Conspiracy Theorist Ron Branstner to Stoke Anti-Immigrant Prejudice in Aberdeen Thursday

The Aberdeen American News reports that a flyer has popped up around town advertising a presentation by Ron Branstner on “The Facts Behind the Refugee Resettlement Program” Thursday, August 11, 7 p.m., at the Ramkota:

The event will be “an informational meeting pertaining to the refugee resettlement program that is currently taking place in South Dakota. Learn how it’s being funded and how it may affect the future of Aberdeen,” according to the flier.

All are welcomed to attend the program, “brought to you by Americans First, Task Force,” according to the flier [J.J. Perry, “Refugee Resettlement Meeting Thursday,” Aberdeen American News, 2016.08.07].

The Americans First, Task Force (the comma is in the original) has a Facebook page that does not identify who created it or who belongs to it. The AF,TF page does provide the Branstner flyer:

Americans First, Task Force flyer for Ron Branstner presentation, posted to Facebook 2016.08.05.
Americans First, Task Force flyer for Ron Branstner presentation, posted to Facebook 2016.08.05.

Fourteen people like the AF,TF page as of 07:00 CDT today. An event page for Branstner’s talk shows twelve people so far saying they will attend. That event page also shows this picture:

Ron Branstner, lost in the digital glare
Ron Branstner, lost in the digital glare

I get the feeling that the photo symbolizes the thrust of the talk: an empty shadow magnified to larger-than-life proportions, while the speaker is lost in projections of patriotism.

Branstner, a Californian and former member of the anti-immigration Minuteman Civil Defense Corpshas toured Minnesota preaching nativism and Islamophobia since 2007. In July 2014, Branstner told the West Central Tribune in Willmar that he wasn’t against legal immigration, just illegal immigration. Evidently he has added refugees as the targets of his protest, saying Donald Trump is “right on track” in calling for banning Muslims from the country. Branstner says his activism “has nothing to do with race, religion color or creed, any of that, it has to do with the rule of law and how our constitution was written,” but he also appears to say that the term “Radical Islam” misrepresents what he calls the fact that jihadis “are practicing what the Koran tells them to do, word by word, letter by letter.”

Branstner also peddles the Agenda 21 conspiracy theory. Agenda 21 is John Birch-style anti-United Nations paranoia. Branstner handed out Agenda 21 materials at a Baxter meeting in January this year and made the following remarkable claim of conspiracy:

A key premise of the presentation was that in the 1980s the Blandin Foundation entered a secret agreement with “the Hormel Foundation” to import illegal, cheap labor to bust unions, and also identified 280 additional communities in Greater Minnesota that would equally benefit from this strategy.  The McKnight Foundation was also identified as a collaborator (and “there are six of the McKnights, including one in Little Falls”), all taking orders from “the Bermuda Philanthropies” which in turn is a shill for the High Council of the United Nations, which is now under control of Islamic extremists [eyewitness account, in Sally Jo Sorensen, “Unpacking Ron Branstner’s Blandin Foundation Bashing & Fact Checking His Baxter Handouts,” Bluestem Prairie, 2016.01.06].

That local eyewitness goes on to say, “I attended Blandin Leadership Training many years ago and to target Blandin and I am sure he was referring to the Initiative Foundation in Little Falls (McKnight) is simply whacko conspiracy theory.”

Let’s hear some more audience reviews from a presentation Branstner made in Little Falls last summer, in which he claimed that outfits like Lutheran Social Services collude with Big Meat to secretly bring in slave labor and collapse local public services:

…Kathy Festler, noted Brantsner said the immigrants/refugees would probably not come to this area for the jobs. “It would be more for housing than anything,” she said.

“That’s probably again  more speculation — I found his talk a bit hard to follow — he would generalize and jump into another subject,” Kathy said. “Basically to me it was how entwined it was with grant groups, corporations and government. He talked also about these Blandin Foundation and the McKnight Foundation. It wasn’t real clear, they’re grant-making companies, they produce grants for cities and individuals and businesses and so forth — they evidently are involved in funneling money for groups.”

…“It was just a lot of people — that guy was a colossal bore,” [resident John] Salmon said. “I’m not outraged about what he said only because he was so simple-minded about it — I don’t think he knew what he was talking about” [Terry Lehrke, “Speaker in Little Falls: Illegal Immigrant, Refugee Resettlement Done as a Form of Slavery,” Morrison County Record, 2015.07.25].

At a July 2014 meeting in Willmar, Branstner underscored his lack of reliable knowledge of immigration:

During the meeting, a woman in the audience asked Branstner for data on border problems. Branstner said he only had his personal experience [David Little, “Immigration Forum Sparks Some Heated Discussion,” Willmar West Central Tribune, 2014.07.24].

I don’t know how much personal experience Branstner has with refugees in South Dakota and immigration in Aberdeen specifically, but let’s hope he takes some time to gather some data on our specific situation before he opens his mouth Thursday. He seems unable to do any quality research: Minnesota blog Bluestem Prairie, which has done good work documented Branstner’s campaign of misinformed hate for years, notes that Branstner’s handouts at the January 2016 Baxter appearance came from unreliable sources.

To top things off, Branstner opposes democracy:

Branstner also decried an eclectic list of other organizations, ideas and individuals, including Hillary Clinton, Democrats, socialism, the United Nations, Forum Communications, the Blandin Foundation, the American Red Cross, the popular vote and democracy as opposed to republicanism [Zach Kayser and Chelsey Perkins, “Controversial Refugee Resettlement Speaker Draws 200 to Presentation,” Brainerd Dispatch, 2016.01.06].

