An HBO filmmaker may have uncovered the identity of 'Q,' the shady figure behind QAnon

An HBO filmmaker may have uncovered the identity of 'Q,' the shady figure behind QAnon
A QAnon sign is waved by Trump supporters at a rally in Washington, DC.Robert Nickelsberg/Getty Images
  • The filmmaker Cullen Hoback believes he has uncovered the true identity of the QAnon movement's "Q."
  • The 8kun message board administrator Ron Watkins seemed to slip up during an interview with Hoback.
  • It was long speculated that Watkins was posing as the shadowy Q and had written many QAnon posts.

A documentary filmmaker believes he has finally uncovered the true identity of "Q," the shadowy figure behind the extremist QAnon movement.

Ron Watkins, the longtime administrator of the 8kun message board, seemed to slip up during an interview with Cullen Hoback, the filmmaker behind the HBO series "Q: Into the Storm."

In a recorded interview, Watkins spoke with Hoback about how he shared claims about voter fraud in the wake of Donald Trump's 2020 election loss. Watkins let down his guard for a moment, giving Hoback what he argues is key evidence that Watkins and Q are the same person.
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"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 told Hoback.

Watkins then tried to backtrack, grinning and clearing his throat, saying: "Never as Q. I promise. I am not Q."

"Ron had slipped up," Hoback said in the video. "He knew it, and I knew it - and after three tireless years of cat and mouse."
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It was long speculated by those investigating the QAnon movement that Watkins, the site's administrator, was the one posing as the shadowy Q. The possibility that Watkins was the author of more than 4,000 messages from Q that had been posted on the 8kun message board since 2017 has also been floated.

Watkins and his father, Jim Watkins, who owns the 8kun message board, have claimed on multiple occasions to have back-channel access to Q, purportedly a high-level operative and prophet privy to the inner workings of the US government. One of the biggest conspiracy theories propagated by QAnon - a movement born on online fringe message board 4chan - was that Trump was fighting a "deep state" cabal of pedophiles.

Q continued to post in the persona of a Trump-administration insider on 4chan but moved in 2018 to 8kun (formerly known as 8chan), the message board run by the Watkins father-son duo that was known for being a forum oft-visited by gunmen involved in mass shootings and other violent extremists.
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QAnon gained widespread media coverage as it attracted more followers. Many of those identified participating in the January 6 Capitol riot said they were inspired and influenced by their unshakable belief in Q.

It has proved almost impossible to identify Q, as 8kun operates primarily based on anonymity. 8kun users do not have accounts with their names attached, unlike common social-networking sites like Facebook. Users are instead assigned a tripcode, a sequence of code that identifies unique users.

Speaking with the CNN anchor Anderson Cooper on "AC360," Hoback said: "There was a lot of 'lore' around (Watkins) in QAnon, and he's also one of the admins of the site where Q posts. I thought that it was possible that he would know more about Q than anyone else."
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Hoback added that he thought Watkins wanted the "credit" for QAnon but continued to deny he was Q for fear of any legal ramifications.

"I'd always been waiting for that moment where Ron would slip up," Hoback said. "I think it happened as the result of super-optimism, where he had gotten away with it for so long, and he wasn't really watching his words."

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