Another Minnesota Man story

This Minnesota man doesn’t murder any human beings, instead he just slaughters integrity and reason. From corporate America to conspiracy theory promotion: How a Minnesota man made a career out of anonymously amplifying dark plots.

Sean G. Turnbull displays many of the hallmarks of a successful upper-middle-class family man, a former film producer and marketing manager for one of the country’s largest retail corporations who lives in a well-appointed home in this Minneapolis-St. Paul suburb. Former colleagues describe him as smart, affable and family-oriented.

But for more than a decade, the 53-year-old has also pursued a less conventional path: anonymously promoting conspiracy theories about dark forces in American politics on websites and social media accounts in a business he runs out of his home. His audience numbers are respectable and his ad base is resilient, according to corporate records and interviews.

Turnbull has identified himself online for 11 years only as “Sean from SGT Reports.” He has amassed a substantial following while producing videos and podcasts claiming that the 9/11 attacks were a “false flag” event, that a “Zionist banker international cabal” is plotting to destroy Western nations, that coronavirus vaccines are an “experimental, biological kill shot” and that the 2020 election was “rigged” against President Donald Trump, according to a Washington Post review.

I still wouldn’t respect or like him, but I think he’d be a better man if he’d merely tossed someone in a woodchipper, rather than making a lucrative career out of misleading the public.

He quit his former job and is doing this propaganda full time! He just sits there and writes absurd lies and is making good money, too.

For years, Turnbull’s operation has generated revenue through subscriptions and donations and by advertising survival products and precious metals, which Turnbull has recommended as a hedge against an impending U.S. economic collapse, the Post review found. He reported that his business was generating between $50,000 and $250,000 annually in 2019, according to a voluntary business survey he answered and submitted to the Minnesota secretary of state that year.

Jesus. We’re doing everything all wrong. Would you all mind if we started advertising buckets of freeze-dried food and gold ingots here on Freethoughtblogs? After all, how are you going to survive the climate apocalypse and the global pandemic without a handy supply of precious metals in your mattress?

I am really curious about these products. Late night television commercials, far right websites, and televangelist programming all push those same two things: survivalist products and precious metals. Why? Is it because their market is all about fear, and these are the things they want, or is it because there is such a high markup and low inventory demand to tap into these things? Are there alternatives that would be equally profitable without filling such a loony niche, and if so, why isn’t anyone exploiting them?

OK, I guess porn is one such alternative.

So many layers…who would have thought AiG could be this sophisticated?

Look at this cartoon. Look at it!

The multi-dimensional wrongness blew my mind. But you know I’m going to have to take it apart, no matter what demons from the pain dimension respond to my provocation.

Let’s start at the top. The Frankenstein’s-monster-headed person is complaining about the hypocrisy of groups imposing their beliefs on others. As examples, he cites:

  • Transgender laws for restrooms: Transgender activists aren’t imposing their beliefs on anyone, they just want the right to pee in private, as I’m sure those Christians also would like. It’s the anti-trans people and Christian lobbyists who want to impose chromosome checks or genital checks or who knows what else on people’s privilege of being able to enter a personal private space for personal private activities.
  • Gay couples suing bakers: Again, these are gay people who just want to buy a cake, like everyone else, who are being denied a common privilege by Christians using the excuse that it’s against their religion to treat one group of citizens differently than another group of citizens.
  • Evolution taught as fact: Right. Because it is. We’d just like to teach the best available explanations with the best available evidence; it’s Christians who have leapt into the fray insisting that we teach bad explanations with no credible evidence to students. I’m afraid that’s what we’re supposed to do in a science class, and it is not acceptable to insert your religious biases and opinions into these kinds of classes. You’ll notice that scientists are not imposing their beliefs on what you get to teach in Sunday school, it’s always the reverse, Christians trying to dictate the content of science classes.
  • Feminist activists marching: How dare women expect equal rights?

What makes this cartoon particularly twisted is that they’re the ones causing problems for everyone else by insisting we must obey their freaky weird rules about gender, sexuality, and science, and all of the things they’re complaining about are people resisting their dominion.

The caption is also fascinating. I agree that standing for a particular belief is obviously in conflict with other beliefs that are in opposition. This idea does put the cartoon in an interesting light, because it means that believing that the things listed are bad makes their opposition clear. So this creepy blockheaded Christian is against equal rights for transgender human beings, is against gay couples loving each other, is against science, and is against women having the same rights as men.. Fine. He just has to acknowledge that opposing those things requires that he impose his beliefs — not his facts, not his evidence — on others.

