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Monday, December 09, 2019

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Trump Coup Lawyer's 'Election Integrity' Outfit Aligning With QAnon Influencers

The head of Fairfax County, Virginia’s purported “election integrity” task force lauded the supposed research abilities of certain QAnon influencers and admitted to sending their materials to the Fairfax County Office of Elections on a podcast hosted by the Conservative Partnership Institute’s Cleta Mitchell. Mitchell reportedly helped organize the group in 2021 ahead of the Virginia gubernatorial race, along with 18 other local task forces.

Mitchell leads CPI’s Election Integrity Network, an organization that she says aims to create “a volunteer army of citizens” in various positions related to election administration, motivated by false claims of election fraud. She is one of at least 20 of Trump’s allies — along with former chief of staff Mark Meadows and former Pentagon official Kash Patel — who were intimately involved in Trump’s attempts to overturn the 2020 election and are now associated with CPI, a pro-Trump think tank. Mitchell, who was on the call with then-President Donald Trump when he pressed Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger to “find” votes to overturn the presidential election in the state, was subpoenaed as part of a Fulton County, Georgia, special grand jury investigation into potential criminal election interference.

Christine Brim, the leader of the task force in Fairfax County, appeared on an episode of Who’s Counting? with Cleta Mitchell uploaded on October 11, and she claimed that the group put together a “20-page memo” on election software company Konnech in September that “really just aggregated data, screenshots and so on from” QAnon influencers. Brim said the task force sent the memo to the county board of elections.

Konnech has been targeted by influential election-denial organization True the Vote and collaborating QAnon influencers, who allege that the Chinese Communist Party used the company to influence American elections. Konnech has sued True the Vote for defamation. Attacks on Konnech ramped up when its CEO was arrested “on suspicion of theft of personal identifying information” about poll workers, even though the charges were unrelated to vote tabulation or election results. After the CEO’s arrest, the Fairfax County Office of Elections canceled its contract with Konnech.

The QAnon figures behind the data Brim shared, whom she called “very professional researchers,” are known online as Kanekoa and CognitiveCarbon. They are members ofWe The Media, a collective channel of QAnon influencers. (A blog post from the group mentioning the memo also cited another QAnon influencer and member of We The Media known as The Authority.)

CLETA MITCHELL (HOST): I want to come back to something here because I think that it’s one of the reasons I think this is so important is that you and your group of volunteers and, as you say, researchers around the country, but because you already were working in Fairfax County, you were able to and did take the initiative starting when — I mean, walk us through the schedule of the things that you took to the county board of elections, what they said, how, you know, sort of what happened each step along the way. Because there were multiple — there were multiple steps.

CHRISTINE BRIM (CHAIRMAN OF FAIRFAX COUNTY GOP ELECTION INTEGRITY TASK FORCE): There were. And let me just backtrack slightly. We had a much more difficult relationship with our prior registrar. We got a new registrar in late March of this year. And he has been working very hard with a — with his staff, with his staff to increase transparency and to improve relationships. And we also have, under Gov. [Glenn] Youngkin, our new Republican governor, appointed Susan Beals as our new commissioner of the state Department of Elections. And she has been issuing guidance after guidance that has improved transparency. So this has been a — an exciting year for us. The problem, of course, with transparency is you have to go copy the documents, right? But we even got the right to photograph where before we hadn’t had it. So we — when this situation started in August, we were still clarifying some issues in terms of transparency. But we had established a good working relationship with the office and with the staff much better than last year. And last year was much better than the year before.

We do a lot of training of poll watchers. We have 264 precincts. We coordinate with the Fairfax County Office of Elections so our training conforms to what they’re actually teaching their chiefs and their supervisors as well. We want to teach the right thing.

So there’s — that’s the environment in which this, this bomb kind of went off, from an informational point of view, and we said, “Oh, my gosh. What are we going to do?” So we immediately, I immediately emailed them, August 16, and said, “You really need to escalate this. This is a problem. We have to take this seriously.” And at that point, send in also a Freedom of Information Act for any additional contracts. We already had — because we have an active Freedom of Information activity, already had the original contracts from 2016.

MITCHELL: Oh wow.

BRIM: This has been out since 2016 that our election officers, names, mail, mailing addresses and so on, have been potentially going over to China, but certainly looked at. But the — that didn’t get a response and so we —

MITCHELL: You sent that in and, what, got no response?

BRIM: So August 16, so the email didn’t get a response, but we did get the contractual information back and that was helpful. And then following that on — I’m trying to think the sequence here — we again send another email saying, “No, you really need to take this seriously.” And at that point I think they were probably talking to their lawyers because we were getting fewer responses from them.

Then on September 6, we constructed a whole memo, which is linked from the article, about a 20-page memo, which really just aggregated data, screenshots and so on from these wonderful researchers, Kanekoa, CognitiveCarbon. They all work under pseudonyms over at Substack, but they had done — these were clearly very professional researchers with a lot of linguistic capabilities. They — and also I.T. knowledge — who were trying to corroborate, and did corroborate, all of the information with these links to the Chinese companies. And we — our team, we had a small research team, which was pulling this together, of three, four people, just scanning the environment for additional research out there, which they do anyway. They’re always scanning the environment for opposition situations, opposition groups, opposition publications in Virginia. So they focused on this, and that was tremendously helpful because we also could combine that with the contractual information that we had.

And pulled that together, reverified every single link. So we went back and, you know, revisited the links, so that everything was firsthand. Took our own screenshots.

MITCHELL: Wow. I see, I see what you did.

BRIM: Everything was — so that we didn’t send in anything that was uncorroborated by us, that we were told they would research the issues.

Later on in the interview, Brim told Mitchell that “one-off researchers, like Kanekoa,” provided “tremendous information,” from whom “election integrity working groups … have the capability to take that information and turn it into something operational locally.”

CLETA MITCHELL (HOST): I think that I really wanted you to have the opportunity — I wanted to have the opportunity for people to hear what you all had done, in conjunction with many, many others, but that ultimately, where the rubber meets the road, is taking the information and getting something done in the local election office. And you've really demonstrated the importance of that. Unfortunately, the bureaucracy wouldn’t have acted on its own. I don’t think they would have acted on their own.

CHRISTINE BRIM (CHAIRMAN OF FAIRFAX COUNTY GOP ELECTION INTEGRITY TASK FORCE): I think eventually they would have. In 2023, they wouldn’t have renewed the contract, but it would have not been — it would have stayed in place through the election. And I think some places may choose to do that. I know DeKalb County —

MITCHELL: Georgia.

BRIM: — is another user of PollChief. There’s — but, you know, it is not just a team. It’s the fact that this is a growing team. This is a growing team in Fairfax. The coordination across Virginia is there. We work and communicate and get ideas from people in other states.

MITCHELL: Right.

BRIM: In part due to the wonderful efforts that you’ve made. And then we have these outside groups that are just these one-off researchers, like Kanekoa, who suddenly provide tremendous information. And the counties, these election integrity working groups, are poised and have the capability to take that information and turn it into something operational locally. And this is just kind of organically happening. It's extremely effective. Little by little, we’re kind of learning how to do this.

Since the interview came out, Kanekoa has praised the group for relying on the materials that both Kanekoa and CongnitiveCarbon put online, calling it “very cool” and claiming it “demonstrates the power of getting involved in your local elections.”

This instance of a CPI- and GOP-linked Fairfax County group sending material from QAnon influencers to the county board of elections further demonstrates the connections between the QAnon and election denial movements. Media Matters has previously documented True the Vote’s collaboration with QAnon figures, major election denial funder Patrick Byrne’s significant connections to the QAnon community, and a QAnon influencer’s involvement with a coalition recruiting and aiming to elect election-denialist secretary of state candidates. And according to Nevada Republican secretary of state candidate Jim Marchant, the leader of that coalition, he had been “working very close” with Mitchell and CPI.

Reprinted with permission from Media Matters.

