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Tag: michael flynn

Mike Flynn's 'Digital Soldiers' Wage Conspiracy Warfare

The three men and three women stood with their right arms raised. Behind them the remains of the daylight hued the sky a bluish gray. As a fire danced at their feet, they gazed straight ahead at a camera recording their words. The square-jawed man in the middle, retired Lieutenant General Michael T. Flynn, spoke first. The others, including members of his family, repeated after him.

“I do solemnly swear…”

I…do solemnly swear…

“That I will support and defend…”

That I will support and defend…

“The Constitution of the United States…”

The Constitution of the United States…

The setting for this oath-taking ceremony wasn’t West Point or a U.S. military base. It looked like someone’s backyard, and instead of formal military uniforms, the six participants wore khaki shorts, hoodies, and, in the case of one woman, a white dress decorated with political catchphrases such as “crooked Hillary,” “sleepy Joe,” and “rocket man.” After they had finished reciting the Army’s oath of office, Flynn added a final line: “Where we go one, we go all.”

Where we go one, we go all!

On July 4, 2020, Flynn uploaded this video and the hashtag “#TakeTheOath” to his Twitter account and shared it with his 781,000 followers.

His video quickly went viral and triggered a wave of news coverage. Those seven words Flynn tacked onto the end of the officer’s oath — “Where we go one, we go all” — had first appeared in a mediocre 1990s movie, White Squall, starring Jeff Bridges. More recently, though, the phrase and its acronym, WWG1WGA, had become a rallying cry associated with QAnon, the bizarre conspiracy theory about a supposed cabal of pedophile elites in the Democratic Party and Hollywood who secretly run the world, while harvesting the adrenal glands of children in order to live forever. The Flynn family insisted that the oath was a family tradition having nothing to do with QAnon. (Flynn’s relatives even sued media outlets that claimed a connection.)

In the two years since that moment, what strikes me about that video isn’t the possibility of a QAnon connection, which, to be clear, the Flynn family has unequivocally denied. What stays with me is the pseudo-oath itself and what it catches about this moment in our history.

As you’ll undoubtedly recall, in 2017, Flynn briefly served as President Donald Trump’s first national security adviser, a post he held until it emerged that he had misled the FBI and Vice President Mike Pence about conversations he’d had with the Russian ambassador during the 2016 election campaign. Before that, Flynn had served as a top intelligence officer in Iraq and then Afghanistan, where he worked closely with General Stanley McChrystal who commanded American forces there in 2009 and 2010.

After that perjury scandal drove him out of the Trump administration — don’t cry for Flynn; the president would later pardon him — Flynn returned to civilian life. And yet, to hear him tell it, he never left the battlefield. Where once he had led intelligence officers and trained soldiers in the Middle East, he began speaking about a different kind of battle space. Now, Flynn talks about armies of “digital soldiers” who’ve led an “insurgency” against the political establishment not abroad but right here in America. Flynn has even trademarked the phrase “digital soldiers” and has been listed as a speaker at a Digital Soldiers Conference.

“This was not an election,” he assured the attendees of a Young Americans for Freedom conference. “This was a revolution.”

It’s become common enough to talk about all the ways our wars have “come home.” By this, however, what’s usually meant is the way the veterans of this century’s all-American conflicts continue to grapple with physical disabilities or mental trauma; or perhaps the military-grade vehicles and weaponry the Pentagon has, in these years, handed out to police departments nationwide; or even the way Pentagon budgets continue to soar while lawmakers so often have trimmed federal funding for education, health care, and other safety-net activities.

But after spending the last five years writing a book about conspiracy theories, online cultures, and the real-world harm of digital disinformation, I’ve noticed another way our forever wars have come home. America’s war-making mindset now dominates basic aspects of our domestic political landscape, transforming what once were civil disagreements into a form of partisan or ideological combat. Michael Flynn and his digital soldiers are just symptoms of a country in which members of rival parties or tribes view each other as subhuman, as nothing short of the enemy. And the online spaces where those parties increasingly meet — Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, and other social-media platforms — feel ever less like the proverbial public square and ever more like so many war zones.

In this online battlespace, victory is fleeting and defeat never final, but the casualties are all too real — of fact and truth, memory and reality. I know this because I’ve spent half a decade walking the trenches of those digital forever wars as I pieced together the story of one of their casualties. I was seeking to understand how we got here and whether there’s a way out.

His Name Was Seth Rich

In the early morning hours of July 10, 2016, 27-year-old Seth Rich was walking home from a bar in northwest Washington, D.C. He worked for the Democratic National Committee (DNC), that party’s central organizing hub, and was on the cusp of accepting a job with Hillary Clinton’s campaign and so fulfilling a childhood dream of working on a presidential run. Rich was two blocks from his house when he was shot and killed in what police believe was an attempted armed robbery.

