In May 2018, a Reddit user posted the image of a billboard in southern Oklahoma to the subreddit “greatawakening,” which is dedicated to a largely incoherent, ever-widening conspiracy theory known as “The Storm“ (with the hashtag #QAnon) that involves an anonymous group of “highly placed” government individuals nobly fighting the corruption of the “Deep State” (that is to say, the civil servants who work within the American government) while representing themselves as someone going only by “Q”:
The billboard sports an oversized, American flag-bedazzled letter “Q,” next to which is the text “Where We Go One We Go All” — a popular Q slogan which apparently is a line in the 1996 Jeff Bridges movie White Squall, whose plot involves people surviving a storm (the name of the conspiracy!) on a sailboat (a metaphor!) The billboard primarily promotes the website “DoUKnowQ.com,” which — though it has the appearance of being informative — seems primarily concerned with pure profit.
An archived version of the website from May 2018 shows that it was once in the business of selling Q-related website domains at a significant markup. Now, their “online store” links to a Cafepress web shop selling Q branded merchandise like T-shirts and mugs.
We called the company that owns that billboard space — Lindmark Outdoor Media — to confirm that the billboard was real and to inquire about its origins. A representative who answered a call to their corporate office told us that the billboard — which is found between exits 21 and 24 on southbound I-35 north of the Texas border — was real, that it had been rented since 1 May 2018, and that it appeared to be booked through to the end of the year.
We asked what group paid for the ad, and were first told that it was not a group but an individual. Though we were told they could not disclose any information about this person, the first representative we spoke to at Lindmark used the word “she” to refer to the owner multiple times. A follow-up call from our managing editor yielded a statement from a different representative of the company. That individual told us:
As far as the billboard itself, we don’t know anything about the people behind the billboard and what it means, as far as that goes, we can’t give away people’s names. We don’t like to get involved with anything political. I had never heard of them until we looked them up on the internet, to make sure it wasn’t political — we don’t like any of that sort of thing.
On 29 June 2018, a tweet from Daily Beast tech and internet reporter Will Sommer suggested that the phenomena of Q-inspired billboards was not limited to Oklahoma:
QAnon billboards are a thing now. This one’s in Georgia. pic.twitter.com/VQ0Hn3T7h6
— Will Sommer (@willsommer) June 29, 2018
There have been multiple pictures of this same billboard, which suggest that the billboard is real and that it is just south of the Tennessee border in northern Georgia on northbound I-75. Dixieland Fireworks, occupying the billboard space directly above the QANON billboard, is located right off the first I-75 exit after passing north into Tennessee.
The Georgia billboard, unlike the Oklahoma one, does not appear to be motivated by any sort of profit — it merely contains the hashtag “#QANON” and the text “Truth is Freedom.” It is unclear what advertising firm owns that billboard space, however. The most prominent firm in this region is Lamar Advertising. We spoke with the sales manager of their Rome, Georgia office to ask if the billboard was theirs. She was not familiar with the advertisement, and after a search of their records and a discussion with their graphic designer, she told us they are confident it does not belong to them.
The only other possible firm it could belong to, based on our discussion with Lamar, would be a company called Fairway Outdoor Advertising. We spoke with a representative of that company who was unaware of the advertisement, and who forwarded us to their sales manager. We reached out to him via e-mail and voicemail, but have not received a response.
The basis (if you want to call it that) for “The Storm” conspiracy theory are “breadcrumbs” of vague information or aphorisms left by “Q” on the misogynistic, racist, and troll-filled online messageboard that is 4chan. The beauty of the conspiracy is that these nuggets of information are so meaningless that people can interpret them literally any way they want, and then retroactively attribute current events as having been predicted by this anonymous entity.
Another beauty, apparently, is that anyone can buy a billboard and claim to be involved.