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Wednesday, September 02, 2020

QAnon: How an anonymous 4chan poster lead to a U.S. domestic terrorist threat which spread to Canada

There has been a lot written about the QAnon conspiracy theory since it began, especially with violent acts perpetrated by its supporters so we felt it was important to discuss the movement, and how it has spread to Canada.

Pre QAnon: Pizzagate

Before QAnon another conspiracy theory popped up concerning non-existent pedophile operations. The Pizzagate theory took place during the 2016 U.S. presidential election. It revolved around leaked emails from Hilary Clinton's campaign manager that were published by Wikileaks.

The conspiracy theorists claimed that the emails contained coded messages about a child sex ring controlled by Democratic politicians. It was also claimed that Restaurants named in the emails were where Satanic ritual abuse of children took place and children were harvested for a made up drug called 'adrenochrome'. 

These claims were all debunked, but not before a believer of the conspiracy theory entered one of the restaurants named in the emails called Comet Ping Pong, and fired an AR-15. He believed that ritualistic child sacrifces were happening in the non-existent basement of Comet Ping Pong. Many of the businesses and individuals cited in the emails were the victims of harassment and threats.

Q origins on 4Chan

QAnon began in October 2017 when an anonymous 4Chan user going by the moniker "Q" posted cryptic messages under a thread called "Calm Before the Storm". They claimed that Hilary Clinton's extradition was already underway, her passport was flagged, and to expect massive riots, none of which was true. The name Q is a reference to an actual U.S. security clearance classification, Q clearance being one of the highest level clearances. 

Q also made claims that Hilary Clinton, John Podesta, Barack Obama, and John McCain have all either been arrested or are wearing ankle monitors to track their locations, none of which was true. Q claims that Donald Trump is working behind the scenes against the deep state, which is actively trying to end his presidency.

QAnon moves from online conspiracy theories to a real world threat

Q would continue to make false claims on 4Chan such as Kim Jong-un being installed by they CIA, Angela Merkel being the granddaughter of Adolf Hitler, and that Debbie Wasserman-Schultz had a DNC staffer murdered. Q eventually shifted from 4Chan to 8Chan. 

The QAnon sub-culture formed as Q would leave cryptic messages for their followers known as "breadcrumbs", the followers who refer to themselves as "bakers" would 'decrypt' the messages and the result would a jumbled mess of nonsense known as "dough". 

After 8Chan was removed from the internet, QAnon posters and followers moved over to other chan boards, such as EndChan and 8kun. 

Eventually QAnon signs and supporters started showing up at rallies in support of Donald Trump, along with their commonly used motto "Where We Go One, We Go All" or WWG1WGA.

Signs at a rally are one thing, but QAnon believers have also committed crimes across the U.S.:

  • Michael Lewis Arthur Meyer was arrested for stealing and damaging water tanks that belonged to a humanitarian group which he believed was part of a global child-trafficking cabal.
  • Matthew Phillip Wright was convicted of making terrorist threats after he blocked traffic on the Hoover Dam. He claimed he was motivated by patriotism and used the WWG1WGA phrase.
  • Anthony Comello was accused of murdering alleged mob boss Fransesco Cali because he believe he was tied to the deep state. 
  • Jessica Prim was arrested after she allegedly recorded a video where she stated that Joe Biden and Hilary Clinton needed to be 'taken out'. Prim was radicalized to violence in a startlingly quick manner. 
  • Alpalus Slyman allegedly led police on a chase for 20 minutes while ranting on a livestream with his 5 children in the car. 
  • Neely Blanchard allegedly kidnapped her twin daughters and has been charged. She had associated with QAnon adherents. 
  • Cecilia Fulbright was charged with driving while intoxicated and aggravated assault after she allegedly drove her car into two other vehicles in 'an attempt to save children from the pedophiles'.
American far-right militia groups are starting to promote the conspiracy theory, and recently the FBI declared in a memo that QAnon supporters should be considered a domestic terror threat.

QAnon supporters target celebrities and private businesses

QAnon supporters have included multiple celebrities into the conspiracy theory. 

  • It was claimed that the Ellen show was being cancelled because Ellen was being investigated for connections to the child trafficking ring. This most likely stemmed from accusations that the Ellen show harbours a toxic work culture behind the scenes.
  • Tom Hanks was issued a Greek passport. QAnon supporters believe that news story meant that he was under investigation as well. 
  • Oprah Winfrey was also targeted after news outlets reported that her 'O' magazine would no longer be in print but online only. 
  • A Facebook claimed that Chrissy Teigen was on Jeffrey Epstein's flight list. The post was untrue, but Teigen still received a torrent of harassment. 
All of these claims were of course debunked.

Online retailer Wayfair was also a target for QAnon based conspiracy theories. The theory originated online when an anonymous person in a chatroom asked whether Wayfair's (supposedly) high prices for cabinets could be a cover for selling children. This was quickly debunked but not before a YouTube influencer had to take back some of the comments they made:

"I didn't really have all the facts for that video, I just kind of made it on impulse because I was so scared," said Jeremiah Willis in a later video. "I personally have no knowledge, no evidence, nothing."

QAnon and antisemitism

It could be argued that most conspiracy theories are based on antisemitism, and QAnon certainly contains some antisemitic undertones. QAnon groups and members tend to target George Soros and the Rockefellar and Rothchild families, which are common targets for anti-semites. The targeting of democrats and non-right leaning parties however is more politically motivated. Also worth mentioning is the centuries old superstition that Jews engaged in a "blood libel" which was a non-existent Jewish sacrifice of Christian children. With all of that said, the Anti-Defamation League stated in a 2017 report:

"“The vast majority of QAnon-inspired conspiracy theories have nothing to with antisemitism,” according to the Anti-Defamation League’s 2017 “Anti-Semitism Globally” report. However, the report said that QAnon followers, likely due to the conspiracy’s flexible nature, often refer “to Israel, Jews, Zionists, or George Soros” as boogeymen aligned with supposedly criminal Democrats in opposition of Trump."

QAnon follower attempts to attract UFO conspiracy theorists

Jordan Sather who is a conspiracy theorist on YouTube made a claim that two posts by Q confirm that UFOs exist and that the government is covering it up. His YouTube channel has almost 200,000 followers.

"QAnon, the often unintelligible conspiracy theory that our government is being run by the "Deep State"—and that there is a whistleblower within the government pseudonymously known as ‘Q’ who is trying to protect us from it—is beginning to find an audience among UFO hunters and people who believe the government is hiding aliens.

As Q’s followers wait for more cryptic quotes from their enigmatic forum poster, it seems that many have turned to the UFO narrative for their conspiratorial fix (8chan, the image board where the anonymous handle Q posts, has been shut down). Simultaneously, opportunists on the UFO side of things have tapped into the QAnon conspiracy to grow their follower counts. What has occurred, especially in the last 12 months, is the rise of a new politically-laden conspiracy movement that bridges the gap between Trump’s election, UFOs, the Deep State, and aliens.

Earlier this month, popular conspiracy YouTuber Jordan Sather referenced two specific Q posts: “This is confirming that information about UFO's and cosmic life is known at the highest levels (by Q and Trump), and that this group is working to disclose these things. MASSIVE implications.”

QAnon’s ideological mythos does not naturally contain significant references to UFOs. It has predominantly focused on a political and anti-government paradigm. However, that has not stopped some from peddling Q to the UFO community. Out of Q’s 3,750 posts, only four reference UFOs, and they aren’t exactly direct or clear."

QAnon acts as a cult

Many researchers who study QAnon have described it as a cult. 

Travis View who hosts a QAnon podcast once said:

“people in the QAnon community revere Trump, almost on a spiritual level.”
Mike Caufield who is the head of the American Association of State Colleges and Universities digital polarization initiative said:
“The easiest way to radicalize someone is to permanently warp their view of reality,” “It’s not just confirmation bias ... we see people moving step by step into alternate realities. They start off questioning and then they’re led down the path.”
Steven Hassan who is an expert on cults said:
"the way in which QAnon finds followers “based on both hopes and fear,” is cultlike and something that keeps them “locked into the belief bubble.”"

QAnon compared to an Alternate Reality Game

Game designer Adrian Hon was interviewed by the New York Times and he makes a very compelling argument that QAnon is similar to an alternate reality game, like the type he designs. He has a complex explanation for what an ARG is on his website but I'll do my best to explain. Alternate reality games are done mainly over the internet but do involve some real life interactions. Players immerse themselves in evolving stories, work together to solve problems using clues found on websites, in newspaper ads, or any other medium available which gives the game a very real feel. From the New York Times interview:

"But specifically what caught my eye is that almost everyone who discovers QAnon uses a phrase like, “I did my research.” I kept hearing that and I couldn’t get it out of my head. This research is, basically, typing things into Google but when they do, they go down the rabbit hole. They open a fascinating fantasy world of secret wars and cabals and Hillary Clinton controlling things, and it offers convenient explanations for things that feel inexplicable or wrong about the world. It reminded me specifically of how people get to alternate reality games. Through these research rabbit holes."

