In May 2021, just after he called for military overthrow of the United States government during a QAnon conference, Twitter halted an alleged attempt by former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn to evade being banned by the platform.
Flynn had already been kicked off of the platform in January 2021 for violating Twitter’s policies on “Coordinated Hateful Activity.” But on June 1 2021, a second account, this called “@GeneralFlynn13,” was suspended shortly after sharp-eyed commenters began calling for its removal.
We were unable to verify to our satisfaction whether this was indeed a genuine account belonging to Flynn. We contacted Twitter seeking confirmation, but we have not yet heard back.
As mentioned, the former national security adviser (and one-time head of the Defense Intelligence Agency during the Obama administration before being forced into retirement, which Flynn blames on conspiracy theories as well) attracted a new round of criticism following his appearance at a far-right and conspiracist gathering in Dallas two days earlier.
As CNN reported:
“I want to know why what happened in Minamar [sic] can’t happen here?” a member of the audience, who identified himself as a Marine, asked Flynn.
“No reason, I mean, it should happen here. No reason. That’s right,” Flynn responded.
Footage of the exchange also spread online:
Flynn later claimed that he did not support the idea of a military occupation similar to the one orchestrated in Myanmar in February 2021, in which the military unilaterally rejected the results of that country’s 2020 presidential election (following years of anti-Muslim weaponized disinformation spread mainly on Facebook, much as the QAnon conspiracy theories have been.)
In a post on a separate platform, Telegram, Flynn said:
Let me be VERY CLEAR – There is NO reason whatsoever for any coup in America, and I do not and have not at any time called for any action of that sort.
Any reporting of any other belief by me is a boldface fabrication based on twisted reporting at a lively panel at a conference of Patriotic Americans who love this country, just as I do.
I am no stranger to media manipulating my words and therefore let me repeat my response to a question asked at the conference: There is no reason it (a coup) should happen here (in America).
After his doomed stint leading the DIA, Flynn later served as National Security Adviser for then-United States President Donald Trump from November 2016 to February 2017, after which he once again resigned in disgrace — this time, amid reports that he misled the administration about his dealings with an ambassador from Russia. Flynn also pleaded guilty to lying to federal investigators about the matter, but he was granted a pardon by Trump in November 2020.
Flynn’s suspension in January came after he promoted the conspiracy theory — which cast Trump as single-handedly fighting against a (non-existent) “Deep State” within the government.
“We’ve been clear that we will take strong enforcement action on behavior that has the potential to lead to offline harm, and given the renewed potential for violence surrounding this type of behavior in the coming days, we will permanently suspend accounts that are solely dedicated to sharing QAnon content,” a Twitter spokesperson said at the time.
The aforementioned “conference of patriotic Americans” in question was really a gathering of proponents of the QAnon conspiracy theory, who have also latched on to the false idea that the election was “stolen” by Joe Biden and that as a result, Trump could be “reinstated” to office. Journalists were ejected from the event, and another guest at the event reportedly called for the hanging of former Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton. Right-wing Rep. Louie Gohmert of Texas also spoke at the event:
CNN reported that support for a coup was already popular among proponents of the conspiracy as well as supporters of Trump:
As Twitter users celebrated the suspension of the “@GeneralFlynn13” account, New York Times reporter Maggie Halbermann said on her own account that Trump “has been telling a number of people he’s in contact with that he expects he will get reinstated by August,” information matching weaponized conspiracy theories observed by researchers of the far right:
And Flynn was not the only person who called for an overthrow. Disgraced Trump lawyer Sidney Powell — the onetime darling of the “Stop the Steal” set — spent part of that same conference pushing the same discredited messaging.
“He can simply be reinstated,” she said, adding, “A new inauguration date is set, and Biden is told to move out of the White House, and President Trump should be moved back in.”
That this is completely untrue did not deter Powell from following that up with, “I’m sure there’s not going to be credit for time lost… but he should definitely get the remainder of his term and make the best of it.”
On January 6 2023 — two years to the day after the coup attempt against the U.S. Capitol by Trump supporters — Flynn was reinstated on Twitter. Flynn thanked Twitter owner Elon Musk, who acquired the platform in late 2022, after returning to the platform.
Update January 10 2023, 1:34 p.m. PST: Updated to reflect Flynn’s return to Twitter in January 2023. – ag