Fascism Definitions

We glibly believed it could never happen here even though we’ve been warned again and again. And in some sense, even though it’s been here all along — hiding in plain sight. It could happen here, and it did, because it’s happened here before. This authoritarianism dictionary collects various “flavors of fascism definitions” and charts the rise of language, ideology, tactics, and historical movements over the modern political period, to arm us with the knowledge we need to understand the tricks of the trade.

For a long time it was convenient to think of authoritarian personality as primarily a European problem, or in any case, a phenomenon that happened elsewhere. We are still waking up (…again) to the scope and depth of the problem, while anti-government groups organize relatively openly and we have yet to see justice for the January 6 attack on our capital. There is much work to be done, and in the meantime we can always continue to educate ourselves about our nation’s history — and the role of slavery, white supremacy, and racism in the shaping of the country and the future class structure of today’s America.

The myth of white innocence is toxic to this understanding. Those who say they “don’t see” race or “don’t want to talk about” race put their white privilege on full display in demanding their right to opt-out of the discussion on race. They’re not interested in having a discussion on race — they’re interested in silencing events like the Tulsa Race Massacre and ensuring we lack the language even to describe the horrors being visited upon human beings by the silencers. The only “discussion” they want to have about the matter is spoken in the words of Smith & Wesson, Chapter AR-15.

American Authoritarianism

White supremacy, in fact, in part inspired Hitler and the Nazis. In turn, the Nazis inspired the original America First movement at the hands of Charles Lindbergh, a notoriously avowed anti-Semite who vociferously opposed America’s involvement in World War II. Lindbergh and the other early movement conservative extremists lost the battle, but the Allies won the war — and — fascism as an ideology was defeated in the popular mind for a goodly while.

But prejudice is a beast that never sleeps — only fitfully slumbers and simmers beneath the surface. It has been rebuilding covertly for years and decades, if it can even be said to have gone away.

I’ll be adding to this authoritarianism dictionary over time, as I can chip away at it and as new words get added to the lexicon. It’s highly encouraging that the American people were able to throw off the would-be dictator Trump, but the Republican party continues to press their seditious aims in his name. They continue to trade on the Confederate ideals long defeated, discredited, and dishonored in this nation. Let’s educate each other on the techniques being used against us by the powerful to limit our frames, and to inhibit our awareness, our choices, and our awareness of our choices.

The hour is late, and we must act with all haste.