Russian troll accounts spread QAnon disinformation

Twitter deleted more than 400 accounts linked to Russian troll farms. Aside from tweeting the hashtags #IslamIsTheProblem, #StopImportingIslam, the accounts were adding the #Qanon, #GreatAwakening and #FollowTheWhiteRabbit hashtags to tweets about the Mueller investigation and the #ReleaseTheMemo hashtag.

"When removing the spam-style messages that included multiple hashtags, the second-most tweeted topic for the Russian troll accounts was #Qanon, a baseless conspiracy theory that claims Mueller and Trump are secretly working together to take down a global pedophile ring run by celebrities and Democratic politicians.
#GreatAwakening and #FollowTheWhiteRabbit, which are catchphrases for #Qanon followers, also featured prominently in the Russian trolls’ tweets."

Multiple 2020 congressional candidates are QAnon supporters

With a very important election coming up in November it is very disturbing to find out that there are some Republican candidates who support QAnon. 

  • Marjorie Taylor Greene - Georgia
  • Jo Rae Perkins - Oregon
  • Lauren Boebert - Colorado
  • Mike Cargile - California
  • Theresa Raborn - Illinois
  • Erin Cruz - California

While no election is set in stone, Marjorie Greene is running in Georgia's 14th district which is a strong Republican district so she will most likely end up in Congress. It should also be mentioned that she has made YouTube videos with some very Islamophobic and racist content.

QAnon attempts to attach itself to legitimate anti-child trafficking efforts

Recently QAnon followers have begun to attach themselves to legitimate anti-trafficking groups and campaigns. There has been an increase in QAnon related content in parenting Facebook groups, and protests about human trafficking have been infiltrated by people with signs about elite pedophile rings that don't exist. The #SaveTheChildren hashtag, which was started by the Save The Children charity as a fundraising effort was recently hijacked by QAnon followers, and had to be temporarily disabled by Facebook. Child trafficking hotlines have also been flooded with baseless claims. So QAnon followers are now damaging actual efforts to stop child trafficking. There are a lot of parallels between the current hysteria regarding child sex trafficking, and past false child abuse scandals.

QAnon activity throughout the world

Given how U.S. centric and supportive of Donald Trump the QAnon conspiracy theory is, it's a little surprising to find out how it has spread around the world. Trump does have supporters through out the world, but overall he is unpopular globally. Nevertheless, the QAnon conspiracy has found support in The U.K., Canada, Belgium, France, Germany, Australia, Poland, Russia, Denmark, Israel, and even Iran. Canada was listed in the top four QAnon supporting countries, along with The U.S., The U.K., and Australia.

QAnon activity in Canada

Canadian believers of the QAnon conspiracy theory have been floating around far-right social media pages for a while now. There were plenty of posts in the yellow vest groups about Q almost since the beginning, and people attended their rallies with "Q" signs.

QAnon believers attending a Calgary Yellow Vest rally as early as mid-December, 2018

Comments in response to the rally photos

A Canadian QAnon Facebook group was created in January 2019, and another in April of this year.

Note: This page is not currently accessible, it may have been removed


As with any far-right/patriot/yellow vest social media group, both Canadian Q groups commonly have hate speech posted in them.

Q signage and supporters are now becoming common at far-right/patriot rallies in Canada.

Ottawa yellow vest rally December 2018

From the sparsely attended "Freedom March" in February 2020

One of many QAnon signs displayed at the far-right rally on Canada Day 2020

Some of the more well known leaders in far-right groups have expressed support for QAnon.

Glen Carritt of the Yellow Vests/United We Roll

Duke Willis is associated with multiple hate groups and promotes conspiracy theories

Dan Dubois is the president of the Canadian Combat Coalition

Corey Hurren

On July 2 a former Canadian Forces reservist allegedly drove his truck through the gates of Rideau Hall which is the residence of the Governor General, and contains Rideau Cottage which is a vacation home for the Prime Minister. He exited his vehicle while armed, was confronted by police, and after a lengthy conversation was arrested and charged with multiple weapons offences and uttering threats.

Corey Hurren
Alleged Rideau Hall attacker Corey Hurren

Truck found on Rideau Hall property after crashing through gate

Some of Hurren's social media activity suggests that he was a believer of the QAnon conspiracy theory.

In March, just as the COVID-19 lockdowns began, the Grindhouse Instagram account featured a post about “going down the rabbit hole” into QAnon conspiracy theories. 

QAnon is an American conspiracy group focused on a supposed “deep state” conspiracy against U.S. President Donald Trump that boasts a worldwide following. Dozens of QAnon signs were spotted at a far-right rally held on Parliament Hill the day before the Rideau Hall attack. 

“Has anyone else been following ‘Q’ and the ‘White Rabbit’ down the rabbit hole and how this all relates the Corona virus (sic)/COVID-19 situation?” reads a March 27 post on Grindhouse Fine Foods’ Instagram account. 

“Lots of coincidences in all these ‘Q’ posts if this turns out to be a ‘nothingburger’.”
Attached to the post were a series of hashtags, referencing debunked conspiracy theories.

The Star reported Thursday that another COVID-19 conspiracy meme was posted to a Facebook account associated with Hurren just minutes before the truck crashed through the gates at Rideau Hall.

Allegedly Hurren told police that he wanted to speak with Prime Minister Trudeau. 

Hate crime charges sought after infrastructure minister harassed outside office 

While it's not uncommon for politicians to receive harassment, there has been a noticed uptick in the level of harassment directed towards the prime minister, cabinet ministers, and other politicians. Women in office have been particularly targeted. One such person targeted has been federal environment minister Catherine McKenna. Recently she was verbally attacked outside of her office, and called a sexist slur. Police launched a hate crime probe into the matter.

The Canadian Anti-Hate Network identified the attacker as Jeff Clayton who has been living in Calgary, AB, but is originally from Saint John, NB.

Jeff Clayton in Ottawa

Video still from Miranda Remillard of the Canadian Revolution encampment

Clayton has been recording himself walking around downtown Ottawa, screaming unfounded allegations about politicians and private citizens being pedophiles. His Twitter account was recently suspended (hopefully permanently) for harassing people, but before that happened he was following Twitter accounts that were in support of QAnon. He also tweeted support for Corey Hurren. 

Clayton repeatedly tweeted support for alleged Rideau Hall attacker Corey Hurren

Norman Traversy's QAnon inspired campaign

Norman Traversy has been floating around right-wing patriot groups for a little while now but really came into prominence recently with claims that he will be having Prime Minister Justin Trudeau arrested and ousted from office.

Rick Boswick on the left with Norman Traversy on the right

Traversy says that he can have Trudeau arrested via a private prosecution which is an outdated law with virtually no chance for success. But that hasn't stopped supporters of his from donating over $144,000 to a GoFundMe campaign in his name. The criminal charges he claims Trudeau will be arrested for range from obstruction of justice, to involvement with the Pickton pig farm murders, and child sex trafficking.

Phony criminal charges aside, Traversy has stated publicly that he supports QAnon, even going so far as reciting their motto "Where We Go One We Go All" during a rally on Canada Day this year. During the rally he led a march to the American embassy (which due to the holiday was closed) and delivered documents but not really.

He claims that the U.S. and Mexico can have Trudeau arrested under the North American Free Trade Agreement, so he also delivered the documents to the Mexican embassy, but he didn't even know the name of the Mexican president.

Pierre Elliott Trudeau statue defaced

A statue of Pierre Elliott Trudeau in the city of Vaughan was vandalized on August 16. At this point the individual(s) responsible have not been found. It is of note that the word 'pedo' was spray painted on the base of the statue. Given the QAnon theories about global elite pedophile rings, it's not a stretch to say that a QAnon follower may have been responsible.

Vandalized Pierre Elliott Trudeau statue in Vaughan, Ontario

Quebec restaurant owner harassed over new logo

A restaurant owner in Baie-Saint-Paul, Quebec has been harassed by people online, after they changed their logo.

The logo has a commonly used triangular sprial shape. It resembles a shape displayed in an docmument released by Wikileaks that the FBI states is being used by pedophiles.

Far-groups have been spreading a conspiracy theory that Justin Trudeau is linked to pedophelia based on an old logo used by the Pierre-Elliot Trudeau Foundation.

