Tea’s Weird Week: Firehose of Falsehood: An Autopsy of Trump’s Conspiracy Theory Presidency (and Why it Will Haunt Us Moving Forward)
It’s fitting that Trump’s presidency is ending on election fraud conspiracies as his 2016 ambitions and every step of his presidency has been one big conspiracy conglomerate, a massive machine of misinformation, salacious rumors, and heavily biased, actual fake news sources. Here’s a tour of some of Trump’s greatest conspiracy hits, why conspiracy has been so beneficial to him, and how the orange stain will linger on long after he’s gone.
Birtherism: In my book American Madness, I wrote a chapter about Trump called “The InfoWars President,” which starts with Trump at the 2011 White House Correspondents Dinner, where he’s being mocked by Obama for his promotion of “Birtherism.” That conspiracy suggests Obama’s birth certificate is fake and that he was actually born in Kenya, thus making him ineligible to be U.S. president. Trump promoted the conspiracy relentlessly, but at the Correspondents Dinner everyone in the room was laughing at him. Trump’s former advisor, conspiracy guru Roger Stone, thinks that night is important in Trump’s plan to run for president.
InfoWars appearance: After launching his presidential campaign in 2015, Trump appears on the most notorious conspiracy-mongering show of all– The Alex Jones Show on InfoWars, at the suggestion of Roger Stone. Trump knew he could build a fringe alliance that would help bolster his base.
Tilting at Windmills: I think Trump probably believes some of the conspiracies he shares are true at gut level, but others he realizes are just a good form of attack. A great example of this is Trump’s seemingly bizarre campaign against wind turbines, or “windmills” as he calls them. The reality behind this is that Scotland built a windfarm near one of Trump’s golf courses, which he will forever be pissed off about because it “ruined the view.” So now he yammers on about wind turbines killing birds and causing cancer because he hates them for ruining his golf course.
Conspiracy Language: Trump quickly began to normalize language like “fake news” (any media that doesn’t shine him) and “witch hunt” (any allegation he’s committed a crime) as a way to deflect. He sometimes also uses language direct from conspiracy theorists, for example, the evil but hard to define “Deep State” that secretly rules the world.
Joe Scarborough Murder Theory: A specific example of Trump using conspiracies to attack his enemies (which is anyone who disagrees with him) is his madness in dealing with Joe Scarborough, former Florida House Rep and host of Morning Joe on MSNBC. Trump responded to criticisms from Scarborough by digging up an old conspiracy that suggests he killed an intern. You can read more in my column here: “Trump’s Joe Scarborough Conspiracy Obsession.”
Social Media Summit: Trump’s “Social Media Summit” in July 2019 was who’s who of Internet trolls, conspiracy peddlers, and the far-right blogosphere. Throughout his presidency he’s platformed these people by re-Tweeting sources like Breitbart News, TheBlaze, and other far right sites to his tens of millions of followers.
QAnon: One of the most alarming stories of 2020 is the rise of QAnon, a conspiracy cult movement that believes that Trump is a Messiah figure who will vanquish an evil cabal of satanic pedophile Democrats that get high on adrenochrome harvested from people. Is this crazy? Yes. Do we have one QAnon believer now elected to the U.S. House of Representatives (and one who seems at least to be open to QAnon beliefs)? Also yes. (See also: “The Election Day Hangover That Won’t Quit“). Trump’s ego, of course, would never shut the idea of a cult dedicated to him down, so he’s tried to waffle on QAnon, saying he “didn’t know who they were” but also heard “they fight pedophilia very hard.”
There are several cases where QAnon believers have turned to violence. Two armed QAnon believers were arrested when they were discovered trying to deliver a Hummer full of fake ballots to a ballot-counting site in Philadelphia. QAnon will cheat and get arrested for Trump and maybe even die for him.
Obamagate: In January, I attended a Trump rally here in Milwaukee. I guess I wanted a look at the belly of the beast. One thing that puzzled me for a moment was Trump talking about Hillary Clinton and basking in the crowd chanting “Lock her up! Lock her up!” Had I time-traveled back to 2016? But then I realized that this was the major policy of the Trump Show– “Crooked Hillary” and the conspiracy that Obama had wiretapped and spied on the Trump campaign. Without his Bond villains, Trump has nothing to fall back on.
Demon Sperm Lady: ‘Nuff said on this one, but you can read more here: “Demon Sperm, Reptilians, and Alien DNA…Meet Trump’s Latest COVID Expert.”
Antifa: As civil unrest and rioting flooded the streets after the murder of George Floyd, Trump found a boogieman he could conjure up when he wanted to attack Democrat led cities and states and scare his constiuency– Antifa. Radical left Antifa warriors, dressed like ninjas, were everywhere– driving caravans of buses into small town America, filling up domestic flights dressed in black bloc gear, recruiting senior citizens to jam police scanners, and burning and looting across the country.
Election Fraud: And of course, what will be the last major Trump conspiracy– mass voter fraud. This is how he goes out– tweeting and babbling (along with his team) a firehose of falsehood, trying to override the truth. Christopher Krebs, director of the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA) put out a statement that read, in part, “There is no evidence that any voting system deleted or lost votes, changed votes, or was in any way compromised.”
Which means, of course, Trump fired him.
Beyond January 20: More American Madness
Over 73 million people voted for Trump. A growing population out there believe that Democrats and other “radical left” figures are satanic pedophiles who get high off adrenochrome that they harvest from living people. And now these same people believe the election was “rigged” and stolen from their beloved leader.
