WaPo meets a QAnon cultist and takes a deep dive into the batcrap crazy the GOP is mainstreaming.

Amused

Elite Member
Apr 14, 2001
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This right here is the level of batshit the GOP has fostered and mainstreamed. People like this accuse others of being sheep, while tailoring a news feed for themselves on Twitter and Reddit that tells them only what they want to hear plus, tells them everyone else is lying to them. Once they have them drawn in, they can tell them literally anything, no matter how absurd, and they blindly believe it. It is literally a cult.

https://www.washingtonpost.com/news...ts-bursting-into-view/?utm_term=.7a14820cc4e7


After I wrote about QAnon, an online conspiracy theory that leaped on Tuesday from the far reaches of the Internet to the audience at President Trump’s rally in Tampa, an email arrived in my inbox from a man named Paul Burton.

He described a colleague and me as “Bezos’ boys,” referring to Jeffrey P. Bezos, the owner of The Washington Post, and asked, “How’s your fishbowl?” meaning, I presumed, a place open to public view and subject to critique. “LOL!” he added.

I responded, asking if he would be interested in speaking with me about his belief in QAnon. Much about the philosophy remains mysterious, even contradictory. But the central idea, which has no basis in observable reality, is that “Q” is the government insider, or cadre of insiders, leaving clues on digital message boards about a countercoup underway to vanquish deep-state saboteurs and their ring of elite allies, including Hillary Clinton and George Soros. (You can read more about the origins and meaning of QAnon here and here.)

Less clear to me, given the anonymity that shrouds the threads on which the theory has spread, was the nature of the people who find it credible. How did they come across Q’s “crumbs” of information? What made the tenets of QAnon — tinged with racism and anti-Semitism — convincing to them? What were their day jobs?

We had a short back-and-forth in which Burton suggested several resources to expand my understanding of Q and its mission, which I read. He said they would convince me that the theory had merit, which they did not; QAnon is a hodgepodge of outlandish ideas.

Then he called me. We spoke for 45 minutes early Friday morning.

Burton, 55, doesn’t claim to be representative of QAnon’s following. He lives outside of Atlanta and works in real estate and as an operations manager for a university. He hasn’t met any other believers in person but estimated they number more than 1 million. (Based on activity on message boards and membership in Facebook groups, this appears to be an exaggeration.)

But Burton is one example of the flesh-and-blood Americans who have bought into a theory whose growth online has had actual consequences, including inspiring an armed man to descend on the Hoover Dam in June, demanding the release of a Justice Department report about James B. Comey and Hillary Clinton that had already been released. In the spring, QAnon gave fuel to a fanciful effort undertaken by an armed group called Veterans on Patrol to find evidence of a child sex-trafficking ring in Tucson.

What became clear from our conversation is that Burton’s belief in QAnon stems from his frustration with how authority over information and verification is allocated. He resents what he perceives to be the self-righteous assumption of expertise made by members of the media and academia. He told me he worked in academia, and when I asked him to elaborate, he said he meant he was “an armchair philosopher. I make my impact where I can. I have no desire to be high-profile.”

Burton thinks that QAnon presages “the most devastating impact possible on the deep state, as they call it, and on the evildoers and on the fringe leftists and on the violent antifa groups and devastating effect on the Soros money as well as liberal Democrats.” He doesn’t think the “storm” — the community’s term, drawn from Trump’s reference last year to “the calm before the storm,” for the president’s conquest over the deep state — will involve violence, unless, Burton said, it comes from “the left.”

Perhaps more significant, though, Burton thinks QAnon marks the emergence of long-hidden communities of people who want to decide for themselves what the truth is.

“There are millions of very smart middle-class nerds — men and women of all races — that have normal lives, and they have no desire to work for The Washington Post or work on Wall Street or get their name in headlights and receive a plaque in front of 300 people,” he said. “They want to live their lives, but they happen to be extremely bright or creative or intuitive or unbelievable researchers who are just living humble lives. Now there’s an Internet, and they can plug into a community.”

