It’s not easy to get past the above opening scene in Episode 6 of the Red, White & Blueprint’s docuseries, released this past Saturday.
The ambitious overhead shot of the city of Redding encrusted with what feels like three decades’ worth of wildfire smoke is a fantastic bit of cinematography, but it’s preceded by a scene of RW&B co-producer Carlos Zapata putting on his fighting face at Kelly’s Martial Arts in Cottonwood that’s a little bit disconcerting.
It’s not clear why these candid shots of Zapata and self-proclaimed Cottonwood militia leader Woody Clendenen conducting their morning Jiu jitsu routine are included here, at the very beginning of Episode 6, which is titled “Resisting Tyranny.”
The so-called “docuseries” is in reality a long-form political campaign advertisement dedicated to recalling three Shasta County supervisors, Joe Chimenti, Leonard Moty and Mary Rickert.
RW&B, along with Recall Shasta and the Shasta County General Purpose Committee, are currently being investigated by the California Fair Political Practices Commission for illegal campaign practices.
The effort to recall three supervisors is now down to one, Moty, since we learned last week that the recallers have failed to collect enough signatures to trigger a recall of Chimenti and Rickert.
Recall Shasta turned in 6000 signatures to recall Moty last week, 1700 more than the 4300 votes required. Shasta County registrar of voters Cathy Darling Allen will oversee the counting and validating of the signatures during the next month.
On average, about 25 percent of local recall signatures are determined to be invalid. Our recallers have been anything but “average” in their efforts to sign up people, so it’s bound to be a close count once those shenanigans are factored in.
But what’s all that have to do with Zapata’s jiu-jitsu stunt? Zapata lives in District 3, Rickert’s district, and now there’s zero chance he’ll be taking on Rickert in a recall election next year. Is this how he deals with personal failure?
Is this his way of saying he’s done talking? It’s time to fight?
Is he going to fade into the sunset as the honored father, business owner, jiu-jitsu master and Marine major?
Or is Zapata simply signaling that he’s disappointed that the recallers’ shock troops failed to gain enough signatures to recall all three supervisors? The way the film cuts quickly from the gym to a downtown Redding dilapidated by wildfire smoke, it’s as if Godzilla had just raked his atomic heat beam across the city!
Could it be that Zapata, upset that Recall Shasta and the Shasta County General Purpose Committee failed to muster enough signatures to recall all three supervisors, ordered his minions back into these smoke-filled streets, because our “medical freedom” is at stake?
What exactly is “medical freedom,” besides the latest star the recallers have attempted to hitch to their increasingly wobbly-wheeled wagon? Well, if the above screen grab from Episode 6 is any indication, it means no precautions for cancer-causing wildfire smoke will be taken, for starters.Pandemic issues?
Not really. In medical freedom land, no one has to wear a mask or get vaccinated, practice social distancing or personal hygiene or do anything that might help their fellow citizens out with … anything at all, really! Especially if they’re health care workers.
In the middle of the deadliest COVID-19 surge to hit Shasta County so far, District 4 Shasta County Supervisor Patrick Jones marches happily along in the smoke with his happy gang of sycophants. To Jones, this all must smell like … victory.
But supervisor Jones didn’t accomplish all of this on his little lonesome. No siree. He sought out the most acknowledged epidemiological experts on infectious diseases he could find, particularly rigorous scientists accustomed to rural areas where vaccine uptake is reduced by local customs and religious superstition … wait a minute.
That never happened.
Supervisor Jones neither searched for nor hired any such pandemic experts. Instead, this person, lacking any pertinent skills for the position whatsoever, got the job:
Wife, mother, and minor-skin irritant Elissa McEuen is the face of the Shasta County recall movement. Every time A News Café wrote, “Well, Carlos and Woody and those Cottonwood boys are pretty frightening, flapping those flags and rolling that coal and punching that African-American comedian,” the recall movement trotted out McEuen, as if her bird-like daintiness somehow transcended Zapata’s calls for blood in the streets anytime anyone dared to criticize him or his tribe.After spending the past year marching through Shasta County Districts 1, 2 and 3 and getting in the face of every person who would let her within biting range, McEuen wants you to know she thinks all of you are garbage.
Imagine greeting this shameless scold at your front door—and allowing her inside!
As McEuen gazes into the camera, a furtive bass line in synch with her supposed neurosis interrupts the until now ever-present cellos in the docuseries’ soundtrack.
“We go to these peoples’ homes and they have the American flag in their yard and they have all this signage,” she snarks, recalling her horrifying recall experiences. “Knock! Knock! Knock! They open it. ‘Hi, we’re from Recall Shasta, have you heard about what we’re doing?’ ”
“Oh, yeah, well, I don’t do politics,” says the pretend laggard answering the door.
