The Rural Alberta Advantage

Josh Marshall posted a reader letter about rural youth on Thanksgiving. You can read it here. The gist of it is that rural kids with biblical names are being radicalized by slick YouTube conspiracy videos.

As someone formerly rural and formerly youthful, who still has family in rural areas, my only comment on this is that there’s a great deal of self-selection in the kids who remain rural after they’re young. My siblings mostly moved to blue dots, and a lot of their kids will probably move to even bluer dots (or newly blue states, like Colorado). A large number of my high school classmates moved to the nearest big city in a blue state (in our case, Minneapolis/St Paul), and they come back to see the parents as long as the parents are alive.

This is not to say that radicalized rural kids aren’t a problem – but the problem is bigger than that. The Senate and the Electoral College over-represent states that intelligent progressive kids want to leave. Maybe, as Deb and James Fallows have reported, some of these kids will stay and enlarge blue dots in otherwise conservative states. But why bother when you can just move a few hundred miles away and not have to deal with the narrow minds and poverty of spirit that infects rural America?

On that happy note, have an open thread.

90 replies
  1. 1
    Jerzy Russian says:

    As long as those kids stay off my lawn, we are good.

  2. 2
    SiubhanDuinne says:

    Mistermix got run over by a reindeer.

  3. 3
    Schlemazel says:

    Mixie! Are you a Twin Citizen?

    The partial solution is the elimination of the electoral college and increasing the size of Congress. Both will be hard sells because the GOP knows what it means to them. I don’t see a way to fix the Senate that does not involve a new civil war. The divide between liberal and rural is only going to get worse

  4. 4
    Brachiator says:

    As someone formerly rural and formerly youthful, who still has family in rural areas, my only comment on this is that there’s a great deal of self-selection in the kids who remain rural after they’re young

    I wonder whether this involves more young men than young women, and obviously, the kids are seeking this stuff out, instead of YouTibe videos about video games, etc.

    I also wonder whether the parents are at least tolerant of this stuff, if not mainlining it themselves via Fox News.

    Short of a warning graphic flashing “You are an Idiot!” before showing this stuff, I’m not sure what you can do about it. These kids may be living in a reinforcing environment.

  5. 5
    Suzanne says:

    But why bother when you can just move a few hundred miles away and not have to deal with the narrow minds and poverty of spirit that infects rural America?

    Every time I find myself in a rural part of the country, I think how the natural landscape is beautiful, but that I would never want to live there, because everyone hates me.

  6. 6
    John Cole says:

    @Suzanne: In my defense I hate everyone.

  7. 7
    cain says:

    That’s pretty much it. Plus of course, getting hooked on drugs and other stuff. The media loves to showcase rural America like it was the 1950s but that’s all changed now. I am staying in my home town in Indiana, and a number of my high school friends live here. But the difference I think is thanks to Purdue, this city is doing a pretty good job of thriving and it is not at all unpleasant to live here given the sizeable student population. I once looked up lafayette/west lafayette and as far as small town goes in the U.S. it is an anomaly.

    tl;dr my small town rocks, fuck the rest of rural america.

  8. 8
    cain says:

    @John Cole:
    Except Lilly.

  9. 9
    Schlemazel says:

    @SiubhanDuinne: and then the reindeer disappeared into the mist

  10. 10
    WereBear says:

    Many rural parents undermine a child’s education and ambition so they won’t leave.

  11. 11
    Schlemazel says:

    @John Cole:
    come sit by me, I think we have much to discuss

  12. 12
    trollhattan says:

    @John Cole:
    I once had the goal of that country house in the middle of five acres because I love the woods and mountains, but time there has revealed a good cohort live there because they literally cannot behave around others for longer than it takes to stand in line and pay for their ammo restock supply.

    So I remain a city-dwelling visitor. On the upside the Japanese grocery a mile away offers twelve mirin options, thirteen more than the closest Piggly Wiggly.

  13. 13
  14. 14
    Martin says:

    and the son of the other family, who’s an undergraduate at a fundamentalist Christian school outside Nashville

    I’m sorry but that kid started being radicalized long before he discovered YouTube.

