Last week, I shared pictures and a link to our Tea’s Weird Week podcast featuring interviews from UFO Daze at Benson’s Hide-A-Way in Dundee, WI. We got so much material we decided to split it into a two-parter.
I have one of those crazy busy weeks this week– good stuff (in fact, expect a BIG ANNOUNCEMENT in all caps sometime soon… UPDATE: the news is that book American Madness is being developed into a documentary. More details soon.) So this week I’m going to keep it brief and share a couple quick notes about this week’s episode.
- This episode features a short interview with writer and director Mark Borchardt, who directed a documentary titled The Dundee Project, filmed over several years at UFO Daze. It’s a great look at the characters hanging around Benson’s Hide-A-Way. Mark is planning a possible Return to Dundee doc. I’ve known Mark a few years now (he participated in the 2016 Milwaukee Paranormal Conference) and I want to tell you a great memory of him.
I was having a really down and out day, super stressed and all that– this was maybe 4 years ago or so, and I was sitting at a bus stop near Colectivo Coffee on Humboldt Boulevard. Mark came cruising around the corner and shouted out of his window: “Tea! Tea, keep the faith, man!” And was gone. It really made my day. I kept the faith.
- Awesome track by our podcast sound engineer, Andrew aka Android 138, “EarthSkum.” He’s very talented. Everyone who participates in the podcast– Heidi, Miss Information, all of the talented musicians, artists, and guests, are just great. I’m lucky to know you all. Check out Andrew’s music: www.soundcloud.com/android138
- Milwaukee Paranormal Conference is Sept.24-26. Do it: Milwaukee Paranormal Conference Returns Sept. 24-26, 2021 | Milwaukee Paranormal Conference (milwaukeeparacon.com)
Tea’s Weird Week, S2 Ep11, UFOs Over Dundee: Part 2
Tea talks to Mark Borchardt about his documentary, The Dundee Project, plus more interviews from UFO Daze at Benson’s Hideaway. Tea and Heidi talk about the Milwaukee Paranormal Conference, Welch Klingons, the latest QAnon nuttiness, and more. Plus trivia from Miss Information and a dope new track by Android138, “EarthSkum.”
Listen here: Tea’s Weird Week, S2 ep11: UFOs Over Long Lake, part 2 (podbean.com)
Spotify//Soundcloud//Google Podcasts//iHeartRadio//PlayerFM//Apple//Stitcher//Pocket Casts
Check out my latest books:
Apocalypse Any Day Now: Deep Underground with America’s Doomsday Preppers (2019, Chicago Review Press)
Wisconsin Legends & Lore (2020, History Press)
I like to think I got my finger on the pulse of all things weird, but none of us are omnipresent weird, so I was boggled and amazed by the story of the Love Has Won cult, which I had not heard of. I missed their appearance on Dr. Phil last year (along with every episode of the show). This is why I value the Tea’s Weird Week Facebook group so much– it’s become a great clearinghouse for sharing weird news and I, of course, love every second of it.
Let’s start with this scene– May 23, 2020. A man named Alex Whitten was found “naked and dehydrated with cactus needles in his feet wandering through the desert north of Crestone (Colorado, a small mecca of Buddhist and Hindu temples, New Age and other spiritual centers). He appeared to be hallucinating,” according to an in-depth article on gurumag.com titled “Crestone Cult Love Has Won Leaves Man to Die in Desert.”
Whitten’s wife said that he “brainwashed” himself watching livestreams from Love Has Won. Whitten was so compelled by the group’s message– that the “Mother God” was living in human form in Colorado, that he abandoned his wife and two kids in Ohio and flew West. But he did something to piss off the Mother God and her group, because days later he was drugged and left exposed in the San Luis Valley. Fortunately, a family-led search party found him. A core member of Love Has Won’s response to the incident: “We are not Alex’s babysitter…we are here for God, not whores that desert God.”
