The QAnon community is in a period of immense change. The conspiracy theory-turned-cult is built upon the idea that Donald Trump is destined to defeat an imagined cabal of Satan-worshipping paedophiles, a narrative that has taken a heavy blow with Trump’s election loss and the inauguration of President Biden.
At the same time, wide-ranging social media bans have scattered many of its key influencers from their homes on mainstream platforms and forced the movement to seek out new spaces on unmoderated “alt-tech” platforms such as the messaging app Telegram, the Twitter clone Gab and the video hosting site BitChute.
Now HOPE not hate can reveal that this upheaval in the QAnon community is being exploited by a previously unreported network of over 100 coordinated Telegram channels, with a combined total of almost 900,000 subscribers.
This network has been disguising its channels to appeal to QAnon supporters and others, but in fact appears to be proselytising for an entirely new quasi-religious narrative.
On January 27 2021, a new pro-QAnon channel was created on the Telegram messaging app calling itself ‘British Patriots Party’. Using the logo of the anti-Muslim group Britain First and referencing the group in one of its earliest posts, it appears at first glance to be a QAnon-inspired offshoot of the British far-right organisation.
The channel is not what it seems, however. It forms part of a large network of over a hundred channels created on the platform since the start of January, each tailored to appeal to specific communities whilst promoting a new quasi-religious narrative.
Most of the new channels are clearly aimed at attracting the displaced QAnon community and are named after popular themes and figures in the community, such as Trump’s former National Security Advisor General Michael Flynn, and Rudy Giuliani, a prominent member of Trump’s legal team. But some are targeted at different ideological demographics, such as supporters of Britain First, evangelical Christians or UFO enthusiasts, while others are named for fictitious regional media outlets, such as the ‘London Post’ or ‘Chicago Reporter’. Three of the channels post primarily in German, while channels labelled as Spanish, French and Italian contain only English posts.
The largest channel, ostensibly devoted to QAnon, has 125,000 subscribers, and the network as a whole gained 81,000 new subscribers over a 48 hour period.
The channels have been set up in batches, sometimes as many as nine set up in a single day. The largest one, ostensibly devoted to QAnon, has 125,000 subscribers, and the network as a whole gained a total of 81,000 new subscribers over a 48 hour period of observation. Despite the variety in branding, the channels contain near-identical content. Each channel produces only a tiny number of unique posts, usually QAnon or anti-vaccine content lifted from other platforms and posted without credit. Yet despite the lack of original posts, each channel gives the appearance of being highly active by reposting up to sixty posts from other channels in the network per day.
Most of these channels represent a double layer of deceptive branding. The UK Patriots Party channel, for example, purports to represent an anti-Muslim British far-right group, but is largely filled with unrelated content lifted from regular QAnon social media. But the QAnon content is itself a disguise: the real purpose of the channels is to promote the Messianic mythology of Sabmyk and the sword of Shawunuwaz.
This narrative, a blend of ancient mythology, New Age spirituality and some entirely new elements, appears to be the creation of an Iranian artist living in Germany who goes by the name Princess Ameli Achaemenes. Achaemenes claims to be a descendant of Persian royalty and to have been given her ancestral sword of Shawunawaz by the billionaire investor George Soros in 1992, before destroying it to prevent it from causing further harm. This tale is set out in the biography section of Achaemenes’ website, along with other fantastical elements of her life story:
Achamenes’ website, a website devoted to the Sword of Shawunawaz and series of interlinked Facebook pages promoting these fables, were all established in early 2020, although none received much attention at the time. The Shawunawaz website claims to be the work of an organisation called the Shawunawaz Society and lists a street address in Baden Baden, Germany, but has no visible presence elsewhere. The websites and Facebook pages present supposed sketches and references to the sword from prominent historical figures like Picasso and Heraclitus, all of which are forgeries.
Given the deceptive nature of the Telegram network and the limited available information online, it remains distinctly possible that the character of Princess Ameli herself is a fictional creation, with the only photo on her website and social media profiles showing a fully-veiled woman and no references to her that we could find from external sources. At least one account that interacted with her on Twitter in July 2020 appears to have been created for that purpose, with a corresponding Facebook account created on the same day.
The myth of Shawunawaz only began to receive wider exposure in December of 2020, when the operation moved to Telegram and adopted the strategy of piggybacking on QAnon and other conspiracy beliefs to draw in unsuspecting users.
By this time, the narrative of Shawunawaz as detailed on Achaemenes’ website had been altered with the addition of a Messianic figure called Sabmyk, who is claimed to be preordained ruler of the earth and who came into existence on December 21, 2020.
Recent posts regarding Sabmyk have become increasingly militaristic in tone, with four new channels that claim to be to be one of the “12 Generals under Sabmyk”. One recent post urged its subscribers to respond to Trump’s impeachment by going on the attack against his accusers:
The strategy of inserting the narrative into deceptively titled Telegram channels has proved remarkably successful in exposing these claims to a wider audience. Through frequent shares across the network, some Telegram posts pertaining to Sabmyk and the sword of Shawunawaz have been viewed over 200,000 times.
Some posts pertaining to the mythology of Sabmyk and the sword of Shawunawaz have been viewed over 200,000 times.
There is limited evidence that the narrative is catching on outside of the network. Social media posts referring to Sabmyk are often confused inquiries into the meaning of the word, but there are increasing numbers of posts on Facebook and Twitter endorsing the concept, from what appear to be genuine social media accounts.
There are many questions left to answer about this network. Who is controlling these channels? What is the endgame of this Messianic prophecy? How successful will it be in proselytising the fractured community of QAnon?
Whatever its origin and eventual outcome, this creation of this network serves as a stark reminder that opportunities for anonymous dissemination of conspiracy theories and disinformation will continue to be exploited, by eccentric ideologues and bad faith actors alike.
As mainstream platforms crack down on QAnon and other conspiracy theories, sites that offer minimal moderation will remain tempting both to adherents of those beliefs and those who seek to exploit them.
Few who witnessed the birth of QAnon on the 4chan messageboard could have dreamed of the significance it would carry just three years later. The Sabmyk network shows where and how future threats might emerge.
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