The Storm Is (Not) Upon Us

On Wednesday, one of the biggest names in the QAnon community was suspended from his biggest platform. Prolific Q evangelist and videomaker Joe M, aka @stormisuponus, was permanently kicked off Twitter, losing access to the 273,000 followers who gave every single one of his brain-damaged, paranoid musings thousands of retweets.

I’ve talked about Joe a lot on different platforms, because he was probably the most visible Q promoter other than Praying Medic, and also the one who likely did the most damage in the real world. Remember the debacle last year when QAnon believers swamped the organizers of a small charter school fundraiser because they thought James Comey was going to blow it up? Yeah, Joe M. started that. And felt no remorse about it whatsoever. Joe also was “famous” for his insanely weird memes, including ones featuring celebrities in Joker makeup and one of William Barr slam dunking Andrew McCabe’s severed head. Totally normal stuff.

The tweet that finally got Twitter to kick Joe M. out for good (hopefully) was this one, where he advised his quarter of a million acolytes that the coronavirus pandemic gripping the world was actually fake, and that they should “fire at will” at the people responsible.

Right now, the conspiracy world is on edge, with a constant flood of new plots and chicanery based around the coronavirus outbreak. And unlike much of what happens in the conspiracy world, these particular theories are not harmless. From the grifters pushing quack cures to the conspiracy theories encouraging people to burn down 5G towers because they’re “triggering” the virus (they aren’t), there is danger here – to believers and innocent people alike.

We’ve already seen multiple incidents of violence centered around the outbreak in the US, including a thwarted attempt to bomb a hospital, and a deranged near-attack on the hospital ship in the Port of Los Angeles with a train. So when someone with 270,000+ followers tells his flock to “fire at will” at the people behind a “hoax” that’s crippled the US economy, it has to be taken seriously. Twitter was right (and within its right) to ban Joe M, and the site will be better for him being taken off.

With the torrent of coronavirus conspiracy theories and the damage that they’re doing, social media sites like Twitter have a responsibility to all of us to police them. It won’t take much to set off a violent incident, and QAnon believers are especially primed for it. They’ve spent two years having it drilled into their brains that Trump is leading a war between godly good and Satanic evil, with the lives of countless children in the balance.

Even now, Q believers are tying themselves in knots trying to figure out what the evil deep state is “really” doing with the pandemic. Is it a bioweapon designed to cull the population? A false flag meant to wreck the economy and stop Trump’s re-election? A Chinese attack on patriotic Americans? A Bill Gates scheme to pump us full of vaccines? All of them? What about the “mole children” being “rescued” from the underground tunnels by heroic Q team special ops troops? What happens to them if the pandemic goes on? Q believers buy into these lurid conspiracy theories because they provide an explanation for the chaos that’s much more palatable than “Trump screwed up royally and ignored a pandemic just at the point where he could have done the most to stop it.” No Q believer wants that to be true. So they pin all of the damage and fear on the deep state – and people like Joe M are more than happy to stoke that fear to build their own brand.

Twitter was right to ban Joe M. And it will be right to ban anyone else who does what he did.

Just to make it clear, I didn’t “get Joe M banned.” Joe did that. I had nothing to do with it, nor would I have any power to make or not make Twitter do something. But tweets like the one that DID get Joe banned have no place on a major social media service. He was clearly inciting violence, but doing so in a way that skirted legal responsibility.

Naturally, Joe’s flock and fellow Q promoters didn’t see “fire at will” as anything like a threat. I heard every excuse in the book for what Joe “really” meant with the phrase. Some say he was just quoting old Q drops advising followers to make memes, others that he was just using a figure of speech. My favorite is that he was quoting “Star Wars” from when Tarkin orders the Death Star’s weapon fire. Of course, what Tarkin says there is “you may fire when ready,” not “fire at will.” And he says it as part of ordering a planet full of innocent people blown up. So that’s maybe not the best comp.

I don’t know if Joe is gone for good or whether he’ll weasel his way back on. But I do know that QAnon has a real problem with the violent ideation in its midst. And QAnon has gotten a lot of mainstream coverage with its stoking of coronavirus conspiracy theories. So when these two things collide, action has to be taken. Twitter did the right thing in banning Joe M, and I won’t lose any sleep over it.