GOPers Are Trying to Recruit QAnon Voters And Using This YouTube Show to Do It

Will Sommer
via Youtube
via Youtube

As she gathered support for what was then thought to be a long-shot primary bid against Rep. Scott Tipton (R-CO), congressional hopeful Lauren Boebert made an appearance on “Patriots’ Soapbox,” a YouTube channel with a devoted following that claims to broadcast “real news the MSM does not cover.”

In her appearance, Boebert ran down her usual talking points: how she confronted former presidential candidate Beto O’Rourke over gun control, how the restaurant she owns stands out because of its open-carry policy for waitresses, and how she dreams of joining the hard-right House Freedom Caucus.

But a few things about Boebert’s appearance on Patriots’ Soapbox were different from her usual interviews on fringe right-wing outlets. There was the list of QAnon conspiracy theorist “clues” that the channel displayed next to her screen, and a constantly updating chat about QAnon running elsewhere on the broadcast at the same time.

Boebert had stepped straight into the internet heart of the QAnon community, and she didn’t seem to mind. And why would she? Patriots’ Soapbox may be part of the political fringe—putting out conspiracy theory chatter that law enforcement officials have deemed a legitimate threat—but it is increasingly becoming a potent force on the right.

Boebert, who pulled off an upset win over Tipton this month, isn’t alone. As the QAnon conspiracy theory movement makes inroads into the Republican Party and QAnon believers win a handful of congressional nominations, other Republican congressional candidates who don’t profess to believe in QAnon and even a Trump campaign official have begun courting believers on Patriots’ Soapbox.

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Patriots’ Soapbox is a 24-hour, 7-days-a-week full-face dive into the heart of QAnon. It is the hub of a devoted community of tens of thousands of QAnon believers eager to share the off-the-wall ideas with each other. The various “shows” running on Patriots’ Soapbox often open with a Q-themed song like the Western-style “When Q Came to Town,” before launching into fevered dissections of QAnon clues and interpretation of current events through a QAnon lens.

The channel, which has nearly 80,000 YouTube subscribers and a popular Discord chat server, has been one of the most vocal QAnon outlets since the conspiracy theory began with a series of anonymous clues posted by a mysterious “Q” in October 2017. As QAnon took shape and gained prominence among Trump supporters, with its claims that Trump is engaged in a shadowy war against high-ranking pedophile-cannibals in the Democratic Party, Patriots’ Soapbox grew alongside it.

One of Patriots’ Soapbox founders, Coleman Rogers, who goes by the handle “Pamphlet Anon,” is so involved in the beginnings of QAnon that rival conspiracy theorists have accused him of being Q himself, a charge Rogers denies.

“It’s a dedicated 24-7 livestream into the QAnon worldview,” said Travis View, the co-host of a podcast tracking developments among QAnon believers.

Visually, Patriots’ Soapbox’s constant livestream looks like nothing else on YouTube. Other conspiracy theorists on the platform, like the producers of the slickly produced coronavirus conspiracy theory video “Plandemic,” rely on high production values to win new adherents to their ludicrous beliefs. But Patriots’ Soapbox relishes getting into the byzantine details of QAnon, with hosts sharing their screens to the audience as they flick between QAnon clues, tweets, and articles they claim prove the ultimate conspiracy.

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Patriots’ Soapbox emerged in the early days of QAnon as a bridge between the original Q clues and the broader Trump internet. At the time, the Q posts were mostly circulated and discussed on hard-to-navigate image boards like 4Chan and 8Chan, a barrier that prevented them from catching on with a more mainstream pro-Trump audience. That problem was worsened when Reddit banned its own QAnon forums, stopping QAnon from taking hold on that platform. But QAnon fans were able to find a place in the Patriots’ Soapbox YouTube and its lively Discord chat, where QAnon researchers obsessed with uncovering the global cabal they imagined could find compatriots at any time of day.

The demands of producing an unending stream of content has meant Patriots’ Soapbox has recruited QAnon believers across the world, according to View. And its popularity has turned some of those hosts, who operate under aliases like “Deadcat,” into micro-celebrities in QAnon world. The stream typically features various QAnon celebrities as guests, all of them primed to discuss the next QAnon clue.

“Whenever a new Q drop comes in, they start decoding them immediately,” View said.

Patriots’ Soapbox didn’t respond to a request for comment.

Boebert’s ties to QAnon believers have become more of a liability shortly after her surprise win over Tipton, when her comments on another QAnon-centric internet video show, “SteelTruth” surfaced. In the interview, Boebert said she hoped that QAnon “is real.” After her primary victory, Boebert walked back her comments, claiming that she is “not a follower.”

Boebert isn’t the only candidate with ties to QAnon to appear on Patriots’ Soapbox. Rich McCormick, the Republican nominee in a battleground Georgia district, appeared on Patriots’ Soapbox show in June. Like Boebert, McCormick avoided mentioning QAnon—even as the screens around him were covered with references to it. Nevertheless, the Democratic Party’s congressional campaign arm has attacked McCormick over his Patriots’ Soapbox appearance, calling him “QAnon’s Other Candidate in Georgia”—a reference to Marjorie Taylor Greene, an avowed QAnon believer poised to win a runoff next month for the Republican nomination in a heavily Republican Georgia district.

A Patriots’ Soapbox appearance can be a low-risk way to signal to QAnon believers without risking the footage being seen by a wider audience, according to Marc-André Argentino, a Ph.D. candidate at Concordia University who has studied QAnon.

“They might see this as a pool of individuals they can get votes from if they say the right things,” Argentino said. “Your risk-reward, from a political perspective, is not as great as if you went on Fox News and said ‘I believe in QAnon.’”

Appearing on a QAnon show like Patriots’ Soapbox without explicitly mentioning QAnon could bear fruit for Republican candidates, View said.

“We’ll see candidates feel more confident at signalling to the QAnon community that they would appreciate their vote, without explicitly endorsing in any way,” View said.

The Boebert and McCormick campaigns didn’t respond to requests for comment. A spokesman for the National Republican Congressional Committee, the campaign arm of the House GOP, declined to comment on the candidates appearing on a QAnon YouTube channel

Patriots’ Soapbox has also been embraced by one official from the Trump campaign. On Tuesday, Media Matters unearthed footage of campaign official Erin Perrine appearing on Patriots’ Soapbox to urge the channel’s following to volunteer for the Trump campaign.

While QAnon has gained a strange mainstream credibility within the GOP, with its promoters landing congressional nominations and invites to the White House, the conspiracy theory has also inspired several violent incidents, including two murders. The FBI considers QAnon a potential source of domestic terror.

The prospect of Republican candidates courting QAnon fans could energize the conspiracy theory’s believers and win more adherents, according to Argentino.

“It would give a sense that a wider segment of the population is accepting QAnon,” he said. “If the name of someone who gives credence to QAnon is on the ballot, that means a lot more than ‘Anon1234’ on Twitter.”

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