Corruption

The GOP is 3 cults in a trench coat

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

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

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

The 3 Republican cult factions

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

The Wealth Cult

Led by Charles Koch et al, the mostly aging, Boomer crowd who controls much of the US government either directly or indirectly as a donor or operative is starting to panic for one reason or another: the fear of death looming, existential worries about thwarted or unmet ambition, economic turn of the wheel starting to leave their fortunes in decline (with inflation as a common boogie man since the Wall Street Putsch of the 1930s). Much of this crowd inherited the free market ideological zeal of the Austrian School of economics (later, trickle down economics) from their fathers along with their trust fund fortunes that some have squandered (Trump), tread water with (Coors, Scaife), or grown (Koch, DeVos).

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

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

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

And, it is dark indeed.

Wealth cult anchors the trench coat

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

Its story is stealthy and significant.

A bunch of billionaires toast themselves to themselves, by Midjourney

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

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

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

Continue reading Wealth Cult: The oligarchs influencing American politics from the shadows
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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.

Why do people believe in conspiracy theories? In an increasingly complex world of information bombarding us as blinding speed and high volume, the cognitive appeal of easy answers and turnkey “community” may be much stronger than ever before.

List of conspiracy theory books

It’s a deep topic so we’d best get started. If you’ve got an urgent issue with a friend or loved one, start here:

Best for deprogramming a friend:

Escaping the Rabbit Hole: How to Debunk Conspiracy Theories Using Facts, Logic, and Respect — Mick West

More conspiracy theory books:

Order on bookshop.org and thumb your nose at Amazon

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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.

They tend to believe in Strict Father Morality, and desire to establish some sort of Christian fascist theocratic state in America, under the backwards idea that the founders never intended to separate church and state — despite religious freedom and the ability to worship as one pleases being precisely one of the major founding ideals of the United States.

