Who is Q? How did the baseless conspiracy theory based on Q move from the darkest corners of the internet to the mainstream? And how much did QAnon have to do with the seditious Jan. 6 storming of the U.S. Capitol?
Those are some of the questions filmmaker Cullen Hoback sets out to answer in his six-part HBO documentary series “Q: Into the Storm,” that began airing Sunday and is streaming on HBO Max.
None of those questions, of course, are answered in the first two episodes.
But Hoback does trace the origins of the platform where Q, who is alleged to be a high-level government insider who had access to former President Trump, posted cryptic messages and looks at some of those true believers who took it upon themselves to interpret the posts and spread the conspiracy across the web.
To do so, Hoback traveled to interview a South African who ran a internet board that Q posted on, then dropped, and went to the Philippines to talk with those who started, operate and run 8chan, the notorious, unregulated image board where Q’s posts originated.
The documentary traces the development of the image boards, which began with a site largely populated by comedians before moving to the U.S.
I know little-to-nothing about 4chan or 8chan — and, thankfully, have never visited the sites. After watching the documentary, I know I never want to encounter any of that content.
But the story of its development, and a split between the 8chan founder, Fred Brennan, and the father-son team of Jim and Ron Watkins who bought the board from him is key to understanding the origins of QAnon, and, I’m guessing, who Q really is.
Hoback isn’t a great documentarian. He worked largely solo — using a local camera operator to shoot the Philippines footage — and the series, at least in the first episode, doesn’t have a strong point-of-view, leading some to criticize it for giving QAnon a pass.
But that’s criticizing the series for what isn’t there. What is there, if nothing else, provides an understandable theory of how QAnon came to be and why 8chan is key to its origins.
Interestingly, Hoback doesn’t delve into the salacious aspects of the crazy far-right conspiracy theory that alleges that a secret cabal of Satan-worshiping, cannibalistic pedophiles — Democrats and liberals all — were running a child sex-trafficking ring while working against Trump.
Rather, he’s attempting to unearth the person behind Q. After watching the first two episodes, I’m pretty sure who Q is — suffice it to say he never was a high-ranking government official with Q-level classification delivering messages aimed at propping up Trump.
If I’m right, and Hoback makes the case, his unmasking will permanently discredit QAnon and help bring an end to the destructive theory that duped thousands and contributed to the largest assault on democracy since the Civil War.
Reach the writer at 402-473-7244 or firstname.lastname@example.org. On Twitter @KentWolgamott