Authoritarianism Dictionary

TermTopicDefinition
1st Amendmentgovernment"Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances."
2nd Amendmentgovernment"A well regulated militia, being necessary to the security of a free state, the right of the people to keep and bear arms, shall not be infringed."
13th Amendmentwhite supremacyThe Amendment that put an end to slavery. It was passed by Congress and ratified by 2/3 of the states in 1865.
14th Amendmentwhite supremacyThe second Constitutional Amendment passed following the Civil War, the Fourteenth Amendment granted citizenship to freed African American former slaves, along with equal civil and legal rights as specified in the Constitution.
15th Amendmentwhite supremacyThird and last of the Reconstruction Amendments, the Fifteenth gave African Americans the right to vote -- and prohibited any type of voter discrimination on the basis of race.
19th AmendmentmisogynyThe woman's Suffrage Amendment gave women the right to vote in the United States.
4chanalt-RightA notorious internet message board with an unruly culture capable of trolling, pranks, and crimes.
8chanalt-RightIf 4chan wasn't raw and lawless enough for you, you could try the even more right-wing "free speech"-haven 8chan while it still stood (now 8kun). Described by its founder Frederick Bennan as "if 4chan and reddit had a baby," the site is notorious for incubating Gamergate, which morphed into PizzaGate, which morphed into QAnon -- and for generally being a cesspool of humanity's worst stuff.
8kunalt-RightThe rebranded incarnation of 8chan after being booted offline and haggling with its founder, Frederick Brennan.
abortionreligious extremismThe safe medical procedure for ending a pregnancy.
active measuresRussianA style of political warfare originating in the Soviet Union in the 1920s incorporating spycraft, disinformation, propaganda, sabotage, and destabilization, among other offensive programs targeting the USSR's geopolitical foes including the United States.
ad populumRhetorical fallacy that assumes an opinion shared by the majority is correct -- without consideration of the credentials of the group.
aggrieved entitlementwhite supremacyA term coined by sociologist Michael Kimmel, who documents the perceived emasculation of America's white male uneducated class and their reactionary rage against social justice and marginal groups getting the spotlight.
America's "original sin"white supremacyA reference to the institution of slavery.
amoralabuse & controlWithout morality; without empathy or compassion.
anti-abortionreligious extremismPolitical movement formed in the 1970s to overturn Roe v. Wade, that has become a major pillar of the Republican Party
anti-Communistconspiracy theoryThe Cold War Red Scare was promulgated by Senator Eugene McCarthy with help from lawyer Roy Cohn -- who later famously weaned Donald Trump in his image. The John Birch Society and movement conservatives seethed about ehe enemies within, as middle America set about booming with the Boomers for an entire generation of widely shared prosperity.
anti-intraceptionpsychological warfarePsychologist Theodor Adorno's term for individuals who resist self-reflection and exhibit the absence of looking inward.
anti-racism
anti-taxplutocracyGrover Norquist is a little piggie
armed robberyorganized crimeHolding someone or something up at gunpoint.
Ashe experimentspsychological warfare
ASPDabuse & controlantisocial personality disorder
assassinationparamilitaryThe killing of a head of state or other important figure for political or ideological reasons, as opposed to murder as a crime of passion.
astroturfingpsychological warfarePretending a well organized and financed operation is a grassroots groundswell
authoritarianismgovernment
banality of evil
banana republicplutocracypolitically unstable countries whose economies are monocultures controlled by an oligarchy; puppet states
bandwagon
The Big Lie
birth controlmisogyny
birtherism
bitcoinalt-RightThe original cryptocurrency represents an entirely new form of money; a way to store value digitally usig the blockchain.
Black Codeswhite supremacy
BLMwhite supremacyBlack Lives Matter
BLM (US)governmentBureau of Land Management
blockchainalt-RightDigital ledger of events and transactions that powers cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin.
blood libelconspiracy theory
Blue Checkspsychological warfareReference to Twitter's "verified" feature for certain members, who have satisfied the company that they are who they say they are. Originally the feature was meant to identify the official accounts of news sites and reporters, so it has both an association with -- and a legitimate lineage from -- the media industry.
bolt holeEnd TimesA type of retreat or refuge for those in the survivalist subculture, to be absconded to in case of disaster or apocalypse.
Brooks Brothers RiotSedition Caucus
Brown v. Board of Education (1954)white supremacySupreme Court decision ordering the desegregation of schools. Resistance to the ruling took the form of "states' rights" advocates, among much else.
bug-out location (BOL)End TimesAnother name for a bolt hole or survivalist refuge location.
CalexitSedition CaucusMovement to split the state of Californnia into East and West states
Calvinism
capital gains taxplutocracy
carried-interest taxmore significant for private equity than for hedge fundsa subset of capital gains taxationWarren Buffett’s famous complaint that he is taxed at a lower rate than his secretary: “It offends our values as a nation when an investment manager making fifty million dollars can pay a lower tax rate on her earned income than a teacher making fifty thousand dollars pays on her income.”
cathexisA kind of fusion the people of a nation may claim to feel with the fascist leader.
Citizens United
civil society
Civil Warwhite supremacy
climate change denialism
CloudFlareBig TechA company that protects websites from cyberattacks, it dropped support for 8chan after the mass shooting at a Walmart in El Paso. The shooter had posted his anti-immigrant manifesto on 8chan before the event, another in a series of eerily similar patterned shootings in Christchurch, New Zealand and a San Diego synagogue.
Cluster Babuse & control
collective narcissismabuse & control
Columbine Massacrepolitical violence
Communismgovernment
The Confederacypolitical violence
conscience
conspiracy theorypsychological warfare
convict leasingwhite supremacy
covert narcissistpsychological warfare
Critical Race Theory
critical theory
crocodile tears
crying wolf
cultism
cultsabuse & control
cultural Marxism
dark moneyplutocracy
death cult
deep stateconspiracy theoryNetworks of opposition within governments who undermine the official regime
democratic socialismgovernment
desegregationwhite supremacy
disinformationpsychological warfare
domestic violenceabuse & control
Doomsday ClockEnd Times
double standardmisogyny
down ballotgovernment
doxingabuse & controlResearching and broadcasting personally identifiable information about an individual
Drain the SwampMAGACampaign slogan of Donald Trump during the 2016 presidential contest.
El Paso Walmart shooting
Emancipation Proclamationwhite supremacy
empathy
estate taxplutocracy
"Eternal Rome"Ideology positing Russia as a geopolitical bulwark of conservatism against a weak-kneed West (part of Alexander Dugin's reformulation of Eurasianism theory)
exfiltrationcybersecurityThe removal or copying of data from one server to another without the knowledge of the owner
facial recognitionsurveillance capitalism
Fairness Doctrine1949 FCC policy requiring broadcast networks to present controversial issues important to the public in a non-partisan way, that was repealed under Reagan in 1987.
fake newsdisinformation
false flagRussiancovert operations designed to deceive by appearing as though they are carried out by other entities, groups, or nations than those who actually executed them
fascismgovernment
fellow travellers
fifth column
fifth world warRussiannon-linear war; the war of all against all
filibuster
Financial Crimes Enforcement NEtwork (FinCEN)organized crimeDepartment within the Treasury that handles and maiontains FBAR filings from US persons holding in excess of $10,000 in foreign banks.
FISA Courtorganized crime
FISA warrantorganized crime
fiscal policyplutocracy
flat earthers
Foreign Agents Registration Act (FARA)psychological warfareLegal statute requiring those persons lobbying on behalf of a foreign government or other entity to register such with the U.S. government.
foreign bank account report (FBAR)organized crimeRequired disclosure to the US treasury by persons holding in excess of $10,000 in funds in foreign banks.
forensicslaw enforcement
forever wars
The Frankfurt School
Freedmen's Bureau
FreedomFestConservative evangelical event annually in Las Vegas
Free Speech
free tradeplutocracy
fronto-paralimbic areaPart of the brain associated with empathy, along with the anterior insula
fundamentalism
Gabalt-Right
GamerGatealt-Right
genocide
gift taxplutocracy
"global cabal"conspiracy theoryeuphemism in far-right Russian discourse to refer to a perceived "Jewish conspiracy" behind the international order of institutions like NATO and the EU
globalists
Grand Jury16 to 23 people impaneled to hear evidence from a legal prosecution, and decide if said prosecution has a caseworthy set of evidence to bring charges.
Greensboro Massacrewhite supremacy
Great Awakening
Great Migrationwhite supremacy
