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QAnon on Telegram: From Antisemitism to Nazism the case of GhostEzra
The Ghost Ezra channel is where QAnon turns neo-Nazi
One of the things that I have been monitoring since QAnon has been deplatformed from mainstream social media sites has been how they would evolve and adapt to the new and different ecosystems that they would begin to inhabit. One of the concerning trends that I have noticed over the past six months has been cross-pollination between QAnon ecosystems and those ecosystems that are inhabited by ideologically motivated violent extremists.
How did we get here?
This behaviour was inevitable in the way as ecosystems easily share content across the board in the spaces and the large influx of new users that appeared in these ecosystems following January 2021 created plenty of opportunities for extremists and “Parler and Twitter refugees” to engage with content they might not have been before. When individuals initially joined telegram in January 2021, they were introduced to a host of content that they were not privy to on other platforms. It is important to remember that many of these individuals may have been extremists, but they were not violent extremists, nor were they used to the type of content and propaganda that was already present in ecosystems on Telegram. Adding onto this the psychological and emotional impact of what happened between November 2020 and January 2021, there are plenty of environmental factors combined with new extremist material that could lead an individual to become radicalized. Now this is difficult to determine as radicalization is an individualistic process, however, telegram provides opportunities for this to occur.
Another possibility is that the ecosystems permitted influencers from QAnon to shed the veneer they had covering their more extremist beliefs or views they may have had prior to being deplatformed. They had no choice but to hide some of these views as they had to abide by the rules of the platforms they inhabited like Twitter and Facebook.
In this case, Telegram bills itself as a secure alternative to messaging applications. Telegram does offer and end to end encryption in one-on-one conversations; however, the perception of protection transfers to users who are in public channels or public groups though they are not actually fully protected. Nevertheless, their behaviours change when they do believe that they are protected by some type of encryption as well as being by the anonymous nature of their accounts. Studies have shown that anonymity is core to the participation in ecosystems especially those who share controversial sensitive or extremist content. This is the reality for violent extremist movements on telegram. The core principle is everyone in there is anonymous we don't want to know each other’s identities we don't share personal information and assume that you're always being watched by law enforcement. Ultimately, this type of ecosystem permits threat actors to behave openly in a way that they would not outside of this ecosystem.
The Case of Ghost Ezra
GE is one of the newer QAnon influencers, his account was created in December 2020 and was taken down after the January 2021 insurrection. At the time of his takedown, he had 26,900 followers on Twitter. All in all, within the QAnon influencer community on Twitter GE was a small fish. His initiation into the QAnon movement appears to be through the Kraken narrative, which references the lawsuit put forward by Sidney Powell. What is interesting is though GE was new to the movement had begun being active after “Q” Last Post he is now the largest QAnon influencer on telegram if we ignore for a moment Lin Wood and Sidney Powell, as these are real political forces who are not hiding behind anonymity.
The GE Telegram channel was created on January 10th and the 1st post came on January 13. the initial content was in line with most of the QAnon community where they were spreading disinformation about the results of the election denying the fact that Biden hand won and hoping that on inauguration day president trump would be the one that is named president all the while biting and the rest of their Democrats would be arrested and sent off to jail. Similarly after January 20th we saw references to March 4th as was also seen in other QAnon ecosystems. At this point GE had amassed over 330,000 subscribers to his telegram channel making him the largest QAnon influencer in the Telegram ecosystem.
On May 20, 2021, GE pivoted from QAnon style narratives to antisemitic ones. In particular he began sharing content related to the relationship between Israel and Edom, memes referring to how the Jews control the media antisemitic myths about the Hittites, Canaanites, Khazarian Jewish conspiracies, crypto Judaism, he blamed 9/11 on the Jews. Mike Rothschild was the first to tweet about this. As Dapper Gander stated “GhostEzra is a perfect example of how extremists infiltrate and co-opt a welcoming big-tent movement.” Dapper found that it started with the “Synagogue of Satan’ theory where the Jews aren’t really the Jews (which has been passively endorsed by QAnon for quite some time), presented in tandem with ‘just asking questions’ about the Holocaust. Then, Europa: the Last Battle & Mein Kampf.”
