The Origins of Conservatism in the 1920s and 30s

(notes / draft) What are the true origins of conservatism?

1930s, in opposition to Franklin Roosevelt’s New Deal

3 main factions then:

  1. libertarians — Milton Friedman
  2. traditionalists — William F. Buckley, National Review (1955), Barry Goldwater
  3. anti-communistsJohn Birch Society, Robert Welch, McCarthyites

After the Allies won World War II, a number of the early Hitler sympathizers “hid out” in anti-communist circles, allowing them to cloak their underlying fascism inside of the American Cold War project and give it a semi-presentable face in conservatism.

In the 1970s, 2 more conservative groups emerged for a total of 5 main sects:

4. neoconservatives — Ronald Reagan

5. the religious right — the Moral Majority, Jerry Falwell Sr. & Jr., Jimmy Swaggart, Jim & Tammy Fae Baker, Pat Robertson, Jesse Helms, Paul Weyrich, Paul Regnery, William Rusher, prosperity gospel

  • Evangelicals
  • fundamentalism
    • relationship between fundamentalist thinking and authoritarianism
    • rejection of science and empiricism
    • rejection of the liberal political order
    • limitations of received wisdom
  • Christian nationalism
    • Biblical law
    • End Times

Other topics

  • neoliberals & theocons — Dick Cheney, Donald Rumsfeld, George Bush, and others who led us into forever wars in the Middle East
  • MAGA
  • white supremacists & Lost Cause religion
  • right-wing anti-government violence
    • domestic violent extremism
  • conservative ideology
    • a form of totalism

Dunning-Kruger Effect

A strong and prevalent cognitive bias that causes a large majority of people to rate themselves more highly and more skilled than statistically possible. Lack of self-awareness can cause us to overestimate our knowledge or ability in a given area, and this phenomenon is known as the Dunning-Kruger Effect.

Posited in 1999 by two Cornell psychologists, Professors Dunning and Kruger also found that low-skilled people often have a double bind: they think of themselves as very skilled, but the lack even the basic level of skill that would allow them to detect and learn from their mistakes to get better. It’s very difficult for them to get out of the “trap” of perceiving themselves as superior, thus obviating any need to continue effort at improvements.

They also found that individuals of high skill levels also suffer from a sort of “lensing effect” (now dubbed the Dunning-Kruger Effect accordingly) in terms of their own self-assessment, but in the other direction — they are not generally aware of the rarity of their gifts. They assume most other people have the same kinds of knowledge and critical thinking skills that they do. In other words, careful study of our images of ourselves found us all to be living in a bubble of inaccurate self-perception, on both ends.

How to counteract the Dunning-Kruger Effect:

  • Ask for feedback from other people, and listen to it honestly.
  • Keep learning and gather knowledge and improving your skills.

Trump is driving Evangelicals from the flock

It’s been said that the devilish ways of pedophiliac liberal Democrats are killing Christianity in America, but the numbers tell a different story. Following the 2016 Armistice in the War on Christmas, Donald Trump yet managed to drive 1 in 7 Evangelicals from the fold, according to data from Pew and PRRI.

Far from the surge in True Believers prophesied by the right wing, the religious right’s deal with the proverbial and/or literal devil seems to have driven members away. Trump is losing Evangelicals, and really — should we be so shocked? If it doesn’t matter (to some) whether our leaders are serial philanderers and lifelong business cheats, or earnestly striving public servants spreading compassion — what use is their moral code, then? None. It is bankrupt.

Shrödinger’s Moral Leadership

The religious right can’t have it both ways — either moral leadership is important, or it isn’t. It can’t selectively be important *only* when a Democrat is in power. Evangelicals also need to make a choice between God and Caesar. Prosperity gospel is the latter and not the former, but many pretend otherwise or are fooled — after all, fool’s gold can still fool.

Cognitive dissonance upon dissonance continues to fall in the totally unraked forest of right-wing values. I’m aiming to continue pulling on a few threads connecting the religious right, and Evangelicals in particular, to the rise of political extremism in the Republican Party:

  • The pitch that winning the culture war is more important than God’s law is thin at best
  • Donald Trump is not a Christian
  • The “imperfect vessel” fails as moral justification
  • Jesus didn’t care about tax cuts
  • Christian leaders’ claims that politics is amoral ground beyond the reach of God’s teachings is self-evident nonsense
  • Christians are leaving their own moral house unguarded. No one is showing the living proof of Jesus’ teachings anymore — and it’s not the fault of the people on the left who weren’t doing it before.

Essential thinkers on authoritarian personalities

Many people around the world were shocked in the aftermath of World War II. How could “polite” society break down so utterly, so swiftly, and so zealously? Why did authoritarian personalities come to dominate human affairs, seemingly out of nowhere? How thin is this veneer of civilization, really?

A braintrust of scholars, public servants, authors, psychologists, and others have been analyzing these questions ever since. Some of the most prominent thinkers on the subject of authoritarianism were either themselves affected by the Nazi regime, or lived through the war in some capacity. Other more recent contributions have built on those original foundations, refining and extending them as more new history continues to unfold with right-wing behavior to observe.