In the months to come, however, his murder would reverberate all too eerily through Washington and across the country. It was hard not to feel grief upon learning that such a bright light had been extinguished so cruelly and suddenly. As it happened, Rich and I even had friends in common. We had played on the same weekend recreational soccer team. In fact, our biographies weren’t all that different — two Midwestern guys, him from Nebraska, me from Michigan, who had moved to Washington after college to try to leave our marks on the world, him in politics and me in journalism. When I learned about his murder, I felt a profound sadness. I also couldn’t shake a there-but-for-the-grace-of-god-go-I feeling that it could’ve been me after a late night out with friends.

Once Rich’s family had laid him to rest in his native Omaha, I expected, like so many others, that the brief frenzy of attention his death had brought would simply vanish. The nosy reporters and TV cameramen would move on to their next story. Rich’s family would receive the space they needed to grieve. They and his friends would gather to remember him on the anniversary of his death or his birthday. They’d tell stories about the head-to-toe Stars-and-Stripes outfits he sometimes wore or his obsession with The West Wing TV show. Perhaps they’d even toast his memory with pints of his favorite beer, Bell’s Two-Hearted Ale.

But that isn’t what happened. Not faintly.

As the police search for Rich’s killer or killers dragged on, a howling mob began to fill the void. Wild speculation and fantastical theories about his death started to appear online with viral hashtags — #IAmSethRich, #HisNameWasSethRich, #SethRich — while memes surfaced on political message boards leading, eventually, to elaborate conspiracy theories that would spread globally. Those theories initially originated on the far left, with claims (lacking a shred of evidence) that Rich had been killed by the Clinton family for trying to blow the whistle on or expose wrongdoing by the DNC.

And then, like a virus jumping from host to host, a new version of that conspiracy theory took a firm hold on the far right, its promoters insisting — again, without a scintilla of evidence — that Rich, not Russian-affiliated hackers (as concluded by cybersecurity experts, federal law enforcement, and the U.S. intelligence community), had hacked the DNC and stolen tens of thousands of its emails and other records, later providing those pilfered documents to the radical transparency group WikiLeaks. After WikiLeaks published those stolen DNC documents at the height of the 2016 campaign, its founder Julian Assange, in an apparent attempt to obfuscate the source of those records, dangled Rich’s name in a way that suggested he, not Russia, might have been the source.

In the hands of online commenters, political operatives like Republican dirty trickster Roger Stone, crowdfunded MAGA influencers, and primetime Fox News hosts including Sean Hannity, the story of Seth Rich’s life and death would then be warped into something altogether different: a foundational conspiracy theory for the twenty-first century.

Casualty of a Culture War

My book about the Rich saga, A Death on W Street: The Murder of Seth Rich and the Age of Conspiracy, began when I asked myself a simple question: How could that young man’s death have grown into something so vast and hideous? And what did it say about this increasingly strange country, our ever more perverse politics, and what may lie in our future? Put another way, I wanted to know how a regular guy, someone not so different from me, could become the fixation of millions, his name and face strewn across the Internet, his life story exploited and contorted until it became unrecog­nizable to those who knew him.

With time, I came to see Rich’s life and death as a genuine, if grim, parable for twenty-first-century America — a “skeleton key” potentially capable of unlocking so many doors leading toward a clearer understanding of how we ended up here. By here, of course, I mean a nation millions of whose citizens believe that the last election was stolen or fraudulent, that Covid vaccines can’t be trusted, and that only Donald Trump can defeat the secret cabal of pedophile elites and “deep state” operatives who supposedly pull all the strings in America.

As I write in my new book, we now live in

“a time when it feels like truth is what­ever the loudest and most extreme voices say it is, not where the evi­dence leads, what the data show, or what the facts reveal. A moment when people can say whatever they want about anyone else, dead or alive, famous or obscure, and in the wrong hands, that information can take on a life of its own.”

But it wasn’t until I rewatched Michael Flynn’s 2020 #TakeTheOath video that I saw the connection between America’s disastrous forever wars and its fractured political system at home.

A vicious conspiracy theory such as QAnon or Pizzagate, a dark and disturbing fiction about a supposed child-trafficking operation run by Democratic Party leaders out of a D.C. pizzeria, does more than advance some fantastical and wildly implausible claim about a group of people. It dehumanizes them. By accusing someone of the most evil acts imaginable, you rob him or her of humanity and dignity. In the simplest yet most warlike terms imaginable, you cast them as the enemy, as someone to be defeated — if not with real weapons, then with cruel tweets and deceptive videos.

