Look behind us," says Eric Nellis. "It's the highway patrol."
Damn straight -- zooming up behind the sedan Nellis is driving along a lonely stretch of Wyoming road on this crisp but clear November morning is a squad car with its light rack percolating. Nellis, a clean-cut 22-year-old with a crooked smile and a jovial nature, checks the speedometer: He's a good ten miles per hour under the speed limit, and so is the vehicle he's following, a truck towing a black trailer that looks like a half-built float intended for a particularly funereal parade. (A third vehicle in the convoy is farther ahead.) After exchanging glances with Jo Scott, the personable, frizzy-haired woman on his right, he looks into the backseat at his most important passenger -- a fortyish fellow with a dramatic wave of dark hair, a paunchy midsection, prominent jowls, a reddish birthmark on his upper lip (it's probably why he used to wear a mustache), fiery eyes and a black T-shirt that reads "Judge Rightly Is Not Some Guy's Name" on the back and "ShadowGov.com" across the front. "What do you think it is?" Nellis wonders.
"I think," says Bob Enyart, "that they're expecting us."
Previous Westword articles|
"The Gay Nineties,"
"Fact or Friction,"
"Slay It With a Smile,"
Enyart should know: He's a protest veteran -- the Christian zealot (and proud of it!) who spent 25 grand on O.J. Simpson memorabilia in February in order to set it ablaze; the religious kook (like that's a bad thing!) who traveled all the way to New Zealand in September simply to be arrested for greeting the President of the United States with "Clinton is a Rapist" banners; the right-wing zany (a noble calling!) who's been able to slip his radical views under the anti-Christian radar with the aid of programs like ABC's Politically Incorrect, on which he's appeared three times in the past six months. See Bob discuss the proper way to discipline a child with Martin Short and Donny Osmond. Hear Bob snipe at British talk-show hostess Ruby Wax. Watch Bob debate the evils of pornography with Hustler publisher Larry Flynt.
Publicity is Bob's goal -- there can be absolutely no doubt about that -- and on this day, he thinks he's figured out how to get another fix. Aaron McKinney is sitting in Laramie's Albany County Courthouse waiting to learn if jurors will convict him for his part in the fatal attack on gay University of Wyoming student Matthew Shepard in October 1998 and then slap him with the death penalty. And Enyart knows what their verdict on the latter should be: yes, yes, a thousand times yes.
Not that Enyart has anything in common with those whiny, queer-loving sob sisters who see the Shepard tragedy as a way to get faggotry protected under hate-crime legislation. Far from it.
The Bible argues that sodomy is a transgression punishable by death, and who is Bob to argue? But as he makes clear on ShadowGov.com, an Internet "shadow government" (and, um, merchandise headquarters) whose constitution will be unveiled on January 1, 2000, he also believes that convicted murders should be treated like rabid dogs -- put 'em down, and do it fast.
And if the jurors or the judge or other representatives of the liberal governing bodies currently afflicting us are too wimpy, too gutless, too metaphysically misguided to do the deed when it comes to McKinney, well, Enyart is more than happy to do it for them, and in an appropriate way, too. Tie him to a fence, just like he and his sick-minded buddy, Russell Henderson, did to Shepard. And then beat him. Beat him like there's no tomorrow. Because for him, there wouldn't be.
To illustrate his willingness, Enyart has cooked up a live-action presentation that he plans to debut with a little help from his friends. Nellis will play McKinney -- he doesn't look much like him, but with plenty of fake blood and a tub of shoe polish to turn his light hair black, people should get the idea -- and he will be joined by a merry band of co-conspirators: Jo Scott, who's been a full-time missionary and anti-abortion activist for nearly two decades; Ken Scott, Jo's husband and fellow missionary, a strapping, tightly wound sort with a way of setting his jaw that says, "Mess with me at your peril"; Doug McBurney, Enyart's business manager and closest associate, a compact, charismatic bundle of righteous indignation; John Geiser, a kindly jokester who retired a while back from United Airlines; Marc Geiser, age fifteen, John's often jarringly intense grandson; Matt Sutherland -- like Marc, a fifteen-year-old product of home-schooling à la the religious right; and Josiah Enyart, Bob's son, an unexpectedly rebellious-looking sixteen-year-old whose short-cropped hair has a blue tint to it. "He's spent some time in public schools," Enyart explains.
They hardly look like shock troops, but these eight ShadowGov defenders have been on the picket lines often enough to be ready for anything -- which is why they headed north from Denver to Wyoming only after making the proper arrangements. Enyart found out who was the badge in charge of overseeing the various demonstrators eager to grind their axes outside the McKinney trial and had let him know the time and date of their impending arrival well in advance.
