Dr. Norm and the Rest of Patriot Radio Face the Apocalypse
Is that a gun in Dr. Norm Resnick's pocket? Yes, and he's not glad to seeyou. The beleaguered radio talk-show host on the USA Patriot Network can't reallysay who would shoot him, but he has been packing double heat since the April 19bombing of the federal building in Oklahoma City. For two years, Dr. Norm's shout has been heard round the world from the KHNCstudios in Johnstown, fifty miles north of Denver. But now that average Americansare beginning to hear about the startling calls to arms by "patriot" celebritiessuch as "Mark from Michigan," a former KHNC stalwart, Resnick's little universemay be blowing up around him. "Am I inflammatory? Clinton is attacking talk-show hosts--that seemsinflammatory," Resnick says mournfully as he trudges back into his studio after abreak in his afternoon show. It's April 24, the day after President Bill Clintoncriticized "angry talk" during an emotional speech to the nation. "We're in forsome very hard times. The government and the media--I mean, it's a feedingfrenzy out there. I'm carrying two guns now." Then he seizes his microphone and plugs into the world. "At what point do we take a moral stand and stop being wimps?" he asks his audience. "Weare under massive pressure here. We will not back down. We all deplore the tragedyin Oklahoma City. But I'm serious: Without your support, we'll go off the air.Tune in tomorrow: We're having explosives experts on." He talks like a man under siege.Once Resnick was a professor of educational psychology at the University ofNorthern Colorado, one of the few Orthodox Jews in the town of Greeley. Now he'sthe top gun on a radio network owned by a Christian preacher (who thinks he's aJew) that peddles anti-government paranoia--along with guns, ammo and preciousmetals--to angry and scared people everywhere. KHNC, 1360 on your AM dial, is oneof the country's main outlets for a variety of mad-as-hell talk, and it hooks upthrough Nashville station WWCR (World Wide Christian Radio) for a shortwave ridearound the planet. At least two of the station's newfound affiliates have canceled in the wake of the Oklahoma City tragedy. But the calls keep pouring in, mostlyfrom "patriots" or militia members wounded by news stories that they say imply allof them are gun-toting crazies and that one or more of them may have beenresponsible for killing all those innocent people. "Heidi from Fort Collins" insists that all patriots aren't loonies with guns. "I don't wear camouflage," she says. "I wear bifocals." "Jim from Longmont" calls to say, "If we're going to look for a group to blame, look at the 103rd brigade of Congress. Now will you give ushearings on Waco?" Most of Resnick's callers claim the federal government probably blew upits own building, and they compare the feds' deadly 1993 raid on theBranch Davidians in Waco, Texas, with the bombing in Oklahoma City.Maybe the carpeting on the walls of Resnick's soundproofed studio ought to bereplaced by thick rubber padding. Resnick is losing it. One minute he's on theair, dead serious: "I apologize. I am out of control and very emotional. A greatmany Americans are willing to give up our civil rights for security. I'm afraidwe'll get neither." The next minute he chortles in an off-the-air aside, "It'sunbelievable that they're picking me up from Pensacola, Florida--from thisshitty little station! I've got affiliates!" And then he's back on the air,saying, "They're calling us white supremacists, neo-Nazis. The media paint us asracists, anti-Semites, nameless, faceless bombers. Those allegations arebizarre--as bizarre as blaming President Clinton for last week." What's bizarre are the ideas that, thanks in large part to KHNC, have burbled upamong patriots in the past two years:*Chinese troops are conducting maneuvers in Montana.*The Federal Emergency Management Agency has set up concentration camps acrossthe country. Microchips have been implanted in the heads and butts of unsuspectingAmericans. ..*The New World Order and the United Nations will seize control of thecountry at any moment. George Bush will celebrate the final takeover by the NewWorld Order during a ceremony in the year 2000 while a secretly launched U.S.nuclear missile sets fire to the planet Jupiter.