The article “Republicans and Trump in the Putin era. How long does a digital war become real?” was published in Dnevnik. The point of view expressed in this article is authorial and do not necessarily reflect BM`s editorial stance.
WASHINGTON, (BM) – In 2017, President Putin said, “Whoever becomes a leader in the I.T. field will be the ruler of the world.” He was right to say so with satisfaction after Russia helped run two large-scale and successful Kremlin campaigns on the Internet last year: Brexit in Britain and Donald Trump’s election in the United States.
But these two conquests, while remarkable, are by no means the last. The latest is Russia’s hacking attack on some of America’s most essential institutions the previous year. And it culminated in what happened around the storming of the U.S. Congress and the avalanche of fake news called QAnon, which led to this incredible picture of the Capitol.
A forgotten character: Michael Flynn
At the end of December 2020, a heated meeting took place at the White House with former National Security Adviser General Michael Flynn. He is proposing that President Trump declare martial law. Speaking to Newsmax, Flynn said: “In hesitant states, he (Trump) can, if he wants, install a military and impose a re-vote.”
General Michael Flynn left the Trump administration in February 2017, forcing him to resign over Russia’s ties. He was subsequently investigated and twice pleaded guilty to perjury. After a series of adjournments, the judge asked prosecutors: should Flynn not be tried for treason instead of perjury?
Treason is the only crime defined in the U.S. Constitution. It involves helping the enemy during a war. But according to law professor Stephen Vladek, this is inapplicable: “We cannot claim to be at war with Russia to prove treason. Unless we accept the full legal consequence of what it would mean to be at war.”
So there was something that was beyond the power of the creators of the American constitution. For example, to assume that 250 years later, wars will be as they are today – in cyberspace.
In December 2020, Trump pardoned General Flynn and others around him to investigate ties to Russia.
Michael Flynn’s idea of martial law and a coup was about to be realized. After months of repeating for a “rigged election,” many supporters believed him. On January 6, tens of thousands responded to his call and attempted to take the Capitol. The assault, as it turned out in the last week of the FBI investigation, was a well-organized, coordinated event, which involved both regular supporters of Trump and former and current employees of various paramilitary units – the army, police, fire department. What connected most of them was QAnon.
What is QAnon?
QAnon is the name of a conspiracy theory that a secret society of Satanists rules the Democratic Party and the world – pedophiles who conspire against Trump while directing global sex trafficking of children, killing them, and eating them extract life-sustaining chemicals from their blood.
According to the “theory,” members of this satanic society are former presidents Clinton and Obama, Hillary Clinton, Joe Biden, George Soros, Pope Francis, the Dalai Lama, and many Hollywood stars. By QAnon’s logic, Trump was called upon by senior military officials to run for president in 2016 to end Satanists’ criminal conspiracy and end their control of the world. According to the “theory,” Russian President Putin is also fighting Satanists.
These allegations come in the form of coded messages from an anonymous source, nicknamed Q. The first post of Q had published on the Internet forum Forchan (4chan) in October 2017.
4chan is an English-language internet forum for anonymous posts of manga, video games, weapons, and politics. In 44chan and other platforms, Q has made about 5,000 messages so far. Q is the pseudonym of a person posing as a high-ranking military officer with access level “Q” – top secret. The name QAnon forms from the pseudonym Q and an “anon,” which comes from the first syllables of the word “anonymous.”
Q’s identity and nationality are unknown, and it is not clear whether it is a single person or a group of people. There are speculations that this is Trump himself.
What Q says and who advertises it
In his first post, published on October 28, 2017, Q claims that Hillary Clinton will be arrested.
This first Q post failed to gain popularity for six days. On the sixth day, ultra-conservative blogger Tracy Diaz advertised it on her YouTube channel. A day earlier, a Twitter user nicknamed CrusadersPost, who until then had posted mostly information from obscure Russian sources, was the first to use the term “QAnon” on social media.
According to a Reuters investigation, the two first Q advertising agents “contacted” each other back in April 2017. That same month, Russian trolls began hard-working on Tracy Diaz’s publications.
According to a Reuters investigation, as Russian troll users, Twitter made #Qanon the most used hashtag immediately after the first post, using it 17,000 times. Trump himself, who has retweeted or mentioned QAnon-related pages, has boosted their posts 258 times by October.
Who are the followers of QAnon
In the 2020 U.S. election, three people who openly declared their affiliation with QAnon won seats in Congress.
QAnon is gaining more and more followers around the world. It is impossible to determine their exact number, but it estimated that it already exceeds tens of millions. According to a poll conducted by the Daily Kos / Civiqs poll in September 2020, 56% of Republican voters believe the theory is entirely or partially true, and only 13% strongly reject it.
QAnon followers tagged their posts with the hashtag # WWG1WGA, an abbreviation of their motto “Where We Go One, We Go All.”
In June 2020, Q called on all who followed him to take a virtual military oath, spread on social media with the call #TakeTheOath. A few days later, on July 4, General Michael Flynn posted a video on his Twitter account with the same hashtag, took an oath of allegiance, and ended it with QAnon’s slogan “Where We Go One, We Go All.”
As early as 2019, it became known that the general was a follower of the movement. He then took part in a digital military conference in Atlanta, organized by QAnon supporters, which aimed to prepare “patriotic soldiers for social media” for the upcoming “digital civil war.”
No wonder that through the martial law he recently advocated, he tried to transfer this war from the virtual to the real world.
The Capitol’s center of American statehood now looks like a military camp and is guarded by 20,000 National Guard soldiers. This number exceeds the number of U.S. troops in Iraq, Afghanistan, and Syria combined.
Putin and the future of Republicans
President Putin has achieved at least two victories during President Trump’s four-year term through his entire troll propaganda army, shaking many Americans’ confidence in the electoral system, thus undermining the foundations of liberal democracy. According to a poll by the Washington Post and ABC, conducted between January 10 and 13, 7 out of 10 Republican voters believe that Joe Biden was not elected legitimately.
The Kremlin’s second victory was that it split its primary political opponent into the United States, the Republican Party. She now faces the choice of being conquered by far-right QAnon supporters or returning to the values of Lincoln and Reagan, who defeated in the Cold War what he called the “Empire of Evil” – the communist USSR.
Ahead of the 2016 election, Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham wrote, “If we nominate Trump, he will destroy us, and we will deserve it.” Unfortunately, his prophecy turned out to be true. The Republican Party will take which path will be evident when the Senate votes on Trump’s second impeachment next week. The hearing will most likely begin an hour after Trump leaves the White House.
The need for a vote may seem controversial once his term is over, but there are such precedents. This act is the only way to deprive Trump of the right to be elected to public office. If 17 Republican senators vote with Democrats, the Republican Party and America’s future will look different.
250 years ago
For now, the American constitution, written 250 years ago, holds. America continues on the path of liberal democracy. On January 20, at 12:01 p.m., Joe Biden will take office and become President of the United States. He promised to fight for the “soul of the nation.” Whether he succeeds will depend on everyone – the Democrats and the Republicans, ready to reject madness, lies, outside interference, and dictatorship. That is, of those who managed to save the constitutional order and democratic governance of the U.S.
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