So as the squad car moves closer, Bob and company don't panic. Nellis eases his vehicle to the road's shoulder, as does John Geiser, behind the wheel of the truck up ahead. The patrolman stops his car, too, and after chatting with John for a moment, he ambles to the sedan. He's big and beefy, with a name tag that identifies him as L.E. Novak.
Nellis rolls down his window. "Good morning, officer," he says.
"Good morning," answers L.E. Novak. "You're headed to the courthouse?"
Before Nellis can reply, Enyart pipes up. "Yes, we are."
L.E. Novak gives him a nod. "I'll lead you into where you're supposed to be."
With that, Enyart smiles. An escort from a representative of the very system he hopes to eventually wipe off the face of the earth. It's another good day to be Bob.
"For updated information on Bob's national tour and ShadowGov demonstrations, press one. For Bob's Shadow Government mailing address, press two. And if you're an anarchist, an evolutionist, a humanist, a communist, a socialist, a garden-variety sodomite, a democrat or a transgendered freak of nature, press three."
-- The answering-machine message at ShadowGov.com
That's one of the unexpected things about Bob Enyart: Much of his intolerance (as his know-nothing enemies would term it) is delivered with a wink. Remember, this is the lovin' Christian supplicant who on his now-defunct TV program, Bob Enyart Live, used to gleefully read obituaries of AIDS sufferers while cranking "Another One Bites the Dust" by Queen, a combo whose lead singer, Freddie Mercury, succumbed to the same malady. ("Listen to the words of that song, and you'll understand why I did it," says Enyart, as if his motives are somehow puzzling.)
And in July, after Arapahoe County Sheriff Pat Sullivan dropped a charge against a woman who'd been ticketed for driving through a group of ShadowGov protesters picketing an abortion doctor's home and allegedly endangering their lives, Enyart kept his cool, even though he believes in his heart of hearts that the rights of Christians in general, and anti-abortion Christians in specific, are routinely trampled by an establishment deeply prejudiced against them. Instead, he bought an advertisement in which he facetiously apologized to Sullivan for protesting abortion in the first place, because "no one wants to hear about this anyway."
Not that such disinterest would ever shut Bob up: If he's got something to say, he's going to say it, whether the rest of the world likes it or not -- unless it suits his purposes to stay quiet, that is.
For that reason, he's cautious about spilling the beans on his constitution; as the big 2-0-0-0 dawns, he doesn't want to give curiosity-seekers any reason not to click on www.shadowgov.com or its affiliate sites, www.enyart.com and www.KGOV.com, where Enyart can be heard live over the Internet from 10 to 11 a.m. Mondays through Fridays. (Why rub elbows with heathens on New Year's Eve when you can spend the night with Bob?) But he doesn't mind sharing a few spicy details.
First, he notes that "in Article One of our existing Constitution, it says that blacks and Indians are three-fifths of a person, but we don't do that; in ours, all human beings are equally valued -- so right off the bat we think we start on a better foot." (See? He's funny!) He also allows that his shadow government won't be a democracy, because "democracy has been called by some of our founding fathers and in some early documents, the worst form of government. It's" -- deep breath -- "mob rule."
So what's your alternative, Bob?
A bloodline monarchy?
"A hereditary monarchy, right. Like they have today in, say, Norway, I think."
And how would the first monarch be chosen?
A lottery? You mean a random drawing?
"That's right. Ask anybody on the street if the busboy at the nearest restaurant or Bill Clinton would be more qualified to govern, and the fools would say Bill Clinton. Obviously, a busboy would be more qualified. And then, when he passes, his oldest son would take over the throne."
Chew the logic of this scheme over, and it doesn't exactly snap into place. Maybe Bill Clinton is no prize, but what if the bloke who winds up winning the monarchy lotto is a serial killer, or a child molester, or someone who's just plain dumb as a road apple? That's a possibility, Bob admits. Non-citizens will be excluded, and so will women, because, he says, "It's natural that men lead the household -- and on the dance floor. Men are specially qualified to lead, and a household where the woman leads is a very unhappy household." Hence, Madeleine Albright might be spending her time tidying up the kitchen while Timothy McVeigh whips the nation into shape. But don't worry about that possibility. It'll all work out for the best in Bob Enyart's perfect universe, especially since God's criminal-justice system will be in place to take care of any problems.