*Ohio is not legally a state.Simple craziness? Crazy like a fox, say some people inside the patriot movement,who contend that the constant political preaching about protecting the U.S.Constitution has a more mundane purpose: To stir people's anger and fear and thenmake money off them. Some of the more rational patriots detest the movement'shucksters and warmongers, many of whom are beamed into the air by KHNC, and theyfear a massive backlash by the public and more intrusion by a government theydistrust.Even some patriots wonder about the movement's real agenda: Is it profit orpolitics? Before and after every point is made about defending the Constitution,someone has something to sell. For example, Mark Boswell, who hosts a weekly showon KHNC and runs a regular meeting for patriots in Denver, offers pricey seminarson common law and the Constitution and allows fellow patriots the chance to pitchmoney-making schemes hatched in faraway places."It's the American way," Boswell says. But profits don't change the fact, headds, that Hillary Clinton was secretly indicted on April 17 for financialwrongdoing and that two Justice Department attorneys confessed to having plannedand financed the Oklahoma City bombing and then were spirited out of the country."It's documented," Boswell says. "The facts will come out." The sign for the meeting in the pleasantly moldy Veterans of Foreign Wars hall indowntown Denver reads "Welcome, Patriots and Militia!" But it refers tocampaigners in a domestic war. ..Tables are lined with a bewildering assortment ofbrochures and tapes, a brew of fundamentalist Christianity, libertarian-styletracts, merchandise order forms and cranky newspapers filled with anti-governmentpropaganda.Among the fliers is a "Prayer of Agreement to Bind the Enemies of America,"which starts: "In the holy, blessed Name of the Lord, Jesus Christ of Nazareth, bythe Power of His Blood and with the full authority vested in us, from our Seat inthe heavenlies, at the right Hand of God, All Mighty: We now bind and gag thecouncils of the governing demons of Hades, who meet to devise plans against us orany members of our families...We also put you to shame, turn you back and bringall your meetings to a state of confusion! This we speak in the full Power andAuthority of Jesus Christ, to all who desire our hurt..." ..If that's too heavy, you can order a spiffy nylon jacket for $30 that says CivilRights Task Force (CRTF on the back), a shiny gold badge for $80 or business cardsfor only $76. Boswell's American Law Club offers a "sovereignty training course"for $145 and a "V.I.P. Educational Fellowship Self-Study Program With Guidance"for $550. Freebies on another table include two "fact sheets" from Pat Robertson's700 Club that unravel the mysteries of the U.N. and AIDS.The sixty people who filter past the tables gather in small groups toinformally discuss, with quiet certainty, the fact that the federal governmentblew up its own building in Oklahoma City. ..This is not a prosperous crowd.Several profess that they are embroiled in difficulties with the government overtaxes or other legal tangles. Some obviously work hard, with their hands, for aliving; others have the look of the hardly-working-but-not-by-choice. Otherpatriot meetings elsewhere in Colorado--they gather in Boulder, Colorado Springsand Fort Collins, among other places--have had a more sinister feel. The WeldCounty Patriots, who used to meet every Tuesday in a pizza parlor outside Greeley,regularly wore guns--men and women. No one in this mostly male group is obviouslypacking iron.But as the session gets under way, a chilling presentation is made. A manidentifying himself only as "Richard" warns the crowd that he has been approachedin the past three months at these meetings by people who wanted him to eitherassassinate someone, help plan an assassination or help build explosives.Government agents, he believes, are probably behind such talk. "Be very careful,"he says. "It's a setup. Just say no." ..Several others relate their seeminglyfutile legal battles against various government agencies. More such fights are inthe offing. Mark Boswell, who runs the meeting, urges people to buy those nice"CRTF" jackets (which purposely look identical to jackets worn by ATF and FBIagents) and wear them into courtrooms. Once there, these patriots are to tell thejudge that he is being watched and graded by them on his performance. Boswell ismarketing the jackets and assorted badges and other gewgaws from the deceptivelynamed U.S. Civil Rights Task Force, based in Fremont, California.The main speaker of the evening is a patriot named Dale Pond from Fort Collins,where he runs a barter network that uses its own paper "money" emblazoned "In EachOther We Trust." He passes the "bills" around the audience. The aim is to set upan alternate economy, something separate from the corrupt system in which mostpeople are trapped. Literature on one of the tables in back advocates that such asystem could be based on the "Hebrew-Judaic Commercial Code," which supposedlystates that "a workman is worthy of his