Silhouette of person lighting cigarette in front of lightning storm, face made of the letter Q

Duncan Hull/Flickr (CC-BY) Remix by Jason Reed

The QAnon conspiracy isn’t new; it’s the oldest scam out there

Don't be fooled.


Mike Rothschild


Posted on Mar 19, 2018   Updated on May 21, 2021, 9:23 pm CDT

In October 2017, President Trump posed with a group of high-ranking military officers and cryptically declared that it was “the calm before the storm.” Most journalists puzzled over the remark for a moment and moved on to whatever chaos came next. But that seemingly random comment was the spark for a what’s now become the new right-wing conspiracy theory du jour: “The Storm

A few weeks after Trump’s statement, an anonymous poster who claimed to have top secret “Q Clearance” (in reality, a classification only used by the Department of Energy) began posting cryptic “breadcrumbs” of “intel” related to what they claimed was the imminent revelation of a massive conspiracy at the highest levels of government. And Q called it “The Storm.”

In short, rhetorical fragments, “Q” (also called “QAnon”) revealed that President Trump was not actually under investigation as the mainstream media was reporting, but had really brought in Special Counsel Robert Mueller to crush the gigantic Obama/Clinton child sex trafficking ring first revealed by “Pizzagate.”

When Trump and Mueller have finished their work, ten thousand sealed indictments (some Q followers claim it’s actually as high as eighteen thousand) will be unleashed, with the Democratic evildoers rounded up, tried by military tribunals, and shipped off to a massively expanded Guantanamo Bay prison, with peace and prosperity to follow.

And it’s going to happen any day.

Over the last six months, “Q” has offered an endless buffet of tantalizing clues to “what’s really happening.” Many take the form of cryptic nuggets such as “future proves past” or “learn to read the map” or “Godfather III.” Others are in some kind of code, with abbreviations like “DNC -> (SR 187) (MS-13) -> DWS”, which accuses former DNC chair Debbie Wasserman Schultz of hiring notorious gang MS-13 to murder DNC staffer Seth Rich.

Since then, Q followers have used prolific YouTube channels, internet memes, and Twitter to expand the mythology. Another anon posited that everyone from George H.W. Bush to Elon Musk had already been extradited to Gitmo, despite Musk having a rather public success with his latest rocket launch.

Rumors spread of secret prisons in Antarctica, or that the school shooting in Parkland, Florida was a military special operation to distract from “The Storm.” There was even a theory that internet personality Chrissy Teigen and her husband were secret child sex fiends attempting to escape “The Storm,” only for their flight to Tokyo to be turned back, exposed by a “citizen journalist.” Promises abound of a secret sex video about to destroy Hillary Clinton, or of Barack Obama being executed by a military tribunal, or of “Q” actually being President Trump himself.

The Storm is a Conspiracy Theory of Everything. It encompasses whatever believers want it to be about. Misplaced walking boots hiding ankle bracelets, train crashes, Big Pharma, the FBI text message controversy. It’s all connected.

In fact, “The Storm” is such a hodgepodge that it borrows liberally from previous conspiracy theories, also full of endless seemingly random “intel” and earth-shaking changes supposedly just about to happen.

One predecessor to “The Storm” was a scam from the early days of widespread internet use, called NESARA—which has roots in an even earlier intel-driven scam called Omega.

NESARA was a set of monetary reforms proposed in a late 90’s book called “Draining the Swamp,” written by engineer Harvey Francis Barnard. He wanted to abolish the Federal Reserve, ban interest on loans, forgive all consumer debt, go back to the gold standard, and establish a national sales tax. It’s a libertarian fever dream.

After years of trying to get Congress to pass NESARA, Barnard published the text online in 2000, where it caught the eye of a Seattle-area New Age enthusiast named Shaini Goodwin.

Goodwin was an online shill for an “investment” called the Omega Trust, which purported to sell “Omega Units” of “prime European bank notes” for as little as $100, which would then “roll over” and return millions of dollars in profit. Scam founder Clyde Hood and a group of associates began selling the non-existent “Omega Units” to locals in their small town, Mattoon, Illinois, looking to make some quick bucks.

Omega took advantage of the naivete of early internet adopters, and in particular, the growing ubiquity of Yahoo groups. By the mid-1990’s, it was a world-wide scam, with millions of dollars flooding into small-town Mattoon.

Goodwin played a major role in spreading the fiction of Omega, and under the screen name “Dove of Oneness,” she used message board posts, emails, and recorded messages to spin an elaborate fiction as to why the Omega Unit rollover wasn’t happening. To Dove, there was nothing less than a war between dark powers in the government trying to stop the Omega roll over and heroic “White Knights” trying to move it forward.

The longer it went on, the weirder it got. There were alternate realities, UFOs, renegade banks, claims that the U.S. government didn’t actually exist, and interventions from angels.

All the while, Goodwin insisted the Omega Unit rollover, with its countless millions, was on the verge of happening, in a few days, or “early next week.”

But Omega was a Ponzi scheme, and in August 2000, Hood and a dozen others were taken into custody by the FBI, accused of bilking over 10,000 people out of $12.5 million.

By then, Goodwin had already thrown Hood under the bus, saying he’d gone “off track” and had to be abandoned by the “Wealthy Visionaries” really in charge of Omega. By coincidence, Omega was collapsing at the same time as NESARA was picking up steam. And into the money shaped hole flew the Dove of Oneness.

