The owner of a far-right message board site formerly known as 8chan, which is tied to alleged mass shooters, has co-founded a super PAC supporting the extreme QAnon conspiracy theory and is now running paid ads for it on his site.
The QAnon conspiracy theory started on far-right message board site 4chan before moving to the even more extreme 8chan, which shut down after an alleged mass shooter posted his racist thoughts there and has since relaunched as 8kun. The conspiracy theory revolves around an anonymous account known as “Q” and the claim that President Donald Trump was working with then-special counsel Robert Mueller to take down the president’s perceived enemies, the “deep state,” and pedophile rings. Multiple adherents to the conspiracy theory have been tied to acts of violence, including murders and attempted kidnappings, and an FBI field office released a memo in May 2019 that listed QAnon as a potential domestic terrorism threat. “Q” and QAnon supporters have also spread misinformation and conspiracy theories about the novel coronavirus.
Beyond the QAnon conspiracy theory, 8chan/8kun has been linked to multiple instances of white supremacist terrorism, with alleged shooters in Christchurch, New Zeland; Poway, California; and El Paso, Texas, posting their manifestos on the site.
The owner of 8chan/8kun, Jim Watkins, has previously shown support for QAnon, and earlier this year he helped establish a QAnon super PAC called Disarm the Deep State, which aims to “mobilize a community of patriots in order to remove power from Deep State members” and help QAnon-supporting candidates. (Watkins is listed as the super PAC’s treasurer.) The PAC’s lawyer, according to Protocol, said the super PAC would “spend its money on voter education, engagement and outreach on behalf of candidates.” During an April 1 appearance on a far-right online show, Watkins urged people to donate to the super PAC and directly to him via his YouTube channel, claiming he would give the money to the super PAC and that he is “not keeping that personally.”
Yet the “outreach” the super PAC is doing appears to include Watkins’ own site. A review by Media Matters found multiple ads from the super PAC on 8kun. The congressional candidates in the ads, Pennsylvania Republican Sean Parnell and Texas Republican Ronny Jackson (who was also White House physician to Trump and previous presidents), have been endorsed by the PAC, though neither seems to have explicitly endorsed QAnon. The ads feature text underneath saying, “PAID FOR BY DISARM THE DEEP STATE PAC. … NOT AUTHORIZED BY ANY CANDIDATE OR CANDIDATE COMMITTEE.” The ads, which link to the candidates' campaign sites, also showed up on multiple message boards on the site.
The Media Matters review also found only a handful of other advertisers on the site, suggesting this PAC that Watkins helped create is one of the only providers for paid advertisements for his site.