Praying Medic, the pen name of an Arizona man who has become one of the more popular and influential interpreters of the writings by the mysterious entity known as Q, has left Facebook after the social media website announced a crackdown on pages promoting the QAnon conspiracy.
QAnon, a set of baseless online conspiracy claims, generally alleges that high-ranking officials are covering up secret sex crimes and other evils. It has become a prominent issue during this campaign season, as more activists support the idea, and as Republicans including the president have been slow to condemn it.
Also this week, a page for an Arizona-based militia mobilizing group was removed. That page was not posted to support QAnon, though Rise supporters overlapped with other activists who are QAnon proponents.Facebook had previously announced it was disabling accounts that promoted violence.
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In a video posted on Tuesday, Dave Hayes, of Gilbert, whose Praying Medic persona has amassed more than 750,000 followers across Twitter and YouTube, said he had voluntarily pulled down his pages off Facebook and Instagram before they were involuntarily unpublished.
“It’s either I take them down, or they’re going to be taken down,” he said during the Q-related newscast he regularly produces.
An untold number of other Arizonans have lost their Facebook pages due to the crackdown announced Tuesday by the social media site.
QAnon enters politics
Facebook had previously said it was cracking down on websites that promoted violence, either by invoking the QAnon conspiracy or through militia groups. But, in a post on Tuesday, Facebook said that proved inadequate and it was enacting a shutdown of any page promoting the false QAnon conspiracy, which started on the fringes but has moved squarely into mainstream political discourse.
Dozens of Congressional candidates nationwide, including two Republican candidates in Arizona, have posted about Q. Two state lawmakers in Arizona have also posted Q content, though one said he regretted it. At least two candidates for the state legislature are Q adherents.
Facebook said it was expanding its ban on QAnon because non-violent discussions among believers were causing real-world harm. It cited false concerns that wildfires in California and Oregon were caused by Antifa or similar left-wing groups, diverting public safety resources.
Facebook had previously taken measures against Praying Medic, according to posts Hayes wrote on his blog. In May, he said he lost administrative control of the page because his QAnon postings violated Facebook standards. He said the postings and videos remained, but he had no control to add new postings.
It was not immediately clear if Facebook restored Hayes’s administrative access, and, if not, how he was able to take down his page voluntarily before the crackdown.
Hayes did not respond to a request for a phone interview.
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Hayes, since December 2017, has provided viewers digests of postings and news about the Q phenomenon in a calm matter-of-fact voice that belies the dire and dark contours of the conspiracy that imagines a ruling global cabal of pedophiles.
The QAnon theory rests on the supposition that a government agent with top-secret Q-level security clearance has been posting cryptic messages on online bulletin boards that hint at happenings going on behind the scenes. Though the postings are open to interpretation, the central narrative has President Trump investigating the perversions of a decades-old secret ruling class. There is belief leaders need children and babies for sex and for a nourishing chemical in their blood. Mass arrests, the theory says, are imminent.
Hayes was a paramedic and self-described atheist until, as he described on his website, God spoke to him in a dream and told him to pray for those in his ambulance. He has authored several spiritual books under the Praying Medic name. He started tracking QAnon weeks after the first Q posting in October 2017.
Hayes said he had also pulled down his videos from YouTube and was bracing for Twitter to close his account.
“I don’t think it will be long before YouTube cracks down pretty hard on Q-related accounts,” Hayes told his viewers, “and then Twitter.”
Praying Medic’s YouTube channel had 391,000 subscribers as of Thursday. Praying Medic’s Twitter account had 409,000 followers as of Thursday.
Hayes pointed his viewers to CloutHub, a social media platform that vows to not censor its users’ writings. It has attracted several right-wing personalities, including a channel, separate from Praying Medic, devoted to QAnon.
Hayes lamented that his videos on CloutHub might not display properly on all devices, but said it was a trade-off necessary to continue providing his updates.
“If the major platforms are going to take action against us,” he said, “I think it’s wise to do what we can to work around the censorship.”
The Rise Facebook page also unpublished
Additionally, a relatively new militia group called The Rise had its Facebook page unpublished Tuesday, said Thomas Kelso Evans, the group’s founder, who also had his personal Facebook page removed.
The Rise was not a QAnon site, but instead one Evans created in order to mobilize citizen militias as needed in Arizona and other states.
Evans, an Army veteran, was able to amass 50 like-minded people to a pro-police rally in Gilbert to standoff against counter-protesters in late August. Though the standoff resulted in sporadic violence, Evans told the Republic he considered it a good test of his system.
In a message sent to a reporter over the encrypted messaging program Signal, Evans said the Facebook page of The Rise was taken down along with “profiles of many members.” He did not answer a request for a phone interview.
The Rise, fearing a Facebook crackdown, had migrated to a new social media site called MeWe in September. But postings on that website had been scant compared with the traffic on Facebook.
Evans, in a previous interview with the Republic, said he had been apolitical, concentrating on running his business networking business. But, he said, he attended the rallies at the state Capitol in late April to protest the COVID-19 related business shutdowns ordered by Gov. Doug Ducey. There, he said, he met members of the Patriot wing of the Republican Party and his eyes were opened to the fight against global forces that wish to push the United States into socialism.
“It’s more of a revolution than a civil war,” Evans said. “We’re at war within our own country.”