- The Washington Times - Sunday, August 5, 2018

Gary Brown of central Ohio is a follower of “Q,” the mysterious internet figure suddenly gaining prominence at President Trump’s campaign rallies.

Mr. Brown, a real estate agent and retired firefighter, began paying attention to the cryptic and frequently pro-Trump comments posted by the anonymous Q on message boards last year. He concluded that Q is better informed than the mainstream media about Washington and other topics.

“I don’t know for a fact who Q is,” Mr. Brown said. “I have strong thoughts that it certainly could be someone in the administration. All I know is, when I read what is posted on the ‘Q board,’ it seems to be more relevant and more true than what I’m reading in the papers.”

On message boards such as QAnon.pub and 8ch.net, a person or group of people identified only as Q has been posting provocative questions about the government since October.

In a typical post, Q wrote last week about election security, “How do you safeguard the integrity of our elections from domestic & foreign criminal actors? How do you utilize the Russia narrative to knock out decades old election corruption? Why are D’s opposed to cleaning up voter rolls? Why are D’s opposed to imposing VOTER ID LAWS to further safeguard our elections?”

Q claims to have top-level security clearance and knowledge of a worldwide criminal conspiracy involving special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation. It says Mr. Mueller is looking into top Democrats such as Hillary Clinton and former President Barack Obama instead of suspected collusion between Russia and the Trump campaign.

Many of Q’s followers believe top Democrats and others such as Sen. John McCain, Arizona Republican, will soon be sent to prison in a development they call “the storm.” It is a reference to a comment by Mr. Trump last year, when he quipped during a meeting with his military chiefs that their gathering might be “the calm before the storm.”

Followers also have been promoting theories that certain Hollywood figures are involved in child-sex rings. Their anonymous posts often share the view that Mr. Trump will prevail over globalists and “deep state” operatives.

Roseanne Barr frequently has tweeted about QAnon and has shared on Twitter a phrase used by QAnon followers: “wwg1wga,” short for “where we go one, we go all.” Former Red Sox pitcher Curt Schilling has retweeted QAnon videos.

QAnon.pub has been receiving about 7 million hits per month. From the shadowy corners of the internet, Q’s followers burst onto the political scene last week.

At a Trump rally in Tampa, Florida, some in the crowd held up a “We are Q” signs in view of television cameras. Others wore T-shirts bearing the letter. Followers later were gleeful about a video that appeared to show Mr. Trump pointing from the stage at a “Q” cutout held aloft in the crowd.

At a Trump rally two days later in Pennsylvania, more Q signs and T-shirts appeared.

White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders was asked last week whether the president “encouraged the support” of rally-goers wearing Q shirts, some of whom heckled journalists at the Tampa rally.

“The president condemns and denounces any group that would incite violence against another individual and certainly doesn’t support groups that would promote that type of behavior,” Mrs. Sanders said.

Her answer was panned on message boards by Q devotees, who said she either dodged the question or was wrongly associating them with violence.

Some coverage of Q followers in the mainstream media has characterized the movement as a “cult,” a “fringe group” and even a “virus.” Mr. Brown said he and many other Q followers are “just regular folks.”

“All of us are looking for truth,” Mr. Brown said in an interview. “Are there nut jobs on there? Yeah, there are. There are goofballs on there. But that’s the whole world. We’re all about trying to separate truth from fiction.”

Asked whether Mr. Trump’s constant complaints about “fake news” have helped create the Q phenomenon, Mr. Brown said he believes public dissatisfaction and mistrust of the media were prominent long before Mr. Trump ran for office.

“I think there has been a great sense of distrust that has been growing for a very long time, even way before Trump,” he said. “I just want the media to tell us the truth without an agenda. The American public is not stupid; we can sort things out. I don’t think that Trump’s comments have given legs to Q; I think the legs were already there.”

He added: “If you get a sense that the stories that you’re hearing on the radio and on TV are not true, you almost want to tune it out. If you’re not going to tell me the truth, don’t bother telling me anything. The timing of Q was rather interesting. It hit at a moment when people were hungry for truth.”

Some of the videos and posts on message boards show a “DaVinci Code”-like fascination with numbers and clues. Last week, Praying Medic posted a YouTube video offering explanations for recent posts by Q and highlighted Mr. Trump’s comment at a rally that he had visited Washington 17 times before he was elected president.

“The president could have picked out any random number,” Praying Medic said on the video. “But he happened to pick out the number 17. Q is the 17th letter of the alphabet.”

Q claims that fewer than 10 people in government know Q’s identity and says more than 50 million people are tracking the movement regularly.

Even before Q followers began showing up at Trump rallies, the movement was morphing into public view. Hundreds of followers of Q demonstrated outside the Justice Department in Washington in April, and a Q follower with firearms shut down a highway near the Hoover Dam in Nevada in June while bearing a sign that said, “Release the OIG report.”

The sign apparently was referring to the Justice Department’s Office of the Inspector General report criticizing former FBI Director James B. Comey’s handling of the Clinton email investigation. Q has suggested that Mr. Trump possesses a second, secret inspector general report on criminal behavior by Democrats.

Matthew Wright of Henderson, Arizona, is facing terrorism charges in the highway shutdown. He has written letters to Mr. Trump and other government officials containing the “where we go one, we go all” slogan.

Mr. Brown said Q followers are involved in the movement to get answers about important issues of the day from other people — anonymous people — who he believes don’t have an agenda.

“You have an opportunity to do your own research,” he said. “I think it’s brilliant, if this is indeed coming to bypass the normal news media, to get the real story out. It seems more trustworthy to me than it has before, and I’ve been following it for a long time.”

But he acknowledged, “If we’re all being taken for a ride, that would be very surprising. But I have no way to prove it.”

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