The GOP is 3 cults in a trench coat

One of two major parties in our American first-past-the-post voting system of dual-party reality, the Republican Party, has evolved (or devolved…) into a full-throated authoritarian movement seeking to overthrow our democracy, The Constitution, and the rule of law in order to establish a fascist regime in the United States. It’s been a not-so-secret fever dream on the right for decades and even centuries — and the old guard reflexively senses their time is coming to an end.

The demographic changes underway in America are inexorable — by the 2024 election cycle 8 million new young voters who have turned 18 since the 2022 mid-terms, and 5 million seniors aged 65 and up will have died. The first group will vote overwhelmingly Democratic, while the second group represents the ever-dwindling base of the Republican Party. Although historically older voters have participated at much higher rates than the youth voting percentage, the rate of increase for the 18-24 group is much higher.

Faced with these realities and the census projection of a majority minority population in the United States by the year 2045, the Republican right-wing is struggling to keep piecing together a voting base that can achieve victories in electoral politics. The GOP is now 3 cults in a trenchcoat, having been hollowed out and twisted to the point of trying desperately to hold increasingly extreme factions together for another election cycle in which they can try to capture power forever through gerrymandering and other anti-democratic election engineering — or at least long enough to erase the evidence of their criminal behavior during the Trump years culminating in a coup attempt on January 6, 2021.

The 3 Republican cult factions

  1. The Wealth Cult — A business lobby led by Charles Koch and a collection of dark money groups including Leonard Leo‘s Federalist Society and the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), this group emerged out of the 1970s business backlash to the civil rights movement — while piggybacking on the still-simmering resentments of the anti-New Deal and pro-fascist America Firsters of the 1930s and the searing anti-Communism of the 1950s McCarthyism era turned, improbably, Russophilia in modern days.
  2. The Christian Nationalist Cult — Started by Jerry Falwell Sr. with the Moral Majority circa 1979, the politicized Evangelical movement is inexplicably led today by “sudden believers” Mike Pence, Mike Flynn, and others under the umbrella of the Council for National Policy (CNP), the New Apostolic Reformation (NAR), and other religious organizations involved in politics in large part as a backlash to the Broad v. Board of Education ruling and the federal mandate to end school segregation. Masquerading as so-called “originalists,” this coalition are rather radical reactionaries participating in a long-running backlash against civil rights and the women’s rights movements of the 1960s, including the Roe v. Wade ruling by the Supreme Court that legalized abortion — overturned in 2022 based on efforts by this group.
  3. The White Nationalist Cult — With roots in the 1980s white power movement stretching all the way back to the Civil War and the Lost Cause mythology that followed and long outlasted Reconstruction, today the white identity movement is led by Steve Bannon and Roger Stone, with a parallel intertwined branch led by Peter Thiel and the Dark Enlightenment neo-Reactionaries of Silicon Valley. This group includes dominant private militia groups involved in the January 6 insurrection including the Proud Boys and Oath Keepers (both of whose leaders have been convicted of seditious conspiracy for their roles in the coup attempt — with the Oath Keepers’ leader Stewart Rhodes sentenced to 18 years for his actions).

The Wealth Cult

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).

The Wealth Cult, by Midjourney
Continue reading The GOP is 3 Cults in a Trenchcoat
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Wealth Cult -- rich men behaving badly, by Midjourney

A network of exceedingly wealthy individuals and organizations have channeled their vast fortunes into influencing American politics, policy, and public opinion — they’ve formed a wealth cult. And they’ve leveraged that cult and its considerable fortune to influence and in many ways dramatically transform American politics.

The term “dark money” refers to political spending meant to influence the decision-making and critical thinking of the public and lawmakers where the source of the money is not disclosed. This lack of transparency makes it challenging to trace the influence back to its origins, hence the term “dark.”

And, it is dark indeed.

Wealth cult anchors the trench coat

The Wealth Cult is one of 3 primary groups or clusters supporting the right-wing and generally, the Republican Party. It anchors the trench coat by funding the 2 cults above it: the Christian Cult, and the White Cult.

Its story is stealthy and significant.

