Peter Savodnik reports for The Free Press from an encampment 7,248 miles from Gaza.
(Andrew Goff/Lost Coast Outpost)

Barron Trump: American Caesar? Plus. . .

Peter Savodnik reports from an encampment 7,248 miles from Gaza. NPR CEO subpoenaed by Congress. And much more.

On today’s Front Page from The Free Press: River Page on MAGA heir Barron Trump; Francesca Block on the activist groups fueling the protests; NPR CEO subpoenaed by the House; our in-house Cupid serves up three more lonely hearts; and more. 

But first: Peter Savodnik meets the kids at a Gaza encampment in northern California.

ARCATA, California — On Monday night, the last night of the Gaza encampment at Cal Poly Humboldt, the students were girding for a final showdown with jackbooted cops and circling helicopters and all-seeing drones. 

They wore kerchiefs or masks—which, of course, made it harder to identify them and lent them a vaguely Red Army Faction toughness. Many had tattoos on their necks and wrists, and they smelled like weed and body odor, like overlapping wafts of dried sweat and grime. They had access to campus toilets but not showers.

They had demanded that the university divest from Israel. University officials had estimated that they had done millions in damage to the campus. 

They talked about rumors of SWAT teams coming up from Chico or Sacramento, maybe the National Guard, highway patrol officers, “pigs”—cops—from all over northern California.

They alluded to a Kent State–like showdown.

They thought it was them versus the American Empire, and they envisioned taking part in a grand struggle against decolonization that extended from Rafah to the Angolan diamond mines to the United States’ southern border to this little college town just south of the Oregon state line, enveloped by redwoods and rednecks and weed growers and flatbed trucks.

They said they expected they would wind up in a darkened cell, or worse.

“We really have no idea what’s going to happen,” one bearded man, an undergraduate, told me. Continue Reading. . . 

  1. Marjorie Taylor Greene said Wednesday that she will force a vote to oust House Speaker Mike Johnson next week. But the bid looks likely to fail, because Democrats said they would step in to save Johnson. Talk about strange bedfellows. (Punchbowl)

  2. Two years ago, Joe Biden set a red line for China when he warned Beijing not to provide “material support” for Russia’s war in Ukraine. According to the secretary of state, China has now crossed that red line. The administration should do something about it, says Matt Pottinger. (Wall Street Journal

  3. Meanwhile, China is hosting talks with Russia “to facilitate Hamas’s inclusion in the Palestinian Authority, which would result in a Hamas-influenced government in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip.” (Institute for the Study of War

  4. RFK Jr. is appearing on a lot of conservative media, and the Trump camp is concerned. Trump has upped his attacks on Kennedy recently, referring to him as “Junior” and describing him as a Democratic “plant” and a “wasted protest vote.” (Politico

  5. Joe Biden will give a speech on Jew hatred at the Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington, D.C., next week. He will address “our moral duty to combat the rising scourge of antisemitism.” One place to start: members of his own party praising the most extreme voices at campus protests. (The Hill

  6. Sales were down for Ford’s electric vehicles in the first quarter of the year—the latest sign that car manufacturers overestimated demand for EVs. So far, in the first quarter 2024, Ford’s EV department has lost $130,000 for every electric vehicle it has sold. (The Verge

  7. For the third straight month, immigration topped Americans’ list of the most important problems facing the country. Twenty-seven percent of Americans ranked it number one, followed by “government,” “the economy in general,” and inflation. (Gallup

  8. Today’s “man bites dog” headline comes from a New York Times story on Cuba: “In a Communist Stronghold, Capitalists Become an Economic Lifeline.” One U.S. official tells the Times that “Cuba is falling apart faster than it is being rebuilt. There is no turning back.’’ (New York Times)

  9. Meet the former Trump official who founded a dating app for right-wingers. The Right Stuff is trying to make dating great again, but here at The Free Press we think love transcends politics—if you agree, scroll down for this week’s lonely hearts. (Washington Examiner

  10. Hundreds gathered in New York’s Union Square this week to. . . watch a guy eat a big tub of cheeseballs. When it comes to large get-togethers in New York, can I suggest that, going forward, we have more of this and fewer January 6–style reenactments on campus? (X

If, like me, you spend too much time online, you may have noticed that there’s a strange corner of the internet that has an unhealthy obsession with Donald Trump’s son, Barron, who recently turned eighteen. Anonymous accounts obsess over his imperial “physiognomy” and fantasize about him as a high-IQ Machiavelli plotting to take down his father’s enemies. It’s a strange and funny meme. But it also reveals something more serious about the deepest desires of today’s online right. Here’s River Page on Barron Trump, American Caesar.  

