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
Today is the best holiday, Halloween (a snowy one here in Wisconsin) and I was trying to think of something appropriately eerie. This is “Tea’s Weird Week” after all. Then I thought about ghost tour season ending (but not really– I’m doing tours tonight, tomorrow, and Saturday and then a “Ghost of Christmas Past” tour in later November and December) and decided to reflect on being a tour guide for Milwaukee Ghost Walks. I’ve been running tours since June and here’s some of my favorite tour memories this year. Thanks to everyone who has joined me!
-The first stop on the tour includes a story of a ghostly antique telephone ringing. I’m explaining the bells, when a guy cruises by on his bike and rings his bike bell. Really well placed sound effect!
-Another well-timed effect– at a stop by the river, I talk about Lake Monster sightings from 1890. I was telling this story one night, there had been a lot of rain so the river was moving quickly. I’m telling this story and everyone is laughing and pointing at the river. I turn around and there’s a big, monster shaped log cruising down the river. “Looks like we found it!” I told the group.
-Speaking of, that story also mentions a local newspaper ad from a saloon that offers a reward for the capture of the Lake Monster so they can serve it as a lunch special. That led to the most interesting question I got this year from someone on the tour: “What does a Lake Monster taste like?” I told her I did not have the answer.
-It was really fun to take two of my tour groups to the Under One Moon Fest in Catalano Square in August, celebrating the Apollo 11 mission. A giant replica moon hung over the square and we stopped for a few minutes to take pictures and enjoy some great music from Nineteen Thirteen.
-I always love hearing the noise people make when I tell a gruesome bit of a story, ha ha.
-My friends show up once in a while to take the tour. Always glad to see you!
-I bring along a copy of my book Monster Hunters with me to help introduce who I am and at the end of the tour mention I got that copy for sale. I sell a copy here and there. It’s always nice to sign a book for someone and send it to someone’s home instead of sitting in a box in my basement.
-Oh yeah and a special shout out to the guy cruising around Water Street over and over on his motorcycle this July blasting smooth jazz. “Who does this guy think he is, Kenny G?” I asked the tour. Big laughs.
-Max Mitchelson of the Shepherd Express wrote a nice article about the Milwaukee Ghost Walks. They interviewed Allison Jornlin (who founded and wrote the tour) and threw in a quote from Yours Truly for good measure. You can read it here: “Remembering Milwaukee History Through the Paranormal.”
Happy Halloween everyone! I hope your holiday is filled with witches, goblins, ghosts, demons, Chupacabras, Lake Monsters, Bigfoot, Count Dracula, Freddy Krueger, and a black cat riding a broomstick screeching “Happy Meow-loweeeeen!”
P.S. November is Conspiracy Month here at Tea’s Weird Week. You’ve been warned.
Tea laughs it up and weirds out here every Friday.
This column (and my life) focuses a lot on Funny Weird, but today I thought I’d talk about another interest of mine, Funny Ha Ha. People tend to know I’ve written about subjects considered unique or unusual like Real Life Superheroes, paranormal investigators, doomsday prognosticators, conspiracy theorists, etc. But as a freelance writer, I’ve written about a lot of things that wouldn’t be considered to be fringe. Topics I’ve written at least a couple articles on include local music, burlesque, roller derby, food/drink, theater, comic book artists, authors, and interviews with a wide range of Milwaukeeans for the Shepherd Express and other publications.
And I’ve always had a fun time writing about comedy. Really, how can you go wrong? You sit around and laugh, then write it up.
I’ve written a few articles on the local comedy scene here in Milwaukee, including a round-up of local open mics and an article on Milwaukee Comedy Festival back when they were on year 2 or 3 (they just did their 14th year!) In more recent years I wrote on the Milwaukee comedy scene in general in 2015 and did an “Off the Cuff” interview with Matthew Filipowicz of Laughing Liberally earlier this year. Fun stuff.
Anyway, one of my favorite publications to freelance for is Scandinavian Traveler. I was contacted by them years ago when Risto Pakarinen editor (and author of a new novel, Someday Jennifer— congrats, Risto!) read my book Heroes in the Night and asked if I would be interested in penning an article on Real Life Superheroes.
Since then I’ve written a few articles for Scandinavian Traveler, including one on Chicago chocolatier Katrina Markoff of Vosges Haut-Chocolat (a very delicious assignment), the Mars One program, and some checklists I compiled while I was on vacation in San Francisco.
Risto gave me an extremely delightful assignment for the July issue of Scandinavian Traveler, asking if I’d write about the improv school at the legendary Second City Chicago for their “10 Trips with a Purpose” cover story. I took a trip down to Chicago and participated in an improv class. I also interviewed artistic director Mark Hovde about the comedy biz and Second City’s amazing legacy as the starting point for comedians like Tina Fey, Stephen Colbert, Keegan-Michael Key, Mike Meyers, and so many other comedians that went on to Saturday Night Live, Comedy Central, and other comedy careers onstage and in writing rooms.
Here’s a PDF version of the magazine (my article is page 71-74): https://scandinaviantraveler.com/sites/default/files/st1907.pdf
ClownWatch 2019: 08/01/2019: IndieWire reports that the Alamo Drafthouse will have a “clowns only” screenings at 17 theaters on September 5 of It: Chapter 2.
“encouraged to come dressed as a clown – the wig, the makeup, the oversized pants and suspenders, the blood-curdling makeup — and sit through this coulrophobia-inducing fright fest with a theater full of fellow clowns.”
Great googly moogly, what could go wrong?
The Week in Links
The Apocalypse Blog Book Club’s late summer selection is Feed by Mira Grant. Next selection will be made early October. The groups meets in person in Milwaukee and has online discussion world wide. Join the club here: https://www.facebook.com/groups/1482975718409410/
Milwaukee Paranormal Conference 2019 is happening Sept.13-15. See a speaker line-up and get tickets here: https://milwaukeeparacon.com/2019/07/26/milwaukee-paranormal-conference-2019/
The Milwaukee Krampusnacht 2019 event page is live!: https://www.facebook.com/events/520974881979502/
I had three published pieces this month, one on Milwaukee singer Jeannine Rivers, another on the local comedy scene, and the Monster of the Month column. I got a couple more in the bag for next month already for Riverwest Currents, Milwaukee Record, and M, and there will maybe be one or two more.
9. “The Jazz Singer,” April 2015, M magazine. (page 86 )
10. “Ha ha ha! Milwaukee’s Underground Comedy Gets Last Laugh With Do-it-Yourself Approach,” April 9-15, Shepherd Express.
11. “Monster of the Month: Pepie, the Lake Monster of Lake Pepin,” April 10, Forces of Geek.
Total 2015 word count: 11,128
My New Year’s resolution was to keep better track of what I’m doing. I’ll be listing what I get published each month and at the end of 2015 I’ll be able to see how many articles and a rough word count of what I did over the year.
I spent a lot of January working behind the scenes. I read over proofs for my upcoming book Monster Hunters (out June 2015, Chicago Review Press) and spent a lot of time working on the Milwaukee Paranormal Conference (June 6, 2015), and working on promo material for Ballyhoo (a comic I wrote and David Beyer Jr. illustrated).
I did have three articles published this month.
1. “Testing and Taxing Your Brain,” M: Milwaukee’s Lifestyle Magazine, January 2015. Article about local trivia nights, built on trivia questions with answer key at bottom of the article. The link will take you to their digital edition, the article is on page 96.
2. “the Soil & the Sun @ Turner Hall Ballroom,” Shepherd Express, Jan. 29. Concert review.
3. “Neighborhood Spotlight: Boen Richardson: The Right Side of the Tracks,” Riverwest Currents, February 2015. I’m including it here, despite Feb. cover date because it is out on the street (but not online yet).
Total 2015 word count: 2,070 words.