MOORHEAD, Minn. — We are past the point of dismissing the lies from Donald Trump cultists as being "wacky" or "nuts." The insurrection and attempted coup at the U.S. Capitol last week was proof of that. If we thought the MAGA crowd was only playing a messed-up political word game in service of their Fuhrer, we were wrong.
Words must be taken seriously and at face value. Trump and his cultists are willing to generate violence to get their way.
That's why the video posted on Facebook by an Alexandria, Minn., pastor, Darryl Knappen, is chilling. A reporter from the Echo Press in Alexandria wrote about Knappen and his video in a story that's been widely read on our Forum Communication's Co. websites.
The article, in a nod to the reporter's professionalism, makes Knappen's video seem straightforward: He thinks the election of Joe Biden was fraudulent and he wants recourse. But if you take the 13 minutes to actually watch the whole thing (the video is embedded in the story for easy viewing) you'll see something far more disturbing.
Yes, Knappen calls for Trump to impose martial law — which is bad enough — but the basis for this alleged man of God wanting that is based on numerous lies, each more outlandish than the last and toward the end of the video the pastor essentially makes a call to arms.
Watch the video and watch the look that comes over Knappen's face in the last 2 minutes. Tell me you aren't disturbed by it.
It is deep, dark stuff. And not at all "goofy" or "crazy" in the sense that we can shrug our shoulders and laugh it off. As we learned last week, America can no longer dismiss loopy speeches as easily as we once did.
Knappen believes every word he is saying and he is serious about what he sees as problems and what he suggests as solutions.
Knappen says the "Deep State" — a conspiracy theory that espouses the elected U.S. government is actually run by unelected shadow officials — is out to get Trump and that Biden's election was based on fraud that is "obviously substantial and overwhelming." Reminder: There is no evidence of election fraud and Trump has had about 60 lawsuits rejected claiming otherwise, including one that U.S. Supreme Court dismissed without hearing.
Then the pastor begins to become unhinged. He blames the election fraud on former Democratic President Barack Obama and a fantastical plot.
"What I've heard recently is that it leads all the way back to Barack Obama using agents in Italy ... to use military satellites to interfere with our election systems, our voting machines to alter the votes in favor of Joe Biden electronically," Knappen said.
He calls for Obama's arrest.
"This is high treason. Barack Obama, this is high treason and you deserve to be arrested and tried and I bet, right now, that's coming for you and you are going to be on the run and you're going to be in hiding."
Knappen then suggests there will be many more arrests of high-ranking government officials of both parties for treason.
This is tin-foil hat stuff, outlandish Internet conspiracy theories that in years past wouldn't garner more than a shake of the head and an uncomfortable chuckle. But now, we know there are possibly millions of Americans who believe it. Who might take it to heart. Who don't have the critical thinking skills to dismiss it as fantasy.
The lies continue.
"Expect George Soros and many others in that field, on the other side, the left side to unleash the armed encampment of the Democratic Party, which is Antifa and Black Lives Matter. We have heard that they have targeted 30 cities across the country for rioting and destruction and therefore the Pentagon has deployed 6,000 troops," Knappen said. "I believe there's going to be a lot more troops being deployed under the National Guard to these cities to protect those cities."
Knappen said he knows all of this sounds crazy — he claims it does to him, too — but he said generals who "are in the know" have told "websites" that "this is true."
"Expect military salvation to our country through martial law and the Insurrection Act," Knappen said.
Military salvation. That is a term that would appeal to the far-right fringes and militia types, of which Knappen appears to be a part. He said if was alive during the Revolutionary War he'd have been part of the Black Robe Regiment, which he misrepresents as being an actual battle force against the British. The term in actuality was mostly symbolic, referring to clergymen who lent their support to the Revolution through their pulpits while preaching to their congregations.
Knappen took the term literally, obviously, because he said he wanted to show his AR-15 assault weapon in the video but thought Facebook might censor it. Still, Knappen indicates he would've taken up arms against the British.
Then the video gets even darker.
A look comes over Knappen's face before he says: "And I may be part of that movement today."
He makes a call to arms.
"There is a need in all of our localities, all of our cities large and small, to have our patriots arm up and be part of the citizen militia to back up police, back up the sheriffs in these towns to protect our freedoms," Knappen said.
"Buckle up everybody. We are in for a very bumpy ride the next 10 days," he said.
This is what Trumpism has wrought. This is what social media has wrought. An alleged Christian pastor calling for his fellow Christians to "arm up" to fend off imagined enemies who are guilty of imagined wrongdoings.
It is the price of an uninformed and misinformed citizenry that has been lied to and propagandized for years.
And to watch Knappen's vanilla and sincere delivery, it's clear he believes every word. This is not a game for him, like it is for many Republican politicians. This looks like a cult member bracing for the coming war against those who've wronged Trump.
How do you fix this? How do you reason with this? How do you de-program this?
You can't, which is a thought almost as frightening as Knappen's video.
Even more scary is that he's just one. One of millions. How do we come back from this precipice?
Readers can reach Forum News Service columnist Mike McFeely at (701) 451-5655 or firstname.lastname@example.org