That last sentence is a killer. The implication is that Jesus stands with their beliefs, not with the oppressed transgender or gay people, and not with the nature of the universe. Yet there are many Christians who are pro-trans rights and gay rights, and who want their kids taught good science, and see no conflict between that and their mythical savior who served the poor and oppressed. Funny how that works, isn’t it? It’s almost as though blockheaded Christians are kind of ridiculous for appropriating that particular figurehead.

Oooh, I seem to have worked my way through the puzzle box. A mysterious man suddenly stands in front of me. “Hey, you don’t look like Jesus! Who are you?”

Explorers in the further regions of experience. Demons to some. Angels to others.

My kind of guy. Let’s go.

Creeping Christianism everywhere

Welp, the good news is that the small town of Morris has a shiny new store, The Homestead. It’s a small big box store that has moved into the location of the old Pamida.

The bad news: it’s run by the conservative apostolic sect that infests this area.

The good news: we walked over to check it out today, and it’s nice and clean and has a fairly good selection. They’re also installing a modern-looking coffee shop, which I think will open by September. This is welcome news, since I haven’t been happy with the Common Cup Coffeehouse in town (also run by churches, goddamnit), because their wifi only works for me about a quarter of the time.

The worstest, most horrible news: they play Christian church muzak nonstop. My eyes, ears, nose, and other orifices were all leaking blood after 5 minutes in the store, and my epithelia were delaminating and the cells dissociating. I might have erupted in flame if I’d stayed longer.

Bottom line: I don’t think they’ll get much of my business. They’ll probably do fine without me.

Minnesota Man?

Wait, wait, wait — we all know what to expect in a headline beginning “Florida Man”. It’s going to be a story about someone doing something incredibly, unbelievably stupid. It’s a trope.

So what do expect from Minnesota Man?

Apparently it’s grisly murder. Bonus points for stories combining Minnesota man and woodchipper. It’s not fair — the wood chipper murderer was in Connecticut.

OK, this one has no woodchipper, but it does have dismemberment and attempts to hide the body in Lake Superior. Good plan, after all, since

The legend lives on from the Chippewa on down
Of the big lake they called Gitche Gumee
The lake, it is said, never gives up her dead
When the skies of November turn gloomy

Unfortunately, Minnesota Man miscalculated and dumped the body in June, rather than November, and Gitch Gumee gladly up-chucked evidence of the crime.

On July 15, the fisherman met with agents from the Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension and helped them find the area where he saw West drop the buckets. Authorities found one of the buckets and a tote, according to the complaint.

In the tote, agents discovered a male human torso that appeared to have suffered a bullet wound. Also in the bag was a pair of pants and a casino player’s card belonging to Balsimo.

I just want you to know that Minnesota Man stories are not typical of the residents of this fine state, most of whom have not committed multiple murders with mutilation of the bodies.

Florida Man stories, though, are totally representative.

Fire the coach

Tell me if this looks familiar.

I grew up in a conservative environment in Central Texas. I played high school football. I went to an evangelical church in my late teens (where, unsurprisingly, my political views were not warmly received). And I served in the military — and not just in the military but in the testosterone-saturated U.S. Army Infantry.

No! It doesn’t! This is opposite-me. I grew up in a liberal household in the Pacific Northwest, I didn’t play football, I didn’t go to church, and I didn’t join the military. But this is a piece by Charlotte Clymer, who is pissed off at this terrible PE coach in Virginia who insists he won’t recognize his students’ choice of pronouns, because it is against his religion

Leaving aside the fact that the discussion of transgender people in the Bible is quite murky (and rather fascinating)—and thus, as more than a few social conservatives have admitted to me, it’s unclear being transgender is a so-called “sin”—we’re still left with a public employee charged with the welfare of children stating before God and Creation that he refuses to treat certain children with respect and dignity. That, in fact, is abusive.

So what’s familiar? This:

And without fail, men like Tanner Cross would—in some way, shape, or form—call me a girl. They weren’t just the first people to call me a girl. They were the only people to call me a girl or woman before I came out.

Like my 8th grade football coach who really loved calling us “ladies” during practice.

Like my freshman football coach who never seemed to tire of telling us that we “hit like girls” if he felt we weren’t going at full speed.

