I see there’s another Jurassic Park movie out soon (June 9) to kick off summer blockbuster season, so I thought it was as good a time as any to talk about a special breed of conspiracy theorists sometimes called “dinosaur deniers.” Me and Heidi talked about this on the Tea’s Weird Week podcast after I joined a viral Facebook group called Christians Against Dinosaurs. There were quite a few laughs. The group says that “Big Paleo” is the force of greed that perpetuates the “Dino Lie” to eager “dinophiles” so they can rake in the big money selling phony fossils to museums.
But in scrolling through the group it was really difficult to determine if these people truly held these beliefs or if it was a master class of trolling. And if it was trollcraft, it seemed likely it had inadvertently attracted some people who do believe that dinosaurs never existed.
Their have been legit dinosaur deniers in the past, and the main talking points are either religious– fossils were fakes created by Satan to bolster evolution theories or some such, or are theories cherry picking hoaxes and scientific error.
While working on my book American Madness, Dr. Daniel White of University of Sydney was helpful in explaining the appeal of conspiracy belief. Here’s a quote from him in the book:
“Those ‘selling’ conspiracy theories are better at selling themselves as experts than their mainstream alternatives, as well as what their ‘research’ finds. Science is very self-doubting in its presentation; usually, a finding is put forward as something along the lines of ‘based on our findings we can predicte that the most likely explanation is…however, here are the limitations of our study.'”
Compare that to someone like Alex Jones slamming his fist on a desk screaming about how he has “irrefutable proof” of some “false flag” attack. A lot more confident!
American Madness also took me to the International Flat Earth Conference in Dallas. Although there obviously were some other media types there and maybe a couple of undercover “globehead” (that’s the term for dum dums that believe the world is ball shaped) gawkers, I can say that the majority of the roughly 500 people there were legit Flat Earthers, so dinosaur deniers is not far fetched by comparison.
But there are several examples of conspiracy movement hoaxes. Before the modern wave of Flat Earthers, there was a Canadian group in the 1970s called the Flat Earth Society, based out of Saint Thomas University, a satire group of poets and philosophy students. A more recent example is the Birds Aren’t Real, a group of jokers who say they believe birds are actually government surveillance robots. But these days, things are so fucking nuts, who can tell what is real and what isn’t?!
I read a good article about all this from 2015 titled “Poes, Trolls, and Dinosaur Deniers” for skeptic.com, written by a paleontologist named Dr. Donald Prothero. He warns of Poe’s Law, described in this passage:
This (the Christians Against Dinosaurs group) seems so over the top that it immediately struck me as another example of extreme satire and parody which are so common on the internet. Often referred to as a “Poe,” these satirical pieces are intended to mock the bizarre beliefs of many groups of people from the extreme political and religious fringes. According to RationalWiki, the idea was first coined by Nathan Poe in a 2005 post, and “Poe’s Law” is the “observation that it’s difficult, if not impossible, to distinguish between parodies of fundamentalism or other extreme views and their genuine proponents, since they both seem equally insane.”
He points out solid evidence that the Christian Against Dinosaurs group started, at least, as a joke, with admins tied to other satire sites. Kristin Auclair, who recorded videos for the group talking about dinosaur denial, claims on a post that her videos were “satire,” though like third-rate knock-offs of The Onion, it’s hard to see the satire because of Poe’s Law, which makes it pretty unfunny, in my opinion.
To add to the confusion, Christians Against Dinosaurs encouraged a protest against a Tucson McDonald’s that has a statue of a dinosaur outside it on Tanque Verde Road in August 2020. Someone inside the group encouraged people to call the franchise’s management and a “spokesperson” told the local Patch.com affiliate (one of several local media outlets to pick up the story) that “We’re fed up with everybody acting like the people of Tucson are imbeciles and we want to help.”
