Tea’s Weird Week: The Orange Stain
If you’ve ever heated up some leftover spaghetti in a plastic Tupperware container in the microwave, you know that you then forever have this kinda gross orangish-red stain on the container. It looks like the sauce has fused permanently into the plastic. You give it a scrub down, maybe throw it in the dishwasher– and it somehow looks even worse.
I’m just so sick of Trump– his stupid face, his ridiculous ego, his stupid family, his Orwellian cabinet, his Alt-Right flunkies like Stephen Miller, “Sloppy Steve” Bannon, Roger Stone, etc., his dumb, dangerous rhetoric, his xenophobia and racism, and perhaps most of all, his reckless spewing of misinformation and conspiracy-mongering, which has been proven to be fatal.
I wrote about Trump a lot in this column in 2020. It was an election year, my book about conspiracy theory, American Madness, was published, and so I wanted to share my observations about the conspiracy epidemic. I wish I could tell you this is the last time I’ll be writing I’ll be writing about the Orange One, but I know the repercussions of Trump will be felt for years, probably even generations. There is a lot to dissect and examine to try to figure out just how in the flying fuck we got here. The MAGA crowd will try to play forward the myth that he was a great hero, like the depiction in that stupid MAGA flag of Trump’s face grafted onto Rambo’s body. Others will compare him to dictators like Hitler and Mussolini, or cult-leaders like Manson and Jim Jones.
To the latter, just look at his own cult, QAnon, the driving force behind January 6’s Q d’etat, and his violent street gang, the Proud Boys (who were also present at the coup, along with Alex Jones, assorted white supremacists, militias, and uh…a Chuck Norris look-alike, Britney Spear’s ex-boyfriend, the guitarist from Iced Earth, among other seditionists.)
My comparison? Well, I’m not above making an absurd argument in absurd times. In 2019 I wrote a column titled “A Theory About Vampires, Zombies, Killer Clowns…and Donald J. Trump” which attempted to tie the Trump presidency into a trend of films like It and Joker. That’s how I view Trump: a killer clown– stupid, crazy, dangerous, with heavy facepaint.
I’m excited to take a break about talking about Trump for awhile. I’m sure he’ll be back in the future, but the columns I have planned over the next month or so are going to feature people I find interesting and inspiring, delightfully unusual.
Maybe this is my way of trying to spray down the orange stain.
Tea’s Weird Week podcast episode 2! I talk more about the orange stain, then me and my co-anchor Heidi Erickson talk about our favorite weird news this week, including a QAnon Bigfoot named Zorth, the exciting mayoral campaign of luchador Blue Demon Junior, mystical cats, elephant dung gin, and the popularity of sea shanties on TikTok (and to give us an example of one, special guest Chris Tischler of Chief sings us “Soon May the Wellermen Come.”) Plus Miss Information’s trivia question (send answer to firstname.lastname@example.org to be entered in monthly prize drawing) and a great new collaborative track from Lauryl Sulfate & Her Ladies of Leisure and LUXI, “Basement Show.” Original music and sound editing by Android138.
Listen here: https://teasweirdweek.podbean.com/e/teas-weird-week-episode-2-the-orange-stain/
Also available on: Player FM//Spotify//Soundcloud//Sticher
Check out my latest books:
American Madness: The Story of the Phantom Patriot and How Conspiracy Theories Hijacked American Consciousness: bookshop.org/books/american-madness-the-story-of-the-phantom-patriot-and-how-conspiracy-theories-hijacked-american-consciousness/9781627310963
Tea’s Weird Week: 2020 Review (e-book, $2.99/free on KU): https://www.amazon.com/Teas-Weird-Week-2020-Review-ebook/dp/B08SGL97YJ/ref=sr_1_1
Wisconsin Legends & Lore: www.arcadiapublishing.com/Products/9781467143448
Tea’s Weird Week: Q D’ETAT! (And the Top Ten Frightening Conspiracy Theory Stories of 2020)
I’ve spent years studying the dangers of conspiracy theory. It all started when I was contacted by a man named Richard McCaslin, who told me about his raid on a secret society retreat called the Bohemian Grove, dressed as his own superhero persona, the Phantom Patriot. Meeting Richard led me through the strange and often terrible world of Conspiracyland, documented in my book American Madness: The Story of the Phantom Patriot and How Conspiracy Theories Hijacked American Consciousness. At this time, conspiracy theorists were often lone wolfs. That’s evolved in recent years into conspiracy cult thinking– what we saw on January 6 at the Capitol, the event I refer to as the “Q d’etat,” was a full on army of conspiracy theorists.
