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Tea’s Weird Week: Fall 2020 Reading List (Non-Fiction)

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It’s been awhile since I posted a reading list (last one was in January) so I’m taking a break from conspiracy theory this week to talk about 3 titles I’ve read recently and 3 I hope to read soon, all non-fiction titles. Any time is a great time to read, but I suppose I have a particularly romantic vision of reading in fall. Tomorrow is my birthday– I don’t have any strange birthday adventures planned, but I do plan on reading and relaxing a bit. Click on the highlighted titles below to find links to them at Bookshop.org.

Read it, loved it

The Rise of Real-life Superheroes (And The Fall of Everything Else) by Peter Nowak

When I first heard about this book, I was a bit like “well, been there, done that,” as I wrote a book about Real-Life Superheroes in 2013 titled Heroes in the Night. I’m glad I read the book– Nowak does a first rate job telling this story. There’s some familiar names and history to those who know RLSH, but Nowak explored some fresh angles as well. I really enjoyed reading about a Superman tulpa, African interpretations of superheroes, and really great material on the Guardian Angels, as well as reading about teams I never got around to meeting.

Nowak presents an engaging book that explores comic book (and vigilante) history and ends up on street level with the Real-Life Superheroes in San Diego, Chicago, Orlando and beyond. It’s an accurate portrait of a fascinating, colorful, and timely subculture.

Sisters in Hate: American Women on the Front Lines of White Nationalism by Seyward Darby

In American Madness, I wrote about the history and evolution of conspiracy theory, using a man named Richard McCaslin’s life story to talk about these themes. Darby has written an excellent book that tells the story of three women and their lives in the white power/ Alt-Right movements, and by extension a history and examination of who these people are. I read the entire book with much interest– it moves along without getting bogged down but is also informative. It’s frightening and disturbing– but it’s something we need to be informed on.

Juggalo: Insane Clown Posse and the World They Made by Steve Miller

Someday you’ll find out why I’m reading up on Juggalos, but for now I’ll just say that this is a good portrait of the Insane Clown Posse and their following, and very much my style– honest but not condescending, a great story of outsiders banding together. Will you be “down with the clown” after the book? Maybe.

Throw on the “To-Read” Pile

Earth A.D. The Poisoning of the American Landscape and the Communities That Fought Back by Michael Lee Nirenberg

One reason I was thrilled to have American Madness published with Feral House is that all of the books in their catalog are interesting, if not completely fascinating. Nirenberg’s book, about citizens that live in toxic zones fighting back, came out around the same time as mine and I’m looking forward to reading it.

Dangerous Crooked Scoundrels: Insulting the President, from Washington to Trump by Edwin L. Battistella

Edwin interviewed me for his website, Literary Ashland and after I was introduced to him I found he had written this book which looks like a fun history of insulting Presidents, including that polyester cockwomble bawbag fucknugget leather-faced shit-tobbaganist Trump (those insults were all lifted from Scottish Twitter, btw)

Sinister Swamps: Monsters and Mysteries from the Mire by Lyle Blackburn

Blackburn narrated my book trailer for American Madness (you can see it at the end of this post) and is just a cool guy– he’s in a hellbilly band called Ghoultown, narrates documentaries for Small Town Monsters, and has authored several books about cryptozoology cases of the south– I’ve read his books on the Beast of Boggy Creek and the Bishopville Lizard Man, which were both great, so I’m looking forward to Sinister Swamps. You can find it on his website: lyleblackburn.com

Oh yeah, please do read my book, too: American Madness: The Story of the Phantom Patriot and How Conspiracy Theories Hijacked American Consciousness has been getting great reviews and is available wherever books are sold, including Bookshop.org

Tea’s Weird Week: Am I Chrissy Teigen?

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Hopefully this will clear up further confusion. That’s me, Tea Krulos, on the right. I mean left! That’s me on the left.

At first, it would appear I don’t have much in common with Chrissy Teigen. Sure, we’re both fabulous. We’ve both starred in magazines, though for her it’s publications like the Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Issue and I’m more likely to be found in the Fortean Times…um what else– we both like cookies and cocktails and we’re both carbon based lifeforms. But twinsies– I dunno.

Let me explain– my friends at Cult of Weird did me a solid and posted a link to my new book American Madness, with this nice summary:

Conspiracy theories used to be relegated to the fringes of society, people hiding in their basements with tinfoil hats. How did something like QAnon suddenly become mainstream? Infiltrate the deep state with author Tea Krulos in his new book American Madness.

Well said, thank you Cult of Weird. But apparently not appreciated by Cult of QAnon. One of the pro-Q commentators left this stunning revelation:

“Tea Krulos aka Chrissy Teigen.”

Hmmm. I replied: “You busted me, dude. Please don’t tell my husband John Legend.”

Sadly, after being exposed to conspiracy ways of thinking for almost a decade, I think I understand what’s going on here. The main subject of my book, Richard McCaslin, saw symbolism and hidden meaning everywhere, in everything– owls (the Bohemian Club), skulls (Skull & Bones), reptiles (Reptilians), numbers (33 being a Freemason number, for example). Perhaps this person saw my name hidden within Chrissy’s: TEAgen, Ch(K)riulossy–?. I don’t know. I don’t think I even want to know.

