Monthly Archives: January 2020

Tea’s Weird Week: Introducing the #TrumpConspiracyCounter

TeaWeirdWeek

On Tuesday, I stood in line and shuffled into the UW-Milwaukee Panther Arena to witness a Trump rally. I like to have experiences outside of my comfort zone to try to figure out what this weird world is all about. This one was pretty intense– imagine a stadium of ten thousand people screaming, totally high on hatred. I wrote about just a few WTF moments at the rally for the Shepherd Express in an article titled “The Top Ten Wildest Lines from Last Night’s Trump Rally in Milwaukee.”

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This was my view at the Trump rally.

I had another reason for attending– this year I’m closely monitoring Trump’s promotion of conspiracy theories and have been working on a new feature of my writing here. I’ll end some “Tea’s Weird Week” columns with a tally called the #TrumpConspiracyCounter.

It’s a fact, of course, that Donald J. Trump is a conspiracy theorist, sometimes legitimately, sometimes opportunistically. This is one of the reasons I believe that my upcoming book American Madness is very timely.

To give you a quick rundown of Trump’s greatest conspiracy hits so far: he was the person with the biggest platform to promote Birtherism, the racist conspiracy that suggested Obama was born in Africa and forged his Hawaiian birth certificate; that there was massive voter fraud in California that led to Hillary winning the popular vote; he kicked off his presidency by saying a media conspiracy had underreported his inauguration size; climate change is a “Chinese hoax”; the sound of wind turbines “causes cancer”; Ted Cruz’s father was part of the conspiracy to kill JFK; vaccines cause autism; 79-year-old Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia was possibly murdered; there is a liberal “War on Christmas” (and last year mentioned a sequel “War on Thanksgiving”); he’s also given many endorsements of personnel from InfoWars and other conspiracy theorists.

And that’s just off the top of my head. Why is this dangerous? Trump is in the highest position of authority, he has 72 million Twitter followers and a cult-like population that accepts his every word as fact.

Every time Trump speaks or tweets something that is a conspiracy or shares from a known conspiracy theorists this year, it’ll be added to the #TrumpConspiracyCounter. I can only take so much Trump talk, so if you notice his promotion of conspiracy, please do help me out by commenting on the blog here or e-mailing me at: teakrulos@gmail.com.

To be clear, this is only tracking claims or associations that have an element of conspiracy to them. To see a tracking of straight-up lies and deceptions, you can look at CNN’s collection of 15, 413 (and counting) gumballs.

Here’s where we are 16 days into the year.

#Trumpconspiracycounter2020
1.) On January 2, Trump tweeted: “Their partisan Witch Hunt is hurting our Country do [sic] badly, & only bringing more division than ever!” It’s a term he tweeted out 11 times in December 2019 alone. In a rambling letter sent to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi on December 17, 2019, regarding the vote on impeachment, Trump says he is being treated unfairly and that “more due process was afforded to those accused in the Salem Witch Trials.”

At least 25 people were hung, pressed to death, or died in jail as a result of the Salem witch trials. Trump mentioned “witch trials” in tweets January 6, 12, and 13, to the press on January 7, and at rallies Jan 9 and 14.

I think this is a good place to start with the #TrumpConspiracyCounter. Note that Trump’s daily language is steeped in terms like “fake news,” a supposed media conspiracy perpetrated against him by CNN, NBC, the “Failing New York Times,” and the Washington Post, all of whom he refers to as “the enemy of the people.”  Investigations into him are a “witch hunt” and equivalent to a “lynching.” All of this normalizes conspiracy ideas and the language surrounding it.

I was originally going to catalog ever time Trump says “witch hunt” on the counter, but his volume of using that and related terms ( “hoax,” “scam,” etc.) is too much. We’ll count this as number one and then move on.

2.) January 3: Trump retweets Alt-Right troll and conspiracy theorist Jack Posobiec, a correspondent of One America News Network. Posobiec has been a frequent InfoWars guest and promoter of Pizzagate, among other theories. The retweet was just a commendation of Trump’s killing General Soleimani, but the act of retweeting Posobiec is enough to get on the #TrumpConspiracyCounter.

3.) January 14: Back to the Milwaukee rally. I was wondering if he might leave some conspiracy gem, and sure enough, he brought back his old claim that Obama is guilty of “wiretapping” Trump Tower or in some other way spying on him, sometimes suggesting the FBI was part of “Spygate” as the conspiracy is known (there is no evidence of the theory). Here’s something I wrote for the Shepherd Express article but cut because of length:

“Barack Hussein Obama,” Trump told the booing crowd, “which [sic] administration loves spying on people’s campaigns. By the way, by the way, could you imagine if it was the other way and I spied on his campaign? What would these fake news people be doing?” Trump said, gesturing to the media in the back of the room.

