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QAnon - Don't call it a conspiracy theory

We know a lot more about QAnon today as a result of some fantastic work by investigative journalists and a variety of experts across several...

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QAnon has no ideology

At first glance, the QAnon movement would appear to be pro-Trump and very right-wing. However, that aspect is just a vector into the mind-control aspect. The same people behind QAnon have also infiltrated left-wing movements like Occupy and NODAPL (The anti Dakota Access Pipeline movement).

These schemes have all had the same goal: inflicting mind-control on a population, subjecting them to a PSYOPs Alternative Reality Game (ARG) for the pure enjoyment of the malignant narcissist puppet masters. They use a narrative as the basis for the game, but really those at the top of the power pyramid have no sincere interest in the purported cause. It turns out, for whatever reasons, the QAnon narrative has had the most success in spreading the ARG virus, so they use that narrative as the basis for the game.

An ethical ARG, such as the Microsoft Halo ARG, sets guard rails to keep the players safe and keep the game fun. QAnon has no such guard rails. An unethical ARG with no guard rails is how you end up with someone storming into a pizza parlor, loaded for bear, terrifying patrons, looking for a non-existent basement, expecting to find trafficked children there, who were on the menu, then finding nothing and getting arrested.

Courtesy Steven Hassan - 

In the QAnon cult, like other mind-control cults, people that feel very high up are often in fact not, and they are not privy to the inner workings of the PSYOPs. This was certainly the case of very high-ranking members of the NXIVM cult, who eventually broke free and exposed the leaders.

The 'Pizzagate' gunman was left high-and-dry by the QAnon leaders. He was not part of the true inner circle. He was arrested and sentenced to four years in prison. He was simply a core devotee, serving the QAnon masters, spreading the ARG virus, but not at all doing service in curbing child trafficking or "stopping democrats" or any of the purported "right-wing" agenda of QAnon.

The FBI has designated the QAnon movement as a potential domestic extremist threat whose messages could lead to “violent acts.”
“The FBI assesses these conspiracy theories very likely will emerge, spread, and evolve in the modern information marketplace, occasionally driving both groups and individual extremists to carry out criminal or violent acts.” 

This is because the ARG has now managed to radicalize a particular segment of its followers who are preparing for violent confrontations and feel justified in such because of the PSYOPs brainwashing. Anything is justified if you're saving the world and protecting children. 

See QAnon: a timeline of violence linked to the conspiracy theory.

Also for more info on the QAnon scheme, see: QAnon - Don't call it a conspiracy theory which includes a link to a great 90-minute TEDxMidAtlantic video on the subject.

QAnon - Don't call it a conspiracy theory

We know a lot more about QAnon today as a result of some fantastic work by investigative journalists and a variety of experts across several disciplines becoming alarmed and getting involved.

Wikipedia defines QAnon as "a far-right conspiracy theory" that "alleges that a cabal of Satan-worshiping pedophiles is running a global child sex-trafficking ring and plotting against US President Donald Trump, who is battling against the cabal." But this is doing a disservice to simply refer to the movement as a "conspiracy theory." If you take nothing else away from this article, please note the following points:

  • QAnon is not a "conspiracy theory" -- it is a destructive, authoritarian cult.
  • QAnon is not left or right. It is mobilizing people for power, for power's sake to the benefit of malignant narcissists at the top of the power pyramid.
  • QAnon is not helping the fight against human trafficking. Human trafficking is a real problem and one of the best ways to learn more and to learn how you can help is the Polaris Project.

QAnon is a destructive, authoritarian cult

It's not a "crazy conspiracy theory" and despite a large number of followers being MAGA zealots, it is not "far-right" in that it has no ideology. It is a PSYOPs (Psychological operations) mind-control cult scheme. Its only objective is to exert power over people for power's sake. The media needs to get educated and start using appropriate language.

Unmasking Q

QAnon followers believe a shadowy persona of "Q" is at the center of cryptic clues and predictions posted online. In The men behind QAnon (ABCNews):
a consensus of leading researchers and critics who study and debunk QAnon disinformation told ABC News that a key to identifying "Q" has been hiding in plain sight for years -- on a pig farm south of Manila in the Philippines -- at least until recently.
... The two Americans most clearly associated with the author of thousands of "Q drops" dating back to October 2017 are James Arthur Watkins, 56, who gained control in 2015 of the controversial anonymous message board 8chan, and his son, Ronald Watkins, former 8chan administrator and current administrator of its successor, the Watkins-owned 8kun.

