Modern Psychological Warfare
Disinformation has always been a problem, but over the last five years it has approached epidemic proportions. And since May 2020, it has reached the point where the shared notion of truth we require for a functioning society has been shaken to its core.
It comes in many forms which often overlap, and one of the most notorious is the phenomenon known as “Qanon”. From the bowels of the internet it has grown to become a movement that’s served as a catalyst for “red pilling” millions of people into a completely alternative reality. Baffled onlookers have watched with mouths agape as our friends, family members, and parliamentary representatives have been radicalised by absurd conspiracies. Not just the typical far-right conservatives, but the yoga-teaching spiritual-healers as well. We are faced with the question: How could something so ridiculously stupid have such a profound effect?
When unusual demographics are being persuaded to support a particular political candidate, let alone one as odious as Donald Trump, we have reason to suspect something is afoot. People are being moved. When astronomers looked at the orbit of Uranus, for example, they noticed that it had a wobble which wasn’t explained by their existing models. They figured that there had to be another hidden planet out there, who’s gravity was making it move. So they looked, and sure enough, there was Neptune.
Similarly, when we look at what is moving these people, and follow the links and stories back to the sources to see where they came from, we find that Qanon is Propaganda. And we know who’s responsible. Here is a detailed look at some of the characters that surround it. Here is a more specific look at one close to the centre. Here is how it ties in to the broader use of conspiracies as political propaganda. And here is a way to hopefully reach across the divide and talk to its victims, which also outlines some of the other disinformation networks involved. Because the anti-mask / anti-vaxx / COVID conspiracy movement which is currently causing so much chaos is part of the same broader disinformation machine.
Those articles cover the case that it was an operation. This article will deal with the way that case has been received, and the arguments made against it.
All of this amounts to an unprecedented assault on our society - not just on individuals and communities, but the very foundation of our democracy. Our world is on fire, and we are looking at a bunch of people with a well documented history of lighting fires throughout their long careers and especially during this campaign, standing there with a can full of gas and handful of matches, a “how to start fires” handbook in their pocket, giving out brochures for pyrotechnic services, and a $2 million quote for “fire starting” sitting in their outbox. They’re even giving speeches bragging about how well they managed to light it. And people are still viewing the destruction as an organic phenomenon, instead of arson.
This is a dangerous machine which urgently requires investigation. Yet starkly absent from almost all coverage of Qanon is any examination of who did it and how, beyond the surface level of the Watkins. Most analysis will simply observe its movements, often while while laughing at how stupid it is. And a small number of prominent voices vigorously oppose any suggestion that it was a coordinated operation.
The common perception is that it started as a troll, for LOLs. It was just a lonely LARPer who got lucky. Which doesn’t really make sense. Why would a troll, or anyone, go to the trouble of carrying water for Michael Flynn? He was a registered Democrat appointed by Obama who openly sold out America’s interest to foreign powers, and got fired by Trump for lying to the Administration. Furthermore, why would Flynn put so much stock into something which he knew was a LARP he didn’t control, and which could pull the rug out from him at any moment?
He’s a former General and Director of National Intelligence. He is literally a world expert in Special Operations and Irregular Warfare. He was a Security Advisor on a campaign team that won the election that stunned the world. What’s more likely — that he fell for (or is grifting off) a 4Chan LARP, or that he put it there (or at least knows who did)? When we’re looking at this thing which does exactly what he wanted it to do — rehabilitate his reputation and radicalise people against progressivism — in the exact way that he described doing it, Occam’s razor suggests that it was probably done by him.
Yet in these “Q watching” circles, the idea that he had anything to do with it is often considered as heretical as helio-centrism. Anyone who so much as suggests it gets jumped on. In fact, some even go so far as to claim that identifying the people responsible “doesn’t matter”, and that investigating it at all is a mistake. They relentlessly mock anyone who calls it an operation and tries to look into it, to the point where talking about it at all becomes toxic, with the upshot that the machine continues to operate unimpeded, wreaking havoc.
Given the issue is essentially whether or not the Nazis are running around with an invisible brainwashing gun as part of a shockingly effective global power grab, it’s worth having a full and frank discussion.
So, assuming everyone is acting in good faith, let’s take the time to examine the arguments in question, and see how the people who think it’s just a Prank respond to the people who call it an Operation.
“You’re proposing a Conspiracy”
Describe the creation of a film. From the influences of the author of the novel it’s based on, to the screenwriter, to the producer, the director, the set builders, the costume designers, the cinematographer, the actors, their agents, the distribution company, the cinema outlets and streaming services. Now get the string and cork board out, cos that’s a Conspiracy. How does any product get on a shelf? A Conspiracy, between the product designers / manufacturers / marketers, etc. Every election campaign is a “Conspiracy”.
What’s the implication here? That no-one ever works together to try to influence people? That political operatives never do dirty tricks? It’s nonsense.
This isn’t to say this is the product of an ancient cabal that controls everything in the world in lockstep with all of the politicians and the media. We’re on a rock that’s hurtling through space, there is no one at the wheel, it’s chaos. There are just different agencies doing whatever they can to impose their will on the world, with varying and often disproportionate degrees of success. The problem with the word “conspiracy” is it has multiple meanings. Technically it means “two or more people cooperating”, usually in less than full view. But it is often implied to be “fictional”. What we’re discussing is exactly as “conspiratorial” as a guerrilla marketing campaign.
“Psychological Operations” have a certain connotation, but there is no denying they are a real thing. Their use in both the military and private sectors is thoroughly well documented, and they are all over the Trump campaign.