Great Societygovernment
greed
Guantanamo
human traffickingorganized crime
hybrid warfarepsychological warfare
hypercapitalism
incelmisogyny"involuntary celibate" -- a male individual who believes society owes him sex
inflationplutocracy
information warfaredisinformation
interest ratesplutocracy
internationalist
interpositionwhite supremacyDubious theory underpinning the idea of states' rights, which is that individual states have veto power over any laws passed by the federal government
Iran-Contra
iron triangleA conspiracy between organized criminals, corrupt government officials, and business leaders to turn the state into a kleptocracy -- or "rule by thieves"
Jim Crow Southwhite supremacy
Johnson Amendmentprosperity gospelAllowed televangelists to funnel tax-free riches into luxury goods and political advocacy
Karenwhite supremacy
kleptocracyLiterally, "rule by thieves" -- a system of government in which the people at the top steal wealth from the nation and its people for themselves and their cronies.
KochtopusplutocracyTerm for the sprawling political machinery of the Kansas-based billionaire Koch Industries inheritees, Charles and David.
kompromatRussiancompromising material on a head of state or other important figure; typically used for blackmail purposes
lamestream mediaalt-Right
liberalismgovernmentPolitical and ethical framework based on individual liberty via human rights and equal protection
literacy tests
lobbyinggovernment
"Lock her up!"MAGA
Logan Actgovernment
Lost Cause religionconspiracy theoryAfter the Civil War, the Confederates never accepted defeat. Instead, they wove a noble victim mythology into white southern Christianity, in an attempt to memory hole the terrorism they'd wrought -- and wished to continue practicing without scrutiny or accountability, thank you very much.
lynchingwhite supremacy
machine learningBig Tech
Mafia stateorganized crimeA systematic corruption of government by organized crime syndicates.
MAGAMAGA"Make America Great Again" -- one of Donald Trump's campaign slogans.
malignant envypsychological warfare
malignant narcissismabuse & control
manospheremisogyny
Marxismgovernment
mental predationabuse & control
#MeToomisogyny
microaggressions
micropenismisogyny
micro-propaganda machineThe “micro-propaganda machine” (MPM) — an influence network that can tailor people’s opinions, emotional reactions, and create “viral” sharing episodes around what should be serious or contemplative issues
minority rule
mirror neurons
misogynymisogyny
MK UltraReportedly a CIA program in the 50s that conducted research into mind control and brainwashing -- its findings were apparently so shocking that the program was shut down and never heard from again.
money launderingorganized crime
narcissismabuse & control
narcissistic collusionabuse & control
natalityHannah Arendt's term, and her most hopefuly theory for the future of humankind -- that it will continually be renewed by the literal birth of new generations of humans to reinterpret the human condition and our existence in the world.
national debtplutocracy
national deficitplutocracy
national security
NDANon-disclosure agreement
neggingabuse & control
neomaniaobsession with the new -- a hallmark of American culture
New Dealgovernment
New Jim Crowwhite supremacy
non-linear warfareRussian
normalcy bias
novichokRussianmilitary-grade nerve agent developed by Russia and used in the poisoning of former FSB agent turned Putin critic Andrei Skripal and his daughter in Lonson in March, 2018
nullificationwhite supremacy
obstruction
Oklahoma City bombing
oligarchyplutocracy
one-party stategovernment
open source intelligenceintelligence
oppointelligenceshort form of opposition research
outrage industrysurveillance capitalism
PAC
Palantirsurveillance capitalism
paralipsisdisinformationA rhetorical device in which the speaker feigns ignorance of the thing he or she is saying; "Saying / not saying" -- it offers a thin veneer of plausible deniability in a naked attempt to escape accountabilitty for saying exactly that.
paralogicpsychological warfare
paranoiaExtreme fear to the point of (or beyond) psychological pathology.
pathocracyorganized crime
patriarchymisogyny
peculiar institutionwhite supremacyslavery
peonagewhite supremacy
plausible deniabilityorganized crime
Plessy v. Fergusongovernment1896
plutocracygovernmentPolitical rule by the rich.
poll tax
ponerologyThe study of evil
populismgovernment
postmodernismdisinformation
post-truthdisinformation
Potemkin villagegovernmentAny structure or facade built expressly for the purpose of making the situation appear more favorable than it really is
Powell MemoplutocracyLewis Powell's 1970s memo to the wealthy white male elite, in anger over the crackdown against tobacco companies, as a call to arms to organize politically against "anti-capitalist" forces
PRabuse & controlpublic relations
previous question ruleA parliamentary rule present in the initial decades of the Senate, borrowed from British law, that allowed the majority proponents of a bill or measure to call an end to debate about the provision with a short warning period of usually about 5 minutes.
Progressive Eragovernment
propagandaabuse & control
prosperity gospel
prosocial behavior
psychopathabuse & control
psyopsRussianPsychological operations
PUAmisogyny"Pick Up Artist" -- a self-styled lothario who helps train other would-be casanovas in his ways of manipulative charm
Pulse Nightclub shooting
race riotswhite supremacy
race warwhite supremacy
rape culturemisogyny
Reagonomicsconspiracy theory
RedditBig Tech
regression
retweetBig TechWhen a Twitter user amplifies the tweet of another, by "retweeting" it out to her or his network
RICO
Right anterior insular cortexPart of the brain associated with empathy; psychopaths have a deficit here
right-wing authoritariangovernment
Roe v. Wade
Ruby Ridgewhite supremacy
running out the clock
RWDSparamilitaryRight-wing Death Squads -- an acronym used by Proud Boys and worn as patches by some members and branches
sadismabuse & control
sadopopulismgovernment
Sandy Hook school shootingabuse & control
Second Wave Feminismmisogyny
Section 230Big Tech
senicide
sexual assaultmisogyny
sexual harassmentmisogyny
shadow profilessurveillance capitalismData that Facebook collects on people who are not members of Facebook, via association with their friends who are
sharecroppingabuse & control
shared reality
show trialsRussian
SignalBig Techencrypted messaging app
sit-ins
SJWwhite supremacySocial Justice Warriors -- used as a pejorative by the alt-Right
socialismgovernment
sociopathyabuse & control
sockpuppet accountsdisinformationFake social media accounts used by trolls for deceptive and covert actions, avoiding culpability for abuse, aggression, death threats, doxxing, and other criminal acts against targets.
SMSBig Techtexting
special interest groupsgovernment
spearphishingcybersecurityAn email designed to appear as if from a trusted source, to solicit information that allows the sender to gain access to an account or network, or installs malware that later enables the sender to gain access to an account or network
spite votergovernment
stand your ground
stochastic terrorismparamilitary
suffragegovernmentThe right to vote, sometimes referred to as "the franchise."
SuperPACgovernment
supremacy
surveillance capitalism
surveillance stateabuse & control
swattingalt-Righthoaxed reports to emergency services intended to provoke a SWAT team response at the target's home; a form of Internet-based attack used by Gamergate, the alt-Right, and other groups and individuals
symbolic violence
tax avoidanceplutocracy
tax fraudorganized crime
tax havensplutocracy
Third Wave Feminismmisogyny
totalismpsychological warfare
total warRussian
trial balloonpsychological warfareInformation put out or leaked to the media to gauge public reaction.
trickle-down economicsconspiracy theory
truth decayconspiracy theory
The Turner Diarieswhite supremacy
Tulsa Race Massacrewhite supremacyA mob of murderous whites descended on the Greenwood neighborhood of Tulsa, dubbed Black Wall Street, and razed it to the ground. They dropped homemade bombs in the first ever domestic aerial attack on American soil. Over three hundred Blacks were murdered and hastily buried or burned. Police and other state officials were complicit; no one was ever charged for the crimes and insurance companies refused to honor Black business owner's claims from the destruction of their livelihood and senseless slaughter of their friends, families, and community.
TwitterBig Tech
Uberman
unmaskingcybersecurityIntelligence protocol redacting American identities from transcripts of foreign intercepts
vast right-wing conspiracy
volcel
Voting Rights Actwhite supremacy
Waco, TXparamilitary
wag the dogabuse & control
wage gapmisogyny
Watergate
watering holecybersecurityhacker attacks that infect entire websites
whataboutismRussianClassic debate tactic of old Soviet apologists to deflect criticism of Soviet policy; whenever an American would levy a critique, the response would be, "What about the bad things America does?"
white collar crimeorganized crime
white nationalismwhite supremacy
women's liberationmisogyny
word salad
World War IWWI gave job opportunities to blacks in the North, causing a great migration -- as well as a backlash and resistance from Southern law enforcement.
World War II
Yes CaliforniaMovement to secede from the US entirely, run by Marcus Ruiz Evans, Louis J. Marinelli