    But I think if we look at when propaganda seems to work best, it often seems to be when new media types emerge. It seems large sections of the public just don’t know how to process/filter new media they way they have previous media types. Essentially each new media type lowers the marginal cost of distribution allowing new messages and message bringers to participate. My parents learned how to absorb news with David Brinkley, and the evening half hour of news was too expensive to waste with propaganda. When cable news came along, you had 48x more time to fill, and filling it with Sean Hannity propaganda was almost a benefit, but going full Alex Jones was too much. Jump ahead to YouTube or Facebook and now you need another 50x as much content and that’s where Alex Jones comes in.

    My parents never needed to learn how to critique the source – they could accept everything that David Brinkley said. Its inevitable that there will be a societal sorting where some people are better skeptics and better at filtering the tsunami of bullshit and other people aren’t.

  15. 15
    AndoChronic says:

    Mpls/STP Juicers untied! I don’t believe we’ve ever had a meet up. Who’s on that? Do I need to be on that? Perhaps after the holidays? Bueller.

  16. 16


    The media loves to showcase rural America like it was the 1950s but that’s all changed now.

    Also the actual 1950’s weren’t “the 1950’s” to begin with.

  17. 17
    SiubhanDuinne says:


    I hope John puts it back up at some point. First time I’ve ever heard a rendition of “Rudolph” that I enjoyed.

  18. 18
    opiejeanne says:

    @trollhattan: We have a house on an acre just outside the city limits of a town once-renowned for having more horses than people. We are semi-rural, and the political mix is purple. We were astonished that anyone nearby voted for Trump, but the nice Jewish couple just around the corner in the pretty yellow Cape Cod did, as did the realtor who’s too broke to get her house painte;, those were the ones who surprised us, we thought they were people who would never consider voting for a person like that. I can’t see how they thought it was in their best interests.
    Seattle is only 13 miles away but it feels much farther, and it calls to me but it’s expensive and possibly out of our reach now.

    One major problem with rural is the distance to a doctor or an emergency room, which we have to consider as we age.

  19. 19
    Olivia says:

    @AndoChronic: Great idea…after the holidays.

  20. 20
    Kay says:

    Has everyone but me been aware of this? It’s rap for poor white people (as near as I can tell). It’s popular here among a certain group of young-ish people – 25 years old or so. They have a whole thing around it- call themselves “slummericans”- in voting demographics terms they would be “rural, no college”. with “college” as a proxy for income. I became aware of it last summer because of the clients I have and now I see it everywhere.

  21. 21
    Sheila in nc says:

    @cain: Yeah, my small town is a small college town, which makes all the difference. Although I suppose 60k+ isn’t that small any more. I joke with my mom that both our Southern college towns have roughly the same population, but in my town we have 7 different kinds of grocery stores (Whole Foods, Trader Joe’s, Fresh Market, Sprouts, Harris Teeter, Aldi, and Food Lion, not counting the specialty stores like A Southern Season) while they make do with just the super Kroger.

  22. 22
    Baud says:

    @Major Major Major Major: Is there any security downside to using Google sign in? I’m getting tired of creating new passwords for sites.


  23. 23
    Yarrow says:

    From the TPM letter:

    are sitting in the living room listening to YouTube videos peddling conspiracy theories about Walmart stores being converted into concentration camps. The videos are well-produced and uses real events as evidence but preys upon the ignorance of my nephew and the other young man about the true context of those events (for instance, the truck-full of migrants who died in a Walmart parking lot).

    Well produced videos radicalize young people around the globe. ISIS used (uses?) them to recruit young people from all over. It’s hardly a surprise that the same techniques would be used here. I wonder who’s funding the videos. Would be a good subject for an enterprising investigative reporter.

    I read this post over at TPM yesterday and honestly I’m kind of annoyed by Josh Marshall’s take on it. He just presents it without adding anything to it. He runs a website that he describes as doing some kind of journalism. Where’s that part? He could add context, he could put a reporter on it to investigate. He could at least get more info–which videos, who’s making them, etc. It strikes me as a rather lazy response. It also has a hint of helplessness around it. “Look at these videos radicalizing our young people! What can we do? Oh no!” Give me a break.

