“Art is in the eye of the beholder, and everyone will have their own interpretation.” — E.A. Bucchianeri
“When you’re a star, they let you do it. You can do anything. Grab them by the pussy, you can do anything.”– Donald Trump
I’m not sure how I stumbled on the works of Jon McNaughton, a painter from Utah who specializes in “highly detailed religious and patriotic subjects.” His bio also says that “there are three kinds of people who view my paintings: those who like it, those who hate it, and those who simply don’t understand.”
Boy howdy, McNaughton, I’m definitely 2 out of 3! I see Trump as everything bad in America– a greedy 2-bit con man who instills fear and paranoia instead of hope, all 7 deadly sins rolled into one foul, bloviating persona. McNaughton’s take, you’ll see, is a little different. But first, let’s dive in take a look at one of McNaughton’s pre-Trump era pieces:
This painting, “The Forgotten Man,” was completed in 2010. It’s a Rembrandt of nuttiness. Here we see that McNaughton’s poor “forgotten man” is not a black person sent to prison for life for smoking weed or stealing $9, or a refugee thrown into a border concentration camp, but your average white dude slumped sadly on a park bench. A stern-looking President Obama has his arms folded and is ignoring him. The U.S. Constitution is pinned under Obama’s shoe like yesterday’s news. Also gathered around the poor guy, hashing out his plight: every president ever. Here’s what they’re saying:
James Madison: “Dude, seriously?! You’re stepping on it? Do you know how much time I spent writing that thing?! It’s like, over 200 years old!”
Abe: “Hey! Hey buddy, turn around! What’s your problem, man?!”
Clinton and the Roosevelts: clap clap clap, “bravo, bravo, Obama.”
Andrew “Old Hickory” Jackson: “I’m also pointing.” (oddly subdued– you’d think he’d be the first one to throw a punch.)
JFK: “Hey aaaa, look ovah there, they elected aaaa black guy for the aaa presidency!”
W: “Wait a minute, are you sure I’m not supposed to be over there by Washington and Kennedy?”
Old Mother Reagan: “Where am I? Why are we gesturing at this guy?”
Based on the old chestnut that you can “give a man a fish, and you feed him a day. Teach a man to fish, and you feed him a lifetime,” this work, “Teach a Man to Fish” is a hilariously failed metaphor. Here we see another poor white dude who has put down his books about socialism and is saying “duhhh, what are these things?” while benevolent Trump shows him how to tie a lure in a tranquil forest. Here’s the thing, I don’t think “patient teacher” springs to mind when describing Trump. I’m also guessing he doesn’t know how to fish. Do you think young Trump sat on a pier attaching a squirming nightcrawler on a hook? If he ever has been out to fish, he probably paid someone to set up the rod for him, much like Don Jr. pays someone to drop him in an enclosed area so he can trophy hunt endangered animals.
I think a more accurate metaphor would be Trump running away from an angry fisherman (with an unpaid bill in his hand) with a flopping fish in between his teeth, like Yogi Bear stealing a picnic basket.
This painting, “Crossing the Swamp,” (a parody of “Washington Crossing the Delaware” by Emanuel Leutze) shows the danger in trying to create any depiction of the Trump administration as a coherent team. Of those featured here, almost half the crew has walked the plank: Nikki Haley (resigned), James “Mad Dog” Mattis (resigned, Trump says he fired him), Jeff Sessions (forced to resign), Sarah Sanders (resigned), John Bolton (HA! resigned, Trump says he fired him) and John Kelly (forced to resign). Trump better hope that Ben Carson and Ivanka can navigate that thing.
“Expose the Truth”: Trump: “C’mere you lyin,’ crooked FBI man! Let me grab you by the fucking tie and get a good look at you! A real good look, with my magnifying glass!”
This “Modern-day Paul Revere” is supposed to be obnoxious FOX News personality Sean Hannity, the top dawg at the station after Bill O’Reilly was fired (6 sexual harassment cases totaling $50 million finally did it). Instead of riding town to town to warn of the British invasion, you’ll hear Hannity call out things like:
This is McNaughton’s latest, “You Are Fake News.” For more on Trump’s clown problem, see my column HERE.
Wheeeew! Final thoughts:
Conspiracy News Dept.: Flat Earther and homemade rocket pilot “Mad Mike” Hughes died after a malfunction with his parachute as he attempted flight on Feb.22 outside of Barstow. An upcoming show, Homemade Astronauts was at the launch to shoot footage.
Meanwhile, during Mardi Gras, an “Epstein Didn’t Kill Himself theory” float depicting Hillary Clinton strangling the deceased sex predator rolled down St. Charles Avenue while a group of dancers– “the Swingin’ Epsteins”– danced in grey wigs, prison jumpsuits, and bedsheet nooses around their necks.