Last week, on April 28, seven members of Love Has Won were arrested and charged with “abuse of a corpse,” after the mummified remains of the group’s leader, Amy Carlson, aka “Mother God,” aka “Mom,” aka “Mama G,” were found in a trailer in Crestone. The corpse was reportedly “mummified,” slowly decomposing, wrapped in a sleeping bag, and adorned with Christmas tree lights, glitter around her eyes. Well, where her eyes used to be– they were missing. Her followers say she has now “ascended” and that “First Contact” is imminent. The group is ranked into the “Galactic Federation of Light Team” and the “First Contact Ground Crew,” both here to initiate and age of love. One of the members described the cult’s critics as “void engineers,” which is my new favorite term.
The mugshots of the 7 disciples arrested have a kind of Manson family vibe to them, or as Tea’s Weird Week group member Billy suggested, “some Midsommar-meets-Leatherface type of White Nonsense.” Well…
So many questions. How did she die? Where are the eyeballs? Where did these cult members come from? I don’t know the answers to all these and there’s a lot to take in with the story. I did fall down a little bit of a rabbit hole on this one, so I’ll share a few notes on some things that I found and how some of this relates to the Great Age of American Madness.
Who is Love Has Won?
“Among the teachings of Love Has Won is that Carlson is the 534th avatar of God on earth, and that she has revoked the free will of humanity as a failed experiment,” Raw Story reports. In past lives Amy Carlson says she has been Jesus Christ, Joan of Arc, Cleopatra, Queen Elizabeth, and Marilyn Monroe. Not bad! She says her father is disgraced ex-president-turned-angry-blogger Donald Trump (or in his past life he was her father in her past life I think is more accurate–maybe.) This incarnation of Mother God was born in 1975 in Kansas.
What if God was one of of us? as Joan Osbourne once sang. Well, looks she spent some time managing a McDonald’s and bouncing around between Colorado, Texas, and Florida. There is a “Father God”– actually, there’s been a few over the years. Father Gods come and go. The latest Father God (aka Jason Gilbert Castillo), has a criminal record including child neglect, criminal mischief, two DWIs, trespassing, and breaking and entering.
Love Has Won, which describes itself as a “non-profit charity spiritual institution” includes conspiracy in their teachings. They talk about Reptilians and other extra-terrestrials, and they promote many beliefs that mirror QAnon, but in a more “crunchy” variation. You have your far-right, MAGA hat sporting Q followers, and then there’s this more New Agey version that leads to things like parts of the yoga and wellness community (sometimes inadvertently) peddling the same “Deep State cabal of satanic cannibal pedophiles” and other conspiracy ideas. It’s QAnon in downward dog position.
Another way to see the two sides of the same coin is the way far right conspiracy sites like InfoWars and dippy “wellness” sites like Goop and Moon Juice market the same health supplements, albeit very differently. Both InfoWars and Goop sell products based on cordyceps mushrooms, for example, but Goop markets it as “Sun Potion,” while InfoWars uses it in a coffee blend called “Wake Up America Immune Support.” Maca, which boosts libido, is used by Moon Juice as “Sex Powder,” InfoWars calls it a “Super Male Vitality” supplement. It’s classic marketing– the generic grocery store sells a can just stamped BEANS, Trader Joe’s has a colorful label for “100% organic artisan red beans.” Same shit, different pile.
Love Has Won developed their following– possibly thousands of people– in the same way most cult groups do nowadays– YouTube, Facebook live, and other streaming videos. This is the same way the modern Flat Earther and the QAnon movement gained traction. Random observation– I noticed that there’s a strong contingency of young Australian stoners in Love Has Won. They host a live YouTube show called “United Nations,” there’s also a “DAILY ENERGY UPDATE” show on Love Has Won’s YouTube page. People are hungry for something meaningful in their lives and YouTube becomes the vacuum cleaner of lost souls.
To make money, Love Has Won has offered services like “5-D astrology” (between this and QAnon always saying that Trump was playing “5-D chess,” I got to say I’m kinda over the 5th dimension these days) which will “help those on an Ascension path obtain a deeper understanding of themselves…done through the higher 5-D consciousness perspective.” Ok. They also perform “etheric surgeries” to remove “inorganic material,” over Skype, which sounds to me like just a rebranding of reiki. Love Has Won’s website also sold various candles and supplements, “Plasma Healing Spray,” “Gaia’s Salt Soak,” and a “Mother of of All Creation Divine Trait Oracle Deck” ($44.44) which includes cards with Carlson’s face photoshopped onto a classic depiction of Jesus Christ, and an Egyptian pyramid, and other mystical locations.
Another way the group makes money is classic cult 101– shake every dime out of your followers. Hand it over– trust funds, car titles, social security and disability checks, checking and savings accounts. Love Has Won checks every box to being a cult– according to ex-members, they were sleep deprived, had their food rationed, were verbally abused, and if they pissed off Mama G, they were sent to “Desolation Row,” a barren part of the woods on their property, where they had to fend for themselves. One member, Vice discovered, was berated and punished when he brought Mama G meatballs instead of chicken parmesan. Big mistake, God did not order the meatballs! Remember, Mother God said there is no free will– only her will.
God Loves Vodka
Part of this cruel punishment from Mother God might have stemmed from the fact that she has a vodka problem that transformed her from zen-platitude-spewing-guru to rage drunk pretty quickly. In fact, members believe that the amount of alcohol that she consumed was proof that she was otherworldly as a normal human couldn’t consume as much alcohol as she did and survive. One ex-member says that he saw Mother God drink 24 shots of tequila in a row. Another former member (an ex-Father God) said that starting around dinner time she drank a steady stream of highball glasses filled with vodka with a splash of water on top and would transform into a completely different and awful person.
Here’s a video from the Love Has Won YouTube page, listed as being recorded December 16, 2019. It’s an excruciating 10:25 long video where Mother God attempts to tell a story of how she discovered angels were communicating with her. It’s immediately obvious that everyone in the video is completely stoned out of their fucking gourd. You can even tell the people off camera are stoned. Mother God, drinking out of a copper cup (probably vodka), attempts to tell a story (at the pace of someone extremely fucked up) of how she was watching The Wizard of Oz on TBS, when she was captivated by a bumper segment of the screening that asked trivia about the film. Via this trivia, angels revealed that she was “the Holy Grail.” At least I think that’s what she’s trying to say–?:
Other videos show her inebriated, shaking a cat and yelling at it, calling it a “bitch” (her favorite insults are “bitch,” “banshee,” and “whore”) and some other not quite profound videos featuring her saying (or screaming) things about her critics like “yeah bitch, carry on with your banshee fucking self. Fff, what a whore.” and “My own life workers BATTLE ME! Serving love and bringing in a new paradigm you fucking dick whores. You’re about to get it!” and “you just fucking got me on the–fucking motherfucker. Fucking wow.”
Robin Williams is Standing By
Love Has Won’s website (which is down, but a YouTuber called Sepulcher Geist, who lost a co-worker to the cult, has a pretty hilarious video tour of the site HERE) says that one of their etheric surgery staff is none other than Robin Williams. Yes, Mrs. Doubtfire Robin Williams. Dead Poets Society, Jumanji, Hook, Patch Adams, etc., etc.,etc. beloved comedian and actor Robin Williams. The website says that on the day he died (Aug.11, 2014), Williams appeared in Mother God’s bedroom, told her he had been murdered, and that he is also Archangel Zadkiel, and that he wanted to be part of Mom’s team. Side note: notice how these mystic figures like to have Z names. But this story is making our QAnon Bigfoot friend Zorth look tame by comparison. In 2017, according to the Love Has Won website, Robin Williams finally got the props he deserves and was awarded as “Etheric Ambassador of the Ascension of Planet Earth=Heart” by Mother God. Nanoo nanoo!
To quote the Mother God, “fucking wow.”
I’m interested to follow this story and hear more details as cults have long fascinated me. But I want to say that beyond the jokes and morbid curiosity I’ve dropped in this column, I sincerely do hope some of these people are able to reconnect with their families and friends, many who I’m sure are destroyed with worry. It’s easy to understand why– cults like Heaven’s Gate and the followers of Jim Jones ended up killing themselves.
I understand the appeal a cult like this must have– the world is a sucking black hole of awfulness, a world of “void engineers,” I get it. Imagine finding a group that will act as your family of “love,” that will give you direction and a home, that will cure that loneliness. It all sounds beautiful til “Mama G” gets mad at you and strands you naked in the desert for forgetting her chicken parmesan… or you’re being asked to help hide a corpse.
Good luck out there.
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Back in April I wrote a column titled “I got my own conspiracy theory, which is that the world is becoming 24 more times batshit crazy every day.” It’s a theory I still stand by.
While doing the media and virtual appearance rounds for my book American Madness this fall, people asked what the wildest or craziest conspiracy I encountered was. That was a moving goal post, I’d reply, every time I thought I’d found the most outlandish theory I’d discover that nope, the rabbit hole keeps going. Reptilians, Flat Earth theory, and Pizzagate were all thought to be the peak while working on the book, but the ruthless onslaught of 2020 conspiracies loomed ahead.
Before I continue on, let me preference the rest of this column by saying I’ve met many Bigfooters (people who research and investigate Bigfoot sightings) over the years. While working on my book Monster Hunters, I had a fun and wild adventure exploring the woods of Michigan with Bigfooter Jim Sherman of the Bigfoot Field Researchers Organization (BFRO). I’ve met several since. Bigfooters range in personality from very cool, very interesting people (which thankfully describes all the ones I’ve met) to total assholes to somewhere between. But now I’m sad to report that the joy of Bigfooting, or at least a small corner of it, has been struck by the foul cancer of QAnon.
So, it’s late at night, I should be asleep, but I’m doomscrolling Facebook when I stumble across a video titled “Zorth Says That President Trump Wins in the End” in a group I’m apparently a member of called Team Squatchin USA. This group has over 14,000 members.
There are two Kruloses in my head. One says do not watch this damn video, go to bed and the other says do it. watch this damn video. Do it.
I watched it.
Here’s what I learned:
– A man named Dr. Matthew A. Johnson (aka “Dr. J”) says that he is “the 13,” an ambassador to humanity for a council of 12 Xanue (aka Bigfoot Forest People, Sasquatch, etc.) and communicates mostly with the head of council, Zorth, through telepathy.
-Zorth has been telling Dr. J repeatedly that “in the end, Trump wins” and that Zorth has “adamantly insisted” that Dr. J share this message with the world (via YouTube). Here’s a message from Dr. J to the Team Squatchin USA group:
ZORTH is adamant about me passing on the following message that he shared with me a week ago: The Xanue are able to see into the future via a limited manner via multiple possible time lines. ZORTH wants everyone to know that in the majority of the possible time lines, President Trump wins his reelection bid. I DID NOT want to post this but ZORTH strongly insisted that I post it now.
Heavy is the head that wears Zorth’s will.
-Like Trump, Dr. J apparently has no concept of how the vote count happened and the split between in-person (which leaned Trump and were counted first) and mail-in/early voting (which leaned Biden and were counted later). “All of a sudden they miraculously find all these votes overnight.” Incorrect.
-In one of several Xanue/ Trump endorsement videos Dr. J shows footage of a popular QAnon propaganda “documentary” titled Q- The Plan to Save the World. Many of Dr. J’s posts parrot election fraud conspiracy language. QAnon is going to be facing an identity crisis and they, much like Trump himself, are currently in the “denial” phase.
– Is this guy for real? Yes, I’m afraid so. And judging by the many pro-Trump, pro-Zorth comments on Johnson’s videos on Facebook and YouTube, so are his followers. Why on earth would they believe such a shaggy Sasquatch story? Because Dr. J has “done his own research” and written two self-published books and created a whole bunch of YouTube videos. What more evidence do you need?
Look, researching and investigating Bigfoot is one thing. Saying that a wizened council of Bigfoots endorsing an awful person who lost the election and is in a delusional downward spiral about it is another. We need to fight back against conspiracies about the pandemic, civil unrest, and election fraud.
Biden won the election and Trump is attempting a coup like a fascist banana republic wannabe dictator. There is no credible evidence of election fraud. Trump’s hollow lawsuits are all being shut down due to lack of evidence. The only reason Trump won’t concede is ego alone.
Here’s something I haven’t revealed until this column– yes, it’s true, I also have the ability to communicate telepathically with the Sasquatch– prove that I can’t. I happen to be in contact with a rival council of 12 known as the Xerox and their spokesquatch, Zaarg.