Arizona GOP Candidate Kari Lake Campaigns On QAnon Show

Days before the state’s August 2 primary, Arizona Republican gubernatorial candidate Kari Lake appeared on a QAnon show where she asked viewers to donate to her campaign and vote for her. The hosts also endorsed her; invoked the QAnon conspiracy theory’s central figure and mentioned other QAnon figures; and seemingly bragged that her interview showed the influence of the “anons.”

On July 29, Lake, a frontrunner in the primary, appeared on the MatrixxxGrooove Show (or MG Show), which is co-hosted by QAnon influencer Jeffrey Pedersen. (Pedersen is known online as “intheMatrixxx” and Lake has previously been photographed with him.) During the interview, Pedersen asked viewers to donate “$17, $20, $50, you know, to help her get to the final stretch, maybe get some TV ads out there”; 17 is a reference to “Q,” the conspiracy theory’s central figure, being the 17th letter of the alphabet. He also urged Lake to use one of his followers who has “such a beautiful voice” for her campaign events.

Lake also asked viewers to “vote early, if you can, vote on election day,” to donate to her campaign, and to “let your friends and relatives in Arizona know how much is on the line right now.” Pedersen also mentioned other QAnon influencers and a QAnon influencer collective that he is a part of, and he urged viewers to vote for Lake. Lake also said it was “a real pleasure” to meet the show’s co-hosts, and Pedersen said that “MG Show endorses Kari Lake for Arizona governor.”


After the interview, Pedersen praised Lake for coming on, saying, “I’m proud that she came on the show. That really shows me a lot.” He also seemingly suggested it showed the influence of “the anons out in this community.”

Multiple other Arizona political figures have now appeared onMatrixxxGrooove Show, including Dan Schultz, who played a major role in an increase in QAnon supporters becoming Republican precinct committee members.

(To see the full Kari Lake interview on the MG Show, click here.)

Reprinted with permission from Media Matters.

QAnon Republican Threatens 'Civil War' If America 'Moves Past' 2020 Election

Wayne Willott, a QAnon influencer known online as “Juan O. Savin” who is recruiting and supporting candidates for election-administration positions around the country, warned of “civil war” if people try to “move past” the 2020 presidential election.

Savin is part of a coalition led by Jim Marchant, which aims to recruit and elect secretary of statecandidates who have pushed false claims of widespread voter fraud in the 2020 presidential election.


While appearing on a QAnon supporter’s online show, Savin said that “you cannot move past” the false voter fraud claims in the 2020 election and that if people try to there would be “probably civil war for America” because “there’s plenty of Americans that will not put up with this and they will not stand down.”




Reprinted with permission from Media Matters.

Trump’s New Attorney Demanded ‘Capital Punishment’ For Biden Officials

Peter Ticktin, an attorney for former President Donald Trump, has repeatedly gone on online shows hosted by supporters of the QAnon conspiracy theory. During some of these appearances, hosts have asked Ticktin to connect them with Trump, and in one instance, Ticktin and the host suggested members of the Biden administration should be put to death.

In March, Politico reported that Trump filed a lawsuit against some of his perceived political enemies, including former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, former FBI Director James Comey, and the Democratic National Committee, accusing them of a “racketeering conspiracy for allegedly joining in ‘an unthinkable plot’ to falsely accuse Trump of colluding with Russia in the 2016 presidential election.” Ticktin, who is a longtime friend of Trump’s, is serving as one of the lead counsels for Trump on the case.

Later that month, Ticktin spoke at Mar-A-Lago for an event for QAnon-supporting Florida congressional candidate Darlene Swaffar, during which QAnon influencers Ann Vandersteel and Jeffrey Pedersen — who is known online as “intheMatrixxx” — also spoke. Pedersen was photographed with Ticktin at the event.

In June, Ticktin appeared on RedPill78, which is hosted by QAnon supporter Zak Paine, who participated in the January 6 insurrection at the United States Capitol. During the interview, Ticktin told Paine that “the real insurrection occurred on November 3 and 4,” referring to false voter fraud claims, and that “if we had a stolen election, that means the people that are in the White House are criminals -- not only criminals but criminals guilty of capital punishment crimes.” Paine agreed, later saying, “You’re absolutely right when you said that these are capital crimes. We’re talking about treason.”

When Paine asked Ticktin “what are we doing” in terms of “exposing this fraud,” Ticktin said, “I've got one thing I’m working on now that you're going to hear about in about a month.” And at the end of the interview, after they discussed Trump’s lawsuit, Paine asked Ticktin to “tell Donald Trump I said hello” and to “help me get an invite to Mar-A-Lago,” adding after the interview, “Hopefully one of these days, I am going to be able to get down to Mar-A-Lago and if I could interview President Trump, you all know it would be a dream come true.”

A couple of months earlier, on April 11, Ticktin appeared on Vandersteel's online show, Steel Truth. During the interview, the two discussed Trump’s lawsuit and Ticktin’s book about Trump (Vandersteel suggested Ticktin signed a copy for her), and she told Ticktin, “It was a pleasure to make your acquaintance the other evening at another event in Mar-A-Lago.”

The following day, Ticktin appeared on the QAnon-supportingMatrixxxGrooove Show (or MG Show), co-hosted by Pedersen. During the interview, Ticktin promoted Trump’s lawsuit and pushed false voter fraud claims alongside the hosts, suggesting the 2020 presidential election was “the real insurrection.” While promoting Ticktin’s book, Pedersen also noted that he had a signed copy, and he asked Ticktin to tell Trump that “we’d love to have him on the show.” (Pedersen had also claimed to be at Ticktin’s office the day before, weeks after claiming that he “might be meeting with” Ticktin “for some other things too.”)

Days later, Pedersen claimed on his show that he had met Trump at Mar-A-Lago that past weekend, saying that “Peter Ticktin also let him [Trump] know that we were there” and that Trump “knew we were there. He knew who we were.”

Ticktin’s association with the far-right internet extends beyond QAnon as well: In April, Ticktin apparently teamed up with far-right blogThe Gateway Pundit to “crowdsource videos” from the January 6 insurrection, “requesting footage of ‘Trump protestors being peaceful’ and of ‘police or anyone else waving/encouraging people to go into the Capitol building,’” as reported by Mediaite.

This is not the first time a person in Trump's orbit has associated with QAnon-connected figures. Trump himself amplified and praised the QAnon community when he was president. And Pedersen and his co-host Shannon Townsend obtained press credentialsfor a Trump rally last July, after which “Trump associates … told POLITICO that they had attempted to weed out any QAnon influences — both adherents and postings — getting close to him.” But Trump has continued to amplify QAnon-promoting accounts since he began actively using his social media platform Truth Social.

Reprinted with permission from Media Matters.

Fox Network’s Lara Logan Goes Full QAnon, Questions Moon Landing

Lara Logan, a Fox Nation host whose current relationship with the network is unclear, was interviewed by a QAnon influencer with ties to a QAnon group in Dallas that is awaiting the supposed return of the late President John F. Kennedy and his son. During the interview, the influencer directly invoked “Q,” the conspiracy theory’s central figure, and Logan appeared to suggest that the 1969 landing on the moon was somehow suspect.

In videos uploaded in separate parts on February 23 and 24, Logan -- who has been absent from Fox since comparing Dr. Anthony Fauci to the Nazi doctor Josef Mengele -- did an interview with Tom Sidney Bushnell, a QAnon influencer known online as “Tom Numbers.” Bushnell has been associated withMichael Brian Protzman, another QAnon influencer known online as “Negative48” who is leading a gathering in Dallas organized around the belief that John F. Kennedy and John F. Kennedy Jr. will appear at the grassy knoll where the senior Kennedy was shot with former President Donald Trump.

Bushnell’s videos of his interview with Logan were uploaded to his ownYouTube channel, despite the platform’s supposed QAnon crackdown, and even appeared to be monetizedvia ads.

