The Weaponisation of the Conspiracy Narrative Virus
Disinformation has ravaged our communities. This essay will explore where it is coming from and where it is going, in as close to a complete fashion as possible. So it’s a long story, probably more suited to a computer than a phone.
On 1 May 1776, in what’s now Germany but was then Bavaria, a small group of thinkers founded a group dedicated to the ideals of the enlightenment, and gave themselves the exciting name “The Illuminati”. They questioned the traditional powers of the theocratic monarchy, and promoted a more rational approach to public affairs.
Unsurprisingly, the church/state outlawed them pretty quickly. A few years later, the French People overthrew the aristocracy in their famous Revolution. In times of turmoil, people tend to seek the comfort of a simple explanation. And the “Illuminati” became a perfect scape goat for the chaos. Two books were written: “Proofs of a Conspiracy”, and “Memoirs Illustrating the History of Jacobinism”, which basically claimed that all the bad stuff happening was because of this mysterious secret society that controlled the world.
To the east, around the same sort of time, Russia was experiencing tensions of its own. Following the Partitions of Poland, many Jewish people came to settle in the western part of the country. They weren’t given land to work, so often wound up in finance. A guy called Jacob Brafman had a falling out with Jewish tax agents in his community, so (building on a deep tradition of anti-semitism), he started spinning stories of a secret cabal of Rabbis pulling the strings of the larger Russian state.
In 1902, these ideas were crystallised in a book called the “Protocols of the Elders of Zion”. It plagiarised large sections of a book satirising Napoleon’s plans for world domination, called “The Dialogue in Hell Between Machiavelli and Montesquieu”, and turned it into a fictional transcript of the minutes of a supposed meeting between these sinister Jewish elders, explicitly laying out their elaborate plot.
Automobile tycoon Henry Ford read it and printed half a million copies, spreading it as far as he could. Including into the hands of Adolf Hitler, who used it on his way to the holocaust. That’s Henry getting a Nazi medal in the photo above.
In 1920, the Illuminati story and the Protocols story both made their way into the mind of a young woman called Nesta Webster, who believed she was the reincarnated spirit of a young socialite from the time of the French Revolution. She wrote a book which fused the two, and (in the wake of collectivist action around the world) claimed that now it was “communists” at the centre of it. This is the birth of what we now know as the modern “Conspiracy Narrative”. And as we’ll see when we look at the way it has spread and the nature of its impact, it is perhaps best described as a Virus.
So, now we know what this thing is and where it’s come from, we need to take a small step diagonally backwards to understand the way it has been used, by who, why, and how it’s been so effective. For that we need to go back a few hundred years, to the wake of the Industrial Revolution, when society was wrestling with the question of how to organise itself.
Life had been transformed by inventions like the steam engine and the cotton gin, coupled with the extraction of explosive energy from fossil fuels. All of a sudden, wealth could be created on a previously unimaginable scale. A few made a fortune, because they could do whatever what they wanted, without regard for social responsibilty. There were no child labour laws, no workplace safety regulations, no minimum wage, overtime or pensions. Just raw, undiluted Darwinian capitalism.
Naturally, society continued to evolve in response. It’s a wild world, but by working together, and helping each other for the good of the tribe, humans have been able to accomplish incredible things. We thrive as a social species. Care for the community is one of our greatest assets. Ultimately, we are strings of DNA, trying to get enough energy to replicate the code before we die. That’s the “Game of Life” we’re playing. Ruthlessly exploiting people and the planet is one strategy. Looking after our neighbours is another.
The only thing that could compete with the might of Big Business was Government, who had the ability to make laws, and the power to enforce them. This is essentially the root of Progressivism — a check on the power of these Rich White Men to do whatever they wanted. Now, they had environmental and labour regulations to contend with. The Government also provided large scale public infrastructure projects, to fill the gaps that the profit motive had failed to inspire the private sector to deliver. Again, this is Progressivism. The Capitalists, naturally, saw all this as a threat.
They could lobby the politicians of course, to keep them in their pocket and legislate in their favour, but that wasn’t always enough. In 1933, a small group of extremely wealthy individuals actually tried to literally overthrow the government and install a fascist military dictatorship, in an incredible scheme now known as The Business Plot. They approached a retired general named Smedley Butler to lead it, who played along until he knew as much as he could, then went to Congress and blew the whistle.
In the aftermath of WW2, some countries came together to form the United Nations, as a way to hopefully have less wars, and work together on things that affect the whole Earth. Who’s responsibility is it to look after refugees, for example? To declare Human Rights, protect endangered species, and to try and establish some ground rules for war? To fund global things that no individual country felt like funding? The world needed an “International Body”, in the same way that countries need a Federal Government.
And Capitalists resented it in the same way too. To them, bodies like the UN were yet another threat to their hegemonic power.
In 1958, a retired candy salesman called Robert Welch Jr. got twelve of his rich conservative capitalist mates together, to fight back against this “progress”. So they founded a group called the John Birch Society.
They picked up the spear of anti-communist sentiment left by Joe McCarthy, and tipped it with the powerful poison of the “Conspiracy Narrative Virus”. They claimed that the progressivism which was chipping away at their God-Given Supremacy was the result of a Secret Cabal of Evil Communists. Any regulation on business, or public project, or international cooperation, or even Courts legislating Civil Rights, was all part of their sinister plan for world domination. They didn’t want their own government telling them what to do, so of course they hated the idea of the UN.
They aggressively distributed pamphlets and other propaganda paraphernalia. They held networking dinners, sponsored a Speaker’s Bureau, and published a magazine called American Opinion. Members were told “Join your local P.T.A., get your conservative friends to do likewise, and go to work to take it over.”
It may not seem like it, but in spreading that Narrative, they were deploying the most sophisticated weapon the world had ever seen, and attacking the ultimate source of all human power — the mind. It controlled peoples actions by affecting their thoughts. And like all effective viruses, it propagated itself. By the 1960’s, the JBS counted over 100,000 members.