And…oh my, here it is. Zaarg says they have an urgent message I must relay. An important message. Zaarg says:
Zorth, I will kick ya hairy arse, ya traitor. Y’ll look like a mangy bearskin roog when I’m done with ya, boy-o, mark me foocking words. [Zaarg is also an Irish bare-knuckle boxer] I will take on all 12 of ya Xanue foocks with one hand tied behind me back, ya foocking liars. Ya deserve to have yer arses shaved and painted orange like the Trump baboons ya are, make no mistake!
Hey, don’t shoot the messenger!
I’m a candidate for Milwaukee author in the Shepherd Express annual best of. You can read the rules and vote here: shepherdexpress.com/best-of-milwaukee/2020
My book American Madness: The Story of the Phantom Patriot and How Conspiracy Theories Hijacked American Consciousness is out now. It explores a wide range of conspiracies, (but doesn’t explore the Bigfoot-Q connection.)
You can find it on Bookshop.org here: https://bookshop.org/books/american-madness-the-story-of-the-phantom-patriot-and-how-conspiracy-theories-hijacked-american-consciousness/9781627310963
Hello from Battleground Wisconsin. What a fucking week! As I mentioned on Facebook, I ran myself pretty hard all of October– promoting my book American Madness, a Milwaukee Paranormal Conference, socially distanced ghost tours, freelance writing, plotting, planning. I was busy and it was great, but by Election Day I was ready to wrap up in blankets, drink a lot of whiskey, and see where this batshit crazy year would take us next. And what a day to drink copious amounts of whiskey it was! As of this writing, nothing is official yet and in 2020 anything can happen, but here’s my early takeaways from the election.
The Good: It looks like Trump will be voted out of office–unless he pulls off some crazy dirty trick (and we know if nothing else, he’s masterful at dirty tricks). And of course angels might intervene. That’s the case Trump’s spiritual adviser Paula White makes here:
Trump out of office is good news, a start, but there’s is a lot of damage to repair. We’ll talk about that in a moment. First, more good news– progressive candidates representing marginalized people won campaigns across the country. These include Cori Bush, the first black woman to represent Missouri in the House, and the reelection of all 4 members of “The Squad.” Several LGBT candidates made historic victories, including Sarah McBride of Delaware, the first transgender state senator, and Ritchie Torres and Mondaire Jones, the first gay latinx/black congressmen.
The Bad: 68,943,879 (and counting) million people voted for Trump. Here in my home, Wisconsin Biden won 1,632,542 to Trump’s 1,610,007 (as of this writing), less than 20,000 votes. I just can’t wrap my head around this. Anything less than Trump losing in a major landslide is a failure of our society, in my opinion.
The aftereffect of Trump will be long-lasting– you’ll see some immediate examples when we get to “The Ugly” section of this post. The Trump presidency will be studied for generations. Most puzzling will be how such a large population stuck to this terrible person so loyally and so willingly voted against their own interests. Why did 69 million Americans vote for a racist, sexist, conspiracy theorist conman reality star goof? After everything that happened over the last four years, how can they still see him in a positive light? I will never understand.
Here’s what I mean, visualized. This is Trump supporter Jon McNaughton’s latest masterpiece, “2020 Ride.” I wrote about McNaughton’s art in a column from February titled “Laughing My Ass Off at These Bonkers Trump Paintings.” Here McNaughton says he is showing Trump as a cowboy hero, successfully taming all of the issues of 2020.
I don’t see that in this painting, though. I see a sad, hateful man dressed like a clown, riding a beast that he himself created in the sunset of his presidency. But I guess art is subjective.
The cognitive dissonance in Trump supporters is just staggering. As just one example, compare Pro-Trumpers at a polling station in Detroit chanting “stop the vote!” while Pro-Trumpers in Phoenix are chanting “count the vote!”
