"I chose to be that guy who didn't issue the apology"

Dismayed, disenchanted, and unable to sleep, Elder decided to deleted his Instagram account. He penned one last farewell message, which was cross-posted to his Twitter and professional Facebook page: "Enjoy burning it all down, you well-intentioned, blind people. I'm done."

The post was unambiguous: Elder was criticizing the activists who had set the courthouse on fire. He did not malign their cause or their ethnicity (and in fact, the perpetrator was white). He did not attack the Black Lives Matter movement or criminal justice reform. He implied that the militants had good motives ("well-intentioned") but were oblivious ("blind") when it came to the self-defeating nature of their tactics...

For Elder, the consequences were far-reaching. The coronavirus pandemic had already upended his business: In the era of COVID-19, few activities had become as verboten as choir singing. Without the support of a publisher and professional network, Elder's work was impossible. Moreover, local choral directors refuse to do business with him because of the controversy. They are afraid to associate with him, or to be seen as defending him in any way.

"It's a bad look for them," says Elder. "It's really quite extreme, the effect this has had."