West Oakland Works

West Oakland Works West Oakland Works and its magazine, WOWnews, are dedicated to supporting and informing commercial and cultural enterprises in West Oakland.

Contact 510.238.6766 for more information West Oakland has become a growth center for a broad spectrum of businesses, be it the Port of Oakland’s global trade infrastructure or all sorts of light manufacturing, including food, fashion and green technologies. Toss in the artists, designers and filmmakers plus the printers, wood workers and assorted distribution and other services and you have the w

Contact 510.238.6766 for more information West Oakland has become a growth center for a broad spectrum of businesses, be it the Port of Oakland’s global trade infrastructure or all sorts of light manufacturing, including food, fashion and green technologies. Toss in the artists, designers and filmmakers plus the printers, wood workers and assorted distribution and other services and you have the w

Operating as usual

TOUGH TIMES IN OAKLANDOakland is in its worst crisis in 25 years. There has been 250% jump in murders, rampant anti-Asia...


Oakland is in its worst crisis in 25 years. There has been 250% jump in murders, rampant anti-Asian violence, an atrocious homeless situation exacerbated by the pandemic, a new police chief, LeRonne Armstrong from West Oakland, begging for funding, and not enough media coverage or elite engagement.

Indeed, Vice President Kamala Harris and Black Live Matters co-founder Alicia Garza were born in Oakland, while the great scholar and activist Angela Davis lives here, but after summer with 50 marches to honor George Floyd and protest racist murders, there are no similar marches to save Oakland.

Oakland was in a renaissance three years ago, replete with a lot of independent films and incredible art projects as well as new housing and businesses.

Although we have been pummeled by the pandemic, loss of income, frustration and a culture of blame, are we not creative, resourceful and resilient?


Oakland is in its worst crisis in 25 years. There has been 250% jump in murders, rampant anti-Asian violence, an atrocious homeless situation exacerbated by the pandemic, a new police chief, LeRonne Armstrong from West Oakland, begging for funding, and not enough media coverage or elite engagement.

Indeed, Vice President Kamala Harris and Black Live Matters co-founder Alicia Garza were born in Oakland, while the great scholar and activist Angela Davis lives here, but after summer with 50 marches to honor George Floyd and protest racist murders, there are no similar marches to save Oakland.

Oakland was in a renaissance three years ago, replete with a lot of independent films and incredible art projects as well as new housing and businesses.

Although we have been pummeled by the pandemic, loss of income, frustration and a culture of blame, are we not creative, resourceful and resilient?

Today is Holocaust Remembrance Day, or Yom Hashoah. See my remembrance at https://www.facebook.com/doniphan.blair/posts/...

Today is Holocaust Remembrance Day, or Yom Hashoah. See my remembrance at https://www.facebook.com/doniphan.blair/posts/10224296915506681

Or for more about Oakland and its cultural scene, check out cineSOURCE magazine at https://www.cine-SOURCE.com

Although we experienced a malware attack that slowed the magazine's operations, we are about to release a new issue, our 13th annual Oakland issue. It will have articles on Oakland, the conspiracy theory phenomena, the SF International Film Festival and more.

Today is Holocaust Remembrance Day, or Yom Hashoah. See my remembrance at https://www.facebook.com/doniphan.blair/posts/10224296915506681

Or for more about Oakland and its cultural scene, check out cineSOURCE magazine at https://www.cine-SOURCE.com

Although we experienced a malware attack that slowed the magazine's operations, we are about to release a new issue, our 13th annual Oakland issue. It will have articles on Oakland, the conspiracy theory phenomena, the SF International Film Festival and more.

HAPPY VALENTINE'S DAY Yes, we are a time of multiple and extreme crises, when the tendency is to be afraid or attack the...


Yes, we are a time of multiple and extreme crises, when the tendency is to be afraid or attack the other.

But remember the Conspiracy of Love. It has been going for tens of thousands of years and beat both Hi**er and the Illuminati as well as helped your parents produce you.

Oakland too is a tough time and we are working hard to get the stories out, notably at www.cine-SOURCE.com.

If you have any Oakland insights, visions or dramas, let us know.



Yes, we are a time of multiple and extreme crises, when the tendency is to be afraid or attack the other.

But remember the Conspiracy of Love. It has been going for tens of thousands of years and beat both Hi**er and the Illuminati as well as helped your parents produce you.

Oakland too is a tough time and we are working hard to get the stories out, notably at www.cine-SOURCE.com.

If you have any Oakland insights, visions or dramas, let us know.


HAPPY RELIGIOUS OR TEMPORAL BLESSINGS In these extremely difficult times, I wish you the best in ideas, feelings, impecc...


In these extremely difficult times, I wish you the best in ideas, feelings, impeccability and endurance to guide you through.

I also include my mother, due to her example of surviving the Holocaust as a romantic teenager, and my magazine, cine-SOURCE.com, which we just resurrected from a malware attack.

Indeed cineSOURCE has reported on Oakland film and art since our first issue in April 2008.

If you want to join our rebuilding of cineSOURCE, which will run well over $1000, please check out our new issue (out in a couple of days), write an article (and a shout out to Karl Cohen for doing two!) or subscribe https://www.cinesourcemagazine.com/#paypal.

If you are interested in my mother's journey, her book "Love at the End of the World", $18, makes an excellent gift, which I can deliver curbside in Oakland or ship for $7. Also for $18, I have "Micro Master" paintings and "I Hella Love Oakland" T-shirts, call 510 220-2126.

Thanks for your interest, keep up the good work and remember: It is in the darkest hour that people decide to turn towards the light.

All our best (and thanks to Nick Blair for the above photo and Sulay Shah for his great programming).

cineSOURCE, a West Oakland magazine, just published an amazing article: THE QANON GAME, CONSPIRACY KING TRUMP AND US. It...

cineSOURCE, a West Oakland magazine, just published an amazing article: THE QANON GAME, CONSPIRACY KING TRUMP AND US. It has breaking news on the QAnon phenom, notably it started as an internet game, and the fact that Trump is a master at manipulating conspiracy theories. Indeed dealing with it brings some of our most advanced intellectual issues—cybernetics, spiritual community, radical forgiveness, post-modernism and multiculturalism—to bear on a real-world problem. It would be fascinating if it were not so frightening, as the saying goes. See the article https://www.facebook.com/cinesourcemagazine/posts/10164521991165581


by Doniphan Blair

As if the QAnonymous folks didn’t have enough on their plate these past few weeks — their hero Trump defeated, their oracle Q mistaken, their webmaster Ron Watkins quit — The Financial Times released a video on October 15th, “Is QAnon a Game Gone Wrong?” It details how QAnon, a movement with as many as fifteen million people, depending on how you calibrate participation, started as a live-action, role-playing game, or LARP.

