June 7, 2018

#122 The QAnon Code ⚡️⚡️

by Reply All

This week, to celebrate Alex Goldman’s return from paternity leave, a Yes Yes No extravaganza. Alex takes PJ and Alex Blumberg through the internet’s most encompassing conspiracy theory to date, and then Gene Demby joins us to help unpack a very different kind of conspiracy.

Paris Martineau's Qanon explainer in New York Magazine
Paris Martineau's Reporting on Roseanne and QAnon for The Outline
Ben Detrick on Bryan Colangelo
The Yes Yes No Blog

Transcript


[REPLY ALL THEME]


PJ VOGT: From Gimlet, this is Reply All. I'm PJ Vogt.


ALEX GOLDMAN: And I'm Alex Goldman


ALEX GOLDMAN: Welcome once again to Yes Yes No, the segment on the show where our boss Alex Blumberg comes to me and PJ with a tweet that he doesn't understand, and we try to explain it to him. Alex Blumberg, do you have a tweet for us today?


ALEX BLUMBERG: Uh...


PJ VOGT: Actually Blumberg, I have a tweet for you guys today.


ALEX BLUMBERG: WHOA!


ALEX GOLDMAN: What!


PJ: OK. Let me set this up a little bit before I even like get to the thing that I don't understand. OK?


ALEX BLUMBERG: All right.


ALEX GOLDMAN: Yeah.


PJ: So, it's Thursday today, it’s May 31st. Yesterday, two days ago? Two days ago. OK. Three days ago, Roseanne Barr had a very successful sitcom on ABC.


ALEX BLUMBERG: The most successful sitcom on ABC and on network television I believe.


PJ: That seems completely possible.


ALEX BLUMBERG: Yeah.


PJ: Um and then what happened is that she tweeted this straightforwardly racist tweet about, of all people, Valerie Jarrett, who used to work in the Obama administration. 

Roseanne said, quote: "muslim brotherhood & planet of the apes had a baby = vj" – for "Valerie Jarrett." 


And then this surprising thing actually happened which is that there was a consequence to someone saying something racist. Which is that Roseanne’s show got canceled.


ALEX BLUMBERG: Mm hm.


ALEX GOLDMAN: Right.


PJ: Um, and so, I was looking at Roseanne's Twitter feed after it happened. And what was interesting was that she was sort of like, on her main, like, where she posts her tweets she was saying like "Oh, I'm very sorry if you were offended. Blah blah," kind of like mealy-mouthed, non-apology apologies. 


But then if you went to her favorites column, like the things that she likes on Twitter, the things she was liking were completely bonkers.


ALEX BLUMBERG: Oh.


PJ: So so basically like all these tweets that she was liking were all about this one conspiracy theory which I have seen on the internet for the past year and just like just decided to sit this one out, like I did not want to understand it. 


But apparently like Roseanne has found it, Roseanne believes in it, and it seemed like part of the reason she made this racist tweet that she just like destroyed her career for, that it came out of her belief in this thing. So this is what I now want to understand. I want to understand this conspiracy theory that I have up until this point tried to keep out of my brain.


ALEX BLUMBERG: Mm-hmm.

PJ: And I think it could be in somebody's brain in this room. And I was like OK this is the point... (ALEX BLUMBERG laughs)


ALEX GOLDMAN: Who? Me?!


PJ: So like I noticed that all the tweets that she liked are on the same hashtag. They’re all on QAnon which I know is a conspiracy theory and that’s about everything I know about it. And the tweet that I’m bringing you, it’s also on the QAnon hashtag, and I picked this one because it was immensely popular and I don’t understand like a single word of it. 


Um, so let me show it to you.


ALEX GOLDMAN: Yeah. Send it to me.


PJ: So, well I'll just show it to you.


ALEX GOLDMAN: Show it to me.


PJ: And before I show you this tweet...

ALEX BLUMBERG: By the way, you're just talking to Alex Goldman right now, and I’m feeling a little left out. There's a poss... (PJ laughs) you don't know what I do on the internet late at night. Perhaps I am also researching Internet conspiracy theories.

PJ: I'm sorry for treating the segment as if it's called "Yes No." (ALEX BLUMBERG laughs)

ALEX GOLDMAN: If you- if you know- if–if you can decipher this tweet...

ALEX BLUMBERG: I’m–no, no.

ALEX GOLDMAN: I will boil one of my shoes and eat it. (ALEX BLUMBERG laughs) I haven't seen it. Sight unseen. I'm going to go ahead and say, I will eat my shoe.

ALEX BLUMBERG: OK.

PJ: OK, so, so the first thing you need to know before I tell you anything about this tweet is that it’s really, it has 624 retweets and 677 likes. Like this was a popular tweet that, in theory, made sense to at least that many people.

OK. It's from a user named "anonymousinfo bomb emoji, lightning emoji, fire emoji, lightning emoji, fire emoji, lightning emoji, fire emoji." (ALEX BLUMBERG laughs) There's a "..." which I think means, yeah there's many more emojis that are all the same ones. OK? (ALEX BLUMBERG laughs)

Their- their–their avatar is the silhouette of a person in front of the flames, actual flames, in the shape of a Phoenix, and what they have to say is:

"Lightning bolt, lightning bolt, lightning bolt, Wow! lightning bolt, lightning bolt, lightning bolt Q–hashtag QAnon? See! Roseanne was great about Muslim Brotherhood and ISIS, lightning bolt, #QPost484, lightning bolt, bomb emoji." Then like 8 people are added. Then, “#QPost484: Who are the Muslim Brotherhood? Who is AWAN? Who is Huma? Who is VJ? Who created ISIS? Who controlled ISIS? What was the purpose of ISIS?”

ALEX BLUMBERG: This is one long hashtag, or a bunch of different hashtags?

PJ: The– #QPost484 is like the title, and then the posts I guess is a series of–I didn't know you could fit this much in a tweet.

ALEX BLUMBERG: (laughing) I know…

PJ: I think they’ve screen-grabbed an image to make this happen.

ALEX BLUMBERG: Got it.

PJ: “What was the purpose of ISIS? #QPost573: Seems fitting that a comment about Jarrett got the real Rosanne kicked off the air being communist and all.” And then there are six photos. One is...Oh no, God, there's more. OK. Sorry. Then there's a photo of even, from a message board of more questions. "Hussein/HRC and many more must be terrified. Ahmadinejad talking. Where did all the money go? How many planes? Where did planes land? Why were clowns private contractors escorting? (ALEX GOLDMAN laughs) Why cash? Why offshore cash? Why wasn't Congress notified for approval? Where did bank wires originate from? Coincidence? All donations.” (ALEX BLUMBERG laughs) (PJ laughs) We're halfway through.

ALEX BLUMBERG: Why were clowns?

PJ: I'm- I’m just going- should I–do I have to read all the questions? I have to read all the questions.

ALEX GOLDMAN: I don't think you do.

ALEX BLUMBERG: No! But it's so funny. Why were clowns?

PJ: Why were clowns! (ALEX BLUMBERG laughs) Escorting! "Where do majority of Rothschild’s reside?"

ALEX BLUMBERG: Oh my god. It's also like they're very, it's all like scary conspiracy. And then there's like, “Why wasn't Congress notified?” Which is like literally everybody says that about everything. Like, it's the most boring complaint. (PJ laughs) You know, there's like 17 foreign policy journals that contain that sentence.

PJ: But but usually they don't come after like "why were clowns."

ALEX BLUMBERG: Yes, exactly.

PJ: Also there’s just like, there’s more stuff below, there’s like pictures of Valerie Jarrett, there’s pictures of Obama, just like all the sort of like ingredients of a political conspiracy theory. So, with that in mind, Alex Blumberg, do you understand this tweet?

