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On Sunday, HBO aired the final two episodes of the six-part documentary series Q: Into the Storm, in which filmmaker Cullen Hoback explores the cancerous QAnon conspiracy theory and attempts to get to the bottom of who exactly is behind it. QAnon is an internet-fueled movement consisting of people who believe that pedophiles control the Democratic Party, Hollywood, and other major institutions, and that former President Donald Trump has been leading a covert effort in conjunction with the military to have these perverts arrested and executed. Many followers also believe that members of this cabal are satanists who practice cannibalism and that Trump is using UFOs to fight them. The conspiracy theory has been linked to multiple instances of violence and has torn families apart. The FBI considers QAnon to be a domestic terrorism threat, and at least 34 of its adherents participated in the Jan. 6 U.S. Capitol riot.

 日曜日、HBOは6部構成のドキュメンタリーシリーズ『Q: Into the Storm』の最終2エピソードを放送しました。このシリーズでは、映像作家のカレン・ホーバックが、がんじがらめの「QAnon」陰謀説を探り、その背後にいるのは一体誰なのかを突き止めようとしています。QAnonは「小児性愛者が民主党やハリウッドなどの主要組織を支配しており、ドナルド・トランプ前大統領が軍と連携してこれらの変態を逮捕・処刑するための秘密の活動を主導している」と信じる人々からなる「インターネット上の運動」です。また、この陰謀団のメンバーはカニバリズムを行うサタニストであり、トランプ氏はUFOを使って彼らと戦っていると信じている信者も多い。この陰謀論は、複数の暴力事件と関連しており、家族を引き裂いています。FBIはQAnonを国内テロの脅威とみなしており、1月6日の米国連邦議会議事堂での暴動には少なくとも34人のQAnon信者が参加しました。



Hoback gained unprecedented access to some of the most important people controlling how QAnon proliferated online over the past several years, and in the finale, he offers a case for who he thinks “Q”—the supposedly anonymous government insider at the center of the conspiracy theory—really is. Here’s what he uncovered, and whether it truly gets to the bottom of one of the Trump era’s strangest mysteries.



The main narrative of the series follows a feud between Fredrick Brennan and the father-son duo of Jim and Ron Watkins. Brennan is the creator of the site 8chan, now known as 8kun. The site is an imageboard where anonymous users can post pretty much anything; it’s become a hotbed of violent racism and outré pornography. It’s also the sole venue through which Q communicates with his followers, in the form of cryptic messages called “drops.” Q claims to be a government official who was high up in the Trump administration and was privy to the former president’s secret war against the elite pedophiles. In addition to exploring the QAnon milieu and some of the speech-related issues the conspiracy raises, Hoback’s mission in making this documentary is to figure out who the person claiming to be Q actually is.


In 2015, Brennan sold 8chan to the Watkinses and moved to the Philippines, where they resided and ran several businesses. The documentary starts in 2018, a few years after Brennan hands over the reins to 8chan, and continues on through his falling-out with the Watkins family. Brennan began feuding with the Watkinses after authorities discovered that 8chan was linked to a number of mass shootings, including the ones in Christchurch, New Zealand, and El Paso, Texas. Brennan wanted to take 8chan down permanently, while the Watkinses wanted to keep it up based on what they said were free-speech grounds. The documentary follows the increasingly heated conflict that resulted from this disagreement.



The documentary is an intimate look at the people who have had the most control over Q’s primary means of communication, namely 8chan and 8kun. Hoback is obviously sympathetic to Brennan, and it’s easy to see why. Brennan is exceedingly charming and self-effacing, and he seems to be pursuing a fairly principled, if occasionally underhanded, crusade to get 8chan shut down. Jim and Ron Watkins, on the other hand, strike a rather slimy camera presence. Jim, a U.S. Army veteran turned porn, message-board, and pig-farm impresario, wears the eerily perpetual smile of the Cheshire cat and describes his fantasy of murdering politicians with a machine gun in one of his first interviews in the series. In subsequent episodes, he blames his evasiveness in previous interviews on a suspect claim of hearing loss and later on appears to fellate a pizza crust in a shudder-inducing attempt at humor.