I’m not sure how a guy wraps himself in the flag and Constitution and opposes the people’s right to vote. But I do understand why clueless Trumpist demagogues go around stoking rural white Americans fears of immigration, Muslims, and change. Branstner’s speech Thursday seems unlikely to bring us any new factual information; it only seeks to play to and exacerbate existing prejudices and misconceptions against the new Americans we need to keep building the American dream.

12 Responses to Conspiracy Theorist Ron Branstner to Stoke Anti-Immigrant Prejudice in Aberdeen Thursday

  1. happy camper

    People like him are given a bigger voice larger audience because Obama, Clinton and the left are afraid to discuss openly what many Americans fear which just encourages Trump incivility (and votes). Sam Harris and Dave Rubin just had a 2 hour talk about it (and other things). Both are lefties who now prefer to call themselves classical liberals because the left on this issue has been just as crazy as the right. They are two rational guys working to open up the conversation in a sane reasonable way. The talk starts at 5:00 after a long intro dare you to open your mind!!!:

  2. Is there some relevant policy issue that I am afraid to discuss openly, Hap? (Please don’t make me sit through two hours of video to answer the question.)

  3. happy camper

    I think you (and others) would enjoy their talk as they discuss Islam and immigration, the strange position the left has embraced and how it affects Trump/Hillary. They get in to his book on spirituality for atheists (Waking Up), free will, and artificial intelligence. It could alter your perspective.

    It’s easy to create a bubble with people who agree with us, confirm us, and make us money (even while aware of some noise on the side). A great number of people may think similarly to the point it’s believed (like the movie The Big Short on the housing bubble), and in politics, but eventually reality will hit the fan. These two guys dig down to what’s true though not acceptable to either party. They’re interesting thinkers you could try them out in a bit of spare time.

  4. i dont know…. anytime someone tells me that they will be providing “factual” information makes me think they will be selling Amway or requesting money for a ponzi scheme.

  5. happy camper

    So look at the refugee issue through the eyes of a Kurdish immigrant, a Phd economist from Sweden willing to point out some unpopular facts contrary to what we are being told:

    – ½ have no high school education.
    – 20 to 30 percent are illiterate.
    – ½ of women have never worked.
    – Syria is an uneducated country only 4% have college degrees.
    – of 2nd generation only 60% graduate from high school.
    – low skill level immigrants do not integrate and are treated with soft racism.
    – 80% of Swedes will not socialize with non-European immigrants even though next to Germany they have had the most liberal refugee policy.

    He said the reason U.S. Immigration policy appears to have been so successful most recently is because we select educated people with high skills who can integrate. It’s all about skills he believes since ½ of Somalis in the U.S., who are low skill and of low education remain on welfare and unemployed.

    There’s plenty to learn from European countries if we’re willing to listen. Or is this just a leftist crusade similar to anti-abortionists so facts don’t matter? Just the emotion: You’re a racist! You’re a baby killer! That’s what it looks like from a distance. Anyway, those were just a few stats from a very interesting, hour long discussion with Tino Sanandaji.

  6. happy camper

    And the Kurd called it willful ignorance and misdirected altruism. Gotta love low information commenters who prop up the poster lest we spend sufficient time to learn the truth.

  7. bearcreekbat

    happy, thanks – those are the people who need the most help and the USA ought to step up and help them make better lives for themselves and their children. What a wonderful opportunity for our people to make a real difference for those in need.

  8. Darin Larson

    Yep, Happy, that’s why the Statute of Liberty says:

    Give me your tired, your poor,
    Your huddled masses, yearning to breath free,
    The wretched refuse of your teeming shore,
    Send these, the homeless, tempest tost to me,
    I lift my lamp beside the golden door.

    Now we should change it to: “What can you do for me?”

  9. happy camper

    “More than any bearded imams, the youth are radicalized by left-liberal Western media that blame these problems on European racism, capitalism, colonialism, U.S imperialism, and other updated forms of original sin.” Because economically they are alienated from the host culture.

    “The bipartisan consensus on immigration in Sweden did not produce successful policy. The ironclad cartel merely allowed the elite to override the marketplace of ideas and pursue a course that has so far proven disastrous. This holds lessons for Americans as well as for Swedes. The conservative establishment in the United States increasingly consists of “Davos men,” who identify more with elites in other countries than with domestic non-elites. Their interests and values increasingly differ from those of the people who have delegated power to them and elevated them to office. This makes elite collusion a real danger to the popular legitimacy of the institutions of representative democracy, a problem that is not limited to the immigration issue.”

    There’s a lot to be learned from Sweden before making more of the same mistakes.

    Read more at:

  10. Clara Hart

    Please send me a note next time this gentleman decides to come to Aberdeen to share his irrelevant opinions. I wish he could come to Huron and Sioux Falls so we can educate him. On the other hand, I do think it is a waste of time listening to his baseless opinions. He is trying to make himself relevant by harping on a subject that he does not understands.

    My thanks to all of you who understand the history of Refugee and Resettlement. Please feel free to send me a note if you have a question.

  11. Can do, Clara. Branstner said last night that he plans to bring wild Islamophobia-stoker Usama Dakdok to Aberdeen sometime this fall, maybe late September or early October. I reported on Dakdok in May:

    I’ll report the exact date when I hear it. I’ll offer some coverage of last night’s event here later today.

  12. mike from iowa

    Dave-funny you mentioned Amway and factual info in the same sentence. A co- founder of Amway is a big right wing nut job from Michigan (owns Orlando Magic bb team) similar to, but not as wealthy/stealthy as the koch bros.