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The Twitter Quitter, Chris Kelstrom Caves on the SOJ, and Shasta County’s Brain Drain

“Just deleted my Twitter account because Elon Musk has turned it into a rightwing cesspool,” I posted on Facebook one week ago today, and I still feel the better for it. I was worried I’d become addicted to watching the trainwreck the venerable social media platform has become since being purchased by billionaire Elon Musk almost two months ago. So far, the withdrawal symptoms have been moderate.

To be honest, I’m not much of a tweeter, which has made leaving easier. My account was more than a decade old and I rarely used it. In April, I was using it mainly to monitor reputable COVID-19 researchers when the Tesla and SpaceX CEO announced he was buying Twitter for $44 billion. Almost immediately Musk attempted to squirm out of the deal by constantly shitposting about Twitter on Twitter.

Sensing disaster was imminent, I couldn’t look away.

The first and last time I had a tweet go viral was several months ago when I tweeted “When are you going to stop pretending you’re a Republican?” at Musk, who has 120 million Twitter followers. Even though he says he is one, Musk is no Republican. Both of his major private enterprises depend upon the belief in anthropogenic climate change and billions in government spending, anathema to GOP minds. Nevertheless his legion of fanboys piled on me, defending their hero against any hint he might be less than pureblood MAGA.

Being “ratioed” the kids call it. That’s when more people hate your tweet than like it. It’s supposed to be a bad thing if you’re the one being ratioed, but after years of tweeting into the void with scant reply, I felt only a grim sort of gratification. At least somebody hates me.

Musk was forced to pay the $44 billion and took over the social media platform in late October. He immediately started breaking things. So far, he’s fired more than half of the formerly 7000-member staff and driven off half of the social media company’s top 100 advertisers with his alleged “free speech absolutism.” I say alleged because the thin-skinned rocket/EV tycoon never hesitates to censor tweets critical of himself, including numerous tweets of the viral video of Musk getting booed off the stage at a Dave Chapelle comedy show in San Francisco last weekend.

After Twitter’s content moderation department was gutted upon Musk’s arrival, use of the N-word increased by 500 percent. Musk is a prolific tweeter and has been adamantly attempting to stamp out the “woke mind virus” on Twitter. Musk tweeted a fake news story about the hammer assault on Paul Pelosi. He used an anti-Semitic slur to describe former Director of European Affairs Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman. Musk allowed Ye, the rapper formerly known as Kanye West, back on the site to tweet anti-Semitic Black Hebrew Israelite garbage.

After letting banned former President Donald Trump back on the site—TFG has so far not taken up the offer—Musk granted amnesty to a whole slew of neo-Nazis, white supremacists, and fascists, most of whom had been rightly banned for violating Twitter’s terms of service during the Trump era.

Next Musk lifted the restrictions on posting COVID-19 misinformation and disinformation. Since returning to Twitter in April, I’d discovered the platform was very useful for following reputable COVID scientists. The second Musk lifted the restrictions on COVID disinformation the zone instantly filled with shit, featuring the latest anti-vax hoax de jour, Died Suddenly.

This bogus documentary purports to prove that thousands of people have died suddenly after receiving COVID-19 vaccinations. It proves nothing of the sort. In fact, many of the alleged victims in the video have turned up alive and well. It’s all anecdotal with scarce evidence provided. “Died Suddenly” is the “2000 Mules” of the medical freedom movement, and tweets supporting it crowded out the reputable scientists I had previously culled in my timeline.

Musk, who has a long history of falsely downplaying the pandemic, actively sanctions such disinformation with dozens of tweets every day. When Jack Dorsey was CEO, Twitter never really had a personality. Now it has the personality of an adolescent 8channer.

As social media has evolved during the past 20 years, I’ve often thought it should have been called antisocial media. From flame wars on bulletin boards to shitposting on Facebook to getting ratioed on Twitter, the internet often amplifies the user with the meanest streak.

“When you gaze into the rightwing cesspool, the rightwing cesspool also gazes into you,” a friend replied to my Facebook post. Another friend posted: “I think the thing is right now, Twitter is not a raging cesspool, it is a mirror. The U.S. is what has become a raging cesspool.”

The moral of the story: Be careful you don’t become what you hate.

Shasta County District 5 Supervisor and State of Jefferson apparel model Chris Kelstrom. Collage by Shawn Schwaller.

Chris Kelstrom Says Goodbye to State of Jefferson?