During the interview, Logan alleged that there was some kind of secret technology that could have prevented the attack in Benghazi, Libya, in 2012. She also seemed to suggest that there was something suspicious about the July 1969 moon landing, using air quotes when mentioning Neil Armstrong and (wrongly) claiming that the United States government officially sent astronauts to the moon only once. During the interview, Bushnell also directly invoked Q by claiming that Trump mentioned the number 17 -- referring to Q being the 17th letter of the alphabet -- during an event about the Space Force.

TOM SIDNEY BUSHNELL: I mentioned about the Space Force flag ceremony with President Trump, with POTUS in the Oval Office. And he specifically spoke very deliberately. I think there were a lot of codes -- well there were, but it’s interesting what you’re saying now. He said that there were a number of -- so he had people from the Space Force Command, he said, “Whether people like it or not, the future is space,” and he kept going on and on about it. And he shows the Space Force flag and the Space Force flag is the arrowhead, which is the same symbol as Star Trek.
And he talked about missiles and weapons, and he says -- and he kept repeating. He says, “We have — all these other countries have, you know, really quick missiles, but we have -- we have one that is 17 times quicker than any -- anyone.” ... And he kept repeating the word 17. Seventeen is Q, et cetera, but he kept saying it over and over again. Then he said, “Yeah, it’s faster than anything out there, and it’s 17 times quicker than any, you know, anything that either everyone else has got or we had with the U.S. industry.” I think he was making the point that the U.S. is behind China and Russia and other places, and theirs was a bit faster. But then this one that they’ve got now because of Space Force was 17 times quicker. And he kept reemphasizing that all the time. So I think it was loaded with code.

LARA LOGAN (FOX NATION HOST): You think the Chinese didn’t know we had a Space Force or the Iranians or the Russians and so on and so on, right? It’s ridiculous. So it becomes a bigger question that we forget to ask because we get caught up in the arguing, you know, this and that about Trump. Why was this kept secret from the American people? We put Neil Armstrong on the moon. That wasn’t a secret, right? And really, if you think about it, we’re supposed to believe that after putting Neil Armstrong on the moon, we never went back? We just decided to go to the moon once and then we decided, “Oh, we’re going to concentrate on going into Mars, deeper into space. Let’s go into deep space.” Come on. It’s not even logical. And yet all of us fall for these things, me included, you know, because we have this innate faith in our leaders and our institutions and our media, in our government. We know that they lie and this and that. But we sort of think that there’s a threshold below which they won't go -- well that used to be the case anyway. It’s not the case anymore. And it’s a very important question, why was Space Force classified in the first place?

Logan’s appearance with a QAnon influencer comes months after John Sabal, another QAnon influencer who is known online as “QAnon John,” initially claimed that Logan would be appearing at his QAnon conference in Las Vegas, which Fox later denied. This is not Logan’s first brush with conspiracy theory influencers, as she has previously collaborated with Mikki Willis, the director of the viral coronavirus conspiracy theory videoPlandemic.

Reprinted with permission from Media Matters

How Gab Is Becoming A Platform For Neo-Nazi Propaganda

The CEO of Gab -- a social media platform known as a haven for white nationalists and extremism that is now attracting Republican political figures including Reps. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-GA) and Paul Gosar (R-AZ) -- has increasingly affiliated himself with a Holocaust-denying white nationalist with ties to the January 6 insurrection as part of efforts to create a “parallel economy” for far-right forces banned from other platforms.

Gab CEO Andrew Torba -- whose account all Gab users follow by default -- has increasingly praised white nationalist Nick Fuentes and his “America First” movement, announcing that the platform would be collaborating with Fuentes to sponsor his upcoming far-right conference, repeatedly promoting Fuentes and his group, and even sending America First content directly to Gab users. Torba has also defended him from backlash after some Gab users criticized the platform’s support for Fuentes, who has repeatedly attacked them.

The platform’s growing relationship with Fuentes and his organization highlights Torba’s own escalating extremism, which includes laudingthe Capitol insurrection as it was happening and urging the insurrectionists to storm the U.S. Senate; endorsing a call for then-President Donald Trump to declare martial law and overturn the 2020 election; and endorsing the white nationalist “great replacement” conspiracy theory. Torba has also used Gab to undermine vaccination efforts and actively courted far-right figures to join the platform, including supporters of the QAnon conspiracy theory.

Fuentes is a Holocaust-denying white nationalist organizer and host of America First who has previously been banned by both YouTube and Twitter. In late 2019, Fuentes came to prominence leading a campaign to have followers of America First harass more mainstream conservative figures, which he called the “Groyper War” (his followers call themselves “Groypers”). He also attended the deadly 2017 white nationalist rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, and encouraged the 2021 Capitol insurrection. Last month, he was subpoenaed by the House January 6 committee over “his ‘America First’ group’s involvement in the run-up to the event.”

Torba announced in January that Gab would be sponsoring Fuentes’ upcoming America First Political Action Conference (AFPAC), calling the event “a group of grassroots young Christian thinkers who, like it or not, are the future of right wing politics in this country.” Fuentes thanked Torba for the sponsorship, claiming the “parallel economy and Gab alternative tech ecosystem are the future.” America First has since announced that Torba will also be a featured speaker at AFPAC.

Torba’s announcement fits with a larger pattern of the Gab CEO praising or promoting Fuentes and his group. A Media Matters review of Torba’s Gab posts since 2019 found that he has mentioned Fuentes or “America First” over 140 times. Torba’s references to Fuentes picked up significantly since the beginning of 2021, having made more than 120 references to Fuentes or “America First” -- over six times as many as in all of 2019 and 2020 combined.

Media Matters’ review also found that Torba has used Gab’s email list to promote content from Fuentes to users at least a dozen times since 2021, including: “Nick Fuentes unmasks gatekeeping Zionists who control the American political conversation”; “Nick Fuentes discusses the enshrinement of anti-white HATRED in public policy”; and a video of Fuentes claiming “the System HATES White People.”

Gab Fuentes video email6

Citation From an email from Gab in August 2021

Torba’s embrace of Fuentes also fits his pattern of pushing antisemitism alongside his own brand of “Christian Nationalism.” In April 2021, Torba shared a video of Fuentes criticizing the American Jewish Congress for being critical of Gab and wrote that Fuentes “is waking Conservatives up and shifting the Overton Window in the right direction. It's long overdue.”

In July, he wrote that Fuentes “and the millions of young Christian men and women like him are the future. … America First Christian Nationalism is inevitable.”

And that same month Torba took his praise even further, calling Fuentes the “civil rights hero of our time” and writing a blog post claiming that “in an age where young, straight, White, Christian men who hold Biblical values are being treated as second class citizens for their political and religious beliefs, Nick Fuentes is a voice of reason.”

Torba Fuentes civil rights hero post

Torba also criticized those in conservative media who were critical of Fuentes, claiming that “they are not on our side” and that they were criticizing Fuentes “because what he says is TRUE.” Torba also defended Fuentes in response to criticism from The Daily Wire’s Ben Shapiro and promoted a quote from Fuentes that “denying Christ is far worse than denying the Holocaust, and Ben Shapiro and all the jews can take that to [the] bank.”

Torba Fuentes Holocaust post

In addition to praising and defending Fuentes on Gab, Torba has also repeatedlysharedclips ofFuentes and America First. Media Matters found that Torba shared Fuentes and America First clips more than 20 times within just a four-month period alone in 2021, including a video titled “WAKE UP! ‘Holocaust RELIGION’ Is ANTITHETICAL To America First,” and a video of Fuentes saying the U.S. is a Christian nation and telling American Jews to move to Israel if they don’t like antisemitism, to which Torba wrote, “There are tens of millions of us who feel this way and we aren’t going away.

Torba Fuentes Holocaust video

In the days leading up to and right around Torba’s sponsorship announcement of AFPAC, he also created a Gab account on Fuentes’ streaming platform, where he began doing livestreams and openly expressed hope for a “partnership” between both platforms.

Torba also used Fuentes’ streaming platform to defend the AFPAC announcement against criticism from Gab users, saying it was “unbecoming” and “leftist-type behavior” and that Fuentes’ attacks on Gab users were simply cases of him being a “provocateur” like Torba. He said that the conference was “the best possible thing for Gab to sponsor” because it would “give glory to Christ” and feature “a bunch of young people who are the future.”


Gab’s Twitter account has also praised Fuentes, writing that he and Gab “embody the true and relentless spirit of American excellence, ingenuity, grit, and defiance in the face of tyranny.”

Fuentes has reciprocated Torba’s praise, calling the Gab CEO a “21st century Founding Father” and adding, “It was people like him that created this country.”

On an episode of Fuentes’ show in January, the host said that Torba was a “total rock star and Gab is blowing up,” pointing to the growing number of Republican politicalfigures joining the platform as evidence. He later said that Torba’s involvement is “absolutely critical,” adding, “He’s going to be a very important figure. He is already, but his importance will grow because Gab is very important.” And on the day that Torba announced Gab’s sponsorship of AFPAC, Fuentes wrote: “I trust Gab because Gab is run by a faithful Christian. And not some Judeo-Christian either, a Christian.”

Fuentes has also repeatedlyanddirectlylaudedGab, which he joined in the days after the Capitol insurrection, writing that it is the “one true free speech platform in the entire world” and “an amazing platform” because “without it there would be nowhere else on the entire internet for us to go.”

Reprinted with permission from Media Matters

The QAnon Cult Isn’t Flaming Out, But Morphing Into A Dangerous Political Movement

Reprinted with permission from Media Matters

In early 2021, there was speculation that the movement built around the QAnon conspiracy theory had finally reached an end, with “Q” -- the central figure of QAnon -- having gone silent in December 2020. But the year started with dozens of QAnon supporters participating in an assault on the United States Capitol, fueled by a belief in false claims of large-scale voter fraud the QAnon community helped spread. And the events of January 6 were the harbinger of what was to come: a year in which QAnon influencers and adherents promoted conspiracy theories and falsehoods about the 2020 presidential election, helped organize efforts to challenge or “audit” the election results, and aided in an alleged plot that, if successful, may help sway the outcome of future elections at the state and national level.

An alleged plot announced by Jim Marchant, a former member of the Nevada state Assembly and now a Nevada secretary of state candidate, is a primary example of how dangerous QAnon became in 2021. On October 25, Marchant took the stage at the QAnon-supporting “Patriot Double Down” conference, claiming that he lost his congressional campaign due to voter fraud. Marchant then said he was asked to “put together a coalition” in swing states “of other like-minded secretary of state candidates” -- referring to the officials that help run elections -- and that he had successes with the involvement and recruitment of QAnon-connected figures thus far.

Although there had been discussion about QAnon dying out in 2021, efforts like Marchant’s show that QAnon has continued to erode our democratic system and may even pose threaten a constitutional crisis -- even without “Q.” Though several social media platforms had finally announced crackdowns on QAnon by early 2021, these efforts were too little too late. By not dealing with QAnon earlier on (Facebook even spent years algorithmically promoting it), these platforms enabled the community to grow, becoming so big and organized that adherents no longer need their titular leader. Meanwhile, it’s become an easy vehicle for political figures to advance anti-democratic agendas.

Some Thought 2021 Was The Year QAnon Would Flame Out -- And They Were Wrong

After Q fell silent in December 2020, some speculated that 2021 would be the end of QAnon. The conspiracy theory had been around for more than three years at that point, starting in October 2017, when an anonymous figure known as Q posted on message board site 4chan (and later on 8chan/8kun), claiming to have “Q” government clearance and promising to have an inside scoop showing then-President Donald Trump had a secret plot that would take down his perceived enemies, the “deep state,” and a cabal of pedophiles.

Over the following years, the conspiracy theory grew on mainstream social media platforms, slowly but steadily building a network of Twitterhashtags, Facebook pages and groups, and YouTube channels, and it was boosted by other conspiracy theory figures like Infowars founder Alex Jones. During that time, some of its followers engaged in violent or threatening acts, including murders and kidnappings, and multiple government agenciesissuedinternal warnings about it. (The FBI issued a warning as recently as June of this year).

The conspiracy theory had a breakthrough year in 2020, when consumption of QAnon-related content boomed on social media due to the coronavirus pandemic. Meanwhile, two people who had expressed some level of support for QAnon were elected to Congress, and Trump praised the conspiracy theory’s followers.

But starting in summer 2020 and through January 2021, Facebook, YouTube, Twitter, and TikTok finally announced crackdowns on QAnon ( resulting in a decrease in QAnon-connected phrases on those platforms). Q went dark after December, and despite the January 6 insurrection and the QAnon community’s predictions that Trump would somehow stay in office, Joe Biden was inaugurated as president. Although this did confuse and disappoint some followers, the result was not the end of QAnon, but a shift in the community.

Rather than give up, QAnon supporters said that “the task of Q was completed” because “the Q team [had] put out enough info”and had “created an army of digital soldiers” that would not “exist if there was no Q.” Supporters also claimed that Q was “a way to teach people how to research and how to look into things themselves” and that thanks to Q’s “guidance,” it was now time for individuals to “fight for our country.” One QAnon show host (who participated in part of the insurrection) even said that additional Q posts were not needed as “the point had been made. They were meant to wake people up, to push us to stop looking outside ourselves.” In fact, throughout the year, the community -- includingpolitical figureslike Marchant -- actively tried to escape the “QAnon” tag, echoingQ’s “camouflage” command in 2020, which asked followers to deny that QAnon existed.

QAnon also continued to gathersignificant support among Republicans. The Daily Beast’s Will Sommer said in November that a pollster told him that “QAnon’s never been more popular in her polls of fellow Republicans.”

A main reason for the QAnon community’s resilience is the motivating power of false claims that “we've got fraudulent elections … to deal with” and that Biden was not the rightful president, which meant the election -- and the presidency -- could be “restor[ed] … back to Trump.”

QAnon, Trump-connected Figures, And The Idea Of Trump’s 'Reinstatement'

After Biden took office, the QAnon community used false voter fraud claims to rationalize that somehow Biden was a “fake president” and would be removed from office, or that Trump and/or other forces were still in control.

Some even called for a military coup against Biden, with one QAnon influencer, David Hayes (known online as “Praying Medic”), saying the military was “the last line of defense against tyranny, and I think they're going to be forced to step in.” This narrative played out most starkly when the QAnon community applauded Myanmar’s military in February for overthrowing the civilian government and imprisoning its leaders over claims of voter fraud, calling it a model for what should happen in the United States.

QAnon supporters also claimed Trump would somehow be reinstated as president -- even initially settling on a specific date of March 4. The false claim gained enough traction that it became one of the reasons almost 5,000 National Guard troops remained in Washington, D.C., after January 6. One QAnon supporter told an on-duty soldier outside the Capitol on March 3 that he was considering “test[ing] the National Guard tomorrow to see if they were loyal to the people or to the President.”

After nothing happened on March 4, some QAnon supporters continued toclaim that Trump would be “reinstated.” In particular, somefocusedonclaims from pro-Trump businessman Mike Lindell, one of four prominent QAnon-connected players -- along with Sidney Powell, Michael Flynn, and Patrick Byrne -- to push the reinstatement claim. And all four are central to QAnon’s political influence.

Mike Lindell

Lindell had met with Trump days before Biden’s inauguration to float the idea that Trump use martial law to stay in office, a call that had been pushed byQAnon supporters. Lindell alsohasothertiestoQAnon, including helping the community financially.

Originally, Lindell claimed that based on the supposed evidence of voter fraud he had, “Trump will be back in office in August” -- a claim that Trump himself reportedly came to believe. Lindell moved the date back of this reinstatement and, in November, released a supposed complaint that he promised would get the Supreme Court to act.

In response to Lindell’s claim, one QAnon influencer named Terpsichore Maras-Lindeman, known online as “Tore,”launched a “#jointhesuit” campaign to urgeher followers to get state attorneys general to sign on, with some of her followers sayingthey hadspoken withRepublican state officials in multiple states about it. Arizona state Sen. Wendy Rogers even participated in a #jointhesuit event to get the attorney general of Arizona to sign on, and Tore joined her in person.

Wendy Rogers Tore

Sidney Powell

Former Trump campaign attorney Sidney Powell is another QAnon-connectedfigure who promised Trump’s reinstatement. Powell helped Trump in his legal campaign to overturn the election, including by citingmultipleQAnon-connected figuresandclaims, and Trump considered naming her a special counsel on voter fraud. At a QAnon conference in Dallas in May, Powell said that due to voter fraud, Trump “can simply be reinstated.”

Michael Flynn

Another figure with deeptiesto theQAnoncommunity is former Trump national security adviser Michael Flynn -- whom Trump considered making the FBI director and who also met with Trump post-election. At one point before Biden’s inauguration, Flynn called for martial law, and at the QAnon conference in Dallas, he echoed the community’s support for a Myanmar-style coup in the U.S. On QAnon supporter Ann Vandersteel’s show in June, Flynn said that due to voter fraud, “you reinstate the guy [Trump] and you get rid of the guy [Biden] that’s there.”

Patrick Byrne

Former Overstock CEO Patrick Byrne, who has a number of connections to QAnon shows and influencers, also met with Trump post-election. Byrne has a significant number of QAnon connections, including apparently having a QAnon influencer on his group’s leadership committee and endorsingQAnon’sdigital soldiers.” He claimed, “You’ll see Donald Trump back in [office] sometime next year.” In separate videos, Byrne promoted Lindell’s Supreme Court complaint before it was released, along with Tore’scampaignfor it.

In June, the Department of Homeland Security expressedalarm about the Trump reinstatement claim, noting its spread among “Qanon conspiracy theory adherents.”

QAnon, Arizona, and the “audit” and “decertify” movement

As part of this push for reinstatement, much of the QAnon community latched onto an effort to launch “audits” in swing states Biden won -- in particular Arizona -- to prove voter fraud. QAnon supporters believed that the supposed audit, launched by the Arizona state Senate to look into ballots cast in Maricopa County, would start a domino effect of audits in other states, leading states to “decertify” their election results and causing Trump’s reinstatement.

The Arizona audit was extensively intertwined with QAnon:

  • Doug Logan, the CEO of Cyber Ninjas, the company conducting the audit, was involved with efforts by Powell, Flynn, and Byrne to push voter fraud claims, along with QAnon-supporting attorney Lin Wood.
  • Logan helped with a lawsuit from lawyer Matthew DePerno in Michigan, where DePerno is also running for attorney general in 2022. DePerno appeared to follow and amplified multiple QAnon influencers including former 8kun administrator Ron Watkins (known online as “CodeMonekyZ”) and Praying Medic, the QAnon influencer who called for a military coup.
  • Some of the biggest boosters of the audit in the Arizona state legislature have affiliated themselves with QAnon. Arizona state Sen. Wendy Rogers has promoted QAnon and repeatedly gone on QAnon shows to promote the audit and other “decertification” efforts. State Rep. Mark Finchem (who is running for Arizona secretary of state in 2022) has promotedQAnonnarratives. And state Senate Majority Whip Sonny Borrelli has also gone on multiple QAnon shows. All three (along with another state representative) attended a QAnon conference in Las Vegas to discuss the audit.

Another connection between the audit and QAnon was a conspiracy theory, based on a Q post, that Trump watermarked ballots so that Democrats would be caught cheating by using fake ballots without watermarks. The audit workers reportedly used UV light to examine ballots to look for supposed watermarks, and some 2022 state secretary of state candidates, including Arizona’s Finchem, have now called for watermarked ballots to prevent supposed fraud.

While the audit did not find the promised fraud, the audit movement did spread elsewhere -- along with more QAnon connections.

In Wisconsin, one of the most prominent advocates for the decertification of the state’s results was Wisconsin state Rep. Timothy Ramthun. Ramthun called for Cyber Ninjas to aid with an audit in the state in a video titled “The Calm Before The Storm” -- a key phrase in QAnon lore. He also appeared on a QAnon channel to push for an audit.

And in Pennsylvania, one of the most prominent advocates for an audit was state Sen. Doug Mastriano, who also visited Arizona to observe its audit. Mastriano has previously expressed support for QAnon. The founder of Audit The Vote PA -- a group associated with Mastriano -- is also a QAnon supporter.

An alleged QAnon-connected plot that could lead to a constitutional crisis

As the audit movement spread around the country, Nevada secretary of state candidate Jim Marchant took the stage at the QAnon conference in October in Las Vegas. Marchant -- who is friendly with the conference organizer, who is also a QAnon influencer -- baselessly complained that he was “a victim of voter fraud” in his 2020 congressional bid and said that he worked with Juan O. Savin, a QAnon influencer who some QAnon supporters believe is John F. Kennedy Jr., to supposedly “expose … the fraudulent election here in Nevada.”

Video fileVideo Player

Marchant suggested election fraud had supposedly been occurring “for a long time” and involved Democrats winning secretary of state offices around the country and “in key swing states.” He said that “we need to take back” those offices in 2022 because “they are the most important election in our country in 2022” as they “control the election system.” And he claimed he was asked to run for secretary of state in Nevada and to “put together a coalition of other like minded secretary of state candidates.”

Marchant said the “coalition,” which he developed with Savin, in May had its “inaugural meeting to start strategizing,” which included Lindell, Byrne, Jim Hoft and Joe Hoft of The Gateway Pundit, and Brian Kennedy of the Claremont Institute. The Gateway Pundit is a far-right blog that has previously given credence to QAnon and has played a major role spreading voter fraud misinformation. The Claremont Institute also has far-right ties.

Marchant named some secretary of state candidates who have expressed support for QAnon as part of this recruitment effort: Arizona’s Finchem and California’s Rachel Hamm, both of whom also attended the conference. Marchant also mentioned trying to recruit Pennsylvania’s Mastriano to run for governor because in Pennsylvania, the governor appoints the secretary of state. Another secretary of state candidate who attended the conference, Michigan’s Kristina Karamo, said she had been “asked to be a part of the coalition” and that “we came here to Vegas and we sat in the room and we met and we talked, all of us on the coalition together.”

Trump has also endorsedsome of the candidates connected to the effort. If elected, these figures could potentially try to use their office to cast doubt on or even reverse a future presidential election result.

Even without Q, QAnon has continued to corrode our democratic system -- and social media made that possible

Despite Q’s disappearance, the crackdowns by the platforms, and Biden’s assumption of office, QAnon did not go away. Animated by a belief that Trump was somehow still in power or would be reinstated, the community focused intensely on proving voter fraud. QAnon’s influence on the audit and the decertify movement, particularly in Arizona, is an extension of the influence QAnon had on Trump post-election, via some of the same figures.

The continued political influence of QAnon traces back to the original sin of the social media platforms. Failing to take action on QAnon sooner let it grow unchecked, becoming big and organized enough to influence politics. As Rogers herself said, the audiences of QAnon shows were, in part, helping “mov[e] the needle.”

And now this QAnon infrastructure -- in place due to the catastrophic mistake of the social media companies -- has helped cause an insurrection, struck at the integrity of our democracy, and sowed the seeds for a potential constitutional crisis.8

Reprinted with permission from Media Matters

White Nationalist Gab Now Sabotaging Vaccination Effort

Reprinted with permission from Media Matters

Gab's Andrew Torba, the CEO of a site known as a haven for white nationalists, has been using his platform to actively help people avoid getting coronavirus vaccines in response to possible mandates from government agencies and private companies.

Torba founded Gab in 2016 and it aimed to be a place for extremist content under the garb of free speech that other platforms had banned. Since then, the site has become a haven for white nationalists and extremist users, including the man accused of killing multiple people at a synagogue in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.

Torba has also made his activity central to Gab. All Gab users follow his account by default and his blog posts are sent directly to their email accounts. Now, Torba is using the platform to encourage people to avoid getting coronavirus vaccines, which are safe and extremely effective at preventing hospitalization and death.

Torba has made his anti-vaccine views clear for months and spread misinformation about the vaccines in blog posts sent to the platform's users, falselycalling them "an experimental vaccine" and "the largest science experiment in history." Torba has also shared messages he claims are from active-duty military users or their family members worried about a vaccine mandate, and his avatar on Gab openly promotes that he is "not vaccinated." (He also emailed Gab users a viral video of a man at a town hall meeting sharing vaccine misinformation, thereby playing a significant role in its spread.)

But in recent weeks Torba has ramped up his opposition to the vaccines and is now sending users materials that can be used to avoid taking it. In late July, Torba shared documents he claimed he got from a Twitter user, writing in a post that they contained "what the creator of the documents calls an 'air tight religious exemption request' for the COVID vaccine if it is mandatory for you at work, school, or in the military." These documents featured vaccine misinformation and also cite Solari Report, a site run by Catherine Austin Fitts, the star of a viral coronavirus misinformation video. Torba encouraged Gab users to "share" the documents "everywhere." Later in a video, he bragged about the documents, saying, "We've had a lot of great feedback on these. People are very thankful that we put these out there. You're not going to find these anywhere else."

Torba exemption documents wanting shares post

Torba's post featuring the documents, besides being shared on Gab, has also received more than 24,000 Facebook engagements, according to the tracking tool CrowdTangle. MultipleQAnon influencers also shared the post and those received hundreds of thousands of combined views. (A former candidate for chair of the Colorado Republican Party also sharedthe post.) Additionally, a user on the far-right forum formerly known as "TheDonald" wrote that Torba's post helped a family member get an exemption from the vaccine at college.

More recently, Torba launched another anti-vax initiative, announcing a Gab group that is meant to serve as a job board "for employers who are hiring and do not require their employees to inject an experimental substance into their bodies in order to retain employment." The group, which has more than 30,000 members, has featured numerous job listings for people looking to avoid taking the vaccines, including a posting from far-right and antisemitic outletTruNews, which listed positions "that will NEVER require you to get the jab." Torba has also used the group to promote another site for jobs not requiring vaccines and one with "a great religious exemption template for employees." The Gab group job board was also promoted onthe far-right forum formerly known as "TheDonald."

Torba job board announcement post

Around the same time, on August 24, Torba sent users yet another vaccine exemption template, this time for college students, writing, "My twin brothers received a letter from their College letting them know six days before they start classes that the college will be mandating vaccines for all students. … I worked with them to draft their exemption request and thought it could be helpful to other college students out there who are facing the same insane abuse of their religious liberty and bodily autonomy." (The post was shared on Facebook by an Arizona county Republican Party chapter.)

Torba and his platform have repeatedly shown support for extremism, such as courting QAnon supporters and antisemites (as well as pushing antisemitism), repeatedlypromotingcontent from white nationalist Nick Fuentes to users, and cheering on the January 6 insurrection at the United States Capitol as it was occurring. Torba has been trying to create his own services for Gab users who have been barred from using other sites for payment processing and more. These services include what Torba calls "an alternative to PayPal,"Gab's own streaming service, and even its own phone. In his email announcing his anti-vax job board, Torba acknowledged these efforts, writing, "This job board aligns with Gab's vision of building infrastructure for a parallel economy and we hope to expand further on this job board initiative in the coming months."

New Anti-Vax Disinformation Video Got 30 Million Views On Social Media

Reprinted with permission from Media Matters

A viral video pushing misleading claims about coronavirus vaccines and masks has earned at least 30 million views from uploads directly on mainstream social media platforms. In addition to this extensive view count, the video has also seemingly received millions of Facebook engagements despite these platforms' rules against coronavirus misinformation.

Previously, Facebook claimed that it would remove content from its platform that pushes false claims about vaccines. YouTube has said it prohibits content "about COVID-19 that poses a serious risk of egregious harm" or "contradicts local health authorities' or the World Health Organization's (WHO) medical information about COVID-19." TikTok has said it prohibits "misinformation related to COVID-19, vaccines, and anti-vaccine disinformation," and Twitter has said it prohibits "false or misleading information about COVID-19 which may lead to harm."

Despite those rules, the new video promoting lies about the pandemic and vaccines has already spread extensively on these platforms in just a few days.

The viral video features a man named Dan Stock -- who has said he was at the United States Capitol building during the January 6 insurrection -- speaking in front of an Indiana city's school board, where he makes multiple false claims. Calling himself a "functional family medicine physician," Stock falsely suggested that coronavirus vaccines were not effective, saying, "Why is a vaccine that is supposedly so effective having a breakout in the middle of the summer when respiratory viral syndromes don't do that?" He also falsely claimed, "People who have recovered from COVID-19 infection actually get no benefit from vaccination at all," and inaccurately alleged that masks do not work, saying that "coronavirus and all other respiratory viruses ... are spread by aerosol particles, which are small enough to go through every mask." And rather than vaccines, Stock suggested people use the drug ivermectin to treat COVID-19 -- which the FDA has specifically advised against.

A review by Media Matters found that the video has earned tens of millions of views from direct uploads on Instagram, Facebook, YouTube, Twitter, and TikTok combined.

On Instagram, uploads of the video have earned more than 4.6 million combined views. One upload, from right-wing host Sebastian Gorka, has received more than 3.5 million views alone. (In fact, Gorka's uploads of the clip on Instagram and Twitter appear to have contributed to nearly 30 percent of the known views of native uploads on mainstream social media platforms.) Another Instagram upload has nearly half a million views alone. And "Disinformation Dozen" member Sherri Tenpenny, who is ban evading on the platform, got thousands of views for her upload of the video.

Gorka Instagram Stock video

Uploads have also circulated on Facebook, with copies of the video earning at least 100,000 views. A page called Hancock County Indiana Patriots, which claims to have first uploaded the viral clip, got more than 90,000 views for its upload of the video which was then shared by John Jacob, a Republican member of the Indiana House of Representatives. (Jacob also earned thousands of views for his own upload of the video.)

John Jacob Hancock County Indiana Patriots Facebook Stock video

On YouTube, uploads of the video have earned at least 6.5 million views. One version earned well over 3.6 million views before it was taken down for violating YouTube's community guidelines. Multipleuploadsof the video -- including the one with millions of views -- also carried ads, meaning YouTube had profited off of spreading these harmful COVID misinformation claims.

Dan Stock YouTube video ads1

On Twitter, uploads of the video have received more than 5.5 million views. Similar to Instagram shares, most of the Twitter views come from an upload by Gorka which was shared on the platform by Rep. Jim Jordan (R-OH) and The Daily Wire's Candace Owens, among others. Gorka's upload was ultimately blocked from being shared on Twitter, but only after days of remaining active.

Jordan Gorka Twitter Stock video

And on TikTok, one user's upload of the video (divided into two parts) earned roughly 14 million views alone. A member of the major TikTok conservative group Republican Hype House also uploaded the video, getting thousands of views.

TikTok Stock video

That a new coronavirus misinformation video was not just able to go viral but apparentlysurpass the wide spread of previous COVID conspiracy theory videos suggests that many social media platforms continue to struggle with enforcing their policies against misinformation about vaccines and COVID-19. Similarly, the video's ongoing reach shows that efforts by these platforms to label or take it down are not happening nearly fast enough to contain the spread of such harmful misinformation.

Research contributions from Olivia Little, Camden Carter, Spencer Silva, Nena Beecham, Jeremy Tuthill, Kayla Gogarty & Carly Evans.

’Stop The Steal’ Impresario Will Now Push Voter Suppression Campaign

Reprinted with permission from Media Matters

"Stop the Steal" organizer and far-right figure Ali Alexander said in an online stream on July 27 that "several members of Congress and their chiefs of staff have asked if they could see" a new "election integrity memo" he is allegedly releasing.

