Dispatches From Q-Land is a monthly Paste series delving into the seamy underbelly of the QAnon conspiracy theory on right-wing social media platforms such as Parler, Gab and Telegram. It’s a disturbing task, but only by paying attention to these dangerous extremists can we understand the nature of their ever-evolving delusion at any given moment, and hope to understand what they might do next.
Another month passes, but the potent combination of paranoia, rage and religious ecstasy possessed by your average QAnon believer stays just the same. So it tends to be with the most ardent believers in the dense cluster of conspiracy theories generally clumped together under the most common title of “QAnon,” although the average believer will of course tell you that there’s no such thing—“there is Q, and there are Anons.” The parroting back of that line, and lines just like it, speaks to the way this loosely collected cadre of right-wing conspiracy theorists style themselves as “free thinkers” who simultaneously and unironically love to repeat whichever catchphrases they’re told to repeat. Wash, rinse and repeat. Ability to detect irony? Nonexistent.
Just to put you in the correct type of brain-melting headspace before we dive into this month’s topic, I’ll share a single image that really sums up the schizophrenic heart and soul of your average QAnon influencer.
Imagine looking at this block of gibberish, nodding, and thinking “The Plan is all coming together.”
This is the kind of weapons-grade absurdity you’ll encounter on a daily basis as you browse through the posts of prominent Q influencers (that guy above has 28,000 followers) on Q-friendly hubs like Gab, Parler and Telegram. I can promise you that even after months of following these guys, it never gets any easier to parse their unique combination of pseudo-religious mysticism, shameless profiteering (this guy shills various cryptocurrencies daily), and the utterly unshakeable confidence that their victory is perpetually one or two weeks over the horizon. These folks have been completely certain that “The Storm” (the great purging of all their enemies) was about to arrive for going on 7 months now since the Nov. 2020 presidential election, but their repeated failure to predict when this would occur has made little if any impact on their willingness to be wrong yet again. Every morning, they simply wake up ready to believe something new that is fundamentally wrong about our reality.
So, let’s dive in to what has the Anons riled up this month, starting with the most popular topic of recent weeks: The Arizona audit!
If there’s one topic that has captured the obsessive attention and overactive imaginations of Anons in the last month, it’s been the ongoing, seemingly never-ending “audit” of the 2020 presidential election being carried out in Arizona’s Maricopa County. Suffice to say, Anons view the audit efforts with their usual blend of governmental distrust, blind hope, and the underlying assumption that it’s just one more part of the glorious and unstoppable “Plan” that will eventually culminate in them trampling their enemies underfoot.
Meanwhile, back in reality, the audit is just the latest symbolic challenge to Joe Biden’s surprising victory in the Nov. 2020 presidential election in Arizona, in which the state flipped blue for the first time since 1996. Said election has already been audited on multiple occasions in Arizona, by nonpartisan professional firms with actual election-auditing experience, and each time there were no inconsistencies or problems that were found. The Arizona state senate, however, desperate to continue currying favor with former President Donald Trump, continued to demand yet more audits, and ultimately went to the lengths of hiring their own private firm—an unknown company called Cyber Ninjas with no prior election auditing experience. Said firm is also headed by a CEO, Doug Logan, who made his own bias extremely clear by posting election fraud conspiracy theories on social media accounts following the election. Understandably, Arizona’s Democratic legislators have not exactly been happy about a haphazardly managed, obviously partisan firm doing whatever they want with Maricopa County’s 2.1 million ballots, while hiding their techniques and allowing little if any media access. Even the funding of the audit is totally cloaked in secrecy, and the operation has been opposed since the beginning by the county’s own Republican-led board of supervisors, who have called Cyber Ninjas employees incompetent, saying “they don’t know what they’re doing.”
The resulting weeks since the audit began have turned into a cavalcade of embarrassments and setbacks, with Cyber Ninjas in particular constantly displaying how badly out of their element everyone involved in the audit seems to be. The entire process was initially said to last until only May 14, but massive understaffing slowed the operation to a snail’s pace, resulting in a shutdown as the Veterans Memorial Coliseum in Phoenix had to be turned over for a week full of high school graduation ceremonies, while a traveling carnival simultaneously rented the space outside. Ballots, meanwhile, may have been stored in 100-plus degree temperature heat in a non-climate-controlled building, and only a quarter of the 2.1 million ballots had been checked by the time that this initial deadline was reached. There’s still no way of knowing how long the rest of the operation is intended to take, but the current pace of progress would put it somewhere in August, allowing this farce to persist for months, as the GOP state senate uses it as a fundraising opportunity.
Meanwhile, the audit has since generated slews of absurd headlines for such antics as reportedly trying to find “fake,” Chinese-made ballots by testing paper for bamboo fibers, incorrectly claiming that databases had been deleted, and subsequently being instructed by the Maricopa County Attorney’s Office to hold onto all documents related to the audit, hinting at possible future litigation against Cyber Ninjas. This week, one of the subcontractor companies working alongside Cyber Ninjas dropped out of the audit project, seemingly wanting to get as far away from the operation as they possibly could, leaving a new company in charge of the recount that also doesn’t seem to possess any experience in election auditing. It’s as if any form of competence is a totally disqualifying quality.
Even the GOP state senators who ordered the audit have begun to turn against the marathon farce of it, seemingly recognizing that the entire country is watching as Arizona legislators make themselves look like fools to win the favor of Donald Trump. As Republican State Senator Paul Boyer said to The New York Times, “It makes us look like idiots. Looking back, I didn’t think it would be this ridiculous. It’s embarrassing to be a state senator at this point.”
Of course, to see your average Anon posting about the audit on Gab, you’d think that they’d just found a literal smoking gun covered in Hillary Clinton’s fingerprints. Leaping from incorrect assumption to incorrect conclusion, they assume that the audit would conclude with the election results being reversed in Arizona—something it’s not intended to do, and cannot legally do—and then conclude that it would only be a matter of time before the same thing happened in every other swing state Biden won, such as Georgia, Pennsylvania, Wisconsin and Michigan. Boom, suddenly Donald Trump has won the 2020 presidential election after all, some 7 months after the fact! Now they can all be rewarded with the violence they so desperately crave!
This post really sums up the various hopes and dreams of Anons in one place, when it comes to the audit.
I forget: What’s the normal way to respond to someone who says they’re really, really hoping to watch “execution marathons”? Is it “I hope!”, with a praying hands emoji? Can you even call yourself a patriot if you aren’t praying for the opportunity to watch a lot of people die? Wait, am I mixing up the definition of “patriot” with “psychopath” again? Why am I always getting those two confused?
The Arizona audit has been notable among QAnon fixations for the fact that it has actually persisted for more than a week—typically, Anons will operate in a feeding frenzy around a particular news story (like the Ever Given in the Suez Canal) for a short period, and then discard it, never to be mentioned again. But the audit, on the other hand, has been a story that just continues to dominate Anon talking points because it seems to promise the possibility of what they want most—a way for Trump to magically become the President once again. It doesn’t matter if even the GOP members of the Arizona State Senate have stated that this is not the audit’s purpose—Anons are perfectly happy to ascribe their own meanings to these things, rather than listening to their own would-be allies.
In the end, we’ll still probably be hearing about this stupid audit for months to come, because they show no sign of being able to get their shit together anytime soon. By the time I write this column next month, perhaps they’ll have checked (and contaminated/destroyed) 50% of the ballots? Anons will surely be happy with that kind of lightning progress.
Here are some more topics that have been catching the eyes and overactive imagination of Anons lately.
Did you know that all your fully vaccinated friends and family are supposed to be dead by now? The COVID-19 vaccines, after all, were created by Bill Gates as “population control” devices according to Anons, to reduce global population to suit the needs of the Cabal, and blah, blah, blah. As you would expect, Anons have no particular answer as to why the COVID vaccines haven’t resulted in the deaths of millions, as they were fearing. Ironically, many of them are instead overjoyed about states reopening as new cases of COVID finally slow down, oblivious to the obvious conclusion that cases have dropped because more people are vaccinated. Anons, however, are still waiting for Bill Gates to push the button that causes all the vaccinated people to drop dead.
BILL GATES IS GOING TO TURN OFF MY HEART WITH 5G!
Likewise, you can always tell that you’re about to have a substantive conversation with someone about the pandemic when they refer to your mask as a “face diaper.”
If any statement has ever been worthy of the plaudit “great point,” then surely it is this one about face diapers.
Here’s the thing about being a conspiracy theorist: If you’re ready to believe one patently absurd thing, you’re probably ready to believe all kinds of patently absurd things. Maybe you start simple, by believing election fraud disinformation, but by the time the average Anon has finished their “research” they’re usually eager to tell you about the Satanic Cabal sucking adrenochrome out of aborted fetuses to prolong their lifespan, or reptilian aliens impersonating the British royal family, or Marjorie Taylor Greene’s Jewish space lasers. No theory is simply dismissed out of hand for being idiotic—every single one is treated as worthy of the same level of credibility.
