gay” question to fix that.

        I think that means the remaining Sigmas have no balls, but that’s really a research question.

        Liked by 3 people

    2. Where one saw his “influence” and could confirm that he actually had followers (the mind truly boggles) was in his ability to create online harassment pile-ons when he wanted to “attack” someone. Unclear how many people were involved, or are involved now, but there were and still are an audience of people who enjoy his blend of malice & idiocy, and I suspect that some of them take him seriously.

      Liked by 4 people

  6. As everyone should know, Pizzagate was comprehensively disproved because the pizza joint in whose basement awful things were said to happen, is in a building with no basement. Good pizza, though.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. As the first Vox quote in the original post suggests, this doesn’t stop them from claiming that the guy who actually visited the pizza shop with a gun trying (and failing) to find the basement was a ‘crisis actor’ and that no debunking ever happened.

      Like

  7. Q stopped posting in December 2020. I can’t imagine why someone hasn’t gone on 8Chan and claimed to be Q’s successor. The background story could be that Q has fled to a country with no extradition treaty with the US now that the Deep State is back in power, and only the new person knows where he is and can relay his nuggets of wisdom. I even have a fantasy where this new person slowly brings the Q fanatics around to seeing their true enemies, multinational corporations and untaxed billionaires. I’d do it myself if I was clever enough, and understood the 8Chan milieu.

    Like

    1. It’s a good point but if Q really is Ron Watkins then there’s no mystery. If you have the keys to 8Chan, a fake-Q can’t get away with it by posting on 8Chan.

      There’s also a good chance that this is what happened with the original Q on 4Chan. Basically the Watkins stole the Q franchise.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. There’s a lot to suggest that “the original Q” was several people, some of whom likely saw it as a joke. The problem being, of course, that they lit out as things got worrisome, leaving the purely malignant opportunistic Watkinses to seize control.

        Liked by 1 person

  8. Footnote Patrol!

    Missing [5], [9], and [12] in the text.

    Grammar Patrol!

    >By mid-2018 serious incidents directly related to Qanon, beliefs were occurring including
    Move the comma to after “occurring”.

    Liked by 1 person

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