The Financial Times’ scoop on the origins of the right-wing phenomena, which also has social, spiritual and commercial aspects, has yet to be corroborated by other major news outlets. But it was prefigured by Wired Magazine in a September 22nd article about Adrian Hon, a computer game designer, who observed QAnon adheres to the common LARP format of scavenger hunt.

“Deep state propaganda,” would probably be the response of most QAnoners. Nevertheless, it is common knowledge that their three-year-old community is guided by piecing together clues posted by “Q,” supposedly an intelligence officer with “Q-level clearance,” which refers to working with nuclear secrets, now more likely a live-action, role-playing master.

Also called “alternative reality game,” or its ungainly acronym ARG, the LARP was pioneered in California by Wizards of the Coast to promote their video game “Netrunner” in 1996. The Wizards needed advertising magic since video gaming had blown up that decade, adding three dimensionality, role-playing — from becoming a medieval knight in “Final Fantasy: IV” (1991) to a “first person shooter” in “Doom” (1993) — and “massively multiplayer online role-playing games,” or MMOs, with the arrival of widespread access to the World Wide Web.

Live-action role-playing was the next logical step. A cool combination of storytelling, technology, play and actual human beings, LARPs were adopted by ad agencies and media production companies, to advertise movies as well as games, but also gamers, hipsters and attendees of Burning Man, who developed their own.

LARP-like activities are universal among children, of course, but they are not common in adulthood, outside of games like Dungeons and Dragons, the acting profession, s*x, crossdressing, criminality and undercover police or espionage work. This stimulates intense interest.

In the 1990s, European anarchists came up with “Luther Blissett,” a “multiple-use name… used to organize pranks, media stunts, and hoaxes,” according to Wikipedia. Although this doesn’t seem like the work of Blisset, “he” did publish a novel in 1999 titled “Q.”

I covered a LARP for cineSOURCE magazine in 2012. It was created by Jeff Hull, who consults on game theory for nonprofits like Greenpeace and co-founded Oaklandish, an art movement and clothing line with a store in downtown Oakland. Hull calls his LARPs “participatory arts projects” and had just completed “The Jejune Institute.” An excellent documentary on the year-long endeavor called “The Institute” (2013) was directed by Spencer McCall.

In 2008, Hull and his crew attracted more than 7,000 people to their faux Jejune office in a San Francisco office building, using paper flyers with tear-off phone numbers posted on poles. Combining high tech and old school, Jejune “officials” provided about five hundred participants clues in maps, props built into public property and post cards, which led to a protest by 250 people, exploring Oakland’s underground sewage system and solving the mystery of Eva, a p***y, young runaway.

Sensing Jejuners might get too involved — “jejune” means naïve, simplistic or superficial, by the way — Hull brought them back to earth at their last meeting by explaining everything openly, after which they had a good laugh over tea and cookies.

Q took “his” LARP in the opposite direction, toward increased mystery, control and politics, when “he” began posting on 4chan, an anonymous, freewheeling forum for hackers, outlaws and pornographers, during the Trump Administration’s first year.

By the mid-2010s, there were all sorts of roll-playing games, from the multiplayer online games to real-life, dress-up fantasies — like “the furries,” people who wear animal costumes — private s*xual ones or an online variant called the “anons,” such as CIAAnon, which was orchestrated by an imaginary spymaster.

Q — or what turns out to be a number of Qs, as control of the game was contested — came to widespread attention after an early post announced the impending arrest of Hillary Clinton. It didn’t happen, of course, but fulfilling predictions was not as necessary as expressing the fantasies suggested by Trump’s campaign chant, “Lock her up.”

“When you offer people a story that validates some core beliefs or resonates with their view of the world — or view of their imagined word — it has a life of its own,” Hull told me, when I called him on November 13th.

“Suddenly you have followers who are activated by this content in a way that is entirely unpredictable.”

Logically labeled QAnon, Q’s LARP integrated right-wing conspiracy theories, Trump’s embattled presidency, his accusations against “the deep state,” and PizzaGate, the CT popular during the last election. QAnon validated core beliefs not only of aggrieved Republicans but some folks on the far left.

In case conspiracy theories had not yet intruded on your life, those four, long years ago: PizzaGate exploded across the web in October 2016 after a New York City lawyer and white supremacist tweeted he had evidence that Anthony Weiner, the disgraced Democratic congressman and soon-to-be-divorced husband of Clinton’s assistant, was part of a pe******ia ring. Already busted for s*xting, the tellingly-named Weiner would do two years for sending a 15-year-old girl “dick pics.”

From one pervert who happened to be a Democrat, a pe*****le ring was born. It was built from clues “deciphered” from the emails of John Podesta, the Democratic Party Chairman, which were hacked by Russians in March 2016 but only made public by Julian Assange’s WikiLeaks, a month before that Election Day, coincidentally.

PizzaGaters became so convinced Clinton and her colleagues were Satanists running a child s*x ring out of a DC pizza parlor, a North Carolina man raced up in December 2016 and peppered a locked door in the back with rounds from an AR-15 assault rifle (no one was hit) to free the children trapped in the basement (which did not exist). He got four years.

Expanding from PizzaGate, QAnon includes Obama and other leading Democrats, celebrities, like Tom Hanks and Oprah Winfrey, and one banker (George Soros). It also has them commit much more lurid crimes AND run the deep state.

“Why so over-the-top,” you might ask? Well, if a story like PizzaGate is gobbled up, the next conspiracy theory has to be more titillating to win adherents.

Hence, Trump was recruited by military brass to run for president and take down the cabal. Plus, he would soon reveal the entire sordid saga, order mass arrests and heal the nation.

