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Linguistic detectives believe they may have tracked down two people responsible for QAnon conspiracy theory.
If you’re lucky enough to have evaded the lunacy of the QAnon conspiracy theory, here’s a brief outline: its believers allege there’s a global cabal of Satan-worshipping, cannibalistic paedophiles in the ‘deep state’, which warred with Donald Trump during his only term in power, and a ‘storm’ of mass arrests is almost always imminent. There’s no evidence to suggest the theory has any truth in reality, constantly evolving around the news cycle to suit its nonsensical agenda.
Yet, despite its followers partaking in the Capitol riots and behaving like clowns, whether it's their claims that Trump was actually John F. Kennedy — yes, the assassinated president — in disguise or Jim Caviezel leaning on Braveheart in lieu of anything meaningful to say, it's still everywhere.
QAnon can be tracked back to the debunked Pizzagate theory, which earlier connected Hillary Clinton to a fictitious child sex ring, with a pizzeria seemingly the hub for Satanic ritual abuse. This idea of institutionalised abuse — none of which has been proven — is fundamental to QAnon.
Firstly, nobody knows who Q is for certain, though their name appears to suggest they have some sort of clearance in the US Department of Energy. The conspiracy theory began on 4chan, recycling Pizzagate ideas before professing Trump as the hero of the story and exposing 'Operation Mockingbird', an alleged plot by the media to hide all these Satanic crimes via a diet of fake news.
Two teams have been looking at the origins of QAnon: Claude-Alain Roten and Lionel Pousaz of OrphAnalytics, a Swiss start-up; and Florian Cafiero and Jean-Baptiste Camps, two French computational linguists.
Both sides used an approach known as stylometry through software that broke down Q's texts into three-character sequences and tracked the recurrence of each possible combination — this method revealed JK Rowling to be the author of Cuckoo's Calling under a different pen name, not to mention it helped solve the identity of the Unabomber.
Their accuracy rates consistently come out higher than 90%, and after analysing more than 100,000 words by Q and at least 12,000 words from 15 different writers, they arrived at two names: Paul Furber, a South African software developer and tech journalist; and Ron Watkins, who earlier operated a website hosting QAnon messages. The latter is now running for Congress.
'At first most of the text is by Furber. But the signature of Ron Watkins increased during the first few months as Paul Furber decreased and then dropped completely,' Cafiero told The New York Times.
While denying he was Q, Furber didn't refute the similarities in his writing, admitting that he 'took over our lives, literally... we all started talking like him'. However, he also described it as 'an operation that has run its course', but remained convinced its inception came from an insider 'to awaken people to this massive secret war against the cabal'. Oh, and 'the next phase is coming', apparently.
Watkins also denied he was Q, but praised certain aspects of QAnon. 'There is probably more good stuff than bad,' he said, crediting people's efforts in 'fighting for the safety of the country, and for the safety of the children of the country'.
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