Top research on authoritarian personalities

  • Theodor Adorno — Forced into exile by the Nazi regime, the German philosopher was a member of the Frankfurt School who tried to make sense of the evils of Hitler’s rule. He developed the F-scale in 1947, a personality test designed to identify authoritarian personalities through a set of signature traits like conventionalism, aggression, superstition, cynicism, stereotypy, projectivity, and preoccupation with sex. His studies on antisemitism and propaganda would lay the groundwork for sociological studies at the Institute for Social Research at Columbia University, the Frankfurt School’s intellectual and literal home in New York City during WWII.
  • Bob Altemeyer — Canadian psychology professor who built upon Adorno’s work to create the Right-wing Authoritarianism Scale in 1981, the now standard diagnostic tool for identifying authoritarian personalities. Altemeyer’s research on authoritarian followers added new dimensions to the field of study, often focused previously on the psychology and behavior of authoritarian leaders of the day such as Hitler, Mussolini, and Stalin. His most recent book, The Authoritarians, compiles the essential insights from his forty years of research on authoritarianism and is available for free at the link above.
  • Erich Fromm — A German Jewish psychologist and sociologist, Erich Fromm fled the Nazis and worked with the Frankfurt School of exiles on issues of social change, socioeconomics, and a broad range of interdisciplinary studies across the social, political, and economic sciences. His first book, Escape From Freedom (1941), is considered one of the founding tomes of political psychology. In 1964 he coined the term malignant narcissism to describe the depths of ultimate evil he lived through during Hitler’s rise to power, a phrase clinically synonymous with psychopathy — the quintessential cold-blooded killers who show no remorse for their murderous zeal. His concept of group narcissism (1973) extended Freud’s theory of collective narcissism to describe the phenomenon where members of an ingroup hold inflated views of their group that require external validation from others to continuously reaffirm their supremacy.
  • Hannah Arendt — Born Jewish in Germany in 1906, Hannah Arendt got her doctorate in philosophy in 1929 but was unable to find footing in her academic career due to the sharp rise of hostility towards the Jews. Arendt fled the country in 1933 after Hitler came to power and she was arrested for her “illegal” research into antisemitism. Forced to flee again from her exile in France in 1940, she escaped to New York and became an American citizen in 1950. Her first book, The Origins of Totalitarianism (1951), is considered one of the seminal works on the subject. Among her many other titles, The Human Condition (1958) may be the most influential — it establishes her core philosophy of “natality,” the idea of human affairs naturally renewing itself through the literal process of birth, with new individuals arriving continuously to reinterpret both the present and the past as well as re-imagine the future.
  • Karen Stenner — An Australian political scientist, Stenner is known for her cross-cultural research findings that show about a third (approximately 33%) of whites in a given population will tend to have authoritarian predispositions. Her work also shows the difference between authoritarian personalities, who have a great distaste for difference and diversity, and conservative mentalities, who have a significant aversion to change. Stenner posits authoritarianism as the result of a low tolerance for ambiguity, complexity, and — as a consequence — sociocultural diversity: “freedom feeds fear which undermines freedom, and democracy is its own undoing” (from her 2005 work The Authoritarian Dynamic).

More foundational thinkers

  • Czeslaw Milosz — Author of The Captive Mind (1953), the Lithuanian-born poet, writer, and activist grew up in Poland and lived through the German invasion and Soviet occupation there during and after World War II. In the book, he describes the psychological and social effects of living under Communism, with emphasis on the surprising complicity of many members of the Polish intellectual and creative class.
  • Vaclav Havel — A Czech playwright who became more politically active as a dissident after the Soviet invasion of Warsaw in 1968, Havel wrote The Power of the Powerless (1978) about his experiences living in the lies of a communist regime. He was a political prisoner under the anti-intellectualism of Soviet rule multiple times, once for as long as 4 years.
  • Viktor Frankl — Holocaust survivor Frankl was an Austrian psychiatrist and philosopher who chronicled his experiences in Nazi concentration camps, his observations about his fellow prisoners, the guards, and the psychology of Hitler’s murderous antisemitic regime more broadly. After being liberated from Auschwitz, having lost the rest of his family to the camps, he returned to Vienna to head a hospital neurological department and wrote Man’s Search for Meaning (1946) over the course of only 9 days. He went on to develop logotherapy, a branch of psychotherapy that places the search for life’s meaning at the center of human motivation, and laid the groundwork for the development of positive psychology.
  • Herbert Marcuse — Another refugee intellectual with the Franklin School, Marcuse worked with the pre-CIA OSS to research and counteract Nazi propaganda.
  • George Orwell — The British author most synonymous with portraying the evils of totalitarianism through his two classic fiction works Animal Farm (1945) and 1984 (1949). To this day we use the term Orwellian to describe the creeping dread of a dystopian, all-powerful government pumping out lies and thought control.
  • Robert O. Paxton — Seminal work on the nature of fascism
  • Timothy Snyder — Yale professor and scholar of autocratic regimes
  • Masha Gessen — Russian-American journalist, author, and queer activist whose definitive biography of Vladimir Putin, The Man Without a Face (2013), is one of several must reads on the rise of Russia’s revanchism with the West.
  • George Lakoff — Linguist who analyzes political messaging and writes about the strict father vs. nurturing parent Manichaean struggle between conservative/authoritarian and liberal value systems. Lakoff stresses the counterintuitive finding that approximately 98% of our thinking is done unconsciously, and that we are driven by these unconscious thoughts and beliefs to a much larger extent than we are generally aware of.
  • Alice Miller — Swiss psychologist whose career uncovered that the consequences of child corporal punishment tend to be authoritarian personalities later in life. Her work shows that child abuse perpetuates emotional blindness later in life and a number of vicious cycles in society from generation to generation, from aggression and paranoia to corruption, crime, and violence.
  • Jerrold Post — One of the foremost researchers on political paranoia and a founder of the field of political psychology, the professor spent 2 decades as a CIA agent prior to teaching and writing about the political behavior of malignant personality types. His last book, Dangerous Charisma: The Political Psychology of Donald Trump and His Followers (2019), was published one year before the 2020 election.
  • Richard Hofstadter — studies the “paranoid style” in American politics
  • Jonathan Haidt — Author of The Righteous Mind
          

Lost Cause religion

The whitewashing of the Civil War to assuage white Southern guilt, Lost Cause refers to the historical gaslighting of the former Confederates. New mythology reinvented our nation’s greatest internal conflict as if it had been more of a technocratic war over states’ rights and the limits of federal power, instead of the truth — which is that the seditionists first seceded, then started a war against the northern states, to preserve their right to own human beings as slaves.

When they lost the war, they never accepted defeat, or put down their conviction that white people (conveniently, them) ought to “naturally” rule over the dark people (conveniently, not them) because, you know, God said so. It is known. Many people are saying.

The Ghost Confederacy

Nevertheless, the South did have to put up with the ignomy of federal occupation for several years before they were able to expel the godless globalists and return to their safe, secure, sadistic ways of slavering. It sent the Confederates’ sense of wounded pride soaring when they could finally recreate slavery under other names, after the short-lived era of Reconstruction gave way to the terrifying age of southern Redemption.

Peonage, convict leasing, sharecropping, and other forms of neoslavery persisted all the way through at least 1954, when the Sumter slavery case was one of the last judicial prosecutions of involuntary servitude in the United States.

1954.

The Confederacy, and with it the idea of Black servitude, stayed alive in the hearts and minds of the former Confederates — many of whom were pardoned and later went on to sit in Congress making decisions about the direction of the “union,” all the while harboring seditious views, biding their time, and awaiting the next opportunity to viciously strike. This sort of “fantasy football” fanfic version of a hallucinatory alternate history where the South won the Civil War is not just alarming, but very very dangerous.

That the Confederates were given only light slaps on the wrist before being allowed to reassume the mantle of legitimate power is bad enough. But worse — they lashed white supremacy to the mast of white southern Christianity in efforts to shore them both up, forever interweaving and corrupting a certain strain of red state Evangelical zealotry into something consciously or unconsciously celebrating white supremacy and harboring fever dreams of a white theocracy in America.

DADA vs. MAGA: How to deal with bullies

Defense Against the Dark Arts was like the women’s self-defense class of Hogwarts — it taught you how to prepare yourself for the evil that was out there lurking and waiting for you out there. This course of DADA will follow suit, aiming to offer ways to detect, defend, and defeat the cultism rising in America and beyond.

It will be a work in progress over time, so please bear with me as I assemble learnings from a number of sources.

Red Flags: Traits to watch out for

  • evasiveness
    • vagueness
    • slipperiness
    • can’t be pinned down
    • won’t answer straightforward questions
  • denialism
  • cognitive dissonance
    • doublespeak
    • paleologic

Proteanism vs. cultism: The battle between open and closed societies

  • proteanism is Robert Jay Lifton’s idea of a model for the self that could serve as an aspirational escape hatch from the clutches of cultism, which is otherwise always happening
  • cultism (i.e. “losing reality“) is what happens “by default” if effort is not made to form and maintain healthy cultures
  • cultism is what most individuals devolve to or maintain throughout their lives, if they lack proteanism
  • I believe professor Lifton is onto something real in this particular interpretation of our Manichaean struggle — in which the political left and the right have self-sorted into separate clusters with wildly disparate interpretations of reality
  • the cultists are dying (quite literally) for the words of a delusional sociopath who swept them out of power with his spew of thinly veiled white supremacy and gold veneer charm
    • they want the apocalypse to come
    • The oil preachers have brainwashed the masses into believing climate change is The Rapture — they want climate change. They think it’s God’s plan.

Cultism as a kind of collective personality disorder

  • we all get stuck in our own mental loops sometimes. Some people are exclusively stuck in their own mental loops — most are disregarded, but some achieve wide notoriety, wealth, and sometimes political power.
  • Some nefarious mental predators thrive on getting other people stuck in *their* loops — everyone from garden variety abusers to cult leaders take this general approach to convincing others to abandon their own ways of thinking and spend all their time consumed with thoughts of The Authority’s Philosophy. Some individuals with an authoritarian worldview willingly submit to a strongman and abdicate decision-making to untrustworthy others.
  • Charismatic leaders have ruled over human groups since the dawn of humanity itself, but only in the past century with the invention of mass media technologies and techniques have demagogues been able to achieve a kind of totalist saturation of the common space and common understanding — giving them an ability to spin the entire agenda in their favor, and in turn, effectively “own reality”
  • When a leader with a personality disorder achieves power, he draws the other antisocial sleeper cells out of hiding for the coming feast.
  • The leader installs his cronies into positions of power and corrupts the institutions that are meant to safeguard democracy. Instead of acting as a bulwark against nefarious intent, these agencies begin to look the other way against crimes committed by the leader and his buddies — and later, will directly participate and optimize their contributions.

The enemy at the gates is us

  • Cultism can be induced very simply, by stressing a population. That’s it — that’s all it takes, for people to turn inward, become suspicious, and react with excessive fear in the face of gnawing uncertainty.
  • It takes strong character to resist the siren songs of disinformation and spoon-fed flattery
  • Building strong character is hard work. Much much harder than most people are interested in putting in — or even capable of
  • Consequently, many people of weak character are easily taken in by con men, grifters, and slick talkers of all stripes.
  • However, these con artists are very good at one thing: convincing people of weak character that specific enemies are to blame for all their troubles, and getting them to give money or take action against these Satanic Democratic pedophiles who want to ruin the world with their Leftist Apocalypse, instead of ruining the world with the proper Rightist Apocalypse and Rapturing all the evil elites away!
  • These pawns, peons, and proles will dutifully go looking over hill and dale, under Pelosi’s chair for the violent Antifa socialists who want to take over the government
  • They want to build a physical border wall to keep out poor, bedraggled refugees while allowing foreign bidders to pay pennies on the dollar to buy political influence through Facebook, Google, and other unregulated new media platforms
  • It’s McCarthyism turned on its head — but since we’ve already cried wolf once, no one will really believe that Russians pulled off the greatest psyops campaign of all time
proteanismcultism
seeks expansion of event horizonradical reduction of the "size of the universe" and human potential
open systemclosed system
personal growthstagnation; stasis
Bayesian logicmotivated reasoning
collects dataselective exposure
positive disintegrationimmaturity
questions authorityfollows orders
new ideasold dogma
improvisationalritual
iterativerecursive
expansivelimited
motivated by lovemotivated by fear
generativedestructive

phobia indoctrination

Phobia indoctrination is one of the principle ways a charismatic leader will lull potential followers into his thrall, by putting them into a state of perpetual fear and anxiety. They know, either instinctively or through training (or both), that people can be induced into a prolonged state of confusion easily, and that many people in states of confusion act quite irrationally. Abusers, cult leaders, and other controllers use demagoguery and other tricks to hide in plain sight and continue to accrue power while passing themselves off as harmless or extremely patriotic.

These chaos agents use emotional manipulation as a tool of control. They whip followers up into a fear frenzy frequently enough to instill a set of phobia-like instinctual reactions to chosen stimuli. In addition to stoking fears of the enemies at the gates, they also inculcate irrational fears of the consequences of questioning their authority. Any doubts expressed about the leadership or its doctrine are subject to terrifying negative results. Cults use this formula to help prevent followers from questioning or leaving the group.

Phobia indoctrination is a tool of cults

As part of a larger overall program of brainwashing or mind control, cults and destructive organizations use imaginary extremes (going to hell, being possessed by demons, failing miserably at life, race war, Leftist apocalypse, etc.) to shock followers into refusing to examine any evidence whatsoever. A form of unethical hypnosis, phobia indoctrination can now be carried out on a mass scale thanks to the internet and our massive media apparatus.