Speaking of rightwing fever swamps, the State of Jefferson movement was rocked earlier this month when longtime member and recently elected Shasta County District 5 Supervisor Chris Kelstrom said he no longer supports the group’s effort to secede from the state of California. According to SF Gate Kelstrom said he is not a “‘fervent’ supporter of the State of Jefferson, and does not want to secede from California.”

“It’s not a viable option,” he told the SF Gate reporter.

The news that Kelstrom no longer supports SOJ’s primary tenet must have come as a gut punch to “Jefferson State of Mine” radio host and lead SOJ merchandising agent Terry Rapoza. For nearly a decade, the 6’9” Kelstrom, draped with green-and-yellow SOJ-labeled apparel, has appeared at SOJ meetings and rallies across the North State, including the state capitol, according to social media posts mined by A News Café writer Shawn Schwaller.

If anything, Kelstrom is quite the clothes horse. He appears to own every piece of SOJ kit ever made. Rapoza may have lost his best customer and tallest SOJ pitchman.

State of Jefferson supporters Chris Kelstrom and Northern Roots grow store owner Jon Knight.

The SOJ seeks to create a white Christian ethnostate carved out of rural inland northern California and southern Oregon and then secede from the state of California. SOJ adherents believe Sacramento and Salem are double-crossing rural citizens, thus the double-x on the SOJ logo, which has become iconic in California and beyond.

Because the goal of secession is politically impossible, economically unviable, and essentially absurd (it can be argued Northern California already is its own white Christian ethnostate), I tend to think of the State of Jefferson as a lifestyle brand rather than a political movement.

SOJ’s founding idea, that the rubes are being double-crossed by Sacramento and Salem and secession is the antidote, first surfaced in the 1940s. It was reborn decades later along with the Tea Party during the racist rightwing reaction to Barack Obama’s presidency. When Trump came along, the Tea Party morphed almost seamlessly into MAGA which has welcomed white supremacist neo-Nazis, militias, and even a State of Jefferson chapter of the Proud Boys into the fold.

You know. The same right-wing cesspool that’s taking over Twitter! No wonder Kelstrom’s backing away.

When Kelstrom denied being a fervent SOJ supporter, he spoke in the past tense, as if the secessionist movement is dead. But somehow I don’t think Terry Rapoza & Co. are done just yet. For one thing, there’s still a lot of SOJ swag to move, especially in size XXXL.

You’ll find it in the head-and-shoulders-above-the-rest department.

Former District 2 Supervisor Leonard Moty worries about Shasta County’s brain drain.

The Coming Shasta County Brain Drain

When asked via text message if he continues to support the State of Jefferson, Kelstrom did not reply. Kelstrom has rarely returned A News Café’s calls. Ironically, the SF Gate reporter asked Kelstrom about his SOJ affiliation after reading about it in A News Café.

Kelstrom ran as a strong man who will turn down state funding that comes with strings attached and cut the supposedly bloated county budget down to the bone. He softened his delivery with the SF Gate reporter.

“On county employees, he said he does not want to fire anybody outside of department heads, and even then, will only seek their expulsion if he deems them incompetent or extraneous once he’s had a sufficient amount of time in office,” SF Gate reported.

How much time in office should be sufficient before Kelstrom is ready to chop heads? Former four-term District 2 Supervisor Leonard Moty, who has a master’s degree in business administration and served as police chief and as an interim city manager before being elected to the BOS in 2007, said the county supervisor job is complicated and demanding.

“It probably took me a good year to become comfortable with the assignments,” Moty said. “It took another year to become an expert in these things.”

Kelstrom is a former grocery store manager whose experience in government consists of advocating state secession for the past 10 years, so expect a longer learning curve for him. Newly elected District 1 Supervisor Kevin Crye has even less experience than Kelstrom.

Moty was one of three Shasta County supervisors targeted for recall last year by an anti-vaccination and anti-mask MAGA movement outraged that the county had enforced some (but hardly all) of the state’s COVID-19 mandates. The recall movement received more than $400,000 from Reverge Anselmo, a Connecticut multimillionaire and former Shasta County resident who holds a longtime grudge against county government after his restaurant/winery failed here more than a decade ago. As a result, Moty was recalled last February and replaced by inexperienced former roofer Tim Garman.

Leonard Moty’s prerequisite “Yes, I support the 2nd Amendment” campaign photo.

Kelstrom, who has apparently never seen Clint Eastwood’s Unforgiven, told SF Gate that Moty “got what he deserved.” In turn, Moty told me Kelstrom’s campaign claim that he’d go to jail to put water in the Anderson Cottonwood Irrigation District’s drought-stricken canal was “ludicrous, the county doesn’t have anything to do with ACID.”

