The final two parts of an in-depth documentary on the QAnon conspiracy theory aired on HBO in the United States on Sunday evening and appeared to have a suggestion as to who might be behind the controversial movement.
Q: Into the Storm is a six-part documentary series from filmmaker Cullen Hoback, who has been investigating the QAnon phenomenon since 2018.
The conspiracy theory was largely associated with former president Donald Trump and encompasses many different beliefs, many of which focus on the Democrats and Hollywood being part of a satanist paedophile cabal that was attempting to overthrow Trump while he was in office but the ex-POTUS was rallying against and threatening to expose.
The followers of the conspiracy would get their information from an anonymous figure known only to them as Q who dispense information in ‘drops’ which were posted on the infamous 8chan message board before it was replaced with 8kun. Previous to that Q had posted on 4chan, a now-defunct website that was similar to 8chan.
Those who believed Q, who was said to be someone high up in the Trump administration, soon saw the conspiracies spread throughout the internet and end up on more mainstream websites such as Facebook, Twitter and YouTube.
It gained a huge amount of traction in the run-up to and aftermath of the 2020 US election when many involved in the violent US Capitol riot were said to be followers of the conspiracy. Current members of the US Congress have also previously confessed to believing in Q.
The QAnon following has gained so much attention and notoriety that the FBI named it a domestic terror threat in 2019 but the identity of Q still remained a mystery but now, thanks to his documentary, Hoback believes he has found the person behind the following.
Warning: Spoilers for Q: Into the Storm follow
Hoback believes that Q is Ron Watkins, the son of Jim Watkins, who is the owner of 8chan. The website used to be owned by a man named Fredrick Brennan, whose feud with the Watkins makes up most of the narrative strain of the documentary. Brennan advocated for the site to be taken down after it was linked to a string of mass shootings but the Watkins pushed back on the grounds of free speech.
The younger Watkins used to be a moderator for the message board and started to become something of a right-wing commentator in the US and was even retweeted by Trump at the start of January. Both Trump and Watkins have since been banned from Twitter.
@maggmountains @CodeMonkeyZ Interesting that Trump retweeted this. #TrumpCoupAttempt https://t.co/w7gHwp1g2H
Hoback claims that he started looking into the Watkins when Q started posting on their website but both men expressed no knowledge of who Q was and Ron had even suggested that Steve Bannon, Trump’s former adviser could have been the mysterious figure.
The very first time I met Ron, behind the scenes he suggested that I look into Steve Bannon. He had known me for le… https://t.co/IylklWqYiL
In the final episode of the series, Hoback shares footage of a conversation that he had with Ron Watkins in late 2020.
In the clip, Watkins, who told Hoback that he had been researching Q on 8Chan said: “Yeah, so thinking back on it, like, it was basically ... three years of intelligence training teaching normies how to do intelligence work. It was basically what I was doing anonymously but before, never as Q.”
After saying that Watkins broke out into a big grin which Hoback believes was a slip-up and an acknowledgement that he was Q or had once posted as Q.
This is the big reveal in the finale of #QIntotheStorm where Ron Watkins says too much to Cullen Hoback and lets hi… https://t.co/GthSdjKOXU
There are a few other suggestions in the documentary to Watkins possibly being Q in the documentary but there is nothing concrete to definitely pin the identity on him.
Ben Collins, who has covered QAnon for NBC News, said that when he spoke to Watkins, he denied having any involvement in Q. Collins adds that he now believes that Q had been Watkins on 8Chan and prior to that was a group of anonymous individuals on 4Chan.
Ron Watkins told me he never posted as Q, never talked to anyone who claimed they were Q, never knew who it was. He… https://t.co/H5FaZGsrz1
Watkins has again denied that he is Q. Posting on his Telegram account he said: “I’ve noticed that the fake news media is FALSELY reporting that I am Q. It is simply not true. Here are the facts: I am not Q. I’ve never spoken privately with Q. I don’t know who Q is.”
Meanwhile, Brennan believes that while Watkins has control of the Q account, a claim that was reported by ABC News in September, he actually believes that the whole thing was started by a South African conspiracy theorist called Paul Furber before he lost access to the account.
Once again, this is just the opinion of one documentary maker and the evidence that he has found so unless others come to the same conclusion with their own research, then the identity of Q will have to remain sceptical as much of the evidence appears to be circumstantial and based on Watkins inconsistent statements. Even Hoback admits that his theory “lacked definitive proof.”
That being said, many followers of QAnon are said to have abandoned the conspiracy theory after nothing materialised to stop Joe Biden from being inaugurated as president on 20th January. However, many still seem invested in Q despite the character not posting anything since December.