By Anna Pulley
By Erin Sherbert
By Chris Roberts
By Erin Sherbert
By Rachel Swan
By Joe Eskenazi
By Erin Sherbert
By Erin Sherbert
I'm intrigued. I must infiltrate. The ultraconservative civilian think tank known as the Patriot Defenders Network sponsors meetings every month under the banner of Town Hall (www.townhall.com), in cities around the country. The purpose: to discuss how to make America a better place, free from wacko liberals. Yes, it's time to get inside this little tea party and hear the Mad Hatter rally the pissed-off citizens who call right-wing talk radio shows.
My Persona: Drake Sutherland -- American!
Accessory:A tiny, hand-held American flag.
My Overused Catchphrase: "America for Americans!"
"We're a little bit different than some of the other Town Hall groups," an enthusiastic man named Dave explains over the phone. He seems very, very excited to have fellow conservative Drake Sutherland on board. "We tend to be a little more proactive. Our liberal friends on the other side would call that anal-retentive."
"Well, I have a few nasty names for them as well," I spout. "Tea-baggers."
We both laugh. We're really getting along.
"We have our own sentiments for them," Dave says, laughing. "We just tend to be a little more polite about it. But we got some great people in our group. Great people."
"You're preaching to the choir," I say.
"Drake, I think you found a home in the belly of the beast otherwise known as the Socialist Republic of California. [Laughs] Anyway, you'll like who you see and who you'll meet."
"Drake, you'll hear our members all the time calling in on one issue or another," enthusiastic Dave says, referring to his favorite local right-wing talk radio station. "We use a lot of time on the airwaves and that platform to recruit people. It helps."
"That's how you got me," I confess.
"We need more young Republicans coming out of our colleges and universities who have been fighting for their very existence in those institutes of quote 'higher learning' end quote. [Pause] I tend to call them terrorist training camps in California."
"Colleges?" I ask, caught off guard; I hadn't heard higher education equated to terrorist training before.
"Yeah, colleges and universities," Dave confirms.
"I like that," I tell him. "I call it the same thing. [Pause] Sometimes I even call it the University of bin Laden Lovin'. It just teaches anti-American ideals!"
Enthusiastic Dave likes my attitude. "Oh, but it's happening all over the country. We just happen to be leading the way."
"We want to indict and put conservatives in prison for hate speech if we denounce one thing or another as being contrary to the values established in this country," enthusiastic Dave explains. "They're working rather hard to convince liberal judges who also graduated from places like UC Berkeley that we should go to jail because we are engaging in hate speech."
"Yeah, the media doesn't help either," I note, throwing fuel on the fire.
"Oh, yeah, thank God for Fox News, you know?" enthusiastic Dave proclaims.
"Yup, thank God for Fox News," I agree.
This is beginning to sound good to me. There's plenty of room to grow within the Town Hall organization.
"If I have ideas for the counterterrorism team, can I bring them to the table?" I ask.
"Absolutely. There're all kinds of ways you can get involved," enthusiastic Dave replies.
"Is there any way I can help track down terrorists in our country?" I inquire. "Like, can I set up a hotline where people can call in if they suspect cabdrivers and stuff of being terrorists?"
"At this point, hey, that project is looking for someone who's interested in taking it on," Dave says, seeming to get excited.
"Great, 'cause I want to start reporting suspects and rounding them up."
"We can talk more about it," Dave says finally.
"How about if we pose as a terrorist group on the Internet and lure people to interact in a chat room and boom, we nab them?" I ask.
"You know, as I say," Dave says finally, "we don't put limits on people. People rise to their own levels of interest and dedication and commitment."
IHOP is where all great conservative minds converge. Yes, great conservative minds, filled with extreme right-wing views, converge best over flapjacks at budget prices, with a multitude of delicious syrup selections.
About 35 very white Americans have gathered. It may be the whitest group I've ever seen; it's composed mostly of concerned retirees, crusty men with red puffy faces, a large portion of them sporting mustaches. Their arms are folded. The ladies are hardened; they tend toward round, curly poodle hair.
"Are the French really our allies?" I ask the man at the door.
"Be sure to sign the toastmaster sign-up sheet," I'm told, so I jot down Drake Sutherland and his proposed topic: "The French: Traitors who love Jerry Lewis!" I settle in as an elderly toastmaster with a bad complexion and a blue Cosby sweater opens the festivities with some jokes about the Democratic Party's displeasure with the last election.