Trump has COVID! Who would have guessed it could happen to a guy who refuses to wear a mask, refuses to socially distance, and huffs hot air all day? Melania has it! Hope Hicks has it! Will Mike Pence get it?
My sources say “likely.” I haven’t really looked online yet, but I’m sure the conspiracies are already starting to fly.
This might be Trump’s October Surprise. If you’re unfamiliar with the term, I refer you to Wikipedia:
In American political jargon, an October surprise is a news event deliberately created or timed to influence the outcome of an election, particularly one for the U.S. presidency, or sometimes an event occurring spontaneously that has the same effect.
This October Surprise is going to shake down one of two ways. Here’s the first:
Imagine this– Trump is gravely ill. His supporters are all holding their MAGA hats over their hearts, praying for Trump (and a winning lottery ticket– prosperity gospel and all) when, all of a sudden, full recovery! Trump runs up a ramp and announces to a packed stadium that hydroxychloroquine cured him and COVID is over if you want it! Everyone is elated and begins screaming and spraying droplets in each other’s faces. They begin telling the story of the Trump-Messiah, the man who stared Death in the face but defeated it by his own wit and wile (“See, I told you hydroxychloroquine would work. It worked tremendously.”)
That last part isn’t far-fetched. He already has a cult devoted to him–QAnon, who view him not as a business scam artist/ reality show clown/ orange hobgoblin, but as a savior figure.
Side note>>>>>>QAnon, did I not tell you to leave Chrissy Teigen alone? (See my column “Am I Chrissy Teigen?“) Teigen had a miscarriage this week. Heartbreaking, right? Who could possibly be low enough to kick someone when they’re down like that? I think this Daily Beast headline answers that:
“QAnon and Pro-Lifers Hit a New Low Mocking Chrissy Teigen’s Miscarriage.”
These are Trump’s people. You know who else is? His own street gang, the Proud Boys, who won bigly in Tuesday’s debate. Asked to denounce white supremacy, Trump evaded the question, told the Proud Boys to “stand back and stand by” and called out Antifa instead.
The Proud Boys are being described by a lot of media as a white supremacy group, which isn’t exactly true, though they often stand shoulder to shoulder with white supremacy groups. They are sexist, homophobic, anti-Semitic, offensive, and violent. They are a club that celebrates toxic masculinity, Trump, InfoWars, and mostly just wants to fight with Antifa.
The Proud Boys were of course thrilled by Trump’s call to arms and added the words “Stand Back, Stand By” to their logo and members answered his call by posting comments like “standing by, sir!” When pressed on it the next day, media got a classic Trump waffle– he claimed he had never heard of the Proud Boys (highly unlikely as they’ve had a tight relationship with his former advisor Roger Stone).
This is the same strategy he’s had about others he claims ignorance of instead of doing the right thing, denouncing them– QAnon (“I don’t know much about them, but I hear they like me very much”) and former KKK member David Duke (“I don’t know anything about David Duke,” though he did later “disavow him.”) and even WikiLeaks (he praised WikiLeaks over a hundred times while campaigning, but after Julian Assange was arrested he said “I know nothing about WikiLeaks.”)
This means that either Trump is a spineless liar or he’s grossly incompetent about domestic threats and current events, take your pick, but I’d say the former.
As I said, this October Surprise is going to go down one of two ways– Trump is going to recover on the third day, a holy light radiating off him (oops, that’s just an energy efficient light bulb reflecting his orangeness, nevermind) as a crowd of QAnon, Proud Boys, Bikers for Trump, Pro-Lifers, gun nuts, Karens, incels, and the Ku Klux Klan cheer wildly, or you know, here’s the other way it could go down:
UPDATE: Here’s what one of the (former) QAnon candidates for Congress thinks (and, according to her, what we’re all thinking.)
My book American Madness: The Story of the Phantom Patriot and How Conspiracy Theories Hijacked American Consciousness is out now from Feral House and is available wherever books are sold, including Bookshop.org
I had a great time discussing the book on The Rogge Report, which you can watch here:
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.
