The Hatewatch blog is managed by the staff of the Intelligence Project of the Southern Poverty Law Center, an Alabama-based civil rights organization.

The Unlikeliest Conspiracy-Monger: Colorado Public TV

By Sonia Scherr on March 11, 2010 - 1:11 pm, Posted in Antigovernment, Conspiracies

Law-abiding U.S. citizens who express politically unpopular views are at risk of being rounded up and imprisoned in concentration camps by a tyrannical government.

That’s according to a conspiracy theory that has long been popular within the antigovernment “Patriot” movement. Although recently debunked by Popular Mechanics, Newsweek (which called it “too silly to discuss”), CNN’s “American Morning,” the Southern Poverty Law Center’s Intelligence Report and even (after promoting it on several shows) FOX News host Glenn Beck, the myth that the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) is creating detention facilities for political dissidents is gaining traction on the far-right fringe.

Now, however, a mainstream media source is providing an uncritical platform for FEMA camp lore: KBDI Colorado Public Television aired the video “Camp FEMA: American Lockdown” twice last weekend and has scheduled another showing for March 13. The 90-minute film opens with newsreel footage of Japanese-Americans being forced into internment camps during World War II and then trots out conspiracy die-hards who suggest that freethinking Americans today may face the same fate. Those featured include syndicated radio host Alex Jones, who frets about one-world government at; longtime Patriot broadcaster John Stadtmiller, who insisted after the Oklahoma City bombing that the U.S. government was behind the mass murder; and James Lane of the Patriot group We Are Change, which does not believe that al-Qaeda perpetrated the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.

Not unreasonably, “Camp FEMA” producer Gary Franchi sees the recognition from a major PBS market as a coup for believers in the camps. “I think it definitely lends credence to the issue,” he told Hatewatch. (Though some Patriot movement beliefs have roots in white supremacy — including the FEMA camp story, whose early proponents included the anti-Jewish Posse Comitatus — Franchi said his group is not anti-Semitic, racist or antigovernment.)

Since its release last year, “Camp FEMA” has been available for purchase on its website (cost: $14.95). But during its March 6 public television debut as part of KBDI’s current fundraising campaign, the film had the potential to reach over 200,000 households, mostly in the Denver metropolitan area, according to KBDI Membership Director/Executive Producer Shari Bernson. In addition, Franchi, who heads the Illinois-based Patriot group, traveled to KBDI’s studios to discuss his film on air with Bernson and Denver-based talk show host Mike Zinna. “It was our most successful pledge program since we rolled out this pledge drive last Thursday,” Bernson said. “We were flooded with calls.”

Those calls were overwhelmingly positive, Bernson said, but some people took issue with KBDI’s decision to air the show. “I’ve had people say it’s not news, it’s not journalism,” she said. “Does everything that airs on TV fall into that category? The bigger story is why are there so many conspiracy theories and why are so many people interested in them right now.”

Bernson said KBDI is dedicated to airing a broad range of perspectives and frequently features independent programming outside the PBS pipeline. (The station also runs disclaimers with shows saying they don’t represent the views of KBDI, its board of directors or employees.) “I think that people deserve access to information,” she said. “I believe people are smart enough to make their own decisions about what they see and hear.”

Moreover, airing the show helped bring in donations. “It was also a fundraising success,” she said, “and fundraising is really tough right now. You’ve got to find something that’s resonating with a large enough niche that it’s really going to create some momentum to help us make our financial goals.”

“Camp FEMA” was shown alongside another video, “America: Freedom to Fascism” by the late Aaron Russo, who founded Restore the Republic (now run by Franchi). That 2006 film contends that a powerful group of bankers took control of the U.S. government by perpetuating “two frauds”: the federal income tax and the central banking system known as the Federal Reserve. The New York Times debunked the film’s arguments in a July 2006 article and reported that the IRS had filed $2 million in tax liens against Russo. The alternative weekly Portland Mercury went further, calling the film “half-baked” and “hole-ridden.” The film also peddles the popular Patriot conspiracy that the government could use tiny microchips to track people.

Yet KBDI has shown “Freedom to Fascism” several times since 2007, when one of the station’s viewers walked in with a copy. “It was one of our top-performing programs for over two years,” Bernson said. The station invited Franchi to its studio last year to discuss the film during a fundraising drive; a local banker was also brought in to present the other side.

KBDI drew criticism from The Denver Post for airing that film, along with two documentaries promoting Sept. 11 conspiracy theories, during a pledge drive last summer. “9/11: Press for Truth” and “9/11: Blueprint for Truth,” which suggests that Sept. 11 was an inside job, both did well as fundraisers, Bernson said.