Yep, Enyart argues, the Bible contains a law-enforcement template passed down from the time of Moses; it's referred to as the Mosaic criminal code. In contrast to our complex web of rules and regulations, the Mosaic way is simplicity itself. There are only three prescribed forms of penalization -- restitution, corporal punishment and execution -- and the appeals process is available only to judges, not criminals. On top of that, the guilty-beyond-a-reasonable-doubt method goes out the window ("It's like trying to prove a negative," Bob says) in favor of "reasonable evidence, meaning two or three pieces of reasonable evidence to convict." And who would determine what's "reasonable"?
His name is Bob.
If all of this sounds just a tad Islamic, it should, given that countries such as Iran employ a strategy at least within spitting distance of the Mosaic approach. But Bob says the Islamic treatment is no panacea: "Cutting off a hand for stealing, that's unjust." Under the Mosaic way, thieves would be liable for twofold repayment if they took something for themselves that could be returned, three- or fourfold if the goods swiped are resold or destroyed, and sevenfold if the item's value is primarily sentimental.
Flogging, meanwhile, would be the punishment of choice for a potpourri of no-nos ranging from assault to fraud: If, in an Enyart example, Sears had a corporate policy that illegally lightened its customers' wallets as a matter of course, everyone from the lowliest salesperson to the company CEO could taste forty lashes. According to Enyart, "You don't need a thousand government regulations to protect the consumer, because the manager of a business is not going to risk the chance of being flogged because he ripped off a customer."
And the death penalty? It would be meted out for murder and kidnapping, as it is in many states today, but also for incest, sex with animals, adultery and homosexuality.
Considering the Mosaic approach to this last lifestyle, how is it that Matthew Shepard would still be alive had God's criminal-justice system been in place last year, as Enyart claims? Wouldn't the state have eliminated him in some unspeakable manner simply for expressing the desires that ultimately, cruelly led to his demise anyway? No way, Bob says. Aaron McKinney and Russell Henderson would never have killed Shepard knowing that they'd be tried, convicted and put out of the planet's misery lickety-split. (The code calls for judgments, including executions, to be carried out within 24 hours of sentencing, thereby making jails entirely unnecessary. Imagine the savings!) Likewise, Shepard would never have strode down the demon path of gayness -- not when he would be just one shameful orgasm away from the gallows. To Bob Enyart's way of thinking, homosexuality is a choice, so the Matthew Shepards of the nation would just choose not to be homosexual: plain as that.
You nasty pinkos out there probably think that no one would embrace such notions, but you'd be wrong. The three Enyart sites are registering around 100,000 hits a week (he gladly shows off the documentation to prove it), and a project to train shadow government judges over computer lines using a calculation formula inspired by, of all organizations, the United States Chess Federation, is stuck at around forty members, mainly because participants' demand quickly outstripped the ability of Enyart's small staff to keep up with it.
Enyart is also supported by a handful of law-enforcement officers around the Denver area. One, a suburban deputy sheriff and converted atheist with ten years on the force who wishes to stay anonymous, declares, "The justice system we have now is a farce, and after reading the Bible and attending one of Bob's criminal-justice seminars, I realized that the Bible already had a relevant criminal-justice system in there and that it would work. People think we want to put thousands to death, but the truth is, we want to put no one to death -- and with a swift justice system with flogging and things like that, we wouldn't have to, because people wouldn't commit those crimes."
Also part of the Enyart fan club is Brian Rohrbough, whose son Daniel was killed in the shootings at Columbine High School on April 20. Rohrbough makes it clear that Enyart did not engage in evangelical ambulance chasing after Columbine: "I contacted him," he says.
In the months following the tragedy, Rohrbough became a regular attendee at Bible studies Enyart hosts each Sunday evening at the Malley Senior Recreation Center in Englewood. Bob returned the favor by showing up with some of his people in late September at the West Bowles Community Church, when several parents and friends of Columbine victims, Rohrbough among them, chopped down two trees they felt were planted in memory of gunmen Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold.
"Bob has been a good friend through everything that has happened and has never asked for anything in return," Rohrbough says, "and like him, I believe that as a general rule, there's a couple types of people in this country -- one that believes in evolution, so they believe that man evolved from the slime and therefore can make the rules, and another group that believes that man comes from creation, and that the creator makes the rules. And Bob and I are in the second group. Bob has paid a very high price for standing up and telling the truth about the Bible and God's word. And for that, I respect him."
The Wyoming cops treat Bob with deference as well. L.E. Novak leads John Geiser's truck and trailer into a parking slot alongside a temporary barrier hung with a friendly sign: "NOTICE: DEMONSTRATION AREA. FOR RESERVATIONS, CALL ..."