To the credit of the American public however, when it came to elections, JBS candidates never really made it past the primaries. But think tanks and lobbying groups, like the World Anti-Communist League and the Council For National Policy began to emerge, providing powerfully influential networks for these ideas to spread, and well and truly infect American politics. Even if they didn’t reference the narrative directly, people like Jack Singlaub, Phyllis Schlafly, Barry Goldwater, Richard Nixon, Pat Buchanan, Robert LeFevre, Jerry Falwell, Rupert Murdoch, Roger Ailes, and many more, were all able to draw upon elements of it to benefit their own political crusades.
Internationally, whenever a developing country looked like they were getting too progressive, America would swoop in to crush them by any means necessary, toppling democratically elected leaders with devastating effect.
In the latter part of the 20th century, people began to notice that the Green House Gasses released by burning fossil fuels had an effect on the climate.
Perhaps more importantly, however, they also set about turning the public against the idea of taking action — by using the Conspiracy Narrative. They set up Think Tanks to publish “papers” that cast doubt on the Science, and used their networks and the conservative media eco-system to push the idea that it was all just a hoax, set up to take over the world. It was astonishingly effective, and persists to this day.
Part of the reason it’s so successful is that it is a profoundly compelling narrative. Telling folks “There is an evil plot to take over the world” speaks to them on a primal level. Our ancestors survived by taking threats seriously, and we’ve evolved an endorphin rush that accompanies it. And of course we tend to like tidy simple explanations, especially when they take culpability away from ourselves.
By the 1980s, having found a willing host in the human psyche, the world of conspiracies was well established. A whole industry had been created, with a deep body of literature, and a lucrative public speaking circuit. Garry Allen, Eustace Mullins, David Icke, Bill Cooper, Mark Dice, Jerome Corsi, Art Bell, and many more, all made careers out of telling these stories, aided of course by governments and corporations that routinely did genuinely dodgy shit.
The ultimate fruits of all this can be seen in the pair of graphics below. On the left, are the UN’s Global Goals for Sustainable Development. And on the right, what they look like through the lens of the Conspiracy Narrative Virus.
Eventually the narrative found its way into the mind of a young boy called Alex Jones, who’s parents hosted some of the JBS networkers for dinner. And thus the Virus found its super-spreader.
He built up an audience of millions, who would believe whatever bullshit he came up with. Naturally, this presented a tremendous opportunity for any political operatives to create a narrative that suited their needs.
And this is where we need to meet our next character, Roger Stone. He began his career volunteering for Barry Goldwater’s 1964 presidential campaign, after reading his seminal work “The Conscience of a Conservative”. His life essentially then became a series of operations to elect whichever candidate would do the most to preserve the power of Rich White Men to do what they wanted. In Nixon’s 1972 campaign, for example, he famously donated money to a potential rival under the name of the Young Socialist Alliance, and then leaked the receipt. And a guy called Arthur Finkelstein had developed a new style of smearing, which Roger used to attack any of his progressive political opponents, like George Soros.
At the 1970 convention of Young Republicans, he met a guy called Paul Manafort. They recognised a ruthlessness in each other which would go on to form the basis of a life long partnership. In 1980, they founded a firm called Black Manafort and Stone.
Together, they basically invented the “industrial lobbying complex”, which brought unprecedented levels of corruption to Washington. They used a big bag of dirty tricks do whatever it took get candidates elected, and then charged people for access to the politician afterwards. As well as the usual domestic industrialists, their clients included foreign warlords and dictators like Jonas Savimbi, Ferdinand Marcos, Oleg Deripaska, and Viktor Yanukovych, who all paid them vast amounts of money to influence the political landscape in their favour.
In the early 1980s, Trump was in trouble for discriminating against African American tenants in his properties, and facing competition in his Atlantic city casino from Native Americans. Roy Cohn advised him to meet with the Manafort and Stone, who in turn advised him to basically be an arsehole, which was, sadly, effective.
Trump essentially embodied the idea that Rich White Men should be able to do whatever they want. To women, to the environment, to the economy. Society had gradually become kinder and more inclusive over the years, and in the face of progressive ideas like Civil Rights, Feminism, and Environmental Responsibility, conservatives felt forced to mask their bigotry, which was a concession they deeply resented. Then Trump came along, and showed you could tear the mask right off, to a kind of rapturous applause not seen since Goldwater’s speech at the 1964 RNC. While many considered that kind of rhetoric toxic to civil society, Roger Stone saw an opportunity, and began to explore a potential path to the White House.
A candidate with no political experience who brags about committing sexual assault does have a lot going for him in certain circles, but getting him over the line in an election was going to require a Herculean feat of propaganda. And thus the team began to assemble.
Paul Manafort was Campaign Chairman. Roger Stone was Special Advisor, and he brought his social media strategist Jason Miller. Steve Bannon came on as Campaign President and then CEO, after being brought along by his buddy David Bossie of Citizens United, who became deputy. He also brought The Mercers, Breitbart, Kellyanne Conway, and Cambridge Analytica, fresh from the battlefield of Brexit. Mike Flynn was made National Security Advisor, and potential VP. Brad Parscale and Dan Scavino did digital communications, working closely with Jared Kushner. Peter Thiel and Erik Prince continued to deploy their resources behind the scenes, as did the entire network of the CNP, and their Russian connections. Once they told the Evangelicals and other establishment Republicans that he would give them their judicial nominees, they gave him their full support as well. And knowingly or not, Alex Jones’ disinformation cannon was a key part of the propaganda machine.
There is a lot to say about the various sets of skills and experience that these people and networks all brought to the campaign. First let’s look at Michael Flynn — a highly trained former military General and Director of National Intelligence, with a deep understanding of Special Operations and Irregular Warfare.
Helpfully, the week after the election, he can’t help but brag about exactly how they accomplished it:
After his gross invasion of the personal space of the woman introducing him, and some maddening meandering, he gets to the point:
“We have an army… as a soldier and as a retired general… we have an army of Digital Soldiers. Because this was an insurgency folks. This was irregular warfare at its finest. We have what we call Citizen Journalists. Because the journalists that we have in our media […] displayed an arrogance that is unprecedented. So the American people decided to take over the idea of information. And they did it through social media”
And this is where enter the next phase of the story.
