In a report published at Medium by the Atlantic Council's Digital Forensic Research Lab, Jacob Chansley, better known as the "QAnon Shaman," had a small but growing online following as a "QAnon micro-influencer." But after the Jan. 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol -- which he partook in and was later arrested for -- viewership of his content skyrocketed.
"Before January 6, Chansley's two Twitter accounts, @USAwolfpack and @starseedacademy, registered roughly 5,400 and 2,800 followers respectively," DFRLab reports. "Chansley, who also went by the name Jake Angeli, began by cultivating his brand on YouTube, as YouTube suited the long-form format of his videos. He would later migrate to alt-tech platform Rumble following de-platforming, as many QAnon influencers did after major social media platforms begin enforcing their rules more stringently against them."
The Trump-supporting conspiracy theorist apparently had a perverse incentive to become involved in the Capitol riot. After analyzing his social media history, DFRLab found that Chansley saw a rise in engagement "that correlated with a rise in the amount of Q related content he was involved in."
"Perhaps most alarming is that the Q-Shaman brand appears to have benefited from his action at the Capitol," reports DFRLab, adding that the YouTube subscriber count associated with Chansley's "spiritual guidance" channel, Starseed Academy (SSA) grew substantially in the wake of the Capitol attack. "As Chansley leaned into posting more extreme content, the channel's subscriber count grew as well."
Chansley was charged in January with "knowingly entering or remaining in any restricted building or grounds without lawful authority, and with violent entry and disorderly conduct on Capitol grounds."
In a statement, the the US attorney's office for the District of Columbia alleged that Chansley was "the man seen in media coverage who entered the Capitol building dressed in horns, a bearskin headdress, red, white and blue face paint, shirtless, and tan pants," while carrying a long spear with an American flag tied to it.
Chansley's seeming resemblance to singer Jay Kay sparked a worldwide buzz on social media, prompting the Jamiroquai frontman to issue a statement making clear that he was nowhere near Washington when the pro-Trump mob stormed the Capitol.
Chansley had described himself as a "digital soldier" of the far-right QAnon conspiracy theory that claims Trump is waging a secret war against a global liberal cult of Satan-worshipping pedophiles.
With additional reporting from AFP