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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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
“That being said, I do believe there is a group in Brussels, Belgium, that do eat aborted babies.”– Matthew Lusk, QAnon member and Florida Congressional candidate
I wish I were joking with this week’s column title, but I’m not. Media Matters for America, a liberal watchdog group that monitors right-wing media, has identified 24 candidates (though two have already dropped out) who have launched 2020 campaigns that are promoters of the QAnon theory. Yikes.
QAnon is a cult-like conspiracy following that believes in a Trump Messiah. I wrote about them in a chapter of my upcoming book American Madness: The Story of the Phantom Patriot and How Conspiracy Theories Hijacked American Consciousness (Aug.25, Feral House) in a chapter titled, simply enough, “Q.”
QAnon beliefs go in a number of crazy directions, but the heart of the belief says that Democrats are running a secret satanic pedophile ring (the Pizzagate theory ties into this) and are practicing cannibalism. They believe Trump is silently plotting a day of reckoning, referred to as “The Storm” when all of these liberal villains– “Crooked Hillary,” Obama, “Nervous Nancy,” members of the Fake News media, and everyone else part of the “Deep State” will be rounded up, given military tribunals and sent to rot in Guantanamo Bay. Cryptic messages about this “Great Awakening” are sent to the initiated by a figure known as “Q.” There is much speculation on who Q is. Some say it is John Kennedy Jr., who faked his death and is secretly helping Trump out, or that it is Trump himself or someone in his inner circle. Spoilers: Q is probably an Internet troll.
There are many times QAnon has pointed to Trump supposedly acknowledging them– most recently I was amused to see that the Associated Press talked to QAnon members at the Milwaukee Trump rally that I attended and said they “believed the president had traced the shape of the letter ‘Q’ as a covert signal to followers of QAnon.” [“‘QAnon’ conspiracy theory creeps into mainstream politics,”Associated Press.]
You can identify QAnon believers by the lingo they use, often signaled as hashtags. “Where we go one, we go all” (abbreviated to wwg1wga) is the QAnon phrase of solidarity. “The Storm,” and “The Great Awakening,” refer to the QAnon revolution and “trust the plan” is another common signature. Q leaves “drops” and “breadcrumbs” as clues.
Some analysis of the QAnon candidates: Twelve states have QAnon candidates. California and Florida are tied with the most QAnon Congress hopefuls at five each. California has two vying for the 36th district (a huge mass of land east of LA in the Joshua Tree State Park), while in Florida, two are also competing for the 22nd district (which includes Fort Lauderdale and Boca Raton). Texas follows with three (though one dropped out) and Minnesota with two. The candidates are split almost 50/50 between men and women. All but one (a Libertarian) are running as Republicans.
The most infamous of these contests include Matthew Lusk, running in Florida’s 5th district (which includes Tallahassee, Jacksonville) unopposed, meaning he’ll be running in the general election against Democrat Rep. Al Lawson. Lusk’s website includes a page devoted to Q, which only has three words of information on it:
Danielle Stella of Minnesota is running against Ilhan Omar, a favorite liberal villain. Stella says Omar hired a hitman to kill a woman and was banned from Twitter after tweeting that Omar should be hung for treason. She’s been a guest on InfoWars, and on a QAnon YouTube channel called “Patriot’s Soapbox.” She apparently also has a problem with shoplifting “cat merchandise.”
Another QAnon contender (and InfoWars guest) is DeAnna Lorraine Tesoriero, running against top Trump enemy Nancy Pelosi in California. As noted in the #TrumpConspiracyCounter, Trump has retweeted Tesoriero.
Here’s the list of known QAnon members running for office in 2020:
- Daniel Wood, Arizona’s 3rd District
- Dan Belcher, Oklahoma’s 5th District
- Matthew Lusk, Florida’s 5th District
- Michael Blumeling Jr., Florida’s 21st District
- Jeremy Brown, Florida’s 14th District
- Christine Scott, Florida’s 22nd District
- Darlene Swaffer, Florida’s 22nd District
- DeAnna Lorraine Tesoriero, California’s 12th District
- Erin Cruz, California’s 36th District
- Ignacio Cruz, California’s 39th District
- Rhonda Furin, California’s 45th District
- Patrice Kimbler, California’s 36th District
- Joanne Wright, California’s 34th District
- Marjorie Taylor Greene, Georgia’s 14th District
- Steve Von Loor, North Carolina’s 4th District
- Rich Helms, Texas’s 33rd District
- Michael Moates, Texas’s 26th District (dropped out after sending creepy messages to teens)
- Joe Walz, Texas’s 22nd District
- Nichole Williams, Tennessee’s 1st District
- Gary Heyer, Minnesota’s 3rd District
- Danielle Stella, Minnesota’s 5th District
- Bobby Jeffries, Pennyslvania’s 10th District (has reportedly dropped out)
- Jo Rae Perkins, Oregon’s 4th District
- Lauren Witzke, Delaware, candidate for U.S. Senate
Source: “Here are the QAnon Supporters Running for Congress,” Alex Kaplan, Media Matters for America.