Originalism

Originalism is received wisdom by another name.

It is a way of pseudo-argument privileging one narrow type of political view (conservatism) over all others — a view that we must try to divine the “original” intentions of the Founders in our creation and interpretation of the law.

A view that, by the way, the Founders did not share.

Originalism is an excuse framework for denying people the right to self-govern unless approved of by the white aristocratic elite who fancy themselves the Real Americans, over and above everyone else.

It is based on a kind of paternalism over the Founders, whose “perceived shock” at modernity itself would allegedly disallow almost anything the 340 million modern inhabitants of the United States want to do versus what would have been acceptable to the 2.5 million individuals who declared independence almost 250 years ago.

Originalism is a way of allowing conservative judges to play God. It takes the radical ideas of the Enlightenment in our self-governance and twists them back into a form of “received wisdom” delivered by conservative judges’ religious views — in violation of the First Amendment.

Fundamentalist lawyers, judges, and legal operatives often want to drag “original” back even further — to Biblical law. In both cases, the power grab lies in religious nationalists inserting themselves into the picture as the only interpreters of “God’s will” or “the textualist view” (how convenient!), in which they believe the founding documents were theocratic when they clearly were the opposite of that — the Founders talked about it a lot! And many of them were Deists, famously so.

TL;DR: Originalism is bunk.

Cults and Mind Control Books

Mind control is a type of “psychological technology” used by con artists, cult leaders, and influence peddlers of all stripes to try and modify human behavior, to twist it to one’s own nefarious and usually opaque ends. Also referred to as undue influence, emotional abuse, or thought reform, mind control is a set of techniques designed to hack in to the brain’s cognitive quirks, biases, and numerous psychobiological “opportunities to circumvent rational and critical thought.”

Cults are a specific structure of social organization formed through the application of mind control. There are at least 2 “layers” and often many interstitial rings that draw members ever closer to a hidden agenda lurking at the center — the true purpose of the organization that most of the footsoldiers know nothing about, because they work for one of the many “friendly PR faces” tacked on to the outside of the group to disguise the malignancy within.

Here’s the cult leader playbook:

  1. Position himself (and the group — his extension) as the only safe haven to turn to when afraid: “I alone can fix it!”
  2. Isolate followers from other sources of information — i.e. keep them in the Fox/OANN/Newsmax ecosystem
  3. Arouse fear in the follower — invent invisible boogeymen everywhere! Huge caravans at the border that mysteriously disappear after elections! Evil liberals trying to do their jobs in schools and educate our youth about our history! INFLATION looms as a large spectre every time the left manages to eke out a few pennies from the cold unfeeling hands of the aristocrats!

Rinse; repeat. Stoking fear is “EZ Mode” — it means one of the parties in our two-party system can “de facto secede” from governance by just sitting on the sidelines and heckling all day, waiting for the problems and frustration to boil over so they can harness the abject anger of poor manipulated people into political weaponry, to break their lives on the wheels of history carelessly and for no higher purpose than personal greed and addiction to power, wealth, and status.

This set of books is a lead on how they fuel their political war machine:

Qualities of a Cult Leader

  • Narcissistic — highly self-absorbed, they demand excessive admiration and slavish devotion to their whims.
  • Charismatic — they have a way of grabbing attention, whether positive or negative.
  • Unpredictable — erratic behavior keeps enemies on their toes and fans “on edge” with desire to please Dear Leader.
  • Insatiable drive — it could be status, money, sex, power, or all of the above, but they feel they deserve it more than anyone else on the planet.
  • Lack of conscience — they have no shame and will demand things a decent human being would not.

…remind you of anyone in particular?!

January 6 Attack: A “dagger at the throat of America”

President Biden and Vice President Harris commemorated the 1 year anniversary of the January 6 attack on our democracy with morning speeches and a day of remembrance inside the Capitol rotunda with Representatives and Senators giving a number of moving speeches in their respective chambers. The tone on TV news and blue check Twitter was somber and reflective. The President referred to the violent events of Jan 6, 2021 as a terrorist attack on our democracy, and said that the threat was not yet over — that the perpetrators of that event still hold a “dagger at the throat of America.”

Only two Republicans were present in chambers when the moment of silence was held for the nation’s traumatic experience one year ago — Representative Liz Cheney and her father, Dick Cheney, the former VP and evil villain of the George W. Bush years. That this man — a cartoonish devil from my formative years as a young activist — was, along with his steel-spined force of nature daughter, one half of the lone pair that remained of the pathetic tatters of the once great party of Lincoln.

What do you do if you’re in a 2-party system and one of the parties is just sitting on the sidelines, heckling (and worse!?)? How do you restore confidence in a system that so many people love to hate, to the point of obsession? Will we be able to re-establish a sense of fair play, as Biden called on us to do today in his speech?

The Big Lie is about rewriting history

We don’t need to spend a ton of time peering deeply into discerning motive with seditionists — we can instead understand that for all of them, serving the Big Lie serves a function for them in their lives. It binds them to their tribe, it signals a piece of their “identity,” and it signals loyalty within a tight hierarchy that rewards it — all while managing to serve their highest goal of all: to annoy and intimidate liberals. Like all bullies, their primary animating drive is a self-righteous conviction that “I am RIGHT!” at all times and about all things, and that disagreement is largely punishable by death or, in lieu of that, dark twisted fantasies of death passed off lamely and pathetically as “just joking, coworker!”