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With my book American Madness out this year, it’ll be interesting to see how many clicks the counter racks up by the book release date (Aug.25 2020). We’re at 3 now. What do you guess the number will be?


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Pre-order my book American Madness: The Story of the Phantom Patriot and How Conspiracy Theories Hijacked American Consciousness (August 2020, Feral House)

Read all my columns from last year collected in Tea’s Weird Week: 2019 Review ($1.99/ free on Kindle Unlimited)

Follow me: Facebook//Twitter//Instagram

 

 

“Journalist Tea Krulos has made a curious and enlightening career out of examining groups of people with odd beliefs.” — Skeptical Inquirer

Tea’s Weird Week: Winter Reading List

TeaWeirdWeek

I read 6 out of 8 books on my Fall reading list, 3 fiction, 3 non-fiction. I’m glad to say they were all good choices. I recommend:
Fiction:
Someday Jennifer by Risto Pakarinen. This was an excellent novel that is themed on nostalgia and the desire to go back in time to get our lives right. As an 80s kid, I loved all the 80s references. Someday Jennifer is a fun read– great work, Risto!
Geek Love by Katherine Dunn. I wanted to read this book for years and I did and it was great.
Feed by Mira Grant. This was the Apocalypse Blog Book Club fall selection. I enjoyed it– a good spin on the old zombie story, with a media theme I found interesting.

Non-fiction:
Bitten by Kris Newby. Explores the theory that the government manufactured Lyme Disease as part of a biological weapon program. Disturbing and fascinating.
Good Time Party Girl by Helen Cromwell with Robert Dougherty. An entertaining autobiography (and a vivid history) by “Dirty Helen,” who lived an adventurous life and worked as a madame and speakeasy operator.
The Enemy of the People by Jim Acosta. An account by Trump’s most detested “fake news” reporter from CNN who writes about his struggle as a White House reporter. A great insider perspective.

Winter is, of course, a great time to read here in the Midwest, where the weather is often cold and gloomy. Here’s what I got on my list so far.

(1) A Canticle for Leibowitz by Walter M. Miller Jr.

This was the winter selection for the Apocalypse Blog Book Club. I know nothing about it (other than it is hopefully dystopian themed) but I’m looking forward to get into it and discuss it with the club.

canticle

(2) Up Jumped the Devil: The Real Life of Robert Johnson by Bruce Conforth and Dean Wardlow

One of my publishers (Chicago Review Press) put this out recently. I wrote a brief bit on Robert Johnson myths in a “Tea’s Weird Week” column here a few months ago and wanted to read more on it.

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(3) The Lake Michigan Mothman: High Strangeness in the Midwest by Tobias Wayland

New book on the Lake Michigan Mothman phenomenon from the Singular Fortean Society, who have been referenced in this column several times. Congrats, Tobias, looking forward to reading it!

mothman

(4) The Wise Man’s Fear by Patrick Rothfuss

This one got bumped from my fall reading list, I just didn’t get around to it, but it’ll make great winter reading. This book is the second in a fantasy series by Wisconsinite Patrick Rothfuss.

WiseMan

(5) Sleep Paralysis: A Guide to Hypnagogic Visions and Visitors of the Night by Ryan Hurd

I’m just starting to work on a fiction novel, a horror story, and this book is a little background research.

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71W0ds4iljL

Pre-order my book American Madness: The Story of the Phantom Patriot and How Conspiracy Theories Hijacked American Consciousness (August 2020, Feral House)

Read all my columns from last year collected in Tea’s Weird Week: 2019 Review ($1.99/ free on Kindle Unlimited)

Follow me: Facebook//Twitter//Instagram

 

 

“Journalist Tea Krulos has made a curious and enlightening career out of examining groups of people with odd beliefs.” — Skeptical Inquirer

Tea’s Weird Week: Have a Happy Murder Holiday With Kevin Spacey

TeaWeirdWeek

Conspiracy theory doesn’t take a holiday. I learned that while on Christmas break. I spent a couple days in pajamas, watching TV, reading, and surfing the net. It was good– I needed a few days off, especially from all this conspiracy stuff. Time to reset. But then, what to my wondering eyes should appear, but a headline titled “Is Kevin Spacey straight-up murdering his accusers?

Whuuuuut? I grabbed some chocolate-peppermint cookies and settled in, eager to learn more.