(Illustration by The Free Press; photo via Getty Images)

Barron Trump is the future American Caesar. I’m told he is keeping a list of enemies so that he can one day avenge his father. I’m told that one day, he will cross the Potomac with 10,000 men to dissolve the Senate. I’m told that he will do these things, and become my God Emperor and yours, because he is six feet, seven inches with an aquiline nose.

According to memes from the very online right, Donald Trump’s 18-year-old son is destined to save the nation.

To understand what the hell is going on here, we need to go back to November 2016, when longtime Trump nemesis Rosie O’Donnell tweeted: “[Is] Barron Trump Autistic?” She linked to a YouTube video on the subject, which highlighted the 10-year-old boy’s supposed symptoms, such as fidgeting in his seat, blinking, and fake-clapping—reminding the world that the left can be just as creative with its conspiracy theories as the right.

On hearing of it, Barron’s doting mother Melania, the new first lady, promptly threatened to sue the YouTuber behind the video, which has since been taken down. But the very online right took the conspiracy and ran with it: yes, Barron was autistic, but autistic to the point of genius. He was so smart, the theory went, that he had created a load of pro-Trump bots to get his dad into the White House. Continue reading…

→ NPR CEO summoned to the Hill: NPR CEO Katherine Maher has been asked to testify before a Congressional committee to respond to what lawmakers called the “unsettling” allegations made in Uri Berliner’s Free Press article about ideological capture and self-censorship at the public network. In a letter to Maher, Republican members of the House Committee on Energy and Commerce quote from Berliner’s essay at length and request Maher appear on May 8 to “explain the allegations of political and ideological bias rampant at NPR.”

The House hearing, and Maher’s subpoena, is only the latest example of the extraordinary impact of Berliner’s piece. His account of how NPR lost its way was covered by every major outlet in the U.S., with many noting that Maher had posted biased tweets during her previous career in tech, including “Donald Trump is a racist.” Although Maher has said almost nothing since the controversy, save for one public statement and a comment given to The New York Times, which did its own investigation into the NPR crisis, she will finally have to explain the network’s position next week. And we at The Free Press will be ready with buckets of popcorn.

→ Who are the ‘external actors’ at the campus protests? The New York Police Department made 282 arrests at two anti-Israel protests Tuesday night—173 at the City College of New York and 109 at Columbia. Mayor Eric Adams, in a press conference Wednesday morning, claimed that while the majority of those involved were students, a lot of them were also “external actors” who came to campuses “not to peacefully protest, but to create chaos.” 

It is still unclear how many of those arrested were students, versus people coming in from the outside. But the potential involvement of “outside activists,” as Columbia’s president Minouche Shafik put it, is not surprising for those who have followed pro-Palestine activist groups over the past few months.

Supporters of the encampments insist they are student-led and see talk of outside activists as an effort to discredit them. But activist organizations have been quite open on social media about their role in fueling and sustaining these campus protests.

I saw the leaders of some of these groups wandering outside of Columbia’s campus on Tuesday, just hours before the NYPD’s sweep, including The People’s Forum executive director Manolo De Los Santos and Within Our Lifetime founder Nerdeen Kiswani. 

Free Press readers might remember our previous reporting on The People’s Forum, which describes itself as a “movement incubator for working class and marginalized communities.” Its main backer is Neville Roy Singham, a multimillionaire Marxist who now lives in China. 

The People’s Forum put out a call on Twitter to its disciples Tuesday afternoon to head to Columbia’s Morningside Heights campus and “open the gates and break the siege,” following the university’s decision to limit access to campus only to essential personnel and residents. They participated in a protest alongside students from inside campus and sneaked in water and food in to-go containers through iron slots in the gates. (Students occupying the campus building said earlier that day that the university was denying them “humanitarian aid.”)

Per The Washington Free Beacon, it was all part of The People’s Forum and De Los Santos’s plan to “give Joe Biden a hot summer” and “support our students so that the encampments can go for as long as they can.”

Meanwhile, activist group Palestine Action US released a guide for the next steps in the pro-Palestine movement in the U.S. yesterday. It encourages protesters to “escalate” and to “build more militancy.” No approach is off-limits, according to the group, “including militant direct actions.” (Political violence to you and me.) The organization has close links to Fergie Chambers, the multimillionaire communist heir to the Cox fortune. Their guide calls on protesters to “reject the distinction between students and ‘outside agitators.’ ” (Read Suzy Weiss’s profile of Fergie: “He’s Got $250 Million to Spend on Communist Revolution.”)Francesca Block 

Dr. Sabatini returns to Boston: David Sabatini, the famed MIT researcher who I profiled for The Free Press after he was driven from his own lab over allegations that he’d sexually harassed another researcher and fostered a “bro” culture, is heading back to Boston to head up what he calls a “bi-national” lab. 

“I’m excited to make new discoveries,” Sabatini told me over the phone. “We’re not there yet, but hopefully we will be.” 

I caught up with Sabatini a little after 10 p.m., Prague time. He had just gotten back from his lab—he teaches and conducts research at the Czech Republic–based Institute of Organic Chemistry and Biochemistry, and he’ll remain the head of his lab there—where he’d spent the day purifying and cutting DNA. Bill Ackman is reportedly funding at least part of Sabatini’s science, which focuses on the mTOR signaling pathway affecting cell metabolism and cell growth. 

“I’ve been dealt an interesting hand of cards,” says Sabatini, who is suing his accuser and his former workplace for defamation, and who, when I met and profiled him, had been out of work for over a year. “It’s really nice to be mentoring people again and thinking through new ideas. I really missed that.” 

In Boston, he’s planning to hire some of his old students from the Whitehead Institute. He says many of them have kept in touch, and they’ve gotten together to celebrate birthdays and holidays. Meanwhile, Sabatini is looking forward to developing new approaches to metabolomics, the study of microprocesses within a cell, and incorporating machine learning at the Boston lab, which will focus on drugs that fight metabolic diseases like diabetes. His son also lives there.

Reflecting on his winding journey back to Boston, Sabatini tells me, “I think most people in the world are quite good. And I really experienced that. It’s been amazing to have people reach out and try and help in different ways, whether publicly or privately.” 

He adds: “I’m blessed by that despite all the hardship. I like to work. It feels good to work again.” —Suzy Weiss 

→ I can quit you! “Quit” is not advice you hear very often. But sometimes it’s the right move, says Free Press columnist Katherine Boyle. Ten years ago this week, she quit her job as a reporter at The Washington Post and decided to start a career in tech. “Unlike what most of the advice books will tell you—‘you must be running toward something greater with certainty!’—that was not how I felt. I was running away. I had met the limit of what I thought possible in my short career and I needed to jolt into something new,” she writes in a post on X. Her advice for would-be quitters? Quit while you’re young, unattached, and mobile. But only quit once, and if you do, “burn the boats.” Read her advice in full. 

Another Thursday, another three Free Pressers looking for love, handpicked by our in-house Cupid. If you want to be featured, drop him a line

Owen Reynolds, 44, Montreal, Canada

Do you remember the scene in Smokey and the Bandit where Burt Reynolds first meets Sally Field? That’s what I’m looking for: doing some bootleg shit and meeting a partner in crime during the act. Obviously, we’d use our collective street smarts to avoid jail time, for a Thelma & Louise–type ending.

I’m from Montreal, Canada, 44 years old, and divorced with no kids. I’m a product owner for a cloud company and I have one small, very cute dog named Coffee Bean who I like to travel with. 

I am willing to relocate to find the right lady, especially because I don’t think I’ll ever get used to what Canada has to offer: high taxes and low temperatures.

Alison Wechsler Cipriani, 73, Virginia

I’ve been living in Northern Virginia for four years, having arrived just in time for Covid! I moved here from Israel, where I have lived on and off for about 15 years. It was a hard move, but as I am getting older (73) I felt I should at least be in the same country as my kids, so here I am.

Dating in this area is quite difficult for those not on the blue team. I am a recovering socialist but realized during the shutdown that things seemed strange and illogical—which is how I ended up reading The Free Press

I’m interested in deep conversations on history, religion, art, architecture, and more. And if you disagree with me—even better. 

So, I’m looking for male companions in the DMV area for talk, kayaking, walks, and hopefully more. Hope you’re out there.

Robbie Stanley-Smith, 32, London, UK

I’m Robbie, 32, and I live in Camberwell, London. Looking for a woman to marry and have 2-plus children with, and in general for meaningful constraints in life. I’m a cellist, cello teacher, languages tutor, and am training to be an IT technician and ultimately a cybersecurity professional. 

In a recent prompt, Cupid asked readers to write about something that has changed their mind. My attitude to Christianity has shifted over the last few years. I was raised an atheist with a liberal child-of-the-enlightenment mindset which, in hindsight, tended toward reductionist scientism. I eagerly read The God Delusion as a contrarian teenager. But after reading books like Alain de Botton’s Religion for Atheists, and others by C.S. Lewis, G.K. Chesterton, and Jordan Peterson, I have become more sympathetic to believers. I now see how much religion has to offer in terms of community, and how integral Christianity has been to English and Western history. I also play and listen to a lot of classical music, much of which is imbued with religious fervor. I still struggle with the metaphysics but would now say I generally identify with Christian values and culture, and occasionally attend church with friends. 

“Suitors,” please contact me at!

Oliver Wiseman is a writer and editor for The Free Press. Follow him on X @ollywiseman

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