Corruption

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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emotional predator, by Midjourney

Chances are you’ve had an encounter with an emotional predator — whether you’re aware of it or not. Most everyone is familiar with the physical abuser: typically the man who beats his wife or female partner. But emotional abuse, and psychological abuse, are also integral components of abuse and are often present with, and precursors to, intimate partner physical violence.

Often individuals who abuse others have a personality disorder that increases their chances of becoming an abuser. Many of these personality disorders have narcissism at their roots — a psychological defense mechanism in which an individual harbors grandiose fantasies about themselves and feels selfishly entitled to having all their demands met.

Narcissists require a constant stream of admiration, or “narcissistic supply,” coming their way. They achieve this through charm, emotional and psychological manipulation, and all sorts of shady, unethical, or downright illegal tactics and behaviors. When a narcissist wants something from you, or wants you to do something, he can become a devious emotional predator who takes advantage of your good will for his own ends without thinking twice.

How to identify an emotional predator

One way to protect yourself from emotional predators is to understand how they behave, and become familiar with how to detect manipulative and deceptive behavior as early on as possible. If you see any of the warning signs below in a loved one, coworker, community member, or position of leadership, then use caution in dealings with this individual. Seek external advice and assistance in threat assessment before placing further trust in this person.

Emotional predation can take place at all levels: interpersonal interactions and intimate partnerships, within groups and organizations, as well as at much larger scales on the order of societies, nations, and — increasingly — global networks. If you feel something “off” in an interaction that feels loaded with emotional pressure, stop for a moment and do some critical thinking about whether someone is trying to prey on your emotions, and how to respond.

global network, by Midjourney

Emotional predators are often found leading cults (both small and large), so take a look at those who surround them and ask if they seem like mindless followers in thrall to the cult of personality of one individual. Assess whether you and/or others who interact with the psychic vampire experience the following phenomena:

  • Manipulating your emotions; emotional blackmail A form of manipulation where someone uses your feelings against you to get what they want. It often involves guilt-tripping, fear, and obligation, making you feel trapped in a cycle of compliance.
  • Love bombing — Used to secure your loyalty in the first place, love bombing is a technique in which the emotional predator showers you with affection, admiration, and gifts in the early stages of your relationship. Their goal is to create a strong attachment quickly, that will make it harder for you to see and recognize their darker traits coming out later on.
  • Negging; undermining confidence and self-esteem Negging is a tactic where someone offers backhanded compliments or subtle insults to undermine your self-esteem. The goal is to make you feel vulnerable, so you seek their approval.
  • Creating unnecessary chaos — Some individuals thrive on creating chaos to divert attention from their actions or to keep others off-balance. It’s a control tactic that leaves you feeling disoriented.
  • Consistent inconsistency; intermittent reinforcement — This involves unpredictable behavior, where positive reinforcement is given sporadically. It keeps you guessing and hooked, as you never know when the next “reward” will come; as in gambling, e.g.
  • GrandiosityAn inflated sense of self-importance and superiority over others. It’s often a mask for deep-seated insecurities.
  • One-way street — In a one-way relationship, one person’s needs and wants are prioritized over the other’s. It’s a dynamic that leaves one feeling drained and unappreciated.
  • Masters of deceptive and misleading stories — Some individuals are adept at crafting narratives that bend the truth, often to serve their own interests or manipulate others.
deceptive and misleading stories, by Midjourney
  • Love to play victim and hero — These individuals portray themselves as both the victim and the hero in different narratives, manipulating emotions to gain sympathy or admiration.
  • Diverting attention — Diversion tactics are used to shift focus away from the individual’s actions, often by blaming others or creating new issues.
  • Disregarding the lawSome people view laws as mere suggestions, often rationalizing illegal actions for personal gain or out of a sense of entitlement. The so-called Sovereign Citizens movement essentially codified this as an ideology the group believes in, and tries to use as legal argument in court (failing each time).
  • Denying plain facts; denialism — Denialism involves refusing to accept proven facts, often to protect one’s ego or agenda.
  • Assert the opposite of reality — This tactic involves making claims that are directly contradicted by observable facts, creating a confusing and disorienting environment.
  • Magical thinkingMagical thinking is the belief that one’s thoughts or actions can influence unrelated events. It’s often a way to avoid responsibility.
  • Projection — Assigning their own feelings or imputing their own motives into you. Projection involves attributing one’s own undesirable feelings or motives to another person, often as a defense mechanism.
  • See the world as with them or against them (splitting) — Splitting is a cognitive distortion where people are categorized as all good or all bad, with no middle ground or nuance.
  • Nurturing and maintaining enemies (paranoia) — Some individuals maintain a sense of purpose or identity by creating and nurturing perceived enemies, often based on exaggerated or imagined threats.
paranoia, by Midjourney
  • Moves the goalposts — Changing the criteria for success or approval, making it difficult for others to meet expectations.
  • Refuses to take responsibility or admit fault — Some folks deflect blame and never admit fault, often rationalizing their actions to avoid accountability.
  • Gaslightingcausing you to question your own sanity. Gaslighting is a form of manipulation where someone tries to make you doubt your own perceptions and sanity.
  • BullyingBullying involves repeated, intentional harm or intimidation, often to assert control or superiority over someone else.
  • Frequent liar / compulsive liar — Some individuals lie habitually, either to manipulate others or sometimes without any apparent reason.
  • Aggressive and easily angered — These individuals have low tolerance for frustration and may resort to aggression or anger to assert control or mask insecurities.
aggressive and easily angered -- by Midjourney