To make sense of this, the first thing we need to acknowledge, is that people lie. They have done for a long time of course, but the internet presents a whole new level of opportunity. Anyone can say anything. Not just with individual posts, but whole websites which look like news platforms. Armies of bot networks can then amplify messaging across multiple channels, spreading like wildfire around the world, all while being virtually untraceable.
Obviously, this is a landscape ripe for exploitation, and opens the door to Cognitive Warfare on an unprecedented scale. “Psychological Operations” have been around for a while (as retired Lt. Colonel Michael Aquino has explained). They have a certain connotation, but at the end of the day it’s basically the same principle as guerrilla marketing. Every ad campaign is effectively a Psy-Op. And they’re a far more efficient and effective way of fighting wars.
These companies — like SCL/Emerdata, Gloo, Palantir, and who knows how many others — all mine the mountains of digital information to get the deepest possible understanding of human psychological needs and 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 have yet to come to terms with that. The headline from the Cambridge Analytica scandal was the data harvesting, but what seems to have been largely overlooked is the fact that they then use that data to create campaigns specifically to influence elections. They are a behaviour change agency.
One method is what’s called “Memetic Warfare”. The term seems to have been coined by a pro-Trump agitator and Peter Thiel associate called Jeff Giesea, who himself seems to have been drawing on the ideas of a notorious troll called Chuck Johnson. The concept is simple enough: distill the message into its most basic visual form, and fire it out into the world to do its thing. He published a paper called “It’s Time to Embrace Memetic Warfare”. In context, it was pitched as a way to fight ISIS. In practice, it would become a key part of the Trump Campaign’s strategy.
Unsurprisingly, there is now an entire commercial industry serving this space. Psy Group, WikiStrat, and Black Cube, are all companies founded by an ambitious young Israeli Australian named Joel Zamel. They specialise in offering manipulation campaigns for governments and corporations, through online perception management, opposition research, honey traps, as well as clandestine on-the-ground activities. (You may remember Black Cube as being the company that was enlisted to try and salvage Harvey Weinstein’s reputation.)
According to the Daily Beast: “Zamel wanted former national security adviser Michael Flynn to be a member of the firm’s advisory board. Zamel spoke with him about it on multiple occasions around the time Flynn was forming the Flynn Intel Group. “Flynn took a real shining to Joel.”
They were introduced by a guy called Bijan Kian, who we’ll come to later.
In April 2016, during the Republican primaries, Trump Campaign official Rick Gates asked Psy Group for a proposal. They responded with a quote for $3,125,000 plus media costs, and promised to make it virtually untraceable.
And shortly afterwards, an influence campaign which looks an awful lot like the one described in the pitch deck began to emerge, leading to the Alternative Reality we see today. Things got very strange, very quickly. An alarming number of people became completely consumed with the idea that Trump’s political opponents were engaged in child sex trafficking and ritualistic sacrifices.
It’s not a new idea of course. Accusing your enemies of hurting kids is literally one of the oldest tricks in the book. “Blood Libel” is a story about people murdering babies in the woods for their blood, which has historically been used to justify persecution of Jewish people.
While in ancient times they had to settle for word of mouth or the printing press, these days we have the internet, and anonymous message-boards like 4Chan, who’s political utility was well known to people like Bannon. One of their many traditions was known as “LARPing”, where posters would pretend to be “characters”, such as time travellers or government insiders. They essentially created a portal to an alternative reality, which means you can create any narrative you like, and give it a way to enter this world.
And on the 2nd of July 2016, when the FBI were conducting their investigation into Hillary Clinton’s use of a personal email server, a character appears, who will come to be known as FBIanon.
The email server investigations were pretty dry, so FBIanon’s message was to “focus on the foundation”:
Which is exactly what Bannon pushed in Peter Schweizer’s book “Clinton Cash”. Bannon understood, however, the value of tailoring the message to the intended audience. The purpose of that book was to break through to the mainstream, so he consciously chose to omit the wilder accusations. Which is oddly suspicious thing to have to explicitly specify.
On 4Chan of course, there were no such constraints. You can go Hog Wild. So over the course of four months and hundreds of posts, FBIanon systematically nurtured the idea that there was actually far more sinister stuff going on — including child trafficking and occult rituals. And it was up to the readers to do more of the “research” to uncover it. And crucially, they instructed people to spread the word:
“The task is this: unleash every meme, image, and horrible story about HRC that you can muster… In order to be effective, you must proselytize… For example: Start a website aggregating the images/facts and then try to get it linked to Drudge. Shove the images down every news anchor/journalists throat. Push out to people who you normally would have nothing to do with… Why don’t you invade their circles? … We should be spreading memes to subs on Reddit.… blitz Twitter, Tumblr, and all social media with memes on the Clinton Foundation tonight, the last night of the DNC… We need TrumpGen with us, and the meme division blasting the Tumblr tags. Bring up the old methods that /b/ used to use during their Tumblr raids… We’re going to war tonight …Repeat something often enough and it becomes the truth. Repeat after me: ‘Hillary is evil and will destroy the planet.’…”
It’s an unusual amount of dedication and professional panache for someone who’s not being paid. Still, it’s possible that a passionate volunteer had the same skills and singular devotion to getting Trump in office as Steve Bannon or Roger Stone. But. In July, they also say:
“More leaks will come. The time is not right yet. Expect an October Surprise.”
Sure enough, on October 7, 2016, (30 minutes after the Access Hollywood tape was first published), WikiLeaks began releasing thousands of John Podesta’s emails, given to them by a Russian hacker called Guccifer 2.0.
While it was handy for the Republicans to have the other side’s campaign material, there was nothing especially incriminating in there. The closest they got was an invitation to an event by acclaimed performance artist Maria Abramovic.
“When you are reading Podesta’s e-mails, remember that the Clintons deal in weapons, drugs, and people. Some terminology in use is far more nefarious than many of you suspect.”
