Local conservative think tank promotes wacky and frightening conspiracy kook

Actor Sterling Hayden captured the essence of right-wing paranoia in the classic film, “Dr. Strangelove”

The Raleigh-based John Locke Foundation has been around for a long time and, not unreasonably, is sometimes relied upon by journalists, politicians and other followers of state policy debates as one of the state’s more important voices on the ideological right. To its credit, the group employs some skilled professionals who usually make it a point to engage in respectful debate and keep their distance from the looniest of the fringe groups that have sprouted up in the era of Trumpism like mushrooms after a spring rain.

But doggone it, it’s also the case that some of the content the group produces and promotes veers way off the road into the extreme reaches of the truly nutty right-wing-overse.

Take, for example, this recent Locke post touting the utterly mad opinions of a person who writes under the pseudonym “Frank Liberato” for the far right website known as American Thinker.

According to “Liberato” and, apparently, the Locke staffer who promoted the post, the United States is currently under siege from a “collective insanity that is rapidly erasing America.”

And no, the “insanity” to which he refers is not the one evidenced by the deluded people who invaded the U.S. Capitol in service of mentally ill would be autocrat in an attempt to overthrow our government. Rather, the target of this screed is clearly American progressives, whom “Liberato” claims are engaged in “devilry” born of “a lust for absolute political power and complete control over the individual.”

The post then goes on to detail a long list of mostly daft gripes that sound as if they were compiled at a meeting of the emeritus members of the John Birch Society.

“Liberato” denies that the climate crisis is caused by humans and claims it’s a scheme to “scare our children into radicalism.”

He claims that “we’re taking political prisoners like any third-world dictatorship” — though it’s not clear who “we” or the political prisoners to whom he refers are.

And, of course, there are broadsides against humane immigration policy, transgender people, reproductive freedom and “litmus tests” for the military.

And then there is this insane assertion right out of the Trump bag of blatant lies:

We fraudulently change election results while casting those who push for transparency as “conspiracy advocates” and add their names to a list of domestic terrorists.

Practically the only thing missing is a complaint about that most dastardly of hard core commie plots: the scheme to pollute our “precious bodily fluids” through fluoridation.

Of course, none of this nonsense comes as a particular surprise if one looks a little more closely at American Thinker. As that radical leftist outpost (Wikipedia) reports:

In 2009, in the wake of the election of Barack Obama, the American Thinker joined a wave of conservative media publications discussing the possibility of a second Civil War. They forecast the possibility of “several regional republics” emerging following the “overbearing, oppressive leviathan” of Obama’s presidency.

…Right Wing Watch has written about American Thinker, including that the site had in 2014 published a complimentary piece on white nationalist Jared Taylor and in 2015 asserted that rainbow-colored Doritos are a “gateway snack to introduce children to the joys of homosexuality”. In a 2020 blog post on the site, Thomas Lifson referenced a paper published in Geophysical Research Letters to claim that sea level rise has been slow and constant, and that this rise pre-dated industrialization. This claim went viral over social media in March 2020. The author of the paper describes this interpretation as factually incorrect, constituting climate misinformation.

Under threat of litigation, in January 2021 American Thinker published a retraction of unsupported stories it published asserting that Dominion Voting Systems engaged in a conspiracy to rig the 2020 presidential election against President Donald Trump, acknowledging, “These statements are completely false and have no basis in fact.”

And this, sadly, is not just a one-time only deal. A quick search of the Locke website turns up scores of posts promoting American Thinker content over a period of many years.

The bottom line: As is so often the case with the ravings of Donald Trump, the claims spouted in this post by “Frank Liberato” are dangerous nonsense. Moreover, the notion that the North Carolina’s most visible conservative think tank is affirmatively promoting such gibberish is an embarrassment and something responsible journalism outlets ought to take into account the next time they consider quoting or publishing people affiliated with the group.

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