And of course, there’s no shortage of evidence that digital soldiering can lead to actual violence. In December 2016, a North Carolina man who had watched Pizzagate videos online drove to that D.C. pizza joint targeted by conspiracy theories, walked inside armed with an AR-15 rifle, and fired three shots into a closet. He believed himself on a mission to save the children. Instead, he received a four-year prison sentence. And it’s only gotten worse since. The January 6, 2021, insurrection might have been the starkest evidence that Internet-fueled fantasies — in that case, of a stolen presidential election — could have grave consequences in the actual world.

The casualties of such conspiracy theories are all too real. Four Trump supporters died on January 6th during the insurrection, while multiple police officers at the Capitol that day would die in the weeks that followed. And even though Seth Rich was killed by an unknown assailant — the investigation into his homicide remains ongoing — you could say that he, too, was a casualty of our online wars. His name and memory were twisted and weaponized into something wholly unrecognizable, then harnessed for causes he would never have endorsed by people he would have been unlikely to agree with. Seth’s mother, Mary, once described to an interviewer what all this felt like to her: “Your son is murdered again and this time it’s worse than the first time. We lost his body the first time and the second time we lost his soul.”

Lay Down Your Digital Arms

What, if anything, can be done to demobilize those armies of digital soldiers? What could convince people to lay down their “arms” and treat so many of the rest of us with humanity, even if they disagreed with us?

I’ve thought a lot about such questions in the past several years. The spread of online disinformation has been deemed a crisis by experts and watchdogs — in 2020, former president Barack Obama called it “the single biggest threat to our democracy” — but what to do about it is an especially thorny question in a country with strong protections for free speech.

There are any number of ideas floating around about how to combat disinformation and conspiracy theories, while putting facts and truth back at the heart of our political system. Those include forcing Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube to rework their algorithms to deemphasize hyperbolic content and using “prebunks” before such deceptive information appears to inoculate people against it rather than having to debunk it later.

I have a few ideas of my own after spending five years on a book significantly about the conspiracy theories spreading ever more widely and wildly in our world. But let me here just offer a couple of modest suggestions for each of us in our daily lives.

The first is simple enough: Think before you post. (Or tweet, or TikTok, or whatever.) Disinformation spreads because people — and occasionally bots — spread it, sometimes on purpose, but often enough remarkably unwittingly. Before you retweet that spicy takedown tweet or share a friend’s fiery Facebook post, read it again and think twice. Check that it’s real. And take a moment to ponder whether adding your voice to a growing din of outrage is really what this world of ours needs right now.

The second suggestion is something of a throwback: Put down your devices. Talk to a neighbor. Talk to a stranger. In person. It’s a lot harder to demonize or dehumanize someone you disagree with if you meet them face to face. It’s an old-school solution to a decidedly postmodern problem. Still, it may, in the end, be the only reasonable way to defuse this fraught political moment — one where, in a distinctly over-armed country, all too many Americans are dreaming about a future civil war — and find our way back to something approaching common ground.

Copyright 2022 Andy Kroll

Andy Kroll is an investigative journalist with ProPublica based in Washington, D.C. His just-published book is A Death on W Street: The Murder of Seth Rich and the Age of Conspiracy. Follow him on Twitter at @AndyKroll and on Facebook.

Reprinted with permission from TomDispatch

Barr Deputy's Report Debunked 'Unmasking' Accusations Against Democrats

A newly disclosed U.S. Department of Justice's investigatio has determined that members of former President Barack Obama's administration had no interest in revealing General Michael Flynn's identity “for political purposes or other inappropriate reasons.”

According to BuzzFeed, the report is based on months of investigative research on the so-called “'unmasking' of Flynn" who briefly held the position of U.S. National Security Advisor under former President Donald Trump's administration before he submitted his resignation in February 2017. Flynn's resignation came amid scrutiny and questions about the nature of his conversations with Russia’s ambassador to the US.

Per Buzzfeed: "Republicans later accused officials in the Obama administration of using their positions to reveal anonymized names in classified documents, known in the intelligence community as unmasking, in order to target individuals in Trump’s orbit."

Amid those accusations, former U.S. Attorney General Bill Barr ordered that an investigation be launched to further assess the allegations. The investigation was conducted by John Bash, who at the time, worked as a U.S. Attorney for the Western District of Texas. Although the investigation was closed back in 2020, the report had not been made public.

Bash has made it clear that his "review has uncovered no evidence that senior Executive Branch officials sought the disclosure of' the identities of US individuals 'in disseminated intelligence reports for political purposes or other inappropriate reasons during the 2016 presidential-election period or the ensuing presidential-transition period.'"

Bash further expounded on his findings in the written statement for his report. Although he admitted that he did not see any justification for a criminal investigation into those suspected of being involved in the "unmasking," he also said "he was 'troubled' by 'how easy it is for political appointees of the incumbent administration to obtain nonpublic information about individuals associated with a presidential campaign or a transition team.'”

“There exists a significant potential for misuse of such information— misuse that could be difficult to detect,” Bash wrote. His report recommended that the intelligence community consider implementing “certain prophylactic safeguards for unmasking requests that relate to presidential campaigns or transitions, including a more demanding substantive standard for granting those requests, special notification requirements, and a centralized approval process.”

Reprinted with permission from Alternet.

Pardoned Traitor Mike Flynn Urges West To Abandon Ukraine

Ex-National Security Adviser and retired Army Lieutenant General Michael Flynn said on Wednesday that the United States, the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, and the European Union should cease supplying Ukraine with military aid to fend off invading Russian forces.

Flynn, whose deep ties to Russian President Vladimir Putin and the Kremlin ultimately sank his career, appeared on the right-wing propaganda show The Absolute Truth with Emerald Robinson and said that arming Ukraine accomplishes nothing except prolonging the conflict that Putin initiated just shy of two months ago.

"If you listen to Western media, it sounds like Ukraine is holding off Russia. But if you listen to not Western media, it sounds like Russia has the upper hand. So which is it?" Robinson asked Flynn.

"Yeah so first of all let me give you my judgment on sorta where we are right now. I think that anybody that continues to put, ya know, fuel on a blazing fire – meaning more weapons, more ammunition, more of the sorta warfare type stuff that's thrown into this fire – is going to keep this fire blazing for a long, long time," Flynn replied, adding that "I think that doesn't benefit anybody."

Watch below via Ron Filipkowski:

Context is critical: Flynn has been a Russian asset for a long time.

Recall that after former President Donald Trump won the 2016 election, outgoing President Barack Obama warned him not to include Flynn in his administration because of Flynn's entanglements with Russia. But Trump hired Flynn to be his national security adviser anyway. Flynn's historically brief stint in Trump's White House ended abruptly when he was fired for lying to then-Vice President Mike Pence about his relationships with Moscow during the 2016 presidential race.

In 2017, Flynn was subsequently charged with and pleaded guilty to lying to the Federal Bureau of Investigation about his secret communications with the Russians and undeclared lobbying work for Turkey when he was questioned in then-Special Counsel Robert Mueller's investigation into the Trump campaign's "synergy" with the Kremlin. Flynn eventually retracted his plea and changed his story, triggering a protracted legal battle.

In February of 2020, the Department of Justice recommended that Flynn serve six months in prison. Trump went on to pardon Flynn on November 25th, 2020 following his reelection loss to President Joe Biden three weeks earlier. That action granted Flynn an opportunity to join Trump's forthcoming efforts to overturn the results of the election, which culminated in the Capitol insurrection on January 6th, 2021.

Since then, Flynn has championed the rubbish put out by Putin and has openly called for armed rebellion against the federal government. He has also been an integral part of the right-wing's seditious efforts to dismantle American democracy.

Thus, Flynn is not urging peace. Rather, he is demanding that the West allow Russia to take over Ukraine unchallenged.

Twitter users noted that abandoning Ukraine would benefit someone – Putin.

And now a word from Flynn's sponsor:

Published with permission from Alternet.

Michael Flynn Envisions ‘Myanmar-Style Coup’ In U.S.

Former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn is among the far-right MAGA Republicans who tried to help former President Donald Trump carry out a coup d’état and overturn the 2020 election results. Flynn envisioned the U.S. military playing a prominent role in the coup, and according to New York Times reporter Robert Draper, he is still promoting the Big Lie a year into Joe Biden’s presidency.

Flynn, in fact, wanted Trump to declare martial law during the post-election lame duck period of late 2020/early 2021 — a terrifying thought in light of how bloody the military coup in Myanmar has been.

“While [attorney Sidney] Powell was pursuing legal options for reversing the election results,” Draper explains in an article published by the Times on February 4, “Flynn was beginning to envision a military role. ‘It’s not unprecedented,’ Flynn, describing the nascent plan, insisted to Newsmax host Greg Kelly on December 17 [2020]. ‘I mean, these people out there talking about martial law, like it’s something that we’ve never done. Martial law has been instituted 64 times, Greg,’ he said, then added, ‘I’m not calling for that.’”

Draper continues, “But by that point, Flynn was, in fact, calling for sending in the military to the contested states.”

