Funny events in anti-woke world

Seanchaidh

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Agema

You have no authority here, Jackie Weaver
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She looks fine to me.
Beauty is a certain amount of personal subjectivity with a certain amount of social influence.

Much as I'd like to get away from evalulating so much on their looks, I figure exceptions are reasonable when they volunteer to be the front cover of a swimwear magazine, so I'd be happy to agree that she is indeed a fine looking woman. I'm sorry for Jordan Peterson he has such limited taste.
 

XsjadoBlayde

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Have said this before, but Peterson really is running on 2nd hand fumes these days post Russian coma, and he wasn't that impressive beforehand. Like, has anyone here heard his rant on Joe Rogan about climate change efforts being meaningless cause "climate is everything" and "you can't fix everything"? Frustratingly, I can't seem to find a clip that isn't part of some other show making fun of it for some reason, but it's just another example of his melting brain trying to remain relevant.
 
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Kyrian007

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If she came onto me, I would absolutely not turn her down.
About 3/4 of the dudes up in arms over her SI cover wouldn't turn her down because of her size... they wouldn't be able to talk to her in person because they never associated with a woman in general, much less one so attractive. Be funny to try and watch them form a sentence though.
 

XsjadoBlayde

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Christ this is a lengthy one. Might be worth boiling that kettle and grabbing a cuppa.

IDAHO — White nationalist Vincent James Foxx had a new video for his nearly 70,000 subscribers on BitChute, one of the few tech platforms that hasn’t banned him. On Feb. 16, he appeared wearing a baseball hat emblazoned with the state’s outline tilted on its side so that it resembled a pistol.

“We are going to take over this state,” Foxx declared. “We have a great large group of people and that group is growing. A true, actual right-wing takeover is happening right now in the state of Idaho. And there’s nothing that these people can do about it. So if you’re a legislator here, either get in line, or get out of the way.”

Foxx, 36, isn’t from Idaho. He only recently moved from California to Post Falls. But in the video, he showed off photos of himself posing with a string of prominent Republican politicians in the state as he explained who he’s supporting in the upcoming primaries, slated for May 17.

He was especially excited about a selfie he’d taken a week prior: It showed him and fellow white nationalist Dave Reilly, a recent Pennsylvania transplant also living in Post Falls, standing alongside Idaho’s lieutenant governor, Janice McGeachin. All three were smiling.

“We’re supporting her,” Foxx said, bragging of his movement’s “deep connections” to McGeachin, whom former President Donald Trump endorsed in the GOP primary race for governor. Foxx then explained how his particular brand of Christian white nationalism is poised to conquer Idaho, then the country.

“The solution is local politics: Amassing power in these pockets of the country until it’s time to unify,” he said. “I’ve only been here for a couple of months and I’m tapped in the way that I am. You can do it too.”

Fascists like Foxx are famous fabulists, experts at exaggerating their influence and success. But Foxx wasn’t just talking shit.

He is one of many far-right activists who have flocked to Idaho in recent years, where a large and growing radical MAGA faction in the state’s Republican Party has openly allied itself with extremists to a shocking extent, even for the Trump era. This faction is accruing more and more power in Boise, the state capitol: Imagine a statehouse full of Marjorie Taylor Greenes and Steve Kings. At the local level, they have seized seats on school boards and county commissions at a fast clip.

They’ve accomplished this, in part, by targeting their opponents with frightening cruelty and harassment, embracing a strategy called “confrontational politics,” which has helped drive more moderate officials across the state to resign or retire.


A lot has been written about both the radicalization of the Republican Party and the decline of democracy in the U.S. — about the country being at a precipice. It’s maybe easy for those warnings to become background noise, or to dismiss them as doom-mongering pieces of clickbait. But in Idaho, the nightmare scenario is crossing into reality, as an authoritarian GOP sets about to create a whiter, Christian nation.

These MAGA radicals have gestured at the future they want: no rape and incest exceptions to Idaho’s abortion ban; no emergency contraception; no gender-affirming health care for minors; the banning of books; the jailing of librarians; and maybe no public education altogether.

I recently spent a week traveling across the state, from Sandpoint in the northern panhandle down through the green slopes and whitewater of Hell’s Canyon to the plains of Ada County, and then across lava rock and sagebrush to Blackfoot. In all these places, Democrats and more moderate Republicans view Tuesday’s primaries as an existential affair. Some are considering leaving the state if MAGA extremists consolidate more power. Others are digging in their heels.

The people I talked to were not all that accustomed to alarmism, which made it striking to hear some of their voices tremble when they talked about what’s happening to their home. Their message for the rest of the country? It’s gonna get bad. The GOP really will go that far.


A Very Extreme Republican County Committee

Right-wing extremists have long been attracted to Idaho, drawn to its abundant land, lack of racial diversity (the state is now 93% white) and libertarian brand of conservative politics. But according to longtime residents like Shawn Keenan, a local Democratic activist, the degree to which extremists are not only flocking here today but finding a home in the GOP feels different.

I talked to Keenan in Coeur d’Alene — a fast-growing city of 50,000 nestled in the Rockies — at a lakeside park downtown, the same place he remembers neo-Nazis in the 1990s marching around trying “to recruit blue-eyed blond-haired boys like me to join their Aryan cult.”

Keenan was referring to the Aryan Nations, the white supremacist group that had a large, sprawling compound near here, up by Hayden Lake. In 1998, members of the group opened fire on and then viciously beat Keenan’s aunt and cousin, Victoria and Jason Keenan, both of whom are Native American, after they stopped their car near the compound. (A Southern Poverty Law Center-funded lawsuit stemming from the attack eventually bankrupted the Aryan Nations. Keenan’s aunt, fearing reprisal, fled the area.)

Back then, Keenan says, he remembers there being some bipartisan opposition to the Aryan Nations, which had terrorized the community for years.

“It was really easy for the community to organize against that, and you had a lot of buy-in from just about every single business owner downtown, all of the city council, you know, were locked arm in arm on this,” he said. “And it was fairly unified.”

Not so much anymore, Keenan said. Sure, the Aryan Nations is gone, its 20-acre compound in ruins, but what does that matter when the local GOP is endorsing white supremacists?


On Nov. 2, 2021, Foxx told his 44,000 followers on Telegram that “If school board races go well in north Idaho, I will be running for something local there soon. And I will win easily.”

Foxx’s dream of public office has already been pursued by his friend Dave Reilly, a fellow white nationalist who, despite saying “all Jews are dangerous” and having attended the deadly neo-Nazi rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, in 2017, was endorsed last year by the Kootenai County Republican Central Committee for a school board seat in Post Falls, a town neighboring the larger Coeur d’Alene in north Idaho.

Even after the endorsement drew negative media coverage, the KCRCC didn’t back down. “I believe Dave is a good man who will make an excellent Trustee and will resist the Progressive/Marxist indoctrination of our children,” Brent Regan, the committee’s chairman, wrote in a statement. (Reilly didn’t win the school board seat in Post Falls — but he performed pretty well for a guy who was in Charlottesville in 2017, winning 47% of nearly 2,000 votes.)

Regan has been at the center of the Idaho GOP’s radicalization. At his perch atop KCRCC and as chair of the board of the Idaho Freedom Foundation, an influential statewide group, both organizations have staked out far-right positions they then demand that conservatives embrace or else be labeled a RINO (Republican In Name Only).

