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Major social media sites like Twitter and Reddit have continuously struggled to get a handle on QAnon, the violent conspiracy theory/prophecy cult/prosperity scam that posits Donald Trump as the leader of a hidden war against pedophiles and deep state saboteurs infesting government and business.
There, they often let discussion go on unfettered, or shut it down altogether.
But it’s not just those sites that struggle with the conspiracy.
If you’re a devoted fan of SEC Football, in which case you can find multiple years-long QAnon discussions full of threats, boasts, claims, counter-claims, insults, and whatever this is:
Far away from the social behemoths that have restricted discussion threads about QAnon, there’s a web of vibrant, thriving, totally unfollowable discussions about the Q conspiracy theory.
And it’s not happening on major social media sites, political fora, or messaging apps. Instead, it’s in the places where people talk about the stuff they like: message boards devoted to college sports, NFL football, windsurfing, leaving the Mormon church, MMA, and local issues. And it’s spawning gigantic threads full of true believers and skeptics endlessly arguing about the finer points of Q. Many of these message board threads are enormous, going on for thousands of posts over hundreds of pages, and have become so big that they’re essentially running arguments that leave no room for anyone else.
After all, if debate is the foundation of sports fandom, why shouldn’t it be the foundation of Q fandom, as well?
These threads have grown in both size and number, even as Q’s posts are less and less frequent, and his predictions more and more of a failure.
No matter what happens (or doesn’t happen) people are still talking about it, even while hardcore followers burn off or move on to other scams. While the Q forum on Voat veers into bizarre tangents, 8chan bogs down in legal claims and financial issues, and major QAnon gurus move on to shilling quack medical products; QAnon can be discussed easily where people are congregating to talk about the everyday hobbies of their life.
It should either be very surprising or not surprising at all that QAnon debates have an outsized place on college sports message boards related to schools in the South.
The largest thread by far in the “politics” section on the Louisiana State University message board TigerDroppings is a gargantuan QAnon discussion with close to 90,000 posts that started just a few days after the initial Oct. 2017 post that claimed Hillary Clinton was about to be arrested. Even before far-right conspiracy theorists jumped on Q as a potential income stream, LSU fans were all over it. And they believed it.
Spanning an epic 4,400 pages, the thread is an endless circular argument between a small but vocal cadre of believers earnestly arguing that martial law and mass arrests are imminent, and a larger group of skeptical people who think those believers are crazy. There also seem to be as many comments from people confused by the whole thing and asking what this “Q” business is about. Even as the discussions get hopelessly hard to follow, they still keep going.
Recent posts on the thread are more related to general conspiracy concepts like free energy machines and social media censorship, but there’s still a strong strain of “hopium” (a debunker term for the unbridled hope of great change that never takes place) going through LSU Tigers fans that the “great awakening” is just around the corner.
It’s clear that over a year of disconfirmation hasn’t dimmed these believers’ hopes at all, nor has it stifled their desire to talk about Q with others.
Elsewhere in the South, the Tennessee Volunteers message board Vol Nation has an impressive 245-page thread called “QAnon – The Storm” posted in Jan. 2018.
Just like the Tigerdroppings thread, this one pits a few true believers against a host of skeptics and befuddled bystanders. Neither side is giving any ground, with just this spring, one believer declaring “it’s just a matter of time now,” and a skeptic retorting, “If I had a nickel for everytime Q was right about the imminent arrests anything at all, I’d have zero nickles [sic].”
This level of give and take simply doesn’t exist on Q-devoted Reddit threads or in the mentions of QAnon gurus. They don’t allow it.
The Texas A&M TexAgs board has a similarly massive 500+ page QAnon discussion, full of the same endless believer vs. skeptic battles. And it’s not even isolated to the South, as one can tell by the QAnon discussions on the University of Minnesota Gopher Hole board, a board devoted to the Mountain West Conference, the University of Illinois Illini Inquirer, and the Penn State football board Blue White Illustrated—an irony for an institution that recently dealt with a massive pedophilia scandal.
College football boards aren’t the only sports sites where QAnon discussion has creeped in. The Buffalo Bills fan site Two Bills Drive hosts a 75 page (and counting) running argument about QAnon, including a few die-hard believers who truly think “the storm” is just around the corner. The “official” Washington Redskins board also has a Q discussion, as do an MMA Community message board, a forum devoted to windsurfing, and there’s even a huge thread on a fantasy football message board.
And if sports isn’t your thing, you can find active QAnon talk on computer security forum SAFE Network, the Latter Day Saints Freedom Forum, multiple New York State local message boards (for the Finger Lakes and Western New York), the primarily black women’s issues forum Lipstick Alley, and a Ryan Adams message board.
Not all of these discussions are equal, of course (moderators for Vol Nation, Two Bills Drive, and TigerDroppings didn’t respond to requests for comment from Daily Dot).
While some go on for thousands of posts and are extremely earnest, others are far shorter, and are dominated by trolls rather than true believers. But it’s clear that QAnon is no longer simply the domain of conspiracy theory sites and alt-right social media knockoffs. In fact, it never really was. It’s being discussed in the digital equivalent of your local bar. Places “normies” have no fear of treading.
And these discussions are, in some ways, even more authentic than the constant shill hunts on Voat, or the operatic anti-Semitism found on 8chan. Many of these boards are tightly controlled, with tangents into hate speech and off-topic nonsense swiftly edited by moderators. Some even bleep out swear words. Without the crutch of constant hate speech to fall back on, these threads become real debates, not simply followers ditto-ing each other on who’s worse, blacks or Jews.
Beyond that, these discussions aren’t being shut down. They aren’t being banned, and they’re only mildly moderated at all. They’re harder to find, but if you want to seriously talk QAnon with fellow believers in a place where you’re not going to get “censored,” all you have to do is go to Two Bills Drive or Lipstick Alley.
In places like that, QAnon is still going just as strong as ever —and is forever just around the corner from coming true.
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Mike Rothschild is a writer who specializes in researching and debunking conspiracy theories and fringe beliefs. He also writes about politics, history, and breaking news.