Sociopaths are taking ample advantage of their advantage in time and distance over the slow pace of justice. The wielding of fear as a cudgel in America politics has reached a fever pitch, with anti-CRT hysteria, anti-vaxxers, anti-government, anti-science, lawless zombie footsoldiers screeching about the “freedom!!!” they wish the government to provide them for persecuting their enemies, and other social horrors are merely the tip of the climate changing iceberg.

Relevant book list:

Values of the Left and the Right: Liberal vs. Authoritarian Worldviews

The following list must be prefaced with some caveats about painting with broad strokes, and acknowledging everything is a distribution and Not All Republicans espouse all of these things to the same degree or even at all. Nevertheless, both the extremism and the polarization in our political system is the highest in recent memory — certainly in the totality of my Generation X memory, and by all accounts the highest since the 1930s. Extremism is high on both the Left and the Right, but research shows it’s been growing much more extreme on the Right.

And in many ways it feels like we are living through something akin to the 1930s, again. The rise in authoritarian regimes and totalist thought and linguistic patterns is troubling and dangerous. The United States never had an armed insurrection take over the Capitol building prior to January 6, 2021. America has had many periods of brutality in its past and present, but historically speaking nothing like the recent decades of escalating mass shooter events.

What can explain the religious devotion to a failed businessman and failed President on the Right? Loathe him through we might on the Left, Trump is revered on the Right for espousing the “virtues” of a traditional hierarchical society, and for giving coded approval to America’s most shadowy extremist groups that he would be finding excuses to look the other way if they chose to strike. They both held up their ends of the bargain, with would-be assassins in tactical gear assaulting the nation’s lawmakers as they certified the 2020 election results as mandated by the Constitution, and paid puppets in the Senate letting them all off the hook… technically speaking, that is.

Trump looked the other way, but only for another 14 days — until Joe Biden was sworn in as the 46th President of the United States. With a new sheriff Merrick Garland in town, all bets are off regarding leniency for the nation’s most vile and seditious lot who stormed the Capitol and disrupted the peaceful transfer of power for the first time in US history — a sad day for the country and its venerable history of managing to keep the republic.

This will be a work in progress, as usual. And a tool for discussion — we’re going to need it for the coming years.

Liberal ValuesAuthoritarian Values
EqualityHierarchy
JusticeForce
LibertyControl
Popular sovereigntyUnpopular rule
Common goodPrivatization
LogicMagical Thinking
ReasonPower
TruthPropaganda
HistoryMyth
RealityFantasy
ResponsibilityEscapism
RationalityIrrationality
IntegrityHypocrisy
CharacterCharacter disorder
WisdomIgnorance
GenerosityGreed
HonestyDeception
EarnestnessCynicism
SkepticismLoyalty
CuriosityBoredom
CompassionContempt
EmpathySadism
Driven by careDriven by fear
MoralityNihilism
TransparencySecrecy
ConsiderationCallousness
PatienceImpatience
MaturityImmaturity
Emotional intelligenceEmotional manipulation
WholeheartednessCognitive dissonance
VulnerabilityDefensiveness
AuthenticityMimicry
DeliberationAct without thinking
De-escalationAggression
ConsciousUnconscious
Self-awareSelf-deception
EducationBrainwashing
DiversityConformity
CreativityDestruction
ArtisticFundamentalist
SolutionsGrievance
CommunityRugged individualism
TrustDistrust
GratitudeEnvy
RespectDisrespect
SustainabilityExtraction
Self-regardCathexis
SpiritualityReligiosity
Self-actualizationFollow the leader
Problem solvers"Tear it down"-ers

Unthinking

Unthinking is a kind of militant stance against thinking, for oneself and others. It goes beyond a simple distaste for or preference against thinking, and on into something of a dedication, mission, or serious zeal for anti-intellectualism. As well, the Unthinking mentality includes a sort of reverence for instinctiveness and impulsiveness, and a distaste or contempt for “over-thinking” or being “overly sensitive.”

Fascism and cults have a technique in common: “thought stopping.” In cults, followers will be directly taught to attack negative and critical thoughts from their minds via use of a mantra — this further insulates them from independent sources of information outside the cult and its belief systems. Under fascism, the tactics of this type of unthinking are more easily disguisable:

  • short, repetitive slogans (“Lock her up!” “Build the wall!”)
  • arouse fear — invent enemies, dramas with the enemies, and distrust of allies to sniff out disloyalty
  • create confusion — say one thing, then confidently say its opposite
  • sow doubt — plant rumours, falsehoods, and conspiracies amongst the people
  • intimidate — threaten, while pledging to rescue

Unthinking is a reactionary response to professionalization and globalization

Unthinking is the sinking feeling that perhaps more of Gustave Le Bon’s controversial 1895 Study of the Popular Mind is true than one might hope. Our willingness to trade away our independent, critical thinking faculties to follow orders from authorities has been well-documented — yet somehow we still struggle to wrap our minds around those folks who, well, don’t seem to be nearly as interested in wrapping their minds around stuff.

Those folks do exist, and they have no intention of coming in second place to the coastal brainiacs who manage to enjoy mental labor thank you very much. In the Trumpian world view, if you are at a deficit in the intellect department, you do not under any circumstances accept the intellectual authority of The Enemy as legitimate. You simply rebrand yourself as the “smartest guy in the world” no matter what the subject, and you say it confidently, no matter how absurdly false it is and no matter that all the people around you know it to be false. It is their compliance with your non-stop stream of lies that brands them as useful pawns and allows them to live another day under your beneficent gaze.

It’s the status, stupid

Much has been made about how the so-called “Hillbilly Elegy” types are actually a distribution that includes plenty of comfortable and well-off business owners and working professionals who are not struggling economically. While that is true, I think it’s still relevant to the upper-middle class whites who support Trump that they perceive themselves as having not done as well as their liberal Commie counterparts in big cities. They may not be hurting so much themselves in Barbara Eirenreich fashion, but they are “hurting” in terms of status wounds. They are not being recognized as much as they believe they are due.

And they know the reason they’re missing out on this entitlement is because some globalist scum outsmarted them. They know instinctively, whether consciously or unconsciously, that they cannot win in an intellectual battle with the Coastal Elite Enemies. This vulnerability is absolutely unforgiveable and can never be discovered by anyone — so they move the goalposts. They claim that intelligence is a worthless thing to have, and/or that if you have it you’ll be impure and no longer worthy of membership in the tribe. This anti-intellectual streak on the right is equal parts self-delusion (“smarts don’t matter!”) and hyper-competition — by discouraging potential rivals from becoming more educated than they are.