As I was glued to my TV in shock, I thought about Richard, who is no longer with us. If he was, would we have seen him dressed in his Phantom Patriot costume marching through a haze of tear gas in the halls of the Capitol building with the rest of them? Perhaps. Even after years of interviewing him, I found Richard’s thinking unpredictable at times. I think he would have liked the idea of a “patriot revolution” raiding the Capitol, but then again Richard clearly wrote in his last testament that he was no fan of Trump, who he thought was a Reptilian alien, and he viewed QAnon as a government manufactured “psy-op” program. Richard was so deep in the bottomless rabbit hole that the conspiracies had conspiracies.
Despite the ridiculous theories that this violence was caused by hundreds of Antifa disguised in MAGA gear, anyone can see that this was the work of Trump’s cult, QAnon, and his street gangs like the Proud Boys, other Alt-Right, white supremacists, neo-confederates, and militia groups. The first person to breach the Capitol was a guy in a Q t-shirt. The guy we’re all sick of seeing, Jake Angeli, wearing a buffalo horn headdress, no shirt, and star-spangled facepaint, called himself the “QAnon Shaman.”
After the Q army was cleared, authorities found pipe bombs, Molotov cocktails, guns, a noose hanging from gallows on the scene. Plans included hanging Mike Pence, assassinating Nancy Pelosi, and kidnapping members of Congress (some even carried flex cuffs to help capture hostages).
5 people died. Ashli Babbitt was an Air Force vet and QAnon believer who had tweeted she was going to be part of “the Storm”– QAnon lingo for a revolution. She said “nothing will stop us,” but was shot as she tried to climb through a doorway in the Capitol. Rosanne Boyland, another QAnon follower, was in the crowd waving the Gadsen “don’t tread on me” flag, but was trampled to death in the crowd. Benjamin Phillips told a reporter that the event “feels like the first day of the rest of our live,” but died of a stroke. And the death of Kevin Greeson was said to have been caused by him falling while trying to steal a painting, his taser landing in his crotch, zapping him until he had a heart attack. The truth of that story is disputed, but it will live on as part of Q d’etat lore.
Lastly, Officer Brian Sicknick died fro his injuries after the crowd beat him with a fire extinguisher. 60 some other officers were injured, proving that this crowd doesn’t care so much about “blue lives” as they do about disparaging black ones.
How did the hell did we get here? I think the first problem to look at is the growing conspiracy violence over the last year. The sad thing about writing this column was that finding ten stories to write about was not difficult at all. Any one of these stories should be frightening and disturbing. But taken together as a whole, it points to conspiracy theory being an out-of-control public health emergency, a problem that has continued to grow and escalated into the Q d’etat and the potential threats we are being warned about that could unfold over the next week. The FBI reports that extremists like the Boogaloo movement are planning violence surrounding Joe Biden’s inauguration.
Here are 10 stories of conspiracy violence that I followed in 2020 that paved the path to the Capitol insurrection.
1.) Trump’s normalization of conspiracy theory: The seeds of the scene we saw at the Capitol January 6 began with Trump making conspiracy part of his everyday language. He popularized phrases ripe with conspiracy like “witch hunt,” “fake news,” “hoax,” “Obamagate,” and “election fraud.” He gave a platform to conspiracy theorists and outlets and promoted conspiracy ideas from the ridiculous, trivial ones that bugged his ego (“energy efficient bulbs make my skin look orange”) to the ones that ended in bloodshed (“mass election fraud stole the election from me.”)
See more: “Firehose of Falsehood: An Autopsy of Trump’s Conspiracy Theory Presidency (and Why It Will Haunt Us Moving Forward“
2.) Crazy Train: Not an April Fool’s– on April 1 a man named Eduardo Moreno, a locomotive engineer, hijacked a train and derailed it in Los Angeles. His plan was to jump the train at the end of the tracks and crash it into the USNS Mercy hospital ship, which had recently arrived to help with overflow COVID patients. Moreno thought the ship was part of a New World Order police state takeover. He told authorities his goal was to “wake people up,” and said “you only get this chance once. The whole world is watching. I had to. People don’t know what’s going on here. Now they will.”
See more: “Conspiracy Theory Trainwreck.”
3.) 5G Arsons: Conspiracies about 5G internet range from cancer and other illness from “5G radiation” to it being the cause or exacerbating COVID to government mind control programs. This has led to a string of arsons across Europe, burning down 5G towers (and towers misidentified as 5G ones) and internet service workers being harassed in the streets. Between spring and summer of 2020, there were hundreds of cell tower arsons in the UK, New Zealand, the Netherlands, Italy, Ireland, Belgium, Cyprus, Canada, as well as in the U.S., where there was an arson in Oregon and a wave of damaged or disabled towers in Tennessee.
4.) Q Goes to Congress: QAnon has emerged as the biggest conspiracy threat we face, as evidenced by the Q d’etat. Leading up to that have been several stories of QAnon believers kidnapping or running people off the roads because they suspect they are “pedophiles.” All this makes it even more disturbing that Marjorie Taylor Greene, a QAnon follower, was elected to Congress to represent Georgia. Her collegue, Lauren Boebert (of Colorado) has also played with QAnon ideas.
In her short time in office, Rep. Greene has already had an incredibly stupid career– she caused a shouting match in the first hour of her first day on the job for not wearing a mask on the floor; on her second day she said Georgia’s election results needed to be overturned…but just the presidential ones, you know, not the ones that elected her on the same Georgia ballot. Her most recent antic is announcing that she will be introducing articles of impeachment against Joe Biden… on January 21, his first full day in office. Good grief.
Rep. Boebert is facing calls to resign for both inciting the crowd (among other things, she tweeted out “This is 1776!”) and revealing that Speaker Pelosi had been removed from the chambers during the insurrection, seen as tipping off those who were looking to kidnap or assassinate her. Almost 100 candidates with QAnon beliefs ran for office in 2020.
See more: “Well, it Happened: Meet Your First QAnon Congressional Representative.”
5.) Stupid Bay of Pigs: I think this May 4 story got glossed over in the craziness of spring 2020, but Operation: Gideon, or as it was soon nicknamed, “Stupid Bay of Pigs,” was an attempt by a private American company, Silvercorp USA, to send a team of American mercenaries and Venezuelan dissidents to overthrow the government of Venezuela. They hoped to be hailed as heroes and make some pretty sweet reward money.
They thought they could pull this off with 60 people. Needless to say everything went incredibly wrong and when the two fiberglass boats full of mercenaries arrived, 8 were shot dead and 17 captured while the rest scrambled their escape. One of the two Americans who led the way, was, you guessed it, into QAnon.
6.) Election Fraud Cop: The number one source amplifying election fraud conspiracies is of course Trump himself. Here’s just one example of where that rhetoric has led– in October, an ex-cop in Houston named Mark Aguirre decided he would become a detective vigilante, hunting down fraudulent ballots.
He began tailing what he viewed as a suspicious van for several days and became convinced that it was full of thousands of fake ballots. He eventually ran this vehicle off the road and pulled a gun on the driver, but when he opened the doors, he discovered…tools and spare parts for the man’s air-conditioning repair service. He’s an ex-cop for a reason. In 2002 he led a botched raid on a K-Mart parking lot, arresting 278 people, accusing them of being part of a street racing ring. The arrests led to millions of dollars in lawsuits for the city and Officer Aguirre was fired.
7.) Wolverine Watchmen: A gang of militia domestic terrorists calling themselves the Wolverine Watchmen actively plotted to kidnap Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer and Virginia Governor Ralph Northam. They went so far as to stake out Gov. Whitmer’s vacation home and made a plan to bring her to Wisconsin to placed under their own “trial.” Other ideas included storming the Michigan Capitol to take hostages, much like we saw attempted at the Q d’etat, and blowing up a bridge to distract law enforcement. Multiple members shared links to InfoWars, QAnon, and pandemic conspiracy theories on their social media.
See more: “A Militia of Phantom Patriots.”
8.) Anti-maskers: I’m just going to put this here. I regret to inform you this is just one of many dozens and dozens of terrible examples:
9.) The Nashville Christmas Bomber: As the details have been rolling in, we see a portrait of Anthony Quinn Warner, the suicide bomber who detonated an RV full of explosives in downtown Nashville as a conspiracy theorists who believed in Reptilian aliens, among other beliefs. It’s unclear what his exact motivation was or if his target was the AT&T center he parked next to, but his conspiracy believers are at least part of his mindset.