After Eric Nellis parks within view of more than half a dozen satellite trucks and a gaggle of print and electronic reporters, Enyart is greeted by Sergeant Cushman of the Laramie police, a taciturn chap who wants to know just what the ShadowGovernors have in mind. Bob rushes to reassure him: "We have no bullhorns and no guns, just a club. And if you don't want us to use that, we don't have to."
"A club is fine," Sergeant Cushman says, sidling up to him conspiratorially. "Now, we're on this side by the media encampment because the jury room is on the other side, and we don't want to have a mistrial. I think you and I both agree with what's going on in there."
No commitment from Enyart. What was going on in there was far too slow for him, but Sergeant Cushman didn't need to know that.
"How long are you going to be?" Sergeant Cushman wants to know.
"We'll be gone by two, I'd guess," Enyart says. "I want to get back. My wife is having a baby." Indeed, Cheryl Enyart, Bob's third bride, is due to deliver a son within days, and he's got a pager in his pocket in case the Lord decides to work in mysterious ways.
Sergeant Cushman says that'll be fine and rejoins several other officers standing near the demonstration zone. Enyart quickly huddles with McBurney and the rest of the crew. "Stay focused," he tells them. "Everybody knows their job."
They do. Ken, John, Marc, Matt, Doug and Josiah quickly remove a batch of white tubing, most pieces still sporting their universal price-code stickers, from the trailer, whose interior is blocked from view by recycled "Clinton is a Rapist" standards. The squad efficiently assembles a section of fence that closely resembles the one to which Shepard was affixed. For their parts, Eric and Jo disappear for a few minutes, and upon their return, Eric is wearing a conservative suit whose hue more or less matches the globs of shoe polish matted into his hair. When Jo points out that Eric remade himself in a public restroom, Enyart jokes, "I hope you didn't go in there with him, or we'll have to beat you, too."
All of this activity is a magnet for the media contingent, which has had squat to report the entire day. In a matter of minutes, they're headed over: staffers from CNN, Court TV, numerous Denver television affiliates, the Rocky Mountain News and the Denver Post, Wyoming publications such as the university's newspaper, the Branding Iron, and assorted stragglers such as Graham Baxendale, a UK-based researcher putting together an academic study on American hate groups, and Chryss Cada, a stringer who says the Boston Globe is interested in a story from her only if there's an acquittal (fat chance).
Enyart watches them amble toward him, and so do several cops in SWAT gear who stand atop the courthouse and another nearby building, fingering their rifles. But the press has nothing to fear from Bob. He loves it when they shower attention on him. Because not all that long ago, they wouldn't have spared him a drop.
How do you make a Christian fanatic? Follow this easy recipe:
Bob Enyart emerged from his mother's womb in Paterson, New Jersey, on the uncool end of the George Washington Bridge, and after eight years of Catholic grammar school, where at least he learned the rudiments of the Word, he went to a public high school and was inculcated with lust, stupidity, pornography and, maybe worst of all, secular humanism.
From there he bounced to a couple of colleges, most notably Arizona State University at Tempe, where he specialized in computer science. Even before graduation, he'd landed a job in the industry, and in the years that followed, he climbed corporate ladders at several technology temples, including McDonnell Douglas and US West in Denver. But in the late Eighties he started to feel empty whenever he thought about the evils prowling all around him -- especially legalized abortion, which was killing thousands upon thousands of the unborn every single year.
"I asked myself, 'If I'd been in Nazi Germany and had known about the Holocaust, would I have done something?' Because this was just as much of a holocaust as that was."
Operation Rescue was the most outrageous anti-abortion outfit of the day, which made it perfect for Bob; he chucked the whole computer genius thing in 1989 to head up the Colorado branch. He soon became a regular visitor to area jails owing to protests at women's clinics and the like, but even as he was standing tall for the sanctity of life in general, he was screwing up his own.
That same year, his wife, Krista, who gave him Josiah and a younger sibling, Nathaniel, now fourteen, walked out after eight years of marriage, fed up with a husband more devoted to adultery than to her. (You read right: Enyart repeatedly committed an act punishable by the death penalty under the Mosaic system -- "but I wouldn't have done it if the Mosaic code was in place.") By Enyart's telling, he ultimately gave up his Operation Rescue post out of guilt: "I had no right to be in that position if I couldn't keep my own house in order."
But that didn't stop him from telling people right from wrong over the local airwaves. In 1991 he went from a tiny AM signal, KLT, to KQXI, now owned by Disney ("We don't like Disney very much," he says). He eventually built a significant enough audience to attract the attention of KWHD-TV/Channel 53, a station that was part of a smallish chain of Christian-oriented signals owned by LeSea Broadcasting of South Bend, Indiana, and starting in April 1993, he began to turn heads and raise hackles. Some highlights:
Such stunts even stirred Representative Patricia Schroeder to action, but her call for the FCC to investigate Enyart only added up to (surprise) additional publicity for Bob; before long, he was on dozens of Christian TV stations from Hawaii to Pittsburgh. However, such exposure was nothing compared to what came his way after...the Spanking.
John Mayns of the Jefferson County Sheriff's Department has been in the business of maintaining law and order for many years, and his accomplishments were rewarded in July when he was promoted to the rank of lieutenant. Now assigned to the investigations division, he prides himself on his ability to weigh the subtle observational distinctions that can make or break a case.
So does he feel he can easily tell the difference between, say, spanking and abuse of a child? "Ab-so-lute-ly," Mayns says. "Mr. Enyart went way over the line."
Of course, Lieutenant Mayns isn't a wholly objective party in this matter; the spankings that catapulted Enyart into the headlines involved his own two sons, Stephen, now twelve, and Anthony, who will turn eighteen on December 31.
The two boys wound up in Enyart's orbit like so: After Enyart's late-Eighties divorce from Krista, whose death earlier this year (the family has asked that its cause be kept private) resulted in Bob's getting sole custody of Josiah and Nathaniel, and a brief second marriage ("I was desperately lonely, but I was also on the rebound," Enyart says), he met and fell for Cheryl Mayns, John's ex-wife. Before long, they were engaged, and Enyart began taking a fatherly interest in Cheryl's kids.
This concern was expressed on June 24, 1994, after Stephen, then seven, failed to get into the shower as promptly as he should have. Enyart's response? Mayns says, "He stripped him down naked, bent him over my ex-wife's bed and then beat him with one of her belts."
Shortly thereafter, a concerned Anthony called his father and said that something awful had happened to Stephen. Lieutenant Mayns rushed over to Enyart's home and asked to examine Stephen for injuries. He found some. "Obviously, this was no spanking. There was some broken skin, welts, and you could see the imprint of the stitching off of the belt very clearly."
Predictably, Enyart finds Lieutenant Mayns's account hysterically overstated; he says that while he lowered Stephen's trousers to administer his belting, he didn't strip him, and he insists that the discipline on the boy produced three modest welts, nothing more.
Nevertheless, this incident and a subsequent one that took place in Colorado Springs led to numerous trials that finally, finally, finally resulted in Enyart spending fifty days in the Jefferson County Correctional Facility this spring.
While in stir, Enyart says he led a couple of prisoners to God and nearly had ax murderer William Cody Neal convinced that he should silently accept the death-penalty verdict the state was seeking against him; when Neal later decided to fight the sentence (in vain, as it turned out), Bob admits that he was "disappointed."
Otherwise, though, he portrays his time behind bars as a win-win situation. He's still a vigorous advocate of "spanking the way the conservative home-school movement does it, where you spank on the backside with a paddle or a belt, controlled, in love, where you explain why. That is the beautiful way to raise kids. Spanked kids have tender hearts; the kids with the hard hearts who despise their parents are the kids raised by Dr. Spock. And their lives have been destroyed."
As for incarceration, which he experienced many times during his Operation Rescue days, he says, "Our donations go up when I'm in jail. The kids come to visit, I get more writing done on my books. If I ever become a multimillionaire, it's because they threw me in jail. So fine. Jail is fun, anyway."
This sort of talk causes Lieutenant Mayns's blood to boil. Although he declines to let either of his sons -- of whom he now has custody -- speak to Westword (that's Enyart's game, not his), he says both are doing well under the circumstances. Yet he's sure that psychological scars remain. When Enyart and family showed up at one of Anthony's Arapahoe West football games -- in violation, Lieutenant Mayns maintains, of a no-contact order that's been in place for the better part of five years -- Stephen reportedly was worried about Anthony's safety, muttering under his breath, "Don't go over there, don't go over there, don't go over there." (Stephen's anxiety was understandable, Lieutenant Mayns says: Several years ago, after telling his mother that he would call his father or the police if Stephen was spanked again, Anthony was reportedly awakened by Enyart in the middle of the night, lectured about disrespect, whipped with a belt, made to repeatedly write out a Bible passage and forbidden to contact his dad for a week.)
But what's perhaps even more aggravating for Lieutenant Mayns is his feeling that Enyart has exploited his sons' injuries for personal gain. "This kind of thing would never have gone before the press, as you know, because things with children are protected. But Mr. Enyart made sure he got all the mileage out of this he could. He's made his money and his reputation at Stephen's expense."
To this charge, Enyart cheerfully pleads...guilty! He's sitting at the kitchen table of his sprawling suburban home in Arvada (it was built to his specifications last year), surrounded by the ones he loves: Josiah and Nathaniel, who both do Webmastering on www.shadowgov.com, plus two-year-old Zachary, one-month-old Michael, and Cheryl, the very model of the seen-and-not-heard spouse; she turns down an interview request because, she says, "I don't talk well." Enyart wishes Stephen and Anthony could be here, too. Earlier this year, he and Cheryl asked the court to let him spend time with them again, but he was rejected like a grade-schooler trying to score on Kevin Garnett. Other than that, though, Bob couldn't be happier.
"This is our dream house," he announces. "And do you know who bought it for us? John Mayns. Without him, none of this would have been possible."
When Enyart laughs at the delicious irony of it all, Josiah and Nathaniel join in -- and their mirth doesn't seem forced. They were pulled into the whole spanking matter as well: "My dad would be watching us while he was doing his radio show," Josiah recalls, "and if somebody would ask about spanking, we'd get up there and say, 'Oh, yeah, we get spanked all the time.'" He calls the experience of being on the other end of Bob's belt "humiliating," not agonizing, and seems completely sanguine about Enyart's time in the pokey. "It wasn't all that embarrassing, because there are so many kids whose dads are in jail. When we'd talk about it, I'd just say, 'My dad's in jail, too.'"
In contrast, Nathaniel admits, "I didn't know too many kids who had one of their parents in jail. But when I told them why he was there, they'd go, 'I was spanked. Why did they put your dad in jail for doing that?' They had no idea why."
What did they think of all the press coverage the matter received? "When I was little, it was like, 'Whoa, we're in the newspaper,'" Josiah allows. "But it's not as big a deal anymore. It's so common, and it's not so hard to get on TV, because there's cable now."
A satisfied chuckle from Enyart. "They're more media-savvy than most kids," he says.
The easy interaction between Enyart and his oldest sons probably would surprise child-care experts dead set against domineering dads; neither Josiah nor Nathaniel look to Papa after speaking as if they're afraid of being walloped. But there's a moment between Bob and Zachary that suggests how things sometimes run in the Enyart household. At one point, the toddler spills a cup of milk all over himself and the hardwood floor in front of him -- but rather than wailing or apologizing or doing something, Zachary stands silently in place for a good two minutes, looking up at Enyart with wide, I'm-really-gonna-get-it-now eyes. Bob doesn't return the gaze: Rather than comforting him or cleaning him up or acknowledging him in any way, he gets a cloth and starts sopping up the mess. Wouldn't want the floors in the dream house to get stained. Gotta keep your priorities straight.
At last, Cheryl, at Bob's request, comes downstairs and takes Zachary in her arms, and as she carries him away, he looks questioningly at Enyart, seemingly surprised at how easy he got off. Does that mean spilling milk is okay? Might he even have gotten away with crying over it? It's a lot to consider.
The time has come: The fence has been mounted to a platform on the roof of the trailer outside the Laramie courthouse, and after a brief prayer out of view of the press, the main players emerge: Bob, in ShadowGov chic; Nellis, in McKinney garb; and McBurney, dressed as a judge.
As the cameras grind and the pens scratch, Nellis is tied to the fence and McBurney begins his rant: "America's Shadow Government convenes here in the city of Laramie, in the county of Albany and the state of Wyoming to petition for justice in the case of the people of Wyoming vs. Aaron McKinney! We request that the government officials of the state of Wyoming administer a swift, public and painful execution of Aaron McKinney! Citizens of America's Shadow Government stand ready to execute justice upon the murderer!"
Next it's Enyart's turn. "Christians have misled our country, telling them that the New Testament is against the death penalty," he says before refuting this misconception with a handful of New Testament passages that support the concept of capital punishment (e.g., "Anyone who has rejected Moses's law dies without mercy on the testimony of two or three witnesses," from Hebrews 10:28).
"Amen!" shouts McBurney.
"That is Christianity as it has been known for thousands of years!" Enyart goes on. "And that is why we call for the swift, painful and immediate execution of every convicted murderer!"
Another "Amen!" from McBurney. When they untie him, Nellis slumps dramatically to the top of the trailer. But the effect is apparently lost on the TV people. Most of them turn off their cameras and walk away. Several college-age kids looking on are more interested, but mainly because of the ridiculousness of the whole thing; one student yells, "Give him some water, dude!"
One other bystander -- Judy Shepard, Matthew Shepard's mother -- seems considerably less amused. She watches the skit stoically from the window of the courthouse. Then she turns and walks away.
At the height of his post-spanking notoriety, Enyart moved his TV show, Bob Enyart Live, to LeSea Broadcasting's South Bend, Indiana, base of operations and began to expand; by last year, he was on approximately eighty stations around the country. But his reputation for butt-thrashing could take him only so far, and when some of his primary affiliates began moving the show to the wee hours of the morning, he realized that the overhead could soon drive him into bankruptcy. So he pulled the plug on the national broadcast and, after a brief attempt to go local at KRMT/Channel 41 earlier this year, dropped that as well, deciding instead to try to subsist almost entirely on the Internet. But that presents a little problem: How do you make computer types sufficiently curious to check out your site?
The answer was O.J., and the man who brought the plan of torching some of his keepsakes to fruition was McBurney, a former musician (one of his bands was called the Rents, "because we were due, man!") and drug addict ("I bought the hippies' lies") who wound up on Enyart's payroll in 1997 and now has an Internet talk show of his own -- The Weekly Worldview -- that's archived Fridays on www.shadowgov.com.
On February 15 this year, the day before the O.J. auction that was intended to compensate the families of Nicole Brown and Ron Goldman for their wrongful deaths, McBurney arrived in Los Angeles and went to the fire department to get permission for the display. "He said, 'There's no way this is going to happen tomorrow. You need permits; there are environmental concerns.' I was depressed."
But McBurney didn't give up, and he was aided in his quest by a key factor: A good many folks in L.A. law enforcement thought further humiliating O.J. was an excellent idea. A note of support from a judge sliced through acres of red tape, and suddenly what had seemed impossible only hours earlier was going to happen. When they wound up obtaining a jersey, McBurney notes, "Bob was petrified; he said he'd seen protests of people trying to burn things and they wouldn't catch. You'd end up with just a little smoke, and that's it." Worse, they were told they couldn't use accelerants like gasoline. So they taped newspapers inside it, and "it was beautiful," McBurney rhapsodizes. "It was a pyre!"
It was also a public-relations coup for ShadowGov: "People thought we were crazy to spend $25,000 on something just to burn it up, but we got millions of dollars in free advertising for doing it," McBurney says.
Enyart was so revved up by the national coverage the stunt received that he immediately came up with a new, even more ambitious gambit -- to stage hundreds of protests from coast to coast against Bill Clinton in the wake of accusations by Juanita Broaddrick that he had raped her in the late Seventies. Using mailing lists to round up the faithful, Enyart soon had hundreds of people all over the country ready to do his bidding.
A random sampling of the mainly Caucasian, overwhelmingly male participants shows that while some of the demonstrations -- like one in Denver that attracted around 300 people, and Enyart's New Zealand excursion, which generated headlines throughout the region -- had a considerable impact, others left the world thoroughly unshaken.
Along with a couple of friends, Joshua White, a twenty-year-old Honolulu resident, protested every Saturday for two months, but never wound up on local TV or in newspapers ("People aren't very political in Hawaii," he says.) Ken Branvall of Johnson City, New York, protested just once, in the middle of a snowstorm, before raising the white flag. Anchorage, Alaska's Rusty Holmes also saw his two protests negatively impacted by the weather; in the end, he realized that Enyart was employing a limited protest strategy that can't stack up to the one employed by an organization with which he feels more in tune, the John Birch Society.
Greenwood, Indiana's David Oeschle didn't have much more success with his anti-Clinton rally; a smallish item in a community newspaper was the best he and his helpers could manage. But more so than White, Branvall or Holmes, Oeschle illustrates the power Enyart has to inspire loyalty among his followers. Oeschle was openly gay from 1983 to 1995, when he learned from Bob Enyart Live just how sick and twisted he was.
"Everything Bob says about homosexuals is right," Oeschle says. "It's disgusting, they are exceedingly promiscuous, and many of them tend to move toward grosser and more vile practices because it's not fulfilling anymore."
Oeschle has since renounced his homosexuality ("I'm not free from my desires -- the flesh does pull -- but I'm certainly free from my desire to act on those desires") and is doing his best to live Bob's idea of a Christian life. He's picked up numerous items from the ShadowGov site in the past, and he's planning to purchase more because "I've got Christmas presents I need to buy."
People like Oeschle are keeping Enyart afloat. Financial records Enyart made available to Westword indicate that his assorted pursuits brought in around $293,000 from January 1, 1999, to the first week of December 1999, versus just over $400,000 in 1998. That's a considerable dropoff, but not as precipitous as Enyart expected: "When we went off TV, we thought we'd go down to 5 percent of what we'd done."
