Tuesday, May 17

Unmasked: the man behind the cult will replace QAnon | QAnon

The mysterious individual behind a fast-growing new online disinformation network targeting followers of far-right cult QAnon may reveal himself as a Berlin-based artist with a history of manipulating social media, claims a prominent anti-racist group.

Since Donald Trump left the White House, QAnon’s vast online community has been in a state of flux as it comes to terms with the reality that its conspiracy theories, like the former president of the United States, are destined to defeat a clique of Satan-worshiping pedophiles. they amount to nothing.

That may explain why a significant number have turned to a new far-right network, found primarily on the messaging app Telegram, which is growing rapidly in the UK and around the world and has amassed over a million subscribers so far this year.

Sebastian Bieniek in a blue shirt and jeans, sitting in a director's chair
Sebastian Bieniek in 2018. Campaign group Hope Not Hate says it has a history of inventing conspiracies online. Photography: Reza Mahmoudidschad

Called Red Sabmyk, like QAnon, it is an intricate conspiracy theory that features fantastic elements and is spearheaded by a mysterious messianic figure. Since his appearance, there has been widespread speculation about who that figure could be. The person who first posted as “Q” has never been positively identified.

This week, the British anti-fascist group Hope Not Hate will unmask the Sabmyk leader, who it claims is 45-year-old German art dealer Sebastian Bieniek. Says Bieniek, who has not responded to the questions of the Observer – has a history of creating conspiracies online and even wrote a book in 2011 called A true falsehood which detailed a campaign to deceptively promote his work.

But Hope Not Hate says the speed of Sabmyk’s growth serves as a warning of the manipulation opportunities that exist on social media, particularly unregulated alternative technology platforms like Telegram.

Hope Not Hate’s Gregory Davis, who will publish his annual report on the far right on Monday, said: “Your success in developing such a large audience is a reminder that QAnon’s online anonymous manipulation template will continue to pose a threat. in the next few years. “

Since December 21 last year, when Sabmyk was supposedly “awakened,” more than 136 channels have emerged in English, German, Japanese, Korean and Italian, adding tens of thousands of followers daily.

Much of the content on Sabmyk is designed to appeal to QAnon’s followers; features Covid mask skepticism, anti-vaccine conspiracies, and false claims that the 2020 U.S. election was stolen from Trump.

Some are also designed to actively recruit Britons: a Sabmyk channel, the British Patriotic Party, uses the same brand as the anti-Muslim group Britain First and posts about the mayor of London, Sadiq Khan.

Other channels are titled the London Post and Liverpool Times, as well as Great Awakening UK, a reference to a well-known QAnon trope that predicts a reckoning day when Trump would rise up against his liberal enemies. Others include WWG1WGA, an acronym for QAnon’s “where we go, we all go” rally call.

Among the clues used to identify Bieniek are posts that say Messiah Sabmyk can be identified by specific markings on his body. One publication claimed that Sabmyk would have “17 V-shaped scars” on his arm, the result of a “prophetic ceremony at the age of 24”.

What is QAnon and why is it so dangerous?  - explanatory video
What is QAnon and why is it so dangerous? – explanatory video

Hope Not Hate has since found a deleted section on the Bieniek website that recalls a 1999 art exhibition in which, at age 24, she cut V-shaped wounds on her arm for 16 days in a row.

Attempts have been made to connect Sabmyk to Trump, including a clip linking instances of the former president saying “17” and a doctored image showing him with a Sabmyk pamphlet in his suit pocket.

Bieniek has created countless false identities, according to the Hope Not Hate research, to further her career as an artist. The group also says its German Wikipedia page has been removed at least four times, most recently in January.

A list of Bieniek accounts was sent to platforms, including Telegram, with a call for them to be removed based on “coordinated and inauthentic platform manipulation.” Telegram has been contacted for comment.


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