Making sense of QAnon: What lies behind the conspiracy theory that's eating America?

QAnon's deranged theories are drawn from numerous sources — and contain tidbits of truth. But what's the point?

Published August 30, 2020 12:05PM (EDT)

A person holds a banner referring to the Qanon conspiracy theory during a alt-right rally on August 17, 2019 in Portland, Oregon (Stephanie Keith/Getty Images)
A person holds a banner referring to the Qanon conspiracy theory during a alt-right rally on August 17, 2019 in Portland, Oregon (Stephanie Keith/Getty Images)

This is the third article in a series. Read the first two installments here and here.

In the previous two installments of this series, I chronicled the attempts made by an old friend to convince me of an outlandish conspiracy theory being promoted by the group of rabid online Donald Trump supporters known as "QAnon." According to my friend, initiates of the Illuminati had teamed up with subterranean demons to torture, rape and eat kidnapped children in underground military bases ruled by Trump's mortal enemies. Not surprisingly, none of the so-called "evidence" provided by my friend proved any such thing. Onward from there we go …

Fun with Adrenochrome!

The second link my friend sent me, entitled "ADRENOCHROME — Those Who Know Cannot Sleep," was posted by a QAnon advocate who calls himself Vinctum. On Twitter, Vinctum describes himself as a "Red Pilled Armenian bloke from the Netherlands that's into Personal Growth, Spirituality, Psychology, and Conspiracy facts." Though he joined Twitter as recently as January of 2020, he already has more than 3,000 followers. His YouTube channel has considerably more: 181,000 followers. 

"ADRENOCHROME — Those Who Know Cannot Sleep" is a nearly 15-minute video that contains almost no facts whatsoever. It's as if someone read and reread John W. DeCamp's 1992 true-crime book "The Franklin Cover-Up," which revolves around reportage about an alleged pedophile ring operated by prominent Republicans like Nebraska businessman Lawrence E. King Jr. (a crime ring that reportedly overlapped with Iran-Contra money-laundering schemes operating out of the Reagan-Bush White House), and decided to toss these scandalous rumors into a giant blender mixed with 100% pure gonzo jabberwocky — but this time around, Democrats are now the evil, mustache-twirling villains at the center of the soap opera. As with so many of QAnon's claims, elements of past conspiracy theories have been distorted and flipped, always in favor of Republicans. Any allegations that reflect badly on Republicans are conveniently left out of the retelling.

According to "ADRENOCHROME — Those Who Know Cannot Sleep," Hollywood performers such as Patton Oswalt, Ellen DeGeneres and Tom Hanks torture children on a regular basis in order to maintain healthy, moisturized skin. Of course, it's just not possible to maintain a superior level of skin care without extracting Adrenochrome from naked, prepubescent bodies writhing in pain on a subterranean obsidian altar built at the feet of an enormous statue built in honor of Baphomet, the great goat-headed god. Vinctum draws passages from Hunter S. Thompson's "Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas" to make his case, but can't even quote Thompson correctly, and even misspells his last name. (Is proper spelling really so much to ask? After all, Thompson's name is emblazoned on the front cover.) I doubt this poor fellow has ever read "Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas" from cover to cover, despite the fact that it's a very short book and shouldn't take this "bloke" more than a couple of hours to get through it. He doesn't even seem to understand that the book is meant to be humorous.

In 2017, a year after Trump's election, I published a novel entitled "Until the Last Dog Dies," which was about a young stand-up comedian who must adapt as best he can to an apocalyptic virus that destroys only the humor centers of the brain. After wading through hours of this humorless QAnon material, in which even the most innocuous Disney cartoons are flensed of fun and replaced with dark speculations about the demonic symbols hovering like unholy specters over Uncle Walt's films, I'm beginning to think that my novel was far more prescient that I could have imagined. For example, did you know that Illuminati Satanists inserted the subliminal word "SEX" into the animated film version of "The Lion King" in order to pervert the minds of children around the world? After all, what could be more demonic than the word "SEX"? (Isn't it odd that these Christians are so concerned about the word "SEX" allegedly appearing for less than half a second in a Disney film, but don't care at all that their president cheated on his wife with a porn actress? I don't care what Trump does in his private life, or who he does it with, but this dichotomy seems to be a prime example of what psychologists call "compartmentalization.")

