The REAL False Flag Operation, Part 3
NOTE TO THE READER: This is another topical blog post that gotten to be so long in content and scope, that as a courtesy to the reader I have split up into a series of posts. It concerns a topic now of interest to the new conspiracy-crowd that is the Religious Right, who has now as a late-comer embraced this viewpoint after introduction to the conspiracy-minded “don’t believe your eyes or the establishment” perspective from their extremist hard-right Christian and other Christian media outlets, both large and small, “mainstream” and small-time fringe blogs, podcasts, Facebook posts and tweets. Through this they have become versed into the old conspiracy concept that has historical precedents but is now-overused and supersaturated, that of the “false flag operation,” by agents provocateur in disguise, to implicate and discredit rival ideological camps. It reviews the latest popular arguments in conservative and Religious Right professional and social media that leftist radicals actually conducted the Capitol insurrection by those otherwise-plainly identified as right wing extremists in the “patriot movement,” including the cases of violent or provocative incidents in the years leading up to it. It explores the arguments popularly disseminated to date, who are the main figures formulating and dispensing these narratives, what are their histories, track records and possible motives for such, the extent of their accuracy or inaccuracy, and the appearances of a REAL “false flag” narrative being promulgated that is not what is being popularly identified in this public relations “sleight of hand.” It also painstakingly documents who the actual insurrectionists and inciters were in these events, based upon hard evidence of video and photo documentation, self-incriminating posts and writing, announcements of planned operations prior to the event, law enforcement investigations and legal filing and pleas, and statements by top government officials who admitted their intentions to incite, or were eyewitnesses to the culprits and the events. In the introductory Part 1, we began by summarizing the key events and timelines of the pivotal day of the Capitol insurrection, how President Trump set the stage (including literally) to prepare the people for war beforehand (with the help of violent militia groups and others online), bring the people to Washington at the very hour of the election certification, and provoke them into the seditious mob and combination vandal gang and lynch mob, as well as identifying a few initial figures that have come from obscurity to experience a meteoric rise in the national media in capitalizing in those days on the dark and disturbing latent impulses now seething in the American public that they have exploited for immediate profit and future agendas of even higher ambition. Part 2 included a more in-depth profile of the individuals, leaders and organizations involved in the insurrection itself, derived from their writings and confessions, FBI reports and legal briefs, as well key representatives of some of our time-honored institutions (those revered by conservatives in particular) that shockingly had a pivotal role in the deadly event, and the demographics of the typical 2021 insurrectionist, with these findings having major implications in our society in the days ahead. In Part 3 of this series, we will explore how different elements of America’s faith community responded on the day of the insurrection, and in the aftermath how they perceived the true culprits, including major Christian and conservative media and their “Antifa” claims, how it was generated and spread (and by whom), allied conservative figures who joined in and later ashamedly renounced such claims to Trump and the public, and how the conservative citizenry ignored such debunking and has clung to the “Antifa insurrectionist” manufactured narrative, and associated myths.
In the last installment of this investigative series, we concluded by noting the demographics of the identified Capitol insurrectionists as representing a broad cross-section of conservative America – mostly older, financially secure employed or self-employed “grass roots” types – and not just the minority who comprised the marginal, “on the edge” fringe of unstable and unemployed rabble-rousers commonly associated with the national militia groups and white-supremacist and anarchist groups who also played a role, and asked how we will deal with such a broad portion of our citizenry not only believing in aggressive and apocalyptic conspiratorial views, but also willing to take extreme actions on their behalf, and how we are to even deal with our own fellow church members in their ranks. Speaking of churches, there were also public expressions by members of the faith community on the day of the insurrection, and the days that followed – the main subject of interest of myself and the purposes of this blog and my books, to contemplate what our public statements, positions and actions say about us as self-professing followers of Christ, and the manner in which it honestly reflects the degree to which we actually “abide in the Vine.” On the day of the insurrection, The Salt Lake Tribune wrote that
On Wednesday morning, an interfaith group of religious leaders gathered outside of Luther Place Memorial Church in the nation’s capital. For two hours, the clergy prayed for an end to violence, for an eradication of white nationalism and for a groundswell of racial justice. Their small prayer circle surrounded a Black Lives Matter sign, created to replace similar banners repeatedly stolen and destroyed by the far-right Proud Boys in December. Near the end of the service, a gaggle of men adorned in patriotic clothing and “Make America Great Again” hats approached. One walked into the middle of the circle, pretended to fall, and laid on the ground while another man knelt on his neck — an apparent attempt to mock the 2020 killing of George Floyd at the hands of police. The group then walked across the street — where National City Christian Church had just unfurled a 16-foot Black Lives Matter banner — and repeated the performance in front of cameras…As Proud Boys arrived near the U.S. Capitol after Trump’s speech, people in attendance reportedly referred to them as “God’s warriors.” When the mob eventually breached the Capitol and violently stormed into the Senate chamber Wednesday afternoon — sending the Capitol region into lockdown — one insurrectionist could be seen carrying a white flag with a cross in the corner: the “Christian flag.” And after the mob took over the Capitol, some demonstrators unfurled a massive banner outside. It read: “Jesus 2020.” But Jesus was already invoked in Congress that day — albeit with a very different message. As the mob broke into the House chamber, lawmakers crouched in the balcony, desperate to shield themselves from impending attack. As what sounded like gunshots rang out, a CBS News video caught what appeared to be Rep. Lisa Blunt Rochester offering her own response to the harrowing situation: She led her fellow lawmakers in prayer. The Delaware Democrat called on Jesus to protect members of Congress and to bring “peace in the land, peace in this country, peace in this world.”
However, the most conspicuous self-claimed representatives of Christ in our society, and known as our “Christian celebrities” with tremendous wealth, economic and political clout – the Religious Right – had a very different take and approach as to the crisis that day and the issues and developments behind it, as opposed to the prayer and peace-seeking objectives of these beleaguered people of faith we have just cited, who are generally not acknowledged to even be believers by the more powerful and ubiquitous Religious Right community of great numbers but still over-sized clout in political and social power and influence.
As an example, a week after the attack The Washington Post reported that
Images and references to being on the march for Jesus were common at the massive Jan. 6 rally — and later, riot — including among a segment of American Christianity that believes it has the power of prophecy. Some experts say charismatic, prophetic Christians who operate largely outside denominations make up U.S. religion’s fastest-growing subset. In recent decades, millions have been increasingly seeking out these prophets and apostles on YouTube channels, in books, group prayer calls, via regular group text chats and at conferences where breakout groups practice faith healing and raising people from the dead. And nothing has focused this disparate, independent group like Trump. Although mainstream evangelical conservatives, including Trump’s own evangelical advisers, didn’t appear at the event, the day had been heavily promoted and covered by media and leaders of this charismatic, prophetic segment of Christianity. “I believe something dramatic is going to happen before Congress votes on those electors. Something very dramatic that will change the outcome of that vote…the holy spirit will enter into this situation and it’s going to be something very dramatic,” televangelist Pat Robertson told his Christian Broadcasting Network audience Jan. 4, on the eve of two days of rallies in Washington…“We thank God for exposing and foiling all the plans of the enemy set against him. We affirm his lawful election and pray for four more years with Donald Trump as our president!” the 24/7 National Strategic Prayer Call, a 10,000-member Arkansas-based ministry that hosts weekly live prayer calls, told its listeners Monday.
The high-octane, emotional fight for Trump makes sense for these believers, who take the stories of Christian scripture literally and see daily life as a visceral struggle between God and the devil. Spiritual warfare is constant. Signs and wonders are everywhere. So as time passes and Trump’s options disappear, God’s move to keep him in power will be even more spectacular — evidence even more likely to spark a religious awakening or revival…[Prof. Brad] Christerson in his 2017 book cited the World Christian Database as saying between 1970 and 2010, independent apostolic and neo-Charismatic groups — other names for the charismatic Christians who believe in these unaffiliated prophets — grew the fastest of any other. Holly Pivec, another researcher who has written two books on the movement, estimates that about 66 million Americans have come into close contact with its teachings, through books or conferences or music. The numbers are much more dramatic overseas…
The day after the insurrection, Slate had some similar things to document:
In the crowd of insurrectionists who seized the U.S. Capitol on Wednesday, Christian imagery was rife. Alongside Confederate flags and white supremacist symbols, protesters shouldered crosses, waved “Jesus Saves” signs, and hung oversized “Jesus 2020” banners. One rioter who made it inside the building carried a “Christian flag.” Outside, on the National Mall, people chanted, “Christ is king.” As the reporter Jack Jenkins noted, some in the crowd referred to the neo-fascist Proud Boys as “God’s warriors.” There was no denying the religious right’s role in Wednesday’s events. In the aftermath, many evangelical leaders condemned the violence—rarely to a warm reception…Eric Metaxas, an author who has caused soul-searching among some evangelicals because of his vociferous support for Trump’s election fraud claims, was eager to pin the blame on antifa. He later insisted that the day’s violent events made no difference—that even still, “we must do all we can to expose” the fraudulence of the election… The televangelist Mark Burns called the assertion that Trump supporters were responsible a “lie from the gates of hell.” And while the evangelist Franklin Graham warned that “our country is in trouble” and called for Christians to pray for Joe Biden and Kamala Harris, he also speculated that the people “who broke the windows” were “most likely” antifa.