How did #Pizzagate come to be? Republican operatives planted it. How did the Seth Rich Assassination story come to be? Republican operatives planted it. “Obamagate”? Republican operatives. The Climate Change Hoax narrative? Republican operatives. The Big Lie / Election Hoax? Republican operatives. The Critical Race Theory outrage movement? Republican operatives. (They don’t always need to invent them completely of course, there are plenty of pre-existing tropes they can draw upon to exploit, and if they’re done well then the whole point is for them to quickly become organic and self sustaining).
How did Qanon come to be? Republican operatives planting it seems perfectly plausible.
“But it’s all so stupid. They made so many failed predictions. Why would they do it like that? It’s not how I’d do it.”
When the manager of the 2002 Oakland Athletic Baseball team started buying washed-up catchers to put at first base, many commentators argued it was stupid, and not how they’d do it either. And he went win a record-breaking 20 games in a row. Because he understood the game differently. In a way that is not dissimilar to Cambridge Analytica’s data-driven approach.
A character on an anonymous message board is disposable and untraceable. It essentially gave them a free shot to run whatever crazy narratives they like. There was no reason to be reasonable or tone it down. It’s like a concept car. They didn’t have to expect it to work either. They could roll the dice as many times as they liked, and if they blew it by going too far, so what? Try another one. They carry virtually no financial or political cost. Like a machine gun with bullshit bullets, they can spray fire across the internet to see what sticks. And the chaos it causes by destabilising “truth” is a valuable outcome in itself.
Plus, “looking stupid” has the added bonus of providing the perfect cover from the outside, to the extent that here we are three years later, after it’s managed to mind-fuck millions of people into supporting Trump, still debating whether or not it was an Operation at all. So it goes when you use someone like Thomas Schoenberger I guess. We don’t know whether or not that part was deliberate of course, but either way it worked.
“If you want to run a sophisticated operation, why use a small cesspool like 4Chan, instead of a massive platform like Facebook?”
This is partly covered by the answer above, but it is worth elaborating upon a little. A forum like 4Chan is valuable for a number of reasons. It’s full of people who resent the political correctness of mainstream society, enjoy trolling, and know how to use computers.
So, if you want an army of “Digital Soldiers” for your alt-right revolution, it is the perfect place to go. Steve Bannon recognised the political utility of this years ago, which is a part of the reason why he made it to the Oval Office as a special advisor to the President, and you and I didn’t.
That said, they didn’t necessarily start by saying “I want to persuade people, I’m going to use 4chan.” They more likely started by saying “4Chan is a thing that exists, how can we use that to our advantage? How can we exploit the people in this environment?”.
Of course it wasn’t the exclusive entirety of their strategy. They were all over facebook, youtube, etc. Spent millions of dollars on highly targeted ads in persuadable counties. They don’t have to pick just one. And they made a concerted effort to move off 4chan and onto those platforms as soon as possible.
Q is essentially an alternative universe, so what it needs is a doorway into this one. And 4Chan is a great place to put it. Which leads us to the next point:
“This was just the latest in a long line of 4Chan LARPs”
Two responses to this. Firstly, there is a strong chance that at least some of the other insiders (FBI Anon, Mega Anon, White House Insider Anon, High Level Insider Anon), were early experiments from the same team.
And secondly, that doesn’t mean this isn’t an operation. Whoever did Q could have easily seen this phenomenon and recognised its potential to be used for their political purposes.
“It’s “not necessary”. It could have just happened on its own”
This is debatable, but it’s not a meaningful argument. Perhaps it could have. That doesn’t mean it did. And the people who say this have no evidence to support their claim, as nothing like this has ever happened before, and there is no way run a control group in a double-blind experiment. We can’t isolate a population without Flynn and co to see if yoga teachers become Q-Pilled. I’m pretty sure they wouldn’t, but it’s not it’s not even the question anyway. The issue is whether the people that we see organising Q organised Q, and saying that it’s theoretically possible for it to have happened otherwise does not actually engage with the claim.
It’s like saying “Nicotine is addictive. People are fidgety, and like having something to do with their hands to kill the time. And they pick up the habits of their parents and peers. So cigarette advertising isn’t ~necessary~, and anyone who says it exists is a conspiracist”.
But to have the argument anyway — It’s possible to believe the moon landing was faked. It’s a long way away, and we know what a film studio is. It’s not possible, in any conceivable universe, to imagine Donald Trump taking down a secret cabal of pedophiles, and not tweeting about it, without some industrial scale influence.
Republicans could run zero advertising, and some people would still vote for them. But they still do run ads. Does that make them unnecessary? Of course not. Just because a natural inclination exists, doesn’t mean people can’t be pushed. Which brings us to the next point:
“People just want to believe it. It fulfils a need.”
Certainly. Aside from the “just” part, this is absolutely true. No one is disputing that. It provides comforting answers to a confusing world, a sense of community, and a thrilling narrative based on secret information. In no way does any of that negate the possibility for all of that to be exploited. These things are not mutually exclusive.
Companies like Cambridge Analytica / SCL / Emerdata, or Gloo, or Palantir, have scraped social media for vast amounts of data on human psychological needs. They know our deepest desires. They know exactly what buttons to push and how to push them.
They have deployed that with devastating effect in countries all around the world for over 10 years, and we still haven’t come to terms with that.
The headline from the Cambridge Analytica scandal was the data harvesting, but what got overlooked is the fact that they then use that data to create campaigns specifically to influence elections. They are a behaviour change agency.
We don’t know if Qanon is Cambridge Analytica’s work specifically. But they have pulled a lot of levers that look a lot like this, and it is completely consistent with their ideological agenda. We don’t need to get caught up with clear de-lineations of who did what. The campaigns overlap and draw upon parallel narratives to feed off each other. There are many other operations going on, run by plenty of people. Including, unsurprisingly, Russia.