Vinctum's only source to back up his peculiar claims that Adrenochrome is being extracted from living human beings is in fact Hunter S. Thompson, but he never bothers to explain how this scenario might work in the real world. What was the source of Thompson's knowledge? Is Vinctum suggesting that Thompson was a member of the Satanic Illuminati, and that's how he knew about Adrenochrome being harvested from humans? Vinctum never bothers to clarify. He just floats a spooky suggestion, and allows the viewers to use what little imagination they have to reach their own ill-informed conclusions.

Because I've always been something of a masochist (as my friend Damien once told me, back in high school, "You're never bored when you're a masochist"), I went to the trouble of following some of the links that Vinctum flashes on the screen while he's droning on and on. From these links, I learned that Oswalt, the Emmy-winning comedian and actor (who, coincidentally, has been an outspoken critic of President Trump's policies) is in fact a sadistic pedophile who spends his free time hunting down innocent children at Comet Ping Pong in Washington, D.C. In the weird, wild mythology of QAnon, Comet Ping Pong is the equivalent of Mordor, the home base of arch-villain Sauron in J.R.R. Tolkien's "The Lord of the Rings."

On the surface a modestly upscale pizza joint in a residential Washington neighborhood, Comet Ping Pong is in reality the ultimate abattoir of evil in which Hillary Clinton and former White House chief of staff John Podesta are alleged to have tortured uncountable children to satiate their heady lust for young, nubile flesh. What was the evidence for Oswalt being a pedophile, you ask? Other than some doctored photos placing him at Comet Ping Pong, nothing. Needless to say, even if Oswalt had visited Comet Ping Pong, there would still be no evidence that the man's a pedophile. I've not seen a single shred of evidence that links Comet Ping Pong to any criminal activity whatsoever, much less an international sex ring. And you know what? No one else has either. If those who devoutly believe they've seen such evidence would only pause a moment, take a step back from their own biases, and try to peer through the layers and layers of obfuscation QAnon has placed in front of their eyes, perhaps they would be able to see reality as it actually exists rather than the cheap illusion QAnon wishes them to see.

*  *  *

Not only does QAnon remind me of Salem witch hunters and New Age UFO cultists, but this brand new religion also resembles L. Ron Hubbard's Church of Scientology. At a backyard barbecue in Venice, California, 20 years ago, I met a fellow who had been a member of Scientology for 10 years until he finally woke up to the fact that he was being played for a fool and decided to turn the tables on them. This man spoke to me for a long time about what it was like living at the large Scientology compound in Riverside, east of Los Angeles. He did hard manual labor, like digging ditches in the desert soil, for 10 cents a day. If he came down with an illness, church officials made him work anyway.

Everyone at the compound had been so thoroughly brainwashed that if you ever questioned the word of L. Ron Hubbard, even for a second, your knee-jerk response was to turn that doubt back on yourself. For example, let's say you suddenly found yourself entertaining a pernicious thought like, "Hey, is it possible that L. Ron Hubbard's a liar?" Immediately, you would then think, "Wait a minute… what have I done wrong that I would even be thinking such a thing? Am I a liar? What have I lied about recently? Oh, yes, I did tell a white lie about something, didn't I, just the other day? So that explains it! Now I understand why I'm doubting the great LRH. I'm so relieved! There's nothing wrong with Ron. There's just something wrong with me …"

QAnon's followers rely on this same psychological safety mechanism on a daily basis. Since 2017, not one of QAnon's major predictions have come true. For example, QAnon insisted that Robert Mueller, the special counsel  investigating Russian interference with the 2016 presidential election, would team up with Trump to expose the "deep state." In the first week of November, 2017, QAnon announced that Trump would declare "a state of temporary military control" within "the next several days." By 2020, Hillary Clinton and her Satanic minions were supposed to be in prison. Despite the fact that none of these events have occurred, QAnon never once lost any followers. Instead, these followers have grown even more obsessive and loyal. QAnon's acolytes said, "Wait a minute, QAnon's not wrong. We simply misinterpreted his predictions. We're the ones who are wrong! There's something wrong with us. We need to continue studying the posts until we come up with the correct interpretation…."