But not everyone was happy. Jacob Gore of Aurora, Colo., who had been a small contributor to KBDI for a couple of years, told Hatewatch he stopped watching the station after it aired the Sept. 11 programs. “I can’t believe I’m seeing this on public television,” he recalls thinking at the time. In a comment posted on KBDI’s website, he also asked to be taken off the station’s mailing list.  “I’m sure when sanity returns to KBDI,” he wrote, “I will hear about it through the usual channels (the microchip implanted into me by the government, of course.)”

  • took more than just seconds for wtc7 to collapse.

  • Thomas Adams

    Polls indicate that a majority of the American people believe that the investigation of 911 was unsatisfactory and a cover up. A large segment of the public also believes there was a conspiracy. There is substantial evidence in support of their claim. What is the big deal? I thought there was a thing called the first Amendment. With respect to FEMA and the allegations about interment camps, I would like to hear both sides of the issue. I think PBS should be applauded for showing the videos. And as for 911, I believe the governments investigation was disgraceful and so do many of the families of those who died when the towers fell.

  • Peter Thomas

    While there is no denying that people with all kinds of wacky and even dangerous ideas cling on to most single issue movements, that shouldn’t be used to discredit objective information presented. This video called “WTC Core” has three disturbing photographs, starting with a graphic explanation at minute 7:30, that confounds the official explanation for the collapse of WTC Towers One and Two:
    Don’t worry–they are not the sensational smoke and destruction photos we’ve all seen way too many times.

  • Frank in Spokane

    SPLC writes:

    “Although recently *debunked* by … Newsweek (which called it “too silly to discuss”) …”

    Declaring something “too silly to discuss” is *not* the same as debunking.

  • A. Magnus

    You folks obviously missed the Iran-Contra hearings, where Oliver North testified before congress about setting up Operation Cable Splicer and Operation Garden Plot – in which FEMA takes over continuity of government operations and federalizes local law enforcement. The Army’s Civillian Inmate Labor Program is a natural outgrowth of these illegal and unconstitutional activities by the executive branch. These are all documented and part of the public record.

    Therefore I have to question who exactly you are trying to defend when you denigrate people who bring up inconvenient facts as ‘conspiracy theorists.’ Popular Mechanics, whose chief editor is the cousin of former DHS Secretary Michael Chertoff cannot be considered a reputable authority on these matters; their nepotistic political affiliations are obvious. DHS would not exist were it not for the official narrative on 9/11. Do you really think there was no windfall for the Chertoff family – one whose gravy train just might have to be protected by the cousin running Popular Mechanics? Cui Bono?

    You guys are lawyers, you figure it out…

  • Project

    As an addendum to the comment above, it is noteworthy that the SPLC used the title word “Conspiracy” in its title: “The Unlikeliest Conspiracy-Monger”.

    Like its niggardly sister word “Anti-Semitism”, it is is replete with semantics from both law and political science, as well as popular urban lore and the ubiquitous hate crime Bills in the West, or more appropriately, the thought crime Bills.

    All of those semantics were carefully separated and each deconstructed in the article ‘Anatomy of Conspiracy Theory':

    I urge SPLC scholars to actually study the aforementioned article. You would need to figure out how to address the next spin now that the word “conspiracy” has been acutely anatomized into its separate components. I believe the semantic qualifier you wished to apply for this article was ‘kookish’ – because the legal definition of ‘conspiracy’ may cause you to be indicted for being some part of the real conspiracy to mask the unraveling of the most monumental crimes against humanity.

    Get a lawyer to read that article.

    Thank you.

    Zahir Ebrahim

  • The Oxbow Incidentalist

    The government lies on 911 were scientifically disproved, calmly and succinctly, in a mature, sincere and kind manner. That is not an act of hatred to disprove a lie using science.

    The Jersey Girls support Architects and Engineers for 911 Truth, the organization founded by Richard Gage whose purpose it is to promote a criminal investigation of the Ground Zero murder scene, and whose efforts in presenting empirical evidence are smeared by parties not interested in an investigation.

  • The Oxbow Incidentalist

    According to a document obtained by the ACLU under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) on Tuesday March 16, the 9/11 commission was warned on Jan. 6th, 2004 by high-level administration officials to “not cross the line” in the investigation of the events that occurred on Sept. 11, 2001.