Unthinking is a reactionary response to secularization

The seemingly inexplicable Evangelical support for the violence of Trumpism can perhaps in part be explained by the great paranoia and growing existential fear of a secularizing nation. In a way, they’re not wrong to be foretelling of the End Times — most likely not the one they’re envisioning from the book of Revelations, but the one where Christianity dwindles from the landscape, leaving a roiling mass of American heathen liberal commies to eat babies at their pedo parties right out in the open.

That reality is happening before our eyes — the dwindling part, anyway, if not so much the rest (if anything, evidence so far has shown those pedo parties are on the Right…). Older believers are dying out, and new ones are not being formed fast enough to create a new base. You could look at this as a triumph of science over superstition, as liberals do — or, you could look at it as a threat to your way of life, as the Trumpists do.

It is highly problematic that there are not really many or even any replacements for religion and the church in terms of providing people a place and a platform for spirituality. As religious adherence continues to drop, this hunger for spiritual solidarity will only grow — many folks will seem as if hungry ghosts, gasping for a wisp of organized religion’s shared hivemind experiences.

Where else shall we get our sacred? What new institutions can we collectively devise, by which to safely explore the mystical unknowns of our most basic existence? How can we find, regain, or re-imagine a sense of shared togetherness and fellowship? How can we rebuild basic reciprocity?

It is urgent we find these answers, for the doomsday clock is running for American democracy.

End Times

Baptist Evangelical minister Tim LaHaye’s 12-volume series of novels about the Rapture have sold over 65 million copies, and kept the apocalypse top of mind for the nation’s Evangelicals. Jesus is coming back any day now, and when he does, he is for some reason going to favor all the fat pasty oligarchs who did all the things He warned against and none of the things he preached. This is why some right-wing folks seem frighteningly eager for the world to end — because they are.

Related to:

  • the leftist apocalypse
  • American carnage
  • lifeboat ethics
  • end justifies the means; Machiavellianism
  • “an attack on our Way of Life”
  • “my button is bigger”
  • brinksmanship
  • MAD: Mutually Assured Destruction
  • millenarianism

The Conservative Mind

A growing body of psychological and cognitive research is showing that the conservative mind has the following in common, indicating a profound challenge for American democracy in years to come:

  • are low in the “openness” trait — seek comfort and familiarity, and avoid novelty or challenge
  • dislike change and difference
  • rigid and dogmatic thinkers; close-minded
  • have a strong need for closure
  • have a high tendency to jump to conclusions while exuding self-righteous conviction
  • are high in conscientiousness, but low in conscience — many see life as a game to win at all costs, especially the social dominators
  • value loyalty
  • more likely than liberals to engage in motivated reasoning
  • more likely to have strong religious beliefs
  • more likely to engage in magical thinking
  • more likely to believe in conspiracy theories
  • more likely to exhibit authoritarian personality traits
  • more likely to harbor aggressive tendencies

See also:

empathy

Empathy is the capacity, ability, and willingness to understand or share the feelings of someone else. It is to harmonize with that person (or animal, or even fictional character…) and synchronize with their mood — to walk a mile in their shoes.

The word empathy comes from a Greek word meaning “suffering,” which describes the ethos of the term in its encapsulation of feeling what another being feels.

Compassion is a behavior made possible by empathy, and is revered throughout culture and the world’s religions. It is considered one of the hallmarks of advanced emotional development, representing selflessness, altruism, and Good Samaritanism. It is to make less distinct, the separation between self and other.

Blessed are the meek

Empaths are some of society’s greatest healers, caregivers, teachers, artists, performers, and leaders. They find unique and often enduring ways to add value in places often left behind by the brutalism of American hypercapitalism.

People with empathy help uplift humanity, and inspire us to do our utmost to care for each other as best we can. Nobody can do everything, but everybody can do something, said a wise man some decades past.

Conversely, individuals who are lacking in empathy can commit some of the most heinous crimes and greatest atrocities in history. People without empathy lack a conscience, which makes them more willing than most to go too far, take things to extremes, and play impulse high-stakes gambling without a net. Hannah Arendt, Erich Fromm, and others chronicled the psychology of the Nazis during its regime and World War II, as well as in its aftermath — they classified the behavior as pathological, from malignant narcissism to even deeper evils within the Cluster B family of personality disorders.

Empathy in biology

Human beings aren’t the only species with the capacity for empathy. In fact many if not most mammalian species exhibit empathic nurturing behavior, from rodents to primates and cetaceans. Cognitively, the brain system for empathy includes spindle cells, the amygdala, hypothalamus, basal ganglia, insula, orbitofrontal cortex, and brain stem.

Prosocial behaviors thus appear to be an advanced adaptation, to be willing to risk potential sacrifice for other people, including strangers. Perhaps the dividend in profits from the returns of this kind of routine yet extraordinary behavior are the true wealth of the nation.

Cultism and Disinformation Dictionary

The cat is well and truly out of the bag in terms of understanding how easily wide swaths of people can be misled into believing total falsehoods and even insane conspiracy theories that have no basis whatsoever in reality. In their passion for this self-righteous series of untruths, they can lose families, jobs, loved ones, respect, and may even be radicalized to commit violence on behalf of an authority figure. It starts with the dissemination of disinformation.

Disinformation is meant to confuse, throw off, distract, polarize, and otherwise create conflict within and between target populations. The spreading of falsehoods is a very old strategy — perhaps as old as humankind itself — but its mass dissemination through the media was pioneered in the 20th century by the Bolsheviks in the Soviet Union, the Nazis in Germany, Mussolini’s Fascists in Italy, and other authoritarian regimes of the early 1900s through the 1940s.

After World War II and the Allies’ defeat of Hitler, the role of disinformation lived on during the Cold War. The Soviet KGB were infamous for their spycraft and covert infiltration of information flows, while the United States experienced waves of anti-Communist paranoia and hysteria fueled by the spread of conspiracist thinking.

Cultism is an old tradition in the U.S.

But cultism has a long history here in the United States. One could argue the Confederacy was a kind of cult, and the KKK after it. America gave rise to Charles Manson, Jim Jones, David Koresh, and Sun Myung Moon, among many many others who led cults big and small.

