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 term Christian nationalists brings together a number of radical religious sects seeking to overthrow the democratic republic of the United States and installing a strict theocracy, from dominionists to orthodox Catholics to Evangelicals and many more.
Here are some of the people and groups involved in — or foundational to — the modern day movement to establish a Christian theocratic government in America (this is a work in progress!):
700 Club — Airing since 1966, the 700 Club is one of the longest-running Christian TV programs in the U.S. The show is produced by the Christian Broadcasting Network, founded by evangelist and one-time presidential candidate (1988) Pat Robertson.
Howard Ahmanson Jr. — American businessman, philanthropist, and Christian conservative activist who has donated millions of dollars to right-wing organizations and the GOP. Ahmanson is the son of the late financier and philanthropist Howard F. Ahmanson Sr., and a supporter of the Intelligent Design movement.
Alexander Acosta — Trump‘s Secretary of Labor from April 2017 to July 2019 who resigned when new details of his unlawful “sweetheart” plea deal with Jeffrey Epstein came to light. He was known to attend the weekly White House Bible study gatherings led by Dominionist Ralph Drollinger.
Alex Azar — Trump’s Secretary of Health and Human Services from January 2018 to January 2021, who was also known to attend the weekly White House Bible study gatherings led by Dominionist Ralph Drollinger.
Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF) — The ADF is a nonprofit founded in 1994 by James Dobson, Bill Bright, and other Christian leaders to provide legal representation and support to people and organizations facing legal challenges based on their religious beliefs. The ADF was involved in the high-profile Masterpiece Cakeshop case, defending the baker who refused to make a gay wedding cake.
American College of Pediatricians — ACPeds is a small, socially conservative group of pediatricians founded in 2002 that has been criticized for its support of the discredited “conversion therapy” practice for LGBTQ+ youth and other views that run counter to the group’s stated purpose of promoting healthy and respectful development of children. The group is not recognized by the American Board of Medical Specialties or the American Academy of Pediatrics.
American Enterprise Institute (AEI) — A conservative think tank based in the United States that conducts research and advocacy on a range of public policy issues. Founded in 1938, the AEI is known for its promotion of conservative social values.
American Family Association (AFA) — A non-profit conservative Christian organization based in the United States, founded in 1977. The group has been designated as a hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center, which cites the organization’s history of spreading false and harmful information about LGBTQ+ individuals and promoting intolerance and bigotry.
American Heritage Girls (AHG) — The American Heritage Girls (AHG) is a faith-based scouting organization for girls based in the United States. The organization was founded in 1995 and describes itself as “a Christ-centered character and leadership development program for girls 5 to 18 years of age.” It requires all members to agree to a statement of faith that affirms a belief in God and a commitment to Christian values.
American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) — Along with CNP, one of two primary right-wing groups with deep funding ties over the past half century to Republican lawmakers and donors & covertly driving “local” and state legislative agenda centrally from a nationally-coordinated source that shrinks from public view and carefully shields its operations from scrutiny.
Americans of Faith — A massive church-based get-out-the-vote campaign in 2004 led by conservative Christian activist and Salem Radio founder Edward Atsinger III.
America Wake Up — “America Wake Up” was a religious movement that emerged in the United States during the early 21st century, primarily gaining momentum in the late 2010s and early 2020s. The group, which combined elements of evangelical Christianity with apocalyptic and nationalist themes, aimed to rally Americans to restore traditional religious values and preserve the nation’s spiritual and cultural heritage. Its followers believed that America was in a state of moral decline and that God’s favor could only be reclaimed through a mass spiritual awakening. Although “America Wake Up” was never a centralized organization, its adherents often united through social media, small-group meetings, and public rallies. Critics accused the group of promoting intolerance and divisiveness, and its influence waned as mainstream religious and political figures distanced themselves from its more extreme rhetoric.
Robert Arnakis — Robert Arnakis was a prominent conservative political operative and trainer in the United States during the early 21st century. As the Director of Domestic and International Programs at the Leadership Institute, he played a crucial role in mentoring and training conservative activists, politicians, and future leaders. Although he maintained a relatively low public profile, Arnakis significantly impacted the conservative movement by shaping the careers of numerous political figures and promoting conservative values through education and training initiatives.
Arlington Group — The Arlington Group was a coalition of influential conservative Christian leaders and organizations in the United States, formed in 2002 to facilitate cooperation and strategic coordination among various religious and political factions. By focusing on shared goals such as opposition to same-sex marriage and the promotion of traditional family values, the group aimed to advance a socially conservative agenda on a national level. While the Arlington Group’s influence diminished over time, its efforts significantly impacted American politics and contributed to the ongoing debate surrounding social issues in the country.
Larry Arnn — Larry Arnn, the long-serving president of Hillsdale College, has been influential in guiding the institution towards a more conservative and Christian nationalist direction. Under his leadership, Hillsdale has emphasized a curriculum rooted in the traditional values of Western civilization and has increasingly associated with conservative religious and political figures. Arnn’s tenure has undeniably made Hillsdale a central hub for promoting and advancing conservative ideology and Christian nationalist delusions in American education and public discourse.
Edward Atsinger III — Edward Atsinger III is an American businessman and broadcasting executive, who co-founded and served as the CEO of Salem Media Group, one of the leading conservative and Christian media companies in the United States. Established in 1986, Salem Media Group operates a vast network of radio stations, digital media platforms, and publishing houses, targeting conservative and faith-based audiences. Under Atsinger’s leadership, the company has played a pivotal role in shaping American conservative and Christian media landscapes, with its platforms serving as influential channels for promoting conservative and religious viewpoints.
Marcus Bachmann — Marcus Bachmann is an American clinical therapist and entrepreneur who gained national attention due to his marriage to former Republican Congresswoman and presidential candidate Michele Bachmann. He holds a PhD in clinical psychology and is the founder of Bachmann & Associates, a Christian counseling center in Minnesota that offers therapy services for a wide range of mental health issues. Bachmann has faced criticism for his views on conversion therapy for LGBTQ individuals, which he allegedly practiced at his clinic, although he has denied promoting this controversial treatment.
Michele Bachmann — Michele Bachmann is an American politician, lawyer, and former Republican Congresswoman who represented Minnesota’s 6th district in the U.S. House of Representatives from 2007 to 2015. A prominent figure in the Tea Party movement, Bachmann was known for her conservative stances on issues such as limited government, pro-life advocacy, and opposition to same-sex marriage. In 2012, she sought the Republican nomination for the presidency but eventually withdrew from the race, returning to the private sector after completing her congressional tenure.
Jim Bakker — Jim Bakker is an American televangelist, entrepreneur, and former minister who became a prominent figure in the 1970s and 1980s as the host of the successful Christian television program “The PTL Club,” alongside his then-wife, Tammy Faye Bakker. Bakker’s ministry took a downturn in the late 1980s when he was embroiled in a series of scandals involving financial fraud and extramarital affairs, ultimately resulting in his conviction and imprisonment. After his release in 1994, Bakker returned to televangelism and has continued his ministry, albeit on a smaller scale, focusing on end-time prophecy and the sale of survival products.
Steve Bannon — Steve Bannon is an American political strategist, filmmaker, and media executive who gained national prominence as the executive chairman of Breitbart News and later as the chief strategist for President Donald Trump‘s 2016 campaign and his early White House administration. Through his work at Breitbart and in the Trump campaign, Bannon promoted conservative and nationalist ideologies, often aligning with Christian nationalist values and narratives. Although not solely focused on Christian nationalism and more oriented towards nationalism more broadly, Bannon’s influence in shaping the political landscape and amplifying the voices of the far-right contributed to the resurgence of Christian nationalist sentiments in the United States.
Baptist Press — The Baptist Press, established in 1946, is the official news service of the Southern Baptist Convention, the largest Protestant denomination in the United States.
George Barna — George Barna is a renowned American pollster, researcher, author, and speaker, best known for his extensive research on religion, culture, and public opinion. In 1984, he founded the Barna Group, a market research and polling firm specializing in studying the religious beliefs and behaviors of Americans, as well as the intersection of faith and culture.
Jeff Barke — Dr. Jeff Barke is an American physician, conservative activist, and author, known for his outspoken views on various public health and policy issues. He came out against the majority of the covid-19 public health measures including mask mandates, stay-at-home orders, and vaccines along with pushing unproven treatments.
Mari Barke — Mari Barke serves on the Orange County Board of Education, having been first elected in 2018. Married to Dr. Jeff Barke, she shares her husband’s conservative political views.
Stephen Barney — Stephen Barney is a conservative philanthropist, American businessman and donor to various conservative organizations, political campaigns, and educational initiatives.
David Barton — David Barton is an influential American evangelical Christian author, speaker, and political activist, known for his advocacy of conservative Christian values in politics and education. Born on January 28, 1954, in Texas, Barton is the founder and president of WallBuilders, a national organization known for its revisionist historical claims — including the idea that the First Amendment is not meant to establish freedom of religion.
Gary Bauer — Gary Bauer is known for his staunch advocacy of social conservatism and his prominent roles in various right-wing organizations. Born in Kentucky, Bauer served in the Reagan administration, first as the Deputy Under Secretary for Planning and Budget in the Department of Education, then as the Under Secretary of Education and Chief Domestic Policy Advisor. He left the White House in 1989 to become the president of the Family Research Council, a position he held until 1999. Bauer is especially known for his conservative views on issues such as abortion and same-sex marriage. In 2000, he made an unsuccessful bid for the Republican presidential nomination. Since then, he’ has remained active in conservative politics, notably founding’s founded the Campaign for Working Families, a political action committee dedicated to electing conservative candidates to office.