A bunch of billionaires toast themselves to themselves, by Midjourney

The wealth cult has funded disinformation campaigns, the spread of conspiracy theories, created fake social movements through astroturfing, enabled violent extremists to attack their country’s capitol, cruelly deprived vulnerable people (especially immigrants, poor people, and women) of the kind of state aid granted generously throughout the developed world, bribed regulators, rigged elections, crashed economies, and on and on in service of their extremist free market ideology beliefs.

They believe in “makers and takers,” or Mudsill Theory, as it was once called by pedophile and racist Senator and slavery enthusiast James Henry Hammond. Some people were born to serve others, they say. Hierarchies are natural, they claim. Wealthy men should make all the decisions — because that’s what’s best for everyone, they say in paternalistic tones.

I don’t buy it. I believe all men are created equal. So did a certain Founder of our country.

Continue reading Wealth Cult: The oligarchs influencing American politics from the shadows
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ParadoxBot is an adorable chatbot who will cheerfully inform you about the Dark Arts

Sure, you could use the site search. Or, you could have a bot — try having a conversation with my blog via the following AI chatbot, ParadoxBot.

Ask it about conspiracy theories, or narcissism, or cults, or authoritarianism, or fascism, or disinformation — to name a few. You can also ask it about things like dark money, economics, history, and many topics at the intersection of political psychology.

It doesn’t index what’s on Foundations (yet) but it has ingested this site and you can essentially chat with the site itself via the ChatGPT-like interface below. Enjoy! And if you love it or hate it, find me on BlueSky (as @doctorparadox) or Mastodon and let me know your thoughts:

Tips for using ParadoxBot

  • Follow general good practice regarding prompt engineering.
  • If you don’t get an answer right away, try rephrasing your question. Even omitting or adding one word sometimes produces good results.
  • Try broad broad and specific types of queries.
  • Dig deeper into any areas the bot turns up that sound interesting.
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Donald Trump pathocracy, by Midjourney

Pathocracy is a relatively lesser-known concept in political science and psychology, which refers to a system of government in which individuals with personality disorders, particularly those who exhibit psychopathic, narcissistic, and similar traits (i.e. the “evil of Cluster B“), hold significant power. This term was first introduced by Polish psychiatrist Andrzej Łobaczewski in his work “Political Ponerology: A Science on the Nature of Evil Adjusted for Political Purposes.”

The crux of pathocracy lies in the rule by a small pathological minority, which imposes a regime that is damaging to the majority of non-pathological people. The key characteristics of pathocratic leadership include a lack of empathy, a disregard for the rule of law, manipulation, authoritarianism, and often, brutal repression.

Origins and development of the concept of pathocracy

Pathocracy emerges from Łobaczewski’s study of totalitarian regimes, particularly those of Nazi Germany under Adolf Hitler and Communism in the Soviet Union under Joseph Stalin. Born in Poland in 1921, he witnessed the upheaval and transformation of his own country during the horrors of World War II and subsequent Communist occupation.

He suffered greatly to arrive at the insights in his work — arrested and tortured by the Polish authorities under Communist rule, he was unable to publish his magnum opus, the book Political Ponerology, until he escaped to the United States during the 1980s. Łobaczewski spent the rest of his life and career trying to unpack what had happened to him, his community, and his nation — such brutality over such a shockingly short span of time.

Łobaczewski posits that these authoritarian and fascist regimes were not merely politically oppressive, but were also psychologically abnormal. He studied the characteristics of these leaders and their closest supporters, identifying patterns that aligned with known personality disorders. His work also identified a much higher percentage of personality disordered individuals than is still commonly understood, finding that about 7% of the general population could be categorized as severely lacking in empathy and possessing the tendencies — latent or overt — leading to the rise of pathocracy in society.

Characteristics of pathocratic leadership

  • Psychopathy: Leaders in a pathocracy often display traits synonymous with psychopathy, including a lack of empathy, remorse, and shallow emotions.
  • Narcissism: Excessive self-love and a strong sense of entitlement often drive pathocratic rulers.
  • Manipulation: These leaders are adept at manipulation, using deceit and coercion to maintain their power. They also often exhibit other traits and behaviors of emotional predators.
  • Paranoia: A heightened sense of persecution or conspiracy is common, leading to oppressive and authoritarian measures.
  • Corruption: Moral depravity, ethical degeneration, and widespread corruption are endemic in a pathocracy, as pathological leaders tend to surround themselves with similarly affected individuals who feel no shame about performing unethical and/or illegal actions either in secret, or in broad daylight with little fear of retaliation.
Continue reading Pathocracy Definition: Are we in one?
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A cult leader who is definitely a narcissist, sitting in a chair glowering

We’ve been obsessed in our household with documentaries about the Nxivm cult — and next with Scientology. The heads of both of those organizations are quite clearly pathological and often malignant narcissists, with grandiose and delusional ideas and an addiction to other people’s attention. Separately, I’ve studied narcissism quite a bit and feel, at least anecdotally, that all the cult leaders I’ve read about or known of have been led by these types of people, who are notoriously lacking in empathy, self-centered, entitled, and have an insatiable lust for power and control. It started me to wonder: are all cult leaders narcissists?

While certainly not all — or even any — cult leaders are clinically diagnosed narcissists, many pretty obviously exhibit narcissistic traits. Narcissism, particularly in its more extreme forms (including narcissistic personality disorder or NPD), is characterized by a grandiose sense of self-importance, a need for excessive admiration, and a lack of empathy for others. These traits can be paradoxically and counterintuitively conducive to the development of a cult-like following.

Cult leaders often exhibit the following narcissistic characteristics:

  1. Grandiosity: They may have an inflated sense of their own importance, believing themselves to be special or uniquely gifted, which can attract followers seeking answers, guidance, or a sense of certainty.
  2. Need for Admiration: Cult leaders often seek excessive admiration and validation from their followers, which reinforces their self-perceived superiority and authority and reifies their over-idealized self-image.
  3. Manipulation and Exploitation: They may manipulate or exploit followers, viewing them as tools to achieve their own goals, rather than as individuals with their own rights and needs. Employing love bombing and other psychological influence techniques, they can abuse, steamroll over and/or capture decades or entire lifetimes of people under their sway.
  4. Lack of Empathy: Cult leaders may show a lack of empathy, being indifferent to the needs and feelings of their followers, or callously exploiting their vulnerabilities. They are primarily concerned with gratifying their own needs and desires, and rarely recognize the needs of others as valid or worthy of attention.
  5. Charisma: Like the exceedingly self-confident narcissist, many cult leaders are charismatic, which aids in attracting and maintaining a devoted following. They turn on the charm when they feel it might get them something they want, but just as easily withhold it when they wish to devalue you for some other strategic purpose.
Continue reading Are all cult leaders narcissists?
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republican vs. democrat cage match boxing ring

Buckle up, we’re in for a wild ride. Many of the serious scholars of political history and authoritarian regimes are sounding the alarm bells that, although it is a very very good thing that we got the Trump crime family out of the Oval Office, it is still a very very bad thing for America to have so rapidly tilted towards authoritarianism. How did we get here?! How has hyper partisanship escalated to the point of an attempted coup by 126 sitting Republican House Representatives? How has political polarization gotten this bad?

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.

Right-Wing Authoritarianism

Authoritarianism is both a personality type and a form of government — it operates at both the interpersonal and the societal level. The words authoritarian and fascist are often used interchangeably, but fascism is a more specific type of authoritarianism, and far more historically recent.