ALEX BLUMBERG: No.

PJ: (laughs)

ALEX BLUMBERG: Psych! I don't understand it.

PJ: Alex Goldman, do you understand this tweet?

ALEX BLUMBERG: Our last hope.

ALEX GOLDMAN: I’ve actually been following this story for months, so, yes. I get it.

PJ: OK.

ALEX GOLDMAN: Do you understand this tweet, PJ?

PJ: No. No, I don't.

ALEX GOLDMAN: All right.

ALEX BLUMBERG: Yes no no.

PJ: Yes no no.

ALEX GOLDMAN: OK, so, QAnon is very big and very complex and I am super stoked to explain it to you guys. But I think we should probably do the break first because I have a lot to get to.

[MUSIC - DRUMS]

ALEX GOLDMAN: Coming up after the break: Bunker. Apple. Yellow. Sky.

BREAK

[REPLY ALL THEME]

ALEX GOLDMAN: Welcome back to the show. Well, gentlemen, the QAnon story starts on a dark and stormy night.

ALEX BLUMBERG: (laughs)

PJ: Really?

ALEX GOLDMAN: No, it doesn't start on a dark and stormy night. QAnon is an entity, or entities, that have created a grand conspiratorial cosmology on the Internet.

PJ: Wait. QAnon are the people behind the conspiracy theory?

ALEX GOLDMAN: Yes.

PJ: OK.

ALEX GOLDMAN: So, to start at the beginning, you guys are very familiar with 4chan. 4chan has a sub board called Pol, P-O-L, which is their politics board.

PJ: And 4chan...

ALEX GOLDMAN: 4chan is a message board on the Internet where people are casually racist and basically try and be as extremely offensive as possible.

So, last October, um, someone started posting on the Pol board. Initially not giving any information about themselves just posting these sort of bizarre polemics that were mostly comprised of rhetorical questions. Not rhetorical questions, but they would just post a list of questions. And th- so, this is- this is the–this is one of their first posts. It say–it goes like this:

"Mockingbird, HRC, Hillary Rodham Clinton, detained not arrested (yet). Where is Huma? Follow Huma. This has nothing to do with Russia (yet). Why does POTUS surround himself with generals? What is military intelligence? Why a go around the three letter agencies?”

It goes on and on like this.

PJ: OK. And they’re all sort of questions that have like a paranoid whiff to them or something.

ALEX GOLDMAN: Right. So, this person who's posting this gets the nickname Q from the board because they claim to have what is called Q clearance, which is like very, very high top-secret clearance within the government.

PJ: And is Q clearance a real thing?

ALEX GOLDMAN: Q clearance is a real thing.

PJ: OK.

ALEX GOLDMAN: So–

PJ: So, this person says that they have Q clearance and so people start nicknaming them "Q."

ALEX GOLDMAN: People start calling them Q. QAnon, because they're anonymous.

PJ: And Q because of the clearance. OK.

ALEX GOLDMAN: So, over the course of the next couple of days this person posts dozens of times. Something like 60 times in the next three or four days.

PJ: OK.

ALEX GOLDMAN: And the 4chan community starts to build like a theory of the world based on these posts. It’s basically like a super-charged version of Pizzagate. And this is the foundational idea behind this theory. Like once you believe this, everything else makes perfect sense.

PJ: OK.

ALEX GOLDMAN: The Mueller investigation–

ALEX BLUMBERG: Yes.

ALEX GOLDMAN: –is not investigating Donald Trump.

ALEX BLUMBERG: Hmm.

ALEX GOLDMAN: It is working with Trump.

PJ: To investigate...?

ALEX GOLDMAN: The Mueller investigation is a great big smokescreen to try and misdirect people from the actual investigation. The public face of it is a big smoke screen. Trump is a brilliant four-dimensional chess player that is playing the long game, pretending to be in love with Putin and Russia, and the whole investigation is actually directed toward the Clintons.

PJ: (laugh)

ALEX GOLDMAN: The Obamas.

PJ: Uh-huh.


ALEX GOLDMAN: Um, Huma Abedin.


PJ: Uh-huh.


ALEX GOLDMAN: And essentially what it's investigating is a continuation of the Pizzagate conspiracy. Those people are globalists who sell themselves to the highest bidder. They also run a child sex and torture ring. They're in collusion with basically every person who has been part of a right-wing conspiracy of the last 10 years: the Rothschilds, George Soros. John McCain is involved. 


All of these people are engaged in this nefarious activity. And, um, the Mueller investigation is actually investigating them. They will be indicted.


PJ: Got it. And is the point of it a child sex and torture trafficking ring, or is that just like one of their concerns?


ALEX GOLDMAN: Yeah, that's just like one of their–


ALEX BLUMBERG: Yeah–


ALEX GOLDMAN: –one of the many terrible things that they do.


And so Q says the Trump administration is onto these bad guys and is prosecuting them.


So like for example, this is one of Q’s first posts. And it says:


"My fellow Americans, over the course of the next several days you will undoubtedly realize we're taking back our great country, the land of the free from the evil tyrants that wish to do us harm and destroy the last remaining refuge of shining light. On POTUS's order, we have initiated certain failsafes that shall safeguard the public from the primary fallout which is stated to secure," excuse me, "which is slated to occur on November 3rd upon the arrest of Mr. Podesta." John Podesta.


PJ: OK wait, when is this?


ALEX GOLDMAN: This post is from November 1st of last year.


PJ: OK. So, this person is now saying that they're acting on behalf of President Trump.


ALEX GOLDMAN: They're saying that that President Trump is going to arrest John Podesta. There are going to be riots in the street. The military will temporarily take control of the government and all of the bad actors in the world are going to be arrested.


ALEX BLUMBERG: Starting with John–John Podesta?


ALEX GOLDMAN: Starting with John Podesta.


ALEX BLUMBERG: John Podesta is, in this worldview, the worst person in the world?


ALEX GOLDMAN: So in the real world, John Podesta is kind of a minor political operative who has a relationship with the Clintons. But in conspiracy world he is the center of Pizzagate.


PJ: And what, is there like a name for this cabal?


ALEX GOLDMAN: No. There’s not a name for the people that they think are committing all of these conspiratorial atrocities. But there is a name for the good guys who are going to indict everybody and send them all to jail.  


PJ: What's that name?


ALEX GOLDMAN: They call themselves, “The Storm.”


PJ: (whispers) The Storm.


ALEX GOLDMAN: And there's a reason for that–


PJ: Which is?


ALEX GOLDMAN: Last fall, Donald Trump was at a photo-op with a bunch of military generals and made a very, very bizarre statement that he's never explained.


Hold on. Let me find this video. [typing]


PJ: OK.


ALEX GOLDMAN: So, it's it’s literally just a photo-op in the White House with a bunch of people, generals, et cetera, et cetera.


PJ: And they're, they're now. OK...he's like smiling, everyone's wearing nice cocktail clothes and like military general outfits.


ALEX BLUMBERG: And it's like generals and their families.


PJ: It's the room where they take Christmas card pictures with the president.


ALEX BLUMBERG: Right.


TRUMP: You guys know what this represents?


REPORTER: Tell us sir. [clicks]


TRUMP: I don’t know. Maybe it's the calm before the storm.


REPORTER: What's the storm?


TRUMP: Could be...a calm before the storm.


REPORTER: What storm, Mr. President?


TRUMP: We have the world's great military people in this room, I will tell you that. And uh...(inaudible)...Thank you all for coming.


REPORTER: What storm, Mr. President?


TRUMP: You’ll find out.


REPORTER: Give us a hint? (inaudible questions)


TRUMP: Thank you, everybody. (inaudible questions)


ALEX GOLDMAN: So.


PJ: That is such a- it's–it's weird for the president, surrounded by all of his generals, to just kind of like–


ALEX GOLDMAN: –imply that a great storm is coming?


PJ: Yeah. It's a, it’s a very ambiguous thing to say about a very–about a thing that people do not want ambiguity around.


ALEX BLUMBERG: Yeah–


ALEX GOLDMAN: And if you are conspiratorially-minded, you are naturally going to latch onto that statement.


ALEX BLUMBERG: Right.


ALEX GOLDMAN: So, Q calls his posts "crumbs." Like he’ll say, "I'm just going to drop a few crumbs." And since crumbs come from bread, Q fans start calling themselves "bakers." 


And the bakers are just convinced that Q is a genius and Q gets like a big shot of credibility early on when they post something containing the world “small” and then Trump’s next tweet also contains the word “small”...but that’s because it turned out to be Small Business Saturday. So...

PJ: (laughs)


ALEX GOLDMAN: –that happened.


And Q says that all these bad guys have already been indicted by the Trump administration. And the reason that they can walk around free in the world is because the indictments are sealed and the government is keeping track of them by putting ankle monitors on them.


PJ: OK.


ALEX GOLDMAN: So the bakers will take like pictures of the Obamas and the Clintons and like do close-ups on their legs and be like, "Is Huma Abedin wearing an ankle monitor?" And in this photograph Huma is wearing bell-bottoms.


PJ: Oh, over like what look like to be chunky shoes, or a secret ankle monitor because she's been arrested. Oh wow.


ALEX GOLDMAN: There are photos of Michelle Obama, Barack Obama, Hillary Clinton walking around wearing loose-fitting pants. And that's obviously because–

PJ: So, anybody that doesn't wear hipster jeans is now under suspicion?

ALEX GOLDMAN: Right.

PJ: (whispers) That's so funny.

ALEX GOLDMAN: So, and people- and the sort of–I was on a web page just trying to fi–read people's interpretations of Q's posts. And this one I found to be the the wildest one. And I just want to show you Q's entire post. It's just a couple lines, and then I want to read to you the interpretation of it.

PJ: OK.


ALEX GOLDMAN: So, this is the post, the thing in red right here.


PJ: Oh, it's really, it's really all code. Like it's like, “_Comf D-TT v891 0600 yes. green 1 0600. Bunker Apple Yellow Sky...yes Godspeed. Q.”


ALEX GOLDMAN: What it looked like to me–


ALEX BLUMBERG: That's literally what he wrote?


ALEX GOLDMAN: That's all he wrote.


ALEX BLUMBERG: So, he's like...it's like, "Hey guys." And then: "_comf_D-TT_."


PJ: It looks like a random bit of computer code.


ALEX BLUMBERG: Yeah. It looks like weird–yeah. (inaudible)


ALEX GOLDMAN: What it looks like to me is when you use one of those strong password generators.


ALEX BLUMBERG: Yeah. (laughs)


PJ: Yes. Jacuzzi mirage.


ALEX BLUMBERG: Bunker apple yellow sky would be a good password.


ALEX GOLDMAN: And directly beneath that, one of Q’s followers says that they’ve decoded what all of that gobbledygook means. And what it means is there was some kind of military mission to capture someone named Lord Rothschild of Ailsbury.


PJ: (laughs)


ALEX GOLDMAN: And others if they could, but the helicopter was intercepted by someone and the mission failed, as Q explained later.


PJ: Has Q ever explained why he has to communicate in decipherable code?


ALEX BLUMBERG: (laughs)


ALEX GOLDMAN: Uh... no.


PJ: OK. Do you know what I mean? (laughing)

ALEX BLUMBERG: Yeah. I mean...yes.

PJ: Can I just say, I mean, I know we’re, you're still explaining but like, I feel a thousand percent certain that Q is a prankster, is like an old school 4chan person who knows what they're doing. Like the small business day thing, I feel like Q is having fun with people.

ALEX GOLDMAN: I feel like it's either someone who is, who is doing an epic troll basically. Or someone who genuinely believes all of this stuff.

PJ: I would, I would believe, genuinely believe, if it weren't for the Small Business Day thing. But that's just like, that's like, a canny move to be like, "It's going to be Small Business Day. If I predict that Donald Trump will tweet the word 'small' on that day it'll be proof of my access to him." Like that's, that's a person who is being clever about, he's not like convincing himself of things and then backwards justifying them. He's planning to do something that will make him look...I mean maybe he thinks like Obama is bad and is in league with a Rothschild. But like, like one of the things I recognize in this is like the pleasure that the QAnon–the Storm people–are having in decoding the message. 

Like this is one of the things that Internet does really well. Like this video game I'm really excited about, yesterday they put out a teaser for it and the teaser was like a very static shot of a room and people were like "Oh! The trophy in the bookcase means that the game's going to be like online only," and like people being a little bit indecipherable so that people interpret them and like doling out clues like, that's a thing. And like it's a skill and this QAnon has the skill.

ALEX GOLDMAN: The one thing I'll say that lends credence to your theory is that, like I said, early on, Q would post in actual paragraphs and make declarative statements about people getting indicted et cetera et cetera. They have definitely pulled back to being–

ALEX BLUMBERG: Q has?

ALEX GOLDMAN: Q has. Has definitely pulled back to being much more sort of cryptic and–

PJ: Because they've gotten better at what they're doing. (ALEX GOLDMAN: Yeah.) They're like a great songwriter. It's like, you leave room for people.

ALEX BLUMBERG: He looks back at those old posts and he's like, "God, I was such a hack back then." (PJ & ALEX GOLDMAN laugh) "I can't believe people listened to that stuff. And they think that's my classics!"

ALEX GOLDMAN: Q- Q–Q actually oversteps, oversteps a couple times and, and upsets people. Says, says something to the effect of like, "A video documentation of Hillary Clinton performing Satanist rituals is going to come out." It doesn't come out. People are like, “Are you–are you full of it? What's going on here?" So, Q has pulled back and has tried to be–and basically reacts to the day's news by asking these like Socratic questions.

PJ: Yeah.

ALEX GOLDMAN: And I mean, you're right. For the bakers I feel like this is like almost like bible study. You see these things that can be interpreted a million different ways. They all sit around and and try and pick them apart.

PJ: What they're doing sounds–like there's stakes to this. And it's not good to convince people of untrue things that make them scared and believe violence is happening, but the the just the pure joy of someone doling out clues, like I totally get why this is appealing to people.

ALEX BLUMBERG: Mhm.

ALEX GOLDMAN: I also think it's appealing because it confirm–the interpretation they've come up with and that Q has sort of let them run with, really confirms all of their greatest dreams and impulses–

PJ: –and worst nightmares, totally.

ALEX GOLDMAN: Right. So remember this whole thing started in October. And in the past six or seven months, it’s basically, it–it’s really grown, like it’s huge. There are YouTube videos that have like half a million views, there’s a subreddit that has 30,000 members. Someone made an app that allowed you to–

ALEX BLUMBERG: An app?

ALEX GOLDMAN: That allowed you to search for Q– search for keywords in QPosts. And it hit the top 10 in iTunes.

ALEX BLUMBERG: What? What’s the app called?

ALEX GOLDMAN: I’m not sure…

ALEX BLUMBERG: Huh.

PJ: Wait. I want to know. Hold on. [typing]

ALEX GOLDMAN: It's called Q Drops.

PJ & ALEX BLUMBERG: Q Drops.

PJ: Like picking up what Q drops? You don't know.

ALEX BLUMBERG: It's like, yeah, picking up the bread crumbs.

ALEX GOLDMAN: That Q drops.

ALEX BLUMBERG: That Q drops.

