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Austin Ryan Steinbart (c. 1991–), also known as Baby Q and Q+, is an IT professional living in Arizona, who in 2020 announced that he is "Q", the leader of the QAnon movement. Well, to be more accurate, he claims that Q is himself living decades in the future and is posting back in time via "quantum computing". And, the rest of the story just gets crazier from there. At the end of the day, Steinbart claims to be running the QAnon operation, but he's also currently in federal custody for violating the terms of his pretrial release for the charge extorting an IT company.
Steinbart has only managed to convince a small faction of the QAnon movement that he is their rightful leader, so he's less of a Martin Luther and more of a Joseph Smith, with the legal difficulties to boot (but just one wife... for now).
Early life and career
Steinbart's website has a very helpful timeline of his life and career. Here's the basic summary of his claims.
- Steinbart's high school was a Defense Intelligence Agency "front-organization", and when he realized that a protest at his high school was actually an intelligence operation, DIA selected him for operations training. Among the many issues here: the United States Department of Defense operates under extremely strict policies regarding covert operations, especially anything involving US citizens. So what would be the overwhelming benefit to DOD of covertly running a suburban Phoenix high school, compared to the liability of running intelligence operations on a gaggle of underage US citizens? Also unclear is why DIA, who presumably routinely receives resumes from former Special Forces operators, trilingual grad students who've lived overseas for years, and other such qualified individuals, would be keen to recruit a 17-year-old whose resume primarily consists of "playing Xbox and whackin' it."
- Newly-minted 17-year-old intelligence operator Steinbart was then sent to Cuba, with the operation cunningly disguised as a Christian mission trip. There he met a young Cuban IT worker who would later go on to work closely with the Cuban president, which will allow him to (in his words) "squash the beef" with Cuba after Trump wins in 2020.
- Steinbart applied for the Air Force Academy, with the dream of becoming a fighter pilot, but was rejected due to gluten intolerance. Coincidentally, that same intolerance would later be his excuse for smoking cannabis while on release awaiting federal trial for extortion.
- Steinbart then enrolled in totally-not-a-party-school Arizona State University, before dropping out two years later. In total fairness, it does genuinely seem that he launched a point-of-sale IT systems business with his wife, so this one isn't necessarily bad. But of course, he has to further explain that being an IT guy was a clever move to increase his value to DIA.
- This next one is best explained with a direct quote, which is exactly what every IT customer wants to hear about their provider:
Due to the nature of how IT professionals are assigned jobs from vendors, Austin was able to successfully infiltrate a number of different large hotel chains, including: Marriott, Hilton, Embassy Suites, Hamilton Inn and La Quinta. Using a number of spying "sniffer" gadgets, affectionately called "raspberry pies" (Pine 64), he began to build the data-backbone of one tentacle of the vicious child-trafficking operation in the United States, monitoring the activity of websites such as the infamous "Backpage", the owners of which are now behind bars.
- Next, apparently Steinbart's company was hired to do some work at the Iron Mountain Datacenter in Phoenix, Arizona, where he brags he was able to access digital and physical data for intelligence purposes. Again, not the most winsome sales pitch for his company.
- In 2016 Steinbart initiated "Operation Burnback", which if you read between the lines basically amounts to "got a bunch of trolls to talk smack about Hillary Clinton so she'd lose." Which is a resume point, though one shared by teenagers on 4chan and not exactly Jack Ryan material.
- Finally we get to the good stuff. In October 2017, Trump gives the "go order" to launch a global psyops operation targeting "our entrenched bureaucracy, morally-bankrupt government agencies, major industry, and especially the CIA-controlled Entertainment Industry, the tentacle of destructive programming and propoganda.[ ]"
- The next section is just generic "QAnon began". But the intriguing little detail is that Steinbart says "in early November." The canonical first "Q drop" was 28 October 2017. So is he saying the almost-universally accepted first Q drops are fake, or did he forget when "he" started Q?
- The Big Reveal: around March 2020 Steinbart said the fateful words "I am Q... this is my operation," causing 95% of Qultists to write him off as a loonie, and 5% to accept him as the savior of America.
Arrest by the FBI
By early 2020, Steinbart had already built up an online following for his writings and videos about QAnon and various conspiracy topics, before announcing that he himself (well, technically his future self) is Q. During this period, he began displaying increasingly erratic behavior, and claiming illegal activities, while stating that due to his status as an "off-books agent" for the Defense Intelligence Agency, he was immune to arrest.Do You Believe That? And then he was arrested by the FBI — oopsie!
