I was really hoping to be moving toward writing about Halloweeny shit instead of conspiracy shit this week, but NO. Let me rephrase that: NOOOOOOOOOOOO. Trump had a town hall thing last night (he refused a virtual debate, leading to rival Trump and Biden town halls) and I didn’t think he could possibly appear to be more of a dangerous idiot than he did at the last debate, but welcome to 2020 where everything you know is wrong and the hellmouth continues to open! It was a great night for deranged conspiracies and a bad night for…well, the entire planet, really.
QAnon: When asked about QAnon, Trump did his usual “deny but don’t reject” dance. You might recall this from the debate where Trump refused to denounce white supremacy, then gave a perceived shout out to the Proud Boys, then claimed he “didn’t know” who the Proud Boys were. Moderator Savannah Guthrie, of NBC News, explained what QAnon was in a nutshell– the belief in a Democrat satanic pedophile ring (she didn’t mention their idea that Democrats get high on adrenochrome, though) and asked Trump if he would denounce them. The response:
Trump: I know nothing about QAnon.
Guthrie: I just told you.
Trump: You told me, but what you say doesn’t necessarily make it fact, I hate to say that. I know nothing about it, I do know they are very much against pedophilia, they fight it very hard, but I know nothing about it.
Guthrie: They believe it is a satanic cult run by the DNC!
Trump: [rambles about how vicious Antifa is]…I just don’t know about QAnon.
Guthrie: You do know!
Trump: I don’t know!…Let me tell you, what I do hear about it is they are very strongly against pedophilia, and I agree with that.
Guthrie: Ok, but there’s not a satanic pedophile–
Trump: I know nothing about that
Guthrie: You know nothing about that?!
Trump: No, I have know idea and neither do you know that [sic].
Trump still doesn’t know who QAnon is! Well, he knows they fight pedophilia “very hard.” That’s funny because, as I noted in a previous column Trump said at an August 20th press conference that he didn’t know who QAnon was other than “I understand they like me very much.”
It’s been almost 2 months– you couldn’t get an intern to hop on Google to see what all this bullshit was about? The real answer is that Trump is a liar– he very well knows who QAnon is and a cult devoted to him is appealing to his massive ego.
The “Biden Killed Seal Team 6 Theory”: This week Trump retweeted a QAnon account twice that had posted a baseless theory that the Navy SEAL 6 team mistakenly killed Osama Bin Laden’s body double in 2011 and rather than say “oops,” Obama and Biden had the whole team assassinated to cover up the mistake. Yes, THIS IS FUCKING CRAZY. It led to this beautiful town hall exchange, when Guthrie brought it up:
Trump: That was a retweet. That was an opinion of somebody and that was a retweet. I’ll put it out there. People can decide for themselves. I don’t take a position.
Guthrie: I don’t get that. You’re the president. You’re not someone’s crazy uncle who can retweet whatever.
Thank you, Savannah Guthrie, for doing your job and calling Trump out and not letting him try to steamroll you.
Obamagate/Voter Fraud: Trump mentions his Obamagate theory and talks about voter fraud.
Trump:”When I see thousands of ballots dumped in a garbage can and they happen to have my name on it, I’m not happy about it.”
Guthrie: There is in fact no evidence of widespread fraud and you are sowing doubt in our democracy.
When Guthrie added that the FBI director noted their was no evidence of mass voter fraud, Trump replied, “Oh really, then he’s not doing a very good job.”
What else– oh yeah, he refused to answer whether he tested for COVID the day of the debate, he misrepresented a study, saying 85% of people who get COVID were wearing masks (FALSE), said he’s second only to Lincoln in helping African-Americans and on and on blah blah bullshit.
FAKE NEWS! But wait, there’s more! Early this morning, Trump tweeted out a post from the Babylon Bee, a satirical site that’s a wannabe version of The Onion. The post said Twitter had shut down to slow the spread of negative news. “Wow, this has never been done in history. This includes his really bad interview last night,” Trump tweeted.
Well, he’s right– this has never, ever, neverever been done in history. If you are voting for Trump, there is nothing I can say to you, you are too far gone. I just hope you put some serious thought into where your own mind and soul are.
And if you don’t think conspiracy thinking is dangerous, I invite you to read two pieces I wrote this week.
“Richard McCaslin: An Obituary,” is about a person I met who descended into conspiracy theory. As the title suggests, he died. I wrote about him in my book American Madness: The Story of the Phantom Patriot and How Conspiracy Theories Hijacked American Consciousness.
