Former President John F. Kennedy (L) and a QAnon enthusiast (R). (Photos: History/Universal Images Group via Getty Images and Joseph Prezioso/AFP via Getty Images)
Unraveling viral disinformation and explaining where it came from, the harm it’s causing, and what we should do about it.
Her mother had been kicking herself since last November for missing her chance to go to Dallas to see John F. Kennedy resurrected from the dead.
But then she heard that QAnon influencer Michael Protzman was once again calling on his followers to make yet another trek to Dallas to see JFK return, and she was determined not to miss out.
“She wanted to go in November but did not have the means,” said her daughter Linda, who is using a pseudonym to protect her mother’s privacy. “She was very upset that she didn’t go, but made every excuse as to why it didn’t happen.”
Last week Linda’s mother “picked up and left” for Dallas, and within hours of arriving, Protzman, known to his followers as Negative 48, was teaching her how to invest in crypto.
“She called me this afternoon and told me that they are hosting classes on how to invest,” Linda told VICE News on Monday, referencing a cryptocurrency network that has been promoted within Telegram channels linked to Protzman and his followers.
Linda’s mother was joined by up to 100 other people in Dallas this weekend, with most of the group staying at the Hyatt Regency in the center of the city.
Protzman has spent the last seven months living off his followers’ donations and financial support to cover his accommodation costs given that he was living out of his car prior to initially traveling to Dallas last November.
But this time Protzman made it clear in an audio chat on his Telegram channel that those without money shouldn’t bother coming to Dallas and said that people should plan to be in the city for longer than just a few days.
As well as hosting classes for the people who have traveled to Dallas, Protzman’s Telegram channels have been sharing videos giving his 70,000 subscribers detailed instructions on how they too can invest money in the cryptocurrency network, which is linked to a broader conspiracy about a coming global financial reset.
Protzman made his declaration that no one without enough money should travel to Dallas because the latest predicted return of JFK on Saturday never happened, and now Protzman has pushed the date of the former president’s return—which he predicts will trigger “10 days of darkness”—to June 24.
“She told me that Michael has moved the dates again, and when I questioned if she saw Jesus, she called me a satanist and the devil and then promptly hung up,” Linda said, adding that her mother has completely changed her personality since starting to follow Protzman’s online conspiracies last year. “My real mother would never do that.”
Over the course of the weekend, Protzman once again made his followers spend hours waiting in downtown Dallas for JFK’s return. While they were waiting, some passed the time by harassing people attending a March for Our Lives event by telling them that the Uvalde school shooting was a hoax.
Like many family members of those under Protzman’s spell, Linda is now weighing up whether or not he should abandon her mother completely. “I don’t know who this person has become. I’m torn between letting go of the relationship and putting up with it to keep them in my life,” she said.
Protzman has destroyed dozens of families over the course of the last seven months, with many members of his inner circle now left with nowhere to go, even if they did want to leave the cult.
This has led to rising tensions between certain members of the group and during last weekend in Dallas, there were some angry clashes between Protzman’s group and a splinter group known as the “Scooby-Doo Crew” who were kicked out by Protzman over money issues.
During one face-off in the lobby of Hyatt hotel, one of Protzman’s most loyal followers struck a member of the splinter group in the face. The growing anger is also playing out in increasingly unhinged audio chats on Telegram where some members are making overt threats against opposing groups.
“I keep saying, something is eventually going to happen, one of them is gonna snap. I just don’t know which one,” Karma, an open-source researcher who has been closely tracking this group since the beginning, told VICE News.
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