For both the populist right-wing base and the plutocratic political class, the Big Lie functions as a “narrative reversal” device. It rewrites the actual story of what happened into its opposite: recasting Trump as the innocent victim of leftist Antifa operatives who wanted to… stop the guy they voted for from being certified the winner?! It makes no sense in the rewrite but it doesn’t matter, because the whole thing is just a prop — a kind of rhetorical Trojan Horse that lets them skate by on a thin veneer of plausible deniability for their nefarious intentions, while continuing to pursue “revenge” for invented crimes that they “make real” through a propaganda engine on a scale that would make Joseph Goebbels weep.

Propaganda is just gaslighting, scaled up — and you can manufacture it cheaply and amplify it cheaply these days on Facebook. It also gains potency through recycling — the oldest conspiracy theories like the antisemitic Blood Libel and the white supremacist Lost Cause mythology have a kind of built-in resonance because they’ve endured for decades and centuries already. They’re deep in the blood and bones of collective memory of certain groups, almost waiting to be activated. It’s like having built-in marketing juice, or pre-existing search engine ranking — it’s easier to piggyback on them because the “recalcitrant” conservative pockets of society still cling fervently to them as simple, soothing stories about the world that sound like a cross between a fairy tale and a Greek myth.

The truth shall make us free

Lies can be so powerful, because they embody our deepest darkest desires — the ones that we daresn’t name except in encrypted chatrooms. Powerful people have a way of weaving lies into myths, by blowing enough hot air into them that they seem to take flight of their own accord. But ultimately the Big Lie is a gossamer dirigible that cannot withstand the flames of Congressional investigation forever. And there is still a chance that the national sentiment could keep shifting in favor of the reality-based rendition of historical events — perhaps rapidly so given the gravity of even the tiniest dangles offered so far by the Jan 6 Committee, which seem to indicate to myself as well as to a number of professional natsec-type folks that Liz Cheney & co. have the proverbial goods on Trump and his merry band of Confederates.

The “dagger at the throat of America” is not hyperbole or exaggeration — Biden is referring to the ongoing effort to cling to the former president’s lies and throw the nation out with the bathwater of butthurt. He’s talking about the continued and amplified efforts at the state level to put laws in place that would allow Republican simple majority legislatures to override the will of the voters and install partisan candidates of their choice, up and down the ballot. The President is talking about the coup continuing in plain sight by an unscrupulous array of bad actors from elected officials at all levels to local power brokers, lobbyists, cynical political operatives, and leeches to power of all kinds. He names a continued threat and his commitment to looking it squarely in the eyes, as leaders should do. As we should do too.

Another resonant historical voice spoke to the power of narrative on Rachel Maddow tonight: Doris Kearns Goodwin, who has both studied and lived history over the past half century and counting, described how the repetition of the authentic story has an inherent power to counter the false narratives currently filling the void of public knowledge. There is so much we yet don’t know about the stories behind the January 6 attack (front of House) and the coup plotting over the course of 2 months (back of House) that was undertaken instead of participating in a peaceful transition — a devastating blow to national security far greater than the breach that had occurred following the Bush v. Gore contest, in which the delay to begin the transition was later named as a key structural weakness in the chain of events leading up to the September 11 attacks in 2001.

It was only 8 months in to the Lesser But Longer Bush’s rein at the beginning of the new millennium, and even though the “lights were blinking red,” everyone at first failed to act and then later dramatically overreacted, in part to try and cover up the earlier hubris of nazel-gazing dereliction. They dragged us hastily into a series of Middle East swagger war quagmires we would not be able to extract ourselves from for another 20 years — until Joe Biden came to town and had no more fucks to give.

We citizens have an important part to play in this narrative war we find ourselves unwittingly cast in: to bear witness. To pay attention, to care about our democracy, understand its fragility, and work diligently and at times urgently to preserve it, recast it, and renew it for each new turn of the wheel. We’re at an inflection point in history, as Biden noted earlier today, and we can ask not what our country can do for us by faithfully telling its story — the true story; the “God’s truth about January 6th, 2021.” He inked a fair bit of this fair history into the historical record via his remarks this day — they carry the most weight of any single individual in this nation or indeed this world. We shouldn’t deify our leaders, but we should hold in some awe, a reverence for the mighty powers they wield. Those powers are only legitimate when they represent the will of the people — no taxation without representation, as the Tea Partyers used to say (having fallen strangely quiet of late).

Let we the people exercise our collective will, and let it be known our intentions and patriotism and adherence to the rule of law. Let us learn to handle our careworn democracy like a treasure that is more than a mere Treasury; as a collection not of mere stories but a rich integrated history; as an unbroken chain of ideals instead of a schizophrenic tennis match between aristocracy and democracy.

Let us tell the truth honestly of our past, and speak directly about where we want to go in the future, as a collective nation. We must agree on a set of rules for playing the game that disallow trying to move the goalposts after the match is over. We must change the filibuster and pass voting rights legislation, or it’s all for nought — and this ~250-year experiment in self-governance will come to a bitter end.

Conspiracy Theory Books

In half a decade we’ve gone from Jeb Bush making a serious run for president to Marjorie Taylor Greene running unopposed and winning a House seat in Georgia. QAnon came seemingly out of nowhere, but taps into a much deeper and older series of conspiracy theories that have surfaced, resurfaced, and been remixed throughout time.

In an increasingly complex world brimming with real-time communication capabilities, the cognitive appeal of easy answers may be stronger than ever before.

Corruption Books

Corruption erodes trust, fairness, and ultimately, the rule of law. A fair playing field is necessary for a thriving democracy. Justice must come for the rich just as she comes for the poor.

