BROOKE GLADSTONE This is On the Media, I'm Brooke Gladstone. And we're back with the final part of the story about the 'no compromise' gun movement. At the beginning of the hour. Co-hosts Chris Haxel and Lisa Hagen posed the question What could the Second Amendment possibly have to do with the coronavirus?
[AMBIENT SOUNDS OF A PLAYGROUND WITH CHILDREN]
CHRIS HAXEL This is a video of police officers and a group of angry moms in Idaho. It's April 2020, nearly a month into Governor, Brad Little's statewide stay at home order. Schools are closed. Toilet paper sold out. We don't understand this coronavirus thing and people are scared. And yet these moms go to a playground in Meridian, Idaho, ripped down some caution tape and let their kids have at it.
LISA HAGEN The moms are basically daring police. Try to enforce the governor's order.
ANGRY MOM 1 You're the line of enforcement on an order that, quite frankly, is unconstitutional.
POLICE OFFICER OK, this going to take up with the mayor and the parks director
ANGRY MOM 2 But you're enforcing it right now.
POLICE OFFICER Yeah,.
ANGRY MOM 2 That's your choice, right [END CLIP]
LISA HAGEN This goes on for a few minutes until one of the cops has had enough. He starts counting down from five.
POLICE OFFICER Three. [END CLIP]
LISA HAGEN One mom sees her opening turns away from the cop, lifts her arms behind her back and says, arrest me for being at the park.
ANGRY MOM 3 Am I being arrested or detained? [END CLIP]
LISA HAGEN She was arrested, trespassing. The quarantine playground story makes national news.
CHRIS HAXEL Bingo. Just the thing you'd be going for if you happen to be, oh, let's say. An anti-vaccination activists look into rally opposition against this new form of medical tyranny. This woman...
ANGRY MOM 3 Am I arrested or detained? [END CLIP]
CHRIS HAXEL Is Sarah Walton Brady. She runs Idahoans for vaccine freedom. A tiny Facebook group that shares 'theories' about vaccinations and the pandemic
LISA HAGEN As soon as Sarah got arrested. Dorr brother's pal Greg Pruitt started live streaming.
GREG PRUETT Hey, everybody! Greg Pruett here president of Idaho's second member alliance. [END CLIP]
LISA HAGEN He told his followers she was just like any other American. Frustrated with this fresh wave of government overreach.
GREG PRUETT ...and we're going to go down and protest the arrest of Sarah Brady in front of the Meridian City Hall. [END CLIP]
LISA HAGEN Meanwhile, folks on Reddit quickly tracked down Facebook posts that suggest it was a planned stunt with a name. The Tear the Tape Down event. Sarah Walton Brady has denied this.
CHRIS DORR Everybody's got a phone .Film them. Put them on the record. We call it confrontational politics. No harm intended physically whatsoever. It's simply politics. [END
AARON DORR At least for our organizations, we are steeped in the digital age, and the confrontational politics model where we... [END CLIP]
LISA HAGEN The Dorr brothers and their pals are all about confrontational politics.
CHRIS HAXEL An ideology and a set of tactics, all laid out in a book written in the 90s by H.L. Richardson.
LISA HAGEN Here's Greg in Idaho.
GREG PRUETT And so I read confrontational politics, and it was just like a slap in the face like, Holy cow, we are doing this wrong, folks. [END CLIP]
CHRIS HAXEL It turns out the Dorrs don't just practice confrontational politics. Their teachers. For years, a group called Foundation for Applied Conservative Leadership,
LISA HAGEN ...or FACL.
CHRIS HAXEL ...has held seminars across the country. Over the years, you can see Aaron and Chris Dorr listed as official instructors, along with about a dozen other gun rights activists.
LISA HAGEN The way it works is people pay 40 or 50 bucks to spend a day inside a meeting hall or hotel conference room, learning the same confrontational politics tactics the Dorrs use. The classes aren't really advertised outside far right circles.
CHRIS HAXEL We asked if they'd let a reporter in, but never heard back. The seminars are open to the public, so I decided to just sign up like anyone else with the understanding that if anyone asked, I would identify myself truthfully. I pulled up the FACL website and found a class scheduled the next day on the other side of Missouri near St. Louis. So the next morning, I pull into the parking lot of a church. There's a shoe propping open a door on the side of the building, so I walk in and find a friendly middle-aged woman sitting at one of those brown folding tables that every church seems to have.