In the online stream, Alexander said the memo would make "a very compelling case that Republicans must address election integrity, that state legislative bodies must pass reforms, and that failure will reduce turnout." Alexander also said the memo calls for a "full frontal offense" over the January 6 insurrection at the United States Capitol, adding that he was "really excited" about a press conference from Reps. Matt Gaetz (R-FL), Louie Gohmert (R-TX), Paul Gosar (R-AZ), and Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-GA) over the treatment of what he called "political prisoners" who were arrested for their alleged participation in the insurrection. (He also claimed "none of them were plotting an actual insurrection" and falsely claimed that "none of them took guns into the Capitol.")

He promised that the memo would help coordination for "all of these groups that are running around asking for some guidance, asking for some slogans, asking for stats so that they can confront their lawmakers," adding, "We're going to arm everybody with a big ol' political bazooka." He also told his followers to "tell everybody on Twitter, 'Ali Alexander is back.'"

(Due to technical issues while obtaining the audio recordings, some typing and clicking can be heard in the background.)

During the same stream, Alexander urged followers to use his "movement memo" to aid the Arizona "audit" and other possible state "audits" pushing false voter fraud claims. Alexander told his followers regarding his memo, "I want you to print it out. I want you to give it to your state lawmakers. I want you to memorize it. I want you to be equipped to better organize these audits and these protests that need to happen around the audits." He also said the memo "calls out a lot of idiots that are blocking election integrity."

Alexander also said that in addition to "all these grassroot leaders" and "people who coordinate ... state capitol protests" receiving the memo, "several members of Congress and their chiefs of staff have asked if they could see it."

Alexander also claimed that former President Donald Trump "used the Stop the Steal press release that we sent out on the 21st [of July]" to target House Speaker Nancy Pelosi in his released statement. He also credited his supporters with sharing the press release on social media, saying that it was "pretty rewarding" to see that "it made it to the president." Alexander thanked his supporters for being "the firepower that I need to get things done inside the Republican Party and the conservative movement."

Alexander has previously claimed that he was in touch with figures in Trump's orbit and administration as well as in Congress regarding his "Stop the Steal" efforts leading up to the insurrection. With the latter, he has specifically said that Reps. Andy Biggs (R-AZ), Mo Brooks (R-AL), and Gosar helped plan his January 6 rally (Gosar's chief of staff has also said he kept in regular contact with Alexander).

Following the insurrection, Alexander claimed he was waiting for certain "legal liabilities" to expire the "further away I get from January 6th" before resuming political activities. In June, he promised to "return to ... political activity here soon." But by then he was already advocating forstate "audits" of the 2020 presidential election and harassment of government workers. (In July, he claimed he would resume his public activities once there are three state "audits.")

Alexander has also called for violence against his perceived enemies and threatened authorities, encouraging his followersto prepare for "civil war" and a possible "revolution."

Wacky Advisers Have Roped Trump Into Their QAnon Restoration Fantasies

Reprinted with permission from Media Matters

Former President Donald Trump reportedly believes that he will somehow return to office in the coming months, a belief that fits with claims from supporters of the QAnon conspiracy theory and far-right message boards. And it appears to have come through his QAnon-connected orbit of advisers who have egged on his voter fraud grievances and who continue to suggest Trump can and should be reinstalled into office based on those false claims.

The New York Times' Maggie Haberman reported on June 1 that Trump "has been telling a number of people he's in contact with that he expects he will get reinstated by August." As Haberman noted, Trump's expectation has no basis in reality. But it echoes a claim that MyPillow CEO Mike Lindell has pushed. Lindell -- who has been making false claims of voter fraud for months -- appeared on Steve Bannon's show War Room: Pandemic in March and said that "Trump will be back in office in August" based on supposed evidence of voter fraud. At the time, Lindell's baseless statement -- which he also made around that time on multipleshows -- was hyped by someQAnon supporters and on far-rightmessage boards.

Other figures influencing Trump since last November have also claimed that Trump could somehow come back into office. Attorney Sidney Powell, appearing at a QAnon conference in Dallas on May 29, said that due to supposed voter fraud, Trump could be "reinstated" into office and President Joe Biden forced out of the White House.

The following day, at that same QAnon conference, former national security adviser Michael Flynn was asked why a military coup could not happen in the United States like it did in Myanmar. In response, he said, "No reason. I mean, it should happen here." Although Flynn later tried to walk it back, his statement echoed the widespread praise of the Myanmar coup among the QAnon community and its members' hope of a similar situation in the United States.

These three figures had not only advised Trump following the 2020 election, but they also have multiple other connections to QAnon. Lindell, who met withTrump in the days before Biden's inauguration, had at that time floated Trump using martial law to stay in office, a call that had been pushed byQAnon supporters. Lindell has also shared voter fraud conspiracy theories from the QAnon community, including content from 8kun, the message board site where the central figure of QAnon is based. Since Biden's inauguration, Lindell has associated with the hosts of a QAnon show, which he has appeared on and praised, and is apparently signing QAnon merchandise for auction. Lindell has also apparently offered "QAnon" as a promo code on MyPillow.

Powell and Flynn have even more explicitly promoted QAnon. Before speaking at the QAnon conference, Powell had repeatedly amplified QAnon influencers, tweeted QAnon language, and appeared on QAnon YouTube shows. Following the election, she cited Ron Watkins, the onetime administrator of 8kun, and other QAnon-connected figuresandclaims in her lawsuits seeking to overturn the election results in certain states.

Similarly, Flynn (whom Powell has represented) had taken a QAnon oath, signed books with the QAnon slogan "wwg1wga" (short for "where we go one, we go all"), helped sell QAnon merchandise, appeared on QAnon-supporting shows, and hung out with the same QAnon influencer Lindell has become friendly with. Flynn, like Lindell, also encouraged Trump to declare martial law after the election.

Before Biden's inauguration, Trump had floated making Powell a special counsel on election fraud and Flynn the director of the FBI or White House chief of staff.

But these three are also not the only people through whom QAnon theories were reaching Trump. Former Overstock CEO Patrick Byrne -- who has gone on multiple QAnon shows to push voter fraud claims and recently has associated with the same QAnon influencer Lindell and Flynn have associated with -- met with Trump post-election. And Lin Wood, a QAnon-supporting attorney who has falsely claimed that Trump is still president, had been aiding Trump's campaign post-election.

Fundamentally, this voter fraud orbit around Trump -- Lindell, Powell, Flynn, Byrne, and Wood -- is part of a pipeline from QAnon supporters and far-right message boards promoting the conspiracy theory that Trump will somehow come back into office. This theory has taken a variety of forms, including claims that Trump would be inaugurated as president on March 4 and/or that the military wouldinstall Trump back into office and throw out Biden, whether on a specific day or some day in the future. QAnon supporters have also pointed to and are involved with a supposed election audit in Arizona that they believe will result in Trump returning to the White House. Lindell, Powell, Byrne, and Wood have all been involved with that audit, and Trump in turn is reportedly "fixated" on it.

This pipeline between QAnon supporters and far-right message boards, this group of figures who have advised Trump, and Trump himself partly fueled his voter fraud grievances that helped lead to the January 6 insurrection at the United States Capitol. And now it threatens to further ensnare Trump -- and in turn, much of the Republican Party and the voting public.

Insurrectionists And White Nationalists Gather On Chinese-Owned Trovo Site

Reprinted with permission from Media Matters

Multiple far-right and white nationalist figures -- including some involved with the January 6 insurrection at the U.S. Capitol -- have shifted to the gaming-streaming platform Trovo, including using it to monetize their content. Some have used the platform to specifically defend the insurrection; one such person appears to be part of a special Trovo program that can help them raise additional money. Trovo's policies seemingly prohibit white nationalist content and content not related to video games.

Following the insurrection, streaming platform DLive, known for hosting many far-right figures -- some of whom used the platform to livestreamthe riot -- announced that it would ban several of those accounts. It also announced it would demonetize content that is "deemed to only be appropriate for mature audiences," which it says covers "virtually all non-gaming content."

