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Tea’s Weird Week: Would-be Kenosha Shooters were into Conspiracy Theory; “Q” Revealed?

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First off, thanks to everyone who came out for my in-person event Sept. 5 at the X-Ray Arcade and my online event yesterday. Absolutely one of the best parts of writing a book is celebrating the release. I am all googly heart-eyed about the parties that participated in the release events: my publisher Feral House, independent bookseller Lion’s Tooth, the very cool X-Ray Arcade, and your source for all things Milwaukee, Milwaukee Record. A couple American Madness-like news items caught my eye this last week.

First, I was disturbed to read that two people were arrested September 1, traveling to Kenosha from Missouri to be in town for Trump’s appearance. They were heavily armed and admitted they were heading to town to potentially shoot protesters. Now, this was a little nervewracking to me because I was there in Kenosha that day. I spent the day observing protests, posting what I saw under the hashtag #StreetCheeto. The FBI arrested Michael Karmo, 40, and Cody E. Smith, 33, at a La Quinta hotel in Pleasant Prairie, Wisconsin, where:

“Law enforcement searched the car and found an AR-15, a 12-gauge shotgun, 9mm handgun and a “homemade silencer-type device,” the complaint says,” according to the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel.
Yikes– what if they hadn’t been caught? Would they have shown up in Kenosha to shoot people? Would they have shot me? Scary to think about.

Michael Karmo, left, a conspiracy believer, and Cody E. Smith, arrested on felony charges on their way to Kenosha on September 1.

It appears both men were members of the 417 Second Amendment Militia, which has expressed support for Kenosha shooter Kyle Rittenhouse. Both men were prohibited from possessing firearms due to criminal records.

What really grabbed my attention was this line from a report on Channel3000.com (a site associated with Madison Magazine):

“A witness also told authorities that Karmo had been talking about conspiracy theories and “other ‘crazy’ political talk” and that Karmo was not in the right mindset to have a firearm, the complaint said.”

Oh reaaaaaally. Well, I found Karmo’s Facebook page and scrolled through it to look at his posts just over the last month. I found out a few things about him– he studied to become a firefighter, it says he lives in the Christian country tourist trap of Branson, Missouri. He has a big tattoo of “1904”on his abdomen, which Google tells me means he is repping San Diego– Karmo’s Facebook says he went to Southwestern College in Chula Vista, just south of San Diego.

And sure enough, lots of posts about the “COVID hoax,” Trump’s theory of “voter fraud,” a post about Nancy Pelosi’s plot to take over as president, posts related to “Blue Lives Matter” (including one that incorrectly states that Hitler issued a “defund the police” decree after he gained power).

Both men were charged with felonies and await sentencing.

Who is Q? The Main Suspect is Jim Watkins

“Be wary of any man who keeps a pig farm,”– Brick Top, Snatch

Jim Watkins, 8kun owner and prime Q suspect

It looks like we don’t have definitive proof but a strong suspect for who Q, the guru of QAnon is– and it isn’t a shadowy government insider or John F. Kennedy Jr. (as some QANon believe) but Jim Watkins, owner of troll, neo-Nazi, and mass shooter haven 8kun (formerly 8chan). Watkins has quite a colorful past– he got his start in working on Japanese porn sites, was a helicopter repairman, a yoga and fountain pen aficionado, and took over as owner and operator of 8chan in 2014. He also operates a pig farm from the Philippines. Here’s why he is Q suspect number one (or at least complicit and closely working with someone else):

  • After Q determined 4chan had been “compromised,” they moved to 8chan. Someone else might have started the Q myth, but this switch in 2017 is where he possibly took over. QAnon drives a lot of traffic to 8kun.
  • Watkins started a super PAC called “Disarm the Deep State,” which provides funding to QAnon affiliated candidates’ campaigns. This has benefited candidates like Marjorie Greene who will most likely win in her Georgia district in November and it also benefits Watkins because Disarm the Deep State buys advertising on…yes, that’s right, 8kun.
  • 8kun and QMap, which aggregates Q’s “drops,” share the same IP address. For a longer explanation of this, see a report by Daily Dot here: https://www.dailydot.com/debug/who-is-qanon-jim-watkins-rumors/

It looks like Watkins has something to gain by exploiting QAnon believers, much like Alex Jones and Trump need a conspiracy following to survive. Jones is a millionaire who makes money off ads and sham dietary supplements, and Trump uses conspiracy for political gain and to attack his enemies. Watkins has his own cult and super PAC and is laughing all the way to the bank. Here is your “Q,” sheeple!

Further reading: “Meet the Man Behind QAnon–America’s Fastest Growing Cult,” Popdust

Please Clap Dept.: I was guest on the Parallax Views podcast, where I had a great conversation about my new book American Madness. You can listen here: https://parallaxviews.podbean.com/e/tkrulos/

I was also flattered to have American Madness on the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel’s33 books to read in fall 2020” list.

Purchase American Madness from Lion’s Tooth for a signed, inscribed copy, a bonus comic zine, Lion’s Tooth swag, and a “this machine kills fascists” sharpie from Feral House.
Order here: https://www.lionstoothmke.com/american_madness.html#/

Tea’s Weird Week: Ask Tea Anything (conspiracy edition)

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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.

Who is the Phantom Patriot_

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!