Like Hubbard, QAnon has based his/her/their entire cosmology on past sources without ever acknowledging them. After all, the Great Godhead doesn't need "sources," does He? In the late 1980s, a former Scientologist named Bent Corydon broke away from the Church of Scientology and wrote a scathing book about his experiences entitled "L. Ron Hubbard: Messiah or Madman?", in which he revealed that Hubbard drew most of his ideas from philosopher Alfred Korzybski, author of "Science and Sanity," and occultist Aleister Crowley, author of "The Book of Lies" and other tomes about ceremonial magic (or "magick," Crowley's preferred spelling). When Hubbard's documented ties to occult organizations — e.g., Crowley's Ordo Templi Orientis in Pasadena, California — became publicly known, Hubbard explained that he had been infiltrating the organization on the behalf of the United States military. Most of his followers believed him.

This same "the Great One can do no wrong" attitude is prevalent among QAnon's followers. If a video was released tomorrow that depicted Donald Trump having sex with one of Jeffrey Epstein's underage sex-trafficking victims, Trump would calmly approach his podium and say, "I had to do that in order to fully infiltrate the sick perverts who are secretly in control of this country!" and almost every single one of QAnon's followers would enthusiastically agree.

"Out of Shadows"

In the Christian world of QAnon, Democrats and Satanists are the same.

The hatred that Christians harbor against Satanists has always baffled me. After all, they share the same beliefs. Both groups ostensibly believe in the existence of the same mythological entities. A Christian and a Satanist would naturally have far more in common than a Christian and a Buddhist. A Buddhist doesn't even believe in Satan. The respective belief systems of Christians and Satanists are branches of the same cosmology. 

Perhaps this is why QAnon's "Christian Patriot" followers appear to spend the majority of their day dwelling on Satanism, the main topic of a thinly disguised QAnon recruitment video entitled "Out of Shadows" which features conspiratorial ruminations by a former Hollywood stuntman named Mike Smith. The third link my friend sent me led to this video, a feature-length YouTube "documentary" that took the internet by storm in April. As of this week, this video had received more than 18 million views. It's a peculiar film, as it does indeed contain some accurate and vital information.

Of course, the most effective forms of disinformation must include some accurate and vital information, otherwise the lies won't be accepted so easily. The former Scientologist I met at that backyard barbecue told me that he wouldn't have pursued Dianetics at all if not for the fact that his earliest encounters with Hubbard's teachings led to many lifelong anxieties being cured. He felt he had taken away some useful teachings from Hubbard. It's only after Scientology gets you hooked on the brain entrainment methods that do work, only after you've invested so much of your life into their coffers, that they start dumping the really insane nonsense on you. 

"Out of Shadows" follows the same pattern. The "documentary" begins by sharing accurate but little known information about Hollywood's intersection with the CIA. I applaud the filmmakers for bringing to light the fact that the entertainment most of us imbibe so unthinkingly often carries with it a hidden political agenda. This has been true of Hollywood films going at least as far back as World War II, and no doubt even earlier. I myself have written a book that touches on some of these same issues, though my approach to the material is radically different. My forthcoming book, "Hollywood Haunts the World," is backed up with genuine evidence from the first page to the last.

