Uneasy lies the head that sleeps on a bag of shredded industrial foam. For three days this week, mustache-tender and conspiracy-monger Mike Lindell has conducted his promised “cyber symposium.” This supposedly Earth-shaking event was intended to showcase how that wall of numbers Lindell has been flashing at every opportunity over the last month actually showed that Donald Trump had been cheated out of the last election.
In fact, Lindell’s conference was timed to finish so that it would be over for Trump’s glorious reinstatement. That moment when the whole world has a “unanimous revelation” and reinstalls Trump. That event is slated for … check your watches … right about … now.
That sound you didn’t hear matches well with the powerful data that Lindell didn’t show. Even from the outset of Lindell’s affair—held in a South Dakota conference room guaranteed to be smaller than your Nana’s weekly Bingo hall—the tone was 50% confusing, and 50% “This is it?” By the time Day 2 slid around, the tables were half empty, as it became clear that Lindell had absolutely no intention or ability to back up the claims he’d been making so loudly.
Then on Thursday, there was some real news—Lindell stepped in front of the way-too-big-for-the-room screen to inform the crowd that he had been “attacked” at his hotel room the previous night. Attacked by two guys who came up to get their picture taken with him. But the way they put their arm around their shoulders, the way they smiled at him as they took photos, the way they spoke to him enthusiastically, Lindell knew it couldn’t be real. And then one of them did something. Something so chickening that it was apparently beyond Lindell’s ability to describe. Because he didn’t. But, dammit, they did it because he was trying to tell the world the truth! Lindell told the literal handful of people still in the room on Day Three that he was okay. “I just want everyone to know all the evil that’s out there.”
And that was the highlight of the week—other than the part where Lindell’s supposed top cyber guy let everyone know that he wasn’t going along with Lindell’s claims and that the data that was supposed to back everything up was “a turd.”
The conference got underway in an appropriate fashion when Lindell’s streaming service went down. This delayed the start for those online by over an hour, but for the in-person crowd, Lindell jumped onto the stage and claimed that the problem was—what else?—China trying to stop him from talking.
Honestly, the attendance was ridiculous for all the time and hype Lindell poured into the Sioux Falls gathering. Look at this day two picture and tell me you would be surprised if the topic of the moment was “Under the B, 7. That’s B7.”
How bad was Lindell’s gathering? By the end of Day Three, Lindell was excoriating Fox News, right-wing newspaper Washington Times, and the beyond extremist website Gateway Pundit are all CIA operations in place to put out hit pieces against him. Fox News and Lindell have been on the out for weeks, with Lindell promising no more MyLumpSack commercials to fuel Tucker Carlson’s disinformation theater. In fact, anecdotes about his arguments with Fox took up a larger part of the symposium than anything directly to do with the election.
What the Gateway Pundit did to earn his scorn is unclear, and really, I’m not going to look. Or care.
But how the Washington Times got on Lindell’s list is a lot more obvious: they talked to the guy who is supposed to be Lindell’s hand-selected cyber expert. This guy, the infamous “Spyder,” is also one of the “experts” consulted by Rudy Giuliani. Lindell touted this guy as the man who would show that the data he had obtained showed “packet captures,” indicating that China had hacked into U.S. election machines to “switch millions of votes” to Biden. What did the cyber Spyder tell the Times about Lindell’s data?
“We were handed a turd.”
Not only did the data not show any connection to China, but it also wasn’t even real packet captures. It’s just a semi-random set of numbers and letters doctored up just enough to make it seem as if it has structure. Not even Spyder—the guy who Giuliani claimed backed up some of his nonsense — would sign off on Lindell’s claims.
So what’s the actual (and pretty damned hilarious) truth about the data Lindell was peddling? The truth is that con artist Lindell got taken (hard) by a far more experienced con artist. As The Washington Post reports,
That con artist is a guy named Dennis Montgomery. In terms of turds, Montgomery has spent a long, long time polishing one specific variety: the idea that there is hidden data showing communications to [bad guy of the moment] to do [that thing you want to prove]. In other words, Mike Lindell thinks he’s a smart guy for selling people bags of rubber and calling them pillows. But Dennis Montgomery gets by selling nothing but pure delusions to guys who think they’re smart.
Lindell is far from the first person taken in. As The New York Times reported in 2011, Montgomery tapped the Pentagon for $20 million, dating back to 2003, when he claimed he could prove that video from Al Jazeera news contained encoded signals to Al Qaeda terrorists. The Bush administration actually made military and diplomatic decisions based on the secret data Montgomery was supposedly extracting from these hidden signals—before eventually realizing that the signals had never existed and trying to bury all evidence of the whole program.
Montgomery also lifted $100,000 from former sheriff Joe Arpaio after convincing him that he had secret evidence of a government plot against Arpaio. As the Arizona Republic reported, it took some time for Arpaio to admit that he had been taken. In fact, it took until Montgomery popped up again as a key figure in Trump’s claims of election fraud.
At this point, Montgomery has taken millions from the Bush administration, Joe Arpaio, Rudy Giuliani, and Mike Lindell, simply by playing on their paranoid delusions. It’s actually kind of admirable … if it wasn’t for the fact that those paranoid delusions were helping to accelerate the fall of democracy.
The easiest con in any situation is the guy who thinks he’s right, thinks he’s smart, and thinks everyone else is out to get him. Montgomery has this thing down to an art.
At the end of the day, Lindell was left standing on a stage in front of his giant turd ball of fake data, screaming about Chinese attempts to take down his server, Fox News’ role as an agent of the CIA, and his assault by enthusiastic huggers. It made great fodder for late-night hosts but not much fun for those in attendance—half of whom seemed to have been sent by networks.
Oh, and there was that moment when Mike Lindell found out, on stage, that the judge had ruled that Dominion’s defamation lawsuit against him could go forward. That was special.