ALEX GOLDMAN: And like Sean Hannity re-tweeted this guy called Praying Medic who's like one of the sort of major people in the QAnon universe who was tweeting a QAnon hashtag, like it's finding purchase in the soil of more mainstream conservative people.

ALEX BLUMBERG: And Praying Medic was one of the ones that the original tweet that we read–

PJ: –he's in the tweet. Yeah yeah yeah–

ALEX GOLDMAN: Right–

ALEX BLUMBERG: –was mentioned. Yeah.

ALEX GOLDMAN: And then in April, a bunch of the bakers, the people who follow the QAnon conspiracy very closely, completely independently of Q–Q doesn’t ask them to do this or anything–they put together a march on Washington.

PJ: What?


ALEX GOLDMAN: Yeah.


PJ: That is wild. 


ALEX GOLDMAN: Yeah.


PJ: Um, okay this is [video sounds begin], this is footage from the actual march. 


PROTESTERS: Red pill, white hats! Red pill, white hats! Red pill, white hats!


PJ: Red pill, white hats?


ALEX GOLDMAN: Yes.


ALEX BLUMBERG: I see Q people. These are the signs, Trump 2020.


PJ: Can I say the most (ALEX BLUMBERG: It’s like–) surprising thing about these people? So like, there, there are like white men and women mostly. They're not 18 or 20. Like they're like, they look like people in their 40s and 50s. A lot of them.

ALEX GOLDMAN: Yeah.

PJ: That's not who I think of as being on 4chan. [video in background]


ALEX BLUMBERG: Yeah they look like, they're like wearing sensible shoes and like running clothes and windbreakers and–


PJ: They look like–


ALEX BLUMBERG: –carrying travel mugs and yeah.


PJ: They would like be like moms and dads on like muse– like Smithsonian tours.


ALEX GOLDMAN: Oh totally.


ALEX BLUMBERG: Yeah yeah yeah yeah.


ALEX GOLDMAN: And then when they reach the end of their march they actually have like a podium set up. There are a couple speeches that take place. Here let me find a clip from one of the speeches, hold on just a second.


WOMAN: A lot. My hope is not in them. But I do believe there are people who are fighting for the country. I believe that QAnon is leading the charge and helping us to fight for our country. He told us to stay together. We've got to do that, right? And so I'm so thankful for so many sides. I'm so thankful for all the people who have...


PJ: She just sounds really–she sounds like a person who deeply believes that something horrible is going on and she's like testifying.


ALEX GOLDMAN: Yes. And like the belief that they are awake while the rest of the world is asleep.


PJ & ALEX BLUMBERG: Right.

PJ: Huh. 


ALEX BLUMBERG: Yeah it’s funny, like watching, it’s like, watching this...You get the sense that like…Q…who’s essentially this human equivalent of a random password generator is-is, it’s almost like he’s becoming this sort of like focal point for all these disparate, marginalized people who believe crazy things. Like he’s sort of their uniting force, you know?


ALEX GOLDMAN: Right. And any time anything happens in the, in the media even if it's totally unrelated. Any time there's a sex trafficking arrest, it doesn't matter what agency or what country it's in. People see it as proof that Q is telling the truth, that the Storm is coming. (PJ: Humph.) Any time there's a resignation of a powerful executive or a conspiracy that involves a government official either in the U.S. or in a U.S-related country, it's because Q has caused them to resign. 


It's because the Storm has come, and those people are resigning.


PJ: So wait, here is- here is my question though. Roseanne.


ALEX BLUMBERG: (laughs)


PJ: So, do we know, like how long has Roseanne been into all this stuff?


ALEX GOLDMAN: So, right about the time her show came back, she tweeted something that was very, a very direct reference to Q's conspiracy. She tweeted: 


"President Trump has freed so many children held in bondage to pimps all over the world. Hundreds each month. He's broken up trafficking rings in high places everywhere. Notice that. I disagree on some things but give him the benefit of the doubt for now." 


She tweeted that with no context March 31st, which is like right about the time her show came out. And everyone in the mainstream media suddenly sat up and was like, "What the hell is she talking about?"


PJ: And what she was talking about was–


ALEX GOLDMAN: –was Q.


PJ: Right.


ALEX GOLDMAN: She's also tweeted just very plainly, and I think they've been deleted now: "Who is Q?" And: "Tell Qanon to DM me in the next 24 hours."


PJ: Wow.


ALEX BLUMBERG: Really?

ALEX GOLDMAN: Yeah.

PJ: Wow.


ALEX GOLDMAN: And even the tweet that got her show canceled, the one about Valerie Jarrett and Planet of the Apes, that is Q related. Because Valerie Jarrett is like a player in the Q conspiracy world. It’s someone that, that QAnon people talk about all the time.


PJ: Right, because like, that was like, that was one of the questions I had. It's like why is she going after this person who was like, worked for President Obama, who is not like...Like you kind of have to be into politics to know who Valerie Jarrett is, even to like have an opinion about her. 

ALEX GOLDMAN: I had to look her up.


PJ: But like, I guess, in Roseanne’s mind, it’s like people shouldn’t be focusing on the fact that she said something racist. It’s like in her mind, she’s like, "Guys ignore that, like I’m showing you this like great evil, like why don’t you pay attention?" (ALEX GOLDMAN: Right) 


And it actually makes sense because like, another tweet that I saw, one of the things that Roseanne retweeted today actually. Let me read you this. 


"In 24 hours @therealroseanne has brought attention to Valerie Jarrett and her ties to Muslim Brotherhood, hypocrisy of the left, George Soros being a criminal, dangers of Ambien"–because she says she only said that stuff because she had taken an Ambien (ALEX BLOOMBERG: Right.) and she's not racist–"big pharm and how they view people who take their drugs. Thanks Roseanne!" 


But I think she does see herself as a martyr for like the Storm.


ALEX BLUMBERG: Right. And she- it seems like–it seems like she's sort of like the Storm's most prominent member.


PJ: Yeah.


ALEX BLUMBERG: For sure. Wow.


PJ: God, and look, she retweeted this: "It all makes sense now @therealroseanne was #settingthestage. How many were even focused on Valerie Jarrett before today?"


So now they're saying Roseanne intentionally lost her job to focus attention on Valerie Jarrett.


ALEX BLUMBERG: It's just one more move in that 4- to 10-dimensional chess game.


PJ: Yeah. God.


ALEX BLUMBERG: Wow.


ALEX GOLDMAN: Also, as we were looking through this I notice that people said they think Michael Flynn is Q.


PJ: Is cute?


ALEX GOLDMAN: Q.


PJ: Oh, OK. (ALEX GOLDMAN laughs)


ALEX BLUMBERG: Do you know what we’ve been talking about this whole time? (PJ laughs) Have we used the word cute once?


PJ: Just like trying to think of whether or not I thought Michael Flynn was cute…


ALEX BLUMBERG: We’ve said Q a lot.


ALEX BLUMBERG & ALEX GOLDMAN: (laughing)


PJ: And then I was like, maybe they're talking about his son? Like, anyway. (ALEX BLUMBERG laughs)


ALEX GOLDMAN: So, PJ, Alex. I feel like I've done a decent job wading through this. I'm wondering, PJ, if you feel like you're at the point where you can recap this for me.


PJ: Yes, I think I can explain. I'm not going to like go through every single question in it but I think I can like explain what is going on in this tweet.


ALEX BLUMBERG: Remind me, just how does the tweet start again?


PJ: The tweet starts.


ALEX GOLDMAN: Whoaaa! Doesn't it start like, "Whoaaa!" (laughs)


PJ: Yes it does. Well, it actually starts "lightning bolt, lightning bolt, lightning bolt, Whoaaaa!"


ALEX BLUMBERG: (laughs) Oh right, the lightning bolts.


PJ: Q–


ALEX BLUMBERG: Which now I understand.