About 20 minutes into its running time, after dealing with the potentially dangerous intersection between Hollywood and the U.S. intelligence community, "Out of Shadows" abandons any pretense of objectivity when it presents a montage of various news reporters repeating the same words ("This is extremely dangerous to our democracy" being the most memorable refrain), not bothering to mention the fact that this mimicry was the result of a pro-Trump campaign initiated by the Sinclair Broadcast Group in 2018.

This is from Timothy Burke's March 31, 2018, Deadspin article, "How America's Largest Local TV Owner Turned Its News Anchors Into Soldiers in Trump's War on the Media":

Earlier this month, CNN's Brian Stelter broke the news that Sinclair Broadcast Group, owner or operator of nearly 200 television stations in the U.S., would be forcing its news anchors to record a promo about "the troubling trend of irresponsible, one sided news stories plaguing our country." The script, which parrots Donald Trump's oft-declarations of developments negative to his presidency as "fake news," brought upheaval to newsrooms already dismayed with Sinclair's consistent interference to bring right-wing propaganda to local television broadcasts. 

Stelter's CNN article, published a few weeks earlier, offers further context, observing that at the time, the FCC was reviewing Sinclair's proposed acquisition of Tribune Media and that "Sinclair critics — Democratic lawmakers and some of the company's Republican rivals — have alleged that the FCC has given Sinclair preferential treatment." The scripted promos sent to all Sinclair stations, Stelter wrote, "show how the company wants to position itself in local markets from coast to coast":

The instructions to local stations say that the promos "should play using news time, not commercial time …. Please produce the attached scripts exactly as they are written …. This copy has been thoroughly tested and speaks to our Journalistic Responsibility as advocates to seek the truth on behalf of the audience."

The promos begin with one or two anchors introducing themselves and saying "I'm [we are] extremely proud of the quality, balanced journalism that [proper news brand name of local station] produces. But I'm [we are] concerned about the troubling trend of irresponsible, one sided news stories plaguing our country."

Then the media bashing begins.

"The sharing of biased and false news has become all too common on social media," the script says. "More alarming, national media outlets are publishing these same fake stories without checking facts first. Unfortunately, some members of the national media are using their platforms to push their own personal bias and agenda to control 'exactly what people think.' ... This is extremely dangerous to our democracy."

The fact that the filmmakers present this montage in "Out of Shadows" with no context whatsoever, then spend the rest of the "documentary" promulgating far-right conspiracy theories, is extremely disingenuous, to say the least. Ironically, the main message of "Out of Shadows" could be summarized as a call to question authority because what we see in the media is driven by a hidden agenda. Unbeknownst to most of the people who saw it, "Out of Shadows" is a perfect example of that very manipulation.

Among corporations and intelligence agencies — not to mention certain high-profile political figures — it's standard operating procedure to accuse your opponents of offenses you yourself are committing. The filmmakers of "Out of Shadows" take this tactic to heart. This is a consistent strategy used by the QAnon cultists, as when they fret about "black hats" locking helpless children in cages — despite the fact that the only government agents known to have committed such acts against children (i.e., immigrant children) are the Homeland Security agents carrying out the policies of Donald Trump, the very man QAnon claims is working hard behind the scenes to free abused children from subterranean cages. (In a world that still contained nuance and humor, I suppose one might call this "irony." In our current situation, however, we'll just have to call it a "fact" and leave it at that.)

After the montage, the filmmakers present genuine information about such insidious U.S. intelligence programs as MK-ULTRA and Operation Paperclip. Veteran conspiracy theorists will find no surprises here, but this might be educational for viewers who have never been exposed to this information. The filmmakers use the CIA's longstanding involvement with mind control programs to segue awkwardly into a six-minute segment about the late Lt. Col. Michael Aquino, co-author of an infamous 1981 military paper about the future of psychological warfare operations entitled "From PSYOP to MindWar: The Psychology of Victory," in which Aquino and his collaborators offer up such blatantly authoritarian statements as the following: 

In its strategic context, MindWar must reach out to friends, enemies, and neutrals alike across the globe — neither through the primitive "battlefield" leaflets and loudspeakers of PSYOP nor through the media possessed by the United States which have the capabilities to reach virtually all people on the face of the Earth. 