    These videos are propaganda. We are not effectively teaching our young people in school, let alone the rest of the country, how to identify propaganda and not get sucked into it. It’s something that’s being taught elsewhere and we need to do it too.

  24. 24
    JaySinWA says:

    I have been thinking that we need cultural evangelists to create some liberal enclaves in red America.

  25. 25
  26. 26
    rikyrah says:

    Outside of Google knowing your life?
    I don’t front…I accepted it, and now, just use it on multiple sites.

  27. 27
    opiejeanne says:

    @Major Major Major Major: I know you’re too young to remember them, but you’re right. I wouldn’t go back to the 50s even if they had been an idyllic time, which they weren’t. The number of deaths from polio each week were announced on the radio on Fridays.

  28. 28
    Mike in NC says:

    Learned a new nickname for Trump today: Stupid Goldfinger

  29. 29
  30. 30

    @Baud: if your google account is well locked down (2-factor authentication and stuff) then it’s (executive summary) more secure, unless google gets compromised. The most recent Facebook hack theoretically gave attackers access to accounts authenticated via Facebook, for instance; but google is much more security-minded and trustworthy. But IMO it’s more secure since the zillion sites you make passwords for are going to be low-security.

  31. 31
    jacy says:

    Even though we live in a blue dot in a red state (or perhaps because we do) The Boyfriend and I were talking about our desire to move to a blue state. (California? Hawaii? New Mexico? Colorado?) We;re both completely mobile job-wise, but we’re stuck here until each of our youngest kids (Mine at 13, his at 8) turn 18. My younger kids want to leave the South as soon as they are able, but my older kids will probably stay, only because their significant others wouldn’t leave. (Which was how I ended up here in the first place.)

  32. 32
  33. 33
    AndoChronic says:

    @Olivia: Yes, cool. I’m in Mpls. proper. Maybe split the difference somewhere between Mpls. and STP just to be considerate?

  34. 34
    A Ghost To Most says:

    One of the joys of Colorado. It gets bluer every year. Just stay out of Dobson Springs.

  35. 35
    spudgun says:

    @trollhattan: Only saw 2 of his movies, but loved them both: Walkabout and The Witches.

    Sad news.

  36. 36
    rikyrah says:

    James “Lodestar” Bonz (@JimBonz) Tweeted:
    Donald Trump’s team ‘wiping their electronic devices’ in case they have to give evidence | The Independent

  37. 37
    Kay says:


    I’m baffled at what happened to our panic over national security breaches due to insecure communications. Poof! Gone.

    Everyone in Mar a Lago knows our nation’s secrets and they’re all such attention hog blabbermouths.

  38. 38
    JaySinWA says:

    @Major Major Major Major: @Baud: I agree. But another option that works across most sites is to use a password manager and generated passwords. I am using lastpass now, and it is putting all my eggs in one basket, but their are other options that keep passwords local, or may be a more trustworthy store house. I have become a big fan of remember that for me password management.

  39. 39
    Yutsano says:

    @AndoChronic: I can give y’all an incentive. I might be there in June.

  40. 40
    SiubhanDuinne says:


    Maybe split the difference somewhere between Mpls. and STP just to be considerate?

    Wouldn’t that put your meetup in the middle of the Mississippi River?

  41. 41
    JaySinWA says:

    @JaySinWA: ETA the editor isn’t working for me, but I would emphasize that 2 factor authentication is essential for any password storage that is not in your physical control.

  42. 42
    zhena gogolia says:


    I love this guy! You introduced me to him.

    When I was up in the middle of the night doing colonoscopy prep, I was watching his video about the “praise breaks” and just laughing my ass off.

  43. 43
    Kelly says:

    When I retired I moved back to the Oregon westside Cascade foothills where I grew up. Beautiful, hiking, kayaking XC skiing all nearby. It was logging, sawmills and farmers then. Still some of that but now a lot exurban commuters on small acreages. I’m amazed how pissed off folks around here are about the spotted owl fight clear back in the 1980’s. It’s impossible to convince people bullshit rumors about “let it burn” wildfire policies are wild exaggerations of actual policy. My state leg district went 70/30 Trump which fairly represents my old high school friends that never left. There are a few that went to college and returned to teach school that I can still enjoy but the rest are determined to stay crazy.

  44. 44

    @JaySinWA: I use the safari/iCloud password manager, which isn’t an option for everyone, but it works for me. Google/chrome also has one you can use across devices. But if I can do google single-sign-on I do.

  45. 45
    trollhattan says:

    Medical service access can become very important. When the inlaws decamped Napa Valley for 35 Sierra Foothill acres they did not think that one through and found themselves needing to drive through a canyon to get to either nearby town–one to the north north and the other south. They could never articulate why they felt the need to leave the place they’d lived for decades, along with their friends, doctors, etc. There was some cockamamie notion that the rest of us would follow them and live in shanties scattered around the property. Eldorado County Planning Dept. had some thoughts about that–a shame considering how much fun that commute to the nearest job could have been.

    Our blip visit to Seattle last summer was an eye-opener as I hadn’t been there since mom died. Took the kid through the old neighborhood, past my grade and high schools and the house I grew up in. Dialed up the Zillow Zestimate to find it valued at exactly 100x what my folks paid.

    We stayed at a nice downtown hotel in a $360 room after dumping the rental car and I lowered my BP from maneuvering the weekend(?!?) traffic. I don’t think Seattle works for me any longer.

  46. 46
    Uncle Cosmo says:

    @AndoChronic: Maybe I’m geographically iggurant, but last I looked “splitting the difference between Mpls & StP” would more than likely leave you bobbing in the Mississippi. Or living under a bridge (cardboard condo optional).

  47. 47
    Baud says:

    @JaySinWA: I do that now. I’m just trying to simplify, particularly for less important sites.

  48. 48
    Thoughtful David says:

    It’s not entirely rural/urban split–it’s much more a geographic division of economic power. Agriculture plus mining (which also tends to be rural) in the US in Q2 2018 produced 3.3% of the GDP. That means that the suburbs, towns and cities produced 96.7% of the GDP. And the places that produce the GDP are predominantly blue. Hillary Clinton won precincts that accounted for something close to 2/3 of the US GDP, meaning her voters accounted for about twice as much GDP as Trump’s.
    So, what you get is that any smart, ambitious young person in rural areas is going to follow the money, and move to one of the places where there are jobs and money are. You can see it all the time: they leave East Banjomusic, Kentucky, and go to get a college degree, and they never go back. That is, they move to a blue place, and stay or move on to another blue place.
    Conversely, what that means is that on average (yes, there are exceptions) the ones left in East Banjomusic are the stupid and the unambitious. Who get resentful and hate-filled about how they’ve been left behind.
    I can see no way out of this–the economy cannot be geographically rebalanced so rural areas have equal economic power. We have to make sure their political power is reduced to the equivalent of their economic power.

  49. 49
    Baud says:

    @rikyrah: Yeah, I’m aware of the privacy issue. I’m ok with it. My life is too boring for Google.

  50. 50
    JaySinWA says:

    @Major Major Major Major: I’ve never been comfortable with Chrome or Firefox password managers. The early versions were plaintext storage as I recall. It seemed too hackable to me.

  51. 51
    trollhattan says:

    Trump’s forest-raking crap was a dogwhistle to those folks. Even the mayor of Paradise, CA was blaming eco-hippies for the fire that consumed her town.

    I blame Reagan. He embraced the nascent Sagebrush Rebellion idiots during his campaign, put James Watt and Niel Goresuch’s mom in power with orders to mow down the western forests as fast as possible and the over-cut and eventual backlash led to the lumber industry’s ultimate collapse. It would have happened anyway but Reagan’s way was much faster.

  52. 52
    AndoChronic says:

    @SiubhanDuinne: Good point. Mpls it is then!

  53. 53

    @rikyrah: @Baud: google is already fully aware of which sites you use that have google logins enabled, whether you avail yourself of the option or not. (Using a google single-sign-on doesn’t give google any additional access to what you do while logged in; it’s just a free identity-verification service)

  54. 54
    AndoChronic says:

    @Yutsano: Rooftop patio season.