While the Watkins' are certainly major players, they may still not be the top of the pyramid. Likewise, Jason Gelinas, who was fired by Citibank, after being identified as the person behind the site

Another player, as reported by is Thomas Schoenberger, identified as one of the original developers of the QAnon movement.

“By March of 2017, Schoenberger’s crew linked up with Robert David Steele (former CIA) and William Binney (former NSA), members of VIPS (Veteran Intelligence Professionals for Sanity), a group of disaffected former intelligence officers and government officials who worked together writing editorials and sharing information. These groups came together and recruited the network that became Qanon,” the investigator told Heavy.

The deepest roots of QAnon appear to be earlier projects that became the prototype or "beta test" for QAnon, such as "Cicada 3301" known as an ARG "Alternate Reality Game" that recruited codebreakers through very difficult online puzzles, as well as other similar predecessors to QAnon such as FBIAnon and CIAAnon.

Hashtag #IGotOut

QAnon has all the trademarks of a cult. It breaks people down, then feeds them new information, replacing their thoughts and beliefs with new thoughts and beliefs, essentially making them a new person, and making them abandon the person they really are. It uses various PSYOPs techniques to insert phobias and disassociate victims. Cult expert Steven Hassan has started a movement with hashtag #IGotOut to encourage all people who have experienced authoritarian abuse: religious, political, commercial (trafficking, MLMs), cults of all shapes and sizes -- to end the stigma as the #MeToo movement did for sexual abuse of women. The idea is if even a small percentage of the millions of former cult members start sharing their stories, it will provide more of an off ramp for others.

Mind-control by malignant narcissists

While there are still mysteries in some of the details, such as the identities of all the players, QAnon as a whole is not a mystery anymore. It is an unethical ARG for the purpose of manipulating people. It is destroying lives and creating great harm.

Check out the terrific 90-minute TEDxMidAtlantic presentation Dismantling QAnon
to get a much more thorough picture.
Startling revelations reported by the Financial Times include indications that QAnon has its roots in the internet puzzle “Cicada 3301”; that a network of former disgruntled military and intelligence professionals has collaborated to lend the scheme legitimacy; that various people involved are connected to a 1930’s cult called “I AM”; and that many people involved with QAnon were also involved with “Occupy,” NODAPL protests at Standing Rock — and even connected to the people behind the disinformation film “Plandemic.”

Also see additional coverage from Financial Times and

QAnon is not helping the fight against human trafficking

One of the mind-control tricks of QAnon, common among cults, is to give its adherents a grand purpose, that they are part of a special club, in the case of QAnon, saving the world and bringing to justice an international cabal of satanic child traffickers. Unfortunately, it's all fake and very destructive to those actually fighting human trafficking.

Human trafficking is a real problem and one of the best ways to learn more and to learn how you can help is the Polaris Project.

Trump Has Delivered The One Promise That Matters To His Deplorables

Normal people are baffled that despite everything, Trump holds an unwavering 40% approval rating, and 90% approval among Republicans, essentially unchanged. Despite impeachment and a failed Coronavirus response, leaving the country ravaged with180,000 deaths and millions unemployed, while the virus rages on in America when other countries have brought it under control, it has almost no effect on his approval ratings.

Trump hasn't delivered anything substantive, none of his promises, no infrastructure, no healthcare; he didn't get rid of the deficit; Mexico didn't pay for a wall; he didn't bring back manufacturing; none of it. But none of that ever mattered, really. What he did promise is "We’re going to win so much, you’re going to be so sick and tired of winning." And this he has delivered, from their perspective. He understands that "winning" for them is having license to hate democrats, hate liberals, and be racist, out in the open, spewing right-wing talk radio vitriol as official positions.

When that lady in red told John McCain at a town hall that Obama was a Muslim who wasn't born in this country, they didn't want him to be the fact checker, and tell her she was wrong, to tell them that Obama is a good family man who they simply disagree with about policies. Oh no. That won't do. What they wanted is how Trump would have responded to that lady, how he has responded to all sorts of abhorrent behavior from right-wing media, from far-right groups, white-supremacists, and worse, from birtherism to "they're bringing rapists" to "very fine people on both sides" to "shithole countries" to the new Biden/Harris birtherism, to embracing a 17-year-old murderer as a hero -- this is what "winning" means, as far as his deplorables are concerned.