Dove posited that Omega was shut down because it was just one element of a bigger economic miracle that would abolish all debt and deliver trillions in “prosperity packets.” Naturally, the dark forces would stop at nothing to derail NESARA—even staging the 9/11 attacks to stop the prosperity packets from being delivered.

It was the burgeoning paranoia of post-9/11 internet conspiracies that fed NESARA mania. After all, if the government could supposedly pull of a “controlled demolition” of the Twin Towers, why couldn’t they stop the divine prosperity of NESARA, as well?

Like she did with Omega, Goodwin kept the NESARA “intel” flowing with endless message board posts, recorded messages, and emails, all of which doled out secret information that only she had access to.

A typical Dove NESARA update, this one from March 2002, references the International Court of Justice, legendary New Age guru St. Germain, the Vatican, the Rockefellers, and the gold standard. It might as well be the misplaced walking boots, fleeing supermodels, and secret ice prisons of “The Storm.”

Dove subsisted on donations, and while the media wrote her off as a “cybercult queen” who merely combined old scams with new technology, she gained tens of thousands of followers and internet fame.

As the excuses wore on, Dove’s updates eventually became less hyperbolic, and in 2007, she was investigated by the IRS for defrauding an elderly woman to buy pro-NESARA mobile billboards. Goodwin died in 2010, destitute and with tens of thousands in IRS liens. Clyde Hood died in prison two years later.

But no opportunity goes un-grifted, and so as NESARA faded, another scam took its place. One that combined the Ponzi scheme of Omega with the intel drops of NESARA.

It’s called the Iraqi dinar revalue, based on the mistaken premise that the currency of Iraq, now virtually worthless, would return to its pre-Gulf War value. Back then, it traded for as much as three dollars per dinar, pumped up by the dictatorial policies of Saddam Hussein. Since the U.S. invasion, it crashed in value to the point where over a thousand dinars were worth one dollar.

In May 2007, the International Monetary Fund released a report touting the Iraqi government’s efforts to fight inflation and rebuild the dinar’s value. Sure enough, the dinar spiked over 8 percent in value, a massive jump for a mostly worthless currency.

So scammers got the idea they could convince Americans that once Iraq was stable, Western string-pulling would spike the dinar’s value and make its buyers instant millionaires.

Of course, money isn’t magically “revalued” to some much higher number. What does happen often with low-value currency is redenomination, the process of lopping zeroes off a hyper-inflated money, then exchanging the old currency for the new version. Brazil, Venezuela, Turkey, and Bulgaria have all redenominated their currency in the past few decades. Zimbabwe is infamous for redenominating its hugely inflated dollar numerous times before finally dropping it.

But the massive revalue that dinar gurus promise has never happened in world history. To do so would cause financial calamity. Beyond that, Iraq was mired in sectarian violence and didn’t even have the rudiments of a modern banking system.

Even so, the dinar scam was born shortly after the IMF report, and it only got stronger after the Great Recession hit, when people were yearning for a way to stick it to the “wealthy elites” who had looted the world’s banking system. So tens of thousands of Americans sunk millions into Iraqi dinars, hoping for ludicrous returns.

Their hopes were buoyed by intel-spewing dinar “gurus” who used a variety of tools, including rapidly growing social media outlets like Twitter, to tout Iraq’s economic recovery and claim that Bush or Obama or the IMF was going to “RV” the currency back to its previous glory.

They spun a mythology of secret 1-800 numbers, nondisclosure agreements, undiscovered mineral riches, and government tax shelters set up for dinar windfalls There were even books written about how to manage the “wonderful wealth” that the dinar RV would bring.

While the “bankers” used a legal loophole to “exchange” dollars for dinars (while charging huge markups), the gurus spun outlandish claims that the U.S. government holds trillions of dinars, and that wealthy elites like Bill Gates and Warren Buffett had massive dinar fortunes. There were even whispers of a “contract rate” of as much as $32 per dinar driving additional buying.

The dinar scam was a particular hit on Twitter, where thousands of “dinarians” used hashtags like #wearethepeople and #ReleasetheRV to lobby Congress and buck each other up when the dinar eventually didn’t revalue.

The scam went mainstream in the first part of the aughts, drawing attention from the BBC and Forbes. But that attention brought scrutiny from the authorities, and soon the FBI swooped in. Many of the dinar brokers were indicted, and local police warned people that the whole thing was a scam, and that worthless money doesn’t just “revalue” because someone decided it should.

And yet, even after years of chaos in Iraq, and the dinar continuing to plummet in value, the scam is still going. On March 13, 2018, a website called “dinar chronicles” claimed the “RV” was happening between March 12 and March 15, with dinars exchanged for dollars at secret bank offices right before the Stock Market’s cabal-engineered collapse. It didn’t. 

Oh, and there were also 18,000 sealed indictments being opened, nationwide martial law was imminent, and mass arrests were already taking place. Just like The Storm.

Omega begat NESARA, which begat the Iraqi dinar, which begat The Storm. Huge chunks of insanely detailed, totally bogus “intel” in the service of a long-promised, yet never arriving event.

The only real difference, so far, is that The Storm is not an outright scam, and while numerous fringe media figures have monetized the intel drops, Q isn’t asking for donations. Maybe whoever is dropping the “intel” has realized that when you start asking for money, eventually, the law knocks on your door.

But if QAnon followed in the footsteps of Dove of Oneness and set up a Patreon page because “dark forces” were trying to shut down their internet, the money would start pouring in, with the intel piling up, and the big reward always just one more post away.

The scam remains the same.

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*First Published: Mar 19, 2018, 6:30 am CDT