Christianity itself was considered a cult by some during its humble beginnings after the turn of the millennia and then some. It’s no accident that religious revivalism and many types of faith fervor colored the nation for decades and centuries.

Some might call the patriarchal nuclear family the Original Cult. Many if not most Evangelical sects revere it, among numerous others who believe in God the Father quite literally. Others still seek to exploit that zeal, by offering up a series of “flawed saviors” who dangled the prospect of a more theocratic state governed by Law and Order. Their money buys them much more than just the puppets who rule, and the citizens struggle to pierce the veils of illusion.

TermDefinitionNotes
ambiguity
active measuresRussian information warfare aimed at undermining the West
America First Unity Rally
AntifaAnti-fascists
assert the opposite of reality
the Big Lie
black and white thinkingA pattern of thought characterized by polar extremes, sometimes flip-flopping very rapidly from one extreme view to its opposite. Also referred to as dichotomous thinking; polarized thinking; all-or-nothing thinking; or splitting.
blackmail
blaming the victim
book burning
Borderline Personality Disorder
bot
botnets
bullying
cathexis
@citizentrolling
#clevelandsteal
closure
cognitive distortion
con artistSomeone who swindles others with fake promises
conspiracy theory
DARVO
deception
deep fakesFabricated video footage appearing to show an individual speaking
deep state
demoshizaShort for ‘democratic schizophrenics’ -- a Russian slander against citizens of democracies. The ‘demoshiza’ tag also serves a useful purpose in conflating ‘democracy’ with ‘mental illness’. The word ‘democratic’ has an unhappy status in Russia: it is mainly used as an uncomplimentary synonym for ‘cheap’ and ‘low-grade’: McDonald’s has ‘democratic’ prices, the door policy at a particularly scuzzy club can be described as ‘democratic’ – i.e. they let anybody in
denialism
denial of death
denying plain facts
dezinformatsiyaRussian information warfare
"dirty tricks"
disappearing
diversion
doxxing
"drinking the Kool-Aid"
duty to warn
emotional abuse
emotional blackmail
emotional manipulation
empty promises
extortion
fake news
false flagcovert operations designed to deceive by appearing as though they are carried out by other entities, groups, or nations than those who actually executed them
fifth world warNon-linear war; the war of all against all -- a term coined by Putin's vizier Vladislav Surkov.
flying monkeys
fraud
GamerGate
gaslighting
"global cabal"euphemism in far-right Russian discourse to refer to a perceived "Jewish conspiracy" behind the international order of institutions like NATO and the EU
globalization
grooming
Guccifer 2.0
hate speech
honey pot
horseshoe theory
hybrid warfare
hypnosis
influence techniques
information terroristsMedia personalities and professionals working against the interests of democracy in the United States. Many amplify their messages through automation and human networks, creating a Greek Chorus-like cacaphony of fake support for unpopular positions.
information warfare
InfoWars
Intermittent reinforcement
jumping to conclusions bias
kleptocracyform of government in which the leaders harbor organized crime rings and often participate in or lead them; the police, military, civil government, and other governmental agencies may routinely participate in illicit activities and enterprises.
Mafia stateA systematic corruption of government by organized crime syndicates. A term coined by former KGB/FSB agent Alexander Litvinenko. See also: kleptocracy
malignant envy
malignant narcissism
maskirovkawar of deception and concealment
men's rights
mind control
minimizing
money laundering
motivated reasoning
moving the goalpostsChanging the rules after the game is played, when one side doesn't like the outcome.
"myth of tech misogyny"A form of denialism made popular by alt-right commentator and troll Milo Yiannopoulos, used to discredit feminist discussions about the tech and gaming industry's notorious levels of misogyny.
naive realism
narcissistic rage
narcissistic supply
The National Enquirer
neurolinguistic programming (NLP)
nihilism
non-linear warfare
novichokmilitary-grade nerve agent developed by Russia and used in the poisoning of former FSB agent turned Putin critic Andrei Skripal and his daughter in Lonson in March, 2018
one-way streetExpect loyalty from you while offering none in return
opposhort form of opposition research
paranoiaNurturing and maintaining enemies
passive aggressive
PizzaGate
plausible deniability
playing the victim
post-truth
projection
Project LakhtaInternal name for the operation that Prigozhin's IRA was running to interfere in elections across the Western world, according to the Mueller indictments.
propaganda
psychopathy
PUAPick-up Artist
QAnon
#releasethememo
retcon
running out the clock
sadism
selective exposure
shame
shit-posting
silovikiRussian term for those who have backgrounds and employment in the Russian power ministries -- security services, the military, and police; and more specifically a reference to Putin's security cabal.
Snow RevolutionPopular protests beginning in Moscow in 2011, demanding the reinstatement of free elections & the ability to form opposition parties. Hundreds if not thousands of protestors were detained on the first day of action (Dec 5), continuing over the next 2 years as punishments grew increasingly harsh and more activists were sent to penal colonies.
social hierarchies
sockpuppet accountsFake social media accounts used by trolls for deceptive and covert actions, avoiding culpability for abuse, aggression, death threats, doxxing, and other criminal acts against targets.
"sovereign democracy"system in which democratic procedures are retained, but without any actual democratic freedoms; brainchild of Vladislav Surkov
Special Mission
splittingSee the world as with them or against them; an extension of black and white thinking.
stonewalling
Tarasoff rule
thought-stopping
torture
trolling
undue influence
white male identity politics
white nationalism

Billionaires 2021: The Richest People in the World

The vast majority of billionaires in the world got richer during the year of the pandemic — fantastically richer. And they still demand more!

