The Silent Civil War: The Radicalization of the Evangelical Right

 
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Robert Guffey

Art by Seth D. Ellison

 
 

“I hadn’t known there were so many idiots in the world until I started using the internet.”

—Stanislaw Lem

1. The Empire of the Voracious Green Goo

I once met a young woman at a UFO conference in the high desert of California. Her birth name was Carla, but she hosted an eccentric radio show under an assumed name. At that time, in the summer of 1999, she was about to begin hosting a brand-new late-night talk show on a radio station in Los Angeles. She seemed quite excited about the possibilities of covering conspiratorial topics that no one in mainstream radio had ever touched upon. She wanted to disseminate information that was cutting edge, anarchic, and anti-authoritarian. To that end, she asked me what I considered to be a perceptive and intelligent question: “How do I avoid giving airtime to disinformation? How do I separate the wheat from the chaff?” I remember thinking at the time, Well, this is a broadcaster who’s actually thinking about her responsibility to the public! I found this to be rather admirable. I responded with the first words that came to mind: “It’s very simple. Anyone who’s disseminating theories that instill nothing but fear in the listeners is propagating either disinformation or misinformation. If you want to avoid either of them, don’t waste your time with conspiracy theorists who just want to scare people with apocalyptic scenarios.” Her eyes widened with illumination, and she said, “That’s a really good way of putting it! Thanks! I’ll definitely keep that in mind!”

She began broadcasting on a weekly basis only a few weeks later. Within a month of her first broadcast she had ignored everything I’d said. Each broadcast featured a speaker less sane than the previous one. It was as if she were waiting at the back exit of psych wards all around Southern California and inviting random paranoid patients onto her show the second the state kicked the poor souls out onto the street. This confounded me. After all, the average Joe has no problem identifying clinically paranoid people within a few minutes of speaking to them. Sure, some folks suffering from paranoia can feign rational thinking for a short period of time; they might seem steady at first, but within fifteen minutes or so the façade begins to break down. The distant glint in their eyes reveals itself, the fragile timbre of their voice becomes more pronounced, and their tall tales take on a cartoony quality that exists in a realm somewhere just beyond the rational. This particular radio host had absolutely no ability to detect these telltale signs. Within fifteen minutes of beginning the interview, the listeners at home would think, “Jesus, the guest’s off their nut,” but our venerable host would just sit there, intoning, “Tell me more, O Wise One!” It was clear to me that she wasn’t engaging in this irresponsible behavior for mere shock value. One could hear in her voice that she believed the bizarre tales these guests were telling her. Pretty soon her show became the dumping ground for every single apocalyptic scare story generated by the minds of clinical paranoids all over Southern California.

H. P. Lovecraft once said, “The oldest and strongest emotion of mankind is fear, and the oldest and strongest kind of fear is fear of the unknown.” Any country—no matter how large or small—is most effectively controlled when its citizens live in constant fear. Therefore, the most cutting-edge, anarchic, and anti-authoritarian attitude one could ever promote is total fearlessness, not a state of perpetual panic as the citizenry lie awake under their quaking blankets in the dead of night, listening to weird phantoms spew tales of the Coming Empire of the Voracious Green Goo.

 
 

2. Q Crawls Out (Again)

Carla couldn’t have known at the time that her laissez-faire dissemination of conspiracy theories would presage the reckless way that Donald Trump’s followers promoted the QAnon movement beginning in October of 2017.

For those of you who don’t know, QAnon is an infinitely more absurd—and infinitely more dangerous—version of the “Satanic Panic” of the 1980s. Its adherents see the Devil everywhere. The fractured worldview of those who follow QAnon can be summed up as follows: They believe that liberal Democrats are initiates of a Satanic cult who (in conjunction with fraternal organizations like the Freemasons) are kidnapping children, dragging them into secret underground bases, and extracting “Adrenochrome” from their still-living bodies in order to distribute this vitality-granting chemical to powerful politicians and elite members of Hollywood royalty. The roots of this penny dreadful can be traced back not only to Hunter S. Thompson’s classic work of gonzo journalism, Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas (1971), in which the main characters experience bizarre hallucinations after ingesting a fictional recreational drug called “Adrenochrome,” but also to obscure black-and-white B movies such as Edward Dein’s The Leech Woman (1960), the plot of which revolves around an expedition of American explorers who come across a remote village in the Tanganyika region of Africa where members of the tribe are held down and drugged during a ritualistic ceremony in which pineal gland fluids are extracted from their bodies; the victim is killed in the process, and the pineal gland fluid is given to “the Leech Woman” who consumes the liquid and grows decades younger as a result. Unfortunately, she has to keep sacrificing people in order to maintain the veneer of youth and goes on a killing spree in Los Angeles.

There’s something strangely appropriate about millions of paranoid evangelical Christians—who would have prevented their children from watching something as lurid as The Leech Woman back in the 1960s—being duped into basing their entire theology and worldview on a pulp fiction–style plot partially lifted from an obscure, cheapjack horror film. Perhaps this says something about the horror fiction tropes of Christianity itself that so many adherents of the world’s most powerful religion found the transition from God-fearing monotheist to QAnon cultist so very smooth, as if the progression from born-again to insurrectionist couldn’t have been more natural.

If two-thousand-plus years of Christianity has taught us anything of value at all, it’s that nothing inspires more fealty from legions of fanatics than watching a revered martyr being tortured slowly by his enemies. Perhaps this explains certain poll results of late. Despite the preponderance of mainstream op-ed pieces with titles like “Donald Trump Is Finally Finished” (in the Nov. 15, 2022 edition of the New York Times) and “Trump’s Grip on the Republican Base Is Slipping—Even Among His Fans” (in the Feb. 23, 2023 edition of the Washington Post), recent polls indicate that Trump is “surging in [popularity] ahead of a possible indictment from a New York grand jury.”1 According to CNN, Trump holds “an average double-digit advantage over Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis in national 2024 Republican primary surveys.”2 Ed Kilgore of New York Magazine has observed, “…polls of the 2024 GOP contest show a fairly stable Trump lead over the field. If DeSantis looked initially like an irresistible force, Trump is looking more like an immovable object.”3

Leftists who choose to confine themselves within solipsistic social media bubbles in which only progressive views are expressed might be under the mistaken impression that QAnon’s influence has waned since Joe Biden wrested the White House away from Trump in 2020. Alas, QAnon may no longer require Trump’s presence in the White House in order to maintain its tight grip on the Republican Party. The Republican candidate with the best chance of dethroning Trump as the GOP frontrunner is Florida Governor Ron DeSantis, who’s gone out of his way to work with QAnon followers such as Miami activist Eulalia Maria Jimenez, the chair of Moms for Liberty4 (a Christian group “dedicated to fighting for the survival of America”5), and Esther Byrd, the President of the Republican Women’s Club of Duval Federated6, who DeSantis appointed to the Florida Board of Education. That’s the same draconian board responsible for the “Don’t Say Gay” and “Stop W.O.K.E” acts, censorious laws that (according to PEN America) subject “teachers and students to an all-encompassing regime of prohibitions and punishments” for not playing along with the dismantling of the First Amendment.7

Esther Byrd tweeted the following message in 2021: “In the coming civil wars (We the People vs the Radical Left and We the People cleaning up the Republican Party), team rosters are being filled… Every elected official in DC will pick one. There are only 2 teams… With Us [or] Against Us.”8

In August of 2021, Eulalia Maria Jimenez posted a video on Instagram in which she said, “Muzzling humanity across the board is not political, mandating people to inject themselves with a poison is not political, men becoming women, women becoming men is not political. Children being smuggled in underground tunnels for the enjoyment of demons is not political. Wake up.”9 It’s important to point out that the “demons” about which Jimenez is so concerned are not in any way metaphorical, at least not in her mind. QAnon adherents truly believe that leftists are in league with shadowy, satanic entities dwelling in deep underground grottos. The fact that this garish plot could easily have been lifted from a 1940s pulp horror story says a lot about Jimenez’s tenuous grip on reality; the fact that Jimenez and so many archconservatives of her ilk are allowing such improbable fantasies to guide the most significant political decisions of their (and, by extension, our) lives is nothing less than chilling. In an entertainment-obsessed nation where hollow fantasies have steadily overtaken almost every aspect of American life, perhaps it shouldn’t be a surprise that the tropes of pulp fiction have—within a very short period of time—nearly succeeded in supplanting the twin pillars of politics and religion among even the most traditional Christians.

My suggestion that the entire Q narrative is rooted in American pulp fiction is reinforced by the fact that Walter B. Gibson, the most prolific pulp writer in history, published a novel back in June of 1940 about his vigilante hero, The Shadow, butting heads with a “hidden chief” named “Q” who manipulated low-level criminals into pulling off explosions all around the United States as a cover for the “Q” organization’s true motives.