Christian nationalists abstract

Christian nationalists list

Here are some of the people and organizations 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.
  • Awake 88 — A 2008 initiative sponsored by the Family Research Council (FRC) in which J.C. Church visited 2500 churches in all of Ohio’s 88 counties in an effort to turn the state red in the 2008 elections.
  • Alexander AcostaTrump‘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.
gay wedding cake, by Midjourney
  • 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 Family Radio Network (AFR) — A Christian radio network in the U.S.
  • 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.
conservative talk shows and right-wing radio
  • 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.
Jim Bakker, by Midjourney
  • 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.
Steve Bannon, by Midjourney
  • 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.
Glenn Beck is shouting on TV, by Midjourney
  • 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.
Senator Marsha Blackburn from Tennessee, by Midjourney
  • 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.
Christian radio, by Midjourney
  • 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.
gun rights in Arizona and the 2nd Amendment / 2A position
  • 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.
Brown v. Board of Education, by Midjourney
  • 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.
Ben Carson and Donald Trump, by Midjourney
  • 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 since the 1990s.
  • 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.
Kellyanne Conway bloody from the fight, by Midjourney
  • 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 the conservative Christian viewpoints of climate change denialism.
  • 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. TBN has served as a prominent 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.
  • Rafael Cruz — Ted Cruz’s father and an American evangelical preacher.
  • 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” (i.e. allowing parents to use public tax dollars to send their kids to private Christian academies) 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, as well as for advocating corporal punishment for children.
  • 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.
The women behind the Equal Rights Amendment that sent the right-wing shrieking in fear, by Midjourney
  • 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 radio 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.
The National Prayer Breakfast, Donald Trump presiding -- by Midjourney
  • 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 right-wing 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.
Barry Goldwater running for US President, by Midjourney
  • 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.
  • Mark Harris
  • Kristan Hawkins
  • 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 Academy — Heritage Academy is a private Christian school known for its emphasis on providing education based on Christian principles and traditional academic subjects. It aligns with Christian nationalist ideologies in its approach to education, integrating conservative Christian values and teachings into its curriculum and school culture.
Christian academies began sprouting up after the Brown v. Board of Education ruling ending segregation in schools
  • Heritage Action — Heritage Action for America is a conservative advocacy organization and the political action sister organization of the Heritage Foundation. It focuses on promoting conservative policies and legislation, and while not exclusively Christian nationalist, its activities often align with Christian nationalist principles, advocating for policies rooted in conservative Christian values.
  • 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.
  • Eric Heubeck — Eric Heubeck is known for his involvement in conservative political strategy, notably for authoring “The Integration of Theory and Practice: A Program for the New Traditionalist Movement,” which outlines strategies for conservative cultural renewal.
  • Hugh Hewitt — Hugh Hewitt is an American radio talk show host, lawyer, academic, and author, known for his nationally syndicated conservative talk radio show and his contributions as a political commentator.
  • Jack Hibbs — Jack Hibbs is a prominent evangelical pastor and founder of Calvary Chapel Chino Hills in California, known for his teachings and influence in Christian conservative circles.
  • Rob Hilarides
  • The Hillsdale Collegian — The Hillsdale Collegian is the student newspaper of Hillsdale College in Michigan, known for its coverage of campus events and its emphasis on conservative perspectives in higher education.
  • Kay Hiramine
  • A. A. Hodge — Archibald Alexander Hodge (1823–1886) was an American Presbyterian theologian and principal of Princeton Seminary, recognized for his contributions to theological education and the Presbyterian Church.
  • John Henry Hopkins
  • Mike Huckabee — Mike Huckabee is an American politician, Christian minister, author, and commentator, who served as the 44th governor of Arkansas and unsuccessfully sought the Republican presidential nomination in 2008 and 2016.
Mike Huckabee, by Midjourney
  • Sarah Huckabee Sanders — Currently the sitting governor of Arkansas, she is the daughter of Mike Huckabee and the former Press Secretary of the Trump administration.
  • Humanitarian International Services Group (HISG) — HISG is an organization known for its humanitarian efforts with a Christian perspective, often involved in providing aid and support in crisis situations. Their work intertwines humanitarian aid with Christian values, which aligns them with aspects of Christian nationalism.
  • Nelson Bunker Hunt — Nelson Bunker Hunt was an American oil company executive known for his significant involvement in conservative Christian movements. He financially supported various Christian nationalist causes and was a major donor to conservative Christian organizations.
  • Institute on Religion and Democracy — The Institute on Religion and Democracy is a conservative Christian think tank that focuses on promoting their interpretation of Christian ethics within policy and society. They have been influential in advocating for Christian nationalist ideals within the United States.
  • Larry Jackson
  • David Jeremiah — David Jeremiah is a prominent Christian pastor and televangelist known for his evangelical teachings. While his ministry primarily focuses on evangelical Christianity, it occasionally intersects with Christian nationalist ideology.
  • Bob Jones Sr. — Bob Jones Sr. was an American evangelist and the founder of Bob Jones University, a private, non-denominational evangelical university. The university and Jones himself have been associated with conservative Christian ideologies, some of which align with Christian nationalism.
  • Bob Jones University — Bob Jones University is a private, non-denominational evangelical Christian university known for its conservative cultural and religious values. Historically, it has been associated with and influential in promoting conservative Christian ideologies, as well as notorious for continuing to support segregation — and remaining a segregated institution — until 1971.
Bob Jones University, one of many religious institutions in the south that remained segregated long after Brown V. Board of Education in defiance
  • Kingdom Warriors — Kingdom Warriors is a term that can refer to various Christian groups or movements that advocate for applying Christian principles to societal and political life. These groups often align with Christian nationalist ideologies in their efforts to influence culture and politics according to their religious beliefs.
  • KMMJ – KMMJ is a Christian radio station known for broadcasting content that aligns with evangelical Christian values.
  • C. Everett Koop — C. Everett Koop was an American pediatric surgeon and public health administrator, known for serving as the Surgeon General of the United States, and a devout Christian.
  • Ku Klux Klan — The Ku Klux Klan is a white supremacist hate group with a long history of violent extremism. Their ideology often misappropriates Christian symbols and rhetoric to promote their racist agenda.
The KKK loved a good cross burning on a Saturday night
  • Beverly LaHaye — Beverly LaHaye is a Christian conservative activist and founder of Concerned Women for America, a group known for promoting Christian conservative policies. Her work often intersects with Christian nationalist ideologies, advocating for policies based on conservative Christian values.
  • Tim LaHaye — Tim LaHaye was an evangelical Christian minister and author, best known for the “Left Behind” series about the End Times and world-ending apocalypse. His works and ministry often promoted a conservative Christian worldview, aligning at times with Christian nationalist ideologies.
  • Wayne LaPierre — Wayne LaPierre was the CEO and executive vice president of the National Rifle Association (NRA) for many years. While primarily focused on gun rights advocacy, his influence occasionally intersects with Christian nationalist groups that share common conservative values.
  • Bill Lee — Bill Lee, as the Governor of Tennessee, has implemented policies and supported legislation that align with conservative Christian values. His governance reflects aspects of Christian nationalist ideology, emphasizing traditional Christian values in policy-making.
  • Leonard Leo — Leonard Leo is a prominent conservative legal activist, known for his influence in the Federalist Society and the composition of today’s Supreme Court. He plays a significant role in promoting conservative judges, some of whom align with Christian nationalist principles.
  • Mark Levin — Mark Levin is a conservative commentator and radio host, known for his advocacy of conservative policies. While his primary focus is on conservative politics, his viewpoints sometimes resonate with Christian nationalist ideologies.
  • Liberty University — Liberty University is a private evangelical Christian university founded by Jerry Falwell Sr. The university is a major hub for conservative Christian education and activism.
  • LifeWay Research — LifeWay Research is an evangelical Christian research group that provides research and resources for churches. Christian nationalist ideologies guide their work in terms of influencing church and societal policies.
  • Rush Limbaugh — Rush Limbaugh was a conservative radio host and commentator, known for his influential role in conservative media. His advocacy for conservative politics intersected with Christian nationalist ideologies.
Rush Limbaugh on the radio, by Midjourney
  • Elias Loera
  • Nathan Lord
  • Dave Louden
  • Barry Loudermilk — Barry Loudermilk is a U.S. Congressman known for his conservative Christian views. His legislative actions and public statements often reflect Christian nationalist ideologies, advocating for policies based on conservative Christian principles.
  • John MacArthur — John MacArthur is a prominent evangelical pastor and author, known for his conservative theological views.
  • Rachel MacNair — Rachel MacNair is known for her work in the pro-life movement, with a focus on consistent life ethics. While her work is primarily in the anti-abortion arena, it sometimes intersects with Christian nationalist ideologies in terms of advocating for policies based on Christian ethics.
  • Danielle Madison
  • March for Life — The March for Life is an annual event advocating against abortion in the United States. While its primary focus is on anti-abortion activism, the event often draws support from Christian nationalist groups, advocating for policies aligned with conservative Christian values.
  • Ed McAteer — Ed McAteer was known as a leading figure in the Religious Right movement and was influential in mobilizing conservative Christians into political activism. His efforts significantly contributed to the alignment of evangelical Christians with conservative and Christian nationalist ideologies.
  • The Moral Majority — The Moral Majority was a prominent American political organization associated with the Christian right, founded by Jerry Falwell in 1979. It played a significant role in mobilizing conservative Christians into political action, promoting policies aligned with Christian nationalist ideologies.
  • Jeanne Mancini — Jeanne Mancini is known for her role as the President of the March for Life, a major anti-abortion organization in the U.S. Her leadership focuses on advocating for anti-abortion policies, often resonating with Christian nationalist principles.
  • Manhattan Declaration — The Manhattan Declaration is a Christian manifesto issued in 2009, emphasizing the sanctity of life, traditional marriage, and religious freedom. It is supported by various Christian leaders and aligns with Christian nationalist ideologies in its advocacy for public policies based on Christian ethics.
  • Rob McCoy — Rob McCoy is a pastor and former city council member known for his conservative Christian views. His public stance often aligns with Christian nationalist ideologies, emphasizing the integration of Christian values in governance and society.
  • Mark Meadows — Mark Meadows is a former U.S. Congressman and White House Chief of Staff for Donald Trump, known for his conservative and Christian nationalist views. He has been influential in promoting policies that align with Christian nationalist ideologies.
Mark Meadows in front of the Capitol, by Midjourney
  • Mark MecklerTea Party activist and co-funder of Convention of States.
  • Janet Mefferd — Janet Mefferd is a conservative Christian radio host and commentator. Her broadcasts often emphasize conservative Christian viewpoints, aligning with Christian nationalist ideologies in discussions on culture and politics.
  • Roy Moore — Roy Moore is a former Alabama Supreme Court Chief Justice known for his staunch conservative Christian views. His public and professional life has been marked by advocacy for Christian nationalist principles, particularly in legal and political contexts — as well as by controversy, when he was credibly accused by several women of having pursued a romantic relationship with him when they were teenagers and he was in his 30s.
  • Museum of the Bible — The Museum of the Bible in Washington, D.C., is dedicated to the history, narrative, and impact of the Bible. While it presents as an educational institution, its exhibits often align with conservative Christian perspectives, resonating with Christian nationalist ideologies.
  • The Naked Communist — “The Naked Communist” is a book by Cleon Skousen, published in 1958, presenting a critique of communism and its perceived threats to Christian and American values. The book has been influential in conservative and Christian nationalist circles, advocating for anti-communist and conservative Christian ideals.
  • Penny Young Nance — Penny Young Nance is the CEO and President of Concerned Women for America, a Christian conservative advocacy group. Her leadership focuses on promoting policies and viewpoints aligned with Christian nationalist ideologies.
  • National Center for Constitutional Studies — The National Center for Constitutional Studies is an organization known for promoting a conservative interpretation of the U.S. Constitution. Its work often aligns with Christian nationalist principles, advocating for governance and policies based on conservative Christian values.
  • National Christian Foundation — The National Christian Foundation is one of the largest Christian grant-making foundations, supporting a wide range of Christian causes and organizations. Some of its funding goes to groups and initiatives that align with Christian nationalist ideologies.
  • National Conservative Student Conference — This conference, organized by the Young America’s Foundation, gathers conservative students from across the U.S. to engage with conservative ideas, including those aligning with Christian nationalist ideologies.
National Conservative Student Conference, by Midjourney
  • National Federation of Republican Women — This organization is dedicated to empowering and mobilizing women in the Republican Party. Its activities sometimes intersect with Christian nationalist ideologies, particularly in advocating for conservative Christian policies.
  • National Right to Life Committee — The National Right to Life Committee is the oldest and largest national anti-abortion organization in the United States, advocating for pro-life policies. Its advocacy often aligns with Christian nationalist ideologies in its approach to legislative and cultural issues.
  • Richard John Neuhaus — Richard John Neuhaus was a prominent Catholic priest and theologian, known for his influence in the realm of religion and public life. His work often intersected with Christian nationalist ideologies, advocating for the integration of Christian values into public policy.
  • New Christian Right — The New Christian Right is a politically and socially conservative Christian movement that emerged in the late 20th century. This movement is characterized by its advocacy for Christian nationalist ideologies, emphasizing the role of Christianity in American public life.
  • Kristi Noem — Kristi Noem, as the Governor of South Dakota, is known for her conservative policies and alignment with Christian nationalist ideologies. Her governance and public statements often reflect a strong emphasis on traditional Christian values.
  • Gary North — Gary North is an economist, historian, and writer known for his advocacy of Christian Reconstructionism, a theological perspective that advocates the adoption of Biblical law in the United States.
  • North Carolina Family Policy Council — The North Carolina Family Policy Council is a conservative Christian organization focused on promoting family values and policies aligned with conservative Christian ethics. Their advocacy often intersects with Christian nationalist ideologies, emphasizing traditional Christian views in public policy.
  • Michael Novak — Michael Novak was a Catholic philosopher, journalist, and diplomat, known for his writings on capitalism, religion, and democracy. His work, blending Christian theology with democratic capitalism, sometimes resonated with Christian nationalist thought.
  • Old Time Gospel Hour — The Old Time Gospel Hour was a Christian radio and television ministry founded by Jerry Falwell Sr. This program was instrumental in spreading evangelical Christian teachings and often intersected with Christian nationalist ideologies.
  • John M. Olin — John M. Olin was an industrialist and philanthropist, known for funding conservative causes through the John M. Olin Foundation. His contributions significantly supported academic and political endeavors aligned with conservative and Christian nationalist ideologies.
  • Organicgirl — Brand of organic lettuce ultimately owned by a right-wing billionaire
  • Joel Osteen — Joel Osteen is a prominent televangelist and pastor of Lakewood Church, known for his motivational speaking and prosperity gospel teachings.
  • Sarah Palin — Sarah Palin, former Governor of Alaska and Vice Presidential candidate, is known for her conservative Christian views. Her political career and public statements often reflect Christian nationalist ideologies, emphasizing the integration of conservative Christian values into American politics.
Sarah Palin, patriotic drag queen -- by Midjourney
  • “Pastors Briefings”
  • Mike Pence — Mike Pence, former Vice President of the United States, is known for his conservative Christian beliefs and policies. His political career is characterized by advocacy for policies that align with Christian nationalist ideologies.
  • Pentecostals — Pentecostalism is a Christian movement known for its emphasis on the Holy Spirit, spiritual gifts, and vibrant worship. While diverse in its expressions, some segments of the Pentecostal movement intersect with Christian nationalist ideologies, particularly in advocating for the integration of Christian beliefs into public life.
  • Sonny Perdue — Sonny Perdue, former Governor of Georgia and U.S. Secretary of Agriculture, is known for his conservative policies and Christian beliefs. His political career has included support for policies that align with Christian nationalist ideologies.
  • Tony Perkins — Tony Perkins is the president of the Family Research Council, a conservative Christian group known for its advocacy on social and family issues. His leadership and activism are closely aligned with Christian nationalist ideologies, advocating for policies based on conservative Christian values.
  • Rick Perry — Rick Perry, former Governor of Texas and U.S. Secretary of Energy, is known for his conservative Christian beliefs and political career reflecting support for policies that align with Christian nationalist ideologies. He is famous for a gaffe during the Republican presidential primary debate in 2011 where he claimed he would abolish 3 federal agencies but could only name 2 of them.
  • Howard Phillips — Howard Phillips was a conservative political activist, known for founding the Constitution Party, which advocates for a government based on biblical principles. His political ideology and activism were closely aligned with Christian nationalist principles.
  • Buddy Pilgrim
  • Mike Pompeo — Mike Pompeo, former U.S. Secretary of State and CIA Director, is known for his conservative Christian views. His political career and public statements often reflect Christian nationalist ideologies, emphasizing the importance of Christian values in American foreign and domestic policy.
Mike Pompeo, former Secretary of State and all around nauseating dude, by Midjourney
  • Art Pope — Art Pope is a businessman and political donor known for his support of conservative causes and candidates in North Carolina and nationally.
  • Reverend J. C. Postell
  • POTUS Shield — POTUS Shield is a collection of Charismatic Christian leaders who focus on intercessory prayer and prophecy for the United States government and leadership. It aligns with Christian nationalist ideologies, particularly in its support for leaders who uphold conservative Christian values.
  • The Power of the Positive Woman — “The Power of the Positive Woman” is a book by Phyllis Schlafly, advocating for conservative Christian views on women’s roles. The book has been influential in the Christian right, aligning with Christian nationalist ideologies in promoting traditional gender roles.
  • Dennis Prager — Dennis Prager is a conservative radio talk show host and writer known for his religious and conservative viewpoints. His work often resonates with Christian nationalist ideologies, advocating for the integration of Judeo-Christian values into American life.
  • Praise Network — The Praise Network is a group of Christian radio stations broadcasting religious content, often including evangelical and conservative Christian teachings. Its programming sometimes aligns with Christian nationalist ideologies in promoting a Christian worldview.
  • Tom Price — Tom Price is a former U.S. Representative and Secretary of Health and Human Services, known for his conservative policies. His political career has occasionally intersected with Christian nationalist ideologies, particularly in the realm of health policy and religious freedom.
  • Erik Prince — Erik Prince, the founder of the private security and paramilitary firm Blackwater, is known for his conservative Christian views and his support for conservative causes. His views and activities sometimes align with Christian nationalist ideologies, particularly in the context of military and security affairs. He is the brother of Betsy DeVos, Michigan industrialist and Secretary of Education in the Trump administration.
Erik Prince and his Blackwater militia private stooges, by Midjourney
  • Scott Pruitt — Scott Pruitt, former Administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency, is known for his conservative Christian beliefs. His tenure at the EPA ended after less than 2 years, when he resigned as a result of a growing mass of corruption scandals and ethical violations.
  • Quiverfull movement — The Quiverfull movement is a Christian ideology advocating for large families and traditional gender roles, viewing children as a blessing from God.
  • Oleg Rachkovski
  • Ronald Reagan — Ronald Reagan, the 40th President of the United States, was known for incorporating conservative Christian values into his policies and rhetoric. His presidency is often cited as aligning with Christian nationalist ideologies in promoting conservative Christian values in American governance.
  • Ralph Reed — Ralph Reed is the founder of the Faith and Freedom Coalition and was the former executive director of the Christian Coalition. He is a significant figure in Christian nationalist circles, advocating for conservative Christian values in politics.
  • Carolyn Richards
  • Road to Majority Conference — The Road to Majority Conference is an annual event hosted by the Faith and Freedom Coalition, aimed at mobilizing conservative Christians in politics. The conference aligns with Christian nationalist ideologies, focusing on advancing conservative Christian values in governance.
  • Pat Robertson — Pat Robertson was a televangelist, founder of the Christian Broadcasting Network (CBN), and former presidential candidate. He is a major figure in Christian nationalist circles, known for his advocacy of conservative Christian values in American society and politics.
  • Jim Robison
  • Roe v. Wade — Roe v. Wade is the landmark 1973 Supreme Court decision that legalized abortion nationwide. It had been a central focus of opposition in Christian nationalist ideologies, which they successfully advocated for its reversal based on conservative Christian ethics.
  • Rousas Rushdoony — Rousas John Rushdoony was a Calvinist philosopher, historian, and theologian, known as the father of Christian Reconstructionism. His teachings, advocating for the application of biblical law to all areas of life, have significantly influenced Christian nationalist thought.
  • Karl Rove — Karl Rove, a political consultant and strategist, is known for his role in shaping modern conservative politics, particularly during the presidency of George W. Bush.
  • John Rustin
  • SAGE Cons — SAGE Cons (Spiritually Active, Governance Engaged Conservatives) refers to a segment of conservative Christians who are highly engaged in the political process.
  • Salem Radio Group — The Salem Radio Group is a leading broadcaster of Christian and conservative content, operating numerous radio stations across the United States. Its programming often aligns with Christian nationalist ideologies, promoting conservative Christian viewpoints.
  • Richard Mellon Scaife — Richard Mellon Scaife was an American billionaire and publisher, known for funding conservative causes and publications. His philanthropy significantly influenced the growth of conservative and, at times, Christian nationalist ideologies in American politics.
  • Jeff Sessions — Jeff Sessions, former U.S. Attorney General and Senator, is known for his conservative and often Christian-oriented political stance. His policies and public statements often resonate with Christian nationalist ideologies, particularly in the areas of immigration and religious liberty.
Jeff Sessions, by Midjourney
  • Francis Schaeffer — Francis Schaeffer was an influential evangelical theologian and philosopher, known for his writings on Christianity and culture. His work laid a foundation for the Christian right and indirectly influenced Christian nationalist ideologies.
  • Phyllis Schlafly — Phyllis Schlafly was a conservative activist and author, known for her opposition to the feminist movement and her advocacy for conservative Christian values. She was a key figure in the rise of the Christian right, which intersects with Christian nationalist ideologies.
  • Alan Sears — Alan Sears is an attorney and founder of the Alliance Defending Freedom, an organization known for its conservative Christian legal advocacy. His work often aligns with Christian nationalist ideologies, especially in legal battles over religious freedom and traditional values.
  • Jay Sekulow — Jay Sekulow is Chief Counsel for the American Center for Law and Justice (ACLJ), known for his legal advocacy on behalf of conservative Christian causes. His work frequently intersects with Christian nationalist ideologies in defending religious liberties and conservative values in the legal sphere.
  • W. Cleon Skousen — W. Cleon Skousen was an American conservative author and lecturer, known for his work on anti-communism and the Constitution. His writings have been influential in conservative and Christian nationalist circles, advocating for a conservative interpretation of American history and governance.
  • SonLife Broadcasting Network (SBN) — SonLife Broadcasting Network is a Christian television network run by evangelist Jimmy Swaggart. Its programming focuses on evangelical Christian content and promoting a conservative Christian worldview.
  • SonLife Radio Network — SonLife Radio Network, part of Jimmy Swaggart Ministries, broadcasts Christian programming with a focus on evangelical teachings and music.
Jimmy Swaggart crying on national TV
  • Springs Community Church
  • Horatio Robinson Storer — Horatio Robinson Storer was a 19th-century physician known for his campaign against abortion and his contributions to the field of gynecology. His historical role intersects with Christian nationalist ideologies in terms of advocating for conservative Christian morals in medical ethics.
  • R.J. Rushdoony — Rousas John Rushdoony was a theologian and philosopher, known as a foundational figure in the Christian Reconstructionism movement, advocating for applying Biblical law to all aspects of society. His ideology significantly influenced Christian nationalist thought.
  • Southern Baptist Convention — The southern Baptists split with the northern Baptists in 1845 over the issue of slavery.
  • Southern Presbyterian Church — The Southern Presbyterian Church historically refers to Presbyterian denominations in the American South, known for their conservative theological views. Their historical and modern stances often align with Christian nationalist ideologies, emphasizing traditional Christian values.
  • Southern Strategy — The Southern Strategy was a Republican Party electoral strategy to increase political support among white voters in the South by appealing to racism against African Americans. While not directly a Christian nationalist strategy, it intersects with certain aspects of Christian nationalist politics in its appeal to traditional values and segregation.
  • Darla St. Martin — Darla St. Martin is a prominent figure in the pro-life movement, known for her leadership roles in the National Right to Life Committee. Her activism aligns with Christian nationalist ideologies in advocating for anti-abortion policies based on conservative Christian ethics.
  • Stop ERA — Stop ERA was a political movement led by Phyllis Schlafly, aimed at opposing the Equal Rights Amendment. This movement was aligned with Christian nationalist ideologies, advocating for traditional gender roles and conservative Christian values.
  • Students for Life of America — Students for Life of America is a pro-life organization focused on mobilizing young people against abortion. Their activism often intersects with Christian nationalist ideologies, emphasizing the alignment of conservative Christian values with anti-abortion advocacy.
  • Susan B. Anthony List — The Susan B. Anthony List is a non-profit organization that seeks to reduce and ultimately end abortion in the U.S. by supporting pro-life politicians. Its mission aligns with Christian nationalist ideologies in advocating for policies based on conservative Christian ethics.
  • Donnie Swaggart — Donnie Swaggart is an evangelist and pastor, part of Jimmy Swaggart Ministries, known for his evangelical teachings.
  • Gabriel Swaggart — Gabriel Swaggart is a pastor and television host, part of the Swaggart family’s evangelical ministry. His work, like that of other family members, often aligns with conservative Christian values, occasionally intersecting with Christian nationalist ideologies.
  • Jimmy Swaggart — Jimmy Swaggart is a well-known Pentecostal evangelist and founder of Jimmy Swaggart Ministries, including the SonLife Broadcasting Network. His ministry, marked by traditional evangelical teachings, sometimes aligns with Christian nationalist ideologies in promoting conservative Christian values.
Jimmy Swaggart preaching and televangelizing up a storm, by Midjourney
  • Jimmy Swaggart Bible College (JSBC) — Jimmy Swaggart Bible College is an educational institution part of Jimmy Swaggart Ministries, focused on training individuals for ministry work with an evangelical Christian perspective.
  • Jimmy Swaggart Telecast — The Jimmy Swaggart Telecast is a Christian television program led by evangelist Jimmy Swaggart, focusing on evangelical preaching and worship.
  • Bruce Taylor
  • Jeff Taylor
  • Steve Taylor
  • Taylor Farms
  • Thomas Road Baptist Church — Thomas Road Baptist Church, founded by Jerry Falwell Sr., is a significant megachurch in Lynchburg, Virginia, known for its evangelical Christian teachings. The church has historically been associated with the Christian right and Christian nationalist ideologies.
  • James Henley Thornwell — James Henley Thornwell was a 19th-century Presbyterian preacher and theologian, known for his conservative theological views and defense of slavery. His teachings have been cited in contexts related to Christian nationalist ideologies, especially in the historical context of the American South.
  • Robert Tilton — Robert Tilton is a televangelist known for his prosperity gospel teachings and controversial faith healing practices. His ministry is focused on “individual prosperity.”
  • Unity Project
  • “Values Bus”
  • Values Voters Summit — The Values Voters Summit is an annual political conference hosted by the Family Research Council, known for gathering conservative Christian activists and politicians. The summit aligns with Christian nationalist ideologies, focusing on advancing conservative Christian values in politics.
  • Richard Viguerie — Richard Viguerie was a political figure known for pioneering direct mail fundraising for conservative causes. His work has significantly influenced the conservative movement, including aspects that align with Christian nationalist ideologies.
  • Young America’s Foundation — Young America’s Foundation is a conservative youth organization known for promoting conservative ideas among young people. Its activities often intersect with Christian nationalist ideologies, particularly in advocating for conservative and traditional values in education and public life.
Young America's Foundation of future date rapists, by Midjourney
  • C. Peter Wagner — C. Peter Wagner was a theologian and missiologist, known for his influence in the Charismatic and New Apostolic Reformation movements. His teachings emphasized conservative Christian principles.
  • Chester Ward
  • Washington Watch
  • The Watchmen
  • Doug Wead — Doug Wead is a conservative commentator and author known for his involvement in presidential politics. His work, while primarily political, sometimes intersects with Christian nationalist ideologies, particularly in his advocacy for conservative values.
  • Well Versed
  • Paul Weyrich — Paul Weyrich was a conservative activist and commentator, co-founder of the Heritage Foundation and the Moral Majority. He played a key role in mobilizing the Christian right and influencing Christian nationalist ideologies within American politics.
  • Paula White — Paula White is a televangelist and pastor, known for her association with the prosperity gospel and her role as a spiritual advisor to former President Donald Trump. Her ministry, while primarily focused on individual prosperity and spiritual matters, occasionally intersects with Christian nationalist ideologies.
Paula White, spiritual advisor to Donald Trump, praying with his Cabinet in the White House while he looms over her lecherously, by Midjourney
  • Donald Wildmon — Donald Wildmon is the founder of the American Family Association, a group known for its conservative Christian advocacy. His work aligns with Christian nationalist ideologies, particularly in promoting conservative Christian values in media and culture.
  • Farris Wilks — Farris Wilks is a businessman and conservative political donor, known for his support of Christian and conservative causes. His philanthropy often aligns with Christian nationalist ideologies.
  • Dan Wilks — Dan Wilks, alongside his brother Farris, is a businessman and significant donor to conservative and Christian causes. His contributions have influenced the conservative political landscape, occasionally intersecting with Christian nationalist ideologies.
  • World Ag Expo
  • World Congress of Families — The World Congress of Families is an international organization that promotes conservative Christian values related to the family structure. It aligns with Christian nationalist ideologies in advocating for policies based on traditional Christian views of family and morality.