They don't really care about the rest of it. They pretend to, but they don't really. Until COVID-19 hit, when you talked to a Trumper about morality or lies, they'd say "sure, he says some stuff, but look at the economy!" (the economy he inherited from Obama, by the way). But now that unemployment is sky high, they offer something else; it doesn't matter what. Because it was never about policy, or jobs. When they speak of being "left behind" it's not really about jobs or manufacturing. It's about white-supremacy, or at the very least, white-privilege, even if many would never admit it, not even to themselves. The world is leaving behind these attitudes and "values" (can we call hatred a "value"?). That's what they're pissed off about. They want to be racist, dammit. They want to shit down the throat of liberals because liberals don't share these values. They literally wear "liberal tears" t-shirts, because that's what they really care about. Every time Trump repeats a Fox News or Twitter right-wing crazy lie, they love that stuff. That's "winning" -- and they're getting a belly full of it from Trump, so they love him. Biden, can't fill that need.

They will die on this hill too. Make no mistake. Trump has given them this new license to be "a good patriot" telling them their racism isn't racism, but just being a good American. And now killing liberals, BLM, antifa, is all embraced and admired by the president himself. You think they're going to give that up and go back to being seen as the ordinary folks, on the wrong side of history, they really are?

And it's sad because they're being manipulated to hate liberals, and vote against their own interests, instead of pointing that anger to those who are actually holding them down: Trump and his cronies, along with Democrats too, rake in billions of dollars, while giving out a measly one-time tax deferment here or some one-time payment there to the rest of us. Trump's people will vote for anything if it keeps Trump or others like Trump in charge. They will end social security, medicare, unions, better wages, healthcare, their own rights, as long as Trump sings the Fox News hysteria talking-points and keeps ramping up the cruelty upon their enemies. This is the new GOP. They can't go back from here.

He realized this when no one else did. He gambled that Fox News viewers had turned a leaf, that they had become radicalized. He was right. Everyone else was wrong. Biden can't satisfy this element. He will never get their vote. And if he wins anyway, watch out. This 42% are not going to go quietly. They are the "unpersuadables" and it's almost half of the country.

What will life under a Trump autocracy be like?

All indications are that the GOP and the American people are prepared to collude in the transformation to an authoritarian regime, meaning we will be living in a Trump dictatorship, if we haven't already crossed over. So what will that be like? We will have to accept it and make a decision about where we live and how we live.

For most people, every day life will not be that different. Dystopian nightmares come to mind whenever we think about authoritarian regimes, but walking the streets of modern authoritarian states one will see people going about their business as they always have. There are still movies and work and school and shopping. It's mostly boring and tolerable. According to writer G. Willow Wilson:

The difference is the steady disappearance of dissent from the public sphere. Anti-regime bloggers disappear. Dissident political parties are declared “illegal.” Certain books vanish from the libraries.

In Hungary for example:

The transition has been nonviolent, often not even very dramatic. Opponents of the regime are not murdered or imprisoned, although many are harassed with building inspections and tax audits. If they work for the government, or for a company susceptible to government pressure, they risk their jobs by speaking out. Nonetheless, they are free to emigrate anytime they like. Those with money can even take it with them. Day in and day out, the regime works more through inducements than through intimidation. The courts are packed, and forgiving of the regime’s allies. Friends of the government win state contracts at high prices and borrow on easy terms from the central bank. Those on the inside grow rich by favoritism; those on the outside suffer from the general deterioration of the economy. As one shrewd observer told me on a recent visit, “The benefit of controlling a modern state is less the power to persecute the innocent, more the power to protect the guilty.”
- How to Build an Autocracy - The Atlantic 
In a Trump authoritarian regime, for many people, life will go on without much change. Obviously things will get worse for some people, particularly those that have already suffered, such as people of color, women, and immigrants.

Elections won't matter. One could argue that elections haven't mattered for a long time, but in a Trump dictatorship dynasty, they really won't matter. All the power will be centralized in the Trump crime family. There will likely be the appearance of elections but somehow, just like with Putin, Trump always wins in a landslide.

If we look at the recent developments with the impeachment inquiry and the Trump camp's response, they are simply ignoring more and more laws and norms. Their defense is to simply break more laws in the open on live TV in an attempt to normalize it. This is exactly what dictators do.

If this were happening in Honduras, we’d know what to call it. It’s happening here instead, and so we are baffled.

The Trump supporters will be happy with all this, at least until the policies and deficits start to hit them directly, or when they run out of people to blame their plight on. Trump will certainly continue to use fear, the bible, and find scapegoats in attempt to maintain their support, and he may keep their support for many years.

Americans need not look far to see what this kind of boring authoritarianism looks like. As University of Michigan political scientist Robert Mickey has argued, swaths of the US South were effectively under one-party rule during parts of the 20th century.
- Life in authoritarian states is mostly boring and tolerable, Vox
I've accepted that Trump is winning. He controls the military and A.G. Barr controls all law enforcement. What else does he need? He and is legal team are making the case that the law doesn't apply to him. Who is going to stop him? There aren't 20 republican senators with the courage or morals to convict him. They have already said they will settle the impeachment by Christmas in time for the republican primaries, business as usual. They already know how they're going to vote, regardless of the evidence presented at trial.

It is happening here. Make peace with it. 

It's a good time to review this: How to Survive an Authoritarian Government which contains this list:

  1. Assume all communications and activities are monitored.
  2. Do not trust any information released by the government.
  3. Support the production and dissemination of independent media.
  4. Move banned activities and observances underground.
  5. If necessary, change your identity.
  6. If you are able, shield those more vulnerable than yourself.
  7. Have a hiding place or escape plan ready.
  8. Make room for culture, even in dark times.
  9. Support labor unions and work stoppages.
  10. Keep the spirit of resistance alive and never lose hope.

A message from the future.

Reporting from Sweden 2037.

Donald Trump, the ‘dealmaker’ president of America died today. He was 91. He ruled for more than two-decades, making him the longest-serving president, surpassing Franklin D. Roosevelt who served four consecutive terms.

As expected, Jared Kushner, 56, will assume the title of president of America according to the results of a vote of National Electors.

Trump won the presidency in a surprise populist ‘Make America Great Again’ movement. Trump used his skills in legal maneuvering to consolidate power and establish a totalitarian government. His Attorney General acted as his ’Roy Cohn’ firewall enabling Trump to declare the traditional pre-Trump U.S. law invalid, refusing to recognize constitutional norms. Trump as commander of the military and A.G. Barr overseeing all law enforcement, left all other institutions powerless.

Trump was to be removed from office at the end of his term by the Federal Marshal Service, but Attorney General Barr ordered the marshals to stand-down, declaring a “deep-state emergency.”

Barr was later found dead under mysterious circumstances and Trump’s son-in-law, Jared Kushner became Attorney General.

Widely reviled for his many abuses of power, Trump was held up as a savior earlier in his administration by politicians and intellectuals who should have known better. Many believed the institutions would survive the ‘mad king’ and still others were sure politicians with future aspirations like Barr, or Vice President Mike Pence, or others would eventually put on the brakes. But Trump and his family outmaneuvered them all and in the end there was no one left to oppose him.

Trump told Swedish News in 2033 that “we have never, ever rigged an election.”

Trump gradually eliminated most government institutions and cabinet positions, filling all remaining positions with family members. The Congress and Supreme Court were marginalized to become rubber stamp institutions.

But his policies ultimately led the country to economic collapse and the brink of starvation. America is a failed state at the moment.

The Paradox of Political Polarization

One of my favorite podcasts is David McRaney You Are Not So Smart. He recently interviewed Lilliana Mason, author of the book Uncivil Agreement, How Politics Became Our Identity. It's a great interview about an interesting book and you should check it out. When I first listened to this interview some months back, I was fascinated and I've been meaning to write about it ever since. At the end of the interview it takes a very interesting turn. McRaney asks “What do we do? How do we fix it?”
Now you say in the book that as long as this social divide is maintained, then we’re going to behave more like warring tribes than unified nations of people who have different values and different ideas about what policies should be enacted. Now, it’s just like the side has to win and the other side has to lose, no matter what. I feel like these are both the same question, which is, “What do we do? How do we fix it?” I’m just going to stop talking and let you talk as long as you want about that, because I think that is the thing that people want to hear most from you, once you have made them feel as bad as I currently feel.
Mason then goes on to explain a number of things and suggests that one can practice techniques to avoid snap judgments and stereotypes "you can create, by practicing, a secondary response which can follow the first one relatively quickly that says wait don’t assume that. Give this person a chance. They’re a human being. They have family. They care about people." And then the kicker:

The problem with this is that it requires motivation.
People from more homogenous groups, for instance rural white and Christian, are seldom exposed to other religions, races, or cultures "and the more isolated they are, the less they’re going to be motivated to try to understand outsiders." Conversely, those who have social circles including people who are racially or religiously distinct from them have more motivation to be tolerant. "That means the people who are probably reaching out to you saying, 'I want to change this. I want to be more tolerant,' are the people who are already more tolerant and probably more exposed to people who are unlike them."

This itself falls along party lines:
What I found is that people who are largely in the Republican Party, because the Republican Party is largely white and Christian and straight, they tend to be socially exposed to other partisans who are very similar to them. It’s relatively rare for a Republican to meet another Republican who is racially or religiously distinct from them. Democrats are the party of everybody else. Democrats were 56 percent white, 19 percent black, and 17 percent Hispanic in 2016. So, for Democrats, any given Democrat is likely going to be exposed to another partisan member or another party member who is racially or religiously distinct from them, because there are plenty of very religious Democrats who are people of color, and there are plenty of very secular, white Democrats. Within the larger party umbrella, Democrats tend to be exposed to people unlike them on a much more regular basis, or at the very least they think of the people in their party and their group as more diverse.
The people who need to try the most are the people who are the least inclined to try. 
Saying everyone needs to behave the same way to fix this problem is not exactly correct, because it’s the people who are the most socially isolated who really need to practice this the most. It’s unclear to me exactly how to motivate that, because that’s an extremely threatening thing to say to somebody who feels very comfortable in their homogeneous socially homogeneous group.
This to me is similar to the paradox of fact checking. For those that want to know the facts, they're already doing fact checking. For those that need to live in a bubble, better fact-checking tools are not going to change anything because they won't use them nor will they trust them - they'll just scream fake-news whenever the facts don't align with their required alternative reality.

Mason wants us to stop framing things as a zero-sum game:
We need to find a way to step back and think, “OK, what’s the greater good?” Find a way to think about what is the best for the most people. Obviously, it’s not human instinct to do that. But we’ve done it before and we had crosscutting identities between the parties not that long ago. It is possible for us to have crosscutting identities again. That would link us to the other side in terms of thinking of them as human beings.
And the author provides a really good idea of working together in service to improve our understanding and compassion for each other.
The last thing that I’ll say is that the one policy that I’ve thought of this since I wrote the book that could work would be service. One way to get people of varying backgrounds to work together is to put them work together doing some type of service. Working in a soup kitchen or building houses for Habitat or working in Peace Corps or doing something in the military. The military is a giant melting pot of all different kinds of political orientations. One thing that could be helpful is to work together. This is my like moonshot idea.
Check out the full interview and the transcript.

Clinton was right about this too

We refer to them as "Trump 's base" but really that "base" the true #cult45 bunch, that roughly one-third that won't go away, is simply a cadre of racist, sexist, homophobic, folks. They were there before Trump, and more importantly, they'll be there after Trump (assuming there is an "after Trump").

They are essentially white-supremacists who fear losing their privileged position in society. Trump didn't invent them. He activated them and gave them a voice. Of course he doesn't really care about them, and in fact, deep down I think even they know that. They know he lies and he is mostly full of shit and they probably even know he is basically incompetent and a Christian faker - in fact, many evangelicals have said as much. But they support him anyway, because he successfully tapped into that fear and racism. He may be an idiot, but on this he beat them all.

Consider this exchange between Jeffrey Toobin and Rick Santorum, where Toobin claims "Donald Trump could hang on the ceilings having sex with anybody he likes" and "all that talk about character we heard about Bill Clinton and the role model to Americans, that's all nonsense, right?" and Santorum can only reply that "it's very disturbing to me and I don't like it" but he still supports him, to make Toobin's point.

Few of them will admit that they're racists, and in fact many sincerely believe they aren't racist; that's how denial and cognitive dissonance works. But it comes through clearly in their words and actions, sometimes subtle, often direct and outspoken. We keep wanting to say it's not about race; we want to deny it because we wish it were not so. But it is about race to a very large degree.

It's certainly not all Trump voters. Hillary Clinton took shit for it and continues to but she was absolutely right when she said "half of Trump's supporters" (not all) really could be put into a "basket of deplorables" -- that basket is out there now and they aren't ever going to change their mind about Trump because he let them climb out from under their rocks and claim their white-privilege proudly. They feel safe with their racism now being more blatant. They still use coded dog-whistle language and (supposed) "hoaxes" like the white-power OK sign, but the winks are out there in plain sight. White-pride, white culture, white identity movements, these are all part of the discussion now.

This is not going to end with Trump.