Red pill, blue pill

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A conference held Friday and today in Bozeman that, organizers say, promotes freedom of choice, has been criticized by human rights proponents as an “alt-right” recruiting attempt.

The Red Pill Expo, according to the conference’s website, features speakers who will “help you to break free from the avalanche of propaganda, fake news and outright deception, and to embrace reality for a better life.”

The speakers include authors, public relations directors, journalists and activists. The conference schedule covers topics including health care, finance, climate science, globalization and politics, according to the website.

But Rachel Carroll Rivas, co-director of the Montana Human Rights Network, said the wide-ranging topics are purposefully designed to recruit people to white supremacist or “alt-right” causes.

“Alt-right” is a term embraced by some white supremacists and white nationalists to refer to their ideology, which emphasizes preserving and protecting the white race in the United States.

Carroll Rivas said in a statement Thursday that the organizers for the event hope to find people who will attend due to being interested in one topic and then be exposed to the wider right-wing agenda.

“Folks should know what they are paying for when they walk in the door,” Carroll Rivas wrote. “Many well-meaning people may not have had their guard up about this event, but they should.”

Debbie Bacigalupi, a volunteer for the conference who is listed on its website as manager for exhibitors and sponsors, said she didn’t even know what the term “alt-right” meant.

Bacigalupi said the event welcomed people of all political backgrounds and that people should not be criticizing the event before they attend and see what’s going on.

“That person should come down here before they spew hatred,” Bacigalupi said.

Bacigalupi said the Montana Human Rights Network’s accusations against the expo were untrue. She said people attending Friday flew from different parts of the world and were there on their free will.

“These people believe in individual choice,” Bacigalupi said.

The convention’s chairman, G. Edward Griffin, is the founder of Freedom Force International, which, according to its website, is a network of men and women who are concerned over loss of personal liberty and growth of government power. The name of the expo is taken from a line in the reality-bending sci-fi movie, “The Matrix.”

“In spite of differences in culture, nationality, race, religion, life style, education and economic status, we are in solidarity with the Creed of Freedom, which is a statement of principles that guide us in our mission,” the website said.

A link on the organization’s website says, “Red-Pill Expo: Because you know something is wrong.” The event in Bozeman is being held at the Commons at Baxter and Love; organizers said tickets are sold out.

Carroll Rivas said the term “red pill” taps into a ready-made crowd of extremists. In her written statement, she said, “The name of the event is frequently used by the ‘alt-right’ to indicate that its followers are the only ones who ‘know the truth’ about what is really going on in America today.”

“There is no reason Bozeman needs to put out the welcome mat for a gathering like the Rep Pill Expo that builds off of conspiratorial tendencies and props up extremists,” she said.

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Freddy Monares can be reached at 406-582-2630, or by email at fmonares@dailychronicle.com.

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