This was certainly more trolling, but as Dr. Prothero notes:
We are also in the tricky position demonstrated by all Poes: the crazies out there are so bizarre that it’s often impossible to tell a well-crafted parody from the real thing.
My latest books are:
Brady Street Pharmacy: Stories and Sketches (2021, Vegetarian Alcoholic Press)
American Madness: The Story of the Phantom Patriot and How Conspiracy Theories Hijacked American Consciousness (2020, Feral House)
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.
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#/
Diorama from Feral House on Vimeo.
An Examination of One of Music’s Strangest Sub-genres, Plus the #TrumpConspiracyCounter Hits 063
In past “Tea’s Weird Week” columns, I explored conspiracy theories and urban legends about musicians, everyone from The Beatles to Tupac Shakur to Kurt Cobain to Ace of Base. You can read part one HERE and part two HERE.
But what about music by the conspiracy theorists, for the conspiracy theorists? Although there’s examples of JFK Assassination Folk and Extraterrestrial themed pop-punk out there, no conspiracy topic has as well-rounded (sorry) of a musical output as Flat Earth Theory, as I discovered when I attended the Flat Earth International Conference in Dallas this last November. Flat Earthers create music in a variety of genres, but the bulk is hip hop, or as I like to call it, “flat hop.” You might be as surprised as I was to learn that there is more than one flat hop artist, and more than a dozen around the world (sorry)… but probably not much more than a dozen.
Bust out a big piece of cardboard, Globeheads, find a flat surface (again, sorry) and get ready to start break-dancing because here is…
7. “Get Over It,” Mr. Matty Moses
Choice rhyme: “You’re digger deeper and you don’t know what to believe/ you’re getting pissed off that you’ve been duped and deceived/who do you blame NASA? The elites? (both of ’em)/ a lot of darker voices hiding our reality that…the earth’s flat, flat flat get over it.”
Notes: Mr. Matty Moses isn’t having it and wants you to get over the globe lies. To prove he’s tough on this, he’s rapping atop a pile of pallets behind a factory and other urban environments. Bonus point for working in a diss on Greek philosopher Pythagoras (credited with being one of the first to realize the world is round) into the rap.
6. “The World is Flat,” B.A.G.D.A.G. featuring D. Marble
Choice rhyme: “I’m on a mission to go out and wake the masses/ Like this is They Live, and I’m handing out glasses/ Like ‘put these on quick and you can see how fake space is’/ Like I was sent here to tear down the Matrix.”
Notes: These guys are super stoked about their personalized flat earth sweatshirts. Which came first– the song or the sweatshirts? I’m betting sweatshirts. They Live and The Matrix are frequently referenced in Flat Earther culture (and conspiracy believers in general).
5. “Round and Curvy,” Friend of Yahweh
Choice rhyme: “I want to flow with the planets/ but oh well I can’t get past the firmament/ Just too round and curvy/ think I’m just too round and curvy/ I’m just too NASA nerdy.”
Notes: Wow-weeeee, I’m speechless. This is a (sometimes shot-for-shot) parody of “Weird Al” Yankovic’s “White and Nerdy” video (which is a parody of “Ridin'” by Chamillionaire). This parody of parody is told from the perspective of a complete tool who believes in, you know, science, and features alien marionettes and a rapping “round and curvy” earth. Does the world– round or flat– need a “Flat Earth Weird Al” Yankovic? The answer is NO.
4. “It’s Flat!,” Curved Water
Choice rhyme: “It’s flat/ and now it feels so good to me/ I’m waking every day with this smile/ full of positivity/ waited all my life just to think for myself/ just a little bit more critically.”
Notes: I don’t know that this technically counts as hip hop, but I had to include it because of the damn hot flat earth passion! Most flat hop is about dissing NASA, mainstream science, the Illuminati, etc., but this song is about the pure ecstasy of discovering that the world is flat. It’s a flat earth song to make sweet love to.
