Since his loss within the Nov. three elections, Donald Trump has largely dipped out of public view and occupied his time in some gold-plated panic room, issuing a ridiculous sequence of tweets claiming victory in varied states and ordering his cartoon parody of a marketing campaign authorized workforce to sally forth and step on rakes whereas making an attempt to disenfranchise Black voters. The appropriate-wing media has been blissful to trot out one conspiracy theory about voter fraud after one other as fodder for his disinformation marketing campaign, although none of it’s sticking exterior the GOP echo chamber.
Living proof: On Wednesday, Trump tweeted out a clip from the One America Information Community interviewing a supposed “cyber analyst” discussing flaws in procedures by election provider Dominion Voting Techniques, which OANN cited as proof the vote was positively stolen from Trump. Only one drawback, although. The “cyber analyst” was Ron Watkins, an administrator on far-right site 8kun, and son of its proprietor, Philippines-based pig farmer Jim Watkins.
8kun is a rebranded model of 8chan, an imageboard that grew to become one of many key nodes of white supremacists and was pushed offline in August 2019 after three mass shooters uploaded manifestos to the positioning earlier than happening killing sprees. It’s additionally the final refuge of QAnon, a sprawling motion of far-right whackos that believes Democrats, Hollywood, and federal businesses are below the management of a secret cabal of child-raping, cannibalistic Satanists. QAnon is directed by “Q,” a huckster posing on 8kun/8chan as a army or intelligence official serving to Trump lead a conflict in opposition to the shadow pedophiles. The Watkinses themselves are suspected to be Q, or at the least operating with full knowledge of who it’s and benefiting from the hoax. (They deny this.)
In October, Mom Jones reported that Jim Watkins’ firm, N.T. Technology, seems to have operated a community of websites with domains “explicitly associated to pedophilia”—and that metadata from these websites appeared to point they have been used to host little one pornography. After the Nov. three elections despatched QAnon into a depressive tailspin, Q hasn’t posted, and Ron Watkins has claimed to be “resigning as admin of 8kun efficient instantly” to focus on woodworking.
QAnon devotees view Ron Watkins as “the technical mind behind the platform the place Q posts,” conspiracy principle skilled Julian Feeld, one of many cohosts of the QAnon Anonymous podcast, stated. In accordance with Feeld, Ron Watkins has maintained a decrease profile than however “performed simply as large a job within the QAnon motion’s development” as his father.
“His ‘departure’ from 8kun is very suspect and probably only a PR transfer greater than the rest,” Feeld added. “It permits him extra freedom as a right-wing operative, particularly across the varied voter fraud conspiracy theories. It has been astonishing to observe his messaging garner a lot help at [OANN] and by Trump himself. He’s additionally involved with [Republican members of the House] Kelli Townsend and Jim Jordan, by all appearances.”
Trump has aggressively promoted a baseless and labyrinthine principle wherein Dominion is a left-wing software program agency with ties to Venezuela and Democratic billionaire George Soros that threw the election for Joe Biden. On this story, Dominion deleted a whole bunch of hundreds of votes on election night time, in some way bypassing chain-of-custody procedures for ballots put in place by states, evading public statement of canvass and certification procedures, and never being observed in any type of audit. The speculation’s proponents say this allowed Democrats to snap up Electoral College votes in Michigan and/or Pennsylvania. Dominion says its staff have received death threats and harassment because of this.
Within the OANN clip, Watkins was launched as a “giant system technical analyst” and cited procedures in a handbook for Dominion voting machines, positing hypothetical situations wherein somebody with data of their vulnerabilities might commit voter fraud.
It’s indisputably true that white hat hackers, safety researchers, and others have been raising the alarm about poor cybersecurity practices rife in state and local elections and in election system expertise for years. It is usually true that Homeland Security’s Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency, election officials throughout the nation, and dozens of leading experts in election safety have all acknowledged there’s completely no proof the election was compromised, not to mention in favor of Trump.
Courts have additionally been unimpressed: The president’s authorized workforce has been lowered to a gibbering mess because it’s been annihilated in a sequence of shaky lawsuits claiming irregularities within the voting course of. In a single current submitting, the marketing campaign requested a federal decide in Pennsylvania to easily ignore the results of the state’s election and award its electoral votes to Trump. None in the slew of lawsuits the Trump marketing campaign has filed throughout the nation have resulted in any change to the Electoral College vote depend, and lots of of them have been crammed with embarrassing legal errors.
“Plainly the QAnon-ization of the right-wing political machine has led to a portion of politicians acknowledging Ron as a reliable supply of knowledge,” Feeld stated. “Simply as folks sought solutions for the coronavirus by absorbing QAnon or QAnon-like theories into the mainstream MAGA and Republican discourse, we’re seeing a response to Trump’s loss: the multiplication of voter fraud conspiracy theories.”
“The long run is extra unsure for figures like [Ron] if Trump appears like a loser now,” Feeld added.