Now the angry general became Trump’s fiercest campaign surrogate, bestowing the candidate with needed national-security credibility. He used his old army rank as a weapon, relentlessly attacking Trump’s rivals. In doing so, however, Flynn began to dive deeply into the online world that he’d previously just observed. The result wasn’t pretty.
Flynn had started his personal Twitter account, @GenFlynn, in 2011 with a tweet linking to a news article on Middle East politics. Not a single person had replied or retweeted it. But as he entered politics, Flynn’s persona changed dramatically. His feed began to push out messages of hate (“Fear of Muslims is RATIONAL,” he fumed in one widely shared tweet), anti-Semitism (“Not anymore, Jews. Not anymore,” he retweeted to his followers in another, referring to the news media), and one wild conspiracy theory after another. He alleged, in a later-deleted tweet, that Hillary Clinton was involved with “Sex Crimes w Children,” and that if she won the election, she would help erect a one-world government to outlaw Christianity. To wild acclaim from his new Twitter fans, Flynn even posted on #spiritcooking, an online conspiracy theory that claimed Washington, D.C., elites regularly gathered at secret dinners to drink human blood and semen. That message got @GenFlynn more than 4,800 likes.
Hillary Clinton was the first casualty in the new information wars.
On multiple occasions, he also echoed messages posted by accounts that would later turn out to be run by Russian trolls. “Let’s take our country back from the hands of those who care less about you and I …” Flynn wrote, then quoting an account later revealed by the House Intelligence Committee to have been Russian-generated, posing as “Pamela_Moore13,” a “Pro-God” Texan, prone to racist rants.
It was a remarkable turn for the once respected intelligence officer. Just a few months earlier, he had cautioned us about the internet, “Now it’s a matter of making sure that the accuracy matters ... You combine your judgment, your experience, your analysis along with the valuable data you get.”
Despite the online madness that violated his own advice (or perhaps because of it), things seemed to work out well for the general. When Trump won the election, Flynn was named to the position of national-security adviser, one of the most powerful jobs in the world. His first tweet in the new role proclaimed, “We are going to win and win and win at everything we do.”
The winning didn’t last long. Within a few weeks of joining the White House, Flynn would be fired, done in by a web of mistruths regarding his contact with Russian government officials that has become a key part of Robert Mueller’s investigation of the president. He was the shortest-serving national security adviser in American history. Within the year, Flynn would plead guilty to making “false, fictitious, and fraudulent statements” in a plea bargain with the Department of Justice. A few weeks from now, a U.S. district court will decide his punishment for the crime.