Glenn Beck — Glenn Beck is a prominent American conservative political commentator, radio host, television producer, and founder of the news and entertainment network, TheBlaze. He began his career in radio as a DJ, but his career took a turn towards political commentary in the 2000s. Beck hosted the nationally syndicated radio talk show, “The Glenn Beck Program,” and his television show, “Glenn Beck,” which aired on Fox News from 2009 to 2011, was known for its emotionally charged commentary, chalkboard diagrams, and historical analysis. His shows have often been controversial for their provocative content. Beck is recognized for his libertarian-leaning conservatism and his vocal support for the Tea Party movement.
David and Jason Benham — David Benham, along with his twin brother Jason, is a prominent figure in American conservative circles, known for his outspoken views on Christianity and social issues. Prior to his involvement in political and social activism, Benham was a professional baseball player, drafted by the Boston Red Sox in 1998. After retiring from baseball, he and his brother co-founded the Benham Companies, a real estate conglomerate. The brothers gained national attention when their planned HGTV show, “Flip It Forward,” was canceled in 2014 due to controversy over their views on homosexuality and abortion. They are known for their strong pro-life stance, their opposition to same-sex marriage, and their misunderstanding of religious freedom.
Philip “Flip” Benham — Philip “Flip” Benham is an American evangelical Christian minister and anti-abortion activist, notable for his leadership roles in pro-life organizations. He was born on April 16, 1948, in Hartford, Connecticut. Benham is the father of David and Jason Benham, also known for their conservative activism. Flip Benham was the director of Operation Save America (formerly known as Operation Rescue National), a pro-life group advocating for the criminalization of abortion. The organization has been associated with protests at abortion clinics and other locations. Benham’s activism has often courted controversy, and he has been arrested multiple times during demonstrations. His vocal stances on issues such as abortion and homosexuality reflect his conservative Christian beliefs.
Robert J. Billings — Robert J. Billings was a significant figure in the American conservative movement, particularly known for his contributions to the rise of the Christian right in the late 20th century. Born on October 19, 1929, in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, Billings advocated for Christian education, founding Christian schools and serving as a superintendent in Wisconsin. His involvement in politics began in earnest in the 1970s, when he co-founded the American Association of Christian Schools and later became an influential figure in the Moral Majority, an organization that played a key role in mobilizing conservative Christian voters. Billings served as an advisor to President Ronald Reagan and was an instrumental figure in shaping the political landscape of the Christian right. He passed away on November 3, 1997.
Dr. Henry Blackaby — Dr. Henry Blackaby is an influential Christian pastor, author, and speaker, best known for his work “Experiencing God: Knowing and Doing the Will of God,” a study that has sold millions of copies worldwide. Born on July 11, 1935, in British Columbia, Canada, Blackaby served as a pastor in California and Canada before becoming the president of the Canadian Southern Baptist Conference. In 1976, Blackaby started working for the Home Mission Board (now North American Mission Board) of the Southern Baptist Convention. His work in spiritual revival and church leadership has had a profound impact on evangelical Christianity, particularly in the Southern Baptist tradition. His “Experiencing God” study, developed with his son Richard, has been widely used in churches and study groups and is considered a seminal text in contemporary Christian education.
Sen Marsha Blackburn (R-TN) — Marsha Blackburn is a prominent figure in American conservative politics, known for her tenure as a U.S. Senator from Tennessee. Born on June 6, 1952, in Laurel, Mississippi, Blackburn attended Mississippi State University, earning a degree in home economics. Her political career began in the Tennessee State Senate, where she served from 1998 to 2002. In 2002, Blackburn was elected to the U.S. House of Representatives, representing Tennessee’s 7th congressional district, where she developed a reputation as a staunch conservative, particularly on issues such as healthcare, internet privacy, and fiscal responsibility. In 2018, Blackburn was elected to the U.S. Senate, becoming the first woman from Tennessee to serve in the upper chamber. Known for her support of President Donald Trump and her opposition to big government, Blackburn has remained a significant figure in the Republican Party and American conservative politics.
Morton Blackwell — Morton Blackwell is an influential figure in American conservative politics, best known for his role in the development and training of young conservative activists. Born on November 16, 1939, in LaHarpe, Illinois, Blackwell became involved in conservative activism early in life, working on Barry Goldwater‘s 1964 presidential campaign and serving as executive director of the College Republicans. In 1980, he was appointed by President Ronald Reagan to the position of Special Assistant to the President for Public Liaison, working on youth outreach. Blackwell is perhaps best known as the founder and president of the Leadership Institute, an organization established in 1979 that provides training for conservative activists, particularly college students.
Bob Jones University — Bob Jones University (BJU) is a private, non-denominational evangelical university located in Greenville, South Carolina. It was founded in 1927 by Bob Jones Sr., a prominent evangelist and religious leader, with the aim of creating a training center for Christian workers. Throughout its history, BJU has been known for its conservative cultural and religious views. The university requires students to adhere to a strict code of conduct in line with its religious beliefs. Historically, BJU has been at the center of several controversies, notably regarding its policies on racial segregation, which it maintained until 1971, and its ban on interracial dating, which was not lifted until 2000. Despite these controversies, BJU has had a significant influence on conservative Christian education in the United States.
Bolthouse Foundation — The Bolthouse Foundation is a private foundation established by the Bolthouse family, who made their fortune in the farming and food production industry, notably through the Bolthouse Farms brand. The foundation’s mission has been to invest in Christian organizations and causes that align with their commitment to spreading the Christian faith and promoting social good. The foundation’s funding has often focused on supporting Christian education, religious activities, and other nonprofit organizations that align with their values.
Dick Bott — Dick Bott was an influential figure in American Christian radio broadcasting, known for founding the Bott Radio Network. Born on March 23, 1928, in Kansas City, Missouri, Bott launched the Bott Radio Network in 1962, which grew to become one of the nation’s largest Christian radio networks, featuring Bible teaching, Christian news, and music. Bott’s commitment to broadcasting Christian content led to a network that includes over 100 radio stations across the United States. Bott’s influence extended beyond his radio network, as he served on the boards of numerous Christian organizations and was a strong supporter of Christian education. He passed away on November 6, 2019.
Bott Radio Network — A network of 120 Christian radio stations operating in 14 of the United States, broadcasting Christian talk radio programs.
Lt. Gen. William Boykin (ret.) — Lieutenant General William G. “Jerry” Boykin is a retired American Army officer and conservative political commentator known for his Christian views and involvement in special operations. Born on April 19, 1948, in Wilson, North Carolina, Boykin’s military career spanned over 36 years, during which he played key roles in several U.S. military actions, including the Iran hostage rescue attempt and operations in Grenada and Somalia. He was one of the original members of the U.S. Army’s Delta Force and eventually served as its commander. He also served as the Deputy Undersecretary of Defense for Intelligence under President George W. Bush. After retiring from the military, Boykin became an outspoken conservative Christian activist, serving as Executive Vice President of the Family Research Council, a conservative Christian think-tank and lobbying organization. He has drawn controversy for his comments on Islam and other topics.
Lynde and Harry Bradley Foundation — The Lynde and Harry Bradley Foundation is one of the largest and most influential conservative grantmaking foundations in the United States. Established in 1942 by Lynde and Harry Bradley, co-founders of the Allen-Bradley Company, a successful Milwaukee-based electronics and industrial automation manufacturer, the foundation began its significant conservative philanthropic activity in the 1980s, after the sale of Allen-Bradley to Rockwell International. It has provided substantial funding to conservative think tanks, advocacy groups, and scholars, with a focus on areas such as limited government, free markets, education, and the traditional family structure. The foundation has had a considerable impact on shaping conservative policy and intellectual discourse in the United States.
Bob Branch — Bob Branch is an educator and conservative political figure known for his involvement in Arizona politics. Branch is recognized for his conservative stance on issues such as education, immigration, and the Second Amendment. He ran for the position of Arizona’s Superintendent of Public Instruction in 2018, campaigning on a platform of local control of education, school safety, and curriculum transparency.
Lincoln Brewster — Lincoln Brewster is an American contemporary Christian musician and worship pastor known for his guitar-based songs. Born on July 30, 1971, in Fairbanks, Alaska, Brewster developed a passion for music at a young age, with his mother nurturing his talent. He became a sought-after session guitarist in his early 20s and had the opportunity to work with mainstream artists, including journeyman rocker Steve Perry. However, Brewster felt a spiritual calling to use his musical talents for religious purposes and transitioned to contemporary Christian music. In addition to his music career, Brewster has served as a worship pastor at churches including the Bayside Church in California.
Jim Bridenstine — a former U.S. Representative and NASA Administrator. Though not overtly a Christian nationalist, his political stances often align with conservative Christian values. He has advocated for limited government and traditional family structures.
Harold O. J. Brown — was a theologian and co-founder of the Christian Action Council. He was instrumental in shaping the Christian right movement, emphasizing the role of Christianity in public life.
Brown v. Board of Education — this landmark Supreme Court case isn’t directly related to Christian nationalism but had a profound impact on American society by desegregating schools. Some Christian nationalists have criticized it for undermining local autonomy.
Pat Buchanan — a political commentator and former presidential candidate. He has often fused conservative Christian beliefs with his political ideology, advocating for a return to traditional American values.
Mark Bucher — a lesser-known figure in the Christian nationalist movement. He is an attorney who has been involved in legal cases that aim to advance conservative Christian principles in public policy.
Building a Nation — not a person but a concept often invoked by Christian nationalists to emphasize the role of Christianity in the founding and sustaining of the United States.
Jonathan Cain — a musician, best known as a member of the band Journey. His connection to Christian nationalism is tenuous but he has expressed strong Christian beliefs.
Capitol Ministries — an organization that aims to evangelize elected officials. It has been criticized for pushing a Christian nationalist agenda by seeking to influence policy through religious teachings.
Cardinal Mindszenty Foundation — this foundation is named after a Hungarian Cardinal who opposed communism and has been adopted as a symbol by some Christian nationalists in their fight against secularism.
Ben Carson — a retired neurosurgeon and former U.S. Secretary of Housing and Urban Development. While not explicitly a Christian nationalist, his conservative views often align with the movement’s principles.