These people are being riled up by bad actors like Alex Jones, who has led rallies in Phoenix, Austin, DC (at the “Million MAGA March”), and most recently, Atlanta, where he cruises around in his InfoWars armored vehicle, screaming through a bullhorn about how there will be a revolution like 1776.
Stewart Rhodes, leader of the militia Oath Keepers told media at the Million MAGA March that his group won’t “recognize Biden as legitimate” and “anything he signs into law we won’t recognize as legitimate. We’ll be very much like the founding fathers. We’ll end up nullifying and resisting.”
Trump’s people now believe they at war, and these people are angry, delusional, and heavily armed. Remember that just recently we learned about a plot by a militia/ domestic terrorism group (the Wolverine Watchmen) that was working on potential plots to kidnap Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer and possibly Virginia Governor Ralph Northam.
Trump’s Street War will continue on after he’s dragged out of the White House yelling “Rigged!”on January 20.
Please Clap (or vote as the case may be) Dept.: I’m nominated for the Shepherd Express 2020 “best of” contest in the “Milwaukee Author” category. The category was introduced in 2011 and since then historian John Gurda (The Making of Milwaukee) has won it 8 out of 9 years. Can Gurda be overthrown? I’ll get out there with a bullhorn like Alex Jones if I have to. Vote here: shepherdexpress.com/best-of-milwaukee/2020#/
You can buy my new book American Madness here: https://bookshop.org/books/american-madness-the-story-of-the-phantom-patriot-and-how-conspiracy-theories-hijacked-american-consciousness/9781627310963
Or wherever books are sold!
And you can find my book Wisconsin Legends & Lore here: https://www.arcadiapublishing.com/Products/9781467143448
I made a somewhat impromptu decision to spend the 4th of July weekend in Seattle. I’m working on a writing project (I’ll tell you about it in the future), and it was kind of irresistible to pass up a chance to explore the former Capitol Hill Autonomous Zone (CHAZ), which was re-branded as Capitol Hill Organized (or Occupied, depending on who you talk to) Protest zone (CHOP). What better place to spend the holiday?
On June 8, protesters drove the Seattle Police Department out of their East Precinct and claimed a six block area (with the East Precinct and Cal Anderson Park as the center) as a “cop-free zone.” After that, “Free Capitol Hill” was held down to various results. Some described it as a summer of love street fest and others an anarchist warzone. The truth is, according to various people I interviewed, more complex than a quick label allows.
After a fatal shooting in the CHOP, a battalion of police and city workers opened it up and cleared protesters out early in the morning July 1, arresting anyone who resisted, removing tents and barricades.
Police kept everyone but residents out for a couple days after that, setting up a perimeter around the entire zone, giving the area the new nickname POOCH (Police Officer Occupied Capitol Hill). I wasn’t sure what I’d find, post-CHOP, but I thought it was worthwhile to go out and see the terrain and interview a few people.
On Friday night, after a long day of wandering around Capitol Hill I met up with some Real-life Superheroes (RLSH). This is, if you didn’t know, an extremely familiar topic to me. My first book, Heroes in the Night: Inside the Real-life Superhero Movement (Chicago Review Press, 2013) was a thorough look at this adventurous lifestyle. My upcoming book American Madness revisits the subculture briefly, too. I was particularly interested to talk to the Emerald City Heroes Organization (ECHO) because they had been spending a lot of patrol time in the CHOP.
My wildest moment over the weekend was observing the clash between a “patriot march” of the Alt-Right. They had proclaimed that “thousands” would be descending to dismantle the CHOP, but after police cleared they area, they said they would perform a “victory lap.” In reality, about 30 showed, including former Proud Boys, a group called Patriot Prayer, militia-types, and at least one openly showing off Nazi tattoos.
I’ll write in detail about what happened in the future, but the short version is Antifa, protesters, and Cap Hill residents chased the group out of town. Police broke up the conflicting sides at the beginning, but at some point just disappeared. The Alt-Right group tried to deter the protesters chasing them down by spraying clouds of bear mace into the street (several Cap Hill residents sitting on their porches got sprayed and joined in angry pursuit). I caught a good whiff of it. They would spray a huge cloud and then when protesters caught up with them again, they’d spray again– they did this 4 or 5 times (one time it backfired when the wind changed direction and they sprayed themselves).
Last time I was in Seattle (in 2011), by the way, I was following RLSH Phoenix Jones and witnessed an event called the “Pepper Spray Incident,” which I wrote about in Heroes in the Night. I guess every time I go to Seattle, I get a taste of pepper spray!
Eventually police reappeared and gave the Alt-Right enough of a buffer to escape.
Converge Media is an independent news site based in Cap Hill and are out livestreaming protests and other actions every day. You can see their footage of the first part of the protest (keep an eye out for me– big, tall guy in a green Milwaukee Record shirt and black Fuel Cafe baseball hat) here: https://www.facebook.com/watch/?v=1022231294913417
The last day I ventured into the CHOP area was Sunday. It was a beautiful afternoon and I ran into several tourists to the CHOP taking pictures of the remaining graffiti, trying to capture this moment of Seattle history.
Here’s a couple random shots I took:
And here’s a postcard I designed for you:
My upcoming book American Madness features a journey through conspiracy culture. It’s out August 25, 2020 from Feral House. To pre-order: Lion’s Tooth: CLICK HERE Bookshop.org: CLICK HERE Amazon:CLICK HERE
It’s on Goodreads here: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/52486773-american-madness
“Tea Krulos has forged a fascinating collection of work by immersing himself in various sub-cultures that exist on the fringes of society.” —Cult of Weird