One of the main goals of Q (and Trump, and Putin) was to make people think that Russia didn’t really interfere in the process, so let’s be careful not to fall for that.
Personally, I’m not too fussed about where it is coming from, as fascism/far-right extremism is a trans-national problem and we’re under attack regardless. It’s all on The Internet as far as I’m concerned, a bad guy is a bad guy and the country of origin makes little difference to me. But the determination to deny this component is strange. Russia is all through the campaign. Sometimes it’s easy to see— like hackers and bot networks. But sometimes it’s more complicated. If an American Q influencer is reading blogs or memes produced by Russian disinformation agents, for example, how is that going to show up in data?
Can Americans run a Psy Op? Of course. Can Russia throw in some sparks and add fuel to the fire? Of course. They’ve been doing it for decades. Either way we’re being fucked with. Let’s move on.
“The simplest explanation is it was a LARP that hit the jackpot, and then the Watkins took it over”
When the “simplest explanation” requires the thing we’re talking about “hitting the jackpot”, it’s probably worth a second look. Nevertheless, there is truth to this. It was a LARP, it did get lucky, and the Watkins are almost certainly involved. As the “landlords” of Qanon, they’ve come to have some measure of control over the movement. They could have authored some drops, or been sent some to post. They can help shape the conversation in the threads. They just weren’t alone. Bless his heart, but Ron is not capable of mind-fucking this many people. He doesn’t have the skills, the experience, or the networks. All the psychological manipulation experts and guerrilla marketing executives aren’t sitting around saying “well, pack it in boys, we’ve been outdone by some LARPer in Japan.”
And why would he do this anyway? What’s his motive? 8chan never made money. Q didn’t even start on 8Chan. And the reason that it grew so much is that the drops were immediately moved off their forum and onto other aggregator sites, where people were explicitly told not to bother going to the original source. Which is the opposite of what you’d do if you wanted traffic on your site, but is what you’d do if you were running a political operation that needed a portal to an alternative reality, but still have a broad reach.
So it doesn’t make sense. It’s a hell of a lot of time and energy to put in to a political campaign for a country you don’t even live in if you’re not getting paid. And it fails to account for its stunning impact, and completely ignores all the evidence for the involvement of all the people we see.
“It was the Patriot Soapbox”
They were absolutely a part of the operation, yes. Knowingly or otherwise.
“It started as a joke, and then got hijacked and amplified when people realised its political utility”
All of the evidence suggests otherwise, but it doesn’t actually matter that much. The question of whether or not we need to give them the creative credit for coming up with the character might be of historical interest, but what we need to reckon with right now is the fact that we are under attack.
“Why didn’t Q post hand over fist in the lead up to Jan 6?”
After 3 years of telling the followers to “trust the plan”, maybe they felt it had run its course. Once the results were in, some were probably able to see that it was game over for this particular phase of the operation. Or perhaps they were pre-occupied with their own legal problems. Maybe Ron had taken it over and was doing his own thing on other platforms. Maybe they wanted to keep distance to avoid drawing too much attention to it. Hard to say. They went hard to get out the vote leading up to the election, and when it failed, perhaps the data told them it was time to switch gears. Regardless, Q’s influence on the insurrection is well documented.
Besides, if it was just a LARP, wouldn’t this be the perfect time to come out and yell “Psych! Suckers. Y’all got trolled”?
“But it didn’t work, Trump lost.”
This is absurd. First, attempted murder is still a crime. Second, despite his abominable performance, Trump still got more votes than any other president in history. And third, winning the general election is not the only goal here. Millions of people remain irrevocably radicalised. School boards are becoming infected, and people like MJT, Boebert, Gaetz, Cawthorn, and Hawley are loudly executing their agenda in congress, with 44 Qanon affiliated congressional candidates on the ballot in the next election. It has made its mark and continues to do damage.
“Those articles are just a jumbled mess”
Look, this thing is complicated, there is no denying that. Carl Sagan said “if you wish to make an apple pie from scratch, you must first invent the universe”. If you wish to explain Qanon, you have to tell the stories of a whole lot of people, and explain the background of a whole lot of concepts that went in to creating this entirely new kind of thing that no one has ever seen before. Weaving the history of conspiracies, fascism, propaganda, the mechanics of ARGs, the hijacking of Cicada, the careers of the operatives like Paul Manafort and Roger Stone, the origins of 8chan, amongst the networks of trolls, and all the rest of it into one cohesive narrative, is a hell of a challenge.
I tried my best to break it all down and think I did a reasonable job. Plenty of people have been able to understand them perfectly well, and use them as part of their own investigative reporting:
You know who hasn’t? Ironically enough, it’s the so-called “specialists”, who are seen as the authoritative voices in this space, and the people who follow them.
The whole point of all this has always been to bring it to the attention of more professional journalists. To the extent that I have failed to do that, I apologise. But it is certainly not for lack of trying.
“The people pointing the finger at Thomas are just attention-seeking trolls feuding with each other”
OK? That is not a meaningful rebuke of the evidence at hand. If all these witnesses are feuding with each other but telling largely the same story, that should tell you something. And making this whole thing up to get revenge on someone by accusing them of creating this obscure and not-necessarily-illegal internet prank doesn’t make sense. There are plenty of receipts for anyone willing to look.
“There’s no solid proof here, just a series of connections, so what you’re doing amounts to Qanon-level “how many coincidences before mathematically impossible!”
And if I showed you a forrest, you could call it a bunch of trees.
