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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 theories: old men around the world map, by midjourney

Conspiracy Theory Dictionary

4chanA notorious internet message board with an unruly culture capable of trolling, pranks, and crimes.
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.
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.
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. They are the real cancel culture — and a dangerous one (book burning and everything!).
Anti-SemitismOne of history’s oldest hatreds, stretching back to early biblical times
Biblical inerrancyBiblical inerrancy is the doctrine that the Bible, in its original manuscripts, is without error or fault in all its teachings. 
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 justice 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. Part of a broader cultural trend of science denialism.
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, disinformation, and misinformation, hosted by clinical narcissist 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). See also: Mudsill Theory, trickle down economics, supply side economics, Reaganomics, Libertarianism
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.
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. Used as part of hybrid warfare and information warfare tactics in geopolitical (and, sadly, domestic) arenas.
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 that seemed to answer his calling during the riot and coup attempt at the Capitol on January 6, 2021.
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.
WikiLeaksWikiLeaks is a controversial platform known for publishing classified and secret documents from anonymous sources, gaining international attention for its major leaks. While it has played a significant role in exposing hidden information, its release of selectively edited materials has also contributed to the spread of conspiracy theories related to American and Russian politics.
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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Microtargeting is a marketing and political strategy that leverages data analytics to deliver customized messages to specific groups within a larger population. This approach has become increasingly prevalent in the realms of digital media and advertising, and its influence on political campaigns has grown significantly.

Understanding microtargeting

Microtargeting begins with the collection and analysis of vast amounts of data about individuals. This data can include demographics (age, gender, income), psychographics (interests, habits, values), and behaviors (purchase history, online activity). By analyzing this data, organizations can identify small, specific groups of people who share common characteristics or interests. The next step involves crafting tailored messages that resonate with these groups, significantly increasing the likelihood of engagement compared to broad, one-size-fits-all communications.

Microtargeting and digital media

Digital media platforms, with their treasure troves of user data, have become the primary arenas for microtargeting. Social media networks, search engines, and websites collect extensive information on user behavior, preferences, and interactions. This data enables advertisers and organizations to identify and segment their audiences with remarkable precision.

Microtargeting, by Midjourney

Digital platforms offer sophisticated tools that allow for the delivery of customized content directly to individuals or narrowly defined groups, ensuring that the message is relevant and appealing to each recipient. The interactive nature of digital media also provides immediate feedback, allowing for the refinement of targeting strategies in real time.

Application in advertising

In the advertising domain, microtargeting has revolutionized how brands connect with consumers. Rather than casting a wide net with generic advertisements, companies can now send personalized messages that speak directly to the needs and desires of their target audience. This approach can improve the effectiveness of advertising campaigns — but comes with a tradeoff in terms of user data privacy.

Microtargeted ads can appear on social media feeds, as search engine results, within mobile apps, or as personalized email campaigns, making them a versatile tool for marketers. Thanks to growing awareness of the data privacy implications — including the passage of regulations including the GDPR, CCPA, DMA and others — users are beginning to have more control over what data is collected about them and how it is used.

Expanding role in political campaigns

The impact of microtargeting reaches its zenith in the realm of political campaigns. Political parties and candidates use microtargeting to understand voter preferences, concerns, and motivations at an unprecedented level of detail. This intelligence allows campaigns to tailor their communications, focusing on issues that resonate with specific voter segments.

For example, a campaign might send messages about environmental policies to voters identified as being concerned about climate change, while emphasizing tax reform to those worried about economic issues. A campaign might target swing voters with characteristics that match their party’s more consistent voting base, hoping to influence their decision to vote for the “right” candidate.

Microtargeting in politics also extends to voter mobilization efforts. Campaigns can identify individuals who are supportive but historically less likely to vote and target them with messages designed to motivate them to get to the polls. Similarly, microtargeting can help in shaping campaign strategies, determining where to hold rallies, whom to engage for endorsements, and what issues to highlight in speeches.