“A Militia of Phantom Patriots” discusses how conspiracy theory was a factor in the Wolverine Watchmen militia terrorists and their plan to kidnap Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer (and possibly Virginia Governor Ralph Northam, as we now know).
My book American Madness is a guide to Conspiracyland (buy it at Bookshop.org or wherever books are sold). Speaking of crazy uncles (I am one, myself!) I talked with the guys on the Strange Uncles podcast about my book to kick off their fourth season. They say: “American Madness is probably one of the best books we’ve read in awhile…highly recommended.” Thanks, Uncles! You can listen here: https://strangeuncles.podbean.com/e/strange-uncles-s4e1-interview-with-american-madness-author-tea-krulos/
Also, I’m doing a virtual event with the fantastic Quimby’s Bookstore in Chicago on this Tuesday, October 20 at 7:30pm. I’ll be talking American Madness and doing some conspiracy theory trivia for some cool prizes. It’s free and streaming live on their YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/user/QuimbysBookstore
Check out the fantastic prizes HERE.
Richard McCaslin died two years ago today. I wrote about his life in detail in my book American Madness: The Story of the Phantom Patriot and How Conspiracy Theories Hijacked American Consciousness. I realized he never received an obituary. I wrote one for him here.
RICHARD WILSON MCCASLIN was born to Ned and Elsie McCaslin on June 20, 1964 in Zanesville, Ohio. He was a Marine, Real-Life Superhero, stuntman, activist, and artist. Richard developed a passion for superhero comics when he was a kid and this interest in comic book mythology would shape the direction of his life. Richard was an honors student in high school and after he graduated, he served with the United States Marine Corps from 1982 to 1985, and was honorably discharged.
After he returned home, Richard bounced between Zanesville and wandering the country for several years, looking for a career that would utilize his talents and creative power. His hobbies included illustrating his own comic adventures and designing costumes based off his favorite characters– photos of him in these costumes appeared in comic book letters pages and in the quintessential magazine devoted to comic news, Wizard. In 1987, he attended the Kim Kahana Stunt School in Chatsworth, California, hoping to find a career in stuntwork. Nothing panned out in that field at first, but in 1996 and 97, he got to play one of his childhood heroes, Batman, in a stunt show at Six Flags Astroworld (in Houston).
Around this same time in the late 90s and early 2000s, Richard went through a tough time, losing both his parents and struggling to make connections and a career. He moved to Austin, where he created his own superhero persona, the Phantom Patriot, and moved briefly to Carson City before he stormed a place called the Bohemian Grove in California. He had seen a video created by conspiracy theory peddler Alex Jones (of InfoWars) that suggested a cabal of powerful men were sacrificing people, possibly children, in front of a statue of an owl inside of the retreat.
Richard was arrested at the Bohemian Grove and charged with five felonies. After his raid, Richard was called “crazy” and a “domestic terrorist,” but I’d like to note that he acted on faulty information and believed he would be rescuing people that were in danger. There were multiple times inside the Bohemian Grove that he could have shot someone, but he didn’t. Richard spent about 6 and a half years in prison, where he channeled his creative side by drawing a comic book that included an autobiographical account of his Bohemian Grove raid.
Upon his parole ending in 2011, Richard exercised his free speech rights by conducting peaceful protests, including a tour where he traveled coast-to-coast, protesting and seeing the country through his eyes. He conducted a protest in front of the Bohemian Club (which owns the Bohemian Grove) in downtown San Francisco in 2012. He moved to Las Vegas and then out to Pahrump, Nevada, where he finally settled down in a place he could call home. He lived a quiet life there, working with Las Vegas Motion Pictures to produce videos that showcased his creative talents, and regularly traveled to Las Vegas to protest and, of course, buy comic books.
His videos can be seen on his YouTube channel: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCTSuMTR4SI1AZyEBt8WGIfA
I think it’s fair to say that the people that Richard befriended didn’t agree with or necessarily even understand his views. But no one that met him will forget him, and he made our lives more interesting and gave us plenty to think about. Few people got to see the side of Richard that was a caring, concerned, loyal friend.
In October of 2018 Richard traveled from Pahrump to Washington DC, choosing to take his life in his truck, parked outside of a Freemason temple. He died October 15. A small memorial took place on his property with friends and neighbors in November 2019. I hope Richard has found peace from the things that troubled him in his voyage here on Earth.
