Unplanned and QAnon: What’s the connection, and who planned it?

UPDATE: I’m talking to the movie’s social media coordinator and will write a follow-up piece soon.


Abby Johnson’s breakout pro-life movie Unplanned, based on her memoir of the same name, climbed to #4 at the box office today, just days after its premier. Reviewers say the graphic movie is forcing them to rethink their pro-choice views; and pro-lifers are calling it a triumph — or at least, according to Catholic film critic Steve Greydanus, “among the better constructed faith-based films.”

But a new controversy now surrounds the movie, and it has nothing to do with abortion.  Three days after the movie’s premier, the official Unplanned account on Twitter tagged a tweet with QAnon slogans:

“United Not Divided” and “WWG1WGA” (which stands for “When we go one we go all”) are both QAnon slogans frequently used on social media and at pro-Trump rallies.

The tweet, which has been deleted, refers to an incident in which the Unplanned Twitter account was briefly suspended, then reinstated.

According to a screenshot posted on Facebook by Dank Pro-Life Memes, Johnson said the account was suspended because it gained so many followers so quickly, which triggered an automatic temporary suspension:

Dank Pro-Life Memes, which has 23K followers on Facebook, cautioned its readers not to assume there was some deliberate censorship at work. A March 31 post calls this theory “sensationalist nonsense” and “fake news,” urging pro-lifers to “do better,” and it shared the screenshot where Johnson attributes the suspension to a spike in traffic.

But the Unplanned tweet, which has since been deleted, implies that there is likely to be another Twitter suspension.
When a Twitter user with the handle CJ Phillips responded, “Welp I’m out. Promoting a conspiracy theory website is NOT promoting truth,” @UnplannedMovie responded one minute later with “Come on be honest CJ You were never in.”


I confirmed with @cjphillips66 that he has no history with anyone involved with the movie, and he was baffled as to why the official movie account would attack him personally for criticizing promotion of a fringe conspiracy theory group. He told me:

“I’ve never had any contact with anyone associated with the movie, nor anyone associated with Ms. Johnson. I’m just your average evangelical pro-life American. I have to admit I was kind of stunned by the reply, since whoever runs that account doesn’t know me from Adam, as they say.  Honestly though, in hindsight, if one buys into conspiracy theories, then it kind of explains the response…accusing me of some kind conspiracy and not being pro-life.”

He said he wants to see the movie succeed.

“I was just motivated by trying not to get such an awesome movie (by everything I’ve read & seeing it did well over the weekend) not get a conspiracy theory website attached to its reputation. I was really trying to help it succeed. I REALLY want it to be embraced for the truth, and a conspiracy theory website gives people reason to pause and discount it as truth.”

But another Twitter user believes the movie account’s suspension was deliberate and malicious — and self-inflicted.

A Twitter user who goes by the handle @notwokieleaks believes someone promoting the movie deliberately deactivated and then reactivated the Unplanned account to create the impression among its fans that there is a conspiracy against its success.

@notwokieleaks, who criticizes both left and right, tweeted on March 31:

This is the biggest goddamn fucking scam ever. This is the expected behavior for a recently deactivated and reactivated account. It’s in the damn Twitter FAQ. Everyone “trying this out” by clicking follow will be following this account within 48 hours. You are being lied to.
@notwokieleaks noted that, after the Unplanned account was reinstated, it quickly regained large numbers of followers.
It’s already back at 41.3K followers. Do you think those were all new followers at 11pm on a Sunday? It’s just rebuilding and re-syncing the followers network. This is a huge calculation used to order replies and show followers you know.
To test the theory, @notwokieleaks unfollowed the account, and within 48 hours was automatically reinstated as a follower. @notwokeileaks concludes:

This may have been strident but if you read the thread it was all but proven to be correct. VPN proved servers were out of sync after an account reactivation. Everyone who was “forced unfollowed,” including myself, was later following the account once the sync finished.

In another set of tweets that have since been deleted, the Unplanned page wrote: “We would like to thank the people who maliciously and falsely reported UnplannedMovie to @Twitter. Notice followers before and after. Your move…”  One user responds “BOOM” with a graphic of a flaming Q; and Unplanned responds: “BOOM.”