Here’s the scary part: Chrissy Teigen and John Legend have been bombarded with harrassment by QAnon for years now, accused of being part of the Pizzagate sex trafficking/ cannibalism ring. There were false allegations the names of the famous couple were on the flight logs of Jeffrey Epstein’s “Lolita Express.” At one point Chrissy blocked 1 million people on Twitter (through chain blocking) because she was ruthlessly being attacked.

QAnon followers are well trained to believe that any enemy of Trump is an enemy to them and must be part of some conspiracy. Just over a year ago, Trump, alleged grown man and President of These United States, had a Twitter feud with Chrissy, referring to the couple as “boring musician John Legend and his filthy-mouthed wife.” That’s a rich comment coming from someone who openly brags about assaulting women and rips on “shithole countries.”

Chrissy responded by calling Trump a “pussy ass bitch.” Maybe we are the same person!

QAnon got the conspiracy machine rolling, scrapping together bits of information that they interpreted to build the narrative– Chrissy had tweeted once about a show called Toddlers & Tiaras, a smoking gun that she was a pedophile, according to Q’s followers.

Chrissy’s reaction was featured in an article in Newsweek:

“[I]f I take legal action, it gets worse because then, to them, it’s true and I’m trying to ‘silence’ them. It’s on posts about anything. Random 90 days fan pages, meme accounts, anything. Even if the content is normal, the comments are….this s**t,” Teigen remarked in a tweet thread blasting the “Q” conspiracy theorists.”u know what is not great? I still have to read on social media many times a day that John and I are pedophiles and look at photoshopped/miscaptioned photos of us on ‘Epstein Island’ and I just have to deal with it because ‘people are crazy these days,'” Teigen continued.

Now I can’t speculate what’s going through Chrissy’s head (or can I?) but it certainly must suck to have an insane internet mob harassing you on every post you make about how you’re a satanic pedophile cannibal. And all because these people got into the Q-cult, where beliefs like this are the norm.

Leave Chrissy Teigen alone, you ghouls! And leave my man (oops, I mean her man) John Legend alone, too!

Please Clap Dept.: I got a bunch of American Madness related media this week, including Lake Effect, OnMilwaukee.com, Literary Ashland, Diabolique magazine (and The Rogge Report, which should be out tomorrow) and this appearance on Rising Up with Sonali:

You can order American Madness via Lion’s Tooth, Quimby’s, Bookshop.org, and wherever books are sold.

Tea’s Weird Week: Would-be Kenosha Shooters were into Conspiracy Theory; “Q” Revealed?

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First off, thanks to everyone who came out for my in-person event Sept. 5 at the X-Ray Arcade and my online event yesterday. Absolutely one of the best parts of writing a book is celebrating the release. I am all googly heart-eyed about the parties that participated in the release events: my publisher Feral House, independent bookseller Lion’s Tooth, the very cool X-Ray Arcade, and your source for all things Milwaukee, Milwaukee Record. A couple American Madness-like news items caught my eye this last week.

First, I was disturbed to read that two people were arrested September 1, traveling to Kenosha from Missouri to be in town for Trump’s appearance. They were heavily armed and admitted they were heading to town to potentially shoot protesters. Now, this was a little nervewracking to me because I was there in Kenosha that day. I spent the day observing protests, posting what I saw under the hashtag #StreetCheeto. The FBI arrested Michael Karmo, 40, and Cody E. Smith, 33, at a La Quinta hotel in Pleasant Prairie, Wisconsin, where:

“Law enforcement searched the car and found an AR-15, a 12-gauge shotgun, 9mm handgun and a “homemade silencer-type device,” the complaint says,” according to the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel.
Yikes– what if they hadn’t been caught? Would they have shown up in Kenosha to shoot people? Would they have shot me? Scary to think about.

Michael Karmo, left, a conspiracy believer, and Cody E. Smith, arrested on felony charges on their way to Kenosha on September 1.

It appears both men were members of the 417 Second Amendment Militia, which has expressed support for Kenosha shooter Kyle Rittenhouse. Both men were prohibited from possessing firearms due to criminal records.

What really grabbed my attention was this line from a report on Channel3000.com (a site associated with Madison Magazine):

“A witness also told authorities that Karmo had been talking about conspiracy theories and “other ‘crazy’ political talk” and that Karmo was not in the right mindset to have a firearm, the complaint said.”

Oh reaaaaaally. Well, I found Karmo’s Facebook page and scrolled through it to look at his posts just over the last month. I found out a few things about him– he studied to become a firefighter, it says he lives in the Christian country tourist trap of Branson, Missouri. He has a big tattoo of “1904”on his abdomen, which Google tells me means he is repping San Diego– Karmo’s Facebook says he went to Southwestern College in Chula Vista, just south of San Diego.

And sure enough, lots of posts about the “COVID hoax,” Trump’s theory of “voter fraud,” a post about Nancy Pelosi’s plot to take over as president, posts related to “Blue Lives Matter” (including one that incorrectly states that Hitler issued a “defund the police” decree after he gained power).

Both men were charged with felonies and await sentencing.

