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RELEVANT Recommends: Five Documentaries to Stream Now, Including ‘Q: Into the Storm’

If during quarantine you got bit by the documentary/docu-series bug like us, this week’s RELEVANT Recommends selection is right up your alley. Q: Into the Storm is a fascinating new project on HBO Max covering the QAnon phenomenon, including its messy entanglement with Christianity.

Dissecting QAnon is a task both daunting and disgusting. Daunting, because it’s an inherently slippery subject, one that relies on an advanced knowledge of the digital space’s strangest corners, political figures both obscure and prominent, and the empathy to understand why someone might get sucked into such an outlandish conspiracy. Disgusting, because so much of the subject matter is extremely unpleasant, adjacent to some of the worst types of speech permissible under U.S. law.

So that serves as a content warning for anyone who dares delve into Q: Into the Storm, filmmaker Cullen Hoback’s attempt to make a docu-series about the rise of the QAnon conspiracy theory and maybe solve a few of its mysteries along the way. The juiciest of those mysteries is the identity of Q, the anonymous 8Chan poster whose bizarre online posts (“Q Drops”) provide raw data for Q believers to scrutinize into predictions about the “coming storm.”

Followers believe that Q is someone with top security clearance, probably closely aligned to former President Donald Trump, who keeps them informed of Trump’s behind-the-scenes machinations to bring down a secretive cabal of Satanist baby eaters made up of Democrats, Hollywood actors, Silicon Valley entrepreneurs and other such denizens of the culture wars. Q’s posts started out as infrequent musings from a total nobody on the back corners of an unsavory image board and have grown into an online cult that culminated in a Capitol insurrection that got people hurt and killed.

Hoback started exploring QAnon early, and has surprising amounts of access to some of its reclusive movers and shakers. He is fairly confident that he’s figured out Q’s true identity (or, possibly, identities) and his case is a compelling one. The series is frenetic, appalling, sometimes hard to watch and probably a little hard to follow if you’re not extremely online. But where it gets most interesting is when it abandons its investigative path to talk to Q’s true believers — particularly those who are Christian.

He asks one couple of Q diehards how they, as Christians, justify sorting through the swamp of disgusting 8Chan content, which often includes appalling violence, child pornography and dehumanizing language. They admit it’s an issue (the husband says he doesn’t allow his wife on the site, for which she seems grateful) but it doesn’t seem to cast any doubt on their belief in Q itself.

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The series would benefit from more moments like this, focusing less on QAnon’s rise and more on its impact. QAnon has torn families apart, left children unsure of how to talk to their parents and even left some disillusioned followers unsure of how to re-enter reality. Scaachi Koul at Buzzfeed News recently reported an excellent piece on how several Q adherents are grappling with the fact that Trump has emphatically not followed through on Q’s promise to have President Joe Biden et al arrested. Such humanizing moments would have illuminated Q: Into the Storm into something more than a good yarn. But even as is, it’s still a worthwhile exploration of maybe the strangest and most important internet phenomena of the Trump era.

Q: Into the Storm is available on HBO Max.

Other new documentaries worth your time:

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