The man suspected of helping to create the Qanon conspiracy theory is now stoking paranoia about the Republican-led “audit” of President Joe Biden’s election win in Arizona.
Arizona’s GOP state Senate began an “audit” of November’s election on Friday, assisted by a motley assortment of cranks and broadcast online by the right-wing One America News Network, and former 8kun administrator Ron Watkins — widely suspected of popularizing the Qanon conspiracy — has been trying to stir up violent fears about the non-binding process, reported The Daily Beast.
“Will Maricopa county deploy police to protect the auditors from rioters?” Watkins posted on his Telegram channel earlier this month. “Will the police end up standing down? You cannot have information security without physical security.”
Retired general and Donald Trump’s disgraced national security adviser Michael Flynn — considered a hero in the Qanon fringes — has also sought to inject paranoia into the process by baselessly claiming that anti-fascist and Black Lives Matter activists would attack the audit.
“I’m telling you now, I’ll say it today, because we have intel that they may be bringing people down from Portland and Seattle to disrupt,” Flynn said in a speech this month. “I mean to disrupt finding the truth, discovering the truth?”
No out-of-state threats have shown up to challenge the audit, although some pro-Trump demonstrators have gathered outside the Veterans Memorial Coliseum, where the process is underway, to denounce Maricopa County’s Republican-majority board of supervisors as “enemies of the nation.”
The civilian law enforcement auxiliary Arizona Rangers are currently providing security for the audit, and they’ve raised $130,000 on GoFundMe since starting their patrols, and the donations seem to be coming from Qanon cultists.
“Because I want the truth out once and for all, plus I want the right President back in Office, and that is Trump,” said one donor. “THEY CANT STOP WHATS COMING! WWG1WGA!”
But some want even more security, including the former president, who issued a statement calling on Gov. Doug Ducey — now one of his most hated enemies — to send in reinforcements.
“The Republican Party is demanding that Gov. Ducey of Arizona immediately provide large-scale security for the brave American Patriots doing the Forensic Audit of the 2020 Presidential Election,” Trump wrote in a statement.
OAN broadcast one unsourced image from the audit that shows what appears to be as many as 250,000 Arizona ballots flagged as suspicious, although the cyber firm conducting the process has argued in court that its methods should remain secret and a hearing on the recount should be closed to the media and public.
A spokesman for Cyber Ninjas CEO Doug Logan, who has promoted election fraud conspiracies and interacted with Watkins on Twitter, declined to comment on the audit or say whether they had even processed 250,000 ballots so far.
But the image was widely shared in right-wing circles as proof that Trump had actually won Arizona, and one conspiracist who claims to be working on the audit in an unofficial capacity says Logan asked for his help.
“He just reached out and said, ‘I see you’re doing God’s work,'” said Illinois-based financial planner and election conspiracist Bobby Piton, “and I said, ‘Yeah, I’m trying, I’m trying,’ and, you know, he feels the same way about what he’s doing and we just, we just kind of spoke about, I guess about the ballots. We were just talking about the UV lights [auditors are shining UV lights on the ballots]. We just kind of kick the tires around that and different technologies that could be used to expose voter fraud in the future, how we can maybe come up with ideas that we share with the public and collaborate.”