  • Rumpy Steez

    First I would encourage you Sonia Scherr and your buddy Jacob Gore to google ‘Radio Frequency Identification’ or ‘RFID’ and let me know what you come up with. Also see if you can find a paper written by Info Czar Cass Sunstein titled “Conspiracy Theories” and then tell me if you think the govt. views dissenting groups as a threat.
    I work with Colorado 911 Visibility who was mostly responsible for getting the 911 truth documentaries aired on KBDI (with the help of Sharri Benson of course), and I can assure you that there is nothing hateful about these people. To say something like that about them is laughable, really. HA! They are some of the nicest, gentlest activists I’ve ever met, and they’re damn good at what they do as you can see. They pose no threat to society whatsoever; only to those very few who wish to enslave it.
    I also work very closely with We Are Change Colorado, and the same goes for us: there is no hate, violence or aggressive intent in what we do. We do whatever we do out of love. Love for ourselves, our community, our nation, and for humanity as a whole. Yes, we love you too Sonia Scherr and Jacob Gore. Anyone who tells you different is either lying to you or has been told a lie.

  • John Galt

    911 was a false flag terror operation. Building 7 wasnt even hit yet it collapsed in a free fall in less than 10 seconds. The buildings were brought down with explosives. Be an adult and do some homework!

  • Mike

    That reminds me, I forgot to make my donation to KBDI. Sorry SPLC, no donation for you…. :-(

  • Project

    SPLC is exactly on the mark. Thank you.

    It was predicted years ago that: ‘War on Terror’ and its assorted accoutrements like the Patriot Act was not about ‘Islamofascism’ but about squelching dissent to “imperial mobilization”.

    Here is an old excerpt, circa 2003:

    Stifling activist dissent is the real reason

    Okay, what is the answer? Muslims of America make a very convenient fifth column to be vigilant against, to be investigated and dug out of their mosques, requiring new laws for surveillance and new powers for security agencies. To successfully deploy this, any and all confluence of interests are being employed, including the hatred and arrogance of the ultra right-wing Christian fanatics who seek Armageddon to get closer to Jesus.

    How convenient! Muzzling the dissent of the very vocal minority of brave activists, and the likes of Daniel Ellsberg that might rise up to challenge the oppression and destruction of innocent people around the world in the process of executing this American global conquest, would require some draconian measures. Why? In order to curb their civil rights and create an atmosphere of fear and intimidation so that they would not be vocal in their protests, lest they are able to successfully mobilize and dethrone the emperor! Well the persecution of the “fictitious fifth columnist” is conveniently giving the perpetuators of world conquest the much needed despotic laws to control and contain any sort of public outrage.

    These oppressive laws via the USA Patriot Act 1 passed by Congress in the wake of 9/11 without any debate, and now its even more oppressive successor Patriot Act 2 waiting in the wings for an opportune time, and the concomitant erosion of civil liberties, is really intended for the rest of the US population, and not so much for any “fictitious danger” from the “fictitious fifth columnists”.

    It is a preemptive strike at domestic dissent, consistent with the doctrine of preemptive strike at imperial targets abroad. Both are part of the same foreign policy agenda, as per ZB’s “Democracy is inimical to imperial mobilization.”*7

    Test this hypothesis yourself. How much danger are the Muslims to the state in the prosecution of their global hegemonic plans, and how much danger are the activists? In fact, any terrorism done by any Muslim in the US would play right into the hands of the state, now wouldn’t it? But a Daniel Ellsberg or two leaking out privileged information from the “inside” like the infamous “Pentagon Papers”, that can provide concrete evidence of lying and deceit of the kind impeachments are made of, difficult to wriggle out from, can put a quick stop to the grandiose expansion plans of the state, now couldn’t it? Or a mass mobilizations against the war as witnessed during Vietnam might awaken the real sleeping giant, the good hearted but dormant public, mightn’t it? Richard Nixon, October 15, 1969, inside the White House, talking to Henry Kissinger, while a million people protesting outside the White House, briefly contemplates dropping an atomic bomb on Vietnam, but allows sanity to prevail because of his fear of what the million marchers might do to him.*8

    Well – fastforward 2010: we have, as expected, Dissenters To Be Detained As “Enemy Belligerents” ACT.

    I’d say SPLC is merely doing its appointed job as the bulldog of masters pulling the strings of police-statehood enroute to world government because, as even Bertrand Russel had logically derived it ab initio from the basic premise of the reality of an oligarchy in a scientific modernity:

    “World government could only be kept in being by force”.

    See his Impact of Science on Society.

