Amidst an already dispiriting Inauguration Day for Trump fans across the conspiracy-verse, another blow has quietly fallen: Ron Watkins, a former administrator of the sites 8chan and 8kun, appears to be bowing out of the Q business. In a message posted to Telegram, Watkins urged his followers to “respect the Constitution,” writing, “Now we need to keep our chins up and go back to our lives as best we are able.”
8kun, a successor to 8chan, has been the main home for posts from “Q,” the mysterious account claiming to have unique insight into the secret workings of the government and the Satanic cabals running it. Watkins and his father Jim, who owns 8kun, have been widely accused of being Q themselves—an accusation they have denied.
Regardless of whether Watkins or his father were actually posting as Q, there is no question that they were primary drivers of QAnon as a movement. That movement took Watkins ever closer to the seats of political power of the Trump era; Trump-supporting attorney Sidney Powell even filed an affidavit from Watkins in a Georgia lawsuit which falsely alleged that there had been widespread voter fraud that resulted in President Trump’s defeat. As NBC News reported in December, Watkins has also recently appeared as a purported expert on voter fraud on the ultra-right cable channel OAN. At the same time, he posted a series of tweets widely seen as urging Trump to declare a military dictatorship, calling on Trump to #crosstherubicon, as the tweets put it.
Despite years of fiery rhetoric, Watkins’ latest post, announcing his apparent withdrawal and a mysterious “new project,” was meek.
“We gave it our all,” Watkins wrote. “Now we need to keep our chins up and go back to our lives as best we are able. We have a new president sworn in and it is our responsibility as citizens to respect the Constitution regardless of whether or not we agree with the specifics or details regarding officials who are sworn in.”
Watkins closed with a line that sounded more like that of a wistful departing senior than a primary architect of a dangerous movement: “As we enter into the next administration please remember all the friends and happy memories we made together over the past few years. Ill [sic] have more to say in a few days regarding a new project I’m currently fleshing out. God bless.”
“There’s probably never going to be any clearer evidence that he never cared about any of this and certainly never cared about any of the people,” Fred Brennan told Motherboard, reacting to Watkins’ Telegram post. Brennan is the founder of 8chan; he gave over control of the site to Jim Watkins in 2014, stepped down as the site’s administrator in 2016 and has been locked in an increasingly venomous battle with both Watkins for years. Brennan has frequently claimed that the Watkins’ father-son duo are, essentially, Q.
“At least the other influencers are upset right now,” Brennan added, “But he’s just like ‘meh. This grift has reached its conclusion. Bye losers.’” Brennan also called Watkins “a psychopath.”
Additional reporting by David Gilbert.