Like the assistant football coach during my junior year of high school who, on more than a few occasions, said some choice words about how we should try out for the girls volleyball team instead. Oh, and this mocking inquiry toward one of my teammates: “Did your mother teach you how to throw?”

Like during minute one of hour one of day one in basic training when I heard a drill sergeant scream at all of us to “get the sand out of your pussies”. And that was probably one of the more tame things I heard along these lines during my time in the military.

Yes, all those sports movies where male coaches yell at their players with some flavor of misogynistic “encouragement”? Those scenes are based in reality.

I heard that all my life in male environments, and that’s to say nothing of the numerous ways in which society communicates to boys that they shouldn’t cry, shouldn’t appear weak, be the “man of the house”, etc.

Oh yeah. It took me a while to consciously realize it, but public school physical education was all about terrible human beings put in charge of young kids for a few hours a day, where they were committed to indoctrinating us in toxic masculinity and constantly abusing us to make us tough. Coach would call us “pussies”, “fags”, “girls”, “ladies”, “girly boys”, and comment on the contents of our jock strap while doing daily inspections of said jock straps. It was several years of state-sponsored indoctrination that was highly effective, and many of my peers gladly adopted that language and attitude. I could escape Coach fairly easily, but not all my fellow teenagers who echoed that nonsense.

You know, I kind of suspect that one of the primary tools for perpetuating poisonous versions of masculinity is that our schools have a habit of hiring macho assholes like this guy, Tanner Cross. Our communities, perhaps especially in Texas, consider sports to be the whole purpose of an education, and to that end, they “need” tough guys to kick the kids into shape. All they accomplish, though, is to turn a majority of kids away from athletics.

Fire that guy. Or should I say, cancel Tanner Cross. He’s a bad teacher.

How stupid do they think we are?

Answers in Genesis is advertising heavily, but all of the ads I’ve seen miss the mark…or undermine their point. I was sent this link to their evangelism show, which is apparently shown at the Ark Park itself, in one of their rooms with a screen. You don’t need to watch it, I’ll explain what’s in it (at least, the first three quarters, before I gave up in disgust).

Ada, a British woman who works as a journalist for the Progressive Independent Tabloid (PIT) in New York, hates her job. She is sent, with a film crew, to the Ark Encounter in Kentucky — she is not happy about it. The first bit of the video is all about setting her up as a cynical, jaded person who is not impressed by anything. When they arrive, she is interviewing the general manager, who is, in contrast, constantly smiling and optimistic and cheerful. He gives his standard spiel. The Ark replica is really big, and it’s all about bringing God’s word, and…she keeps interrupting him to say she doesn’t want to hear all this, she wants to know about how taxes were used to fund the monstrosity. He says they weren’t (they were), and finally says he’ll stop preaching at her and will show her what it’s all about. So they go inside.

They go into a big empty room with a screen on the wall. Let me just say this is what the whole Ark thing is about — it’s really big and there’s a huge amount of empty space. This part is representative of the whole Ark experience. It’s a great big wooden box with very little content, and everyone spends a lot of time telling you how big it is, as if that should impress you and make you believe in God.

So they go into an empty theater after the reporter expresses her exasperation at the general manager’s preachiness, and they play a movie at her. And the move is…Ray Comfort preaching at the audience, with the familiar, boring Ray Comfort schtick (“Have you ever told a lie?” etc.) Unbelievably, it works, she becomes a convert, sheds her cynicism, and nods along with the general manager, and I threw up my hands and turned off the 25 minute long commercial. Ken Ham must think his potential audience are all a bunch of gullible dumbasses. He might be right.

The other thing I’m seeing a lot of suddenly are YouTube ads for the Ark Park — and I should have warned you, if you watch that terrible video, YouTube will start feeding these things to you (jesus, but I fucking hate the “algorithm”). These are 15 second clips featuring an animated cartoon giraffe who is very enthusiastic about visiting the big wooden box. That’s all they ever show you, that the talking giraffe thinks the Ark is really big. They have shots of him posed in the interior, and it really hammers home the impression that it is a really big wooden box with very little in it.

I don’t know how this advertising works. It’s like the World’s Largest Ball of Twine, and sure, if I were passing by I might stop by out of curiosity, but this particular odd roadside attraction will charge you a hundred dollars to park and go inside, and once you’re there, a recording of Ray Comfort will yammer at you about Jesus.

Don’t go. Worst vacation destination ever.

An accurate summary of the space-billionaire pathology

I agree with this summary.