Jim’s son Ron comes off as a heartless and power-hungry otaku. He’s disposed to grandiosity, at one point pushing to sing opera on camera and at another casting himself as the godlike final boss in a video game he developed based on 8kun. Ron also appears to pressure Hoback into visiting prostitutes in Japan in order to test his trustworthiness.




Hoback believes Ron Watkins is Q. This isn’t a particularly surprising conclusion. For more than six months, Brennan has been pushing his own theory that Jim and Ron Watkins control the Q account; his claims led to two major reports from ABC News and Reply All about the identity of Q in September. Referring to ABC’s article, Brennan gleefully brags in the documentary that “reporters basically wrote exactly what I wanted in certain instances.” However, his theory at the time did seem to have some fairly convincing evidence behind it. As owners of the site, the Watkinses have control over accounts that post there, including Q’s. Brennan also noted that Q stopped posting anywhere else on the internet when 8chan, the forum through which Q disseminates his messages, went down in 2018 because its service providers deplatformed the site. It was only after the Watkinses started a rebooted site called 8kun a few months later that Q started posting again.

 ホーバック氏は「ロン・ワトキンスがQである」と考えています。これは特に驚くべき結論ではありません。ブレナンは半年以上前から、ジムとロン・ワトキンスがQのアカウントを管理しているという独自の説を唱えており、その主張によって9月にはABCニュースとReply AllからQの正体に関する2つの大きな報道がなされました。ABCの記事を参照して、ブレナンはドキュメンタリーの中で「記者たちは基本的に、ある場合には私が望んだ通りのことを書いてくれた」と嬉しそうに自慢しています。しかし、当時の彼の説には、かなり説得力のある証拠があったようだ。ワトキンス夫妻は、サイトのオーナーとして、Qを含む投稿アカウントを管理しています。ブレナンはまた、Qがメッセージを発信しているフォーラムである8chanが2018年にサービスプロバイダーによってサイトが廃止されたため、Qはインターネット上の他の場所に投稿しなくなったと述べている。Qが再び投稿を始めたのは、その数カ月後にワトキンス夫妻が8kunという再起動したサイトを立ち上げてからだった。

Importantly, Brennan and Hoback don’t think that Ron started this whole conspiracy theory. They simply say that he has likely commandeered Q’s account. Brennan has hypothesized that a South African conspiracy theorist name Paul Furber actually started posting as Q but then lost control of the account to the Watkinses. This is partly because Q inexplicably relocated to a different forum within 8chan outside of Furber’s control in 2018. After this migration, Q’s writing style notably changed. Hoback interviews Furber in the documentary, who contends that an impostor took control of the Q account. (Furber has denied ever being Q, and does so here.) And, to be clear, there are also other theories that vary in their plausibility.



In the sixth and final episode of the series, Hoback presents his case for why he thinks the younger Watkins is Q. He mostly relies on circumstantial evidence that he’s collected through shooting the documentary, some of it compelling, some of it not. Much of it boils down to Ron’s inconsistent statements; he would one day seem to know Q’s intricate motivations and inner circle, and then he’d claim to know nothing about Q the next. Ron and his father also spend buckets of money on their hobby of collecting luxury watches and pens—Q has been known to post pictures of expensive-looking watches and pens in an attempt to prove that he’s in secure locations like Camp David. The piece of evidence that Hoback presents as the closest thing he has to a smoking gun is an apparent slip-up that Ron makes in an interview near the end. In his final conversation with Hoback, Ron seems to admit that he had been anonymously directing the analysis and research that 8chan users were conducting based on Q’s cryptic messages, even though he’d previously claimed to not be involved with any of the content on the site beyond his responsibilities as administrator. Ron, after briefly discussing his role in spreading conspiracy theories about voter fraud following the 2020 election, says, “It was basically three years of intelligence training, teaching normies how to do intelligence work. It was basically what I was doing anonymously before, but never as Q.” It’s deeply suspicious, but not quite enough to pin him as Q.





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