Who is Q? The Main Suspect is Jim Watkins

“Be wary of any man who keeps a pig farm,”– Brick Top, Snatch

Jim Watkins, 8kun owner and prime Q suspect

It looks like we don’t have definitive proof but a strong suspect for who Q, the guru of QAnon is– and it isn’t a shadowy government insider or John F. Kennedy Jr. (as some QANon believe) but Jim Watkins, owner of troll, neo-Nazi, and mass shooter haven 8kun (formerly 8chan). Watkins has quite a colorful past– he got his start in working on Japanese porn sites, was a helicopter repairman, a yoga and fountain pen aficionado, and took over as owner and operator of 8chan in 2014. He also operates a pig farm from the Philippines. Here’s why he is Q suspect number one (or at least complicit and closely working with someone else):

  • After Q determined 4chan had been “compromised,” they moved to 8chan. Someone else might have started the Q myth, but this switch in 2017 is where he possibly took over. QAnon drives a lot of traffic to 8kun.
  • Watkins started a super PAC called “Disarm the Deep State,” which provides funding to QAnon affiliated candidates’ campaigns. This has benefited candidates like Marjorie Greene who will most likely win in her Georgia district in November and it also benefits Watkins because Disarm the Deep State buys advertising on…yes, that’s right, 8kun.
  • 8kun and QMap, which aggregates Q’s “drops,” share the same IP address. For a longer explanation of this, see a report by Daily Dot here: https://www.dailydot.com/debug/who-is-qanon-jim-watkins-rumors/

It looks like Watkins has something to gain by exploiting QAnon believers, much like Alex Jones and Trump need a conspiracy following to survive. Jones is a millionaire who makes money off ads and sham dietary supplements, and Trump uses conspiracy for political gain and to attack his enemies. Watkins has his own cult and super PAC and is laughing all the way to the bank. Here is your “Q,” sheeple!

Further reading: “Meet the Man Behind QAnon–America’s Fastest Growing Cult,” Popdust

Please Clap Dept.: I was guest on the Parallax Views podcast, where I had a great conversation about my new book American Madness. You can listen here: https://parallaxviews.podbean.com/e/tkrulos/

I was also flattered to have American Madness on the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel’s33 books to read in fall 2020” list.

Purchase American Madness from Lion’s Tooth for a signed, inscribed copy, a bonus comic zine, Lion’s Tooth swag, and a “this machine kills fascists” sharpie from Feral House.
Order here: https://www.lionstoothmke.com/american_madness.html#/

Tea’s Weird Week: Snap into the Paranoid Style with this American Madness Playlist

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I wrote a book! My book American Madness is officially out and it feels great. There’s some release events going on in the next week. This Saturday, September 5, there’s a release party here in the Milwaukee area at the X-Ray Arcade with food, drink, and of course conspiracy. (See Facebook event here). I’m also doing an online event for those who bought my book via Lion’s Tooth Thursday September 10, a conversation with Milwaukee Record’s Matt Wild followed by a Q and A: www.facebook.com/events/367709997570202/

So that means, after many years of work on this project, it’s party time! And in these conspiracy times, have I got a party playlist for you, which I made on Spotify. It follows the themes and moods of the book.  A lot are self explanatory and were included because of their conspiracy themes. I included a couple songs created by actual conspiracists– David Neal writes songs in the overlooked genre of JFK assassination theory folk, while the Flat Earth Man writes some honky tonk about the “globe lie” (I bought his CD at a flat earth conference I attended).

Other songs you’ll get when you read the book. A couple songs were inspired by Richard McCaslin, who I wrote about in depth. I included some notes on the track listing below explaining a few of my choices. Crank out the volume and weird out!

American Madness Playlist
https://open.spotify.com/playlist/2Vmn7G0QgKacIHCMWOSqom?si=nCSVKHsUSW2ukQrsM99c3Q 

“White Rabbit,” Emiliana Torrini (covering Jefferson Airplane)/ the title of the introduction of the book is “The Rabbit Hole.”

“I am the Owl,” Dead Kennedys

“Sunshine Superman,” Donovan/ Richard McCaslin was born in 1964 and this 1966 song includes the line “Superman and Green Lantern ain’t got nothing on me.” Richard loved superhero comics. 

“N.W.O.,” Ministry

“Do the Paranoid Style,” Bad Religion/ the song title is from a 1964 article in Harper’s that talks about conspiracy and politics. You can read it HERE

“Oswald Didn’t Do It” David Neal

“Phantom Zone” The Alex Jones Prison Planet/ a chapter of my book is titled “Alex Fucking Jones.” 

“Phantom Patriot,” Les Claypool/ Claypool read a local news article about Richard and was inspired to write this song. I got a few minutes of phone time with him for a chapter of American Madness. 

“Ruiner,” Nine Inch Nails/ popped in my head while I was thinking of Richard’s raid on the Bohemian Grove, detailed in a chapter titled “Burn the Owl.”  

“Broken,” Chely Wright/ you’ll see why this is here when you read the “Burn the Owl” chapter

“Somebody’s Watching Me,” Rockwell

“They Live,” B.o.B/ John Carpenter’s 1988 film is often referenced by conspiracy believers. 

“I’m Afraid of Americans,” David Bowie

“Chemtrails,” Beck

“Unmarked Helicopters,” Soul Coughing

“Person Woman Man Camera TV,” The Gregory Brothers/ nothing more ridiculous or frightening than Trump’s own words.

“Channel Zero,” Canibus/ great song about the Majestic 12! 

“No Photographs of Earth,” Flat Earth Man/ Flat Earth Man is the biggest music star amongst the flat earthers, though they have a rich hip hop (or as I call it “flat hop”)– you check it out in a Tea’s Weird Week column HERE.