Learn more:

Christian nationalism terms

Christian nationalism books

What is Dominionism?

3 GOP Cults: Christian Cult, Wealth Cult, White Cult

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The “repetition effect” is a potent psychological phenomenon and a common propaganda device. This technique operates on the principle that repeated exposure to a specific message or idea increases the likelihood of its acceptance as truth or normalcy by an individual or the public. Its effectiveness lies in its simplicity and its exploitation of a basic human cognitive bias: the more we hear something, the more likely we are to believe it.

Repetition effect, by Midjourney

Historical context

The repetition effect has been used throughout history, but its most notorious use was by Adolf Hitler and the Nazi Party in Germany. Hitler, along with his Propaganda Minister, Joseph Goebbels, effectively employed this technique to disseminate Nazi ideology and promote antisemitism. In his autobiography “Mein Kampf,” Hitler wrote about the importance of repetition in reinforcing the message and ensuring that it reached the widest possible audience. He believed that the constant repetition of a lie would eventually be accepted as truth.

Goebbels echoed this sentiment, famously stating, “If you tell a lie big enough and keep repeating it, people will eventually come to believe it.” The Nazi regime used this strategy in various forms, including in speeches, posters, films, and through controlled media. The relentless repetition of anti-Semitic propaganda, the glorification of the Aryan race, and the demonization of enemies played a crucial role in the establishment and maintenance of the Nazi regime.

Psychological basis

The effectiveness of the repetition effect is rooted in cognitive psychology. This bias is known as the “illusory truth effect,” where repeated exposure to a statement increases its perceived truthfulness. The phenomenon is tied to the ease with which familiar information is processed. When we hear something repeatedly, it becomes more fluent to process, and our brains misinterpret this fluency as a signal for truth.

Modern era usage

The transition into the modern era saw the repetition effect adapting to new media and communication technologies. In the age of television and radio, political figures and advertisers used repetition to embed messages in the public consciousness. The rise of the internet and social media has further amplified the impact of this technique. In the digital age, the speed and reach of information are unprecedented, making it easier for false information to be spread and for the repetition effect to be exploited on a global scale.

The repetition effect on screens and social media, by Midjourney

Political campaigns, especially in polarized environments, often use the repetition effect to reinforce their messages. The constant repetition of slogans, talking points, and specific narratives across various platforms solidifies these messages in the public’s mind, regardless of their factual accuracy.

Ethical considerations and countermeasures

The ethical implications of using the repetition effect are significant, especially when it involves spreading disinformation or harmful ideologies. It raises concerns about the manipulation of public opinion and the undermining of democratic processes.

To counteract the repetition effect, media literacy and critical thinking are essential. Educating the public about this psychological bias and encouraging skepticism towards repeated messages can help mitigate its influence. Fact-checking and the promotion of diverse sources of information also play a critical role in combating the spread of falsehoods reinforced by repetition.

Repetition effect: A key tool of propaganda

The repetition effect is a powerful psychological tool in the arsenal of propagandists and communicators. From its historical use by Hitler and the fascists to its continued relevance in the digital era, this technique demonstrates the profound impact of repeated messaging on public perception and belief.

While it can be used for benign purposes, such as in advertising or reinforcing positive social behaviors, its potential for manipulation and spreading misinformation cannot be understated. Understanding and recognizing the repetition effect is crucial in developing a more discerning and informed approach to the information we encounter daily.

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The term “alternative facts” gained widespread attention on January 22, 2017, when Kellyanne Conway, then-Counselor to President Donald Trump, used it during a “Meet the Press” interview. Conway was defending White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer’s false statements about the attendance numbers at Trump’s presidential inauguration the day before.

When challenged by the interviewer, who cited several facts indicating a much smaller crowd size relative to President Obama‘s inauguration, Conway asserted that Spicer was offering “alternative facts” to the media reports, which suggested a lower attendance compared to previous inaugurations.

Kellyanne Conway, by Midjourney

Philosophical and Historical Context

The term, while new in its specific phrasing, taps into a long-standing philosophical debate about truth and reality. Historically, the idea that there can be different interpretations of facts has roots in relativism and constructivism.

However, the way “alternative facts” was used implied a more radical departure from the accepted notion of objective facts, tilting towards a post-truth era where the line between truth and falsehood becomes blurred. It indicated an intentional strategy of disseminating disinformation early on in the Trump administration, and articulated it out loud in a way that previous presidents had never done before.

Use in US politics

The use of “alternative facts” in US politics has been controversial and highly debated. Proponents argue that the term simply reflects different perspectives and interpretations of events. Critics, however, see it as an attempt to legitimize falsehoods or misleading information, particularly when used by those in power to contradict evidence and well-established facts.

The term quickly became symbolic of the Trump administration’s relationship with the media and its approach to information dissemination. It was seen as part of a broader strategy that involved discrediting mainstream media as so-called “fake news,” promoting favorable narratives, and challenging the notion of objective truth. It extended the already prevalent right-wing strategy of science denialism into a kind of denialism of reality itself — a dangerous path towards authoritarianism reminiscent of the use of Newspeak in George Orwell’s famous classic dystopian novel, 1984.

Donald Trump spewing "Alternative Facts" into the disinformation ecosystem, by Midjourney

Implications for American democracy

The implications of the widespread use of “alternative facts” for American democracy are profound and multifaceted:

  1. Erosion of Trust: The concept challenges the role of a free press and fact-checking institutions in democracy. When official statements are at odds with verifiable evidence, it erodes public trust in both the government and the media.
  2. Polarization: It exacerbates political polarization. When people cannot agree on basic facts, finding common ground becomes challenging, leading to a more divided society.
  3. Manipulation and Propaganda: The term can be weaponized for political ends, allowing for manipulation of public opinion and spreading propaganda.
  4. Accountability and Governance: In a democracy, accountability is key. If leaders are seen to use “alternative facts” without consequence, it undermines democratic governance and the expectation that leaders are truthful and transparent.
  5. Public Discourse and Decision Making: Accurate information is crucial for informed decision making by the electorate. When false information is disseminated under the guise of “alternative facts,” it impairs the public’s ability to make informed decisions.
  6. Legal and Ethical Concerns: The concept raises ethical concerns about honesty and integrity in public office and can complicate legal proceedings when factual accuracy is disputed.

The dangers of “reality denial”alternative facts” in political discourse

“Alternative facts,” as a term and a concept, represents more than just a linguistic novelty; it signifies a shift in the landscape of political discourse and the relationship between truth, power, and democracy. Its emergence and use reflect deeper tensions in society about trust, media, and the nature of reality itself. For American democracy, grappling with the implications of this term is not just an intellectual exercise but a necessary endeavor to preserve the integrity of our democratic institutions and public discourse.

It’s one thing to have legitimately different perspectives on the issues. It’s quite another to throw out the founding ideals and Enlightenment principles of rational inquiry, scientific observation, and reality testing altogether. If we cannot agree even on the basic facts of a situation, the ability to arrive at any kind of policy consensus about what to do to solve issues and problems in society that will always occur is deeply impaired — and indeed, our democracy is placed in great peril.

We must recommit fully to the finding of Actual Facts — and put behind us the childish nursing of our favored Alternative Facts.

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Science denialism has a complex and multifaceted history, notably marked by a significant event in 1953 that set a precedent for the tactics of disinformation widely observed in various spheres today, including politics.