These media are, of course, the electronic media — television and radio. State of the art developments in satellite communication, video recording techniques, and laser and optical transmission of broadcasters make possible a penetration of the minds of the world such as would have been inconceivable just a few years ago. Like the sword Excalibur, we have but to reach out and seize this tool; and it can transform the world for us if we have but the courage and the integrity to guide civilization with it. If we do not accept Excalibur, then we relinquish our ability to inspire foreign cultures with our morality. If they then devise moralities unsatisfactory to us, we have no choice but to fight them on a more brutish level.

MindWar must target all participants if it is to be effective. It must not only weaken the enemy; it must strengthen the United States. It strengthens the United States by denying enemy propaganda access to our people …. 

In case it's not obvious, that last sentence is a blatant violation of the Bill of Rights and the First Amendment. After all, is there an agreed upon definition of "enemy propaganda?" Who decides what "enemy propaganda" is and what isn't? 

Aquino's story will be old news to viewers well-versed in these areas, but the vast majority of those who saw this video had probably never heard of him, nor had known that a High Priest of a Satanic church called the Temple of Set had served as a U.S. intelligence officer in Special Forces, Psychological Operations for many years. The filmmakers imply that Aquino's existence is some deep, dark secret of the U.S. military, when in fact the lieutenant colonel flaunted his Satanic affiliations for decades. He even appeared on a 1988 episode of Oprah Winfrey's show alongside his wife, Lilith. 

Keep in mind that the documentary began with the intent to prove that Hollywood is a propaganda tool. So why spend so much time talking about an oddball military officer who published a disturbing paper nearly 40 years ago? Other than his brief appearance with Oprah, Aquino had no known connections to Hollywood. 

From Aquino, we then segue back to more or less accurate information about MK-ULTRA, interspersed with wrongheaded analyses of supposed Satanic symbols embedded in pop culture that harken back to the height of the "Satanic panic" of the 1980s. Perhaps you remember such delightfully stupid moments in American history as when Procter & Gamble was accused of slipping demonic symbols into their "man in the moon" logo (devil horns hidden atop Moon Man's head, three sixes in the curlicues of Moon Man's beard, and — choke! gasp! — 13 stars twinkling in the background), and when televangelists insisted that Mighty Mouse was imbibing the devil's drug, cocaine, because he was seen sniffing an animated flower in a single frame of a Ralph Bakshi Saturday morning cartoon. 

The filmmakers of "Out of Shadows" seem particularly bothered by innocuous music videos featuring the likes of Lady Gaga and Katy Perry. In the case of the latter, the documentary suggests that only the complex machinations of dark and sinister forces could explain Perry's rise to superstardom after abandoning her original Christian gospel orientation and reshaping herself into a double-platinum pop star. It doesn't occur to the filmmakers for even a moment that Perry's decision might have been influenced by the simple fact that the marketplace for a Christian gospel singer isn't nearly as large as that of a scantily clad, quirky pop singer. (Apparently, this is one of those rare instances in which faith in the fairness of free-market economics has failed the conservative Christian community.) 

Most of what these people perceive to be "Satanic symbols" are nothing of the kind. In "Hollywood Haunts the World," I deal with the plethora of esoteric symbolism woven into numerous films, from Victor Sjöström's "The Phantom Carriage" in 1921 all the way to Ari Aster's "Midsommar" in 2020. Very few of these hermetic films could be described as "Satanic" in nature. In my first book, "Cryptoscatology," when commenting on Alex Jones' 2000 documentary, "Dark Secrets Inside Bohemian Grove," I wrote that Jones' biggest weakness was the typical "Christian tendency to confuse paganism with Satanism." 