3. “Dear NASA, Why Are you Lying?,” ODD TV
Choice rhyme: “NASA’s missions to the moon were never completed/ they just filmed them in a room and people believed it/ I used to wonder what it’s like to be an astronaut/ now when I seem em acting I can’t help but laugh a lot.”
Notes: ODD TV is one of the grandmasters of flat hop, no doubt. Check out my note about the playlist I made at the end of this article for more ODD tracks like “Cartoon Ball.” I chose this one for the sick Chili Peppers sample and the overall Flat Earth mood.
2. “Flatliner,” B.o.B.
Choice rhyme: “Woo!/ Use Use your common sense/ why is NASA part of the Department of Defense?/ they divided up the seas into 33 degrees/ feeding kids masonry bruh, be careful what you read.”
Notes: This is a Neil Degrasse Tyson diss track! After B.o.B. talked about the world being flat in an interview, it sparked a beef between the rapper and the astrophysicist. B.o.B. recorded this diss track and Tyson appeared on Comedy Central’s The Nightly Show with Larry Wilmore to literally drop a mic to demonstrate gravity. Guys, slow down! Remember what happened to Tupac and Biggie!
1. “Flat Smackin’ (The All-Star Remix),” Wes Blaze Muzik featuring Amber Paster, Sebastian Calico, ODD TV, DECM, Flat Earth Man, The Watcher, D, Marble, and B.A.G.D.A.G.
Choice rhyme: “Eat. Sleep. Debunk the globe, repeat.”
Notes: I have some sentimental value to this song because I saw it performed live at the Flat Earth International Conference last year and it was my awakening to the fact that flat hop was a thing. Just a couple great things about this track: 1.) “Flat smacking” is a Flat Earther term that refers to dropping knowledge on unsuspecting “globeheads” that the world is flat. 2.) Flat Earth Man is the biggest Flat Earther music star, a British dude that sings country songs about flat earth. He joins in the all-star rap here in the greatest country/ hip hop crossover since “Old Town Road.”
Please Clap Dept.: I’ve just created an American Madness Channel on YouTube, please subscribe. I haven’t uploaded any of my own videos yet. So far I got 4 playlists rolling: Flat Hop, which features all the songs on this list (plus several more), playlists with videos on the Bohemian Grove and Denver Airport Conspiracy, and a Tea Krulos Interviews list which has a few of my appearances on various podcasts. More playlists to follow soon. Here’s the link: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCoFCwzjjghaVXSWUwEZx27g/playlists
My upcoming book American Madness features my experience at a flat earth conference, among many other conspiracy encounters. It’s out August 25, 2020 from Feral House. To pre-order: CLICK HERE
Flat Earth hip hop, Reptilian aliens, and Kevin Spacey murder theories all just seems like stupid crazy stuff. But conspiracy can be dangerous, especially as it is being weaponized for the 2020 elections. The contents of this week’s #TrumpConspiracyCounter is alarming stuff.
57.) January 30: Trump retweets The Epoch Times. The newspaper (and related media) was founded by a Chinese cult called the Falun Gong, who believes a judgment day is nigh and that “Trump was sent by heaven to destroy Communism.” The newspaper is saturated in conspiracy theories, including promoting QAnon and Anti-vaxxers. In December 2019, Facebook took down 600 accounts tied to The Epoch Times that had created fake, A.I. generated user profilers and spent $9.5 million on pro-Trump ads. Source: “Facebook say a pro-Trump media outlet used artificial intelligence to create fake people and push conspiracies,” NBC News.
58.) January 30: Retweets DeAnna Lorraine Tesoriero, who is running against Trump enemy Nancy Pelosi and is a regular on InfoWars. Tesoriero is one of 12 QAnon believers running for Congress. Source:“GOP’s ‘QAnon Conspiracy Followers Running for Congress,” The National Memo.