These latter stories begin to point out the beginnings of the main point of this essay series. Throughout this lengthy work, I have tried to painstakingly document the different primary figures that have been confirmed to have been involved in the January 6 insurrection, based upon their plans and intentions they published online months, weeks or days beforehand, video, photographic and other documentation of them on site and engaging in the act, and then their bragging admissions of such on social media or other forums, often including their own photos or video shot within the Capitol during the assault, or while pummeling and overpowering law enforcement. I also carefully documented the groups of people confirmed to have participated in these acts, such as the Proud Boys, Oath Keepers, white supremacist groups, retired or active duty military members, and even law enforcement and elected officials themselves, in the violent or other unlawful acts.
However, in spite of all this overwhelming evidence, we see our Religious Right national leadership – purported to be imbued with the Holy Spirit and the gifts of wisdom, prophecy, pastoring, administration and other gifts of guidance and leadership over America’s Christians – in the aftermath of this event, have commonly and consistently put the blame of the inevitable crescendo of violence that day that anyone with a modicum of foresight could foresee as coming from Trump’s enraged and provoked assembled masses, on the very people it appears we can confirm were NOT in the rioters’ ranks – the necessary “scapegoats” of their daily “Two Minutes of Hate,” the dreaded “Antifa.”
I daily “take one for the team” (i.e., my Christian brethren and other friends and neighbors), in addition to valuable time spend trying to document and preserve these records, in also forcing myself to watch as many of the popular Christian TV shows every day that I can, and can stomach without getting an ulcer, being heartbroken, pulling my hair out or wanting to throw a shoe at the screen. I know and observe each day how these people are enriching themselves in the name of Jesus by brainwashing gullible sheep with demagogue techniques of terrorizing, misleading and misdirecting them with partial or bent information, preying upon their pride and sense of superior “election” and looking down on those who are different, or routinely scaring them about the “barbarian at the gate” who is coming to “rape our white women,” and forcibly change the genders of our children, or worse yet, inform them and humanize those of other cultures and religions to them. They appeal to the basest, fleshly instincts of Christians to selfish self-preservation, resentment, fear and the anger it generates, and away from the call to be “salt and light,” “Greeks to the Greek” and to “rescue the perishing,” and most of all, to obey the Golden Rule and “love thy neighbor.”
Former Navy Chaplain Gordon Klingenschmitt, who likes people to call him “Dr. Chaps,” hosts and produces one of these daily “Christian” political programs (called “Pray In Jesus’ Name” (which he has made “his brand”)) that seems to be very well-funded and resourced, with prominent guests and a tremendous amount of weekly produced, often remotely recorded material at Christian and political marches and the like. He received a Bachelor’s degree at the Air Force Academy, and “accepted the Lord” at a Pentecostal Bible study there. In 2006, The Washington Post reported concerning him that
A Navy court decided yesterday to reprimand and dock the pay of an evangelical Protestant chaplain after finding him guilty of disobeying an order by appearing in uniform at a political protest in front of the White House in March. The chaplain, Lt. Gordon J. Klingenschmitt, said he intends to “appeal by all means possible all the way to the Supreme Court.” Klingenschmitt, 38, who belongs to a small evangelical offshoot of the Episcopal Church, has been a vocal critic of the Navy’s policies on prayer in ceremonial settings. He has accused his superiors of pressuring chaplains to offer generic, nonsectarian prayers, and he has gained wide attention and sympathy among religious conservatives. Over the past year, Klingenschmitt worked closely with Rep. Walter B. Jones Jr. (R-N.C.) and other members of Congress to push the Bush administration to issue an executive order guaranteeing the right of chaplains to pray “in the name of Jesus.” So far, the White House has rebuffed the request. On March 30, Klingenschmitt wore his uniform at a news conference in Lafayette Square in which former Alabama chief justice Roy S. Moore and others decried President Bush’s lack of action on the chaplain’s complaints. Klingenschmitt maintained that his only participation in the event was to offer public prayers and that he had prior written permission to wear his uniform when conducting “a bona fide worship service or observance.”
During court-martial proceedings this week at the naval base in Norfolk, a military prosecutor, Cmdr. Rex A. Guinn, said Klingenschmitt had received clear orders from his superiors not to wear his uniform at media events or political protests. The event in Lafayette Square, he contended, was not a true worship service or observance. On Wednesday, a jury of five Navy officers found Klingenschmitt guilty of one misdemeanor count of disobeying a lawful order. Yesterday, the same jury determined his punishment: a formal reprimand and forfeiture of pay at the rate of $250 a month for the next 12 months. That would amount to $3,000, or about 5 percent of his pay. But Klingenschmitt is unlikely to incur the full fine, for two reasons: The jury recommended that Rear Adm. Frederic Ruehe, commander of the Navy’s Mid-Atlantic region, suspend the financial penalty, and Klingenschmitt doubts he will remain in the Navy for 12 more months. “The letter of reprimand is actually the worst punishment because it will be used in a couple of months to kick me out of the Navy in a separate process called an administrative separation board,” the chaplain predicted…But among the documents that Klingenschmitt introduced in his defense during the court-martial was a March 22 e-mail from Vice Adm. John C. Harvey Jr., the Navy’s head of personnel, to Adm. Michael G. Mullen, the chief of naval operations, recommending Klingenschmitt’s “involuntarily release” from the Navy “due to lack of career potential.” The e-mail noted: “This officer is the individual who conducted a hunger strike in front of the White House several months ago and has engaged in other actions concerning [Defense Department] and Navy Religious Ministry policies.”
In 2014, eight years after the court martial he was still fighting, it was then further reported that
Former Navy chaplain Gordon James Klingenschmitt, who has been in a long-running battle with the military over regulations requiring chaplains to deliver inclusive prayers at military events other than religious services, lost another round this week. In Klingenschmitt v. United States, (Ct. Fed. Cl., Nov. 24, 2014), the Court of Federal Claims rejected Klingenschmitt’s claims under the Tucker Act and the Military Pay Act. After recounting for some 19 pages the history leading up to the lawsuit, the court explains:
In this case, Dr. Klingenschmitt alleges that he was wrongfully discharged from the Navy and seeks an award of backpay and allowances and benefits retroactive to his separation date and reinstatement as a chaplain. Incident to that claim, he seeks removal of references to his 2005 and 2006 fitness reports and the CARE board’s recommendation from his record…. He also asks that the Court vacate his court-martial conviction and direct that references to the conviction, including the letter of reprimand issued pursuant to his conviction, be removed from his record…. Dr. Klingenschmitt’s complaint also includes a potpourri of other claims that appear to challenge Navy policies which he claims violate the First Amendment, RFRA, and 10 U.S.C. § 6031(a)…In dismissing, the court said in part: “the Court finds unpersuasive Dr. Klingenschmitt’s argument that his First Amendment right to practice his religious beliefs was infringed by Captain Pyle’s Order that he not wear his uniform to the media event held in Lafayette Park in March 2006. Captain Pyle’s Order was based on Navy regulations that prohibit the wearing of a uniform in connection with political activities….The Order did not limit Dr. Klingenschmitt’s right to engage in any religious practices (including presenting an opening prayer at the event or invoking the name of Jesus in his prayer). It simply prohibited Dr. Klingenschmitt from engaging in this activity while wearing his uniform at what was clearly a political event and not, as Dr. Klingenschmitt seems to suggest, a bona fide religious service. Therefore, taking this infraction into consideration in deciding whether to recertify Dr. Klingenschmitt as a chaplain did not violate either his First Amendment rights or RFRA.”
However, not surprisingly, you hear a very different spin on the matter from “Dr. Chaps” and his Christian media platform. He repeatedly alleges that he was smashingly successful in fighting the system in overcoming their Christian persecution by the godless military, to now permit, by his hand and activism, to “pray in Jesus name” – which has become his “brand,” in which he has in fact named his ministry, program and built his persona, as a successful Christian activist to garner monetary support from gullible Christians who are attracted to the victim complex, and too lazy or unwilling to check the facts. He is proud of the fact that he was able to secure a Colorado state House seat for one term from 2015 to 2017, and was later defeated in a 2019 campaign. He is often the subject of watchdogs of the Religious Right like Right Wing Watch, who point out his consistent buffoonish statements and absurd allegations that can be easily disproven, but evidently not by the many Christians too lazy or willfully misled to do so.
In 2014 and 2016 The Denver Post published another anthology of the exploits of “Dr. Chaps”:
Colorado politician Gordon Klingenschmitt is no stranger to controversy — having previously likened President Barack Obama to a demon and claimed that the Affordable Care Act causes cancer. But the Republican nominee for a seat in Colorado’s statehouse is triggering a new round of outrage after he alleged that a sitting member of Congress would kill Christians living in the U.S. — similar to how extremists with the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria beheaded journalist James Foley. In an email alert distributed by Klingenschmitt, the self-described “motivational speaker” wrote that Colorado Democrat Jared Polis — who made history by being the first gay congressman to become a parent — wanted to execute U.S. Christians. “Democrats like Polis want to bankrupt Christians who refuse to worship and endorse his sodomy. Next he’ll join ISIS in beheading Christians, but not just in Syria, right here in America,” he wrote. The accusation prompted Mark Ferrandino, Speaker of the Colorado House, to condemn the remarks and demand that Colorado Republicans do the same. “I call on Ryan Call and other Republicans to denounce Mr. Klingenschmitt and his homophobic, extreme, and slanderous attacks against Congressman Polis,” said Ferrandino in a statement. GOP officials in Colorado have disowned Klingenschmitt before and this time was no different. “As Chairman Call has said in the past, Gordon does not speak on behalf of the Republican Party, and his comments in no way reflect the views of the Party. Gordon needs to give a sincere apology,” said Owen Loftus, a Colorado GOP spokesman, in a statement.