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Tea’s Weird Week: Well, it Happened–Meet your First QAnon Congressional Representative

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My new book American Madness has a chapter titled “Q,” which is an introduction (and some case studies) of QAnon, a cult-like group of conspiracy followers that believe that there is a secret Democrat pedophile/ cannibal/ adrenal gland harvesting ring (Pizzagate, which I also write about in my book, is an early example).

Messages from a shadowy source that calls themself “Q” delivers cryptic messages about how Trump is working on a secret “Storm” that will sweep up this network of evil Democrats (Lock them up!) as well as Hollywood (Lock them up!), the Fake News Media (Lock them up!) and the many other enemies of America (Lock them up!).

QAnon mythology has spun out of control to create some pretty wild theories— that “mole children” are being held captive underneath Central Park, or that Tom Hanks, part of the pedophile ring, was secretly executed for his crimes and images you see of him now on TV are “deepfakes.”

[By the way, a quick PSA: Over the last week QAnon has been trying to hijack the hashtag #SavetheChildren and infiltrate Facebook events to spread their theories. Child trafficking certainly is a terrible reality, but use caution when seeing people saying they “do their own research” on this topic. Source: “QAnon Followers Are Hijacking the #SavetheChildren Movement,” New York Times]

You can imagine my surprise when I saw a report from Media Matters in America back in February, sharing their research that there were about two dozen candidates running for Congress that had showed some level of endorsement for QAnon. Two dozen! Crazy!

When I went back to reference the report a couple months later, I found it had been updated to show that number had doubled to about 50 QAnon candidates (although many listed had already dropped out or were eliminated in primaries) and that the candidates were benefiting from a QAnon superPAC called “Disarm the Deep State.” When I checked again for this column, the article had been updated to include over 70 QAnon aligned candidates (in total, including ones who have dropped out).

The source: “Here are the QAnon supporters running for Congress in 2020,” Media Matters for America

But they can’t possibly win, can they? It would appear the answer to that is YEP.

The first successful QAnon candidate is Marjorie Taylor Greene, a construction company co-owner who is running for Georgia’s 14th District. After placing first in a primary last month, she beat her Republican rival in a run off election on Tuesday.

Greene’s district is deep red, which means that barring some kind of Christmas miracle, her Democrat opponent, Kevin Van Ausdal, has a snowball’s chance in hell of winning. Republicans usually win here in all offices by 70-75% of the vote.

Trump congratulated Greene in a tweet, saying she was “strong on everything and never gives up–a real WINNER!” Trump has never spoken about QAnon, but I imagine that having his own cult worshiping him is satisfying for his massive ego.

Greene

Most of the people of the 14th District are pro-Trump and so Greene speaks their language well, even if they can’t hang with the QAnon stuff (but most probably think it’s true on some level). Her twitter bio describes her as “Christian, Wife, Mom, Small Business Owner, Proud American, 100% Pro-Life, Pro-Gun, Pro-Trump, MAGA.”

She’s been open about her association with QAnon throughout her campaign, once explaining that QAnon was a “once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to take this global cabal of Satan-worshiping pedophiles out” and that Q is a “patriot worth listening to.” She even said in an interview that instead of Satan, this cabal sometimes refers to the deity as “Moloch” and you will find a very direct tie to that statement in American Madness.

In addition to QAnon crap, she also rallies the Trump constituency by throwing out racist, Islamophobic, and anti-Semitic comments. She knows how to throw out red meat like this video where she has “a message for Antifa terrorists (click)– stay the hell out of northwest Georgia (click). You won’t burn our churches, loot our businesses, or destroy our homes.” Ok, Marjorie:

It looks like Greene might not be alone, either. Another QAnon promoter, Lauren Boebert (owner of Shooters Grill, where the staff is encouraged to open carry) is running in Colorado’s 3rd District and is favored to win. 18 other candidates have officially made their way on to ballots across the country.

And QAnon candidates aren’t the only ones running on a conspiracy/ extremist agenda. Check out a column I wrote in May: “Trump Inspired QAnon followers, Proud Boys, Gun Nuts, Racists, all Have 2020 Campaigns.”

Right about now I think we could all use a dose of good news, so there is some from this last week– one of the people I wrote about in the column I just mentioned, the awful “Sheriff Joe” Arpaio, who once bragged that his inhumane “Tent City” detention center was like a “concentration camp,” lost his bid for re-election for the second time.

This week also saw Cori Bush, a Black Lives Matter activist, defeat a 10-term Democrat incumbent in Missouri’s 1st District (which includes St. Louis) primary. If Bush wins against her Republican rival in November, she’ll be the first black woman to represent Missouri in Congress. In fact, as Forbes reports, “Women of Color Are Running for Congress at an All-Time High” this season.

Despite these inspiring stories, I can’t help but feel that a terrible door has been opened with Greene. It’s tempting to downplay her win– she’s just 1 of 435 members of the House of Representatives, but what is going to follow? An entire QAnon caucus? A task force to investigate Democrats for imprisoning “mole children?” A Flat Earth Party? It seems like any batshit crazy bad idea is possible right now.

2020: America’s reign of conspiracy continues.

My book American Madness discusses QAnon and much more. It’s officially out Aug. 25!

I’m going to be talking about the book live with my friends at See You on the Other Side this Tuesday, Aug.18, 8pm (CST). Check it out on Facebook Live here: https://www.facebook.com/othersidepodcast/videos/600326817340446/

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American Madness is available at Lion’s Tooth: www.lionstoothmke.com/american_madness.html#/
Bookshop.org: CLICK HERE
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and wherever books are sold. Add “to-read” on Goodreads CLICK HERE.

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