Regan has also repeatedly embraced noxious extremist groups and figures, like in 2019, when he led the KCRCC in passing a resolution asking the federal government to allow Austrian white nationalist Martin Sellner, who had close ties to the man who massacred 50 Muslims in New Zealand, to enter the country so that he could marry his fiance, a north Idaho-based alt-right influencer.

Last summer, the KCRCC unanimously passed another resolution, affirming its total support for the John Birch Society, the conspiratorial anti-communist organization that is, in many ways, the antecedent to QAnon and whose founder once declared that “democracy is a fraud.”

Foxx — who was at the Jan. 6, 2021 “Stop the Steal” rally in Washington, D.C. — has been a big name in white supremacist circles for years now. He was the founder of the alt-right media collective known as Red Elephants, worked as a chief propagandist for a violent fascist fight club and is a prominent figure in the America First “groyper” movement.

He’s rubbed shoulders with a who’s-who of prominent racists, appearing on podcasts to talk about Jewish control of the media, deny the Holocaust, or riff about the low IQ scores of non-whites. “The Buffalo shooter did something crazy and immoral but was right about white replacement,” Foxx wrote on Sunday after an 18-year-old white supremacist — who cited the racist “great replacement” conspiracy in an apparent manifesto — massacred 10 people in a predominantly Black neighborhood.


In a statement to HuffPost, Regan claimed to have never met Foxx. “I do not recall him attending any of the KCRCC meetings,” he said. In February, however, Foxx and Reilly posted photos of themselves smiling at KCRCC’s annual Lincoln Day Dinner with guest speaker Dinesh D’Souza. (Regan was also a speaker at the event.)

In almost any place in the country, Foxx would have no chance of being elected to anything. But here, the party infrastructure could not only allow it, but encourage it.

“They have completely rebranded what it is to be a conservative here in north Idaho,” Keenan said of the KCRCC. “And they have literally excommunicated and cleaned house of any rational, regular conservative from their ranks, telling them, ‘You don’t belong here. You have not passed the purity test.’ It’s a bit of a purge. A big purge.”

This radicalization accelerated in the last five years, Keenan said, pointing to a series of events — Trump’s election, the pandemic and the nationwide anti-racist uprisings of 2020 — as mobilizing the far right here to such a scary extent that he wonders whether it’s time get out of Idaho. Some of his friends already have.

There was a week when armed militias patrolled the streets with assault rifles in search of Black Lives Matter and antifa activists. Anti-maskers shut down a school board meeting, COVID-19 denialists harassed hospital workers, and bigots — some of them armed — harangued children at “Rainbow Squad” LGBTQ events at a local library.

“Every single day, I wake up and I do this debate in my head: ‘Do I move or do I stay?’” Keenan said, briefly breaking down in tears. “Every day. So I guess maybe that’s an indication of how hopeful I am.”


‘A Deep Desire To Dominate Without Mercy’

On Feb. 25, white nationalists stopped me from entering the third annual America First Political Action Conference in Orlando, Florida. No reporters allowed, they said. “Hey, the homosexual conference is that way,” quipped one attendee, a YouTuber arrested last year for attacking media during the insurrection.

Back at my hotel, I watched the AFPAC livestream, waiting to find out which GOP politicians would appear, lending the imprimatur of their office to this gathering of young “America First” fascists, who call themselves “groypers.”

Among the five Republican officials who spoke was McGeachin (pronounced “Ma-GEE-hin”), Idaho’s lieutenant governor. “Keep up the good work fighting for our country,” she told the crowd in a pre-recorded video. Other speakers at AFPAC then praised Adolf Hitler and called for Dr. Anthony Fauci to be hanged.


Foxx gave a fiery speech, too. “We must have a deep desire to dominate without mercy,” he howled. “And if you refuse to dominate, then America First will dominate you!”

Responding to backlash over her AFPAC appearance back in Boise, McGeachin admitted in an interview with KTVB that she’d “heard” of Foxx, and yes, had taken a photo with him. She then quickly pivoted to accusing the media of playing a game of “guilt by association.”

But she was less defensive three weeks later when she appeared on a far-right podcast, telling the hosts she was well aware of what AFPAC was all about, adding defiantly: “I’m not going to back off from the opportunity to talk to other conservatives across the country.”

This never-punch-right attitude has defined McGeachin’s chaotic tenure as Idaho’s lieutenant governor. Since her election in 2019, McGeachin — a former state representative who owns an Irish pub in Idaho Falls — has routinely allied herself with some of the most extreme right-wing figures in America and then, when pressed about those associations, has refused to apologize. (When I requested McGeachin comment for this story, she responded by posting a screenshot of my email on Twitter. “Sounds like unbiased journalism to me,” she wrote, adding a crying-laughing emoji.)

Her extremism has endeared her to the Idaho Freedom Foundation, a powerful dark money organization receiving bundles of donations from out-of-state billionaires. The group’s stated mission is “exposing, defeating, and replacing the state’s socialist public policies,” which in practice has meant pushing a vision of government so limited as to make Idaho the Wild West again.

Since 2009, the IFF has amassed influence largely by a tool it calls “The Freedom Index,” a system of scoring and ranking lawmakers according to how they vote on different bills. If a GOP legislator’s score falls too low for IFF’s liking, that legislator can expect the foundation to wield its considerable resources to back a primary opponent.

This has led to a caucus of IFF sycophants in the capital who fall over themselves to do the group’s bidding, chasing after high Freedom Index scores like a 4th grader working toward their next shiny gold star.

There are 24 state representatives and senators in Idaho with Freedom Index scores of 75% and above. The current top-rated legislator is state Rep. Heather Scott, with an FI score of 100%.

Scott was part of an anti-government group involved in two armed conflicts with the federal government, including the 2013 Malheur National Wildlife Refuge standoff in Oregon (where she went by the militia codename “greenbean”). She has posed with a Confederate flag and defended white nationalism. A rabid COVID denialist, she once organized a mask-burning event and has said stay-at-home measures were “no different” than Nazis sending Jews to extermination camps.

Republican state Rep. Chad Christensen (FI Score: 99%) lists his membership in the anti-government militia group the Oath Keepers on his official Idaho government profile page.

Further down is Republican state Rep. Ben Adams (FI score: 78%). Last year, after a viral video showed an Idaho man at a conservative rally asking when he could start killing Democrats — “When do we get to use the guns? How many elections are they going to steal before we kill these people?” — Adams wrote on Twitter that it was a “fair” question.

There are only 14 Democrats in the Idaho state House out of 70 members, and Rep. Chris Mathias (FI Score: 27%) is one of them.

Mathias is also the only Black state legislator in Idaho. I met him at a restaurant in Boise where he was celebrating the last day of the legislative session with what seemed like a long-awaited cocktail. After we joked around for a few minutes about having the same name, I asked Mathias about IFF’s Freedom Index.

“As much as I want to point to examples of their adverse impact on the legislative process — and there’s many things to point to — part of me, the social scientist in me, the military veteran in me, wants to, you know, not just hate the player, but hate the game,” said Mathias, who served in the Coast Guard and has a Ph.D. in public policy.

A grading system like the Freedom Index makes the often inscrutable process of legislating more accessible to voters, Mathias said, and the IFF is an outrageous arbiter.

Mathias is intimately familiar with the group. Last spring, he watched state Rep. Ron Nate (FI Score: 97%) and other far-right legislators manufacture a racist moral panic about Boise State University indoctrinating students with “critical race theory.” (It was not.) Nate, using talking points lifted from an IFF white paper, argued for cutting part of the school’s budget.