“Last Plane Out,” Toy Matinee

“Hottie Illuminati,” Sunspot/ great track by Sunspot, who also host the See You on the Other Side podcast– see me talk about American Madness with them HERE.

“Mr. Panicker,” Nineteen Thirteen/ a local Milwaukee group, I just love the mood of this one, makes me think of paranoia and melancholy anger. 

“Beware of the Pale Horse,” ILL Bill w/ William Cooper/ this rapper named himself after the infamous conspiracy theorist Bill Cooper and the title is Cooper’s notorious conspiracy Bible. See Mark Jacobson’s excellent book Pale Horse Rider for more on Cooper and his influence on hip-hop

“Cell Therapy,” Goodie Mob/ reminds me of conspiracy and Richard’s time in prison

“D’evils,” Jay-Z

“Aliens Exist,” Blink-182/ music to raid Area 51 to!

“The Future,” Leonard Cohen/ the ultimate track for 2020

“Perfect Day,” The Constellations/ for some reason made me think of Richard driving through the desert of Nevada, where he lived.

More listening material department: I did an in-depth interview about American Madness with the Failed State Update podcast. To listen, CLICK HERE

For more ways you can support me and my book, please see this entry: “American Madness is Out Now!

Purchase from Lion’s Tooth for a signed, inscribed copy, a bonus comic zine, Lion’s Tooth swag, a “this machine kills fascists” sharpie from Feral House, and access to in-person and online events with me! Right here: https://www.lionstoothmke.com/american_madness.html#/

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And hey, if you read the book and you got suggestions for tracks to add to this list, leave them in the comments below!

 

Tea’s Weird Week: Ask Tea Anything (conspiracy edition)

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What a week! American Madness official release date was Tuesday and it’s been so great to see the book featured in the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel as well as an excerpt on Literary Hub. Most exciting of all is seeing people posting pictures of their copies of the book and telling me that they’re starting to read it.

For my column this week I decided to solicit my social media for conspiracy questions. Here’s a few of them. I’ll be doing another “ask me anything” column in a couple months, titled “American Madness–spoilers edition” after people get a chance to read the whole story.

Who is the Phantom Patriot_

First up, not a question, but a comment I got on Twitter that I want to talk about:

Tea this book foreshadows what we are living in right now and especially applicable to another Phantom Patriot in 17 year old Kyle Rittenhouse, who shot and killed protesters in Kenosha. –Sleepersound

Yes, Tuesday was an absolutely horrifying night in Kenosha (about 40 miles to the south of where I live, Milwaukee) after a militia member killed two people and severely injured a third. Kyle Rittenhouse, spotted in the front row of a Trump rally in January, thought he was fighting for justice and the American way, much like the main subject of my book, Richard McCaslin (aka the Phantom Patriot) did. McCaslin heavily armed himself and raided a place called the Bohemian Grove in 2002 (but didn’t kill anyone).

Also of note– the leader of the Kenosha Guard (a sort of ad hoc militia that organized an event page encouraging armed citizens to show up in Kenosha) sent the police chief a letter proudly noting that the group had been reported on by InfoWars, Alex Jones’ media site. Jones was an inspiration to McCaslin and several others who have committed violent acts over the years.

Have you ever heard a true ends to the means on the flat earth theory? I’m not a believer in many conspiracy theories–but I can understand why someone would when presented the outcome.–Addo

That’s something I was curious to find out when I attended a flat earth conference last November, which I write about in a chapter of American Madness titled “The War Against Science.” If it had been discovered that the world was flat, why cover it up? Science is always evolving with new data, readjusting when they find a theory to be wrong, so what is the gain in the alleged lie?

Flat Earthers say it’s all because of greed from NASA. They started out wanting to explore space in earnest, but when they discovered the truth, they needed to maintain the lie to get paid. They couldn’t get their massive annual budget ($22.6 billion) for space exploration if there is no space beyond the dome covering the earth.  So there you go, follow the money…follow it to the end of the earth.

Any thoughts on the whole “hitler got to Argentina” thing? (Yes, I use a lower-case spelling of his name intentionally)— Shane

Shane, I’ve read about a few Nazi conspiracies– the escape to Argentina in a U-boat, the alleged hidden base in Antarctica, the UFO program. I really like reading classic conspiracy stuff like this and the JFK assassination (even if I don’t believe it). In this case, I think it’s well proven that Hitler died in Germany. One piece of solid evidence was an analysis matching his teeth to those found in the remains in his bunker: https://www.usatoday.com/story/news/world/2018/05/21/hitler-teeth-test-dispels-myths-nazi-leaders-survival/627831002/

What are the main tenants of the Q “movement?”— Samwell

QAnon beliefs are always morphing and spinning new ideas, but the core belief is that an evil cabal of Democrats, Hollywood, the mainstream media, and other liberal villains are secretly running a satanic child sex trafficking ring, engaging in cannibalism, and harvesting adrenochrome from victims to get high on. The believe a secret informant calling themselves “Q” is leaking information on Trump’s secret plan to bring this cabal down, a period of reckoning called “The Storm” which will lead to a “Great Awakening” of the truth. It’s very cult-like in it’s cognitive dissonance.

Other terms to be wary of– the QAnon motto “where we go one, we go all” (wwg1wga) and #SavetheChildren, a hashtag they’ve sadly hijacked, infiltrating the actual problem of sex trafficking with Q nonsense.