Which planted one of the seeds that would go on to spawn the notorious phenomenon of #Pizzagate:
This is what Flynn was talking about when he said he had an insurgent army of digital soldiers and citizen journalists, to take over the idea of information. He also promoted a group called MAGA 3X, organised by Peter Thiel, and they went about this with military style precision. Below we can see what appear to be drafts of their strategy documents, which give us a chilling insight into their operation:
The most prolific promotor of this narrative was of course Alex Jones’ InfoWars. The image on the left below shows their front page at this exact time (November 2016). From there, the virus made its way to more prominent platforms, through people like Sean Hannity:
But here’s the thing. Jones’ and Hannity’s viewers were more or less in the tank already. Energising them is good, but the key is to reach new demographics. So at the same time, we see the narrative being pushed on different kinds of platforms, targeting a different kind of audience:
Both of these sites, “Stillness in the storm” and “Collective Evolution”, are part of a network of media channels pushed by a platform we’ll come to later . The “Anonymous” video mentioned above is not the original hacker group. It is an account that has been set up by someone hijacking that name, specifically to spread these narratives, to that crowd.
As we know, it all came together, and Trump went on to stun the world by winning the seemingly impossible election.
Despite having a protagonist as terrible as Trump, it has convinced millions of people that he is quite literally God’s Gift, and broken countless families in the process.
We must consider that this is not an idle or directionless prank. It is a new and deliberate political propaganda operation, from the same factory that produced #Pizzagate. Well, that’s the hypothesis at least. So let’s see what we can do to prove it.
Identifying the source of an anonymous post on the internet is not easy, but nor is it necessarily impossible. There are over 5,000 posts, and when taken together they tell us a lot.
The prevailing thought is that was just a lonely LARPer, who was having a laugh and got lucky. Or, more recently, that it was the Watkins. But neither of those make sense. Firstly, it didn’t start on the Watkins’ board, it started on 4Chan. And secondly, it has a very specific purpose — which includes supporting Micheal Flynn and his agenda:
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, the rug of which could be pulled out at any moment? He might sound dumb, but he is literally a world expert in psychological warfare. And it sure looks awfully similar to his stated strategy of weaponising “Digital Soldiers”:
The idea that Flynn is just an idiot who became Q-pilled, rather than one of the people who is doing the Q-pilling, is perhaps one of the most dangerous underestimations and misunderstandings in modern history.
He’s not alone of course, and we are far from finished identifying the rest of the team. There are plenty more drops, which give us a lot more information. For instance, we know that Q is a New Age Fascist, with delusions of grandeur, who likes messing with people’s minds, posting internet puzzles on 4Chan, and LARPing as a super spy:
Wading through all this can feel tedious, but it’s important to get a taste for the range of flavours they’re cooking up, so here’s a few more.
Alright so let’s put our thinking hats on and see if we can figure out who’s actually doing this. There are two components to analyse: First we’ll look at the content/narrative, then we’ll look at the medium/mechanics of the delivery.
He has experience in Military Intelligence, specialising in Psychological Operations, working for the State Department throughout the 70s on several international missions. As often happens to people in this position, he became deeply committed to the conservative cause (preserving that power of rich white men to do what they want), concerned by progressive policies which threatened that, and appears to have fallen into a deep conspiratorial hole.
He’s been a prolific guest on Alex Jones’ Infowars over the years, masterfully using the platform to blend fantasy and reality, in a way that created the realm from which Q would ultimately emerge.
In October 2015, he began talking about Trump :
Thanks to you Alex, and thanks to your listeners, they are falling apart […] the globalists did get control, but now there is a war to expose them, and they are losing […] Geopolitically, what does this do to the criminal cabals on the inside? This is one of the most phenomenal revolutions America has ever seen,[…] Trump had been monitoring the MSM for some time.. when we put his name up for the next presidency, he took it […] we are so tired of the people who committed the crime of 9/11, that once Trump gets in, many of them will be arrested […] I know a lot about his character […] we have to look at this as very positive movement. The backlash is huge. They never expected us to come in and be able to pronounce the truth […] America is not going quietly into totalitarianism without a fight […] We want them to show how stupid they are.”
This is clearly the foundational narrative of Qanon. A lot of the drops include that exact language. So we’ve got 3 options. 1) Q came up with this narrative independently, 2) Q was an Alex Jones fan who watched that episode and committed it to memory, becoming a “product” of the operation, or 3) Steve Pieczenik, who has openly bragged about running psychological operations, was part of the creative team behind Q.
With that in mind, let’s turn our attention to one of the primary Q promoters, Robert David Steele. Like Steve, he worked in the intelligence services (or claims to have at least), and became deeply conspiratorial. Then he got on the Trump Train, and made it his mission to get him elected and keep him there, largely by using Blood Libel more explicitly and enthusiastically than anyone else. He is perhaps the person most responsible for the “Adrenochrome” myth, spreading it through a made up court called “The International Tribunal for Natural Justice”. When “Save the Children” took off, if you followed the sources for people’s posts, that is where almost all of them would ultimately lead.
He died of COVID in 2021. But before then, he spent most of his time on zoom calls with other Q promoters like Sean Stone, Sacha Stone, Ken O’Keefe, Mark Steel, and Martin Geddes. He is as close to the centre of this network as it is possible to get. And who does he credit with kicking it off? Putin, Trump, Flynn, and our good friend Steve Pieczenik:
“Aided by enormous restraint on the part of Vladimir Putin, the soft coup in the USA has collapsed […] Trump earns most of the credit, bringing to the matter his deep business experience and common sense, he understood that the narrative against Russia was fabricated […] With that Foundation, he was able to listen to Michael Flynn, who’s deep experience in the nether world of black special operations and clandestine and covert action operations informs him in a manner few can claim.
William Binney, the senior executive who created the NSA capability that has been used against US politicians […]was the first to reveal the leaks were coming from insiders. Ray McGovern, a retired CIA analyst and founder of the Veteran Intelligence Professionals for Sanity, has been a respected voice challenging the false assertions by the CIA against Russia. Finally Steve Pieczenik… A former deputy assistant Secretary of State, who was […] the first to announce the countercoup against Hillary Clinton was being undertaken by insiders. I have done what I could and I am proud to stand in support of Donald Trump…”
Before we move on to looking at the evidence for who else RDS was working with and what they were doing, we need to have a look under the hood of what Q actually is — the afore mentioned medium, or “mechanics” of the delivery.
