What QAnon's own activists said when we told them we were publishing a list of the movement's 200 most important people

  • Insider has published a searchable database of the roughly 200 people behind QAnon.
  • In interviews, emails, and direct messages the people who sustain QAnon told us what they really think.
  • Many of them were unhappy to be the focus of media attention.
  • Visit Business Insider's homepage for more stories.

The core of QAnon consists of about 200 identifiable people who are responsible for creating, publicizing, and enabling the QAnon movement, an investigation by Insider has found.

QAnon followers believe in multiple fictitious conspiracy theories around the idea that the world is controlled by a satanic cabal of child-abusing wealthy liberals. They obsessively deconstruct the internet posts of the anonymous "Q Clearance Patriot," who claims to be a US national-security insider.

They are gaining influence within the Republican party. President Trump has tweeted pro-Q messages more than 200 times. And dozens of GOP candidates used Q propaganda during their campaigns, Insider's research found. 

We put QAnon's most prominent people into a searchable database so that the public can better understand how this movement works. The database includes celebrities, politicians, activists, military veterans, men's rights activists, media personalities, and the name of the person who probably is the mysterious "Q".

In interviews, emails, and direct messages, the real people who sustain QAnon told us what they really thought

Our research created a rare opportunity: To speak to the actual people behind the most influential conservative grassroots political movement since the Tea Party. In interviews, emails, and direct messages, the real people who sustain QAnon told us what they really thought.

Many of them were unhappy to be the focus of media attention.

One of the most striking things about QAnon is the difference between the way its activists see themselves and the way their supporters actually behave in real life. QAnon activists frequently insist that they are peaceful, respectful, and want only the best for others in their search for "the truth." But our reporters encountered hostility and threats multiple times simply by asking for comment or information.

An example of the welcoming side of QAnon is Christian Suprean, who says he was "once a construction worker by trade who struggled with drug addictions and life in general." Now he calls himself an entrepreneur, mentor, and marketer. He was also a presenter at "QCon Live" — a conference for Q supporters held in Las Vegas — in October 2020.

When Insider reached him for comment, he said, "It's the most amazing movement I've ever been involved with. It's filled with love. It's filled with humility for the most part. And it's filled with love for our country and for God. And I have made some of the most amazing friends that will be lifelong friends throughout this journey, following Q and meeting people with Q."

That's a pretty common sentiment among QAnon followers. It could be the movement's internal mantra. It was certainly one of the more positive reactions Insider received as we put together the database.

Hostility and abuse

But compare that with what happened when one of our reporters contacted Gab CEO Andrew Torba, to ask why he had welcomed QAnon supporters to his platform after they were banned from Twitter and other networks.

Before our work was published, he posted a preemptive attack on his own website. "They are working on a major hit piece attacking everyone and anyone connected to the community of millions of great patriots who are seeking the truth outside of legacy media narratives," he wrote.

In turn, that message inspired dozens of anonymous Q sympathizers and Gab users to conduct a campaign of harassment against our reporter, some of it racist.

"QAnoners and Gab readers began to spam email and message me across several platforms. That continued for about one hellish week until my partner graciously offered to monitor my social media and block stuff for me so I could feel more at peace and not deal with it," Insider reporter Yelena Dzhanova said.

One message (with typos) targeting her said: "The bitch got the response she deserved. She isnt a journalist, shes an activist."

Remember, these messages were all coming from people who had not yet read our story. But they were already sure it would be wrong. And they were comfortable tormenting a stranger on the internet.

Broadly, responses from QAnon members to our investigation fell into four categories:

1. Disavowal

Perhaps unsurprisingly, since the FBI designated QAnon a potential domestic terrorism threat in August 2019, many people who had an active hand in QAnon no longer want to be associated with it.

"I've never said I know who Q is. I don't know who Q is," Jim Watkins told us. Watkins is the founder of 8kun, the web chat board on which Q lists his mysterious "drops." A previous Insider investigation showed that Watkins is the prime suspect for the real identity of Q.

Manuel Chavez III, a YouTuber who sometimes uses the name "Defango" or "@d3fango", claims he had a role in developing Q as an "alternative-reality game" (or Live Action Role Play) for fun to "smoke out bad journalists."

Now he regrets his involvement, he told Insider. "I've never promoted the Qanon movement whatsoever. I've only ever made videos trying to debunk it and get it shut down. I created the idea for Qanon and left it after I realize the people that were helping me start it were Internet trolls that were kind of anti-Semitic," he said.

Similarly, Lauren Boebert, the winning Republican candidate for Colorado's 3rd Congressional District, once praised QAnon. On a radio show she said she hoped QAnon "is real because it only means America is getting stronger and better."

When reached by Insider, however, she disavowed the movement. "Lauren has repeatedly stated on the record she is not a follower of QAnon," a spokesperson told us.

2. Soft denial

Interestingly, many people with a public track record of publicizing QAnon ideas were coy about their involvement when we asked. A typical stance was to claim that they were not Q believers but merely investigating.

Mark Manicki, an Illinois police officer who has appeared at Q rallies with Q insignia on his clothing, said: "I'm merely analyzing the information I've been presented with and sharing my analysis of that information on social media. It's then up to anyone reading it to form their own opinion. … is it fiction, or non-fiction, that's entirely up to the reader to decide."

3. Threats

Multiple QAnoners made legal threats against Insider and its staff for asking them for a comment. There was also a persistent theme around the idea that members of the media only tell lies and distortions.

Krystal Tini, an influencer and model, declined to respond in detail. "It would be wise to start reporting REAL news and not bashing people for spreading truth. You and your cronies are a disgrace to call yourselves journalists," she told us. "My attorney will be reaching out."

3. Positive affirmation

A minority of the people in the database confirmed their involvement and said they were proud to be part of QAnon. Champ Parinya, a lifestyle guru, said "QAnon is but one small piece of the grand puzzle on the path to awakening to the greater truths of reality."

4. No response

By far the largest category were those who did not comment or declined to comment. (We were also unable to reach a handful of prominent Q supporters. If any of them want to contact us with comments we will be happy to add them.)

But there is no need to take our word for it. Browse the QAnon database for yourself here. We included a quote from each person on the list who responded.

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