  55. 55
    JaySinWA says:

    @Baud: Yes, I confess I do a mixed assortment of “single sign in” between Micro$oft Google and Lastpass. It is easier for a number of sites to do the validation and you don’t have to worry as much about the site being compromised. I did pull all of my few authorizations from Facebook, since they have demonstrated a lack of care.

  56. 56
    AndoChronic says:

    @Uncle Cosmo: I try to be nice to those in that other city way over across the river there. You can get away with a lot of stuff down by the river though!

  57. 57
    Brachiator says:


    RIP Nicolas Roeg

    His 1973 film “Don’t Look Now” is still deliciously creepy, really gets under your skin.

  58. 58
    Steeplejack says:


    Dang. RIP. Don’t Look Now (1973) is one of the creepiest movies ever, but it also has one of the best sex scenes. Trailer here.

  59. 59
    MattF says:

    @Uncle Cosmo: I lived in Minneapolis for two years, and I can tell you (contrary to my initial expectations) that the Mississippi is not generally the boundary between the two cities.

  60. 60
    Kelly says:

    @trollhattan: The cut it all now time was a golden era for those folks. Lots of good jobs for great pay. I spent two summers logging to pay for college. The guys on the crew found it puzzling that I’d spend all my money on education when a full time logger could make just as much money. My heavy equipment operator dad kept me going by telling me logging was fun in the summer, not so much when the rain is washing the snow down your neck in November. Also he pointed out that after about 20 years of that kind of labor everything hurts.

  61. 61
    MattF says:

    @Major Major Major Major: The problem I have is with sign-ins in my financial software. There are about a dozen accounts monitored by the program, and it doesn’t play cooperatively with password managers.

  62. 62

    @MattF: sure, they’re not necessarily going to address problems they weren’t meant to.

  63. 63
    justawriter says:

    @JaySinWA: I’ve always thought the Unitarians need to start a crusade to bring the Baptists back to Christ.

  64. 64
    oatler. says:

    @Steeplejack: Double dang. I also believe Roeg worked the camera for the classic “Glastonbury Revelation” concert movie from1971.

  65. 65

    @Yarrow: Josh Marshall’s TPM has gone steadily downhill since he introduced the subscription model. I find his writing unreadable, he takes forever to get to the point. It was indispensable during W’s presidency. Now, its meh at best.

  66. 66
    trollhattan says:

    I had a steel mill job for awhile during my college years and similarly, it paid really well and the old-timers had the house and car and camper and lived the dream (despite smoking while inhaling asbestos and whatnot). It was years after graduation before I matched what I earned in the meltshop, but that mill is long gone and Trump’s never bringing it back. Plus I can still walk and lift things (most days) and have my full complement of fingers, toes and eyes.

  67. 67
    Olivia says:

    @AndoChronic: Sounds good. I’m just south of the MN zoo.

  68. 68
    Steeplejack says:


    Okay, that’s funny!

  69. 69
    Steeplejack says:


    Just what I was thinking!

  70. 70
    James E Powell says:


    The partial solution is the elimination of the electoral college and increasing the size of Congress. Both will be hard sells because the GOP knows white people deeply fear what it means to them.

    And that is the crux of the biscuit.

  71. 71
    apocalipstick says:

    @cain: If you think a metropolitan area of 110,000+ is a small town, you need to get out more.

  72. 72
    Olivia says:

    @SiubhanDuinne: We could find a cruise on a paddleboat, I guess, if we wait for warm weather. A portion of Minneapolis, including the University, is east of the river so we can probably find someplace dry to meet up.

  73. 73
  74. 74
    Olivia says:

    @AndoChronic: I like that idea!

  75. 75
    JGabriel says:


    Every time I find myself in a rural part of the country, I think how the natural landscape is beautiful, but that I would never want to live there, because everyone hates me.

    Me too.

  76. 76
    satby says:

    @WereBear: I agree. From what I’ve seen (admittedly anecdotal) many of the rural people around my old Mishigassippi home were open about the idea that if the kids went away to college they wouldn’t come back.
    Indiana is worse, they outsourced their public education to the K-12 company and many people choose to homeschool. Helps to keep the population ignorant of they can avoid new people or situations. And though S.Bend is a college town, the biggest university here is the very insular Notre Dame.

  77. 77
    JGabriel says:


    r.i.p. Nicolas Roeg.

    That’s a loss. He was a wonderful filmmaker.

    BTW, nice photo of Duncan Jones, with his dad and Roeg in that article you linked.

  78. 78
    Miss Bianca says:

    @Steeplejack: I still have nightmares inspired by “Don’t Look Now.”

  79. 79
    Kathleen says:

    @Schlemazel: Can I take a number?

    ETA I realize I’m posting on dead thread which is fine because I’m afraid you’ll tell me “no”.

  80. 80
    Terry chay says:

    @Thoughtful David: small correction. It wasn’t by precinct, it was by district. I have a feeling if it was by precinct, the disparity might even be worse than 2:1.

  81. 81
    afanasia says:

    @AndoChronic: University Avenue?

  82. 82
    Dan B says:

    @Yarrow: A good friend who makes a (good) living producing print media campaigns were complaining about Dems media / communications. Her campaigns kept insisting on more new mailers and more promotions. The campaigns were not supplying her any new or detailed info on the candidates or issues. She felt the tons of money pouring into campaigns was being wasted and we better off invested in creating 365 days a year of media, all types. We can produce media as easily as the far right conspiracy folks and the vast right wing think tank empire. AIPOC and Beto did it with their podcasts from between camoaign stops. Simple things like showing who you are (identity) really move the needle.

    It seems like it would be good for Indivisible groups to pool money to fund some social media campaigns. If there are enough engaging ones they can overwhelm the conspiracy wing propaganda, or at least compete with it.

  83. 83
    rekoob says:

    @jacy: At the risk of being overly optimistic, I believe the Interstate 25 corridor (Las Cruces NM to Buffalo WY) could well be the backbone of an indigo-to-blue region. That’s not to rule out Montana, but there are some interesting places to live around there, to include Socorro, Albuquerque, Placitas, Santa Fe, Las Vegas, Springer, Raton, Trinidad, Pueblo (omitting Colorado Springs for the moment), Denver, Fort Collins, Cheyenne (possibly), and Caspar. You can live near Colorado Springs and/or Cheyenne without having to deal with all the nonsense.

  84. 84
    Dan B says:

    @opiejeanne: We moved to mid Beacon Hill in 2009. It is 5 miles to downtown but we’re 1 mike from Columbia City and Georgetown which have lots to offer. The crime rate is the second lowest in the city and it’s 10 per cent white. Real estate is going up so I don’t know if it’s still affordable. It may not be unknown much longer.
    There still are pockets if the city that are relatively affordable primarily due to unspoken racism.

  85. 85
    Dan B says:

    @JR: Isn’t it Duvall, NE of winery Woodinville?

  86. 86
    FlyingToaster says:

    I can attest to the urban/rural divide; however, it’s also there in the red suburbs of large cities. And gerrymandering puts those burbs in with the Archer/Daniels/Midland country to get to a safe red district.

    One thing we did with WarriorGirl was to keep an eye on what she was watching, and identify things as propaganda. And how to check if what you’re seeing is real or total made up bullshit. After 3 years, she can spot conspiracy therories well before she gets to the end of a video.

    Unfortunately, not everyone does this before kids get phones (she can’t wait until June), which means that their kids don’t have any built-in filters against crap. Many rely on Xtianist filters, which is pretty much the fucking problem here in the ‘States.

  87. 87
    J R in WV says:


    Donald Trump’s team ‘wiping their electronic devices’ in case they have to give evidence | The Independent

    Isn’t that an obvious conspiracy to obstruct justice? Should ALL be rounded up and jailed for just that~!!

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    cliosfanboy says:

    @Uncle Cosmo: depends on the direction. You head towards Wisconsin and the halfway point is in Russia.

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    opiejeanne says:

    @JR: Woodinville. A few miles north of the light industrial farm in the Sammamish Valley.

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    opiejeanne says:

    @Dan B: It’s winery Woodinville, trying to become the next Napa Valley. The traffic is already bad sometimes o the weekends in the fall and they have plans to make it much much worse by zoning the east side of 202 for business, so those properties can all become wine tasting rooms and cellars.

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