And what we find when we look under the hood, is essentially an elaborate Game. A lot of its success seems to boil down to the fact that “puzzles” are fun.
Over the last 30 years, story telling has taken on a new dimension — interactivity. Plots that involve the reader, sending them on a treasure hunt, or asking them to solve riddles to advance the narrative. They bridge a gap between the fantasy world and the real world, to create a Game in an Alternative Reality. So they are known as Alternative Reality Games, or ARGs.
The upshot is that they can be incredibly engaging. So much so that to be done responsibly, they must be carefully managed with “guardrails”, so that participants know where the game ends and reality begins. Otherwise they can be swept away, even if they go into it knowing it’s a “game”. And if they don’t know it’s a game, and actually think it’s literally a plan to save the world instead, then it can obviously become a phenomenally powerful tool of propaganda.
Sounds like Qanon. But even for them, this is a little specialised. Creating a puzzle LARP on 4Chan requires a fairly niche skill set. And for that, we now come to a character called Thomas Schoenberger.
He was mostly a composer, who tried to make his music more interesting by involving puzzles. He had a thing for prime numbers, for example, and would work them into his compositions as a way to generate more publicity.
The best puzzle going around was called Cicada 3301. It was a mysterious and fairly revolutionary phenomenon, which started with a post on 4Chan, and went on to create a sensation in 2012, 2013, and 2014.
By 2016, it seemed to have gone quiet, so Thomas and some associates (including Hollywood composer Michael Levine), basically tried to take it over, and trademark the name.
There was a fairly strong community of solvers from previous iterations. And even if Thomas’ version didn’t match up to the magic of the original, there were plenty of people still willing to work on something so cool. And at least four of those people have all pointed the finger at Thomas as being one of the people behind the creation of Qanon. So, let’s have a look to see if that’s plausible.
Court documents reveal that in 2011, a guy from the Pentagon asked him to play a concert in Afghanistan, and he ended up in Turkey trying to recruit former special ops officers. To ‘fight ISIS’, you see.
“I was attempting to start a business. I went into Turkey, and I was attempting to pull together former military people who have been involved in special ops who would then train Kurdish forces in an effort to exterminate and eliminate ISIS. Because I was concerned that ISIS was metastasizing and would end up going into Europe to do soft terrorism and then coming into America to do soft terrorism. I met with Kurdish resistance fighters in Turkey (in 2014). […]
I had contacts in Naval intelligence, and I was hoping that I could put together people with military backgrounds who could train the Kurds and that our company would act as a third — as a broker putting together money, talent and fighters. […]
I was charged with putting together a program that was going to be the basis for clandestine activities near the border of Iran…. Myself and another individual were going to go meet with the Governor of the province of a place near the border of Iran with an idea of doing a concert… I was involved in operations that had to do with national security… The person is no longer at The Pentagon. The person’s name is Bijan, B-i-j-a-n, Kian, K-i-a-n.”
Bijan Kian is Micheal Flynn’s business parter. He was the one who hosted the Nowruz Gala in 2013, which Flynn attended as the newly nominated Director of the Defence Intelligence Agency, around the beginning of his bizarre downward spiral. Thomas is also very close with a guy called Nasser Kazeminy, who’s company, NJK holdings, paid Michael Flynn $140,000.
Ok, so we’re in the right ballpark at least. But we’re still a fair way out. As we move closer to the present, however, we learn that he actually started an influence company of his own, called “ShadowBox”.
Their promotional material describes themselves as:
“An elite online reputation management firm … We address smear assaults head-on by custom-creating shadow ‘bot’ campaigns as a counter strategy … use targeted chaos to confuse your opponents… your army … use cyber-guerrilla tactics…. Where your enemies have lied to paint you as the bad guy, we sow the seeds of doubt and present the counter-narrative that they are, in fact, the villains, and you have been unjustly accused… We do this through sophisticated use of internet technology, meme creation, PR, and cyber-guerrilla tactics that stop the bleeding and begin to sway public opinion and the media in your favor.”
Sort of like a off-brand version of Black Cube or Psy Group. Their first client was a guy called Ed Butowsky, the deep-pocketed GOP donor, who famously pushed the Seth Rich theory, as well as #Pizzagate.
In 2016, he created #Unity4J, ostensibly as a way to build support for Julian Assange and his cause. This appears to have been a significant “cross-pollinating” event, bringing people from opposite sides of the political spectrum together under the guise of government transparency and accountability, and introducing progressives to the world of conservative conspiracies. People like Bill Binney, Jack Posobiec, Ray McGovern, Jimmy Dore, Cassandra Fairbanks, Cynthia McKinney, Kim Dotcom, and Breitbart’s Lee Stranahan, were sharing a stage with people like the Australian Greens’ Senator Scott Ludlum.
These days, Trevor’s business appears to mostly consist of representing conspiracy theorists, including our good friend Robert David Steele:
It’s hard to know how long all these people have been working together. What we do know is that by 2017 (in the months leading up to the launch of Q), Thomas, Trevor, and RDS, were all in regular email correspondence, along with Tanya Cromwell, and her husband, SLAPP happy attorney Steven Biss, who represents Flynn’s “best friend in DC”, Devin Nunes. (Yes, he’s the one suing cow-based parody accounts. He also represented Mike Flynn’s brother, Jack Flynn, Trevor, RDS, Svetlana Lokhova, Kash Patel, Tim Holmseth, and Dan Bongino.)
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 believers think that the drops are deliberately cryptic to stop the Deep State from getting to them, and the Q Watchers can confidently claim that Q is just a charlatan. 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, on behalf of Devin Nunes, our mate Steven Biss files a $250 million lawsuit against Twitter.
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. Which is completely consistent with everything else we know.
Thomas also apparently knows Erik Prince, who’s family was invested in a company called “Neuro Core”, which uses “entraining brainwave” technology, to do things like implanting subliminal messages in video, as discussed in the email on the left below. Which might sound ridiculous, but you’ll have to take that up with them I’m afraid. And on the right, we see some discussion of using another type of technology that creates “immersive experiences”.
This becomes somewhat chilling when we look at what appear to be the mind-fucking videos that proliferated around Q, and even featured at Trump rallies. Combined with the cult-like recruitment strategies we also see in action, it amounts to a formidable force.
Now we’ll move on to one of his other partners in Shadowbox, a guy called Defango (AKA Manuel Chavez III), who has loudly and repeatedly tried to take credit for having the creative inspiration for “Q”.
He says he found a book by late 20th century Italian anarchist collective Luther Blissett, about an anonymous radical fighting a secret revolution. He may also have taken some inspiration from the much loved Star Trek character, and other LARPing threads on 4Chan at the time.
Even when taken with a shovel full of salt, the broad strokes seem to mostly check out. There are plenty of emails between them all discussing the “Q” project, and how best to manage it in varying degrees of deniability:
Anything can be faked of course, so those emails don’t constitute proof in and of themselves. But they are completely consistent with everything else that we see, and the simplest explanation is that they are genuine. If they’re not, then we need to answer the question of who faked them and why. In the mean time, let’s press on.
A key part of Qanon is not just the drops themselves, but the way they are covered, by the alternative media and the world of conspiracy websites, like “Victurus Libertas”. And here we have Thomas writing an email to his friends who run that site, pitching an article where he claims to speak for Q:
We also know that a key person responsible for taking Q to that larger audience was a woman called Tracy Beanz, and later of course the Watkins. And in 2017, Thomas was in chats with Courtney Tubbs, who worked for Jim Watkins’ website The Goldwater, and Tracy herself. And right before she started talking about Qanon, Tracy was talking about Cicada 3301.
To be clear, I’m not saying it was all his idea. Nor do I even really care exactly who did what. The point is that this is a part of a Psychological War which has been waged for decades. The Conspiracy Narrative Virus has done so much damage that it is an almost inseparable part of the cultural zeitgeist, and is now being deliberately weaponised in unprecedentedly effective ways.
They didn’t have to expect this to work either, let alone succeed the way it has. A character on an anonymous message board is disposable and untraceable. 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 not only has this one stuck, it’s made breathtaking inroads into the New Age / Spiritual / Wellness world. To understand how that part has happened, we need to meet our next character — a woman by the name of Lisa Clapier.
To understand her journey, however, we need to look at a film called THRIVE, made by heir to the Proctor & Gamble fortune, Foster Gamble. It’s a reasonably well produced and aesthetically pleasing rollercoaster which sounds lovely on the surface. But beneath the surface, (and actually even right on top of it a lot of the time), is a pure and particularly virulent strain of the Conspiracy Narrative Virus, ultimately turning people against progressivism.
At the core of his story, weirdly enough, is a Torus. The donut shape. He believes it holds the key to the code for a Free Energy device. As in, a machine that can literally extract energy from thin air. To support this, he argues that circular patterns which have been found at ancient sites across the world are in fact 2D representations of these 3D shapes, which were left to our ancestors by intergalactic aliens. He’s travelled the world for 20 years talking to various inventors, who claim to have mastered this magical ability, yet are mysteriously unable to reproduce it.
If any of it worked, he’d have set up a lab to develop it, which he hasn’t. So it’s obviously bullshit, and surely he knows. But it seems harmless enough though, right? If he has his little “free energy fantasy”, who really cares. The issue is that this Lie is the foundation upon which he builds his entire Conspiracy Narrative. He claims that this technology, which could liberate humanity from most of its woes, has been deliberately suppressed by a small group of powerful elites, who are now forming International Unions in their quest to take over the world so they can, and I quote, “eliminate the majority of the world’s population”. Using, among other things, toxic vaccines, and space lasers.
Ordinary people have nothing to fear from the EU regulating safety standards. But Conservative Capitalists do. So they use their considerable resources to scare ordinary people into hating them too, by making up stories like this.
The goal becomes clear when it comes to Climate Change. This is, arguably, the primary point of the film, and indeed the modern conspiracy movement as a whole. To avoid taking any action on Climate Change, by calling it part of this sinister conspiracy.
When the film talks about the influence of corporations in politics, and the corruption that protects their financial interest, it completely fails to include the Koch Brothers or the CNP. It makes no mention of Citizens United, and the conservative judges who upheld it. Or the Manaforts and Stones, who opened the floodgates to lobbying. The Murdochs and Mercers, who have manipulated people with their media empires. Erik Prince with his army of private mercenaries, or Peter Thiel, who lets Facebook host disinformation from his position on the board. Because they are Foster’s ideological peers, who share the anti-government agenda he is trying to advance.
The film then exploits very familiar media channels and networks to spread the virus far and wide:
A 2 hour film released 10 years ago is of course bad enough. But you may have also seen a streaming service called “Gaia”, offering thousands of hours of content on demand. Which again, looks lovely. It lures the hippies in with yoga instructional videos - then hits them with that same high-grade Conspiracy Narrative Virus.
THRIVE made quite a splash when it was released, particularly among people who appreciate the wonder of the universe, and enjoy things like sacred geometry. Who like drum circles, wear linen, do yoga, and care about the environment. In other words, people who may otherwise have been persuaded to become politically progressive, like dear old Russell Brand. And the Conspiracy Narrative Virus successfully convinced them that things like the UN’s Agenda 21, and the 2030 Sustainable Development Goals, are actually all part of the Progressives’ evil plans for world domination.
One of those people was a young guy working in an organic health food co-op, by the name of the notorious Jordan Sather, who points to watching this film as his radicalising moment.
Another one, and the reason we started talking about this in the first place, is Lisa Clapier. We don’t know whether it radicalised her, or whether she was already radicalised and just used this as a tool in her crusade. Either way, she became an evangelical super spreader. She has so many media platforms that it’s hard to keep track, but they include: Unify, Activism Media, The Torch TV, BeARealityBender, Unanimous, etc, and they all pushed this narrative in one way or another.
And there she is on the right, bizarrely conducting Russian foreign policy and defending Putin in 2014.
In 2013 she launched a platform “Unanimous”, to “express the feminine aspect of Anonymous”, harnessing the power of that movement’s digital and decentralised energy, and giving the New-Age flavoured Conspiracy Narrative another entry point into the world.
She was also at the Standing Rock #NODAPL protest in 2016. It’s perhaps worth noting that the “Q Shaman”, Jake Angeli, points to this movement as the beginning of his radicalisation journey.
Somewhere along the line, she fell into “I AM Activity.” So here we need to take a little esoteric historical detour. In 1875, a Russian ex-pat by the name of Helena Blavatsky and a few of her friends at The Miracle Club in NYC founded a quasi-religion called Theosophy. Drawing upon the ideas of Rosicrucianism, they claimed that there was a secret brotherhood of Enlightened Masters, with paranormal powers, who had preserved the mystical wisdom of the ancient religions throughout the millennia, and held the key to understanding the Universe. These Masters were all over the world but based mostly in Tibet, and spoke through Helena.
In the early 1930’s, a conman and Theosophist called Guy Ballard was hiking on Mt Shasta in California when he claims to have met the reincarnated soul of one of the Ascended Masters, whose past lives included: a high priest in Atlantis 13,000 years ago, Merlin, and most recently, a mysterious 18th century adventurer and polymath called Saint Germain. Guy (and his wife Edna) claimed to be the sole “accredited messengers” of Saint Germain, and went on to form an offshoot of Theosophy called “I AM”.
There is a lot to unpack here — the powerful resonance of the narratives, its connection to fascist thought, and the fact that several of their myths literally revolve around “powerful insiders waging secret wars to protect us against dark forces”, which is of course the core of the “Q” story. For our purposes here, however, it’s enough to know that they printed millions of books, attracted tens of thousands of followers, and currently have locations in over 300 cities around the world with plenty of members, one of whom, by December 2015 at least, was Lisa Clapier.
Ok, so how do we get from here to Qanon? Well, aside from Mike Flynn openly using I AM prayers, it turns out that Lisa has a very special “relationship” with old mate Thomas Schoenberger, who happened to be trying to develop a screenplay about St Germain (who he claimed was his ancestor). And in early 2017, she reached out about working on a project together:
She was also deeply involved with the #Unity 4J movement, Trevor Fitzgibbon’s operation for Wikileaks. And this is where the secret starts to come undone. Because below, we find a Unity4J volunteer who goes by the name Arturo/Lestat. He noticed her promoting Qanon, and his alarm bells started ringing:
She also created a platform called “QSuperHeroes”, which she naturally used to promote THRIVE:
We now see these narratives being spread though a plethora of groups and channels with names like 5D Galactic Ascension / Arcturian Federation / Council of Light Warriors / Love & Unity — featuring Alien “representatives” like “Ashtar” bringing messages for humanity about its coming liberation. These networks are full of people could absolutely have become Progressive and supported strong action on climate change, or investment in public infrastructure, or the idea that Black Lives Matter. And now they have been “awakened” to the “truth” that it’s all part of a UN conspiracy to murder their children.
And here she is basically admitting to the whole thing:
And in 2016, he was working with Lisa at Standing Rock #NODAPL :
In 2020, the NWO conspiratorial narratives they had been peddling came the closest they had ever come to reality, in the form of the COVID pandemic. Governments were dramatically restricting the freedoms of their citizens, based on the advice of international scientists, and pharmaceutical companies stood to profit, over something which didn’t even seem that bad. The messaging was complicated, confusing, and often contradictory, and of course we know what people like to do in times of turmoil.
Mikki moved quickly, and on the 4th May, he released the now infamous film “Plandemic”, featuring Judy Mikovits. It rocketed around the internet, radicalising millions of people all over the world into thinking that COVID was part of a UN conspiracy, and leading them, with often startling speed, to Qanon and its associated #pedogate narratives (thanks to the timely release of two other films: “Out Of Shadows” and “Fall of Cabal”).
This would prove to be the spark which led to the raging fires we see today, as a network of conservative anti-vaxxers and conspiracy grifters welcomed their hordes of new viewers with open arms. Political operatives continued to profit off the chaos and confusion, exploiting the unregulated landscape of the internet to pounce on every ambiguity, or just outright fabricating stories, and using the conspiracy narrative to push their anti-science, anti-government agenda.
And on January 6, 2021, guess where Mikki Willis was? In the Capitol with a few thousand insurrectionists chanting “Hang Mike Pence”.
Speaking of Bannon, we should check in on what he’s been doing. After leaving the White House in 2017, he began working with Chinese billionaire Guo Wengui (AKA Miles Kwok). Guo had fled China after being charged with corruption, and has since made it his mission to take down the CCCP from his exile in NYC. He and Bannon became fast friends and business partners in multiple projects, like GTV Media Group, and the “New Federal State of China”, which aimed to overthrow the Chinese Government.
And that’s basically why the world’s gone mad. Conservative Capitalists, including Theocratic Fascists, using the Conspiracy Virus to turn people against Progressivism. They’ve been doing it for decades, so it’s become almost organic and self sustaining. And with everyone locked inside endlessly scrolling unregulated media platforms, the pandemic presented an unprecedented opportunity to bring the narrative to life.
This is a global problem. Duterte in the Philippenes, Modi in India, Bolsonaro in Brazil, along with many others, have all used social media manipulation to elect right-wing or outright fascist governments. They understand that the key to Parliament is to change the population. As Breitbart said, “politics is downstream from culture”.
Digital influence is the cheapest, easiest and most effective tool they have, and of course Psy-Group and Cambridge Analytica don’t have a monopoly in this space. Private mercenary Erik Prince has been training Project Veritas operatives at his ranch in Wyoming. Firms like Bell Pottinger, Crosby Textor and Topham Guerin, and who knows how many others, all provide these services to what sadly seems to be an exclusively conservative clientele.
The “Internet Research Agency”, based out of St Petersburg, famously got caught creating fake pages and events to cause agitation and division in the lead up to the 2016 election (on top of more traditional straight up ad buys). They also appear to have nudged Britain to leave the EU. And of course Russian media has happily amplified the combined COVID / Qanon chaos.
Whistleblowers have revealed that some of Cambridge Analytica’s operations included setting up groups with names like “Nigeria Forward”, “Reignite Britain’s Promise”, and “Reclaim UK”:
And in Australia, we see groups with names like “Victoria Forward”, “Reignite Democracy Australia”, and “Reclaim Australia”. Which, like their international counterparts, have all capitalised on the gift of the lockdowns to push their anti-government agenda.
“I’ll fund it somehow. We’ll help knit together this populist nationalist movement around the world. Cos guys in Egypt are coming to me, Modi’s guys in India, Duterte, and we get Orban, and somehow, some sort of convening authority, so we can get ideas out there. Nobody’s doing it right now. The reason we’re going to beat Corbyn and Sanders is […] we’re fire breathers. It’s a global revolt. It’s a zeitgeist.”
If that’s not “proof”, the question we need to ask ourselves is, do we think they’re not doing this? Do we think that that conversation happened and nothing came of it, and then all these groups with this exact same branding and agenda just emerged independently ? Do we think that the opportunity of creating these astro turfed organisations would present itself, and they wouldn’t take it? I’m not really feeling that lucky. And even if Bannon isn’t directly behind them, they are all absolutely benefiting from his efforts.
We’re accustomed to electoral laws that regulate campaign finance contributions, and require candidates to “authorise” certain messages at the end of an ad. We need to realise that this a woefully antiquated understanding of the way things currently work. Anyone can hop on Telegram or Bitchute, and pump content into anywhere for next to nothing. Creating a hashtag campaign like #ArsonEmergency, or #DanLiedPeopleDied, or just using fake accounts to pepper local neighbourhood facebook groups with political propaganda, is now a fact of life.
The alliance of anti-lockdown groups is not as grassfed-organic as it may appear, and there is a common undercurrent of an anti-progressive and often openly far-right ideology that connects them, and which has become impossible to ignore. In the Australian movement, one of the main organisers is a guy called Harrison McClean, who has openly discussed the “Jewish Question”. Tommy Robinson features heavily in most chats. The details of the rest of the characters, and the networks they used to come together, deserve their own article. But briefly, some to look out for are: Edward Burke, Micheal Simms, Dave Oneegs, Mary-Jane Liddicoat, Fiona Barnett, Mel Ann, the Aussie Cossack, The Original Sovereign Tribal Federation, Monica Smit, Morgan C Jonas, Avi Yemeni and Geert Wilders’ Liberty Australia Alliance. These networks have ruthlessly exploited the chaos of the pandemic to advance their ideology and draw people to their cause.
The last character we need to come to, is a former SAS Lieutenant Colonel called Riccardo Bosi. He’s had a remarkably similar career trajectory to Micheal Flynn. After 24 years in the Army, most of that time in special ops doing “capability development / future warfare” in the Middle East, he felt that “the world is a mean and nasty place”, and left to open a private consulting firm called “Lionheart”, which offered “extensive opportunities for those wishing to capitalise on the burgeoning defence sector”. Since then, he has used openly used Qanon and its broader Conspiracy Narrative to advance his deeply anti-progressive agenda. He launched an offical political party, “Australia One”, which he promotes with an articulate and authoritative voice on shows like Sky News’ “Outsiders” with Rowan Dean in 2018 (where he said that the Generals had “betrayed” the service members, and that “we are at war with the Government”), as well as of course YouTube, Bitchute, and Telegram. One of his biggest promoters is a young man called Joel Jamal, who has recently brought the Koch-backed “Turning Point” platform to Australia.
He flat-out rejects the validity of our institutions. He says the government is unconstitutional, and told a magistrate “You have no standing, you are at worst a traitor and at best an imbecile, the truth of which will be determined in due course”. It is a significant step on the road to societal collapse, which may well turn out to be the goal. With Julius Evola in Bannon’s ear, and Aleksandr Dugin in Putin’s, the world is on a dangerous path, arguably accelerating towards a “Fourth Turning”, or “Kali Yuga”, after which they can presumably build their glorious fascist utopia.
Bosi is talking to tens of thousands of people both online and in the flesh, and getting them to cheer for a literal coup d’etat. Meanwhile, a rebranded version of the Proud Boys called the “Peace Makers” appear to trying to form a civilian security force that explicitly rejects the authority of the police.
Electorally, it appears that in Australia that energy will ultimately be directed towards Clive Palmer’s United Australia Party, who have already aligned with Reignite Democracy Australia, and the Liberal Democrats. Craig Kelly will be the leader, and don’t be surprised if you see Rod Culleton, George Christiansen, Matt Canavan, Malcom Roberts, Romeo Georges, and Cory Bernadi in the mix too. Unless of course they stay where they are to cause ruckus in the Coalition.
But it’s not just about winning seats, it’s about influencing the discourse. Flooding the media landscape with their messaging, via profiles and pages that look like authentic grassroots movements and people posting in good faith but aren’t. It’s millennial Social Media Managers pumping out memes, invading comment sections, creating content to control conversations, and radicalising new people into thinking they are on this righteous crusade.
And crucially, this does not just stay online. The whole point of the the digital / memetic / cognitive war is to have very real physical consequences.
We need to face up to the reality that we do not currently have a response to this. The digital landscape is still wide open to disinformation, and of course that is being exploited. It’s a serious fucking problem.
The Greatest Trick the Devil ever Pulled was convincing the world that progressive polices were part of some sinister plot for global 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 everyone at each other’s throats. Most people genuinely believe they are on the right side, doing the right thing, and fighting for a noble cause. If you tell good people that there is bad shit going on, then they will try to stop it. 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. If we can’t stop the spread, we need to be able to inoculate ourselves against this. 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.