QAnon is a group of far right conspiracy theorists which began on the anonymous fringe group 4Chan. QAnon anonymously distributes cryptic and truncated clues allegedly exposing top secret information, including the idea that Donald Trump became president at the urging of the military so he might lead a “deep state” mission to usher in a new world order; that Hillary Clinton and John Podesta and others have been found guilty of running murder and sex trafficking rings, and have been put in ankle bracelets by the Trump administration; and that Trump manufactured the accusation that he colluded with Russia, in an effort to protect his ally, Robert Mueller, who is working undercover to take down the global elite. Notable adherents of QAnon theories are Roseanne Barr and Curt Schilling. QAnon also believes Miley Cyrus is a plot to undermine America.

As I reported in April of 2018, this is not the first time Abby Johnson’s name has been associated with far right fringe groups. When Kristen Hatten, formerly vice president of New Wave Feminists, emerged as a white nationalist, Abby Johnson defended her. I wrote:

Abby Johnson, one of the most well-known faces of the American pro-life movement, publicly defended Hatten. As is her habit, she deleted her comments after they were challenged, but she said repeatedly that Hatten is not racist. Hatten herself has said repeatedly that she does not mind being called “racist.” She calls herself an “ethno nationalist.”   Johnson repeatedly chided scandalized pro-lifers for talking about Hatten instead of to her; but when several people explained that theyhad talked to her in private, and that Hatten affirmed her alt right views, Johnson had no response.

After I wrote that piece, Johnson contacted me and repeatedly accused me of trying to “crucify” her. “You are all about crucifying me” she said. “You love to sow division” and “I know you enjoy vilifying me.” In fact, before the Hatten debacle, I had written more than one article praising Johnson’s work and Johnson personally, and even praised her work in the very article she described as “crucifying” and “vilifying” her.

While there is significant overlap between conspiracy theorists and Abby Johnson fans, it’s not clear that Johnson herself was involved with linking QAnon and the movie.

I contacted Johnson on the evening of April 1 to ask why the official movie account was using QAnon slogans, she responded, “I don’t even know what that means. I have zero idea what QAnon means.” She said, “”I have never heard of QAnon until I received your email.”

When asked who tweets for the official movie account, she responded, “I have no idea. I have nothing to do with any social media surrounding the film.”

I quoted her words blaming a traffic spike for the movie’s Twitter suspension, and asked, “Do you think there is any effort from Twitter or other entities to try to suppress or silence the promotion of the movie?”

She said, “We are hearing multiple reports from Twitter. They have told us that it’s because of hits on the trailer, because of ads we wanted to run, because of a ‘glitch.’ I’m not one that jumps on board with conspiracy theories surrounding social media, but the constant ‘glitches’ does make one raise an eyebrow.”

I asked how she could have no involvement with the social media promotion of the film, but also hear multiple reports from Twitter about why the film’s account was suspended. She said that she was hearing reports about social media indirectly.

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29 thoughts on “Unplanned and QAnon: What’s the connection, and who planned it?”

  1. “you can call it “nothing” because you’re not a target of the far right. I am. My family is. My friends are.”

    Maybe you have already posted on this and I missed it. But maybe you can do a blog post on this. Until recently I haven’t heard the term “far right”. “Far right” in my mind are the Nazis and super elite. But people seem to refer to “far right” when it comes to those holding Conservative traditional views. This is me. I’m neither abusive or vindictive or hold an agenda. This is stretching the term.

    So in the name of understanding and working together under “one Holy Catholic” Church, please do a blog post on the attacks you mentioned and who these people are. Maybe block the comments section, so you don’t invite opportunistic trolls.

    God Bless Simcha

  2. The topic of abortion shouldn’t be politicised, especially by us Catholics. We are all on the same side. It’s draining when we in-fight over nothing. Thoroughly draining.

    1. Ezabelle, you can call it “nothing” because you’re not a target of the far right. I am. My family is. My friends are.

  3. Oh dear, a sign of our times. When social media becomes more relevant than the actual important issues at hand. I’m sure the unborn or the suffering mother couldn’t give two hoots about Twitter, hashtags or Catholic bickering.

    1. No one said it was more relevant. I guess I can say “It sounds like a good movie, go see the movie” until the day I die and people will still think I’m somehow attacking the movie. The point is, we can be glad for the good the movie is doing while still keeping a careful eye on growing far right tendencies in the movement. We already know what happens when people make excuses for the far right because of all the other good things they’re doing. (And the same is true, of course, for the left. But right now, today, it’s the right that directly threatens people like my family and friends.)