Since then, multiple far-right figures have started migrating to Trovo, a streaming platform from Tencent still in beta testing. (Tencent is China's largest company and the operator of WeChat.) Trovo's terms of service prohibit content that is "overly violent or promotes or depicts events involving self-harm, harm to another person or harm to animals" and content that is "threatening, abusive, libelous, slanderous, fraudulent, defamatory, deceptive, or otherwise offensive or objectionable." The platform's content guidelines also allow only content that is "relevant to video games and pop culture," and they prohibit "overtly political or religious content that imposes upon others."

Despite those rules, multiple far-right figures have used the platform, often uploading content that is not related to those specifically allowed topics. They've also sometimes used the platform to monetize their content indirectly -- or possibly directly, as the platform provides an avenue for creators to monetize via its digital currencies. Some of these figures have been directly tied to the insurrection.

Vincent James Foxx, a white nationalist who attended the January 6 rally and who is banned from YouTube and DLive, joined Trovo in January. From the platform, James has earned "subs" and "spells," part of the platform's digital currencies which potentially can be converted into actual money. His channel also promotes a link to his Entropy page, a platform from which people can pay creators. On Trovo, James has criticized former President Donald Trump for not "back[ing] his supporters during the Capitol siege" and for not pardoning them after.

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MurderTheMedia, a channel affiliated with the far-right gang Proud Boys and which was banned by DLive following the insurrection, joined Trovo in January. Two members of the channel, Nicholas DeCarlo (also known as "Dick NeCarlo") and Nick Ochs (the head of the Proud Boys' Hawaii chapter), were charged by authorities for being part of the insurrection and were photographed giving thumbs up next to the scrawled words "Murder the Media" at the Capitol during the siege. One of them was also wearing a shirt with the "Murder The Media" logo at the time. On Trovo, MurderTheMedia has earned "spells" that can potentially be converted into actual money. The account has also aired a stream featuring NeCarlo trying to raise funds for his legal case and saying he would "fight" authorities and "punch a motherfucker in the face in the courtroom."

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Ali Alexander is a far-right figure who was a key organizer of the "Stop the Steal" efforts that culminated in the January 6 rally leading to the insurrection. Alexander, who has since been banned from multiple platforms,joined Trovo in February. Since then, he has used the platform to call for the free press "to be abolished" and has threatened to meet authorities on the "battlefield" if they attempt to arrest him.

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Some white nationalist "Groypers" who attended the insurrection have joined Trovo as well.

Other white nationalist and far-right figures have also made a home on Trovo since the insurrection.

  • Trovo.
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As Biden Takes Office, QAnon Cultists Struggle With New Reality

Reprinted with permission from Media Matters

Supporters of the false QAnon conspiracy theory are struggling to respond to President Joe Biden taking office.

The conspiracy theory has been centered around former President Donald Trump and a secret plot to take down his perceived enemies, the "deep state," and a cabal of satan-worshipping pedophiles. Supporters of the conspiracy theory, which has gained an extensive influence in the American political process and hampered the response to the coronavirus pandemic, had been indenialabout Biden's victory throughout the transition. They repeatedly claimed that somehow Trump would stay in office -- possibly via military means and martial law -- even when he made clear otherwise.

That denial about Biden's presidency carried through in the morning hours of Inauguration Day (though there were signs by the day before of a splintering in support for the conspiracy theory).

First, QAnon supporters began to claim that the number of American flags behind Trump at his farewell speech at Joint Base Andrews was a signal to QAnon.

Some QAnon followers also suggested a line in Eric Trump's farewell message saying "the best is yet to come" proved the conspiracy theory.

Multiple QAnon influencers even claimed that as he took office, Biden would reveal he was part of the conspiracy theory all along.

Obviously, none of this happened, and Biden has now been sworn in as the 46th president of the United States. Leading up to and following the inauguration ceremony, some QAnon supporters began to worry that they hadbeen deceived and others denied that it was possible. Other QAnon influencers are still urging supporters to still believe in the conspiracy theory, with some claiming the military may step in to prevent Biden's presidency (or seeming to suggest people will commit violence to stop it), a sign that the conspiracy theory in some form is likely here to stay -- even if its central figure is no longer president.

QAnon Backers Predict New  Deputy Attorney General Will Arrest Trump ‘Enemies’

Reprinted with permission from MediaMatters

Multiple influencers supporting the false QAnon conspiracy theory have praised the appointment of new Deputy Attorney General Richard Donoghue, claiming that he will carry out mass arrests of President Donald Trump's political opponents and fulfill the conspiracy theory.

QAnon is premised on a belief that an anonymous user posting on a far-right message board and calling itself "Q" is actually a secret government official working with Trump to take down the "deep state," his perceived enemies, and a global cabal of pedophiles (of which Democrats are a part), who will ultimately be arrested and sent to face military tribunals.

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Facebook Permits Promotion Of Campaign To Ditch Face Masks En Masse

Reprinted with permission from MediaMatters

A campaign urging people to burn and get rid of face masks en masse on September 15 has been spreading on Facebook and Instagram, despite multiple state laws and health experts' guidance to wear them.

As the novel coronavirus pandemic has spread throughout the United States, both public officials and healthexperts have urged people to wear masks to decrease the spread of the coronavirus. Numerous states have also instituted mandates for people to wear masks when in public.

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Reddit Finally Bans Pro-Trump Forum After Multiple Threats Of Violence

Reprinted with permission from MediaMatters

Reddit has finally banned the notorious subreddit "r/The_Donald," following its users and moderators repeatedly violating the platform's rules. The ban comes a year after Reddit quarantined the subreddit following Media Matters' reporting on its users issuing calls to violence, and months after they had abandoned the subreddit for their own backup site.

The subreddit, dedicated to supporting President Donald Trump, had hundreds of thousands of users and helped spread narratives and content used by Trump himself. Trump's social media director, Dan Scavino, was known to monitor the subreddit, and Trump did an "Ask Me Anything" question-and-answer session on the forum in 2016.

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Facebook And Twitter Permit Anti-Semitic Network On Their Pages

Reprinted with permission from MediaMatters

An anti-Semitic Telegram channel known for targeting Jews created new Facebook and Twitter accounts to cross-post its harassing content. Despite their policies on harassment and hate speech, neither Facebook nor Twitter has taken action on the new accounts, with Facebook claiming the page does not violate its policies.

The channel, as MotherJones‘ Ali Breland wrote in September, has been compiling “an online list of Jewish people who are critical of white nationalism”  since it was created last summer. The list includes “archived tweets from individuals criticizing white supremacy, misogyny, and other types of bigotry,”  along with tweets “in which the person in question describes themselves as Jewish.”

Breland noted that the list “includes many who are not public figures, or who have only modest profiles as rank-and-file activists, journalists, or social media figures.”  Breland added that the channel had become “the fastest-growing alt-right group”  on Telegram at that time. In February, he tweeted that other white nationalist Telegram channels had forwarded the channel’s “content around the time of” a pro-gun rally in Richmond, Virginia, that white nationalists had organized around.

On February 25, the channel posted that “Operation ‘Mass Kvetching’ is underway,” and urged its supporters to “follow [it] on the following platforms,” posting links to both Facebook and Twitter accounts.

On its Facebook page, the account was already cross-posting its content targeting multiple people for harassment (Media Matters has removed and blurred out images and names from the posts). Despite explicit policies prohibiting bullying, harassment, and hate speech, Facebook wrote in response to Media Matters flagging the page that the page “was reviewed and it doesn’t violate our Community Standards.” Facebook has also recently failed to enforce its policies on harassment and extremism.

Additionally, the channel’s new Twitter page — which is also cross-posting its harassing content — comes a few months after Twitter had permanently banned another account the channel had created on the platform. That means the new account is evading a Twitter suspension — a clear violation of Twitter rules. It is also violating Twitter’s policies prohibiting “hateful conduct” and “targeted harassment.” But as of this posting, Twitter has taken no action against the account. The platform has repeatedly struggled to detect accounts evading their bans, and it continues to have a white nationalist problem.