Pregnant pause, and by pregnant, I mean blue whales feeding on krill pregnant.
“You’re telling me you don’t have time for politics, or worse, you don’t do politics?” McEuen grates, unaware that her head has detached from her body and is now vigorously spinning in circles. “Until we decide as a society that politics isn’t a bad word or a dirty word or we don’t talk politics at the dinner table WELL WHY NOT!!?”
The spinning ceases.
“If I’ve learned anything, it’s that apathy is gonna kill us,” she weeps. “That will be the end of the great experiment.”
But wait: What if the recall movement could be as dedicated as, say, members of the Christian religion?
“If you’re a Christian, you go to church,” she says, apparently unsure if she attends services herself. “Probably once a week, right? You’re willing to give up about two hours a week every week, to go to church to be engaged in that community.”
So, if two hours is enough to maintain your church, reasons McEuen, who seems to have no understanding of the First Amendment’s separation of religious institutions from state, then surely it’s enough to maintain the government?
Keep in mind, she’s speaking to you, the stranger at the door she’s trying to convince to let her in.
“That’s what’s expected and required to maintain your government,” she affirms. If you can’t put your lousy two hours in, “You get the government you deserve. We deserve a garbage government.”
Because you are literally garbage, see?
“If the recall succeeds, that is not a guarantee we will have good government,” says McEuen, switching tacks. (No kidding! You just insinuated your would-be supporters are refuse; of course you’re going to end up with a trash government.)
It’s astonishing that McEuen has made it this far on so little. Check out her spiel on how “hero worship” is destroying … well, something:
“We have this Hollywood vision if we could just get the right president in office, if we could get the right supervisor in office, if we could just replace our governor that would save our … country?” she asks, again uncertain of her bearings. “Save our state. Save our community. It’s this hero complex we have. If we could just replace that one key position. I’m not saying’ it’s not important, but that will not save America.”
Well, by golly, Elissa, tell us what will save America?
“It will be somebody standing up and doing the right thing and continuing to do it, week after week, the rest of their lives.”
Um, you mean, someone like … a hero?
This goes hand in hand with her notion that toothless measures, such as the Shasta County Board of Supervisors officially supporting or not supporting state and federal vaccine mandates, somehow have real power.
Such stunts are valuable for right-wing toadies such as Shasta County District 5 Supervisor Les Baugh and Jones, who regularly rely on the ignorance they foster within their own political base as a springboard to local office.
We deserve a garbage government because we don’t love Elissa McEuen’s dumb ideas.
In a sane country, District 4 Supervisor Patrick Jones’s offer to take a polygraph test to prove he’s the one telling the truth about a secret closed Redding City Council meeting in September 2007 would be taken for what it is: A cry for help from a man who apparently has become unmoored from reality.In order for Jones’s fantastical claim to be true, that then-Redding Police Chief Moty was fired by a secret 5-0 city council vote in September 2007, Moty, former City Manager Ken Starman, and three surviving city councilmembers would have to be lying when they claim no such secret meeting ever took place.
The subsequent paperwork and files that would have been generated and recorded by such a meeting do not exist.
Jones insists that the other people present during this fictitious meeting are the liars. They should take a polygraph to determine if they’re telling the truth. Jones is flat-out wrong. The burden of truth is crushingly upon Jones, who cooked up the alternative facts in the first place.
Eye-witness testimony, such as that provided by the five other people who would have been present at the alleged secret meeting, is admissible in a jury trial. Polygraph examinations are not.
Nevertheless, as predicted, Jones’s dog-and-polygraph show provided much-needed content for a docuseries that’s been having trouble filling its allotted one-hour episodes.
In the episode, Jones never repeats the legal defamation that he’s been accused of by Moty. That bit of heavy lifting is left to venerable KRCR Channel 7 News host Mike Mangas, who did a feature on Jones’s polygraph stunt.
Bits of the feature are cleverly cut and woven into the episode’s matrix to make it appear as if Jones is telling the story, not Mangas:
“Jones [is] accusing Moty and Starman for conspiring to spike his pay,” … it also says the city council unanimously voted during a closed session to fire Moty as police chief. Jones is adamant the meeting happened and is going to great lengths to prove it, including hiring a polygraph expert.”
As I’ve already pointed out, polygraph examinations are not accepted evidence in criminal and civil court cases tried by juries, such as the defamation case Moty has filed against the producers of RW&B. Mangas shouldn’t have said “Jones has gone to great lengths” just because he hired his own lie detector.
RW&B has so far not responded to Moty’s defamation allegations.
To be fair, Mangas’s original story on TV and the internet featured the Moty’s camp detailed refutation of all of Jones’s claims. The RW&B producers are not similarly burdened by truth and objectivity and chose not to include Moty’s refutations in Episode 6.
After Mangas’s intro, the episode then cuts to Jones, who is talking to Mangas in the RW&B studios after he’s already taken the lie-detector test.
“I know exactly what happened, the meeting was quite clear,” Jones says to Mangas. “And I didn’t have any issues of repeating exactly what occurred.”
Of course he didn’t. He made it up! Yet strangely enough, no instance of Jones repeating exactly what he originally said in Episode 5 is presented in Episode 6.
The polygraph examiner, hired by Jones, asks the supervisor to “sit real still for me, no deep breaths, no body movement.”
Jones is actually pretty good at feigning this semi-conscious state. The polygraph examiner is setting a baseline for Jones’s vital signs, which are displayed on the computer sitting in front of the examiner.
“Do you sometimes drink water?” the examiner asks.
“Yes,” Jones says, almost liquidly.
“Are the lights on in this room?”
“Yes.” Something restless appears to stir inside Jones’s slumbering mind.
“Do you intend to answer the questions concerning the closed chambers meeting in September 2007 truthfully?”
“Yes.” Gun-shop employee Jones is a little quick on the draw here, considering no record of this alleged closed meeting exists and five people who would have been at the meeting say it never occurred.
“Are you being deceptive about a closed chamber meeting which occurred in September 2007 where it was decided to terminate chief Moty?”
Jones closes his eyes, as if he was forced to think about the question, which was asked in reverse. The polygraph examiner has already established the meeting took place and that Moty was fired. All Jones has to do is answer if he’s being deceptive about the story, a tale he made up out of whole cloth and has told himself hundreds of times before this test.
“No,” he says.
We’re on RB&W studio time here. As the test continues, a scratchy imitation of the ambient noise soundtrack from Errol Morris’s “Thin Blue Line” documentary ratchets up the intensity. Presumably, this music was not played during the actual test. The effect is to make it sound like Jones is being grilled, even though lies come to him as easily as breathing.
“Are you being deceptive that a five-to-zero vote in favor of terminating Chief Moty never occurred?”
“No,” Jones answers. Not once has the polygraph examiner showed the viewing audience Jones’s responses as recorded by the computer. Does the machine say Jones is lying? Is he telling the truth? We don’t know because we’re never showed that information.
“Are you being deceptive about the questions Starman asked for Moty’s retention of one year employment and 20 percent pay increase?”
“No,” Jones says. He’s lying. There would be a financial paper trail if this had occurred. Plus, why would Moty need one year of employment and a 20-percent pay increase if the city council had just allegedly voted five-to-zero to fire him?
“Where you alone in this closed session meeting?” the examiner asks.
“No,” Jones said. Jones better come up with the names of the people who were in attendance pronto, because everyone who should have been in the alleged secret meeting says it never happened.
“You did good Patrick,” the examiner says. “You passed.”
Jones scrunches up his nose and sneers something inaudible. It doesn’t add any veracity to his secret meeting conspiracy theory, which as I’ve stated dozens of times by now, is completely false.
Confronted with the episode’s plunging heart rate after Jones’s boring polygraph stunt, RW&B director Jeremy Edwardson once again turns to Mike Mangas, who adds a little gravitas to the hysterical claim that we’re in a “healthcare crisis” caused by “vaccine mandates” for healthcare workers.Mangas, it should be noted, worked a short stint as communications director for Dignity Health several years ago until coming to his senses and returning to journalism.
The demonstration scenes presented at the beginning of Episode 6 were apparently shot at Mercy Medical Center in midsummer; this time the protestors begin their hike through choking smoke to the board of supervisors’ chambers from Shasta Regional Medical Center.
Over images of protestors taking to the Redding city streets, Edwardson overlays a neo-spaghetti western score to give the affair a rustic yet modern feel. These are your friends and neighbors, taking to the streets with signs like this:
Obviously, the person holding the sign is not a veteran of a foreign conflict or is at least an extremely forgetful veteran of a foreign conflict, because U.S. service men and women are mandated to take up to 17 different vaccines before going overseas.
That’s the kind of non-existent fact-checking we’ve come to expect from RW&B.
A recent speech by President Joe Biden is woven into the neospegwestern mix. Biden says a “distinct minority” is preventing the United States from “turning the corner” on COVID-19. A ham-fisted scene featuring protestors blocking traffic from rounding a corner fills the screen.
A distinct minority wants to stop the United States from turning the corner on this infectious disease that has killed almost 700,000 Americans. A million deaths won’t be enough to stop this distinct minority. The members of this distinct minority, who sanction the unnecessary deaths of innumerable human beings, are presented as heroes in Episode 6.
The second the viewer wonders who the leader of this anti-mask, anti-vax fascist death cult might be, this guy pops out of a vehicle and gives a protestor a hug.
Carlos Zapata is the co-producer of RW&B, and as such, I presume he has control of its content. His short appearance here is no accident. Like his donning of the traditional Brazilian gi at the episode’s beginning, it’s designed to convey a message.I believe Zapata is saying goodbye.
Goodbye, at least, to all of the hassles that have come with the instantaneous celebrity Zapata received after his violent rant at the Shasta County Board of Supervisors meeting in August, 2020 went viral.
Those hassles include his alleged disturbance of the peace and battery charges upon Nathan Pinkney, the comedian who dared to poke fun at the angry bear, upon which a jury will soon render its verdict.
Other hassles include being the figurehead of a surprisingly diverse group comprised of Shasta County’s finest fringe elements, from Woody Clendenen’s rebel-flag waving Cottonwood militia to the Christian white nationalist fever dream of Terry and Sally Rapoza’s State of Jefferson, to the scores of right-wing evangelicals connected to Bethel, The Stirring and other local churches who dabble in the recall movement.
I believe Zapata has had enough of all that. But in order to give up the throne, he needed to find a worthy successor, someone filled to the brim with the same rage and resentment Zapata unleashed last summer, someone with toxic levels of testosterone and charisma capable of re-igniting the movement.
It’s quite possible that from out of the angry mob, he’s found his man.
On film, Josh Watkins exhibits a menacing aura you might not expect from a perfusionist, that is, a person who operates the heart, lung and bypass machine during open-heart surgeries. Then again, Watkins has been under a lot of pressure lately, in an occupation that already comes with a heavy quotient of strain; he says he is just one of two local perfusionists serving four area hospitals.
The fact that he is refusing to get vaccinated as mandated for healthcare workers by the federal and state government has only heightened his tension.
Watkins makes his appearance in Episode 6 after President Biden offers the following sound advice: Getting vaccinated is not about freedom or personal choice — as a distinct minority of politicians claim to placate the distinct minority of their constituents — it’s about protecting yourself and those around you.
Uh-oh. Somebody within hearing distance of Shasta County said, “It’s not about freedom.”
The scene flashes to an upside-down American flag hanging from a window; the universal signal for a nation in distress. Blue lights flicker in the corner where the stars are, audio from an unseen police stop is heard.
“I was fired for refusing to have unvaccinated people to wear masks when vaccinated people didn’t have to,” says an unidentified masked protestor. “How far down the tyrannical road are we willing to go?”
Apparently, this is where the title of Episode 6, “Resist Tyranny” originated.
Watkins objects to being vaccinated for COVID-19 “because we don’t have the data yet.” He then claims with no source that 30 percent to 45 percent of healthcare workers are refusing to be vaccinated.
It’s possible that the rate of unvaccinated healthcare workers in Shasta County was 45 percent before the state mandate went into effect. As this article from NPR, “In the Fight Against COVID, Healthcare Workers Aren’t Immune to Vaccine Information,” notes:
“The attitudes of health care workers toward the COVID-19 vaccine essentially mirror the rest of the country — with those living in rural areas, are Republican and have less education and income more likely to be vaccine-resistant.”
But now that the mandate is in effect, it appears to be working. The Sacramento Bee reports, “In the Sacramento area, major health care systems now are reporting vaccination rates of more than 90% among employees.”
Watkins hints that he might be in alignment with various other conspiracy theorists when he claims vaccine mandates will soon lead to government control of energy resources, grocery stores and hardware stores, “the things we need to make life work.”
Watkins claims that most healthcare workers just want a choice: get the jab or take two tests a week.
But Watkins makes it clear when describing the impossible logistics of scheduling COVID tests for the four hospitals he works at every week that testing isn’t an option for him. He’s applied for an exemption, apparently based on the notion that we don’t have the data yet.
“This is where we draw the line,” Watkins says.
Clad in an RW&B swag and a backwards ball cap, Watkins stalks the scenery, dragging his young daughter along to smoke-filled protests and freeway banner drops. There’s even a squeamish scene as his daughter offers to speak to the protestors gathered, illegally, in the BOS chambers.
“I don’t know a lot about what’s going on, but I know we need to fight for our right,” she says.
From out of the mouth of babes the truth sometimes spills out.
Episode 6 ends with an established Edwardsonian gimmick, the cliff-hanger phone message to the director. In this case, Watkins informs Edwardson that his application for an exemption from the COVID-19 vaccination has been denied.
We’re left to wonder how far down the tyrannical road Watkins is willing to go. Is this where he draws the line?
Rest assured, that’s exactly what Edwardson is implying here. That alone is disturbing enough. What if the pressure of appearing in a quasi-fascist broadcast is the thing that finally pushes Watkins over the edge? Will the RW&B cameras be there to catch the carnage?
Our only consolation is that this may be the last episode of RW&B ever made. Zapata is hinting that he wants to go, and without him they’ve got nothing.
Cross your fingers.