Anti-Muslim fearmonger organization “Act for America” is bringing another team of hucksters to whip South Dakotans into fear and donations. With the help of the Family Heritage Alliance, AfA is hosting self-professed jihad experts John Guandolo and Chris Gaubatz to present “Understanding the Threat” (that’s the name of these consultants’ website, too)—i.e., the “Global Islamic Movement” that’s coming to kill us all.
Note the sponsors: this unreasoning fear brought to you by former Rep., still Rev. Scott Craig’s church (Act for America SD chair Amy M. Willson is secretary there), some Rapid City AGers, and the Pennington County Republican Party (which includes John Thune’s West River rep Qusi Al-Haj, who I think would be smarter than to let his party support such foolishness).
Willson, who dedicates her Facebook page to dreary repostings of her culture war, is inviting legislators to her group’s event:
“Knowledge is power,” says Willson in her letter, but propaganda and conspiracy theories are just tiring… and that appears to be what Guandolo has to offer:
In congressional testimony and on conservative talk shows, Guandolo dishes up conspiracy theories involving a prominent Muslim professor and organizations, implying that they are enabling Muslim terrorists. In one Columbus, Ohio, training, he accused a local professor of having ties to terrorism. (A Columbus Joint Terrorism Task Force member and an FBI agent told attendees that this individual had absolutely no ties to any such thing.) He has argued that former CIA director John Brennan is a secret Muslim and that Barack Obama was in league with Hamas. He’s said that Muslims don’t have First Amendment rights. And when Cedar Valley College in Lancaster, Texas, canceled his signature three-day law-enforcement training seminar, Guandolo claimed it was the work of “suit-wearing jihadis” [Jessica Pishko, “This Islamophobic Conspiracy Theorist Is Training America’s Cops,” The Nation, 2017.03.28].
Guandolo had to resign from the FBI after jeopardizing an investigation by boinking an informant. That dalliance was one of many extramarital affairs documented by Guandolo, including trysts with female colleagues at the FBI. It’s a good thing Amy Willson’s church and Family Heritage Alliance are so forgiving of sexual sin.
Guandolo also makes money training cops about jihad (because, you know, your local cops face far more jihad than speeding, shoplifting, or meth). What do Guandolo and his UTT employee Gaubatz tell cops?
The non-profit attempts to trace the roots of this specific strain of officially-sanctioned Islamaphobia and present a disconcerting picture of unaccredited, self-proclaimed “experts” (none of them are, say, students of Islamic studies or have PhD in religious studies) who take taxpayer dollars to spread hate.
The contents of the sessions themselves are kept largely under wraps, particularly since groups like the ACLU and CAIR have identified the trainings’ anti-Islamic message, and organized protests against many sessions. (Guandolo argues these protests show how important the trainings are.) But according to Guandolo’s website, the training provides necessary information involving the funding apparatus of terrorism as well as where to find potential people to profile for arrest. Many of Guandolo’s talking points in his recorded public appearances reiterate half-regurgitated facts that are misinterpreted and dipped in the poison of association and rumor. For example, Guandolo and his colleagues argue that the Holy Land Foundation trial provides evidence that CAIR and other American Muslim Associations are in some way associated with Hamas. These statements have been proven to just not be true [Pishko, 2017.03.28].
Notice Willson’s use of a superfluous exclamation point in her group’s name in the return address in her letter: “Act! for America.” Interestingly, fellow superfluously self-punctuating xenophobes’ club “Americans First, Task Force” is hosting these same shady fellows the day after their Rapid City show. AF,TF is distributing a similar UTT poster, but without the A(!)fA logo:
Under AF,TF’s Facebook post asking people to “*mark your calendar*” for the Aberdeen event, Amy Willson comments:
“Will do!”—sure… I think, “already did.”
If not their strange penchant for extra punctuation, then this communication, these posters, and these identical programs indicate that my local xenophobes are coordinating their efforts with (or having them coordinated by) Act for America and at least one well-connected branch of South Dakota’s Republican Party.