What’s more, the global economic system is rigged so that a guy like Bezos can become a hundred-billionaire while profiting off the labor of over a million employees, some working for poverty wages, who piss in bottles to meet quotas and sometimes die at work. Meanwhile, the activities of the corporations that create these billionaires are ravaging the only habitable planet we’ve got. But because our neo-feudal lords have sold us on a science-fiction fantasy, many look up to them as heroes rather than decrying their obscene and ill-gotten wealth.

Also, this:

Assholes…in spaaaaace.

The Tower of Babel is a gimmick to make money

Ken Ham wants to expand his Ark Park with a Tower of Babel.

A Bible-themed attraction in Kentucky that features a 510-foot-long wooden Noah’s ark is planning to begin fundraising for an expansion.

The Ark Encounter said Wednesday that it would take about three years to research, plan and build a “Tower of Babel” attraction on the park’s grounds in Northern Kentucky.

A release from the Ark Encounter park said the new attraction will “tackle the racism issue” by helping visitors “understand how genetics research and the Bible confirm the origin of all people groups around the world.” No other details were given on the Babel attraction or what it might look like.

No. Genetics research confirms that human beings are far older than 6,000 years, and that we are not all descended from a single family of 8 people 4500 years ago. If you’re going to pretend to have the authority of modern genetics, you have to accept that genetics refutes the fundamental young earth claims of the Bible literalists (as does physics, geology, archaeology, history, etc., etc., etc.).

The important part of that story is the “three years to research” nonsense. It won’t take that long, because there’s nothing to research. Here’s the whole of the Babel story from Genesis 11 — literally. I’m quoting the entire goddamn thing.

Now the whole world had one language and a common speech. 2 As people moved eastward, they found a plain in Shinar and settled there.

3 They said to each other, “Come, let’s make bricks and bake them thoroughly.” They used brick instead of stone, and tar for mortar. 4 Then they said, “Come, let us build ourselves a city, with a tower that reaches to the heavens, so that we may make a name for ourselves; otherwise we will be scattered over the face of the whole earth.”

5 But the Lord came down to see the city and the tower the people were building. 6 The Lord said, “If as one people speaking the same language they have begun to do this, then nothing they plan to do will be impossible for them. 7 Come, let us go down and confuse their language so they will not understand each other.”

8 So the Lord scattered them from there over all the earth, and they stopped building the city. 9 That is why it was called Babel—because there the Lord confused the language of the whole world. From there the Lord scattered them over the face of the whole earth.

There. Research done. They made a tower of unknown dimensions out of brick, with tar for mortar. Ham and company will just make up some dimensions, and I guarantee you it won’t be made of brick and tar, and it won’t be tall enough to reach the heavens. They could save themselves a lot of work and just paint a pretty poster or a diorama, like most of what they have in their ark.

Oh. They’ve already got one.

It’s not very impressive for a structure that enraged a god, but OK, the research is done. There’s the scale model, just make it bigger. Think that will appeal to the rubes?

They aren’t going to do Bible scholarship, or serious archaeological research, or anything legitimately worthwhile. They’re going to be “researching” theme park organizations, and most importantly, they’re going to be fundraising. This Babel thing is all about keeping the grift going, fueling their money-raising efforts, and nothing more.

Rob Boston has them pegged.

During a recent interview with a Grant County newspaper, Ham talked about his plans to add a Tower of Babel to the park. This attraction, based on a story that appears in Genesis 11:1-9, will explain Ham’s view of how we ended up with so many languages. Bottom line: Look for more bad science. (Remember, folks, creationism is about more than just claims that the Earth is only 6,000 years old, humans and dinosaurs existed at the same time, the Grand Canyon is the result of the massive flood described in the Bible, etc. It’s a comprehensive, unscientific worldview that addresses, well, everything.)

I recently received a press release from a PR agency Ham hired to blast the media with happy stories about his big boat. In the release, Ham carped that he’s had to work hard to respond to “the rumor that state money was used to build and open the Ark Encounter.”

That’s not a rumor, it’s a fact. Journalists, bloggers and Americans United have compiled entire lists of the forms of taxpayer support Ark Encounter received. But wait, there’s more! Ark Encounter received between $1 million and $2 million in federal aid under the original COVID-19 relief bill’s Paycheck Protection Program (PPP). Blogger Hemant Mehta noted that even as Ham was pulling in a hefty PPP loan – which is really a grant because the federal government plans to forgive most of it – he was sending emails to supporters begging for contributions to save the Ark Park.

To recap: Ham built the Ark Park on the backs of Kentucky taxpayers. He denied jobs to anyone who failed to agree with him on religion. He stuck it to a small town that had been wowed by Ham’s tales of an economic turnaround. These are inconvenient facts he continually denies.

That’s another component of their three year plan: it’s going to take time to tease so much more money out of the state legislature and local civic groups. It’s not about truth, or affirming the faith, or educating the citizenry, or reconciling science and religion — it’s about Mammon.

Darn, he came back

If you blinked, you might have missed it. Jeff Bezos was shot into space for a brief suborbital visit, and has now landed safely. Cunningly, he made sure to want us to hope for a safe return, because he brought hostages — a couple of other people who haven’t spent a lifetime exploiting workers and extracting wealth from others’ labor.

Hey, remember when rich people would just buy gigantic yachts? The personal rocketship is the new substitute penis, I guess.

You ain’t seen nothin’ yet: here come the groypers

The Right just gets worse and worse. I thought it was intolerable when Reagan was their idol, even more ludicrous with the cult of ignorance around George W Bush, and then dived off the deep end with Trump…but Trump is just a shallow, doomed figurehead. We need to fear what’s coming next: Nick Fuentes, or someone like him.

What they’re going to do is tap in the zealotry of an increasing radical Christianity.

Christian nationalism has returned to the core of the far-right after a tour through the wilderness of Alt Right syncretism involving the usual fascist amalgam of Odinism, Satanism, nature worship, British Israelism, Ariosophy, and so forth. In some ways, members of the white nationalist movement predicted this turn following the terror of Charlottesville, investing in efforts to infiltrate Christian conservative groups rather than focusing as much on exploiting the traditional tensions between radical subcultural milieus and liberal democracy.

Today, these white nationalists within the America First (AF) movement, led by Nick Fuentes and his supporters, are effectively infiltrating religious movements associated with the New Apostolic Reformation, the Orthodox church, and the Mormon church through proxies and supporters. Supporters have attended political events associated with the Church, started far-right church groups, and engaged with religious media in order to pull Christians further to the far right.

It’s a formless chaos right now. Reading through that summary, you get the impression that they’re morphing at a frenetic rate, they’re just sucking in bits and pieces of far right ideology and splicing together into nightmare creations, most of which are doomed to failure. Every little splinter group out there is a mutational experiment, struggling to find a survival strategy, and the most successful exploits seem to involve glomming onto the most sensationalistically evil ideas, because that’s what makes good clickbait, will maybe start trending, will catch on with the algorithm, and will skirt the edges of bannable content. So far, Christianity + racism + debatemebro culture seems to be a winning recipe, with a little dash of odious history to spice it up, as the America Firsters do so well.

AFers characterized themselves as Christian nationalists, meaning that they believe that the US is fundamentally a Christian nation, but elements of their movement reveal even deeper commitments to reactionary ideology. Fuentes has also made statements indicating Holocaust denial and promotes racist ideas (eg, “human biodiversity” and “race realism”) prominent among white nationalists. He also has a particular view of universal Catholic doctrine common among fascists. However, efforts to engage politically with different congregations outside of Catholicism characterize AF’s larger effort to move Trump supporters and the rest of the Republican Party toward white nationalist positions.

Fuentes openly debates other movement members from different congregations, like Pentecostalists and Seventh Day Adventists, about the nuances of revealed doctrine. To people who have expressed support for America First, Fuentes advises remaining discreet about their sympathies, while dropping hints about their beliefs and observing how their cohorts respond. In this way, America First works through entryism not just in college groups, and Turning Point USA most specifically, but also in churches and other right-wing organizations.

Have you ever seen or listened to Nick Fuentes? Like Pewdiepie, his popularity among a certain segment of the population is utterly incomprehensible to me — he’s a child-like hate machine who smiles and smirks while denying the Holocaust or taunting black people or encouraging authoritarian crackdowns on others (but not on him, oh no — that’s just an opportunity to claim victimhood). Fuentes himself might be on the road to irrelevancy — he’s been banned from YouTube and Twitter, and this kind of movement thrives best on social media — but they’re not done going through Lovecraftian changes and drinking the acid of insanity. I don’t think they’re going to fade away as long as social media survive on capitalist anarchy and leeching off the madness of crowds.