1Madison Hall, “Trump Is Surging in 2024 Polls Ahead of a Possible Indictment: Monmouth University Poll,” Business Insider, Mar. 22, 2023 (accessed Mar. 26, 2023).
2Harry Enten, “Voters of Color Are a Big Reason Trump Leads the GOP Primary,” CNN, Mar. 19, 2023 (accessed Mar. 26, 2023).
3Ed Kilgore, “2024 Polls Show DeSantis Can’t Easily Knock Out Trump,” New York Magazine, Mar. 1, 2023 (accessed Mar. 26, 2023).
4Gary Fineout, “DeSantis Shares Stage with Activist Who Posted QAnon-related Conspiracy Theories on Social Media,” Politico, Dec. 17, 2021 (accessed Mar. 26, 2023).
5“Who We Are,” MomsForLiberty.org (accessed Mar. 26, 2023).
6Emily Bloch, “Esther Byrd of Neptune Beach appointed by Gov. Ron DeSantis to Florida Board of Education,” Florida Times-Union, Mar. 14, 2022 (accessed Mar. 26, 2023).
7“Florida Adopts Even More Punitive Provisions Against Teachers and Students to Implement New Controversial Education Laws,” PEN.org, Oct. 24, 2022 (accessed Mar. 26, 2023).
8Emily Bloch, “Esther Byrd of Neptune Beach appointed by Gov. Ron DeSantis to Florida Board of Education,” Florida Times-Union, Mar. 14, 2022 (accessed Mar. 26, 2023).
9Gary Fineout, “DeSantis Shares Stage with Activist Who Posted QAnon-related Conspiracy Theories on Social Media,” Politico, Dec. 17, 2021 (accessed Mar. 26, 2023).

 

“ ‘That’s Q,’ chuckled Rigger. ‘Get it? Q. It’s the big-shot’s call; that’s what we call him—Q. I could tell you why he uses it, but there isn’t time. When Q calls, it means business. Right now, there’s something he wants me to do. Just why, I’ll find out later. Too bad you won’t be around to learn.’ ”

—Walter B. Gibson, “Q”, The Shadow Magazine, June 15, 1940

Ever since January of 2021, the QAnon adherents have been wandering around in an allegorical desert, waiting impatiently for the return of Q (the “hidden chief” of their movement, an anonymous poster who first popped up on 4chan around Halloween of 2017), but Q ceased posting after the failure of the insurrection—an insurrection largely inspired by the Trump-approved messages that Q had been posting for years. But in July of 2022, their long wait finally ended.

My latest nonfiction book, Operation Mindfuck: QAnon & the Cult of Donald Trump, was released one day after the Fourth of July in 2022. Only a few days earlier, what I call “Team Q” decided to crawl out of the woodwork and start posting again after eighteen months of silence. It would be darkly amusing to think that Q elected to do this as a way of commemorating the publication date of Operation Mindfuck, but of course the real reason was that these new posts were just desperate attempts at damage control following Cassidy Hutchinson’s damning testimony at the January 6 hearings. The fact that Trump’s supporters felt the need to resurrect Q in order to combat these hearings is telling.

From Hutchinson we learned that Trump and chief of staff Mark Meadows were well aware, thanks to the repeated warnings of White House counsel Pat Cipollone, that Trump’s presence at the Capitol could be viewed as “inciting a riot.” Despite the fact that Trump knew his followers were armed with AR-15s, he didn’t care because (Trump insisted) they weren’t there to harm him. Obviously, the natural follow-up question would be, “Well, who were they there to harm?”

“I don’t fucking care they have weapons!” Hutchinson said Trump shouted. “Take the fucking mags [metal detectors] away!” These armed Trumpers are the same people he ordered to “fight like hell” and march toward the Capitol. When Trump was told by the head of his security detail that he couldn’t join his personal army at the scene of the crime, he attempted to grab the steering wheel of the presidential limousine, and when that didn’t work he physically attacked the secret service agent by strangling him.10

One can understand why, one day later, Team Q felt the need to undermine the veracity of Hutchinson’s testimony by implying that she was a disinformation “plant” hired (or outright created) by the Deep State and/or the Illuminati. The real purpose of this June 29, 2022 Q post should be obvious to anyone not dazed and confused by the twin terrors of propaganda and ideology:

What is at stake?
Who has control?
SURPRISE WITNESS.
Who was surprised?
Who will be surprised?
Use your logic.
Can emotions be used to influence decisions?
How do you control emotion?
Define 'Plant'.
How do you insert a plant?
Can emotions be used to insert a plant?
Who is Cassidy Hutchinson?
Trust the plan.
11

As with all the Q posts, no definitive statements are made. The late psychological warfare officer, Colonel Michael Aquino, once wrote that, “For the mind to believe its own decisions, it must feel that it made those decisions without coercion. Coercive measures used by the [psychological warfare] operative, consequently, must not be detectable by ordinary means.” This is why almost all of Q’s posts are framed as questions. “Who is Cassidy Hutchinson?” The obvious implication of the question, when seen in the context of the 4,957 Q posts that preceded it, is that Hutchinson is a fake, some sort of “Crisis Actor” recruited by the Deep State to cast aspersions on Trump’s otherwise sterling reputation. Team Q never says this, of course, not outright. They just ask a question and then allow the targets to make the next illogical step all on their own. The targets are left with the self-satisfying feeling that they’ve reached these decisions without coercion. How do you convince thousands of otherwise law-abiding citizens to march on the Capitol and commit federal crimes? You allow them to think they’ve arrived at this decision of their own volition. But then, the next day, feeling as if they had awakened from a terrible dream, many of these Q followers suddenly realized they’d screwed up their lives for good. They must have felt like confused hypnotics rising out of a mental fog.


10“Jan. 6 Hearings: Ex-Trump White House Aide’s Explosive Testimony,” MSNBC.com, June 28, 2022 (accessed Aug. 3, 2022).
11Q, “4958,” Qposts.online (accessed Aug. 3, 2022).

 

“On January 2, 2021, the anonymous ‘Gene Decode’ (a popular figure among the QAnon crowd) appeared on Rick Rene’s Blessed to Teach ‘Christian Patriot’ podcast and told his loyal audience not to fear the martial law that would be enacted four days hence. He told them not to go for their guns when they saw the military taking over their neighborhoods. No, they should just stand down and “trust the plan.’”

 

“His reward from Q was death.”

—Walter B. Gibson, “Q”, The Shadow Magazine, June 15, 1940

Christopher Stanton Georgia, a 53-year-old banker, shot himself in the chest in January of 2021 after being charged with unlawful entry in connection with the siege on the US Capitol.12 Jeffrey Patrick Sabol, a 51-year-old geophysicist who helped a mob drag a policeman down the Capitol steps, attempted to flee to Switzerland to escape the legal consequences of his actions, but when that didn’t work out he tried to take his own life.13

Those are just two examples from the numerous “Q suicides” (or “Q suicide attempts”) that occurred in the wake of January 6. I suspect, based on tragedies like the two cited above, that the vast majority of the MAGA crowd who gathered in Washington, D.C. did not go there with the specific intent to commit violence. As I watched the events unfold on television on January 6, it was clear to me that the QAnon-influenced MAGA crowd were being used as a cover for the real attack, which was orchestrated and implemented by extremist groups like the Proud Boys and the Oath Keepers. On that day, I jotted down the following sentence in my notebook: “The QAnon architects are the equivalent of the Reich Ministry of Public Enlightenment and Propaganda created by Joseph Goebbels. The Proud Boys and the Oath Keepers are the Brownshirts and the S.S.”

A few months later, in May of 2021, I heard an interview with Dr. James Scaminaci III, a sociologist with a background in military intelligence, who offered a similar analysis of the events of January 6.14 Unlike Dr. Scaminaci, I don’t have a background in military intelligence; however, I had been monitoring numerous QAnon podcasts in the months leading up to the insurrection, and I knew these QTubers (as they like to call themselves) were parroting the same violent disinformation over and over again, as if they were being told what to say by some central source.

On January 2, 2021, the anonymous “Gene Decode” (a popular figure among the QAnon crowd) appeared on Rick Rene’s Blessed to Teach “Christian Patriot” podcast and told his loyal audience not to fear the martial law that would be enacted four days hence. He told them not to go for their guns when they saw the military taking over their neighborhoods. No, they should just stand down and “trust the plan” (a recurrent QAnon motto). And if liberals didn’t get on board with that plan as well, Gene and his fellow QAnon followers would have to “arrange a meeting for [them] with the God of all Creation and the highest court in existence, the court of God!” Incendiary, religious-fueled statements were being repeated across an array of QAnon platforms in the months leading up to the 6th of January. It didn’t require military training or multiple PhDs to figure out that this onslaught of disinformation and religious chest-beating might well culminate in some sort of bloodbath.

On January 4, 2021, all ten living secretaries of defense collaborated on a Washington Post op-ed piece in which they felt the unprecedented need to warn “civilian and military officials” that any efforts “to involve the U.S. armed forces in resolving election disputes would take us into dangerous, unlawful and unconstitutional territory” and that any member of the armed forces who carried out “such measures would be accountable, including potentially facing criminal penalties.” Need I point out that such an op-ed piece has never been written before? What level of shared panic-attack freak-out was necessary to convince Ashton Carter, Dick Cheney, William Cohen, Mark Esper, Robert Gates, Chuck Hagel, James Mattis, Leon Panetta, William Perry, and Donald Rumsfeld to all sign off on the same document and then go to the trouble of publishing it in the pages of the Washington Post? I suspect they were privy to the same information that anyone monitoring these QAnon podcasts would have known: a disturbing amount of law enforcement and military officials are devout QAnon cultists.

