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Comma Chameleon: Unknowns Create Anti-Immigrant Pages for Aberdeen and Huron

A supposedly local group helped bring Ron Branstner to Aberdeen Thursday for his Two-Hours Hate against refugees, Muslims, Mayor Mike Levsen, Lutheran Social Services, Hillary Clinton, liberals, the United Nations, and other convenient scapegoats. The “Americans First, Task Force of Aberdeen, SD” has not identified itself or its funding sources. It has a Facebook page that appears to have been created this month. At the same time, a similar page has appeared for “Americans First, Task Force of Huron SD“. The AF,TF Huron About page offers this sole short description: “To keep Huron informed on the status of our community“; the AF,TF Aberdeen About page offers no information. Both group pages share a November 2015 Breitbart article peddling Branstner’s anti-Lutheran Social Services crackpottery.

As far as anyone can tell from the outside, these AF,TF pages could be sockpuppets of Branstner himself.

AF,TF Aberdeen did have this card available at Thursday’s event:

American's First, Task Force card, distributed at Aberdeen Ramkota, 2016.08.11.
American’s First, Task Force card, distributed at Aberdeen Ramkota, 2016.08.11.

No names, no direct contact information, nothing on the back, no identification of whether the card is from the Aberdeen group or the Huron group.

But joining that consistent, confounding comma is a superfluous apostrophe. A student of the Mary Haug School of Literary Analysis, I assume every text conveys authorial intent. I have thus Twitter-hypothesized several interpretations of the card as presented:

  • “Celebrating America’s diversity by using different fonts for the apostrophe and the comma.”
  • “When all caps isn’t enough, IN’SERT: EX”TRA/ PUNCTU—ATION!∆£π√€¡”
  • “Whatever’s first, it belongs to just one American.”
  • “Sweaty hero gazes at quivering maiden. “Is this your first,”—(considers appropriate euphemism)—”task force?”
  • “American’s First, because English is our language to punctuate however the heck we want?”
  • “AFTF— because an apostrophe is a terrible thing to waste.”
  • “Translation: “Hey, task force! American is first”?
  • “Quick, American’s First, before those foreigner’s, use up, all, of our, apostrophe’s, and comma’s.”

AF,TF Aberdeen foils the Haugian assumption on the apostrophe, but affirms its comma use:

Americans First, Task Force, FB post, 2016.08.13, 00:55 CDT.
Americans First, Task Force, FB post, 2016.08.13, 00:55 CDT.

Pay attentive: whoever AF,TF are, they meant their name to be commacal.


  1. mike from iowa 2016-08-14

    Pay attentive. Who could refudiate that?

  2. Dave Baumeister 2016-08-14

    Yes, Cory, we should all pay attentive! “We took careful consideration in naming our page, including the attentive to grammatical detail.” Attentive what? I visited their Facebook page. The posts are riddled with grammar and usage errors that make their posts virtually unintelligible. This is an example of what I have always pointed out: anyone can post anything on the Internet…no matter how embarrassing it can be for them or a group they are supposed to represent. I also find it interesting that in the above post, the writers put “lack of intelligence” in quotation marks, as would be the case if they are directly quoting something. As Dakota Free Press never uses “lack of intelligence” anywhere in it’s post, I am left to believe they are taking a direct quote from themselves (especially with their predilection for superfluous punctuation), in which case they are pointing out their own “lack of intelligence.” However, the intelligent people have already figured this out, even without them having to make it easier. They would be better off using the time and effort to look up “predilection” and “superfluous.”

  3. David Newquist 2016-08-14

    And there is that run-on sentence of a type that also shows up on some Facebook comments. Verbal fingerprints.

  4. caheidelberger Post author | 2016-08-14

    Sunlight is the best disinfectant. Ridicule also works.

  5. grudznick 2016-08-14

    I am a big fan of mocking, Mr. H. These fellows, task force or not, should be mocked soundly. If you are in the legislatures, those at whom your speeches are directed shall learn to fear your daily afternoon filibuster.

  6. grudznick 2016-08-14

    Wait, they meant to have the comma but the apostrophe was a printing error? Well, that makes wonderful sense.

  7. Eve Fisher 2016-08-14

    “The devil, that proud spirit, cannot endure to be mocked.” Martin Luther.

  8. Darin Larson 2016-08-14

    Even though their name is problematic, it is better than the other choices they considered:

    -Americans First Task Force for Americans and Only True Americans (you know who you are)

    -New Nazis for Old White People in America

    -Renewing Anti-immigrant Conflicts In Social Test Settings (RACISTS)

  9. John 2016-08-14

    You did a great job noting the strong ties the Aberdeen economy has to immigrants. Yet, it’s far bigger than that for South Dakota – where the Black Hills tourism/hospitality/Deadwood industry would crater if not for immigrant labor.