Mathias says he typically likes to “keep his powder dry” in the statehouse — Democrats are such a minority there, it’s not worth the fuss to debate every proposal — but in this case, both as the only Black man in the legislature and as a Boise State alumni, he felt compelled to speak.

Going to Boise State on the GI Bill, he told his colleagues in a speech on the House floor, pausing to fight back his emotions, “provided opportunities I’d never seen in my life. It changed my life.”

Critical race theory, he continued, simply recognizes that there are institutional biases — in “housing, health, education, wealth, income,” Mathias said — that have existed since our country was founded. “People of color always come out on the losing end,” he added, his voice breaking. “Always. And I don’t think it’s unfair to acknowledge it.”

The legislature then voted to cut $1.5 million in funding from Boise State in order to “remove state support for social justice programming.”


A whole new slate of IFF-backed candidates will be on the ballot for Tuesday’s primary, which, in a conservative state like Idaho, essentially serves as the general election. Mathias said his biggest concern is that if the far right, including McGeachin in her bid for governor, wins more power in Boise, it won’t bother with the nuts and bolts of actual governance.

“I think if you dedicate too much of your time to moral panics, just as a matter of displacement effect, you are not talking about other things that you absolutely need to happen,” Mathias said. Like plowing the roads in winter, or figuring out how the fastest-growing state in the nation can relieve enough stress on its electrical grid to literally keep the lights on.

“Summer is coming, and we’re in a real drought right now, and there’s a lot of planning and preparedness that needs to go into getting ready for wildfire season,” Mathias said, “but if you’re only worried about 3-year-olds going into libraries in Idaho without parental supervision and getting their hands on a book that happens to have a picture of women’s breasts on page 38, if that’s what you spend your time worrying about, well, then fire season is going to come bite you in the ass, and it’s probably going to get people killed.”


The Purge


Dr. Ted Epperly, 68, was a physician in the Army for 21 years, serving in the Gulf War and reaching the rank of colonel. He served in the White House as the personal doctor to two U.S. presidents, George H. W. Bush and Bill Clinton, and later was named a president himself, of The American Academy of Family Physicians, overseeing its 150,000 members. He has testified before Congress 18 times and has contributed articles to respected medical journals.

But he is also a Democrat who believes that the coronavirus, which has now killed 1 million Americans, is a public health emergency. For these transgressions, Epperly received notice last June from the Ada County Commission that his role as the physician member of the Central District Health board in Boise — a position he’d held for 15 years — would not be renewed


Republican County Commissioner Ryan Davidson made it clear to local press that he’d ousted Epperly over his support of lockdown measures like mask requirements, which he argued were tantamount to “the suspension of individual liberties.” Two months later, Davidson appointed Epperly’s replacement: Dr. Ryan Cole, an anti-vaccine influencer who had called the safe and effective COVID-19 vaccine “needle rape,” and a “poisonous attack on our population.”

“Cole was an absolute COVID-denying, ivermectin-prescribing, hydroxychloroquine-prescribing, right-wing pathologist,” Epperly told me over beers near his home in Eagle, Idaho. “I mean, public health is a body of knowledge that really is in the realm of a generalist physician … never a pathologist. I mean, a pathologist deals with microscopes, slides and body tissue. I mean, they don’t even deal with living human beings!”

Epperly had actually been appointed to the health board by Republican county commissioners in 2006, back when “public health was bigger than politics,” he said. By all accounts, he did a good job overseeing the area’s approach to food inspection, the opioid epidemic and a host of other public health matters.

Then the coronavirus came to town, and Epperly, a born-and-bred Idahoan, saw his community ripped apart at the seams, regressing from the “collectivism” and esprit de corps of the pandemic’s early days — when he and the local medical community were revered as “heroes” — to the ugly “individualism” of COVID denial in which they were suddenly cast as “villains.”

By Dec. 8, 2020, a far-right group called People’s Rights, founded by anti-democracy extremist Ammon Bundy, coordinated a large armed protest outside the Central District Health building as the board was poised to pass a mask mandate to ease the strain on local hospitals, where ICUs were nearing capacity.

The protesters turned up outside the homes of health board members, including Epperly’s. They blared audio from a violent scene in the movie “Scarface” outside the home of another board member, Diana Lachiondo, while her two children cowered inside. Lachiondo left the vote in tears to return home, and the meeting was eventually canceled.

“I am sad,” Lachiondo tweeted the next day. “I am tired. I fear that, in my choosing to hold public office, my family has too-often paid the price. Though I was born and raised in Idaho, I increasingly don’t recognize this place.” She resigned the following month.

Epperly knew his time on the board was likely coming to an end, too. Two Republicans had gained control of the three-person county commission — including Ryan Davidson, a far-right darling. The other Republican, Rod Beck, was “more of a centrist,” Epperly said, but was likely under immense pressure.

“We have a particularly strong group here in Idaho called the Idaho Freedom Foundation,” Epperly said. “They’re this very far-right-leaning activist group. They’ve got Republican legislators and county commissioners like puppets on strings. … You toe the line with them, or else they’re looking to replace you with a further right person.”

Cole, Epperly’s far-right replacement, has spent his tenure on the health board suggesting — including in a viral video produced by the anti-vaccine group Health Freedom Idaho — that the COVID vaccine was causing gynecological cancers, without sharing evidence of his claim. A bombshell investigation this month by the Idaho Capital Sun found he had misdiagnosed two people with cancer, including a woman who then underwent a major surgery removing her reproductive organs, all for an illness she didn’t have.

Across Idaho, the far right has laid siege to nonpartisan positions, some of which require specific expertise, and made them partisan, installing loyalists with sometimes disastrous results.

In Kootenai County, activists endorsed by the KCRCC won a majority of the nonpartisan seats on the board of North Idaho College. These new trustees quickly torpedoed the school, firing its president without cause — a move that cost the school half a million dollars — and mismanaged the place so severely that it was at risk of losing its accreditation.

The board’s chairman, Todd Banducci, has said he’s battling a “deep state” at the school, where liberals are “quite deeply entrenched.” Banducci is echoing language from a robocall last year from the Idaho Freedom Foundation calling for the state’s colleges to be defunded over “leftist indoctrination” and “teaching young people to hate America.”

Laura Tenneson, a local progressive activist and North Idaho College graduate, has watched Banducci’s reign with despair. “They’ve taken over our beloved institution because they think the college was infecting the community with liberalism,” she told me. “And that’s their sole reason for essentially destroying our college.”

It is not a secret that many on the hard right want to seize public and democratic institutions in order to dismantle them. Some of the movement’s shining stars are very clear on this point.

A recent Vanity Fair piece, for example, profiled members of the national neoreactionary movement, acolytes of a philosopher named Curtis Yarvin, who is a close ally of billionaire Peter Thiel. This movement, which has buy-in from powerful GOP figures, is explicit about wanting to usher in the end of democracy by purging the current government of its enemies and establishing one-party control — or, put another way, authoritarianism.

J.D. Vance — the venture capitalist and “Hillbilly Elegy” author who recently won the Ohio Republican primary for U.S. Senate — is a follower of Yarvin’s. He positively likened this prospective purge to the deadly “de-Baathification of Iraq.”

“I think Trump is going to run again in 2024,” Vance told Vanity Fair. “I think that what Trump should do, if I was giving him one piece of advice: Fire every single mid-level bureaucrat, every civil servant in the administrative state, replace them with our people.”

Vance and Trump might look to north Idaho for inspiration.