Christian Nationalists

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 the modern day movement to establish a Christian theocratic government in America:

  • 700 Club
  • Howard Ahmanson Jr.
  • Awake 88
  • Alexander Acosta
  • Alex Azar
  • Alliance Defending Freedom
  • American College of Pediatricians
  • American Enterprise Institute
  • American Family Association
  • American Family Radio Network
  • American Heritage Girls
  • American Legislative Exchange Council
  • Americans of Faith
  • America Wake Up
  • Robert Arnakis
  • Arlington Group
  • Edward Atsinger III
  • Marcus Bachmann
  • Michele Bachmann
  • Jim Bakker
  • Steven Bannon
  • Baptist Press
  • George Barna
  • David Barton
  • Gary Bauer
  • Glenn Beck
  • David Benham
  • Jason Benham
  • Philip “Flip” Benham
  • Robert J. Billings
  • Dr. Henry Blackaby
  • Sen Marsha Blackburn (R-TN)
  • Morton Blackwell
  • Bob Jones University
  • Bolthouse Foundation
  • Dick Bott
  • Bott Radio Network
  • Lt. Gen. William Boykin (ret.)
  • Lynde and Harry Bradley Foundation
  • Bob Branch
  • Lincoln Brewster
  • Jim Bridenstine
  • Harold O. J. Brown
  • Brown v. Board of Education
  • Pat Buchanan
  • Building a Nation
  • Jonathan Cain
  • Capitol Ministries
  • Cardinal Mindszenty Foundation
  • Ben Carson
  • CBN University
  • A Choice Not an Echo
  • Christian Broadcasting Network (CBN)
  • Christian Coalition
  • Christian homeschooling movement
  • Christian Satellite Network
  • J. C. Church
  • Church United
  • Church Voter Lookup
  • Tom Coburn
  • Mary Colbert
  • Concerned Women for America
  • Conscience and Religious Freedom Division
  • Conservative Caucus
  • Kellyanne Conway
  • Cornwall Alliance for the Stewardship of Creation
  • Council for National Policy
  • Culture Impact Teams (CITs)
  • Jan Crouch
  • Paul Crouch
  • Ted Cruz
  • Dr. Kenyn M. Cureton
  • Robert Lewis Dabney
  • The Daily Signal
  • Marjorie Dannenfelser
  • Jeff Denham
  • Betsy DeVos
  • Richard DeVos
  • Richard DeVos, Sr.
  • James Dobson
  • Mark Drever
  • Karen Rudolph Drollinger
  • Ralph Drollinger
  • Dinesh D’Souza
  • Alan P. Dye
  • Eagle Forum
  • Stuart Epperson
  • Equal Rights Amendment
  • Frank Erb
  • Tony Evans
  • Jerry Falwell
  • Faith & Freedom Coalition
  • The Family
  • Family Christian Academy (FCA)
  • Family Life Radio
  • Family Policy Alliance
  • Family Policy Councils
  • Family Research Council (FRC)
  • Family Worship Center
  • Fellowship Foundation
  • Reverend Wilber Fisk
  • Tami Fitzgerald
  • Florida Family Action
  • Florida Family Action PAC
  • Florida Family Policy Council
  • Focus on the Family
  • Foster Friess
  • Free Congress Foundation
  • Lynn Friess
  • Jim Garlow
  • Rosemary Schindler Garlow
  • W. Barry Garrett
  • Godspeak Calvary Chapel
  • Barry Goldwater
  • Peggy Goldwater
  • Grace Community Church, Sun Valley
  • Billy Graham
  • The Green family
  • Ken Ham
  • 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
  • Mark Harris
  • Kristan Hawkins
  • Carl F. H. Henry
  • Heritage Academy
  • Heritage Action
  • Heritage Foundation
  • Eric Heubeck
  • Rob Hilarides
  • The Hillsdale Collegian
  • Kay Hiramine
  • A. A. Hodge
  • John Henry Hopkins
  • Humanitarian International Services Group (HISG)
  • Nelson Bunker Hunt
  • Institute on Religion and Democracy
  • Larry Jackson
  • David Jeremiah
  • Bob Jones Sr.
  • Bob Jones Univeristy
  • Kingdom Warriors
  • KMMJ
  • C. Everett Koop
  • Ku Klux Klan
  • Beverly LaHaye
  • Tim LaHaye
  • Wayne LaPierre
  • Leonard Leo
  • Liberty University
  • LifeWay Research
  • Elias Loera
  • Nathan Lord
  • Dave Louden
  • Barry Loudermilk
  • John MacArthur
  • Rachel MacNair
  • Danielle Madison
  • March for Life
  • Ed McAteer
  • The Moral Majority
  • Jeanne Mancini
  • Manhattan Declaration
  • Rob McCoy
  • Janet Mefferd
  • Roy Moore
  • Museum of the Bible
  • The Naked Communist
  • Penny Young Nance
  • National Center for Constitutional Studies
  • National Christian Foundation
  • National Conservative Student Conference
  • National Federation of Republican Women
  • National Right to Life Committee
  • Richard John Neuhaus
  • New Christian Right
  • Gary North
  • North Carolina Family Policy Council
  • Michael Novak
  • Old Time Gospel Hour
  • John M. Olin
  • Organicgirl
  • Joel Osteen
  • Sarah Palin
  • “Pastors Briefings”
  • Mike Pence
  • Pentecostals
  • Sonny Perdue
  • Tony Perkins
  • Rick Perry
  • Howard Phillips
  • Buddy Pilgrim
  • Mike Pompeo
  • Art Pope
  • Reverend J. C. Postell
  • POTUS Shield
  • The Power of the Positive Woman
  • Praise Network
  • Tom Price
  • Erik Prince
  • Scott Pruitt
  • Quiverfull movement
  • Oleg Rachkovski
  • Ronald Reagan
  • Ralph Reed
  • Carolyn Richards
  • Road to Majority Conference
  • Pat Robertson
  • Jim Robison
  • Roe v. Wade
  • Rousas Rushdoony
  • Karl Rove
  • John Rustin
  • SAGE Cons
  • Sarah Huckabee Sanders
  • Salem Radio
  • Richard Scaife
  • Jeff Sessions
  • Francis Schaeffer
  • Phyllis Schlafly
  • Alan Sears
  • Jay Sekulow
  • Ben Shapiro
  • W. Cleon Skousen
  • SonLife Broadcasting Network (SBN)
  • SonLife Radio Network
  • Springs Community Church
  • Horatio Robinson Storer
  • R.J. Rushdoony
  • Southern Presbyterian Church
  • Southern Strategy
  • Darla St. Martin
  • Stop ERA
  • Students for Life of America
  • Susan B. Anthony List
  • Donnie Swaggart
  • Gabriel Swaggart
  • Jimmy Swaggart
  • Jimmy Swaggart Bible College (JSBC)
  • Jimmy Swaggart Telecast
  • Bruce Taylor
  • Jeff Taylor
  • Steve Taylor
  • Taylor Farms
  • Thomas Road Baptist Church
  • James Henley Thornwell
  • Robert Tilton
  • “Values Bus”
  • Values Voters Summit
  • Richard Viguerie
  • Young America’s Foundation
  • C. Peter Wagner
  • Chester Ward
  • Washington Watch
  • The Watchmen
  • Doug Wead
  • Well Versed
  • Paul Weyrich
  • Paula White
  • Donald Wildmon
  • Farris Wilks
  • Dan Wilks
  • World Ag Expo
  • World Congress of Families

See also: Christian nationalism terms

Is America a Christian nation? No.