CBN University — now known as Regent University, the institution was founded by Pat Robertson. It aims to provide a Christian education and has been influential in training leaders who align with Christian nationalist ideologies.
A Choice Not an Echo — a political pamphlet by Phyllis Schlafly, published in 1964. It has been influential in conservative circles and is often cited by Christian nationalists as a call to action against liberal ideologies.
Christian Broadcasting Network (CBN) — Founded by Pat Robertson, CBN is a television network with a Christian focus. It has been a significant platform for disseminating Christian nationalist views and influencing American politics.
Christian Coalition — a political organization founded by Pat Robertson. It aims to mobilize conservative Christians in the U.S. and has been a driving force in the Christian nationalist movement.
Christian homeschooling movement — advocates for homeschooling as a way to instill Christian values in children. It has gained traction among Christian nationalists who view public education as secular and morally corrupt.
Christian Satellite Network — a media outlet that broadcasts Christian content. While not overtly nationalist, it serves as a platform for voices that often align with Christian nationalist views.
J. C. Church — a pastor and political activist who has been involved in promoting Christian nationalist ideologies. He advocates for the integration of Christian principles into American governance.
Church United — an organization that aims to politically mobilize churches. It has been criticized for promoting a Christian nationalist agenda, particularly in local and state politics.
Church Voter Lookup — a tool often used by Christian nationalist groups to identify and mobilize Christian voters. It aims to influence elections in favor of candidates who uphold Christian values.
Tom Coburn — Tom Coburn was a U.S. Senator known for his conservative stances. While not explicitly a Christian nationalist, his political ideology often aligned with the movement’s principles.
Mary Colbert — a Christian author and speaker. She is known for her books that blend Christian teachings with conservative political views, making her a voice in the Christian nationalist sphere.
Concerned Women for America — a socially conservative Christian women’s activist group. It focuses on issues like abortion and religious freedom and has been influential in promoting Christian nationalist ideologies.
Conscience and Religious Freedom Division — this division within the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services aims to protect religious freedoms in healthcare. It has been praised by Christian nationalists for upholding Christian values in public policy.
Conservative Caucus — a political organization that aims to mobilize grassroots conservatives. While not exclusively Christian nationalist, it often aligns with the movement’s goals.
Kellyanne Conway — a political strategist best known for her role as counselor to President Donald Trump. She has often defended policies that resonate with Christian nationalist ideologies.
Cornwall Alliance for the Stewardship of Creation — this alliance focuses on environmental stewardship from a Christian perspective. It often opposes mainstream climate science, aligning more closely with conservative Christian viewpoints.
Council for National Policy (CNP) — a secretive organization that brings together influential conservatives, many of whom are Christian nationalists. It aims to shape public policy in line with conservative Christian values.
Culture Impact Teams (CITs) — grassroots groups often found in churches. They aim to influence local politics and culture in line with Christian nationalist principles.
Jan Crouch — She was a co-founder of the Trinity Broadcasting Network (TBN), a major Christian television network. While not overtly nationalist, TBN has been a platform for Christian nationalist voices.
Paul Crouch — also a co-founder of TBN and husband to Jan Crouch. Like his wife, he played a significant role in disseminating Christian content that often aligns with nationalist ideologies.
Ted Cruz — a U.S. Senator from Texas known for his staunch conservative views. He has been a vocal advocate for integrating Christian values into American governance, making him a key figure in the Christian nationalist movement.
Dr. Kenyn M. Cureton — a Baptist minister and Vice President for Church Ministries at the Family Research Council. He is known for advocating the role of Christianity in American public life, aligning with Christian nationalist ideologies.
Robert Lewis Dabney — Robert Lewis Dabney was a 19th-century theologian and Confederate Army chaplain. His writings have been cited by modern Christian nationalists as foundational texts for their movement.
The Daily Signal — a news outlet run by The Heritage Foundation. It often publishes articles that resonate with Christian nationalist and conservative viewpoints.
Marjorie Dannenfelser — the President of the Susan B. Anthony List, an organization that focuses on electing pro-life candidates. She is a key figure in the Christian nationalist movement.
Jeff Denham — a former U.S. Representative from California. While not overtly a Christian nationalist, his conservative stances often align with the movement’s principles.
Betsy DeVos — a former U.S. Secretary of Education known for her advocacy for school choice and Christian education, making her a significant figure in the Christian nationalist movement.
Richard DeVos — Richard DeVos was an American entrepreneur and co-founder of Amway. He was a major donor to conservative and Christian causes.
James Dobson — the founder of Focus on the Family, an organization that promotes Christian values in American families. He is a key figure in the Christian nationalist movement.
Mark Drever — a lesser-known figure in the Christian nationalist movement who has been involved in various Christian organizations.
Karen Rudolph Drollinger
Ralph Drollinger — the founder of Capitol Ministries, an organization that aims to evangelize elected officials. He has been criticized for pushing a Christian nationalist agenda.
Dinesh D’Souza — a conservative author and filmmaker. While not explicitly a Christian nationalist, his works often resonate with the movement, particularly in his critiques of liberal ideologies.
Alan P. Dye — a Washington, D.C.-based attorney known for representing conservative and Christian organizations. His legal work often intersects with the goals of the Christian nationalist movement.
Eagle Forum — Founded by Phyllis Schlafly, the Eagle Forum is a conservative organization that has been instrumental in opposing feminist and liberal policies, often from a Christian nationalist perspective.
Stuart Epperson — the co-founder of Salem Media Group, a Christian and conservative media company. He has been influential in disseminating Christian nationalist views through various media platforms.
Equal Rights Amendment — a proposed amendment to the U.S. Constitution aimed at guaranteeing equal legal rights regardless of sex. It has been opposed by some Christian nationalists who argue it undermines traditional family values.
Frank Erb — serves as a minister to California State Capitol leaders and is associated with Capitol Ministries. He aims to integrate Christian principles into governance, aligning with Christian nationalist ideologies.
Tony Evans — a pastor and author who focuses on building strong Christian families. While not overtly a Christian nationalist, his teachings often align with the movement’s principles.
Jerry Falwell — Jerry Falwell was a prominent televangelist and founder of the Moral Majority, an organization that played a key role in the rise of the Christian right and Christian nationalism.
Faith & Freedom Coalition — aims to mobilize conservative religious voters and has been a significant force in promoting Christian nationalist ideologies, particularly in electoral politics.
The Family — Also known as The Fellowship, this organization is a Christian association that has been criticized for its secretive nature and influence on American politicians. It is often associated with Christian nationalist agendas.
Family Christian Academy (FCA) — a private religious academy offering a “Christ-centered” curriculum and the teaching of a “biblical worldview.”
Family Life Radio — Family Life Radio is a Christian radio network broadcasting contemporary Christian music and Christian talk radoi programming across the United States.
Family Policy Alliance — The Family Policy Alliance is a conservative Christian organization in the United States that advocates for various policy issues from a faith-based perspective. It focuses on issues such as religious freedom, anti-abortion policies, and the promotion of the traditional family structure (aka Strict Father Morality).
Family Policy Councils — Family Policy Councils in the United States are typically conservative organizations at the state level that focus on lobbying and advocating for policies they believe support family values. These councils often address issues like gay marriage, parental rights, religious liberty, and anti-abortion initiatives.
Family Research Council (FRC) — The FRC is a prominent conservative Christian group that advocates for policies they believe uphold traditional family values. It is influential in right-wing politics, often shaping public debate on social issues.
Family Worship Center — Associated with the ministry of televangelist Jimmy Swaggart, the organization reflects his blend of evangelical worship and conservative family values.
Fellowship Foundation — Also known as “The Fellowship” or “The Family,” this is a religiously-oriented group that operates the National Prayer Breakfast in Washington, D.C. It is known for its influence on American politics, fostering relationships among political, business, and religious leaders.
Reverend Wilber Fisk — An influential 19th-century Methodist educator and theologian, remembered for his strong advocacy for Methodist doctrine and education. His work has inspired many current Christian nationalist groups and ideologies.
Tami Fitzgerald — Fitzgerald is a contemporary figure known for her conservative activism, particularly in North Carolina, where she has been a prominent voice on issues like gay marriage and gender, reflecting broader right-wing advocacy trends.
Florida Family Action — This is an organization that works at the state level in Florida, engaging in grassroots lobbying and electoral involvement to promote conservative values on social issues.
Florida Family Action PAC — The political action committee of the Florida Family Action, this group supports candidates and initiatives in Florida that align with its conservative, family-centered policy goals.
Florida Family Policy Council — This council operates in Florida, advocating for conservative social policies. It’s part of a network of state-based conservative policy groups with similar aims.
Focus on the Family — A well-known evangelical organization based in Colorado Springs, it promotes conservative policies related to family structure and parenting, and is a major producer of Christian-themed media content.
Foster Friess — Friess was a prominent conservative donor and philanthropist, who financially supported various Republican candidates and causes aligned with right-wing politics until his death in 2021.
Free Congress Foundation — Founded by Paul Weyrich, this think tank historically has been instrumental in promoting conservative legislative agendas and played a pivotal role in the development of conservative strategies and policies.
Lynn Friess — Lynn Friess is the widow of Foster Friess and has continued to be active in philanthropy and conservative causes, supporting various initiatives that align with her and her late husband’s values, particularly in the realms of education, Christian outreach, and family services.
Jim Garlow — A pastor and author, Garlow is a notable figure in conservative Christian circles, known for his advocacy on traditional marriage and anti-abortion issues, and has been a key influence in the intersection of faith and politics.
Rosemary Schindler Garlow — A speaker and activist, she is married to Jim Garlow, and is also a distant relative of Oskar Schindler. She is involved in Christian ministry work and advocacy, often in conjunction with her husband’s activities.