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

  • Hannah Arendt — The Origins of Totalitarianism
  • Bob Altemeyer — The Authoritarians
  • 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 CzesΕ‚aw MiΕ‚osz‘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
  • Tyrants and dictators
  • John Dean — 3 types of authoritarian personality:
    • social dominators
    • authoritarian followers
    • double highs — social dominators who can “switch” to become followers in certain circumstances
  • Loyalty; hero worship
    • Freud = deeply distrustful of hero worship and worried that it indulged people’s needs for vertical authority. He found the archetype of the authoritarian primal father very troubling.
  • Ayn Rand
    • The Fountainhead (1943)
    • Atlas Shrugged (1957)
    • Objectivism ideology
  • Greatness Thinking; heroic individualism
  • Nietszche — will to power; the Uberman
  • Richard Hofstadter — The Paranoid Style
  • George Lakoff — moral framing; strict father morality
  • Neil Postman — Entertaining Ourselves to Death
  • Anti-Intellectualism
  • Can be disguised as hyper-rationalism (Communism)
  • More authoritarianism books
Continue reading Hyper Partisanship: How to understand American politics today
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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 with a hair dye problem
  1. Rudy GiulianiRudy 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 terrorist 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.
  2. John EastmanJohn 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.
  3. 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.
  4. Donald TrumpBusinessman 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.
  5. Cleta MitchellCleta 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.
  6. 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.
  7. 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 Freedom Caucus in the House of Representatives.
  8. 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.
  9. 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.
  10. 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.
  11. 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.
  12. Sidney PowellSidney 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.
  13. 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.
  14. Mike FlynnMichael 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.
  15. 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.
  16. 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.
  17. 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.
  18. Cathy Latham — A previously lesser known figure in Georgia politics.
  19. Misty Hampton — A previously lesser known figure in Georgia politics.
  20. Scott Hall — A previously lesser known figure in Georgia politics.
  21. 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.
  22. 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.
  23. 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.
  24. Stephen Lee — A previously lesser known figure in Georgia politics.
  25. 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.
  26. 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.
  27. 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.
  28. Joseph Brannan — A previously lesser known figure in Georgia politics.
  29. 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.
  30. Carolyn Fisher — A previously lesser known figure in Georgia politics.
  31. 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.
  32. Gloria Godwin — A previously lesser known figure in Georgia politics.
  33. Mark Hennessy — A previously lesser known figure in Georgia politics.
  34. Mark Amick — A previously lesser known figure in Georgia politics.
  35. John Downey — A previously lesser known figure in Georgia politics.
  36. 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.
  37. Shawn Still — A previously lesser known figure in Georgia politics.
  38. 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.
  39. 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?

Georgia RICO brings racketeering to the fore, by Midjourney

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.

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emotional predator, by Midjourney

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.

global network, by Midjourney

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.
  • Love bombing — Used to secure your loyalty in the first place, love bombing is a technique in which the emotional predator showers you with affection, admiration, and gifts in the early stages of your relationship. Their goal is to create a strong attachment quickly, that will make it harder for you to see and recognize their darker traits coming out later on.
  • 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.
  • GrandiosityAn 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.
deceptive and misleading stories, by Midjourney
  • 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 lawSome 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 thinkingMagical 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.
paranoia, by Midjourney
  • 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.
  • Gaslightingcausing you to question your own sanity. Gaslighting is a form of manipulation where someone tries to make you doubt your own perceptions and sanity.
  • BullyingBullying 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.
aggressive and easily angered -- by Midjourney

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:

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cult warning signs

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.

  1. Excessive Devotion to a Leader: Cults usually revolve around charismatic leaders who demand absolute loyalty and obedience. A disproportionate reverence for these figures may serve as a red flag.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
  5. 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.
  6. 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.
  7. 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.
  8. 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.
  9. 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.
  10. 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.
  11. Use of hypnosis and neurolinguistic programming (NLP) techniques

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.

Resources on cults

  1. Cult Education Institute (CEI)Website
    • 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.
  2. 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.
  3. Freedom of Mind Resource CenterWebsite
    • 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.
  4. Cult Information Centre (CIC)Website
    • Overview: Based in the UK, the CIC provides information, advice, and support to those concerned about cults. They offer educational programs and direct help to those affected.
    • Target Audience: UK residents, though the information is applicable globally.
  5. Reddit’s Cults CommunitySubreddit
    • 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.
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Oath Keepers

Stewart Rhodes, the founder of the far-right Oath Keepers paramilitary group, has been sentenced to 18 years in prison for his role in a seditious conspiracy to disrupt the electoral count. It’s the harshest punishment so far resulting from the violent assault on the Capitol on January 6, 2021, and is especially significant because Rhodes himself was not present at the Capitol that day. Rhodes, a Yale Law School graduate, was convicted last November of the politically charged sedition charge and multiple other felonies.

