In the last few days, a very loud discussion has been taking place regarding the legitimacy of an anonymous 4chan and 8chan poster known as "Q." My singular goal in this Steemit-only opinion piece is to explain why, despite the ensuing public backlash, I have felt motivated as an independent journalist to express skepticism regarding the Q persona.
This article is not intended to demand readers agree with me, or tell readers what to think, to disparage those who cover Q on social media or those I've already disagreed with respectfully on Twitter. This piece is simply and only intended to explain why I have spoken out repeatedly against the credibility of this Chan-based persona. It's also not intended to speak for anyone except myself.
I will give a very condensed overview of the context of the latest discussion on Q that has occurred in the last few days. First, independent journalist and activist Suzie Dawson wrote a very long, precise and methodical twitter thread on the ways in which Q's posts fit the characteristics of a standard cointelpro type operation. I recommend all readers to view that thread in full, as provided by the ReaderUnrollApp before continuing with this article.
In response to a Tweet by Roseanne Barr, Wikileaks Tweeted the following regarding Suzie's long twitter thread:
After Wikileaks' tweet and the wide circulation of Suzie Dawson's thread, Caitlin Johnstone wrote via Medium about the fact that the official Wikileaks Twitter account had acknowledged the likelihood that the Q anon persona is being used as a pied piper figure for Trump's base.
The Wikileaks Twitter account then tweeted Johnstone's medium post, adding that: "While we suspect that the "Qanon" phenomena is likely 4chan trolls engaging in a Live Action Role Play (LARP) version of the Delphic Oracle it is also clear that many are aware of its manipulative potential and will usurp it if they have not already."
Interestingly, though it was Suzie Dawson who pushed the hardest against the Qanon persona, Caitlin Johnstone received the brunt of the backlash that ensued, possibly due to Dawson having fewer followers of the MAGA persuasion than either Johnstone or myself. I entered the fray today, a couple of days after Suzie's thread and after Wikileaks' statements / tweets regarding Q.
Why do I comment on this at all? Because I saw independent journalists like Caitlin being smeared and associated with "the media," as if she were in the same category as David Brock's media matters. This is absolutely horrific for a number of reasons. Let me explain:
No one pays Suzie Dawson, Caitlin Johnstone, or myself to speak the truth as we see it outside our own audiences. Independent journalists survive on patreon donations, subscriptions and the like. Because of this, it is financially against our interests to tell the truth about Q as we see it, and risk losing readers' support. As Caitlin wrote, if she - or any of us - wanted to be paid shills we could have had a much easier time of it by applying for a job at CNN. We didn't.
So what does this mean - that independent journalists would risk losing support to tell the inconvenient and painful truth as they see it?
It means that we value honesty more than popularity or money. It means we believe in a healthy skepticism and not following false narratives because they are convenient or because a lot of our supporters might follow those narratives. We speak out anyway because if we were in this to make money we never would have started writing about inconvenient truths. When we criticize Q, we are literally going against financial interests (unlike corporate press when it shills for cash) because we risk losing support from those who disagree with us.
What motivates independent journalists to apply healthy skepticism to Q is precisely the fact that we have poured our time, energy and life-blood into reporting with integrity. We gave up endless hours of our lives to the pursuit of honesty in the face of criticism from all sides, censorship, attacks of all varieties. Caitlin Johnstone specifically has been baselessly smeared numerous times by the cancerous quarter of the neoliberal left because she dared speak against war consistently: and now the right wing has joined in on attacking her credibility because they do not like her opinion.
While these experiences pale in comparison with the risks taken by organizations like Wikileaks, or by whistleblowers like Snowden and Manning, It quite honestly pains this writer to see so many well-intentioned Q followers parroting disastrously inaccurate information and attacking those who have given up huge amounts of time and energy and often money as well specifically in the name of accurate reporting with integrity.
Caitlin, Suzie, and Wikileaks already outlined extremely sensible reasons to approach Q with skepticism. To that, I add the obvious -- that any persona arising from 4chan and 8chan requires a very healthy dose of skepticism. To trust any anonymous poster on 4chan over Wikileaks is a sad commentary on the state of the American public. My personal take on the issue is that whether Q is a "larp" or a psyop, the narratives spread by the persona have dangerously persuaded a large portion of the conservative base into the belief that all is well and a plan is in place: A "Storm is coming."