    So, SPLC is on the mark. Don’t fret about the bulldog if you don’t like its snarl. Go for its oligarchic masters who are not ony feeding it, but orchestrating world events designed to piece-meal, one fait accompli at a time, culminate in world government.

    Zahir Ebrahim
    United States of America

  • john

    What about keeping an eye on the radical left? You people are funded and run by the fascist banking elite and you pose as leftists. Where did you get the $100 million from that you have stashed away? You are a laughing stock. No scientist in his right mind and not in the pay of the government will defend the official story about how the WTC buildings collapsed. Take WTC Building 7 for example. Not hit by a plane and only minor fires burning within it and it drops at free fall speed in less than 7 seconds. This isn’t about conspiracy. This is about scientific facts. And if you bring up science, you claim that you are a “conspiracy theorist”! What? Are you people for real? 1100 architect and engineers have called for a new investigation and the official explanation a fraud.

  • RationalRabbit

    “Today Americans would be outraged if U.N. troops entered Los Angeles to restore order; tomorrow they will be grateful! This is especially true if they were told there was an outside threat from beyond, whether real or promulgated, that threatened our very existence. It is then that all peoples of the world will pledge with world leaders to deliver them from this evil. The one thing every man fears is the unknown. When presented with this scenario, individual rights will willingly be relinquished for the guarantee of their well-being granted to them by their world government.”
    — Henry Kisinger in an address to the Bilderberg group meeting at Evian, France, on May 21, 1991, as transcribed from a tape recording made by one of the Swiss delegates.

    “The people can always be brought to the bidding of the leaders. Its easy. All you have to do is tell them they are being attacked and denounce the pacifists for lack of patriotism and exposing the country to danger.”
    — Herman Goehring, Nazi Party – Nuremberg Trials

  • David Michael

    SPLC is a tool for the CFR and their various global think tanks and I bet they work hand and glove with the DOJ.
    I bet they receive tons of money from the foundations like the Carnegie Institute and the Rockefeller Foundation.

  • MM8

    Oddly enough, the first time I ever heard that 911 might have been an act of government treachery was from no other than, liberal, Lesbian, comedian, and entertainer Rosie O’Donnell!

    The price of her exercise of free speech and expression was her career.

    It seems very clear the SPLC has joined up with the propagandists and gay bashers…

  • chris

    The American Behavioral Scientist recently dedicate one of their issues to the inability of people to face up to the 9/11 facts:

    Haven’t people studied history? Don’t they realize that the German people were also incapable of facing the fact their own government was building concentrations camps? That their own government had staged false-flag attacks? Even after WWII had ended there were Germans who had no idea that just one mile away people were being put into ovens.

    People in Germany were also called “conspiracy-theorist” and “unpatriotic” when contradicting what the mainstream media fed to the people.

    When will people drop their inflated American ego…

    Can we get past the American Exceptionalism and face the facts?

  • John C.

    Just from reading the comments posted so far, I would have to judge this as “people = 1″ and “splc = 0″. Seems like the majority here favor the freedom to think and judge for themselves. Apparently, the splc is not needed so they throw their labels and rhetoric around like a child screaming to be heard. It’s really pathetic.

    My thoughts about camps being built for US citizens is that I have no opinion as of yet. Not enough data at this point.

    My thoughts on 9/11 are simple. 2 planes + 2 strikes = 3 buildings…. I’m not buying that one. 2 bats + 2 balls has NEVER equaled 3 home runs. That’s all the evidence I need. K.I.S.S.

  • matt

    Indeed, you appear to only be anxious to stifle speech.

    How “America: Freedom to Fascism” is “right wing” or “hate” is beyond me, but splc really has no credibility as ahuman rights organization. It attacks people who take normal political stands in public fora, apparently afraid to contest those concepts which it opposes in the free market of ideas.

    Ditto for 9-11 truth documentaries. It is number one, non-partisan to question the what happened on that day. Number two, over 60 percent of americans polled question the official story. Number three thousands of engineers and architects have signed a petition claiming th epancake collape theory of NIST is impossible.

    So what does splc gain by calling this hate or right wing? The only possible gain can be to marginalize or silence a school of thought; in which case one must ask WHY?

    Oh yeah, as others have noted the official story of 9eleven is a “conspiracy theory.”

    Conspiracy to commit a crime esp. a felony is in fact a separate crime in our legal system, so surely “So.Po.LEGALCENTER” (yah, LEGAL) is not claiming that conspiracies don’t exist?