    1. I will continue to contact the social media guy. He said he wanted to talk, but has not yet responded to my emails and call.

  4. Is it maybe possible the person who made the original post was unaware of the original origin of those hashtags and thought they were just associated with conservative politics in general and not a far right conspiracy site? I mean, still kinda innapropriate to attach political affiliation, but heaven knows I’ve made stupid mistakes like that (former sheltered homeschooler attending high school…I used several words in conversation that did NOT mean what I thought they did that first year, lol).

  5. You all are wrong. This must be brought to light. It is a fascinating convergence, and it’s happening everywhere in white/european countries.

  6. I don’t understand the purpose of this post? There are so many other movements “worthy of scrutiny”….why not spend your time, energy, and blog space on going after them? This movie has the potential to change the course of our nation’s history…do we really want to undermine that in anyway to chase after a Twitter conspiracy theory?

  7. And the point of this “investigative” reporting was…? This is why you have gotten the reputation of “sowing division.” You could have covered the main points in a brief FB post. You are making more out of it that there really was.

      1. How about because it matters to pro-lifers who wish to promote the message of this film but aren’t interested in cooperating with the culture of death that is white supremacy?

        Simcha isn’t making this stuff up, she’s reporting what is happening. And frankly, since your name is attached to this project, YOU should be the one digging deeper to find out what on earth is going on with the social media around the film.

        1. “How about because it matters to pro-lifers who wish to promote the message of this film but aren’t interested in cooperating with the culture of death that is white supremacy?”

          Exactly. I support Abby’s work. I hope the movie Unplanned is a tremendous success and changes many hearts and minds. But having the official Twitter account writing posts that include QAnon hashtags (and, apparently, liking tweets by Donald Trump that have nothing even remotely to do with the movie or pro-life movement) are not actions that I would read as aligning with those otherwise worthy goals. Hopefully Abby/Unplanned take this as constructive criticism. I wish best of luck for her mission and for the movie’s success.

          1. That’s the thing though. Abby Johnson cannot take constructive criticism. She does great work in the pro-life community and I commend her for the ATTWN ministry. However, she has a bad habit of deleting comments on her Facebook page that she doesn’t like and that directly challenge her. She once posted about a Catholic mom who was unexpectedly pregnant and was wishing she would have a miscarriage. The woman who said that told someone else that in strict confidence. That person repeated it to Abby, and then Abby broadcasted the comment on her Facebook page saying that the comment was the result of abortion culture. When challenged to take the post down and on the abortion culture comment, she simply deleted the comments. I was one of them.

      2. I think it was a mistake for Simcha to bring up the old white supremacy controversy. But I think it is very relevant if Unplanned associated itself with QAnon for pretty much no reason. The account was not even responding to anything. It brought up QAnon of its own accord. That does merit a response.

  8. I don’t understand the part about Twitter followers. It sounds like @notwokieleaks unfollowed @UnplannedMovie but they said they were “forced unfollowed” — can you explain this in more detail?

    1. Wait, I misread this (despite multiple re-readings, argh!). As I understand it now: @UnplannedMovie is claiming both that they were temporarily suspended and that people are being force-unfollowed. @notwokieleaks says that they deliberately de- and-reactivated for two purposes: to make it look like they were suspended, and to mess up follower counts to make it look like people were being force-unfollowed. Is that right? The part about follower *counts* fits with “Some people’s following/followers or Tweet counts do not immediately display their previous numbers upon reactivation” from the Twitter FAQ but if that’s about *previous* numbers then I don’t see why it makes new followers not register right away. (QAnon is ridiculous in any case, to be clear.)

      1. No one on the movie team deactivated and reactivated the account. Even if they had, it wouldn’t have put our follower count back down to zero. This was done by Twitter. There are also literally hundreds of videos from people showing that they would click the “follow” button on the page and then as soon as they clicked out and clicked back to the page, they weren’t following. You can see those videos on Twitter. One was posted by Donald Trump, Jr.

  9. Conspiracy theorists are like antibiotic resistent VD.

    Planned Parenthood is like the Black Plague to the 1oo0th power.

    I hope the movie helps at least a small percentage of the population realize that our murderous country and “V.D. was my Vietnam” president are proof that we haven’t been great for quite some time now.

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