When Democrats choose their candidate, they’ll have to face the storm of a massive propaganda machine– Russian troll farms, targeted disinformation campaigns, and a tidal wave of vomit spewing forth from the Alt-Right and conspiracy theorists filled with lies, fear-mongering, and every dirty trick in the book. And nobody does this better than Donald Trump himself.
With my book American Madness: The Story of the Phantom Patriot and How Conspiracy Theories Hijacked American Consciousness out in August, I thought that I would do a project this year where I try to catalog all of the times Trump promotes conspiracy theory. What I’ve seen in just two months is frightening, but not surprising.
To recap some #TrumpConspiracyCounter rules: In addition to his direct promotion of a conspiracy, I tally every time Trump retweets or endorses a known conspiracy theorist or outlet, even if he is just retweeting them saying “have a nice day” or something. Why? Because Trump is the President of the United States. He has a huge platform of 72 million plus followers on Twitter (though many are bots) and his tweets get retweeted tens and hundreds of thousands of times. That’s introducing these people and their ideas to a huge platform.
I try to keep track of things best I can, but you could have a whole team devoted to this and I’m just one guy. So think of the #TrumpConspiracyCounter as a highlight reel to what I can catch, which is still enough to keep the counter clicking away rapidly. Just over two months into the year and we’re already at 119.
Biggest stories so far: Some of the noteworthy stories from the last couple months include Trump awarding vile gasbag and conspiracy monger Rush Limbaugh the Presidential Medal of Freedom during the State of the Union address. He also heavily defended his former advisor, 7-time felon, self-described “dirty trickster,” Batman villain, and conspiracist Roger Stone. Over the last week Trump (along with Limbaugh, FOX News, and other outlets) have pushed the narrative that the threat of the coronavirus is a Democrat/ Fake News “hoax” to damage Trump’s reputation. He even suggested in an interview with Sean Hannity that coronavirus was equitable to common influenza and people would be fine going to work with it and in true Trump fashion said his info was based on a “hunch.” (Tea’s Weird Week health tip: don’t go to work if you have the coronavirus.)
The coronavirus conspiracies have spread faster than the virus itself. Anti-vaxxers, QAnon believers, and others are passing around theories that the virus was cooked up by mad scientist Bill Gates and that the government will enforce a mandatory vaccine as part of a mass brainwashing program.
Most under the radar story: A couple weeks ago, I wrote a column about how two dozen people in the 2020 race for Congress are QAnon supporters. Trump has retweeted DeAnna Lorraine Tesoriero, a QAnon believer running against Nancy Pelosi, several times. I’m surprised I haven’t seen more press on this. My column is here: “There Are Two Dozen Members of QAnon Running for Congress.”
Most frequent: In our fist #TrumpConspiracyCounter entry, we talked about conspiracy in Trump’s daily language as he uses terms like “witch hunt,” “hoax,” and “fake news” (and I admitted I couldn’t tally it all due to the frequency he uses it). He’s also very much still obsessed with “Spygate,” the unfounded theory that Obama (with help from the FBI) wiretapped Trump Tower in 2016. He’s brought it up frequently this year, including at the Milwaukee Trump rally I attended and in January, he tweeted out the image below.
The most frequent theorists he’s retweeted so far include Dan Bongino, an InfoWars favorite and author of a book on Spygate and Tom Fitton, who runs a “watchdog group” called Judicial Watch which has spread conspiracies about voter fraud, climate change, and the “Deep State.”
Conspiracy outlets Trump has retweeted: Trump has retweeted these sources, which frequently pump out conspiracy: The Blaze (a media outlet run by Glenn Beck), Breitbart News, The Epoch Times (run by the Falun Gong, they’ve promoted QAnon and have spent over $9 million on Trump ads and created hundreds of fake accounts to promote them), and Big League Politics (started by a former Breitbart writer who says Alex Jones was “his Walter Cronkite.”) among others. Here’s the counter tallies from Feb. 20-March3.