This leads to Anons having a particular fascination with science fiction-esque theoretical technology, which they believe exists among us in secret. You’ll occasionally see some of them claim that Q himself was not a human being, but a “quantum computer” communicating with humanity, sharing its sentient insights and predictions for the future. You’ll see claims about weather machines and global temperature control, mixed with old chemtrail conspiracy theories, cobbled together into a single, Frankensteinian narrative.
My personal favorite? Anons will occasionally refer to the “looking glass,” a supposed theoretical technology possessed by Trump and the “White Hats” that is supposed to literally allow them to peer into the future on a video screen, giving them knowledge of what will happen in the world in advance.
You’ve got to love how in this scenario, Trump and co. have access to a magical portal that literally allows them to see the future, and they still end up being defeated in the 2020 election, as well as allowing a viral pandemic to kill almost 600,000 Americans. Anons are somehow able to simultaneously believe that Trump can see the future, and not be angry at him for failing to act in prevention of the most devastating public health event of the last century. That is some S-tier compartmentalization.
“Anons lust for violence” is a truly evergreen headline when it comes to describing QAnon believers, because if there’s one thing in particular you’re guaranteed to witness while skimming their online posting, it’s Anons desperately hoping to either witness violence directed against their perceived enemies, or having the opportunity to participate in violence themselves. Consistently, they brag about their readiness to participate in what they expect to be an upcoming civil war—sometimes with what looks like genuine malice, and others because they’ve clearly been brainwashed into thinking that they’ll be “rounded up” by the “bad guys” in the near future. This overpowering fear and paranoia about “Them,” the supposed agents of the Deep State/Cabal, is the strongest motivating factor that seems to drive Anons to fantasies of a scenario where all the violence they crave will be justified. After all, if you genuinely thought that someone was coming to “drag the real Americans away,” you’d be understandably terrified.
Thus, you end up with guys like the one below who are carrying their high-capacity rifles around everywhere, just waiting for the opportunity to eventually come to start shooting.
In this scenario, the “pile of shit” he’s driving over is either your car, or your body.
Of course, if that one is too subtle for you, this guy keeps things real simple. Because as they say, there’s no more ideal more endorsed by Jesus Christ than “vengeance.”
Occasionally, some of the anti-government types make their appeals for civil war a little too overt and too obvious for even the fellow Gabbers, and someone tries to warn one of their allies that the FBI might very well be paying a bit more attention to these things in a post-Jan. 6 insurrection world.
“I’m not a coward like you.” Truly amazing stuff.
And finally, I’d like to close by reaffirming that Gab truly is one of the very worst places on the internet—as bad as the worst corners of 4chan and 8chan, in fact. This might not be immediately clear, because if you only pay attention to certain arenas of Trump worship and Q speculation on Gab, you might simply come to view the place as something like a more conservative Facebook. But start looking at the people who regularly post in the orbit of a figure like Gab founder Andrew Torba, and the outrageous racism, misogyny, antisemitism and idiocy of this site becomes shocking even to someone who has now spent months immersing himself in QAnon culture.
It never fails to shock me that so much of the very worst stuff on Gab happens in such close proximity to Torba, the man who is its CEO and public face. This is a human being with absolutely no shame, no compassion, and no fear of reprisal—the god-king of this little corner of the internet he lucked out into leading by virtue of Anons choosing it as one of their favored meeting places. He doesn’t even care about the optics surrounding his company for the most part, being perfectly willing to repost things like the “women shouldn’t vote” screed below.
This is the founder and CEO of this social media service, and he doesn’t just “tolerate” the existence of that kind of content as a necessary component of free speech, he chooses to specifically amplify it. On any given day, Torba’s dozens of posts waffle between biblical quotations and white supremacist talking points, while he simultaneously claims not to be racist despite describing all his enemies as “anti-white.”
Those posts are bad enough, but holy hell, the replies to those posts. Never have I seen so many racial slurs in one place on the internet—too many N-words to count, outrageously shameless antisemitism, anti-LGBTQ hate speech and countless other images that I literally don’t feel comfortable actually embedding here. Rest assured, you’ll find them on many of Torba’s posts. Imagine if every Facebook post from Mark Zuckerberg was filled with people screaming racial slurs, and you’re pretty much there.
And here’s the thing—the racism in particular here is on such an advanced and shameless level that a lot of these people don’t even claim to not be racists. Instead, they’ve tried to reclaim the word “racist,” and instead argue that RACISM IS A GOOD THING.
THAT, in a nutshell, is the experience of browsing Gab, and it’s enough to make you feel sick to your stomach. Truly, a forsaken place—and thus, the obvious home for Anons.