Hillary Clinton hasn’t been arrested, Donald Trump isn’t the president, and the anonymous leader of QAnon seems to have abandoned the movement entirely. In the resulting void and letdown felt by many believers in the conspiracy theory, one man has emerged over many others as the new voice of QAnon: pro-Trump attorney Lin Wood.
Wood is currently facing disciplinary proceedings in Georgia over his baseless claims of 2020 election fraud, but that hasn’t stopped him from amassing a huge following on Telegram, the encrypted-messaging app that’s become one of the main QAnon platforms in the wake of mass purges by mainstream networks like Faceobok, Twitter, and YouTube.
Wood’s official Telegram account has over 830,000 followers, which is far and away the most of any major QAnon figure. And just like an increasing number of QAnon influencers, Wood is careful not to refer directly to QAnon in his Telegram posts, instead using specific language from the movement like “child sex trafficking” and “deep state” to signal his true intent.
The next biggest QAnon channel on Telegram belongs to an anonymous influencer with 250,000 followers. The third-most-popular QAnon channel, created by a group of major QAnon influencers, has amassed just over 200,000 followers.
Wood’s account is a mixture of conspiracy theories, Bible Scriptures, pictures of his home in South Carolina, and promises that any day now the truth will come out.
So why has Wood become so popular among QAnon adherents? He offers new storylines.
“I would say the biggest reason why Lin has amassed such a big following is that he's continuing the narrative in a very straightforward way. He's telling new stories with new [made-up] evidence,” a prominent QAnon researcher who tweets anonymously from an account called Dapper Gander told VICE News. “The old Q promoters are just remixing old stuff, talking about how tomorrow is the 3-year anniversary of Q Drop # whatever, and suggesting maybe something big will happen.”
Lin Wood shot to fame in the wake of former President Donald Trump’s election loss in November. Wood was part of a crack squad of lawyers representing the president that included Rudy Giuliani and fellow QAnon booster and “Kraken” lawyer Sidney Powell.
That legal team managed the ignominious feat of winning just a single hearing in Pennsylvania while being laughed out of court more than 60 times as their baseless allegations that the election was rigged were thrown out by judges across the country.
At the same time that he was fighting in court for Trump, Wood increasingly boosted QAnon conspiracies via his popular Twitter account, and at one point in January he even suggested that former Vice President Mike Pence should be executed.
After being kicked off of Twitter one day after the Capitol riots for promoting conspiracy theories, Wood began a Telegram channel, perhaps in part because the platform has very little content moderation.
Free to say what he likes, Wood has continued to perpetuate QAnon myths and has claimed to have spoken to a “whistleblower” who’s about to reveal everything QAnon supporters believe about the deep state is really true.
Such messages are welcomed by the hundreds of thousands of QAnon supporters who have been left questioning their beliefs since Trump’s loss and Biden’s inauguration, something that Q predicted would never happen.
While Wood doesn’t use the term “QAnon” in his posts, he knows exactly how to get the attention of the movement’s followers.
“Wood is popular with QAnon because he has credibility as a lawyer fighting the good fight and because he aggressively panders to QAnon’s talking points,” says Mike Rains, a researcher who hosts the QAnon-focused podcast “Welcome to Hellwqrld.” “He says all the things they want to hear about Trump getting back into office, their enemies being arrested for being pedophiles and all the rest of it. He knows — or knows somebody who knows — all the terms QAnon uses.”
Unlike the more old-school QAnon influencers who’ve been attempting to tone down the crazier aspects of the conspiracy theory lately, like the belief that JFK Jr. is alive, Wood is happy to lean into the more unbelievable aspects of the ideology.
“Q told them for three years ‘You are watching a movie’, and so Q believers would prefer to watch the movie where the storyline continues to move forward,” Dapper Gander said. “They'd prefer the movie where stuff happens and not the one where they're told to continue waiting.”
Wood is no stranger to controversy. His previous clients include Kyle Rittenhouse, the teenager charged with fatally shooting protesters in Kenosha, Wisconsin, as well as Mark and Patricia McCloskey, the couple who waved firearms at demonstrators outside their St. Louis home. He has also previously represented Marjorie Taylor Greene, the QAnon-supporting Republican House representative.
Wood has found a huge following of QAnon supporters because he’s willing to indulge their craziest fantasies about how the world works, and the imminent return of Donald Trump.
The way that QAnon supporters have shifted away from the original influencers — who are still peddling conspiracies — and toward radicals like Wood, experts say, is reminiscent of how conservatives abandoned Fox News for more radical right-wing networks in the wake of Trump’s loss.
“Lin is now super popular for the same reason Trump supporters all decided Fox was actually the enemy and now watch One America News,” Dapper Gander said. “Because OAN was willing to radicalize them further and push the envelope of their fear and anger.”