The 1953 meeting and the birth of the disinformation playbook

The origins of modern science denial can be traced back to a pivotal meeting in December 1953, involving the heads of the four largest American tobacco companies. This meeting was a response to emerging scientific research linking smoking to lung cancer. Concerned about the potential impact on their business, these industry leaders collaborated with a public relations firm, Hill & Knowlton, to craft a strategy. This strategy was designed not only to dispute the growing evidence about the health risks of smoking, but also to manipulate public perception by creating doubt about the science itself.

And it worked — for over 40 years. The public never formed a consensus on the lethality and addictiveness of nicotine until well into the 1990s, when the jig was finally up and Big Tobacco had to pay a record-breaking $200 billion settlement over their 4 decades of mercilessly lying to the American people following the Tobacco Master Settlement Agreement (MSA) of 1998.

smoking and the disinformation campaign of Big Tobacco leading to science denialism, by Midjourney

Strategies of the disinformation playbook

This approach laid the groundwork for what is often referred to as the “disinformation playbook.” The key elements of this playbook include creating doubt about scientific consensus, funding research that could contradict or cloud scientific understanding, using think tanks or other organizations to promote these alternative narratives, and influencing media and public opinion to maintain policy and regulatory environments favorable to their interests — whether profit, power, or both.

Over the next 7 decades — up to the present day — this disinformation playbook has been used by powerful special interests to cast doubt, despite scientific consensus, on acid rain, depletion of the ozone layer, the viability of Ronald Reagan‘s Strategic Defense Initiative (SDI), and perhaps most notably: the man-made causes of climate change.

Adoption and adaptation in various industries

The tobacco industry’s tactics were alarmingly successful for decades, delaying effective regulation and public awareness of smoking’s health risks. These strategies were later adopted and adapted by various industries and groups facing similar scientific challenges to their products or ideologies. For instance, the fossil fuel industry used similar tactics to cast doubt on global warming — leading to the phenomenon of climate change denialism. Chemical manufacturers have disputed science on the harmful effects of certain chemicals like DDT and BPA.

What began as a PR exercise by Big Tobacco to preserve their fantastic profits once science discovered the deleterious health effects of smoking eventually evolved into a strategy of fomenting science denialism more broadly. Why discredit one single finding of the scientific community when you could cast doubt on the entire process of science itself — as a way of future-proofing any government regulation that might curtail your business interests?

Science denial in modern politics

In recent years, the tactics of science denial have become increasingly prevalent in politics. Political actors, often influenced by corporate interests or ideological agendas, have employed these strategies to challenge scientific findings that are politically inconvenient — despite strong and often overwhelming evidence. This is evident in manufactured “debates” on climate change, vaccine safety, and COVID-19, where scientific consensus is often contested not based on new scientific evidence but through disinformation strategies aimed at sowing doubt and confusion.

The role of digital media and politicization

The rise of social media has accelerated the spread of science denial. The digital landscape allows for rapid dissemination of misinformation and the formation of echo chambers, where groups can reinforce shared beliefs or skepticism, often insulated from corrective or opposing information. Additionally, the politicization of science, where scientific findings are viewed through the lens of political allegiance rather than objective evidence, has further entrenched science denial in modern discourse — as just one aspect of the seeming politicization of absolutely everything in modern life and culture.

Strategies for combatting science denial

The ongoing impact of science denial is profound. It undermines public understanding of science, hampers informed decision-making, and delays action on critical issues like climate change, public health, and environmental protection. The spread of misinformation about vaccines, for instance, has led to a decrease in vaccination rates and a resurgence of diseases like measles.

scientific literacy, by Midjourney

To combat science denial, experts suggest several strategies. Promoting scientific literacy and critical thinking skills among the general public is crucial. This involves not just understanding scientific facts, but also developing an understanding of the scientific method and how scientific knowledge is developed and validated. Engaging in open, transparent communication about science, including the discussion of uncertainties and limitations of current knowledge, can also help build public trust in science.

Science denial, rooted in the strategies developed by the tobacco industry in the 1950s, has evolved into a significant challenge in contemporary society, impacting not just public health and environmental policy but also the very nature of public discourse and trust in science. Addressing this issue requires a multifaceted approach, including education, transparent communication, and collaborative efforts to uphold the integrity of scientific information.

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Deep fakes, a term derived from “deep learning” (a subset of AI) and “fake,” refer to highly realistic, AI-generated digital forgeries of real human beings. These sophisticated imitations can be videos, images, or audio clips where the person appears to say or do things they never actually did.

The core technology behind deep fakes is based on machine learning and neural network algorithms. Two competing AI systems work in tandem: one generates the fake content, while the other attempts to detect the forgeries. Over time, as the detection system identifies flaws, the generator learns from these mistakes, leading to increasingly convincing fakes.

Deep fakes in politics

However, as the technology has become more accessible, it’s been used for various purposes, not all of them benign. In the political realm, deep fakes have a potential for significant impact. They’ve been used to create false narratives or manipulate existing footage, making it appear as though a public figure has said or done something controversial or scandalous. This can be particularly damaging in democratic societies, where public opinion heavily influences political outcomes. Conversely, in autocracies, deep fakes can be a tool for propaganda or to discredit opposition figures.

How to identify deep fakes

Identifying deep fakes can be challenging, but there are signs to look out for:

  1. Facial discrepancies: Imperfections in the face-swapping process can result in blurred or fuzzy areas, especially where the face meets the neck and hair. Look for any anomalies in facial expressions or movements that don’t seem natural.
  2. Inconsistent lighting and shadows: AI can struggle to replicate the way light interacts with physical objects. If the lighting or shadows on the face don’t match the surroundings, it could be a sign of manipulation.
  3. Audiovisual mismatches: Often, the audio does not perfectly sync with the video in a deep fake. Watch for delays or mismatches between spoken words and lip movements.
  4. Unusual blinking and breathing patterns: AI can struggle to accurately mimic natural blinking and breathing, leading to unnatural patterns.
  5. Contextual anomalies: Sometimes, the content of the video or the actions of the person can be a giveaway. If it seems out of character or contextually odd, it could be fake.

In democratic societies, the misuse of deep fakes can erode public trust in media, manipulate electoral processes, and increase political polarization. Fake videos can quickly spread disinformation and misinformation, influencing public opinion and voting behavior. Moreover, they can be used to discredit political opponents with false accusations or fabricated scandals.

In autocracies, deep fakes can be a potent tool for state propaganda. Governments can use them to create a false image of stability, prosperity, or unity, or conversely, to produce disinformation campaigns against perceived enemies, both foreign and domestic. This can lead to the suppression of dissent and the manipulation of public perception to support the regime.

Deep fakes with Donald Trump, by Midjourney

Response to deep fakes

The response to the threat posed by deep fakes has been multifaceted. Social media platforms and news organizations are increasingly using AI-based tools to detect and flag deep fakes. There’s also a growing emphasis on digital literacy, teaching the public to critically evaluate the content they consume.

Legal frameworks are evolving to address the malicious use of deep fakes. Some countries are considering legislation that would criminalize the creation and distribution of harmful deep fakes, especially those targeting individuals or designed to interfere in elections.

While deep fakes represent a remarkable technological advancement, they also pose a significant threat to the integrity of information and democratic processes. As this technology evolves, so must our ability to detect and respond to these forgeries. It’s crucial for both individuals and institutions to stay informed and vigilant against the potential abuses of deep fakes, particularly in the political domain. As we continue to navigate the digital age, the balance between leveraging AI for innovation and safeguarding against its misuse remains a key challenge.

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disinformation

Disinformation Dictionary of Psychological Warfare

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

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

After World War II and the Allies’ defeat of Hitler, the role of disinformation lived on during the Cold War. The Soviet KGB were infamous for their spycraft and covert infiltration of information flows, while the United States experienced waves of anti-Communist paranoia and hysteria fueled by the spread of conspiracist thinking. Psychologists, social scientists, and others did their best to unpack the horrors revealed by the reign of the Nazi regime with a wellspring of research and critical thought about authoritarian personalities and totalitarianism that continues to this day.

disinformation, illustrated

The John Birch Society rides again

In some ways, we haven’t really moved on yet from the Cold War — in fact, some appear not to have moved on since the New Deal and are hellbent on rolling its provisions back, almost 100 years later. The dregs of the John Birch Society — an organization famously too koo-koo even for William F. Buckley, who excommunicated them from the conservative wing of the Republican Party — live on today in a reconstituted form known as the CNP, or Council for National Policy.

Founded officially in 1981 after almost a decade down in the political trenches radicalizing the right, the CNP is the shadowy organization pulling the strings of many of the set pieces in puppets in today’s political play. In alliance with other powerful networks including the Koch empire, the NRA, and the Evangelical church, the CNP is the group behind the recent hysteria out of nowhere about Critical Race Theory in public schools (where it is not taught). They are funneling the money of America’s billionaires into absurdist theatrical displays of performance artists who distract America with bread and circuses while the plutocrats make off with the cash in the form of tax cuts, tax breaks, tax carve outs, tax loopholes, tax policy, and other wealth-building sweetheart deals for themselves and their cronies.

A crowd of people consuming disinformation, by Midjourney

The CNP, in partnership with Charles Koch’s massive database of all American voters (and of course, his money), have managed to brainwash the Evangelical flock and various assorted MAGA groups into believing a raft of nonsense from climate change denial to anti-masking to the Big Lie about the 2020 election and much more. They have leveraged new political technology in order to recruit and radicalize new cult members quickly and at now digital scale — via QAnon, Fox News, the even more extreme aggressively partisan coverage of Newsmax and OANN, and a fleet of “grassroots” astroturf operations peddling their brand of seditious aspirational theocracy to ruralites like it was going out of style… on accounta it is.

This disinformation dictionary covers (and uncovers) the terminology and techniques used by disinfo peddlers, hucksters, Zucksters, propagandists, and professional liars of all sorts — including confirmation bias, the bandwagon effect, and other psychological soft points they target, attack, and exploit. From trolling to active measures to “alternative facts,” we dig into the terminology that makes disinformation tick.

This resource will be added to over time as neologisms are coined to keep up with the shifting landscape of fakes, deep fakes, and alternative timelines in our near and potentially far future.

TermDefinition
active measuresRussian information warfare aimed at undermining the Westhttps://doctorparadox.net/dictionaries/cold-war-dictionary/active-measures/
alternative factsStatements that are not supported by empirical evidence.https://doctorparadox.net/dictionaries/disinformation-dictionary/alternative-facts/
ambiguityAmbiguity is utilized in disinformation by presenting information that is deliberately vague or open to multiple interpretations, leading to confusion and uncertainty. This technique exploits the lack of clarity to obscure the truth, allowing false narratives to be introduced and believed without being directly disprovable.https://doctorparadox.net/
America First Unity RallyAn event organized by supporters of Donald Trump, held in Cleveland, Ohio, on July 18, 2016, during the RNC that featured speakers known to spread conspiracy theories and unverified claims.https://doctorparadox.net/
AntifaAntifa, short for "anti-fascist," is a decentralized movement composed of individuals and groups that oppose fascism and far-right ideologies, often through direct action and protest. The group serves as a frequent scapegoat for the right-wing, who tends to blame Antifa for anything they don't like, without evidence.https://doctorparadox.net/dictionaries/antifa/
anti-governmentThe neo-Libertarians within the GOP have no more intention of governing than Trump did. Libertarians prefer the government to be non-functional: that's the "smallest" government there is!!They *will* lead us to war, with either Russia, North Korea, Iran, or China most likely.https://foundations.doctorparadox.net/Ideologies/anti-government
assert the opposite of realityA disinformation technique where false information is presented in a manner that directly contradicts known facts or established reality. This approach is used to confuse, mislead, or manipulate public perception, often by claiming the exact opposite of what is true or what evidence supports.https://doctorparadox.net/
astroturfingCreating an impression of widespread grassroots support for a policy, individual, or product, where little such support exists.https://foundations.doctorparadox.net/Dictionaries/Politics/astroturfing
bandwagon effectA psychological phenomenon whereby people do something primarily because other people are doing it.https://doctorparadox.net/data-sets/psychological-biases-list/
the Big LieA propaganda technique originally devised by Adolf Hitler, based on the idea that if a lie is colossal and audacious enough, and repeated often, people will come to accept it as truth. This technique relies on the premise that the sheer scale and boldness of the lie makes it more likely to be believed, as people might assume no one could fabricate something so extreme without some basis in reality.https://doctorparadox.net/gop-myths/gop-big-lies/
black and white thinkingA pattern of thought characterized by polar extremes, sometimes flip-flopping very rapidly from one extreme view to its opposite. Also referred to as dichotomous thinking; polarized thinking; all-or-nothing thinking; or splitting.https://doctorparadox.net/psychology/black-and-white-thinking/
blackmailThe demand for payment (or other benefit) in exchange for not revealing negative information about the payee.https://doctorparadox.net/psychology/emotional-blackmail/
blaming the victimA popular strategy with sexual predators, blaming the victim involves alleging that the receipient "had it coming" or otherwise deserved the abuse they suffered at the hands of the blamer (see also: DARVO)https://doctorparadox.net/dictionaries/what-is-darvo/
book burningThe ritual destruction of books, literature, or other written materials -- usually in a public forum to send a chilling message about ideas that are disallowed by the state.https://encyclopedia.ushmm.org/content/en/article/book-burning
botA software program performing repetitive, automated tasks -- often used in the dissemination of disinformation.https://doctorparadox.net/category/technology/bots/
botnetsAn interconnected network of bots, often used for nefarious purposes like DDoS attacks or propaganda.https://doctorparadox.net/
bullyingHarming, threatening to harm, intimdating, or coercing others into doing your bidding (or for no reason at all)https://doctorparadox.net/mental-self-defense/how-to-deal-with-bullies/
cathexisThe concentration of one's mental energy on one specific person, idea, or object -- typically to an unhealthy degree.https://doctorparadox.net/
cherry-pickingSelectively choose from what is available.https://doctorparadox.net/
@citizentrollingFormer Twitter account of Chuck Johnson, the far-right mega-troll who doxed two New York Times reporters and argued that homosexuality caused the Amtrak derailment.https://www.wired.com/story/chuck-johnson-twitter-free-speech-lawsuit/
clickbaitContent designed to attract attention and encourage visitors to click on a link.https://doctorparadox.net/
climate change denialismClimate change denialism refers to the disbelief or dismissal of the scientific consensus that climate change is occurring and primarily caused by human activities, such as burning fossil fuels and deforestation. It often involves rejecting, denying, or minimizing the evidence of the global impact of climate change.https://doctorparadox.net/dictionaries/disinformation-dictionary/climate-change-denial/
closurePropagandists exploit the psychological need for closure by presenting oversimplified explanations or solutions to complex issues, appealing to the desire for quick, definitive answers. This tactic preys on the discomfort with ambiguity and uncertainty, leading individuals to accept and adhere to the provided narratives without critical examination.https://doctorparadox.net/
cognitive dissonanceMental discomfort resulting from holding conflicting beliefs, values, or attitudes -- or from behaving contrary to one's beliefs, values, or attitudes.https://doctorparadox.net/psychology/cognitive-dissonance/
cognitive distortionIrrational, exaggerated, or negative thought patterns that are believed to perpetuate the effects of psychopathological states, such as depression and anxiety. These distortions often manifest as persistent, skewed perceptions or thoughts that inaccurately represent reality, leading to emotional distress and behavioral issues.https://doctorparadox.net/
cognitive warfareCognitive warfare is a strategy that aims to change the perceptions and behaviors of individuals or groups, typically through the use of information and psychological tactics. This form of warfare targets the human mind, seeking to influence, disrupt, or manipulate the cognitive processes of adversaries, thereby affecting decision-making and actions. (see also: psychological warfare)https://doctorparadox.net/category/politics/psychological-warfare/
con artistSomeone who swindles others with fake promises.https://doctorparadox.net/
confirmation biasConfirmation bias is the tendency to search for, interpret, favor, and recall information in a way that confirms one's preexisting beliefs or hypotheses, while giving disproportionately less consideration to alternative possibilities. Disinformation peddlers exploit this bias by crafting messages that align with the existing beliefs of their target audience, thereby reinforcing these beliefs and making their false narratives more convincing and less likely to be critically scrutinized.https://doctorparadox.net/data-sets/psychological-biases-list/
confirmation loopA situation where beliefs are reinforced by communication and repetition inside a closed system.https://doctorparadox.net/
conspiracy theoryA false narrative or set of narratives designed to create an alternative story or history that distracts from the real truth and/or obscures or absolves the responsibility of those behind the curtain.https://doctorparadox.net/dictionaries/conspiracy-theory-dictionary-from-qanon-to-gnostics/
cultivation theoryA theory which argues that prolonged exposure to media shapes people's perceptions of reality.https://doctorparadox.net/
DARVOA rhetorical device used in mind control in which the identities of the perpetrator and the victim are reversed, such that the abuser is playing on the sympathies of the abused to help him rewrite the history they both wish to forget.https://doctorparadox.net/dictionaries/what-is-darvo/
deceptionLying; intentionally misleadinghttps://doctorparadox.net/
deep fakesFabricated video footage appearing to show an individual speakinghttps://doctorparadox.net/dictionaries/disinformation-dictionary/deep-fakes/
deep stateThe term "deep state" refers to a conspiracy theory suggesting the existence of a hidden or shadowy network of powerful and influential individuals within a government or other organization. These individuals are believed to operate outside the democratic system and pursue their own agenda, often in opposition to the official policies or leaders of the institution.https://doctorparadox.net/conspiracy-theories/deep-state/
demoshizaShort for ‘democratic schizophrenics’ -- a Russian slander against citizens of democracies. The ‘demoshiza’ tag also serves a useful purpose in conflating ‘democracy’ with ‘mental illness’. The word ‘democratic’ has an unhappy status in Russia: it is mainly used as an uncomplimentary synonym for ‘cheap’ and ‘low-grade’: McDonald’s has ‘democratic’ prices, the door policy at a particularly scuzzy club can be described as ‘democratic’ – i.e. they let anybody inhttps://doctorparadox.net/dictionaries/cold-war-dictionary/demoshiza/
denialismDenialism is the practice of rejecting or refusing to accept established facts or realities, often in the context of scientific, historical, or social issues. It typically involves dismissing or rationalizing evidence that contradicts one's beliefs or ideology, regardless of the overwhelming empirical support.https://doctorparadox.net/dictionaries/disinformation-dictionary/science-denialism/
denial of deathThe denial of death is a psychological defense mechanism where individuals avoid acknowledging their mortality, often leading to behaviors and beliefs that attempt to give meaning or permanence to human existence.https://doctorparadox.net/
denying plain factsDenying plain facts is the act of refusing to accept established truths, often in the face of overwhelming evidence, typically to maintain a particular narrative or belief system.https://doctorparadox.net/
dezinformatsiyaRussian information warfarehttps://doctorparadox.net/dictionaries/cold-war-dictionary/dezinformatsiya/
digital footprintThe information about a particular person that exists on the Internet as a result of their online activity.https://doctorparadox.net/
"dirty tricks""Dirty tricks" refer to underhanded, deceptive tactics used in politics, business, or espionage, often involving unethical maneuvers designed to damage opponents or gain an unfair advantage.https://doctorparadox.net/
disappearingIn the context of disinformation, disappearing means removing or concealing information, individuals, or objects from public view or records, often to hide evidence or avoid scrutiny.https://doctorparadox.net/
diversionDiversion is a tactic used to shift attention away from a significant issue or problem, often by introducing a different topic or concern, to avoid dealing with the original subject.https://doctorparadox.net/
doxxingDoxxing involves researching and broadcasting private or identifying information about an individual, typically on the internet, usually with malicious intent such as to intimidate, threaten, or harass the person.https://doctorparadox.net/
"drinking the Kool-Aid"Coming to believe the ideology of a culthttps://doctorparadox.net/
Dunning-Kruger effectA cognitive bias where individuals with low ability at a task tend to overestimate their ability.https://doctorparadox.net/data-sets/psychological-biases-list/
duty to warnThis refers to a legal or ethical requirement for certain professionals, like therapists or counselors, to break confidentiality and notify potential victims or authorities if a client poses a serious and imminent threat to themselves or others. It's often applicable in scenarios where there's a risk of violence or harm.https://doctorparadox.net/
echo chamberEnvironment where a person encounters only beliefs or opinions that coincide with their own.https://doctorparadox.net/dictionaries/disinformation-dictionary/echo-chamber/
echo chamber effectA situation in which information, ideas, or beliefs are amplified or reinforced by transmission and repetition inside an enclosed system.https://doctorparadox.net/
election denialismElection denialism is the act of refusing to accept the legitimate results of an electoral process, often based on unfounded claims of fraud or manipulation. It undermines the democratic process and can lead to political instability or violence.https://doctorparadox.net/
emotional abuseEmotional abuse is a form of abuse characterized by a person subjecting or exposing another to behavior that may result in psychological trauma, including anxiety, chronic depression, or post-traumatic stress disorder. It involves tactics like belittling, constant criticism, manipulation, and isolation to control or intimidate the victim.https://doctorparadox.net/tag/emotional-abuse/
emotional blackmailEmotional blackmail is a manipulation tactic where someone uses fear, obligation, and guilt to control or manipulate another person. It often involves threats of punishment, either directly or through insinuation, if the victim does not comply with the manipulator's demands.https://doctorparadox.net/psychology/emotional-blackmail/
emotional manipulationEmotional manipulation involves using underhanded tactics to influence and control someone else's emotions or actions for the manipulator's benefit. It can include gaslighting, guilt-tripping, and playing the victim to gain sympathy or compliance.https://doctorparadox.net/tactics-of-emotional-predators/
empty promisesEmpty promises refer to assurances or commitments made with no intention or ability to fulfill them. They are often used to placate or appease someone in the moment but lead to disappointment and mistrust when the promised action or change doesn’t occur.https://doctorparadox.net/
extortionExtortion is a criminal offense that involves obtaining something of value, often money, through coercion, which includes threats of harm or abuse of authority. It's a form of manipulation where the perpetrator seeks to gain power or material benefits by instilling fear in the victim.https://doctorparadox.net/
fact-checkingThe act of checking factual assertions in non-fictional text to determine the veracity and correctness of the factual statements.https://doctorparadox.net/
fake audienceBots or paid individuals used to create an illusion of more support or interest than is really the case.https://doctorparadox.net/
fake newsFake news refers to fabricated information that mimics news media content in form but not in organizational process or intent, often created to mislead or deceive readers, viewers, or listeners. It is intentionally and verifiably false, and is disseminated through various media channels, typically for political or financial gain. Trump is fond of mislabelling actual journalism outlets as "fake news" as a way to discredit them.https://doctorparadox.net/
false consciousnessPart of Marxist theory regarding the phenomenon where the subordinate classes embody the ideologies of the ruling class, diverting their self-interest into activities that benefit the wealthy who are taking advantage of them.https://doctorparadox.net/
false equivalenceFalse equivalence is a logical fallacy that occurs when two opposing arguments or issues are presented as being equally valid, despite clear differences in quality, validity, or magnitude. It involves drawing a comparison between two subjects based on flawed or irrelevant similarities, leading to a misleading or erroneous conclusion.https://doctorparadox.net/
false flagcovert operations designed to deceive by appearing as though they are carried out by other entities, groups, or nations than those who actually executed themhttps://doctorparadox.net/dictionaries/hybrid-warfare/false-flag/
false narrativeA false narrative is a deliberately misleading or biased account of events, designed to shape perceptions or beliefs contrary to reality.https://doctorparadox.net/
fifth world warNon-linear war; the war of all against all -- a term coined by Putin's vizier Vladislav Surkov.https://doctorparadox.net/dictionaries/hybrid-warfare/fifth-world-war/
filter bubbleIntellectual isolation that can occur when websites use algorithms to selectively assume the information a user would want to see.https://doctorparadox.net/
flying monkeysIn a psychological context, "flying monkeys" refers to individuals who are manipulated to harass or undermine someone on behalf of a manipulative person, often in situations of abuse or narcissism.https://doctorparadox.net/psychology/flying-monkeys/
Fox News EffectThis term describes the significant influence that watching Fox News can have on viewers' political views, often swaying them towards more conservative positions.https://doctorparadox.net/
framing effectThe way information is presented so as to emphasize certain aspects over others.https://doctorparadox.net/
fraudFraud is the intentional deception to secure unfair or unlawful gain, or to deprive a victim of a legal right.https://doctorparadox.net/
GamerGateEarly harbinger of the alt-right, emerging on social media and targeting professional women in the video games industryhttps://doctorparadox.net/
gaslightingGaslighting is a form of psychological manipulation where a person or a group covertly sows seeds of doubt in a targeted individual, making them question their own memory, perception, or judgment.https://doctorparadox.net/mental-self-defense/gaslighting/
"global cabal"euphemism in far-right Russian discourse to refer to a perceived "Jewish conspiracy" behind the international order of institutions like NATO and the EUhttps://doctorparadox.net/dictionaries/authoritarianism/global-cabal/
globalizationThe process of increased interconnectedness and interdependence among countries worldwide, characterized by the free flow of goods, services, capital, and information across borders.https://foundations.doctorparadox.net/Dictionaries/Economics/globalization
greenwashingA deceptive practice where a company or organization overstates or fabricates the environmental benefits of their products or policies to appear more environmentally responsible.https://doctorparadox.net/
groomingA manipulative process used by predators to build a relationship, trust, and emotional connection with a potential victim, often for abusive or exploitative purposes.https://doctorparadox.net/
groupthinkThe practice of thinking or making decisions as a group in a way that discourages creativity or individual responsibility -- making poor decision-making more likely.https://doctorparadox.net/models/bad-models/groupthink/
Guccifer 2.0A pseudonymous persona that claimed responsibility for hacking the Democratic National Committee's computer network in 2016, later linked to Russian military intelligence.https://doctorparadox.net/
hate speechSpeech that attacks or demeans a group based on attributes such as race, religion, ethnic origin, sexual orientation, disability, or gender, often inciting and legitimizing hostility and discrimination.https://doctorparadox.net/
hoaxA deliberately fabricated falsehood made to masquerade as truth.https://doctorparadox.net/conspiracy-theories/moon-landing-hoax/
honey potIn cybersecurity, a strategy that involves setting up a decoy system or network to attract and trap hackers, thereby detecting and analyzing unauthorized access attempts.https://doctorparadox.net/
horseshoe theoryPolitical model in which the extreme left has a tendency to sometimes adopt the strategies of the extreme right.https://doctorparadox.net/