As I began to dig further into GE channel and the community that follows him the post that he made went beyond the normal antisemitism found in these ecosystems. Rather what I noticed that GE began sharing the type of narratives that are found in a neo-Nazi, Christian Identity, and ethnonationalist communities, and that his community of followers were doing the same. Of further note GE shared links to a BitChute video that is a known neo-Nazi documentary which received 270,000 views on telegram as well as 4200 comments. This is what is shocking is not only the content being shared by GE rather it is the activity within his community where each of these posts has received thousands of comments. The channel generates engagement of round this extreme antisemitic content.
Within the seven days. The GE channel went from antisemitism, to Holocaust denialism, to full-blown Nazi Zionist Occupied Government propaganda. Members to his channel are networking directly with ideologically motivated violent extremists’ ecosystems on telegram. GE has therefore become an important hub for radicalization to extremist ideologies.
Why am I talking about Ghost Ezra, with 338,000 followers today he has more individuals in his channels then all of terrorgram combined. He has more followers than the 500 Nazi accelerationist militia channels that I have been monitoring for the past three years. His audience is huge in this violent extremist space and his user base we're not violent extremists at the time of following this influencer. Not only has he pilled them on QAnon but he is now pilling them on Nazi ideologies. Luckily, GE is not the norm in QAnon ecosystems, yet this is a concerning trend simply because of the size of his audience and the speed at which he pivoted from QAnon to neo-Nazi posts.
The networking of ecosystems on telegram is what has been of concern to me since QAnon and MAGA accounts were deplatformed “en masse.” Early on the more extreme actors sought to recruit Parler and twitter refuges. But now they are sharing narratives with each other. As QAnon has slowly adopted more extreme narratives, violent extremism actors have adopted more salient conspiracy theories. There is a symbiotic relationship that has formed, and not for the better.
This is one of the negative consequences of deplatforming and it is one that needs to be recognized and dealt with. Not deplatforming these actors would have had its own set on consequences but that is neither here nor there. A choice was made and now we are beginning to see the consequences. Speaking to me about GE, QOrigins said “When I was thinking about where QAnon would go after the inauguration, the advent of a wildly popular neo-Nazi influencer would have been the absolute worst-case scenario. I thought the likelihood of it was remote. I was wrong.”
GhostEzra is the first of potentially many. What makes an influencer like GE appealing is the fact that he is still advancing some of the core QAnon conspiracy narratives whereas other influencers in these ecosystems have simply stagnated and are telling their followers to wait something magical will happen. GE, on the other hand, is giving his followers a target to blame, giving them a group of individuals to be the scapegoats, the source of all their problems. This moves beyond the amorphous Deep State and puts a target on a community that is already hated in these ecosystems, where exists a plethora of narratives and threat actors willing to pill new individuals into wanting to target the Jews.
So, what can we do about this? There are no ways to introduce friction on Telegram, like you could on larger platforms, there are no trust and safety teams, there are no counter narratives or alternative voices. Are there offline options? There are potentially some yet how do you target these options right now proactively to the adherence in the GE community that are consuming this content how do you identify these anonymous 300,000 individuals you can't and I don't think some backdoor key to encryption is going to solve the magical option and it's not what I'm proposing. Right now, we're still early days in a space where a large amount of potential violent extremists are being radicalized every day and could potentially be mobilized. It's loaded gun if untouched it may hurt no one yet there is the potential that if the weapon is wielded by the wrong individual harm is very likely. At this point I do think we need to keep screaming from the top of the rafters at times that QAnon isn't dead, that they are still a threat, not the threat that we thought of in 2020, not the threat that we saw in January 2021, but there are thread that is in a new ecosystem and is metastasized into something different. This is 1 incident where 300,000 subscribers are consuming neo-Nazi propaganda on a daily basis not passively but engaging with it. This is not the small audiences that researchers are used to observing in these spaces. Therefore, we really need to pay attention to this