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
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And you can find my book Wisconsin Legends & Lore here: https://www.arcadiapublishing.com/Products/9781467143448
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.
American Madness is available at Lion’s Tooth: www.lionstoothmke.com/american_madness.html#/
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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: