Features Australia

Down the rabbit hole into Trump’s America

10 February 2018

9:00 AM

10 February 2018

9:00 AM

A curious discovery at this year’s Australian Open tennis showed how America’s President Trump trauma is filtering into the most innocent corners of our lives. After ducking out to the women’s restroom at Rod Laver Arena, I noticed a black sticker at the bottom of the cubicle door; in distinctive font it said #FollowTheWhiteRabbit+++.

Apart from the Alice in Wonderland reference, this would have been meaningless to practically everyone who saw it.

Except to me. Having spent the past few years living in New York, closely following Trump’s spectacular ascension, I recognised it as a particular Twitter hashtag, freighted with meaning. It links to a conspiracy theory around an alleged high-placed blogger/leaker in the Trump Administration, known as ‘Q’. Those who follow and interpret his cryptic posts are known as ‘Anons’ (Anonymous). QAnons explore and comment on the latest Q posts, which started in October 2017 and which cover ground including Obama, the Clintons, the Deep State, sex trafficking, Julian Assange, the Seth Rich murder, George Soros… everything political, really.

Some posts seem predictive; on January 14 2018, Q posted ‘TG departure… what role might TG be walking into?’ A fortnight later GOP Congressman and former Benghazi investigator Trey Gowdy resigned, to go back ‘to the justice system’. He is already spoken of in terms of vacancies in the Department of Justice.

There are Q posts of White House stationery, photos allegedly taken from Air Force One when Trump is flying… Q seems to know all. Hundreds of thousands of people have now viewed videos explaining Q; it’s become quite the cottage industry.

The idea is that Q is slowly releasing information about what is happening at the uppermost echelons of the Trump Administration. It’s Spy vs Spy, good guys vs bad, and Q’s connect-the-dots posts (known as ‘breadcrumbs’) are playing a role like samizdat did for dissidents in the old days of the Soviet Union, but now linking and informing Trump’s deplorables.

The mainstream media has largely ignored the QAnon phenomenon, apart from a few contemptuous pieces about crazed Right-wing nutjobs and tinfoil hat conspiracy theorists.

So perhaps one of those was also a tennis fan, here in Melbourne spreading the word. And the question is, why should anyone here care?

Those who have been paying attention to the feverish political drama in the US of late will know that the mother of all power struggles is underway, with the prize being not just control of the most powerful country in the world, but the ability to effect cultural change. The latest flashpoint has been the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act memo of House Intelligence Committee Chairman Devon Nunes, which describes the alleged weaponising of US intelligence agencies to spy on the Trump campaign. Trump claimed as much, and was ridiculed for it, in an early tweet complaining about being wiretapped by Obama. All this comes against the background of Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into Russian collusion claims against the incoming Trump team.

It is known that the Obama Administration used the IRS to target and harass Tea Party groups, so politicising the bureaucracy would not be something new. And the sackings, removal and demotions of senior intelligence staff such as FBI Deputy Director Andrew McCabe, and the multiple Congressional and other inquiries underline the fact that yes, Houston does have a problem here, whatever the origin and scope of it.

Amid all this scandal, Q’s army recently got a chance to play a role, when the campaign to #ReleaseTheMemo flamed brightly on Twitter and elsewhere, with key media personalities such as top-rating Fox host Sean Hannity asking viewers to ring congressmen in support.

Like most people, I enjoy a good spy thriller, but I have always chosen the stuff-up over the conspiracy theory, and 99 per cent of the time that has been correct. But three years of living in the US introduced me to a depth of corruption and fraud in all areas of life that I never found here in Australia. More money, more guns, more extremism, more of everything, with an intensity and drama that easygoing Australia lacks.

And these are strange times, with inexplicable events taking place. Take the January false alarm in Hawaii about an incoming missile, which created panic for a full 38 minutes. The first story was that someone ‘hit the wrong button’, as if US defence machinery in the Pacific operates in a 1960s James Bond time warp with big red buttons sitting on consoles waiting to be fallen on. In the era of computers, encryption and chip security, that was laughable. Then it was reported that the unnamed official, now fired, refused to speak to those investigating the matter. Last week we heard that the official had in fact thought it was a real alarm, that he had heard a section of an audio drill but not the bit where it said: ‘This is a drill’ and had panicked into action.

Really? This wouldn’t fly in a Hollywood script, much less US Department of Defense protocols.

And only four days after the Hawaiian event, a brief false alarm about an incoming ballistic missile went out in Japan. I cannot remember any previous such false alarms in my lifetime, much less two in one week, with threadbare rationales.

Then there is the weird Las Vegas mass shooting, in which 58 people were slain by a killer with no apparent motive. The timeline of the shooting keeps changing, a second shooter theory has been denied and then revived, and there is talk of a Saudi Arabian link to the Mandalay Bay Hotel.

The attraction of conspiracy theories is that they tie all the loose ends together, and it is clear that in the above instances we are nowhere near the truth of either matter.

I have no idea whether there is any truth in the QAnon tales, but a few years ago the notion that a US president would casually chat online about government policy would have seemed ridiculous too.

If the truth about what is happening within the citadels of power can seep out online, bypassing a media that has proven itself an incompetent and bias-ridden gatekeeper of information, then there is more than one individual in the Trump Administration with a novel and creative approach to technology.

And in the overall score of Spy vs Spy, I think it’s Advantage Trump, but we are only in the first set…

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