hybrid warfareHybrid warfare is a military strategy that blends conventional warfare, irregular warfare, and cyberwarfare with other influencing methods, like fake news, diplomacy, and foreign electoral intervention.https://doctorparadox.net/dictionaries/hybrid-warfare/
hypnosisHypnosis is a mental state of heightened suggestibility, often induced by a procedure known as a hypnotic induction, which involves focused attention, reduced peripheral awareness, and an enhanced capacity to respond to suggestion.https://doctorparadox.net/
influence techniquesInfluence techniques encompass a range of tactics and strategies used to sway or manipulate someone's beliefs, attitudes, or behaviors, often employed in marketing, politics, and interpersonal relationships to subtly or overtly change people's minds or actions.https://doctorparadox.net/psychology/influence-techniques/
information overloadExposure to or provision of too much information or data.https://doctorparadox.net/
information terroristsMedia personalities and professionals working against the interests of democracy in the United States. Many amplify their messages through automation and human networks, creating a Greek Chorus-like cacaphony of fake support for unpopular positions.https://doctorparadox.net/
information warfareInformation warfare involves the use and management of information to gain a competitive advantage over an opponent, often involving the manipulation or denial of information to influence public opinion or decision-making processes.https://doctorparadox.net/dictionaries/hybrid-warfare/
InfoWarsInfoWars is a far-right American conspiracy theory and fake news website and media platform led by Alex Jones, known for its promotion of numerous unfounded and false conspiracy theories.https://foundations.doctorparadox.net/People/Alex+Jones#Early+life+and+Infowars.com
Intermittent reinforcementIn the context of manipulation, intermittent reinforcement is a behavior conditioning technique where rewards or punishments are given sporadically to create an addictive or obsessive response, making a person more likely to repeat a behavior.https://doctorparadox.net/
jumping to conclusions biasThis is a cognitive bias that involves making a rushed, premature judgment or decision without having all the necessary information, often leading to misinterpretation or misinformation.https://doctorparadox.net/
kleptocracyform of government in which the leaders harbor organized crime rings and often participate in or lead them; the police, military, civil government, and other governmental agencies may routinely participate in illicit activities and enterprises.https://doctorparadox.net/category/politics/kleptocracy/
kompromathttps://doctorparadox.net/dictionaries/cold-war-dictionary/kompromat/
Mafia stateA systematic corruption of government by organized crime syndicates. A term coined by former KGB/FSB agent Alexander Litvinenko. See also: kleptocracyhttps://doctorparadox.net/dictionaries/authoritarianism/mafia-state/
malignant envyMalignant envy refers to a deep-seated, destructive form of envy that desires to spoil or harm the qualities, possessions, or achievements of someone else, often arising from feelings of inferiority or failure.https://doctorparadox.net/
malignant narcissismMalignant narcissism is a psychological syndrome comprising an extreme mix of narcissism, antisocial behavior, aggression, and sadism, often manifesting in manipulative and destructive tendencies.https://doctorparadox.net/dictionaries/authoritarianism/malignant-narcissism/
manipulative mediaMedia that is altered to deceive or harm.https://doctorparadox.net/
MarxistA catch-all derogatory slur for Democratshttps://doctorparadox.net/
maskirovkawar of deception and concealmenthttps://doctorparadox.net/dictionaries/cold-war-dictionary/maskirovka/
mass hypnosisMass hypnosis refers to a phenomenon where a large group of people, often in a crowd or under the influence of media, enter a state of heightened suggestibility, making them more susceptible to persuasion and collective beliefs, often used in the context of propaganda and political manipulation.https://doctorparadox.net/
media biasThe perceived bias of journalists and news producers within the mass media.https://doctorparadox.net/
meme warfareThe use of memes to disseminate an ideology or counter its adversaries.https://doctorparadox.net/
men's rightsThe men's rights movement is a movement that advocates for the rights and interests of men, often focusing on issues like family law, alimony, and false rape accusations, but it has faced criticism for spreading misinformation and fostering anti-feminist sentiments.https://doctorparadox.net/
mind controlMind control refers to the process or act of using psychological techniques to manipulate and control an individual's thoughts, feelings, decisions, and behaviors, often associated with cults, brainwashing, and coercive persuasion.https://doctorparadox.net/
minimizingMinimizing is a manipulation technique where the severity, importance, or impact of an issue, behavior, or event is downplayed, often to deflect responsibility or diminish perception of harm.https://doctorparadox.net/
misinformationMisinformation is false or inaccurate information that is spread, regardless of intent to deceive, which can include rumors, hoaxes, and errors, often leading to misunderstanding or misinterpretation of facts.https://doctorparadox.net/
money launderingMoney laundering is the illegal process of making large amounts of money generated by criminal activity, such as drug trafficking or terrorist funding, appear to have come from a legitimate source.https://doctorparadox.net/
moral panicA widespread feeling of fear, often an irrational one, that some evil threatens the well-being of society.https://doctorparadox.net/
motivated reasoningMotivated reasoning is a cognitive bias that causes individuals to process information in a way that suits their pre-existing beliefs or desires, often leading to skewed or irrational decision-making and reinforcing misinformation or false beliefs.https://doctorparadox.net/dictionaries/authoritarianism/motivated-reasoning/
moving the goalpostsChanging the rules after the game is played, when one side doesn't like the outcome.https://doctorparadox.net/
"myth of tech misogyny"A form of denialism made popular by alt-right commentator and troll Milo Yiannopoulos, used to discredit feminist discussions about the tech and gaming industry's notorious levels of misogyny.https://doctorparadox.net/
naive realismNaive realism is the cognitive bias leading individuals to believe that they perceive the world objectively and that people who disagree with them must be uninformed, irrational, or biased.https://doctorparadox.net/
narcissistic rageNarcissistic rage is an intense, often violent, emotional outburst by someone with narcissistic personality disorder, usually triggered by a perceived threat to their self-esteem or self-worth.https://doctorparadox.net/psychology/narcissistic-rage/
narcissistic supplyNarcissistic supply refers to the attention, admiration, emotional energy, or other forms of "supply" that a person with narcissistic tendencies seeks from others to bolster their self-esteem and self-image.https://doctorparadox.net/
narrative framingThe context or angle from which a news story is told.https://doctorparadox.net/
The National EnquirerThe National Enquirer is an American tabloid newspaper known for its sensationalist and often unsubstantiated reporting, typically focused on celebrity gossip, scandals, and conspiracy theories.https://doctorparadox.net/
neurolinguistic programming (NLP)Neurolinguistic Programming is a controversial approach to communication, personal development, and psychotherapy, which claims that there is a connection between neurological processes, language, and behavioral patterns learned through experience.https://doctorparadox.net/psychology/neurolinguistic-programming-nlp/
nihilismNihilism is a philosophical belief that life lacks objective meaning, purpose, or intrinsic value, and often rejects established norms and values, sometimes leading to skepticism and pessimism about the world.https://doctorparadox.net/
non-linear warfareNon-linear warfare is a military and geopolitical strategy that involves unconventional, unpredictable tactics that do not follow traditional lines of conflict, often blending military and non-military means, including cyber attacks, disinformation, and economic tactics.https://doctorparadox.net/dictionaries/hybrid-warfare/
novichokmilitary-grade nerve agent developed by Russia and used in the poisoning of former FSB agent turned Putin critic Andrei Skripal and his daughter in Lonson in March, 2018https://doctorparadox.net/dictionaries/hybrid-warfare/novichok/
one-way streetExpect loyalty from you while offering none in returnhttps://doctorparadox.net/
opposhort form of opposition researchhttps://doctorparadox.net/
Overton windowThe range of ideas tolerated in public discourse.https://doctorparadox.net/models/
paranoiaNurturing and maintaining enemieshttps://doctorparadox.net/psychology/paranoia/
passive aggressivePassive aggressive behavior is a way of expressing negative feelings indirectly rather than openly addressing them, often involving subtle actions or inactions intended to annoy, obstruct, or control others.https://doctorparadox.net/
photo manipulationAltering a photograph in a way that distorts reality.https://doctorparadox.net/
PizzaGatePizzaGate was a debunked conspiracy theory that falsely claimed high-ranking Democratic Party officials and U.S. restaurants were involved in an underage human trafficking ring, which was widely disseminated online and led to dangerous real-world consequences.https://doctorparadox.net/conspiracy-theories/pizzagate/
plausible deniabilityPlausible deniability refers to the ability of people, typically senior officials in an organization, to deny knowledge of or responsibility for any damnable actions committed by others in an organizational hierarchy because of a lack of evidence that can confirm their participation.https://doctorparadox.net/
playing the victimPlaying the victim is a manipulative technique where a person portrays themselves as a victim of circumstances or others' actions in order to gain sympathy, justify their own behavior, or manipulate others.https://doctorparadox.net/
post-truthPost-truth describes a cultural and political context in which debate is framed largely by appeals to emotion disconnected from the details of policy, and by the repeated assertion of talking points to which factual rebuttals are ignored.https://doctorparadox.net/
projectionProjection is a psychological defense mechanism where a person unconsciously denies their own negative qualities by ascribing them to others, often leading to blame-shifting and misinformation.https://doctorparadox.net/psychology/projection/
Project LakhtaInternal name for the operation that Prigozhin's IRA was running to interfere in elections across the Western world, according to the Mueller indictments.https://doctorparadox.net/dictionaries/hybrid-warfare/project-lakhta/
propagandaPropaganda is the systematic dissemination of often biased or misleading information, used to promote or publicize a particular political cause or point of view.https://doctorparadox.net/dictionaries/authoritarianism/propaganda/
psychopathyPsychopathy is a personality disorder characterized by persistent antisocial behavior, impaired empathy and remorse, and bold, disinhibited, and egotistical traits.https://doctorparadox.net/psychology/psychopaths/
PUAPUA, or Pick-Up Artist, refers to a person who practices finding, attracting, and seducing sexual partners, often using deceptive and manipulative tactics.https://doctorparadox.net/
QAnonQAnon is a disproven and discredited far-right conspiracy theory alleging that a secret cabal of Satan-worshipping pedophiles is running a global child sex-trafficking ring and plotting against former U.S. President Donald Trump.https://doctorparadox.net/dictionaries/what-is-qanon/
received wisdomReceived wisdom refers to ideas or beliefs that are generally accepted as true without being critically examined, often perpetuating existing biases or misconceptions.https://doctorparadox.net/
red herringSomething that misleads or distracts from a relevant or important question.https://doctorparadox.net/
#releasethememo"#ReleaseTheMemo" was a social media campaign promoting the release of a classified memo written by U.S. Representative Devin Nunes that alleged abuses of surveillance by the FBI and the Justice Department in the investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election.https://doctorparadox.net/
retconRetcon, or retroactive continuity, is the alteration of previously established facts in a fictional work, often seen in comics, movies, and TV shows, used to reshape the narrative.https://doctorparadox.net/
running out the clockRunning out the clock is a strategy in debates or negotiations where one party intentionally delays or prolongs the process until a deadline is reached, limiting the ability of the other side to respond or take action.https://doctorparadox.net/
sadismSadism is the tendency to derive pleasure, especially sexual gratification, from inflicting pain, suffering, or humiliation on others.https://doctorparadox.net/
samizdatSelf-publishing material that is banned by the statehttps://doctorparadox.net/dictionaries/cold-war-dictionary/samizdat/
satireThe use of humor, irony, exaggeration, or ridicule to expose and criticize people's stupidity or vices.https://doctorparadox.net/
selective exposureSelective exposure is the tendency to favor information which reinforces one's pre-existing views while avoiding contradictory information, a significant factor in the spread of misinformation.https://doctorparadox.net/
shameShame is a complex emotion that combines feelings of dishonor, unworthiness, and embarrassment, often used in social or psychological manipulation to control or degrade others.https://doctorparadox.net/
shit-postingShit-posting is the act of publishing deliberately provocative or irrelevant posts or comments online, typically to upset others or divert attention from a topic, often seen in online forums and social media.https://doctorparadox.net/dictionaries/disinformation-dictionary/shitposting/
silovikiRussian term for those who have backgrounds and employment in the Russian power ministries -- security services, the military, and police; and more specifically a reference to Putin's security cabal.https://doctorparadox.net/dictionaries/cold-war-dictionary/siloviki/
Snow RevolutionPopular protests beginning in Moscow in 2011, demanding the reinstatement of free elections & the ability to form opposition parties. Hundreds if not thousands of protestors were detained on the first day of action (Dec 5), continuing over the next 2 years as punishments grew increasingly harsh and more activists were sent to penal colonies.https://doctorparadox.net/dictionaries/cold-war-dictionary/snow-revolution/
social botsAutomated accounts that use AI to influence discussions and promote specific ideas or products.https://doctorparadox.net/category/technology/bots/
social hierarchiesSocial hierarchies refer to the structured ranking of individuals or groups within a society, based on factors like class, race, wealth, or power, often influencing people's behavior, opportunities, and interactions.https://doctorparadox.net/
social proofA psychological phenomenon where people assume the actions of others in an attempt to reflect correct behavior for a given situation.https://doctorparadox.net/
sockpuppet accountsFake social media accounts used by trolls for deceptive and covert actions, avoiding culpability for abuse, aggression, death threats, doxxing, and other criminal acts against targets.https://doctorparadox.net/dictionaries/hybrid-warfare/sockpuppet-accounts/
source credibilityThe perceived trustworthiness or authority of the source of information.https://doctorparadox.net/
"sovereign democracy"system in which democratic procedures are retained, but without any actual democratic freedoms; brainchild of Vladislav Surkovhttps://doctorparadox.net/
Special MissionIn the context of disinformation, a "Special Mission" often refers to covert, deceptive operations or tasks assigned under the guise of legitimacy, typically to influence public opinion or political situations.https://doctorparadox.net/
spinA form of propaganda that involves presenting information in a biased way.https://doctorparadox.net/
splittingSee the world as with them or against them; an extension of black and white thinking.https://doctorparadox.net/
stonewallingStonewalling is a refusal to communicate or cooperate, such as by not responding to questions or withdrawing from a conversation, often used as a tactic to avoid confrontation or evade accountability.https://doctorparadox.net/
Stop the Steal"Stop the Steal" was a slogan and movement promoted by supporters of former U.S. President Donald Trump, falsely claiming widespread voter fraud in the 2020 presidential election in an attempt to overturn the results.https://doctorparadox.net/
Tarasoff ruleThe Tarasoff rule refers to a legal principle requiring mental health professionals to breach confidentiality and notify potential victims if a client makes credible threats of violence against them, stemming from a 1976 California court case.https://doctorparadox.net/
thought-stoppingThought-stopping involves the deliberate cessation of unwanted or disturbing thoughts, often used in ideological or religious indoctrination to avoid critical thinking and maintain control over beliefs.https://doctorparadox.net/
tortureTorture is the act of inflicting severe physical or psychological pain or suffering on someone, typically to extract information, punish, intimidate, or for the personal gratification of the torturer.https://doctorparadox.net/
troll farmsA group of individuals hired to produce a large volume of misleading or contentious social media posts.https://doctorparadox.net/
trollingTrolling is the act of making unsolicited or provocative comments online, often anonymously, with the intent of upsetting others, provoking a reaction, or disrupting discussions.https://doctorparadox.net/
undue influenceUndue influence involves the exertion of excessive pressure or manipulation by one person over another in a relationship, typically to gain control, decision-making power, or exploit the vulnerable party.https://doctorparadox.net/
urban legendA humorous or horrific story or piece of information circulated as though true.https://doctorparadox.net/
viral misinformationFalse information that spreads rapidly through social media networks.https://doctorparadox.net/
wallpaper effectThe "wraparound" pervasiveness of Right-wing Media and its Brainwashing effects at scalehttps://doctorparadox.net/
whisper campaignA method of persuasion in which damaging rumors or innuendo are spread about the target.https://doctorparadox.net/
white male identity politicsWhite male identity politics is a form of identity politics centered on the interests, experiences, and perspectives of white men, often emphasizing racial and gender hierarchies and reacting against perceived threats to white male dominance.https://doctorparadox.net/
white nationalismWhite nationalism is a political ideology that advocates for the self-governance and superiority of white people, often emphasizing racial purity and the creation of a white-only state.https://doctorparadox.net/save-democracy/right-wing-ideologies/white-nationalist-beliefs/
white terrorismWhite terrorism refers to acts of terrorism committed by individuals or groups motivated by white supremacist or white nationalist ideologies, typically aimed at advancing racial and ethnic hierarchies.https://doctorparadox.net/
yellow journalismJournalism that is based upon sensationalism and crude exaggeration.https://foundations.doctorparadox.net/Dictionaries/Politics/yellow+journalism
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Donald Trump pathocracy, by Midjourney

