Thursday, March 3, 2022

QAnon - the South African connection

 Michael - Thursday



With everything exploding (literally) in Ukraine, it seems almost laughable to discuss the weird conspiracy theories that float around the world. Does anyone really believe that Bill Gates is behind Covid using it as a way to put controlling chips into people through vaccines? Amazingly, the answer seems to be yes. What about a Satanic, cannibalistic cult of sexual abusers of children, containing the likes of Barrack Obama, Hilary Clinton, and George Soros, somehow aimed at overthrowing Donald Trump? Yes to that one too. It’s part of the QAnon conspiracy suite, which is even more way out than the Covid one, but it’s a big deal. There are members of Congress who believe in this one, or at least pay lip service to it. In fact, these “revelations” led to a world-wide movement with millions of believers some of whom were active in the January 6th attack on Congress and the Freedom Convoy to Canada.

QAnon started with the posts of a mysterious person who signed himself simply Q. He claimed to be a high level US government official with “Q-level security clearance” and access to top level secret information about the enemies of the Trump administration. He first post on an anonymous website in October 2017 began, “Open your eyes. Many in our govt worship Satan.” 

The resulting movement became known as QAnon after the anonymous Q.

In fact, there isn’t much new in Q’s “revelations.” The child abuse ring goes back to the earlier Pizzagate conspiracy theory, which claimed that a Washington pizzeria was a front for a child abuse ring involving Washington government insiders. (The pizzeria suffered an armed attack and closed, but, of course, no children were found other than those eating pizzas with their parents.) What Q did do was expand the conspiracy, raising the stakes and bringing in Satanism and politics. And it took off. It was promoted world-wide, using the usual propaganda approach of repeating and building on the posts as though they were fact and linking them with other rumours and suppositions also presented as fact. Russian bots were active almost from the beginning and the Russians were earlier accused of actually starting the movement. The conspiracy’s tentacles are everywhere. Active support sites on Facebook exist in 71 countries. Millions of people subscribe to at least some of Q’s revelations. It’s estimated that more than 20% of British people accept at least some of it, although only about 6% believe the whole thing. (Only 6%? That’s around 3 million people!)

Everything goes back to the “inside information” revealed in the “drops” (posts) of the anonymous Q. Some contained claims which were proved false—Hilary Clinton would be arrested on such and such a date, Mark Zuckerberg would flee the US, etc. These were subsequently referred to as “necessary disinformation” if they were referred to at all. There were clues and coded messages. Researchers have suggested that this was deliberately to encourage people to engage and post their own thoughts and deductions—a new technique to spread a conspiracy theories. 

Ron Watkins
Coming to a Congress
near you...
Initially, there was a suspicion that Q was actually Ron Watkins, a right-winger who ran the site where Q posted. (The site was eventually closed down, and Watkins is now running for Congress in Arizona.) However, now we may finally know who Q actually is. If so, he’s not a high level US government official with “Q-level clearance”. He is not even an American. He’s a South African software developer.

Paul Furber was an active supporter and disseminator of Q’s ideas from quite early in the piece. It all made sense to him. He still believed in Pizzagate. Why wasn’t that just the tip of an awful iceberg of evil and corruption? The evidence pointing to Furber is that his own posts and those of his supposed inspiration Q are stylistically and structurally the same. It’s the sort of computer analysis that allows one to check if, for example, a newly-discovered play was actually written by Shakespeare, whether Marlowe was actually Shakespeare, and so on. (That’s another whole story that we won’t go into now.) In a nutshell, you can tell with a certain probability if someone wrote something by looking at a lot of other things they wrote. Two groups of researchers modified their codes to apply them to social media posts and started trying to match Q's posts with those of his followers. Furber fits the bill with a high nineties per cent probability for both systems. Watkins much less so initially, but in mid-2018 it suddenly turns on its head to Watkins with high probability and Furber much less so.

Paul Furber
Get your software and 
conspiracy theories here

Furber denies being Q. Of course he would, wouldn’t he? He agrees that his style is similar but claims that's because of the huge impact Q’s thinking has had on him. Linguistic experts dismiss that as “unlikely”. And there is some circumstantial evidence. Furber blames Watkins for “hijacking” Q’s work in 2018, leading Q to eventually withdraw from sharing his information. (Q's last post was in 2020.) Furber is nostalgic, writing that “Like a child being taken around his father’s workshop for the first time,we were being given a behind-the-scenes look into the ugly and corrupt world of geopolitics.” Nicely put, even if that behind-the-scenes look was all inside his own head.

Are these revelations about the identity of Q likely to change people’s beliefs in the QAnon conspiracy theories? What do you think?

4 comments:

  1. P. T. Barnum had it right long ago...

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  2. I think my head hurts after reading that. We have the 'Freedom Alliance' who think it's all about Bill Gates and his nanobots.
    I have my own theory about Shakespeare. I think his wife wrote everything he had published!!

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  3. I think I mentioned before that a friend who formerly held a high position in a major US state's mental health system once told me that in his experience 20% of the people walking the streets should be institutionalized, an additional 20% are in need of heavy medication, and of the remaining 60%, half will likely not agree with whatever you have to say.

    Welcome to our world.

    ReplyDelete