Ethical considerations and challenges

The rise of microtargeting raises significant ethical and moral questions and challenges. Concerns about privacy, data protection, and the potential for manipulation are at the forefront. The use of personal information for targeting purposes has sparked debates on the need for stricter regulation and transparency. In politics, there’s apprehension that microtargeting might deepen societal divisions by enabling campaigns to exploit sensitive issues or disseminate misleading information — or even disinformation — to susceptible groups.

Furthermore, the effectiveness of microtargeting in influencing consumer behavior and voter decisions has led to calls for more responsible use of data analytics. Critics argue for the development of ethical guidelines that balance the benefits of personalized communication with the imperative to protect individual privacy and maintain democratic integrity.

Microtargeting represents a significant evolution in the way organizations communicate with individuals, driven by advances in data analytics and digital technology. Its application across advertising and, more notably, political campaigns, has demonstrated its power to influence behavior and decision-making.

However, as microtargeting continues to evolve, it will be crucial for society to address the ethical and regulatory challenges it presents. Ensuring transparency, protecting privacy, and promoting responsible use will be essential in harnessing the benefits of microtargeting while mitigating its potential risks. As we move forward, the dialogue between technology, ethics, and regulation will shape the future of microtargeting in our increasingly digital world.

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The war in Ukraine is less “surprising” to some who’ve seen it raging since 2014. Although it escalated greatly in 2022, the Ukraine timeline dates back all the way to the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991.

To understand the backstory — which is now inextricably intertwined with our own presidential history given the impeachment of Donald Trump over his phone calls with Zelensky to the Republican Party‘s current-day support of the aims of Vladimir Putin — we have to go back to a time when no one was stronger on anti-Russian policy than GOP darling Ronald Reagan.