hire." The idea is that labor is the keytoward valuing a product or service.But there's not much labor involved in another idea Pond is hawking. It's aplan from the North American Freedom Council in Boonville, Indiana, to makemillions of dollars for ordinary patriots by filing unconventional "non-commercialjudicial liens" and acquiring "security drafts" through the banking system. Somepatriots have landed in jail for filing false liens against judges, prosecutors,politicians and corporations, but Pond insists this is a completely different planand has a chance of working. ..It's easy to participate, he tells the group:Simply send a credit-card bill and several hundred dollars in cash to the FreedomCouncil, which will take care of all the paperwork, filing a multimillion-dollarlien against the bank that issued the credit card and somehow collecting on it."This is a God-given opportunity here," Pond says. "We've got a huge patriotmovement, and everybody's dead broke. Here's funding for the patriot movement.We're going to have billions coming in this summer. This is going to be ashort-lived thing; we're going to get in and get out."After Pond's pitch, several audience members ask where they should send theirmoney.As Boswell calls the meeting to adjournment--a bull session will continue forseveral hours afterward--he reminds the audience of his own Saturday-morning talkshow on KHNC, the "Citizen's Rights Forum." Still modeling that snazzy CRTFjacket, he concludes with a note of empathy for those who are fighting thegovernment. "Sometimes," he says, "it really feels like we're up against amonster." Few people can conjure up a monster the way Mark Koernke can. He's theclearinghouse for information on where the black helicopters are flying, whereforeign troops are training in the U.S. and when the "window of opportunity" willopen up for the enslavement of the American people by "globalists." He's the "Markfrom Michigan" patriots have heard for years on talk radio and many otherAmericans are now discovering--thanks to his supposed link to suspected bomberTimothy McVeigh.A pudgy fellow in suit and glasses with a voice that, hoarse or not, refuses tostop, he is riveting. Or so says Pat Butler, a kindly middle-aged woman in Arvada.She brought Koernke to the Denver area in February for a speech at the Holiday Innin Northglenn. (In her spare time, Butler markets to fellow patriots afire-retardant product and an outdoor cooker called the Volcano.)Once an honored call-in guest on Dr. Norm Resnick's KHNC show for his abilityto "stir 'em up," Koernke really has taken off in the past year. Resnick had beensponsored on WWCR shortwave by Viking International, a precious-metals dealerbased in Arizona; last year he crowed that he made "big, big money" for Vikingwith the pitch that the imminent takeover by the New World Order and analmost-certain economic collapse made gold and silver the only things worth havingbesides the flag, the Constitution and some food and water.But Viking replaced Dr. Norm, first with rogue Arizona cop Jack McLamb (whopreaches the evils of the New World Order to his fellow cops with the aid of acomputer program/history lesson called "Vampire Killer 2000") and then with MarkKoernke. Viking yanked Koernke off the air late last week.And Koernke has not been welcome on KHNC for months, say Resnick and stationowner Don Wiedeman. "I told him he was full of shit," contends Resnick. "Wechallenged him on the air." Wiedeman adds that Koernke's connection with KHNC wassevered "months ago." Nevertheless, the station still lists him in its resourceguide in the USA Patriot Magazine, which it began publishing last year tocapitalize on its burgeoning network. ..Pat Butler, who helps spread the wordabout patriot activities, can't understand their badmouthing Koernke. "He ispoint-blank showing us the truth," she says.Butler first realized that when she went to hear Koernke speak in Indianaseveral years ago. She wound up staying after his speech to rap with him forhours. "He'll just talk all night," she marvels.Many of the themes that enthralled her then came up during Koernke's February19 speech to about 300 people. In a tape of that speech, Koernke warns Denver-areapatriots of concentration camps, like the Oklahoma City Federal Transfer Center,which he says has a capacity of nearly 3,000."How many of you out there have firearms?" he asks. "How many of you arehome-schoolers? How many of you like your Constitution? Well, we can make you allcriminals real quick." ..Like a berserk geography teacher, Koernke roams acrossthe landscape, dropping scary factoids everywhere. He talks about the "UrbanWarfare Training Center--not too far from