W. Barry Garrett
Godspeak Calvary Chapel — Non-denominational church in California that gained attention in conservative media for its defiance of public health orders during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Barry Goldwater — Known as the “father of modern conservatism,” Goldwater was a five-term U.S. Senator from Arizona and the 1964 Republican nominee for President. His libertarian-leaning conservative philosophy laid the foundation for the conservative resurgence in the following decades.
Peggy Goldwater — As the wife of Barry Goldwater, Peggy Goldwater was a supportive figure in his political career. While less politically active herself, she played a role in the personal side of the conservative movement during her husband’s career.
Grace Community Church, Sun Valley — A prominent evangelical church in California, led by Pastor John MacArthur. It is known for its conservative theological stance and has been influential in evangelical Christian circles.
Billy Graham — Reverend Billy Graham was one of the most influential Christian evangelists of the 20th century, serving as a spiritual advisor to multiple U.S. presidents and preaching to millions globally, with a message that was generally hard-lined conservative.
The Green family — Best known for founding Hobby Lobby, the Green family is prominent in conservative circles for their Christian faith and legal battles over religious freedom and opposition to certain provisions of the Affordable Care Act.
Ken Ham — a young-earth creationist and the founder of Answers in Genesis, the Creation Museum, and the Ark Encounter. Ham is a significant figure in promoting a literal interpretation of the Bible and opposing evolutionary theory, which is often referenced in conservative Christian education debates.
Abraham Hamilton III — host of American Family Radio‘s “Hamilton Corner” who described the 2017 mass shooting in Las Vegas as “Satan’s work” that was “immune to legislation.” He went on to claim that the Democrats were “exploiting” the victims by calling for hearings on gun control
Carl F. H. Henry — a prominent American evangelical theologian and a key figure in the neo-evangelical movement, advocating for evangelical engagement with broader culture while maintaining orthodox Christian theology who played a vital role in shaping evangelical thought in the 20th century. Henry’s influence continues through his foundational role in institutions like Fuller Theological Seminary and Christianity Today magazine.
Heritage Foundation — a prominent conservative think tank in Washington, D.C., established in 1973. It focuses on promoting conservative public policies based on principles like free enterprise, limited government, individual freedom, traditional values, and strong national defense. The foundation has significantly influenced American politics and policy through research, policy recommendations, and influencing decision-makers, making it a key player in shaping U.S. conservative policy.
The Hillsdale Collegian
A. A. Hodge
John Henry Hopkins
Sarah Huckabee Sanders — currently the sitting governor of Arkansas
What are the signs of fascism? And what is fascism? Fascism is a complex and multi-faceted ideology that can manifest in various ways, making it challenging to pin down with a single definition. However, there are certain signs, traits, tactics, and behaviors that are commonly associated with it. Here’s an overview:
Authoritarianism: Fascism is inherently authoritarian, advocating for a centralized power structure, often under a single charismatic leader.
Nationalism: Extreme nationalism is a hallmark, often coupled with the belief in the inherent superiority of one’s own nation over others — a form of collective narcissism.
Militarism: A strong emphasis on military power and aggression as a means to achieve national objectives is common. Many fascists are former military and/or current militia members.
Anti-Intellectualism: Fascist regimes often distrust intellectuals and experts, preferring emotion and popular sentiment. Railing against the “Eastern elite” is a common refrain.
Xenophobia and Racism: There’s often a strong element of fear or hatred towards outsiders or people considered “different.”
Traditionalism: A romanticized, mythologized view of the past and a desire to return to so-called “traditional” values.
Anti-Communism: A strong opposition to left-wing ideologies, particularly communism and socialism.
Propaganda: The use of propaganda to manipulate public opinion is rampant in fascist regimes. Often, conspiracy theories are used to whip up strong emotion quickly.
Suppression of Dissent: Any form of opposition is often met with severe punishment, including imprisonment or even death.
Cult of Personality: Leaders often build a cult of personality around themselves, portraying themselves as the saviors of the nation.
Scapegoating: Blaming societal problems on a particular group, often minorities, to divert attention from real issues. One of the oldest examples is antisemitism.
Control Over Media: The media is often state-controlled or heavily influenced to propagate the regime’s messages.
Political Violence: The use of violence, or the threat thereof, is common to intimidate opposition and enforce policies.
Behaviors and Beliefs
Dogmatic Beliefs: A refusal to consider alternative viewpoints or engage in constructive debate.
Manipulation of History: Rewriting, distorting, or hiding historical facts to suit the regime’s preferred narrative.
Secrecy and Surveillance: A lack of transparency and an emphasis on surveillance to monitor citizens.
Economic Control: Often, there’s a form of state capitalism where the government controls key industries.
Social Darwinism: A belief in the survival of the fittest, often used to justify social inequality.
Identifying a Fascist
Identifying someone as a fascist can be complex due to the ideology’s fluid nature. However, if an individual strongly exhibits many of the traits, tactics, and behaviors listed above, it could be a sign. Fascism is a multi-dimensional ideology that can manifest in various ways but generally includes authoritarianism, extreme nationalism, and a range of tactics aimed at maintaining power. Understanding these signs is crucial for recognizing and combating the rise of fascist ideologies.
In a world of increasing disinformation, it’s more important than ever to be armed with actual information. And being curious about the meaning, nature, and origins of things is a rewarding journey in and of itself.
Think of these dictionaries as tools for your mind — they can help you make connections between concepts, understand the terminology being used in the media and all around you, and feel less lost in a sea of dizzying complexity and rapid change. A fantastic vocabulary also helps you connect with people near and far — as well as get outside your comfort zone and learn something new.
This section includes dictionaries and definitions of important terms in important realms — and is continually being built out. Stay tuned!
Authoritarianism is a political system where a single leader or a small group holds significant power, often without the consent of the governed. Decisions are made by authorities without public input, and individual freedoms and democratic principles are usually suppressed. The government may control various aspects of life, including media and the economy, without checks and balances. This leads to a concentration of power that can foster corruption and human rights abuses. In an authoritarian regime, obedience to the authorities is often emphasized over personal liberties and democratic participation.
What is fascism? Fascism is a far-right political ideology that emerged in the early 20th century, primarily in Italy under Benito Mussolini. It advocates for a centralized, authoritarian government, often led by a dictatorial figure, and places a strong emphasis on nationalism and, sometimes, racial purity. Fascism rejects liberal democracy, socialism, and communism, instead promoting a form of radical authoritarian ultranationalism. It often involves the suppression of dissent, the glorification of war and violence, and the demonization of perceived enemies, whether they be internal or external.
Historical context of fascism
Fascism gained prominence in the aftermath of World War I, a period marked by social upheaval, economic instability, and a crisis of traditional values. Mussolini’s Italy was the birthplace of fascism, but the ideology found its most extreme and devastating expression in Nazi Germany under Adolf Hitler. The Holocaust, the invasion of multiple countries, and the atrocities committed during World War II, including genocide, are dark chapters directly associated with fascist ideology. After the war, fascism was discredited but not eradicated. Various forms of neo-fascism, far-right, and alt-right ideologies have emerged in different parts of the world, although they often avoid the label of “fascism” due to its historical baggage.
Psychology of adherents
Understanding the psychology of those who adhere to fascist ideologies can be challenging but is crucial for a comprehensive view. Several factors contribute to the appeal of fascism:
Social Identity: People often gravitate towards ideologies that offer a strong sense of community and identity. Fascism’s emphasis on nationalism and often ethnocentrism can be attractive to those feeling alienated or marginalized.
Economic Insecurity: Fascism often gains traction during times of economic uncertainty. The promise of stability and prosperity can be enticing to those who feel left behind by other political systems.
Desire for Order: The authoritarian nature of fascism can appeal to those who value social order and are willing to trade off democratic freedoms for promised or perceived safety and stability.
Charismatic Leadership: Fascist movements often rely on charismatic leaders who can galvanize public sentiment and offer simplistic solutions to complex problems. So do cults.
What is fascism? Fascism is a far-right ideology that has had a profound impact on global history and continues to exist in various forms today. Its appeal lies in its ability to offer simple solutions to complex problems, often at the expense of individual freedoms and ethical considerations. Understanding the historical and psychological factors that contribute to the rise of fascism is crucial for recognizing and combating it in the modern world — where it is once again on the rise.
Fascism is a specific type of authoritarianism. Both are forms of government characterized by tightly centralized power, either under a sole dictatorship / demagogue or a small cadre of rulers — typically of wealthy oligarchs — where rule is absolute and the vast majority of people have little say in policy-making or national events. Identifying authoritarianism vs. fascism isn’t always a clearcut distinction, particularly given that one of the hallmarks of fascism is often that fascist leaders tend to conceal or hide their ideological aims until they achieve power and sometimes even beyond — so as not to alert the public to their true plans until it’s too late for people to fight back.
Under both authoritarianism and fascism, there is little or no political freedom and few (if any) individual rights. Authoritarian governments often use force or coercion to maintain control, dissent is typically suppressed, and political violence is tacitly encouraged so long as it is in support of the ruling regime.
Fascism is one type of authoritarian political system
Fascism is a type of authoritarianism with distinct ideological features that emerged in the early 20th century. In addition to the core characteristics of authoritarian government, fascism is typified by extreme nationalism, a belief in the superiority of one’s own race or nation (a form of collective narcissism), and propaganda about both a mythical past and a promised utopian future. The idea of hierarchy is central to fascist mythology, with a core belief in a “natural” social hierarchy that — curiously — must be maintained by force.
Fascist regimes often promote aggressive foreign policies and use violence and intimidation to suppress opposing views. Other key features of fascism include a cult of personality around the leader, a focus on traditional values, and the use of propaganda to control public opinion.
Fascist regimes of the 20th century
Italy (1922-1943): Italy was the birthplace of fascism, and under the leadership of Benito Mussolini, it became the first fascist regime in the world. Mussolini and his National Fascist Party came to power in 1922, and ruled Italy as a one-party state until he was deposed in 1943.
