Jim Watkins, who helped facilitate the rise of QAnon to become a violent conspiracy movement that has infected large parts of the Republican Party, told the Jan. 6 committee that in fact, QAnon was invented by George Soros.
The transcript of Watkins’ June 2022 interview with the committee was published on Tuesday evening and reveals that the founder of 8kun, the platform where the anonymous leader of QAnon posted thousands of messages, not only denied being behind QAnon but went one step further and claimed it was nothing more than a fiction created by the left to stifle independent thought.
“QAnon is manufactured by the left-wing media, and it’s probably put out mostly by a company called Media Matters, which is, I believe, funded by a man named George Soros,” Watkins said in testimony that was given under the penalty of perjury. “It’s manufactured. It’s not anything to do with my website. I’ve used the term a couple times, and that’s before I realized what it even was.”
The reality is that Watkins’ website was the primary driver of QAnon in its early days, and Watkins allowed it to grow there until it was big enough to go mainstream on platforms like Facebook and Twitter. Recent polling suggests that the number of Americans who believe in QAnon conspiracies has risen in the last 12 months to almost 20% of the adult population.
Soros, the billionaire Hungarian philanthropist, has in recent years become a boogeyman for conspiracy theorists and right-wing commentators alike; they claim he’s attempting to control politicians and media around the world, and his name has been used as a catch-all antisemitic dog whistle for years.
Media Matters is a left-leaning media watchdog group that closely tracks misinformation and conspiracy theories, including QAnon, as they spread on social media and in traditional media outlets. It has, in the past, received substantial funding from Soros both directly and indirectly.
The poster identifying themselves as Q posted exclusively on 8kun’s Q research board for years. Asked by the committee about the board, Watkins described it as “a place where [users] talk about the current world affairs, and they try to research and find the meaning behind things and why they oftentimes post propaganda and how to find their way through propaganda.”
Watkins claimed to the committee’s investigators that Soros and Media Matters colluded to invent the QAnon movement in order to ”make it a boogeyman” because “they don’t like people thinking for themselves.”
While QAnon exploded in popularity when it moved away from 8kun to more mainstream platforms like Facebook and Twitter in 2020, it was on 8kun when the most extreme members of the movement remained, tracking the almost daily updates from Q.
The identity of Q remains unknown, but Watkins’ son Ron, who was an administrator on the site and recently lost his bid for Congress, suggested in a HBO documentary in 2021 that he was behind some of the posts.
Q went silent in December 2021, but in late June 2022, just weeks after his interview with the committee, Waktins was accused of trying to revive Q after basic technical errors revealed his hand in the posts.
“It’s not me,” Watkins told the committee. “Some people say it’s me, but it’s not me.”
Watkins was called to give evidence to the committee because he was in Washington on Jan. 6, 2021, and because of posts on 8kun inciting violence in the lead up to the attack and in the days after the riot.
Watkins described the events of Jan. 6 and the people who took part as “beautiful, wonderful, peaceful and patriotic.” He described the people who violently breached the Capitol and attacked police officers as “ruffians” and as “statistically invisible” compared to the number of people who were peacefully protesting on the day.
“It was a sea of humanity. And we were all friendly. There was no litter on the ground. That was the most thing that I noticed,” Watkins told the committee.
Investigators brought up several posts from 8kun prior to the riot in which users urged people to travel to Washington using violent and racist language. Watkins said none of these posts violated 8kun’s policies on hate speech and would not have been taken down if flagged.
Investigators also flagged a post that was published on 8kun at the same time as the Capitol was first being breached. “Guns are out now. Guns are out. This is now a civil war. Go. Go. Go,” a user wrote.
Watkins admitted this post would have breached the platform’s rules. But he said he was at the Capitol at the time it was posted and didn’t see it, and as it wasn’t reported by any of 8kun’s users it wasn’t deleted.When the committee asked if Watkins would delete it now it was brought to his attention, he said no, as it was a historical document. “I’m not rewriting history,” he told the committee.
Investigators also flagged posts in the days after the riot that included further calls for violence around the inauguration of President Joe Biden. One threat read:
“Do not come on the 17th if you are not ready to die. This will end in bloodshed. If you are not willing to give your life for the Constitution and for the good of the future, then do not show up. The gloves are off. This isn’t about Trump anymore. This is about justice and freedom for all the rights of American citizens. And Twitter? We have a special surprise in store for Jack [Dorsey].”
Again Watkins admitted this post would have been deleted if someone had reported it at the time, but it wasn’t.
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