Tulsa," where troops are training for"sewer warfare" as a way of invading American cities and seizing patrioticcitizens. "One nice thing about that," he says, "is that a five-gallon can of gasolineand a match kind of cleans out sewers real quick."The Northglenn audience has a hearty laugh over that, but then Koernke showsphotos of surveillance cameras atop light poles in Bakersfield, California. Andalways, he rat-a-tat-tats the government."At some point," he warns, "you're going to confront the federal agencies andthe U.N." And, God, what a tough fight it's going to be."Somebody sat down with me in Oklahoma," he recalls, "and said, `You know,Mark, there's no silver bullet, there's no pink slip that's going to fire the NewWorld Order.'" That's because the threat is so pervasive. He talks about the dangers posed bythe "multijurisdictional task force" and by Belgian and Russian troops traininghere, right now. "In Colorado," he says, "there's lots of air traffic--foreign airtraffic. And your rail lines have been very heavy with armored vehicles."And he closes his speech with the standard refrain adopted by many patriots:"At any given point in time, we're going to have to pick up arms. And I'm going tofall. And you'll go back to Washington to liberate our country. God bless theRepublic! Death to the New World Order! We shall prevail!" By now, nobody islaughing. They are applauding.From the middle of nowhere in central Montana, a man named Paul Dinsmore isjeering at Mark Koernke. But Dinsmore's no voice in the wilderness. Thanks toshortwave radio and the electronics age, he's made his point to perhaps millionsof listeners. Last week he leveled his criticisms of Koernke and KHNC via themainstream media out of Chicago--and on KHNC itself.Dinsmore describes Mark from Michigan as "strictly profit-driven, cloaked inpatriotism."When he dissed Koernke on Resnick's show last week, an angry caller fromManitoba accused Dinsmore of being "an enemy agent," and someone else faxed KHNCto demand that all criticism of Koernke stop immediately.But not all patriots feel that way. In fact, it's almost impossible togeneralize about the patriots, except to say that the movement isn't unified andthat all of its members are among the millions of Americans who distrust theirgovernment. Anti-tax protesters and gun-lovers are at the center. On the fringesare conspiracy freaks, white supremacists and anti-Semites (like the people whomurdered Denver radio talk-show pioneer Alan Berg in 1984). Many patriots areBible-thumpers who believe it's their duty to convert everybody to Christ. Someare bullies who like to wear guns. But others are libertarians who want to be leftalone not only by government but by religions, too. Many people in the movementare frustrated enough by their economic status to look for scapegoats; those wholove weaponry may wind up in militias. The more fearful may build bunkers and layin a year's supply of food and water and transfer their meager assets into goldand silver. There always are people hovering around the movement who are itchingto make a buck out of all this frustration.Ray Parker of Vermont, a retired cop, considers himself a patriot and bemoanswhat's happened to the movement. "We have to discipline ourselves," says Parker."We have to cull from the herd those within the movement and not buy theirproducts and not fall for their hucksterism. We cannot look under every rock andfind a demon or a government agent. There is some paranoia here that can beconstrued as out of control."Both Dinsmore and Parker, themselves strong critics of the government, havehosted shows on KHNC during which they've taken the station to task for giving airtime to loonbags."I told people the U.S. patriot movement can either be a force for lucidity orlunacy," says Parker. "We tend to gravitate towards the bizarre."Of course, KHNC's very nature is bizarre. It was started a little more than twoyears ago by Don Wiedeman, who runs Beth Messiah Congregation, a Christ-believingMessianic Jewish group in Denver. Resnick, still a devout Jew, says the ChristianWiedeman celebrates all the Jewish holidays "and actually believes he's a Jew."Wiedeman himself refuses to discuss his religion or his radio station, except tosay that KHNC is not a religious vehicle and that "we have nothing to do with thepatriot movement or militias."Neither contention is true. Resnick, whom Wiedeman says "speaks for thestation," often injects religion into his daily show. He constantly remindslisteners that KHNC stands up for "traditional Jews and traditional Christians"and has told his audience that "everybody at the station is Jewish" (which theyaren't). Resnick also attacks "anti-Semitic