On September 28, 2020, Ali Breland of Mother Jones published an article entitled “QAnon Is Attracting Cops,” which featured podcast host, Jake Rockatansky, commenting on the intersection between QAnon and members of law enforcement. He recently produced an episode of the QAnon Anonymous podcast devoted to the subject of “QAnon Cops”:

“The danger,” Rockatansky [said], “is that you’ve got law enforcement who have a tremendous amount of responsibility who are showing complete disconnect from reality. They carry weapons. What happens if a police officer thinks that they’ve uncovered a pedophile ring?”15

Of course, we’ve already seen the answer to that question on January 6, 2021.

Olivia Rubin’s April 23, 2021 ABC News report entitled “Number of Capitol Riot Arrests of Military, Law Enforcement and Government Personnel Rises to 52” addresses this issue:

At least 52 active or retired military, law enforcement, or government service employees are among the over 400 suspects arrested for their alleged actions at the Capitol, according to an ABC News investigation based on military records, court records, interviews, and publicly available news reports. The arrests include over half a dozen ex-police officers and multiple former elected officials—and represent some of the most significant and violent charges brought in connection with the deadly insurrection […].

According to a report from Georgetown’s Project on Extremism, military individuals who participated in the attack on the Capitol were about four times more likely to be involved in domestic extremist organizations, such as the Proud Boys or Oath Keepers, which are now being probed by the Justice Department over their alleged role in helping plan and carry out the assault on the Capitol. The Georgetown group identified 43 alleged Capitol rioters as having military backgrounds, and said that more than a third of them were affiliated with violent extremist organizations.16

The frightening truth is that almost all the members of Oath Keepers are enlisted men, and a disturbing percentage of the rioters who stormed the Capitol had been trained by the military. The slew of arrests that followed January 6, and the Congressional hearings investigating the insurrection, have not lessened the trend of law enforcement and military personnel being initiated into extreme right-wing groups. If anything, the situation has worsened. Only recently, a Utah county attorney, David Leavitt, has been harassed by a “QAnon sheriff” named Mike Smith who published a 151-page “report” implicating Leavitt and his wife in a “ritualistic” pedophile ring that cannibalizes children. The fact that the two men are political rivals has nothing to do with the harassment, Smith claimed. Soon after the release of the report, Leavitt demanded that Sheriff Smith resign.

Daily Beast reporter Barbie Latza Nadeau published the following information on June 2, 2022:

[Sheriff] Smith told reporters no one was personally named in the report, but Leavitt said, in fact, he and his wife were named on purpose just a week before ballots [were] sent out.

“I am calling upon Sheriff Mike Smith to open his office to an outside investigation, where outside, independent investigators are able to investigate and confirm or deny that documents from a debunked investigation from more than a decade ago were or were not used for political purposes in a Utah County Attorney’s race,” Leavitt said in a statement.

The two officials have never met eye to eye since Smith endorsed a more like-minded conservative in the county attorney race. He maintains the timing of the report has nothing to do with revenge.

“This is not political,” he said. “This is something we take very, very seriously. This is some of the most egregious crimes that happen in our community, when our children are victimized at this level.”

Smith also played down the mention of cannibalism in his investigation, which Leavitt insists is part of the report. The sheriff says the main focus is sex abuse, not the consumption of children.17

On September 27, 2021, a nonprofit organization called Distributed Denials of Secrets leaked a series of eye-opening emails written by various covert members of the Oath Keepers. As a result of this online data dump, many current law enforcement agents and military officers were outed as initiates of the Oath Keepers. This leak, which led to the uncovering of numerous secret members of the Oath Keepers across the country, intersected with my own QAnon research in a most unexpected way.


12Tamar Lapin, “Medical Examiner Releases Georgia Man’s Cause of Death After Capitol Riot,” Foxnews.com, Jan. 13, 2021 (accessed Aug. 3, 2022).
13Colin Kalmbacher and Adam Klasfeld, “Rioter Who Helped Drag Officer Down U.S. Capitol Steps Tried to Flee to Switzerland,” Law and Crime, Jan. 22, 2021 (accessed Aug. 3, 2022).
14“Breaking Down the Jan 6th Coup w/ James Scaminaci III & Recluse,” The Farm Podcast, May 24, 2021 (accessed Aug. 4, 2022).
15Ali Breland, “QAnon Is Attracting Cops,” Mother Jones, Sep. 28, 2020 (accessed Aug. 3, 2022).
16Olivia Rubin, “Number of Capitol Riot Arrests of Military, Law Enforcement and Government Personnel Rises to 52,” ABC News, Apr. 23, 2021 (accessed Aug. 3, 2022).
17Barbie Latza Nadeau, “Utah County Gripped by Bizarre Accusations of Murder and Cannibalization of Kids,” Daily Beast, June 2, 2022 (accessed Aug. 3, 2022).

 
 

In August and September of 2020, I wrote an in-depth, five-part series about the fascist overtones of QAnon for Salon. Early in October of 2020, only a few weeks after the final part of the QAnon series appeared on Salon on September 13, 2020, I was contacted by Chris Marx, a sergeant first class in the Utah National Guard and a former sheriff’s deputy in New Mexico. He said he wanted to talk to me about unconstitutional surveillance and harassment, the main subject of my third book, Chameleo (OR Books, 2015). He insisted that he’d undergone traumatic experiences in Utah that were very similar to the illegal, COINTELPRO-like surveillance operations experienced by my friend Dion Fuller in San Diego, as chronicled in great detail in Chameleo. Since Marx’s background checked out, I agreed to speak to him.

We spoke on the phone for over two hours. Later, we exchanged several emails. Marx went out of his way to introduce me to a popular radio show host in Germany. This show, he told me, “is one of the most listened to on this type of subject in all of Europe. It is syndicated on all sorts of platforms, which would give you awesome exposure overseas. I have a feeling Chameleo may have another big wave of popularity in a market yet pretty much untapped. I believe that [Chameleo’s] important message needs maximum distribution, today more than ever.” Marx succeeded in getting me booked on the radio show in question. Overall, he gave me the impression that his sentiments and motivations were essentially antifascist in nature and that he had a deep desire to get at the truth of his own government harassment. During the next few months, we remained in intermittent contact with each other via email. The last email he sent to me was dated January 15, 2021, nine days after the Capitol riot. After that, I never heard from him again.

In September of 2021, as a result of the aforementioned Distributed Denials of Secrets data dump, Chris Marx’s name was “found on the membership role of the Oath Keepers,” as reported by The Salt Lake Tribune. As if that weren’t enough, Marx’s wife, podcaster Erica Lukes, reported that Marx threatened violence against both President Obama and President Biden. He also “assaulted [Lukes] at their Salt Lake City apartment in February of [2021].” As a result, Marx was “charged with two misdemeanor counts of domestic assault and a count of violating a protective order.”

FOX13 News reporter Nate Carlisle released the following report about Marx on November 9, 2021:

[Marx and Lukes] married […] in January 2020. Lukes said problems emerged quickly into the marriage.

So, Lukes did what she did for [her] podcast — she recorded.

“That f___ing Sudanese ni____ and his f___ing white f___ing wigger tied our hands behind our backs,” Marx is heard on a recording Lukes made on Nov. 7, 2020, the same day the Associated Press called Joe Biden the winner of the U.S. presidential election. Marx was talking about his time as a soldier in Afghanistan.

“You need to get counseling,” Lukes replied.

“That f___ing needs to get f___ing executed,” Marx continued. “And his f___ing Biden f___ing bully — f___ing both of them f___ing ni_____.

“F___ing Biden. I f___ing hate his guts. If I ever see him, if I ever see him in person God forbid, God forbid, I am going to insult the president and beat the f___ out of him.”

Lukes made another recording on Nov. 13, 2020.

“I have no issues f___ing taking a gun and starting shooting,” Marx said, “start shooting left-wing mother f___ers at their rallies. No problem at all!”

According to the timeline of this news report, Marx was threatening to shoot “leftwing motherfuckers” only about four weeks after our phone conversation during which he presented to me a persona that could not have been more polar opposite. Why would a member of the Oath Keepers go out of his way to contact a writer who had just published a five-part investigative series about the fascist roots and psychological warfare aspects of QAnon? What was the purpose of gaining my trust by facilitating an appearance for me on a popular radio show? Was this purpose—whatever it was—cut short by the unexpected data dump in September of 2021? (Keep these questions in mind, and then compare the preceding events with Jerome Corsi’s calculated relationship with Christina Urso and her Patriots’ Soapbox website, which will be discussed later.)18

Back in 2013, I remember watching the first few episodes of a Grand Guignol–style TV show called The Following, created by Kevin Williamson, which was about a charismatic psychopath named Joe Carroll (James Purefoy) who manages to create a nationwide cult of serial killers via nothing more than posts on the internet. The main character, an FBI agent (Kevin Bacon), is repeatedly shocked by how many followers of the bloodthirsty cult are secretly embedded in law enforcement. Almost every episode, FBI agent Ryan Hardy would turn around to discover that another trusted colleague was trying to plunge a knife into his back. After a while, I thought, “Jesus, c’mon, this is like Invasion of the Body Snatchers! This could never happen in the real world—not to this extent! Give me a freakin’ break!” I now extend my sincerest apologies to Mr. Williamson, as I see I couldn’t have been more wrong. In the wake of the revelations about QAnon and the Oath Keepers, the “outlandish” plot of The Following almost seems prescient.


18Nate Carlisle, “FOX 13 Investigates: Utah Soldier Charged with Domestic Assault, Heard Discussing Violence Against Presidents,” Fox13Now.com, Nov. 9, 2021 (accessed Aug. 3, 2022).