The funny thing about this is, when you study statistics, that’s literally how Science works. We rarely know anything for certain, all we do is work out the probability of something happening by chance, and then use that P-value as a benchmark to decide whether what we’re observing is significant or not. The P-value of a manipulative sociopathic fascist who likes to LARP as a superspy that hates the CIA being connected to at least a dozen of the key central characters, but having nothing to do with Q, is well below that threshold. If you can show me someone else who fits that description, then I’d show you another primary suspect.
We can tell with almost absolute certainty where someone worked or went to university based on a handful of mutual friends on facebook. That’s basically what this is. We don’t have their complete calendars or email inboxes. We don’t have a video of them making the drops. Perhaps we never will. So if that’s your threshold, then all the best. But what we do have paints a very clear picture.
It’s like a novel-length Wheel of Fortune Puzzle. And we’re trying to work out whether it’s just a jumble of letters, or an actual story. Any individual letter that we find does not constitute proof per se. But every letter that we have found is consistent with the story. All of them. No one has found a single letter that is out of place. And the chances of all those letters being in all those places without telling this story is beyond the realm of plausibility.
The other part of Science is being able to make predictions. If our hypothesis is that Q is connected to certain people, then Q should be able to know things that only those people know. And indeed, there is one letter which arguably does come close to proof. One of Q’s hallmarks was only making vague, sweeping, predictions, like “No Name will be back in the headlines”. Then a month later when John McCain dies, followers can say “See! Q told us!”. The anons think that the drops are deliberately cryptic to stop the Deep State from getting to them, while the Q Watchers can confidently claim that Q is just a charlatan who’s full of shit. It’s a tidy little arrangement which worked perfectly well over almost all of the 5,000 drops.
But in drop 3110, they appear to overplay their hand. They call out twitter CEO Jack Dorsey, invite him to play a game, and say the STRIKE will be FAST. The very next day, our good friend Steven Biss files a $250 million lawsuit on behalf of Devin Nunes:
You can explain that away as dumb luck if you like, but it’s beginning to look increasingly desperate. It’s a little vague, but not vague enough. They slipped up. It’s like when Dennis Hopper calls Sandra Bullock a “Wildcat” in Speed. It reveals that whoever wrote that drop knew about the law suit. Which tells us they were in communication with Biss / Nunes, or the people in that circle. Who are exactly the ones we’ve been pointing at.
“You’re just doing Q in reverse. You’re baking like Qanon followers. It’s BlueAnon.”
Q says that Democrats eat babies. This is saying that Trump campaign weaponised conspiracies on social media. To equate the two is beyond absurd and anyone who does so should not be taken seriously.
Are we looking at the evidence and drawing inferences? Of course. That’s all we can do. Yet most of these Q watchers refuse to actually engage with any of the evidence. They just reject it out of hand, by calling it “a conspiracy” or using one of the other arguments above. None of it is actually disputed. With one notable exception:
“The Dark Web =/= 4Chan”
In their pitch deck to the Trump Campaign, Psy Group advertised their abilities to use the Deep Web and the Dark Net to run influence operations. Which, I argued, sounded a lot like 4Chan.
People have gone on to make a huge deal about how this is flat out impossible, and argued that it therefore invalidates the entire argument. Which is ridiculous, because first of all, Psy Group would have been able to use 4Chan regardless of the meaning of that word in that brochure. But more interestingly, they’re objectively wrong.
Senator Maria Cantwell said in a hearing “This is a particular problem on the Dark Web, where we see sites like 8Chan”. Which proves that regardless of its original technical definition, in the world of US politics, that is indeed how the term is used. It’s been verified by BOFA. 8Chan’s own wikipedia entry makes multiple references to the site being “removed from Google searches on the clear net”, and only being accessible on “darkweb networks.”
If the people in question were acting in good faith, they could easily say, “huh, fair enough, I stand corrected.” But they don’t. Instead they dig in, double down, or just flat out ignore it, and continue their attacks. Which says a lot about their intentions, which do not appear to be an honest examination of the evidence.
So when all else fails, upon being presented with emails that appear to show Thomas being connected to it all in black and white, some “Q watchers” responded by saying:
“Well that could be fake.”
Which, ironically enough, is exactly the same logic the Qultists use to say that Trump is still president, because the inauguration was CGI. When something contradicts your beliefs, just say that it’s fake. They’re very happy to discard Occam’s Razor and insert extra unnecessary steps when the evidence doesn’t conform to their narrative.
So this brings us to the next question,
“Why hasn’t anyone else covered it?”
This is a crucial question, and to answer it we need to look at where the major Q Watchers are coming from. Typically, they were the first ones on the beat, and began (understandably) by looking at it from the perspective of a dumb internet prank they were there to “debunk”. So ascribing any operational organisation to it is antithetical to their perspective.
“Qanon Anonymous” is a podcast which launched in August 2018. They’ve produced ~ 300+ episodes, and countless hours of Twitch streams, which have included some decent entertainment and some valuable journalism, and a lot of pointing and laughing at how ridiculously stupid the whole thing all is.
They make $88,000 per month from Patreon. Which is fair enough, of course content creators can get paid. But they even sell merch, fanning the flames of the conspiracy fire.
They are without doubt the number one authoritative voice when it comes to all things Qanon. Every journalist who has ever written about it follows them, and they feature in almost every documentary or news reel that has ever been made. They are in a position to control the conversation to a significant extent.