In March of this year, the Coeur D’Alene/Post Falls Press obtained a shocking recording of a phone call between KCRCC Youth Chair Dan Bell and a local resident in which Bell spelled out a plan to “bum rush” the Kootenai Democrats by recruiting conservatives to pose as liberals and then run for Democratic precinct captain positions. Once elected, they would install Dave Reilly, the white nationalist who attended the Charlottesville rally, as the local Democratic Party chair.

“Long story short, we want to take over the Democrat Party,” Bell said.

Rob Barrans, vice chair of the KCRCC, has claimed neither he nor Regan, the group’s chair, were aware of the plan.

HuffPost has obtained another recording from an August 2021 KCRCC meeting in which Barrans laid out a plan to take over each and every — by his count, 217 — nonpartisan position in the county. Barrans can be heard listing off targets: fire districts, sewer districts, school boards, town councils, water commissions.

“So here’s what I need from you,” Barrans told the group. “If you know a conservative and — I don’t say this in some places, but I’m gonna say it here — if you know of a conservative Christian candidate or someone that has never thought about running for office, they can go to the KootenaiGOP.org website.”

Barrans then explained how the KCRCC would interview prospective candidates and that if they were suitable, it would put their names on a sample ballot sent out to local Republicans.


I met Deborah Rose, who used to attend KCRCC meetings before becoming disillusioned with the group (she calls it “cultish”), at a deli inside a Super 1 grocery store near her home in Athol, Idaho. She told me it’s hard to persuade more moderate Republicans to run for office here.

“I’ve tried to get some good candidates to run but they didn’t want to go up against the central committee, against their ugliness, hatefulness and bullying, and their attacks,” she said.

Rose has voted Republican for 50 years, she said, including for Trump in 2020. She still has some questions about how the votes were counted, but nevertheless says she’s been called a “communist” by KCRCC members over her criticism of the group. “I am actually a conservative Republican,” she said. “But not that kind of conservative Republican.”

Our conversation drifted to the Jan. 6, 2021, attack on the Capitol. “I stop short of calling it an insurrection … I think they were being really stupid,” Rose began before someone interrupted.

“Are you talking about the Capitol?” asked a man who had been eating a sandwich a few tables over. “I was there. It was not an insurrection.”

He introduced himself. “My name’s Michael Flynn, believe it or not,” he said, chuckling; not that Michael Flynn. He then showed us videos from his trip to the Capitol.

“It was a setup, but we had no way of knowing that,” he said, echoing the many conspiracy theories about that day. The “troublemaking people” at the rally, he claimed, “looked like antifa.”

But Flynn mostly wanted to clear up any misconceptions I might have about Jan. 6. He wanted me to know it was actually a beautiful, beautiful day. A mostly peaceful event with grandpas and grandmas and kids waving flags, and dogs, and good people just “doing the right thing.”

“It was the most amazing day of my life,” he said.


Confrontational Politics And A ‘Cry For Help’

“I never come into this building without a gun,” Republican state Rep. Greg Chaney (FI Score: 38%) told me in his statehouse office in late March, where he was packing up his things on the last day of the legislative session. Chaney is a conservative Republican — NRA-endorsed, backs the blue, wants to ban sanctuary cities — who is in a state Senate primary against an IFF-backed candidate.

He showed me the .9mm pistol tucked into a belt holster underneath his suit jacket. It’s not uncommon for Idaho state legislators to show up to work armed, and it’s legal, but Chaney said he didn’t start strapping up every morning until some tense moments with the far right these last couple of years.

He was in the statehouse on Aug. 24, 2020, when Ammon Bundy led an armed and unmasked mob past police officers to disrupt a COVID-related legislative session. Bundy, best known for leading the Malheur standoff in Oregon, was arrested and is now banned from the statehouse.

A few months later, dozens of Bundy’s followers targeted Idaho officials — a county commissioner, the Boise mayor, Ted Epperly — at their homes over coronavirus measures. “I considered it to be a gross violation of the unspoken rules of disagreement,” Chaney said of the protests. “You don’t show up to somebody’s house without it being an intimidation tactic.”

And so, on Feb. 15, 2021, he announced a bipartisan bill that would prohibit targeted picketing near a person’s place of residence with the “intent to harass, annoy or alarm.” A few nights later, about a dozen far-right protesters turned up outside Chaney’s house in Caldwell carrying tiki torches.

One protester brought a stuffed animal dressed in a “CHANEY” T-shirt hanging from a noose tied to a pitchfork. “My now-10-year-old stepdaughter asked my wife in the morning, ‘Why do they want to kill Daddy?’” Chaney remembered. “The message wasn’t lost on them.”

Chaney, who has three children, says he mostly felt anger that the protesters made his family feel unsafe. These days, when his wife hears a car door slam out front, her heart rate still spikes.

Chaney said his wife, wanting to better understand the people threatening her family, picked up a copy of “Confrontational Politics” and read it from cover to cover. Multiple people in Idaho told me that if I really wanted to understand the far right in the state, I needed to read this book.

Authored by a former California state senator and gun rights fundamentalist named H.L. Richardson, “Confrontational Politics” is essentially a how-to guide for a Christian nationalist insurgency in the United States. “There can be no compromises with the Left,” Richardson writes. “We are ideologically at opposite ends of the spectrum with no arbitration possible. Either they win or we do. They will run the government or we will. That’s the only choice open to either of us. They know it — shouldn’t we?”

Richardson prescribes an aggressive style of politics that’s always, always on the offensive, that is constantly attacking its opponents, provoking them, screaming over them, and wearing them down. Never apologize. Exploit “hot button issues” that inspire “deep emotion” and “moral righteousness” to gain followers.

Richardson pays special attention to primaries, which he sees as an opportunity for a dedicated radical minority, marching in lockstep, to take advantage of low voter turnout to win power: democratic means for anti-democratic ends.

It is, as summarized in an excellent episode of the NPR podcast “No Compromise,” a strategy of “leveraging voter apathy to impose your will on society.”

To execute this counter-majoritarian insurgency, GOP officials across Idaho have sometimes partnered with extremist groups to bully and intimidate their opponents.

Last year, after a 19-year-old legislative intern accused state Rep. Aaron Von Ehrlinger (FI Score: 93%) of rape, his far-right allies went on the attack. State Rep. Priscilla Giddings (FI Score: 92%) sent a letter to her constituents calling the intern a “honey trap” and the rape allegations a “liberal smear job.” Giddings also shared a link to an article on a far-right website revealing the intern’s name and photo.

“You know that photo everyone is posting? I’m 12 years old in that photo,” the intern later recalled in an Associated Press interview about the “overwhelming” harassment she endured. “I’m not even a teenager in that photo, and they’re sharing it, calling me nasty.”

The intern was made to testify at a House ethics hearing about the rape, where she told her story from behind a screen to protect her identity. As she left the House chamber, she was accosted by activists from Bundy’s People’s Rights network, along with a CBS2 reporter named Emri Moore, all of whom started to film her.

The intern screamed and fell to the ground, curling up into a ball and crying as her lawyers scrambled to protect her. (Moore could be seen hugging the People’s Rights activists after the confrontation. She was stripped of her statehouse press credentials and now works for TPUSA, the college conservative group.)

Von Ehrlinger resigned from the House and was convicted of rape earlier last month. He faces up to life in prison. Giddings is currently running in the GOP primary for lieutenant governor.