  • 1991 — Ukraine declares independence and becomes an independent entity after the fall of the Soviet Union
  • 1994 — Ukraine agrees to give up its nuclear arsenal in exchange for a protection agreement with Russia, United States, Britain, and Ireland (Budapest Memorandum)
  • 2004Viktor Yanukovich “wins” election under dubious circumstances and is deposed for a do over election, which he loses to Viktor Yuschenko (Orange Revolution)
  • 2006 — Viktor Yanukovych begins working directly with Paul Manafort, in an effort to boost his image after his electoral loss. Manafort was known for his work helping the “Torturers’ Lobby” of brutal dictators around the world in the 1980s, with Roger Stone (another infamous dirty trickster best known for his role as a fixer for Richard Nixon).
  • 2007 — Yanukovych’s Party of Regions does well in the Ukranian parliamentary elections, gaining a large number of seats credited to Manafort’s strategic advice about Western-style campaigning.
  • 2010 — Yanukovych is elected President of Ukraine, again largely crediting Manafort’s strategies for his comeback.
  • Nov 2013 — Having promised a more European-style government in order to win the presidency in 2010, Yanukovych turned on his word and initiated more pro-Russian policies than the Ukranians had signed up for. Yanukovych is now beset by enormous public protests against the corruption of his regime, and his unilateral decision to abandon an association agreement with the EU in favor of a trade agreement with Russia (Maidan Revolution / Revolution of Dignity)
  • Feb 2014 — After a harrowing 93 days barricaded inside Kyiv’s Maidan Square, activists are victorious; Yanukovich is deposed and flees to Russia
  • Mar 2014 — Russian forces invade and annex the region of Crimea within Ukraine
  • Apr 2014 — Russian forces invade the Donetsk and Luhansk regions in eastern Ukraine, escalating a war that continues to this day and had already killed more than 14,000 people by the time the 2022 large scale invasion began
  • Apr 2014 — Hunter Biden and business partner Devon Archer join the board of Burisma
  • May 2014 — Candy magnate Petro Poroshenko succeeds Yanukovych as president of Ukraine
  • Feb 10, 2015Viktor Shokin takes office as the prosecutor general of Ukraine, tasked with getting a handle on rampant corruption
  • Oct 8, 2015 — US Assistant Secretary of State Victoria Nuland reiterates strong concerns that Shokin is failing to prosecute obvious corruption in Ukraine, and that efforts at anti-corruption must be stepped up there
  • Dec 8, 2015 — Then VP and point person on Ukraine Joe Biden gave a speech to the Ukrainian parliament, urging them to step up their efforts to pursue anti-corruption reforms to help strengthen their young democracy
  • Winter 2015-6 — Biden is talking to Poroshenko about how Shokin is slow-walking their anti-corruption efforts
  • Feb 16, 2016 — Viktor Shokin resigns as Prosecutor General of Ukraine
  • May 12, 2016Yuriy Lutsenko is appointed as the new Prosecutor General, despite having no law degree or legal experience. At first he takes a hard line against Burisma.
  • Aug 14, 2016 — “Black ledger” payments to Paul Manafort from Viktor Yanukovych go public
  • May 10, 2017Trump hosts Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov and Ambassador Sergey Kislyak in the Oval Office, the day after he has fired James Comey as the Director of the FBI over “the Russian thing” — only a photographer for Russian news agency Tass is allowed to cover the meeting
  • June 2017 — The NotPetya malware emerges and causes extensive damage — especially in Ukraine. It is widely fingerprinted as a Russian state-sponsored attack.
  • October 30, 2017 — Paul Manafort is indicted by Special Counsel Robert Mueller for money laundering, acting as a foreign agent, making false statements, and conspiracy against the United States, as part of the ongoing investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 US presidential election.
  • Apr 30, 2018 — At a Trump dinner in his DC hotel, Lev Parnas and Igor Fruman tell Trump they think Ukraine Ambassador Yovanovitch isn’t loyal enough to him
  • May-June 2018 — Lev Parnas pressures US Congressman Pete Sessions to pressure Trump to fire Yovanovitch in exchange for campaign funding; he and Fruman are later arrested for this scheme and other federal charges of illegal foreign funding of election campaigns
  • Summer 2018 — Trump reportedly frets a potential Biden run for the presidency
  • August 2018 — Lev Parnas’s company, which is named (I kid you not) “Fraud Guarantee,” hires Rudy Giuliani‘s firm for $500,000 to continue working on getting Ambassador Yovanovitch fired for doing her job pursuing corruption in Ukraine.
  • Sept 2018Congress passes and Trump signs a spending bill for the Department of Defense, including $250 million in military aid to Ukraine under the Ukraine Security Assistance Initiative (USAI)
  • Late 2018 — Lev Parnas arranges for Giuliani to meet with both Shokin and Lutsenko on multiple occasions; Devin Nunes also secretly meets with Shokin in Vienna.
  • Dec 6, 2018 — Trump pressures Parnas and Fruman to pressure the Ukrainian government to open an investigation into the Bidens
  • Late Feb, 2019 — Parnas and Fruman pressure then-President Poroshenko to open an investigation into the Bidens, in exchange for a state visit at the White House that would help his challenging re-election campaign against the popular young upstart comedian Volodymyr Zelenskyy
  • Spring 2019 — A “working group” of Giuliani, Parnas, Fruman, conservative Hill reporter John Solomon, Joseph diGenova, Victoria Toensing, and Devin Nunes’s top aide Harvey meet regularly to work on the quid pro quo project
  • March 2019 — Prosecutor General Lutsenko opens 2 investigations: 1 into alleged Ukrainian involvement in the 2016 US election (a Russian conspiracy theory) and a 2nd into Hunter Biden’s involvement with Burisma (he will later retract many of his allegations).
  • March 24, 2019 — Don Jr. tweets criticism of Ambassador Yovanovitch
  • March 28, 2019 — Giuliani hands off a smear campaign packet of disinformation cobbled together on Yovanovitch, intended for Secretary of State Mike Pompeo
  • April 24, 2019 — Trump orders Marie Yovanovitch recalled from her diplomatic mission in Ukraine, after Giuliani and other allies reported she was undermining and obstructing their efforts to extort Ukrainian president Volodomyr Zelensky to claim he was investigating the Bidens for corruption.
  • July 25, 2019 — On a phone call with Zelensky, Trump pressures him to investigate Biden in exchange for the release of funds to keep the Russians at bay in Crimea. He disparages Yovanovitch on the call, referring to her as “bad news.”
  • Oct 3, 2019 — Ambassador to Ukraine Marie Yovanovitch is unsummarily fired by Donald Trump after recently having been invited to continue her post for several more years
  • Dec 18, 2019 — The House of Representatives votes to impeach Donald Trump for abuse of power and obstruction of Congress, the first of two times Trump will be impeached.
  • Feb 5, 2020 — The Republican-controlled Senate voted along party lines, having called no witnesses, to acquit Donald Trump of both impeachment charges.
  • Feb 2022 — Russian forces begin a large scale land invasion of Ukraine including massive attacks on civilian cities.
  • Feb 2024 — Donald Trump holds up a bipartisan immigration deal in Congress that would allow military aide funds to Ukraine to be released. Running for a second term as US President, Trump continues to break with 80 years of the post-WWII international order — in refusing to support NATO, the alliance widely regarded as keeping the peace in Europe broadly, as well as in supporting the regime of Vladimir Putin in Russia’s war of aggression against Ukraine.
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Machiavellianism originates from Machiavelli’s most famous work, “The Prince,” written in 1513. It was a guidebook for new princes and rulers in maintaining power and control. Machiavelli’s central thesis was the separation of politics from ethics and morality. He argued that to maintain power, a ruler might have to engage in amoral or unethical actions for the state’s benefit. His stark realism and advocacy for political pragmatism were groundbreaking at the time.