PJ: Right. Oh, the Storm!


ALEX BLUMBERG: Yes.


PJ: Right. "#QAnonC Roseanne was great about Muslim Brotherhood and ISIS #QPost484, lightning bolt, bomb," all these people being tagged. This is a person saying, "look what just happened." 


Like everybody, everybody in QAnon rally, like one of our people, Roseanne, just got taken out, and what she was talking about was foretold in the QAnon scripture and what was going to happen to her, I think this person is also saying was foretold in the QAnon scripture.


ALEX BLUMBERG: Basically, right. What was- what was–what she was talking about was in QAnon post 484. And what was going to happen to her was in QAnon post whatever it was.


PJ: And it is sort of like bible study. He's like, if you look at this one old Q post you see that Roseanne was talking about Q issues. And if you look at this other one, I think you see evidence that this was going to happen.

ALEX BLUMBERG: Right, and that therefore this is just one more breadcrumb.


PJ: Yeah.


ALEX BLUMBERG: To be to be gathered up.


PJ: And then at the end of it he says, "Isn't Michael Flynn cute." (ALEX GOLDMAN, ALEX BLUMBERG laugh)


ALEX GOLDMAN: I think we're at Yes Yes Yes. I think we're at Cute Cute Cute.


ALEX BLUMBERG: Cute Cute Cute.


PJ: Cute Cute Cute.


[MUSIC]


ALEX GOLDMAN: After the break, an explosive tip from an anonymous source.


Break


[REPLY ALL THEME]


PJ: Welcome back to the show. Alright Blumberg do you have a tweet for us?


ALEX BLUMBERG: Yes I do. Are you ready?


PJ: Yes.


ALEX GOLDMAN: Yeah!


ALEX BLUMBERG: Here's the tweet. I'm going to show it to you.


PJ: OK. Oh I know what's going on this week.


ALEX BLUMBERG: (laughs)


PJ:  OK. So it's from a Twitter account called @SportsArePhilly. Man, (laughs) I know I've been in this country before-


ALEX GOLDMAN:  Wow, you're really telegraphing what this is all about.


PJ: Replying to @JoelEmbiid, @SamHinkie and the famous @AlVick40117560.


ALEX BLUMBERG: Yes.


PJ: And it's just an image of a basketball court, like in the city, like like an outdoor basketball court. And there's a tiny man with someone else's head pasted on his body that kind of looks like Vladimir Putin. And then a taller, more like athletic man who is with one hand holding a basketball above his head. He looks like he's about to shoot a one-handed three-point basket shot.


ALEX BLUMBERG: Almost! So close. (PJ laughs)


ALEX GOLDMAN: Three-point basket shot?!


PJ: I knew what I was doing.


ALEX BLUMBERG: (laughs)

ALEX GOLDMAN: Are you one of those people who says 3:00 a.m. in the morning?


PJ: (laughs) A famous three-point basket shot. A three-pointer! From the outside the paint...


ALEX BLUMBERG: Yep.


PJ: ...ball. (laughs) OK. Alex Goldman, do you understand...(laughs)


ALEX BLUMBERG: So, PJ, do you know either of the people in this, in this picture?


PJ: Actually, I know a little bit about this. I know that the non-Photoshopped man is Joel Embiid–who is a famous basketball player for the 76ers.


ALEX BLUMBERG: Yes.


PJ: And I know, I actually know what this still is from but I have no idea what point they're using it to make.


ALEX BLUMBERG: Got it. OK.

PJ: Alex Goldman, do you understand this tweet?


ALEX GOLDMAN: No not at all.


PJ: OK. Alex Blumberg, do you understand what's going on in these tweets?


ALEX BLUMBERG: I do. And what's going on in this tweet is the most exciting story that perhaps I've ever brought to you.


PJ: Really?


ALEX BLUMBERG: As part of, as part of Sports Sports Sports.


PJ: OK. (laughs)


ALEX BLUMBERG: The offshoot of Yes Yes No. (PJ and ALEX BLUMBERG laugh)


ALEX GOLDMAN: I can't believe we have a segment on our show called "Sports Sports Sports."

ALEX BLUMBERG: I very much understand this tweet.


PJ: Um actually before we start, Breakmaster made us a Sports Sports Sports theme. Ready?


ALEX BLUMBERG: (laughs) What?

ALEX GOLDMAN: Yeah.


[SPORTS SPORTS SPORTS THEME MUSIC]


ALEX BLUMBERG: (laughs) And welcome once again to “Sports Sports Sports”  (PJ laughs) That’s amazing. Can I hear it again?


PJ: Yes.


[SPORTS SPORTS SPORTS THEME MUSIC - ALEX SINGS ALONG]


ALEX BLUMBERG: Big finish.


PJ:  So good.


ALEX BLUMBERG: So that's what we're about to go into. Are you guys ready?


PJ: I am extremely ready.


ALEX GOLDMAN: Yes.


ALEX BLUMBERG: (laughs) All right. So...this is the most exciting internet detective story I might have ever heard. So I started with this tweet because there's there's a lot of tweets about the story. But this one just picks up on the story that we've talked about before, which is The Process. Remember when we had that–


PJ: Yeah. Can I try to recap and see if I can do it?


ALEX BLUMBERG: Yeah. Recap The Process.


PJ: OK. So, previously on “Sports Sports Sports,” you and fellow–you and fellow basketball fan, slash, 76ers fan Gene Demby from NPR came in and explained to us that, basically, for a number of years, the basketball team, the Philadelphia 76ers, intentionally, they had this like maverick GM–


ALEX BLUMBERG: Mm-hmm.

PJ: –named Sam Hinkie (ALEX BLOOMBERG: Yeah.) and his plan, which people ended up calling “The Process”, his plan was: We're going to make this team as bad as possible so that we’re given extremely good draft picks and then eventually we can become really great team.


ALEX BLUMBERG: Yeah.


PJ: So the 76ers ended up drafting this guy Joel Embiid, who's an amazing, charismatic basketball player. He was so good that people started calling him "The Process." The 76ers became a much better team. Hinkie was not there to see it because he was fired before his plan could fully come to fruition.


ALEX BLUMBERG: Uh-huh.


PJ: I know that this tweet that you just showed us, I know that we're back in the process story because two of the people who were @’d are Sam Hinkie and Joel Embiid. I also happen to know that that original thing the video is from. I just saw this, it was like, Joel Embiid showed up at some like park in Philadelphia and just like killed some kid in pickup basketball.


ALEX BLUMBERG: Yes.


PJ: Like he bounced the ball off his head or something.


ALEX BLUMBERG: So that's why I wanted to start because there is this like because one of the pleasures of this story is just Joel Embiid himself. He's just like this incredibly charismatic person, and this really smart, funny Internet presence.


ALEX GOLDMAN: Sounds like you're describing me, almost.


ALEX BLUMBERG: (laughs) Case in point. He just started randomly–he's a superstar and he started randomly showing up to these random basketball courts in Philly and just playing randos on the street. And then he'll just like dunk on them.


ALEX GOLDMAN: Brutal.


ALEX BLUMBERG: And I'm sure that was the best day in that guy's life.


PJ: Yeah!


ALEX BLUMBERG: Like that guy was like so, that will go down in his– in history as like the day that Joel Embiid dunked over him.

 

Anyway, that's just the table setting for this story which is just sort of like– Joel Embiid is being Joel Embiid in a funny way. But the things in this tweet that I really want to draw your attention to that that are sort of the basis of the story that I'm about to tell is the Photoshopped face on the guy that Joel Embiid is dunking over and one of the accounts that this tweet is replying to. The account @AlVick40117560.


PJ: OK.


ALEX BLUMBERG: And the Photoshopped face is Bryan Colangelo.


PJ: Bryan Colangelo?