Stealing medical imagery and extortion
To make a very long story short, Steinbart had gone to an imaging clinic in Los Angeles to get his brain scanned, "at his parents' request", probably because he was acting sufficiently nutter-butters that a check of the ol' gulliver was warranted. While at the clinic, he used his actual 1337 haxxor skillz to access the private medical records of various celebrities, particularly former NFL players, video-recorded himself doing so, and uploaded them to his website. The clinic found out about this and sent him an email asking him to take the videos down, to which Steinbart sent them a reply threatening "NUCLEAR ARMAGEDDON". So the clinic contacted the FBI, who knocked on Steinbart's door (which he answered with a Desert Eagle pistol in hand, for which he was not murdered because he's a middle class white guy), and politely asked him to take the video down.
For any sane person, that would be a great time to do as you're told and lay low for a while, but this is Austin Steinbart, so of course two days later he tells his online followers to barrage his website provider with calls and emails to overload their customer service system to force them to put the videos back up. Note that Steinbart supporters have claimed that he simply called for a letter-writing campaign, such as an activist group might do to call for to pressure a company to change policy, which is belied by Steinbart's tweeting Datto's CEO "I am running a military intelligence operation for the Defense Intelligence Agency called Operation QAnon… There is a VERY good chance I will send some PSYCHOS to come see you in person!" So the FBI makes a second trip on 31 March 2020 and arrested him for extortion.
Steinbart continued to show little to no chill, but was somehow allowed to go home on house arrest, while forbidden from accessing the internet or having smart devices. He then decided the best way to show cooperation was to use a flip-phone to call into YouTube conspiracy shows as a guest star, including noted scam site (and suspected foreign disinformation operation) Veterans Today, a move which surely had his lawyer chugging bourbon with Pepto-Bismol. Steinbart eventually got his internet privileges back, and as summer passed into autumn he'd segued into his Jim Jones/Charles Manson phase and had a gaggle of followers crashing at his house in Scottsdale to venerate him and make a movie about him. But every Jesus has his Judas, and a disaffected Steinbartist bailed on the commune and informed the feds that Steinbart was smoking cannabis while on home release. The FBI dropped by, found Steinbart had a "Whizzinator" plastic wang full of fake pee at his house (presumably so as to cheat on the court mandated drug test). So as of September 2020, the Prophet is back in jail.
The "Q" documentary
In mid-2020, Steinbart announced that he'd be releasing a film about his work as Q, as covert agents generally do. He began recruiting folks with media skills to provide free labor for him, in some cases having them join his commune in his suburban home. The trailer was a cringe-fest, basically just stolen news footage punctuated by footage of Steinbart in a James Bond tuxedo smirking at the camera, and for some reason playing Jenga.
The announcement that the project has been put on hiatus is arguably the greatest such announcement in cinematic history:
“”Regretfully I must announce that due to the continuing arrests of Austin Steinbart, and the embarrassing popularity of the trending hashtag #freethewhizzinator, we may now be pulling the films release indefinitely
"Austin is Q" "proofs"
As anyone tracking the QAnon movement knows, "Q proofs" are fundamental to the Q-cult. Basically they're "coincidences" that prove Q is in communication with President Trump, has insider information, etc. The Steinbart sect has their own sub-set of "Austin Q-proofs" which are somehow even *less* plausible, and sadder, than the regular ones.
- On 10 April 2020, Steinbart mentioned in a phone interview that he's a fan of the band Above & Beyond. Six days later Q linked a song by that band. Because clearly the best way to add credibility to your covert intelligence operation is a passion for British electronica.[note 1]
- Something about Steinbart explaining he's like Super Mario after getting Star Power and – yeah, that's probably enough already. Medically that sounds a lot like a manic episode.
- Apparently Trump retweeted a Steinbart supporter. Because Trump is well-known for carefully vetting everyone he retweets.
- As mentioned by one Reddit user in /r/Qult_Headquarters (see reference), it's possible that this was an intentional move to attract attention to Steinbart by the actual person posting as Q, be it Jim Watkins as the user suggested or someone else.
- Read about Title 10 and Title 50 here.
- Sommer, Will: Baby QAnon Was Just Arrested, The Daily Beast, 7 April 2020
- Austin Steinbart's Interview Series with Mike Harris Part 3, YouTube, 25 July 2020
- Sommer, Will: Right Richter: Austin Steinbart, Man Known as BabyQ, Is in Trouble for Using Synthetic Penis, The Daily Beast, 11 September 2020
- Q Documentary - TRAILER1. Q Documentary, YouTube, 8 September 2020.
- AUSTIN STEINBART - Q PROOF 1. Qame Theory, YouTube, 18 March 2020.
- Austin Steinbart is Q (another proof). The Q Signal, YouTube, 4 July 2020.