QAnon, he said, is about circumventing the media’s standards of verification and “speaking directly to the people, just like Trump is doing.”

YXTCZQ546U3YROINGORHIMTTFE.jpg

A man holds up a “Q” sign while waiting in line to see President Donald Trump at his rally on Aug. 2, 2018.

Burton lives in the Atlanta area with his wife — “she’s not very political,” he said — and two children. In his spare time, he likes to take his family to the park, where they play with a drone that belongs to one of his kids.

“I have a smartphone that I’m addicted to just like most people out there,” he said. “I read an article today that said that 50 percent of adult Americans’ time is spent on media of some type.”

He said he uses Twitter but abstains from most other forms of social media. “Twitter to me is a tailored news feed,” he said. “I try to stay plugged in with sharp, good people out there on the Internet — and in real life.”

The son of a civil engineer for the Navy, Burton grew up all over the country but completed most of his schooling in Southern California. He studied finance at San Diego State University. He liked to sing when he was young.

He said his father, now 88, was a “Southern Democrat,” a supporter of conservative white Democrats in the South, who became a “Reagan Democrat,” part of a massive defection of white voters from the Democratic Party that helped realign the two groupings in the second half of the 20th century.

“I grew up in the glow of the [Ronald] Reagan presidency,” said Burton, who was a registered independent for much of his life but declared himself a Republican 10 or 15 years ago. Part of what accelerated his drift to the right, he said, was the rise of the Clintons’ “corrupt empire,” as he put it, which he said was documented in “Clinton Cash,” a 2015 book by Peter Schweizer, a collaborator of Stephen K. Bannon, who was then head of Breitbart News and later became, briefly, Trump’s chief strategist.

The Clintons, he said, “subverted” Barack Obama, whose presidency, according to QAnon, caused mounting dissatisfaction in the military, where Burton has been led to believe the seed of “Q” was planted.

“Apparently military brass in the Pentagon got sick and tired of it, and they found a candidate that they could discuss everything with,” Burton said. “And apparently they went to Trump and asked Trump to run.”

I asked him why these renegades chose Trump. “They probably thought he would win,” he said.

Burton came to believe this, or at least most of it — “I don’t believe 100 percent of anything,” he told me — when he saw a post on Twitter in December of last year about someone or something operating under the alias “Q,” plotting a “countercoup of the clear coup that was underway.”

“I was just mildly interested,” Burton told me. “You know, with anything, my bullsh– detectors are up. And I always assume something is bullsh– until you sort through it, and you realize it is or isn’t, connect dots with things you know.”

There have been only a few other online theories, he said, that have piqued his interest. “Here and here,” he said. “Nothing like this.”

QAnon just struck him as immensely logical, he said: “Sometimes the best ideas are the most obvious.”

His method of political analysis, he said, is akin to the way he reads the Bible. “I don’t listen to what churches and priests interpret. I go to the most direct translation and read directly Jesus’ words and what Jesus did.”

He thinks Trump “is doing an amazing job,” and he believes the president is one of 10 people who compose Q. In his mind, two others are also civilian — most likely Stephen Miller and Kellyanne Conway, top White House aides — and seven are military.

He said discounting QAnon comes from the same blindness that caused mainstream pundits to discount Trump. The problem, he said, is one of bubbles, and the fact that people in Washington assume that everyone thinks as they do.

“D.C. is seen as pigs at the trough, and Trump was seen as somebody who would go in and overturn the apple cart,” Burton said. “People don’t care that he talks about grabbing the ‘you know what,’ just like they didn’t care about [Bill] Clinton.”

Evidence that Trump’s plot is working, Burton said, lies in the planned retirement of some of his most vocal critics in Congress. Many Republicans, not all opponents of the president, are leaving their seats at the end of the year. “If you read through the Q posts,” Burton promised, “it’s clear he’s been sending signals for us.”

But for Burton, QAnon isn’t really about Trump. It’s bigger than the 45th president. Bigger even than American politics.

It’s about the screen that Burton believes conceals the truth about nearly everything we encounter. “I don’t read all the fluff,” he told me. “I go directly to the information and find out what they’re talking about. What are these posts, what are these tweets?”

“If you just clear your mind, tabula rasa, you’ll believe it, too,” he said.

K747IRMWTI6GRG3ESLQSQDQ32U.jpg

Paul Burton, left, who is a believer in the QAnon conspiracy theory, with his father, Tom Burton.
 

BonzaiDuck

Lifer
Jun 30, 2004
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I'm ashamed now that San Diego State could produce such an ignoramus. There's no inferential logic there. They have some belief fantasy, and imagine what's inside the black box of government based on that fantasy. Their "inferences" aren't really inferential.

Majored in Finance? Even if he makes a living, he must be ignorant about everything else.

I'll feel so relieved about this cult with enough luck for us all following the 2018 election. Meanwhile, I suppose we're scared shitless because these lunatics actually have a man in the White House.
 

vi edit

Elite Member
Super Moderator
Oct 28, 1999
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Please tell me there is some very large case study on these people. It's so weird reading the interview. It's like normal. Normal. Normal. Normal. BATSHITCRAZY!!!!!
There's not much warning. It's just some jarring transition from a soft spoken, normal person and then someone yanks the wheel and veers towards koo-koo land.
 
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Vic

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Critical thinking is hard.

Edit: I read the whole article, and my opinion is that, if you really clear your mind, you'll see that what Mr. Burton wants is a military coup to overthrow the Constitution and our 229 year old republican form of government because he believes that'll stick it to all those liberal elitists who looked down their noses at him.
 
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umbrella39

Lifer
Jun 11, 2004
13,819
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Translation: They are useful idiots who believe what their defective brain tells them to believe and found Q in the first place by doing searches for things they already believed to be true (Most have never even heard of Q before this week). They found their confirmation bias in spades and like minded mentally ill people with Internet access to befriend. In doing so they think they have huge numbers. Which they might actually achieve now that this is out and more people start to get WOKELOLZ... I hope more and more and MORE Trump supporters start pushing this angle... It will turn up the volume on the beginning of the end of Trump hysteria. Once they out themselves it will be easier to spot them all and finally get the shit cleaned of the fan's blades...
 

hal2kilo

Lifer
Feb 24, 2009
23,640
10,501
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Please tell me there is some very large case study on these people. It's so weird reading the interview. It's like normal. Normal. Normal. Normal. BATSHITCRAZY!!!!!
There's not much warning. It's just some jarring transition from a soft spoken, normal person and then someone yanks the wheel and veers towards koo-koo land.
Sometimes I think maybe they were right about fluoridated water.
 

WelshBloke

Lifer
Jan 12, 2005
30,897
8,631
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Shit like this pisses me off. I love the idea of direct democracy, an informed populous voting on most matters of importance and the politicians just there to implement it.

Then I remember that theres a bunch of stupid/insane/credulous/lazy people out there and it all falls apart and its hard to argue against a paternalistic version of democracy where non insane people make decisions in the publics best interest. :(
 

Thebobo

Lifer
Jun 19, 2006
18,592
7,673
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"He lives outside of Atlanta and works in real estate and as an operations manager for a university"

Lol real estate so he owns a house and operation managers is kind word for building mechanic/engineer or campus engineer. Toilet clogged 5th floor! That's like back in the day when I was a petroleum dispensing technician.
 

BonzaiDuck

Lifer
Jun 30, 2004
15,771
1,492
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"He lives outside of Atlanta and works in real estate and as an operations manager for a university"

Lol real estate so he owns a house and operation managers is kind word for building mechanic/engineer or campus engineer. Toilet clogged 5th floor! That's like back in the day when I was a petroleum dispensing technician.

Petroleum dispensing technician? I hadn't seen any of those for decades. Wait! I had one at an Oregon gas station in 2003 -- stunned to find they wouldn't let me work the pump myself.

My aging mother, past 93 now, speaks of my grandfather from time to time, noting that he was the "head engineer" for an Illinois state college. I always knew what it meant. He went to work in bib overalls. But my Pappy would never have fallen for this batshit. He was the salt of the earth.

I suspect this Burton didn't finish his four years. If he did -- that's a shame. If he didn't, I'd be curious why. But let's get Trump's transcripts first and foremost.

Somebody in a wide set of schools generally is not minding the farm. I think these people believe that reality TV is an "education."

Today, I'm ordering three books by Thomas Frank -- to supplement my understanding of these people. His books will contain data. I can critique his use of it. But he was on the right track when he said: "we get bad government with ideologues who believe government is bad." I could see it firsthand. It all started to deteriorate with Reagan and Bush. At least with Nixon, we had Weinberger, Carlucci -- certainly Richardson -- people who thought of themselves as responsible custodians. People you could respect. Nixon -- that's another matter.
 
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esquared

Forum Director & Omnipotent Overlord
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“I was just mildly interested,” Burton told me. “You know, with anything, my bullsh– detectors are up. And I always assume something is bullsh– until you sort through it, and you realize it is or isn’t, connect dots with things you know.”

There have been only a few other online theories, he said, that have piqued his interest. “Here and here,” he said. “Nothing like this.”

QAnon just struck him as immensely logical, he said: “Sometimes the best ideas are the most obvious.”
---------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

WTF? :eek:
So crazy shit strikes him as immensely logical?

His bullshit detector is always up/on?
I guess it ran out of batteries when he was reading about Q.
 

WHAMPOM

Diamond Member
Feb 28, 2006
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Garbage in, garbage out, when the feedback hits critical we will see a Q-garbage explosion. Of course we will get the true believers that will double down rather then admit they were fools all along.
 

Amused

Elite Member
Apr 14, 2001
55,980
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Please tell me there is some very large case study on these people. It's so weird reading the interview. It's like normal. Normal. Normal. Normal. BATSHITCRAZY!!!!!
There's not much warning. It's just some jarring transition from a soft spoken, normal person and then someone yanks the wheel and veers towards koo-koo land.

This is an amazing description of talking to a conspiratard.
 

BonzaiDuck

Lifer
Jun 30, 2004
15,771
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In reverse. The ones AVOIDING it are the ones ending up like this.
Maybe it's just part of the trend we've seen with all the unexplainable mass shootings, including Sandy Hook. Oh! I'm sorry! Alex Jones said that was a hoax. Wasn't it Alex Jones? All those colossal intellects on talk radio are so brilliant . . . . I wish I was so smart as they.

Wait! I am smart! I'm independent! I'm not average! I can't be fooled by the media! I almost forgot . . . .
 

Vic

Elite Member
Jun 12, 2001
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So here's a thought, guys. As Mr Burton's ideas are genuinely batshit, why not insult those ideas instead of insulting him? It's an easier and (more importantly) much more effective target of discussion.
Because I'm fairly confident that if Mr Burton, and other Q followers, understood that their ideological agenda was to overthrow the Constitution and replace it with a military dictatorship (as Mr Burton argued for in this article), they might change their minds.
Insulting them OTOH is counterproductive to maintaining our liberty and democracy, as their primary motivation is revenge against those they feel have slighted them.
 

Amused

Elite Member
Apr 14, 2001
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So here's a thought, guys. As Mr Burton's ideas are genuinely batshit, why not insult those ideas instead of insulting him? It's an easier and (more importantly) much more effective target of discussion.
Because I'm fairly confident that if Mr Burton, and other Q followers, understood that their ideological agenda was to overthrow the Constitution and replace it with a military dictatorship (as Mr Burton argued for in this article), they might change their minds.
Insulting them OTOH is counterproductive to maintaining our liberty and democracy, as their primary motivation is revenge against those they feel have slighted them.

To a cultist, the cult is him and he is the cult.

It is virtually impossible to separate the ideology from the man.
 