Machiavelli’s work was revolutionary, providing a secular, pragmatic approach to governance, in contrast to the prevailing moralistic views of the era. His ideas were so radical that “Machiavellian” became synonymous with cunning, scheming, and unscrupulous behavior in politics. This term, however, is a simplification and somewhat misrepresents Machiavelli’s nuanced arguments about power and statecraft.

Throughout history, Machiavellianism has been interpreted in various ways. During the Enlightenment, philosophers like Rousseau criticized Machiavelli for promoting tyranny and despotism. However, in the 20th century, Machiavelli’s ideas were re-evaluated by political scientists who saw value in his separation of politics from morality, highlighting the complexity and real-world challenges of governance.

Machiavellianism in psychology

In psychology, Machiavellianism is defined as a personality trait characterized by a duplicitous interpersonal style, a cynical disregard for morality, and a focus on self-interest and personal gain. This concept was popularized in the 1970s by Richard Christie and Florence L. Geis, who developed the Mach-IV test, a questionnaire that identifies Machiavellian tendencies in individuals. People high in Machiavellian traits tend to be manipulative, deceitful, predatory, and exploitative in their relationships and interactions.

Machiavellianism in American politics

In American politics, Machiavellianism can be observed in various strategies and behaviors of politicians and political groups. Here are some ways to identify Machiavellian tendencies:

  1. Exploitation and Manipulation: Politicians exhibiting Machiavellian traits often manipulate public opinion, exploit legal loopholes, or use deceptive tactics to achieve their goals. This might include manipulating media narratives, twisting facts, disseminating disinformation, and/or exploiting populist sentiments.
  2. Realpolitik and Pragmatism: Machiavellianism in politics can also be seen in a focus on realpolitik – a theory that prioritizes practical and pragmatic approaches over moral or ideological considerations. Politicians might adopt policies that are more about maintaining power or achieving pragmatic goals than about adhering to ethical standards.
  3. Power Play and Control: Machiavellian politicians are often characterized by their relentless pursuit of power. They may engage in power plays, such as political patronage, gerrymandering, and/or consolidating power through legislative maneuvers, often at the expense of democratic norms.
  4. Moral Flexibility: A key aspect of Machiavellianism is moral flexibility – the ability to adjust one’s moral compass based on circumstances. In politics, this might manifest in policy flip-flops or aligning with ideologically diverse groups when it benefits one’s own interests.
  5. Charismatic Leadership: Machiavelli emphasized the importance of a ruler’s charisma and public image. Modern politicians might cultivate a charismatic persona to gain public support, sometimes using this charm to mask more manipulative or self-serving agendas.

Machiavellianism, stemming from the teachings of Niccolò Machiavelli, has evolved over centuries, influencing both political theory and psychology. In contemporary American politics, identifying Machiavellian traits involves looking at actions and policies through the lens of power dynamics, manipulation, moral flexibility, and a pragmatic approach to governance.

