The surreal case of QAnon: LARP got out of control turned into Psychological Operation? Part-5

Operation Mi Safe Kid: debunking a Psy-Op

On 23 September, the authorities of the state of Michigan and in particular the United States Marshals Service have carried out an operation in Wayne County, near Lake St. Clair. The operation allowed to “find” 123 children (or it would be better to say minors), “disappeared” into a total of 301 sought-after.

The quotation marks in relation to the three keywords mentioned above (find, children and disappeared) are necessary, let’s see why. Let’s start from the official statement of the US Marshals of last 3 October in which it is possible to read the following words:

Out of 301 files of missing children, 123 were identified and recovered safely during the operation. All 123 children were physically located and interviewed — standard protocol for the Michigan State Police. All of the children located were interviewed about potentially being sexually victimized or used in a sex trafficking ring during their period of time that they were deemed missing. Three cases were identified as being possible sex trafficking cases, and one homeless teen was transported back to the command post after it was discovered that he had not had anything to eat in three days. He was then debriefed and turned over to Child Protective Services for aftercare”.

As can be seen above, the report is objectively thin and dry and does not speak about kidnapped children, nor of abused children (except for three cases in which the Marshals talk about possible abuse and an another case of an homeless boy found in a state of malnutrition). The operation of the Marshals therefore involved minors belonging to highly disadvantaged family contexts and of which the Michigan authorities had lost track (school abandonment or uncertainty on the last abode) and on which it was necessary to investigate, applying a standard protocol based on an individual interview, to exclude that they may have been “potentially being sexually victimized or used in a sex trafficking ring during their period of time that they were deemed missing”

The statement of US Marshals is perfectly usable for the purposes of theory, it would have been difficult to picture it better. In the Marshals statement there are all the perfect key words to assume the role of barthesian “informants”, or rather those elements that make the narrative feel realistic to the audience:

- 301 files

- missing children;

- sex trafficking;

- child sex ring.

The reality, as we face is very different, just read the statement carefully and then link it to the social and economic reality of Michigan where, following the crisis in the motor industry and then deindustrialization, the rates of child discomfort are among the highest in the United States.

The city of Detroit (home of General Motors), also the capital of Wayne County, in July 2013, declared bankruptcy due to the impossibility of paying debts estimated at between 18 and 20 billion dollars. Some reports speak of about 80,000 abandoned houses, the suburbs are gradually decayed and have remained isolated and without public services. The people who live there are living in a severe deterioration, the houses are crumbling, the shops have closed and the gangs divide the territory.

The Michigan authorities for years have been committed to assisting state and local agencies in locating and recovering missing children and preventing sexual trafficking. The key word “prevention”, however, has disappeared from the imaginary conspiracy and unfortunately also of some mainstream media and this has encouraged a powerful trigger for QAnon and his fans.

Let’s look at some examples of how the media reported the news, for example the NY Post, which in the body of the article accurately reports the Marshals communiqué, but proposes an objectively misleading title:

The title of the article, appeared on the online page of the sensational tabloid owned by the Murdoch group, is an example of a typical and involuntary “informant”. The “informants” work because they create the temporal background (Breaking news), spatial (Michigan), psychological (Sex Trafficking) and emotional (Children), so that the plot of conspiracy can use it.

We have also mentioned the “space” function of the “informant” element, well the power of the case we are examining is, also and above all, in the geographical space where the case takes place, that Michigan hit by the crisis, very present in the narration, also cinematographic and musical (see the film Gran Torino or 8 Mile of Eminem) of the last ten years, with its county symbol Wayne (since it has Detroit as its capital) and the Midwest, hard-core of the American working class that has favored the Trump’s victory.

The description of the space in which the action is placed and therefore the conspiratorial narrative, “is not therefore an accessory element, indeed. It constitutes a real informant, offering the recipient of the narration information that allows to anchor the events to a specific place and therefore, also, to a specific cultural, social, political, historical context” (Dibattista e Morgese 2012). It is no coincidence that the Midwest, the chosen place for the narration, is one of the regions in which the hatred wind as blows the more against Hillary Clinton, seen as a candidate too bound in the collective imagination to the powers of Wall Street, symbol continuity of power and deep state.

In wanting to make a comparison, Michigan is not very unlike the Louisiana of True Detective, with its landscapes of disturbing nature (the Mississippi Delta) and its chimneys. It is in its own way an ideal environment to instill a sense of “moral panic”, described extremely punctually in the first episode of the Wu-Ming article on International dedicated to the birth of conspiracy theories. In the mind of conspiracy theorists, the geographical panorama becomes a cinematic landscape.

If the NY Post, treated the news aseptically (launch title separately), the reality is that the news was false, so much so that most of the media has not even treated and this, paradoxically, has further encouraged the trigger of the theory. This phenomenon is typical of conspiracy theories, the disappearance of “inconvenient” news because the major powers control the official media, news that then invariably reappear on Facebook pages or on message boards like 4chan or Reddit, the places where the “resistance” fights to bring out the truth. The truth that with the Trump administration a fight against pedophiles has been unleashed.

Perissinotto further clarifies the concept by stating that “a recurring feature of hoaxes is that of presenting itself as a manifestation of a hypothetical secret jealously guarded by unspecified major powers’ and by omnipotent ‘regime media. In this way, the silence or denial of the misleading news by the more titled news organizations, only increases the credibility of the hoax on other media and, in particular, on social media”.

Sufficient prima facie evidence of what has just been stated, we have trivially verifying the interactions on the blog of Mike Rothshild, independent researcher on the topic of conspiracy theories, which dealing in debunking also analyzed the news on the “rescued” children. The Rothshild article shows as an example a post twitter of the trumpist account WWG1WGA @findtruthQ, account that now boasts 4,685 Tweets, 13,600 Followers and 11,300 Likes, respectable numbers.

On the post in question, dated October 9, 2018, is shown the image of a man in handcuffs, despite that in the operation Mi Safe Kid there is no news of arrests.

The image of the handcuffed man, as suggested by the WBALTV.com channel (local media of Baltimore in the NBC circuit), was commented with statements in pure conspiratorial style: “Of course this is not national news. Why is the Main Stream Media protecting the child sex trafficking?!? Why??”. The post has collected in the first hours 268 like and 239 connected conversations.

Of course it is not true that the media did not treat the news, since it was local news, it simply did not leave the local channels (WSVN 7 News, FOX 46 Charlotte, ABC30 Fresno) or if it came out, the national coverage was limited to a few cases (the aforementioned NY Post for example). Just as obviously, this debunking operation has had its effect, Mike Rothshild’s blog has been subjected to a protest post by trumpist supporters. Just a little pastry trivia, the Michigan matter has crossed the ocean and has also arrived in Italy. TGCOM24 on October 10th published the following news:

As you can see, in the title talk about “123 kidnapped children” rescued during a police operation in Michigan, while in the subtitle instead they talk about “123 missing children”, some of them kidnapped to be destined for the sex market. Beyond the way in which the fact is presented, or perhaps because of this, it is interesting to see the nature of the comments on the page.

These evoke the death penalty, slow and painful, the understanding for the parents, the shock for the news, the miracle and even some legitimate questions, such as: where they kept 123 children? The countless likes are added to the comments. In addition to the media just mentioned, resumed the news: Il Messaggero, Il Mattino, La Gazzetta di Parma, Dagospia (only to stick to the first page of results returned by Google).

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