NameNet WorthWealth SourceIndustry
Jeff Bezos$177 BAmazonTechnology
Elon Musk$151 BTesla, SpaceXTechnology
Bernard Arnault & family$150 BLVMHFashion & Retail
Bill Gates$124 BMicrosoftTechnology
Mark Zuckerberg$97 BFacebookTechnology
Warren Buffett$96 BBerkshire HathawayFinance & Investments
Larry Ellison$93 BsoftwareTechnology
Larry Page$91.5 BGoogleTechnology
Sergey Brin$89 BGoogleTechnology
Mukesh Ambani$84.5 BdiversifiedDiversified
Amancio Ortega$77 BZaraFashion & Retail
Francoise Bettencourt Meyers & family$73.6 BL'OréalFashion & Retail
Zhong Shanshan$68.9 Bbeverages, pharmaceuticalsFood & Beverage
Steve Ballmer$68.7 BMicrosoftTechnology
Ma Huateng$65.8 Binternet mediaTechnology
Carlos Slim Helu & family$62.8 BtelecomTelecom
Alice Walton$61.8 BWalmartFashion & Retail
Jim Walton$60.2 BWalmartFashion & Retail
Rob Walton$59.5 BWalmartFashion & Retail
Michael Bloomberg$59 BBloomberg LPMedia & Entertainment
Colin Zheng Huang$55.3 Be-commerceTechnology
MacKenzie Scott$53 BAmazonTechnology
Daniel Gilbert$51.9 BQuicken LoansFinance & Investments
Gautam Adani & family$50.5 Binfrastructure, commoditiesDiversified
Phil Knight & family$49.9 BNikeFashion & Retail
Jack Ma$48.4 Be-commerceTechnology
Charles Koch$46.4 BKoch IndustriesOil & Gas
Julia Koch & family$46.4 BKoch IndustriesOil & Gas
Masayoshi Son$45.4 Binternet, telecomTechnology
Michael Dell$45.1 BDell computersTechnology
Tadashi Yanai & family$44.1 Bfashion retailFashion & Retail
François Pinault & family$42.3 Bluxury goodsFashion & Retail
David Thomson & family$41.8 BmediaMedia & Entertainment
Beate Heister & Karl Albrecht Jr.$39.2 BsupermarketsFashion & Retail
Wang Wei$39 Bpackage deliveryService
Miriam Adelson$38.2 BcasinosGambling & Casinos
He Xiangjian$37.7 Bhome appliancesManufacturing
Dieter Schwarz$36.9 BretailFashion & Retail
Zhang Yiming$35.6 BTikTokTechnology
Giovanni Ferrero$35.1 BNutella, chocolatesFood & Beverage
Alain Wertheimer$34.5 BChanelFashion & Retail
Gerard Wertheimer$34.5 BChanelFashion & Retail
Li Ka-shing$33.7 BdiversifiedDiversified
Qin Yinglin & family$33.5 Bpig breedingFood & Beverage
William Lei Ding$33 Bonline gamesTechnology
Len Blavatnik$32 Bmusic, chemicalsDiversified
Lee Shau Kee$31.7 Breal estateReal Estate
Jacqueline Mars$31.3 Bcandy, pet foodFood & Beverage
John Mars$31.3 Bcandy, pet foodFood & Beverage
Yang Huiyan & family$29.6 Breal estateReal Estate
Alexey Mordashov & family$29.1 Bsteel, investmentsMetals & Mining
Robin Zeng$28.4 BbatteriesEnergy
Hui Ka Yan$27.7 Breal estateReal Estate
Susanne Klatten$27.7 BBMW, pharmaceuticalsAutomotive
Vladimir Potanin$27 BmetalsMetals & Mining
Dietrich Mateschitz$26.9 BRed BullFood & Beverage
Pang Kang$26.4 Bsoy sauceFood & Beverage
Klaus-Michael Kuehne$26.3 BshippingLogistics
Vladimir Lisin$26.2 Bsteel, transportMetals & Mining
Wang Xing$26.1 Be-commerceTechnology
German Larrea Mota Velasco & family$25.9 BminingMetals & Mining
Leonardo Del Vecchio & family$25.8 BeyeglassesFashion & Retail
Takemitsu Takizaki$25.8 BsensorsManufacturing
Leonard Lauder$25.5 BEstee LauderFashion & Retail
Thomas Peterffy$25 Bdiscount brokerageFinance & Investments
Vagit Alekperov$24.9 BoilEnergy
Leonid Mikhelson$24.9 Bgas, chemicalsEnergy
Jim Simons$24.6 Bhedge fundsFinance & Investments
Jiang Rensheng & family$24.4 BvaccinesHealthcare
Gina Rinehart$23.6 BminingMetals & Mining
Rupert Murdoch & family$23.5 Bnewspapers, TV networkMedia & Entertainment
Shiv Nadar$23.5 Bsoftware servicesTechnology
Zhang Zhidong$23.4 Binternet mediaTechnology
Iris Fontbona & family$23.3 BminingMetals & Mining
Lei Jun$23 BsmartphonesTechnology
Zhang Yong$23 BrestaurantsFood & Beverage
Richard Qiangdong Liu$22.4 Be-commerceTechnology
Gennady Timchenko$22 Boil, gasEnergy
Stephen Schwarzman$21.9 BinvestmentsFinance & Investments
Goh Cheng Liang$21.7 BpaintsManufacturing
Stefan Quandt$21.6 BBMWAutomotive
Li Xiting$21.5 Bmedical devicesHealthcare
Pierre Omidyar$21.4 BeBay, PayPalTechnology
Stefan Persson$21.3 BH&MFashion & Retail
Abigail Johnson$20.9 Bmoney managementFinance & Investments
R. Budi Hartono$20.5 Bbanking, tobaccoFinance & Investments
Andrew Forrest$20.4 BminingMetals & Mining
Ray Dalio$20.3 Bhedge fundsFinance & Investments
Michael Hartono$19.7 Bbanking, tobaccoManufacturing
Li Shufu$19.7 BautomobilesAutomotive
Zhong Huijuan$19.7 BpharmaceuticalsHealthcare
Xu Hang$19.5 Bmedical devicesHealthcare
Lui Che Woo & family$19.4 Bcasinos/hotelsGambling & Casinos
Emmanuel Besnier$19.1 BcheeseFood & Beverage
Laurene Powell Jobs & family$19 BApple, DisneyTechnology
Eric Schmidt$18.9 BGoogleTechnology
Sun Piaoyang$18.9 BpharmaceuticalsHealthcare
Theo Albrecht, Jr. & family$18.8 BAldi, Trader Joe'sFashion & Retail
Alisher Usmanov$18.4 Bsteel, telecom, investmentsMetals & Mining
Robert Pera$18.3 Bwireless networking gearTechnology