 
 

“They could only depend upon Q to provide a mightier answer. Their hidden chief did not fail them.”

—Walter B. Gibson, “Q”, The Shadow Magazine, June 15, 1940

Marx was not the only Oath Keeper whose life was disrupted by the Distributed Denials of Secrets organization. On September 30, 2021, in a Gothamist article entitled “Hack of Oath Keepers Militia Group Includes Names of Active NYPD Officers, De Blasio Launches Investigation,” journalists George Joseph and Micah Loewinger provided a list of similar far-right-wingers outed by the leak:

One NYPD sergeant, who is listed online as being active in the department’s Firearms and Tactics Session, was named in the data dump. The sergeant answered a phone number posted in the membership data and acknowledged he was an NYPD officer when asked whether he was the person in question. He declined to comment on whether or not he is a member of the militia organization, and referred WNYC/Gothamist to the NYPD’s press office.

The log associated with the sergeant suggests he joined the Oath Keepers in 2014. The email address listed with the membership contains the term “nypdcop,” and the entry lists expertise in “field force operations,” “incident management,” and “riot control agents.”

Another name revealed in the hack matches that of a Staten Island officer currently assigned to the department’s Strategic Response Group, a unit that’s been frequently deployed to quell protests, including those that erupted in New York City last year in response to the murder of George Floyd.

When WNYC/Gothamist called the phone number associated with that membership entry, a man answered but did not confirm whether or not he was the officer in question. When asked if he was a member of the Oath Keepers, the man paused and asked how his number was obtained. He then declined to answer further questions.

In New York, WNYC/Gothamist was able to identify dozens of names that appeared to match those of current and former police, court, and corrections officers in New York City and other jurisdictions, including Nassau County on Long Island, and Dutchess and Greene Counties in upstate New York.19

In October of 2021, due to this same leak, Sheriff Chad Bianco of California’s Riverside County was revealed to be a member of the Oath Keepers. NPR journalist Scott Neuman wrote this October 6, 2021 report entitled “California Sheriff Defends His Past Membership in the Extremist Oath Keepers Militia”:

The sheriff of California's Riverside County, outside Los Angeles, has acknowledged that he once briefly belonged to the extremist Oath Keepers militia […].

In an interview, Sheriff Chad Bianco sought to downplay his past affiliation with the organization, while also insisting that the aims of the Oath Keepers — which has emerged as one of the largest groups in the far-right patriot militia movement — have been misunderstood. In August, 17 Oath Keepers members were indicted in connection with the Jan. 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol.

“I don't even remember joining,” Bianco, who was elected in 2018, told member station KPCC in excerpts from an interview published on the LAist website.

He maintained that “what happened at the Capitol was completely wrong,” but that the Oath Keepers — which the Southern Poverty Law Center says has “trained for a revolution against the state” — are not anti-government. He blamed the Jan. 6 violence on “a few fringe people.”20

Further information about the overlap between the Oath Keepers and law enforcement is available in Frank Stoltze’s October 21, 2021 LAist article entitled “California Attorney General Says Riverside Sheriff’s Defense of Extremist Oath Keepers Is ‘Disturbing’ ”:

Erroll Southers, a former FBI agent and expert in homegrown violent extremism, said an investigation by the state’s attorney general is in order to examine how Bianco’s defense of the Oath Keepers is affecting his department—the fourth largest sheriff’s agency in the country.

“Is it a problem, how deep does it go, is it affecting policies, is it affecting behaviors?” he said.

“Organizations mirror their leadership,” said Southers, who teaches at USC’s Price School of Public Policy.

Bianco’s defense of the group “overtly sends a message to the people that are under his command” that it’s okay to be a member, Southers said. “We already know we have a challenge of law enforcement being recruited by Oath Keepers in particular.”21

This problem is by no means limited to local law enforcement. According to journalist Jeff Stein, in a Daily Beast article published on March 11, 2022, many spy agency employees believe that the January 6 insurrection was completely justified:

An internal U.S. intelligence messaging system became a “dumpster fire” of hate speech during the Trump administration, a veteran National Security Agency contractor says. And it’s “ongoing,” another Defense Department contractor tells SpyTalk.

Dan Gilmore, who was in charge of overseeing internal chat rooms for the Intelink system for over a decade starting in 2011, says that by late 2020 the system was afire with incendiary hate-filled commentary, especially on “eChirp,” the intelligence community’s clone of Twitter.

“I was the admin of this application and after a couple years, it became a dumpster fire,” Gilmore, a 30-year veteran of Navy and NSA cryptologic systems, wrote Thursday in an extraordinary public post on his own web site. “Professionalism was thrown out the window, and flame wars became routine.”

NSA did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

“Hate speech was running rampant on our applications,” wrote Gilmore, whose identity and credentials have been vouched for by another Pentagon contractor. “I’m not being hyperbolic. Racist, homophobic, transphobic, Islamaphobic [sic], and misogynistic speech was being posted in many of our applications.”

Even more startling, Gilmore alleges, “there were many employees at CIA, DIA, NSA, and other IC agencies that openly stated that the January 6th terrorist attack on our Capitol was justified.”

Gilmore says that “more than a few government employees at many different IC agencies” grew “concerned about the content that Intelink was allowing to be hosted” [...].

Another NSA contractor told SpyTalk that the hate speech started in 2016 after Trump’s election and is “ongoing.” Trump’s followers in the agency get away with professional indiscretions, some of them serious, while others get dismissed for minor infractions, this person said on condition of anonymity.

“We literally had folks get their clearances burned for time card discrepancies while pro-MAGA types might have multiple DUIs, foreign contacts, and (in one case) vehicular homicide,” the source said. “They were kept working while others were let go.”

Extremist groups have made inroads in U.S. military and police units, experts say. Intelligence sources have told SpyTalk over the past several months that pro-Trump fervor is centered in special operations and hostage rescue units.22


19George Joseph and Micah Loewinger, “Hack of Oath Keepers Militia Group Includes Names of Active NYPD Officers, De Blasio Launches Investigation,” Gothamist, Sep. 30, 2021 (accessed Aug. 3, 2022).
20Scott Neuman, “California Sheriff Defends His Past Membership in the Extremist Oath Keepers Militia,” NPR.org, Oct. 8, 2021 (accessed Aug. 3, 2022).
21Frank Stoltze, “California Attorney General Says Riverside Sheriff’s Defense of Extremist Oath Keepers Is ‘Disturbing,’” LAist.com, Oct. 21, 2021 (accessed Aug. 3, 2022). Available at: .
22Jeff Stein, “’Many’ Spy Agency Staffers Think Capitol Riot Was ‘Justified,’ Ex-NSA Veteran Says,” The Daily Beast, Mar. 11, 2022 (accessed Aug. 3, 2022).

 
 

All around me, I see progressives either dismissing the significance of QAnon, sustained by the wishful assumption that the movement was a fad that died out the second Trump left the White House, or living blissfully in ignorance of the movement’s very existence. Even the near-cataclysm of January 6 has not wakened these progressives to the dark reality that’s been forming around them for several years now. Some of these people seem to think that the mere presence of Joe Biden in the Oval Office has somehow paved over the problem once and for all.

Just last week, my friend Stephanie invited her left-leaning sister to visit her at her house in Portland, Oregon. During dinner, Stephanie showed her sister a copy of my book, Operation Mindfuck.

Her sister furrowed her brow while glancing at the cover and said, “What’s it about?”

“Oh, you know,” Stephanie said, “it’s about QAnon…examining where it came from and all that.”

“QAnon?” her sister said. “What’s QAnon?”

This is an individual one would not describe as completely unaware of what’s happening on the political scene, and yet she’d never heard the word “QAnon” before. Not even an attempted coup d’état in which five people lost their lives was capable of searing into this person’s mind the dire significance of the QAnon movement and what its messed-up theology had done to the minds of millions of Americans. Unfortunately, far too many people have elected to act as if we’re all still frolicking tra-la-la-la in pre-Trump America.

 

3. In the Shadow of Q

“Crime had failed, so far as the convicts were concerned, but it meant success for their hidden master, the unknown Q.”

—Walter B. Gibson, “Q”, The Shadow Magazine, June 15, 1940

Even people who were in the middle of the siege on the Capitol continue to underestimate the influence of QAnon.

On October 9, 2021, political commentator Jordan Klepper attended his first MAGA rally since January 6. Klepper was physically present in Washington, D.C. during the Capitol riot. As a correspondent for The Daily Show, he was right there in the eye of the storm and witnessed the madness unfold firsthand. As we see Klepper wandering around amidst the crowd at a “Stop the Steal” protest in Des Moines, Iowa, we hear Klepper’s narration: “Maybe the most surprising moment of the rally was when I ran into an old friend I thought I would never see again.” We are shown an image of a QAnon “TRUST THE PLAN” flag fluttering in the wind, and a moment later we see Klepper standing beneath the QAnon flag while yelling, “Q’s back and there’s Q shit everywhere!” Klepper’s narration continues: “Yes, the online conspiracy following a mysterious character known as Q was more popular than ever.”

I realize that Klepper is primarily a political satirist (i.e., a performer), but he appears to be genuinely shocked to see that QAnon is still going strong nine months after the failed insurrection. Even his impromptu choice of words is revealing: “Q is back!” Q is back? What made him think Q ever left? Even a professional correspondent like Jordan Klepper, who experienced the Q-fueled chaos of January 6 firsthand, was still underestimating QAnon’s hold on Trump’s supporters several months after the Capitol riot.

