Conspiracy Fest Names Enemies, Alludes to Civil War
“We’ve gone to war before,” Hamilton’s Trish Roberts told a reporter for Lee Newspapers at the Red Pill Festival. “I don’t fear a civil war, but I feel it’s a very real possibility.”
It wasn’t surprising to hear a Red Pill attendee make such a statement. Instead, it confirmed that Roberts absorbed the messages she heard from the speakers’ podium during the 10-hour conspiracy fest held in St. Regis on Saturday, July 24, 2021. Somewhere between 150-200 people and vendors came to the event, which featured right-wing extremist speakers from Montana, Idaho, and Washington. Attendees came from the same states, with many Montana license plates originating from the Bitterroot and Flathead Valleys.
Red Pill participants heard the COVID pandemic was a hoax, that the federal government is illegitimate, and that various provocateurs (socialists, communists, Democrats, etc.) are destroying the country. While references to civil war were couched as a last resort, it was clear that revolution was on the table. Montana state Rep. Derek Skees (R-Kalispell), acting as the event’s emcee, repeatedly reminded the crowd that speakers weren’t trying to incite violence. His sarcastic delivery, however, brought to mind the Shakespearian quote that Skees and attendees “doth protest too much.” Skees also repeatedly ridiculed specific mainstream media reporters in attendance.
The level of animosity and the “us versus them” mentality built throughout the day. The early speakers discussed how their conservative Christian beliefs called them to public service. By the end of the event, speakers were claiming states could overrule the federal government and replace it with what they view as a God-ordained republic of sovereign states. The speakers combined many tenets of the anti-government movement with Christian Nationalism. It’s no wonder that Trish Roberts and other attendees left with the idea that a war with their perceived enemies in God’s name was imminent.
Despite the extremist nature of the event, Republicans were more than happy to attend. In addition to Skees, the lineup of speakers included Montana state Senators Theresa Manzella (R-Hamilton) and Bob Brown (R-Thompson Falls); Idaho state Rep. Heather Scott (R-Blanchard); and former Montana state Rep. Rick Jore (R-Ronan). Republican groups and central committees from Mineral, Missoula, and Ravalli Counties had booths at the event. The GOP presence and participation demonstrates what MHRN refers to as “margins to the mainstream,” the process by which extremist ideas end up making their way into regular political discourse. Having these elected officials on the program helped legitimize and normalize the fearmongering and conspiracies promoted at the Red Pill Festival.