Wu Yajun$18.3 Breal estateReal Estate
Fan Hongwei & family$18.2 BpetrochemicalsEnergy
Dhanin Chearavanont$18.1 BdiversifiedDiversified
Peter Woo$18 Breal estateReal Estate
Chen Bang$17.9 BhospitalsHealthcare
Andrey Melnichenko$17.9 Bcoal, fertilizersEnergy
Dustin Moskovitz$17.8 BFacebookTechnology
Su Hua$17.8 Bvideo streamingMedia & Entertainment
Donald Newhouse$17.6 BmediaMedia & Entertainment
Petr Kellner$17.5 Bfinance, telecommunicationsFinance & Investments
Lee Man Tat$17.4 BfoodFood & Beverage
Pavel Durov$17.2 Bmessaging appTechnology
James Ratcliffe$17 BchemicalsManufacturing
Jorge Paulo Lemann & family$16.9 BbeerFood & Beverage
Reinhold Wuerth & family$16.8 BfastenersManufacturing
Charlene de Carvalho-Heineken & family$16.7 BHeinekenFood & Beverage
Radhakishan Damani$16.5 Bretail, investmentsFashion & Retail
Wang Chuanfu$16.3 Bbatteries, automobilesAutomotive
Steve Cohen$16 Bhedge fundsFinance & Investments
Ken Griffin$16 Bhedge fundsFinance & Investments
Chen Zhiping$15.9 Be-cigarettesManufacturing
Ernest Garcia, II.$15.9 Bused carsAutomotive
Uday Kotak$15.9 BbankingFinance & Investments
Carl Icahn$15.8 BinvestmentsFinance & Investments
Suleiman Kerimov & family$15.8 BinvestmentsFinance & Investments
Thomas Frist, Jr. & family$15.7 BhospitalsHealthcare
Lukas Walton$15.6 BWalmartFashion & Retail
Mikhail Fridman$15.5 Boil, banking, telecomEnergy
Wei Jianjun & family$15.5 BautomobilesAutomotive
Zuo Hui$15.5 Breal estate servicesReal Estate
Zhou Qunfei & family$15.4 Bsmartphone screensTechnology
Donald Bren$15.3 Breal estateReal Estate
Hinduja brothers$14.9 BdiversifiedDiversified
Lakshmi Mittal$14.9 BsteelMetals & Mining
Georg Schaeffler$14.9 Bauto partsAutomotive
Eric Yuan & family$14.9 Bvideo conferencingTechnology
Wang Jianlin$14.8 Breal estateReal Estate
Kwong Siu-hing$14.7 Breal estateReal Estate
Robin Li$14.7 Binternet searchTechnology
Pallonji Mistry$14.6 BconstructionConstruction & Engineering
Eduardo Saverin$14.6 BFacebookTechnology
Roman Abramovich$14.5 Bsteel, investmentsDiversified
David Tepper$14.5 Bhedge fundsFinance & Investments
Gong Hongjia & family$14.4 Bvideo surveillanceFinance & Investments
Mike Cannon-Brookes$14.2 BsoftwareTechnology
John Menard, Jr.$14.2 Bhome improvement storesFashion & Retail
Seo Jung-jin$14.2 BbiotechHealthcare
Cheng Yixiao$14.1 Bvideo streaming appMedia & Entertainment
Liang Wengen$14.1 Bconstruction equipmentManufacturing
Scott Farquhar$14 BsoftwareTechnology
Finn Rausing$13.9 BpackagingFood & Beverage
Jorn Rausing$13.9 BpackagingFood & Beverage
Kirsten Rausing$13.9 BpackagingFood & Beverage
Brian Chesky$13.7 BAirbnbTechnology
Joseph Lau$13.6 Breal estateReal Estate
David Duffield$13.5 Bbusiness softwareTechnology
Charoen Sirivadhanabhakdi$13.5 Balcohol, real estateFood & Beverage
Kim Jung-ju$13.3 Bonline gamesTechnology
Robert & Philip Ng$13.3 Breal estateReal Estate
Zhang Bangxin$13.3 BeducationService
Anders Holch Povlsen$13.2 Bfashion retailFashion & Retail
Wang Wenyin$13.2 Bmining, copper productsMetals & Mining
Wang Liping & family$13.1 Bhydraulic machineryManufacturing
Tatyana Bakalchuk$13 BecommerceFashion & Retail
Michael Platt$13 Bhedge fundsFinance & Investments
Huang Shilin$12.9 BbatteriesEnergy
Ricardo Salinas Pliego & family$12.9 Bretail, mediaFashion & Retail
Kumar Birla$12.8 BcommoditiesDiversified
Dang Yanbao$12.7 BcoalMetals & Mining
Cyrus Poonawalla$12.7 BvaccinesHealthcare
Robert Kuok$12.6 Bpalm oil, shipping, propertyDiversified
Hank & Doug Meijer$12.6 BsupermarketsFashion & Retail
Jack Dorsey$12.5 BTwitter, SquareTechnology
Lu Zhongfang$12.5 BeducationAutomotive
Ma Jianrong & family$12.5 Btextiles, apparelFashion & Retail
Zhang Tao$12.5 Be-commerceFashion & Retail
Nathan Blecharczyk$12.4 BAirbnbTechnology
John Doerr$12.4 Bventure capitalTechnology
Joe Gebbia$12.4 BAirbnbTechnology
Forrest Li$12.4 BgamingMedia & Entertainment
Yu Renrong$12.3 BsemiconductorsManufacturing
Liu Yonghao & family$12.1 BagribusinessService
Gordon Moore$12.1 BIntelTechnology
Jeff Yass$12 Btrading, investmentsFinance & Investments
Bobby Murphy$11.9 BSnapchatTechnology
Patrick Drahi$11.8 BtelecomTelecom
Jensen Huang$11.8 BsemiconductorsTechnology
Alexander Otto$11.8 Breal estateReal Estate
Cen Junda$11.6 BpharmaceuticalsHealthcare
Joseph Tsai$11.6 Be-commerceTechnology
Aliko Dangote$11.5 Bcement, sugarManufacturing
Marcel Herrmann Telles$11.5 BbeerFood & Beverage
Mikhail Prokhorov$11.4 BinvestmentsFinance & Investments
Jorge Moll Filho & family$11.3 BhospitalsHealthcare
Viktor Rashnikov$11.2 BsteelManufacturing
Harry Triguboff$11.2 Breal estateReal Estate
Leonid Fedun & family$11.1 BoilEnergy
Eyal Ofer$11.1 Breal estate, shippingDiversified
Evan Spiegel$11.1 BSnapchatTechnology
Luis Carlos Sarmiento$11 BbankingFinance & Investments