What are anons?

If you spend a lot of time in conspiracy theory media or on fringe websites, you’ll see certain terms pop up again and again. One of these is the word “anon” or “anons.”

It seems like it’s just a handy way to refer to people who don’t want their names attached to the posts they make.

But it’s more than that. The concept of unknown anons “doing research” and revealing things that “they” don’t want revealed is critical to both the QAnon conspiracy theory specifically, and conspiracies in general. There were anons before QAnon, and there likely will be again—as long as they have a place to post without having to reveal their name.

https://twitter.com/3Days3Nights/status/1169478468142338049

So is QAnon the best-known anon? Or are there others? Who have they been?

What are anons?

Strictly speaking, an “anon” is anyone who posts online without using their name. But more specifically, “anons” have been referred to as both the person or people who make the QAnon posts and the people who read and decipher them. 

Basically, anyone who posts on 4chan, 8chan, or any place that doesn’t require identifying information is technically an anon. But some anons have made a bigger impact than others.

Are anons called any other names?

In the QAnon world, anons will also sometimes be called “autists” and “bakers.”

“Autist” is a reference to autism, supposedly complementing the ability of Q researchers to dig information out of the most bizarre and random topics. “Baker” is a reference to Q drops being known as “breadcrumbs” and the long strings of 8chan posts where these drops are dissected being called “breads.”

Is QAnon the first major anon?

The anonymous avatar who drops “intel posts” on 8chan was just the latest in a long line of “anon” accounts. A number of them surfaced around the time of the 2016 election, trying to “expose” the political chicanery behind the effort to win Hillary Clinton the presidency.

There was “FBI Anon”, who claimed to have “intimate knowledge of the inner workings of the Clinton case.” Around that time, another cryptic figure, “High Level Insider Anon,” used 4chan to host long question and answer sessions, dispensing nuggets of cryptic wisdom like “Waking up creates a lot of uncertainty for people” and “JFK challenged the secret societies and usury so he was killed for it.”

Some also cropped up after the election, but before QAnon appeared. “CIA Anon” and “CIA Intern” appeared in early 2017, while “WH Insider Anon” posted on and off during that summer. 

All basically claimed the same thing: they were revealing secrets about the intelligence community, the Obama administration, the Democratic National Committee, or the Clinton Campaign.

Did these other anons have the same impact as QAnon?

Most of them burned out quickly. The poster called High Level Insider Anon posted only from June 2016 to March 2017. The “CIA anons” also seemed to vanish after just a few weeks. FBI Anon dropped all of their content in one furious 4chan session on July 2, 2016, never to be heard from again—though there are imitators claiming to be FBI anon, who have a completely different posting style. 

Could any of the other anons be QAnon as well?

Most of these anon accounts used the same style of posting as QAnon. Their posts are full of riddles, rhetorical questions, prompts for readers to “do their own research,” and totally unprovable accusations. So it’s possible. But none posted with the frequency or the sheer complexity of QAnon.

Some users of Reddit forum r/The_Donald have conflated the “White House Insider Anon” of summer 2017 with QAnon, but others think the earlier anon was a different persona.

The closest in style and content to QAnon is probably High Level Insider, whose posts have all been archived. But even their writing is different, preferring straight ahead answers to riddles.

With 8chan down, will another anon rise up to replace QAnon?

8chan’s staff has insisted that their board is down voluntarily, and will come back when they have more security measures in place. And QAnon has gone periods of over a month without posting, without losing the trust of their followers. So if 8chan does come back, it seems likely QAnon will too. 

And if not, there’s always someone else willing to pretend to have secret information to build an online following.

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Mike Rothschild

Mike Rothschild

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.