So given the impact of this phenomenon, which mind-fucked enough people to nearly topple the capitol, and their role as the pre-eminent specialists who cover it, what have they actually been doing? Using their platform to vigorously investigate the mechanics of this thing and the networks behind it? Well, no:
Sherlock Holmes fan fiction. WWE. Grand Theft Auto. Napoleon. Werner Herzog. Monoliths. The Loch Ness Monster. Jim Caveiezel. Mel Gibson. MothMan. Skinwalker Ranch. Tomorrow War. Michael Avenatti. And fucking Signs.
After that many episodes, there is bound to be some filler. And we all need some light relief every now and then. But what’s notable is that there has been no substantial discussion of:
Steve Pieczenic going on InfoWars with a visibly proto-Q narrative in October 2015, as he still does today.
Primary Q-promoter Robert David Steele’s history of infiltrating progressive circles with his #UnRig and New Earth Network platforms, his work with Sean Stone, or his role in seeding “Save The Children” and Adrenochrome narratives with the ITNJ.
The “Snow White 7IAM” twitter account, and how it infiltrated the spiritual space with these narratives, along with sites like “Collective Evolution” and “Stillness in the Storm”.
The role of Standing Rock #NODAPL, and its role in the radicalisation journey of people like Mikki Willis and the Q shaman.
How the Occupy movement managed to turn many progressives onto these narratives after being infiltrated by people like Lisa Clapier showing films like Thrive II.
How the power of things like Anonymous and Project Chanology served as a blueprint for these kinds of movements to hijack.
Theosophy, the I AM cult, and its connections to several key Q promoters and movements like WYT OPS.
Steven Biss representing Devin Nunes, Trevor Fitzgibbon, Robert David Steele, Svetlana Lokhova, Kash Patel, Tim Holmseth, and Dan Bongino.
Other 4Chan “Puzzle LARPs”, like “Pi Mobi” and “Sevens Exposed”, and their intersection with FBIanon and Wikileaks.
Joel Zamel and his suite of influence companies like Psy Group, White Knight, Black Cube, and Wikistrat, and their courting of the Trump Campaign via Erik Prince and George Nader and some Saudi Billionaires.
Steve Bannon and his history of disinformation based propaganda via Brietbart, Games, the campaigns that Cambridge Analytica have run, and his current work with Guo Wengui and their role in seeding COVID conspiracies.
The history of Psychological Operations in general.
The trajectory of Peter Thiel and his role in operations like MAGA 3X, Palantir, and the Manhattan Institute, his investment in Rumble, and bankrolling far right candidates.
Roger Stone’s activities over the last 5–35 years, including going on InfoWars to nurture the PedoGate narratives that would become Pizzagate, or his connections to Guccifer 2.0 and WikiLeaks.
Trevor Fitzgibbon and his impact on progressive circles with operations like #Unity4J
Jason Sullivan and his work with Roger Stone, Bill Binney, Ezra Cohen-Watnick, using Twitter tools like Power 10 to control narratives around things like Qanon and election fraud, and bragging at the God and Country conference that the attendees were in fact “The Plan”.
Erik Prince and his role in propagandising for the Trump administration, MAGA 3X, training Project Veritas operatives, and his quest to eliminate Islam from the face of the Earth.
All of that is important for understanding how Qanon has been so effective. But QAA’s longtime listeners who have consumed all of their content would almost never have heard of any of it. They appear completely committed to giving their audience the impression that it was simply a dumb prank that got out of control.
Rather than deal with how dangerous Mike Flynn is, and his work with what he openly called an insurgency of Digital Soldiers, they open literally every episode with a soundbite mocking him as a bumbling boomer who “found a way to connect to the internet”, and was just lucky enough to happen to stumble upon this phenomenon which inexplicably worships him.
Perhaps most conspicuous in their coverage, however, is the way they deal with the one character who is so close to the centre of it all: Thomas Schoenberger. Rather than ignore him altogether, they actively tell people NOT to look at him, based largely on this segment on one of their Twitch streams with Atlantic reporter Dale Beran:
The transcript is remarkable:
“In group chats, Fred was like “Dale investigated this”, and I was like “it’s bullshit, don’t bother”… Ignore it, don’t give it oxygen, just never report on it… I just listened to Fred… If I had an episode where I claimed that Thomas was Q, I would delete that episode…The people who investigate the origins are delusional.. How about we exclude the foot pic guy who lied about being cicada or whatever… It’s actually dangerous in some ways… To focus on who Q is seems like to do it a disservice”
There is a lot to unpack here. Firstly, recounting the story in a confused and sarcastic voice while laughing at it doesn’t make it untrue. Like how they mock the idea of Thomas “hobnobbing with the guy who wrote the KitKat jingle”. His name is Michael Levine. He’s a commercial composer. And together with Thomas, they were indeed trying to trademark Cicada to make a film out of it. This is all easily verifiable to anyone who makes the slightest effort to have a look. But they didn’t. They just ~laughed~ at it instead.
But more seriously, they move into actual disinformation. They say that Arturo (who they keep calling Arthur) must be wrong, because FBIanon “never posted feet”. But Arturo never said they did — he was talking about MegaAnon. Dale has got it mixed up. They are laughing, loudly and at length, and even dismissing a source and thus a theory entirely, over something Dale got wrong.
They have never acknowledged this, let alone corrected or apologised for it. Arturo has put a lot on the line to blow the whistle about all this, and been subjected to relentless hounding and harassment as a result. And these people, who make over a million dollars a year covering the thing he’s trying to tell them about, openly misrepresent and mock him. It’s a disgrace.
The upshot is that now, whenever the topic of Thomas and Lisa comes up, people will simply declare it’s “not them”.
But hey, we all make mistakes, and get stuck in our ruts. Maybe it just hadn’t occurred to them. Perhaps the inertia of looking at as a prank for so long makes one blind to certain details. It could be an honest error. So what happens when they are presented with this information they may have missed? Are they gracious and appreciative?
All they have to do is lift this rock and have a look at what crawls out from underneath. And not only do they refuse to do so, they attack the people who do.
So what, dear reader, is going on? It’s hard to say. I want to give everyone the benefit of the doubt, but it is becoming increasingly difficult and I’m running out of excuses. Perhaps on some level they’re embarrassed to admit that they have missed this thing which has been staring them in the face. Maybe people do enjoy just laughing at how absurd it all is. Calling it an Operation not only has somewhat terrifying implications, it carries guilt, because it means the people they have been mocking are actually victims of the people they said were just stupid grifters.
But rather than speculate on strangers’ psychology, let’s try and stick to the facts. Keen eyes may be wondering who the “Fred” that Dale refers to in the Twitch stream is, and that is indeed a good question. It is none other than the guy who built 8Chan, Frederick Brennan. So let’s have a look at him.
He was a young programmer who found his tribe on anonymous message boards like 4Chan. It gets a bad rap now, not undeservedly, but it is worth mentioning that it did provide a community to hundreds of thousands of otherwise ostracised kids, and created a culture with a unique kind of creativity. And while it was wild, there was a modicum of moderation. They would delete things if they crossed a line.
Fred resented that. He wanted a place where people could say anything. So in October 2013, he came up with “Infinite Chan”. He allowed boards on everything, including the most violent racism and misogyny. It became the go-to place for people to share the worst of the worst content, up to and including child porn, mass shooters’ manifestos, and livestreams of their massacres.
In 2014, a few female gamers began calling for better representation of women in video games, which made a lot of young male gamers on 4Chan angry, to the point where they would find the women’s personal information and relentlessly harass and abuse them. This was called “Gamergate”. 4Chan decided that was too much, and banned the “movement” from their boards. So these people flocked to 8Chan, where they were welcomed with open arms.
Fred could have stopped this with literally the push of a button. But he didn’t. Not only did he not take it down, he encouraged it, and personally participated.
“It’s really amazing how they’ve used the platform to really go after these fuckers.. Like I encourage it. They try to make me take down the board, but I’m not going to […] I believe #Gamergate is at its core a positive movement”
Finally Fred found himself the lord of a domain, the king of a community who not only accepted him, but admired him. He quit his work as a programmer to focus on the website full-time.
“Image boards are a haven for all of the terrible things you listed [nihilism, misanthropy, misogyny]… and that’s exactly what makes them such wonderful places. I wouldn’t change a thing.”
He also published an article on the infamous Nazi website “The Daily Stormer”, brainstorming ideas for the piece on 8chan before hand. He’s entitled to his views of course, but one does not simply write for the Daily Stormer by accident. It was a deliberate attempt to attract Nazis to his platform. That was the audience he openly courted, which helped to further radicalise both them and his users.
Now, despite how this might look, Fred isn’t actually the focus here. Everyone has their journey, and his has been harder than most. Many people far more privileged than him have gone down this path, and I’m not here to hold it against him. All I’m doing is trying to figure out who’s telling us not to look at Thomas. That is the thread we are following, and he is who we find. So, let’s see how we get to that point.
The truth is that a hate site is a hassle to run. It was too toxic for advertisers to touch, and it was hard to make enough money to keep it online. He kept losing hosts and exceeding bandwidth, and was about to go out of business altogether, when in walks a guy called Jim Watkins. He’d served in the US military as a helicopter repairman, was trained in computers, and then left to set up shop in the Philippines and run a series of websites with names like “Asian Bikini Bar.” In 2014, his son Ron told him about the woes of this website called 8Chan. They saw an opportunity, and swooped in to snatch it up.
They flew Fred over to the Philippines, and gave him a place to live with a full-time carer. But unsurprisingly, Jim Watkins is not a particularly pleasant person to work for. One time when Fred asked for some time off, Jim showed up at his house to berate him. Fred felt afraid, and they acrimoniously cut ties December 2018.
The hate machine he had built in 8Chan, however, remained in full effect. It is difficult to overstate how horrific this place really is. The deepest darkest parts of the human experience are on full display, and people delight in sharing the most extreme radicalising content. They collectively egg each other on, until eventually some head out into the world to murder as many people as possible, usually posting a link to a livestream, to a reaction that has described as “riotous glee”.
2019 saw a series of mass shootings — Christchurch Mosque in March, the Poway synagogue in April, and El Paso in August. They all came from 8Chan.
Naturally, as the creator of the board where this kept happening, Fred received calls from the media. He didn’t say it should be taken down after Christchurch, where 51 Muslims were massacred to to rapturous applause. He said that we wasn’t even sure that he would have removed the link to the livestream if he was still moderating it. But he did begin to tentatively express second thoughts, saying “I sometimes wonder whether creating 8chan was a good thing.”
After the Poway Synagogue shooting a month later, he still didn’t say it should be taken down. It wasn’t until the wake of the El Paso shooting, in August 2019, when another 18 people were killed, and internet provider CloudFlare pulled their hosting services, that Fred joined the chorus of people calling for it to be removed.
But why? What brought on the change in tune? Did he have a profound change of heart? Was he mourning the loss of life and the suffering that had been inflicted on the friends and families of the victims? Not really. He mostly just has a vendetta against the Watkins. He wasn’t against imageboards, he just didn’t want this one to have a name he was associated with. Because having the world’s media call you for comment about the website you built causing all these mass murders gets in the way of making fonts.
This is not some Road to Damascus moment. He’s since been a thorn in the Watkins’ side, which makes him look like an ally to the anti-Q community, but he told Cullen Hoback that if they changed the name of the website, he’d leave them alone.