ALEX BLUMBERG: Yes. So, Bryan Colangelo is the new GM of the Philadelphia 76ers.


ALEX GOLDMAN: He replaced Sam Hinkie.

ALEX BLUMBERG: He replaced Sam Hinkie, yes he did. And he took over a couple years ago. And he has to make Hinkie’s plan work, and he’s constantly getting compared to Hinkie. And so a couple of weeks ago, this reporter named Ben Detrick who writes for this website, The Ringer, comes out with this incredibly explosive story, which starts like this. 


He gets a, he gets a DM from an unnamed, from a mysterious unnamed source. The source says, “I work in AI and I have been looking at these 5 Twitter accounts that are sort of gossiping about Sixers players and gossiping about like Sixers front office stuff. And I am almost certain because of my prowess at AI that they are all the same person.”


PJ: OK.


ALEX BLUMBERG: And I think they–that person that they're all belong to, belong to, this guy says, is Bryan Colangelo.


PJ: What! (laughs) OK...so Bryan Colangelo–


ALEX BLUMBERG: This is the theory–


PJ: The theory is–


ALEX BLUMBERG: –as of two days ago. When the story comes out–

PJ: The general manager of the 76ers is sock-puppeting a bunch of Twitter accounts (ALEX BLUMBERG: Yes.) to some purpose.


ALEX BLUMBERG: And the- and the–and the evidence that he supplies, the- the–that this unnamed source supplies to the- to–to Ben Detrick, the writer at The Ringer, is very, very compelling and entertaining.


PJ: OK.


ALEX BLUMBERG: OK? So I'm just going to go through a couple of them. But before I do that...so um, you know, I told Gene Demby that I was going to do this. Gene again is the host of NPR’s Code Switch podcast. And because like Gene was here for our last one, I figured we should get him on the phone too.


PJ: OK!


ALEX GOLDMAN: Yeah totally.


ALEX BLUMBERG: Alright so uh…


ALEX GOLDMAN: Uh Chris, could you, could you call up Gene


CHRIS NEARY: Hey uh NPR? We are calling to talk to Gene Demby, who I think is in one of your voice booths over there. If it’s possible, just patch us through to the phone in the voice booth? Thanks.


[PHONE RINGS]


PJ: Uh oh.


ALEX GOLDMAN: Did you read about that Twitch streamer?


PJ: Mm-hmm.


ALEX GOLDMAN: What a dipshit.


PJ: Yeah.


ALEX BLUMBERG: Did another Twitch streamer…?


PJ: This one was different.


ALEX GOLDMAN: This one is different. Um.


PJ: There’s this Twitch streamer who I’d never heard of before. He’s Australian, he got famous for making songs out of clips of Disney movies? Like he would be like ‘I’m making a song only out of songs’–


ALEX GOLDMAN: Oh no I’m talking about something totally different.


PJ: Oh. This guy…


ALEX GOLDMAN: Oh.


PJ: Are you sure?


ALEX GOLDMAN: The thing I was talking about is, there’s a guy on Twitch, calls himself Arab Andy. He’s this Arabic dude. And one of his shticks is that he will mount speakers to himself, walk around, and if people donate to his channel, they will be allowed to broadcast whatever they want over the speakers.


PJ: Oh that’s not good.

ALEX GOLDMAN: And so he was walking around the University of Washington, doing this, getting kicked out of classes and things like that. And someone paid him money and broadcast a bomb threat in a, to a class that he was in.

PJ: Oh my god.

ALEX GOLDMAN: Like the whole thing was a livestream so he’s like, ‘Oh my god that was so fucked up, that was so funny, oh my god.’ And then, he continues walking around doing the same thing and the cops come and arrest him and he’s like, ‘Dude! Bro! I didn’t do anything! It was a TTS donation!’ (PJ laughs) It was like, he was like, ‘It was a Twitch stream donation!’

PJ: There’s like a whole, it’s like a...

ALEX GOLDMAN: It’s all on video. And it’s so crackers.

PJ: That’s so funny.


[PHONE STOPS RINGING]


GENE DEMBY: Hello?


ALEX GOLDMAN: Hey Gene.


PJ: (laughing) Hey Gene. 


ALEX BLUMBERG: Gene!


GENE: Hey, what's going on? How y'all doing?


ALEX BLUMBERG: Good. How are you?


GENE: I'm good.


ALEX BLUMBERG: Thanks for joining us again for Yes Yes No, the Process Part Two: Better Than the Original.


GENE: (laughs) Electric Boogaloo.


ALEX GOLDMAN: So before we even get to the evidence that Colangelo is behind these burner accounts, can I, can I just ask you, Gene, as a Sixers fan, do you think that Bryan Colangelo is a good guy, bad guy, are you indifferent to him? How do you feel about him?


ALEX BLUMBERG: As of three days ago how did you feel about him?


GENE: (laughs) Um, I was always sort of indifferent to Bryan Colangelo. So the thing you to like, if you–I don't know if you have ever seen a picture of Bryan Colangelo, but he basically looks like the dude in the breakdancing movie who's trying to shut down the community center.


ALEX BLUMBERG, PJ and ALEX GOLDMAN: (laugh)


GENE: Like, he’s like nefarious, like he's kind of an evil doer. And he’s also like a–the beneficiary of all this nepotism. His father, Jerry Colangelo, is a really big deal in like American basketball. So there’s a way in which like Bryan Colangelo has this sort of reputation as sort of like a rich kid.


ALEX BLUMBERG: Yeah, in fact, Jerry Colangelo, the father, was the person who the NBA basically put on the Sixers staff to get them to right their ship after Hinkie was fired. And after they'd done that, they decided that the best person for the job of manager was Jerry's son, Bryan Colangelo.


GENE: Mhmm.


BLUMBERG: Alright so, in this explosive article from 2 days ago where these five different random Twitter accounts all seem like they could be linked to Bryan Colangelo, or somebody that the source believed was close to Bryan Colangelo. (GENE: Mhmm.) 


So the source lays out to Ben Detrick, the writer, a bunch of very compelling pieces of evidence. And the first piece of evidence that I want to present to you is what I'm calling "the collar tweet."


GENE: Yes.


ALEX BLUMBERG: (laughing) Alright. So Brian Colangelo’s collar is, sort of became its own story. There was this Philly sportswriter who wrote an article about how you can tell what what kind of news Bryan Colangelo's delivering at a press conference by the size and starchedness of his collar.


PJ: (laughs) Wait, are they-


ALEX BLUMBERG: And so then that became, like then all this attention was focused on his collars and his collars are big.


GENE: One of the burner accounts sort of said, someone was sort of making fun of Bryan Colangelo's collars like, "This dude loves collars on his shirt, he wears these collared shirts." And the burner account was sort of like, uh, weirdly–


ALEX BLUMBERG: Yeah, from what- it's like–it says "That is a normal collar. Move on. Find a new slant."


PJ: (laughs)


ALEX BLUMBERG: And so now there's like half of Sixer's Twitter is like "Find a new slant." That's become the rallying cry.


GENE: That's become the rallying cry, yeah.


ALEX BLUMBERG: Another thing, a lot of the burner accounts follow The University of Chicago basketball team and a bunch of players on the University of Chicago basketball team. And the University of Chicago is a college that is completely meaningless for the NBA. Like nobody from the University of Chicago will ever come close to being in a conversation about going to the NBA. It’s just a bad basketball school. There is one reason why you might want to follow the U of C basketball team though. And that is: if your son plays for them.


Which Bryan Colangelo's son, Mattia, does.


PJ: Oh wow So it's like (ALEX BLUMBERG: Yeah) there's a group of people on the internet who care about defending Bryan Colangelo's collars–


ALEX BLUMBERG: (laughs)

PJ: –and following Bryan Colangelo's son, and his college basketball career.