Are more groups like QAnon who have been found making up things going to become more commonplace? What do you think would happen to their followers if they were shown who was behind it? –Discordia

Discordia, I’m afraid both parts of this answer are painful. First, yes, I do think QAnon and other groups will continue to grow, especially in this time of madness. A QAnon believer, Marjorie Greene, is most likely going to be elected to Congress and there are a couple other candidates who have a shot. Trump himself said he liked QAnon because “I understand they like me very much, which I appreciate.” When that type of legitimacy is given to a group like this, it emboldens them and makes it easier to recruit new members. I think it’ll be easy for similar groups to gain traction.

To the second question, I think that “Q” is most likely a troll or combination of trolls, but sadly even if there was solid evidence of this you could present to Q followers, they will dismiss it. You might lose a few believers, but the core group will say anything you try to present to them is a “deepfake,” “fake news,” or a “hoax.”

It’s frustrating– as I discuss in American Madness, once you go down that rabbit hole, it’s really hard to come back from it.


For more ways you can support me and my book, please see this entry: “American Madness is Out Now!

Purchase from Lion’s Tooth for a signed, inscribed copy, a bonus comic zine, Lion’s Tooth swag, a “this machine kills fascists” sharpie from Feral House, and access to in-person and online events with me! Right here: https://www.lionstoothmke.com/american_madness.html#/

lions

Diorama from Feral House on Vimeo.

 

American Madness is Out Now!

Today, August 25, is the official release date of my new book American Madness: The Story of the Phantom Patriot and How Conspiracy Theories Hijacked American Consciousness, out NOW from Feral House. It’s been a long, strange road to get here. This all started when I was introduced to a conspiracy theorist/ self-styled superhero named Richard McCaslin aka the Phantom Patriot, who was pushed down a rabbit hole by Alex Jones. A stranger than fiction exploration of Conspiracy World followed for several years. Now the book is out and I’m so glad I can share the whole thing with you.

Two nice pieces for me on release day– Milwaukee Journal Sentinel’s book editor Jim Higgins interviewed me for this article, which gives an overview of the book:
American Madness details how conspiracy theories took over one troubled man’s life

And Literary Hub published an excerpt, a chapter about how Richard first discovered a man who would change the course of his life: Alex Jones:
How Do Celebrity Conspiracy Theories Become Who They Are? Tea Krulos on Richard McCaslin and the Origins of Alex Jones

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Here are some simple ways you can help me make the book a success (and great ways to support any author you like):

Order the book: This is the most obvious way to support me, especially now in the book’s early release. My first recommendation is ordering it through Lion’s Tooth (just click on the names of these sites to go right to the book), a great independent bookseller. I live close to them, so I’m able to stop by and inscribe copies for you. In fact, I’ll be there in a couple days to get more copies signed, so order today and fill out the “note to seller” if you want it inscribed. Plus they include a bonus comic book and swag, and an exclusive in-person (socially distanced) event September 5 at X-ray Arcade and an online event with me September 10.

Quimby’s is also an awesome place to order from and Bookshop.org puts your money in the hands of independent bookstores. It is available on Amazon and Barnes & Noble, too.

Reviews: Leaving reviews on any site is helpful, even if you didn’t buy the book there. It takes about 50 reviews before you get bumped into a better algorithm and your book pops up more as suggested reading. The big ones are Amazon and Goodreads.

Library New Material Request: I love libraries and it’s a thrill to know my title is available. Most librarians are happy to hear suggestions and a lot of libraries have a “new material request” form you can find on their website or can ask for.

Social Media: Sharing the book/ links helps get the title to people outside my social circle. Sharing anywhere and old fashioned word of mouth is appreciated!

Thank you for your support! I hope you enjoy my new book AMERICAN MADNESS.

–Tea Krulos

August 25, 2020

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Tea’s Weird Week: The Return of Birtherism and Pizzagate

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There’s something I’ve often thought about over the last few years (and was recently asked in an interview)– does Trump actually believe all the conspiracy theory shit he spews or is it a cold, calculated act? I think there’s a couple answers to that. One, he very much believes that his gut instinct is equitable as a fact. Two, he knows that conspiracy theories can be weaponized to attack his opponents. Sure, the “fake news” media will call him on it, but oh well– it’s already been blasted out to millions of Twitter followers and FOX viewers, who will take it as fact.

As I talk about in my new book American Madness (officially out next Tuesday) in a chapter titled “The InfoWars President,” Trump’s first legacy as a conspiracist is as a heavy promoter of  “Birtherism,” the racist false narrative that President Obama was actually born in Kenya, and thus not eligible to be president. Trump went on a media tour, talking up how Obama’s birth certificate was a fake, and spreading the conspiracy far and wide in 2011.

Last week, he decided to pull that dirty trick out of his playbook again. After Kamala Harris was announced as Joe Biden’s VP pick, the conspiracy-sphere quickly got to work, suggesting that Harris wasn’t eligible as her parents were both immigrants. When asked about this at a press conference, Trump does what conspiracy theorists do best when confronted– they waffle. As Slate.com reports:

When he was pressed on the issue, Trump continued to push back: “I just don’t know about it,” he said. The president then seemingly got angry at the reporter suggesting he knew the claims were not true. “Don’t tell me what I know,” he said. He kept on insisting he had no idea what the truth might be. “To me, it doesn’t bother me at all,” he said. “I don’t know about it. I read one quick article. The lawyer happens to be a brilliant lawyer, as you probably know. He wrote an article saying it could be a problem. It’s not something that I’m going to be pursuing.”

