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Debriefer: December 7, 2016 

Lord of the Wingnuts

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Last week we learned one Lord Christopher Monckton would be hosted at the Lomitas Schoolhouse in Santa Rosa in a talk titled "Using 'Climate Change' to Attack Rural America." But by popular, if not populist, demand, the event was moved late last week to the city-owned Finley Community Center, which will host Monckton Dec. 7 in its senior wing.

The Monckton talk in Santa Rosa is one of four taking place in California this week sponsored by the Eagle Forum (and co-sponsored locally by North Bay Patriots). The Eagle Forum is the hard-right organization founded by the late Phyllis Schlafly, known for its stridently anti-immigration, anti-feminist, "pro-family," anti-globalist agenda.

The president of the California Eagle Forum is a woman named Orlean Koehle, who founded the Sonoma County Land Rights Coalition back in 2006. The county resident recently published a book that warned of an upcoming one-world religion. Her website warns that "many believe [it] will be an Islam/New Age/pagan religion."

Monckton is a British climate-change denier and Brexit proponent, and a press release announcing his appearance says the issues are indeed related. "The control that the European Union was exercising over the British people and their property and water rights is similar to the controls we are experiencing in rural America today—using the excuse of climate change."

A review of online resources and reports that have popped up over the years highlights that Monckton, besides the climate-change denial, has been a proponent of the birther lie about President Barack Obama and has also, in the past, called for the quarantine of HIV-AIDS patients in internment camps. That's a pretty grim tidbit to read during a week of moving World AIDS Day remembrances—and during a month when hard-right fearmongers have raised the specter of similar camps for American Muslims.

The press release for the event says to contact Sebastopol Eagle Forum member Carol Pascoe to reserve a space for the event. I did so while it was still booked at the schoolhouse and asked Pascoe, while I had her on the phone, about Monckton's embrace of birtherism. She says she "wasn't sure about that one" but has seen "a lot of evidence," including the movie on the subject by Dinesh D'Souza, who is both a conservative and a convicted felon. "It does bring up a lot of questions."

The city official who oversees the rentals says there is one standard for potential renters of city-owned space: "I rent to any group that pays," says Loretta Van Peborgh, an administrative secretary with the city. That would include David Duke or the Ku Klux Klan, if someone wanted to host them in Santa Rosa, she says. "We would have to rent to them" under First Amendment free-speech protections.

Long live the First Amendment, which also protects the free speech and free assembly rights of citizens who might take issue with the assertion that Lord Monckton is, as the press release announcing his imminent arrival says, "a very well informed authority on the fraud of climate change."

The Monckton talk takes place Dec. 7 at the Finley Community Center, Person Senior Wing Auditorium, 2060 West College Ave., Santa Rosa. There's a potluck dinner at 6pm and the program runs from 7pm to 9pm.

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