I’ve enjoyed Kevin Spacey’s career, especially films like The Usual Suspects, Seven, Leaving Las Vegas, American Beauty, and 21. Most recently, I’ve enjoyed his portrayal of ruthless politician Frank Underwood on House of Cards, though I think I fell off somewhere around season 4. Bravo! Here’s two Oscars, a Tony, and a Golden Globe, Kevin Spacey.

Then 2017 happened. Let me lead you through what went down next so you can see this conspiracy theory unfold.

October 2017: Actor Anthony Rapp, followed by over 15 other men (and then 30 plus people), accuse Spacey of sexual harassment and assault. Spacey’s career begins to implode from the allegations– Netflix removes him from House of Cards and shelves his film Gore. His role in All the Money in the World is reshot with Christopher Plummer.

Christmas Eve 2018: A little over a year later, Spacey records a holiday video message titled “Let Me Be Frank,” which he delivers as Frank Underwood, his House of Cards character. If you haven’t seen the show, by the way, Underwood is a politician who sabotages and even murders people who stand in his way. He pushes a journalist in front of a subway train and also kills an inebriated politician and makes it look like a suicide.  And that’s just what I remember from the first few seasons.

In this video, Spacey (as Underwood), is wearing a Santa Claus print apron, casually sips hot cocoa and says lines like:

“We’re not done, no matter what anyone says.” and “You wouldn’t rush to judgment without facts, would you? Did you?”

February 2019: Linda Culkin dies. She was charged with sending Spacey and his associates bomb and anthrax threats in 2009 and 2011 and was sentenced to prison and probation time in 2014. Culkin died Feb. 25, 2019, after she was hit by a car. The driver was not charged as she was walking against a red light. Culkin was a nursing assistant and says her actions were inspired after a patient told her that they were “attacked” by Spacey.

October 2019: An anonymous Spacey accuser who was a massage therapist dies of cancer. The accuser filed suit against Spacey in September 2018, alleging the actor had tried to kiss him and forced him to grab his genitals in 2016. The lawsuit against Spacey was dropped because of the accuser’s death.

Christmas Eve 2019: Like a calendar inspired serial killer, Spacey returned one year later with another cryptic holiday video message. This time he was in front of a fireplace, wearing a Christmas-ey sweater, again in character as Frank Underwood.  Titled “KTWK” (“kill them with kindness”) the video starts with Kevin Spacey stoking the fire. But as he turns around, we soon realize this is Frank Underwood.  “You didn’t really think I was going to miss an opportunity to wish you Merry Christmas, did you?” He says in Underwood’s southern twang. [Cut to me chewing a cookie and nervously looking around my living room.]

And he went on to deliver this holiday cheer…

“As we walk into 2020, I want to cast my vote for more good in this world. Ah yes, I know what you’re thinking (stokes fire)… can he be serious? I’m dead serious. And it’s not that hard, trust me. The next time someone does something you don’t like, you can go on the attack. But you can also hold your fire and do the unexpected. You can (dramatic pause) kill them with kindness.

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Be careful, he can see through your screen directly at you.

Christmas Day 2019: The next day Ari Behn, a Norwegian author who says that Spacey once grabbed him “by the balls” while at an event together, dies by suicide.

I enjoy hearing about weird stuff and conspiracy, but I’m also a skeptic. Being skeptical of what you see and hear via the Internet is possibly more important now than it ever has been. We are in desperate need of media literacy education.

The hyped “three Spacey accusers died this year” is a good story without any context. But on closer look, it doesn’t make sense. The Culkin case was resolved in 2015, ending in jail time for her. The anonymous accuser died of cancer, are we supposed to believe that Spacey somehow caused cancer or covered up the cause of death? Behn briefly mentioned his “#MeToo moment” in a radio interview, not in court.

Why would 2 out of 3 Spacey targets be people who don’t have any litigation towards him? Why would he murder them instead of the 30-some people who are suing him?

That being said, Spacey is being pretty creepy with his weird holiday videos, which he’s making to– I don’t know– intimidate people? Distract attention from his cases with strange behavior? Is he just being angry weird? Maybe he’s having a breakdown and morphing into Frank Underwood? I’m sure we’ll get another clue next Christmas (if he isn’t in prison).

The video is below–watch at your own risk. Oh, and by the way, thanks for reading the first “Tea’s Weird Week” of 2020! I’m dead serious.

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If you like conspiracy, pre-order my book American Madness: The Story of the Phantom Patriot and How Conspiracy Theories Hijacked American Consciousness (August 2020, Feral House)

Read all my columns from last year collected in Tea’s Weird Week: 2019 Review ($1.99/ free on Kindle Unlimited)

Follow me on: Facebook//Twitter//Instagram