Why is this dangerous? Because, as I wrote on Twitter, Julian Assange is entering his third consecutive month in solitary confinement, while prominent conservative Q followers, including but not limited to Roseanne Barr, question whether Assange is in the embassy at all. Some even express the belief that the US isn't primarily responsible for the persecution of Assange. Meanwhile, the ultimate legal source on anything relating to Assange - Justice4Assange.com, described the reality of the situation:
"[In February 2010], US initiates WikiLeaks investigation, over a dozen federal government agencies involved, including the FBI, DoJ (who are now leading the investigation), with support of NSA and CIA and others."
In other words, the Trump Administration absolutely has the power to remove the impetus for Assange's extradition and imprisonment in the US, which Adam Schiff recently admitted is the assumed goal of the US government at this time.
Trump's base is the only segment of the population with a chance of persuading the President on policy matters. It is imperative that they relentlessly push Trump to grant Assange a preemptive pardon. Through Q, that population is being co-opted into complacency at the most critical moment in the long history of persecution of Julian Assange and Wikileaks for their incredibly effective brand of scientific journalism.
In addition to the damaging effect Q is having on support for Julian Assange, not to mention other whistleblowers like Edward Snowden ( a matter Suzie Dawson covered in depth), the persona is also acting to poison independent media and co-opt the segment of the public that is genuinely anti-establishment. By hiding the lies within exhortations to research, the persona builds enough plausible deniability to manipulate masses of well-intentioned people who do not wish any harm to Assange or Wikileaks, and are in fact interested in truthful reporting.
Additionally, many Q followers I have interacted with over the last 24 hours have expressed an appalling lack of awareness regarding a number of actions by Trump and his administration. A few include the statements made by Trump's Attorney General, Jeff Sessions, to the effect that the arrest of Assange is a top priority for Trump's Department of Justice. Secondly, the words of former CIA Director Mike Pompeo (now Trump's Secretary of State), comparing Wikileaks to terrorist organizations like Al Qaeda. Another extremely alarming act by Trump was the nomination of Gina Haspel to the position of CIA Director, despite her role in torture programs that are absolutely illegal under international law.
In my opinion, this is why many readers of Disobedient Media or Caitlin Johnstone's content are now inflamed when we express criticism towards Q. The persona has actively targeted anti-establishment segments of the population. To control that thought, it is necessary to co-opt the thought from within, in addition to separate efforts to censor legitimate independent voices. As Suzie Dawson wrote, the first necessary stage of any psyop is to establish credibility. Q has been extremely successful in that effort.
I see Q not only as a danger to the effectiveness of support for Assange among conservatives, but also as an indicator for the depth of pain Americans are experiencing, and a demonstration of the lengths they are willing to go to to find hope and any remedy for their suffering. It is doubly infuriating that anyone would manipulate a group of people desperately looking for reason to hope. In other words: reality is painful, and deeply so. It is easier to accept a comfortable lie, whether it is told on an image board or anywhere else, than it is to face the painful reality that we live in. However, until we collectively face that same reality and are brave enough to accept the resulting pain, nothing will ever change.
Jared Beck also encapsulated this thought with the extremely perceptive observation:
Disobedient Media had not yet been founded during he 2016 election cycle and the immediate post-election aftermath. At this time, I had many fellow Bernie supporters tell me to stop criticizing Hillary Clinton, to shut up and get in line to support the 'lesser of two evils.' I refused to shut my mouth and go along, which sacrificed my relationships with friends, family, and my local community. Some of those relationships have only just begun to recover, and some never will.
If I had wanted to win a popularity contest, I never would have stood my ground on that issue. The public shaming that occurred simply for continuing to criticize the abject corruption of Hillary Clinton contributed to my decision to become an independent journalist. It was a deeply UN-popular opinion that motivated me to raise my voice louder.
Likewise, I will not shut my mouth now and go along with a narrative I see as harmful and based on manipulation because I hold an unpopular opinion. I am not going to be shamed into silence. The only thing I stand to "gain" by saying all of this, is most likely the loss of a large number of followers, subscribers and the rest.