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Our Best Stuff on Trump Bibles and the Apple Antitrust Suit
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Our Best Stuff on Trump Bibles and the Apple Antitrust Suit

Plus, RFK Jr. picks his running mate and Biden courts ‘Haley Republicans.’

(Stock photo from Getty Images.)

Hello and happy Sunday. If you’re celebrating Easter, take a moment to read the essay we published by Jake Meador on “wretched urgency” and why Christians refer to the day that Christ was crucified as “Good Friday.” He writes: “It is because we also believe that even the greatest evil imaginable is not so great that it can have final victory.”

Here in the Ohio bureau, spring isn’t quite in full swing yet, but baseball season is. And that means lots of time in the car with our 17-year-old. The other day we were driving home from practice and he started telling me about yet another new cologne he wanted to try. He’s developed a bit of a collection the last six months, bragging that the scent he just got at TJ Maxx for $25 smells just like some other brand that costs $100 and arranging all the bottles carefully on his dresser (if only he cared so much about the pile of dishes next to his bed). 

At first I didn’t think too much of it, having survived the Axe Body Spray phase of junior high and another phase where he went to my hairstylist because the cheap place by our house couldn’t get his mound of floppy curls just right. 

But on that recent day in the car, I turned to him and said, “So where did this whole cologne obsession come from?” He replied, “TikTok.”

Well.

Obviously, we should be policing his phone usage a little more, but he’s not a kid who zones out on social media for hours at a time. He’s usually busy with baseball, hanging out with friends “IRL” or picking up a shift at his part-time job. And if he is going to get lost down a TikTok rabbit hole, buying cheap cologne with the money he earns hosting and bussing at a restaurant isn’t the worst consequence. 

But as much as we’ve all heard the stories about TikTok and how its algorithm sucks in users, I hadn’t witnessed it in person. What if, instead of being a mildly image-conscious jock who wants to smell good, he was a quiet loner with a curiosity about weapons? What if we weren’t the kind of parents who talk about current events and history and the algorithm served him up Osama Bin Laden’s manifesto or Hamas propaganda? Would we have known before he started wearing a keffiyeh?

We recently did a “point-counterpoint” series about TikTok, with Paul Matzko and Jennifer Huddleston arguing against banning it—there are real First Amendment concerns and he suggested solutions that could neutralize it without forcing a divestment—and Michael Sobolik arguing that it’s a threat to democracy and that the Chinese Communist Party “has successfully exploited America’s open economy, principles of free speech, and democratic system for its own malign purposes.” 

I edited both of those pieces, and each was persuasive enough that I’m still not sure what to think. In an ideal world, we could blast TikTok into the sun and be done with it, but that’s not how it works. And I’m definitely someone who believes in parental responsibility. We’ve worked to keep our kids active and socializing with human beings instead of apps, hoping that would do the trick. But the whole cologne episode was eye-opening and has me thinking a little harder about the influence of social media in general and TikTok in particular. Each generation of parents faces its own unique challenges, but competing with outside influences that enter your home effortlessly is a challenge that can’t be solved easily.

Thanks for reading and have a wonderful weekend.

Did you hear that Donald Trump is teaming up with singer Lee Greenwood to sell an edition of the King James Bible emblazoned with an American flag and featuring the Constitution, Declaration, Pledge of Allegiance and—for good measure—the chorus of Greenwood’s “God Bless the USA”? And if/when you did, did you think to yourself, “I wonder what Nick is going to say?” Well, buckle up. In Boiling Frogs, he points out that Trump has won over evangelicals despite the fact he’s done almost nothing to demonstrate he’s a man of faith—and Nick’s amused that a man who finds it so easy to lie doesn’t even bother in this case. “Many Christians made a cynical bargain with him in 2016, suppressing their moral discomfort and offering him their votes in exchange for guarantees that he’d enact their agenda, starting with limits on abortion,” he writes. “Insofar as his poor character and irreligiosity troubled them, some may have idly hoped that their influence over him, and the influence of figures like Mike Pence, would turn his heart toward God in time. He might be remade in Christianity’s image. That transaction didn’t pan out the way they’d hoped. For many, Christianity has been remade in his image.”

I fear I will not be able to do justice to Jonah’s G-File in this brief summary. Fresh off an interview with Jonathan Haidt (listen here!) about Haidt’s new parenting book, Jonah is in a reflective mood. He discusses how one of his favorite metaphors is the difference between French and English gardens, and how they represent different aspects of the Enlightenment: The French garden “impos[es] a human vision of nature on nature” while the English garden “establishes a space, free of external threats and invasive weeds, that allows the plants of the garden to grow free.” Those metaphors extend to parenting. “Driving full-out in pursuit of the perfect child requires racing past the turnoff for a happy and healthy child because on the road of parenting, there is no exit for perfection,” he writes. “In my experience, this becomes obvious—or at least more apparent—for people with lots of kids. What sounds like an ideal career for some kids is a recipe for misery for their siblings. Some kids want to be stand-up comics, or welders, or psychologists. Perfection implies a singular endpoint, a specific destination, but happiness requires letting kids go in different directions. Moreover, perfection is a mirage.” 

Have you signed up for Techne, our new tech-focused newsletter from Will Rinehart? If not, check out this week’s edition. Will breaks down—and takes apart—the Justice Department’s antitrust lawsuit against Apple. He notes that the DOJ is trying to make the case that Apple is stifling competition and harming consumers through its App Store approval process, through which it denies some apps altogether or puts onerous requirements on developers. And he’s unimpressed. “The DOJ’s case faces serious hurdles. At its core, the complaint alleges that Apple withheld access to specific applications from competitors or potential competitors, which could have increased its immediate profits. But the problem is that Apple never allowed those contracts in the first place, so they didn’t give up profits.” If antitrust minutiae is not your thing, you should know that Will also includes delightful tidbits about Aztec codices and how the “Rapa Nui, the people who erected the large megaliths on Easter Island, likely invented writing on their own before Europeans arrived in the 1720s.”

And here’s the best of the rest:

  • The Affordable Care Act just turned 14. Has it accomplished what supporters said it would? James C. Capretta writes the landmark legislation has a “mixed record, albeit one that its supporters will not find overly difficult to defend even as critics can also point to many of the law’s provisions that never panned out.”
  • Kevin Carroll warns that ISIS’s attack on Moscow should be a wake-up call to the United States and offers up a series of steps we can take to prevent the next large-scale terrorist attack.
  • Last week, Hamas rebuffed a U.S.-and-Israeli proposal that would have exchanged 40 Hamas-held hostages for 800 Palestinians held prisoner in Israel. Charlotte reports that the terrorist organization is hardening its demands and she discusses some of the most dangerous people whom Hamas wants released.
  • Robert F. Kennedy Jr. announced his running mate this week, and it’s someone who’s neither won a Super Bowl nor suffered a season-ending injury on the first drive of the first game of the year. Instead of Jets quarterback Aaron Rodgers, RFK Jr. picked Nicole Shanahan, a Silicon Valley patent lawyer and self-described progressive. The Dispatch Politics crew has the details.
  • That Shanahan is a progressive has Chris Stirewalt thinking that RFK Jr. “might be more interested in forcing change in his own team than pushing Republicans to reform in his direction.”
  • Speaking of candidates trying to woo people on a different team, David Drucker reports on how the Biden campaign is making an effort to win over “Haley Republicans.” Drucker notes that finding common ground might be tricky—most Nikki Haley supporters are traditional conservatives who might dislike Donald Trump but won’t be easily won over.
  • Last but not least, the pods. A CNN guy, an NBC News guy, a New York Times guy, and an ABC News contributor walked into The Dispatch Podcast studio to discuss Ronna McDaniel’s hiring and subsequent firing by NBC. The conversation between Jonah, Steve, David French, and Sarah got a little heated, but it’s worth a listen. On Advisory Opinions, Sarah found two Davids to cover for the other David’s absence: David Lat joins her to discuss Judge Aileen Cannon’s clerk problem and Judge David Proctor of the Northern District of Alabama discusses the federal judiciary and its committees. And on The Remnant, Jonah welcomes Rob Henderson to discuss his new book Troubled: A Memoir of Family, Foster Care, and Social Class.

Rachael Larimore is managing editor of The Dispatch and is based in the Cincinnati area. Prior to joining the company in 2019, she served in similar roles at Slate, The Weekly Standard, and The Bulwark. She and her husband have three sons.