…After being asked about his statement, Klingenschmitt released a video in which he said his comments were “hyperbole” and that “some Democrats do not have a sense of humor.” He then did the “ice bucket challenge” for ALS awareness, though the bucket he uses in the video does not appear to have any ice. Despite being disavowed by both parties, Klingenschmitt has a good shot of being elected in November if voters cast their ballots along party lines. Though he won the Republican nomination by just 350 votes, he now faces Democrat Lois Fornander in an El Paso County seat that is heavily Republican, with roughly 18,000 registered Republicans to about 7,600 registered Democrats, according to state files.
Of course, subsequent to this behavior, the Republicans in Colorado elected him to public office.
As one might expect, mere months after taking office, The Denver Post was reporting on his statements that were “typical Klingenschmitt,” but now as a public official:
Several leading Colorado Republicans lashed out Thursday against state Rep. Gordon Klingenschmitt, saying his “curse of God” comments about an attack on a pregnant woman whose baby was cut from her womb were “disgusting” and “reprehensible.” The lawmaker, who also is a minister, quoted the Bible in his “Pray In Jesus Name” program Wednesday and tried to link the crime to abortion. “This is the curse of God upon America for our sin of not protecting innocent children in the womb and part of that curse for our rebellion against God as a nation is that our pregnant women are ripped open,” Klingenschmitt said. Among those who denounced the remarks: two fellow El Paso County Republicans, Laura Carno, who in January started a Facebook page called “Conservatives against Gordon Klingenschmitt”…“It’s disgusting. I thought Gordon Klingenschmitt would be our next Todd Akin,” Carno said Thursday. “I didn’t know he would be our next Westboro Baptist Church. This poor woman gets her baby cut out of her belly and he uses this tragedy to drive traffic to his ministry.” Akin is the Missouri U.S. Senate candidate who lost his bid in 2012 after saying women rarely get pregnant in cases of “legitimate rape.” The Westboro Baptist Church in Kansas has been described as a hate group and has been denounced by fellow Baptists and others for its attacks primarily on gays, including grotesque displays at funerals.
Sarah Zagorski, the executive director of Colorado Citizens for Life, the affiliate of National Right to Life, said…she also was critical of Klingenschmitt’s remarks. ”God did not will for this horrific tragedy to happen,” Zagorski said. “Sadly, Rep. Klingenschmitt’s comments take away from the seriousness of this tragedy and the aftermath Michelle and her family are facing.” Klingenschmitt’s remarks were first posted by Right Wing Watch, which said when he discussed the incident in Longmont he “tied it to a passage from Hosea in which God curses the people of Samaria for their rebellion by declaring that ‘their little ones shall be dashed in pieces, and their pregnant women ripped open.’ “ Klingenschmitt’s colleagues in the House criticized his comments. “Rep. Klingenschmitt is politicizing a terrible human tragedy,” said Rep. Beth McCann, D-Denver. “The statement was incredibly insensitive to a family that has been through an unimaginable horrific experience.” Rep. Polly Lawrence, R-Douglas County, said she was “appalled.” “Gordon does not speak for his caucus,” said Lawrence, the House assistant minority leader. Steve House, the new chairman of the state GOP, said Klingenschmitt under the First Amendment has the right to say what he wants but “he does not represent the Colorado Republican Party”…Carno said she started the Facebook page at the start of the 2015 session because she believed it was only a matter of time before Klingenschmitt’s comments provoked an outrage, and she wanted Coloradans to know many Republicans do not side with him.
Soon thereafter, even the state Republican Party had to take action, as the Denver Post again reports:
The leader of the House Republicans on Monday stripped Rep. Gordon Klingenschmitt from one of his two committee posts, saying the lawmaker’s “curse of God” comments about a woman whose fetus was ripped from her womb were in “poor taste” and “insensitive.” Minority Leader Brian DelGrosso said he removed Klingenschmitt from the Health, Insurance and Environment Committee because he believed “there needed to be some kind of disciplinary action”…Klingenschmitt, a Colorado Springs Republican, said he believes taking him off the committee was unfair, but on Monday he announced he was suspending his “television preaching ministry” for six weeks, saying it has “overshadowed” his job as a state lawmaker…A group called Right Wing Watch regularly posts Klingenschmitt’s comments from his daily video program “Pray in Jesus Name.” The left regularly pounces on his remarks, but Republicans were aghast at his comments last week when he referenced the attack on 26-year-old Michelle Wilkins of Longmont. She survived but her 34-week-old baby girl did not.
In an e-mail, he protested being bounced from his committee. “I am literally being punished for quoting unpopular Bible verses in my Sunday church, or interpreting the Old Testament differently than Leader DelGrosso interprets it, during my private ministry outside the Capitol. Is that suddenly a crime?” he wrote in the e-mail.
Just a few months after that, Denver television was reporting regarding Rep. Klingenschmitt that
The State House minority leader and the state GOP say the views of a Colorado Springs representative do not reflect how they feel about the Boy Scouts of America. State House LGBT committee members asked Colorado Republicans to condemn statements from Rep. Gordon Klingenschmitt regarding the Boy Scouts of America. The Republican recorded an online video after the Boy Scouts formally ended its ban on gay Scout leaders this week. “The children are in danger. It’s not about the sexual pleasure of the adults,” Klingenschmitt says, wincing. “It should be about protecting the innocent children.” He then quotes Matthews 18:6, and says gay Scout leaders will harm children, and encourage them to sin. “This is what Jesus said about child molesters, ‘If you’re going to cause a child to sin, it’d be better if you just had a millstone hung around your neck and you were drowned in the depths of the sea.'” Further, he prays, asking for God to rescue the children and the Boy Scouts organization, for thumbing its nose at God. The House LGBT Caucus has called on Minority Leader Brian DelGrosso of Loveland, as well as the rest of the House Republicans, to denounce the commentary and take further action. “Gordon Klingenschmitt is inciting physical violence against scoutmasters for their sexual orientation, plain and simple. This type of language is hateful and certainly below the station of any elected official, especially in 2015,” a statement from the Caucus said.
…Wednesday afternoon, Asst. Minority Leader Polly Lawrence issued this statement: “As we have said before, even though Rep. Klingenschmitt is the duly-elected representative for House District 15, he does not speak for the House Republicans. Rep. Klingenschmitt’s inflammatory rhetoric was once again hurtful and does not represent the views of our caucus.” The Colorado GOP wrote this to 7NEWS: “We strongly condemn Gordon Klingenschmitt’s highly offensive comments. As we’ve said in the past, Gordon does not speak on behalf of the Party, nor do his words reflect our Party’s values.” In the spring, Klingenschmitt was removed, and then reinstated to the Health, Insurance and Environment Committee after comments he made about a woman whose fetus was cut from her body by a woman who lured the victim to her home with an ad for baby clothes.
He didn’t stop there. He added to the list of forbidden jobs for LGBTQ people in 2017, as reported byThe Huffington Post:
A former Colorado state representative has cited troubling claims against a Minnesota teacher as evidence that LGBTQ people, as a group, should be barred from the teaching profession. In December, police wrapped a four-month investigation into Aric Babbitt, a former teacher at Lincoln Center Elementary School in South St. Paul, Minnesota, and his husband, Matthew Deyo, who worked in information technology at the same school. The investigation found that Babbitt, 40, and Deyo, 36, had sexual contact with eight underage boys over several years, The St. Paul Pioneer Press reported at the time. Though the men were found dead in an apparent murder-suicide in August 2016, police conducted the investigation in anticipation of “pending civil legal action”…
The case’s grisly and disturbing specifics only served as ammunition for former legislator Gordon Klingenschmitt on the Jan. 9 episode of his “Pray In Jesus Name” radio program, however. Klingenschmitt…pointed to Babbitt and Deyo’s case while arguing that gay people should be “disqualified” from becoming teachers because of their sexuality. “There is a demonic spirit of child abuse,” he said in the Right Wing Watch clip above. “The demonic spirit of deception has taken over the school board, or whoever decided ― maybe the principal ― to hire these child abusers,” he added. No stranger to anti-LGBTQ declarations, Klingenschmitt then added, “If anything, they should’ve been disqualified immediately because of their immorality. The immorality inside of these two men [indicates] that they are unfit to be a good example to little children”…Last month, he blasted a Zales Jewelers commercial that featured a same-sex couple, saying the ad was proof that the television and advertising executives who produced it were possessed by a “demonic spirit.”
There is much more outrageous material regularly provided by “Dr. Chaps” and dutifully documented on the web site of Right Wing Watch. In fact, he has tried at various times to shut down their Youtube channel that has video records of his shows and statements, and in 2013 was briefly able to get Youtube to do such (alleging a curious application of “claimed copyright,” although they were critiquing and not exploiting his work as their own product), although they were able to easily restore the Youtube channel upon appeal. He now leads Pray In Jesus Name Ministries, which broadcasts PIJN [Pray in Jesus Name] News on NRB Network. As painful as watching his demonstrably disprovable and often laughable allegations on his daily program, often featuring an elderly “correspondent” actually given White House Press Corp. credentials in the Trump administration (whose main concern appears to be how American policies benefit the atheist state of Israel), as well as top “Christian prophets” like Lance Wallnau he interviews at places like major Washington Christian marches, I expose myself to such as a form of “opposition research” (to use the political vernacular) to try to stay on top of who are the major movers and shakers influencing the perspectives and social and political views of the conservative Christian community of my heritage, along with a host of other “prophetic ministries,” prophecy specialists, “culture warriors,” “family issue ministries” and even sects like Messianic/Jewish Roots groups (Torah observant and Israel lobbying, and which is beginning to dominate Christian TV channels, in my view), because they are bringing in large revenues and thus major influence and audiences, and directly impact the values of “Bible believing Christians” and thus, the soul-winning/Great Commission effectiveness and advance of the Gospel and the Kingdom of Heaven in our society and world.
The key reason I have taken the time to briefly profile “Dr. Chaps,” is because I have seen him on his show as one of the most consistent and persistent prominent Religious Right media celebrities pushing the thesis that the invaders in the Capitol insurrection were not Trump followers (with the Trump flags and paraphernalia, and prominently declaring their Trump devotion weeks and months in advance of the event online), but rather the dreaded existential threat, Antifa, even though to a rational (as opposed to emotion-driven) and facts-based person, such an argument is pitiful and absurd, and obviously disingenuous and agenda-driven. And to be fair to “Dr. Chaps,” there are many other major Christian celebrities and media figures who did or still espouse the same deceptive view. In my most recent lengthy post, I described what historians will inevitably see as the “Trump prophecy mania” period of hucksters and self-appointed “prophets” large and small clamoring for market position as the real fortune-telling prophet of Trump’s rise, and the revenues, following and influence that came with it, including assurances of “Heaven’s decree” of a Trump reelection, even after the Biden election had been certified, and in emboldening Christian “true believers” to act as crusaders leading up to and on site the day of the insurrection. The major figure cited in that post was Mark Taylor, often known as the “Fireman Prophet” or “Trump Prophet,” who rose from being a self-described PTSD-afflicted, unemployed insomniac firefighter to becoming a sensation in a best-selling biographical book published by Tom Horn’s Defender Publishing, and a feature-length film shown in theaters that was produced by Liberty University and based on Horn’s/Defender’s book on Taylor. It portrayed his incident of “hearing a voice” about Trump’s future while in a veritable trance while watching businessman Donald Trump on the television, with his private confessions of psychological messages to his private doctor being taken by his doctor’s “New Apostolic Reformation (NAR)”-minded wife throughout her social media and other networks to see him vaunted to a messianic prophetic figure in his own right, with their seeking his continued “oracles” from God. While in that post I show his proud affiliations with Q-Anon and in not-so-subtly insinuating that Christians should be prepared to use coercive means to “fight the Illuminati” and pedophilia-affiliated Democrats on behalf of a sustained Trump imperial rule, the following are brief excerpt clips from this last blog post of mine concerning both he, and the most prominent and influential NAR prophet Lance Wallnau, who also claimed the throne as the original “Trump prophet” based upon his book God’s Chaos Candidate, that consistently accused the the Capitol insurrectionists of being Antifa members in a false-flag operation, in the wake of this disturbing incident that served as the fruit of their earlier “holy war” proclamations:
Mark Taylor was guest on the Mc Files radio program (check out his “Q-Anon” figurine on the desk behind Taylor’s left shoulder – you can see it clearer in later interviews he does on video). In addition to speaking with certainty that Antifa was the actual group that broke in and performed violence in the Capitol…The following day after the insurrection (July 7), on another show with Paul Oebel of the Faith Unveiled Network (with about 100,000 views in two days’ time), “the Fireman Prophet” Mark Taylor added that “God spoke to me over the weekend… …This [the insurrection by middle-aged white men in the Capitol] is Antifa all the way…the Vatican owns all the satellites that did the hacking…In a radio interview by popular host Eric Metaxas the day after the insurrection, Wallnau talked of “the cosmic conflict that we’re in right now.” When asked as to the identities of the invaders in the Capitol, he replies, “I know its Antifa.” Metaxas says “this is like a Marxist coup.” I just found another Facebook video Wallnau posted on his site at 1:19 AM Friday morning on his site, entitled “Let’s Get This Straight”…supposedly just after having arrived back from Washington and the “Stop the Steal” rally…He begins by showing a video of Rep. Louie Gohmert on the TV (OAN Network), talking about his certainty that the middle-aged white folks storming the Capitol building were all Antifa, which Wallnau agreed, calling Rep. Gohmert “the only guy with a clear head” (it should be noted that Rep. Gohmert sued Vice President Pence to force him to discard the delegate slates approved by swing states and to substitute Republican ones, with the case immediately thrown out of court, leading Gohmert to say in an interview that the ramifications of “the ruling would be that you’ve got to go to the streets and be as violent as antifa and BLM“).
This viewpoint was not only shared by crackpot self-appointed “prophets” and TV evangelists fleecing the gullible Christian populace, but also by a number of prominent elected or formerly-elected national conservative officials. This not only includes darkly comical figures like Rep. Gohmert and the recently-disgraced conservative self-labeled “firebrand” Rep. Matt Goetz (who posited the possibility of the insurrection as an Antifa operation from the House floor just minutes after the assault), but also “classic” political favorites of the Religious Right. For example, former congressman Michele Bachmann said on air the day after the coup that she participated in the “Stop the Steal” rally, regarding the assault on the Capitol that “it reminded me of Moscow in 1917 with the Bolsheviks, where there were rabble-rousers who dressed up in the opposition’s clothing and had a violent event in the streets. And we saw what happened to Russia: Russia went into 70 years of captivity. I am telling you, I’m not a betting woman, but I would put $1,000 on any table to say this wasn’t the Trump crowd. This didn’t look anything like the Trump crowd or the prayer warriors. These were rabble-rousers. Paid rabble-rousers.”
However, when the major conservative national newspaper, the Rev. Moon affiliated Unification Church-owned Washington Times promoted the “Capitol insurrectionists as Antifa” lie using some type of facial recognition software as part of its ruse, and subsequently being promoted by Republican Reps. Matt Gaetz and Mo Brooks as well as Fox News, eventually the tall tale began to come apart:
Trump allies eager to deflect blame for Wednesday’s attack on the presidential vote count have claimed that the rioters were “antifa” infiltrators, citing a Washington Times report on evidence compiled by a little-known facial recognition company associated with a far-right blog. But the company at the center of the story says the Times article is a hoax and wants a retraction and apology. As Capitol Police struggled to clear the congressional complex on Wednesday evening, Times reporter Rowan Scarborough published a story claiming that obscure facial recognition company XRVision had proof that some of the rioters were in fact left-wing antifa agitators, including one “Stalinist sympathizer.” “Facial recognition firm claims Antifa infiltrated Trump protesters who stormed Capitol,” the headline on the story read. Scarborough’s article was based entirely on an interview with an anonymous “retired military officer” who claimed to have seen XRVision data that proved two of the rioters were members of “Philadelphia Antifa.” The story didn’t include any pictures of the supposed antifa infiltrators or other evidence. Despite the fact that Trump had promoted the rally for weeks while his supporters openly planned the riot on pro-Trump websites, the exculpatory idea that the riot was a secret antifa plot rocketed around right-wing media. Fox News host Laura Ingraham declared it a “developing” story, in a tweet that was recirculated more than 35,000 times.
Rep. Mo Brooks (R-AL) tweeted the story as proof of mounting evidence of an antifa scheme. Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-FL) even cited the Washington Times story on the House floor during the electoral vote count. “I don’t know if the reports are true, but The Washington Times has just reported some pretty compelling evidence from a facial recognition company that some of the people who breached the Capitol today were not Trump supporters,” Gaetz said. “They were masquerading as Trump supporters and, in fact, were members of the violent terrorist group antifa.” But XRVision, the company at the center of the story, says the Times story is totally made up. In a statement provided by the company’s attorney, XRVision said its facial recognition software had in fact identified two neo-Nazis and a QAnon supporter. “We concluded that two of [the] individuals (Jason Tankersley and Matthew Heimbach), were affiliated with the Maryland Skinheads and the National Socialist Movements,” the statement reads. “These two are known Nazi organizations, they are not Antifa. The third individual identified (Jake Angeli) was an actor with some QAnon promotion history. Again, no Antifa identification was made for him either.” XRVision has demanded a retraction and apology from the paper, according to the statement. “XRVision takes pride in its technology’s precision and deems the Washington Times publication as outright false, misleading, and defamatory,” the statement read. “Our attorney is in contact with the Washington Times and has instructed them to ‘Cease and Desist’ from any claims regarding sourcing of XRVision analytics, to retract the current claims, and publish and (sic) apology.” The Washington Times didn’t respond to a request for comment.
XRVision is closely tied to right-wing hoax blog The Gateway Pundit and often provides its technology, such as it is, to promote attacks on liberal figures and bogus claims about voter fraud. In 2019, The Gateway Pundit deleted a fake story based on XRVision “data” that falsely purported to show that the father of Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) was a Somali war criminal. This isn’t the first time the Washington Times has promoted a right-wing hoax by citing a retired military official. In 2018, the paper published a column by a retired admiral that claimed to prove that murdered Democratic National Committee staffer Seth Rich and his brother Aaron Rich stole DNC emails and gave them to WikiLeaks. The paper later retracted the column and apologized for its publication, in a bid to settle a lawsuit filed by Aaron Rich.
The day after the insurrection, The Hill reported that The Washington Times quietly took down the story, noting that “XRVision did not identify any Antifa members. The Washington Times apologizes to XRVision for the error,” but they noted in the same retraction a “new version of the story” that “instead cites ‘other evidence’ that antifa members were at the riot.”
Alternatively, two days after the attack The Hill also reported that the FBI, who has the expertise, resources and mission to investigate and determine who were the culprits in the insurrection event, found no evidence of Antifa involvement – this found while the FBI was still under Trump’s Justice Department. They write that
No evidence has been found that members of the left-wing antifa movement were involved in this week’s storming of the Capitol building, the FBI said Friday, contradicting a narrative pushed by some Trump allies. “We have no indication of that at this time,” Washington Field Office assistant director Steven D’Antuono said during a briefing when asked about any potential involvement of antifa. The term is used to refer to the loosely connected network of far-left activists who say they are fighting against what they perceive as fascism. Acting U.S. Attorney for the District of Columbia Michael Sherwin separately said Thursday that investigators had not seen evidence of antifa presence. Several figures on the right have attempted to pin fault for the mob that broke into the Capitol on Wednesday on antifa…Rep. Paul Gosar (R-Ariz.) also suggested on Twitter that the riot had “all the hallmarks of antifa provocation,” while Fox News host Laura Ingraham gave air to the baseless conspiracy on television.
Blaming antifa for apparent instances of right-wing violence, and claiming such members are creating “false flags,” has become a popular deflection for some conservative allies of the president.
Even one of the “fringest” firebrands of the hard-right media, Fox News host Jeanne Pirro, was reported to relent and confess that Antifa had no role in the Capitol insurrection (possibly reacting to the immediate repulsion to the deadly event, as did Mitch McConnell and other conservative leaders, until things cooled and they found reason to soften their concerns to maintain the support of the Trump base):
Fox News host Jeanine Pirro didn’t hold back on Saturday night, scolding pro-Trump vigilantes who stormed the Capitol building on Wednesday, calling the actions of the looters “deplorable” and urging her viewers to stop blaming antifa. “I want to be clear. The actions at the United States Capitol three days ago were deplorable, reprehensible, outright criminal,” Pirro stated. “These frightening and repulsive actions represent the most significant breach on our Capitol in over 200 years. And I don’t care with happened in the past and or whether those who did it think the election was stolen. That is not justification. Seventy-five million of us are still angry about the election, but we don’t storm the Capitol.” The Fox News host then told her audience to stop blaming others for the illegal activities carried out by President Donald Trump’s supporters. “And stop looking for other people to blame, including those dirt-bag terrorists antifa. To those of you who did this, you did it, of your own will, and you will be held accountable. Take the veil of politics off,” Pirro continued. “Be totally objective, anyone watching this must condemn it”…The FBI said Friday they had “no indication” that antifa activists were involved in the Capitol raid. The claim that antifa was involved in the storming of the Capitol was first pushed by a now-debunked and retracted Washington Times report, but the story quickly spread in conservative circles nonetheless.
The following Monday, even the head of the House Republicans told their members to stop spreading lies of antifa involvement in the insurrection. At that time The Hill reported that
House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) told members of his GOP conference on a call Monday that the riot at the Capitol was not caused by antifa, urging lawmakers not to further spread misinformation about the pro-Trump mob that stormed the House and Senate last week. “McCarthy told all members on the call that he has been receiving FBI briefings and it is clear that antifa was not behind this,” one source familiar with the call said. “That it was in fact right-wing extremists and QAnon adherents, and he urged members to stop spreading false information to the contrary.” McCarthy’s comments come in the wake of Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-Fla.), who made the unsubstantiated claim on the House floor that antifa was behind the violence that broke out at the Capitol on Wednesday…Other GOP lawmakers, including Rep. Mo Brooks (R-Ala.), doubled down on the claim on Twitter. “Evidence growing that fascist ANTIFA orchestrated Capitol attack with clever mob control tactics,” Brooks wrote at the start of a Twitter thread the day after the riot. McCarthy told his members it was determined to be right-wing extremists and supporters of the QAnon conspiracy theory, which revolves around the idea that President Trump is working to expose an elite group of Democrats and media who are running an international child trafficking ring and controlling the government to try to undermine the president. The FBI said on Friday that it determined that no members of the left-wing movement antifa were involved in the storming of the Capitol. “We have no indication of that at this time,” Washington Field Office Assistant Director Steven D’Antuono said when asked about any potential involvement of antifa last week. Acting U.S. Attorney for the District of Columbia Michael Sherwin separately also said last week that investigators had not seen evidence of antifa’s presence.
It was also reported at the same time that the same Republican House Leader had to convince Trump himself that it wasn’t Antifa that was involved in the insurrection, even though Trump also implied to others how pleased he was with their actions, even telling Republican leaders the invaders were more concerned about the election than they were. They write:
House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy is said to have had a difficult phone call with President Donald Trump on Monday in which he said Trump’s effort to overturn the 2020 presidential election was “over.” McCarthy apparently grew exasperated after the president continued to complain about election fraud. An anonymous White House official told Axios that the California congressman interrupted: “Stop it. It’s over. The election is over.” McCarthy is also said to have taken the president to task during the 30-minute call for blaming last Wednesday’s insurrection at the US Capitol on leftists in disguise. “It’s not antifa — it’s MAGA,” McCarthy told Trump, according to two Axios sources. “I know. I was there.”
Trump and some of his followers have baselessly claimed that the Capitol breach was led by antifa members impersonating Trump supporters. The FBI has categorized antifa — an umbrella term for groups that confront neo-Nazis and white supremacists — as an ideology, not an organization. There has so far been no convincing evidence to support the notion of involvement by antifa. Many of the Trump supporters at the riot livestreamed themselves as it was happening, and scores of well-known figures were easily identifiable. Yet Trump allies quickly began speculating…In a letter sent to his Republican colleagues on Friday, McCarthy said there was “undisputedly” no evidence of antifa’s involvement and expressed frustration with the way the crisis had been handled…McCarthy has been a staunch supporter of Trump’s and repeatedly and baselessly claimed that Trump had won the 2020 election. On January 3, McCarthy told The Hill he supported challenges to Biden’s election…Following Wednesday’s rioting, McCarthy was among the GOP House members who voted to reject certification of Arizona’s election results, a measure that did not pass.
By early February, The Washington Post was reporting that, even after all these denials by even Republican and conservative officials and leading figures that should know better, and had every incentive to deflect the blame to a shadowy group like Antifa, the rank-and-file “Trump base” was undaunted in believing that Antifa was still the culprit of the insurrection, just like their baseless belief in the “fraudulent election,” in a culture that even added hard-right firebrands who had lapsed into a brief moment of honesty as “fake news” as this fantasy-reality took on a life of its own, like Frankenstein’s Monster or the Golem of Prague:
In the hours after the Capitol was overrun on Jan. 6, a theory quickly emerged in conservative media: This wasn’t us. It was them. The “them” was antifa, a loose-knit movement of sometimes violent activists focused on combating perceived fascism and racism. For months, President Donald Trump had been promoting the idea that antifa posed a dangerous, rampant, terroristic threat to the country. It was convenient for Trump, positing a shadowy left-wing group that demanded the response of a strong law enforcement hand. This was Trump’s reelection message, that he would hold antifa in check. Antifa didn’t actually pose the threat that Trump suggested. The Justice Department under the leadership of William P. Barr had increased its focus on the movement but never found much evidence to substantiate Trump’s concern. The bigger threat, as the Department of Homeland Security made clear last year, was right-wing extremism, particularly white nationalist groups. But the idea that antifa was a catalyst for unrest took hold among Trump supporters. So when unrest erupted at the Capitol that day, antifa predictably got the blame. Those storming the Capitol may have been wearing Trump gear, sure — but it was somehow antifa that was leading the charge.
That claim gained traction after the Washington Times reported that a facial recognition company had linked several of those photographed in the Capitol to antifa. That report quickly made it to Fox News and to the House floor, where Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-Fla.) elevated the theory. Unfortunately for Gaetz and Fox, though, the report was entirely incorrect and was ultimately rescinded. The storming of the Capitol wasn’t by antifa activists. It was, as it seemed, by supporters of Trump. Yet, in a poll conducted last month by the American Enterprise Institute, half of Republicans said they thought that it was mostly or completely accurate to say that antifa “was mostly responsible for the violence that happened in the riots at the US Capitol.” Overall, 3 in 10 Americans said that statement was at least mostly accurate…A contrast worth noting: Republicans were much more likely to say that the antifa theory was at least mostly accurate than they were to describe as accurate the theory underpinning the QAnon extremist ideology, focused on child sex trafficking…“That wasn’t Trump people. That’s been a hoax from day one,” Michigan state Senate Majority Leader Mike Shirkey (R) said of the riot last week. He added that it “was all staged.” He later apologized for his remarks — but was caught on an open mic admitting that he still held those views.
By April 2021, news sources such as Reuters were reporting that, after the names of all the actual insurrection culprits and their identities and self-incrimination via social media were already widely reported for some time, roughly half of Republicans still considered the culprits of the insurrection were actually left-wing activists like Antifa in a false-flag operation. They write:
Three months after a mob of Trump supporters stormed the Capitol to try to overturn his November election loss, about half of Republicans believe the siege was largely a non-violent protest or was the handiwork of left-wing activists “trying to make Trump look bad,” a new Reuters/Ipsos poll has found. Six in 10 Republicans also believe the false claim put out by Trump that November’s presidential election “was stolen” from him due to widespread voter fraud, and the same proportion of Republicans think he should run again in 2024, the March 30-31 poll showed…The rioters – many of them sporting Trump campaign gear and waving flags – also included known white supremacist groups such as the Proud Boys. In a recent interview with Fox News, Trump said the rioters posed “zero threat.” Other prominent Republicans, such as Senator Ron Johnson of Wisconsin, have publicly doubted whether Trump supporters were behind the riot. Last month, 12 Republicans in the House of Representatives voted against a resolution honoring Capitol Police officers who defended the grounds during the rampage, with one lawmaker saying that he objected using the word “insurrection” to describe the incident.
The Reuters/Ipsos poll shows a large number of rank-and-file Republicans have embraced the myth. While 59% of all Americans say Trump bears some responsibility for the attack, only three in 10 Republicans agree. Eight in 10 Democrats and six in 10 independents reject the false claims that the Capitol siege was “mostly peaceful” or it was staged by left-wing protestors. “Republicans have their own version of reality,” said John Geer, an expert on public opinion at Vanderbilt University. “It is a huge problem. Democracy requires accountability and accountability requires evidence.” The refusal of Trump and prominent Republicans to repudiate the events of Jan. 6 increases the likelihood of a similar incident happening again, said Susan Corke, director of the Intelligence Project at the Southern Poverty Law Center, which tracks hate groups. “That is the biggest danger – normalizing this behavior,” Corke said. “I do think we are going to see more violence.”
…The disinformation campaign aimed at downplaying the insurrection and Trump’s role in it reflects a growing consensus within the Republican Party that its fortunes remain tethered to Trump and his devoted base, political observers say. According to the new Reuters/Ipsos poll, Trump remains the most popular figure within the party, with eight in 10 Republicans continuing to hold a favorable impression of him. “Congressional Republicans have assessed they need to max out the Trump vote to win,” said Tim Miller, a former spokesman for Republican presidential candidate Jeb Bush. “That that is the path back to the majority”…Last week, Republican congressman Jim Banks of Indiana said the party must cater to the working-class voters that comprise Trump’s political base ahead of next year’s critical midterm elections that will dictate control of Congress. “Members who want to swap out working-class voters because they resent President Trump’s impact… are wrong,” Banks wrote in a memo to Republican House leader Kevin McCarthy, contents of which he posted on Twitter. Banks was one of the 147 lawmakers who voted to block certification of Biden’s win, and he later voted against impeaching Trump…In the latest Reuters/Ipsos poll, only about three in 10 independents said they have a favorable view of Trump, among the lowest level recorded since his presidency. Most Americans — about 60% — also believe Biden won the November election fair and square, and said Trump should not run again.
The window for the Republican Party to distance itself from Trump seems to have passed, Miller said. “There was a chance after January 6 for Republican leaders to really put their foot down and say, ‘We can’t be the insurrectionist party,’” he said. “Now that opportunity is totally gone.” The Reuters/Ipsos poll was conducted online, in English, throughout the United States. It gathered responses from 1,005 adults between March 30-31. The poll has a credibility interval, a measure of precision, of about 4 percentage points.
Six days after the insurrection, USA Today was already documenting the chain of events that led to the “Antifa guilt” story of the insurrection being intentionally spread widely (and, I may say, effectively):
After weeks of planting the idea, dozens of extremists used social media to promote an idea with no basis in reality – that the people besieging the Capitol were actually far-left agitators disguised as Trump supporters. The trickle of claims became a flood in a matter of hours. It started in secretive corners of the web such as 4chan, but tweets and articles from more and more mainstream conservative news sites followed. It began spiking around 1 p.m., just after rioters started breaching barriers outside the Capitol. Soon, Fox News personalities were sharing the same speculation that circulated among believers in the discredited QAnon conspiracy theory. By 10:15 p.m., the “false flag” story reached the House floor that rioters had invaded earlier in the day. Republican Rep. Matt Gaetz of Florida told his shaken colleagues in a speech: “They were masquerading as Trump supporters and, in fact, were members of the violent terrorist group antifa.”
USA TODAY worked with experts in disinformation and examined a variety of social and news media to trace how one false claim went from the fringe to Washington’s seat of power. The review found predictions of a Jan. 6 disruption by antifa, a loose collection of far-left-leaning “anti-fascists” who battle the far right, going back as far as December. The messages came more frequently as the event drew closer. Then, when the mob attacked the Capitol – inviting instant condemnation from virtually all corners – the idea of an antifa “false flag” operation exploded exponentially. In fact, the analysis shows, members of Congress were using language parroting extremist groups and platforms just minutes before the siege began. In that case, the false claims alleged massive vote rigging…The speed with which the antifa conspiracy theory crystalized Jan. 6 underscores the close alignment in messaging between extremists and some members of the institution that was under attack…Conspiracy theorists also claimed left-wing groups were secretly behind the 2017 Unite the Right rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, that drew white supremacists and turned deadly.
Rhys Leahy, a senior research assistant at George Washington University’s Institute for Data, Democracy, and Politics, watched the scene unfold in real time on the social messaging platform Telegram, which draws legions of Trump supporters. From her home computer, Leahy was monitoring a network of 300 right-wing extremist Telegram channels as Trump called on the crowd to march on the Capitol. She saw mention of antifa jump from a steady stream of a dozen Telegram posts per hour to more than 10 times that…By 7 p.m., Fox hosts Lou Dobbs, Sean Hannity and Laura Ingraham were repeating the false claim that antifa agitators were storming the Capitol, booking guests like Alabama Rep. Mo Brooks and former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin, who spread the rumor on national television. “Then, a few hours later, we heard in Congress representatives repeating it,” Leahy said. “Seeing how that moves through the information ecosystem from these very fringe conspiracy sites on Telegram or 8chan or 8kun or 4chan to being in the halls of Congress within hours, while it’s still under attack: It’s crazy and it’s disturbing.”
Long before people gathered for the president’s Wednesday speech in Washington, Trump supporters shared rumors the event would be infiltrated by antifa, the confrontational “anti-fascist” collective of left-wing activists who often clash with police and conservative demonstrators. “We’ve seen the same rhetoric around antifa before,” Gogarty said. “The right has cast them as the boogeyman. It’s easy to point the finger at them.” On Dec. 31, a Parler user posted a message, since viewed some 74,000 times, claiming that antifa would be at the Jan. 6 march in Washington wearing MAGA hats backward so as to recognize one another. The Parler post included a photograph of a Nov. 10 tweet with the claim, suggesting the same antifa-in-disguise ruse had been used in the past. On Jan. 4, a 4chan user wrote, “Only violence will come from antifa.” Another wrote, “Man says DC police are escorting antifa into DC.” On Jan. 5, a 4chan user wrote, “Obvious antifa posing as Trump Supporters.” Another wrote, “antifa dresses as trump supporters and proud boys.” The claims continued as the riot gained steam on Wednesday. A 4chan user wrote, “those are probably disguised antifa” at 1:22 p.m., as protesters reached the Capitol building and the confrontation with police began. “I see ANTIFA!” wrote another at 1:47 p.m…Between 1 p.m. and 2 p.m., the number of Parler posts mentioning “antifa” on Parler jumped from 800 per hour to 3,000 per hour, a USA TODAY analysis of data from the Social Media Analysis Toolkit found. On 4chan, a message board known for extreme content, the term “antifa” peaked at nearly 400 mentions per hour at 1 p.m., suggesting the discussion then jumped from 4chan to Parler or other platforms as the pro-Trump crowd approached the Capitol.
