Last time on QAnon Exists to Sell You T-Shirts, we learned how General Michael Flynn, former Trump national security advisor and current chair of America’s Future, Inc., is courting QAnon like it’s his date to prom. And it’s earned the debt-ridden Flynn a modicum of currency—of both the political and fiat variety.
This is a story about how America’s Future is funding itself with $30 QAnon T-shirts. It is also a story about how American mainstream conservative organizations have historically appealed to and intersected with the most radical elements of the right.
But mostly, this story is about shady shit happening in Florida.
This is a three-part series.
Part I situates America’s Future, Inc. in historical context—demonstrating its intersection and co-mingling with organizations and actors involved in far-right, fascist politics and conspiracy-peddling.
Part II focuses on the current chair of America’s Future, Inc., Michael Flynn, his mendacious fall from grace, and subsequent swampy rise into the Internet cult of QAnon.
Part III, today’s story, delves into the shady connections between America’s Future, Inc., Flynn, and alt-right merch websites (among others)—and what this intersection between grifting, right-wing politics, and conspiracy portends.
Now to get to the grift of the matter—T-shirts.
Part III: Welcome to The Shirt Show
In today’s America, you can’t just believe in a conspiracy—you’ve got to buy it.
There is perhaps no better place to do so than the TheShirtShowUSA.com, a Flynn-endorsed site where QAnon conspiracy-branded baseball caps go for $36 and sweatshirts for $48.
On December 29, 2020, Flynn tweeted a promotion for the TheShirtShowUSA.com. His wife, Lori Flynn (@lofly727) originally promoted the site, stating “Each purchase helps General Flynn and his army of Digital Soldiers in the fight against fake news.” On January 8, 2021, a little over a week later, Flynn’s Twitter account was permanently banned from the platform.
TheShirtShowUSA.com removed its explicit endorsement for America’s Future sometime between June 28, 2021, and August 17, 2021—in the intervening time, Flynn had assumed his position as chair of the organization.
TheShirtShowUSA.com is not the only place selling merch to fund America’s Future. Store.GeneralFlynn.com, another web domain based in Florida, openly states that its sales go towards the nonprofit. The website sells Flynn’s book A Letter to America (paperback, 100 pages long) for $25, and its own line of Flynn-merch (perhaps best contracted as Flyerch), where baseball caps sell for $35.
These two sites are but the extremities of a much larger, far-reaching influence network Flynn and his cronies have built steadily over the past five or so years. The tentacles of this right-wing disinformation matrix range from media websites to political action committees (PACs).
Flynn has launched an influence campaign that has given rise to two phenomena: what I term ‘Digital Soldiers’ disinformation sites; and ‘Defending the Republic’ dark money organizations.
Below are a few examples of elements that make up Flynn’s web influence network.
Digital Soldiers Media, LLC was registered as a Florida Limited Liability Company in October 2019, according to public records. Flynn, his brother, and his son are listed as officers, and its address is located in the Lemon Bay Shopping Center in Englewood (Flynn purchased a family home in Englewood in April 2021). In 2019, the media organization launched a now defunct “alternative news” site at the domain DigitalSoldiers.us.
Web archives indicate, however, that Flynn still has a hand in alt-right media news sites. Flynn has linkages to the “alternative news” website UncoverDC.com which is still in operation and run by the right-wing influencer Tracy Beanz.
A mushrooming of copy-cat ‘digital soldier’ media sites have emerged since Flynn coined the term. Among them is DigitalSoldiers.info. The website features a “Digital Soldiers Map”; an “Information Warfare” tab which teaches you how to “red pill” liberals (Lol); and a “Treatments” tab that provides instructions on how to take hydroxychloroquine to “cure” COVID-19. The site is run by a one Greg Harvey, alias “Pastor Greenbeard,” of Greenbeard Media and its address is based in, you guessed it—Florida. It also sells T-Shirts. Go figure.
There is also GeneralFlynn.com, which provides an alternative account and timeline of Flynn’s fall from grace as Trump’s national security advisor, claiming there was a plot to bring about his downfall.
Then there are the dark money organizations.
Defending the Republic PAC Inc. was registered in March 2021. Federal Election Commission records show it is registered to a West Palm Beach, Florida address. Mary Flynn O’Neill, Flynn’s sister and executive director of America’s Future, is the PAC’s “Custodian of Records.” Peter Haller, a pro-Trump lawyer, is listed as the PAC’s Treasurer.A PAC by the same name was previously established in December 2020, in Texas, where Flynn, his brother, and one of his former lawyers, Sidney Powell, are listed as directors.
Defending the Republic Inc. is a 501(c)(4)that was founded around the same time as the Florida PAC and shares the same mailing address. Flynn’s brother is among the directors listed for the organization, along with former Trump staffer Emily Newman, and the My Pillow Guy CEO Mike Lindell. This organization is now inactive, but another 501(c)(4) under the same name is active in Texas, where Powell is listed as a director. Its principal address is in Sarasota, Florida. And they sell T-shirts!
The web domains for the active 501(c)(4) and PACs, defendingtherepublic.org and defendingtherepublicpac.com, respectively, are both hosted by Epik Media. Epik is a web hosting company that has become the go-to for registering right-wing websites. It currently hosts the right-wing social media platforms Gab and Parler, favorites among conservatives, conspiracy theorists, and neo-Nazis.
Flynn has been a primary architect in building an online infrastructure for right-wing political radicalization. This is a pipeline that funnels not just money into his pockets, but also adds political support to his rank and file of “Digital Soldiers.” Support that can readily be whipped into a frenzy and mobilized in the upcoming elections. Meanwhile he has planted the seeds for a growing disinformation distribution network, and erected tangential political organizations to draw in money, protected from the scrutiny of the public.
QAnon is the smoke and mirrors show, the ticket seller to fill the seats of Flynn’s online arena, but it is also the smokescreen for this larger, shady operation humming in the background. A web of PACs, 501(c)(4)s, 501(c)(3)s, LLCs, and Internet sites where Flynn sits spider-like, at its center.
On that grim note, I leave you with a final thought General Flynn shared on his Telegram last year. The post depicts a pack of white wolves superimposed on a low-opacity photo of a blonde, beachy-waved model. The quote below, with all the energy of a Chinese take-out fortune cookie, can perhaps provide some guidance amidst these dark times.
The quote is attributed (at-times) to Mark Amend, alias ‘eathian,’ a poet and author who lives in Okaloosa County, Florida. Mr. Amend also runs a business on Zazzle.com, where he sells T-shirts.
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Formerly named Peter Simonyi, Haller is a DC-lobbyist who has worked the revolving door, jumping from the SEC to Goldman Sachs, then changing his surname to “Haller” before becoming a top Congressional staffer.
501(c)(4) organizations, or “politically active nonprofits,” are both tax-exempt and can engage in lobbying. They are called “dark money” organizations as they are not required by the IRS to disclose the sources of their funding. According to FEC data, there was over $118 million in outside spending by non-disclosing groups in 2020.
This is a fascinating element, and certainly the availability of the 501(c)(4) (and to some extent the main nonprofit 501(c)3 designation) makes the US more of a market for this kind of scam; other countries' non-profit/charity laws are much more restrictive.
I'm just intrigued too if we can trace the political chaos of today to the 1960s when people started to wear t-shirts, and they became a slogan mechanism (either for brands, or bands, or political issues).