The group, led by conspiracy theorist Michael Protzman, are trafficking in fascistic ideas that are far more concerning than they are kooky
It’s been a month since the fanatical followers of a fringe QAnon influencer, Michael Protzman (aka Negative48), first gathered in Dallas, Texas, to witness the reveal — or resurrection, depending who you asked — of John F. Kennedy and JFK Jr.
Despite the Kennedy clan failing to appear on more than six occasions prophesied by Protzman, dozens of his followers remain in Dallas waiting for a miracle to occur.
Initially, Protzman and his followers’ activities in Dallas seemed relatively harmless and absurd — for example, singing songs in Dealey Plaza and unraveling dozens of toilet paper rolls in a hotel room. But as their presence in Dallas has persisted, their beliefs and behavior become increasingly unusual, leading outside observers to describe the group as a cult.
Most recently, about 30 followers were spotted on Nov. 30 in Reunion Arena Park participating in guided mediation and smoke smudging sessions, a decidedly calmer scene compared to their appearances in Dealey Plaza. But the laid-back demeanor of the gathering belied recent troubles in paradise for the Protzmanians. Not only have new details emerged raising concerns about Protzman’s past, but his actions have triggered backlash from others in the QAnon movement. What’s more, Protzman has said that several in the group in Dallas who appear to be living communally have reported coming down with symptoms that are consistent with Covid-19. One can only wonder how long this will last.
A recent Mother Jones report, based on documents obtained by the far-right researcher Amanda Moore, described that Protzman faced formal allegations of violence from his wife. These allegations are documented in a 2019 arrest report for an “unlawful imprisonment – domestic violence” charge. In the report, Protzman’s wife says he had been “acting differently, not showering…and believing in government conspiracies,” and that he had physically assaulted her in the past. The case was dismissed without prejudice; it could be reopened, but it’s unclear if it ever will. In a message to Rolling Stone via WhatsApp, Protzman denied the charges. “No truth was found,” he wrote, in all caps. “Because it didn’t happen. Go ask her if you have the balls.” Protzman’s wife did not respond to requests for comment.
There have been no recent reports of violence from Protzman or the group currently gathered around him. But Protzman’s apparent psychological hold on his followers is so strong that some of them abandoned their spouses and children to spend time with him in Dallas. A woman named Katy Garner tells Rolling Stone that her sister has been in Dallas for over a month. “At this point it must be done, because I don’t think she’s coming home. She left her kids and husband,” Garner says. (Protzman did not respond to questions about whether the group could be classified as a cult.)
Some social media platforms have begun to notice the concerning content coming out of Protzman’s group and those affiliated with him. After videos promoting the JFK Jr. conspiracy were initially allowed to flourish on YouTube, multiple YouTube accounts linked to the group have since been terminated or had their content suspended. This came after the group’s turn toward increasingly unsettling phrasing in their YouTube streams — discussions of physical death and the need to move on to the “next phase” — raised red flags among cult and QAnon observers.
Still, Protzman is able to reach his followers and repeat this troubling rhetoric through his Negative48 Telegram channel. “There is no more room in the plan for arrogance and self impotence,” reads a recent post. “Prepare for the next phase. Prepare each other.”
The contents of the channel vary day to day. Recently, Protzman shared that many people with him in Dallas have gotten sick. Though it’s unclear what’s going around, symptoms described on the group’s Telegram video chats seem to be consistent with Covid-19. “Many said on chat today they lost their sense of taste and smell,” Protzman shared in his Telegram channel last week.
In general, Protzman’s posts are a mix of abstruse proclamations based on Christian numerology, reposts from other QAnon and far-right figures, and most disturbingly, anti-semitic propaganda. When Protzman was approached for comment regarding two anti-semitic films that he shared in his Telegram channel, initially he didn’t respond. Protzman responded after Rolling Stone published an article discussing his promotion of these films, which was shared in his Telegram channel by a follower.
In a WhatsApp message, Protzman denied having watched one of the films in question. He then engaged in a form of Holocaust denialism, suggesting that the crematorium at the Nazi concentration camp Auschwitz had been built after World War II to frame the Germans. “The whole Hitler issue is up in the air on what really happened,” he wrote in all caps. These ideas not only fly in the face of decades of work by academic historians, but are also a sign that Protzman’s group is trafficking in fascistic ideas that are far more concerning than they are kooky.
Anti-semitism isn’t anything new when it comes to QAnon. Despite the attempts by some major QAnon figures to disavow Protzman — amid a much larger civil war currently raging between QAnon influencers — the reality is that the broader QAnon movement has incubated and intermingled anti-semitic and Christian-fascist ideas for quite some time.
Many in the movement — including Protzman’s sect — believe that Trump is on a holy mission ordained by God, fighting a battle of good versus evil. In this story, an occult Satanic cabal has corrupted the world, and only a strong Christian leader can take back the kingdom of heaven by any means necessary. These ideas are commonly mixed in with other new age and mystical beliefs, like holistic health, gnostic theology, and simulation theory.
This intoxicating cocktail of magical thinking and right-wing politics was on clear display at the the largest QAnon gathering to-date in Dallas — the For God & Country Patriot Roundup conference held this past July, where Christofascist ideas and antisemitic undercurrents were common themes among speakers — and has reached dizzying heights with Protzman’s cultish clique. But the Protzmanian’s antics, and the subsequent media coverage, appears to have created a bit of a rift in the QAnon community.
QAnon John, the organizer of the For God & Country Patriot Roundup, recently described Protzman’s group as “cult material” and Protzman as “crazy” in his Telegram channel. “This is one of the guys you can thank for the JFK Jr. Dallas clown show” John wrote. “This movement has NO room for blasphemous cults.”
But this schism only occurred after the constant barrage of critical coverage of the Protzmanian sect. After all, Protzman himself recently attended a four-day event in Las Vegas in October that was organized by QAnon John and prominently featured a man named Vincent Fusca — who some in the QAnon movement believe is JFK Jr.
According to Protzman’s inner circle, this is all happening according to plan.
“The mainstream media (MSM) will NOT cover any of our TRUTH,” reads a recent post in the Negative48 channel. “They will only make fun of us! So, all that is going on in Dallas is foolishness to them and IT HAD TO BE for them to cover it and give NATIONAL ATTENTION to what the CABAL did.”
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