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Port: Broadcasting hate and extremism, right here in North Dakota

Why have so many of our friends and neighbors become radicalized? Some of the problem is national, sure, but much of it is very, very local, too. More local than you may realize.

PHOTO: November 7 election rally in Bismarck
Minot resident Mark Todd holds a sign at a rally in support of President Donald Trump in Bismarck on Saturday, Nov. 7, 2020.
Kyle Martin / Forum News Service
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MINOT, N.D. — When former U.S. Senate candidate Rick Becker took his now-ended campaign to Tioga in early March, he spent his time whipping a crowd into a frenzy with promises of mass arrests and pursuit of disgraced former President Donald Trump's conspiracy theories about the election.

It was a sound strategy for Becker.

District 2, which encompasses the Tioga area, sent a whopping 92 delegates to the NDGOP's state convention, one of the largest groups of delegates in the state. They stalked around the convention in shirts emblazoned with the slogan "Sons of Liberty." They voted almost unanimously for Becker and his initiatives at the convention.

But let's go back to when Becker visited Tioga. In that fired-up and angry crowd was a man who told Becker that mass arrests in Washington weren't enough.

He called for executions.

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"People need to go to jail," Becker told the audience. "For god's sake, they need to go to jail."

"That isn't going far enough for the host of a conservative talk radio show on Tioga's KTGO," the Tioga Tribune reported at the time . "'The penalty for treason is the death penalty,' interjected Dennis Lindahl, who also serves as Tioga's economic development director," Tribune reporter Jacob Orledge wrote.

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American politics has taken a turn toward the ugly in the Trump era, even here in North Dakota. Many have been left scratching their heads and wondering how so many of their friends, colleagues, and family members became radicalized.

Part of the answer is national.

Media outlets such as Fox News, Newsmax, and others have adopted an exploitative business model which profits from sowing rancor and conspiracy theories.

But part of the answer is local, too.

Lindahl hosts a daily morning talk show on KTGO in Tioga . It reaches both the AM and FM dials. The station itself is part of Fargo-based broadcaster Scott Hennen's Flag Family company which also includes his syndicated show on KFYR in Bismarck, and both AM1100 and WDAY radio, which are based in Fargo.

(Hennen's company operates WDAY in partnership with Forum Communications Co. , which also is my employer.)

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In addition to his daily broadcasts, Lindahl also operates a text message list, sending out messages, often multiple times a day, that range from the amusingly crazy to downright offensive.

I'm not sure how I ended up on his list.

Of late Lindahl has been asking people to pay for a subscription to what he calls his "patriot alerts." On his Patreon page , Lindahl describes himself as "North Dakota's most connected, experienced legislative agent" (whatever that means).

If you fork over as much as $14.95 per month you can also get a mug that says "Exhausted from Being Awesome" and a Patriot Alerts T-shirt.

But let's get back to Mr. Lindahl's content, some screenshots of which I've included below.

In a text message sent this morning, April 8, he promoted the idea that Ukraine had been caught bombing itself.

No, I'm not making that up.

In an April 6 message, Lindahl accused billionaire Elon Musk of supporting Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy despite conspiracy theories about biolabs and a "child trafficking ring."

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In a March 27 message, Lindahl alleged that support for Ukraine was fading after evidence surfaced on social media of a Ukrainian "Nazi" battalion beating and raping Russian women.

On March 24, Lindahl was spouting nonsense about Ukrainian bioweapon labs funded by Hunter Biden and George Soros.

On March 18, it was globalists who are supposedly starting a world war to cover up war crimes.

"Why should I learn Jewish holidays?" Lindahl asked in a March 16 message in which he tied the Jewish celebration of Purim to anti-lynching legislation promoted by Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi.

On March 11, Lindahl was claiming that leaked FBI records proved that the U.S. government had funded a Ukranian neo-Nazi group that, in turn, orchestrated the notorious "Unite the Right" rally in Charlottesville, Virginia .

I could continue — I have months and months of this stuff — but I think you get the point.

(As a point of clarity, these are text messages, but they were sent to a Google Voice phone number I maintain which forwards texts to my email inbox.)

It maybe shouldn't surprise us that Russian propaganda talking points and other demonstrably false commentary is being promoted by a broadcaster on Hennen's network of radio stations. He also broadcasts the Alex Jones show on AM1100 and KTGO and the company that syndicates the "What's on your Mind" show he hosts is the Genesis Communications Network, which also syndicates Jones .

Alex Jones is a notorious conspiracy theorist and hate monger who is currently in the middle of ugly litigation filed by the families of victims of the Sandy Hook mass shooting. An event he has claimed never took place.

Hennen himself promotes pillow impresario Mike Lindell and his various (and utterly debunked) conspiracies about the 2020 election.

Which brings us back to the point of this column.

Why have our politics become so radicalized? Why have so many of our friends and loved ones found themselves estranged from the truth? And beholden to nutty conspiracy theories promoted by rank charlatans?

It starts with people like Lindhal and Hennen who, whether they believe what they're saying or not, promote that garbage for profit.

At some point, we have to stop pretending like this stuff is normal. Or just the overwrought meanderings of low-rent pundits.

This stuff matters. People are buying into it. It's hurting our communities. Our state. Our nation.

Opinion by Rob Port
Rob Port is a news reporter, columnist, and podcast host for the Forum News Service. He has an extensive background in investigations and public records. He has covered political events in North Dakota and the upper Midwest for two decades. Reach him at rport@forumcomm.com. Click here to subscribe to his Plain Talk podcast.
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