Meanwhile, over at Trump’s buddy Alex Jones’ website, InfoWars, they decided it was time for a Pizzagate revival (another theory I talk about in a chapter of American Madness) with this headline on August 12: “Wikileaks Emails Show Kamala Harris’ Sister Attended Hillary Clinton/Podesta ‘Pizza Party.'”

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Here’s the graphic InfoWars created for their article. As you can see, there’s nothing ridiculous about it.

Pizzagate suggests that Hillary Clinton, her former campaign manager John Podesta, and other Democrats were running a pedophile sex trafficking ring out of the Comet Ping Pong pizzeria in Washington DC, using pizza variations as code words for sex slaves. Podesta really is to blame for this, I suppose. Wikileaks documents show that the dude really loves pizza.

After Harris was announced as VP pick, InfoWars found their smoking gun– yeah see, Kamala Harris’ sister, Maya, attended a “Pizza for Hillary” event at Tony Podesta’s house, who is the brother of Clinton campaign manager John. Guess who else was there? James Alefantis, owner of Comet Ping Pong.

Pizzagate became a core value of QAnon believers, who have recently been hijacking the hashtag #SavetheChildren to try to infiltrate their beliefs. A lot of well intentioned people are getting sucked into theories about George Soros, Clinton, and pepperoni pizzas.

Related news: Trump just acknowledged QAnon on record, to my knowledge for the first time. When asked about recent Congressional candidate (who will likely win) and QAnon believer Marjorie Greene, he responded:

“Well, I don’t know much about the movement other than I understand they like me very much, which I appreciate. But I don’t know much about the movement. I have heard that it is gaining in popularity and from what I hear it’s– these are people that…don’t like seeing what’s going on in places like Portland, and places like Chicago, and New York and other cities and states. And I’ve heard these are people that love our country and they just don’t like seeing it.”

His “I don’t know much about the movement” is such bullshit– really dude? You’re the President of the United States, you don’t have the resources to find out? Have an advisor get on Google for you.

But of course it’s not that he doesn’t know, it’s that he doesn’t care if it benefits him in some way. Like I said in this column last week, a cult hanging on his every word is something Trump’s ego won’t let him refute, no matter how delusional and dangerous they may be. 2020: The Year Conspiracy Destroyed America continues.

American Madness is available at Lion’s Tooth: www.lionstoothmke.com/american_madness.html#/
Quimby’s: CLICK HERE Bookshop.org: CLICK HERE
Amazon: www.amazon.com/American-Madness-Conspiracy-Theories-Consciousness/dp/1627310967
and wherever books are sold. Add “to-read” on Goodreads CLICK HERE.

AmMadstack

Here’s my recent appearance on See You On The Other Side, where I discuss the book with Mike and Wendy:

Ivory and Ash Grey Photo DIY Influencer Minimalist Facebook Cover (1)

 

Tea’s Weird Week: Well, it Happened–Meet your First QAnon Congressional Representative

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My new book American Madness has a chapter titled “Q,” which is an introduction (and some case studies) of QAnon, a cult-like group of conspiracy followers that believe that there is a secret Democrat pedophile/ cannibal/ adrenal gland harvesting ring (Pizzagate, which I also write about in my book, is an early example).

Messages from a shadowy source that calls themself “Q” delivers cryptic messages about how Trump is working on a secret “Storm” that will sweep up this network of evil Democrats (Lock them up!) as well as Hollywood (Lock them up!), the Fake News Media (Lock them up!) and the many other enemies of America (Lock them up!).

QAnon mythology has spun out of control to create some pretty wild theories— that “mole children” are being held captive underneath Central Park, or that Tom Hanks, part of the pedophile ring, was secretly executed for his crimes and images you see of him now on TV are “deepfakes.”

[By the way, a quick PSA: Over the last week QAnon has been trying to hijack the hashtag #SavetheChildren and infiltrate Facebook events to spread their theories. Child trafficking certainly is a terrible reality, but use caution when seeing people saying they “do their own research” on this topic. Source: “QAnon Followers Are Hijacking the #SavetheChildren Movement,” New York Times]

You can imagine my surprise when I saw a report from Media Matters in America back in February, sharing their research that there were about two dozen candidates running for Congress that had showed some level of endorsement for QAnon. Two dozen! Crazy!

When I went back to reference the report a couple months later, I found it had been updated to show that number had doubled to about 50 QAnon candidates (although many listed had already dropped out or were eliminated in primaries) and that the candidates were benefiting from a QAnon superPAC called “Disarm the Deep State.” When I checked again for this column, the article had been updated to include over 70 QAnon aligned candidates (in total, including ones who have dropped out).

The source: “Here are the QAnon supporters running for Congress in 2020,” Media Matters for America

But they can’t possibly win, can they? It would appear the answer to that is YEP.

The first successful QAnon candidate is Marjorie Taylor Greene, a construction company co-owner who is running for Georgia’s 14th District. After placing first in a primary last month, she beat her Republican rival in a run off election on Tuesday.

Greene’s district is deep red, which means that barring some kind of Christmas miracle, her Democrat opponent, Kevin Van Ausdal, has a snowball’s chance in hell of winning. Republicans usually win here in all offices by 70-75% of the vote.