Well, which is it? It depends, of course, on what favors Trump, democracy be damned. Conspiracy theories about election fraud, stoked by Trump himself, are in full swing. No, there isn’t hundreds of thousands of dead people voting. That’s easily fact checked: https://www.usatoday.com/story/news/factcheck/2020/11/04/fact-check-no-fraud-wisconsin-overnight-vote-spike/6167188002/
The Ugly: Along with new progressive candidates, we also elected the fringest of the fringe right-wingers, like QAnon believers. The most major of these is Marjorie Greene, a QAnon believer from Georgia who won a House seat. I wrote more about her here: “Well, it Happened-Meet Your First QAnon Represenative.”
But she wasn’t alone– Lauren Boebert also won a House seat in Colorado. Boebert has made comments supporting QAnon in the past, saying QAnon was “motivating and encouraging and bringing people together, stronger,” but has since disavowed the conspiracy cult. She owns a restaurant in Rifle, Colorado, called Shooters Grill, where the staff are encouraged to open-carry.
Another QAnon believer who ran successfully is MMA fighter Tito Ortiz, who won a seat on Huntington Beach, California’s City Council. Ortiz sold QAnon themed athletic wear on his website and ran on the campaign slogan “Make Huntington Beach Safe Again.” MMA site Bloody Elbow has the disturbing details here: https://www.bloodyelbow.com/2020/11/4/21549515/ufc-pioneer-qanon-supporter-tito-ortiz-elected-huntington-beach-city-council-mma-politics
Also heading to Congress is Madison Cawthorn of North Carolina. He’s disavowed QAnon, but takes talking points from their playbook, talking about a cabal of sex slave traffickers. As the Charlotte Observer notes:
“Cawthorn’s rise to prominence has already been mired in scandal, as he’s faced accusations of ties to white supremacy, sexual misconduct, racism and lying about his record.”
Even if Trump is gone, an orange stain will remain.
Read more about how we got to this crazy time in my book American Madness: The Story of the Phantom Patriot and How Conspiracy Theories Hijacked American Consciousness.
* I discussed American Madness on the CripesCast, with the very funny Charlie Berens (Manitowoc Minute): https://cripescast.podbean.com/e/episode-19-tea-krulos
* I joined the guys on Lumpen Radio’s Eye 94 book show, which includes some American Madness excerpts read by Shanna Van Volt, giving it a nice conspiracy jazz lounge tone: https://www.mixcloud.com/lumpenradio/eye-94-10-29-2020-tea-kroulos-conspiracies-and-qanon/
* I was part of a written roundtable discussion on misinformation for LitHub with authors Renata Salecl and Jonathan Berman. You can read it here: https://lithub.com/the-misinformation-superhighway-a-roundtable-on-the-rise-of-the-great-american-conspiracy/
I was really hoping to be moving toward writing about Halloweeny shit instead of conspiracy shit this week, but NO. Let me rephrase that: NOOOOOOOOOOOO. Trump had a town hall thing last night (he refused a virtual debate, leading to rival Trump and Biden town halls) and I didn’t think he could possibly appear to be more of a dangerous idiot than he did at the last debate, but welcome to 2020 where everything you know is wrong and the hellmouth continues to open! It was a great night for deranged conspiracies and a bad night for…well, the entire planet, really.
QAnon: When asked about QAnon, Trump did his usual “deny but don’t reject” dance. You might recall this from the debate where Trump refused to denounce white supremacy, then gave a perceived shout out to the Proud Boys, then claimed he “didn’t know” who the Proud Boys were. Moderator Savannah Guthrie, of NBC News, explained what QAnon was in a nutshell– the belief in a Democrat satanic pedophile ring (she didn’t mention their idea that Democrats get high on adrenochrome, though) and asked Trump if he would denounce them. The response:
Trump: I know nothing about QAnon.
Guthrie: I just told you.
Trump: You told me, but what you say doesn’t necessarily make it fact, I hate to say that. I know nothing about it, I do know they are very much against pedophilia, they fight it very hard, but I know nothing about it.
Guthrie: They believe it is a satanic cult run by the DNC!
Trump: [rambles about how vicious Antifa is]…I just don’t know about QAnon.
Guthrie: You do know!
Trump: I don’t know!…Let me tell you, what I do hear about it is they are very strongly against pedophilia, and I agree with that.
Guthrie: Ok, but there’s not a satanic pedophile–
Trump: I know nothing about that
Guthrie: You know nothing about that?!
Trump: No, I have know idea and neither do you know that [sic].
Trump still doesn’t know who QAnon is! Well, he knows they fight pedophilia “very hard.” That’s funny because, as I noted in a previous column Trump said at an August 20th press conference that he didn’t know who QAnon was other than “I understand they like me very much.”
It’s been almost 2 months– you couldn’t get an intern to hop on Google to see what all this bullshit was about? The real answer is that Trump is a liar– he very well knows who QAnon is and a cult devoted to him is appealing to his massive ego.
The “Biden Killed Seal Team 6 Theory”: This week Trump retweeted a QAnon account twice that had posted a baseless theory that the Navy SEAL 6 team mistakenly killed Osama Bin Laden’s body double in 2011 and rather than say “oops,” Obama and Biden had the whole team assassinated to cover up the mistake. Yes, THIS IS FUCKING CRAZY. It led to this beautiful town hall exchange, when Guthrie brought it up:
Trump: That was a retweet. That was an opinion of somebody and that was a retweet. I’ll put it out there. People can decide for themselves. I don’t take a position.
Guthrie: I don’t get that. You’re the president. You’re not someone’s crazy uncle who can retweet whatever.
Thank you, Savannah Guthrie, for doing your job and calling Trump out and not letting him try to steamroll you.
Obamagate/Voter Fraud: Trump mentions his Obamagate theory and talks about voter fraud.
Trump:”When I see thousands of ballots dumped in a garbage can and they happen to have my name on it, I’m not happy about it.”
Guthrie: There is in fact no evidence of widespread fraud and you are sowing doubt in our democracy.
When Guthrie added that the FBI director noted their was no evidence of mass voter fraud, Trump replied, “Oh really, then he’s not doing a very good job.”
What else– oh yeah, he refused to answer whether he tested for COVID the day of the debate, he misrepresented a study, saying 85% of people who get COVID were wearing masks (FALSE), said he’s second only to Lincoln in helping African-Americans and on and on blah blah bullshit.
FAKE NEWS! But wait, there’s more! Early this morning, Trump tweeted out a post from the Babylon Bee, a satirical site that’s a wannabe version of The Onion. The post said Twitter had shut down to slow the spread of negative news. “Wow, this has never been done in history. This includes his really bad interview last night,” Trump tweeted.
Well, he’s right– this has never, ever, neverever been done in history. If you are voting for Trump, there is nothing I can say to you, you are too far gone. I just hope you put some serious thought into where your own mind and soul are.
And if you don’t think conspiracy thinking is dangerous, I invite you to read two pieces I wrote this week.
“Richard McCaslin: An Obituary,” is about a person I met who descended into conspiracy theory. As the title suggests, he died. I wrote about him in my book American Madness: The Story of the Phantom Patriot and How Conspiracy Theories Hijacked American Consciousness.
“A Militia of Phantom Patriots” discusses how conspiracy theory was a factor in the Wolverine Watchmen militia terrorists and their plan to kidnap Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer (and possibly Virginia Governor Ralph Northam, as we now know).
My book American Madness is a guide to Conspiracyland (buy it at Bookshop.org or wherever books are sold). Speaking of crazy uncles (I am one, myself!) I talked with the guys on the Strange Uncles podcast about my book to kick off their fourth season. They say: “American Madness is probably one of the best books we’ve read in awhile…highly recommended.” Thanks, Uncles! You can listen here: https://strangeuncles.podbean.com/e/strange-uncles-s4e1-interview-with-american-madness-author-tea-krulos/
Also, I’m doing a virtual event with the fantastic Quimby’s Bookstore in Chicago on this Tuesday, October 20 at 7:30pm. I’ll be talking American Madness and doing some conspiracy theory trivia for some cool prizes. It’s free and streaming live on their YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/user/QuimbysBookstore
Check out the fantastic prizes 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#/
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!“
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There’s something I’ve often thought about over the last few years (and was recently asked in an interview)– does Trump actually believe all the conspiracy theory shit he spews or is it a cold, calculated act? I think there’s a couple answers to that. One, he very much believes that his gut instinct is equitable as a fact. Two, he knows that conspiracy theories can be weaponized to attack his opponents. Sure, the “fake news” media will call him on it, but oh well– it’s already been blasted out to millions of Twitter followers and FOX viewers, who will take it as fact.