Perhaps the reason many people on the left are still downplaying QAnon (or, even worse, are completely ignorant of its influence) is because a lot of Q’s followers have gone silent about the topic while still actively engaging in the movement. In Operation Mindfuck, I predicted, “This [is] the future of QAnon: QAnon without QAnon. Just drop the label and rebrand.”

Many mainstream political pundits seem to think that QAnon is dead and buried, but the ideologies that spawned QAnon are (sadly) alive and kicking. Witness, for example, the January 2023 attempt to prevent Kevin McCarthy from being elected Speaker of the House by a faction of Trump-supporting Republicans who believe that McCarthy is a “puppet” secretly working for the Democrats.23 In light of the blatant QAnon connections to David DePape’s October 2022 hammer attack on Paul Pelosi in San Francisco, and the immediate move on the part of MAGA Republicans to flip the narrative and blame the attempted murder on leftists, it’s clear that QAnon’s brand of rabble-rousing is just as incendiary as it was during Trump’s reign.24 On January 6, 2021, we all saw Q’s followers building gallows and tying nooses for the express purpose of lynching former Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi, so why is it surprising that a member of Q’s zombie hordes would continue these assassination attempts in 2022? Given the fact that the much-touted midterm “red wave” turned out to be underwhelming, these frustrated Trumpists and QAnon acolytes will no doubt grow even more desperate as reality veers further and further away from the fantasy world they’ve built up inside their heads.

Meanwhile, QAnon ideologies have wormed their way into conservative cable “news” networks like Newsmax, which was founded by Christopher Ruddy, author of The Strange Death of Vincent Foster, a book that accused Bill and Hillary Clinton of murdering Deputy White House Counsel Vincent Foster like a latter-day pair of bloodthirsty Macbeths. Newsmax shows like Greg Kelly Reports are little more than thinly disguised QAnon-adjacent infotainment programs for MAGA-besotted deplorables who suffer from the delusion that Fox News is a false front for Antifa and Black Lives Matter. In case you don’t know, here’s the lowdown on Greg Kelly: A “news” anchor manqué, he’s an ex-Marine who was the subject of a Manhattan District Attorney’s office investigation upon being accused of raping and impregnating a young paralegal in 2012.25 Based on his nightly song and dance routines on Newsmax, the more astute viewers might conclude that Kelly sustained serious brain damage when a mortar round reportedly exploded near his face while the stalwart weekend warrior pretended to cover the 2003 US invasion of Iraq with anything even remotely resembling journalistic objectivity.26 This plucky “news” reporter walks a delicate tightrope act every weeknight, trying to project the image of a common sense conservative while spewing berserk opinions worthy of an unemployed InfoWars correspondent as he delivers the latest QAnon interpretations of the news with a wink and a nod directed at his fellow Trumpers in the audience. Kelly never mentions Q by name, but he invokes special Q/MAGA code phrases like “draining the swamp” and “fake news” and “the Deep State” while questioning the results of the 2020 elections on a near-nightly basis.

(By the way, according to Kelly and his ilk, Trump won the 2020 election hands down, right? Some of these Q-heads even go so far as to claim that Trump’s still riding around on Air Force One.27 If that’s the case, how could Trump run for a third term in 2024? Why would these patriots, these ostensible lovers of law and order, encourage their Inciter-in-Chief to violate the Constitution by engaging in an illegal presidential campaign forbidden by that very same document? I guess the Constitution and all the wholesome Amurrican values it represents gets kicked to the wayside pretty quickly when it comes to pushing the Divine Savior back into the Oval Office for an extra term to which he could not possibly be entitled per the logic of their own argument.)


23Cheryl Teh, “Tucker Carlson Called Kevin McCarthy a ‘Puppet of the Democratic Party’ After Leaked Audio Revealed the Lawmaker Had Wondered If Twitter Could Censor Some of His GOP Colleagues,” Business Insider, Apr. 26, 2022 (accessed Jan. 4, 2023).
24Susannah Crockford, “Pelosi Attacker’s New Age Spirituality and Belief in QAnon Is No Contradiction,” Religion Dispatches, Nov. 2, 2022 (accessed Jan. 4, 2023).
25Richard Esposito, “TV’s Greg Kelly Raped Me, Made Me Pregnant, Accuser Told Investigators,” ABC News, Jan. 25, 2021 (accessed Jan. 4, 2023).
26Vincent Mallozzi, “A Good Day in New York for a Former TV Anchor,” New York Times, Nov. 24, 2017 (accessed Jan. 4, 2023).
27Nathan Place, “MAGA Fan Says Trump Is Still Flying on Air Force One in Bizarre Daily Show Interview,” Independent, October 19, 2021 (accessed Jan. 8, 2023).

 
 

When reporting on the Paul Pelosi attack in San Francisco, Kelly almost always alludes to the QAnon theory that Pelosi’s attacker was a male prostitute hired by Mr. Pelosi himself. He never brings up the theory directly, mind you, but he knows what to say to signal to his viewers that he’s in on the Q game.

When commenting on the January 6th insurrection, he accuses Democrats and the FBI of being the ones who are actually responsible for the riot. On December 20, 2022, while bloviating over the “fake” findings of the January 6 Committee, Kelly questioned the sincerity of a Capitol police officer named Harry Dunn who testified that members of the MAGA insurrectionists were hurling racial epithets at him that day. While pounding on his desk, Kelly asserted, “That never happened!” Why say this? After catching even a cursory look at that ragtag lynch mob, is it so inconceivable to imagine these noose-bearing hordes verbally assaulting a Black law enforcement officer? Here’s some delicious irony for you: Kelly just published a new book entitled Justice For All, which he claims is “a stirring defense of American law enforcement.” When the law enforcement officers in question are Black or trying their best to protect the Capitol from raging Trump supporters, I guess that defense becomes somewhat less “stirring.”

Perhaps this shouldn’t be surprising. In June of 2021, Kelly tweeted, “Military life had its Perks, but it was also a major pain. I will tell you what took ‘the sting out of it’—that when I was flying around the Pacific Ocean off of ships, I knew there was a Secretary of Defense who was white, just like me! Made a big difference with ‘morale.’ ” In a separate tweet, he insisted that serving “a Caucasian male” like President Clinton made his military service “all worthwhile.” Not surprisingly, Kelly soon deleted both tweets.29 By this, one can only conclude that New York City Police Commissioner Raymond Walter Kelly raised a child incapable of standing by his word.

The QAnon movement persisting without Q is exemplified not just by Newmax but also by Omar Navarro (who ran for California’s 43rd congressional district for the fourth time after having served six months in jail for stalking and harassing his ex-girlfriend, fellow Republican politician and QAnon promoter DeAnna Lorraine Tesoriero). Navarro has strategically refrained from mentioning Q since January 6. Here’s an excerpt from Davey Alba’s December 20, 2021 New York Times article entitled “ ‘Q’ Has Been Quiet, but QAnon Lives On”:

Mr. Navarro said he had stopped posting about QAnon to avoid being barred from the [social media] platforms.

“I’m not dumb,” Mr. Navarro said in an interview. “You have to be politically correct in today’s world to survive on social media.”

He added: “I’m running a campaign for Congress. So I need to focus on issues that matter more, like the economy or business other than” focusing on QAnon.30

In a June 27, 2021 Business Insider article entitled “A Trump-loving Insurrectionist and a Convicted Stalker Are Among 36 QAnon Supporters Running for Congress in 2022,” Joshua Zitser and Sophia Ankel write that Navarro still “believes in ‘some things’ that ‘Q’ says, including the human trafficking trope.”31 It’s both distressing and amusing that Navarro talks as if the problem of human trafficking was something no human being had ever acknowledged until Q popped up on 4chan. Q’s followers don’t seem to understand (or don’t wish to understand) that the critics of QAnon aren’t saying that human trafficking doesn’t exist. They’re saying that QAnon’s distorted, politically weaponized fantasies about human trafficking do far more harm than good, particularly when they begin to crowd out genuine information about how human trafficking can actually be combated in the real world as opposed to the ineffectual theorizing that occurs among most “digital soldiers” (a phrase first coined by General Michael Flynn, Trump’s former national security adviser) in the online LARPing world of QAnon.

Back to Omar:

“I do believe that there’s human trafficking going on right now. I do believe that Hollywood has participated in some of this with pedophilia and it’s something obviously we can’t ignore,” [Navarro] said.

Navarro, who has gone viral multiple times on Twitter for his far-right and homophobic views, has previously pushed the debunked Pizzagate theory [from which QAnon is a direct outgrowth]. He told Insider: “I feel like there are certain things going on. There’s something shady in that pizza shop” [i.e., Comet Ping Pong in Washington, D.C.].

The Californian also defended using the popular QAnon slogan WWG1WGA (“Where we go one, we go all”) in a tweet posted on October 3, 2020, saying he ended up deleting it because he didn’t want Twitter to ban him.

“I always have to worry about my free speech and what I say on Twitter,” he said.32

As we can see from the above comments, the social media ban on QAnon content did not prevent people like Navarro from believing in political disinformation; it simply encouraged them to find better and more efficient ways to hide their beliefs while still spreading (and acting on) that disinformation. It made identifying those responsible for spreading the disinformation a thousand times more difficult. Rather than stopping bad ideas, censorship inevitably serves as both a shield and an amplifier for those ideas.



29 Caleb Ecarma, “Greg Kelly’s Very Racist-seeming Tweets Were Really About His ‘Opposition to Racism,’ Says Newsmax,” Vanity Fair, June 14, 2021 (accessed Jan. 4, 2023).
30Davey Alba, “’Q’ Has Been Quiet, but QAnon Lives On,” New York Times, Dec. 20, 2021 (accessed Aug. 3, 2022).
31Jackie Flynn Mogensen, 47


41Andy Monserud, Courthouse News, “Poll: Quarter of Americans Open to Armed Rebellion Against Government,” June 30, 2022 (accessed Aug. 4, 2022).
42Will Bunch, The Philadelphia Inquirer, “One of the Most Incendiary, Dangerous Speeches in America’s 246-History,” WhereofOneCanSpeak.com, Jan. 31, 2022 (accessed Aug. 12, 2022).
43Robert Duncan and William Melhado, “Trump Vows Retribution at Waco Rally: ‘I Am Your Warrior, I Am Your Justice’,” Texas Tribune, Mar. 25, 2023 (accessed Mar. 27, 2023).
44Mary Margaret Olohan and Tyler O’Neil, “Trump Says He ‘Will Be Arrested’ Next Week,” The Daily Signal, Mar. 18, 2023 (accessed Mar. 27, 2023).
45S.V. Date, “Trump to His Followers: ‘I Am Your Retribution’,” Yahoo.com, Mar. 4, 2023 (accessed Mar. 27. 2023).
46Robert Duncan and William Melhado, “Trump Vows Retribution at Waco Rally: ‘I Am Your Warrior, I Am Your Justice’,” Texas Tribune, Mar. 25, 2023 (accessed Mar. 27, 2023).
47Oliver O’Connell, “Trump Darkly Warns of ‘Potential Death and Destruction’ If He Is Charged in Stormy Daniels Hush Money Probe,” Independent, Mar. 24, 2023 (accessed Mar. 27, 2023).

 

Rick Rene, the aforementioned evangelical Christian based in Texas who hosts the Blessed to Teach Show, has been rhapsodizing about the coming “civil war” since at least January 10, 2021:

What’s about to happen, and what should you do? [Let’s] talk about the silent civil war that’s gonna go public soon if it hasn’t already […]. The New World Order Cabal controls most of the world through […] completely corrupted secret societies all within the major elite people who [are] literally sorcery-orientated, Satanic-type societies when you really get to the higher levels of them. Some people will get into the Masons and will not understand, but when you get into the high-level 33rd degree Freemasonry, it is completely Satanic. Okay? And they use bribery as well as all kinds of mechanisms that are very ugly and deep to keep control of the People […]. We have to understand that this New World Order Cabal—they control the media, and if I go all the way back to 1815, we see the Rothschilds took over the Bank of England and the Bank of France […] The Rothschilds own 98% of all central banks, and our taxes basically go to the Rothschilds. It goes to the IRS, which is basically a collection agency for these international bankers […]. These last four years we’ve been involved in waking up, and Q trained us to think for ourselves, to look and not take the Cabal’s propaganda. Q’s working closely with Trump. You can go to this website, Qproofs.com, and it’ll show you hundreds and hundreds of examples—there’s just no way, there’s too many coincidences. It shows you clearly that Q is a back channel to We the People […]. There’s over 4,000 drops of Anons researching all this. Here’s an example: [QAnon] Post Drop 1871. It shows the MOSSAD controls U.S. politicians. They also control U.S. media, and they control the alternative media. And so the foreign talking points are coming from the MOSSAD and Israel […]. The silent civil war [is] going public soon. You’re going to see this war that’s been going on for decades, especially the last four years. The Deep State’s lost […] and we’re going to see military tribunals. How [do] we know? Just the facts! Because we’ve had the largest military intelligence dump in history in our lifetime, since October of 2017, that millions of us now follow!48

Rene’s rant, in classic paranoid style, perambulates from wistful ruminations about the “silent civil war” to Freemasons to Satanists to MOSSAD to Israel, which then leads him back to the “silent civil war” again—all in a few easy steps. Identical thought patterns can be found in Rene’s fellow QAnon acolytes. Despite claiming to be free thinkers, unhindered by the herd mentality of mainstream media, almost all the major “QTubers” push the same exact taglines, mottos, and talking points at the same exact times—talking points not necessarily derived from Q’s posts. Why are their buzzwords so eerily similar, as if all these drones were indoctrinated in the same room? Could it be that members of “Team Q” influence these “QTubers” via means far more direct than mere posts on 8kun?

Assuming these QTubers are not the victims of Svengali-level hypnotism with permanent spinning pinwheels for eyes, the question must be asked: What would make otherwise rational, functioning human beings—who are, after all, not locked away in small rooms with soft walls—fall for this propagandistic nonsense? More often than not, people are influenced by other people. So here’s the essential question: Who influenced the influencers?

Perhaps we should examine one particular QTuber in detail and extrapolate from there.

Christina L. Urso, also known as Radix Verum, cofounded the YouTube channel Patriots’ Soapbox in 2018. It focused on QAnon conspiracies twenty-four hours a day and managed to attain north of eighty thousand subscribers by the time YouTube kicked them off their platform. Patriots’ Soapbox was among the earliest proponents of QAnon.

Let’s listen to Urso describe, in her own words, her crucial interactions with Dr. Jerome Corsi, a regular columnist for WorldNetDaily, a website described by the Southern Policy Law Center as being devoted to “manipulative fear-mongering and outright fabrications designed to further the paranoid, gay-hating, conspiratorial and apocalyptic visions of [founder Joseph] Farah and his hand-picked contributors from the fringes of the far-right and fundamentalist worlds.”49

Urso: “Dr. [Jerome] Corsi started inserting himself into the Q movement pretty early on. I think he started making posts on the [QAnon] subreddit, and that’s how he introduced himself. He was posting his decodes [analyses of Q’s posts] […]. He basically told us that he was told to investigate Q by a White House source. [Laughs] I think, for us, we were excited because here’s a guy who’s been out there for a while. He told us he had known Trump since the 1980s, and he’s lending credence to the idea that Q is legit. I think he got into our Discord server, and he was going into the voice chats and doing his decodes, so at that time we were, like, ‘Oh, wow, here’s this guy that was an InfoWars contributor as well. Wow, here’s somebody who’s coming in and, like, lending credence to what we’re doing.’ I’m pretty sure that there are pictures of him with Trump, so to us we were like, ‘Oh, wow! Somebody at the White House told him to look into this! We must be on the right track!’ [Laughs] Obviously, now, I think he had other motives.

“I know one time, when we met him at a press conference InfoWars had, he got up and made this speech and talked about how these military generals were behind Trump and that all these people [liberals] were going to end up going to Gitmo, but after that press conference we went to eat with him somewhere, and he showed me a picture of a guy on his phone, and he said, ‘Oh yeah, this guy is gonna be the next Israeli ambassador,’ and he ended up becoming the next Israeli ambassador, so that’s interesting. But I think [Corsi] might’ve been sent in there to co-opt [QAnon] or amplify it. When he was doing his decodes, he flat-out lied […]. My impression is, he was definitely sent there for a reason. He inserted himself for a reason […]. And I think he took advantage of us and our naivety.”50

Who recruited Corsi to behave in this way—to take advantage of Urso’s “naivety”? Who else interacted with influential QTubers in this capacity? How many of Trump’s operatives were actively feeding QTubers disinformation that was then disseminated all over social media? And how many of these operatives are still working on this project at this very moment?


48“Deep State Takedown & Military Tribunals. How We Know. B2T Show Jan. 10, 2021,” Blessed2Teach.com, Jan. 10, 2021 (accessed Aug. 4, 2022).
49“WorldNetDaily,” SPLCenter.org (accessed Aug. 4, 2022).
50“QAnon: Origins, Players, and a Working Hypothesis w/ Radix Verum & Recluse,” The Farm Podcast, May 16, 2021 (accessed Aug. 4, 2022).

 
 

“Q had been careful in picking the men who handled his messages.”

—Walter B. Gibson, “Q”, The Shadow Magazine, June 15, 1940

Mere days after the failed coup d’état of January 6, 2021, QTubers began parroting the “silent civil war” line over and over again. The war would be “going public soon,” Rick Rene assured his followers. This continues to be a recurring theme among the QAnon crowd, exactly like a pack of fin de siècle evangelists breathlessly awaiting the Rapture promised to numerous Christian Patriots just before the turn of the century.

Here’s another pop culture analogy, but I think it’s an appropriate one: In the sixth season of the Netflix show, Orange Is the New Black, most of the regular cast is transported to a maximum-security federal prison following a violent riot that erupted during the previous season in a New York minimum-security prison called Litchfield Penitentiary. After the punished inmates arrive at this new facility, the guards decide to make life more interesting for themselves by betting on which prisoners will get into fights with one another. Since there’s real money on the line, the guards inevitably start using low-level psychological warfare techniques (such as spreading rumors, outright lying, gaslighting, etc.) to influence the inmates into attacking one another. Near the end of the season, two of the inmates accidentally stumble across the scoresheets the guards have hidden away in an office and soon realize the true cause of the escalating violence in the prison. They then attempt to commandeer the intercom system in order to reveal to their fellow inmates that the widening divisions in the prison are artificial; the inmates have been played, reduced down to nothing more than pawns on a chessboard for the enrichment of a privileged few.