Trump congratulated Greene in a tweet, saying she was “strong on everything and never gives up–a real WINNER!” Trump has never spoken about QAnon, but I imagine that having his own cult worshiping him is satisfying for his massive ego.

Greene

Most of the people of the 14th District are pro-Trump and so Greene speaks their language well, even if they can’t hang with the QAnon stuff (but most probably think it’s true on some level). Her twitter bio describes her as “Christian, Wife, Mom, Small Business Owner, Proud American, 100% Pro-Life, Pro-Gun, Pro-Trump, MAGA.”

She’s been open about her association with QAnon throughout her campaign, once explaining that QAnon was a “once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to take this global cabal of Satan-worshiping pedophiles out” and that Q is a “patriot worth listening to.” She even said in an interview that instead of Satan, this cabal sometimes refers to the deity as “Moloch” and you will find a very direct tie to that statement in American Madness.

In addition to QAnon crap, she also rallies the Trump constituency by throwing out racist, Islamophobic, and anti-Semitic comments. She knows how to throw out red meat like this video where she has “a message for Antifa terrorists (click)– stay the hell out of northwest Georgia (click). You won’t burn our churches, loot our businesses, or destroy our homes.” Ok, Marjorie:

It looks like Greene might not be alone, either. Another QAnon promoter, Lauren Boebert (owner of Shooters Grill, where the staff is encouraged to open carry) is running in Colorado’s 3rd District and is favored to win. 18 other candidates have officially made their way on to ballots across the country.

And QAnon candidates aren’t the only ones running on a conspiracy/ extremist agenda. Check out a column I wrote in May: “Trump Inspired QAnon followers, Proud Boys, Gun Nuts, Racists, all Have 2020 Campaigns.”

Right about now I think we could all use a dose of good news, so there is some from this last week– one of the people I wrote about in the column I just mentioned, the awful “Sheriff Joe” Arpaio, who once bragged that his inhumane “Tent City” detention center was like a “concentration camp,” lost his bid for re-election for the second time.

This week also saw Cori Bush, a Black Lives Matter activist, defeat a 10-term Democrat incumbent in Missouri’s 1st District (which includes St. Louis) primary. If Bush wins against her Republican rival in November, she’ll be the first black woman to represent Missouri in Congress. In fact, as Forbes reports, “Women of Color Are Running for Congress at an All-Time High” this season.

Despite these inspiring stories, I can’t help but feel that a terrible door has been opened with Greene. It’s tempting to downplay her win– she’s just 1 of 435 members of the House of Representatives, but what is going to follow? An entire QAnon caucus? A task force to investigate Democrats for imprisoning “mole children?” A Flat Earth Party? It seems like any batshit crazy bad idea is possible right now.

2020: America’s reign of conspiracy continues.

My book American Madness discusses QAnon and much more. It’s officially out Aug. 25!

I’m going to be talking about the book live with my friends at See You on the Other Side this Tuesday, Aug.18, 8pm (CST). Check it out on Facebook Live here: https://www.facebook.com/othersidepodcast/videos/600326817340446/

SeeYou

American Madness is available at Lion’s Tooth: www.lionstoothmke.com/american_madness.html#/
Bookshop.org: CLICK HERE
Amazon: www.amazon.com/American-Madness-Conspiracy-Theories-Consciousness/dp/1627310967
and wherever books are sold. Add “to-read” on Goodreads CLICK HERE.

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Diorama from Feral House on Vimeo.

 

Tea’s Weird Week: Real Life Superheroes 2020 Survey Results

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First, I like to remember that there’s always new readers, so here’s a short intro– my name is Tea, and in 2009 I ran into a story that forever changed my life. I’ve always been fascinated by subcultures, and the “underground,” and I found a report of a movement of people that adopted their own comic book style personas and called themselves “Real-life Superheroes.” I wrote a magazine article about a RLSH here in the Milwaukee area named The Watchman and thought there was a bigger story so I traveled around the country, met about 100 RLSH, went on patrols, did research, interviews, had some strange moments, got punched in the face, and met a lot of cool people I’m still friends with today.

The result of all this was my first book, Heroes in the Night: Inside the Real-Life Superhero Movement (2013, Chicago Review Press). There’s also a brief revisit to the RLSH (and a man who called himself the Phantom Patriot) in my new book American Madness (Aug. 25, Feral House).

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That’s me and The Watchman, 2009. Photo by Paul Kjelland.

 

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Here I am hosting a panel of RLSH at Wizard World Chicago, 2013.

I’m currently working on a research project that studies subcultures/social movements in the year 2020 and their responses to topical issues. That’s about all I can say about it right now. I’m not trying to be mysterious (or am I?) I’m just not sure what the final form of this project will be yet.

A logical place for me to start with this was the RLSH community, where I already had connections. Word of the study was spread on my Heroes in the Night News Facebook page. Many RLSH shared it on Facebook and on a RLSH thread on Reddit.

There were 56 responses, which I believe is a good sample size for this movement. It’s unknown exactly how many active RLSH there are– it isn’t like a club where people pay membership dues, anyone can say they are a RLSH, and people often disappear into the night (or the Internet).