As I talk about in my new book American Madness (officially out next Tuesday) in a chapter titled “The InfoWars President,” Trump’s first legacy as a conspiracist is as a heavy promoter of “Birtherism,” the racist false narrative that President Obama was actually born in Kenya, and thus not eligible to be president. Trump went on a media tour, talking up how Obama’s birth certificate was a fake, and spreading the conspiracy far and wide in 2011.
Last week, he decided to pull that dirty trick out of his playbook again. After Kamala Harris was announced as Joe Biden’s VP pick, the conspiracy-sphere quickly got to work, suggesting that Harris wasn’t eligible as her parents were both immigrants. When asked about this at a press conference, Trump does what conspiracy theorists do best when confronted– they waffle. As Slate.com reports:
When he was pressed on the issue, Trump continued to push back: “I just don’t know about it,” he said. The president then seemingly got angry at the reporter suggesting he knew the claims were not true. “Don’t tell me what I know,” he said. He kept on insisting he had no idea what the truth might be. “To me, it doesn’t bother me at all,” he said. “I don’t know about it. I read one quick article. The lawyer happens to be a brilliant lawyer, as you probably know. He wrote an article saying it could be a problem. It’s not something that I’m going to be pursuing.”
Meanwhile, over at Trump’s buddy Alex Jones’ website, InfoWars, they decided it was time for a Pizzagate revival (another theory I talk about in a chapter of American Madness) with this headline on August 12: “Wikileaks Emails Show Kamala Harris’ Sister Attended Hillary Clinton/Podesta ‘Pizza Party.'”
Pizzagate suggests that Hillary Clinton, her former campaign manager John Podesta, and other Democrats were running a pedophile sex trafficking ring out of the Comet Ping Pong pizzeria in Washington DC, using pizza variations as code words for sex slaves. Podesta really is to blame for this, I suppose. Wikileaks documents show that the dude really loves pizza.
After Harris was announced as VP pick, InfoWars found their smoking gun– yeah see, Kamala Harris’ sister, Maya, attended a “Pizza for Hillary” event at Tony Podesta’s house, who is the brother of Clinton campaign manager John. Guess who else was there? James Alefantis, owner of Comet Ping Pong.
Pizzagate became a core value of QAnon believers, who have recently been hijacking the hashtag #SavetheChildren to try to infiltrate their beliefs. A lot of well intentioned people are getting sucked into theories about George Soros, Clinton, and pepperoni pizzas.
Related news: Trump just acknowledged QAnon on record, to my knowledge for the first time. When asked about recent Congressional candidate (who will likely win) and QAnon believer Marjorie Greene, he responded:
“Well, I don’t know much about the movement other than I understand they like me very much, which I appreciate. But I don’t know much about the movement. I have heard that it is gaining in popularity and from what I hear it’s– these are people that…don’t like seeing what’s going on in places like Portland, and places like Chicago, and New York and other cities and states. And I’ve heard these are people that love our country and they just don’t like seeing it.”
His “I don’t know much about the movement” is such bullshit– really dude? You’re the President of the United States, you don’t have the resources to find out? Have an advisor get on Google for you.
But of course it’s not that he doesn’t know, it’s that he doesn’t care if it benefits him in some way. Like I said in this column last week, a cult hanging on his every word is something Trump’s ego won’t let him refute, no matter how delusional and dangerous they may be. 2020: The Year Conspiracy Destroyed America continues.
American Madness is available at Lion’s Tooth: www.lionstoothmke.com/american_madness.html#/
Quimby’s: CLICK HERE Bookshop.org: CLICK HERE
and wherever books are sold. Add “to-read” on Goodreads CLICK HERE.
Here’s my recent appearance on See You On The Other Side, where I discuss the book with Mike and Wendy:
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.
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/
American Madness is available at Lion’s Tooth: www.lionstoothmke.com/american_madness.html#/
Bookshop.org: CLICK HERE
and wherever books are sold. Add “to-read” on Goodreads CLICK HERE.
Diorama from Feral House on Vimeo.