Mosquito Board Appointment Another Example of Shasta County’s Far-Right Preference for Subpar Selections

News of the appointment of Jon Knight — right-wing extremist, QAnon conspiracy theorist, and Jan. 6 U.S. Capitol attack attendee — to the Shasta County Mosquito and Vector Control board by the Shasta County Board of Supervisors went viral in the national news media. Since first being reported by A News Café, it’s been picked up by news outlets across the country.

However, Knight’s history of radical activity in Shasta County is the missing piece in outside stories about Knight being appointed to the mosquito board.

Knight is one of the leaders and founders of Mountaintop Media, a media production company based in downtown Redding that produces a slate of right-wing podcasts.

One of the podcasts, “Patriot State of Mind,” is hosted by Knight, along with Cottonwood militia members Carlos Zapata and Woody Clendenen, the latter of whom founded the Cottonwood Militia after Barack Obama was elected as president.

Knight and Zapata are also co-owners of Red, White and Blueprint, a right-wing propaganda media company. RWB published an 8-episode docuseries in 2021 and 2022 that included misinformation that provided a base for the far-right takeover of Shasta County.

As reported by R.V. Scheide of A News Café, records show that Knight allegedly financed RWB’s docuseries by himself. RWB also sells right-wing-themed clothing and other merchandise.

Advertisement for Red, White and Blueprint. The picture on the left features Jon Knight in a black T-shirt with a yellow RWB logo.

In addition to his far-right activism, Knight owns an indoor garden and hydroponic supply store in Redding. Some people have speculated whether Knight has ties to Shasta County’s illegal cannabis industry. While speaking during the Sept. 26 Shasta County Board of Supervisor’s public comment period, Knight acknowledged that it is likely that he sells products customers who illegally grow cannabis, but he has no way of knowing which operations are legal and which are not.

Speaking of cannabis, Zapata, Knight’s friend and business partner, divided his Palomino Room bar and restaurant establishment in downtown Red Bluff in half with business partners to create a separate commercial space to rent to a cannabis store.

Conjoined Red Bluff twin businesses: Sundial Collective and Palomino Room Bar & Grill

Knight appointed to mosquito board

During the Sept. 26 Shasta County Board of Supervisor meeting, the far-right board majority appointed Knight to the mosquito board by a 3-2 vote. District 1 Supervisor Kevin Crye, District 4 Supervisor Patrick Jones, and District 5 Supervisor Chris Kelstrom all voted in favor of placing Knight on the mosquito board. District 2 Supervisor Tim Garman and District 3 Supervisor Mary Rickert — Republicans, as are the rest of the supervisors — voted no.

When the board majority chose Knight, those supervisors rejected applicant Donnell Ewert, a retired epidemiologist who previously served as the Director of Shasta County Public Health and the Director of Shasta County Health and Human Services. Ewert has master’s degree in public health and a bachelor’s degree in biology.

Knight waves the State of Jefferson secessionist flag as a smiling District 5 Shasta County Supervisor Chris Kelstrom looks on.

During that same Sept. 26 board of supervisors public comment period, Knight shared his thoughts about mosquitos, pesticides, and explained why he was qualified for the position.

Knight said he knew a lot about pesticides and the environment because he’s sold pesticides for 18 years. Knight also said that despite not having done a “deep dove” into mosquito research, he knew a “lot of stuff” about them.

During his comments, Knight spoke of “Bill Gates’ programs,” and claimed that Japanese scientists have created mosquitos that act as “flying syringes” to “mass vaccinate the population.”

Several speakers expressed alarm that Knight was selected over an epidemiologist to serve on a board tasked with keeping the public safe from mosquito-borne illnesses.

District 3 Supervisor Mary Rickert, one of the two supervisors who voted against Knight’s appointment to the mosquito board, said that putting Knight on the mosquito board made the county look like idiots.

Jon Knight speaks during the Sept. 26 Shasta County Board of Supervisor meeting.

As first reported by A News Café, Knight’s comments about selling pesticides spurred an investigation led by then-Shasta County agricultural commissioner Rick Gurrola. It was determined that Knight was selling five or six products he was not licensed to sell at his Redding store. The products were subsequently pulled from the shelves.

Following A News Café’s story about Knight, the Los Angeles TimesThe Daily Beast, and The Guardian also picked up the story.

A history of extremist commentary

Knight became more outspokenly radical during the pandemic. He was stridently against the COVID-19 vaccine and Covid safety mandates. His Facebook page contains anti-vaccination messaging.

During the pandemic, Knight explained during a podcast that the reason Americans were not being dragged out of their homes by government officials and forced to take the COVID-19 vaccine was because, “we have guns”.

‘When you don’t have a lot of horsepower upstairs’

In January of 2021, just days after he attended the attack on the U.S. Capitol, Knight said on social media that he wanted to make T-shirts honoring Ashley Babbitt, the San Diego resident killed by a Capitol Police Officer while breaking into a portion of the building during the attack, “just like the BLM did with George Floyd.”

Top: Jon Knight with another attendee at the “Stop the Steal” rally in Washington D.C. Bottom: Pictures Knight took of other attendees at the event.

Knight looking on as the Jan. 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol takes place as spotted in photographs shared by national news networks.

In a podcast dedicated to the 20th anniversary of the September 11 attacks, Knight tried to explain how Americans had lost freedoms since 2001.

In response to Knight’s comment, “This is exactly why these folks feel the need to resort to violence,” a commenter on Thought You Should Know Shasta County — a Facebook group page that tracks North State radical activity — observed, “Communication tends to break down pretty quickly when you don’t have a lot of horsepower upstairs.”

Election denier

Knight is also renowned as an election denier. In June of 2022, Knight was part of a group that entered through the Shasta County Elections Office backdoor in Redding on Election Night and peppered Cathy Darling Allen, Registrar of Voters, with questions and accusations.

Jon Knight, right, was among a group of citizens who entered through the back door of the Shasta County Registrar’s office on Election Day to confront Cathy Darling Allen, Shasta County Registrar of Voters, and her staff. Photo by Doni Chamberlain

Knight did not dispute his involvement in the Election Night harassment of Darling Allen and her staff. In fact, Knight boasted during a board of supervisors public comment period that he “bullied” his way into the County Clerk & Registrar of Voters building.

In a January 2022 podcast, Knight insisted the U.S. government was going to require Americans to be tested for Covid with anal swabs. Zapata, who was sitting across the table from Knight in the podcast, told Knight he believed him as he laughed. “What can you pull out of my ass that you can’t pull out of my mouth?” asked Zapata.

“They say it’s more accurate,” said Knight regarding anal swab testing for COVID. “You put one leg up on the toilet … they got instructions,” said Knight.

Knight’s FEMA emergency alert warning

In a video Knight recorded of himself and shared on Mountaintop Media’s Facebook page on Oct. 3, Knight warned viewers about the FEMA Wireless Emergency alert scheduled to take place on Oct. 4.

Knight said his Oct. 3 video was an “add-on” to a longer video he shared of himself on the Mountaintop Media Facebook page the previous day in which he warned that the alert could possibly transmit viruses to people in Shasta County and elsewhere.

Both videos of Knight speaking about the alert have been removed from all Mountaintop Media platforms, including Facebook. A News Café contacted Mountaintop Media and asked why the two videos of Knight speaking about the FEMA emergency alert were removed from Facebook and their website but did received no response.

Screenshots from Jon Knight’s since deleted Oct. 3 video regarding the FEMA alert.

A News Café obtained a copy of Knight’s video and saved it before it was removed.

In the video, Knight encouraged viewers to not worry that a virus, specifically the Marburg virus, that Knight claimed causes hemorrhagic fevers, would be transmitted to humans during the Oct. 4 FEMA alert.

“That’s not going to happen, and I don’t want anyone to panic,” said Knight. He encouraged viewers to not worry that the next pandemic would be started by a government alert.

“They can zap you through your houses”

After Knight said the government was not going to release a deadly virus with the FEMA alert, he continued. “They don’t have to take control of your phones or your computers and use those as antennas to activate the 5G technology,” said Knight, because they “can zap you through your house.”

Knight then doubled down with a convoluted, conspiracy-theory-laced statement.

“I mean, there’s hundreds just here where I’m at right now…there’s over 300 towers within three miles of any direction, um … so they can pretty much go through any wall, um … there is, I mean, if you had really thick lead shielding or something that would be the exception, but the reality is if they wanted to start something ah …with the 5G…um, that they very well don’t need to do it coinciding with this emergency broadcast that’s gonna happen tomorrow.”

In short, Knight’s position was that if the government was going to unleash a deadly virus on the population, it would not do so in such an obvious fashion during a high-profile emergency alert. The paranoia that 5G technology has been used to spread viruses is popular among followers of the far-right QAnon political conspiracy theory movement.

Jon Knight and the Red, White and Blueprint regulars chat during a podcast with California District 1 Congressman Doug LaMalfa.

Still, Knight warned viewers that the government might take control of electronic devices and steal data from electronic devices during emergency alerts. Knight also warned that the government might put viruses into electronic devices during the alert. He did not give any reason as to why he suspected why the government might target electronic devices during the alert.

Double-foil-lined bubble wrap saves the day

Knight offered solutions. He described how he planned to protect electronic devices in his home from the government during the alert. Knight said he planned to wrap cell phones and laptops in his home with double-foil-lined bubble wrap that, as Knight said, “works really good for shielding”. Knight also said he was going to unplug his router for safety measures.

Knight encouraged viewers to wrap electronic devices in foil to protect them during the alert, as well as prevent the government from connecting to their devices.

Did Knight contract West Nile Virus?

In an Oct. 5 podcast Knight titled, “Special Report on Mosquitos,” Knight described an illness he experienced several weeks earlier that he attributed to mosquito bites. Knight said his body was covered in a rash and that he had a fever of 107 degrees after the alleged mosquito bites.

Knight also reported that he experienced mild seizures and that he was hallucinating. He also said his brain was “swelling up in his head.”

At first, Knight said he diagnosed his symptoms as alpha-gal syndrome that resulted from a bite from a genetically modified mosquito. Knight then considered that he might have contracted West Nile Virus. Overall, Knight said he wasn’t 100% sure what he contracted.

Knight said he did not urinate for four days while he was sick, despite drinking three gallons of water each day for several days in a row.

Knight said he took ivermectin, “the magic bullet for almost anything,” and that it, along with supplements, failed to cure his sickness.

Several people on social media questioned Knight’s claims about the sickness he experienced. “The epitome of ignorance,” wrote one Thought You Should Know Shasta County member.

“West Nile is a virus. Thus, the reason for it [ivermectin] doing nothing at all. I can’t believe our county has sunk this low. I really can’t.”

Poster created by the group leading the recall against District 1 Shasta County Board of Supervisor Kevin Crye that features Knight.

Conspiracy theories and the search for order

Experts attribute the growing number of conspiracy theorists like Knight and others in Shasta County and elsewhere to the fact that President Trump was a vocal conspiracy theorist. They also say that feelings of anxiety and a sense of disenfranchisement can increase conspiratorial thinking.

Conspiracy theories, according to experts, bring a notion of comfort to those who believe in them, and they help bring order to society and provide easy, even if wildly unbelievable, answers to society’s ills.

Political psychologists argue that “conspiracy theories arise frequently from political events, especially when those events stimulate the psychological states linked to conspiracy beliefs, such as low political trust, feelings of powerlessness, uncertainty, and unpredictability.”

A lot of what the experts have said about conspiracy theories can be applied to what is going on in Shasta County’s current right-wing political environment.

Questions remain unanswered regarding why the Shasta County Board of Supervisors’ far-right majority rejected more qualified candidates and appointed someone as inexperienced and uneducated as Knight for such an important position.

Similar questions remain unanswered regarding why, a few weeks before Knight’s appointment, the Shasta County Board of Supervisors’ far-right majority also chose Dr. James Mu to replace the far-more highly qualified former health officer, Dr. Karen Ramstrom; fired by the board majority for complying with state pandemic mandates.

Knight’s appointment to the mosquito board is just one in a series of many examples where Shasta County’s far-right majority leaders push the county yet farther to the right as the nation looks on and views the North State as either a good idea or a cautionary tale.

If you appreciate Shawn Schwaller’s reporting, Please consider a contribution to A News Cafe. Thank you!

Shawn Schwaller

Shawn Schwaller grew up in Red Bluff, California. He is an assistant professor in the History Department at California State University, Chico and holds a Ph.D. in history and an M.A. in American studies. Schwaller specializes in North State stories about law-enforcement corruption and far-right politics. He can be reached at sschwaller@csuchico.edu and welcomes your story tips.

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