Characterizing QAnon: Analysis of YouTube comments presents new conclusions about a popular conservative conspiracy

Keywords: QAnon, conspiracies, alt-right, President Donald Trump, China, YouTube, topic models

Abstract

QAnon has become an important phenomenon in American politics due to both its relative popularity as well as its adoption/endorsement by political elites. However, this conspiracy theory/social movement has received sparse investigation in the social sciences. This gap is particularly noticeable in regards to the QAnon movement’s overall beliefs and perceptions of global affairs. This piece addresses these research gaps by using repeatable inductive computational social science methods to analyze a sample of comments from YouTube, a platform popular with QAnon followers. This investigation affirms previous observations regarding QAnon’s narratives connecting the U.S. government (particularly prominent Democrats) and alleged sexual violence against children, anti-semitism/fundamentalist Christian theology, and pro-Trump sentiments, and also reaveals several novel conclusions regarding QAnon. These novel observations include: [1] that the QAnon community sustains substantial discussion of international affairs, largely revolving around China, Russia and Israel (in order of prominence); [2] that discussion of China in QAnon comments received more “likes” than other international topics; and [3] that a nexus of conjectures tying former presidential candidate, Senator, and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton to the Chinese party-state dominate these China-centric comments. Aside from these novel conclusions regarding QAnon, this paper also seeks to make a contribution to repeatable social science analysis of YouTube comments more generally.

Author Biography

Daniel Taninecz Miller, University of Washington

Dan Taninecz Miller received his Ph.D. from the Jackson School of International Studies (JSIS) at the University of Washington. He also holds a Master’s degree from JSIS and a B.A. in political science and international studies from Guilford College. Dan’s research interests focus on applying computational social science tools to large corpora of mixed qualitative-quantitative data, and he has conducted research on Russian electoral disinformation and China’s outbound investment policies. Outside of his academic work he is a data scientist/big data engineer with the Jacobs Engineering Group working on a DARPA research project.

Published
2021-01-11
How to Cite
Miller, D. T. (2021). Characterizing QAnon: Analysis of YouTube comments presents new conclusions about a popular conservative conspiracy. First Monday, 26(2). https://doi.org/10.5210/fm.v26i2.10168