Along with its dystopian views, QAnon promises peace, love and happiness, through what they call “The Great Awakening,” people waking up to the truth and standing up to the ruling elites of Satanists, pe*****les and cannibals (derived from the claim they ingest children’s blood). That utopia is now on hold due to Trump’s near miss of a second term.

Admittedly, “only a fraction of [QAnoners] believe the conspiracy theory’s most outlandish claims,” according to an article in Wired’s October 6th issue, which cites a recent poll. Some people may even see them as metaphors for corruption and decay, not actual fact.

Nevertheless, “some 56% of Republicans believe that QAnon… is mostly or partly true,” reported Forbes Magazine on September 2nd, providing plenty of belief to go around. QAnon-related pages leapt over 600% after the Covid-19 shutdowns in March 2020, when many people were fearful, frustrated and desperate for explanations.

QAnoners are known for their aggressive proselytizing, getting friends and family to swallow the “red pill” (of difficult knowledge, from “The Matrix,” 1999). This is to bring them onboard the secret squad that will save the world, or, from a more practical perspective, to protect themselves from intrusions on their fantasy life. QAnon evangelists includes YouTube advisors, book authors, swag manufacturers — hats, flags, shirts — and outright scammers.

Their theories have also been multiplying. The pandemic is a hoax but the new 5G networks are causing the disease, although the vaccines will be fraudulent, in accord with the anti-vaxxers. John F. Kennedy Jr didn’t die in 1999, when his plane crashed in the ocean with two women onboard: he’s been hiding, will soon go public, declare war on the cabal and take over from Pence as vice-president.

QAnoners are admonished to do their own research, which allows them to role-play cryptologists and academics, while the movement itself fosters dreams of heroism and revolution in the face of confusion, ridicule and catastrophe.

Top researchers are considered the movement’s saints and called “bakers,” for their expert analysis of Q’s “bread crumbs.” Although they disagree on the details, pretty much all pre-existing CTs — chemtrails, 9/11, the moon landings, Kennedy and Roswell — are considered factual, which makes QAnon the conspiracy theory to end all conspiracy theories.

Unlike a 9/11-conspiracy theorist, who can only bore you to death at a party, QAnon was categorized a domestic terror group by the FBI, in April 2019. That rating stems from the 2016 PizzaGate attack, a June 2018 Nevada police standoff with an armed man who blocked the roadway on the Hoover Dam his armored vehicle, and a murder.

In March 2019, a New York Gambino family boss was killed by a QAnon-addled kid, who thought the CIA had corrupted the Mafia (instead of vice versa, as in the Kennedy-assassination conspiracy).

QAnon’s absence of actual violence is outweighed by its size, up to fifteen million people, its influence, from Trump rallies and Save the Children marches to extensive indoctrination, in person, through the web and now overseas, and its members’ violent view of what is happening right now, hidden away.

Over a year after the FBI assessment but only two weeks before Election Day 2020, Facebook, Twitter and, to a lesser degree, YouTube closed down most of the tens of thousands of accounts related to QAnon, which digital activists had been requesting for years.

Instead of algorithms favoring vetted sources or hiring enough people to manage more detailed review, those platforms were programmed to send viewers more exciting examples of their interests and what is trending worldwide. If someone searches for “QAnon,” their inboxes are eventually inundated by related material, which can lead depressed, anxious or otherwise susceptible people down the so-called “rabbit hole,” Alice’s way into Wonderland.

The same week QAnon was blocked from social media, it was sanctioned by the House of Representatives, every member except for 18, most of whom cited free speech concerns. They can now discuss those issues with their new QAnon colleagues.

In fact, QAnon had two victories among its losses on Election Day. Out of almost 100 candidates adhering to aspects of QAnon, who ran for posts across the country, the Republican congressional candidates Marjorie Taylor Greene of Georgia and gun-fanatic Lauren Boebert of Colorado won their races. House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy insisted, on November 12th, that both women had withdrawn fealty to Q, but Boebert only distanced herself and Greene didn’t even bother.

“QAnon is not just on the internet anymore; it’s in the US Capitol,” emphasized Kailyn Tiffany, a journalist with The Atlantic, which published the first major expose of QAnon in May 2020, albeit three years after its emergence.

“It is not just a conspiracy theory anymore; it’s a voting bloc. And it is not going anywhere.”

Although most major news outlets covered QAnon from 2017, aside from The Atlantic, they didn’t start in depth investigative reporting until August 2020, which generated some frenzied catch-up but little actual news. Now that the movement has become of such public concern, however, even staid financial news organizations are taking it seriously and doing good research.

Also on Election Day, Business Insider, a respected site since 2007, referred to QAnon as a game but didn’t elaborate. Their article was investigating Q’s identity through an in-depth analysis of “his” clues, so-called “Q drops.”

Business Insider fingered Ron Watkins or his father Jim, who owns Q’s current hoster, 8kun. Q moved from 4chan to 8chan, when the former instituted some censorship. After Watkins bought 8chan, they morphed it into 8kun last year, after bad press from posting racist manifestos, notably by the New Zealand and El Paso mass murderers (51 in March 2019, 23 in August 2019, respectively).

Ron Watkins emphatically rejects such accusations. But, after years’ hard labor in the outlaw internet, he quit 8kun on Election Day, supposedly to devote more time to his wife and favorite hobby, woodworking, as it happens.

Coincidence is not causality, of course, but Q, too, went silent on Election Day after noting, “Trust the plan not the polls.” QAnoners were overjoyed when Q returned on November 12th, but “his” Q-drop, “Nothing can stop what is coming,” was not that informative.

As if that wasn’t bad enough for the symbol-obsessed QAnoners, two weeks earlier was the debut of “Is QAnon a Game Gone Wrong?” Produced by The Financial Times, which is based in London and “the leading global business publication” (by its own account), the 16-minute video was directed by Izabella Kaminska, a star reporter and the editor of their award-winning web division, FT Alphaville.

That QAnon is a rogue LARP will have enormous implications for its FBI task force, researchers studying cults and anyone observing with trepidation its mercurial rise and excessive fantasy. If we hope to crack its code and come up with counter measures, how it emerged and operates is critical intel.

