Each time some citizen comes up to the podium for the three-minute “open mic” speeches that every Dallasite is entitled to deliver before the Dallas City Council at the beginning of its weekly meetings, a little mystery-drama unfolds as observers look for early clues as to which of several categories the speaker will fall under. The most common of these are Well-Informed Citizen; Obvious Political Crank; Here to Make Goofy, Good-Natured Announcement; and Mentally Ill Homeless Person, with the latter divided into further sub-categories such as Angry Over Vague Recent Incident or About to Accuse Mayor Pro Tem Monica Alonzo of Running Underground Prostitution Ring. Generally you can figure out which is which within 20 seconds; some defy categorization for up to a minute. But the first speaker on Wednesday morning conducted himself with such extraordinary thematic ambiguity that it remained unclear as to what he was about and even whether he really existed at all, at least until after some further digging. And then things got strange.
Dick Zinnendorf strode to the podium in a camo t-shirt to announce, “I’m here to defend the people of Dallas from the menace of Bobby Abtahi!” This was ambiguous enough. Abtahi is the newly appointed Parks Board head and one of several associates of developer and Rawlings backer Walt Humann that the mayor has managed to place on the board in recent months. Zinnendorf, then, could be a Well-Informed Citizen, but without further clues, one couldn’t rule out Crank or Mentally Ill. Presumably whatever he said next would narrow things down. But it didn’t.
“I am involved in amateur baseball in Dallas,” he intoned, very much in the manner of General MacArthur proclaiming, “I shall return.” Baseball, he explained further, had been around in Dallas since 1888, a noble civic legacy that is today represented by the North Texas Amateur Baseball League, of which Zinnendorf is a longtime member. After a bit more to the effect that baseball is great, Zinnendorf returned to the Abtahi question. By this point it seemed plain that we had a Goofy, Good-Natured Announcement on our hands. Zinnendorf’s team would no doubt be playing Abtahi’s, and the fellow was simply taking the opportunity to promote the league. But then things became less clear when Zinnendorf read out a portion of a recent FrontBurner piece in which Tim Rogers quoted Abtahi, upon his appointment, as follows: “I would say I’m humbled, but that would be a lie.”
“This is the sort of conceited, contemptuous attitude that is totally unacceptable of a public servant,” Zinnendorf said now, visibly outraged. In Abtahi’s defense, the term was clearly intended as a quip, and anyway he can hardly be held to the standards of a public servant since he’s mostly serving Walt Humann.
Zinnendorf now pivoted back to baseball, praising the local park system and several facilities in particular. “In conclusion, I want to say that baseball, like politics, is shifting towards the municipal level. As such, because of nationalism and everything, there’s going to be more power in cities. Baseball is important to the future not only of Dallas, but the country, and it needs to be played the way it’s intended to be played: nine innings; no time limit; pitchers hit; no designated hitter; and nine players bat on each side. Also I wanted to say I think it would be great if the fields were delegated to the NTABL so that the North Texas Amateur Baseball League would be able to assign fields with the city giving authorization.”
“Thank you,” said Mayor Rawlings, who, like everyone who’s spent more than a year on the Dallas City Council, cannot be fazed by anything a speaker says or does.
But I still had questions. Was Abtahi proposing that baseball be played by different rules, thus setting this guy off? Was there some other history here that wasn’t immediately apparent? So I showed the clip to D Magazine editor Tim Rogers, thinking that he himself might have some connection to amateur baseball leagues since he’s a square and that’s the sort of thing squares have connections to. He didn’t, as it turns out, but he wanted to know more about this guy, and so he googled his name, which is an old journalism trick. And the first thing that came up was a video clip of this same Dick Zinnendorf wearing his same mustache and camo shirt, jumping up at a Marco Rubio campaign event to scream out: “Marco Rubio is owned by Jews! Jews and Freemasons!”
Thanks to a lucky coincidence, we were able to determine that “Dick Zinnendorf” is actually Darius Safavi. He’s a graduate of St. Mark’s, like Councilman Lee Kleinman, writer Kurt Eichenwald, Richard Spencer, and, yes, Bobby Abtahi, who was apparently a few years ahead of him. Sorry. Correction: Abtahi did not graduate from St. Mark’s, having left before his senior year for reasons that I will pretend are mysterious. Zinnendorf while at St. Mark’s directed a student film titled The Male Swagger. After attending NYU, it appears, he had parts in Prison Break and Sons of Thunder and, as of six years ago, was doing spoken-word performances at Wordspace Dallas. The name Zinnendorf appears to have been taken from a certain Count von Zinnendorf, a prominent Freemason who may or may not have devised a particular ritual back when the minor nobility did those sorts of things. Using names associated with a perceived enemy group is common in fringe politics, which is why, for instance, the Marine who’s just been indicted in this district for sending half-Jewish journalist Kurt Eichenwald a GIF intended to provoke a seizure used the online handle Jew Goldstein.
Safavi, under his assumed name, gave an interview to an anti-Semitic outlet called The Renegade Tribune after the Rubio thing. When asked if others should follow in his footsteps as a yeller-out of things, Safavi struck a somber tone:
“There is no choice. We have an obligation to fight him. Both whites and millenials do not understand how dangerous Marco Rubio is. No one seems to understand how dangerous he is. Rubio has been anointed by the neocons. He is a Jew agent. If he is elected, the Jews will implement concentration camps and death camps for whites and political opponents. Rubio has been chosen by Netanyahu and by Mossad. FORTUNATELY, WE STILL HAVE TIME!”
Given that Rubio eventually lost to a candidate backed by another St. Mark’s grad and, indeed, many of the nation’s white supremacists and self-avowed fascists, it turns out that Safavi and those like him used their time well. Could Darius Safavi have a bright future in politics? Years ago, that would have been intended as a joke.