Netflix renewed Orange Is the New Black for a sixth season on February 5, 2016, in the middle of Trump’s presidential campaign. The season began filming in August of 2017, after Trump had been in office for over a year, and was released on July 27, 2018, about nine months after the emergence of QAnon. Without knowing the exact details of what was to come, the writers of the show managed to dream up the perfect allegory for what was brewing in Donald Trump’s America.

The late Philip K. Dick wrote scores of short stories and novels (e.g., Eye in the Sky, The Three Stigmata of Palmer Eldritch, Ubik, Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?, A Scanner Darkly, Valis, etc.) in which he asked two central questions over and over again: “What is real?” and “What is human?” In this electronic age of metanoia, in which “digital soldiers” (i.e., stalkers and trolls) hide behind ever-morphing internet identities, beloved social media influencers with thousands of followers are actually artificial intelligence programs in disguise, and one’s lifelong political loyalties can switch on a whim depending on Ayn Randian self-interest, “What is real?” might very well be the most profound question upon which one can meditate in this twenty-first century of ours. This was the answer upon which Dick eventually settled: “Reality is that which, when you stop believing in it, doesn’t go away.”

For the second question, the only answer Dick dreamed up that satisfied him in any way was a simple one: “Kindness.” If you know you’re being manipulated (and let’s face it, whether you’re a Trump supporter or not, it’s impossible to be unaware of the fact that you’re being manipulated by somebody), then why choose to be paranoid and filled with hate? Always be mindful of the fact that the madness on the internet that drives you up the fucking wall so often is, for the most part, placed there on purpose with the specific intent of manipulating your emotions. Whether you consider yourself to be a conservative or a liberal or some uncategorizable hybrid of the two, don’t allow the propaganda to affect your judgment and reason. Don’t allow your eyelids to flutter open up one weird day to find yourself sleepwalking right into the middle of a Washington. D.C. riot and a forty-one-month-long prison sentence (à la Jacob Chansley, the self-proclaimed “QAnon Shaman” who marched into the Senate chamber with a speared flagpole while hunting for Mike Pence) all because of devious, incendiary rhetoric disguised as a bad piece of pulp fiction an anonymous political hack posted on the dark web at the behest of his reptilian employers.

Alas, paranoia and hatred seem to be baked into the evangelical Christianity that refuses to let QAnon die.

“Violence is the quest for identity . . . . When identity disappears with technological innovation, violence is the natural recourse.”
—Marshall McLuhan, Culture Is Our Business, 1970

 
 

ADDENDUM: THE FOURTH WORLD WAR

(November 2023)

Since completing this article, a number of disturbing QAnon/MAGA-related events have impacted American politics. These events range from the absurdly stupid to the potentially destructive. In September of 2023, Donald Trump and Rep. Paul Gosar of Arizona suggested Gen. Mark Milley, who retired on September 29, should be executed for colluding with China. If I were Milley, I would also choose to retire from the military rather than force myself to deal with the coming shit show that will no doubt be the 2024 election cycle and the grim possibility of Trump’s second term in office. Gosar insisted that “the homosexual-promoting-BLM-activist Chairman of the military joint chiefs” should be branded a “traitor” because “the deviant Milley was coordinating with Nancy Pelosi to hurt President Trump.” Gosar then went on to add, “In a better society, quislings like the strange sodomy-promoting General Milley” would be hanged for his communications with China following Trump’s failed insurrection on January 6. Not surprisingly, Trump seconded Gosar’s attacks, insisting that Milley was guilty of the crime of “treason.”51 The motivation behind these baseless, over-the-top accusations are obvious. Late in Trump’s term, two days after the January 6 Capitol riot, General Milley felt compelled to call Gen. Li Zuocheng in order to assuage the Chinese military official’s justified fears that the frothing lunatic holed up in the Oval Office might soon launch an all-out attack on China. After all, if the man has no problem invading his own capitol, why wouldn’t he attack Beijing as well?

In September of 2021, while testifying in front of the Senate Armed Services Committee, Milley defended his phone calls to China, explaining that they were part of his duties to “deconflict military actions, manage crisis, and prevent war between great powers armed with nuclear weapons.”52 Of course, the one act that could be considered genuinely treasonous in this whole scenario would be that of a sitting President trying to prevent the certification of his democratically elected successor by launching a violent assault on the Capitol Building and then following up this blatant crime with a public proclamation that the chairman of the military joint chiefs should be executed for trying to do his best at damage control while the President was busy sabotaging the incoming administration.


51Lauren Sforza, “GOP’s Gosar Suggests Milley Should Be ‘Hung’ for Jan. 6 Response,” The Hill, Sept. 25, 2023 (accessed Nov. 27, 2023).
52Andrew Desiderio, “Milley: Beijing’s Fears of U.S. Attack Prompted Call to Chinese General,” Politico, Sept. 28, 2021 (accessed Nov. 27, 2023).

 
 

In October of 2023, only a month after these threats on Gen. Milley’s life, QAnon politician Rep. Matt Gaetz of Florida succeeded in ousting Rep. Kevin McCarthy of California from the speakership along with the help of seven other MAGA Republicans.53 McCarthy was soon replaced by Rep. Mike Johnson of Louisiana. Why did the MAGA Republicans go to all this trouble? What’s the difference between McCarthy and Johnson? In February of 2023, McCarthy was asked by reporters if he agreed with QAnon candidates Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene of Georgia and Rep. Lauren Boebert of Colorado that Ashley Babbitt’s January 6, 2021 death should be investigated as a murder. McCarthy replied without hesitation that Lt. Michael Byrd (the police officer who shot Babbitt while the unhinged QAnon follower tried her best to crawl through the shattered window of a barricaded door that led to the Speaker’s Lobby inside the Capitol Building) was simply doing his duty. Given McCarthy’s unequivocal stance on Babbitt’s death, I have to wonder if it was just a coincidence that one of Mike Johnson’s first actions as Speaker was to release thousands of hours of footage from the Jan. 6 insurrection, a move lauded by Trump himself.54 According to the Associated Press, “By expanding this access to the general public, Johnson is fulfilling one of the pledges he made last month to the most conservative members of his party, including Rep. Matt Gaetz, R-Fla., who orchestrated the ouster of former Speaker Kevin McCarthy.”55 The few placid moments from the riot footage are now being cherry-picked by MAGA Republicans in an attempt to upend the widely accepted narrative regarding what occurred on January 6 and convince the public that what they saw happening on live television during the first week of 2021 was not what happened at all. Oh, no, that was a mere illusion—a black-magic spell cast by leftist magicians embedded in mainstream media. The January 6 insurrection, they claim, was in reality a peaceful protest made to look like a violent invasion by covert members of the Deep State. An old-fashioned con job, pure and simple. The epitome of Fake News.

According to Forbes reporter Sara Dorn:

Johnson has been a meaningful, but relatively under-the-radar, ally to Trump since he was first elected president. Johnson served on the congressional defense team for Trump during his first impeachment trial. In the lead-up to Jan. 6, Johnson, a former constitutional lawyer, helped devise a theory dozens of Trump’s backers in Congress used to contest the results of the 2020 presidential election by claiming the results were invalid because some states had made unconstitutional pandemic-era changes to their election laws. Johnson endorsed Trump for president last week, hours after the New York Times reported Johnson had sharply denounced Trump’s character and fitness to serve during [Trump’s] first campaign for president.

Johnson released the footage as part of a promise he made to the far-right to win their support in his campaign for speaker. Hard-right lawmakers and personalities took to social media to amplify their claims that the footage absolved Trump supporters of guilt on Jan. 6. In one widely-shared clip, convicted insurrectionist Kevin Lyons is seen making a slight gesture as he passes through a security checkpoint, revealing an unidentifiable object in his hand. Right-wing social media users, including Reps. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-Ga.) and Sen. Mike Lee (R-Utah), claimed, without evidence, the object was a law enforcement badge, and said the video proved the debunked theory that law enforcement coordinated the insurrection. Federal law enforcement officials have repeatedly said there is no evidence to support the claim.56

It seems that the QAnon contingent of the Republican Party needed a far more compliant ally in the speakership position if they were ever going to succeed in flipping public opinion in support of the insurrectionists. Johnson was the perfect ideological fit with this cadre of Qpublicans. After all, this is the same Mike Johnson who, in 2003, “wrote a prominent amicus brief in the Supreme Court case Lawrence v. Texas, arguing in favor of allowing states to criminalize same-sex consensual sex.” Johnson insisted that men should not be allowed to have sex with one another because such an act is “more likely to spread sexually transmitted diseases than sex between men and women and therefore poses ‘a distinct public health problem.’”57 Despite his ostensible concerns for public health, Johnson appears not to be worried at all about the outbreak of mental illness among the Republican members of the Congress over which he himself presides.


53Nick Robertson, “Raskin: McCarthy’s Ousting a Result of His ‘Appeasement’ of ‘MAGA Enablers,’” The Hill, Oct. 3, 2023 (accessed Nov. 27, 2023).
54Sara Dorn, “Trump Praises Speaker Johnson’s Release of J6 Tapes Fueling Far-right Conspiracies,” Forbes, Nov. 21, 2023 (accessed Nov. 27, 2023).
55“Speaker Mike Johnson Says He’ll Make 44,000 Hours of Jan. 6 Footage Available to the General Public,” PBS.org, Nov. 17, 2023 (accessed Nov. 28, 2023).
56Ibid.
57Matt Lavietes, “New House Speaker’s Views on LGBTQ Issues Come Under Fresh Scrutiny,” NBC News, Oct. 26, 2023 (accessed Nov. 27, 2023).