“Is QAnon a Game” is a fantastic first step, which I will examine below (see it on YouTube here: https://youtu.be/-4vb6UWhf3o), but it was overshadowed by real-life events, as so often happens in Trumpian times: a bitter presidential campaign, voting made difficult by both the pandemic and Trump Administration, and the lingering, unresolved aftermath.

Although the administration finally opened up to the Biden transition team on November 23rd, Trump didn’t concede, which could still lead to the Supreme Court, a constitutional crisis, fighting in the streets or a coup, according to extremists on the right and left.

Trump remains adamant he won in a landslide, that there was vast voter fraud and that American democracy is under attack by an enormous, octopussian conspiracy, directed by “the deep state,” another conspiracy theory Trump endorses. It may also be the Satanist pe*****les identified by QAnon.

Trump has winked at QAnon a couple of times, notably his August 18th news conference. After insisting he knew nothing, he admitted, “I’ve heard these are people that love our country. I don’t know really anything about it other than they do supposedly like me… If I can help save the world from problems, I am willing to do it. I’m willing to put myself out there.”

Trump typically avoids outlandish conspiracy theories, like 9/11 or aliens, but he has built his life around devious deals and outright lies; he suspects the same from others; and he is a trained trafficker in conspiracy theories.

In fact, his main mentor after his father was Roy Cohn, the rancid New York lawyer who entered the public eye as an assistant to Senator Joseph McCarthy, fabricator of the allegation that the US government was riddled with communists, the conspiracy theory which tore apart America in the ‘50s.

Along with obstructionist legal strategies, Trump learned from Cohn how to use conspiracy theories to introduce doubt, sow fear and threaten enemies, while maintaining distance and deniability — in fact, not even believing the theories themselves.

It is no coincidence then that Trump kicked off his political career by promoting the Birther conspiracy, his presidential campaign by accusing Mexicans of coming to America to r**e and rob, not find work, and his presidency by claiming Clinton won the popular vote by having her minions plant three million fake ballots.

Another conspiracy theory Trump has advanced by endless repetition is that the liberal media was distorting and fabricating so much about him and his administration, they were “fake news.” Conversely, only he could provide an honest assessment, and he came to be revered by supporters for his candor and authenticity.

Republicans have long been the paranoid party, from McCarthy to Nixon and their obstinate opposition to President Obama. After the 2012 attacks on the consulate in Benghazi, Libya, conspiracy theories flourished about Secretary of State Clinton, even after the Republican-led congressional investigations found them baseless.

Even so, most conservatives still can’t conceive that Trump’s go-to strategy is conspiracy theory. Jeff Flake, a Never Trumper one-term senator from Arizona remains perplexed, even though he noted on November 20th, “He probably didn’t believe [Birtherism] but knew some Republicans would.”

Most Republicans see Trump’s conspiracy obsessions as the character flaw of a political outsider and narcissist, who can’t bear to lose because his brand is based on winning and fantasy. Actually, winning through fantasy is the main benefit of conspiracism and Trump. Before becoming president, of course, he was the star of the reality television show, “The Apprentice” (NBC, 2004–17).

Trump has indoctrinated his 88 million Twitter followers with his own tweets and those forwarded from others, including QAnoners. By identifying clandestine criminality everywhere, he stokes fear and presents himself as the only viable savior, a boast repeated ad nauseam during his presidential campaign.

Trump has supported 29 conspiracies, according to Wikipedia, from global warming is a hoax to the deep state, which emerged from the Left, or foul play in the deaths of Vince Foster and Jeffrey Epstein, a convicted pe*****le and Democrat, which reflects the kernels of truth CTs use to build on.

Trump almost always piggy-backs on other conspiracy theorists — Birtherism was the invention of a Chicago gadfly attacking Obama in 2004 — but his piece de resistance is entirely his own: The Democrats can only win in 2020 if they steal the election. Many of us laughed when he started hyping that one, not realizing he was a conspiracy theory master.

Even at the 2016 Iowa caucus, Trump claimed Ted Cruz stole votes. To solidify his Clinton-votes conspiracy, he established the Voter Fraud Commission in May 2017, an apparent exercise in futility, especially after it died eight months later due to absolutely no evidence. But Trump was playing the long game. He prepared the Clinton-votes conspiracy in anticipation of his 2016 defeat and, after winning, switched it to shore up his CT strategy for 2020.

Cohn would be proud. His acolyte Trump has done an A-plus job of making his voter-fraud conspiracy theory stick, even as Republican and Democrat officials testified “it was the most secure vote in American history,” the courts threw out almost all cases, and more and more celebrity Republicans and business people begged him to concede.

Regardless of America’s respectful transfers of power dating back to Washington, the majority of ranking Republicans and rank-and-file are still standing by Trump, although his followers are famous for taking him figuratively, not literally. Hence, Secretary of State Pompeo, Senator McConnell and others imagine they’re indulging his inability to process loss, even as they grossly underestimate him, as did New Yorkers and Democrats before them.

Trump’s low-brow demeanor and even idiocy serve to conceal an elevated emotional intelligence and ability to manage chaos. While it is confusing for most people, Trump has learned to take advantage of chaos, what some have called “creating controversy and watching it play out.”

Secret consultants didn’t help Trump win in 2016 or take over the Republican Party, since he generally rejects advice in favor of “gut feelings,” as he calls it. Indeed, he has developed a technique of pitching ideas, no matter how stupid, reading the room, crowd or media, and, if he feels a benefit is to be gained, plowing forth. While this system hasn’t been that effective in business or international negotiations, it worked well in reality television, celebrity culture and a political party drained of ideas and ethics.

Although the Biden Administration has started to get briefing, meetings, office space and funding, Trump’s insistence he will still prevail through the courts, even though his legal efforts have been a farce rejected out of hand by conservative Republican judges, perplexes many right-wingers, while liberals ridicule it as a scam for donations. Few recognize they are being out-chaos-ed.

Sure, Trump looks frazzled and is laying low, mostly playing golf, watching TV and tweeting frenetically, with few public events since Election Day. He’s in toughest con of his life, searching frantically for a way through, and weighing a possible end-run around all imaginable norms.

Given Trump’s long reliance on conspiracy theories, I doubt he will leave the West Wing without attempting to harness the biggest CT in American history, especially since its adherents see him as their savior.

The first real toe in this water came on November 12th, the same day as Q’s reappearance. Trump tweeted IN ALL CAPS a conspiratorial claim QAnoners took from a far-right cable news channel and had been trying to get to him for a week: “Dominion Voting Systems, a company that makes voting machines, ‘deleted’ millions of Trump votes,” (as reported by NBC News).

Although the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency dismissed it, QAnoners reject representatives of the deep state and were ecstatic. 70% of all tweets about Dominion, including the proposition Venezuela’s leaders Chavez and Maduro used its equipment to rig their elections, were coming from Q-related accounts. There’s also renewed chatter about how they should stop mourning Trump’s loss and resume their work to save America.

QAnon prayers were answered on November 19th. Since all his more reputable lawyers had quit, Trump made Giuliani captain of his legal team tackling the voter-fraud conspiracy. Giuliani in turn tapped his top associate Sidney Powell, who ranted about Dominion’s diabolical deeds, how Georgia’s Republican governor colluded with the CIA to steal the election, and concluded, almost in tears, with “stick to the plan,” Q’s catch-phrase.

She was fired two days later, indicating Trump did one of his gut feeling pitches, read the room and backed off QAnon, although perhaps not permanently.

Powell is the second senior Trump administration official to come out completely Q, after Michael Flynn, for whom she also provides legal counsel. Briefly Trump’s National Security Advisor, until his removal for failing to admit meeting with Russians and arrest after the Mueller Investigation, Flynn posted to YouTube — on July 4th, 2020, no less — his recitation of the QAnon pledge: “Where we go one, we go all.”

Flynn’s complete pardon by Trump on November 25th, will be seen by QAnon as another affirmation of their cause.

“Taken at face value, at the heart of Q is an effort to generate distrust,” notes Kaminska, at the beginning of “Is QAnon a Game Gone Wrong?”

“Whether it as a state disinformation campaign or something more spontaneous, it is hard to say. Simplifying it, as most of the media currently does, as a far right conspiracy that worships Trump and believes his opponents are Satanic pe*****les, probably misses the point.”

With that deserved dig at mainstream media, Kaminska sets out to decipher QAnon’s methods, history and roots, an epic as fascinating as it is frightening.

Her biggest download comes from Adam Curtis, who became her primary source. A reputable English documentary filmmaker, he has made almost a film a year since 1983, often focusing on social control by big money or computers but not conspiracies. Curtis has done his research and has been doing performance pieces about QAnon.

Conceptually, he traces it back to ’60s radicals Kerry Thornley (1938–98), his childhood chum Greg Hill, and their founding of Discordianism, a parody religion which worshipped chaos. Eventually, an author and ‘zine and magazine publisher, Thornley was also a seminal hippie whose Army buddies happened to include Lee Harvey Oswald.

Thornley and Hill started “Operation Mindf**k,” which involved sending to the Forum page of Pl***oy Magazine, a progressive periodical at the time, anonymous letters promoting the Illuminati conspiracy theory.

As you may recall from Conspiracy Theory 101 (soon to be required in college), the Illuminati were a secret, 18th century subsect of the Masons in Bavaria, who attempted to advance society through science and democracy. But instead of armchair radicals, a couple of popular books by conspiracy theorists of the day portrayed them as the hidden hand behind the French Revolution.

In Operation Mindf**k, Thornley, Hill and late addition Robert Anton Wilson claimed the Illuminati were involved in almost every war, revolution and assassination since 1789, an exaggeration so egregious they assumed no intelligent person would believe it.

In fact, they thought their Illuminati story could be used as a form of mass psychology, exaggeration as “aversion therapy,” to heal the “paranoid style in American politics,” left over from ‘50s’ McCarthyism and Red Scare and identified by Richard Hofstadter in his respected book of the same name (1964).

Thornley didn’t go when he was subpoenaed to the Kennedy-assassination conspiracy trail in New Orleans, but he told all in his book, “Oswald” (1965), which supports the “lone gunman” theory.

Later in life, however, hard luck, government interference and reading the “dual state” analysis of European lefties Ernst Frankel and Franz Morgenthau, who postulated democracies need fascist substructures to function in the modern era, turned Thornley toward conspiracism.

Hints also emerged that he was mistaken about Oswald. That the Kennedy assassination might have been a Mafia conspiracy is suggested by Oswald’s murder by a low-level but in-debt mafioso, Jack Ruby, and government documents declassified in 2017 (with one last dump postponed to 2021 by Trump, as it happens).

Despite Thornley’s disenchantment, his anti-conspiracy ideas were advanced by others, notably Robert Anton Wilson (1932–2007). A prolific author, agnostic mystic, Berkeley activist and friend of Timothy Leary and William Burroughs, Wilson happened to be the Pl***oy Forum editor who published Thornley’s letters.

Not only did they become close friends, Wilson was anointed the saint of Discordianism by Thornley, who loved statements like, “Belief is the death of intelligence,” or “You are precisely as big as what you love and precisely as small as what you allow to annoy you.”

In turn, Wilson and his Forum co-editor, Robert Joseph Shea (1933–1994), fictionalized Thornleyism into an 800 page, award-winning, sci-fi bestseller, which Wilson called “a fairy tale for paranoids.”

“The Illuminatus! Trilogy” is a tour de farce as well as force — the inserted exclamation point giving it away — which surfs from a New York City cop thriller through s*x, drugs and mysticism to aliens, monsters and even post-modern asides to the reader. There’s also plenty of conspiracy, including a scene set in Ingolstadt, Bavaria, home to the historical Illuminati.

Wilson and Shea considered conspiracy an intellectual stress test, which fortified your morality and humanity, if you didn’t take it literally, but condemned you to confusion, fear and hate, if you did. Neglecting, however, to recall H.L. Mencken’s observation that “No one ever went broke underestimating the intelligence of the American public,” their attempt to cure “the paranoid style in American politics” backfired completely.

Ask around, you’ll find widespread belief in the Illuminati. Indeed, we’re in a golden age of conspiracy theories, with more conspiracists and theories per capita than any time in history.

A similar series of shifts and reversals happened to QAnon.

According to Kaminska, the LARP was concocted by Manuel Chavez, AKA Defango, of Nevada. A likable but lackluster YouTuber, Chavez posts his “Citizen Zone” reports almost daily, rarely tops a thousand views, and has little Q qualities, in content or charisma. He is, however, known to smear people with accusations of pe******ia.

“[Chavez] claimed he created Q as an alternative reality game mostly for the LOLs,” narrates Kaminska, “but also to smoke out bad journalists in the alternative media space,” to see who reported his stories as truth, another stress test or satire like Operation Mindf**k.

Alas, Chavez lost control of Q to Thomas Schoenberg, who might be a musician but is obviously a brilliant programmer — since he largely scrubbed himself from the web — and a LARP master. In fact, Schoenberg sharpened his skills by usurping another internet game, Cicada, which involved riddles, puzzles and advanced or esoteric theorems.

That plot twist is detailed by Kaminska’s other main informant, Jim Stewartson, an Emmy-winning producer and creative technologist out of Los Angeles (according to his LinkedIn profile), who is also well versed in LARPs.

Schoenberg wanted to “radicalize smart people” through Cicada and QAnon, according to Stewartson, using complex challenges and codes and intriguing stories and images. Alas, he drifted into transgressive topics, including Na**sm and the CT Himmler formed a secret mystical sect, supposedly extant today. Schoenberg also emphasized the deep state.

Chavez and Schoenberg remained comrades-in-conspiracy, according to possible Nevada State racketeering charges (reported by SDNY.org). They started a company using “targeted chaos,” bots and smear campaigns to defame opponents for clients, one of which was right-wing activists planning to surveil the family of Seth Rich, the Democratic National Committee employee murdered in July 2016. Rich was about to spill the beans on Satanist pe*****les, or it was a robbery gone bad, according to police.

As sophisticated and shadowy as Schoenberg might be, he, too, lost control of QAnon, out-programmed by a party with greater access, perhaps Jim or Ron Watkins, although Q’s identity remains a mystery.

While the Qs were battling, there was also a struggle among “his” hosters. When Q’s original hoster, 4chan, began banning some discussions in 2018, “he” migrated to 8chan, the creation of Frederick Brennan (1994-).

A talented young programmer and graphic designer, Brennan is wheel-chair confined, due to severe brittle bone disease, and dreamt up his libertarian site while tripping on mushrooms in 2013. A year later, Jim Watkins saw Brennan in an Al Jazeera documentary and recruited him to The Philippines to run his internet empire. Watkins had either bought out or commandeered 2channel, a Japanese po*******hy site, leading to wealth and child pornographer accusations. Brennan sold 8chan to Watkins in 2015 but continued to work for him, until their falling out three years later.

The fight for QAnon outlines a William Gibson-esque, sci-fi thriller, although it can only be produced in 2030, after we have recovered from the real-life game being played across America and increasingly England, Germany, Brazil and elsewhere.

Stewartson lays out those twists and turns calmly and professionally in “Is QAnon a Game,” but his article on Medium.com, published in August, is significantly more aggressive and explicit.

“QAnon is a death cult preparing for mass violence,” he writes. “It is being run by a group of theocratic fascists, ruthless grifters and literal sociopaths in conjunction with Russian intelligence. Each of these actors is equally hell-bent on creating as much chaos as possible leading up to the election.”

That wake-up call was too inflammatory for Kaminska, but she references it in her section on spy service dropouts or expellees. They form a large cohort of injured cyber warriors, scammers trying to monetize state secrets and nation-state spies, according to Steve Hassan, an ex-intelligence officer she interviewed.

The Russians’ 2016 election interference did not repeat in 2020, since Putin — also an expert in managing conspiracy theories — had no need. His efforts to generate distrust were already being enacted by unwitting double agents.

I doubt Putin is literally running Trump. Although he may have blackmail material, the so-called “Pee tape,” it is immaterial since Trump is a metaphysical “Manchurian candidate,” no brainwashing or blackmailing needed.

In this way, Trump is a bit like James Jesus Angleton, the CIA counter-espionage chief during the 1960s, writ large. Angleton tore the agency apart searching for high-level moles, based on McCarthy’s claims of communists, clues from an unstable Soviet defector and his own paranoia.

Trump’s devotion to conspiracism automatically partners him with Putin, since it is essentially a religion. Instead of a monotheist universe ruled by a just, benevolent lord, they believe in a dog-eat-dog, Darwinian world, run by like themselves or even more evil parties, whom they must stand against, hence, the Satanist angle.

The little guy watching the elephants fighting understandably interprets it as “the global cabal theory,” according to the best-selling Israeli historian, Yuval Noah Harari, who finally revealed his analysis on November 20th.

The most critical issue not covered by Kaminska in her brief 16 minutes, in my opinion, is the collapse of community consciousness. Society has been long been atomizing, due to alienation, distancing, digitization, mechanization and fake news, to which we can add pandemic isolation and infection fears. But it began in the ‘60s.

Fifty years ago, psychotropic and birth-control drugs, the freedom to choose your own identity and personal behavior, and other anti-establishment ideas were welcomed by many, including myself, as innovative developments for empowering individuals and improving society. It also fertilized the ground for out-of-control fantasy.

Our minds operate by constructing inner universes from our culture, experience and dreams, according to the ancient Hindu sages, who called our private worldviews “maya,” Sanskrit for illusion or magic. Their thesis was corroborated by Plato, with his cave shadows, and Descartes, who existed because he could think, but it was only integrated into Western canon by ’60s philosophers like Derrida and Said, who developed deconstruction and multiculturalism, respectively.

A vibrant fantasy world is mandatory for creativity and hope, as well as s*xual satisfaction, but we still have to connect with our neighbors and societies through agreed-upon, shared realities, which was easier in simpler times.

The digital age made good on its promise of interconnectivity and information, but it divided us into unmediated groups, led by innocent influencers, experienced celebrities, full-on cult leaders or secret agents. With our lives more scheduled, monitored and machine-based, even as we are at loose ends, anxious and disconnected, many of us look to fantasy play with a like-minded community, just as children do or people in the ’60s did.

“This exact phenomena [of conspiracies] and the things going on with Trump is the reason I don’t do that kind of work right now,” Jeff Hull, the LARP master, explained to me. “Ten years ago, that was fun, that was playful. We were activating the public space in a way to turn people on to a whimsical reality.”

Hull noticed a change during his LARP “The Latitude,” which came after “The Jejune Institute.” It was a secret society where people shared personal information in a magical realist format. Although he only invited participants personally and managed it closely, of the 3,000 people involved, many came to view it as a religion, a few dozen became fanatics and a couple tried to take it over.

“Now playing with fact and fiction is scary,” concluded Hull. “There is no room for us to f**k around, to distort truth in that way. It is not a game any more.”

And so went the LARPs two-decade rollercoaster ride from advertising and “whimsical reality” to takeover by “theocratic fascists, ruthless grifters and literal sociopaths.” Stewartson’s assessment is hard to verify, but we are definitely in one of the most dangerous intersections of politics, culture, technology, espionage and mental health EVER!

To be sure, 2020 America is not 1930s Germany, barely out of a catastrophic war and depression, with only one decade of democracy under its belt, and obsessed with cabaret, homos*xuality and drugs (OK, we do share the last three). Moreover, Trump is hardly Hi**er, which cripples his capacity to enact a traditional coup, along with the fact that much of the military thinks he’s dishonorable and a draft dodger.

But a coup in consciousness is not farfetched. Up to a quarter of Trump’s 70 million voters support QAnon concepts; Trump is a master at manipulating conspiracy theories, which can flip a loss to a win through fantasy and repetition; and “Paradoxically, conspiracy theories have become the most effective community bonding mechanisms of the 21st century,” according to the respected columnist David Brooks (November 26th).

History’s greatest conspiracy kingdom, the Third Reich, was built on conspiracy theories about Jews: they betrayed Germany in World War I, controlled the banks, were taking over Germany, were seducing Christian women. CTs came to rule the regime as neighbors, friends and even children, as well as the Gestapo, SS, Abwher and the other intelligence services, spied on, denounced or threatened to denounce each other.

As crazy as N**i thinking was, it is not as irrational, technically speaking, as some QAnon allegations: s*x-slave children held in caves, reptilian alien overlords, time travel. Although they don’t believe every theory and most are not like Germans in thrall to Hi**er, we have entered a conspiracy kingdom.

Until I viewed The Financial Times expose, I assumed QAnon was the work of a malevolent mastermind, who could be tracked and stopped. Seeing it as an interactive game, with multiple leaders, able to adapt like a virus and evolve evermore strange — but still enlist average Americans and folks on the far right and left — makes it a mob mentality of a higher order.

You see, I am Jewish and my mother is a survivor of the Holocaust, which was inspired by German conspiracy theories but also Europe-wide ones, notably “The Protocols of the Elders of Zion.” Fabricated by the tsar’s secret police in 1903, “The Protocols” were purported to be the notes of a meeting of Jewish power brokers. Even though it was outed twenty years later as a plagiary, taken from a French satire with the word “Jew” switched in, it was taught as history in the Third Reich and many people believe “The Protocols” today.

QAnon seemed like those old obsessions in modern garb. Indeed, their claim that Democrats and celebrities are harvesting children’s blood for adrenochrome (a commercially-available adrenaline-derived medication), which they inject for alleged fountain-of-youth properties, brought to mind medieval accusations about Jewish people killing Christian children and using their blood for Passover matzo.

Of course, pushing rational limits is common to conspiracy theories. Since the creators are writing fiction, they want the most powerful stories, but which still ring true from existing narratives. Their struggle to tailor them to the dark corners of our collective consciousness makes QAnon a Rorschach test for our times.

Thornley and Wilson hoped to correct conspiracy fantasies through satire, by humorously tricking the mind back to rationalism.

Unfortunately, unlike the Johnson Administration (1963–68), which was trying to do some good and admitted some mistakes, the Trump presidency is full-on farce. Double unfortunately, most of the 47% of Americans who voted for Trump vigorously disagree, preferring to see him as a truth teller and corruption fighter, who will “make America great again” in a warranted second term.

One slip further down that rabbit hole is QAnon, which flourishes in direct relation to the delusions of Trump and Trumpers but also the actuality of the pandemic, the absence of functional fantasy, and the unintended consequences of LARPs, social media algorithms and postmodernism.

Two of the greatest satirists of our day are Steven Colbert and Seth Meyers, likable guys who’ve been eviscerating Trump for decades. Meyers hosted the Washington Press Club gathering in May 2011, which roasted Trump and featured President Obama’s hilarious takedown of Birtherism, which Trump pushed until 2015.

That was supposedly when Trump decided to run for president, although Obama notes in his new book, “A Promised Land” (released on November 18th), it may have come in 2010, when Trump offered to redecorate the West Wing and was politely refused.

Colbert, Meyers, Bill Maher and other comedy theorists have postulated that shaming humor would destroy Trump. Alas, aggressively attacking Trump, Trumpers or QAnoners plays into their perceptions of persecution by their intellectual, social or even metaphysical betters. Only Saturday Night Live’s Michael Che teases Trump with empathy, which can open a butt of ridicule up to the humanist realization, “We are all idiots.”

Since satire doesn’t work in a system-wide farce, sincerity, forgiveness and charity might, as naïve as that sounds.

Credible threats of or actual violence are crimes, which can be prosecuted. But QAnon operates mostly in the realm of cyberspace, free speech and fantasy and must be addressed there. Taking down QAnon pages or flagging disinformation is sensible, in a brick-and-mortar way, but it is reactive, minimally effective and hard to enforce.

“8chan is the only [online] platform featuring a full commitment to free speech,” insisted Jim Watkins in 2019, according to ABC News.

Although “8chan had banned nearly 48,000 users, deleted more than 132,000 posts and 92 discussion boards… [and] complied with 56 U.S. law enforcement requests,” Watkins explained, it is still “a one-of-a-kind discussion board where anonymous users shared tactics about French democracy protests, how to circumvent censorship in repressive regimes, and the best way to beat a classic video game… and a small minority of users post hateful and ignorant views.”