WEXIT founder Peter Downing even put up a billboard based on this assumption, claiming that Justin Trudeau is "normalizing pedophelia". 

WEXIT billboard in Edmonton

Billy Joyce ran for the People's Party of Canada and is a QAnon conspiracy theorist

In case it wasn't already obvious that the PPC doesn't vet their candidates very well, Billy Joyce, a QAnon conspiracy theorist and Islamophobe ran as a candidate for the People's Party of Canada in riding of Cape Breton-Canso, Nova Scotia.

PPC candidate Billy Joyce

Joyce's rants on his YouTube channel are typical for the far-right in general, but it's pretty alarming that he ran for Canadian parliament. 

"It’s fitting Joyce made the announcement on YouTube, as that’s where he has a channel with 22,000 subscribers and nearly 200 lengthy videos discussing far-right topics including QAnon conspiracy theories, which detail a supposed secret plot to take down Trump by an alleged "deep state," Pizzagate theories, and how Islam and multiculturalism are destroying Canada (a favourite of the PPC crowd). His most popular views, by a long shot, are focused on QAnon.

According to his YouTube statistic page, Joyce first joined the site in 2008 and has garnered over a million views since then. His most popular video is called “ARRESTS!! TRUDEAU & OBAMA TIES TO PED0GATE & MKUltra ! Order of Canada Honor?”"

Maxime Bernier retweets Amazing Polly

Leader of the PPC Maxime Bernier has his own history of amplifying QAnon conspiracy theorists. Last year he retweeted a video by a conspiracy YouTuber called Amazing Polly, who is a well known Canadian QAnon promoter. Polly is of particular concern, because she currently has over 350 thousand subscribers on YouTube.


Social media companies clamp down on the conspiracy theory

Both Facebook and Twitter have begun to crack down on fake news, conspiracy theories, and QAnon, but the response has been somewhat slow. Twitter recently banned 7,000 QAnon based accounts. Facebook has been a bit slower to act, but they did remove a Canadian QAnon group. Involvement in QAnon Facebook groups increased dramatically during the COVID-19 pandemic, most likely due to people's feelings of isolation during the lock down. QAnon supporters also plan to ramp up activities to influence the 2020 election.

Donald Trump does nothing to distance himself from QAnon conspiracies

United States president, Donald Trump was recently at a white house press event. A reporter asked about his thoughts on QAnon, he responded with what appeared to be an endorsement of the movement:

"I don’t know much about the movement other than I understand they like me very much, which I appreciate. But I don’t know much about the movement," he said at a press briefing.

"These are people that don’t like seeing what’s going on in places like Portland and places like Chicago and other cities and states," Trump said, mischaracterizing what the conspiracy theory focuses on. "I’ve heard these are people that love our country and they just don't like seeing it. I don’t know really anything about it other than they do supposedly like me. And they also would like to see problems in these areas … go away."

U.S. Vice President Mike Pence also tweeted and then deleted a picture of himself with a law enforcement officer wearing a QAnon patch.


Like most conspiracy theories the promoters take legitimate stories and spin them, while adding them to a grander conspiracy filled with lies. For example Jeffrey Epstein is a well-connected billionaire who was arrested of for child trafficking, and later committed suicide while in prison. QAnon followers will take that story, and spin it to make their fanciful stories about Hilary Clinton, George Soros and basements below Pizza parlors seem true.  

QAnon takes that strategy further, and is a concern for a multitude of reasons: 

  • The attachment to an actual politician. (Donald Trump)
  • The obvious partisan targeting of Liberal or left leaning politicians.
  • The unwillingness of Donald Trump and Republican politicians to denounce QAnon.
  • Detractors are deemed to be a part of the conspiracy, hence in favour of child-sex rings. 
  • Real efforts to stop child trafficking are being hindered.
  • Q drops are cryptic and have no real meaning, so individuals can interpret them however they choose.
  • For believers, law enforcement is doing nothing to stop the conspiracy making vigilantism more likely.
  • QAnon supporters have a cult-like devotion to Donald Trump.

With everything said in this piece, I feel it's best to end with a couple famous quotes.

"Those who can make you believe absurdities, can make you commit atrocities."
                                                                                   - Voltaire

"Those who cannot remember the past, are condemned to repeat it."
                                                                                   - George Santayana

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