Spain (1939-1975): After a bloody civil war, General Francisco Franco established a fascist dictatorship in Spain in 1939. Franco’s regime was characterized by authoritarianism, repression, and a focus on traditional Catholic values.
Portugal (1932-1974): Portugal was ruled by a fascist regime under the Estado Novo (New State) government, led by Antonio de Oliveira Salazar, from 1932 until 1974. The Estado Novo government was characterized by authoritarianism, nationalism, and corporatism.
Romania (1940-1944): Ion Antonescu, a military dictator and fascist sympathizer, came to power in Romania in 1940. Antonescu’s regime was characterized by anti-Semitism, political repression, and a close alliance with Nazi Germany.
Hungary (1944-1945): Hungary was ruled by a fascist government under Ferenc Szálasi and the Arrow Cross Party from 1944 until the end of World War II. The Arrow Cross regime was known for its extreme anti-Semitism and brutality.
The cognitive dissonance of fascist ideology
One of the many things I find problematic about fascism’s core belief system is its insistence on enforcing a “natural” social hierarchy. Personally, I find this to be something I call a “self-evident falsehood” — because if the social hierarchy were really natural, it would not require force to maintain it. It would exist in a state of natural equilibrium that does not require the expenditure of effort.
Applying violence and coercion to a population requires a considerable amount of work, and work comes at a cost — a cost factor that is both an unnecessary waste and a destabilizing force acting on society. Those who claim today in America to be upholding the nation’s “original ideals” would do well to remember the self-evident truths we fought a Revolution over: “that all men are created equal.”
Authoritarian regimes in world history
Authoritarianism is an older and more prevalent form of government than fascism, given its origins over 2000 years ago with the Roman Empire. Some of the most notable authoritarian regimes are as follows:
The Roman Empire (27 BC – 476 AD): The Roman Empire was a vast and powerful empire that was ruled by an authoritarian government, after Julius Caesar overthrew the Roman Republic shortly before the turn of the millennium in 27 BC. After his son Octavian emerged victorious from a series of civil wars that followed, a succession of Roman emperors who had almost unlimited power ruled the Empire, and dissent was often suppressed with violence.
The Mongol Empire (1206-1368): The Mongol Empire was one of the largest empires in history, and it was ruled by a series of authoritarian leaders who conquered and subjugated vast territories across Asia, Europe, and the Middle East — most notably Genghis Khan.
The Ottoman Empire (1299-1922): The Ottoman Empire was a vast and powerful Islamic empire that was ruled by a series of sultans who held absolute power over their subjects.
The Soviet Union (1917-1991): The Soviet Union was a communist state that was ruled by the Communist Party and its leaders, including Joseph Stalin. The Soviet regime was characterized by totalitarianism, repression, and the suppression of political dissent.
China under Mao Zedong (1949-1976): Mao Zedong was the founder of the People’s Republic of China and the leader of the Chinese Communist Party. During his rule, China was transformed into a socialist state, but the regime was also characterized by repression, mass killings, and the suppression of political dissent.
North Korea (1948-present): North Korea is a communist state that is ruled by the Workers’ Party of Korea and its leader, currently Kim Jong-un. The North Korean regime is known for its extreme repression, propaganda, and human rights abuses.
Racists tend to see democracy itself as a conspiracy against white people, thanks in large part to the Lost Cause Religion that sprouted up after the South lost the Civil War and had to live with themselves after destroying their economy and stature for immoral ends. Authoritarians tend to get very agitated by diversity and difference. White nationalism is the Venn diagram between these two groups.
White nationalist ideology gained renewed attention in the late 20th and early 21st centuries, often manifesting through hate groups, online forums, and political movements. White nationalists argue for policies that would establish or maintain a white majority in the country, often opposing immigration from non-European countries and advocating for policies that they believe would preserve white culture. These views are widely considered to be based on racial prejudices and are often associated with hate crimes and domestic terrorism.
Prominent white nationalists
With the emergence of the alt-right and neoreaction groups espousing flavors of accelerationism during the Trump era, a host of white nationalists have come out of the closet and said the quiet parts out loud. Here are a few figures to watch out for:
A dictionary of Christian nationalism terms, to be curated and added to over time:
born-again — within Christian nationalism, being born-again is not just a private spiritual matter but also a call to action to bring about a nation that aligns with specific Christian principles. The born-again experience is thus politicized, serving as a catalyst for engaging in activities aimed at shaping national identity, policy, and governance in accordance with a particular Christian worldview.
cheap grace — cheap grace refers to the concept of receiving forgiveness and moral absolution without any personal cost or commitment to ethical transformation. It’s often criticized for reducing the complexities of faith and morality to a simplistic transaction, undermining the depth and rigor of spiritual practice.
City Upon a Hill — The phrase “city upon a hill” is often invoked in conservative discourse to emphasize America’s role as a beacon of freedom, democracy, and moral leadership for the world. Originating from a sermon by Puritan leader John Winthrop in 1630, the term has been adapted to advocate for a vision of American exceptionalism and the importance of upholding traditional values.
Conservative Resurgence — historical period in the late 1970s and early 80s that started to reverse the trend backwards from the political and economic philosophies of the New Deal, and away from church liberalization efforts and towards a more hardline, fundamentalist approach complete with purges of moderates
culture war — The term “culture war” refers to the ideological and social conflicts that arise when different groups clash over issues like religion, morality, politics, and social norms. These battles often manifest in debates over topics such as LGBTQ+ rights, abortion, immigration, and the role of government, and they can deeply influence public opinion and policy.
“defense of marriage”
family values — “family values” often refers to a set of traditional beliefs that emphasize the importance of the nuclear family, marital fidelity, and conservative religious principles. These values are seen as the bedrock of a stable society and are often contrasted with more progressive or liberal social norms.
holy ghost — one of the three persons of the Holy Trinity; believed to be the active presence of God in the world today. The Holy Ghost is often associated with guiding believers, empowering them with spiritual gifts, and serving as a comforter or advocate.
i360 — Charles Koch’s massive database of 230 million voters and their intimate demographic data, deployed for use in a wide range of Republican campaigns
The Johnson Amendment
liturgy — Liturgy refers to the prescribed set of rituals, prayers, and ceremonies that make up the formal public worship in religious traditions, particularly in Christianity. It serves as a structured framework that guides the communal expression of faith and devotion.
love thy neighbor
the “natural family”
The New International Version (NIV) Bible
the New Right
The New Testament
The Old Testament
party of character
proselytizing — Proselytizing refers to the act of attempting to convert someone to a particular religion, belief system, or ideology. It often involves persuasive techniques and may be carried out through various means such as one-on-one conversations, literature distribution, or public speaking.
Strict Father Morality is a term coined by cognitive linguist George Lakoff to describe a type of moral worldview that centers on the values of authority, discipline, and individual responsibility. This worldview is often associated with conservative political and social positions, and is often contrasted with a more nurturing and empathetic worldview that Lakoff refers to as the “Nurturant Parent” model — more closely aligned to a liberal and progressive worldview.
At the core of the Strict Father Morality worldview is the belief that the world is a fundamentally dangerous and competitive place, and that individuals must be prepared to compete and succeed in order to survive and thrive. In this worldview, the father is seen as the ultimate authority figure, responsible for providing for and protecting his family, and for instilling the discipline and self-control necessary for success in life.
This patriarchal worldview is rooted in a traditional understanding of gender roles, where men are seen as the primary breadwinners and protectors, while women are seen as nurturing caregivers. This gendered division of labor is seen as necessary for the survival and flourishing of the family unit, and deviations from traditional gender roles are often viewed with suspicion or even hostility.
Christianity and Strict Father Morality
Central to the Strict Father Morality worldview is the idea that success is the result of hard work, self-discipline, and personal responsibility. Those who succeed in life are seen as having earned their success through their own efforts, while those who struggle or fail are seen as having brought it upon themselves through a lack of discipline or effort. This ideology is a derivative of the Protestant work ethic identified by sociologist Max Weber as one of the core animating worldviews behind fervent belief in capitalism.
Black and white thinking and Strict Father Morality
Another important aspect of Strict Father Morality is the belief in moral absolutes and the importance of maintaining a strong moral code. This includes a belief in the importance of law and order, and the need to punish those who break the law. In this worldview, moral relativism is seen as a dangerous threat to the stability and order of society, and the preservation of traditional values is seen as essential to maintaining social cohesion and stability.
Critics of Strict Father Morality argue that it is overly simplistic and ignores the complexity of human experience. They argue that the overemphasis on blaming individuals for their circumstances is a form of victim blaming, and can encourage a lack of empathy for those who face systemic barriers to success. They note the similarity of the entire ideology to a type of black and white thinking, and also argue that the traditional gender roles and emphasis on hierarchy and authority can lead to authoritarianism and intolerance.
Strict Father Morality is also seen as being aligned with sexism, racism, and bigotry in general. It’s associated with ideas long ago debunked, dispelled, or defeated as poor ways of viewing and interacting with the world — due to basic inaccuracy.
In summary, Strict Father Morality is a moral worldview that emphasizes the values of authority, hierarchy, discipline, and limited government involvement, and is rooted in a traditional understanding of gender roles and moral absolutes. While this worldview can provide a sense of security and stability, it has been criticized for its oversimplification of human experience and its potential to usher in authoritarianism and glorify intolerance.
Sometimes our minds play tricks on us. They can convince us that untrue things are true, or vice versa.
Cognitive distortions are bad mental habits. They’re patterns of thinking that tend to be negatively slanted, inaccurate, and often repetitive.
These unhelpful ways of thinking can limit one’s ability to function and excel in the world. Cognitive distortions are linked to anxiety, depression, addiction, and eating disorders. They reinforce negative thinking loops, which tend to compound and worsen over time.
Cognitive distortions are systematic patterns of thought that can lead to inaccurate or irrational conclusions. These distortions often serve as mental traps, skewing our perception of reality and affecting our emotional well-being. Let’s delve into three common types: emotional reasoning, counterfactual thinking, and catastrophizing.