The Founders knew acutely the pains of centuries of religious warfare in modern Europe and resoundingly did not want that for their new nation. Many of them moreover knew religious persecution intimately — some whose families fled the Church of England for fear of being imprisoned, burned at the stake, or worse. Is America a Christian nation? In a historical sense, this may arguably be true — but in a legal and political sense, it is not.

In fact, the people who founded the United States explicitly saw religious zealotry as one of the primary dangers to a democratic republic. They feared demagoguery and the abuse of power that tilts public apparatus towards corrupt private interest. The Founders knew that religion could be a source of strife for the fledgling nation as easily as it could be a strength, and they took great pains to carefully balance the needs of religious expression and non-religious interests in architecting the country.

Here are a few of the ways we know that the nation’s founders were against the idea of theocracy in America:

  • The founding fathers made a conscious break from the European tradition of a national state church.
  • The handful of states who who supported “established churches” abandoned the practice by the mid-19th century.
  • Thomas Jefferson wrote that his Virginia Statute on Religious Freedom was written on behalf of “the Jew and the gentile, the Christian and the Mahometan, the Hindu and the infidel of every denomination.”
  • The Constitution explicitly forbids a religious test for holding foreign office.
  • The First Amendment in the Bill of Rights guarantees that “Congress shall make no law respecting the establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof.”

Republicans ruined the national debt

Mythology has it that “reckless Democratic spending” is to blame for the ballooning of the national debt — though the historical record shows otherwise.

In fact, the conservatives‘ beloved demi-god Ronald Reagan was the first President to skyrocket the debt, thanks to some bunk ideas from an old cocktail napkin that linger to this day — the Republican monetary theory in a nutshell is (I shit you not) that we should take all our pooled tax money and give it to… billionaires. Because, you know, they’re clearly the most qualified people to make decisions affecting the 99% poor people. Supposedly they’re the smartest folks to entrust with our money.

Trickle down, debt up

Except it’s not true, as year after year and study after study shows. Nor for all their finger-waggling at Democrats over the national debt has the GOP turned in a balanced budget since Nixon. Republicans are the most gigantic hypocrites on economics writ large, but particularly so for the national debt — with Reagan, Bush I, Bush II, and Trump all turning in record debt increases, primarily through tax cuts for the wealthy and the Gulf and Afghanistan wars.

Meanwhile, Bill Clinton balanced the budget, created a surplus, and reduced the debt during his 8 years in office, and Obama inherited the deepest recession since the 1929 Great Depression.

The financial crisis of 2008-09, itself caused by the reckless Republican zeal for deregulation — this time of financial derivatives — was a wholly GOP-owned debacle that the next president paid for politically. Nevertheless, President Obama had the debt again on a reduction path as a percentage of GDP — but then Donald “I bankrupted a series of casinos!” Trump oozed his way into the highest office in the land.

It’s weird how “reckless Democratic spending” always happens under Republican administrations!

During the Trump administration, Republicans patted themselves on the back for giving a $2.7 trillion tax cut to billionaires for no reason, while the economy was relatively hot already (after being rescued by Obama). Not only was no progress made on diminishing the debt, but the national debt actually increased (both nominally and as a percentage of GDP) under Trump’s first term even before the sudden arrival of a novel coronavirus caused it to leap into the stratosphere like a 21st century American tech oligarch.

Only when President Biden arrived on the scene and took the helm of fiscal and monetary policy did the national debt begin cooling off once again — all while dramatically and quickly scaling up covid-19 vaccine production and distribution and passing over $3 trillion in Keynesian legislation meant to get the dregs of the middle class reoriented to a place on the map vis-a-vis the 1% once again.

Republican national debt bullshit

I am hereby calling bullshit on Republicans’ crocodile tears over the national debt, which they suddenly remember only when a Democrat is in town and summarily ignore while their guy is in the hot seat burning through cash like it’s going out of style.

We need to have a better collective narrative for Democratic success on the economy. The Republicans are no longer the kings of the economic world — if they ever were. It feels more like smoke and mirrors each passing day, with climate change denial, the Inflationary Boogeyman, and other GOP Greatest Hits playing ad nauseum on the AM social media waves.

Here are at least a few things to remember about the national debt, that Republicans generally get wrong:

  • wars are very expensive
  • booms in social services are expensive too; but not as expensive as wars
  • there is not any perceivable truth in the old GOP party line that Democrats always overspend and Republicans are always thrifty
    • Reagan and both Bushes presided over two of the biggest spikes in public debt in recorded history, outside of FDR who had both the Great Depression and WWII to contend with
    • Clinton, Carter, Johnson, Kennedy, and Truman all decreased the debt
  • be wary of graphs that don’t “normalize” to GNP — it’s an attempt to “lie with statistics” by obfuscating the roles of inflation and the growth of the economy itself
  • there is more than one way to look at and evaluate the level of public debt

Koup Klux Klan: Who is trying to take over America?

It may have seemed like the election of 2016 came out nowhere, and the January 6, 2021 attempted coup event was another deep gash to the fabric of assumption — but in reality, the movement to dismantle America has been working diligently for a long time. Depending on how you count, the current war against the government began in the 1970s after Roe v. Wade, or in the 1960s after the Civil Rights Act, or in the 1950s with the John Birch Society, or in the 1930s with the American fascists, or in the 1870s with the Redemption and Lost Cause Religion, or in the 1840s with the Southern Baptist split, or in the 1790s when we emerged from the Articles of Confederation.

