- The HBO series “Q: Into the Storm” included interviews with Ron Watkins, a popular QAnon figure.
- Filmmaker Cullen Hoback thought he exposed Watkins as “Q,” the figure who started QAnon.
- Followers of the baseless far-right conspiracy theory are now attacking the series, calling it “fake news.”
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Documentary filmmaker Cullen Hoback thought he had caught Ron Watkins in the finale of the HBO docuseries “Q: Into the Storm.”
Watkins, the former administrator of the platform where the creator of the QAnon conspiracy theory posted, told Hoback, “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,” Watkins said, but immediately tried to backtrack on the statement, adding: “Never as Q. I promise. I am not Q.”
“Ron had slipped up,” Hoback said in the episode. “He knew it, and I knew it – and after three tireless years of cat and mouse.” By saying he was “anonymously” involved with the QAnon world, Watkins appeared to leak that he may have been acting as “Q,” the anonymous figure who ran the theory with messages on 8kun, owned by Watkins’ father.
But in the days after Sunday’s episode aired, major promoters of the conspiracy theory, which alleges a “deep state” cabal of human traffickers exists at the top levels of power in the US, weren’t remotely convinced.
One QAnon influencer told his 100,000 Telegram subscribers that the documentary was “fake news” on Wednesday. “Total FAIL on so many levels,” he said.
Another influencer with 33,000 Telegram subscribers said on Wednesday, “They really thought the HBO special would take us down?” The post, viewed by 37,000 users as of Thursday morning, compared the QAnon community to Jesus and his disciples. “If Jesus turned the world upside down with 12 people,” the post said, “Imagine what we could do? How many are we now?”
“Q” has been silent since his last 8kun post on December 8, 2020.
QAnon researchers had predicted that the community would discredit any evidence regarding the identity of “Q.” Alexander Reid Ross, a doctoral fellow at the Center for Analysis of the Radical Right, an organization that tracks right-wing extremism worldwide, told Insider in an interview last fall that the identity of “Q” wouldn’t matter to the movement.
“Every iteration has to become plausible for them, and sort of co-exist within what they already believe through QAnon,” Reid Ross said. “They can’t walk it back – they have to continue to move forward.”
Ron Watkins is a popular QAnon influencer
Watkins is the former operator of 8kun, the fringe platform where “Q” first posted. His father, Jim, is the owner of the platform, which is a revamped version of the now-defunct 8chan.
He previously denied being “Q” in a conversation with Insider. In an April 3 message on his Telegram channel, where he has 152,000 subscribers, Watkins said, “Friendly reminder: I am not Q.”
Watkins has been a major influencer and, in some ways, a hero for the QAnon community, leveraging his power in the community to become one of the most vocal supporters of the pro-Trump “Stop the Steal” campaign last fall. In encouraging followers to discredit President Joe Biden’s election win, he was retweeted by Trump and his allies on several occasions, including Rudy Giuliani, Trump’s lawyer and de facto “Stop the Steal” czar.
Watkins’ main target was Dominion Voting Systems, the voting-technology company used by several states that was baselessly accused by the right of interfering with the election. The Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA) denied such allegations and has said the 2020 presidential election was the most “secure” in history.
In November, as part of his campaign to allege the election had been corrupted, Trump shared a video from One America News Network, the far-right pro-Trump propaganda network. The clip featured Watkins as a “cyber analyst” exposing “shocking vulnerabilities” in Dominion technology. Trump also retweeted a tweet from Watkins in December.
Watkins appeared to finally accept Trump’s defeat in a message for his 152,000 Telegram followers on January 20. “We gave it our all. Now we need to keep our chins up and go back to our lives as best we are able,” he said.