Emotional Reasoning: This distortion involves using one’s emotions as a barometer for truth. For example, if you feel anxious, you might conclude that something bad is going to happen, even if there’s no objective evidence to support that belief. Emotional reasoning can create a self-perpetuating cycle: your emotions validate your distorted thoughts, which in turn intensify your emotions.
Counterfactual Thinking: This involves imagining alternative scenarios that could have occurred but didn’t. While this can be useful for problem-solving and learning, it becomes a cognitive distortion when it leads to excessive rumination and regret. For instance, thinking “If only I had done X, then Y wouldn’t have happened” can make you stuck in a loop of what-ifs, preventing you from moving forward.
Catastrophizing: This is the tendency to imagine the worst possible outcome in any given situation. It’s like always expecting a minor stumble to turn into a catastrophic fall. This distortion can lead to heightened stress and anxiety, as you’re constantly bracing for disaster.
More cognitive distortions
viewing everything in absolute and extremely polarized terms
"nothing good ever happens" or "I'm always behind"
focusing on other people as source of your negative feelings, & refusing to take responsibility for changing yourself; or conversely, blaming yourself harshly for things that were out of your control
belief that disaster will strike no matter what, and that what will happen will be too awful to bear
"What if tragedy strikes?" "What if it happens to me?"
A kind of mental bargaining or longing to live in the alternate timeline where one had made a different decision
"If only I could have done it differently..."
viewing events or people in all-or-nothing terms
claiming that positive things you or others do are trivial, or ignoring good things that have happened to you
letting feelings guide interpretation of reality; a way of judging yourself or your circumstances based on your emotions
"If I feel that way, it must be true"
mentally "filters out" the positive aspects of a situation while magnifying the negative aspects
predicting the future negatively
tendency for decisions to be shaped by inconsequential features of choice problems
belief that one's success in a domain automagically qualifies them to have skills and expertise in other areas
tendency to perceive a relationship between two variables when no relation exists
reject any evidence or arguments that might contradict negative thoughts
tendency when faced with a difficult question of answering an easier question instead, typically without noticing the substitution
belief that good things tend to happen to good people, while bad things tend to happen to bad people
assigning global negative traits to self & others; making a judgment about yourself or someone else as a person, versus seeing the behavior as something they did that doesn't define them as an individual
in assessing the potential amount of risk in a system or decision, mistaking the real randomness of life for the well-defined risk of casinos
a way of imagining you can wish reality into existence through the sheer force of your mind. Part of a child developmental phase that not everyone grows out of.
exaggerating the importance of flaws and problems while minimizing the impact of desirable qualities and achievements
assuming what someone is thinking w/o sufficient evidence; jumping to conclusions
focusing exclusively on negatives & ignoring positives
child development phase where names of objects aren't just symbols but intrinsic parts of the objects. Sometimes called word realism, and related to magical thinking
making a rule or predicting globally negative patterns on the basis of single incident
attributing qualities to external actors or forces that one feels within and either a) wishes to promote and have echoed back to onself, or b) eradicate or squelch from oneself by believing that the quality exists elsewhere, in others, but not in oneself
the tendency to see things only from the point of view of those in charge of our immediate in-groups
a list of ironclad rules one lives and punishes oneself by
"I should exercise more" "I should eat better"
illusion that you know exactly where you're going, knew exactly where you were going in the past, & that others have succeeded in the past by knowing where they were going
academia especially is rife with this one
keep asking series of ?s on prospective events & being unsatisfied with any answers
Logical fallacies are errors in reasoning that occur when arguments are constructed or evaluated. They are deceptive and misleading, often leading to false or weak conclusions. Recognizing and avoiding logical fallacies is essential for critical thinking and effective communication.
These flaws in rhetorical logic can be observed aplenty in modern political and civil discourse. They are among the easiest types of argument to dispel, because their basic type has been discredited and compiled together with other discarded forms of rational persuasion, to make sure that ensuing generations don’t fall for the same tired old unethical ideas.
By understanding and identifying these common logical fallacies, individuals can sharpen their critical thinking skills and engage in more productive, rational discussions. Recognizing fallacies also helps avoid being swayed by deceptive or unsound arguments — which abound in increasing volume thanks to the prevalence of misinformation, disinformation, and disingenuous forms of motivated reasoning.
Types of logical fallacies
There are several types of logical fallacies, each with its own pitfalls. Here are a few examples:
Ad Hominem: This fallacy attacks the person making the argument rather than the argument itself. For instance, dismissing someone’s opinion on climate change because they’re not a scientist is an ad hominem fallacy.
Straw Man: This involves misrepresenting an opponent’s argument to make it easier to attack. If someone argues for better healthcare and is accused of wanting “socialized medicine,” that’s a straw man.
Appeal to Authority: This fallacy relies on the opinion of an “expert” who may not actually be qualified in the relevant field. Just because a celebrity endorses a product doesn’t mean it’s effective.
False Dichotomy: This fallacy presents only two options when, in fact, more exist. For example, stating that “you’re either with us or against us” oversimplifies complex issues.
Slippery Slope: This fallacy argues that a single action will inevitably lead to a series of negative events, without providing evidence for such a chain reaction.
Circular Reasoning: In this fallacy, the conclusion is used as a premise, creating a loop that lacks substantive proof. Saying “I’m trustworthy because I say I am” is an example.
Hasty Generalization: This involves making a broad claim based on insufficient evidence. For instance, meeting two rude people from a city and concluding that everyone from that city is rude is a hasty generalization.
Understanding logical fallacies equips you to dissect arguments critically, making you a more informed participant in discussions. It’s a skill that’s invaluable in both professional and personal settings. Arm yourself with knowledge about this list of logical fallacies:
Example / Notes
ad hominem attack
attacking something about the character of the opposing side, instead of engaging with the argument or offering a critique
using double meanings and language ambiguity to mislead
appeal to a personal, individual observation as relates to the topic in question
often used to dismiss statistical analysis
appeal to authority
using opinion of authority figure or institution in place of an actual argument
appeal to emotion
manipulating emotional response in lieu of valid argument
a huge part of Donald Trump's playbook
appeal to nature
arguing that b/c something is “natural” it is valid / justified / inevitable / good / ideal
appealing to popularity as evidence of validation
Retort: "When everyone once believed the earth was flat — did that make it true?"
begging the question
when conclusion is included in the premise
one form of circular argument (tautology is another)
black or white
presenting two alternative states as the only options, when more possibilities exist
very commonly used by political and media resources as a way to polarize issues
burden of proof
claiming the responsibility lies with someone else to disprove one's claim (& not with the claimant to prove it)
assuming what is true of one part of something must be applied to all parts
presuming that a poorly argued claim, or one in which a fallacy has been made, is wrong
presuming that a real or perceived relationship between things implies causation
putting a tremendous amount of weight on previous events, believing they will influence future outcomes (even when outcome is random)
also a psychological bias
value judging based on where something comes from
asking a question with an assumption built in, so it can't be answered without appearing guilty
claiming a compromise between two extremes must be the truth
the media establishment is often guilty of this for a number of reasons: lack of time for thorough inquiry; need for ratings; available field of pundits and wonks; established programming formats, and so on
no true scotsman
making an appeal to purity as a way to dismiss relevant criticisms or flaws
saying that because a concept or argument is difficult to understand, it can't be true
arguing that a small change or decision will inevitably lead to larger-than-intended (perhaps even disastrous) consequences rapidly
moving goalpost to create exceptions when a claim is shown to be false
misrepresenting someone's argument to make it easier to attack
cherry-picking data to suit an argument, or finding a pattern to fit a presumption
the impending era of big data will increase the prevalence of this type of sheister
avoiding having to engage with criticism by criticizing the accuser
They think of themselves as special; chosen; beyond the fray — rules do not generally apply to them, but oh do they ever to you. They tend to see the world in black and white terms, a Manichaean struggle of hierarchy vs. fairness, with strict social status to abide by and perpetuate — a world of dominance and submission, with themselves at the top.
The higher on the Cluster B scale you go (with psychopathy at the top), the less empathy these individuals possess. Without empathy, there is no basis for forming a conscience. One could say the classic defining hallmark of this group of personality disorders is that the people exhibiting them have little to no conscience. The general consensus from research to date indicates that somewhere between 4-8% of the general population has very weak or no conscience at all — a scary figure when you think of it in terms of being about 1 in 15 of the people you will meet in your lifetime.
Cluster B includes:
Narcissism — This is the root trait of all the Cluster B personality disorders. We all exhibit narcissism to some degree, and it’s a large part of childhood and teen development to learn how to balance it with sociality. As with all life skills, some develop it more or less well — and if the narcissistic phase is never fully outgrown, adults can be emotionally immature in surprising and at times dangerous ways thanks to a kind of profound psychological arrested development. When the self-absorption is so severe as to profoundly disturb aspects of their lives, that is when clinicians might say a person has a narcissistic personality disorder, or NPD. There are several types of narcissism, including covert narcissism and malignant narcissism. Park of the dark triad in psychology, narcissism is often found in conjunction with two other malevolent personality traits: psychopathy, and Machiavellianism.
Borderline — Perhaps best known culturally from the movie Girl, Interrupted (1999), borderline personality disorder of BPD is characterized by intense mood swings, impulse behavior, fear of abandonment, unstable self-image, dissociation, and self-harm. One way to think of BPD is as a sort of failure to form an integrated personality.
Histrionic — The least well-known of Cluster B, histrionic personality is extremely dramatic and over the top, well out of proportion to the magnitude of events or circumstances. They have an overwhelming desire to be noticed, and will behave extremely or inappropriately to get attention.
Sociopath — Sociopathy takes narcissism and adds more sadism into the mix. A narcissist could hurt you and not really care either way, while a sociopath will derive from pleasure from it and often go out of his or her way to cause harm for the purpose of reaping that enjoyment. Though not as unfettered as psychopaths, sociopaths can be prone to violence and criminality at the worst, and are commonly cruel and mean-spirited at best.
Psychopath — The psychopath is the scariest of the Cluster B bunch. Unbelievably horrific folks like Ted Bundy and Hannibal Lecter were almost certainly psychopathic — committing horrific and murderous crimes that have shocked generations in their brutality and stomach-churling details.
Common traits and behaviors:
Projection— blaming others for your own misdeeds. Projection involves attributing one’s own undesirable thoughts, feelings, or motives to another person. It serves as a defense mechanism to avoid confronting or accepting these aspects in oneself.
Scapegoating — blaming the wrong party for a transgression; scapegoating is the practice of unfairly blaming an individual or group for a problem or fault. It often serves to divert attention away from the real issue or to absolve the blamer of responsibility.
Gaslighting— a form of psychological manipulation where the perpetrator tries to make the victim doubt their own perceptions, memories, or sanity. The aim is to gain control or induce confusion.
Stonewalling — refusing to speak or dilvulge information. Stonewalling involves refusing to communicate or cooperate, often in a relationship setting. It serves as a way to avoid conflict or evade responsibility, but it can be damaging to relational dynamics — and is prevalent in Cluster B.
Grandiosity; extremely high self-regard, often out of proportion to actual achievements. Grandiosity is an inflated sense of one’s own importance, skills, or achievements. Often seen in narcissistic personalities, it can manifest as excessive confidence, arrogance, or a belief in one’s own exceptionalism.
Splitting — the tendency to view people or situations as entirely good or entirely bad, with no middle ground. Common in borderline personality disorder, it can lead to unstable relationships and emotional volatility.
Black and white thinking — this cognitive distortion involves viewing situations in extreme, either/or terms. It lacks nuance, often categorizing things as good or bad, right or wrong, with no middle ground. This can limit one’s ability to see alternative perspectives.
Lying — the act of deliberately presenting false information as true. While it can serve various purposes, such as self-preservation or manipulation, it erodes trust and can have significant relational consequences.
Malignant envy — this virulent form of envy is destructive and stems from a desire not just to attain what another has, but also to deprive them of it. It can lead to harmful actions aimed at undermining the envied individual.
Denial — a psychological defense mechanism where one refuses to accept reality or facts, often to protect oneself from painful emotions or situations. It can be both conscious and unconscious. Common in all of us, it is often especially pronounced in Cluster B.
Narcissistic rage — triggered by perceived threats to self-esteem or self-worth, narcissistic rage is an intense, disproportionate anger often aimed at destroying the source of the threat. It can be overt or covert, involving passive-aggressive behavior.
Cruelty — causing physical or emotional harm to others, often deriving pleasure from their suffering. It’s an extreme form of antisocial behavior that can manifest in various ways, from verbal abuse to physical violence.
Bullying — a repeated, intentional act of aggression, often exploiting a power imbalance to intimidate or harm others. It can be physical, verbal, or relational, and occurs in various settings like schools, workplaces, and online.
Sadism — the act of deriving pleasure from inflicting pain, humiliation, or suffering on others. It can be psychological or physical and is considered a concerning trait when it leads to harmful actions.
Word salad— a jumble of words and phrases that lack coherent meaning. Often seen in severe mental disorders, it can also be used manipulatively to evade questions or confuse listeners.
Narcissism is a complex psychological construct that manifests in various forms, each with its own set of characteristics and implications. It actually refers to a range of conditions that fall under the umbrella of Narcissistic Personality Disorder (NPD) — which itself falls under the umbrella of Cluster B.
Grandiose narcissism is the most commonly recognized form — it’s the stereotype of what most people refer to when they think of a narcissist. Individuals with this type exhibit an inflated sense of self-importance, a lack of empathy, and a need for excessive admiration. They often believe they are special and unique, deserving of special treatment. Their self-perception is rarely grounded in reality, leading them to overestimate their abilities and underestimate the contributions of others. This form of narcissism is usually quite visible and can be disruptive in both personal and professional settings.
In contrast to the grandiose type, vulnerable narcissists are sensitive and introverted. They still have a heightened sense of self-importance but are plagued by insecurity and a fear of rejection. Their narcissism serves as a defense mechanism to protect a fragile self-esteem. Unlike grandiose narcissists, they are not outwardly arrogant but may harbor secret fantasies of greatness that they fear will never be realized.
This is a severe form that combines traits of narcissism, antisocial personality disorder, aggression, and sadism. Malignant narcissists are not just self-centered; they are also willing to manipulate or harm others to achieve their goals and often do so repeatedly. They lack remorse and are often deceitful, making them particularly dangerous in relationships and organizational settings.
Social psychologist Erich Fromm, who fled the Nazis in the 1930s, describes the Nazi “quintessence of evil” as an canonical case of malignant narcissism. They are among the most concerning members of Cluster B.
Also known as “closet” or hidden narcissism, this type is less obvious than the grandiose form. Covert narcissists often present as shy, reserved, or self-deprecating. However, they share the same sense of entitlement and lack of empathy as other types. Their narcissism is expressed in more subtle ways, such as passive-aggressiveness or quiet disdain for others.
This type is characterized by a grandiose sense of one’s own altruism. Communal narcissists believe they are the epitome of generosity and kindness. They seek admiration not for their looks or achievements but for their perceived selflessness. However, this is often a façade to garner praise and adoration.
This is not an individual trait but a shared belief within a group that they are exceptional or superior. It can manifest in various settings, from nationalistic fervor to corporate culture. Collective narcissism can be dangerous as it often leads to in-group favoritism and out-group discrimination.
Somatic narcissists are obsessed with their physical appearance or bodily achievements. They may spend excessive time and resources on grooming, exercising, or undergoing cosmetic procedures. Their self-worth is tied to their physicality, and they often seek sexual conquests to validate themselves.
Cerebral narcissists derive their sense of superiority from their intellect rather than their appearance. They consider themselves smarter than everyone else and seek to demonstrate this at every opportunity. They are often dismissive of others’ opinions and intolerant of intellectual disagreement.
This form manifests in the realm of spirituality or religion. Spiritual narcissists believe they have a direct line to a higher power and may consider themselves enlightened or morally superior. They use their spiritual beliefs to justify their actions, even when those actions harm others. Abusive priests and handsy preachers with large hard drives fall into this group.
A relatively new concept, eco-narcissists are individuals who flaunt their environmentally friendly lifestyle for the sake of appearing superior. Their primary concern is not the environment but the social capital gained from appearing conscientious.
Narcissism in politics & political ponerology — Karen Stenner, Bob Altemeyer, Hannah Arendt, Erich Fromm, Łobaczewski, etc.
“Global cabal” is one of several popular conspiracy theories in radical right-wing discourse that refers to a perceived “Jewish conspiracy” behind the international order of institutions like NATO and the UN. There are many euphemisms and alternate names for the same core conspiracy theory alleging the existence of a single group of shadowy people who control world events behind closed doors as clandestine world rulers. It has appeared in many forms, derivatives, and retellings throughout history, from Nazism to one of its latest incarnations: QAnon.
A cabal is a small, usually secretive group that uses its considerable power to establish control over a larger group, or more broadly over society itself. The term is derived from the word kabbalah, a school of thought in Jewish mysticism that is concerned with the essence of God. Thus the concept of a global cabal ruling secretly over the world has deeply anti-Semitic origins, even though a number of its proponents are unfamiliar with the foundations of the idea in anti-Jewish hatred.
Structure and origin of global cabal conspiracy theory
The most basic tenet of the global cabal conspiracy theory genre is that a single group controls everything that happens in the world, but manages to keep that control entirely secret from everyone except those who believe in the global cabal. The identity of the controlling group may be different in different networks of believers: Jewish bankers in the case of the Nazis (emerging out of the anti-Semitic blood libel conspiracy theory), Freemasons, The Illuminati, reptilian lizard people, Democratic pedophiles in the case of QAnon, and so on.
The origins of the global cabal conspiracy trace back to the 18th century, when the Illuminati conspiracy theory began to circulate. The Illuminati conspiracy theory alleged that a secret society of Freemasons was working to overthrow the governments of Europe and establish a New World Order. This conspiracy theory quickly spread to other parts of the world, and it has been used to explain a wide range of events, from the French Revolution to the 9/11 attacks.
Global cabal conspiracies have a predilection for collapsing the distinction between opposites. The Nazis claimed that communism and capitalism were both Jewish plots; conspiracists in America allege that bitter political rivals like the Bushes and the Clintons are actually BFFs in on the “real” story conducted behind the scenes and out of the public eye. The Russian rhetorical tactic of whataboutism is a quintessential manifestation of this phenomenon, wherein the speaker refutes an accusation by stating that other people elsewhere have also done that thing, often people on the accuser’s side or team.
How to deprogram global cabalists
The staying power and allure of conspiracy theories surprises many people — why would anyone want to believe in these far-fetched, over the top ridiculous ideas about how the world works? People believe in conspiracy theories because they offer simple solutions in a complex, overwhelming world. They also offer a sense of superiority and positive self-image by means of collective narcissism — which likewise makes them fragile and prone to insecurities and doubts.
People going through traumatic or epochal life events are especially vulnerable to the power of conspiracy theories. They find comfort and easy social support in the arms of the group of believers, but buy in to the cultish practice of demonizing and dehumanizing the non-believers. Their abrasiveness can make it difficult to approach them about the topic of their belief in conspiracy theory, even if they’re a close family member — sometimes especially if they’re a close family member.
Often the conspiracy theory believer will refuse to read any information from a source that is not in the right-wing echo chamber. If you think they might, however, send them this essay by Yuval Noah Harrari. It’s the best I’ve found to explain the core essence of the “belief system” and the core con of the whole thing.