In the summer of 2019, Tenneson, the progressive activist in Coeur d’Alene, says she left work downtown and walked back to her car where she found an unspent shotgun shell standing up on her car’s hood. She knew it was a threat.

In the weeks prior, someone had mailed postcards around the city with an illustration of Tenneson and two local officials depicted as clowns, alongside racist caricatures of minorities and hateful depictions of a homeless person and a transgender person. “ALL ARE WELCOME,” it read. “CLOWN WORLD.” On the back of the postcard was text saying diversity in Coeur d’Alene would mean “crime,” “homelessness,” “street feces” and “perversity.”

The postcards were a response to an innocuous local campaign Tenneson helped launch called Love Lives Here CDA, an anti-hate effort to promote the city as a welcoming place. Tenneson showed me her copy of the postcard. “The fact that that postcard was mailed to my address at my house means they knew where I lived,” she said.

The following year, Tenneson organized a National Women’s March rally in Coeur d’Alene, and a short time later received a menacing Facebook message from a local man she didn’t know. “You’re a dead woman walking,” it said. Tenneson filed a protective order against him.

“I never carried pepper spray before all this shit happened, because you don’t know, you don’t know if that death threat is real, you don’t know if that person knows where you work and knows where you live and is going to actually come after you,” Tenneson told me.

She’s since taken a “huge step back” in her activism, she said.

Any mobilization by liberals in north Idaho, or even a rumor of mobilization, provokes an outsized response from the right, including the armed militia occupations in 2020, when heavily armed extremists patrolled the streets of north for days.

Shelby Rognstad is the Democratic mayor of Sandpoint, about an hour’s drive north of Coeur d’Alene and one of the most beautiful places I’ve ever seen. Driving from the south, you enter by going across a long, low bridge over the blue waters of Lake Pend Oreille, surrounded by snow-capped mountains.

“There’s kind of a local saying, that once you cross the Long Bridge, you never go back because it’s just so captivating,” Rognstad said.

But in the summer of 2020, when some local high school students staged a small racial justice protest on the bridge, they had an unwanted escort: about 40 men in camo gear carrying AR-15s.

A 17-year-old girl later testified that one of the armed men told her she deserved to be raped for protesting. Other students also reported harassment. “Go live in Compton,” one of the men said. One student was called the n-word, another a “n****r-lover.”


The armed men came to Sandpoint after fake rumors on social media — one shared by a local county commissioner with militia ties — that busloads of antifa and other radical leftists were coming to Idaho from more liberal cities like Spokane and Seattle to loot and riot. The men, as right-wing extremists so often do, claimed to be there to protect businesses, a thinly veiled pretext for intimidation and a show of force.

“It was like we were a country at war,” Rognstad recalled.

We spoke not long after Idaho Gov. Brad Little (R), Lt. Gov. McGeachin’s more moderate primary opponent, gave his blessing to a bill that would lift an old Idaho law banning private militias.

“You know, private militias are gangs, right?” Rognstad told me in his office at City Hall. “If we were in an urban area, we would call them gangs, but we’re in rural Idaho; we call them militias. They have no accountability to the public, no accountability to law enforcement. They’re not professionally trained officers. They don’t swear an oath of office. They’re just renegades with guns. And that’s what they want to turn this back into: the Wild, Wild West. Is that where we’re going here? That’s where it appears we’re headed.”

Rognstad moved to Sandpoint 23 years ago and built a house in the woods when he said the town felt like a little secret “paradise.” It was more of a political melting pot too, he said, something he cherished, with “rednecks and hippies” living together in some harmony.

But right-wing migration to the state, which accelerated during the pandemic — real estate companies here now advertise to California conservatives — has transformed the place, he said.

I asked him whether reporters like me were part of the problem, parachuting into town from the East Coast to go on extremism safaris, essentially advertising the place as a fascist fantasyland. No, no, he said. Five years ago, he explained, he would’ve downplayed the extremism in the area to me and worked to repair the town’s image.

“But we’re losing here,” he said. “We’re losing our state. We’re losing our town. ... It’s just becoming overwhelming, and so now I’m — this is a cry for help.”

It’s also a warning, he said.

“If these groups can get a win, if they can put a stake in the ground and say, ‘We own north Idaho,’ or ‘We own Idaho, we have our own state,’ then in my view, the potential there is that the floodwaters are about to break.”

“Once you knock over that first domino, then it’s not just going to happen in Idaho; it’s going to happen in Texas or Arizona, or Nevada or Wyoming or Montana.”


A Narrow Place

When I arrived at Jennifer Ellis’ ranch in Blackfoot in the eastern part of the state, it was calving season, so she drove me around in her pickup pointing out the dozens of calves born hours earlier, walking around on wobbly legs. She doesn’t understand how a rancher, like Ammon Bundy claims to be, could be a COVID denialist. Ranchers have to manage pandemics in the herd all the time. “He’s all hat, no cattle,” Ellis quipped. “Never been a rancher in his life.”

Ellis is a conservative and a Republican who’s been involved in politics most of her adult life. She’s a fourth-generation Idahoan and a former president of the Idaho Cattle Association. Now, with a group of former GOP electeds, Ellis has formed a PAC called Take Back Idaho that’s trying to unseat far-right legislators, part of a growing coalition of moderate Republican groups across the state trying to rein in the radical faction represented by McGeachin.

Her daughter is a police officer and was in the statehouse when Bundy’s mob forced its way into the legislative chamber. Ellis has studied “Confrontational Politics,” too, and keeps a copy in her barn. Watching Idaho politics these last few years, she knew it in her bones that Trump supporters were going to attack the Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021. She still cried when she watched it on TV.


“I went from bawling to pissed,” Ellis said.

Ellis is a woman of faith and has angrily watched how the far right has used Christianity as a battering ram. “What’s a Republican legislator more afraid of than being called a RINO? it’s being called not Christian enough,” she said. “And they lowered the boom with that on the library bill, the transgender bill the abortion bills, all of that.”

“These religious folks need to have a look-in-the-mirror moment,” she added. “Maybe decide who it is that’s pulling their strings, because if it’s anything to do with the New Testament that I’ve ever read and believed in, it did not come through the Idaho legislature this year.”

Christian nationalists across the country were thrilled last week after news that Roe v. Wade is likely to be overturned by the Supreme Court, setting the stage for banning abortion in places like Idaho.

Foxx was especially worked up, posting a livestream in which he listed off his hopes for the wave of policies the decision could unleash. “They’re gonna ban sodomy!” he said. “They’re gonna ban gay marriage! They’re gonna throw gays off roofs! Women lose, God wins. Christ wins,” he said, smiling, before adding: “We shall have our theocracy soon.”

Earlier this month, in an interview with Stew Peters — a conspiracist who has called for Dr. Fauci to be executed — McGeachin shared a similar sentiment. “God calls us to pick up the sword and fight,” she said, “and Christ will reign in the state of Idaho.”


The same day in February that McGeachin appeared via video at the white nationalist conference in Orlando amid apologias for Hitler, she also asked Rabbi Dan Fink if he’d join a task force she was forming to fight anti-Semitism.

He declined.

“Her definition of anti-Semitism is ‘not supporting the State of Israel on everything that it does,’ and she’s trying to get evangelicals, that’s her base,” Fink told me. “When Janice McGeachin talks about anti-Semitism, she doesn’t give a damn about Jews. She’s trying to win over evangelicals.”

McGeachin is expected to lose in Tuesday’s race, but observers say her candidacy has helped push the incumbent, Little, to the right on a host of issues. It was Little, after all, who signed the state’s abortion ban. It was Little who signed two anti-transgender bills.