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
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’s “33 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#/
Tune in here every Friday for Tea’s Weird Week.
Today starts my 3-day vacation, where I’ll be doing nothing but laying in a hammock drinking pina coladas. Just kidding. I will be doing some kicking back at the Moonlight Retreat, but I’ll also be taking a red pen to a couple manuscripts and leading a ghostlore workshop.
Being somewhat in vacation mode (and looking forward to fall), for today’s column I thought it would be appropriate to round up of some stories I’ve studied this summer. I’m working on finishing up a book about conspiracy theory (American Madness) and 2019 has been a helluva year for it. This summer in particular feels like the one where we collectively lost our damn minds. [I included links to further reading.]
Here’s my top 5 Summer of Conspiracy stories:
(1.) Storm Area 51: I wrote about the viral “Storm Area 51” event in this column a few weeks ago. Now there’s going to be a 3-day “Alien Stock” music fest, already drawing comparisons to the disastrous Fyre Festival. As I wrote before, I’ve been through the area and Rachel, the town the fest is happening in, has a population of 58 people, no infrastructure, no shelter, no nothing– the nearest gas station is 50 miles away! Not the best place for an EDM festival. [USA Today]
(2.) QAnon Vigilante: One of my editors sent this article to me and I’m surprised I haven’t seen it more in the news cycle. Francesco “Franky Boy” Cali, who was head of the Gambino crime family and spent most of his life avoiding death, had his ass capped by a vigilante conspiracy theorist named Anthony Comello, inspired by QAnon. I’ll be dissecting the story more in my book. [New York Times]
(3.) Flight of the Flat Earther. After aborting his mission last weekend, Flat Earther and rocketeer “Mad” Mike Hughes is set to blast 5,000 feet into the stratosphere in his homemade rocket tomorrow, which reads “Research Flat Earth” on the side and was funded by a hook-up dating app called Hud. The attempt will be filmed for an upcoming show called Homemade Astronauts for the Science Channel, which sounds fun. At first I was completely confused as to how launching 5,000 feet in the air could prove anything about Flat Earth as we have planes, hot air balloons, and hang gliders that can rise higher than that, but then I realized this is more about publicity. It’s not the journey, it’s how you get there. [Space.com]
(4.) V is for…Anti-vaxxer? This year’s San Diego Comic Con featured an appearance by a large group of protesters dressed as V, the character from V for Vendetta in a protest appearance made popular by Anonymous. A couple months earlier, the same (or similar) group protested outside of Disneyland for the opening of Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge, dressed as Star Wars characters. [respectfulinsolence.com]
(5.) Epstein Suicide Conspiracy. The most interesting news story of the last week for me was the suicide of Jeffrey Epstein. It was just crazy to see conspiracies explode and proliferate online within minutes of his death being reported. Because Epstein had some connection to both Bill Clinton and Donald Trump, the theories were partisan– Trump had him rubbed out or the Clintons had him whacked (to fit the Clinton Body Count theory) or a Deep State cabal did. I even saw theories that Epstein made a getaway, leaving a dead hobo’s body in his place (a theory spread by the band Foster the People, among others, who tweeted “Epstein’s on a private plane to somewhere in the middle east getting prepped for plastic surgery right now”). [NBC News]
Alright, enough conspiracy– I’m off to the Moonlight Retreat. Have a good weekend!
My favorite barbershop is Jose’s. Sad to hear of namesake Jose Ortiz’s death. Here’s an “Off the Cuff” I wrote on him for the Shepherd Express back in 2008, after someone suggested I stop in and talk to him because he was an interesting person. Indeed he was.: https://shepherdexpress.com/arts-and-entertainment/off-the-cuff/barber-extraordinaire
My latest book is Apocalypse Any Day Now: Deep Underground with America’s Doomsday Preppers. You can find it here: www.chicagoreviewpress.com/ApocalypseAnyDayNow