See more: “Nashville Bomber was a Conspiracy Believer, Reptilian ‘Hunter’“
10.) COVID Anti-vaxxers: A story close to home, here– a pharmacist at a health center in Grafton, Steven Bradenburg, pulled the equivalent of about 570 COVID vaccine doses out of their refrigerated storage to purposely ruin them, because he believed the vaccines were dangerous and could alter human DNA. It’s clear from his divorce proceedings that he had taken a scary turn into doomsday prepping, believing the government has a plan to shut down the power grid to create an apocalyptic police state. This story is still unfolding, but it leads me to what I think the biggest conspiracy threats of 2021 are.
One, I think we’ll see more stories like the Q d’etat and the Wolverine Watchmen kidnapping plot. All of these Trump QAnon/Alt-Right/Militia/White Supremacists aren’t disappearing on January 20 and in fact, many will consider themselves to be at war with the Biden administration. Two, much like the Bradenburg cases, there’s going to be lots of anti-vaxx issues with the COVID vaccine. We finally got the cure, but will people skip it because they believe they’ll turn into a crocodile or be microchipped by Bill Gates? Will it continue to be sabotaged by anti-vaxxers? Is our country just too dumb and selfish to get past a pandemic?
We’ll see. I hope I’m wrong. Please be safe out there!
Please Clap Dept: Thanks to Emily McFarlan Miller, who did a great interview with me about American Madness and conspiracy threats for Religion News Service: “Conspiracy theories and the ‘American Madness’ that gripped the Capitol.”
I’m happy to present episode 1 of the Tea’s Weird Week podcast! I talk more about the ideas in this column, then me and Heidi Erickson review weird news about monoliths, killer squirrels, black holes, state dinosaurs, and the fate of the Hall of President’s Trumpbot. There’s also trivia by Quizmaster Miss Information, plus a new track by Sunspot, “Hold on for Your Life.” Original music and sound editing by Android138.
Listen here: teasweirdweek.podbean.com/e/teas-weird-week-episode-01-q-detat
Buy my books:
American Madness: The Story of the Phantom Patriot and How Conspiracy Theories Hijacked American Consciousness: bookshop.org/books/american-madness-the-story-of-the-phantom-patriot-and-how-conspiracy-theories-hijacked-american-consciousness/9781627310963
Tea’s Weird Week: 2020 Review (e-book): https://www.amazon.com/Teas-Weird-Week-2020-Review-ebook/dp/B08SGL97YJ/ref=sr_1_1
Wisconsin Legends & Lore: www.arcadiapublishing.com/Products/9781467143448
Tea’s Weird Week: Firehose of Falsehood: An Autopsy of Trump’s Conspiracy Theory Presidency (and Why it Will Haunt Us Moving Forward)
It’s fitting that Trump’s presidency is ending on election fraud conspiracies as his 2016 ambitions and every step of his presidency has been one big conspiracy conglomerate, a massive machine of misinformation, salacious rumors, and heavily biased, actual fake news sources. Here’s a tour of some of Trump’s greatest conspiracy hits, why conspiracy has been so beneficial to him, and how the orange stain will linger on long after he’s gone.
Birtherism: In my book American Madness, I wrote a chapter about Trump called “The InfoWars President,” which starts with Trump at the 2011 White House Correspondents Dinner, where he’s being mocked by Obama for his promotion of “Birtherism.” That conspiracy suggests Obama’s birth certificate is fake and that he was actually born in Kenya, thus making him ineligible to be U.S. president. Trump promoted the conspiracy relentlessly, but at the Correspondents Dinner everyone in the room was laughing at him. Trump’s former advisor, conspiracy guru Roger Stone, thinks that night is important in Trump’s plan to run for president.
InfoWars appearance: After launching his presidential campaign in 2015, Trump appears on the most notorious conspiracy-mongering show of all– The Alex Jones Show on InfoWars, at the suggestion of Roger Stone. Trump knew he could build a fringe alliance that would help bolster his base.
Tilting at Windmills: I think Trump probably believes some of the conspiracies he shares are true at gut level, but others he realizes are just a good form of attack. A great example of this is Trump’s seemingly bizarre campaign against wind turbines, or “windmills” as he calls them. The reality behind this is that Scotland built a windfarm near one of Trump’s golf courses, which he will forever be pissed off about because it “ruined the view.” So now he yammers on about wind turbines killing birds and causing cancer because he hates them for ruining his golf course.
Conspiracy Language: Trump quickly began to normalize language like “fake news” (any media that doesn’t shine him) and “witch hunt” (any allegation he’s committed a crime) as a way to deflect. He sometimes also uses language direct from conspiracy theorists, for example, the evil but hard to define “Deep State” that secretly rules the world.
Joe Scarborough Murder Theory: A specific example of Trump using conspiracies to attack his enemies (which is anyone who disagrees with him) is his madness in dealing with Joe Scarborough, former Florida House Rep and host of Morning Joe on MSNBC. Trump responded to criticisms from Scarborough by digging up an old conspiracy that suggests he killed an intern. You can read more in my column here: “Trump’s Joe Scarborough Conspiracy Obsession.”
Social Media Summit: Trump’s “Social Media Summit” in July 2019 was who’s who of Internet trolls, conspiracy peddlers, and the far-right blogosphere. Throughout his presidency he’s platformed these people by re-Tweeting sources like Breitbart News, TheBlaze, and other far right sites to his tens of millions of followers.
QAnon: One of the most alarming stories of 2020 is the rise of QAnon, a conspiracy cult movement that believes that Trump is a Messiah figure who will vanquish an evil cabal of satanic pedophile Democrats that get high on adrenochrome harvested from people. Is this crazy? Yes. Do we have one QAnon believer now elected to the U.S. House of Representatives (and one who seems at least to be open to QAnon beliefs)? Also yes. (See also: “The Election Day Hangover That Won’t Quit“). Trump’s ego, of course, would never shut the idea of a cult dedicated to him down, so he’s tried to waffle on QAnon, saying he “didn’t know who they were” but also heard “they fight pedophilia very hard.”
There are several cases where QAnon believers have turned to violence. Two armed QAnon believers were arrested when they were discovered trying to deliver a Hummer full of fake ballots to a ballot-counting site in Philadelphia. QAnon will cheat and get arrested for Trump and maybe even die for him.
Obamagate: In January, I attended a Trump rally here in Milwaukee. I guess I wanted a look at the belly of the beast. One thing that puzzled me for a moment was Trump talking about Hillary Clinton and basking in the crowd chanting “Lock her up! Lock her up!” Had I time-traveled back to 2016? But then I realized that this was the major policy of the Trump Show– “Crooked Hillary” and the conspiracy that Obama had wiretapped and spied on the Trump campaign. Without his Bond villains, Trump has nothing to fall back on.
Demon Sperm Lady: ‘Nuff said on this one, but you can read more here: “Demon Sperm, Reptilians, and Alien DNA…Meet Trump’s Latest COVID Expert.”
Antifa: As civil unrest and rioting flooded the streets after the murder of George Floyd, Trump found a boogieman he could conjure up when he wanted to attack Democrat led cities and states and scare his constiuency– Antifa. Radical left Antifa warriors, dressed like ninjas, were everywhere– driving caravans of buses into small town America, filling up domestic flights dressed in black bloc gear, recruiting senior citizens to jam police scanners, and burning and looting across the country.
Election Fraud: And of course, what will be the last major Trump conspiracy– mass voter fraud. This is how he goes out– tweeting and babbling (along with his team) a firehose of falsehood, trying to override the truth. Christopher Krebs, director of the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA) put out a statement that read, in part, “There is no evidence that any voting system deleted or lost votes, changed votes, or was in any way compromised.”
Which means, of course, Trump fired him.
Beyond January 20: More American Madness
Over 73 million people voted for Trump. A growing population out there believe that Democrats and other “radical left” figures are satanic pedophiles who get high off adrenochrome that they harvest from living people. And now these same people believe the election was “rigged” and stolen from their beloved leader.
These people are being riled up by bad actors like Alex Jones, who has led rallies in Phoenix, Austin, DC (at the “Million MAGA March”), and most recently, Atlanta, where he cruises around in his InfoWars armored vehicle, screaming through a bullhorn about how there will be a revolution like 1776.
Stewart Rhodes, leader of the militia Oath Keepers told media at the Million MAGA March that his group won’t “recognize Biden as legitimate” and “anything he signs into law we won’t recognize as legitimate. We’ll be very much like the founding fathers. We’ll end up nullifying and resisting.”