That’s surprisingly articulate for Watkins, who is accused of many nefarious deeds, including by his former programmer, Brennan, who must have some inside dope. Indeed, Brennan and Watkins are currently suing each other; their respective legal machinations have forced each other to flee The Philippines; Brennan has become a vocal critic of QAnon and a proponent of the postulate Watkins is Q or close to “him.”

2017 brought the debut of Parlor, the free speech Twitter, which opens with the inevitably intriguing disclaimer, IN ALL CAPS: “Warning!! This site contains adult materials or materials that may be considered offensive in some communities.” Then came Gab, MeWe and Rumble, two networks championing free speech and a libertarian video-sharing site, respectively.

It has been almost two decades since the start of 4chan and the dark web, suggesting we can’t rely on a strategy that depends on controlling speech. Plus there’s the argument against censorship. Prohibition pushes people underground, where they are harder to monitor, communication with outsiders is limited and their moral senses atrophy even further.

Perhaps QAnon should be considered a self-inflicted, society-wide psy-op, which reflects our malaise but could be countered by more enlightened, insightful and creative speech, dialogue and art. Such content could be amplified by sophisticated strategies, web influencers and regular folk, like suburban women or the Tiktok teens who swamped sites with hits to stop trolls.

The Conspiracy of Love — that there has always been a secret cabal of people working for good, even in terrible times — is a concept I proposed in articles and a performance piece of the same name. In the latter, I relate some of my experiences and research; I read from the Gettysburg Address and my mother’s book, “Love at the End of the World,” about being a romantic teenager in the Holocaust; and I conclude with audience dialogue.

Since I know only a couple of QAnoners personally, I base my approach on many discussions with friends and acquaintances who believe 9/11 was an inside job. While I have only succeeded a few times, there’s always a way to maintain dialogue, propose fresh perspectives and translate them into terms acceptable by a given individual.

With Trump’s defeat, many QAnoner are starting to have doubts.

On November 9th, both the NY Times and Washington Post ran articles covering their election disappointment and fear they’ve been conned. Of course, unfulfilled predictions are common to CTs and other QAnoners are recalibrating to fit, a standard practice among end-time cults.

I applaud Kaminska’s use of a few of her 16 minutes to examine how to heal conspiracy fanaticism, by interviewing an ex-Moonie cult member turned deprogrammer. He emphasizes the importance of maintaining relations, of not treating culters as enemies, of seeing delusion as a disease that can be cured.

“We have to step back from the demonization of each other and ask what role we can play in building social trust,” President Obama told an NPR interviewer on November 16th.

We don’t have to encourage views or actions to accept people as human beings. We are, however, obliged to be more tolerant and understanding, if we hope to bring them back from the polarity brink or conspiracies of hate.

President-elect Biden personifies this quest with his big-tent tolerance, his Vice President-elect Harris (the first Black, woman AND second generation immigrant in that position), his calm attention to the details of the dangers facing America, his disregard of Trump’s defiance, and his reaching out to Republicans, even as they rebuff him.

QAnon blew up in the time of Corona and Trump, when people had time to kill and phobias to channel and he was fanning the flames of divisiveness, fear and conspiracism.

As those factors fade, so will the siren call of Q and T. It will be close, like the election, but we will eventually transit through Trump’s expertly assembled voting-fraud, media-misinformation and deep-state conspiracy theories.

At least that’s what we’re being assured by many public figures, including Michael McFaul, Obama’s former ambassador to Russia (in a November 12th NPR interview). McFaul, who is from Montana and has Trump-supporting relatives and friends, pointed out that some of them voted for Obama and that radical right-wingers did almost nothing on Election Day.

The Proud Boys did appear in Washington DC on November 14th at the MAGA Million Man March — only attended by tens of thousands — which featured a Trump drive-by, QAnon speakers and fellow travelers. Despite a significant counter-protest presence, however, there were only 21 arrests and one serious injury.

“People are less polarized than it seems in the media,” I was told in New Mexico by a North Carolina man, who goes by the trail name Eternal and is hiking the 5,000-mile trail circuit of the western United States. “Most Americans vote red or blue depending on a few hot-button issues but are not fanatics.”

I was in Texas the week before Election Day and saw only a few pickup trucks flying big Trump flags and little of the thirst for violence that plagued 1930s Berlin.

Obviously, I need to get this right. One of the most pointed tragedies of the Jews of Europe was their intellectuals’ failure to analyze the N**is adequately, despite having Freud and other psychiatrists and philosophers close at hand.

Trump’s attempt to split the country through conspiracy theories will surely continue through the Electoral College vote on December 14th and even Biden’s inauguration, perhaps to his possible 2024 presidential run. Naturally, he will also continue to wreak havoc with government regulations and employees, overseas relations and executive orders and pardons.

Although he will surely leave the White House on January 20th, he will probably re-join mass media and come to lead a grievance cult attempting to block all of Biden’s initiatives, as he did with Obama’s achievements, which could make the Tea Party seem tame.

This will serve as a second referendum on Trumpism, the final stress test of the Trump Era.

If we prevail, if Biden is able to rebind the factions, it will lead to legislative protections against demagogues, intellectual ones against conspiracists, and enthusiasm for the democratic process, which a majority of us just saved through increased voting and faith in our system as well as humanity.

If not, many Americans will continue to believe in Trump and some will go full QAnon, which could become even more popular if the group rejiggers its objectives, if Trump openly identifies with QAnon, or if he essentially becomes Q, who is more a concept than a person. QAnon could conceivably shift from being guided by a hidden character dropping cryptic clues to a well-known one tweeting IN ALL CAPS.

Yes, a lot of people are hurting emotionally, financially and spiritually. Yes, conspiracy theorists will keep exploiting that, inventing ever more insane notions, like QAnon is a CIA creation to identify radicals for future arrest.

We can’t correct role-playing, mind games by indoctrination, rationalism or even satire. It requires a change of heart in the believers but also in us. If we dismiss our opponents, they will dismiss us and their team doesn’t have the visionaries, psychiatrists or healers to make up the difference.

We have to bet on the Conspiracy of Love, which is where the radical multiculturalism of the new era meets the onrushing road.


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