While Machiavellian strategies can be effective in achieving political goals, they often raise ethical questions about the nature of power and governance in a democratic society.

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The concept of a “honeypot” in the realms of cybersecurity and information warfare is a fascinating and complex one, straddling the line between deception and defense. At its core, a honeypot is a security mechanism designed to mimic systems, data, or resources to attract and detect unauthorized users or attackers, essentially acting as digital bait. By engaging attackers, honeypots serve multiple purposes: they can distract adversaries from more valuable targets, gather intelligence on attack methods, and help in enhancing security measures.

Origins and Usage

The use of honeypots dates back to the early days of computer networks, evolving significantly with the internet‘s expansion. Initially, they were simple traps set to detect anyone probing a network. However, as cyber threats grew more sophisticated, so did honeypots, transforming into complex systems designed to emulate entire networks, applications, or databases to lure in cybercriminals.

A honeypot illustration with a circuit board beset by a bee, by Midjourney

Honeypots are used by a variety of entities, including corporate IT departments, cybersecurity firms, government agencies, and even individuals passionate about cybersecurity. Their versatility means they can be deployed in almost any context where digital security is a concern, from protecting corporate data to safeguarding national security.

Types and purposes

There are several types of honeypots, ranging from low-interaction honeypots, which simulate only the services and applications attackers might find interesting, to high-interaction honeypots, which are complex and fully-functional systems designed to engage attackers more deeply. The type chosen depends on the specific goals of the deployment, whether it’s to gather intelligence, study attack patterns, or improve defensive strategies.

In the context of information warfare, honeypots serve as a tool for deception and intelligence gathering. They can be used to mislead adversaries about the capabilities or intentions of a state or organization, capture malware samples, and even identify vulnerabilities in the attacker’s strategies. By analyzing the interactions attackers have with these traps, defenders can gain insights into their techniques, tools, and procedures (TTPs), enabling them to better anticipate and mitigate future threats.

Historical effects

Historically, honeypots have had significant impacts on both cybersecurity and information warfare. They’ve led to the discovery of new malware strains, helped dismantle botnets, and provided critical intelligence about state-sponsored cyber operations. For example, honeypots have been instrumental in tracking the activities of sophisticated hacking groups, leading to a deeper understanding of their targets and methods, which, in turn, has informed national security strategies and cybersecurity policies.

One notable example is the GhostNet investigation, which uncovered a significant cyber espionage network targeting diplomatic and governmental institutions worldwide. Honeypots played a key role in identifying the malware and command-and-control servers used in these attacks, highlighting the effectiveness of these tools in uncovering covert operations.

Honeypot hackers and cybercriminals

Ethical and practical considerations

While the benefits of honeypots are clear, their deployment is not without ethical and practical considerations. There’s a fine line between deception for defense and entrapment, raising questions about the legality and morality of certain honeypot operations, especially in international contexts where laws and norms may vary widely.

Moreover, the effectiveness of a honeypot depends on its believability and the skill with which it’s deployed and monitored. Poorly configured honeypots might not only fail to attract attackers but could also become liabilities, offering real vulnerabilities to be exploited.

Cyber attackers and defenders

Honeypots are a critical component of the cybersecurity and information warfare landscapes, providing valuable insights into attacker behaviors and tactics. They reflect the ongoing cat-and-mouse game between cyber attackers and defenders, evolving in response to the increasing sophistication of threats. As digital technologies continue to permeate all aspects of life, the strategic deployment of honeypots will remain a vital tactic in the arsenal of those looking to protect digital assets and information. Their historical impacts demonstrate their value, and ongoing advancements in technology promise even greater potential in understanding and combating cyber threats.

By serving as a mirror to the tactics and techniques of adversaries, honeypots help illuminate the shadowy world of cyber warfare, making them indispensable tools for anyone committed to safeguarding information in an increasingly interconnected world.

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SOTU 2024 Joe Biden Presidential address

Strong economic messages of the Keynesian buttressing of the middle class that is Bidenomics were everywhere in evidence at last night’s State of the Union address, Biden’s third since taking office in 2021. In SOTU 2024 he spoke about stabbing trickle-down economics in its gasping heart as a repeated failure to the American people. Instead of giving another $2 trillion tax cuts to billionaires, Biden wants to give back to the people who he says built America: the middle class.

