“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
On Tuesday, I stood in line and shuffled into the UW-Milwaukee Panther Arena to witness a Trump rally. I like to have experiences outside of my comfort zone to try to figure out what this weird world is all about. This one was pretty intense– imagine a stadium of ten thousand people screaming, totally high on hatred. I wrote about just a few WTF moments at the rally for the Shepherd Express in an article titled “The Top Ten Wildest Lines from Last Night’s Trump Rally in Milwaukee.”
I had another reason for attending– this year I’m closely monitoring Trump’s promotion of conspiracy theories and have been working on a new feature of my writing here. I’ll end some “Tea’s Weird Week” columns with a tally called the #TrumpConspiracyCounter.
It’s a fact, of course, that Donald J. Trump is a conspiracy theorist, sometimes legitimately, sometimes opportunistically. This is one of the reasons I believe that my upcoming book American Madness is very timely.
To give you a quick rundown of Trump’s greatest conspiracy hits so far: he was the person with the biggest platform to promote Birtherism, the racist conspiracy that suggested Obama was born in Africa and forged his Hawaiian birth certificate; that there was massive voter fraud in California that led to Hillary winning the popular vote; he kicked off his presidency by saying a media conspiracy had underreported his inauguration size; climate change is a “Chinese hoax”; the sound of wind turbines “causes cancer”; Ted Cruz’s father was part of the conspiracy to kill JFK; vaccines cause autism; 79-year-old Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia was possibly murdered; there is a liberal “War on Christmas” (and last year mentioned a sequel “War on Thanksgiving”); he’s also given many endorsements of personnel from InfoWars and other conspiracy theorists.
And that’s just off the top of my head. Why is this dangerous? Trump is in the highest position of authority, he has 72 million Twitter followers and a cult-like population that accepts his every word as fact.
Every time Trump speaks or tweets something that is a conspiracy or shares from a known conspiracy theorists this year, it’ll be added to the #TrumpConspiracyCounter. I can only take so much Trump talk, so if you notice his promotion of conspiracy, please do help me out by commenting on the blog here or e-mailing me at: firstname.lastname@example.org.
To be clear, this is only tracking claims or associations that have an element of conspiracy to them. To see a tracking of straight-up lies and deceptions, you can look at CNN’s collection of 15, 413 (and counting) gumballs.
Here’s where we are 16 days into the year.
1.) On January 2, Trump tweeted: “Their partisan Witch Hunt is hurting our Country do [sic] badly, & only bringing more division than ever!” It’s a term he tweeted out 11 times in December 2019 alone. In a rambling letter sent to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi on December 17, 2019, regarding the vote on impeachment, Trump says he is being treated unfairly and that “more due process was afforded to those accused in the Salem Witch Trials.”
At least 25 people were hung, pressed to death, or died in jail as a result of the Salem witch trials. Trump mentioned “witch trials” in tweets January 6, 12, and 13, to the press on January 7, and at rallies Jan 9 and 14.
I think this is a good place to start with the #TrumpConspiracyCounter. Note that Trump’s daily language is steeped in terms like “fake news,” a supposed media conspiracy perpetrated against him by CNN, NBC, the “Failing New York Times,” and the Washington Post, all of whom he refers to as “the enemy of the people.” Investigations into him are a “witch hunt” and equivalent to a “lynching.” All of this normalizes conspiracy ideas and the language surrounding it.
I was originally going to catalog ever time Trump says “witch hunt” on the counter, but his volume of using that and related terms ( “hoax,” “scam,” etc.) is too much. We’ll count this as number one and then move on.
2.) January 3: Trump retweets Alt-Right troll and conspiracy theorist Jack Posobiec, a correspondent of One America News Network. Posobiec has been a frequent InfoWars guest and promoter of Pizzagate, among other theories. The retweet was just a commendation of Trump’s killing General Soleimani, but the act of retweeting Posobiec is enough to get on the #TrumpConspiracyCounter.
3.) January 14: Back to the Milwaukee rally. I was wondering if he might leave some conspiracy gem, and sure enough, he brought back his old claim that Obama is guilty of “wiretapping” Trump Tower or in some other way spying on him, sometimes suggesting the FBI was part of “Spygate” as the conspiracy is known (there is no evidence of the theory). Here’s something I wrote for the Shepherd Express article but cut because of length:
“Barack Hussein Obama,” Trump told the booing crowd, “which [sic] administration loves spying on people’s campaigns. By the way, by the way, could you imagine if it was the other way and I spied on his campaign? What would these fake news people be doing?” Trump said, gesturing to the media in the back of the room.
With my book American Madness out this year, it’ll be interesting to see how many clicks the counter racks up by the book release date (Aug.25 2020). We’re at 3 now. What do you guess the number will be?
Pre-order my book American Madness: The Story of the Phantom Patriot and How Conspiracy Theories Hijacked American Consciousness (August 2020, Feral House)
Read all my columns from last year collected in Tea’s Weird Week: 2019 Review ($1.99/ free on Kindle Unlimited)
“Journalist Tea Krulos has made a curious and enlightening career out of examining groups of people with odd beliefs.” — Skeptical Inquirer