 
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Given the undeniable rise of dangerously homophobic and transphobic rhetoric among MAGA Republicans, is it any wonder that a QAnon acolyte in New Mexico recently threatened to kill a congresswoman because he decided she was transgender? Michael David Fox of Las Cruces, who openly admitted his affiliation with QAnon, insists that “trans people are secretly leading governments and corporations,” a virulent obsession that compelled him to call the Houston office of the unidentified congresswoman and threaten to shoot her in the head. “You’re a man!” Fox shouted during the phone call. “It’s official! You’re literally a tranny and a pedophile, and I’m going to put a bullet in your fucking face! You mother fucking satanic cock sucking son of a whore! You understand me, you fucker?”58

Thanks to QAnon, a wide array of irrational phobias have succeeding in banding together under a single movement. When you start accusing 1.03% of the American population (i.e., trans people) of being all-powerful, satanic puppet masters, I suppose it’s inevitable that the age-old fear of Freemasons will be next in the queue. How many strange prejudices can these characters stir into one pot? In August of 2023, I published an article on Salon entitled “QAnon’s Weirdest Obsession: Why Does the Radical Far Right Fear the Masons?” This piece focused on the increasing incidents of assaults on Masonic lodges all over the world, a topic that has been unexplored by mainstream media. In the article I demonstrate that the central source for this significant rise in hatred against Freemasons is the QAnon/MAGA movement. As a direct result of this Salon article, I was invited to appear on The Tyler’s Place, the official podcast of the Supreme Council of Scottish Rite Freemasonry. The host of the program, Maynard Edwards, felt the need to apologize to his listeners at the beginning of the show, since politics is a topic verboten in most Masonic Lodges. But as one listener wrote when the show first aired in October, “No need for apologies about politics in the discussion. You’re addressing fanaticism, which goes beyond politics.”59 This commentator couldn’t be more correct. The QAnon/MAGA cult has moved far past the point of being just an extremist political movement; it has developed its own hermetic belief system that’s impervious to logic or objective reality, not unlike the most fundamentalist, sectarian religions.


58Christopher Wiggins, “QAnon Believer Threatens to Kill U.S. Congresswoman He Thought Was Transgender,” Advocate, Sep. 26, 2023 (accessed Nov. 27, 2023).
59“Modern Day Anti-Masons with Bro. Robert Guffey,” The Tyler’s Place Podcast, Oct. 16, 2023 (accessed Nov. 29, 2023).

 
 

On November 1st, 2023, a little over two weeks after my appearance on The Tyler’s Place, Rick Rene interviewed a mysterious QAnon figure named Wayne Willott who operates under the moniker “Juan O. Savin.” In 2022, Daily Beast journalist Will Sommer published an in-depth article about Willott in which he referred to the Seattle-based private investigator as “a figure with growing influence in both the conspiracy-theory universe and the broader conservative movement.”60 Because Willott is the co-founder of the America First Secretary of State Coalition (a group of extreme rightwing political candidates committed to the belief that the 2020 election was stolen from Trump), in June of 2022 Sommer referred to him as a QAnon leader who “could control key elections in 2024.”61 The coalition’s most important candidate, Diego Morales, actually succeeded in being elected to the Secretary of State position in Indiana. During his Blessed to Teach Show interview, Willott responded to Rene’s questions regarding the recent Israel-Hamas War by warning his viewers about the perfidy of the Freemasons and the coming “terroristic” war on American soil:

“In America, the father of the Masonic movement [was Albert Pike, the man who] reinvented [Freemasonry, which] got really torn down in the early 1800s. Even many of the founding fathers had their children renounce their Freemason beliefs, which were actually occultic. So Pike, this person out of Arizona, he led the group that reinvented Freemasonry. He wrote Morals and Dogma. He talks about how there had to be three World Wars, and the third World War would be based around religion, and you had to do something in the Middle East to put the Arabs, the Christians, and the Jews at each other’s throats, and that was the basis for what they call the Third World War. I contend that we won the Third World War. The Soviet Union doesn’t exist. What we’re coming into now is the Fourth World War . . . We’ve been taken over by bad guys right here in America. Look at our Federal cities. Our Federal cities are devoted to—built around—occult symbology. Look at the Statue of Liberty. You’ve been conned, fooled, snookered. That’s [the Egyptian goddess] Isis! . . . We’re a captured operation here in America. That Federal city is part of a globalist operation. As much as the city of London, as much as the Vatican, as much as Jerusalem and Israel . . . The [Freemasons’] plan includes having a plan for America, and you know what? Every citizen listening to this show right now: You’re in the way . . . These globalistas, they don’t want Trump to come back. They absolutely do not want Trump coming back, so what do they have planned for us here? Everybody in this audience needs to get deadly, deathly serious. Take a deep breath and listen to what I’m telling you and prayerfully consider it. You’ve got hundreds and hundreds and hundreds and hundreds of thousands of terrorists in the country right now. They’ve been coming in for years. Military-age men. They’re from China. They’re from the Ukraine. The set-up back on January 6th—a bunch of Ukrainian spies and operators were there aiding in that myth of an insurrection by the Americans who showed up concerned [about] the [2020] election. Ukrainian spies traveling the country—getting paid, by the way, good money. You’ve got people out of Gaza being flown here right now . . . They want to bring a million people from Gaza to North America, to Canada, the U.S., and Mexico. Think about that. A million! How much damage can one guy do? Well, they can take out power infrastructure nodes that would make it very hard to replace. Maybe they target police officers . . . Our country doesn’t work well in a terroristic situation. Are you going to be able to drive down the freeway with snipers taking out truck drivers? How long is that going to last? And what’s the reaction of the public going to be? We’re in one hell of a fix. Because of a crooked election, really nasty people have gotten into power and pulled off a whole bunch of shenanigans, and [there are] those people who want to say, ‘No, it was the best election ever in the history of the world.’ You’re so full of shit! I don’t even want to listen to that anymore! And I don’t think the rest of the American people are going to listen to it much longer. Those people who say that that was not a crooked election back in 2020 are so full of shit! The lies will not stand . . . People need to wake up and understand what’s coming. It’s going to be dire for a period of time, and it’s not going away. It’s a near-death experience for America. I’ve said that for quite a long time. We’re gonna make it through this, but it’s not going to be without real drama, a lot of desperation, and there’s going to be bloodshed.”62


60Will Sommer, “This QAnon Leader Could Control Key Elections in 2024,” Politico, June 1, 2022 (accessed Nov. 28, 2023).
61Ibid.
62“Juan O’Savin LIVE. The Biblical Israel? Elon: Mind Virus. B2T Show Nov 1, 2023,” Blessed2Teach.com, Nov. 1, 2023 (accessed Nov. 28, 2023).

 
 

This one mad rant integrates so many key QAnon/MAGA phobias that it can almost serve as a primer for the uninitiated in the subject. Obsessions about Freemasons, occult symbols, the Israelis, stolen elections, prophecies of the imminent resurrection of Trump, fears of foreign terrorists on the loose, survivalist fantasies of a near-future dystopia in which only Christian preppers have the will to endure, and heady predictions of gushing rivers of spilled heathen blood all combine to form the perfect tapestry depicting the promised rightwing Rapture. The fact that Rene conducted this interview in between airing ads for Alloy Composite Body Armor (the company’s official slogan is “The Fight Against Tyranny Just Got Stronger”) should tell you everything you need to know about the actual intentions of these righteous flag-wavers on the warpath for Trump and all the illusory ideals for which they fervently believe he stands.

“It fitted perfectly with the entire scheme of the Q organization. Crimes coupled with explosions, right through to the finish.”
--Walter B. Gibson, “Q”, The Shadow Magazine, June 15, 1940

END

 
 

Fall / Winter 2023



Robert Guffey

Robert Guffey is a lecturer in the Department of English at California State University – Long Beach. Among other books, he is the author of Until the Last Dog Dies (Night Shade/Skyhorse), a darkly satirical novel, and Chameleo: A Strange but True Story of Invisible Spies, Heroin Addiction and Homeland Security (OR Books), which Flavorwire called “by many miles the weirdest and funniest book [of the year].” His most recent books include Operation Mindfuck: QAnon & the Cult of Donald Trump (OR Books) and the novel Dead Monkey Rum (Planet Bizarro Press). His first short story collection, Cryptopolis & Other Stories, is scheduled to be published by Lethe Press in January of 2024. His website is Cryptoscatology.com.



Seth D. Ellison

Seth D. Ellison (b.1984) is a Philadelphia-based painter and multimedia artist. He was born in Beckley, West Virginia and lived mainly in the southern United States before moving to Philadelphia to attend graduate school. Seth received his BFA from Savannah College of Art and Design and his MFA from University of the Arts, Philadelphia. His formative years were spent drawing compulsively in preparation for a career as an animator, which deeply influenced the paintings he makes today. Seth's work has been exhibited widely, including in New York, Brooklyn, New Jersey, Philadelphia, and Baltimore.



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