I went with Fink to the statehouse on the International Trans Day Of Visibility, where he joined about seven trans protesters idling on the steps, having not attracted much attention from the press. Fink thanked a protester from Oregon, saying he was glad the state would be willing to accept Idahoans looking for abortions.

Fink is pretty sure he’s one of only two full-time rabbis in the entire state of Idaho. He came here in 1994 to lead Ahavath Beth Israel in Boise, 10 years after neo-Nazis in a group called the Order bombed one of the congregation’s buildings. (Thankfully, no one was inside.)

He’s a liberal Democrat who’s been active in Idaho politics for a long time and is mortified by the Christofascist insurgency here. When I met him at his synagogue, he was thinking about the approaching Passover, one of the most sacred holidays on the Jewish calendar, celebrating Jews’ exodus from Egypt. He said it felt like a fitting story for Idaho in 2022.

“The message at the heart of the Seder is ‘don’t oppress the stranger because you know the heart of the stranger, having yourselves been strangers in the land of Egypt,‘” he said. “So if you want to talk about the core message of the holiday, it would be naive to not look around you. The Hebrew word for Egypt, used in the Torah, is Mitzrayim, and it means a ‘narrow place,’ a place that’s narrow-minded, narrow and small in spirits, and dangerous, narrow and pressing, and that’s what these folks would have this state be.”

“We’re in real danger of that here,” he said. “Serious danger of it.”
 
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Agema

You have no authority here, Jackie Weaver
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Just another cheap shot from a cheap asshole.
It's still a little sad to see someone who undertook career designed around education and psychological wellbeing, who did at least once have some considered ideas for trying to help people make more of their lives, diminish to little more than a grotesque, petty, right-wing troll.
 
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XsjadoBlayde

Intersectional Multidimensional Pansexual Alliance
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Couldn't fit this in same post for obvious reasons. Sorry for the double text wall dumps, but they are at least meaningful text wall dumps.


Jurgen Matthesius, the lead pastor of Awaken Church, and his family flew into San Diego on July 4, 2005. As they looked out of the plane’s window they saw fireworks, and Matthesius joked with his sons that the explosions were meant to welcome their arrival.

Recounting this story at a political conference held at the church’s San Marcos campus in March, Matthesius said the moment gave him an opportunity to tell his wife and fellow pastor, Leanne Matthesius, and their three boys about God’s role in the founding of America and the drafting of its constitution.

He went on to spin a lengthy biblical metaphor that cast the United States as Samson — the protector of God’s chosen people who got strength through his locks — and the Republicans-in-name-only and Democrats who seek to collectively destroy it.

“They want (the United States) to be subject to a new world order,” Matthesius said in his thick Australian accent, but the tide was turning.

“God said to me, ‘Do you see what’s happening in America?’” Matthesius claimed, the urgency of his words increasing with each utterance. “Do you see the patriots? Do you see the Trump flags? Do you see the ‘Let’s Go Brandon’ flags? Do you see the school boards?”

The patriots are rising and the hair on Samson’s head is growing back, Matthesius shouted as he rapped his knuckle on the lectern.

Matthesius’ animated performance was relatively tame compared to some speakers at the ReAwaken America conference, a traveling right-wing festival whose San Diego lineup featured Eric Trump, Michael Flynn and Roger Stone among other anti-vaccine and election fraud peddlers. One speaker claimed fried foods were satanic, while another warned not to be surprised if the “Angel of Death” showed up in Washington D.C.

Since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, Awaken has played a pivotal role in a new movement of conservative activists who thunder in public and at times make vaguely threatening statements toward elected officials. As the Republican Party’s influence in local politics wanes, some conservatives, sensing a vacuum in the regional power structure, have pivoted away from traditional Republican values, and toward a more hyperbolic worldview that casts them as righteous fighters against a diabolical liberal ruling class.

Where there was once talk of limited government, low taxes and abortion, some now infuse their speeches with talk of demonic forces and child trafficking. This shift has also allowed them to appeal to a new group of activists energized by the pandemic who may not have been attracted to the old party line.

Some of Awaken’s leaders and supporters have been regulars at County Board of Supervisors meetings, where speakers made so much noise last year that it attracted national news coverage. One man compared the government to Nazi Germany, repeatedly screaming “Heil Fauci” into the microphone before raising a copy of the Nuremberg code. He attended the ReAwaken America conference.

Three of the church’s pastors attended the Jan. 6 events that preceded the Capitol riot and one former pastor, David Chiddick, who also owns a coffee shop in Escondido, is now running against Rep. Scott Peters in the 50th Congressional District.

Over the past two years, several of the church’s pastors have actively spread medical misinformation at events and rallies throughout the region, and from the pulpit. The church itself has also allied with political groups looking to recruit like-minded conservatives to run for office, and others seeking positions of influence.

That includes Louis Uridel, a dreadlocked bodybuilder arrested in May 2020 for refusing to close his gym, who ran for Oceanside mayor, as well as Sharon McKeeman and Amy Reichert, two mothers who respectively founded anti-lockdown and anti-mask groups Let Them Breathe and ReOpen San Diego. McKeeman’s organization has spearheaded challenges to state vaccine requirements, and Reichert is running for county supervisor.

Like many in the movement, Reichert and Uridel have said they were nonpolitical until the pandemic.

Vaccine denialism and political diatribes aren’t a bug of Matthesius’ sermons, but an integral feature. Talk of rampant election fraud, globalist cabals and genocidal elites are increasingly common in his sermons and in his social media posts.

Awaken and Matthesius did not respond to requests for an interview.

The increasing radicalization of the rhetoric, and the embrace of conspiracy thinking, is also an indispensable feature of the wider right-wing movement throughout California. But, as is evidenced by Matthesius and many of Awaken’s pastors, the extreme talking points are often delivered through a devout religiosity.

The activists here have formed a motley and often surprising, but determined, coalition animated by the overwhelming feeling that something, maybe everything, is wrong, and that they must work together to oust the oppressors who are responsible. Awaken Church, and the San Diego region more broadly, has acted as an incubator and recruiting ground for some of the most energized — and organized — groups in the state.


A New Kind of Church

By the time the family landed in San Diego, Jurgen Matthesius and Leanne Matthesius had already spent years steeped in the evangelical megachurch tradition of Australia. The pair graduated from Hillsong College, whose global network of flashy and youthful churches has been roiled by controversy, and went on to work at another of the country’s most well-known evangelical exports — C3 Church Global.

Like Hillsong, C3’s ultra-modern, strobe-light-tinged sermons are perfectly optimized for the age of social media. “Its target is God’s hipsters — a following of young faithful hooked on Instagram,” wrote Australian outlet 9News.

It’s sold as a new kind of church. But despite the contemporary look and feel, C3 maintained older values, like the Pentecostal practice of speaking in tongues and the shunning of premarital sex and homosexuality.

At C3, Matthesius and his wife rose through the ranks, until in 2004 founder Phil Pringle requested they relocate to San Diego to plant a new church. Though at first unsure about the prospect of moving to a city they’d never been to before, Matthesius said in a 2010 interview the decision to do so was “ultimately an obedience thing.”

Awaken — then known as C3 San Diego — held its first service at Del Mar’s Marriott Hotel in August 2005, and spent years congregating in hotel lobbies, elementary and middle schools and even on the campus of the University of California San Diego.

