An Evening at the Holiday Inn Ballroom

A dispatch from the scene of disgraced FBI agent John Guandolo's anti-Muslim freak orgy last week in Des Moines

Mark Dumont/Wikimedia Commons

John Guandolo is a former FBI agent who resigned in disgrace over a series of ethical violations including an affair with a confidential source he was entrusted to protect. He now runs the anti-Muslim organization Understanding the Threat. Guandolo regularly tours the country on speaking engagements, spreading conspiracy theories about the threat of radical Islam to the United States. The following is a dispatch from his appearance last Thursday at the Holiday Inn by the Des Moines airport.

Surrounded by gargoyles. Ex-insurance agents, aging farmers, and would-be Klansmen who just never got behind the white sheet dress code surrounded me, murmuring in agreement. Some sort of human-komodo dragon hybrid named John Guandolo began screaming on stage about the connections between Hamas, the PLO, and the Council on American-Islamic Relations, pulling the crowd of some 200 in the Airport Holiday Inn into a fascist ecstasy. These decaying confederate statues, the who’s-who of open racists and virulent white supremacists living within a 100-mile radius of Des Moines, the majority clinging on to life only by the thinnest shreds of Fox News-inspired paranoia, were enraptured. The Grand Wizard implored his followers: “Do you want Sharia Law in the United States of America?” A groan from the ballroom floor of half-corpses responded: “Noooooo….”

Twenty minutes earlier, I had arrived, coming off a 12-hour shift of driving a taxi through the wholly dilapidated streets of the South Side. A banner greeted me at the entrance to the parking lot: “INDIVISIBLE.” Christ. Was this the best the #Resistance could conjure? A spray-tanned ghoul with sports anchor hair emerged from a touring RV just outside the VIP entrance. He and his wife, who appeared to be composed completely of plastic and cheap makeup, sneered at me before heading in. What was happening here?

Inside the hotel, a pair of police officers blocked the ballroom door. “You weren’t here for the opening statements. We’ve been asked to inform all attendees that all are welcome, but that those not here for the right reasons, here to disrupt, will not be allowed in. So I’m asking you now: Are you here for the right reasons?” Having dealt with this version of swine before, I didn’t skip a beat. “Yes.” They parted, and permitted me entrance to the weird Nazi orgy inside.

“So you see,” Guandolo continued, aiming his laser pointer at the donation section, just below the street address of the Islamic Center of Des Moines, “according to Sharia Law, one eighth of all funds allocated to the mosque must go to Jihad.” I froze. Along the back wall, 10 feet from a handful of leaders of the Islamic community, I felt a surge of adrenaline kick into my veins. A freak outcast from the FBI had just told a crowd that had the misfortune of being 80 years too late and 4,500 miles too westward to attend the Nuremberg rally that their neighbors were funding al-Qaeda. This charlatan, weaving an immense network of red yarn between wholly unconnected entities that would be the envy of any self-respecting moon-landing denier, had just implicated the whole of the Des Moines Muslim community in the funding of terrorism.

I couldn’t stand for this. My muscles tensed. But what was to be done? My eyes went first to the row of empty chairs in front of me. Surely, this bastard could be stopped by a good flinging of furniture into his immediate vicinity. But my nerve failed me. The man was an FBI failson. No loosely thrown chair would have allowed me to shut up this weirdo, not with the police forces of Des Moines behind him. Two years of jail to not even shut the bastard down. Jesus. I had no choice but to listen to the rest of his drivel.

The Q and A session didn’t go well. A hippie type in the front row asked Guandolo how he could possibly connect the Muslim community here to the Muslim Brotherhood and al-Qaeda overseas. After a few minutes of incomprehensible qualifications and wild references to his array of red strings, the Grand Wizard permitted another question, asked by a 40-year-old white man in the back.

His question was simple: “What percentage of Muslims are bad?”

Grand Wizard Guandolo, clearly used to and unfazed by this line of questioning, equivocated, muttering about the Muslims he had worked with to put people in Guantanamo and entrap troubled teenagers into buying fake bombs from confidential informants.

Next time, we’ll be ready for these ghouls.

I reeled. The grand, horrible reality began to hit me. This philandering fearmonger was cultivating a crop of Nazi freaks who wanted nothing more than to tell their long-suffering wives about the misogyny of an imagined society that put men above women, persecuted religious minorities, and attacked dissent with religious fervor. Irony was wholly lost on these gutmonsters. Unable to withstand these insane screamings any longer, I left, my only real act of protest a lone bird flipped at Guandolo’s agent.

But the festering grave of white gargoyles who attended this freak orgy live in our communities. They are our neighbors. Bad caricatures of Josef Goebbels like Guandolo whip them up into an erratic frenzy, and inspire the least of them to watch more Fox News and the most atavistic to commit individual acts of violence. Make no mistake: The Grand Wizard’s speech is nothing less than an invocation to terrorist violence upon our Muslim brothers and sisters. If one of these rabid Nazi reptiles burns a Mosque or attacks our brethren, the blood is on his hands.

As I start my truck, a shiver of the fear climbs up my spine. If the good people of Des Moines could suffer this asshole, what other brand of freaks might be next? Jesus fuck! A whole parade of these dangerous reptiles might be on it way. They may begin breeding. My Maoist instincts kick in: Why not retreat to the countryside, leave the cities to the gargoyles? But no, I can’t grow a tomato to save my life. Plus, Grand Wizard Guandolo and his whole species of freaks are cowards by nature. These fourth-generation failures aren’t built for confrontation, they scare easy. A hundred people with signs advertising what we do to reptiles in this town waiting outside their venue ought to be enough to turn their tour bus around. Next time, we’ll be ready for these ghouls.

Patrick Stall
Patrick Stall is an itinerant Catholic Worker, wage laborer, recent Drake graduate, founding member of Des Moines’ Democratic Socialists of America chapter, and has been active as an organizer and participant in the Occupy movement, the fight for a $15 minimum wage, and anti-eviction struggles. He has also written for Jacobin magazine and maintains a travel blog at He can be reached at stall.patrick [at] gmail [dot] com or by howling obscenities about the capitalist class into the wind.