Michael Flynn’s family members appear to be at war with each other over the QAnon conspiracy theory and whether Flynn himself is playing a role in it.
Flynn, who served briefly as Donald Trump’s national security adviser, became a martyr figure for QAnon believers after taking a plea deal from Special Counsel Robert Mueller for lying about his Russia contacts. Many QAnon fans, who have seized on a series of internet clues posted by the anonymous Q to imagine a world in which Trump is engaged in a secret war against high-ranking Democratic pedophiles, think Flynn is, in fact, secretly working with Mueller to help Trump defeat the deep state. The most ardent of those fans add three “star” emojis to their Twitter handles, a reference to Flynn’s status as a retired three-star general. Some even claim that Flynn himself is “Q.”
“They think he’s an essential part of the story, they think that he actually didn’t do anything wrong,” said Travis View, a researcher who studies the QAnon phenomenon.
Because of Flynn’s role in QAnon lore, believers of the conspiracy theory are desperate for him to confirm that QAnon is real. But Flynn has never discussed the conspiracy theory publicly.
Into that void, his family members have stepped—but not with a unified voice. Instead, they’ve come down on opposite sides of the conspiracy, with his siblings Joseph Flynn and Barbara Redgate eagerly signaling support to QAnon believers, and his son Michael Flynn Jr. becoming a vocal QAnon skeptic.
The family divide came into sharp focus last week, when Joseph Flynn tweeted just one letter, “Q,” prompting QAnon believers to rejoice. His Twitter mentions subsequently filled up with happy QAnon fans, who posted Q memes and “#WWG1WGA,” a reference to the conspiracy theory’s motto, “Where we go one, we go all.”
Flynn later deleted the tweet, claiming his Twitter account had been hacked. But even in backing away, he gave a nod to QAnon believers, saying he may have been hacked by “the team”—a seeming reference to the theory that Q is aided by the “Q team,” a mythical group of hackers working on Trump’s behalf.
“He clearly knew what he was doing, he was signaling to the QAnon community,” View said.
Redgate is even more prominent in the QAnon community than Joseph Flynn. She’s frequently tweeting “#WWG1WGA,” promoted a QAnon-themed rock song, and even appeared on Patriot’s Soapbox, a 24-hour YouTube livestream devoted to promoting QAnon. The channel’s creators played a key role in QAnon’s initial spread.
Giving credibility to QAnon isn’t a harmless internet game. One armed QAnon believer allegedly blocked a bridge near the Hoover Dam with an armored truck, while another QAnon believer has been charged with murder after allegedly killing his brother with a sword because he had become convinced his brother was a lizard. And not everyone in Flynn’s family has been willing to be associated with the the community or the conspiracy.
Though he was a one-time believer in the Pizzagate conspiracy theory, which later grew into QAnon, Michael Flynn Jr. has become a committed QAnon skeptic, frequently clashing with QAnon fans on Twitter before deleting his account earlier this year. Those clashes came to a head last September, after his father signed a copy of his memoir with “WWG1WGA.” QAnon believers took this as proof, straight from Flynn, that QAnon was real.
But Flynn Jr. wasn’t having it. In a series of tweets, he told his father’s supporters to “stop with the conspiracy theories.” The retired general, Flynn Jr. tweeted, has “ZERO to do with ‘Q.’”
"He was asked to write that,” Flynn Jr. tweeted. “Enough of the conspiracy theories.”
After issuing those tweets, QAnon believers turned on Flynn Jr., accusing him of being an agent controlled by the sinister “deep state.”
Why the younger Flynn takes such a different approach to that of his aunt and uncle isn’t clear. The son has never called them out, as least publicly. And none of the Flynns responded to requests for comment.
But things got even more tense last November after Flynn Jr. tweeted a referral link to a 23andme DNA test kit. Flynn Jr. was presumably just trying to make some money through the link, which would have given him an Amazon gift card for each order made by one of his followers.
Paranoid QAnon believers, convinced by earlier Q claims that 23andme is yet another deep-state conspiracy, saw the promotion as more proof that Flynn Jr. had been compromised. Flynn Jr., one QAnon believer wrote, was up to some “deep state crap.”
Still, Flynn Jr. hasn’t been entirely excommunicated from QAnon-world. Instead, many QAnon believers have just become convinced that his ridicule is all part of the long-term QAnon plan.
“I’m faking that I don’t believe in this, but I really do believe in it,” is how Mike Rothschild, a conspiracy theory researcher who studies QAnon, described the belief that Flynn Jr.’s denials are actually proof of his belief.