The Times reporter adds that Patrick Byrne, former CEO of the e-commerce site and a right-wing activist, “told me that by December 16, he had lined up a series of options for the president to consider, including using uniformed officials to confiscate voting machines and ballots in six states. Flynn suggested to Byrne that the National Guard and U.S. marshals in combination would be the most suited to the job.”

In the weeks that followed, Draper notes, Flynn “continued to agitate for military intervention.”

Now, in 2022, Flynn continues to promote the false and totally debunked claim that the 2020 election was stolen from Trump and that Biden wasn’t legitimately elected. In MAGA World, Draper writes, “Flynn is probably the single greatest draw besides Trump himself.”

Draper observes, “Flynn possesses unique credibility among the ex-president’s followers, with his own compelling storyline: that of a distinguished intelligence official who, he claims, experienced first-hand the nefariousness of the Deep State…. In the year since Flynn sought to enlist the military in overturning the election, he has continued to fight the same battle by other means. He has been a key figure in spreading the gospel of the stolen election.”

According to Amnesty International, almost 1500 people have been killed in Myanmar since the military coup — a coup that Flynn has described as something the U.S. should emulate.

Draper notes, “Flynn’s suggestion at a conference last May that a Myanmar-style military coup ‘should happen’ in the United States led Rep. Elaine Luria, a moderate Democrat from Virginia and former Navy commander, to argue that Flynn should be tried for sedition under the Uniform Code of Military Justice.”

Reprinted with permission from Alternet

Former National Guard Chief Accuses General Flynn Of 'Outright Perjury' Over Capitol Riot

Reprinted with permission from DailyKos

A former D.C. National Guard official blasted the Pentagon inspector general’s report on the military’s response to the January 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol and directly accused two top generals of lying about their role in the delays deploying the National Guard that day. Previously, the former commander of the D.C. National Guard—who now serves as the House sergeant-at-arms—had called for the retraction of the same inspector general’s report.

William Walker, who was the commanding general of the D.C. National Guard on January 6, and Col. Earl Matthews, who was then Walker’s top attorney, both say that the Pentagon’s claims about when Walker was cleared to deploy troops to the Capitol are flatly false. Matthews laid out his rebuttal of the inspector general’s report in a 36-page memo to the January 6 House select committee, again saying, as has been widely reported since January, that Gen. Charles Flynn and Lt. Gen. Walter Piatt, both senior Army officials, opposed a National Guard deployment in a 2:30 p.m. phone call, and calling both men “absolute and unmitigated liars” for their denials that they did so.

National Guard officials say the Defense Department’s story about that 2:30 p.m. phone call has changed repeatedly, and at one point Piatt admitted that yes, he “may have expressed concern” about a National Guard deployment to the Capitol—something that Piatt then denied in a written response to the House Oversight Committee in June. Matthews described that denial as “false and misleading,” but used stronger words for Flynn’s claim that he “never expressed a concern about the visuals, image, or public perception of” such a deployment. That, Matthews wrote, was “outright perjury.”

Former Capitol Police Chief Steven Sund and Washington, D.C., officials have also said that Piatt opposed a National Guard presence at the Capitol.

The 2:30 p.m. call is a key step in the hours-long delay in responding to the bloody attack on the Capitol by supporters of Donald Trump. It is incontrovertibly true that Walker did not at that point get permission to deploy the D.C. National Guard, but when he did get that permission is in dispute. According to the inspector general’s report, Walker was given permission in a 4:35 p.m. call with Army Secretary Ryan McCarthy. Walker says that call did not happen, and that he did not get permission until 5:08 p.m. You would think that if there was a phone call, the Defense Department would have records of it, but, according to The Washington Post, the inspector general’s report cites “an anonymous Army official” in its conclusion that McCarthy gave Walker the go-ahead at 4:35 p.m.

In Senate testimony earlier this year, Robert Salesses, a top Pentagon official, initially said Walker got permission at 4:32 p.m. only to walk it back: “In fairness to General Walker, too, that’s when the [acting] secretary of defense made the decision—at 4:32,” Salesses said. “As General Walker has pointed out, because I’ve seen all the timelines, he was not told that until 5:08.”

Like Walker, Matthews fiercely disputes the 4:35 p.m. claim, calling it “an outrageous assertion … as insulting as it is false,” and saying that McCarthy himself had been “incommunicado or unreachable for most of the afternoon.”

Walker and Matthews both obviously have huge incentives to point the finger outside the D.C. National Guard, just as the Defense Department has huge incentives to point the finger away from itself. But we do know that multiple people have said Flynn and Piatt had the role in the 2:30 p.m. phone call that Matthews describes, and that the Army’s accounts of that call changed in the weeks following January 6. This is definitely an issue that requires further investigation, and the select committee had better be on it.