Indeed, Christians often confuse hermeticism with Satanism. They confuse esotericism with Satanism. They confuse Freemasonry with Satanism. They confuse spiritualism with Satanism. They confuse Mormonism with Satanism. They confuse homosexuality with Satanism. They confuse Dungeons & Dragons and Procter & Gamble and Mighty Mouse and comic books and pop music and cocaine with Satanism. When anything that is other or different or unfamiliar is confused with Satanism, you're going to experience a great deal of bewilderment. And then you panic and begin making YouTube documentaries that end up containing about 15% truth and 85% disinformation. That vitally important 15% keeps a lot of eyes on the screen for the duration of the documentary. But that 85% is the real reason you made it, isn't it?

While suffering through this 118-minute piece of QAnon propaganda disguised as anti-Hollywood/anti-government propaganda, I was struck by the fact that I could easily make the filmmakers' case for them far better than they were doing themselves. If they really wanted to connect government conspiracies to Satanism, why not go beyond Aquino? Why not mention Louis Tackwood, for example?

What follows are relevant passages from Alex Constantine's 1993 book, "Blood, Carnage, and the Agent Provocateur": 

In 1971, Lee Smith, an ex-convict from the California Men's Colony, testified before Congress that he'd been paid to foment prison unrest. He'd been instructed by authorities to blame "Marxist revolutionary forces" for stirring up the violence. Afterward, conditions at the penal colony worsened ….

[Louis] Tackwood, who'd been recruited by [the LAPD's Criminal Conspiracy Section] to provoke prison riots, blew the whistle in 1971, charging that the secret LAPD unit had been "set up on the same basis as the CIA" .... 

Tackwood pulled LAPD skeletons out of the closet with the publication of "The Glass House Tapes'' in 1973, including the disclosure that the department had about 125 provocateurs on the payroll. Some in the press, not many, asked questions. Liberal community groups in Los Angeles, discovering they'd been infiltrated, sued the LAPD. CCS [Criminal Conspiracy Section], the secret police unit, was disbanded, its spies and provocateurs reassigned. In its place evolved the OCID [Organized Crime Intelligence Division], which incidentally maintains no files on organized crime. The OCID does, however, keep extensive files on local politicians and private citizens ....

One of the most controversial aspects of "The Glass House Tapes'' was Tackwood's claim that the Los Angeles Police Department, in concert with various U.S. intelligence agencies, was using Satanic cults in California for the purposes of blackmailing and brainwashing high-profile initiates. I find it ironic that this scenario has now been embraced by the right wing, when back in the early 1970s the only people talking about this were far-left radicals like the members of the Citizens Research and Investigation Committee, with whom Tackwood collaborated on "The Glass House Tapes." Subsequent nonfiction books like Walter Bowart's 1978 "Operation Mind Control," Maury Terry's 1987 "The Ultimate Evil" and John W. DeCamp's aforementioned 1992 "The Franklin Cover-Up" explore similar themes in far greater depth, so why are none of them mentioned in "Out of Shadows"?

The same is true of MK-ULTRA and Project Paperclip. Why don't the filmmakers cite such well-researched books as Gordon Thomas' "Journey Into Madness: Medical Torture and the Mind Controllers" or Christopher Simpson's "Blowback: America's Recruitment of Nazis and its Effect on the Cold War"? If the main purpose of this documentary were to inform the public about these topics, books such as these would be mentioned. That's the type of move that encourages the viewer to pursue further research once the documentary has been seen. As I've mentioned before, William Cooper did this on his "Hour of the Time" radio show almost every episode. 

At one point in "Out of Shadows," Mike Smith says:

Let's take the word "Hollywood." Where does that come from? Well, "Hollywood" comes from the holly tree. The ancient druids back in the day used to take the holly tree, make wands to weave spells, cast spells, or channel spells. And when they needed help, they would consult the Magis or the "mediums" of the day to help channel their spells to the population. Well, cut to today. What do we have in our houses? We have these black boxes. What are they called? TVs. But if you stop and you say the word "television," [you get] "tell a vision." You turn on that television, and what do you get? What's the first thing that pops up? A list of "channels." And when you turn on those "channels," what's on those "channels"? Programming! They're programming you. They've been programming you your whole life. You don't even know it!