CHRIS HAXEL Hi, how much is it?
VOLUNTEER It's 50 dollars at the door.
CHRIS HAXEL I give her the cash, fill out some paperwork and I'm on my way.
VOLUNTEER Thank you. And now if you... [END CLIP]
CHRIS HAXEL I slap the name tag on my shirt, and scan the room. There's a PowerPoint slide on the projector says everyone must turn off our cell phones. That's what I'm using to record. So, off it goes.
OK, so a few hours after being told to turn off my phone, I'm free. I walked back out to the parking lot. My mind swimming in knowledge of confrontational politics. I hop in the car and call Lisa to tell her everything I can remember. While, it's still fresh.
The guy came out. Joe Neville talked about how he's from Colorado and he's a former political director for the National Association of Gun Rights, and also worked with Rocky Mountain Gun Owners.
LISA HAGEN Those are more no compromise groups, but not the ones the Dorr Brothers run.
CHRIS HAXEL Once we got started, the instructor explained his theory on education. The idea that gun rights activists just need to educate people about how the Second Amendment isn't about hunting, it's about stopping government tyranny. This education, he says, is pointless. He brings up the example of his own Uncle Ralph, who is a gun but also belongs to the meat cutters union. So he always votes Democrat. And he basically was like, If I can't even convince my own family to stop voting Democrat, then I'm not going to convince other people. So like, education is just a rabbit hole that's not worth going down.
LISA HAGEN So if you're not trying to educate people, what are you..?
CHRIS HAXEL Confrontational politics isn't about appealing to a broad group of people. It's about leveraging voter apathy to impose your will on society. Most people don't bother to vote, especially in primaries. The instructor said only about 24 percent of the population really matters.
And then he was like eight percent of them are going to vote Democrat no matter what. Eight percent of them are going to vote Republican no matter what. Two percent of them are going to vote for some random party, no matter what or write in candidate, no matter what. So what's left? You got six percent? Wow. Really, what you need is three percent plus one to win to get your candidate or your issue. You need to find that three percent plus one figure out where they are. Figure out how to convince them to vote the way you want them to, and and then you get it.
And one of the biggest lessons of this class was how to know when you're getting under the skin of the legislators. It's good when they stop being nice and start ignoring you. It's even better if they start to threaten you.
When this starts happening, this is when you double down. He's like, first, you rejoice and then you double down. And this was when he did the call out. What do you… he asks a question – What do you do if a politician does this? What do you do? Double down. If this happens and this happens, what do you do? Double down. Doubling down means never back down. Never apologize. Attack always. As long as you're smart about it. They have a tool for this called Red Fox Four. We'll get back to that in a minute.
LISA HAGEN Gun Owners of America and its offshoots have been teaching these classes for at least 20 years.
VAL FINNELL Confrontational politics is something a little different, something that people don't think about very much, especially conservatives. And it's the... [END CLIP]
LISA HAGEN This is Val Finnell with Gun Owners of America.
VAL FINNELL Face to face lobbying is virtually useless. [END CLIP]
LISA HAGEN This footage is from 20 years ago. It looks like it's from an old camcorder, the kind parents used to film birthday parties in the 90s.
CHRIS HAXEL He says there are two strategies to get what you want out of politicians, and they're the same two I learned about in the class I went to. The first strategy is pleasure. Attack their enemies, help them campaign.
VAL FINNELL The second thing the politicians will respond to and is by far the most powerful force is pain, OK. [END CLIP]
CHRIS HAXEL Elections are a great time to cause pain. The Dorr's and the gang love to brag about political graveyards come election time.
DORR BROTHER Dan Kirkbride - gone. Bill Pownall - gone. Michael von Flattern - gone. They are the spearhead of the anti-gun establishment here in Wyoming. Gone. They're gone... [END CLIP]
CHRIS HAXEL What strikes me is this model of confrontational politics is really a blueprint for political insurgency. When you know you'll never have the majority on your side, aim lower. You can win with just three percent of the population as long as you're dedicated. There are a lot of people in this country who love guns and support the Second Amendment. Even within that group, only a small minority supports this defiant, no compromise position we see from the Dorr's. But when they follow the blueprint and get buy-in from a few people, they can accomplish a lot. When I went to the confrontational politics class, I was expecting the other attendees to be white guys, probably there to learn about guns. They were all white, but most of them were women. Soccer mom types. There for the same cause as that activist at the playground in Idaho: medical freedom. In other words, they were anti-vaxxers.
LISA HAGEN These confrontational politics classes are happening all over the country. This group Foundation for Applied Conservative Leadership has held about 50 this year. In places like Melbourne, Florida,
CHRIS HAXEL Lewiston, Maine,
LISA HAGEN Big Lake, Alaska,
CHRIS HAXEL Glendale, Arizona. But the goal is not to make money. My class lasted all day and only cost 50 bucks. Jimmy John's lunch included.
LISA HAGEN The goal is to teach people how to build their own political organizations. After each class, attendees get a digital copy of the slides so they can spread the message too. In person or online.
CHRIS HAXEL Val Finnell recorded his class on a camcorder in the year 2000.
VAL FINNELL Politics, plain and simple, is the adjudication of power. OK, it's who rules whom? Simple as that. [END CLIP]
LISA HAGEN 18 years later, we found another group learning the same lessons. White nationalists.
IDENTITY EUROPA WEBINAR The goal is to change policy. And in order to change policy, you must possess power. And that's all politics is the adjudication of power. [END CLIP]
CHRIS HAXEL This is a webinar from Identity Europa or IE for short. It's a group that helped organize the infamous Unite the Right rally in Charlottesville, Virginia.
IDENTITY EUROPA WEBINAR Also consider this top-secret information. We don't want this getting out to other organizations. We don't want them to understand what we're doing. [END CLIP]
CHRIS HAXEL Again, the exact same slides from the class I went to. Don't bother educating people, that's a waste of time. Except his example is not about guns.
IDENTITY EUROPA WEBINAR So let's teach Nancy Pelosi about the rightness of white nationalism. [END CLIP]
LISA HAGEN Nancy Pelosi is not their target audience. This guy points to a poll that found eight percent of Americans support white nationalism. Extrapolating that number, he says 30 million Americans are open to the group's racist ideas. Math is a little off, but the point still stands.
CHRIS HAXEL He brings up Red Fox Four. We said we'd explain it, and here you go. Pretty cool name, but it's basically just a tool for cost benefit analysis.
IDENTITY EUROPA WEBINAR So here's an example. Creation of the ethno-state [END CLIP]
CHRIS HAXEL He explains how Red Fox Four works. Weighing the pros and cons of overt messaging about the creation of a white ethnostate. He says ideally it would happen, but it's best to hold off. The message is too extreme for now.
LISA HAGEN Instead, he says, they should focus on something more subtle: immigration. Now, like we said, this was an unofficial webinar, but we know at least some racists have attended FACL classes in person. One's taught by Aaron Dorr,
MATT FORNEY I still don't think you should have multiracial children. [END CLIP]
CHRIS HAXEL This is Matt Forney. He's a blogger, professional troll and key figure in the formation of the alt right. And he writes a lot of racist, sexist garbage on the internet. After attending a FACL class in 2016, he wrote this on his blog.
LISA HAGEN Our instructor was Aaron Dorr, the founder of Iowa Gun Owners, which bills itself as Iowa's only 'no compromise' gun lobby. I can't write about the content of the class itself because farkle doesn't want leftists getting a hold of its secrets. Indeed, Dorr had to shut off our phones while he was lecturing, but suffice it to say that they have the goods when it comes to political operations.
CHRIS HAXEL OK, there's one more quick lesson from confrontational politics something that didn't make sense when we first started watching the Dorrs and their friends. One day they say politicians can't be trusted. They're the enemy. But the next day you see Aaron Dorr or Patrick Parsons live streaming with a lawmaker.
LISA HAGEN Well, it turns out this paradox is built in to the confrontational politics model. See, you got to have at least one legislator on your side. Someone to introduce bills for you and make videos that show how hard you've been working in the State House. These people get a special label: champions.
DORR BROTHER We can. We can give you guys the chapter and verse on how many scuzzy politicians there are, but there's also some champions. Some absolute champion lawmakers out there, and we're proud to be very good friends with the best lawmakers in a number of states. And we're I know we're going to have... [END CLIP]
CHRIS HAXEL The Dorrs and their friends do this everywhere, and remember, they started the national group, the American Firearms Coalition. When we were first reporting the story in 2020, we noticed that the Dorr Brothers found a champion who would trumpet their message on a national stage.
LISA HAGEN They found her right here in Georgia, where I'm based,.
MARJORIE TAYLOR GREENE I'm running to stop gun control.
The Green New Deal.
And socialism. [END CLIP]
LISA HAGEN Back in the fall of 2020, when we released this podcast. Marjorie Taylor Greene was running for elected office. Her campaign ads sounded a lot like the Dorr Brothers live videos.
MARJORIE TAYLOR GREENE They destroyed the NFL. They're destroying NASCAR. They're burning our cities and destroying our history. [END CLIP]
LISA HAGEN Which might be because... Surprise! The Dorr brother's partner, Patrick Parsons, worked closely with her campaign. Aaron's pitched in too. Marjorie Taylor Greene, showed up at events with dudes dressed in tactical gear and sporting three percent militia patches. Just weeks before the 2020 election, I caught up with her at a press conference and asked her about Patrick Parson's.
LISA HAGEN What's your relationship with Georgia Gun Owners and Patrick Parsons.
MARJORIE TAYLOR GREENE Oh, I'm a lifelong member of Georgia Gun Owners and Patrick Parsons is... he's been a good friend of mine.
I tried one more question about Patrick raising tens of thousands of dollars off a North Carolina Facebook page.
MARJORIE TAYLOR GREENE Thanks for coming out.
LISA HAGEN Do you care about that?
CAMPAIGN SUPPORTER 1 Care about America. Care about freedom. Care about life.
CAMPAIGN SUPPORTER 2 Good job Marjorie!
LISA HAGEN The campaign supporters surrounded us.
CAMPAIGN SUPPORTER 1 Care about our nation. Care about its people. Care about our history. Care about our heritage. [END CLIP]
CHRIS HAXEL And of course, Greene won her election and the no compromise crew stayed close. Greene chose Patrick Parsons to be her chief of staff, but in September, Parsons left Greene's side. He told her he's off to cultivate more America first political candidates.
LISA HAGEN Here's the thing. In all our many hours of watching gun video after gun video, we've never seen the Dorr brothers or their partners tricked out in tactical gear and loaded for bear. That's not what they do. It's not their lane. They're the mouthpieces and administrators of a philosophy. They're policy nerds. They take chaotic current events and run the details through a particular framework. The tyrannical government is coming for your guns, for your rights and your families.
BEN DORR This is a fight for our freedom. This is the fight for our life. This is no time to be super respectful. And Mr. Nice Guy, we need to kill these people. Politically speaking, through a love of God, in case you're totally tone deaf right now. These people need to be destroyed. [END CLIP]
CHRIS HAXEL When we first started reporting this story, we had no idea it would end up about anything other than just gun policy. But these loud, long Facebook videos about tyranny took us to a lot of other issues. Dismantling public education. Anti-vaxxers. The Aryan Nations. Anti-abortion activism. Homophobia. Militias. Well, militias, maybe we figured. And of course, downplaying the dangers of a pandemic.
CHRIS DORR Did ya'll see that? Oh, how wonderful, wonderful defiance of tyranny is so alive and well in the great Keystone state. [END CLIP]
LISA HAGEN We started at an anti-quarantine protest in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, and we got to know the Dorrs.
AARON DORR But I know how many times in the last couple of days I've been asked by media outlets, Well, don't you guys do guns like, what's your big deal on this coronavirus issue? Why don't you stay in your lane? And I have had so much enjoyment telling media outlets all across the country that, you know, our lane is freedom and we just don't give a dang. [END CLIP]
CHRIS HAXEL Then some news. The virus found its way to the Dorr family. Northwest Iowa was facing a spike in COVID 19 cases, and the Dorr brother's grandfather died. He was a farmer. Ben Dorr posted a heartfelt goodbye on Facebook. Didn't say what the cause was.
LISA HAGEN It was Covid. We talked to some other relatives who confirmed it. And there's more. They say the Dorr Brothers mom tested positive too. Had to go to the hospital. Their dad, Paul Dorr, also got the virus door. Family members tell us they got really sick. Sorry to hear it. It's been a hard year for just about everyone.
BROOKE GLADSTONE No Compromise is hosted by Chris Haxel and Lisa Hagen, produced by Graham Smith and edited by Robert Little and is a production of NPR, KCUR, WABE and WAMU. To listen to all six episodes, and you should, go to NPR.org or wherever you get your podcasts. On the Media's executive producer, Katya Rogers edited the show. Our technical director is Jennifer Munson. On the Media is a production of WNYC Studios.
I'm Brooke Gladstone.