…A minute later, @intheMatrixxx, an influential QAnon supporter now suspended from Twitter, shared a video of the mob with the claim, “#antifa wearing #maga hats Protestors have entered the Capitol.” It racked up more than 1,200 retweets. At 2:36 p.m., the tweet was shared on Parler and, from 2 p.m. to 3 p.m., Parler carried 7,300 mentions of “antifa,” up from 2,000 the hour before. On Twitter, the antifa claim was also spreading widely, cementing itself in right-wing media. At 3:05 p.m. the theory started reaching a truly wide audience. Ingraham, from Fox News, tweeted a video of rioters: “These vandals look like they could be straight out of Portland or Seattle,” alluding to two antifa strongholds. The thought racked up 4,000 retweets and 11,000 likes. Ingraham also brought up the claim on her television show later that night…At 3:21 p.m., user @SOPDN1 shared photos in a post that’s since been deleted of the rioters inside the Capitol with the message, “Coordinated antifa theater,” gaining more than 2,500 retweets including from conservative journalist Melissa Mackenzie, who shared it with her 56,000 followers. At 3:24 p.m., the Daily Wire’s Candace Owens tweeted, “Call it a hunch, but my guess is there are still ANTIFA thugs in the mix,” which was shared more than 30,000 times. And at 5:02 p.m., conservative author Paul Sperry tweeted that a source had told him “at least 1 ‘bus load’ of antifa thugs infiltrated peaceful Trump demonstrators,” gaining nearly 67,000 retweets. Sperry’s claim was soon picked up by right-wing news source Gateway Pundit.
Then, shortly before 10 p.m., Brooks, the Alabama congressman, shared a link to a now-corrected article from the conservative-leaning Washington Times. The story quoted an unnamed, retired military officer saying a facial recognition firm had identified two antifa activists from news footage of the Capitol mob. The newspaper subsequently apologized to the company and, in a correction, said it “did not identify any antifa members.” Gaetz also shared the antifa claim in his Twitter timeline. Then Gaetz gave his fiery floor speech about the matter. It was met with groans and incredulity from many in the chamber.
The New York Times added further details of how the Antifa lie was spread intentionally:
At 1:51 p.m. on Jan. 6, a right-wing radio host named Michael D. Brown wrote on Twitter that rioters had breached the United States Capitol — and immediately speculated about who was really to blame. “Antifa or BLM or other insurgents could be doing it disguised as Trump supporters,” Mr. Brown wrote, using shorthand for Black Lives Matter. “Come on, man, have you never heard of psyops?” Only 13,000 people follow Mr. Brown on Twitter, but his tweet caught the attention of another conservative pundit: Todd Herman, who was guest-hosting Rush Limbaugh’s national radio program. Minutes later, he repeated Mr. Brown’s baseless claim to Mr. Limbaugh’s throngs of listeners: “It’s probably not Trump supporters who would do that. Antifa, BLM, that’s what they do. Right?”
…The conspiracy gained new momentum after The Washington Times, a right-wing newspaper, published an online article shortly before 2:30 p.m. claiming that a facial recognition firm had identified antifa activists in the crowd at the Capitol. The newspaper corrected the article less than 24 hours later, after its claims were proved false — but not before the story made an enormous impact. The article eventually amassed 360,000 likes and shares on Facebook, according to CrowdTangle, a tool owned by Facebook and used for analyzing social media. From 4 p.m. to 5 p.m., the antifa falsehood was mentioned about 8,700 times across cable television, social media and online news outlets, according to Zignal Labs, a media insights company. “Remember, Antifa openly planned to dress as Trump supporters and cause chaos today,” said one tweet that collected 41,100 likes and shares. Snopes, the online fact-checking outlet, had already debunked the false antifa narrative — but its story attracted only 306 likes and shares on Twitter at the time, an indication of how difficult it is for fact-checking efforts to gain traction over the original falsehood. Mr. Gaetz, the pro-Trump congressman, was a super spreader of the Washington Times article: His Facebook post about it collected 27,000 interactions…
Falsehoods about busloads and planeloads of antifa activists traveling the nation to sow violence became a common trope on right-wing internet sites, even prompting some Americans to ask local law enforcement for help. At the first presidential debate in September, seen by 73 million people, Mr. Trump said “somebody’s got to do something about antifa and the left.” (In the same answer, Mr. Trump declined to condemn the Proud Boys, a far-right extremist group that has endorsed violence.) Hours after the attack, Representative Mo Brooks of Alabama, a Republican who had served as a warm-up speaker for Mr. Trump at the pre-riot rally, promoted the false antifa claims on national television. “We did have some warning that there might be antifa elements masquerading as Trump supporters in advance of the attack on the Capitol,” Mr. Brooks told the Fox Business host Lou Dobbs. He amplified his baseless claim the next morning in a Twitter thread that was retweeted nearly 19,000 times. “Evidence, much public, surfacing that many Capitol assaulters were fascist ANTIFAs, not Trump supporters,” Mr. Brooks wrote, providing no evidence…In an interview last week, Mr. Brooks admitted that he had not verified his information before airing it publicly…Mr. Brooks now says that the role of antifa and Black Lives Matter “appears to be relatively minimal compared to the roles of more militant elements of other groups.”
…Court filings in many of the criminal cases stemming from the attack quote pro-Trump rioters explicitly denying that antifa was involved and instead emphasizing their own participation, portraying it as an act of patriotism. To date, there is no evidence in case filings that any individual associated with antifa has been charged. Ms. Ingraham, who told Fox News viewers about “antifa sympathizers” at the riot, later shared on Twitter that the Washington Times article she cited had been debunked; she did not issue an on-air correction. Mr. Herman, the Limbaugh guest host who speculated about antifa, wrote in an email on Saturday that “it was clear a large group of Trump supporters entered the Capitol and assaulted people.” But he continued to assert, falsely, that antifa activists had plotted to impersonate Trump supporters.
In February, USA Today was further documenting new polling at the time on the views of Republicans as to who actually participated in the insurrection, the extent of their loyalty to recently-impeached Trump and even to their historically tried-and-true conservative firebrand news source, Fox News:
By double digits, 46%-27%, those surveyed say they would abandon the GOP and join the Trump party if the former president decided to create one. The rest are undecided. Half of those polled say the GOP should become “more loyal to Trump,” even at the cost of losing support among establishment Republicans. One in five, 19%, say the party should become less loyal to Trump and more aligned with establishment Republicans. The survey of 1,000 Trump voters, identified from 2020 polls, was taken by landline and cellphone last Monday through Friday. The margin of error is plus or minus 3.1 percentage points. They express stronger loyalty to Trump the person (54%) than they did to the Republican Party that twice nominated him for the White House (34%). The overwhelming allegiance the former president commands among the party’s voters gives him the standing to weigh in on GOP primaries and seek retribution on those officeholders who voted to impeach and convict him. Trump voters are prepared to punish those who crossed him. Eight in 10 say they would be less likely to vote for a Republican candidate who supported Trump’s impeachment, as 10 representatives did in the House…Trump doesn’t need to form a third party, says Francis Zovko, 63, a Republican from Jefferson Hills, Pennsylvania. “I think he’s just going to, you know, take over the Republican Party, much as he did in 2016,” the systems analyst says. Only 4% say the impeachment trial made them less supportive of Trump; 42% say it made them more supportive. Fifty-four percent say it didn’t affect their support.
Asked to describe what happened during the assault on the Capitol, 58% of Trump voters call it “mostly an antifa-inspired attack that only involved a few Trump supporters.” That’s more than double the 28% who call it “a rally of Trump supporters, some of whom attacked the Capitol.” Four percent call it “an attempted coup inspired by President Trump.” Law enforcement investigations found no evidence of a role by antifa, a loose alliance of leftist, anti-fascist groups that have staged demonstrations in some cities, particularly on the West Coast. Most of those arrested in the assault Jan. 6 identified themselves as Trump supporters…”There were a variety of people who were there,” says William Case, 40, an electrician and independent voter from Vacaville, California. “I mean, outside there was a bunch of Trump supporters that didn’t go in, but there’s video proof of other groups that did, antifa being one of them”…In the poll, more than nine of 10 Trump voters say the former president isn’t guilty of inciting an insurrection…By 2-1, 59%-29%, Trump voters say they want him to run for president again in 2024. If he ran, three of four, 76%, would support him for the nomination; 85% would vote for him in a general election…Trump voters aren’t ready to acknowledge Joe Biden as president despite his margin of victory of 7 million votes nationwide. Three of four, 73%, say Biden wasn’t legitimately elected. Most don’t want their representatives to cooperate with him, even if that means gridlock in Washington.
There are disquieting findings in the poll for Fox News, which has prospered as the dominant news source for conservatives. In a USA TODAY/Suffolk Poll in October 2016, 58% of Trump voters said Fox was their most trusted source of news. In the new poll, that drops to 34%. Trust has risen in two relatively new outlets that have made their reputations by championing Trump. Newsmax is the most trusted among 17% of Trump voters, followed by 9% for One America News Network, or OANN.