The President delivered strong, sweeping language and vision reminiscent of LBJ’s Great Society and FDR‘s New Deal. He also delivered a heartwarming sense of unity and appeal to put down our bickering and get things done for the American people.

“We all come from somewhere — but we’re all Americans.”

This while lambasting the Republicans for scuttling the deal over the popular bipartisan immigration bill thanks to 11th hour interference from TFG (“my predecessor” as JRB called him). “This bill would save lives!” He is really effective at calling out the GOP‘s hypocrisy on border security with this delivery.

“We can fight about the border or we can fix the border. Send me a bill!”

He is taking full advantage of being the incumbent candidate here. He has the power and the track record to do all these things he is promising, and he’s telling the exact truth about the Republican obstructionism preventing the American people from having their government work for them.

SOTU 2024 Joe Biden fiery speech with Kamala Harris and Mike Johnson in the background behind him

I love that he calls out Trump in this speech, without naming names — almost a kind of Voldemort effect. He who must not be named — because giving him the dignity even of a name is more than he deserves.

He says that Trump and his cabal of anti-democratic political operatives have ancient ideas (hate, revenge, reactionary, etc.) — and that you can’t lead America with ancient ideas. In America, we look towards the future — relentlessly. Americans wants a president who will protect their rights — not take them away.

“I see a future… for all Americans!” he ends with, in a segment reminiscent of the great Martin Luther King’s “I Have a Dream” speech, with its clear vision of power and authority flowing from what is morally right and just, instead of what is corrupt and cronyish. It gave me hope for the future — that Americans will make the right choice, as we seem to have done under pressure, throughout our history. 🤞🏽

Continue reading Biden SOTU 2024: Success stories and big policy ideas
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The term “hoax” is derived from “hocus,” a term that has been in use since the late 18th century. It originally referred to a trick or deception, often of a playful or harmless nature. The essence of a hoax was its capacity to deceive, typically for entertainment or to prove a point without malicious intent. Over time, the scope and implications of a hoax have broadened significantly. What was once a term denoting jest or trickery has morphed into a label for deliberate falsehoods intended to mislead or manipulate public perception.

From playful deception to malicious misinformation

As society entered the age of mass communication, the potential reach and impact of hoaxes expanded dramatically. The advent of newspapers, radio, television, and eventually the internet and social media platforms, transformed the way information—and misinformation—circulated. Hoaxes began to be used not just for amusement but for more nefarious purposes, including political manipulation, financial fraud, and social engineering. The line between a harmless prank and damaging disinformation and misinformation became increasingly blurred.

The political weaponization of “hoax”

In the contemporary political landscape, particularly within the US, the term “hoax” has been co-opted as a tool for disinformation and propaganda. This strategic appropriation has been most visible among certain factions of the right-wing, where it is used to discredit damaging information, undermine factual reporting, and challenge the legitimacy of institutional findings or scientific consensus. This application of “hoax” serves multiple purposes: it seeks to sow doubt, rally political bases, and divert attention from substantive issues.

the politicization of hoaxes, via fake scandals that tie up the media unwittingly in bullshit for years, by DALL-E 3

This tactic involves labeling genuine concerns, credible investigations, and verified facts as “hoaxes” to delegitimize opponents and minimize the impact of damaging revelations. It is a form of gaslighting on a mass scale, where the goal is not just to deny wrongdoing but to erode the very foundations of truth and consensus. By branding something as a “hoax,” these actors attempt to preemptively dismiss any criticism or negative information, regardless of its veracity.

Case Studies: The “Hoax” label in action

High-profile instances of this strategy include the dismissal of climate change data, the denial of election results, and the rejection of public health advice during the COVID-19 pandemic. In each case, the term “hoax” has been employed not as a description of a specific act of deception, but as a blanket term intended to cast doubt on the legitimacy of scientifically or empirically supported conclusions. This usage represents a significant departure from the term’s origins, emphasizing denial and division over dialogue and discovery.

