AAN Blasts Branstner Hate-Fest; Letter Says Fear Bad for Aberdeen

As the shady “Americans First, Task Force” announces two more anti-immigrant, anti-Islam hate fests—Ron Branstner returns September 22; Usama Dakdok comes to tell us all Muslims are terrorists on October 18—the Aberdeen American News blasts Branstner’s August 11 hate show as a cheap medicine show that degrades our community:

 What happened Thursday at the Ramkota, for a crowd of nearly 200, was worse than “preaching to the choir.” It was the choir members talking among themselves, with no guidance or leadership or thoughtfulness.

That fostered the environment we saw, where a roomful of people shouted and cursed about what the people outside the room could do to our community to make it less safe, less like “home.”

…It is unfortunate that so many who say “not in my community,” or don’t want outsiders making decisions about Aberdeen, put so much stock into a salesman who splits his time between California and Minnesota. Someone who literally has no expertise or education in the field of immigration or the refugee crisis.

So sad that someone could prey upon the legitimate fears and concerns our residents have, bolster those fears, and offer no real solutions or compromise [editorial board, “Community Must Be Better than Refugee Argument,” Aberdeen American News, 2016.08.16].

AAN also publishes a letter from Greg Smith of Mina, who criticizes the paper’s so far superficial coverage of the anti-refugee rally. I reprint Smith’s letter in full, because his is the moral voice this community needs to hear:

With just a little bit of research, the American News would’ve been able to report more accurately that Ron Branstner not only was not surprised at the response he generated in Aberdeen, but that he routinely plays on people’s fears to stoke strong emotional responses.

More truthfully, Branstner thrives on dividing communities and inciting angry reactions. He offers no solutions. He allows no disagreement. He shouts down dissenters. Not surprising for someone who has no professional credentials, background or experience, other than his brand of self-taught, inflammatory rhetoric.

Do not give in to hatred and fear espoused by Branstner and his friends — it will only destroy you [Greg Smith, letter to the editor, Aberdeen American News, 2016.08.17].

Branstner’s further presence in our community will only stir bad feelings and bad press that will weaken Aberdeen morally and economically. More residents neighbors like Smith need to speak up against the fear and anger Branstner and his unnamed accomplices are stirring, and the Aberdeen American News needs to do more to explain and debunk Branstner’s numerous irresponsible accusations and lies.

11 Responses to AAN Blasts Branstner Hate-Fest; Letter Says Fear Bad for Aberdeen

  1. Cory, you are to be commended for standing up and facing down the hate mongerers point for point. Brilliant presentation and amazing skill of speaking and thinking fast on your feet. A 21st Century Atticus Finch at a 21st Century Klan rally.

    From what I’ve read and seen about Brantsner and his fellow professional haters is they appear connected with the old fashioned John Birch Society, which is still alive and well and spewing mountains of junk food for lazy, dumbed down minds hungry for validation.

    Keep up the good work, Cory. The sad thing is a 200-person turnout for a Klan rally indicates the sickness runs very deeply in the Aberdeen region.

  2. I’m also SO disappointed in how those people attacked the young man in the audience who stood up to ask questions in a respectful, rational tone. This speaker with no credentials or verified sources came to bring out the worst in people, and these people played right into his game. It’s just an embarrassment for our community. There’s no room for discussion with these opponents of growth; they simply want to yell and shout. I was told in a comment section online by one of them to “keep my mouth and opinions SHUT!” The worst part of that attitude is that this person is the mother of young children. We want to teach our children acceptance and respect for others. That forum and those people that evening were terrible role models for the young people of Aberdeen.

  3. So, a follow-up to my comment a few days ago: What if those of us who recognize that the earlier event and the ones planned for the future are in a terrible format for encouraging the kind of thought and conversations needed in a democracy plan a different kind of event? One that encourages storytelling (which is the only way to change mindsets—if your mind is made up, facts and figures that contradict your own opinion just make you MORE likely to believe what you believe) and conversation.

    I realize the kind of people who would show up at this event would probably be the ones who already are keeping an open mind, but there’s some benefit to getting those people talking to one another, too. And then this better example of how democratic conversations should work will get some press also.