Jordan Maxwell, who's been delivering lectures about occult symbolism for decades, said these same exact words to me in Mesquite, Nevada, in the summer of 1999. I first heard Maxwell make this observation during a radio interview on KPFK in Los Angeles in 1993. And yet Smith doesn't bother to cite Maxwell. Neither do the filmmakers credit him at the end.

In the 1970s, the muckraking journalist Mae Brussell (who's often referred to as "the Queen of Conspiracies") began dedicating many episodes of her underground radio show "Conspiracy: Dialogue" to what she called Operation Chaos, an alleged CIA plot to destabilize the anti-war movement of the 1960s by assassinating various influential rock stars like Janis Joplin and Jim Morrison.

Alex Constantine, a writer heavily influenced by Brussell, published a book in 2000 entitled "The Covert War Against Rock" that expands on Brussell's theory at great length. By contrast, former CIA agent Kevin Shipp uses "Out of Shadows" as a platform to flip Brussell's theory, conveniently leaving the CIA out of the equation and implying that such '60s and '70s rock icons as Morrison and Frank Zappa were not victims of COINTELPRO-style surveillance and harassment, but were instead the conspirators themselves. Here are Shipp's own words:

It's odd because, in Laurel Canyon, so many of the soon-to-be-stars there — their parents were either in the military industrial complex or intelligence or the Pentagon. In Frank Zappa's case, his dad was working at Edgewood Arsenal where they were doing biochem studies, psychotropics, exposing U.S. troops to VX nerve gas and other things. The family kept gas masks in their house. He grew up with that in case there was an accident. And Edgewood Arsenal was doing very similar, related MK-Ultra projects on U.S. troops. The Gulf of Tonkin is another prime example. The commander of the Gulf fleet in the Gulf of Tonkin — his son was Jim Morrison. They claimed the USS Maddox was attacked by Vietnamese vessels. It was never attacked. As a matter of fact, they put ghost ships on the radar to make it look like they were Vietnamese ships. The Maddox was never attacked. It was an actual, literal "false flag" to enable the U.S. to declare war on Vietnam. So Jim Morrison's dad was involved in the false flag of the Gulf of Tonkin.

After presenting information that seems to link MK-Ultra mind control experiments with the unlikely notion that the intelligence community was the main influencer behind the 1960s counterculture movement, we get Shipp's implication that Morrison and Zappa were somehow brainwashed by their military parents to become rock stars and thereby create a generation of freako-pervo-weirdos. Shipp's not the first person to suggest something like this. Perennial presidential candidate Lyndon LaRouche, for example, was convinced that the Beatles were formed by British MI6 intelligence agents to influence American teenagers to experiment with psychedelic drugs. (In my experience, American teenagers don't need British intelligence agents to indulge in illicit substances.) 

If you think we've now reached the nadir of absurdity, you're quite wrong. Numerous QAnon followers — far more than you could imagine — are convinced that Hillary Clinton was assassinated long ago and replaced with a clone, which is clearly a recapitulation of the conspiracy theory introduced to the world by Dr. Peter Beter on May 28, 1979. Beter insisted that President Jimmy Carter and Henry Kissinger, among several other key American politicians and military leaders, had been murdered by the Soviet Union and replaced with what he called "organic robotoids." By carefully analyzing news footage, Beter claimed he could tell you the approximate time and place the real Carter was offed and switched with his robot clone. Beter's special "audio letter" containing this startling announcement is archived on YouTube. 

In 1992, a right-wing group called "Police Against the New World Order" — a loose-knit conglomeration of active and retired police officers, National Guard members and military officers — published a saddle-stitched, 76-page booklet entitled "Operation Vampire Killer 2000," whose main purpose was to warn fellow law enforcement officers (as well as private citizens) of ongoing attempts by "New World Order" globalists to "overthrow the Constitutional Republic of these United States of America" by fomenting various crises that would lead to the establishment of martial law. Here's a direct quote from the booklet: "Aided by their controlled media, and NWO government-paid agitators/'leaders' on both sides, the goal is to frighten Americans, of all colors, into accepting Martial Law." 