By 2014, after opening their first stadium-seat location in Carlsbad, the couple had been appointed to oversee C3 churches in the United States. Over the next eight years, the church grew to include five campuses across San Diego County hosting nearly 10,000 congregants in all.

Like many pastors from the evangelical megachurch movement, Awaken’s pastors dispensed with the stuffy robes in favor of fitted tees, jeans and baseball caps. They hosted beach volleyball days, sermons for children, multi-day conferences, pricey specialized courses and even summer camps sponsored by Vitamin Water.

Thanks to marketing videos complete with enthralled, bouncing audiences, Christian pop-rock and electronic dance music, the church was able to appeal not only to already-devout Christians, but to younger, more secular people who may not have been attracted to the Christianity of yesteryear.


In 2017, the San Diego Reader quoted a father who said some of its services were “a shadowy youth group that aggressively targets teens by offering financial incentives to enlist other kids.” In past interviews, Matthesius has explained Awaken’s recruiting tactics by saying “the church is only ever one generation away from extinction.”

The larger C3 organization has faced even greater scrutiny in recent years for its claims of miraculous healing abilities and exorcism of demons. An Australian news show produced a two-part series in 2019 that highlighted the church’s preaching of prosperity gospel doctrine, which promises worshippers God’s favor in exchange for more money.

One former member said the church had brainwashed some into donating thousands of dollars.

Matthesius has engaged in similar rhetoric. “God is the most perfect accountant,” he said at a C3 conference. “He knows everything you give and he makes sure it comes back to you with interest.”

In January 2020, the church relaunched as Awaken Church. It partnered with the marketing company Prophetic on a full rebranding and ended up severing its ties with the C3 network.

Just two months later, COVID-19 swept across the world.


A Change Over the Pandemic

When the pandemic hit, Awaken initially abided by county regulations and shut its doors and moved sermons online. But by June 2020, the church had reopened to the public. Over the next six months Awaken engaged in a series of skirmishes with the county.

In July, the county sent Awaken a cease and desist order after it received video of indoor services taking place at the church. Although Matthesius said Awaken initially complied with the order, it didn’t last long.

A month later, Awaken began holding indoor gatherings once more and continued to do so even after county officials notified the church of a series of outbreaks that had occurred at two of its campuses.

This kicked off a tense confrontation with one local politician. Nathan Fletcher, chair of the Board of Supervisors, who took the rare step of publicly identifying the location of a specific outbreak. By then, the county had issued four cease and desist letters.

Awaken’s pastors said they’d seen a rise in addiction, depression and suicide over the pandemic and reopened its locations to support members struggling with emotional, spiritual and mental health issues.

But rather than tamp down its rhetoric, the church dug in in the face of government scrutiny and became more overtly political. With regional officials acting as a foil to its cause, the church received more attention than ever before.

Awaken’s pastors became regulars on KUSI and the church began attracting big names in conservative circles — like Candace Owens, Dennis Prager, Tucker Carlson, Charlie Kirk and Simone Gold, a doctor who recently pleaded guilty to joining the Jan. 6 Capitol riot.

During Carlson’s recent talk at Awaken Church, the Fox News host gleefully claimed he hadn’t been vaccinated against COVID-19, which elicited cheers from the congregation.

Like others, he said he’d experienced a profound change over the pandemic and now understood there was a spiritual element to everything, especially in the official responses to the COVID-19 pandemic. He claimed these responses were harmful not only to the general population, but to the officials’ reelection prospects.

“This is not a phenomenon that secular thinking can explain, it’s too dark,” Carlson said.

There was no conspiracy, Carlson assured the audience, no “conference call of, like, bad people meeting on Wednesdays.” Instead, Carlson said, the “unraveling of Western Civilization” was something akin to the Jonestown massacre.

“You’re watching leaders demand the destruction of the society they preside over. So why would you ever do that? Why would you burn down your own house? Because you’re seized by a spirit that is bigger than you, whose fruits are always destruction, suffering, chaos, pain,” he continued.

And until the righteous can dispatch that spirit, Carlson said, “they will continue to destroy.”


‘I Know the Picture that God has for San Diego’

Individuals who’ve attended services at Awaken have stressed that its pastoral team runs the gamut. Some have delivered sermons they’ve genuinely connected with, and some have been so extreme they’ve chosen to walk out.

Matthesius weaves humor into his talk of spiritual warfare, and speaks with the self-assured certainty that can quickly draw people in.

Throughout 2021, his sermons leaned ever more into the culture war as proxy for a grander spiritual war. Talk of wokeness and other right-wing buzzwords became common in his sermons.

“My preferred pronouns are ‘Your Majesty,’” Matthesius said during an October sermon, putting his finger to his lip like a mischievous child. But the humor in his sermons is enmeshed with talk that implies the real mobilization efforts should be in the political realm.

He’s railed, for instance, against “crazy boards of supervisors” and “rogue school boards,” saying that it was the responsibility of those who have been saved to fight against this “despot governance,” while also claiming wrongly that more people under 18 had died from COVID-19 vaccines than from the virus itself. He also asserted that vaccinated people were more likely to get the virus.

As 2021 came and went and the COVID-19 pandemic dragged on — despite Leanne Matthesius having prophesized a premature end to the pandemic in April 2020 — Jurgen Matthesius’ rhetoric became ever more extreme.

“I know the picture that God has for San Diego, and this ain’t it,” Matthesius preached at a Jan. 6, 2022, sermon titled “Instructions for Taking Territory.”

He continued by denouncing House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and calling out Lorena Gonzalez by name, who’d resigned her position in the California Assembly to lead the California Labor Federation the day before, and pledging to fill her now-vacant seat. He was clearly aware that his statements were cutting close to the Internal Revenue Service’s guidelines that forbid tax-exempt organizations from endorsing or opposing particular candidates.

“Oh, God forbid we should shout,” Matthesius said. “You know what? Take my 501(c)(3). I’d rather have a shout that brings down walls than have a tax exemption status.”

Despite Mattheisus’ assertion, there doesn’t seem to be much chance of Awaken’s tax-exempt status being revoked any time soon. Instead, he appears at times to be encouraging the perception that he’s at risk of being shut down.

Warren Smith, president of Ministry Watch, a nonprofit organization that seeks to bring transparency and accountability to the Christian ministry, said, “the likelihood that the Internal Revenue Service is going to actually repeal an organization’s tax exempt status for prohibited speech is extraordinarily remote.”

“It does happen from time to time,” Smith said, “but it is extraordinarily rare.”

At times Matthesius sounds nearly indistinguishable from standard issue Q-anon talking points — a dense and conspiratorial worldview that spread rapidly during Donald Trump’s presidency. It’s something of a big tent conspiracy theory that allows its followers to riff infinitely on its main tenets, so pinning down its exact narrative can be difficult, but it largely revolves around a supposed government insider cryptically leaking top-secret information as a means of fighting back against a global cabal. It supplants traditional Democratic versus Republican politics with a sprawling battle of good versus evil raging between messianic figures like Trump, and what adherents often view as satanic and bloodthirsty liberal politicians and the secular institutions that support them.

Matthesius, however, exists squarely in the post-Q-anon political landscape.

He’s had his Instagram and Twitter accounts suspended and has migrated to the fledgling conservative-aligned social media platforms Gettr and TRUTH Social, and his posts routinely feature conspiratorial talk about globalist cabals, the supposed overthrowing of the 2020 election and “reprobate perverts.”