I asked three RLSH I thought would have good insight for their estimate on active RLSH. Rock N Roll, one of the organizers of the multi-city Initiative teams says “maybe 100.” Discordia, who runs the site RLSH News places it slightly higher at around “120-140” or up to “200 if being generous.” And Razorhawk, a well connected RLSH, puts the range “between 100-200.”

My goal was to ask about topical subjects– the 2020 election, Black Lives Matter, and the COVID-19 pandemic. Polling is useful to see if a group leans strongly one direction or another on issues or if they’re split.

The Survey 

The “RLSH 2020 Survey” was 10 questions long. Questions 1-3 asked for name, city (or cities) they were active in, and any team affiliation.

Florida and California led with participants with 8 and St. Petersburg led the count by city with 6. There were 5 from Texas and Oregon, 4 from Seattle and 3 each from Illinois, Tennessee, and New York City. 15 other states had 1-2 representatives.

Several teams were represented, with the most coming from various branches of the Initiative and the Xtreme Justice League, followed by Bay Coast Guardians (St. Petersburg), ECHO (Seattle), PATCH (Chicago), and Firebirds (Dallas). Update– I’ve been informed that Bay Coast Guardians and Firebirds are divisions of the XJL.

Q4: Asked what activities RLSH engaged in. Participants were allowed to choose more than one answer. The results:

Patrols: 29.82%
Homeless outreach: 50.88%
Patrols and Outreach: 66.67%
Other: 52.63%

Q5: Asked who RLSH had voted for in 2016. My main reason for including this was to see if there had been any major shift in the community from 2016 to 2020. RLSH respoded:

Clinton: 35.85% (19)
3rd Party: 30.19% (16)
Trump 9.43%(5)
Not eligible: 18.87% (10)
Didn’t want to: 5.66% (3)
3 skipped the question

Q6: See chart below. More than one answer was allowed.

Chart_Q6_200801

Worst: 49.09% Bad/Bad: 49.09%

Bad person/good president: 3.64% Good person/bad president: 1.82%

Good/Good: 1.82% Best: 1.82% Mixed feelings: 9.09%

Q7: Who will RLSH vote for in November?

Chart_Q7_200801

Interesting in that after Biden (47.17%), 3rd Party candidates came in second (33.96%), similar to results from the 2016 election. I should have specified this more. If any RLSH are reading this and voting 3rd Party, please comment on this blog post to tell us if you’re voting Green, Libertarian, or something else, I’m curious to know. Trump got 5.66% and 15.09% said they are not voting, though I didn’t ask specifically if that was because they were ineligible or didn’t want to.

Chart_Q8_200801

A clear majority here– 83.93% of RLSH support Black Lives Matter, 5.36% (3 respondents) said they prefer the term “All Live Matter,” 1 respondent said they were indifferent, and 8.93% (5 respondents) said none of the answers above reflected their feelings.

Chart_Q9_200801

Another clear majority and perhaps not surprising as many RLSH wear a mask for long periods of time, sometimes while they’re running through alleyways. 91.07% said people should wear masks to prevent COVID while 8.93% said people should choose whether or not they want to.

Chart_Q10_200801

When I first started interviewing RLSH in 2009, they would often tell me that RLSH shouldn’t “be political” and I noted several cases where RLSH from extremely different backgrounds and belief systems worked together on various efforts.

But that was a different time. This answer was split Yes: 23.21% No:  28.57% Depends: 53.57% 

Thank you to all RLSH who participated. I’m keeping the info on who partook confidential, but one was Superhero of Clearwater, Florida, who took the survey just a three days before he died. You can read my obituary of him here: teakrulos.com/2020/07/20/death-of-a-superhero/
And please support the fundraiser in his honor here: www.gofundme.com/f/old-superhero

There is a giveaway for FREE copies of my book American Madness on Goodreads, open through Aug. 10. You can enter here: www.goodreads.com/giveaway/show/309615-american-madness-the-story-of-the-phantom-patriot-and-how-conspiracy-th

AmMadstack

It’s available at Lion’s Tooth: www.lionstoothmke.com/american_madness.html#/
Bookshop.org: CLICK HERE
Amazon: www.amazon.com/American-Madness-Conspiracy-Theories-Consciousness/dp/1627310967
and wherever books are sold.

Diorama from Feral House on Vimeo.

Goodreads Giveaway for my New Book AMERICAN MADNESS!

My publisher Feral House is doing a free book giveaway on Goodreads! To enter (and for more info on the book), just click on this link (and please add the book to your “to-read” list): https://www.goodreads.com/giveaway/show/309615-american-madness-the-story-of-the-phantom-patriot-and-how-conspiracy-th
The contest is open through Aug.10, so enter now! Information on best places to order a copy are below.

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Here are your best options for ordering American Madness:

Lion’s Tooth is a wonderful bookseller located here in Milwaukee. When you order through them, you get a free conspiracy themed comic book and some other swag, plus you can get the book signed and personalized by me– just leave a note who you want it made out to in the “notes to seller” box upon check-out.  https://www.lionstoothmke.com/american_madness.html#/

Bookshop.org is a great alternative to Amazon because they direct your money to independent booksellers instead of padding Jeff Bezos’ pockets– he has about $180 billion dollars, so he doesn’t need your cash.
https://bookshop.org/books/american-madness-the-story-of-the-phantom-patriot-and-how-conspiracy-theories-hijacked-american-consciousness/9781627310963

-But, if you insist, yes, the book is on Amazon and Barnes & Noble or wherever books are sold.

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