We are facing an unprecedented crisis of democracy under attack by the most current roster of these extremists, hardliners, theocrats, plutocrats, and others of their ilk. The following mind map diagrams the suspects and perpetrators of the Jan 6 coup as we know so far — including the Council for National Policy, the Koch network, Trump and his merry band of organized criminals, the Oath Keepers, Proud Boys, and other right-wing militia groups, rioters who have been arrested in the January 6th probe, persons of interest who have been subpoena’d by the January 6 Committee in the House, and anyone or anything else connected to the ongoing plot to kill America whether near or far in relation. Below the map is a short guide to the basic factions at work in the confusing melodrama of American politics.

Mind map of the sedition diaspora

I’ll be continuing to work on this as information comes out of the various investigations and inquiries into the attempted coup to prevent the peaceful transfer of power, from the January 6 Committee to Merrick’s DOJ, the GA district attorney, NY district attorney, various civil suits, and probably more we don’t even know about yet. You can navigate the full mind map as it grows here:

Geo Coup View

This is the same data set, but visualized by geographic location:

Property vs. People, all the way down

Or capital vs. labor, oligarchs vs. plebes, plutocrats vs. proles, rich vs. poor — however you want to narrate it, the property vs. people struggle continues on in new and old ways, each and ere day.

Here in America, the plutocrats have devised many clever methods of hiding the class struggle behind a race war smokescreen, that is both real and manufactured — instigated, exacerbated, agitated by the likes of schlubby wife abusers like Sloppy Steve Bannon, wrinkly old Palpatines like Rupert Murdoch, and shady kleptocrats like Trump and Putin.

The United States has nursed an underground Confederacy slow burning for centuries, for sociopathic demagogues to tap into and rekindle for cheap and dangerous political power. Like The Terminator, racist and supremacist troglodytes seem always to reconstitute themselves into strange and twisted new forms, from slavery to the Black Codes to sharecropping to convict leasing to Jim Crow to Jim Crow 2.0 — the psychopaths want their homeland.

The political left loves people, and our extremists for the most part destroy capital or property that insurance companies will pay to make shiny and new again — unlike the right wing extremists who bomb federal buildings, killing hundreds of people and costing taxpayers’ money to replace.

Meanwhile, the right wing claims to be the righteous party for its extreme fixation on life before birth, yet its regulation-allergic capitalists destroy people and the natural world more broadly, from factory farming to deforestation, the destruction of habitats, strip-mining and other toxic extraction practices, and on into climate change itself. Being in fact the chief architects of manmade atmospheric devastation, they have managed to make themselves invisible from the deed by simply (wink wink!) denying it exists.

WWJD?!

Certainly, not anything the Republican Party is up to. Jesus would be sad.

Global financial crisis 2008

A national banking crisis in America that eventually spread to threaten economies around the globe, the economic crisis of 2007-8 was precipitated by the financial industry getting deeper and deeper into highly leveraged risk with a specific type of financial product called a subprime mortgage.

The loans were not of very high quality, due to the effects of predatory lending and of companies “pushing their luck” in a deregulated market by knowingly offering mortgage credit to Americans who couldn’t really afford to buy the homes they were encouraged to purchase. Mortgage underwriters were often incentivized with large bonuses for subprime signups, and even relatively well-off home buyers were often shepherded into subprime loans with worse terms than the traditional 30-year mortgages they would have qualified for.

Financial “hot potato”

The mortgages were securitized as complicated new types of assets, re-packaged into large bundles of derivatives to better obscure the sources, and rated far more favorably than warranted by the nation’s credit rating agencies. Sold swiftly around the world and especially here in the U.S. to institutional investors (who manage, among other securities, the pensions and retirement funds of the country), the game of financial “hot potato” ensured that almost no one in the complex chain of exchange had any incentive to take responsibility for the actual solvency of the underlying loans.

Eventually, the bubble popped and the house of cards came tumbling down. The downturn is widely regarded as the worst economic disaster in American history since the Great Depression of the 1930s, brought on by the stock market crash of 1929.

Moral hazard: Does commercial and investment banking under one roof create the wrong incentive?

In post-recovery, much scrutiny remains over the question of whether one specific law — the Glass-Steagall Act of 1933 which separated commercial banking from investment banking in response to the Great Depression — should be reinstated. Following its passage, the U.S. was able to stop the previous historical cycle of banking crises with regularity about every ~15 years:

…Until “stagflation” (high inflation coupled with stagnant growth) plagued the American economy in the 1970s, and the political establishment began to adopt policies heavily influenced by Milton Friedman and the Chicago School of economic thought, which borrowed heavily from an earlier wave of economic philosophy in the 1930s loosely congealed under the term “neoliberalism.” Widespread financial deregulation ensued, leading to the full repeal of Glass-Steagall in 1999. Many economists now point to the deregulation spree as the ultimate cause of the 2007-8 financial crash.


For a great resource on this, check out Matt Taibbi (of Rolling Stone fame)’s book Griftopia: A Story of Bankers, Politicians, and the Most Audacious Power Grab in American History

Inequality

Inequality is the difference in measures of economic well-being between individuals in a group, among groups in a population, or among countries. Also known as economic inequality; inclusive of both income inequality and wealth inequality.

In the United States, the data broadly shows shared economic growth and prosperity in the post-WWII period until the 1970s, when things begin to take a turn: economic growth slowed and income inequality began to increase. For the past 40-50 years, income growth for lower and middle class Americans has stagnated while income growth at the top of the distribution remained growing strongly. Meanwhile as wages have stagnated, costs have risen dramatically, especially in key universal areas like housing, utilities, health care, and education.

Inequality illustrated

Wealth is even more greatly concentrated than income. A recent Oxfam report found that the world’s richest 62 people control as much wealth as the bottom half of the entire population of the planet. In the U.S., the richest 20% of families owned about 89% of the country’s wealth as of 2013 figures.

Those at the top of the wealth distribution who benefit financially from the growing inequality find numerous ways to justify the architecture of the system, and retain much of the power and control over its design. Yet an overwhelming majority of the available historical and present-day data indicates that stark income inequality has wide-ranging negative effects on societies as a whole, from exacerbating social ills to deleterious effects on basic human needs.

Related effects

Further resources

Trump is driving Evangelicals from the flock

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

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

Shrödinger’s Moral Leadership

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

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

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

Essential thinkers on authoritarian personalities

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

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

Top research on authoritarian personalities

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

More foundational thinkers

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