Moty suspected the so-called anti-establishment candidates, Crye and Kelstrom, would prevail in the general election after their strong 2nd-place performances in the primaries.

“The general election gave them more advantages, they were then able to get more Anselmo money and get the message out,” Moty said. He lamented the increase in campaign costs for supervisor races, from roughly $30,000 per candidate in the past to more than $100,000 today. “I’m not surprised at the results.”

Like many observers, Moty thinks Erin Resner’s 2019 vote on the city of Redding’s land sale that temporarily blocked the Redding Rancheria’s casino expansion project in Strawberry Fields worked against her. A Shasta County Superior Court judge ruled the sale was illegal in May, just in time for campaign season.

“Crye hasn’t said anything supportive,” Moty observed. “He’s the arrogant guy who always makes a point but never has any answers. I think Resner did some things that helped him raise some money.”

Moty is less worried about District 4 Supervisor Patrick Jones’s newfound 4-1 ultraconservative board majority than the ongoing brain drain of county administrators and staff caused by almost three years’ of pandemic and political upheaval. The firing of Shasta County Public Health Officer Dr. Karen Ramstrom last May looms large in that regard.

Former Shasta County Public Health Officer Dr. Karen Ramstrom.

It’s been eight months and so far Dr. Ramstrom’s former position hasn’t been filled. In fact, scores of positions in Shasta County Health and Human Services presently remain vacant. Meanwhile, the winter COVID-19 surge is set to kick off and local hospital capacity is already at 85 percent. Apparently, supervisors Jones and Baugh, who organized Dr. Ramstrom’s employment execution, didn’t anticipate the negative reaction the killing received from potential job applicants from the outside world.

Reportedly, only two qualified applicants have applied for the public health officer position. The first applicant allegedly turned it down after learning about Dr. Ramstrom’s untimely firing.

“I worry about the county coming to a standstill, or maybe even backing up,” Moty said about the ongoing brain drain.

Moty is less worried about Jones because there are guardrails that prevent the District 4 supervisor from doing too much damage.

“I expect Patrick to try and make a name for himself but I don’t know how far he’ll try to go,” Moty said. “I think Jones will have an agenda, to be destructive, to tear down and gut programs, whatever they can get away with.”

Reverge Anselmo once said he’d return to Shasta County if it eliminated the Department of Resource Management. Suppose Jones & Co. were able to accomplish that.

“The state has a uniform building code,” Moty said. “The state could stop and clean house and bring in their own cronies for inspectors. It’s going to be interesting. The state has certain mandates. If they (Jones & Co.) refuse to provide these services, will the state step in to provide them?”

“I don’t think Reverge is coming back,” Moty added. “I’m kind of holding my breath, I don’t know how destructive they’re going to be.”

Moty sounds much calmer today than he did during the days immediately preceding and following the recall last February. He’s a capable man who learned a lot on the job during 14 years on the board of and nearly 30 years in law enforcement. His talents as a consultant are in high demand, and he gets paid seven times more per hour than he earned with his former supervisor’s salary.

District 2, along with Districts 3 and 4, is up for reelection in 2024. Thanks to redistricting Tim Garman will have to move in order to run for reelection in District 2. There’s a rumor that Baron Browning, who was defeated by Kelstrom in the District 5 race, is considering a run for the District 2 seat. I asked Moty if he would consider taking another shot.

“It would take a lot for me to even think about running again,” Moty said. “I’d have to see a groundswell of support. I’ve gotten so many opportunities consulting. It’s pretty unlikely, but never say never.”

If you appreciate journalist R.V. Scheide’s reporting and commentary, please consider contributing to A News Cafe. Thank you!

R.V. Scheide

R.V. Scheide is an award-winning journalist who has covered news, politics, music, arts and culture in Northern California for more than 30 years. His work has appeared in the Tenderloin Times, Sacramento News & Review, Reno News & Review, Chico News & Review, North Bay Bohemian, San Jose Metro, SF Bay Guardian, SF Weekly, Alternet, Boston Phoenix, Creative Loafing and Counterpunch, among many other publications. His honors include winning the California Newspaper Publishers Association’s Freedom of Information Act and best columnist awards as well as best commentary from the Society of Professional Journalists, California chapter. Mr. Scheide welcomes your comments and story tips. Contact him at RVScheide@anewscafe.com..

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