A few months ago we asked if Qanon, the online conspiracy that claims Trump is saving the world from corrupt pedophiles, was actually a LARP (i.e., a live action role-playing game). The entire structure of the conspiracy, especially its puzzle-solving elements, seemed to us to emulate the constructs of a deliberately planned alternative reality game.
It wasn’t long before we were brought into contact with a number of voices who appeared to support the theory.
It’s a strange story. One with a multitude of actors, many with different or not always clear agendas.
Here is a quick video we made of our results so far:
The rabbit hole behind the rabbit hole points its finger at a small group of online Youtubers and social media amplifier networks. But it also connects to strange cults, well-established online ARGs like Cicada 3301, which seem to be backed by a network of former intelligence operators.
From the looks of it, it looks like Q-Drops are written by a team rather than a single person.
But there is also a problem.
In allusion to the famous search for Satoshi, definitive evidence is lacking. The entire network works around the construct of plausible denial. And some of the most likely candidates are still denying participation. Thomas Schönberger, who goes online under the name St. Germain and is described in our film as one of the most likely orchestrators, gave us the following statement:
Schoenberger bluntly denies claims he is Q, saying he is framed by other online personalities, including ex-disgruntled employees. Schönberger says he has nothing to do with the crazy IAM movement and thinks it is “silly”. Schönberger says his only thing in common with Count St. Germain is that he is a composer and historian, just like St. Germain Schönberger’s YouTube channel “Sophia Musik” with Schönberger’s original music. When asked about his role in creating the cicada 3301, Schönberger declined to comment.
Youtuber Defango, whose real name is Manuel Chavez, goes on to claim that he invented the game in a Coleen Rooney-style spike operation to find out how disinformation spreads across the alternative media space.
He told us:
Yes, we thought if we post known disinformation we can track it across platforms to identify sources of disinformation. I think IIA is what the military call it and we just made it public. Basically, all of the methods and systems used in the Qanon are just direct copies of weapon-grade psychological warfare tools embedded in a puzzle. I mean, who gets their information from a seedy guy who posts on a pedofile board? I wanted to shut down 4chan and 8chan completely, we were only half successful. Since Qanon was hit, we’ve gotten so many liars and larpers out of the way. Even some of the greatest disinformation artists like David Wilcox. So many so-called bastions of truth have simply been wiped off the board if you look at the right angle.
As we have learned from crypto, nothing in these worlds is what it seems.
However, the idea that Qanon is less of a conspiracy and more a weapons-grade psychological warfare tool that leverages existing networks or forges new networks to amplify propaganda over the internet is not far-fetched. The problem is, when it really is, it seems openly available. And that means, like Bitcoin, it can be used and replicated by anyone.
With Bitcoin, it was important to have the first mover advantage. We can only sit back and see if this is the case with Qanon.
Additional material from the interviews we conducted with ARG pioneer Jim Stewartson, former CIA agent John Sipher, and cult expert Steve Hassan will be available shortly on FT Alphaville’s YouTube channel.
QAnon attracts followers by acting like a game – FT
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