ALEX BLUMBERG: Yes.


PJ: OK.


ALEX BLUMBERG: So far. Yeah. So the next favorite subject of these alleged burner accounts is the previous GM of the Philadelphia 76ers, Sam Hinkie, and how he's overrated, he did a really bad job.


ALL: (laugh)


GENE: Right.


ALEX BLUMBERG: And so all these Twitter accounts are constantly talking about like, are just constantly taking issue with like the Hinkie worship. And are, and are like just really bitter about like he didn't do–like so for example...


PJ: They're fighting with Process trusters.


ALEX BLUMBERG: They're fighting with Process (GENE: Yes) trusters all the time. 

So so for example when one of the burner accounts talks about Hinkie saying he's, quote, "a pathological egomaniac," it's like–Oh there's one that says from one of the burner accounts, this burner account that goes by the name Eric Junior. He's getting in a fight with a bunch of Process–like there's an account called ProcessSavedMe, which is all a pro-Hinkie account. And he's getting in a- in a– this EricJunior account is getting in a fight with it. And one of the quotes is "BC has done nothing"–B.C., Bryan Colangelo–"has done nothing but clean up Hinkie's mess. Hinkie got great pieces but couldn't make the puzzle work."


There was another. There’s a bu- there’s–and there’s a bunch more, like that.


PJ: Uh-huh.

ALEX BLUMBERG: So that’s the, that’s the Hinkie bucket of evidence. The next bucket of evidence, all these tweets attacking Joel Embiid.


So Bryan Colangelo, right, he’s from this basketball dynasty, you know, that goes way back. And then in the old days, there was this old school approach to dealing with injuries, which was: players are supposed to play through them, they’re supposed to tough it out, and that you don’t sit down because of a minor injury. That is not how people think about it today, at all. But like, and so, so Joel Embiid had like these sore knees and like but there was this televised game against a good team and so Joel Embiid ended up playing in that game and tearing his meniscus. And so then he was out for like what they said at the time was like a couple of weeks and then it ended up being the whole season.


GENE: The whole season, yeah. Yeah.


ALEX BLUMBERG: And, and there was a lot of criticism for Colangelo of just sort of like letting that happen. And what's interesting is that like these burner accounts had always been, up until this point, very pro-Joel Embiid. And then all of a sudden this happens and they all start coming out and then blaming it on Joel. Like one of the accounts wrote, "Joel you were just a kid, but why didn't you tell Doc knees hurt before Houston. You costed yourself and us nine plus games and playoffs." That was when they still thought it was just like a two-week injury.


PJ: Oh wow.

ALEX BLUMBERG: And then there was anoth–and then (GENE: Man) basically all the accounts just turn on Joel and start–

GENE: They start calling him whiny, they saying he's a baby. He's like too demonstrative on the court. I mean, they basically sort of start to sort of go at Joel Embiid. Like he's not sort of the cornerstone player anymore.

ALEX BLUMBERG: And also there’s all this, and then it just gets really ugly and like coded, like he starts calling (GENE: Mm-hmm) him lazy and just sort of like-

GENE: Yeaah. Yeah.

ALEX BLUMBERG: And the thing that really set these Twitter accounts off was this thing that we talked about in our last Yes Yes No about this: that Meek Mill concert, where Joel Embiid shows up and starts dancing with his shirt off. Right? So somebody (GENE: Mhm.) and as soon as that footage surfaced online these burner accounts are just irate about it. They just go crazy about it.

PJ: Why?

ALEX BLUMBERG: Well, I'll tell you. So one of these burner accounts, EricJunior, links to this Tweet that shows Joel Embiid dancing, which everybody is like, "Look at Joel, it's so fun." Right? And EricJunior (GENE: Hm.) is like "He is the one who tells docs he still feels pain in knee, and then this? No respect."

PJ:  He's dancing for (ALEX BLUMBERG laughs) twenty seconds!

ALEX BLUMBERG: I know it's not the same as playing (ALEX GOLDMAN laughs) a basketball game. (GENE: Right. Exactly.) But like, Yeah. And then another one of the burner accounts: "He is out of shape and a bit lazy. I am I am I am tired to just trust him. Do something."

PJ: Wow.


GENE: So right. So like this is the really interesting dynamic here is that like everyone in Sixers land, people are like "Oh look the Sixers have this bright future," and this person is weirdly going at Joel Embiid, who is going to be the star of the team. Like this person has an axe to grind like against this player, who at this point is like universally beloved in the Sixers fan base. It's very, I mean, leaving aside all the weird connections this person has, it's like a very weird position to take. This is like a very weird trolly, um, sort of corner to occupy. You know?

PJ: Right, the only reason, (ALEX BLUMBERG: Yeah.) to have a problem with Joel Embiid is if you have a stake in defending Bryan Colangelo.


ALEX BLUMBERG: Right, exactly.


GENE: Right. 

ALEX BLUMBERG: OK so now, back to this article, right? This tipster lays out all this incredibly compelling evidence to the writer, Ben Detrick. And then Ben Detrick does this incredibly canny thing. He's like, "Obviously I have to figure out if this is true or not but I don't want to tip my hand completely."


So he calls the Sixers, and says, "I've gotten this information that there might be burner accounts associated with Bryan Colangelo," or something like that, "And I'm just calling to get, like seek comment.” He doesn't say how many and he doesn't give the names. He names two and they come back and the- and–and Brian Colangelo comes back and is like "There's one that is mine." So he admits one (GENE: Mm-hmm) but it's the least sort of like, it's the tamest one. And he's like, "I don't know about this other one," but then immediately after that call, all the other three burner accounts go private.


PJ: Aaaah!

GENE: Yup.

ALEX GOLDMAN: Wow.

GENE: And he doesn't- he doesn’t- the–the reporter doesn't tell him about the other accounts. He like you know like the other (PJ: Oh my God!) ones were not mentioned in this conversation.

ALEX GOLDMAN: What a...what a...bad move.


ALEX BLUMBERG: (laughs)


PJ: He's so bad at the internet!

ALEX GOLDMAN: He's has the, he does the worst OPSEC of any person who's ever lived.


ALEX BLUMBERG: The article comes out in the evening of Tuesday evening, I believe. The Phillies, which is the baseball team from Philadelphia, not a basketball team–


PJ: Alright, we don't have to condescend that much to me.

ALEX BLUMBERG: –are playing (GENE laughs) an away game in Los Angeles, so it's still sort of like early evening in Los Angeles when the article comes out. Apparently all the Sixers fans in attendance are checking their Twitter. They all read the article at the same time, I guess, and chants of "The Process" erupt (PJ laughs) (GENE: Wow) at the baseball game–at an away game in LA. The night this story comes out–

PJ: It's crossing into other sports.

ALEX BLUMBERG: And then–


GENE: My phone exploded like it was just like, like, Yo, like, You gotta read this. My girlfriend sent it, like, "Yo, this shit is crazy." And like (PJ laughs) but the crazy–this actually still gets crazier still. So, Twitter takes to sleuthing, right? Like everyone in basketball Twitter starts to like try to figure out. Ok, like, Bryan- these are clearly- Bryan–this is clearly Bryan Colangelo, right? The evidence is overwhelming, if circumstantial. Right? And so they start trying to ascertain, like OK, let's figure out if they have the same email address.

PJ: Oh, yeah (ALEX GOLDMAN: Ooohh) because you can (GENE: your phone number is associated with it) if you pretend that you've forgotten your password to a Twitter account–

GENE: Right.

PJ: It'll show you the beginning of the e-mail address for your recovery thing.

ALEX BLUMBERG: Yes.

PJ: I’ve been told.

GENE: Or, it'll show you the (laughs) or the phone number associated with the account. It'll show you the last two digits.

