Friday links! Landscape of contemporary discourse edition

Contemporary discourse (artist's rendering)

Contemporary discourse (artist’s rendering)

I will never get tired of using Heironymus Bosch images in posts, which is good because A) there are a lot of them, and B) they are the art our time demands. That’s totally what communication on the internet looks like: wounded ears with knives between them, arrows shot through the dead, people living inside a smug burgher’s butt. It’s awesome that we’ve invented the largest, fastest, more democratic communications medium in the history of humankind, and people spend hours a day looking at it, usually on their phones, often during brunch. If only it were just as fast but a little more considered, or just as democratic but a little less vulgar. Today is Friday, and popular discourse is good, but there is no good popular discourse. Won’t you look out over the plebes with me?

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Wealthy churchman announces run for governor

Billionaire and hardcore Christoid Greg Gianforte

Billionaire and hardcore Christoid Greg Gianforte

After months of strongly implying it, entrepreneur and conservative political activist Greg Gianforte has announced that he will run for governor of Montana. The last time one of Gianforte’s announcements made the news, he told an audience at Montana Bible College that “the concept of retirement is not biblical.” Quote:

How old was Noah when he built the ark? Six hundred. He wasn’t cashing Social Security checks. He wasn’t hanging out. He was working. So I think we have an obligation to work. The role we have in work may change over time, but the concept of retirement is not biblical.

That’s the kind of well-intentioned, Protestant work ethic stuff the rest of us regard as completely insane. It’s a shame, because Gianforte’s big idea—to encourage telecommuting to repatriate skilled workers who left Montana for high-paying jobs—is a good one. It’s just that the man who suggested it also donates money to the Family Research Council, Focus On the Family, and the Glendive Dinosaur and Fossil Museum, which argues the Earth is 6000 years old and dinosaurs lived contemporaneously with humans.

Gianforte has done such a good job making his faith a driving force in his public life that he has forced me to buy his good idea as a package deal with his crazy ones. Those of us who eat brunch on Sunday mornings consider that a bug in his campaign, not a feature, but Gianforte seems to believe it’s the thing about him we all love. You can read all about it in this week’s column for the Missoula Independent. While you’re at it, think about how much the Gianforte Family Foundation has spent fighting gay rights, and how little it has spent “lifting people out of poverty,” as its mission statement puts it. There’s Christianity and there’s what Christ did, and never the twain shall meet.

Maybe we shouldn’t give everyone the power to kill somebody

TV journalists Alison Parker and Adam Ward, who were shot this morning

TV journalists Alison Parker and Adam Ward, who were shot this morning

A former employee of a Virginia CBS affiliate killed reporter Alison Parker and cameraman Adam Ward this morning, shooting the two journalists and their interview subject at close range before turning the handgun on himself. Bedford’s WDBJ described the shooter, Bryce Williams, as a disgruntled former employee. If only Ward and Parker had been armed, they might have seen Williams preparing to shoot them and shot him with their superior training and reflexes. Or—and I know this sounds crazy—maybe we could stop selling devices that give every adult in America the power to kill somebody else.

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The first thing I did at college was refuse to read a book

A panel from Alison Bechdel's Fun Home

A panel from Alison Bechdel’s Fun Home

By now you have heard that several Duke University freshmen have publicly declined to read Fun Home, Alison Bechdel’s graphic novel about coming to terms with her sexual orientation while living with her closeted gay father. The objections began with incoming student Brian Grasso, who wrote on the Class of 2019 Facebook page that “I feel as if I would have to compromise my personal Christian moral beliefs to read it.” In an email interview with the Duke Chronicle, freshman Jeffrey Wubbenhorst objected to the comic book’s literally graphic depiction of sexual themes, saying, “The nature of ‘Fun Home’ means that content that I might have consented to read in print now violates my conscience due to its pornographic nature.” It’s his composition TA’s job to teach him how to simplify that sentence, presumably by assigning him Rudyard Kipling stories. Our job is to figure out why it’s so galling to learn the first official act of these new college students was to refuse to read a book.

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Exactly who loves Donald Trump?

Donald Trump and a bunch of people in Phoenix who say he's just what we need, but not sarcastically

Donald Trump and a bunch of people who say he’s just what we need, not sarcastically

Six weeks after he shot to the front of the polls on a fluke response to his announcement-speech gaffe, Donald Trump is still the front-runner among Republican candidates for president. He is winning in spite of calling people stupid and rapists. He is winning despite a debate performance that would earn him a D in any high school speech class. He is winning despite the disagreement, among people who care about government, over whether his candidacy is comical or deeply alarming. Somebody supports him—ballpark, one in five somebodies who identify as Republican. Over at the New York Times, bless its gray heart, a team of political reporters has tried to find out who.

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