59.) January 30: Trump retweets Dawn Michael, a sex counselor and member of QAnon. For more on Michael and Tesoriero, read:
“Trump Retweets InfoWars Regular And QAnon-Supporting Sex Coach During Impeachment Trial,” Newsweek.
60.) January 30: It’s hard to make the distinction of what to list as conspiracy and what is just wacky Trump bloviating, but we’re going to count this Trump statement at an Iowa rally: “The Green New Deal, which would crush our farms, destroy our wonderful cows. They want to kill our cows. You know why, right? You know why? Don’t say it. They want to kill our cows. That means you’re next.” The Democrats Want to Kill Your Cows and Then You Theory.
61.) February 4: Honorary Counter Click for Rush Limbaugh. Trump’s State of the Union speech contained a lot of lies but was light on conspiracy. That’s not surprising as in situations like this we get “Teleprompter Trump.” But one shocking moment was when he awarded Rush Limbaugh the Presidential Medal of Freedom…during the speech. First Lady Melania hung the medal on him as Trump commended his long time friend, who recently announced he is on his way out with stage 4 lung cancer.
Limbaugh is the original Alt-Right. He paved the way for every angry, obnoxious, far-right blowhard that followed– Alex Jones, Glenn Beck, and the FOX News personalities, just to name a few. He has a long legacy of disgusting racist, sexist comments and, of course, promotions of conspiracy theories. To mention just a few of his greatest hits: Birtherism, the Clinton Body Count, the theory that the 2018 New Zealand mosque mass shooting was a “false flag” to smear conservatives, that Hurricane Irma was a liberal hoax, and that mail bombs sent to Democrat targets were being sent by the Democrats themselves.
62.-63.) February 5: Retweets of Michael Lebron aka Lionel, radio and YouTube personality and promoter of QAnon and other conspiracies. See “Trump meets with promoter of ‘QAnon’ in White House,” The Hill.
Well, here we are. Just over a month into 2020 and Trump has already promoted conspiracy theorists and ideas over 60 times. Rush Limbaugh has won a medal that is supposed to go to Americans who have made “an especially meritorious contribution to the security or national interests of the United States, world peace, cultural or other significant public or private endeavors.” These are dark times.
Follow #TrumpConspiracyCounter on Twitter: twitter.com/TrumpConspirac3
OR… STOP THE FLAT EARTH, I WANT TO GET OFF
November is Conspiracy Month at Tea’s Weird Week. Reporting live from Dallas…
Well, as I mentioned on Facebook, here in Dallas is probably where my story jumps the shark or falls off the edge of reality. The edge of the Flat Earth, that is. Yes, this “globehead” (which is what suckers like me who believe the world is a sphere are called) went undercover to hang out at the Flat Earth International Conference the last two days here in a suburb called Frisco in a hotel conference center.
You’ll be able to read more about the experience in my upcoming book, American Madness (Feral House, August 2020) but for now, here are some random notes, observations, and a couple photos.
- First of all, yes, these people really do believe the earth is flat. Or at least they think that they think they do. I think it’s more cult-like, a group of people looking for a place to belong.
- Some demographics: my estimate was 300-500 attendees. Mostly white, but not exclusively. Wide age range and I would say more men than women, but not by much. Some observations from my note pad, people that looked like “eccentric professors” “kind of punk rock” “family: man with beard, woman in prairie dress, 3 kids–Amish? Mormon?” “bros with backward baseball caps” “Latino bodybuilder with Flat Earth tank top” “sunburnt bald guy with Snidley Whiplash mustache.” But a lot of people looked like regular everyday people you might see in line at the grocery store.
- Enemies of Flat Earthers, called out repeatedly during the conference: NASA (“masonic and Satanic,” as one speaker said), Neil Degrasse-Tyson, Bill Nye, MythBusters (all guilty of ridiculing flat earth), Albert Einstein, Elon Musk, and mainstream media. They did seem to admire Nikola Tesla.