and racist elements," which heestimates make up 20 percent of the patriot movement. ..That doesn't mean thestation shuns patriots. In fact, it caters to them with its "Patriot Network" andPatriot Magazine that feature such hard-nosed celebrities as Bob Fletcher ofthe Montana militia and Colonel James "Bo" Gritz. Both the magazine and thenetwork are flooded with stories about mysterious helicopters, sneaky federalagents and savage "socialists" like Hillary Clinton. They're also filled with adsfor survival gear, guns, ammunition, gold and silver.One of the station's primary advertisers is First American MonetaryConsultants, a Fort Collins group of metals marketers and "economists" thatincludes such patriot heroes as former state senator Jim Roberts. FAMC, headed bya former Tennessee legislator named Larry Bates, preaches against the New WorldOrder and warns of impending economic doom. Two ways out, it suggests, are to heedthe Bible and buy precious metals. Call for a consultation, it urges.Dinsmore, who used to have a KHNC show called The Intelescope Hour, lovesto debunk the bunker mentality from his combination ranch/farm/tannery "54 milesdown a gravel road from the nearest gas pump." Those Chinese troops conductingmilitary maneuvers in Montana? "They're Hmong immigrants, people from Cambodia,coming over during the season to harvest huckleberries," laughs Dinsmore.No fan of the government, he nevertheless resents how people's fears "arefanned into flames by hucksters." "This is a business whose way of doing things is through the political processand is run by those who have the ability to recognize when people are at theirlowest and weakest points," says Dinsmore. "These people are being used."He compares the grip of patriot propaganda to the techniques used bytelevangelists to drum up money. "The antitax movement started out good," he says,"but then the munitions people came in to make a buck." And now KHNC, he contends, is in way over its head. "The station's main problemis, they have no one who knows diddly-squat about the patriot movement," he says."They're naive, and they're so far into it that now they don't know how to backout of it."Ray Parker, who used to host The Parker Perspective on the station,echoes that view. Neither Resnick nor Wiedeman will discuss KHNC's finances. ButParker says talk-show hosts pay the station $40 an hour for satellite time and$250 an hour for shortwave time. Then the hosts drum up sponsors who hawk productsin what often turn out to be political infomercials."I started listening to the Patriot Network and started calling," says Parker."Then I went on as a guest on the Norm Resnick Show and started telling himand others to cut the crap and hold people's feet to the fire. He said he was verynaive and didn't know about his guests. He's the host! It's his responsibility tocheck them out. They gave me a show, and I told people about the so-calledpatriots and so-called Christians who use this movement. It's so transparent. Ithink we should be talking about what's really going on in this country instead oftalking about microchips in somebody's head or butt." Now, to Parker's chagrin, the excesses of patriot radio are getting air time inthe conventional press. "The media is pretty much liberal in coverage of thissubject," he says. "They single out the kooks and take things out of context." But he acknowledges that much of what goes on really is kooky. "The governmentdid the bombing in Oklahoma City?" he says. "That is absolutely irresponsible.Nobody knows what happened yet. I've been pleading on the air to have rationality.With freedom of speech comes responsibility."It would mortify him, he says, if it turns out that the Oklahoma City bomberswere linked to the patriot movement."I'm not saying patriots did this," he says. "No real patriot would kill theseinnocent people. But if it can in any way be stuck on to the patriot movement,it's going to hurt us. There'll be more Draconian measures coming down from thegovernment, more laws, more cops on the street. Killing innocent children andcivilians solves nothing. It makes people's anger more intense toward you." KHNC, says Parker, "is at the center of a storm it can't control. The stationhas the potential to be a very good outfit, but they have decided to ascribe tosome of the flakier types, the hucksterish types, not the violent types. They talkabout `ELF waves' being emanated from Russia. They're talking about `extreme lowfrequency' waves, but I call it the `extreme lunatic fringe.' .."It gets a little silly. I'm 58 years old now, but when I was a kid, we used tobuy sci-fi magazines. When you're a big boy, though, you don't talk like this."