The impact on public discourse and trust

The strategic labeling of inconvenient truths as “hoaxes” has profound implications for public discourse and trust in institutions. It creates an environment where facts are fungible, and truth is contingent on political allegiance rather than empirical evidence. This erosion of shared reality undermines democratic processes, hampers effective governance, and polarizes society.

Moreover, the frequent use of “hoax” in political discourse dilutes the term’s meaning and impact, making it more difficult to identify and respond to genuine instances of deception. When everything can be dismissed as a hoax, the capacity for critical engagement and informed decision-making is significantly compromised.

Moving Forward: Navigating a “post-hoax” landscape

The challenge moving forward is to reclaim the narrative space that has been distorted by the misuse of “hoax” and similar terms. This involves promoting media literacy, encouraging critical thinking, and fostering a public culture that values truth and accountability over partisanship. It also requires the media, educators, and public figures to be vigilant in their language, carefully distinguishing between genuine skepticism and disingenuous dismissal.

The evolution of “hoax” from a term denoting playful deception to a tool for political disinformation reflects broader shifts in how information, truth, and reality are contested in the public sphere. Understanding this transformation is crucial for navigating the complexities of the modern informational landscape and for fostering a more informed, resilient, and cohesive society.

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Malware, short for “malicious software,” is any software intentionally designed to cause damage to a computer, server, client, or computer network. This cybersecurity threat encompasses a variety of software types, including viruses, worms, trojan horses, ransomware, spyware, adware, and more. Each type has a different method of infection and damage.

Who uses malware and what for

Malware is utilized by a wide range of actors, from amateur hackers to sophisticated cybercriminals, and even nation-states. The motives can vary greatly:

  • Cybercriminals often deploy malware to steal personal, financial, or business information, which can be used for financial gain through fraud or direct theft.
  • Hacktivists use malware to disrupt services or bring attention to political or social causes.
  • Nation-states and state-sponsored actors might deploy sophisticated malware for espionage and intelligence, to gain strategic advantage, sabotage, or influence geopolitical dynamics.
Malware, illustrated by DALL-E 3

Role in disinformation and geopolitical espionage

Malware plays a significant role in disinformation campaigns and geopolitical espionage. State-sponsored actors might use malware to infiltrate the networks of other nations, steal sensitive information (hacked emails perhaps?), and manipulate or disrupt critical infrastructure. In terms of disinformation, malware can be used to gain unauthorized access to media outlets or social media accounts, spreading false information to influence public opinion or destabilize political situations.

Preventing malware

Preventing malware involves multiple layers of security measures:

  • Educate Users: The first line of defense is often the users themselves. Educating them about the dangers of phishing emails, not to click on suspicious links, and the importance of not downloading or opening files from unknown sources can significantly reduce the risk of malware infections.
  • Regular Software Updates: Keeping all software up to date, including operating systems and antivirus programs, can protect against known vulnerabilities that malware exploits.
  • Use Antivirus Software: A robust antivirus program can detect and remove many types of malware. Regular scans and real-time protection features are crucial.
  • Firewalls: Both hardware and software firewalls can block unauthorized access to your network, which can help prevent malware from spreading.
  • Backups: Regularly backing up important data ensures that, in the event of a malware attack, the lost data can be recovered without paying ransoms or losing critical information.

Famous malware incidents in foreign affairs

Several high-profile malware incidents have had significant implications in the realm of foreign affairs:

  • Stuxnet: Discovered in 2010, Stuxnet was a highly sophisticated worm that targeted supervisory control and data acquisition (SCADA) systems and was believed to be designed to damage Iran’s nuclear program. It is widely thought to be a cyberweapon developed by the United States and Israel, though neither has confirmed involvement.
  • WannaCry: In May 2017, the WannaCry ransomware attack affected over 200,000 computers across 150 countries, with the UK’s National Health Service, Spain’s Telefónica, FedEx, and Deutsche Bahn among those impacted. The attack exploited a vulnerability in Microsoft Windows, and North Korea was widely blamed for the attack.
  • NotPetya: Initially thought to be ransomware, NotPetya emerged in 2017 and caused extensive damage, particularly in Ukraine. It later spread globally, affecting businesses and causing billions of dollars in damages. It is believed to have been a state-sponsored attack originating from Russia, designed as a geopolitical tool under the guise of ransomware.
  • SolarWinds: Uncovered in December 2020, the SolarWinds hack was a sophisticated supply chain attack that compromised the Orion software suite used by numerous US government agencies and thousands of private companies. It allowed the attackers, believed to be Russian state-sponsored, to spy on the internal communications of affected organizations for months.