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

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

Origins and development of the concept of pathocracy

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

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

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

Characteristics of pathocratic leadership

  • Psychopathy: Leaders in a pathocracy often display traits synonymous with psychopathy, including a lack of empathy, remorse, and shallow emotions.
  • Narcissism: Excessive self-love and a strong sense of entitlement often drive pathocratic rulers.
  • Manipulation: These leaders are adept at manipulation, using deceit and coercion to maintain their power. They also often exhibit other traits and behaviors of emotional predators.
  • Paranoia: A heightened sense of persecution or conspiracy is common, leading to oppressive and authoritarian measures.
  • Corruption: Moral depravity, ethical degeneration, and widespread corruption are endemic in a pathocracy, as pathological leaders tend to surround themselves with similarly affected individuals who feel no shame about performing unethical and/or illegal actions either in secret, or in broad daylight with little fear of retaliation.
Continue reading Pathocracy Definition: Are we in one?
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When someone has skin in the game, they have some stake in the outcome of their opinion or decision. They are incentivized to act in their own best interest, naturally aligning them with the best outcome. It mitigates effects like moral hazard, which misaligns incentives of the parties in an interaction based on an asymmetry of knowledge, power, and/or other factors.

The metaphor of skin in the game also relates to a number of core concepts in moral philosophy:

  • moral hazard
  • fairness
  • justice
  • transparency
  • authenticity
  • integrity
  • responsibility
  • good faith
  • honor
  • honesty
  • truthworthiness
  • forthrightness
  • earnestness
  • steadfastness
  • being true to one’s word

The term “skin in the game” is said to have originated from gambling, where it denotes having a personal stake or investment in an endeavor. In a broader sense, it implies that individuals or entities have something of personal value at risk in the outcome of a situation, typically financial or reputational.

Ethical implications

  1. Accountability and Responsibility: When an individual or entity has “skin in the game,” they are more likely to act responsibly and ethically. This stems from the direct impact their actions will have on their own welfare. For example, a business owner with a substantial personal investment in their company is more likely to make decisions that ensure long-term sustainability over quick, risky profits that could jeopardize the business.
  2. Trust and Credibility: In contexts like financial advising or political leadership, having “skin in the game” builds trust. Stakeholders are more likely to trust someone who shares in the risks and rewards. It demonstrates a commitment to shared outcomes, which can be a strong ethical foundation.
  3. Moral Hazard Reduction: The concept helps mitigate moral hazards—situations where one party takes risks because another party bears the cost of those risks. For instance, if a CEO’s compensation is tied to the company’s performance, they have a vested interest in the company’s success, reducing the likelihood of risky behavior that could harm the company while benefiting themselves personally.

Aligned incentives

The notion of “skin in the game” is closely linked to the alignment of incentives, which is crucial for effective and ethical decision-making.

  1. Mutual Interests: When all parties involved in a decision or project have something at stake, their interests become more aligned. This alignment leads to decisions that are more likely to benefit all involved, rather than favoring one party at the expense of others.
  2. Long-term Planning: Aligned incentives encourage long-term thinking. When decision-makers share in the long-term risks and rewards, they are incentivized to plan for sustainable growth and stability.
  3. Risk Sharing: It also implies a fair distribution of risks. In a well-aligned system, no single party bears an undue burden of risk, which fosters a more equitable and ethical environment.

Skin in the game quotes

The price of greatness is responsibility.

Winston Churchill

Top Mental Models for Thinkers ↗

Model thinking is an excellent way of improving our cognition and decision making abilities.

28 Cognitive distortions list ↗

Cognitive distortions are bad mental habits and unhelpful ways of thinking that can limit one’s ability to function in the world.

24 Logical fallacies list ↗

Recognizing and avoiding logical fallacies is essential for critical thinking and effective communication.

Read more

republican vs. democrat cage match boxing ring

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

These are some of the resources that have helped me continue grappling with that question, and with the rapidly shifting landscape of information warfare. How can we understand this era of polarization, this age of tribalism? This outline is a work in progress, and I’m planning to keep adding to this list as the tape keeps rolling.

Right-Wing Authoritarianism

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

America has had flavors of authoritarianism since its founding, and when fascism came along the right-wing authoritarians ate it up — and deeply wanted the United States to be a part of it. Only after they became social pariahs did they change position to support American involvement in World War II — and some persisted even after the attack of Pearl Harbor.

Scholars of authoritarianism

  • Hannah Arendt — The Origins of Totalitarianism
  • Bob Altemeyer — The Authoritarians
  • Derrida — the logic of the unconscious; performativity in the act of lying
  • ketman — Ketman is the psychological concept of concealing one’s true aims, akin to doublethink in Orwell’s 1984, that served as a central theme to Polish dissident 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
  • Tyrants and dictators
  • John Dean — 3 types of authoritarian personality:
    • social dominators
    • authoritarian followers
    • double highs — social dominators who can “switch” to become followers in certain circumstances
  • Loyalty; hero worship
    • Freud = deeply distrustful of hero worship and worried that it indulged people’s needs for vertical authority. He found the archetype of the authoritarian primal father very troubling.
  • Ayn Rand
    • The Fountainhead (1943)
    • Atlas Shrugged (1957)
    • Objectivism ideology
  • Greatness Thinking; heroic individualism
  • Nietszche — will to power; the Uberman
  • Richard Hofstadter — The Paranoid Style
  • George Lakoff — moral framing; strict father morality
  • Neil Postman — Entertaining Ourselves to Death
  • Anti-Intellectualism
  • Can be disguised as hyper-rationalism (Communism)
  • More authoritarianism books
Continue reading Hyper Partisanship: How to understand American politics today
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The “Dark Triad” is a term in psychology that refers to a trio of personality traits: narcissism, Machiavellianism, and psychopathy. These traits are considered “dark” because of their malevolent qualities—namely, they are associated with a callous-manipulative interpersonal style.

Narcissism is characterized by grandiosity, pride, egotism, and a lack of empathy. It’s derived from the Greek myth of Narcissus, a man who fell in love with his reflection. In a psychological context, narcissism ranges from healthy self-esteem to a pathological level where it can be the full-blown personality disorder NPD and have a great impact on relationships and quality of life.

A hallmark of pathological narcissism is the constant need for admiration and a sense of entitlement. While a certain degree of narcissism may be essential for healthy self-confidence, its extreme can lead to destructive behavior both to the narcissist and to those around them.

Machiavellianism is named after the philosophy espoused by Niccolò Machiavelli, a Renaissance-era political philosopher who argued that deceit and manipulation were effective in politics. This trait is characterized by a person’s tendency to deceive and manipulate others for personal gain. It’s not an officially recognized personality disorder in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM), but it is widely recognized in the field of psychology. People high in Machiavellianism are often adept at controlling others and tend to prioritize their interests over morals or societal rules.

Psychopathy is perhaps the most dangerous trait of the Dark Triad. It is often associated with a deficit in affective (emotional) responses and a lack of empathy. Psychopaths may exhibit antisocial behavior, diminished capacity for remorse, and poor behavioral controls. It’s important to note that while psychopathy is not a formal diagnosis in the DSM, its behaviors are often associated with antisocial personality disorder. Psychopaths are typically impulsive and thrill-seeking, they may be charming and intelligent, which masks their inability to form genuine emotional bonds.

Widespread traits

Each of these traits exists on a spectrum, and all individuals may exhibit these traits to some degree. It’s the extreme manifestations and the presence of all three traits in an individual that become particularly problematic. The Dark Triad has been a subject of significant research, especially in occupational and social psychology, due to its implications for workplace behavior, relationship dynamics, and social harmony.

Individuals with these traits may be drawn to certain professions or social situations that allow them to exert power or control over others. In the workplace, for example, Dark Triad traits may be beneficial to some extent for individuals in high-level management positions or in industries where cutthroat tactics are common. However, these traits can also lead to toxic work environments, unethical behavior, and organizational dysfunction.

The Dark Triad can also affect interpersonal relationships. Individuals with high levels of these traits may be charismatic and engaging initially, but their relationships are often superficial and plagued by manipulation and conflict. Their lack of empathy can result in the callous treatment of others and a focus on short-term relationships that serve their needs.

Made and Born

Research on the Dark Triad is extensive and has explored the biological, psychological, and social factors that contribute to these traits. Some studies suggest that there are genetic predispositions for these traits, while others point to environmental factors such as childhood experiences. It’s likely a combination of both. The expression of these traits is also influenced by cultural and societal norms; what may be considered assertive or ambitious behavior in one culture could be viewed as aggressive or unethical in another.

Understanding the Dark Triad is important not just for psychologists and mental health professionals, but also for individuals in managerial roles, human resources, and those involved in policy-making. By recognizing these traits, it is possible to develop better screening tools for positions that require high ethical standards and to create interventions that may mitigate the impact of these traits in various settings.