Of the 1999 total, around $122,000 came from sales of products such as videocassettes (God & the Death Penalty; Infanticide Exposed on the Pages of the New York Times; Terry's Call: On Converting a Homosexual), pamphlets ("Over-population and Murder," "Coming Out of the Closet," "Should Homos Adopt?") and curios like The First Five Days: The Rebirth of America, an Enyart-written novel about the institution of the Shadow Government that comes complete with a front-cover testimonial from none other than Doug McBurney (identified as "television producer, Denver"). Another $123,000 is credited to donations whose amounts correspond to "battle plans" against liberalism: $25 for "Guerilla Warfare," $50 for a "Small Incursion," all the way up to $5,000 for "Global Thermal [sic] Nuclear War."
McBurney makes it clear that these terms aren't to be taken literally. "We're willing to use inflammatory rhetoric, but the only things we'll blow up are words. People running around in camouflage gear, they're just nuts, whereas we live in the suburbs, we drive mini-vans. But" -- he pauses for effect -- "we do want to take over the government."
"Now we're at the boring part of the protest," says Josiah, as he helps disassemble the Aaron McKinney fence just outside the courthouse. "It's a lot different than it is at Planned Parenthood."
"At least there we get to save lives," Jo Scott points out.
"Yeah," Josiah responds, grinning. "And here we get to kill people."
The dead body -- Eric Nellis -- is tremendously dedicated to the thespian arts; he lays on the trailer in a brisk, chill breeze for more than fifteen minutes while Enyart leisurely speaks to each and every media member he can lasso. He's an equal-opportunity gabber, spending just as much time with a kid from a local high school paper as he does with network honchos. He even spares a few seconds for Jeffrey Montgomery, the spokesperson for the National Coalition of Anti-Violence Programs, who watched the ShadowGov performance with gathering distaste.
"You don't really think these kinds of tactics can prevent homosexuality, do you?" Montgomery asks.
"Check the AIDS rates in Islamic countries," Enyart advises, "and see if they stop at the border."
Back at the trailer, the team finally lowers Nellis's prostrate form; as they're pushing him into the covered portion of the trailer, McBurney hisses, "Turn him toward the cameras. The cameras." After Nellis emerges, Jo Scott asks him if he'd told his mother what he was doing that day. When he says he didn't, she gasps: "Oh, no. What if she turns on the TV tonight and sees you dead?"
As it turns out, this fear is largely misplaced. Channel 7 in Denver ran a package on the protest as part of its 5 p.m. broadcast that day, but no other Colorado stations followed suit, and the national cable outlets ignored it entirely.
The print media didn't come through, either. Several Associated Press items quoted McBurney, but the Rocky Mountain News, which had given a lot of space to an August ShadowGov protest against televangelist Benny Hinn (who Bob feels is defrauding the public with phony faith healing) included only a sentence or two about the Laramie protest at the hind end of an article. More disappointing was the Denver Post, which had covered recent ShadowGov demonstrations against the allegedly blasphemous play Corpus Christi and Boulder district attorney Alex Hunter, whose refusal to indict John and Patsy Ramsey for the murder of their daughter JonBenét flies in the face of a labyrinthine theory that Enyart would be glad to spell out to anyone with three or four hours to spare. All that work, and the Post couldn't spare even one word!
Even more frustrating is the aftermath of the McKinney case. The jury did its job, finding the weasel guilty the day after the protest. But just as arguments about a possible execution were in the offing, Judy and Dennis Shepard, Matthew's parents, accepted a deal cooked up by McKinney's defense team for two consecutive life sentences without parole. A reporter for USA Today -- probably one of the twits who didn't give the ShadowGov display any ink -- called the Shepards' decision "a stunning act of mercy," but that's not the way Enyart sees it, especially after reports that McKinney is receiving the star treatment from his fellow prisoners.
"He is a celebrity, and he will have a good time in jail," says Bob. "But the Shepards did not do a magnanimous thing. They spit on their son's grave. They don't realize it -- they're ignorant -- but they mocked their son's death."
Still, the Shepards' mistake only fuels his fire. His audience may be smaller now -- his KGOV.com show is receiving only around 2,000 unique visits a week -- but it's growing, and he's received some nibbles from TV and radio producers interested in getting him back on the airwaves. Even if none of that pans out, he's still got the Internet.
"Liberals talk about creativity and using technology, but nothing like ShadowGov has ever been conceived of before -- to build a parallel government, train men and wait for the opportunity. It almost certainly will never take over. But we want to be prepared, just in case."
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