Conservative WHO Radio host Simon Conway thought he had a big scoop today, “exposing” Iowa Democratic activists’ conversations in a private Facebook group about a Confederate monument in the state. His attempt to demonize Iowa citizens quickly backfired.
Calling it a “MUST READ,” Conway posted a story on WHO Radio’s website that predicted that liberal activists were about to cause trouble, calling up visions for his rightwing audience of violent vandals.
“It looks like some people want to bring trouble to Iowa,” Conway wrote. “We have very little in the form of Confederate monuments, but the one put up in 2007 in Betonsport now has a target on it.”
But the images that he shared from the Indivisible Iowa Facebook group simply showed activists discussing ideas on how to petition their local government to replace the monument (Indivisible is not aligned with a party, though the vast majority of them are progressives). No violence or vandalism at any point was discussed. In one of the first images posted, an activist says, “I’m working on a plan to get the one in Bentonsport taken down. I think if we pressure the city council in appropriate ways, and give them an alternative they can put up, they will want to do that.”
The “monument,” if you can even call it that (it’s just a plaque on a big rock in town), in Bentonsport (Van Buren County in Southern Iowa) is a bit peculiar. It honors Sul Ross, a Confederate general who was born in the town, but only lived there for one year of his life before his family moved to Texas. You can view it on this website. And actually, if Bentonsport wanted to honor Ross, they could focus instead on his key role in saving Texas A&M University early on in its existence, which seems like a nice achievement devoid of controversy. The plaque instead mostly talks about his role in the Confederate Army.
(There is one other monument that some websites label “Confederate” near Bloomfield. However, that one is basically just a historical marker that shows a skirmish from Confederate soldiers – it doesn’t really honor anyone.)
The activists discuss how they could approach the city council to instead honor the town’s role in the Underground Railroad, and they emphasize the need to proceed carefully. All of that sounds like a responsible and appropriate way for citizens to work with their local governments to choose how a town promotes its history.
Conway’s other problem is with a quote from another activist who says, “Also, please prepare yourself to potentially be called in for Charlottesville level backup here. The National alliance is here in full force.”
To Conway, this must sound like some kind of scary, violent “antifa” talk to go cause chaos in a city. But again, given the screenshot that Conway himself posts in the article, the context shows a much different scene.
“I need your help,” writes a different activist. “Nazis are literally descending on Davenport (no rally-YET-but actively handing out literature in Davenport and also LeClaire now).”
There is increasing concern in Eastern Iowa that the KKK and racist groups are disseminating racist fliers and attempting to recruit people to their cause. The worry is that Neo-Nazi groups will descend upon Davenport. Local activists simply want to be prepared to protest them. Again, at no point in any of these posts does anyone suggest violence or illegal actions. They simply want to show up with signs to show opposition to Nazis. In Conway’s eyes, that’s bad for some reason.
Conway also points to a post where someone shares a story that asks people to consider their racial biases. This is also controversial in Conway’s opinion for some reason.
So obviously it’s odd enough that the conservative radio host decided to make a big deal about left-leaning activists talking in rather benign ways about potential activism opportunities. But the most hypocritical part came when Conway shared the story on his own Facebook feed, which quickly gathered hateful and violent comments.
One man suggested using guns to get rid of “left-wing trash.” To his credit, Conway quickly called him out for it, and the man deleted it. Many other commentators called Democrats “retarded” and questioned their mental sanity. It appeared that few actually read the article, as most denounced so-called violent anti-Nazi protesters.
It shouldn’t come as any surprise, of course. Conway compared the KKK and Nazi organizations to Black Lives Matter in an earlier show this week. The silliness of it all is that what Conway highlighted in the Facebook posts he chose to share actually shot down the idea that people upset with Nazis were violent radicals. But that’s what he – and his listeners – wanted to believe.
At least he got some Facebook likes out of it.
by Pat Rynard
Photo a screenshot of Conway’s article