Trump’s people now believe they at war, and these people are angry, delusional, and heavily armed. Remember that just recently we learned about a plot by a militia/ domestic terrorism group (the Wolverine Watchmen) that was working on potential plots to kidnap Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer and possibly Virginia Governor Ralph Northam.
Trump’s Street War will continue on after he’s dragged out of the White House yelling “Rigged!”on January 20.
Please Clap (or vote as the case may be) Dept.: I’m nominated for the Shepherd Express 2020 “best of” contest in the “Milwaukee Author” category. The category was introduced in 2011 and since then historian John Gurda (The Making of Milwaukee) has won it 8 out of 9 years. Can Gurda be overthrown? I’ll get out there with a bullhorn like Alex Jones if I have to. Vote here: shepherdexpress.com/best-of-milwaukee/2020#/
You can buy my new book American Madness here: https://bookshop.org/books/american-madness-the-story-of-the-phantom-patriot-and-how-conspiracy-theories-hijacked-american-consciousness/9781627310963
Or wherever books are sold!
And you can find my book Wisconsin Legends & Lore here: https://www.arcadiapublishing.com/Products/9781467143448
Tea’s Weird Week: Crazy Uncle Trump: “I don’t know that, and neither do you”
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.
A Militia of Phantom Patriots
Cambria, Wisconsin, population 767, has “no bank, no grocery store and no stoplight,” as the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel notes. For big city livin’ like that, you have to drive 25 minutes to Beaver Dam. Being Wisconsin, it does of course have a bar, which is called The Dump.
It’s out here on a property surrounded by cornfields that five domestic terrorists, militia members who called themselves the Wolverine Watchmen, met on July 10-12 to engage in “firearms training and other combat drills,” according to an affidavit by the FBI. They also attempted to built IEDs out of “black powder, balloons, a fuse, and BBs for shrapnel,” but they failed to detonate.
They property owner is a man named Michael H. Jung. His Twitter bio reads:
Belong to both Oath Keepers and III%ers. We are here to honor our countries [sic] Constitution and keep it the law of Our Country. What about you? MAGA Trump Patriot.
Both the groups Jung lists are militias. The Three Percenters get their name from the supposed fact that only 3% of America’s population fought against the British in the Revolutionary War. The Oath Keepers are named after the oath order to “defend the Constitution against all enemies, foreign and domestic.” Both groups view themselves as Revolutionaries fighting against a tyrannical government. They fly the “don’t tread on me” Gadsen flag, and the 13-star flag Betsy Ross flag.
The training session in Cambria was for a failed attempt to kidnap Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer, who according to one of the Wolverine Watchmen, was a “tyrant bitch.” A couple of the members were identified in pictures from the massive pandemic protests at the Michigan Capitol building in April and May. Hundreds of armed people were there to protest COVID lockdown measures, which they said violated their freedom.
The FBI affidavit reveals that the Wolverine Watchmen had been forming a plan for months to kidnap Governor Whitmer and take her to “a secure location in Wisconsin for ‘trial.'” The location wasn’t identified, but perhaps it was to be Jung’s property in Cambria.
One of the militia’s ideas called for rallying “200 men” to storm the Michigan Capitol building in Lansing to take hostages, including the Governor. In another plan, they plotted to kidnap her from her vacation home and spent time staking it out twice in the last couple months. They planned to blow up a bridge to distract law enforcement and bomb police cars with Molotov cocktails. 13 men involved with the plot were arrested on federal and state charges.
The Wolverine Watchmen were all Trump fans and perceived him to be a fan of them– after all, as the lockdown protests were taking place Trump tweeted out “LIBERATE MICHIGAN!” The assembled militias saw that as validation. Trump also often showed his disdain for Governor Whitmer, sometimes refusing to say her name and referring to her as “that woman from Michigan.” Trump tweeted out that in regards to the militias, the Governor should “talk to them, make a deal,” nevermind the fact that some of these protesters were calling for her to be lynched and beheaded.
Here’s another thing about the Wolverine Watchmen: they were conspiracy theorists. Reviewing the Twitter feed of Michael Jung, the property owner in Cambria, we find the full gamut of 2020 conspiracies between February and his last tweet in August 25– lots of posts sharing anti-vaxxer media, a few posts celebrating QAnon (including a video titled “We are Q. The Plan to Save the World.”) as well as posts about 5G (a “direct energy weapon system”), voter fraud, FEMA camps, the fake “plandemic,” and references to Democratic governors being “tyrants.”
Other Wolverine Watchmen posted conspiracy media as well. Eric Molitor posted conspiracy theories related to QAnon, Peter Musico, ranted on YouTube about the “Deep State,” and shared links to Owen Shroyer, an InfoWars host, while Joseph Morrison shared anti-vaxxer theories and also encouraged his Twitter followers to tune into InfoWars, run by conspiracy peddler extremist Alex Jones. And that’s just what we know so far.
Jones and InfoWars often pop up in conspiracy driven plots– in my book American Madness, I detail how the influence of Alex Jones led a man named Richard McCaslin to heavily arm himself and raid a private retreat of powerful men called the Bohemian Grove back in 2002. He believed he would find satanic sacrifices taking place there. McCaslin viewed himself much like the Wolverine Watchmen probably do, not as domestic terrorists, but as patriots (McCaslin even dubbed himself the “Phantom Patriot”), fighting in a Revolutionary War.
The story repeated again in 2016 when a man named Edgar Maddison Welch saw a video on InfoWars about the Pizzagate conspiracy theory, which led to his raid on the Washington DC pizzeria Comet Ping Pong. A wave of violence inspired by QAnon beliefs has risen under the Trump administration.
Alex Jones, by the way, denounced McCaslin’s Bohemian Grove raid after it happened, saying that it sounded “crazy,” even though he was the inspiration. That’s a pattern of denial and disassociation he’s followed ever since, and sorry, Wolverine Watchmen, that includes you. On a recent show, Jones said the whole scheme was a “false flag” by the “Deep State.” In his words:
Well, we knew it was coming. I predicted over and over again, the last few months, it’s not a hard prediction, that they’d engage in a provocateur setup or a false flag against Democrat Party officials, to make them look like victims when they launch incredible tyranny.
Trump, the Conspiracy Theorist-in-Chief, is culpable in this. His presidency has normalized conspiracy belief about the pandemic, alleged voter fraud, and civil unrest. He knows the value of misinformation and fear-mongering– that’s his true Art of the Deal.
This has not been the first incident of armed conspiracy theorists on the march recently– last month I wrote a column where I reported on two armed men heading to Kenosha (to potentially shoot protesters) that were arrested at a hotel. They were part of the 417 Second Amendment Militia. An examination of one of their Facebook pages again turned up lots of posts about the “COVID hoax,” voter fraud, and conspiracies about Trump’s favorite enemies. A disturbing report from Minneapolis, meanwhile, has shown that a private security firm is hiring mercenaries to “make sure the Antifas don’t try to destroy the election sites,” though there’s no evidence such a plan exists.
Taking to Twitter to comment on the plot to kidnap Governor Whitmer, Trump once again chose not to condemn right wing extremists, but called out “Antifa, Anarchists, Looters and Mobs.”
The real threat to safety of people’s lives, as these cases show, are white supremacists and conspiracy-inspired militia groups like the Wolverine Watchmen. And no matter the results in November, expect to see more plots like this one. If Trump loses, they will consider themselves at war. If he wins, they will be emboldened.
Tea Krulos is the author of American Madness: The Story of the Phantom Patriot and How Conspiracy Theories Hijacked American Consciousness.
“Read the FBI affidavit in the militia plot to kidnap Gov. Whitmer,” Detroit Free Press
“Residents shocked band of men trained in Cambria for governor kidnapping plot,” Milwaukee Journal Sentinel
“The ‘Wolverine Watchmen’ Accused of Targeting Michigan Guv Spooked Their Neighbors,” Daily Beast
Michael H. Jung Twitter page: https://twitter.com/climer6699 [accessed Oct. 10, 2020]
“Plot to kidnap Michigan governor has ties to Wisconsin,” CBS 58
“Conspiracy theorist Alex Jones: Alleged kidnapping plot against Gov. Whitmer a ‘false flag’ by the ‘deep state,'” Media Matters for America
“Tea’s Weird Week: Would-be Kenosha Shooters were into Conspiracy Theory; ‘Q revealed?‘” teakrulos.com
“Former Special Forces sought by business group to guard polling sites in Minnesota, company says,” Star Tribune
Tea’s Weird Week: Trump’s October Surprise
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:
Tea’s Weird Week: The Return of Birtherism and Pizzagate
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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: