For a book that claims to be inspired by Shasta County’s quasi-fascist Red, White and Blueprint movement, there’s very little Red, White and Blueprint content in retired Army Major William J. Ostan’s “The Patriot’s Field Manual: A Citizen’s Guide to Saving America at the Local Level.”
The RWB logo features prominently on the 90-page self-published book’s cover and is interspersed throughout the text. RWB promotes the thinnish tome on its podcast and on Facebook. The group sells the field guide on its Shopify page.
But the only RWB member mentioned by name in the field guide is local grow-store owner Jon Knight, who attended the Jan. 6, 2021 insurrection in Washington, D.C.
Former President Donald Trump is facing multiple felony charges for the failed right-wing coup he allegedly orchestrated on that day.
According to a letter that former JAG officer Ostan wrote to the California Fair Political Practices Commission that’s reproduced in the field guide, Knight alone financed RWB’s 8-episode docuseries that focused on the group’s successful effort to recall former District 2 supervisor Leonard Moty in 2021-2022.
(FPPC communications director Jay Wierenga told me that its investigation into RWB’s financing remains open.)
Other than that, no RWB members are named.
You won’t find RWB co-founder Carlos Zapata threatening to spill blood in the streets over COVID mandates in “The Patriot’s Field Manual.” Likewise, the censure of Supervisors Patrick Jones and Les Baugh for illegally opening the board chambers during the surging pandemic is nowhere to be found in “FM-1776,” as the author sometimes refers to the book. The successful recall of an unnamed county supervisor is mentioned, but the resulting deterioration of county services under Baugh and Jones’ inept authoritarian rule is missing in action.
Instead, in a middle chapter called “The Players,” Ostan offers 22 archetypes “based on multiple in-person and telephonic interviews with the main leaders of Recall Shasta and RWB.” Archetypes include “The Catalyst,” “The Warrior,” “The Engineer” and in an obvious nod to the financier of Shasta County’s right-wing rebellion, Connecticut son-of-a-billionaire Reverge Anselmo, “The Super PAC-man.”
Anselmo has donated more than $1 million to ultraconservative political candidates and political action committees in Shasta County since 2020. It’s doubtful that Moty’s recall would have succeeded without the outsider’s largesse.
“Despite all the intense adversity, the courageous citizens of Shasta County won a great victory, and they should be proud of the stand they took for freedom and personal responsibility,” Ostan concludes the chapter on the players.
There’s a short message from the “Red, White & Blueprint Team” in the fourth appendix:
“Let us tell you a little bit more about our mission here at Red, White and Blueprint,” it begins. “In short, we are you. This team is united with you in one goal: to take back our country, one community at a time. … We love our country. We are patriots. We are you. And we will have our freedom.”
That’s it. That’s all we hear from RWB members in the field guide. That’s because Ostan spends most of the book attempting to recruit political conservatives to the fascist cause of Christian nationalism. The not-so-veiled pitch begins in the prologue, in which Ostan urges readers to buy his field guide because our freedom is at stake.
“Ideological barbarians are beating down the gates of liberty,” Ostan writes. “They seek to destroy everything that Western Civilization has been founded upon. If they win, no quarter will be given. Anarchy will swiftly replace the rule of law. Our children and our children’s children will be forced to live in a totalitarian nightmare.”
Ostan is projecting, and as the current popular critique of right-wing rhetoric would have it, “every projection is a confession.” America’s greatest contribution to Western Civilization is arguably the practice of liberal democracy, including the uniquely American principle of separation of church and state. Ostan is building an argument that challenges that foundational principle and replaces it with obedience to a higher power, namely the God of the Christian Bible.
To do so, Ostan employs many of the tactics listed in Yale University philosophy professor Jason Stanley’s 2018 book, “How Fascism Works: The Politics of Us and Them.” These methods include the use of propaganda and misinformation, dubious claims of victimization, and the creation of a mythical past.
Ostan served 12 years in the Army, completing combat tours in Iraq and Afghanistan and earning two bronze medals. He was forced to retire early due to a service-connected illness he contracted in Afghanistan. He now works with wounded veterans through his Arc of Justice organization. Citing Lincoln’s Gettysburg address, Ostan ends the prologue with an impassioned plea for readers to honor our fallen soldiers by becoming more active in local politics.
“This is why we must, with all the fire, faith, and pathos we can muster in our souls, commit to engage in nonviolent peaceful action on the local level,” he writes.
The field guide is divided into two parts, “Defending America,” in which Ostan makes the case for American exceptionalism and Christian nationalism, and “How To Save America,” which details the aforementioned RWB archetypes and the nuts-and-bolts required to assemble a political campaign.
Before Ostan reveals his Christian nationalist intentions, he voices his displeasure with the current state of affairs in America.
“We all know America has been through a shaking over the past few years,” Ostan writes. “I’m not just referring to the Coronavirus. The outcome of the 2020 national election was a great disappointment. Why? For a variety of reasons, but personally, January 20th, 2021, felt like the death of dreams as an extreme leftist career politician, masquerading as a bridge-building moderate, was officially inaugurated president and occupied the highest place of political order.”
The description of lifelong centrist Democrat President Joe Biden as “an extreme leftist career politician” is typical of Ostan’s misleading characterizations of liberals whom he universally portrays as the enemy preventing patriot heroes from restoring the country to its former exceptional status.
“The culture of the coastal elites, much of the mainstream corporate media, and the other extreme leftist factions will rage against all of the above while orchestrating difficult circumstances,” Ostan writes. “They use intimidation tactics, like those espoused in Saul Alinksy’s ‘Rules for Radicals,’ to make us disengage and stay silent.”
Making references to outside “coastal” or cosmopolitan elites who collude against self-proclaimed patriots from the heartland are shopworn anti-Semitic tropes. So is dropping famed 1960s community activist Alinksy’s name, first pioneered by the likes of hate broadcasters Rush Limbaugh and Bill O’Reilly in the 1990s to attack the Clintons.
Don’t be fooled by Christian nationalist appeals to the made-up term “Judeo-Christian values” or their pledges of allegiance to Israel. Christians follow the Bible; Jews follow the Torah and the Talmud. In the Christian nationalist eschatology, Israeli Jews who don’t convert before the apocalypse perish in the lake of fire, which takes place in the capital city of Jerusalem, perhaps sometime soon.
Despite holding three advanced academic degrees himself, Ostan is highly critical of secular scholars like the writers behind the “1619 Project,” the New York Times’s long-form journalism project that focuses on slavery before, during, and after the American Revolution.
“The purpose-killing pugilistic professors have virulently espoused the false ideology that our nation is completely evil and should be scorned,” Ostan writes in a typically overwrought fashion.
While the “1619 Project” received criticism from all sides, including secular scholars, Ostan prefers the historical whitewash performed by former President Trump’s 1776 Commission, which unsurprisingly found Christianity embedded throughout the foundational documents:
“Above all else, these principals recognize the worth, equality, potential, dignity, and glory of each and every man, woman, and child created in the image of God.”
Ostan is so blinded by American exceptionalism and Christian nationalism, that he appears to believe the struggle for equal rights has succeeded.
“Therefore, the remarkable and truthful narrative is that America is the only country to fight a Civil War, then have a nonviolent Civil Rights movement led by Dr. (Rev.) Martin Luther King Jr. and then have a black man elected president,” he writes. “This is a miracle and incontrovertible evidence of the redemptive arc in America’s storyline!”
Never mind that a dozen countries outlawed slavery before the United States without having a bloody civil war. Forget that Dr. King’s nonviolent movement was met by vicious often state-sponsored violence and ended with King’s assassination. Disregard the election of Barack Obama in 2008 that drove Republican extremists into a racist frenzy that metastasized as the Tea Party movement, which subsequently morphed into fascist Trumpism in 2015.
It gets worse. Ostan believes the civil rights movement has now gone too far:
“Unfortunately, what I see happening in America is this: through our attempts to heal the wounds of the past, we are throwing away the very framework that protects and allows for our ability to move forward in unity. Misguided efforts to right the wrongs of slavery have led to a very damaging ideology—that we must completely tear America apart to rid her of everything in the past, including the Founding principles.”
This is a classic strawman argument that Ostan returns to repeatedly in the field guide. The damaging ideology that’s tearing America’s framework apart is never quite identified, but it’s always there lurking around the corner, eroding our Founding principles to the point that Western Civilization is on the brink of collapse.
Another strawman example: “Sadly, some Americans buy into the leftist ideology that bombards us at every turn, stating that our founding documents are oppressive, discriminatory and outdated,” Ostand writes.
Most leftists I know are disappointed that the United States hasn’t lived up to the promise of its founding documents. They understand democracy’s importance.
Ostan likens America’s struggle for greatness to taking the Army’s land navigation test with a compass and a map. In his view, “Today the course of human events has brought our generation to a critical mass point where we need to re-shoot an azimuth.” In plain language, he’s looking for an escape route.
Ostan finds the way out through misinterpreting the Declaration of Independence, written in 1776, which he incorrectly posits as the primary foundational document of the United States in Chapter 3, “To Be An American.”
“The United States of America’s foundational document is the Declaration of Independence,” he states. “Unfortunately, some modern secular scholars express diffidence toward the Declaration because they are uncomfortable with phraseology like ‘endowed by their creator’ and ‘appealing to the Supreme Judge of the World.’”
In fact, most secular scholars (who may or may not be privately religious) aren’t “uncomfortable” with the religious language in the Declaration of Independence, they simply disagree about its meaning and intent.
That’s for a very good reason. As Freedom From Religion Foundation lead attorney and author Andrew Seidel details in “The Founding Myth: Why Christian Nationalism is Un-American,” the concepts that all men are created equal and capable of governing themselves as stated in the Declaration aren’t in the slavery-condoning Bible, which commands its adherents to render onto Caesar that which is Caesar’s, to obey rulers and masters because all aristocrats are divinely ordained.
“The Declaration of Independence is an anti-Christian document with snippets of religious-sounding language as window dressing,” writes Seidel, who adds that the rhetoric was designed in part to catch the attention of King George III, who believed himself to be God’s emissary on earth. “If Jefferson and the other revolutionaries had been devout Christians, the Declaration would never have been written, and America’s political relationship to the United Kingdom today would resemble Canada’s.”
Nevertheless, Ostan attempts to force the Declaration into a God-shaped box, claiming that the “great experiment in ordered liberty … was directly rooted in the fact that the people who gave consent to be governed did so with the understanding of what it meant to live in a society governed by timeless truths.”
“Ordered liberty” is one of Ostan’s favorite phrases. Loosely defined, it refers to the need to balance individual freedoms with maintaining law and order. It is the approximate standard used to determine what rights can be extended to the states via the 14th Amendment.
Once used to expand rights, the current ultraconservative U.S. Supreme Court uses the concept to eliminate rights that don’t live up to its interpretation of the Founder’s original intent. The phrase ‘ordered liberty’ was used 10 times in the Dobbs decision last summer, which found there was no federal constitutional right to access abortion services in the Constitution or the Bill of Rights.
Ostan never defines ordered liberty in the field guide, but he uses it to falsely imply that the Founders were all men of devout Christian faith who believed the rights to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness were God-given, not created by man.
In fact, Washington, Jefferson, Franklin, Madison, and Monroe were all deists who believed the universe operated by natural laws, and human reason could solve social and political problems.
But that’s not how it works in Ostan’s world.
“Is it not obvious then that our duty as American patriots living in the early epoch of the 21st century is to uphold and defend the idea of our government’s inception?” Ostan writes. “We must remind ourselves from where we’ve come and the foundations upon which we stand, that the documents themselves do not grant us freedom but profoundly recognize that freedom is something granted from a higher power than government, namely God.”
This then is Christian nationalism’s mythical past. As Jason Stanley, author of “How Fascism Works” maintains, the movement has been with us since at least the Founding.
“A moral of this book is that fascism is not a new threat, but rather a permanent temptation,” Stanley writes. “The United States has captured the attention of the world not because of its fascist history, but because of the heroism its residents have exhibited in internal fights against it. From the Civil War to the Civil Rights Movement the United States has fought against white Christian nationalism, no less than Europe has fought against its own ultranationalist movements.”
As the chapter titled “To Be An American” concludes, it’s clear that for Ostan, being an American is synonymous with being a Christian. He encourages readers to transmit the Christian nationalist myth to the next generation:
“Pass them on to your children and boldly fight to preserve the truths on which our nation rests because that is, after all, what it means to be an American!”
Part 2 of the field manual, “How To Save America,” is divided into three sections, “The Problem,” “The Players” and “The Process.”
“The Problem” begins with former President Ronald Reagan’s infamous quote, “The nine most terrifying words in the English language are ‘I’m from the government and I’m here to help.’”
It might seem contradictory for right-wing Republicans running for government office to spew this anti-government nonsense, but it’s not. They’re not running to save local government. They aim to dismantle it.
As it turns out, “the problem” in Ostan’s book is the 260 elected positions up for grabs in Shasta County, ranging from the board of supervisors, various city councils, the district attorney, the schools superintendent, the county clerk and registrar of voters and dozens of school board positions.
There are also scores of positions Ostan labels “Superfluous Other Bureaucracies” or “SOBs.” That’s supposed to be a knee-slapper.
“The bottom line is there are many ways to serve and the need is great for many different types of leaders to serve,” Ostan writes. “Let’s explore the 22 archetypes that contributed to the Shasta County recall, as it will provide a template for your local team.”
By all means, let’s explore those 22 archetypes, but first, let’s take a quick look at the rest of the field manual.
“The Players” chapter is followed by “The Process” chapter, which provides basic information of use to anyone planning to run for office, even atheists. This is, after all, a field guide. Determine who is the lead proponent. Call a meeting for the core group. Find out the requirements. Create necessary documents and a website. Gather support … etc.
In the first appendix, Ostan provides a reading list of 22 authors that includes Dutch Sheets and Stephen McDowell, well-known proponents of Dominion theology and the Seven Mountain Mandate and members of the New Apostolic Reformation. NAR churches include Bethel Church and are horizontally networked worldwide.
Then there’s the book’s last chapter, “Born By Providence.”
I had to chuckle a little bit when I began reading the chapter, because Ostan, who spends most of the book proselytizing, apparently believes he’s kept it under wraps so far.
“I saved the best for last,” he writes. “There are many reasons for this, but the main one is that the intended audience is concerned citizens who are conservative since they believe in conserving the philosophical foundations of America. … These citizens may be people of faith, or they may be not. I did not want to turn people off at the beginning of the book who do not share presuppositional beliefs based on the Judeo-Christian ethic.”
Next comes the biggest revelation in the entire book. Ostan apparently convinced the members of Red, White and Blueprint to drink the Christian nationalist Kool-Aid.
“It was the Founders themselves who gave credence to appealing to the God of Providence through the power of prayer,” Ostan writes. “The leaders of Recall Shasta and Red White & Blueprint agreed with this and asked me to highlight calling on the God of the Bible for help in time of need. They, like the founding generation, claim that it was the key to victory.”
I reviewed all eight episodes of the Red, White and Blueprint docuseries, and can safely say religion, Christianity, or otherwise, played a minor role, if any, in the production. The No. 1 problem with the docuseries was its lack of competent writers. The series peaked on the fifth episode, in which supervisor Patrick Jones, Shasta County’s most prolific prevaricator, took a lie detector test to prove he was telling the truth.
When it comes to Ostan’s 22 archetypes, the most important, “The Super-PAC-man,” AKA Connecticut multimillionaire Reverge Anselmo, comes in at 16th on the list. A decade ago, Anselmo, an ultraconservative Catholic, built a chapel without building permits on land he formerly owned near Shingletown, setting off a feud with the county that continues to this day. He has never responded to A News Café’s inquiries.
First on Ostan’s list of archetypes is “The Catalyst.” “When the catalyst speaks or writes citizens not only listen, but they are also motivated and inspired to act,” Ostan writes. That sounds a lot like State of Jefferson swagmaster Terry Rapoza whose “Recall! Recall! Recall!” pronouncement in the board chambers back in 2021 was the bellow heard ‘round the world.
Rapoza is now boasting in public speeches that he’s the man “who broke the back of the Shasta County government and removed the machines.” If Rapoza is religious, he doesn’t make a big show of it.
“The Creator” and “The Reverend” are 11th and 12th on the archetype list, and both terms together describe Red, White and Blueprint co-founder Jeremy Edwardson.
Edwardson, a successful Christian musician and producer with close ties to Bethel Church, has said he worked closely with Ostan on the field manual. He’s not credited by name for the work in the book.
Many of the archetypes overlap. “The Warrior,” No. 2 on the list, and “The Sage,” No. 9, could refer to Red, White and Blueprint co-founder Carlos Zapata.
The local businessman, jujitsu coach, and retired Marine went viral on social media back in 2020 when he called for blood in the streets if COVID mandates weren’t repealed, and he hasn’t looked back since.
“When government bureaucrats foolishly attempt to intimidate the Warrior, it backfires like waving a red flag in front of an angry bull,” Ostan writes. Yet it was a local comedian’s satirical video about Zapata that wound up triggering the veteran.
Although Zapata is perhaps best known for his mercurial temper, he often plays the voice of reason on RWB podcasts. He admits he’s not a practicing Christian. He knows the Founders were Deists. He claims to at least partially support the LGBTQ community and have gay friends, which in his milieu is almost always a total buzz-killer.
A News Café has covered the Red, White and Blueprint movement since its inception. I asked my journalist colleague Chico State history professor Shawn Schwaller if he recalled Red, White and Blueprint expressing itself as a Christian nationalist movement. At first, Schwaller said no, but then he recalled a speech Zapata made at Riverfront Park in 2022. Here’s Carlos Zapata speaking:
“When you start looking at the genesis of the Red, White and Blueprint, you have to believe that there was some divine appointment. Because none of this would have happened without a higher being. Whether it be God, Allah, whoever, it doesn’t matter. There’s some divine appointment to what’s going on here. And it’s absolutely evident in every single part, in every single episode that we’ve documented.”
That may sound surprising coming from Zapata, but it’s certainly not the full-throated Christian nationalism espoused by Ostan. Zapata appears to still support religious pluralism and the separation of church and state in the United States, although it’s possible he’s changed his mind since last year.
Unfortunately, Ostan is not an outlier. We’re going to be hearing a lot about Christian nationalism as the 2024 election approaches. Books such as “The Patriot’s Field Guide” will be in vogue. Right-wing evangelicals are lining up behind the man they believe to be anointed by God despite the fact Trump is facing four separate criminal trials with a total of 91 felony charges.
What could go wrong?
As I recently reported, the promotional materials for a right-wing religious fundraising event in southern California headlined by Bethel Church senior leader Bill Johnson claimed the coming campaign season “isn’t a political battle, it’s a war against pure evil.”
Our first Catholic president, John Fitzgerald Kennedy, famously said, “I believe in an America where the separation of church and state is absolute—where no Catholic prelate would tell the President (should he be Catholic) how to act, and no Protestant minister would tell his parishioners for whom to vote—where no church or church school is granted any public funds or political preference—and where no man is denied public office merely because his religion differs from the President who might appoint him or the people who might elect him.”
That’s the concept of separation of church and state most of us grew up with. If Christian nationalists have their way, it will be banished to history’s dustbin.