97-100.) Feb. 20: Quadruple Hit! “… it appears that Trump combined claims of Democratic voter fraud, unfair media bias, intelligence-community misconduct, and the misreporting of his crowd sizes into one big mess of paranoia.” We’re counting that as 4.
Source: “Trump Enters Full Conspiracist Mode at Colorado Rally,” New York magazine
101.) Feb. 20: At the same Colorado rally, Trump brought up a frequent enemy: wind turbines. In the past Trump has bizarrely claimed that the sound of wind turbines causes cancer, that they are a mass bird killer (they do kill birds, but not nearly as much as windows, cats, and electric lines do) and, despite claiming “I know windmills very much,” says that people won’t be able to watch their TVs on a calm day, due to lack of power.
Here’s a line from his Colorado rally: “Blow wind please; please keep the birds away from those windmills, please.”
If you think it’s a little…I dunno…out of character for Trump to have an animal rights activism streak for the birds, you’re right. Trump does not give a flying fuck about golden eagles. In actuality, Trump began his quixotic quest after windfarms were proposed in proximity to his golf course in Scotland. Trump became furious at the idea of “ugly” wind turbines ruining the view of his golf course, saying it was an act of “public vandalism.” His crusade against these “eyesores” has been blowing in the wind ever since. Much like his theory that energy-efficient light bulbs make your skin look orange, this is a Trump conspiracy born of his own vanity.
Sources: “Trump Condemns California Wind Farm as Decrepit Eagle Killer,” Forbes.
“Trump resumes fight against windfarm near Scottish golf course,” The Guardian.
102) Feb. 21: Retweets Charlie Kirk (Turning Point USA).
103-104.) Feb. 24: two retweets from Lori Hendry about the plight of Roger Stone. Has promoted Pizzagate and a number of other anti-Democrat conspiracies/ falsehoods, including one that Chuck Schumer raped his 16-year-old daughter’s friend, who comitted suicide. That’s false. Here Trump was retweeting Hendry’s tweets about Roger Stone.
105-107.) Feb. 25: More Retweets and a tweet claiming Roger Stone got an unfair trial.
108.) Feb. 26: Retweets Eric Bolling of The Blaze conspiracy site.
109.) Feb. 26: Retweets Tom Fitton (Judicial Watch).
110-112.) Feb.26: 3 retweets from Mark Levin (The Blaze), 2 on Roger Stone.
113.) Feb.26: Retweets DeAnna Lorraine Tesoriero, one of the two dozen QAnon believers running for Congress this year.
114.) Feb.27: Trump met for 45 minutes with the cast of a “low budget conservative play about the Deep State” titled FBI Lovebirds: Undercovers by playwright Phelim McAleer.
Source: “Trump Spends 45 Minutes With ‘Deep State’ Play Actors Amid Coronavirus Mayhem,” Daily Beast.
115.) Feb. 28: Trump joins in with Rush Limbaugh, FOX, and others in saying that concerns about the coronavirus are a “hoax” to make him look bad. Source: “Trump calls coronavirus Democrats’ ‘new hoax,’” NBC News.
116.) Feb.29: We’re giving one point for Trump attending the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC). It’s a den of Alt-Right characters and conspiracy. Here’s an article about last year’s conference: “The Conspiracy Theory President Finds His Comfort Zone at CPAC,” Washington Monthly. This year, coronavirus conspiracies were a popular topic.
Interesting side note: Owen Shroyer of InfoWars was kicked out of CPAC this year after ambushing pundit Seb Gorka at the conference. That led Alex Jones to do the rational thing– he called CPAC Seb Gorka “a gay whale” and “snakeoil salesman” and challenged him to a bare-knuckle boxing match.
117-118.) March 1 & 3: Tweets endorsement of Charlie Kirk‘s (Turning Point USA) new book The MAGA Doctrine.
119.) March 3: Retweets Dana Loesch, a Blaze, Breitbart, and former NRA-TV personality.
My upcoming book American Madness features a journey through conspiracy culture. It’s out August 25, 2020 from Feral House. To pre-order: CLICK HERE