- There were about a dozen young kids in attendance. I did make me really sad to think of these kids growing up being told that space and space exploration and science in general is FAKE. Science is very cool, kids.
- I recommend the Netflix doc on FLat Earthers. Behind the Curve. Most of the people in that doc were here, including main subject Mark Sargent.
- There are religious flat earthers, who believe the Bible provides clues that the earth is flat. Then there are flat earthers who have pieced together some pseudo-science experiments, like bring a carpenter’s level onto an airplane or shining a laser across a flat area to prove there’s no curvature.
- One moment I kept thinking about– during a break I went across the street to get a slice of pizza from 7-11. I sat on a bench outside to scarf it down. A guy came walking up and gave a little wave. “Hey, fellow Flat Earther,” he said. “Hey man!” I replied. He looked like he wanted to say something more, but he shyly turned away. I saw him around the conference, sitting by himself. He seemed awkward, lonely, in need of a friend. He probably fell down a YouTube hole (that’s how many Flat Earthers are converted) and ended up here.
- The most popular flat earth pseudoscience podcast is GLOBEBUSTERS (their experiments were featured in the Behind the Curve documentary). I got to see a recording of the podcast including a live performance of the Globebusters theme song! It’s not quite a parody of the Ghostbusters song, but kind of an odd remix and it’s been stuck in my damn head all day.
- Speaking of music, Flat Earthers have a rich output of music geared toward them, which makes them unique in conspiracy culture (where is the anti-vaxx or Reptilian themed songs?) Flat Earth Man sings country tunes on flat earth related topics. He sadly didn’t perform live this year, but he popped up in no less than four Flat Earth Video Awards nominees and I bought a signed copy of his CD.There also is a flat earth hip hop genre, there were a couple of live performances of booty shakin’ hits like “Lean Flat.” I think I’ll be writing a column or article on flat earth hip hop someday soon.Also performing were a couple of vocalists I’d describe as…pop? Soul? Imagine Mariah Carey singing about how NASA lies and believing your own eyes about not seeing a curvature on the earth.
- I was excited to see a “Flat Earth Game Show” but it turned out to be a scene they’re shooting in a movie about Flat Earth…but the cast were all Flat Earthers (Mark Sargent was the host).
- When I saw a comedy show listed, I had high hopes it would be like an open mic where Flat Earthers roasted globeheads or made Seinfeld like observations about day-to-day life on flat earth. I did get to see a bit of this at the awards show, but the main comedy event was Alt-Right comedian Owen Benjamin who has been shunned by mainstream comedy and has found refuge here in the fringe. His set bashed gay and transgendered people, he ranted a defense about being able to use the N-bomb in a comedy bit, blah blah– complete shit. Bad form, Flat Earthers.
- I watched about six talks, including “NASA: Going Nowhere Since 1958” and “Coming Out of the Flat Earth Closet: A Call to Activism.” In between, I checked out the vendor floor, spread down the conference hallway. It included flat earth models, clocks, posters, self-published books, DVDs, clothes, jewelry, and busts of Nikola Tesla.
- I was really excited to see the “Flat Earth Mega Panel” and submitted questions to it, but because the other speakers were longwinded, it was canceled. Flat Earthers not only don’t use globes, they also don’t like to use watches, apparently.
- The conference ended with the Flat Earth Video Awards, aka the “Flattys.” It featured live music performances, and included awards to “Best Flat Earth Awakening Video,” “Best Flat Earth Proof Experiment” and “Best Flat Smacking.””Flat smacking” is when you drop the truth bomb that the world is flat on a poor, unsuspecting globehead, you see. Now you know! The conference was a very interesting experiment, and I’m excited to write on it in more detail for American Madness. Time for me to get to work, my friends– as the Flate Earthers like to say– keep it flat!
Next week: My conspiracy journey continues here in Dallas. Will things get even weirder? I don’t think that’s possible. Will they remain reasonably weird? Yeah.