PJ: Yes.

ALEX BLUMBERG: The last two digits of the phone number.

PJ: Oh no.

GENE: So, the last two digits of the phone number associated with the accounts is 9-1, and (laughs) I'm sorry, this is too funny. (PJ laughs)

GENE: The phone number of Bryan Colangelo's wife (PJ gasps) ends in 9-1.

ALEX BLUMBERG: (laughs)

PJ: Oh my God!

ALEX GOLDMAN: Whoaaaa. No!

GENE: His wife, Barbara Bottini was a- was- is–she was born in Italy. She speaks Italian which explains some of the language stuff (PJ gasps) in the tweets. Like some of the grammar stuff (ALEX GOLDMAN: Right). Which- and–and there are some instances in the tweets in which the currency symbol is behind a number. So like, when she says that like "Oh, this person got this big contract for thirty (PJ gasps) whatever," the- the num- the–the symbol comes after. Right? Which is like, the way you would do it in Italy. (PJ: Oh my god.) 

And so Twitter basically the- it- from–there was a like maybe like two or three hours when everyone was like, "Oh Bryan Colangelo did this and he's going to get fired." Two, three hours later being like, "Oh shit. His wife did this, and he's going to get fired."

ALL: (laugh)

PJ: That's so crazy. I was literally going to say earlier, I was like it's as if the conversations he has with his wife when he comes home (ALEX BLUMBERG: Yes) as if he's having them with Twitter instead.

ALEX BLUMBERG: Yes.

GENE: Exactly.

ALEX BLUMBERG: It is exactly.

ALEX GOLDMAN: Has Bryan or his wife issued any kind of statement? Like have they said anything?

ALEX BLUMBERG: So, as of now, Bryan Colangelo is is vociferously denying that anything, any of the other four burner–any of the other accounts had anything to do with him or his family. His statement is: Someone's out to get me. Like this is like this is an attack. My enemies are now circling and they're using Twitter to take me down.

PJ: How...what? You would need so much foreplanning. (GENE and ALEX BLUMBERG laugh) It's such a low percentage shot.

ALEX BLUMBERG: I know. That like somebody is going to figure out the meta-data thing and like look at the last two digits (GENE: Yes) of the phone number and then. Like, that's all. Like then we started planting these burner accounts two years ago. 

So, obviously, ok, so now, I think at this point of the story, you guys are ready to see one more thing.

PJ & ALEX GOLDMAN: OK.

ALEX BLUMBERG: Which is the tweet that that original tweet I showed you is replying to.


PJ: OK!


ALEX BLUMBERG: So remember the original tweet was just that picture of Joel Embiid dunking on somebody with Bryan Colangelo’s face put over, and it was replying to this other tweet. And here’s the tweet that it is, that it was replying to.


ALEX GOLDMAN: Oh, it was replying to Joel Embiid himself!


ALEX BLUMBERG: Yes


ALEX GOLDMAN: And Joel Embiid is saying (laughs) Joel Embiid is saying: "Joel told me that @SamHinkie is, and in all caps, better and smarter than you @AlVic40117560 #burneraccount.” Is he tweeting at one of Colangelo’s burner accounts?


ALEX BLUMBERG: AlVic is one of the burner accounts. One of the alleged burner accounts.


PJ: And he’s like pretending to do the same thing, he’s like pretending to be Joel Embiid, tweeting as a like ghost sock puppet account without realizing that he’s screwing up.


ALEX BLUMBERG: Right. (ALEX GOLDMAN: (laughs) that’s such a…) It’s a very intentional joke. It’s very much sort of like, ‘Oh I forgot to tweet from my burner account.’ Right.  


PJ: That’s so good.


ALEX GOLDMAN: What a good burn.


ALEX BLUMBERG: It’s so good.

ALEX GOLDMAN: (laughs)

PJ: Wow.

GENE: Like imagine like all of- if- if–if Colangelo was going to stick around. Like let's say there's some chance that he keeps his job. He's going to have to mend so many bridges. Right? Like he's already like clearly gone after his superstar, Joel Embiid. Right? Or someone close to him–his wife or him. Like it's going to be like this massive like sort of like apology tour–internal apology tour–among the Sixers. Between Colangelo and the players on the team. You know?

ALEX GOLDMAN: I can't imagine how uncomfortable their interactions must be from this point on.

PJ: God. Yeah.

ALEX BLUMBERG: All right. So so I think we've reached the end of- of- of our long–of our long, long...

PJ: Long journey into Sports Sports Sports?

ALEX BLUMBERG: Long journey into Sports Sports Sports. Would- does- how–how do you feel about- does–does anyone feel ready to explain this tweet now?

ALEX GOLDMAN: I think I can.

ALEX BLUMBERG: All right.

ALEX GOLDMAN: All right. Here we go. The tweet is from Twitter account called @SportsArePhilly. It's replying to Joel Embiid, Sam Hinkie and ALVIC40117560. It's just an image from a, from a video taken of Joel Embiid playing on a, playing on a (PJ: Basketball court) street basketball court. What the fuck dude?

PJ: (laughs)

ALEX GOLDMAN: And (clears throat) and his opponent has a face Photoshopped onto it, which I now know is Bryan Colangelo. Bryan Colangelo is the general manager of the Philadelphia 76ers, and also allegedly the, the owner of–either the owner or the husband of the owner of several Twitter burner accounts that were used to divulge personal information about players and ruthlessly defend Bryan Colangelo (laughs) from any criticism. And the tweet is replying to one of the 76ers star players, the former GM and one one of the burner accounts that allegedly belongs to Bryan Colangelo and his wife.

And it is a direct response to a tweet from Joel Embiid which is making fun of these burner accounts that says, "Joel told me that Sam Hinkie is better and smarter than you @AlVic40117560 #burneraccount." Which is basically a direct rebuttal to his general manager for almost certainly running this burner account.

ALEX BLUMBERG: Right.

ALEX GOLDMAN: How'd I do?

ALEX BLUMBERG: Did pretty good.

GENE: That's really good. That was really good.

[MUSIC]

ALEX GOLDMAN: Can you imagine what a bad week Bryan Colangelo is having?

PJ: Never tweet.

GENE: Oh yeah.

ALEX BLUMBERG: Man.

ALEX GOLDMAN: That's a good point. Never tweet.

PJ: OK. I think we're at Sports Sports Sports.

ALEX GOLDMAN: Yes we are.

PJ: Gene, thanks for helping us again.

GENE: Sports Sports Sports.

ALEX GOLDMAN: Yeah, thanks Gene.

GENE: Nah, it was fun. I'm so glad. It's so fun to kick it with y'all.

[REPLY ALL THEME]

CREDITS

Reply All is hosted by PJ Vogt and me, Alex Goldman. Our show is produced by Sruthi Pinnamaneni, Phia Bennin, Damiano Marchetti, Chris Neary, and Anna Foley. Our editor is Tim Howard and we had extra help this week from our boss Alex Blumberg. Our intern is Jessica Yung and our outgoing intern is Devon Guinn. Devon, thank you for all of your help. We really enjoyed working with you. Special thanks this week to Gene Demby. You can find his work on the Code Switch blog at NPR.org/section/codeswitch. And to Paris Martineau, a reporter at The Outline, who wrote the definitive QAnon explainer earlier this year, and taught me basically everything I know about QAnon. We will put links to her stories in the show notes. We were mixed by Rick Kwan and Emma Munger. Fact checking by Michelle Harris. Our theme song is by the mysterious Breakmaster Cylinder. Matt Lieber is the incredible satisfaction of making Sruthi Pinnamaneni laugh. You can find more episodes of the show on iTunes and Spotify. Thanks for listening! We'll see you in a couple of weeks.