    Maybe AAN and Dakotafire Media could work together on this. We’ve had training on how to do these events, and have hosted a number of events with a similar format. I’m up for it.

  4. Brandi, that’s an even bigger story that hasn’t been covered in the press. Omar Elkhader, 2016 Central grad, headed for UNL and Navy ROTC, did exactly what you describe, asking a respectful and intelligent question in hopes of starting a useful conversation. He received more verbal abuse as people jumped to conclusions and looked for ways to attack him personally and ignore the substance of his question about the loyalty of Muslims serving in the Navy… a question that Ron Branstner never answered.

    Brandi, that treatment you received, like treatment Omar received, is unacceptable. Why, if these folks have valid concerns, do they feel the need to demand that others shut up? How can they not extend to others the freedom of speech they demand for themselves?

  5. Heidi, I would welcome an event like you are talking about. I would welcome participation by citizens from every opinion sector, if they would all be willing to follow the rules of civil discourse in which you have been trained. This community needs such a meeting.

    But fair warning, Heidi: if you host such a meeting, and if it gets any good press, I will bet that Ron Branstner or someone from his crowd will say that you are working for the United Nations and using Delphi mind control techniques.

    Aberdeen may also need something else. The upcoming hate sessions may need an intervention. I wish there were a way to drop you into Ron’s or Usama’s show and turn it into an open discussion instead of the droning, screaming brainwashing presented last time. Of course, that kind of intervention is unlikely to succeed.

    I wonder: do we dare dignify the future hate sessions with some clear response? A protest at the event? Individuals silently holding up BS flags at every crazy claim? Signs declaring “Give us your tired, your poor, your huddled masses” on the street outside, where every attendee will see them? Or do we completely deny the speakers and the audience the conflict they crave?

    It feels like a no-win situation: protest actively, and we give them punching bags and ammo. Ignore them, and they assume their positions are right and too strong for anyone to challenge. What do people of good conscience do in this situation?

  6. Thanks, 96. Funny thing is, I didn’t plan to speak. I rose in opposition only when Ron read one of my blog posts. I commented solely on the one source he presented that I felt I could speak on with more authority than anyone else in the room. I did the same when Ron read one of my campaign posts on voter ID laws and falsely accused me personally of advocating illegal activity. I feel we need a broader protest about the anti-refugee and anti-Islam Google dumps that Ron cobbles into a slideshow. Who can lead that protest? Who can convey the necessary messages with the evidence, authority, and love necessary to re-establish Aberdeen’s good name and shut this New Klux Klan down?

  7. mikeyc, that's me!

    Tom Daschle and Larry Pressler.

  8. mikeyc, that's me!

    Bernie Hunhoff and the Pope?

  9. Darin Larson

    From the cheap seats of southeast South Dakota, I will comment. Were I an Aberdonian, I would lean toward going to the event as a person of conscience to note the fallacies and lies being told. We need a Southern Poverty Law center type of monitoring for hate groups in our state.

    I would also make it uncomfortable for the supporters of Branstner to be seen there. I would tape the event as Cory and others have done and I would ask pertinent and uncomfortable (for them) questions that exposed their lies when given the chance to do so. I may not suggest striding up and down the rows of people while I talk (going “full Heidelberger” as it may be called) because this may be seen as a signal to Branstner’s henchmen to employ physically menacing behavior.

    I want Branstner’s sympathizers to know that they are opposed by good citizens of conscience and maybe convince them to go back into their “dark holes” and keep the crazy to themselves. It may be that more people at the meeting will give it more publicity and draw more attention to it than it merits, but I would rather risk that than risk the implication that what Branstner says is correct and unopposed.

    Hate is ugly and unAmerican and we should expose it at every opportunity.

  10. Douglas Wiken

    Labeling every opponent as hateful and unAmerican is ugly and should be exposed.

  11. Darin: “full Heidelberger”? I might like that term to catch on.

    Document the fallacies and lies—how about we document the attendees? How about shooting video of the next event not from the audience but from the front of the room, with plenty of slow pans showing the faces of every member of the audience?