The group was led by a retired Phoenix police officer named Jack McLamb. Whether his views were right or wrong, sane or paranoid, it's clear from reading his booklet that McLamb's intent was to warn the citizens of the United States against encroaching fascism.

QAnon has borrowed much from "Operation Vampire Killer 2000" while also managing to stand the original message completely on its head. Instead of warning against martial law, QAnon is urging people to welcome it with open arms.

In May of 2019, Michael Swanson of (author of "The War State: The Cold War Origins of the Military-Industrial Complex and the Power Elite, 1945-1963") interviewed journalist Pearse Redmond about the beginnings of the QAnon phenomena. Here's Redmond:

[Early on] QAnon was advocating for a military takeover of the country, and martial law being enforced everywhere, and that this was actually a good thing. We shouldn't really worry if Trump declares martial law and the military takes over policing, setting up camps to intern dissidents and whatnot. That was actually okay, and we should support Trump when he does that. So that was one of the early warning signs for me. Not to fully go the tinfoil hat conspiracy [route] that they're preparing us for this, but just that [QAnon was] once again acclimating people to that [idea], making it seem that it wasn't such a big deal, and at the same time sucking in a lot of conspiracy people who were warning about that very thing ten to fifteen years ago, particularly the more right-leaning [conspiracy theorists warning us against] FEMA camps [being set up] everywhere, and now they were [saying], "Oh no, the FEMA camps are good because we won't be in them! It'll just be the Democrats!" And that's a very interesting technique — or experiment — to see if you could do that. QAnon was pushing this idea that [former national security adviser] John Bolton was a good guy, that he wasn't a part of the Deep State or the Washington elite, that bombing and invading Iran was actually a good thing, and that we should all advocate for that. So, once again, [QAnon was] converting a lot of the alternative conspiracy people who have been — rightfully — questioning what's going on in Iran and U.S. foreign policy in the Middle East, and suddenly turning them around and getting them to advocate invading Iran and taking their oil and whatnot. So this is really, really strange and disturbing — the speed that these people all dropped [their former convictions and began advocating for] things they were previously against. Instantly, in the course of a few weeks, they had reversed course and basically just became Trump Republicans, advocating that anything Trump says is good.

Louis Tackwood, Alex Constantine, Walter Bowart, Maury Terry, John W. DeCamp, Gordon Thomas, Christopher Simpson, Jordan Maxwell, Mae Brussell, Lyndon LaRouche, Dr. Peter Beter, Jack McLamb. Work plundered from all the above researchers has been stitched together by QAnon into a weird, sprawling patchwork quilt of conspiracies. That the original researchers are never cited by QAnon suggests that the purpose of Q — and particularly of the "Out of Shadows" documentary — is not to inform. It's to disinform.

That's why there are only four specific sources cited throughout "Out of Shadows": the aforementioned former Hollywood stunt man named Mike Smith, who admits that his supposed information was gleaned from too much time spent surfing the internet while convalescing from a work-related injury, which means that his experiences in the film industry are irrelevant in the context of this film; a still active stunt man named Brad Martin; a "former" CIA operative named Kevin Shipp; and a journalist named Liz Crokin. That's it. Instead of interviewing a university professor like Christopher Simpson about Project Paperclip, they use accurate information only to drive home the real point: Believe in the theories of QAnon. And what's the inevitable result of accepting QAnon's theories into your heart?

Voting for Donald Trump.

By Robert Guffey

Robert Guffey is a lecturer in the Department of English at California State University, Long Beach. His books include the novel "Until the Last Dog Dies" and "Chameleo: A Strange but True Story of Invisible Spies, Heroin Addiction, and Homeland Security." Visit his website.

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