If they won’t accept information from credible sources, you might find an opening by asking them questions about their beliefs, getting them to talk more about the ideas, and look out for opportunities to ask “frame breaking questions” that address the fundamental flaws of the global cabal theory: that even small numbers of people are difficult to control, much less a whole planet; and that no one can predict the future with a high degree of accuracy.
In reality, there is not one but many conspiracies at work all around us to knit the fabric of history together. James Madison — the architect of the Constitution and the Bill of Rights — called them factions. Many of these conspiracies work directly against one another, and many work entirely independently but pursue some percentage of similar goals in common.
Global cabal conspiracy theory is totalitarian, in the sense that it collapses all of the immense complexity of human existence into billions of puppets pulled by the strings of a very few puppetmasters. Real life is a multiverse — and that can be overwhelming, and confusing.
The anxiety of the modern world can be intense, and conspiracy theories offer a seductively simple relief. But ask your global conspiracist friend or family member whether or not they think there are some things that are too good to be true: like a story about a handful of people causing everything that happens in the world.
Global cabal conspiracies list
Global cabal is part of a broader category of conspiracy theories, which often involve secret or hidden groups working behind the scenes to control events or manipulate public opinion. While these ideas can be intriguing, they are often unsupported by evidence and can lead to misinformation, great misunderstanding, and even political violence.
Here’s a list of other belief systems that are related to or often associated with global cabal conspiracy theories:
Illuminati: A supposed secret society aiming to control world events.
Chemtrails: The belief that aircraft trails contain harmful substances.
Area 51: Associated with UFOs and government secrecy.
False Flag Operations: The idea that governments stage attacks to manipulate public opinion.
MK-Ultra: A real CIA program that has spawned various conspiracy theories.
9/11 Conspiracy Theories: Various theories about the September 11 attacks.
Moon Landing Hoax: The belief that the moon landings were faked.
Reptilian Elite: The idea that shape-shifting reptilian beings control Earth.
HAARP: A research program that has been associated with mind control and weather manipulation theories.
Vaccine Conspiracy Theories: Various theories about the hidden dangers of vaccines.
Zionist Occupied Government (ZOG): Anti-Semitic theories about Jewish control over governments, and a chosen secret cabal of the anti-government white power movement that flourished in the U.S. after the Vietnam War.
Flat Earth Theory: The belief that the Earth is flat, not spherical.
Big Pharma Conspiracy: The idea that pharmaceutical companies suppress natural cures.
Deep State: The belief in a hidden government within the legitimate government.
Satanic Ritual Abuse: The belief in widespread satanic ritual abuse, often linked to elite groups.
QAnon: A wide-ranging conspiracy theory alleging a secret plot against President Trump. The latest incarnation of the global cabal casts Donald Trump in the role of savior from the shadowy group of Democratic pedophiles who run the country and — via NATO and the UN — the world.
Crisis Actors: The belief that events like mass shootings are staged with actors.
The Great Replacement conspiracy theory — white nationalist variant of the global cabal conspiracy, in which the nefarious plot of the shadowy Elites this time is to dilute the white race by allowing sane immigration policy. This stochastic violence strategy is being waged by Rupert Murdoch‘s Fox News via fish stick-heir Tucker Carlson, resulting in directly named ideological inspiration for some of the most heinous mass murders of our time including the Anders Breivik killing of 77 in Oslo, Norway and the assassination of 10 people, mostly Black, in a Buffalo supermarket the shooter chose for its high percentage of Black people. Great Replacement theory is also known as white genocide conspiracy theory.
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.
Two psychologists ended up unlocking important keys to both the mind and to economics. Amos Tversky and Daniel Kahneman created the field of behavioral economics and revolutionized cognitive psychology with the discovery of a set of cognitive and psychological biases that affect our decision-making abilities.
These systematic errors in our thinking and logic affect our everyday choices, behaviors, and evaluations of others. For more on this topic, please also see the Cognitive Distortions and Logical Fallacies data sets.
Heuristics: Mental shortcuts
Psychological biases are often the result of heuristics, which are mental shortcuts that help people make decisions quickly, but sometimes at the expense of accuracy.
One of the most well-known biases is confirmation bias, which is the tendency to search for, interpret, and remember information in a way that confirms one’s pre-existing beliefs or hypotheses. This can lead individuals to ignore or dismiss evidence that challenges their views.
Another common bias is the anchoring effect, where individuals rely too heavily on an initial piece of information, known as the “anchor,” when making decisions. For example, if you are told that a shirt is on sale for $50, down from $100, you might perceive it as a good deal, even if the shirt is not worth $50.
The availability heuristic is a mental shortcut that leads people to overestimate the likelihood of events that are easily recalled. For instance, if someone recently heard about a plane crash, they might overestimate the dangers of flying, even though statistically, it is much safer than driving.
The Dunning-Kruger effect is a cognitive bias where individuals with low ability at a task overestimate their ability. Essentially, they are not skilled enough to recognize their own incompetence. On the flip side, highly competent individuals may underestimate their relative competence.
The halo effect is a type of bias where the perception of one positive trait of a person or thing influences the perception of other traits. For example, if someone is physically attractive, they are often perceived as more intelligent, talented, or kind.
Loss aversion is the tendency to prefer avoiding losses over acquiring equivalent gains. People are generally more upset about losing $20 than they are happy about gaining $20. This bias can lead to risk-averse behavior.
The bandwagon effect refers to the tendency of people to align their beliefs and behaviors with those of a group. This can be seen in various social phenomena such as fashion trends and political movements.
The hindsight bias is the inclination to see events as being more predictable after they have happened. People often believe that they “knew it all along,” which can create overconfidence in their ability to predict events.
These are just a handful of the full list of 30 psychological biases detailed below in the dictionary table. Arm yourself with awareness of these biases, as striving to think critically can help in making more rational and informed decisions.
Psychological biases dictionary
Belief that when we're faced with an ambiguous situation or challenge, that we must take some action vs. doing nothing, whether doing something is a good idea or not (and often quickly, without taking the time to fully examine the problem); also known as "naive interventionism"
sports enthusiasts rooting for their favorite teams are notorious for the superstitious rituals they are in psychological anguish if not able to perform, despite the objective fact that they have no ability whatsoever to affect the outcome (in pop culture, Robert DeNiro's character in Silver Linings Playbook exemplifies this)
Tendency to start from an implicitly suggested reference point when assessing probabilities (the "anchor") and making adjustments to that reference point to reach an estimate
We tend to underestimate the role of feelings of liking & disliking in our judgments and decision-making
Instead of considering risks and benefits independently, individuals with a negative attitude towards nuclear power may consider its benefits as low and risks as high, thereby leading to a more negative risk-benefit correlation than would be evident under conditions without time pressure (Finucane, Alhakami, Slovic, & Johnson, 2000)
Fixating on a value or # that gets compared to everything else, b/c we tend to compare/contrast limited sets of items (aka “relativity trap”) — store sale items take advantage of this (so we compare the new value to the old, but not the old value on its own as a measure of worth)
Tendency to make quick "intuitive" judgments about the size of given categories by the ease with which particular instances/examples of the class come to mind
Similar to groupthink, arising from our built-in desire to fit in and conform, we tend to "go along with the trend" when it becomes apparent to us
Tendency to avoid contact with people or objects viewed as "contaminated" by previous contact with someone or something else viewed as "bad"
Related to/inclusive of magical thinking — believing a person's sweater still carries their "essence," e.g.
We tend to agree w/those who agree with us & avoid associating with those who don't, to avoid the discomfort of cognitive dissonance (the Internet has sadly made this worse)
A formal fallacy that occurs when one believes a specific condition is more probable than a general one
current moment bias
Preference to experience pleasure now, & put off the “pain” til later; lack of ability to imagine ourselves in the future & altering today's behaviors accordingly
Misjudging that the disjunction of two events must be as likely as either of the events individually (as definitionally, via probability theory)
false consensus effect
People tend to overestimate the degree to which the general public shares their beliefs and opinions
potentially related to the availability heuristic, the self-serving bias, and naive realism
Placing too much emphasis on one aspect of an event, outweighing its importance and causing error in judgment
Putting a tremendous amount of weight on previous events, believing they will influence future outcomes (even when outcome is random)
also frequently a logical fallacy
Identifiable Victim Effect
Tendency for people to care deeply about a single, specific tragedy but seem disinterested in vast atrocities affecting thousands or millions of people
more broadly, abstract concepts motivate us less than individual cases (especially when given visual evidence)
Overestimating abilities and values of our immediate group & underestimating that of outgroups (oxytocin plays a role)
The belief that each one of us sees the world objectively, while the people who disagree with us must be either uninformed or irrational
"Everyone is influenced by ideology and self-interest. Except for me. I see things as they are."
We pay more attention to bad news
Reason we're afraid to fly even though it's statistically far more likely to be in a car accident (same way we fear terrorism but not more mundane accidents that are far more likely)
observational selection bias
Suddenly noticing things we didn't notice before & assuming frequency has increased (also contributes to feeling appearance of certain things or events can't be coincidence)
Tendency to believe that good things happen more often than bad things
Systematic tendency toward unrealistic optimism about the time it takes to comple
positive expectation bias
Sense that our luck has to change for the better
Making ourselves feel better after we make crappy decisions (aka Buyer's Stockholm Syndrome)
Assumption that most people think just like us (false consensus bias is related: thinking that others agree with us)
Tendency to ignore statistical facts and use resemblance as a simplifying heuristic to make difficult judgments
Tendency to evaluate ambiguous or complex information in a way that is beneficial to the speaker's interests, as well as to claim responsibility for successes and attribute failures to others or to uncontrollable external factors
shifting baseline syndrome
We tend to use very recent data points in our research (even when more data is available) and thus can miss picking up on some long-term trends
We fear change, so tend to make choices that guarantee things remain the same (& by extension, assume that any other choice will be inferior, or make things worse)
Our desire for the new version of a product or service is acute, even if upgrades are minor & incremental; but the pleasure we get from the new object wears off quickly to leave us back at the original satisfaction baseline