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

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
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seditious conspiracy

The first convictions of January 6 perps for seditious conspiracy in decades are epically monumental given the history of past efforts. Before the first conviction in November, 2022 of Oath Keepers leader Stewart Rhodes and the latest round of convictions on January 23, 2023 (in which 4 more seditionists were convicted), there has been little success in the realm of prosecuting insurrection or coup plotters for seditious conspiracy — and only a handful of trials:

  • No convictions in the Christian Front trial (1940)
  • None in the Sedition Trial of US Nazi sympathizers (1944)
  • None in Fort Smith sedition trial (1988) — Louis Beam and the Covenant, The Sword, and the Arm of the Lord white supremacist and Christian nationalist group
  • None in Hutaree trial (2010)

Does that make this the first successful sedition conviction of white paramilitaries?!

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.

Continue reading Forgotten Coups: January 6 wasn’t the first seditious conspiracy in the U.S.
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angry fascist dads

Old Boomers like Donald Trump and Charles Koch just copied their fascist fathers. Donnie inherited racism and eugenics from Old Fred, while Charlie was indoctrinated in the extremist delusions of the John Birch Society and the pseudoscience economics of the Austrian School acolytes.

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.

Fascists are Dittoheads

The ethos of “copying” is a signature psychological trait of fundamentalist minds devoid of creativity. Both Trump and Koch have fashioned themselves as carbon copies of Daddy — in true Strict Father Morality style. Thus they feel completely anachronistic in modern times — where children are falling farther and farther from the proverbial trees, ideologically speaking.

Continue reading Fascist fathers are pissed
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authoritarians gather for a witch hunt

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.

Continue reading Essential thinkers on authoritarian personality theory
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Who were the early conservatives? They emerged out of the group of former fascists and Nazi sympathizers in the US.

1930s opposition to Franklin Roosevelt’s New Deal

2 main right-wing factions then:

  1. libertarians — right-wing economics faction led by Milton Friedman, Ludwig von Mises, & Friedrich Hayek. Favors dramatically cutting taxes (aka trickle down economics), reducing social spending, while increasing the military budget dramatically — a math that does not add up, numerically or historically speaking.
  2. anti-communists, antisemites, and Nazi sympathizers — Fred Koch, William Randolph Hearst, Henry Ford, Father Charles Coughlin, Charles Lindbergh, McCarthyites. Culminating in the 1944 Great Sedition Trial and the end of WWII shortly thereafter, without real consequences handed to the perps.

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 1950s and ’60s we saw the emergence of the reactionary backlash:

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

4. neoconservativesRonald Reagan, Dick Cheney,

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

Conservatives welcomed fascism again in 2016

The ascension of Donald Trump to the presidency of the United States gave permission to all the closet fascists practicing ketman as conservatives to come right on out and let their freak bigotry flags fly.

Bigotry, personified -- Midjourney

All the little white power sleeper cells and now networked anti-government militia groups were let off the chain and invited to take a swing at our national sovereignty and see if they could steal the American government for him. Thanks to the strength and integrity of numerous civil servants and others they did not succeed — however, the festering mass of fascism isn’t going anywhere much just yet.

Other topics

will be fleshing out further:

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who owns twitter elon musk and others

On October 27, 2022, the world’s richest man bought the de facto global town square. Elon Musk‘s purchase of Twitter had been brewing since April when the South African-born tech magnate first offered (or threatened?) to take over the struggling social network to the tune of $44 billion.

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:

Who actually owns Twitter now?

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!

Twitter owners list

  • The number one primary owner is Elon Musk himself, who already owned 9.6% in shares of the company before taking it over. During the sale he put in $27 billion in cash from his own fortune, liquidated by selling shares of his Tesla stock
  • Original co-founder and CEO Jack Dorsey owned 2.4% in shares and kept them, for about a $1B stake
  • Larry Ellison of Oracle — $1B
  • Qatar Holding, part of the Qatar sovereign wealth fund (Qatar Investment Authority)
  • Prince Alwaleed bin Talal of Saudi Arabia — transferred 35 million shares to Musk (about $1.9B according to Dave Troy)
  • Binance cryptocurrency exchange — $500M
  • $13B in bank loans from:
    • Morgan Stanley — $3.5B
    • Bank of America
    • Barclays
    • Japanese banks
      • Mitsubishi UFJ Financial Group
      • Mizuho
    • French banks
      • Societe Generale
      • BNP Paribas
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