  10. grudznick 2016-08-14

    Mr. John, do you think the Black Hills tourism immigrant labor people are real immigrants or are they people who mostly show up using those non-immigrant type visas, work for 3 months and then get shipped home after paying 50% of their earnings to their landlord/employer? I, for one, don’t see those people sticking around and working other gainful employment much after Labor Day.

  11. John 2016-08-14

    grudznick: the deal too often is they stick around for about the last week or two then do a Keyser Soze – and “like that” they’re gone, never existed. Granted some return season after season; others return for a season or several before pulling a Keyser Soze. But these “temporary” work visa jumpers are a big source of illegal immigration – one which the rhinos are loathe to close – while delighted to criticize illegal immigration. The “border” gets the media attention – but the bigger source is right under our noses through “invitations” to service labor guest workers. Turn off the temporary worker visas and watch those industries and the economy crater. Truth is – the US economy needs guest workers because captains of industry will not pay living wages, and if forced to, then more of the middle class is priced out of services, fresh fruits and vegetables. Truth is we and our economy need immigration, and need to be honest about it. It matters not whether ones fore bearers arrived, as did mine, pre-nationhood in the Palatinate Exodus (1710), or in later waves via the Scandinavian salesmanship malarkey (1860-1880s) – or whether they arrived yesterday from southeast Asia (the Karen) or Central or South America or Somalia, or Syria. Our fore bearers and the recent arrivals came to make better lives for their families, to relish the benefits of the secular Declaration of Independence and US Constitution (some to escape hell and starvation – the Palantinates, Karen, Somalis, Syrians, etc.). Confused souls unable to handle liberal freedoms should return to their fore bearers land or another apostolic or non-apostolic hell hole.

    and like that, poof, he’s gone . . .

  12. grudznick 2016-08-14

    Mr. John, that entire paragraph was almost as if written by a confused soul. It made me just wonder what in the world rhinos and a Keyser Soze have to do with me getting my fresh broccoli.

  13. Donald Pay 2016-08-14

    I’m not going to criticize them based on grammar/punctuation/speech patterns. Sometimes it’s a lack of knowledge/education that may not be the fault of the writer. Maybe it is just lack of proofreading, which embarrasses me every so often, I admit. Too much ridicule along these lines borders on bullying by the educated folks of those less fortunate. It is a little disconcerting that these folks would point out that some immigrants don’t speak English. I’d just say, “Yeah, neither do you.”

    I don’t think you crossed the line into bullying. Pointing out these errors is fine, and we can all use a little ridicule, especially if they are worried about someone speaking Espanol.

  14. John 2016-08-14

    grudznick: do your own research. I don’t have the time to do yours for you. If you want Ron Branstner to think for you, knock yourself out. I prosecuted for 4 years, subpoenaed temp visa holders having them, poof, gone and never heard of at and after the day of trial. And the record showed they had not returned to their country of origin. Then I did my own research discovering this pattern of disappearance was not unique, rather was systemic behavior in the work permit system. If you have trouble understanding my paragraph blame your lame SD undergrad education and lack of diligent study.

  15. Robin Friday 2016-08-14

    So comma if it was a printing error comma why did they approve and pay for and distribute the cards with the printing error question mark no period

  16. caheidelberger Post author | 2016-08-15

    Printing error suggests the printer did it, not the customer. I usually do my own designs, but printers I’ve worked with show me proofs to approve before printing. Printing error thus seems an unlikely explanation.

    Also not printing error: AF,TF’s refusal to identify itself. That’s not printing error. That’s cowardice.

  17. Robin Friday 2016-08-15

    I know it’s not fair to criticize over grammatical errors, but I can’t believe that people put out supposed educational or campaign material that demonstrates their ignorance. If I couldn’t write or spell, and I wanted to print campaign material, I’d go to someone who could. And if I am unmotivated to do so, or I have no friends who are able to do so, then that says something about me and my lack of imagination, and by association, something about my issues.

  18. Robin Friday 2016-08-15

    In other words, to make a long story short, I agree. “Printing error” is a subterfuge. And if you can’t be honest about your mistakes, Mr. B., then why should I trust anything you say?

  19. caheidelberger Post author | 2016-08-15

    Robin, I’m with you. I make my share of typos on the blog, and one of my campaign newsletters had an error. I would like people to be generous and recognize that the principles and policies I fight for are bigger than any typo or printing oversight. However, I can’t really complain if people do hold up a blog post or campaign card that I print and release with an error and ridicule me for it. That distraction from my message is my fault. It makes me look bad.

    The Americans First, Task Force still hasn’t explained why they use that comma.

Comments are closed.