  • remo

    Obviously the tipping point in Hate watches ‘evidence research department’ hasn’t been reached yet by the dozens of 911 interconnections leaving the ‘official’ conspiracy theory full of holes big enough to fly a plane through . Which the conspirators did. Nanothermitic materials in the dust. NIST freefall admission on wtc7. 118 first responders audio evidence of explosive events ‘other than’ aircraft impact including massive charges underground immediately b4 first strike. Manetta ‘stand down’ witness. The ominous E4B silent in overflight.

    Its a buy in. You buy the official conspiracy theory, or you don’t. That seems predetermined by sociological bent , or by reading and becoming aware of a nasty History of secrets involving ‘false flag’ events.
    Of which 911 is one.

  • LarryThePrisonAbolitionist

    Dr. Michael Parenti does a good job of sociologically contextualizing the nature of conspiracy without falling prey to the fanaticism inherent in “Camp Fema” style material. A good video of Dr. Parenti:

    Michael Parenti – Terrorism, Globalization and Conspiracy

  • LarryThePrisonAbolitionist

    I deeply respect SPLC for their great work. Morris Dees is an American Hero. “Camp Fema” fear mongering is generated by people described in the documentary The Secret Right:

  • San Diego Farmgirl

    Gee, this reminds me of when those paranoid African Americans in Tuskegee claimed the government gave them syphilis. Or the time those crazy nut-job Injuns claimed the government gave them small pox infected blankets.
    Oh wait, those things really did happen. Hmmmm …

  • K. Santel

    I don’t see anything wrong with calling for a better investigation of 9/11. I saw a news item that the “Jersey Girls” whose husbands died in the World Trade Center are calling for a new investigation. In my opinion, the official story does not make sense. We have learned that it takes 30 people to kill one man in a hotel room (in Dubai) but it only took 19 to carry off 9/11???? I don’t find that credible. What, were they 19 Jason Bournes?

  • spirittoo

    Well it’s obvious the SPLC gets its assets from the very organization that was behind 911 … that is why they are spouting off this crap about people asking questions about what really happen on 911. And FYI the Popular Mech. bogus piece and Newsweek was shot down years ago …and the only reason they claim it’s “too silly to discuss” is because they would get clobbered with the FACTS and EVIDENCE.
    Folks like skinnyminny and organizations like SPLC should go to counties that don’t allow free speech … seems they would be much happier there. They cry about “conspiracy theorists” yet have no problem what so ever accepting the government’s “conspiracy theory”. Building design to withstand plane impact and fires do not come crashing down in seconds … to suspend physics over the government conspiracy theory is just plain stupid.

  • Marc

    Your attack on Colorado Public TV is idiotic and irresponsible. You clearly do not know what you’re talking about and you are labeling liberals like myself as conspiracy nuts. I don’t appreciate this. Why don’t you spend some time at (architects and engineers for 911 truth) so at least you can get an idea of why educated people like myself know that 911 was an inside job.

  • whowouldjesusbomb

    9/11 truth is not a left/right issue. It’s a TRUTH issue. Like so many other things the mainstream news media suppresses. If you think you know what’s going on because you watch CNN (or read the NYT), look up Sibel Edmonds.

  • DaveS


    If only there were more humans like you, we’d not find America in the current mess it’s in.

    The internet is fertilized by people posting words they think are true, yet they’ve never checked any of their ‘facts’ out. If you spend a bit of open-minded time searching the various websites devoted to finding the truth about 9/11 and also an equal amount of time on the 9/11 truthers are crazy websites I think you’ll begin to see why so many rational humans question the government’s propaganda about that fateful day.

    And in the process you may also discover a host of other horrible actions done by the American government against its own people all in the name of peace and freedom. Once you realize the government doesn’t give a rat’s ass about you individually, it kinda can’t help but open your eyes.

    If the SPLC was/is concerned about hate, then maybe they’d devote more time helping the world’s muslims who are at the receiving end of more institutionalized hate than about any group I can think of. Well them and anyone with the audacity to question the government.


  • AMREV1776

    I have worked in construction all my life, including concrete…….There is no way 3 buildings could free fall collapse into their own footprint after only 2 were hit by airplanes…..There is no other building in history that has collapsed free fall into its foot print because of fire…..The laws of physics prevent steel and concrete from being pulverized by fire, it is imposable…..That means we are being lied to….it also means there are more people that attacked us……..committed the worst terrorist attack on America in our history…..We must demand the truth everyone that is responsible must be brought to justice…..Every American has a responsibility to demand the truth….We do not know what happened but we know the official story is an incomplete, impossible scenario based on the laws of physics……