My upcoming book American Madness features a journey through conspiracy culture. It’s out August 25, 2020 from Feral House. To pre-order: CLICK HERE
“This chatty, fast-paced volume will entertain those who enjoy reading about unusual subcultures.”– Publishers Weekly (on Apocalypse Any Day Now)
The#TrumpConspiracyCounter just passed 100. I’m skipping analysis until next week, where I’ll discuss what we’ve seen so far.
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
Tea’s Weird Week switches this week from Fridays to every Thursday afternoon.
While working on my book Apocalypse Any Day Now, I researched zombies in pop culture. An interesting study from 2009, referenced in my book, laid out the data that shows we have more vampire themed movies and entertainment during Democrat administrations, while we get more zombies during Republican ones. The study tallied the number of movies found in both genres dating back to the Eisenhower administration, and the results were overall pretty consistent.
Think of the great 80s Reagan era zombie movies like The Return of the Living Dead (1985). In 2005 (Bush’s second term) there were 158 zombie movies (vs 74 vampire themed movies). Anne Rice was popular in the Clinton era, the Interview with a Vampire movie was huge in 1994. The big hits of the Obama administration were those wretched Twilight movies (2008-2012).
Here’s a link to the original study: http://www.mrscienceshow.com/2009/05/correlation-of-week-zombies-vampires.html Several other sites have examined the theory. HuffPost has a video with some visual highlights HERE.
Some of the noteworthy films that don’t fit the trend make sense if you correlate the source material: both the World War Z film and the hit show The Walking Dead were released during the Obama administration, but the source material (the 2006 book and 2003 comic series, respectively) was written in the Bush era.
I’ve read different interpretations of this study. One says the trend reflects the fears of the party in power– Democrats fear a vampire-like parasitic aristocrat, while Republicans fear a zombie revolt of the poor and disenfranchised. The other theory (which I lean towards) is that the films tap into subconscious fears about the party in power.
The Democrat vampires are suave and sophisticated but deceptive, kinky neck-sucking sex fiends, often times foreigners (Transylvania isn’t sending their best), which plays into liberalphobia. Conservatives, meanwhile, are viewed as the brainless masses, a hate mob of rotten rednecks shuffling through a Wal-Mart.
Enter a new animal, President Donald J. Trump. He’s not a Democrat, but he’s not a typical Republican either. As such, I think a new (perhaps one time) cycle has displaced the vampire/ zombie rotation: the killer clown.
“Wait til they get a load of me,” the Joker says in Batman (1989), but the quote could have easily come from Trump.
While working on my reoccurring #ClownWatch2019 segment for this column, where I mention any strange real-life clown sightings, I noticed there are an awful lot of killer clown movies lately, especially this fall. Over the past couple years we’ve gotten a fair share of the genre: American Horror Story: Cult (2017), which quickly made the Trump/killer clown connection, It (2017), the fantastic Green Bay produced Gags The Clown (2018), Rob Zombie’s clown murder mayhem movie 31 (2018) and many low budget entries.
Up next over the next month we’ll see the return of monster clown Pennywise in It Chapter 2 (which premieres tomorrow, Sept.6), the origin of killer clown Joker (Oct.4), and yes, we’ve finally arrived here…Clownado (Sept.17). That last title pretty much sums up today’s politics in one word. There’s several other low budget productions trying to catch the crest of the killer clown wave– Clownface, ClownDoll, and just Clown are just a few I found on IMDB with 2019 release dates.
These films, like vampire and zombie features, are playing to fears of our times. In this case, it’s of a monster who is stupidly reckless and dangerously unpredictable.
Like Pennywise, Trump has a wild clownado of orange hair. Note that Pennywise (and imitators) carries a red balloon the same color as Trump’s droopy, clownish tie or as a MAGA hat. Trump has a sleeve filled with dirty tricks and his administration is a clown car of chaos. Buying Greenland for a new secret lair, nuking a hurricane– clearly the mindset of a Joker. When Trump uses a “magic’ marker to defiantly insist that Alabama is in a hurricane zone when it isn’t, he hopes he can change reality, like a cartoonish clown drawing a door on a wall and then opening it to make a quick getaway.
Trump’s unhinged decision making on who to fire, who to threaten, and what diplomatic ties to sever are not of a politician or a businessman, but of a killer clown dancing and stabbing people in a haunted house.
It’s easy to laugh at his childish behavior, ranting and stomping his feet about everything from inauguration sizes to hurricane zones, but then comes the terror in realizing his full potential for disaster, an unfolding horror story.
Welcome to the clownpocalypse of our times.
My book Apocalypse Any Day Now got a nice, short review from Skeptical Inquirer. Thanks for believing in me, skeptics! They say:
“Krulos returns with another equally relevant and interesting look at the world of American survivalism, doomsday cults, religious prophets, and the like. The tone is more breezy than scholarly (with more than a few references to zombie apocalypses, for example) but the book offers insight into the mentality of conspiracy theorists and doomsday prophets.”
You can find the book here: www.chicagoreviewpress.com/ApocalypseAnyDayNow
Milwaukee Paranormal Conference is happening Sept.13-14: www.milwaukeeparacon.com