Thursday, January 31, 2019

#2138: Allen Quist

Michele Bachmann is crazy, but compared to her mentor, Allen Quist, she can at least occasionally come across as deceptively reasonable (they’re close: Allen Quist’s wife Julie was for instance Bachmann’s district director while Bachmann was in Congress). Quist is a soybean farmer, former state representative, and twice gubernatorial candidate who served in the Minnesota House of Representatives from 1983 to 1989; he ran for Congess in 2013 and won the primaries, but lost the general election. Most notable for his anti-abortion line, Quist believes that abortion should be a first degree homicide and has even written a book, The Abortion Revolution and the Sanctity of Life, about the topic, which does not even try to engage with the moral philosophical literature on the issue. 

During the 1990s, Quist and Bachmann worked together to demolish Minnesota’s state curriculum standards through the group Maple River Education Coalition (MREC) (later EdWatch), considering the curriculum standards to be a gateway to a totalitarian society built on moral relativism due to its reliance on science and truth. In particular, MREC opposed the Profile of Learning, an attempt to bring the state into compliance with federal curriculum standards, which according to Quist was a step toward a United Nations takeover of Minnesota. Moreover, “sustainability” is just a euphemism for a future dystopia in which humans would be confined to public-transit-oriented urban cores (yes, “mass transit” is a conspiracy against freedom) and if the standards were implemented, Minnesota schools would become breeding grounds for “homosexual indoctrination.” Aaron Miller is apparently another one of Quist’s acolytes, especially with regard to their shared views on science and education.

Indeed, Quist has been consistently paranoid about the UN, especially Agenda 21, for decades, and has emerged as one of the leading Agenda 21 conspiracy theorists on the prairie, making several tours of Minnesota’s Tea Party circuit to warn about the terrors of Agenda 21. Part of the agenda, according to Quist – an especially effective talking point among his audiences – is international gun control, which Obama apparently was continuously on the verge of signing during his whole tenure as president. One of the UN’s major strategies for compliance to the gun ban effort is, as Quist sees it, apparently spreading “the myth of global warming”.

To get a sense of EdWatch’s approach to eduction, it is worth looking at Quist’s current efforts as editor of (CMod), a children’s “education” and “learning” website targeted at homeschoolers, which “challenges the worldwide views of established education” and instead offers religiously motivated pseudoscience, anti-science, denialism and myths. Since Quist is a hardline young-earth creationist, one of CMod’s lessons suggests for instance not only that dinosaurs lived alongside humans in the past but continued to do so well into medieval times. As CMod sees it, history books and science books have falsely determined that dinosaurs became extinct 66 million years ago. Their counterevidence? “[T]he only reasonable explanation for the Stegosaurus carved in the stone on the wall of the Cambodian temple is that the artist had either seen a stegosaurus or had seen other art works of a stegosaurus. Either way, people and stegosaurs were living at the same time.” There is little reason to think that the stegosaurus depiction in question, which in any case does not depict a stegosaurus (but rather a rhino or a boar) unless severe pareidolia is applied, is not a fabrication. Elsewhere, Quist provides what he takes to be scientific evidence for the existence of dragons, and suggests that the Book of Job should be taught as a science lesson: “Today we know beyond a reasonable doubt – Job 41 is a picture-perfect description of SuperCroc,” which is silly on amazingly many levels. Quist once also told a reporter that he believed women were “genetically predisposed” to be subservient to men. Not that Quist knows what genesare.

As a politician, Quist was notable also for his unhealthy obsession with sex (he spent a total of 30 hours during a single 1988 session talking about it), and in particular sex he ostensibly doesn’t like. He campaigned hard against legalizing same-sex marriage, led efforts to prevent extending human rights protections to gays and lesbians, and famously sponsored a (failed) bill that would require AIDS testing for all marriage license applicants. He managed to draw some criticism for suggesting that supporting a gay counseling center at Minnesota State University would be similar to supporting one for the Ku Klux Klan, saying that “its presence suggests university approval for the homosexual lifestyle and the practice of sodomy … You wouldn’t have a center for the Ku Klux Klan,” and that “both would be breeding grounds for evil –AIDS, in this case.”

No fan of the ACA, Quist called it “the most insidious, evil piece of legislation I have ever seen in my life … [that seems to happen rather often in Quist’s case]. Every one of us has to be totally committed to killing this travesty … I have to kill this bill,” and argued that “Obama, Pelosi, [Tim] Walz: They’re not liberals, they’re radicals. They are destroying our country.”

Diagnosis: Wild-eyed conspiracy theorist, denialist and bigot. His influence, however, is greater than you might initially think, as he seems to have been training a small army of deranged extremists for the better part of three decades. 

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