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Dear Abby: I Think My Neighbors Voted for Trump

Failed State Update newsletter for April 27, 2022
Pastor Greg Locke

Pastor Greg Locke

For some reason, I got a hell of a lot of new subscribers to this thing in the last week or so. More than usual, in fact. Welcome! And if you like what I do, please consider becoming a paid contributor. For just $7 a month you can help this guy keep his lights on and his car insured. In addition to the newsletter, I have another bombshell series coming out for paid subscribers and another book in the works. I’ll fill you in on all the juicy details sometime in the very near future. I promise.

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The big news this week, of course, has been that Elon Musk has offered to buy Twitter for $44 billion. As long as shareholders and regulators agree to the deal, the takeover is due to happen sometime this year. I don’t have much to say about this. I mean, the world’s richest man is going to own what the New York Daily News calls “the world's most powerful communications platform” — what could possibly go wrong?

Profiles in Stupidity

In the United States there are conservatives, and there are conservatives. This week in The New York Times, Trip Gabriel has profiled Christopher Rufo, a conservative activist — an ideologue, actually — waging a “moral war” (his words) against the straw men of Critical Race Theory, LGBTQ teachers, and Walt Disney, from behind his desk at the Manhattan Institute, a conservative* think tank founded in 1978 by future CIA director (and Knight of Malta) William Casey. Rufo is sorta the James O’Keefe of the right-wing think tank set, and the piece in the Times is a case study in how politicians use bullshit wedge issues and misinformation to subvert democracy.

(*I’m done italicizing conservative now. You get my point.)

And while we’re at it, you should take a look at this article in the Tennessean about Pastor Greg Locke. He began Global Vision Bible Church in 2006, and at first, it was all low-stakes mainstream Christian stuff, with retreats and fundraisers-as-publicity stunts: He would take men onto the streets to live as if they were homeless, or spend four days suspended thirty feet in the air to fundraise for the homeless; I guess he was sort of a born again Criss Angel. Within a decade, Locke was leaning fully into the right-wing-crank demographic: attacking schools for teaching students about Islam, protesting abortion clinics (“God didn't give me a huge social media platform so I can sit around and be quiet”), and hobnobbing with Trump, Roger Stone, and Charlie Kirk. More recently, he has attacked Freemasons, Satanists (including “high priestess” Hillary Clinton), the scamdemic, and Dunkin’ Donuts.

Of course, extremists on any end of the spectrum can reclaim their humanity; it helps to have a little humility. And sometimes humility strikes you while you’re sitting in a cell. This week in the Star Tribune (Minneapolis), Lara Yuen discusses the unusual relationship that has developed between Imam Mohamed Omar and one of the men who firebombed his mosque in 2017. Michael McWhorter, 33, received a prison sentence of 16 years for the act. Of course, no one is born a right-wing extremist, and a quick look at the bomber’s life betrays several problems that could have contributed to his radicalization:

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In private conversations, prosecutors told Omar how McWhorter and Morris were helping build the government's case against Hari. Omar also learned how much Hari had manipulated the men, taking advantage of their financial desperation and vulnerability. Morris, who dropped out of school in the eighth grade, suffered from undiagnosed schizophrenia.

Omar, for one, sees the value of forgiving the man who threatened his life and chased his family out of the United States: "We forgive each other because we want to be better — better together," he says.

Let the healing begin!

That said, looking for forgiveness and agreeing to disagree doesn’t come naturally to everybody, as indicated by this letter to NY Times advice columnist Philip Galanes:

My husband and I moved to a new city recently. Our next-door neighbors introduced themselves right away, and they were very friendly to us. We hung out a few times. They were fun! Then I added one of them as a friend on Facebook and saw that they spread misinformation about the Covid vaccine, various political figures and people with substance abuse issues. Oof! My husband and I decided we will be polite when we see them, but we won’t drink beers or watch movies with them anymore. Still, they keep inviting us to hang out. I feel awkward refusing their invitations while seeing them across the yard. Should I just explain to them why we don’t want to be friends?

Galanes clearly doesn’t want to seem like a judgmental liberal, yet he really can’t help himself. Eventually, he offers his solution: Just ask them for their vaccination status. If for some reason they’re not vaccinated, you can drop them like the centers of pestilence they are.

More news from the Failed State

Okay, here’s one more:

You know you’re in bad shape when Michele Bachmann seems to make sense.