(8) How it Started, How it’s Going

James Watkins on OAN

The Cost of Conspiracy

“The hope of impunity is a strong incitement to sedition; the dread of punishment, a proportionally strong discouragement to it.” -Alexander Hamilton

A conspiracy is broadly defined as a covert plan by two or more individuals to commit some unlawful or harmful act. The more people involved in the conspiracy, the greater the difficulty of successfully executing it without being discovered. The secret plan must be protected and acts toward the conspiracy’s goal must likewise be committed without drawing attention.

The conspiracy is akin to basic rules around network security. Every node added to a network increases the risk of the network being compromised.

The mafia is a great example of an organization that kept information siloed such that only a minimum number of people know key aspects of a broader conspiracy. Wherein some node in that network presented a potential risk, they were removed from the network and dumped in a river. That’s why the mafia was so difficult to infiltrate and take down.

Trump and Robert Libutti

The government, particularly at the highest levels, like the executive branch, is intentionally bureaucratic such that it becomes prohibitively difficult to keep tight control of information in order to commit a conspiracy. Indeed, intelligence officers did highlight risks of individuals taking flight instructions before 9/11 but that information wasn’t able to forewarn of the actual events nor the people that carried them out.

Rogue intelligence officers or Army officers, operating with a small group and no oversight may be able to carry out conspiracies but the bureaucracy of the Federal Government and oversight it requires makes it very difficult for public politicians to do so, such is a benefit of bureaucratic checks and balances.

It’s not by accident that Trump made sweeping efforts to remove individuals responsible for Oversight and Accountability. Yet, many of his subversive, likely illegal, potentially treasonous, acts are still known.

“He that lies down with Dogs, shall rise up with fleas.” -Benjamin Franklin

The Hosts

James Watkins served in the military until the late 90s as a Helicopter repairman, recruiter and technical support specialist. He learned about computers sometime in the late 80s through an Army training program.

In 1998 he started “Asian Bikini Bar”, a site offering Japanese porn. By hosting it in the United States, he was able to circumvent Japanese law and offer it un-pixelated. He moved to the Philippines in 2004 where among many attempted ventures, he ran a pig farm. One of those ventures was a bizarre news site called The Goldwater, featuring Filipino actresses reciting far-right conspiracy theories in broken English. The effort was soundly rejected by the community he fostered for, among other reasons, “Goldwater is a Jewish name.”

Snatch, 2000

Watkins originally offered Nishimura hosting support for his site 2channel but later forcibly took ownership of the domain and shut Nishimura out. Lawsuits are still pending.

By 2016, Brennan grew to distrust Watkins and severed ties, returning to the US. Watkins kept ownership of the 8chan domain. Lawsuits are still pending. Brennan alerted the Filipino government to the Watkins’ activities and the Senior Watkins was declared an “undesirable alien” and fled the country. He was supposed to return to the Philippines by Sunday, January 31st, 2021 to answer the state’s complaint. It seems he didn’t and thus won’t be allowed back in. It’s not clear what happens to his pig farm and other business ventures there. It’s also not clear why but Ron apparently now lives in Japan.

The Senior Watkins has in the past used a Trumpian-style ploy, denying that he’s a CIA operative despite no one suggesting it nor asking, then asserting unprompted that he’s “noticed some people suggesting that”.

Still, they likely didn’t start Q. So many of their pre and post Q efforts failed spectacularly, it’s unlikely they possess the finesse to carry out an effort like the Q delusion. In 4chan lore, the Watkins are beta, faux-autists that were allowed to pretend to be in control while the legit autists steered the X-wing into the bay of gay and left them holding the proverbial bag.

4chan’s Conspiracy Culture

“No one lies on the internet.” One of the core aspects to trolling culture was to trick the gullible into believing something so bizarre they “should know better”. Much like my friends and I watching the first Real World, the joke is that someone doesn’t realize there’s a joke afoot. Q is likely an r/theDonald sequel, all done for the lulz.

Conspiracy theories have long found a home on 4chan and posts like Q’s were commonplace. FBIAnon, CIAAnon, CIAIntern were just some of the previous attempts with similar conspiracies and language, it was one of the many types of “shit-posts” that occasionally gained traction on the site, not because of one person but because there were enough people entertained by it and enough others, subdued by the fog of weed or faulty wiring, willing to go along. Some posters were LARP trolls while others were gullible prey, alphas and betas. Qanon, despite the absurdity, managed to take root beyond 4chan, thanks to some self-interested “Trump influencers” and Trump and other’s willingness to cast it an occasional, knowing wink.

The below analysis is exceptionally deep and and broad in covering the players that influenced conspiracy circles and alt-right echo chambers that fostered on the chans and Reddit, creating the environment in which Q was born. It contends a more concerted and intentional effort of authorship than is made here, whichever is correct on that point the research on those pre-Q players is well-worth the read.

“Never attribute to malice that which is adequately explained by stupidity.” -Hanlon’s Razor

Someone going by “Mom’s Spaghetti”, a line from Eminem’s 2002 “Lose Yourself”, an awesome song that rose to meme-status early on and developed a life all it’s own, posted on PasteBin that he originated Q and apologized for it. While it’s impossible to verify his story or even who posted it, his explanation gels extremely well with 4chan, LARPing, conspiracy culture, some of the known facts and a plausible explanation as to its later growth.

It gets even weirder though, “copypasta” refers to a block of text that gets copied and pasted into a thread, not just in the chans or reddit, copy-pastas appear all over the internet and you’re expected to know them. They are another example of being “in on it”. Having someone think they’re real is what gets the lulz. The “Navy Seal” and “Katy t3h PeNgU1N oF d00m copy-pastas are two of the more famous dishes.

They’re lazy, low-effort troll attempts. There’s also a more complicated, meta-level “Mom’s Spaghetti” copy-pasta that requires telling some unique story, usually beta-based, that eventually reveals a bamboozle with the lyrics from the song, letting the reader know the whole thing was just a ruse. It’s certainly possible the PasteBin post is just a long Mom’s Spaghetti copy-pasta but it only works because of it’s plausibility which is all that really matters.

Whether it’s authentic or not is immaterial, it describes the environment Qanon grew in and the pattern of growth it likely followed. It could have been one of a hundred different LARP shit-posts just like the one Mom’s Spaghetti claims to have made, that’s all that matters. More importantly, someone else took ownership of the Q voice for the critical period(s), drove and promoted it until it found a roost on 8chan and blossomed into what it is today.

The important phases of responsibility likely split into two or three parts, with a handful of people transitioning between them. Incidentally, here’s a pretty good chronology of these events.

Kidnapping Q and Nurturing the Beast

It’s likely the first attributed post was made by PamphletAnon (Coleman Rogers) and BaruchtheScribe (Paul Furber) with potential aid from TracyBeanz (Tracy Diaz). All of them were regulars on the conspiracy scene and well-versed in the common themes. They likely saw the initial posts get traction then piggybacked. Within three days, Diaz is posting videos to YouTube and getting massive views. The three then create a subreddit and Facebook group, all of which grow immediately, along with Twitter followers. At this point, they’re just pursuing the bumps.

Soon there were many megaphones parroting Q-spiracy beliefs, interpreting and tracking the posts. A twitter-bot maestro named microchip, who professes adherence to the red-pill, likely played a hand. As the audience promoting it grew, it began to reach the boomer demographic and beyond.

It’s possible Microchip is actually Mom’s Spaghetti. The far-right network, OAN, ran a story debunking Q claiming that Microchip showed Discord logs proving he made those October 4chan posts. The story has since been deleted but the video still exists. He also claims that Rogers and Furber took control.

Within the month, Q switches to 8chan, claiming 4chan was infiltrated. The claim is odd but may mean that multiple people had access to the 4chan tripcode and this was a way to wrest control to a smaller group or person. It certainly wouldn’t seem out of character that Watkins approached one of the three, or vice-versa, and they agreed to move. Either way, for the subsequent verification, there likely was some sort of collusion between those parties.

“Three can keep a secret if two are dead.” -Benjamin Franklin

After a few months, the subreddit gets shutdown. Furber is banned and steps away. In May of 2018, Diaz faces accusations of profiteering and oh man, it creates some drama, so she steps away. Rogers, likely now holding the reins, and his wife, Christina Urso, create Patriot’s Soapbox, a live-stream of Q analysis. Apparently, a now deleted video showed Rogers logged in as Q and another video shows him analyzing a post that hadn’t appeared yet.

Through 2020, with much of society shut down, Q rages uncontrollably. By September 2020, one of the main Q drop aggregators, QMap, gets traced back to Watkins’ servers. Upon being exposed, the guy running it bails. In October, YouTube shuts Patriot’s Soapbox down.

Consolidated but Not Contained

At this point, it’s likely the Watkins subsume control, if they hadn’t before. There’s even a link via Moby Dick. Through the year, Q merchandise makes a killing. Many adherents soon say it doesn’t matter if Q exists, mobilizing the community is all that matters. Akin to Tom Hanks in “Mazes and Monsters”, the Pandemic has afflicted many minds engaged in the elaborate LARP and they’ve sunk so deep they can’t retreat. My twelve-year-old self never imagined that shitty movie would play out in real life like this.

The last Q “Drop” came on December 8, 2020, the safe-harbor day by which time it was pretty clear Trump had lost. Following the election, when Ron abruptly resigned as 8kun administrator, Q posted only four times with vague, less-stylized language. Meanwhile, the Junior Watkins threw himself fully into crafting a new role as some kind of security expert, briefly analyzing Dominion voting systems and promoting the election-fraud fraud.

His “analysis” was amateur at best, scanning a reference document and making broad statements about the datatypes used, such as questioning the reason behind using a float instead of a bit, absent any knowledge of the actual code or how those fields are even used. It was the same tactic Q used, ask open questions then elude to something nefarious. He was clearly trying to build a new brand, away from Q, but without the same spark and sizzle.

He gave interviews peddling his claims and was even cited in lawsuits that attempted to overturn the election. Given Dominion’s aggressive pursuit against those that spread these false claims, his troubles are unlikely to fade.

They’ve also been promoting some mysterious product called Project Odin, a platform that promises anonymity and a “safe-space” from cancel-culture. Referencing Norse gods and pagan ritual has long been a hallmark of white supremacy groups. It’s not entirely clear that either of the Watkins possess much actual technical skill so it’s likely not much else will materialize and that they’re just scrambling, hoping something new “sticks”.

The Senior Watkins setup a PAC in Alabama, using it to buy advertising on 8kun but the amounts so far seem paltry enough, the authorities likely haven’t bothered investigating the potential fraud. With the election over and the Qanon reins resting idle on the dirt road, it’s unlikely the Roger Stones or other nefarious political operatives will be willing to aid them either. There’s no blood left for a vampire to drink.

Given that neither Watkins had lived in the US since the early 2000s, it’s uncertain that politics was really as big a driver for them as money. It’s more likely they recognized opportunity. The bombast of talk radio lent itself well to right-leaning interests as did the open chaos of the chans, and talk radio made men rich. Criminals crave chaos.

“Question with boldness even the existence of a God; because, if there be one, he must more approve of the homage of reason, than that of blind-folded fear.” -Thomas Jefferson

A Virus Survives in the Wild

Perhaps they’re hoping to gain some role in what’s expected to be a new party created by Qanon adherents called the Patriot Party. The central iconography being a lion and lion head, used originally by the Lions Guard and other White Supremacists groups, it’s reminiscent more of a football mascot than politics but perhaps that’s appropriate.

Patriot Party flag

Some have already turned on the Watkins, accusing them of being “CIA shills”, more are likely to follow. It’s almost comical that the Senior Watkins once courted people to believe he worked for the CIA. Twitter suspended Ron’s account. He’s moved to telegram but already some of his group chats there have been compromised. The same rules that apply to journalists, apply here. In order to garner a following, willing to give them views they can convert to cash, they risk drawing attention they don’t want.

Despite his support of the January 6 insurrection, Ron seemed to acknowledge defeat on inauguration day, telling supporters on Telegram to “Go back to our lives as best we are able”. Given it had been over a month since Q last posted, it was curious that he spoke with such resignation, as though he knew Q would never post again. Perhaps, seeing so many from the movement being arrested and charged for storming the capital, he wanted to put as much space between himself and the movement as possible.

You almost feel sorry for them. Empathy is the penultimate expression of the maximum power principle after all. Then you remember the insurrection. And the murder of a Capital Police Officer. All the inexplicable rage and the state of politics in the country. They played a role in that.

What future they have without the audience they’ve built is murky and given the rabid nature of that audience, it’s unlikely they’d be easily forgiven if unmasked. They only have to look at the reception Tracy Diaz got when the mob turned on her. Perhaps if they come clean, state what they know and work to de-program the Q-flicted they’d find people willing to forgive and forget. Sadly, I suspect, they’ll double-down and continue to fling feces as people stop and stare.

In a conspiracy it’s dangerous to be made before the money is collected. As it stands, they may be facing uncertain financial futures just as the crows are coming home to roost. They’ve thrown out all their breadcrumbs and once the Qanon followers realize they were taken for a ride, well, in Hitchcock’s “The Birds” society stops as people hunker down inside for fear of being attacked, much like the pandemic that so served the Q delusion.

James Watkins and an unidentified piglet

As for the Qult-crowd, with Q’s cloud dissipated, what the mass of programmed people flock to next is uncertain. Perhaps this new Patriot or MAGA Party will materialize, digging into the GOP’s plump underbelly for some years to come. It’s ironic the Qult fashions themselves as lions and their foes sheep, despite their continual group-think and flock-like behavior. Presumably they revere lions as some prepubescent symbol of strength. Its worth noting lions routinely kill their own so maybe the icon is apt. Lions are selfish, self-centered assholes. They may be majestic but none of those assholes can build houses or sail ships, let alone compose music or program computers; Lions are so lame they can’t even farm. Humanity is way cooler.

“We have it in our power to begin the world over again.” -Thomas Paine

In Euripides’ The Bacchae, Agave triumphantly displays Pentheus’ head, thinking it the mane of a lion, it’s only when Cadmus makes her see that she’d actually destroyed her own son does she gasp in horror and march slowly into exile, aware that her life is ruined, saying, “I see. Dionysus has destroyed us all.” No bitch, you played yourself. If only she’d listened to Apollo instead.

And that’s the way it is.

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Humanity, technology and culture. How it started, how it’s going.

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