This is crazy, damn damn damn crazy. It shows how important local elections can be. Please look into your local elections and VOTE. Don’t let these candidates and their imaginary friend Q get into office.
My upcoming book American Madness features a journey through conspiracy culture, including QAnon. It’s out August 25, 2020 from Feral House. To pre-order: CLICK HERE
“Journalist Tea Krulos has made a curious and enlightening career out of examining groups of people with odd beliefs.” — Skeptical Inquirer
As noted in today’s column, Trump has already gotten a number of hits on the #TrumpConspiracyCounter by retweeting followers of QAnon, including some this week. Here’s the tallies for Feb.6-12.
64.) Feb.6: Trump, furious at Romney for voting for one of the articles of impeachment, posts a video that promotes Mitt Romney as being a “secret Democrat asset.”
65.-71.) Feb.6-7: Bongino! Dan Bongino has racked up the most #TrumpConspiracyCounter points so far this year. He’s a former InfoWars regular, NRA-TV host, and now a FOX contributor and author of conspiracy book Spygate.
72.) Feb. 6: G’day, mate: Trump retweets Australian conspiracy theorist Miranda Devine, who has promoted the white genocide conspiracy theory, as well as climate change hoaxes, including a strange one that suggests Boeing planes crashed because of pressures to make them more eco-friendly. Make your brain hurt here: “NY Post Columnist Miranda Devine Bizarrely Blames Climate Concern for Boeing Disasters,” Daily Kos.
73.) Feb.6: Trump retweets Charlie Kirk, founder of college orientated Alt-Right Turning Point USA, promotor of many conspiracies, most recently Iowa voting theories.
74-75.) Feb.9: Retweets of Big League Politics. Started by a former Breitbart News writer Patrick Howley, who has called Alex Jones “my Walter Cronkite.” Formed in 2017, the site has promoted several conspiracies including QAnon, the Clinton Body Count, and Charlottesville false flag conspiracies.
Source: “Roy Moore Consultants’ New Project: A Conspiracy-Theorizing Pro-Trump News Site,”Daily Beast.
77.) Feb.9: Trump retweets Red Pill Report, sharing a video of House Judiciary Chairman Jerry Nadler being shouted at by a heckler. The video was made by a QAnon YouTuber called “In Pursuit of Truth.”
78.) Feb. 9: Trump goes on an ALL CAPS Tweet freakout, ranting about the Spygate conspiracy. It read, in part:
SIMPLY PUT, THE PARTY IN POWER ILLEGALLY SPIED ON MY CAMPAIGN, BOTH BEFORE AND AFTER THE ELECTION, IN ORDER TO CHANGE OR NULLIFY THE RESULTS OF THE ELECTION. IT CONTINUED ON WITH THE IMPEACHMENT HOAX. Terrible!
79.) Feb.10-12: These could be stretched out to several counts, as over two days Trump tweeted and spoke to the press in defense of his old campaign advisor and conspiracy theorist (and possible Batman villain) Roger Stone.
Stone has a hand in Trump becoming president, being one of the early people to suggest a White House run to him in the 1980s. In 2015, Trump tapped him to unleash the “Stone’s Rules” playbook. Stone has a long career as being a self-described “dirty trickster” as well as being a conspiracy theorist, spreading ideas like the Clinton Body Count, the Deep State, and many others. He teamed up with Alex Jones and had his own InfoWars show.
Although Trump claims “nobody really knows what he did,” the 7 felonies charged against Stone are specific– obstructing an official proceeding, witness tampering, and five counts of making false statements to Congress for his roll in trying to get dirt on Hillary Clinton from WikiLeaks and intimidating witnesses to lie from him.
After the Department of Justice announced a 7-9 year reccomended prison term, Trump vigorously defended Stone, saying his sentence was a “miscarriage of justice” and “very unfair” and that the Stone prosecutors were “rogue prosecutors maybe? The Swamp!” Attorney General Bill Barr stepped in to say that the sentence wasn’t reasonable and would not “serve the interests of justice.” The four prosecutors who made the sentencing recommendation all withdrew from the case, with one quitting the Department of Justice completely. Many have speculated Stone will end up being pardoned by Trump, though he wouldn’t provide an answer when the press asked him.
More on Stone’s dirty trickster history: “A Brief History of Roger Stone,” The Atlantic.
80.-82.) Feb.10: Retweets of Tom Fitton/ Judicial Watch. Fitton is president of conservative activist group Judicial Watch, which has spread conspiracies about the Clinton Body Count, voter fraud, Spygate, George Soros, climate change, and others.
You can find the #TrumpConspiracyCounter on Twitter: twitter.com/TrumpConspirac3