QAnon Cult Split By 'Civil War' Sparked By Lin Wood's Attacks On Michael Flynn

According to The Daily Beast, the latest Make America Great Again (MAGA) intraparty feud involves Trump-loyalist and conspiracy-driven attorney Lin Wood and former Trump National Security Adviser Michael Flynn.

Although Wood has a reputation for backing far-right conservatism and conspiracy theories, most recently he has faced scrutiny for attacking other well-known conservative figures and releasing incriminating audio clips.

During a recent segment of the podcast Fever Dreams, co-host Will Sommer shed light on the clash between Wood and Flynn. Per Sommer's report, the controversy surrounding Wood escalated when he released audio clips of Flynn. The incriminating audio reportedly featured Flynn's deeply critical remarks about the "pro-Trump conspiracy theory" QAnon being a Central Intelligence Agency (CIA)-backed plot.

In the wake of Flynn's remarks, Sommer noted that “QAnon’s been very good to Michael Flynn. Some of them believe he’s Q… I mean this is a guy who is thick as thieves with QAnon. But privately, [he calls it] a ‘CIA operation. It’s nonsense.’ So this is a pretty big break from what he does publicly.”

The whole ordeal has contributed to a domino effect on other issues. Per The Beast: "As a result, pro- and anti-Flynn factions inside QAnon have been ripping into each other on Telegram and other right-wing social media platforms."

Sommer also expounded on the aftermath describing it as a form of "civil war."

“This has basically started a big civil war… including, I should say, the JFK Jr. people in Dallas. So they’ve all sided with Lin," Sommer said. "Michael Flynn, obviously, has his own adherents—but this has really, like, started a lot of drama."

He added, “They’re calling it a civil war but maybe it’s more like a prison riot… this has also set off a lot of people who have beefs with people on the other side, but that are totally unrelated to this. But now they’re seeing this as their opportunity to settle scores with their rivals… things are all on fire over there.”

Flynn Aiming For A Violent, Ultranationalist, Theocratic Coup Against Democracy

Reprinted with permission from AlterNet

Michael Flynn is always in the news for the worst reasons.

Today, it's because of the former Trump advisor's feud with Lin Wood and the leaking of messages and audio recording during which he calls QAnon “total nonsense” as well as a CIA psy-op. Last time, he was calling for a single religion in the United States. Time before that, QAnon members accused him of being a Satanist for a sermon at a church drawing from a former New Age apocalyptic leader.

Next time, it may be for something worse. In any case, everything Flynn has been doing suggests that QAnon or not, his audience, his rhetoric and his goals are far more concrete and far more sinister than the mocking media coverage suggests. Let’s start in September.

On September 17, Flynn was at the “Opening the Heavens” Conference at the Lord of Hosts Church in Omaha, Nebraska. That event claimed to be “an annual, multi-day event where the prophetic heart of God and the manifestation of His supernatural power are demonstrated to those in attendance and [those] viewing online around the world!”Flynn spoke alongside a number of “prophetic” pastors, including Gene Bailey, executive director of Kenneth Copeland ministries, whose spiritual warfare preaching got the heavy-metal treatment last year.

Flynn’s speech made news due to QAnon’s reaction to it. It was said to be Satanic, ironic given QAnon’s resemblance to the Satanic Panic of the 1980s. Flynn’s speech resembled a 1984 sermon by Elizabeth Clare Prophet, founder of the Church Universal and Triumphant, a New Age apocalyptic group best known for their move to bunkers in Montana to await a prophesied nuclear apocalypse in 1990. Not only was it a failed doomsday cult, but it was a theosophic movement, something associated with Lucifer by its 18th-century founder.

Flynn said he felt called to St. Michael, the archangel and his namesake. While the link between Prophet and Flynn is interesting, the text of Flynn’s “Archangel Prayer” is all by itself not so great:

We are your instrument
Of those sevenfold rays
And all your archangels, all of them
We will not retreat, we will not retreat
We will stand our ground
We will not fear to speak
We will be the instrument of your will
Whatever it is
In your name, and in the names of your legions
We are freeborn, and shall remain freeborn
And we shall not be enslaved by any foe
Within or without
So help me God.

“Seven rays” is a concept used in theosophy and in the Summit Lighthouse. Prophet’s prayer to Archangel Michael, which people have compared Flynn’s sermon, is not only part of the theosophic movement, but an aggressively anti-Communist talk, ending:

Archangel Michael, Stand with me!
Save my child!
Save my household!
Save my nation and bind those Communist hordes!

Others can analyze the I AM movement and its issues, but the use of militant religious language and the comparison to an aggressively apocalyptic, anti-Communist doomsday cult is bad enough.

Then in early November, Flynn and Wood had a series of exchanges -- people have focused on the audio recording of Flynn calling QAnon a CIA disinfo operation — but more worrying was the fact that he told Wood, on November 3, to read an article proving QAnon is a fraud.Why more worrying? Because it was written by Hal Turner, a neo-Nazi radio host who’s promoted various QAnon conspiracies and served time for threatening elected officials -- he advocated murder repeatedly. The article is incredibly scary. It included this passage:

The Trump Anon believers want SOMEBODY ELSE to do it for them. Well, I’ve said this before and I will say it again now: Nobody is coming to save them/us. Nobody is coming to save the country. If you want something done, you gotta do it yourself. And until someone (but not me) decides that it is finally time to throw away all the comforts of this life, and brutally slaughter the people who are doing all these things, (and by “slaughter” I mean exactly that) then all these things will continue, unabated, to the destruction of our country and our oh-so-comfy lives.

This is standard Turner fare -- to preserve white nationalist power, people have to murder others, including elected officials -- but to have someone with Flynn’s background and his elite status within QAnon conspiracy and other movements promoting it is infinitely more terrifying than the entertainment value of seeing him bashing QAnon.A week later Flynn and Wood were in Springfield, Missouri, at a “Preserving America” event billed as “Come and listen to America’s tier-1 patriot speakers and learn about preserving America under the Constitution.” Outside of the Springfield News-Leader, it garnered little press -- but one local sheriff attending claimed he had, “A great conversation with General Flynn. He wanted me to know the American Sheriff is the last line of defense for our freedom. I agree!”

Flynn has spoken with Richard Mack for the “Constitutional Sheriffs and Peace Officers Association” podcast, an anti-government extremist group that works to recruit sheriffs into the “patriot” militia movement. The comment should be taken in that light.

Then there is Flynn’s ongoing “Reawaken America” tour, the most recent news items before the Wood blowup. On November 13, the tour was at the Cornerstone Church in San Antonio, John Hagee’s church.Hagee is an apocalypse-minded Christian Zionist and his son and executive pastor of the church, Matt, was on stage for the event. The “Reawaken America Tour,” a QAnon speaking tour, has numerous pastors presenting -– Dave Scarlett, Mark Burns, Phil Hotsenpiller, Leon Benjamin, Greg Locke, Jackson Lahmeyer, Brian Gibson among them. All have pushed the Big Lie and Christian Nationalism.

On stage, Flynn said, “if we are going to have one nation under God, which we must, we have to have one religion. One nation under God, and one religion under God.” The clip got widespread media play, but it is much more important in that broader context. “Reawaken America” has events in Dallas in December at Elevate Life Church in Frisco, where Pastor Keith Craft runs men-only “Warrior Nights,” dresses in militant garb, and mocks mask-wearing and the government.

In January, they’ll be at Dream City Church in Phoenix, which had hosted a Trump rally in 2020 and had been sent a cease-and-desist about promoting a fraudulent air filter system that June.

In February, they’ll be at Trinity Gospel Temple in Canton, Ohio, where Pastor Dave Lombardi tweeted out on November 3: “‘King Cyrus’ will prevail! Christian principles will prevail!,” and “the ‘Walls of Jericho’ will fall tonight! The Gospel message will prevail! The March continues!”

Both ideas have violent overtones — the fall of the walls of Jericho is followed by the massacre of all inhabitants. “King Cyrus,” a reference here to Donald Trump, destroyed the empire of the Babylonians.

These events are linking congregations nationwide in a specific project -- to build an ultranationalist Christian right to control of America.

Flynn’s fall events show it is not as simple as whether or not he’s a grifter who pretends to believe in QAnon. He is. He’s a fraud. He’s corrupt. And we already knew this. But he’s also a corrupt fanatic, who believes in overthrowing the government and imposing a theocracy. He certainly seems comfortable reading and promoting neo-Nazi articles advocating the literal slaughter of enemies while doing so.

Stop laughing at Michael Flynn.

He’s dangerous.

Driving him out of QAnon is great, but the other groups he’s engaged with, the other ideologies he’s a part of, are no laughing matter.

Proud Boys, Oath Keepers And Other Extremists Summoned By Select Committee

Seeking insight into how the violence that erupted at the U.S. Capitol last January was plotted, the House select committee tasked with probing the insurrection subpoenaed various extremist right-wing organizations and their figureheads on Tuesday.

It is the second time this week that the committee has added to an already thick stack of subpoenas sent to individuals entrenched in former President Donald Trump's lies about the 2020 election.