But because 8Chan was the home of Qanon, the founder and former administrator “speaking against it” is a compelling story. And if he can even “demystify” the identity of Q by pointing the finger at the current board owners, then all the better. When he began saying that Q was the Watkins, everyone who had been trying so hard to debunk this bullshit could now say “see, it’s just a gross pig farmer who runs the website, the guy who built it and worked with him and knows how the site operates said so”. And it seems as if most people have been content to leave it there.
So by clearing the incredibly low bar of saying “8Chan is bad, so is Q, and so are the Watkins”, he has managed to successfully pivot into a credible commentator, and become a primary source for any journalists that cover the topic. If letting Fred be an authoritative voice on anything Qanon related isn’t the fox guarding the hen-house, it is a very fox sympathetic hen-house designer telling us how we should foxes and their approach to hen relations.
Has he used his skills and new found fame to launch a thorough forensic examination of how his website was used to perpetrate such a significant psychological attack? Surprisingly not! Instead he uses his platform to defend Lisa Clapier and Thomas Schoenberger, and keep the focus on his nemeses the Watkins:
So he tells Dale, who tells the podcasters, who tell all of their listeners, who tell all the rest of the Q watchers, who then settle for thinking it’s just a prank that the Watkins took over, and now here we are.
Is Fred “in on it”, and deliberately lying, or has he just been manipulated by a master manipulator? It’s hard to know, but it’s not too late for him to tell us. Clapier’s involvement is a very odd thing to so strenuously and definitively deny, and it sounds like he has specific information that relates to it, which we would be very interested to hear. Especially given the fact that she spent time in the Phillipines (where some of Joel Zamel’s companies were also headquartered). How on Earth is he so sure that this person, who has repeatedly tried to take responsibility for the Q movement, speaks so authentically to its core tenets, runs one of the primary promoting accounts, and directly connects to some of the key characters, has nothing to do with it? (Bearing in mind, one doesn’t need to physically post the drops themselves to have a hand in writing / directing / promoting the show):
And now, whenever anyone comes along and thinks “Hold on, this thing which has managed to manipulate millions of people into thinking that Donald Trump is a Good Guy might actually be a new kind of well-disguised propaganda campaign rather than a random accident”, they get mercilessly mocked by the Q watchers that are aligned with Fred, so the whole thing continues to run, critically under-investigated.
How did we get to the point where supposedly Serious Journalists are platforming the narratives of infamous trolls, rather than looking at the evidence before them and listening to actual national security professionals? It is at least as perplexing as Qanon itself. And like with Qanon itself, we can put some of it down to an unlucky convergence of organic factors like the embarrassment we touched upon above. But we should also consider that we are up against professional narrative manipulation agencies.
In any operation like this, there are going to be people who do ~believe~ it, and people who don’t. And controlling the way it is perceived by the people who don’t believe it, so they think that it’s just a lucky LARPer or a pig farmer and his son, but Definitely Not Flynn, is a crucial part of it which is not to be overlooked.
Our assumption is that “if they are calling Qanon fake, then they must be the good guys”, and we need to reckon with the possibility that in this day and age, it might be more complicated than that.
The Internet Research Agency showed us that controlling a narrative by setting up profiles online is ridiculously easy. Planting operatives in real world “progressive” spaces takes a bit more effort, but is still an unfortunate fact of modern life. And sure enough, that is indeed exactly what people like our old mate Erik Prince have been up to:
Are these voices plants of some kind, or just aggressively bad at their jobs? Again, I don’t know, and to be honest I’m not sure which is worse.
Regardless, it’s time to come to terms with the fact we are in the midst of a full-scale information war. There are a number of highly-trained disaffected ex-intelligence service members who are using their skills, networks, and experience to advance their fascist agenda, in ways we have yet to come to terms with.
These people might look dumb and sound stupid, but they are incredibly dangerous. They are treating this as a military-grade psychological operation. Here is what appears to be a draft of a strategy document from Peter Thiel’s MAGA 3X, which gives us a chilling insight in to the way these operations can be structured:
And of course this manifests itself in a more old-fashioned physical military operation too:
We are under attack. Ultimately, their goal is to preserve the power of Rich White Men to do whatever they want. Rich White Men have had their way for pretty much all of history, and the whole point of Progressivism is to be a check on that. So for the last 50 or so years, they have whined about how they’re no longer allowed to sexually harass their secretaries, or fire someone for being gay, or dump the waste from their factories right in the river, or let police beat black people to death. That’s what gets their goat. Almost everything boils down to that one simple principle. If it limits the rights of Rich White Men to do whatever they want, they will attack it, and their weapons of choice are to call it to call it “political correctness gone mad”, or “socialism”.
Trump is, of course, the ultimate avatar for Rich White Men being able to do whatever they want. When you’re a star, they let you do it. You can do anything.
Mike Flynn specifically said that was his whole reason for getting involved with Trump in the first place:
The reason I’m here is because there is a sense in this country that we were going in a county that was irreversible. To the point of it’s cool to be called progressive. “Progressive” is socialism […] I know the threats that we face.. Entire nation states that do not appreciate the American away of life. And we have to fight for it. We find ourselves fighting for it more here at home. I felt something… I come up to NY and see Trump, summer of 2015, wonderful individual. Loves this country. He convinced me in 5 minutes. How much he loved this county. How much he saw what was happening. And how much he felt he could do something about it. And from that moment on my direction in life completely changed.”