If you would like more statistics, a few days before Trump left office (and after the deadly Trump-inspired insurrection and sacking of the Capitol), NBC News reported that
A new NBC News poll found that 43 percent of voters nationwide gave Trump a positive job approval rating, just barely down from 45 percent who said the same before the November election and the 44 percent who approved of his performance shortly after he took office in 2017. The same poll found that 35 percent of voters — including 74 percent of Republicans but just 30 percent of independents and 3 percent of Democrats — believe President-elect Joe Biden did not win the election legitimately. Sixty-one percent of all voters — but just 21 percent of Republicans — say Biden did win legitimately. While a record 10 House Republicans broke ranks to vote for Trump’s impeachment last week, his approval rating among Republicans shows few signs that GOP voters are widely disillusioned with him. Almost 9 in 10 Republicans — 87 percent — give Trump a thumbs-up, compared with 89 percent who said the same before the November election…Among Republicans…who say they prioritize the party over the president, his approval still stands at 81 percent — virtually unchanged from October. In the NBC News survey, nearly a third of GOP voters surveyed — 28 percent — said Trump’s words and actions related to the violence at the Capitol reinforced their vote for Trump. Just 5 percent said they now regretted their support for him, and two-thirds — 66 percent — said their feelings had not changed. While 52 percent of voters overall say Trump is solely or mainly responsible for the protests that led to rioters’ overtaking the Capitol, including 91 percent of Democrats and 44 percent of independents, just 11 percent of Republicans agree. (About half of Republicans, however, place responsibility on “social media companies” and “Antifa.”)
Previous NBC News polling has, indeed, found Trump’s approval among voters to be remarkably stable despite his tumultuous presidency, fluctuating only between a high of 47 percent and a low of 38 percent. The latter rating came in late 2017, after Trump was widely criticized for his response to violence after a gathering of white supremacists in Charlottesville, Virginia….The NBC News poll of 1,000 registered voters was conducted Jan. 10-13, 2021…The margin of error for registered voters is +/- 3.1 percentage points.
A February 2021 report by the Survey on American Life of the January 2021 American Perspectives Survey (a project of the conservative-leaning American Enterprise Institute) reveals that
Approximately two-thirds (65 percent) of the public say Biden’s victory in 2020 was legitimate, while nearly one-third (31 percent) say it was not. Nearly all Democrats (98 percent) and roughly three-quarters (73 percent) of independents believe Biden’s 2020 election victory was legitimate…Nearly two in three (66 percent) Republicans say Biden’s election win was not legitimate. There are stark divisions by education level among Republicans. Three-quarters of Republicans who do not have a four-year college degree challenge the legitimacy of Biden’s election, while college-educated Republicans are divided, with roughly as many accepting the legitimacy of Biden’s win as denying it (50 percent vs. 48 percent)…Nearly eight in 10 (79 percent) Republicans have a favorable opinion of Trump, while one in five (20 percent) view the former GOP president negatively. In contrast, a majority of Democrats (95 percent) and independents (63 percent) have a negative view of Trump.
Nearly half (48 percent) of Americans believe Trump encouraged his supporters to break into the Capitol. Thirty-six percent of the public reject this as being untrue…Nearly nine in 10 (87 percent) Democrats believe Trump encouraged the attack on the Capitol, while only 15 percent of Republicans agree. About three-quarters (74 percent) of Republicans say this is untrue…A majority (55 percent) of Americans say it would be a good idea for federal and state authorities to investigate potential crimes Trump may have committed while president, including a majority of Democrats (93 percent) and independents (58 percent). Less than half (42 percent) of Americans—and the overwhelming majority of Republicans (82 percent)—say this would be a bad idea…Nearly three in 10 (29 percent) Americans say the statement that “there was widespread fraud in the 2020 election” is mostly (14 percent) or completely accurate (15 percent). More than half (52 percent) of Americans reject that voter fraud was pervasive in the 2020 election…The unsubstantiated claim of voter fraud is widely held among Republicans but rejected by most other Americans. Nearly two-thirds (65 percent) of Republicans believe in widespread voter fraud in the 2020 election, a view shared by only 22 percent of independents and 2 percent of Democrats.
The QAnon conspiracy theory includes a constellation of connected claims, but one core element is that Trump has been fighting a global ring of child traffickers with links to the political left…Only 15 percent of Americans believe that “Donald Trump has been secretly fighting a group of child sex traffickers that include prominent Democrats and Hollywood elites.” However, only 42 percent of Americans reject this conspiracy as being inaccurate, while 41 percent report being uncertain about it…Nearly three in 10 Republicans say the claim that Trump was fighting a global child sex trafficking ring is mostly (17 percent) or completely (12 percent) accurate. Roughly as many Republicans (30 percent) reject this claim as inaccurate, while 43 percent report being uncertain about it…The belief that antifa, the anti-fascist activist group, was responsible for the attacks at the US Capitol is another claim that continues to receive support despite the lack of evidence for it. Thirty percent of the public say the claim that antifa was responsible for the violence at the US Capitol is mostly (18 percent) or completely accurate. Half (50 percent) of Republicans, 28 percent of independents, and one in five (20 percent) Democrats say antifa was responsible for the attack on the Capitol.
Nearly seven in 10 (69 percent) Americans agree that American democracy serves the interests of only the wealthy and powerful. Seventy percent of Democrats and 66 percent of Republicans hold this view.
More than one in three (36 percent) Americans agree with the statement: “The traditional American way of life is disappearing so fast that we may have to use force to save it”…A majority (56 percent) of Republicans support the use of force as a way to arrest the decline of the traditional American way of life…Nearly three in 10 (29 percent) Americans completely or somewhat agree with the statement: “If elected leaders will not protect America, the people must do it themselves even if it requires taking violent actions”…Roughly four in 10 (39 percent) Republicans support Americans taking violent actions if elected leaders fail to act…Thirty-one percent of independents and 17 percent of Democrats also support taking violent actions if elected leaders do not defend the country.
Despite a lackluster federal response to the COVID-19 outbreak and a violent assault on the US Capitol, Americans remain firm in their belief that American culture and the American way of life are superior to others. More than half (53 percent) of Americans say that the world would be much better off if more countries adopted American values and the American way of life…There is even greater agreement among the public that the US has always been a force for good in the world. Nearly three-quarters (73 percent) of Americans agree, while about one in four (24 percent) reject the idea that the US has been consistently virtuous in its actions abroad. Fewer Americans believe the US has a special relationship with God. Nearly half (45 percent) the public believe that God has granted the country a special role in human history. Roughly half (49 percent) of Americans disagree. There are massive generational differences in views about American exceptionalism. Young adults are far more likely to challenge notions that the US serves as a moral beacon. Less than half (43 percent) of young adults (age 18 to 29) believe the world would be better off if more countries adopted American values and lifestyle. In contrast, seven in 10 (70 percent) seniors (age 65 or older) agree with this statement. Young adults are also far less inclined to believe the US continues to be a force for good in the world.
There is one group who is particularly frustrated at Trump supporters’ assignment of the insurrection to Antifa groups – the actual Trump supporters who participated in the insurrection itself. At the end of February, CNN reported that
Nearly a dozen Trump supporters charged in connection with the US Capitol insurrection have said that Antifa and other left-wing groups weren’t involved in the attack, debunking a false-flag conspiracy theory that is gaining popularity in the pro-Trump orbit…according to a CNN review of court documents, nearly a dozen defendants have explicitly pushed back, saying that they and other Trump supporters deserve the credit for storming the Capitol – not Antifa. “There’s a lot of memes and posts flying around saying that the people who were fighting last night were all Antifa provocateurs etc.,” defendant Jose Padilla allegedly posted to Facebook one day after the January 6 attack. “I just want to say that as a first hand observer of every point of last night, that it was not Antifa. They were Patriots who were trying to Restore the Republic.” Another alleged Capitol rioter, Jonathan Mellis, posted, “Don’t you dare try to tell me that people are blaming this on antifa and BLM. We proudly take responsibility for storming the Castle.” He also used a vulgar term to imply that the left-wing groups were too cowardly to pull off an attack…Prosecutors say Mellis hit officers with a large stick, and that Padilla used a large metal Trump sign as a battering ram against the police line.
At least one speaker at CPAC this week promoted the lie…Conservative radio host Wayne Dupree said, “Antifa was there, BLM was there, MAGA people were there, everybody was there.” At a Senate hearing Tuesday about the security failures, Republican Sen. Ron Johnson of Wisconsin brazenly promoted false claims that the mob was full of “fake Trump protesters” and “agents provocateurs”…One Capitol riot defendant called out GOP lawmakers for blaming Antifa. Thomas Robertson, a police officer from Rocky Mount, Virginia, touted his ties to law enforcement and conservative groups. He has since been fired from the police department, according to a press release. “I was in the Capitol building 2 days ago,” Robertson posted to Facebook, according to court documents. “I am a (pro-gun group Virginia Citizens Defense League member), NRA member and a serving Soldier and police officer. Damage control by the Republicans in DC is trying to say it was ANTIFA. It wasn’t. Possible some were there? Of course. Caused it?? Nope”…Another defendant even implored his fellow rioters to take pride in their actions that day.
“Be embarrassed & hide if you need to — but I was there. It was not Antifa at the Capitol. It was freedom loving Patriots who were DESPERATE to fight for the final hope of our Republic,” tweeted Brandon Straka, who spoke at a “Stop the Steal” rally on the eve of the insurrection. Some of the comments about Antifa from alleged rioters have been previously highlighted by the Huffington Post and the Washington Post.
In Part 4 of this series, we will review how an “Antifa apocalypse” hysteria wave had occurred as a precursor event a number of years ago, and how it was discovered to have come about, and who devised the scheme to exploit it.
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