Twenty-four hours ago, Trump stalwarts and conspiracy theorists Roger Stone and Alex Jones were among the recipients of a committee subpoena. On Tuesday, the latest batch from the select commission zeroed in on extremists involved in the attack like Proud Boys International LLC, that group's former chairman Henry "Enrique" Tarrio, the Oath Keepers organization and its president Elmer Stewart Rhodes, and the First Amendment Praetorian, a far-right quasi-paramilitary group that has run security for pro-Trump events in the past. That group's chairman, Robert Patrick Lewis, was also subpoenaed.

Heaps of Proud Boys and Oath Keepers members have been brought up on criminal charges specifically tied to the January 6 attack. In the 11 months since the siege, prosecutors have repeatedly argued that the groups conspired with each other to stop the certification of the 2020 election.

However, neither Tarrio, Rhodes, nor Lewis have been charged with crimes related directly to the activities that occurred on January 6. Tarrio is currently serving a five-month sentence in a D.C. jail for stealing and burning a Black Lives Matter banner last December and possessing two large-capacity firearm magazines when stopped in Washington on January 4.

On Tuesday, Rhodes was identified by the committee as the person referred to in an indictment returned earlier this year by a grand jury involving a January 6 defendant. Rhodes, the committee notes, "describes a conspiracy among at least 18 Oath Keepers in which members of the Oath Keepers planned to move together in coordination and with regular communication to storm the United States Capitol on January 6, 2021."

The Oath Keepers subpoena was hotly anticipated given the group's obvious involvement in breaching the U.S. Capitol. They were seen breaching the building with a military formation and proudly displayed their insignia throughout the day.

Almost two dozen of the organization's leaders have been charged with crimes related to the attack. The Department of Justice has indicated that the group hid firearms at a hotel in Arlington, Virginia.

In court, according to Politico, one Oath Keeper ringleader, Kelly Meggs, "told allies 'this isn't a rally,' which U.S. District Judge Amit Mehta has described as key evidence of the group's intent."

Robert Patrick Lewis, a former U.S. Army staff sergeant who spearheads the 1st Amendment Praetorian, has not been charged with any crimes related to January 6, but his track record of conspiracy theories, propaganda, and actual role in rallies leading up to the Capitol attack has grabbed the committee's interest.

The group posted a list of Trump events that it provided security to online, including several "Stop the Steal" rallies held in Washington, D.C., and Atlanta, Georgia.

"1st Amendment Praetorian provided security to the Million MAGA March on November 14, 2020, including providing protection to Ali Alexander, you described your coordination with Mr. Alexander as 'tight at the hip,'" the subpoena to Lewis states.

Alexander organized the Stop the Steal rally at the Ellipse on January 6 and has also been subpoenaed by the committee.

"You later claimed that you provided security for Lieutenant General Michael Flynn at the 'Jericho March' in Washington, D.C. on December 12, 2020, and have claimed to coordinate closely and regularly with Lt. Gen. Flynn. You have also claimed to coordinate closely with Sidney Powell [Trump's former attorney]," the subpoena notice to Lewis states.

Significantly, Lewis also took to Twitter just two days before the attack on January 6, saying: "There may be some young National Guard captains facing some very, very tough choices in the next 48 hours. Pray with every fiber of your being that their choices are Wise, Just and Fearless."

Lewis was also listed as a speaker on a permit for a rally on January 5 in D.C. In the permit, Lewis noted that 25 fellow members of his organization would serve as "demonstration marshals."

And on the day of the insurrection, just after 2 p.m., Lewis tweeted: "Today is the day the true battles begin."

A day after the attack, Lewis bragged on an independent QAnon conspiracy broadcast known as Patriot Transition Voice that he was "war-gaming" with "constitutional scholars" to keep Trump in office before the Capitol breach. Though the group has a lower profile than the Oath Keepers or Proud Boys, the January 6 Committee has singled them out before. This August, the panel highlighted Lewis and the organization he leads in its request for White House documents from the National Archives.

While the overlap between and among these groups is striking, the critical element presently missing for investigators is proof that it was Trump himself who intended to use the violence overwhelming the Capitol as a means to disrupt Congress's counting of electoral votes. The victory already belonged to President Joe Biden at that time, but the formality is part and parcel of ensuring a peaceful transition of power.

"We believe the individuals and organizations we subpoenaed today have relevant information about how violence erupted at the Capitol and the preparation leading up to this violent attack," committee chairman Bennie Thompson said in a statement Tuesday. "The Select Committee is moving swiftly to uncover the facts of what happened on that day, and we expect every witness to comply with the law and cooperate so we can get answers to the American people."