Arm yourself with as much information as you can about emotional predators and the tactics of undue influence techniques they use, as well as the real world history of cults and their consequences — and how to get people out of them via deprogramming techniques. Here’s a cults and mind control book list to get you started:

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phobia indoctrination, illustrated

Phobia indoctrination is one of the principle ways a charismatic leader will lull potential followers into his thrall, by putting them into a state of perpetual fear and anxiety. They know, either instinctively or through training (or both), that people can be induced into a prolonged state of confusion easily, and that many people in states of confusion act quite irrationally. Abusers, cult leaders, and other controllers use demagoguery and other tricks to hide in plain sight and continue to accrue power while passing themselves off as harmless or extremely patriotic.

These chaos agents use emotional manipulation and other tactics of emotional predators as a tool of control. They whip followers up into a fear frenzy frequently enough to instill a set of phobia-like instinctual reactions to chosen stimuli. In addition to stoking fears of the enemies at the gates, they also inculcate irrational fears of the consequences of questioning their authority — invoking authoritarianism. Any doubts expressed about the leadership or its doctrine are subject to terrifying negative results. Cults use this formula to wield undue influence over followers, and prevent them from questioning or leaving the group.

Phobia indoctrination is a tool of cults

As part of a larger overall program of brainwashing or mind control, cults and destructive organizations use imaginary extremes (going to hell, being possessed by demons, failing miserably at life, race war, Leftist apocalypse, etc.) to shock followers into refusing to examine any evidence whatsoever. A form of unethical hypnosis, phobia indoctrination can now be carried out on a mass scale thanks to the internet and our massive media apparatus. Be sure to be on the lookout for any cult warning signs in groups and messaging all around you.

Sociopaths and other types of emotional predators are taking ample advantage of their advantage in time and distance over the slow pace of justice. The wielding of fear as a cudgel in American politics has reached a fever pitch, with anti-Critical Race Theory hysteria, anti-vaxxers, anti-government types, anti-science, Lost Cause-revival zombie MAGA footsoldiers screeching about the “freedom!!!” they wish the government to provide them for persecuting their enemies, and other social horrors are merely the tip of the climate changing iceberg.

phobia indoctrination, illustrated

Phobia indoctrination tactics

Strategies of phobia indoctrination include Repetition and Conditioning, where fears are built through constant exposure; Misinformation and Propaganda, using false information to paint something as dangerous; Utilizing Existing Fears, exaggerating known fears or anxieties; and Social Pressure and Group Dynamics, leveraging social influences to convince others that irrational fears are common.

Other tactics include Authority and Expert Manipulation, where false credentials are used to lend legitimacy; Emotional Manipulation, appealing directly to emotions; Isolation and Control, where a person’s environment is manipulated; and Media Manipulation, using media to provoke fear.

Phobia indoctrination and cults book list:

Or, support local bookstores instead of Jeff Bezos:

Related to phobia indoctrination:

Cult Dictionary ↗

We had better get familiar with the lexicon and vocabulary of the coming era, so we can fight the creeping scourge of thought control roiling the land.

Jim Jones toasting his cult members with a cup of cyanide, by Midjourney

Disinformation Dictionary

Disinformation is meant to confuse, throw off, distract, polarize, and otherwise create conflict within and between target populations.

Disinformation, by Midjourney

Cult Warning Signs: How to recognize cultish groups

Recognizing cult warning signs can be vital in identifying and understanding the risk before getting involved with a group who may not have your best interests in mind.

cult warning signs, by Midjourney
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The Council for National Policy is a conservative organization founded in 1981 by far-right Republican activists in the U.S. including Paul Weyrich, Richard Viguerie, Phyllis Schlafly, and Tim LaHaye to advance a Christian Right agenda in American politics.

Today, the CNP is enormously influential on the right and almost unknown on the left. Its secretive cabal designs policy for federal and state lawmakers to amplify or parrot, and they dutifully do. Members include a who’s who of the Trumpian rogue gallery, from Steve Bannon and Kellyanne Conway to Mike Pence, Jim Jordan, Cleta Mitchell, and of course, Ginni Thomas.

The CNP gave Mike Flynn an annual award. Then-President Trump spoke at their 2020 annual meeting. That tells you pretty much all you need to know about how dangerous and well-connected this organization is, and how great is the extent of the group’s influence on American politics — and it’s only the tip of the iceberg. Columbia University scholar Anne Nelson describes the primary impact of the group as “connecting the manpower and media of the Christian right with the finances of Western plutocrats and the strategy of right-wing Republican political operatives” in her excellent book, Shadow Network: Media, Money, and the Secret Hub of the Radical Right.

CNP and the Big Lie

They go to great lengths to conceal their activities, membership rosters, and connections within the corridors of Washington as well as in state legislatures and the judiciary. For more than 40 years the CNP has united the deep pocketbooks of right-wing donors with strategists, media campaigns, and activists. The group was deeply involved in both the efforts to overturn the 2020 election, leading up to and including the January 6 insurrection — from funding and planning to propaganda and “legal” challenges.

The CNP continues to press its narrow, historically revisionist ideas about America, including efforts to influence the 2022 midterm elections and, undoubtedly, the 2024 contest. In the quest to understand this fractious moment of bitter partisanship, the Council for National Policy is one of the secret keys to unlocking the true inner workings of the right-wing political machine.

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Propaganda is a form of communication that aims to influence people’s beliefs, attitudes, or behaviors towards a particular cause, idea, or ideology. It involves the use of persuasive influence techniques to shape public opinion and to create a favorable image of a person, group, or organization, while discrediting or demonizing its opponents.

Propaganda can take many different forms, including posters, speeches, films, radio broadcasts, social media posts, and news articles. It can be used for political, social, religious, or commercial purposes, and it is often associated with authoritarian regimes or totalitarian societies.

One of the key characteristics of propaganda is its use of emotional appeals, rather than rational arguments, to sway people’s opinions. Propagandists often appeal to people’s fears, hopes, bigotries, or prejudices, and use catchy slogans, symbols, or images to make their message more memorable and persuasive. They may also use repetition, exaggeration, or distortion of facts to reinforce their message and to create a sense of urgency or crisis.

Disinformation at scale

Another key feature of propaganda is its use of selective or biased information to support its claims and to discredit opposing views. Propagandists may use half-truths, rumors, lies, or Big Lies to create a false or misleading picture of the situation, and to manipulate people’s perceptions of reality. They may also use censorship or propaganda techniques such as suppression of dissent, demonization of opponents, or use of fear to create a chilling climate of fear and intimidation.

Propaganda can also be used to create a sense of unity or identity among a group of people, by emphasizing their shared values, beliefs, or interests, and by portraying outsiders or enemies as a threat to their well-being. Propaganda can thus be used to mobilize people for a common cause, such as a war or a political campaign, or to reinforce existing social norms and values.

However, propaganda can also have negative consequences, such as creating divisions, fostering hatred, or suppressing dissent. It can lead to the dehumanization of other groups or individuals, and to the justification of violence or discrimination. Propaganda can also undermine democracy by limiting people’s access to accurate information and by creating a distorted view of reality.

To resist propaganda, it is important to be critical of the messages we receive, to question the sources and motives of the information, and to seek out alternative perspectives and sources of information. We should also be aware of our own biases and prejudices, and strive to be open-minded and tolerant of different opinions and viewpoints.

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authoritarians gather for a witch hunt

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

The authoritarian personality is characterized by excessive strictness and a propensity to exhibit oppressive behavior towards perceived subordinates. On the flip side, they treat authority figures with mindless obedience and unquestioning compliance. They also have an aversion to difference, ambiguity, complexity, and diversity.

How did they get this way? Are people born with authoritarian personalities, or is the authoritarian “made” predominately by circumstance?

Authoritarian personality studies

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

Continue reading Essential thinkers on authoritarian personality theory
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Gerrymandering is a political tactic used to manipulate the boundaries of electoral districts to favor one political party over another. It’s essentially the opposite of what the Founders meant by representative democracy — voters are supposed to choose their representatives, and not the other way around.

The practice is named after Elbridge Gerry, a governor of Massachusetts who in 1812 approved a redistricting plan that created a district that resembled a salamander. The term “gerrymandering” combines the words “Gerry” and “salamander.”

The objective of gerrymandering is to create “safe” districts for a particular political party or group by concentrating voters who are likely to support that party into a small number of districts, while diluting their votes in other districts. This is done by drawing district boundaries in a way that groups together like-minded voters or separates them from voters who are likely to vote for the opposing party. It’s a way of cherry-picking one’s constituents, and manipulating the outcome unfairly in your favor — with one net effect being the dilution of the voting rights of your opposition.

Gerrymandering is typically carried out by state legislatures, who have the authority to redraw electoral district boundaries every ten years after the release of the Census data. The redistricting process is supposed to ensure that each district has roughly the same number of residents, but lawmakers often use this opportunity to manipulate the boundaries in a way that benefits their party.

Partisan and racial gerrymandering

There are two main types of gerrymandering: partisan gerrymandering and racial gerrymandering. Partisan gerrymandering is when district boundaries are drawn in a way that benefits one political party over another. Racial gerrymandering is when district boundaries are drawn in a way that dilutes the voting power of racial minorities — which, in turn, tends to help the Republican Party and hurt the Democratic Party.

Partisan gerrymandering can be carried out in several ways. One common method is “packing,” which involves drawing district boundaries so that a high concentration of voters who support one party are all in one district. This leaves other districts with fewer voters who support that party, making it easier for the opposing party to win those districts. Another method is “cracking,” which involves breaking up a concentration of voters who support one party by drawing district boundaries so that they are spread out across multiple districts. This dilutes their voting power and makes it harder for them to win any of those districts.

Racial gerrymandering is usually carried out to dilute the voting power of racial minorities, particularly African Americans and Hispanics. This is done by drawing district boundaries that split up minority communities and dilute their voting power by spreading them across multiple districts. Racial gerrymandering is illegal under the Voting Rights Act of 1965, which prohibits discrimination on the basis of race.

Effects of gerrymandering

The effects of gerrymandering can be significant. By manipulating district boundaries, lawmakers can create a situation where one party has a significant advantage over the other, making it easier for them to win elections. This can lead to a lack of political competition, which can make it harder for voters to hold their elected officials accountable. In other words, gerrymandering can lead to increased corruption in government at all levels.

Gerrymandering also has the potential to create a lack of diversity in government. By concentrating voters of a particular political party or race into a small number of districts, lawmakers can create a situation where the views and interests of some voters are not represented in government. This can lead to a situation where elected officials are not truly representative of their constituents — which is the essence of the American Dream.

Efforts to combat gerrymandering have included legal challenges to redistricting plans, the use of independent redistricting commissions, and the adoption of alternative voting systems like ranked-choice voting. Despite these efforts, gerrymandering remains a significant issue in many states, and its effects can be seen in elections at all levels of government, from school boards to Congress to the White House.

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conspiracy theories, disinformation, and fake news

Conspiracy Theory Dictionary: From QAnon to Gnostics

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.

Essentially, QAnon is a recycling of the Protocols of the Elders of Zion conspiracy theory that drove the Nazi ideology and led to the genocide of over 6 million Jews, gypsies, gays, and others who made Hitler mad. It’s a derivative of the global cabal conspiracy theory, and is riddled with the kind of conspiratorial paranoia that led to the deaths of over 75 million people in World War II.

The spread of the QAnon conspiracy theory greatly benefits from historical memory, getting a generous marketing boost from sheer familiarity. It also benefits from an authoritarian mentality growing louder in America, with a predilection for magical thinking and a susceptibility to conspiratorial thinking.

conspiracy theories, by midjourney

Tales as old as time

Conspiracy theories have been around much longer even than the Protocols — stretching back about as long as recorded history itself. Why do people believe in conspiracy theories? In an increasingly complex world brimming with real-time communication capabilities, the cognitive appeal of easy answers may simply be stronger than ever before.

Anthropologists believe that conspiracy theory has been around for about as long as human beings have been able to communicate. Historians describe one of the earliest conspiracy theories as originating in ancient Mesopotamia, involving a god named Marduk and a goddess called Tiamat — both figures in Babylonian creation mythology.

According to the myth, Marduk defeated Tiamat in battle and created the world from her body — but some ancient Mesopotamians at the time thought that the story was not actually a mere myth, but a political cover-up of a real-life conspiracy in which the followers of Marduk secretly plotted to overthrow Tiamat to seize power.

This “original conspiracy theory” was likely driven by political tensions between city-states in ancient Mesopotamia, although there are very few written records still around to corroborate the origin of the theory or perception of the story at the time. Nevertheless, the Marduk-Tiamat myth is regarded as one of the earliest known examples of widespread belief in conspiracy theories, and it points to the relative commonality and frequency of false narratives throughout history.

Whether deployed purposefully to deceive a population for political advantage, created to exploit people economically, or invented “naturally” as a simple yet satisfying explanation for otherwise complicated and overwhelming phenomena, conspiracy theories are undoubtedly here to stay in culture more broadly for some time to come. We had best get the lay of the land, and understand the language we might use to describe and talk about them.

Conspiracy Theory Dictionary

TermDefinitionNotes
4chanA notorious internet message board with an unruly culture capable of trolling, pranks, and crimes.alt-Right
8chanIf 4chan wasn't raw and lawless enough for you, you could try the even more right-wing "free speech"-haven 8chan while it still stood (now 8kun). Described by its founder Frederick Bennan as "if 4chan and reddit had a baby," the site is notorious for incubating Gamergate, which morphed into PizzaGate, which morphed into QAnon -- and for generally being a cesspool of humanity's worst stuff.alt-Right
9/11 truthersPeople who believe the attacks on the Twin Towers in New York City in 2001 were either known about ahead of time and allowed to happen, or were intentionally planned by the US government.
alien abductionPeople who claim to have been captured by intelligent life from another planet, taken to a spaceship or other plane of existence, and brought back -- as well as the folks who believe them.UFOs now real, nbd
American carnageEvocative of "immense loss" in the Nazi mythology
AntifaAntifa is anti-fascism, so the anti-anti-fascists are just fascists wrapped in a double negative. The real cancel culture -- and a dangerous one.
Anti-SemitismOne of history's oldest hatreds, stretching back to early biblical timesReferred to as "the oldest hate," anti-Semitism is also inherently anti-feminist, because Jewish societies were once matrilineal.
Biblical inerrancy
birtherismOne of Donald Trump's original Big Lies -- that President Barack Obama wasn't born in the U.S. and therefore, wasn't a "legitimate" president.
Black Lives MatterA social movement advocating for non-violent civil disobedience in protest against incidents of police brutality and all racially motivated violence against black people.
blood libelA false accusation or myth that Jewish people used the blood of Christians, especially children, in religious rituals, historically used to justify persecution of Jews.
child traffickingThe illegal practice of procuring or trading children for the purpose of exploitation, such as forced labor, sexual exploitation, or illegal adoption.
Christian IdentityA religious belief system that asserts that white people of European descent are God's chosen people, often associated with white supremacist and extremist groups.
climate change denialThe rejection or dismissal of the scientific consensus that the climate is changing and that human activity is a significant contributing factor.
The ConfederacyRefers to the Confederate States of America, a group of 11 southern states that seceded from the United States in 1861, leading to the American Civil War, primarily over the issue of slavery.
contaminationThe presence of an unwanted substance or impurity in another substance, making it unsafe or unsuitable for use.
cosmopolitanismAnother term for globalist or internationalist, which are all dog whistles for Jewish people (see also: global cabal, blood libel)
Crossing the RubiconA phrase that signifies passing a point of no return, derived from Julius Caesar's irreversible crossing of the Rubicon River in 49 BC, leading to the Roman Civil War.
cultural MarxismAnti-semitic conspiracy theory alleging that Jewish intellectuals who fled the Hitler regime were responsible for infecting American culture with their communist takeover plans and that this holy war is the war the right-wing fights each day.
deep stateThe idea of a body within the government and military that operates independently of elected officials, often believed to manipulate government policy and direction.
DVE(Domestic Violent Extremism): Refers to violent acts committed within a country's borders by individuals motivated by domestic political, religious, racial, or social ideologies.
fake newsInformation that is false or misleading, created and disseminated with the intent to deceive the public or sway public opinion.
GamerGateA controversy that started in 2014 involving the harassment of women in the video game industry, under the guise of advocating for ethics in gaming journalism.
George SorosA Hungarian-American billionaire investor and philanthropist, often the subject of unfounded conspiracy theories alleging he manipulates global politics and economies.
HollywoodThe historic center of the United States film industry, often used to refer broadly to American cinema and its cultural influence.
IlluminatiA term often associated with various conspiracy theories that allege a secret society controlling world affairs, originally referring to the Bavarian Illuminati, an Enlightenment-era secret society.
InfoWarsA controversial far-right media platform known for promoting conspiracy theories and misinformation, hosted by Alex Jones.
JFK assassinationThe assassination of President John F. Kennedy on November 22, 1963, in Dallas, Texas, an event surrounded by numerous conspiracy theories regarding the motives and identities of the assassins.
John Birch SocietyThe QAnon of its day (circa 1960s), this extreme right-wing group was theoretically about anti-communist ideals but espoused a host of conspiracy theories and outlandish beliefs
lamestream mediaDerogatory term for any media that isn't right-wing media.
leftist apocalypseA hyperbolic term used by some critics to describe a scenario where leftist or progressive policies lead to societal collapse or significant negative consequences.
Makers and TakersA right-wing economic dichotomy used to describe individuals or groups who contribute to society or the economy (makers) versus those who are perceived to take from it without contributing (takers).
micro-propaganda machineMPM: Refers to the use of targeted, small-scale dissemination of propaganda, often through social media and other digital platforms, to influence public opinion or behavior.the “micro-propaganda machine” — an influence network that can tailor people’s opinions, emotional reactions, and create “viral” sharing (��LOL/haha/��RAGE) episodes around what should be serious or contemplative issues
motivated reasoningThe cognitive process where individuals form conclusions that are more favorable to their preexisting beliefs or desires, rather than based on objective evidence.
New World OrderA conspiracy theory that posits a secretly emerging totalitarian world government, often associated with fears of loss of sovereignty and individual freedoms. (see also, OWG, ZOG)
nullificationA constitutional "theory" put forth by southern states before the Civil War that they have the power to invalidate any federal laws or judicial decisions they consider unconstitutional. It's never been upheld by the federal courts.
One World GovernmentThe concept of a single government authority that would govern the entire world, often discussed in the context of global cooperation or, conversely, as a dystopian threat in conspiracy theories. (see also: NWO, ZOG)
PizzaGateA debunked and baseless conspiracy theory alleging the involvement of certain U.S. political figures in a child sex trafficking ring, supposedly operated out of a Washington, D.C., pizzeria.
post-truthRefers to 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.
PRpublic relations
propagandaInformation, especially of a biased or misleading nature, used to promote a political cause or point of view.
Protocols of the Elders of ZionForged anti-semitic document alleging a secret Jewish child murder conspiracy used by Hitler to gin up support for his regime.
PsyOpsPsychological operations: Operations intended to convey selected information and indicators to audiences to influence their emotions, motives, objective reasoning, and ultimately the behavior of governments, organizations, groups, and individuals.
QAnonA baseless 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.
Q DropsMessages or "drops" posted on internet forums by "Q," the anonymous figure at the center of the QAnon conspiracy theory, often cryptic and claiming to reveal secret information about a supposed deep state conspiracy.
reactionary modernismA term that describes the combination of modern technological development with traditionalist or reactionary political and cultural beliefs, often seen in fascist ideologies.
Reichstag fireAn arson attack on the Reichstag building (home of the German parliament) in Berlin on February 27, 1933, which the Nazi regime used as a pretext to claim that Communists were plotting against the German government.
RothschildsA wealthy Jewish family of bankers, often subject to various unfounded conspiracy theories alleging they control global financial systems and world events.
sock puppetsOnline identities used for purposes of deception, such as to praise, defend, or support a person or organization while appearing to be an independent party.
"Stand back and stand by"A phrase used by former U.S. President Donald Trump during a presidential debate, which was interpreted as a call to readiness by the Proud Boys, a far-right and neo-fascist organization.
The StormWithin the context of QAnon, a prophesied event in which members of the supposed deep state cabal will be arrested and punished for their crimes.
WikiLeaksWithin the context of QAnon, a prophesied event in which members of the supposed deep state cabal will be arrested and punished for their crimes.
ZOGZOG (Zionist Occupation Government): A conspiracy theory claiming that Jewish people secretly control a country, particularly the United States, while the term itself is antisemitic and unfounded.
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The American Founders, by me and Midjourney

The Founders meant for the republic to be agile in philosophy — always changing to meet the new demands of the next generations. They meant for us to be self-governing, and empowered to create policy for problem-solving in new eras they themselves could not even conceive of. Thomas Jefferson wrote forewarningly of the Dead Hand of the Past and how critical it would be to not remain trapped by it. The Founders were agile not in the sense of software development (obviously!), but in the same spirit: they embraced responding to change over following a plan, and in continuously uncovering ways to develop a more perfect union.

Conservative ideology on the other hand — and in particular, Originalism — flouts the actual intentions of the Framers while cloaking itself in nationalist symbology. It tries to claim that our modern hands are tied by the dead ones of the past. The Originalist doctrine currently holding sway at The Supreme Court, The Federalist Society, and the majority of right-wing judiciary maintains that the best we can do is peer feebly into the distant past and try our best to squeeze ourselves into the minds of the men who inked our Constitution some 235 years ago.

The Founders wrote things. A lot of things.

Leaving aside for a moment the impracticality of that theory as an actual practice of interpreting the law, some consideration of materials on hand shows us that we needn’t go to all that trouble in the first place — why? Because the Founders left a lot of writings behind about exactly what they meant, and the principles they were thinking about, at the time of the nation’s founding and the drafting of our Constitution.

Continue reading The Founders were agile
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Conspiracy theories are not new. Covid-related conspiracies may be new, but conspiracy theories about pandemics and contagious diseases have been around for centuries. Anti-vaccination hysteria goes back decades. The QAnon conspiracy theory may be new (or maybe not really?!), but conspiracy theories themselves are a tale(s) as old as time — or at least time as we know it, from the start of recorded history.

What is a conspiracy theory?

Conspiracy theories are simple explanations for complex phenomena, that often involve a secret group (often some type of global cabal) who are pulling the strings of world events behind the scenes. There is most commonly little to no credible evidence supporting the beliefs of the conspiracy theory, instead relying on superstition, speculation, coincidence, or simple rumor to back up their claims.

QAnon flag epitomizes modern-day conspiracy theories
Image credit: Anthony Crider

A large body of psychological research has shown that there are some deep cognitive reasons that conspiracy theories tend to resonate with us, and especially in particular types of people, or people in certain types of circumstances.

We are fundamentally wired to be storytellers. It’s intuitive why this ability might be hard-coded into our brains, as it so clearly relates to survival, self-preservation, and our ability to navigate and succeed in a complex world. We need to be able to understand cause and effect in an environment of many rapidly shifting variables, and storytelling is a framework for weaving coherent narratives that reduce our anxiety about the great uncertainties in the environment around us.

Conspiracy theories tap into psychological needs

Conspiratorial thinking is far more common than we think, and can ebb and flow in populations based on prevailing conditions. Our ability to see patterns in randomness and dissemble stories on the spot, along with numerous other cognitive and psychological biases, make us vulnerable to belief in conspiracy theories.

Continue reading Why do people believe conspiracy theories?
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Freedom is freedom from the fear of death.

Freedom is freedom from fearing you’ll be gunned down at school.

Freedom is freedom from fear your kids won’t come home from school.

Freedom is freedom from fear of going to the grocery store.

Freedom is freedom from senseless violence.

Freedom is freedom from murderous rampages replayed night after night.

Freedom is freedom from domestic warfare.

Freedom is freedom from weapons of warfare in our communities, in our churches, in our schools, in our stores, on our playing fields, on our streets.

Freedom is freedom from injustice.

Freedom is freedom from inaction.

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Some of us have been boning up on this topic for about 6 years already, while others are just tuning in now based on the horrors of recent events. It can be overwhelming to come in cold, so here — don’t go it alone! Take this:

Putin’s war against the west

President Biden “declassified” an intelligence analysis many of us had arrived at some time ago: Russian president Vladimir Putin is a cruel revanchist leader who will stop at nothing to claw out a larger legacy before he dies. His goal is nothing less than reconstituting the former Soviet Union and restoring the “glory” of the Russian empire of yesteryear. And for some reason he thinks the world community is going to let him get away with his delusional fever dreams of conquest — as if fever dreams of Mongol domination are still de rigueur.

The attacks on the 2016 election and on the American Capitol in 2021 are related — both are Russian hybrid warfare operations. Russia also is the cold beating heart of the right-wing authoritarianism movement around the world, via financial, political, psychological, economic, and other means of government and regulatory capture.

Putin has hated democracy for a long time — since before the Berlin Wall fell where he was stationed in East Berlin as a young KGB agent, taking the news hard. Now, he has many fifth column confederates aiding and abetting him from within the United States — a number of them brazenly, and openly. It is getting harder and harder for those treasonous types to “hide out” in the folds of disinformation, misinformation, and plausible deniability. The play is being called — and everyone will need to decide if they’re for democracy or authoritarianism.

Further reading:

Media Resources

Twitter Lists

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The Republican National Committee, in perhaps the most stunningly stupid self-own in the history of modern politics certainly in my lifetime, finally said the quietest part out loud: that in their official pronouncement, the events at the Capitol on January 6 constituted “legitimate political discourse.” Reps. Liz Cheney and Adam Kinzinger were censured by the RNC in the statement as well, for their role on the January 6 Committee and their investigation into these “legitimate” events involving a murderous attempt to stop the peaceful transfer of power.

Yale historian Joanne Freeman had this to say about the RNC statement:

Democracy vs. Authoritarianism is on the ballot in 2022

If there’s any upside to the dark situation we’re in, it’s these gifts Republicans keep on giving — further debasing themselves each time you think they can’t possibly stoop any morally lower — that we can use to our advantage to turn out our base in record numbers in these upcoming midterms. We did it in 2018, and there’s no reason to believe we can’t do it now. Trump’s support is waning, not growing — and the fractures within the GOP are widening, not tightening. Plus, we’ll have 8 million new 18-year-old eligible voters we can potentially reach — the vast majority of whom statistically speaking, are going to be progressive Democrats.

None of the other policy questions or culture wars will matter if we cannot solve the most fundamental question at the heart of our democracy: do we still believe in the ideals of the Constitution, the rule of law, and the vision of a self-governing people shared by the Founders? Or do we want to hand over the keys to the nation to the erstwhile billionaires, old money heirs, and trust fund playboys who want to drag us back to some perverted nostalgic fantasyland that’s part Leave It To Beaver, part wild west, and part Silence of the Lambs?

Do we want democracy, or authoritarianism?

Do we want to choose our leaders, as citizens — or do we want politicians to choose our leaders?

It’s the only question in 2022.

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