Flynn was right about a number of things. Society had “progressed” to the point where this kind of shit was, thankfully, no longer acceptable in polite company, let alone in a presidential candidate. So Trump’s election was going to require the creation of an some alternative reality. Flynn said in that same speech, “this was an insurgency folks. Irregular warfare at its finest”. How did they do it? “An army of digital soldiers and citizen journalists decided to take over the idea of information […] through social media”
What do you think he’s talking about there? It’s #Pizzagate, which would go on to become Qanon. The foundation of this whole thing.
The lie worked. They twisted facts and played into peoples pre-existing prejudices, and exploited existing narratives. They won the impossible election, and for four terrifying years, the fascists controlled the White House.
Their naked vanity, petty squabbles, astonishing staff turnover, and generally breathtaking ineptitude, made for one of the worst presidencies in history.
But when you can create an alternative reality, that doesn’t really matter. Just lie. They aggressively spread disinformation from every channel at their disposal: From the White House podium, to the President’s twitter account, all the usual conservative platforms, fake news sites, troll farms and bot networks, and of course 4Chan.
In the lead up to an election it looked like they were going to lose, they changed gears again. They restructured the Pentagon, so that Flynn loyalists in the Special Operations department would report directly to the Defense Secretary. They filled the courts. And they began laying the groundwork to dispute the result, by tampering with the infrastructure and calling it fraudulent before it even happened. All the while quietly normalising the use of brutal and unmarked force against protestors.
When they did lose the election, they just flat out denied it, and tried to take it by force, by mind-fucking enough people into believing it was stolen.
What we need to recognise is that this is still going on today, as part of a global far-right power grab. All of the organisers are still walking free and doing their thing. They are actively infiltrating school groups and local councils, at Flynn’s command. Audits like the one in Maricopa county are not just about disputing the last election, they are setting the foundation to dispute any elections they don’t like in the future. And if they control the houses of parliament, there is terrifyingly real chance they won’t certify them.
Donald Trump just won 70% of the vote at CPAC. Weather or not he ends up being the candidate, this is their ideology going forward. Mask off, naked fascist white nationalism.
For this campaign to be truly effective, it needs to penetrate the progressive circles. It’s already made significant inroads over the years, through events like Occupy, Standing Rock, Natural News, and #Unity4J. People like Tim Pool, Cassandra Fairbanks, Glenn Greenwald, Cynthia McKinney, and Robert David Steele himself have all famously taken an interesting ideological journey from fairly prominent progressives to fascist propagandists. I’m not saying this all happened as part of an organised plan, but it is a phenomenon we need to recognise.
The biggest Typhoid Mary, however, who has infected the left-leaning spiritual world with these narratives and ideologies at all of the events listed above, while escaping any serious attention, is likely to be a woman called Lisa Clapier:
This right here is the one of the biggest reasons why the new age / yoga / wellness world has gone bananas. Of course there is a lot more to it than that. Future reporting will hopefully look at all of these people and networks more closely, and perhaps try to examine the journey they took to get to this point. For now, we need to look at where this is going.
Because all of this was bad enough before 2020. Then governments did start restricting “freedoms”, throwing the world into chaos, for something which didn’t seem that serious. The confusion surrounding COVID proved the perfect catalyst for pulling millions of people from these communities into conspiratorial rabbit holes, where disinformation disguised as “truth” could be deliberately planted to advance a political agenda.
This is why so many previously progressive people now think that Antifa are the enemy, or that BLM is a distraction, or that Climate Change is a hoax, or that LGBTQ+ people are somehow invalid. They are in facebook groups and telegram channels being pumped with content as part of a deliberately targeted propaganda campaign.
It is all largely based around “Waking Up” to the lies of the “Globalist New World Order” — which, if you look closely, is basically just one one where Rich White Men don’t get to do whatever they want.
The truth is that Q was only ever one arrow in their quiver. The model of “powerful insiders revealing deep secrets” about a “plot to control you” is extremely effective, and can be dressed in many ways. Going forward, we need to be on the look out for Aliens from the Arcturian or Pleiadian star systems, on platforms like like the Academy of Divine Knowledge, Glammis Calling, The Sisterhood of the Rose, and the Galactic Federation of Light (and its many variations). No prizes for guessing what political ideology they happen to be endorsing. It’s a far-right fascist agenda, disguised as a Spiritual Awakening or other kind of 5D Ascension.
This is extremely dangerous. If you thought Q was powerful, wait till you see what people will do when they genuinely believe they are being given instructions by hyper-advanced extra terrestrial overlords. The level of plausibility may be a mitigating factor in its spread, but I wouldn’t count on much these days.
There are good souls in these groups, as well as in the anti-mask COVID conspiracy community. Many of whom I’m sure genuinely believe this stuff in good faith. They are not the enemy. They are our brothers and sisters who are being lied to and manipulated by the most vicious propaganda campaign the world has ever seen.
Facebook and YouTube are at least theoretically moderate-able, but obviously this stuff is all over Telegram and BitChute as well, and we do not have a response for this. It’s a serious fucking problem.
The Greatest Trick the Devil ever Pulled was convincing people that progressive polices were part of some sinister plot for world domination, while simultaneously convincing everyone else that he didn’t actually do anything and that it all “just happened” of its own accord.
We are living in a soup of Psychological Operations, which has us at each other’s throats. Everyone thinks they are on the right side, fighting for a noble cause. Like with all disinformation, it’s notoriously difficult to know who is being influenced and who is doing the influencing. And after decades of propaganda, the answer is almost certainly not as clear as we would like anyway. When we’re not sure what’s what, perhaps the best we can hope for is to be honest, fair, and kind. And be absolutely ruthless with those who aren’t. If we can manage that then we might have a chance.