These are some of the resources that have helped me continue grappling with that question, and with the rapidly shifting landscape of information warfare. How can we understand this era of polarization, this age of tribalism? This outline is a work in progress, and I’m planning to keep adding to this list as the tape keeps rolling.
America has had flavors of authoritarianism since its founding, and when fascism came along the right-wing authoritarians ate it up — and deeply wanted the United States to be a part of it. Only after they became social pariahs did they change position to support American involvement in World War II — and some persisted even after the attack of Pearl Harbor.
Scholars of authoritarianism
Karen Stenner — Australian political psychologist Karen Stenner found that approximately 1/3 of populations are authoritarian, have an authoritarian personality, or have authoritarian tendencies.
Derrida — the logic of the unconscious; performativity in the act of lying
ketman — Ketman is the psychological concept of concealing one’s true aims, akin to doublethink in Orwell’s 1984, that served as a central theme to Polish dissident Czesław Miłosz‘s book The Captive Mind about intellectual life under totalitarianism during the Communist post-WWII occupation.
Erich Fromm — coined the term “malignant narcissism” to describe the psychological character of the Nazis. He also wrote extensively about the mindset of the authoritarian follower in his seminal work, Escape from Freedom.
Eric Hoffer — his book The True Believers explores the mind of the authoritarian follower, and the appeal of losing oneself in a totalist movement
Fascism — elevation of the id as the source of truth; enthusiasm for political violence
The special grand jury in Georgia that investigated efforts to overturn the state’s 2020 presidential election results in favor of loser Donald Trump has recommended indictments against 39 individuals, a number significantly higher than the 19 people ultimately charged by prosecutors. Among those recommended for indictment in the Georgia RICO case but who were not charged were South Carolina Sen. Lindsey Graham, former U.S. Senators Kelly Loeffler and David Perdue of Georgia, and former Trump national security adviser Mike Flynn.
The report suggests that Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis exercised discretion in streamlining the case, possibly due to factors like immunity deals, federal protections, or insufficient evidence. The grand jury accused the individuals of various offenses, including racketeering, conspiracy to defraud the state, false statements, perjury, and criminal solicitation to commit election fraud.
39 Georgia co-conspirators recommended for indictment
Rudy Giuliani — Rudy Giuliani is an American attorney and politician, best known for serving as the Mayor of New York City from 1994 to 2001. He gained national prominence for his leadership during the 9/11 attacks. Later, he became a personal lawyer to Donald Trump and was involved in various legal challenges related to the 2020 U.S. Presidential election.
John Eastman — John Eastman is a constitutional law scholar and attorney. He gained attention for advising former President Donald Trump on legal matters, particularly concerning the 2020 election. Eastman has been criticized for promoting theories that questioned the election’s integrity.
Kenneth Chesebro — Kenneth Chesebro is a less-publicized figure, primarily known as a Harvard Law School lecturer. He specializes in legal writing and research, but has not been prominently involved in mainstream political or legal events.
Donald Trump — Businessman and television personality. His presidency was marked by a polarized political climate, economic highs and lows, and two impeachments. He remains a highly influential figure in American politics.
Cleta Mitchell — Cleta Mitchell is an American lawyer specializing in election law and campaign finance. She gained attention for representing Donald Trump in matters related to the 2020 presidential election and has been a vocal critic of its outcome.
Jenna Ellis — Jenna Ellis is an American attorney and author. She served as a legal advisor to Donald Trump during his presidency and was involved in legal challenges concerning the 2020 election. Ellis is known for her conservative viewpoints.
Mark Meadows — Mark Meadows is an American politician who served as the White House Chief of Staff under Donald Trump. Prior to that, he was a U.S. Representative from North Carolina. Meadows is a founding member of the House Freedom Caucus.
David Shafer — David Shafer is a Republican politician from Georgia, serving as the Chairman of the Georgia Republican Party. He has been involved in state politics for years and was a vocal supporter of Donald Trump during the 2020 election.
Ray Smith III — Ray Smith is a Georgia-based attorney who gained attention for representing the Trump campaign in legal matters related to the 2020 election in Georgia. He specializes in civil litigation and business law. He is accused of making false claims of election fraud at legislative hearings in December 2020.
Lin Wood — Lin Wood is an American attorney known for high-profile defamation cases. He became a controversial figure for his involvement in legal challenges related to the 2020 U.S. Presidential election and his promotion of conspiracy theories.
Lindsey Graham — Lindsey Graham is a U.S. Senator from South Carolina, serving since 2003. A member of the Republican Party, Graham is known for his conservative stance on issues like national security and his close relationship with Donald Trump.
Sidney Powell — Sidney Powell is an American attorney and author. She gained national attention for her involvement in legal challenges related to the 2020 presidential election, promoting theories that have been widely discredited.
Robert Cheeley — Robert Cheeley is a Georgia-based attorney specializing in personal injury law. He gained attention for his association with Lin Wood in various legal matters but is not a mainstream political figure. He is accused of making false claims of election fraud at legislative hearings in December 2020.
Mike Flynn — Michael Flynn is a retired U.S. Army Lieutenant General who briefly served as National Security Advisor under Donald Trump. He was convicted of lying to the FBI but was later pardoned by Trump.
William Ligon — William Ligon is a Republican politician who serves as a State Senator in Georgia. He gained attention for his efforts to challenge the results of the 2020 presidential election in Georgia.
David Perdue — David Perdue is an American businessman and politician who served as a U.S. Senator from Georgia from 2015 to 2021. A member of the Republican Party, Perdue was a close ally of former President Donald Trump. He lost his re-election bid in the 2021 Georgia runoff to Democrat Jon Ossoff.
Kelly Loeffler — Kelly Loeffler is an American businesswoman and politician who served as a U.S. Senator from Georgia. Appointed in 2019, she lost her seat to Democrat Raphael Warnock in the 2021 Georgia runoff. Loeffler is co-owner of the Atlanta Dream, a WNBA team.
Cathy Latham — A previously lesser known figure in Georgia politics.
Misty Hampton — A previously lesser known figure in Georgia politics.
Scott Hall — A previously lesser known figure in Georgia politics.
Boris Epshteyn — Boris Epshteyn is a Russian-American political strategist and commentator. He served as a special assistant to President Donald Trump and has been a vocal supporter of Trump’s policies.
Jeffrey Clark — Jeff Clark is an American attorney who served as the Assistant Attorney General for the Environment and Natural Resources Division under the Trump administration. He gained attention for his role in Trump’s efforts to overturn the 2020 election results.
Kurt Hilbert — Kurt Hilbert is an American attorney based in Georgia. He gained attention for his involvement in legal challenges related to the 2020 U.S. Presidential election, particularly in Georgia.
Stephen Lee — A previously lesser known figure in Georgia politics.
Trevian Kutti — Trevian Kutti is a public relations consultant who has worked with high-profile clients, including politicians and celebrities. She is not a mainstream political figure but has some influence in the PR world.
Harrison Floyd — Harrison Floyd is a military veteran and political activist. He has been involved in conservative political campaigns and organizations but is not a mainstream political figure.
Alex Kaufman — Alex Kaufman is an American attorney based in Georgia. He specializes in election law and has been involved in various legal matters related to elections, although he is not a widely recognized public figure.
Joseph Brannan — A previously lesser known figure in Georgia politics.
Vikki Consiglio — Vikki Consiglio is a Georgia-based political activist and member of the Republican Party. She has been involved in local politics and grassroots organizing but is not a mainstream political figure.
Carolyn Fisher — A previously lesser known figure in Georgia politics.
Burt Jones — Burt Jones is an American businessman and politician serving as a Republican State Senator in Georgia. He has been in office since 2013 and is known for his conservative stances on issues like healthcare and education. Jones was a vocal supporter of Donald Trump and has been involved in efforts to challenge the 2020 election results in Georgia.
Gloria Godwin — A previously lesser known figure in Georgia politics.
Mark Hennessy — A previously lesser known figure in Georgia politics.
Mark Amick — A previously lesser known figure in Georgia politics.
John Downey — A previously lesser known figure in Georgia politics.
Brad Carver — Brad Carver is an American attorney and political strategist based in Georgia. He is a partner at Hall Booth Smith, P.C., and specializes in governmental affairs. Carver has been involved in Republican politics and has served as a delegate to the Republican National Convention.
Shawn Still — A previously lesser known figure in Georgia politics.
C. B. Yadav — C. B. Yadav is a businessman and community leader based in Georgia. While not a mainstream political figure, Yadav has been involved in local community initiatives and has received recognition for his philanthropic efforts.
Jacki Pick — Jacki Pick is an American attorney and conservative commentator. She has appeared on various media platforms to discuss legal and political issues. Pick is known for her conservative viewpoints and has been a guest speaker at several conservative events.
What is RICO?
The Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act (RICO) is a U.S. federal law enacted in 1970, designed to combat organized crime. Initially aimed at dismantling the Mafia, RICO has evolved to address a broad range of illegal activities carried out by enterprises, which can include businesses, gangs, and even political organizations. The law targets patterns of racketeering, which may involve activities like money laundering, drug trafficking, and fraud.
In the legal profession, RICO cases are approached with meticulous care due to their complexity. Prosecutors must prove four key elements: the existence of an “enterprise,” a pattern of racketeering activity, a connection between the enterprise and the criminal conduct, and the defendant’s participation in the enterprise through the pattern of racketeering. Establishing a “pattern” usually requires at least two acts of racketeering activity within a 10-year period.
Defense strategies often focus on dismantling one or more of these elements. For instance, they may argue that the alleged activities do not constitute a “pattern” or that the defendant was not sufficiently involved in the enterprise. Given the severe penalties, which can include hefty fines and up to 20 years in prison per racketeering count, both sides often rely on extensive documentation, expert testimonies, and intricate legal arguments.
Trials are usually long-drawn affairs, involving multiple parties and numerous charges. The prosecution may use tools like wiretaps, surveillance, and informants to build their case, while the defense may scrutinize the validity and legality of such evidence. Due to the high stakes, RICO cases are typically handled by attorneys with specialized expertise in this area of law.
TL;DR: RICO is a powerful tool for prosecuting organized criminal activities, but its cases are complex and require a nuanced legal approach.
Chances are you’ve had an encounter with an emotional predator — whether you’re aware of it or not. Most everyone is familiar with the physical abuser: typically the man who beats his wife or female partner. But emotional abuse, and psychological abuse, are also integral components of abuse and are often present with, and precursors to, intimate partner physical violence.
Often individuals who abuse others have a personality disorder that increases their chances of becoming an abuser. Many of these personality disorders have narcissism at their roots — a psychological defense mechanism in which an individual harbors grandiose fantasies about themselves and feels selfishly entitled to having all their demands met.
Narcissists require a constant stream of admiration, or “narcissistic supply,” coming their way. They achieve this through charm, emotional and psychological manipulation, and all sorts of shady, unethical, or downright illegal tactics and behaviors. When a narcissist wants something from you, or wants you to do something, he can become a devious emotional predator who takes advantage of your good will for his own ends without thinking twice.
How to identify an emotional predator
One way to protect yourself from emotional predators is to understand how they behave, and become familiar with how to detect manipulative and deceptive behavior as early on as possible. If you see any of the warning signs below in a loved one, coworker, community member, or position of leadership, then use caution in dealings with this individual. Seek external advice and assistance in threat assessment before placing further trust in this person.
Emotional predation can take place at all levels: interpersonal interactions and intimate partnerships, within groups and organizations, as well as at much larger scales on the order of societies, nations, and — increasingly — global networks. If you feel something “off” in an interaction that feels loaded with emotional pressure, stop for a moment and do some critical thinking about whether someone is trying to prey on your emotions, and how to respond.
Emotional predators are often found leading cults (both small and large), so take a look at those who surround them and ask if they seem like mindless followers in thrall to the cult of personality of one individual. Assess whether you and/or others who interact with the psychic vampire experience the following phenomena:
Manipulating your emotions; emotional blackmail— A form of manipulation where someone uses your feelings against you to get what they want. It often involves guilt-tripping, fear, and obligation, making you feel trapped in a cycle of compliance.
Negging; undermining confidence and self-esteem— Negging is a tactic where someone offers backhanded compliments or subtle insults to undermine your self-esteem. The goal is to make you feel vulnerable, so you seek their approval.
Creating unnecessary chaos — Some individuals thrive on creating chaos to divert attention from their actions or to keep others off-balance. It’s a control tactic that leaves you feeling disoriented.
Consistent inconsistency; intermittent reinforcement — This involves unpredictable behavior, where positive reinforcement is given sporadically. It keeps you guessing and hooked, as you never know when the next “reward” will come; as in gambling, e.g.
Grandiosity — An inflated sense of self-importance and superiority over others. It’s often a mask for deep-seated insecurities.
One-way street — In a one-way relationship, one person’s needs and wants are prioritized over the other’s. It’s a dynamic that leaves one feeling drained and unappreciated.
Masters of deceptive and misleading stories — Some individuals are adept at crafting narratives that bend the truth, often to serve their own interests or manipulate others.
Love to play victim and hero — These individuals portray themselves as both the victim and the hero in different narratives, manipulating emotions to gain sympathy or admiration.
Diverting attention — Diversion tactics are used to shift focus away from the individual’s actions, often by blaming others or creating new issues.
Disregarding the law — Some people view laws as mere suggestions, often rationalizing illegal actions for personal gain or out of a sense of entitlement. The so-called Sovereign Citizens movement essentially codified this as an ideology the group believes in, and tries to use as legal argument in court (failing each time).
Denying plain facts; denialism — Denialism involves refusing to accept proven facts, often to protect one’s ego or agenda.
Assert the opposite of reality — This tactic involves making claims that are directly contradicted by observable facts, creating a confusing and disorienting environment.
Magical thinking — Magical thinking is the belief that one’s thoughts or actions can influence unrelated events. It’s often a way to avoid responsibility.
Projection — Assigning their own feelings or imputing their own motives into you. Projection involves attributing one’s own undesirable feelings or motives to another person, often as a defense mechanism.
See the world as with them or against them (splitting) — Splitting is a cognitive distortion where people are categorized as all good or all bad, with no middle ground or nuance.
Nurturing and maintaining enemies (paranoia) — Some individuals maintain a sense of purpose or identity by creating and nurturing perceived enemies, often based on exaggerated or imagined threats.
Moves the goalposts — Changing the criteria for success or approval, making it difficult for others to meet expectations.
Refuses to take responsibility or admit fault — Some folks deflect blame and never admit fault, often rationalizing their actions to avoid accountability.
Gaslighting — causing you to question your own sanity. Gaslighting is a form of manipulation where someone tries to make you doubt your own perceptions and sanity.
Bullying — Bullying involves repeated, intentional harm or intimidation, often to assert control or superiority over someone else.
Frequent liar / compulsive liar — Some individuals lie habitually, either to manipulate others or sometimes without any apparent reason.
Aggressive and easily angered — These individuals have low tolerance for frustration and may resort to aggression or anger to assert control or mask insecurities.
Arm yourself with as much information as you can about emotional predators and the tactics of undue influence they use, as well as the real world history of cults and their consequences — and how to get people out of them via deprogramming techniques. Here’s a cults and mind control book list to get you started:
Cults, in general, refer to organizations or groups that often manipulate and exploit members, typically by using unorthodox beliefs and practices. Recognizing cult warning signs can be vital in identifying and understanding the risk before getting involved with a group who may not have your best interests in mind.
Us vs. Them Mentality: Cults often draw clear lines between insiders and outsiders, emphasizing that only they possess the truth. This divisive mindset encourages isolation from family, friends, and society, leading to further control over the members.
Coercive Persuasion and Manipulation: High-pressure tactics are common in recruiting and retaining members. This may include controlling information, employing guilt or fear, manipulating emotions to maintain allegiance, and other tactics of emotional predators.
Excessive Financial Demands: Many cults require significant financial contributions, sometimes even requiring members to relinquish personal assets. This financial control reinforces dependence on the group.
Rigidity of Beliefs and Practices: A cult’s ideology is often absolute, with no room for questioning or dissent. Those who challenge the beliefs are typically met with hostility, punishment, or expulsion. This fundamentalist mentality permeates the entire group’s thinking and behavior.
Unrealistic Promises: Cults may lure individuals with promises of spiritual enlightenment, exclusive knowledge, or personal success, often unrealistic or unattainable. These promises can entice individuals seeking meaning or connection in their lives.
Control Over Personal Lives: Intense control over members’ personal lives, including relationships, employment, and living arrangements, can be a clear warning sign. Such control can erode personal autonomy and self-identity.
Emotional Abuse and Fear Tactics: Cults frequently use fear, shame, and guilt to control members, creating an environment where members feel constant anxiety about meeting the group’s standards or displeasing the leader.
A Focus on Recruitment: Many cults prioritize recruitment above all else, viewing every interaction as an opportunity to bring others into the fold. The pressure to recruit can be relentless and is often a central component of the group’s activities.
Impacts on Health and Wellbeing: The demanding nature of cult involvement can lead to negative effects on mental, emotional, and physical health. This can manifest as anxiety, depression, exhaustion, or other health issues, often ignored or downplayed by the group.
Recognizing these warning signs is crucial for individuals, families, and communities to understand the potential dangers and take appropriate steps to protect themselves. The subject of cults is sensitive, often tied to deeply personal and societal fears, and it requires careful consideration and empathy.
Overview: Operated by Rick Alan Ross, an internationally known expert on cults, CEI offers extensive resources, including a database of information on specific groups, techniques for intervention, and guidelines to recognize coercive persuasion.
Target Audience: Anyone looking to educate themselves about cults, from concerned family members to academic researchers.
International Cultic Studies Association (ICSA) – Website
Overview: ICSA is a global network of people concerned about psychological manipulation and abuse in cultic or high-demand groups. They offer conferences, publications, and support networks.
Target Audience: Researchers, professionals, former cult members, and concerned family and friends.
Overview: Created by Steven Hassan, a mental health counselor and former cult member, this site offers resources on combating mind control in various settings, including cults, terrorism, and human trafficking.
Target Audience: General public, mental health professionals, and individuals directly affected by cults.
Overview: This online community allows individuals to discuss personal experiences, share research, and ask questions related to cults. Moderated for respectful dialogue, it offers a more informal but still informative perspective.
Target Audience: Those looking for community interaction, shared experiences, and casual information on the subject.
Rhodes’s conduct was found to amount to terrorism by U.S. District Judge Amit Mehta, a first in a case related to the Jan. 6th attack. This factored into his calculations under the advisory sentencing guidelines. Attorney General Merrick B. Garland stated that the sentences reflect the grave threat these actions posed to democratic institutions.
Ongoing danger of political violence
Rhodes, who never entered the Capitol building during the siege, was nevertheless described as presiding over the action like a general on the battlefield. Even after his arrest, he repeatedly invoked the prospect of political violence — including during his sentencing hearing. Judge Mehta cited Rhodes’s intelligence and charisma as factors that made him dangerous, as they inspired dozens of people to travel to Washington for the electoral count.
Rhodes plans to appeal his conviction and sentence. He testified in his own defense last year, but this decision backfired after inconsistencies were pointed out in his account of his actions leading up to the Capitol siege and his penchant for conspiracy theories.
Kelly Meggs, a co-defendant also convicted of seditious conspiracy and a former leader of Oath Keepers’ Florida chapter, was sentenced to 12 years in prison. The judge heard emotional accounts from police and congressional staffers who continue to suffer from the aftershocks of the assault on their workplace.
Key takeaways from the Rhodes verdict
The Impact of the Verdict: The sentencing of Stewart Rhodes could influence any sentence Enrique Tarrio, the former chairman of the far-right Proud Boys group, will face on the same charge later this summer. This case sets a precedent for future cases related to the Jan. 6th attack.
The Role of Rhodes in the Capitol Siege: Despite not entering the Capitol building, Rhodes played a significant role in the events of January 6. His leadership and influence over the Oath Keepers were highlighted during the trial.
The Aftermath of the Assault: The emotional trauma inflicted on the police and congressional staffers present during the assault continues to be felt. The sentencing of Rhodes and Meggs is one important step towards holding those responsible accountable for their actions.
Before January 6, there came these attempts to overthrow the American government.
Christian Front trial (1940-41)
The Christian Front trial of the 1940s was a highly publicized criminal trial in the United States that took place in 1940 and 1941. The Christian Front was a right-wing, antisemitic, and pro-Nazi organization that was active in New York City in the late 1930s and early 1940s.
They are men with little imagination, who seek to exalt themselves by squishing everyone else down into a mass of un-individuated peons. One of many right-wing Big Lies is that fascism is the opposite of communism — not so. Both are forms of collectivism, in which the masses must be relegated to nothingness by the immense, overwhelming pressures of society — such that a few secular gods of Greatness Thinking may shine above all the rest.
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 personality traits come to dominate human affairs, seemingly out of nowhere? How thin is this veneer of civilization, really?
The authoritarian personality is characterized by excessive strictness and a propensity to exhibit oppressive behavior towards perceived subordinates. On the flip side, they treat authority figures with mindless obedience and unquestioning compliance. They also have an aversion to difference, ambiguity, complexity, and diversity.
How did they get this way? Are people born with authoritarian personalities, or is the authoritarian “made” predominately by circumstance?
Authoritarian personality studies
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.
He later tried to reneg on the deal, or at least made a big public show of trying to back out of it during the summer of 2022, claiming that Twitter had falsely represented the percentage of bot accounts on the platform. Company executives filed suit to force Musk to agree to the share price in his original offer — despite significant stock price losses due largely to Musk’s own disparagement of the site.
Forced to go through with the deal despite admittedly “overpaying for Twitter right now,” Musk and his set of investor backers took the company private and began an uncertain new era for the heretofore arguably closest thing to a public town square in all of history, with the Tesla and SpaceX entrepreneur at the helm. A self-proclaimed “free speech absolutist,” the billionaire immediately began pronouncing ideas wildly unpopular with its power user base of journalists, academics, and public professionals of all stripes, including:
Re-platforming banned right-wing purveyors of hate speech including Donald Trump, conspiracy theorist Alex Jones, apparently antisemitic pop star Kanye West, and a rogue’s gallery of antisemitic “influencers” and violent fanfic enthusiasts
Amidst the chaos of Musk’s first weeks of ownership, many inside and outside of Twitter have speculated on the potential ulterior motives of the tech oligarch’s purchase. Theories range from intentional sabotage to gross incompetence — or potentially some mixture of the two. There is widespread disparagement of the idea that a billionaire can simply step in and upend what passed for a fledgling tool of democratic influence, and a bulwark against the march of right-wing authoritarianism around the world.
But who actually owns Twitter, outside of Musk himself? Perhaps the laundry list of investors can now or in the future shed some light on probable strategies behind the massive shakeup at one of the world’s most popular tools for the media-industrial class. Given the company’s privatization, it is now far less transparent about its financials — and it will be difficult to know at any moment in time if given investors have come in or out, or increased or decreased their holdings via their relationships with Musk or intermediaries.
As it stands though, this is the list of Twitter backers I have so far been able to find. Do you know of others I’ve missed, or changes to relative holdings? Please do give me a shout over — where else — on Twitter (while it stands — else on Mastodon) and let me know!
Led by Charles Koch et al, the mostly aging, Boomer crowd who controls much of the US government either directly or indirectly as a donor or operative is starting to panic for one reason or another: the fear of death looming, existential worries about thwarted or unmet ambition, economic turn of the wheel starting to leave their fortunes in decline (with inflation as a common boogie man since the Wall Street Putsch of the 1930s). Much of this crowd inherited the free market ideological zeal of the Austrian School of economics (later, trickle down economics) from their fathers along with their trust fund fortunes that some have squandered (Trump), tread water with (Coors, Scaife), or grown (Koch, DeVos).
It’s also no accident this whole Twitter takeover drama is happening just before the mid-terms. The right-wing needs to inject some juice into the splintering base, some of whom are wavering as the actual (intentionally) obscured vision of the GOP leaks out (i.e. destroy government altogether).
The Founders meant for the republic to be agile in philosophy — always changing to meet the new demands of the next generations. They meant for us to be self-governing, and empowered to create policy for problem-solving in new eras they themselves could not even conceive of. Thomas Jefferson wrote forewarningly of the Dead Hand of the Past and how critical it would be to not remain trapped by it. The Founders were agile not in the sense of software development (obviously!), but in the same spirit: they embraced responding to change over following a plan, and in continuously uncovering ways to develop a more perfect union.
Conservative ideology on the other hand — and in particular, Originalism — flouts the actual intentions of the Framers while cloaking itself in nationalist symbology. It tries to claim that our modern hands are tied by the dead ones of the past. The Originalist doctrine currently holding sway at The Supreme Court, The Federalist Society, and the majority of right-wing judiciary maintains that the best we can do is peer feebly into the distant past and try our best to squeeze ourselves into the minds of the men who inked our Constitution some 235 years ago.
The Founders wrote things. A lot of things.
Leaving aside for a moment the impracticality of that theory as an actual practice of interpreting the law, some consideration of materials on hand shows us that we needn’t go to all that trouble in the first place — why? Because the Founders left a lot of writings behind about exactly what they meant, and the principles they were thinking about, at the time of the nation’s founding and the drafting of our Constitution.
Conspiracy theories are not new. Covid-related conspiracies may be new, but conspiracy theories about pandemics and contagious diseases have been around for centuries. Anti-vaccination hysteria goes back decades. The QAnon conspiracy theory may be new (or maybe not really?!), but conspiracy theories themselves are a tale(s) as old as time — or at least time as we know it, from the start of recorded history.
What is a conspiracy theory?
Conspiracy theories are simple explanations for complex phenomena, that often involve a secret group (often some type of global cabal) who are pulling the strings of world events behind the scenes. There is most commonly little to no credible evidence supporting the beliefs of the conspiracy theory, instead relying on superstition, speculation, coincidence, or simple rumor to back up their claims.
We are fundamentally wired to be storytellers. It’s intuitive why this ability might be hard-coded into our brains, as it so clearly relates to survival, self-preservation, and our ability to navigate and succeed in a complex world. We need to be able to understand cause and effect in an environment of many rapidly shifting variables, and storytelling is a framework for weaving coherent narratives that reduce our anxiety about the great uncertainties in the environment around us.
Conspiracy theories tap into psychological needs
Conspiratorial thinking is far more common than we think, and can ebb and flow in populations based on prevailing conditions. Our ability to see patterns in randomness and dissemble stories on the spot, along with numerous other cognitive and psychological biases, make us vulnerable to belief in conspiracy theories.
In a special 6th session of the January 6 Commission Hearings that was not anticipated, former Mark Meadows aide Cassidy Hutchinson revealed bombshell testimony under oath about what the witnessed and heard in the White House leading up to and on the violent January 6 coup event. From her forthright and gripping account, today we learned:
Trump didn’t care the protestors had AR-15s
According to testimony, he was mad the Ellipse did not appear more filled in such that photos of the event would look anemic. He wanted the security screenings stopped so the people with guns, knives, and other weapons could come in without fear of having their weapons confiscated.