In a recent Gettr post, he derided the Q conspiracy, labeling it a “globalist deception to paralyze the patriots from rising,” mimicking the post-Trump right’s unwillingness to sit back and “trust the plan,” as was so widely espoused during the feverish lead up to the 2020 election.

Likewise, his attacks on LGBTQ people have also ramped up online. In another Gettr post, he bemoans that if American elections were fair, the country would be totally red, and “LGBTQ would be seen for what it is; dysfunctional destructive heresy.”

Matthesius is clearly plugged into the fever swamp of right-wing online conspiracy thought. In sermons he preaches a popular new theory that the World Economic Forum invented the pandemic as a means to control the population and destroy the United States, but that elites are “talking about exterminating billions.”


On the Attack

Some of what Mattheisus teaches is not necessarily new. It is a highly conspiratorial and hyper-politicized version of the old American cultural gospel of being exceptional on the world stage yet under constant attack.

Evangelicals first began organizing politically in the 1800s, but beginning largely in the 1970s their political goals have been closely aligned with right-wing politics “including opposition to gay rights, reproductive choice and feminism,” according to a typology of American evangelicalism created by USC’s Center for Religion and Civic Culture.

Richard Flory, the executive director of the center, said there hasn’t been an election since the early 1960s in which evangelicals didn’t vote primarily for Republican candidates.

But the election of Donald Trump in 2016 reenergized American evangelicals to an extraordinary degree, with many viewing his victory as an opportunity to begin taking the United States back for God.

Beth Johnson, minister at Palomar Unitarian Universalist Fellowship — and an organizer of a press conference that brought an interdenominational trio of faith leaders together to protest the ReAwaken conference in March — said Trump’s election was simply a symptom of long-simmering reactionary impulses.

Johnson, who’s also involved in a number of civil rights organizations, called the rhetoric coming from Awaken disturbing, but unsurprising.

She also argued that it has real consequences for communities, particularly the most vulnerable. But, she said, this strain of Christian nationalism may continue to grow more visible.

“As we move into the possibility of a truly multicultural, multiracial democracy, the forces that rise up are forces that are threatened by this,” Johnson said.

Flory agreed, saying evangelical groups tend to organize and push back in times of rapid social change, or whenever they feel their perceived role in society is being threatened.

“They believe they are in battle, that cultural elites don’t like them, and are trying to put them out of business and trying to belittle their beliefs,” he said.

But despite their historical conservatism, and the precedent for political organizing, evangelicals didn’t usually combine the political and the spiritual quite as overtly as Matthesius does in his sermons, Flory said. Based on the typology of strains of U.S. evangelicalism that Flory and his colleagues constructed for the 2018 midterm election, and later updated for the 2020 election, he said he’d largely classify Awaken as “Trumpvangelicals.”

It is, in other words, a continuation of the religious right’s attempt to bring political power to bear.

Indeed, in a GETTR post Matthesius said the recent leaked Supreme Court opinion authored by Justice Samuel Alito that would overturn decades-old precedent established by Roe V. Wade would cause “every demon in hell” to start screeching and “reveal their human hosts.” But as is his tendency, he went a step further, saying the decision would be an end to the “bloodlust & child sacrifice” perpetrated by the globalist cabal operating through President Joe Biden.

Flory posited that Awaken’s separation in 2020 from the larger C3 network gave the church the opportunity to increasingly blend this conspiracy thinking into its sermons.

“You’re going to start seeing with these kinds of charismatic leaders that don’t have any controls outside of themselves, and the boards that they put together, and the pastoral staff that they put together a broader range of theology that may or may not be Christian,” Flory said.

Pastor Rebecca Littlejohn, the pastor at Vista La Mesa Christian Church, said her denomination was founded and built around the concept of Christian unity, so to speak out is a big deal. But her deep Christian conviction, and her commitment to pluralistic democracy, compelled her to join Johnson at the press conference opposing the ReAwaken America tour and the Christian nationalism it espouses.

“They want to rule alone, and force their faith on all the rest of us,” Littlejohn said.

Even prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, people had been disoriented by the pace of change in society, Littlejohn said. But when the pandemic hit pretty much everything people relied on to be stable was pulled out from under them.

“That’s extremely frightening,” she said. “So a voice speaking with such certainty and conviction is extremely alluring, even if what they’re saying is absolutely not supported by the facts.”

Littlejohn said that some of the conspiracy rhetoric in Matthesius’ sermons abuses scripture and the words of Jesus to normalize a viewpoint pushed by today’s factions of the GOP.

She said that despite the assertion by some, like Matthesius, that Christianity is under attack, in reality it always has been, and continues to be, the dominant religious framework for all the structures of U.S. society.

“American Christianity is not under attack,” she said. “It’s on attack, in many ways.”
 

Agema

You have no authority here, Jackie Weaver
Legacy
Mar 3, 2009
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Christ this is a lengthy one. Might be worth boiling that kettle and grabbing a cuppa.
<shrugs> So ends the USA as we know it, whether by schism or civil war.

Maybe one day a bunch of Republicans will turn around and squash their extremists at the cost of their own party, but their record so far is that they will protect their power and seats of office by accommodating the extremists and kooks all the way to the highest offices of the land.
 

Casual Shinji

Should've gone before we left.
Legacy
Jul 18, 2009
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<shrugs> So ends the USA as we know it, whether by schism or civil war.

Maybe one day a bunch of Republicans will turn around and squash their extremists at the cost of their own party, but their record so far is that they will protect their power and seats of office by accommodating the extremists and kooks all the way to the highest offices of the land.
It's quite disheartening (to say the least) realizing I'll probably never live to see the day that America returns to the comparatively normal state it was in back in the late 90's (or even the early 00's).
 

XsjadoBlayde

Intersectional Multidimensional Pansexual Alliance
Apr 29, 2020
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Britannialand
<shrugs> So ends the USA as we know it, whether by schism or civil war.

Maybe one day a bunch of Republicans will turn around and squash their extremists at the cost of their own party, but their record so far is that they will protect their power and seats of office by accommodating the extremists and kooks all the way to the highest offices of the land.
Hm, yes, but the people paying the price for all this will always be the most vulnerable, least complicit. And the indigenous communities/population will certainly be in serious danger of renewed organised attempted extermination.

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Unrelated reactionary faffery;


 

Thaluikhain

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It's quite disheartening (to say the least) realizing I'll probably never live to see the day that America returns to the comparatively normal state it was in back in the late 90's (or even the early 00's).
I know, right? And also various other countries that feel the need to mindlessly ape the US as well.
 

Agema

You have no authority here, Jackie Weaver
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Hm, yes, but the people paying the price for all this will always be the most vulnerable, least complicit. And the indigenous communities/population will certainly be in serious danger of renewed organised attempted extermination.
Yes. But I'm quite fatalistic about such things.

It would be awful. But the world goes on, and the extemists can drive out their intelligensia and richness and end up with a stagnant, cultural desert, to serve as another lesson in history that will be heeded for a few generations before everyone forgets.

I know, right? And also various other countries that feel the need to mindlessly ape the US as well.
If they're far enough behind the USA, they might see the shit hit the fan there and turn course in time.
 
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XsjadoBlayde

Intersectional Multidimensional Pansexual Alliance
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Yes. But I'm quite fatalistic about such things.

It would be awful. But the world goes on, and the extemists can drive out their intelligensia and richness and end up with a stagnant, cultural desert, to serve as another lesson in history that will be heeded for a few generations before everyone forgets.
Alright, Dr Manhattan. 😉
 
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