Vice President Mike Pence is going to be tried for treason. President Donald Trump is trying to convince him to step aside so that John F. Kennedy Jr. can take his place. The Pope, the Queen of England, German Chancellor Angela Merkel and Canada Prime Minister Justin Trudeau are going to be arrested.
None of this is true. They’re the product of the mind of a QAnon follower who claims to be psychic and a medium, who is charging money to deliver these drops.
QAnon followers have found a home on Patreon, one that is more hospitable and profitable than other social media platforms. Patreon is a fundraising platform where donors, or patrons, sign up to give a specific amount every month to access exclusive content. While Twitter, Facebook, and YouTube work to limit the spread, Patreon essentially accepts the conspiracy theorists with open arms. There some are making thousands of dollars every month.
QAnon is the conspiracy theory that the world is controlled by a global satanic pedophile cabal that drinks children’s blood. Followers hold that members include Hollywood elite, liberals, and billionaires—Tom Hanks, Oprah, Celine Dion, Hillary Clinton, and Bill Gates, to name only a few.
They believe that a military intelligence team puts coded clues on 8kun about a purge of the deep state that never happens. They also believe that Trump is trying to take down this cabal that includes the so-called deep state. Followers have been charged with acts of violence and terror in furtherance of the belief.
Utsava, the woman who delivers bogus predictions about JFK Jr. and the Pope via video streams, looks like someone you’d bump into at the grocery store on a weekday afternoon: middle-aged with a friendly face, casual attire and at-home dye job. Hers is not a sophisticated product. The camera work is mediocre, the lighting is bad, and in some videos she turns partly away from the camera for long stretches of time.
Don’t be fooled by Utsava’s amateurish presentation and whacky predictions. She’s got a big following, thousands of whom give her money every month on Patreon. Utsava Psychic Medium Democracy Lesson # 1 has nearly 2,000 patrons.
And at $5 a month minimum, she could be bringing in over $100,000 a year.
Utsava is one of dozens of QAnon followers openly promoting the conspiracy theory on Patreon.
While other platforms work to eradicate QAnon with limited success, Patreon doesn’t seem to be doing anything about it, nor do its policies explicitly ban spreading conspiracy theories and disinformation.
The company declined to answer the Daily Dot’s questions.
While Utsava is in the majority of QAnon followers on Patreon who don’t disclose how much money she’s getting, her monthly income from Patreon is unarguably in the thousands. Her minimum monthly contribution is $5, so if all her followers contribute the minimum, she’s making roughly $10,000/month to tell lies—like her recent claim that George H. W. Bush was behind the plane crash that killed JFK Jr. (though she doesn’t believe he died, of course). She also claimed that JFK Jr. named his magazine George to troll the former president. (Which would have happened before Bush tried to kill him, but whatever.)
“Pretty much all my predictions are in writing on the Patreon,” she says in the video.
“Since you are a journalist I’m sure you will research and find out the truth. The truth is all that matters!” she said in a brief statement.
Although the vast majority of the 40 QAnon projects the Daily Dot identified on Patreon don’t reveal how much money they’re making, the facts indicate that it is a significant sum.
Of the 40, only 11 report how much they earn. None of the six largest accounts, whose patrons range from 400 to 2,000, reveals their earnings.
Of the 11 reporting earnings, 10 have fewer than 100 patrons; five have fewer than 10. While most collect less than $100/month, the largest, T.R.U. Reporting, is collecting more than $2,300 monthly from 267 patrons.
Cumulatively, those 11 rake in $45,000 annually from 466 patrons.
All told, the 31 projects that reveal how many patrons they have have 7,500 patrons. If each unknown patron gives an amount equal to the average of those that are known, the 31 are together earning nearly three-quarters of a million dollars annually.
It’s an astonishing grift, and Patreon is profiting from every transaction.
Patreon charges fees on monthly income of 5%, 8% or 12% depending on which type of account (late, pro and premium, respectively). It also charges processing fees of 2.9% plus $0.30 on all successful pledges over $3. Pledges of $3 or less are charged 5% plus $0.10.
Like the QAnon Etsy crowd, the QAnon Patreons are enterprising folks eager to make a buck.
Most create videos and blogs. Others want cash for things ranging from translating Q drops into French, starting a pro-police coffeeshop, posting about Q in Finnish, or the strange combination of teaching Bikram yoga and making Q Anon videos.
Some diversify their income. T.R.U. Reporting hawks merchandise. So does In the Matrixxx. Utsava, herself, does psychic readings and sells a mysterious supplement called ASEA Water. Her website claims it improves the immune system, cardiovascular health, hormone modulation, digestive function, and inflammatory response—but somehow isn’t a vitamin, mineral, probiotic, energy drink or electrolyte.
Not only is it incredibly expensive—$82.50 for eight pouches—the supplement appears to be a multi-level marketing scheme. When you try to buy it, you’re offered the opportunity to become a “business associate.”
They’re also tenacious and typically prolific across social media.
YouTube and Twitter seem to be most QAnon followers’ preferred stomping grounds, likely because of the size of the audience and potential for attracting new fans and, for those with Patreons, increasing their income. Some have followings numbering in the tens or hundreds of thousands.
T.R.U. Reporting has more than 200,000 YouTube subscribers. Patriots’ Soapbox—which a thorough NBC News report in 2018 indicated may actually be behind Q—has nearly 80,000 subscribers.
Not everyone can successfully convert a grift, however. While In the Matrixxx has nearly 200,000 Twitter followers, their account has under 400 subscribers.
Although Twitter has begun cracking down on the conspiracy theory, many of the QAnon Patreons have thus far escaped its wrath. Crowdsource the Truth has 34,000 Twitter followers; Utsava roughly the same. T.R.U. Reporting has more than 60,000.
While some have been suspended by social media sites, often it’s a matter of time before they creep back on. Patriots’ Soapbox was purged from Twitter earlier this month. Utsava has has said her previous account was suspended by YouTube. Now she goes by Flatten the Curve on the site and has 17,700 subscribers.
Patreon gives them the means to turn their followings into cash. Its terms of service are lenient enough that some QAnon followers are starting to use it as a contingency plan in case they get banned.
While other platforms try to get control of the proliferation of QAnon, Patreon seems more than happy to keep cashing checks.
In Utsava’s first video on her new YouTube channel last year, she said, “Who’s laughing now and who has a good life now? It’s me.”
“I came out on a winning end.”