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BonzaiDuck

Lifer
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So here's a thought, guys. As Mr Burton's ideas are genuinely batshit, why not insult those ideas instead of insulting him? It's an easier and (more importantly) much more effective target of discussion.
Because I'm fairly confident that if Mr Burton, and other Q followers, understood that their ideological agenda was to overthrow the Constitution and replace it with a military dictatorship (as Mr Burton argued for in this article), they might change their minds.
Insulting them OTOH is counterproductive to maintaining our liberty and democracy, as their primary motivation is revenge against those they feel have slighted them.

I've heard that several times from people I respect -- thoughtful people. "Don't insult them."

Perhaps you remember a few months ago a certain "Make America Great Again" T-shirt, featuring Trump, a Glock 9mm, and a pose with action. My friend said "Don't wear that T-shirt."

I've become so livid, between Trump and his Q-cult, that I'm inclined to get one and wear one.

I had an exchange with a Trumpie the other day at the medical clinic, when I told my old Moms -- the patient -- that we were better off that day waiting for the doctor, because we'd otherwise suffer another day of Trump outrage on the TV. And I told her "Moms? I'm worried your dementia might take a dive for watching that Slug on the TV." That provoked the exchange. Before it was over, I was told to "keep it to myself." So I leaned over and told Moms: "I'm sure lucky that I have to take care of you. I could be arrested for assault!" Again, I was overheard.

The sumbitch tries to lecture me on "agreeing to disagree." I told him I'd had more than 500 days of daily incivility from his Traitor-in-Chief, and God damn me if I was going to engage him in civil conversation about anything. I told him it was a hot day, so after the doctor was finished with him, he should go home, mix some Kool-Aid and ice with the necessary, and book a one-way cruise to Hell.
 

umbrella39

Lifer
Jun 11, 2004
13,819
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To a cultist, the cult is him and he is the cult.

It is virtually impossible to separate the ideology from the man.

Not to mention you will never pry the crazy from these types' brains. They are not in working order and they never will be. Then can hold down jobs. They can pay bills. All they have learned to do is silence the crazy in public and not utter it at work which is all that separates them from distorted reality and full blown paranoid schizophrenia... This guy looks and sounds like my father in law right down to the bulbous forehead and mouth breathing...
 

esquared

Forum Director & Omnipotent Overlord
Forum Director
Oct 8, 2000
23,765
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So here's a thought, guys. As Mr Burton's ideas are genuinely batshit, why not insult those ideas instead of insulting him? It's an easier and (more importantly) much more effective target of discussion.
Because I'm fairly confident that if Mr Burton, and other Q followers, understood that their ideological agenda was to overthrow the Constitution and replace it with a military dictatorship (as Mr Burton argued for in this article), they might change their minds.
Insulting them OTOH is counterproductive to maintaining our liberty and democracy, as their primary motivation is revenge against those they feel have slighted them.

My bolded^^^. and I disagree.
I know someone, who for some reason, has gone to the dark side of all this crazy shit.
When I would go visit, he always had on fox. He would reference the Drudge report. This is after Obama became president. So this all started in 2009 or 2010 or possibly earlier.
I don't know if he buys into "Q" because, I haven't seen him in a few years as he's left the country. This was because the US was going to
collapse in Sept 2015. Multiple blood moons/prophecy, etc. Sold his house, took all his money and left the US.

He believes Obama is a Kenyan born Muslim.
He believes in chemtrails.
He believes the moon landing was faked.
9/11 was done by us/Israelis
There were WMD in Iraq, they were moved to Syria.

I have had multiple conversations with him pointing out the logic of what he's trying to claim. He spends his time trying to convince me that my thinking is wrong.
We finally just agreed not to talk about religion and politics.

Sorry, you cannot convince nutty people to see the light when they have gone down the rabbit hole. IMO.
If they were logical, they never would have went there.


You cannot talk sense into people that think like this:
https://www.nbcnews.com/tech/social...meless-camp-fuels-new-pizzagate-style-n880956
 
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UberNeuman

Lifer
Nov 4, 1999
16,937
3,087
126
There comes a point when some people are beyond reason, beyond hope, beyond sanity. My only expectation for them is that they have the good grace to end themselves without dragging others into it.
 

ivwshane

Lifer
May 15, 2000
32,306
15,102
136
So here's a thought, guys. As Mr Burton's ideas are genuinely batshit, why not insult those ideas instead of insulting him? It's an easier and (more importantly) much more effective target of discussion.
Because I'm fairly confident that if Mr Burton, and other Q followers, understood that their ideological agenda was to overthrow the Constitution and replace it with a military dictatorship (as Mr Burton argued for in this article), they might change their minds.
Insulting them OTOH is counterproductive to maintaining our liberty and democracy, as their primary motivation is revenge against those they feel have slighted them.

That's a horrible idea. How many rabbit holes are you willing to travel down to try and get to someone like that? The issue isn't the ridiculous conspiracy theories they believe in, the issue is the people who believe such nonsense.

I don't know what's caused this insanity but studies need to be done.
 

jackstar7

Lifer
Jun 26, 2009
11,679
1,944
126
There comes a point when some people are beyond reason, beyond hope, beyond sanity. My only expectation for them is that they have the good grace to end themselves without dragging others into it.
That's why the core of this is protecting children. It's this nebulous and seemingly noble pursuit.

They can't stop until the (imaginary/white) children are safe!
 

Amused

Elite Member
Apr 14, 2001
55,980
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No wonder Trump supporters are, or have a lot in common with racists and conspiracy theory cult members. All stem from a feeling of deep seated insecurity and inferiority. Both racism and anti-intellectualism are a defense response designed to restore their feeling of superiority or at least, self worth. Conspiracy belief today is deeply rooted in anti-intellectualism. They believe "liberal/intellectual elites" are lying to them and control everything.
 

fskimospy

Elite Member
Mar 10, 2006
84,611
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I'm ashamed now that San Diego State could produce such an ignoramus. There's no inferential logic there. They have some belief fantasy, and imagine what's inside the black box of government based on that fantasy. Their "inferences" aren't really inferential.

Majored in Finance? Even if he makes a living, he must be ignorant about everything else.

I'll feel so relieved about this cult with enough luck for us all following the 2018 election. Meanwhile, I suppose we're scared shitless because these lunatics actually have a man in the White House.

People talk a lot of shit about SDSU because so many idiots go there. If you’re someone who is actually interested in learning though you can get a fantastic education for a tiny fraction of what it costs at other places. Absolutely fantastic.
 

BonzaiDuck

Lifer
Jun 30, 2004
15,771
1,492
126
People talk a lot of shit about SDSU because so many idiots go there. If you’re someone who is actually interested in learning though you can get a fantastic education for a tiny fraction of what it costs at other places. Absolutely fantastic.
Actually, I feel sorry for any Californian today who either got into the UC system or what used to be the second tier state college system -- now called "State University." I've met "pre-Millennials" who were taking six or more years to get their BA because they had to work full-time. UC tuition seems insane to me now. Lately, I've had feelings of guilt, because I attended in the '60s when even Reagan's tuition was a few Franklins annually.

While someone could assume that I'm casting political aspersions, I look back at my own ignorance at the time I graduated about the world at large and politics specifically. I didn't "go to Chicago" in '68. I kept my head buried in the books.

A decent college education is supposed to teach people to further their education on their own. Supposedly they learn to think and read critically. It then pulls me into a political food-fight when I say that I've seen people who are ignorant but not supposed to be. And of course, there's the Tea Party view that universities are hotbeds of liberalism, indoctrinating young minds with misleading drivel.

Here's someone who fought to get into Berkeley but only stayed one year -- for what he called financial reasons, not too much before Robert McNamara was paying something like $25 per semester. I think that experience inspired his autobiographical novel, "Martin Eden":

How I Became a Socialist


Back to the evening news . . . I need to take a TUMS.