The Dark Triad encompasses three interrelated personality traits that have significant implications for individual behavior and social interactions. While these traits are part of the human personality spectrum, their dark aspect lies in their potential to harm individuals and society when present in high levels. Understanding and addressing the Dark Triad traits can lead to healthier social environments, more ethical workplaces, and overall improved wellbeing.

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The special grand jury in Georgia that investigated efforts to overturn the state’s 2020 presidential election results in favor of loser Donald Trump has recommended indictments against 39 individuals, a number significantly higher than the 19 people ultimately charged by prosecutors. Among those recommended for indictment in the Georgia RICO case but who were not charged were South Carolina Sen. Lindsey Graham, former U.S. Senators Kelly Loeffler and David Perdue of Georgia, and former Trump national security adviser Mike Flynn.

The report suggests that Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis exercised discretion in streamlining the case, possibly due to factors like immunity deals, federal protections, or insufficient evidence. The grand jury accused the individuals of various offenses, including racketeering, conspiracy to defraud the state, false statements, perjury, and criminal solicitation to commit election fraud.

39 Georgia co-conspirators recommended for indictment

Rudy Giuliani with a hair dye problem
  1. Rudy GiulianiRudy Giuliani is an American attorney and politician, best known for serving as the Mayor of New York City from 1994 to 2001. He gained national prominence for his leadership during the 9/11 terrorist attacks. Later, he became a personal lawyer to Donald Trump and was involved in various legal challenges related to the 2020 U.S. Presidential election.
  2. John EastmanJohn Eastman is a constitutional law scholar and attorney. He gained attention for advising former President Donald Trump on legal matters, particularly concerning the 2020 election. Eastman has been criticized for promoting theories that questioned the election’s integrity.
  3. Kenneth Chesebro — Kenneth Chesebro is a less-publicized figure, primarily known as a Harvard Law School lecturer. He specializes in legal writing and research, but has not been prominently involved in mainstream political or legal events.
  4. Donald TrumpBusinessman and television personality. His presidency was marked by a polarized political climate, economic highs and lows, and two impeachments. He remains a highly influential figure in American politics.
  5. Cleta MitchellCleta Mitchell is an American lawyer specializing in election law and campaign finance. She gained attention for representing Donald Trump in matters related to the 2020 presidential election and has been a vocal critic of its outcome.
  6. Jenna Ellis — Jenna Ellis is an American attorney and author. She served as a legal advisor to Donald Trump during his presidency and was involved in legal challenges concerning the 2020 election. Ellis is known for her conservative viewpoints.
  7. Mark Meadows — Mark Meadows is an American politician who served as the White House Chief of Staff under Donald Trump. Prior to that, he was a U.S. Representative from North Carolina. Meadows is a founding member of the Freedom Caucus in the House of Representatives.
  8. David Shafer — David Shafer is a Republican politician from Georgia, serving as the Chairman of the Georgia Republican Party. He has been involved in state politics for years and was a vocal supporter of Donald Trump during the 2020 election.
  9. Ray Smith III — Ray Smith is a Georgia-based attorney who gained attention for representing the Trump campaign in legal matters related to the 2020 election in Georgia. He specializes in civil litigation and business law. He is accused of making false claims of election fraud at legislative hearings in December 2020.
  10. Lin Wood — Lin Wood is an American attorney known for high-profile defamation cases. He became a controversial figure for his involvement in legal challenges related to the 2020 U.S. Presidential election and his promotion of conspiracy theories.
  11. Lindsey Graham — Lindsey Graham is a U.S. Senator from South Carolina, serving since 2003. A member of the Republican Party, Graham is known for his conservative stance on issues like national security and his close relationship with Donald Trump.
  12. Sidney PowellSidney Powell is an American attorney and author. She gained national attention for her involvement in legal challenges related to the 2020 presidential election, promoting theories that have been widely discredited.
  13. Robert Cheeley — Robert Cheeley is a Georgia-based attorney specializing in personal injury law. He gained attention for his association with Lin Wood in various legal matters but is not a mainstream political figure. He is accused of making false claims of election fraud at legislative hearings in December 2020.
  14. Mike FlynnMichael Flynn is a retired U.S. Army Lieutenant General who briefly served as National Security Advisor under Donald Trump. He was convicted of lying to the FBI but was later pardoned by Trump.
  15. William Ligon — William Ligon is a Republican politician who serves as a State Senator in Georgia. He gained attention for his efforts to challenge the results of the 2020 presidential election in Georgia.
  16. David Perdue — David Perdue is an American businessman and politician who served as a U.S. Senator from Georgia from 2015 to 2021. A member of the Republican Party, Perdue was a close ally of former President Donald Trump. He lost his re-election bid in the 2021 Georgia runoff to Democrat Jon Ossoff.
  17. Kelly Loeffler — Kelly Loeffler is an American businesswoman and politician who served as a U.S. Senator from Georgia. Appointed in 2019, she lost her seat to Democrat Raphael Warnock in the 2021 Georgia runoff. Loeffler is co-owner of the Atlanta Dream, a WNBA team.
  18. Cathy Latham — A previously lesser known figure in Georgia politics.
  19. Misty Hampton — A previously lesser known figure in Georgia politics.
  20. Scott Hall — A previously lesser known figure in Georgia politics.
  21. Boris Epshteyn — Boris Epshteyn is a Russian-American political strategist and commentator. He served as a special assistant to President Donald Trump and has been a vocal supporter of Trump’s policies.
  22. Jeffrey Clark — Jeff Clark is an American attorney who served as the Assistant Attorney General for the Environment and Natural Resources Division under the Trump administration. He gained attention for his role in Trump’s efforts to overturn the 2020 election results.
  23. Kurt Hilbert — Kurt Hilbert is an American attorney based in Georgia. He gained attention for his involvement in legal challenges related to the 2020 U.S. Presidential election, particularly in Georgia.
  24. Stephen Lee — A previously lesser known figure in Georgia politics.
  25. Trevian Kutti — Trevian Kutti is a public relations consultant who has worked with high-profile clients, including politicians and celebrities. She is not a mainstream political figure but has some influence in the PR world.
  26. Harrison Floyd — Harrison Floyd is a military veteran and political activist. He has been involved in conservative political campaigns and organizations but is not a mainstream political figure.
  27. Alex Kaufman — Alex Kaufman is an American attorney based in Georgia. He specializes in election law and has been involved in various legal matters related to elections, although he is not a widely recognized public figure.
  28. Joseph Brannan — A previously lesser known figure in Georgia politics.
  29. Vikki Consiglio — Vikki Consiglio is a Georgia-based political activist and member of the Republican Party. She has been involved in local politics and grassroots organizing but is not a mainstream political figure.
  30. Carolyn Fisher — A previously lesser known figure in Georgia politics.
  31. Burt Jones — Burt Jones is an American businessman and politician serving as a Republican State Senator in Georgia. He has been in office since 2013 and is known for his conservative stances on issues like healthcare and education. Jones was a vocal supporter of Donald Trump and has been involved in efforts to challenge the 2020 election results in Georgia.
  32. Gloria Godwin — A previously lesser known figure in Georgia politics.
  33. Mark Hennessy — A previously lesser known figure in Georgia politics.
  34. Mark Amick — A previously lesser known figure in Georgia politics.
  35. John Downey — A previously lesser known figure in Georgia politics.
  36. Brad Carver — Brad Carver is an American attorney and political strategist based in Georgia. He is a partner at Hall Booth Smith, P.C., and specializes in governmental affairs. Carver has been involved in Republican politics and has served as a delegate to the Republican National Convention.
  37. Shawn Still — A previously lesser known figure in Georgia politics.
  38. C. B. Yadav — C. B. Yadav is a businessman and community leader based in Georgia. While not a mainstream political figure, Yadav has been involved in local community initiatives and has received recognition for his philanthropic efforts.
  39. Jacki Pick — Jacki Pick is an American attorney and conservative commentator. She has appeared on various media platforms to discuss legal and political issues. Pick is known for her conservative viewpoints and has been a guest speaker at several conservative events.

What is RICO?

Georgia RICO brings racketeering to the fore, by Midjourney

The Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act (RICO) is a U.S. federal law enacted in 1970, designed to combat organized crime. Initially aimed at dismantling the Mafia, RICO has evolved to address a broad range of illegal activities carried out by enterprises, which can include businesses, gangs, and even political organizations. The law targets patterns of racketeering, which may involve activities like money laundering, drug trafficking, and fraud.

In the legal profession, RICO cases are approached with meticulous care due to their complexity. Prosecutors must prove four key elements: the existence of an “enterprise,” a pattern of racketeering activity, a connection between the enterprise and the criminal conduct, and the defendant’s participation in the enterprise through the pattern of racketeering. Establishing a “pattern” usually requires at least two acts of racketeering activity within a 10-year period.

Defense strategies often focus on dismantling one or more of these elements. For instance, they may argue that the alleged activities do not constitute a “pattern” or that the defendant was not sufficiently involved in the enterprise. Given the severe penalties, which can include hefty fines and up to 20 years in prison per racketeering count, both sides often rely on extensive documentation, expert testimonies, and intricate legal arguments.

Trials are usually long-drawn affairs, involving multiple parties and numerous charges. The prosecution may use tools like wiretaps, surveillance, and informants to build their case, while the defense may scrutinize the validity and legality of such evidence. Due to the high stakes, RICO cases are typically handled by attorneys with specialized expertise in this area of law.

TL;DR: RICO is a powerful tool for prosecuting organized criminal activities, but its cases are complex and require a nuanced legal approach.

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The Stanford Prison Experiment is a seminal study in the field of social psychology, offering profound insights into the dynamics of power, authority, and human behavior. Conducted in 1971 by psychologist Philip Zimbardo, the experiment aimed to investigate the psychological effects of perceived power and authority within a simulated prison environment. Zimbardo’s Stanford Prison Experiment set the stage for deeper explorations of the ways in which individualist doctrines of western nations tend to overweight the role of the individual (dispensational attribution) while underweighting the role in the situation and social milieu of the setting.

The Experiment Setup

Zimbardo and his team transformed the basement of Stanford University’s psychology building into a mock prison. Participants, who were college students, were randomly assigned roles as either “guards” or “prisoners.” The guards were given uniforms, sunglasses to prevent eye contact, and batons, while the prisoners were stripped of personal identity, referred to by numbers, and subjected to various forms of psychological manipulation and humiliation designed to dehumanize them in the eyes of their faux captors.

Zimbardo's Stanford Prison Experiment, by Midjourney

The Unfolding

The Zimbardo’s Stanford Prison Experiment was initially planned to last two weeks but had to be terminated after just six days due to the extreme and disturbing behavior exhibited by the participants. The guards became increasingly sadistic, employing psychological torture techniques, and the prisoners showed signs of extreme stress, depression, and helplessness. The environment became so toxic that some prisoners had to be released early due to emotional breakdowns.

Ethical Concerns

The study has been widely criticized for its ethical shortcomings. Zimbardo himself acted as the “prison superintendent,” and his failure to intervene has been seen as a significant ethical lapse (he shares this sentiment, and has been vocal about examining his own role in the profoundly disturbing results of his experiment). The lack of informed consent and the emotional and psychological harm caused to the participants have also been points of contention in the academic community.

Before this study, though, I think it was counterintuitive to assume that otherwise decent, law-abiding good people could be turned into snarling sadists so quickly, in the right circumstances. And the reality of that truth disturbs us and the field of social psychology to this day.

Social Psychological Learnings

Despite its ethical issues, the Zimbardo’s Stanford Prison Experiment offers invaluable insights into human behavior and social psychology:

  • Deindividuation: The guards’ uniforms and sunglasses served to deindividuate them, making it easier for them to engage in cruel behavior without feeling personally responsible.
  • Social Roles and Conformity: Both guards and prisoners conformed to their assigned roles to a disturbing extent, highlighting the power of social roles in shaping behavior.
conformity, by Midjourney
  • Authority and Obedience: The experiment showed how ordinary people could commit atrocious acts when they perceive themselves to be following authoritative commands.
  • Situational vs. Dispositional Factors: The study emphasized the influence of situational factors over dispositional ones in determining behavior. It argued that the environment could significantly impact how individuals act, as opposed to inherent personality traits.
  • Ethical Considerations in Research: The study serves as a cautionary tale for ethical considerations in psychological experiments, leading to stricter guidelines and review boards for research involving human subjects.

Implications and Legacy

The Zimbardo Stanford Prison Experiment has had a lasting impact on psychology, ethics, and our understanding of human behavior. It has been cited in various contexts, from understanding the abuses at Abu Ghraib prison to corporate misconduct a la Enron, et al. While the study’s ethical lapses have led to ongoing debates, its findings remain a crucial part of social psychology curricula and continue to inform our understanding of the human psyche.

Zimbardo’s Stanford Prison Experiment serves as both a revealing exploration of the dark corners of human behavior and a cautionary tale for ethical conduct in scientific research. It provides a complex, multifaceted look into the social psychological mechanisms that can lead ordinary people to commit extraordinary acts of cruelty or submission.

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