Trump has COVID! Who would have guessed it could happen to a guy who refuses to wear a mask, refuses to socially distance, and huffs hot air all day? Melania has it! Hope Hicks has it! Will Mike Pence get it?
My sources say “likely.” I haven’t really looked online yet, but I’m sure the conspiracies are already starting to fly.
This might be Trump’s October Surprise. If you’re unfamiliar with the term, I refer you to Wikipedia:
In American political jargon, an October surprise is a news event deliberately created or timed to influence the outcome of an election, particularly one for the U.S. presidency, or sometimes an event occurring spontaneously that has the same effect.
This October Surprise is going to shake down one of two ways. Here’s the first:
Imagine this– Trump is gravely ill. His supporters are all holding their MAGA hats over their hearts, praying for Trump (and a winning lottery ticket– prosperity gospel and all) when, all of a sudden, full recovery! Trump runs up a ramp and announces to a packed stadium that hydroxychloroquine cured him and COVID is over if you want it! Everyone is elated and begins screaming and spraying droplets in each other’s faces. They begin telling the story of the Trump-Messiah, the man who stared Death in the face but defeated it by his own wit and wile (“See, I told you hydroxychloroquine would work. It worked tremendously.”)
That last part isn’t far-fetched. He already has a cult devoted to him–QAnon, who view him not as a business scam artist/ reality show clown/ orange hobgoblin, but as a savior figure.
Side note>>>>>>QAnon, did I not tell you to leave Chrissy Teigen alone? (See my column “Am I Chrissy Teigen?“) Teigen had a miscarriage this week. Heartbreaking, right? Who could possibly be low enough to kick someone when they’re down like that? I think this Daily Beast headline answers that:
“QAnon and Pro-Lifers Hit a New Low Mocking Chrissy Teigen’s Miscarriage.”
These are Trump’s people. You know who else is? His own street gang, the Proud Boys, who won bigly in Tuesday’s debate. Asked to denounce white supremacy, Trump evaded the question, told the Proud Boys to “stand back and stand by” and called out Antifa instead.
The Proud Boys are being described by a lot of media as a white supremacy group, which isn’t exactly true, though they often stand shoulder to shoulder with white supremacy groups. They are sexist, homophobic, anti-Semitic, offensive, and violent. They are a club that celebrates toxic masculinity, Trump, InfoWars, and mostly just wants to fight with Antifa.
The Proud Boys were of course thrilled by Trump’s call to arms and added the words “Stand Back, Stand By” to their logo and members answered his call by posting comments like “standing by, sir!” When pressed on it the next day, media got a classic Trump waffle– he claimed he had never heard of the Proud Boys (highly unlikely as they’ve had a tight relationship with his former advisor Roger Stone).
This is the same strategy he’s had about others he claims ignorance of instead of doing the right thing, denouncing them– QAnon (“I don’t know much about them, but I hear they like me very much”) and former KKK member David Duke (“I don’t know anything about David Duke,” though he did later “disavow him.”) and even WikiLeaks (he praised WikiLeaks over a hundred times while campaigning, but after Julian Assange was arrested he said “I know nothing about WikiLeaks.”)
This means that either Trump is a spineless liar or he’s grossly incompetent about domestic threats and current events, take your pick, but I’d say the former.
As I said, this October Surprise is going to go down one of two ways– Trump is going to recover on the third day, a holy light radiating off him (oops, that’s just an energy efficient light bulb reflecting his orangeness, nevermind) as a crowd of QAnon, Proud Boys, Bikers for Trump, Pro-Lifers, gun nuts, Karens, incels, and the Ku Klux Klan cheer wildly, or you know, here’s the other way it could go down:
UPDATE: Here’s what one of the (former) QAnon candidates for Congress thinks (and, according to her, what we’re all thinking.)
My book American Madness: The Story of the Phantom Patriot and How Conspiracy Theories Hijacked American Consciousness is out now from Feral House and is available wherever books are sold, including Bookshop.org
I had a great time discussing the book on The Rogge Report, which you can watch here:
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
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.
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
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.
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
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’s “33 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#/
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
“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.
“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
“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.
“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#/
And hey, if you read the book and you got suggestions for tracks to add to this list, leave them in the comments below!
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.
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.
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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.'”
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.
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Here’s my recent appearance on See You On The Other Side, where I discuss the book with Mike and Wendy: