Outside Influence and Mysterious Groups Threaten Custer County?

No one likes being grouped and labeled with those who do not hold to the same principles. Likewise, having a point of agreement doesn’t connect two individuals at the hip. But the trend in left-leaning media is to do exactly that and draw sloppy conclusions. Trump, becomes racist because some KKK group told its voter base to vote for him…If you support Trump you’re a fascist because… you agree that patriotism is important, and patriotism sounds like it might be like nationalism… and it goes on. It’s a bait and switch technique dependent on Americans not doing the research themselves. Such is the trend in America, and I guess now locally, by Gary Ziegler, Amy Finger and others, to do just that, (in a letter to the Editor that Gary sent to the Tribune, but not, of course, to the Sentinel, the paper he was attacking). Gary has determined that the Sentinel and it’s editor have “bad” connections from the “outside” that are “influencing” county residents. The Editor, George Gramlich, who believes in small government and Second Amendment rights and opposes wealth redistribution and economic interventionism, collectivism, totalitarianism, anarchism and communism must be connected and influenced by any longstanding group that has similar beliefs. (Amy has tried to draw deep mysterious outside force connections as well in her Facebook rants.) Last time I checked, these are all things that the bulk of today’s Republican and Libertarian party members espouse. God forbid Gary take a look at the voter registration for Custer County and find the bulk of the registrants to also (because of similar values and beliefs) be ‘invaders’ who want to ‘take over’.

Conspiracy theorist Ziegler then goes on to quote some obscure article on home-grown terror and, like the article which is about a group ‘labeled’ as Nazi supporting militia, comes up with a list, not compiled by the author or by Gary, but by Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC), which puts cake-bakers, Christian churches, constitutionalists and any group concerned with Islam’s political jihad elements on their list of dangerous ‘Haters’.

Then he attempts to connect the Sentinel and its editor to the “home-grown terror” article via SPLC’s list with an off-the-cuff comment that readers should look into the article because the “recent proliferation of anti-government groups… serve as a platform for infiltration by assorted kooks, psycho-paths and others with violent personal agendas.”
Gary tosses around the term “anti-government” like the left tosses around “fascism” and the conspiracy salad continues… hoping to spark some element of fear into the reader…and create some connection between Constitutionalists, Patriots and the term anti-government.
I don’t think Gary and Amy espouse for the Southern Poverty Law Center, but hey—maybe they do. It keeps coming up as the defense for their views printed in the Tribune and on Facebook. Or maybe they’ll do whatever it takes to knock a newspaper that doesn’t think local elected officials should trample on due process and ignore their constituents. (Note to Gary and Amy: Stop discriminating against a large portion of the county. Send letters to the Sentinel, too. Our readers would LOVE to read them.)
Gary goes on in his letter to say, (as he makes his case for outside influence and homegrown terror in the form of a Commissioner Recall Effort that is independent of the Sentinel), “Currently, in home Custer County we have had a taste of this growing national phenomenon. In 2013, several residents and a recent newcomer, from New York launched a small, weekly newspaper, the Sentinel, to present main stream, reasonable conservative views.”
The local supporters soon pulled out leaving behind the New York publisher and a couple of new arrivals.” [Is he referring to himself and General Joe here? Or he’s decided the rearrangement of officers means our supporters ‘pulled out’. A whole lot of guessing on his part. The “New York” publisher Gary refers to is an upstate New York rural beefalo breeder, a farmer, married to a Native American Abenaki master basket-weaver. NY state has taxed folks out of continuing that lifestyle as could happen to ranchers HERE, so don’t throw NY publisher around like George is a big city slicker come to destroy the county. He’s Beefalo rancher-with-education- and-multiple-careers-gone-journalist in Westcliffe. Big difference.]
Gary’s letter continues, “The publication moved in the direction of more extreme views including promoting a takeover of local government.” [Exercising your right to redress politicians lies and wrongs through a recall is NOT a take-over. I suspect he is annoyed that the recall committee was given voice, in part, by actual honest reporting on the BOCC meetings by Sentinel reporter Jax Bubis.]
So there’s the conspiracy theory for you, hatched by Colorado Springs and Bear Basin Ranch Custer County resident, Gary Ziegler, “Sentinel influenced by outside forces.” We’ve had more believable out-of-county influence at meetings on Dark Skies and building codes…
He goes on to connect our Editor to Oath Keepers, an organization comprised of current and retired law enforcement officers and military personnel (see Oathkeepers.org) and Mike Vanderboegh, founder of the Three Percenters. We’ll take that. Oath Keepers take an oath to protect our constitution and are a respectable group. The late Mike Vanderboegh was a great patriot. He was pro constitution, anti-racism, pro Second Amendment and a constitutionalist who believed in small government. He set a high standard. Nothing for George to be ashamed of here. And if the Sentinel is going to have a Second Amendment section, unique in the newspaper business, it’s going to feature individuals who know a lot about guns and the Second Amendment. We get to know the writers whose work and opinions we print. It’s a given. We’re not going to feature the Southern Poverty Law Center’s paranoid posts on guns and hate. We do what newspapers used to do; investigate, verify, prove the facts and then print those facts. We don’t leave out factual information because it is unpleasant or may be upsetting. We believe the people who read our newspaper are intelligent enough to make their own decisions regarding the content.
So what’s the real rub for Gary Ziegler? He supported Donna Hood and Jay Printz in their campaigns for commissioner and he wants them to know that he doesn’t think the recall is necessary. The Commissioners are responsible for their own undoing. Reporting on their decisions, actions and behavior is what a newspaper is supposed to do.
At any rate, the recall election is over and the recall supporters have been totally vindicated. And we are still going to produce news. Gary won’t be the first one to attack us because we aren’t main-stream media enough for him. But I do hope he’s the last one to try connecting a conservative Christian newspaper with Southern Poverty Law Center’s half-baked list of supposed haters just because he doesn’t agree with a grass-roots recall.
In Gary’s field research on the Utes and aspen trees, he finds that not all bent trees were groomed by Utes. Some had disease. Gary, be smart enough to recognize the Sentinel is bent on the side of conservatives because someone needs to be, not because some outside influence defined conservative for us. Take a look at the outside influences on rancher style conservation. Or the destruction of watersheds by illegal pot growers in the San Isabel Nat’l Forest. Those are better stories than the one you are creating.

Laura Vass
Assistant Editor