In conclusion, malware is a versatile and dangerous tool in the hands of cybercriminals and state actors alike, used for everything from financial theft to sophisticated geopolitical maneuvers. The proliferation of malware in global affairs underscores the need for robust cybersecurity practices at all levels, from individual users to national governments. Awareness, education, and the implementation of comprehensive security measures are key to defending against the threats posed by malware.

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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

Learn more about conspiracy theories

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The essence of the Soviet term bespredel is the “limitless and total lack of accountability of the elite oligarchs”; lawlessness; anarchy; no presence of the rule of law.

“Bespredel” is a Russian term that has seeped into broader discourse, particularly in discussions about social, political, and cultural behaviors. At its core, “bespredel” translates to “limitlessness” or “without limit,” but its connotations stretch far beyond this literal interpretation.

Bespredel means a society without morals

It evokes a state of lawlessness, anarchy, or the absence of boundaries, where traditional rules and moral codes are disregarded. This concept is often associated with the extreme exertion of power and control, where individuals or groups act with impunity, unconstrained by societal norms or legal frameworks.

The term seems closely related to the concept of pathocracy, in which society’s most personality disordered individuals congregate at the helm of power and wreak their very worst havoc on the rest of the population.

Bespredel operates in multiple contexts

In various contexts, “bespredel” has been used to describe situations ranging from personal relationships to the highest levels of political power. It captures a sense of unchecked aggression, corruption, or exploitation, where the absence of limits leads to extreme and often destructive behavior.

This term is particularly resonant in discussions about the post-Soviet social landscape, where rapid changes and the vacuum of power sometimes led to chaotic conditions and a blurring of moral and legal boundaries as state capture and capital flight remade the country seemingly overnight. In literature and media, “bespredel” is employed to explore themes of nihilism, resistance, and the human condition in the face of overwhelming and unchecked authority.

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In it simplest form, active measures incorporates information warfare aimed at undermining the West.

Active measures (“активные мероприятия” in Russian) refer to a form of political warfare conducted by the Soviet Union and now, by extension, Russia, to influence the course of world events. These measures include a wide range of activities, such as espionage, the dissemination of propaganda, and the establishment of front organizations, all aimed at manipulating the public opinion and decision-making processes in other countries.

The goal is often to destabilize opponents and weaken alliances contrary to the interests of the Soviet Union or Russia, without engaging in much riskier direct military conflict.

Disinformation in active measures

Historically, active measures have included complex operations, such as spreading disinformation, orchestrating smear campaigns, and using psychological warfare to sow discord and confusion among the target population. For example, during the Cold War, the KGB engaged in active measures to spread false information about the United States, aiming to weaken its credibility and influence on the global stage.

These operations were meticulously planned and could span years or even decades, employing a variety of tactics from leaking altered documents to fostering relationships with sympathetic or unknowing individuals within influential positions.

In the digital age, the concept of active measures has evolved with technology. Social media platforms and the internet have become fertile grounds for such operations, allowing for the rapid spread of disinformation and the manipulation of public opinion on a scale previously unimaginable.

These modern active measures can involve cyber attacks, the use of trolls and bots to amplify divisive content, and the strategic release of hacked information to influence political outcomes, as seen in various elections around the world (the Wikileaks email dumps that helped Trump eke out the presidency in 2016, e.g.). The adaptability and covert nature of active measures make them a persistent challenge for governments and societies trying to safeguard democratic processes and maintain national security.

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Sockpuppets are fake 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.

In the digital age, the battleground for political influence has extended beyond traditional media to the vast, interconnected realm of social media. Central to this new frontier are “sockpuppet” accounts – fake online personas created for deceptive purposes. These shadowy figures have become tools in the hands of authoritarian regimes, perhaps most notably Russia, to manipulate public opinion and infiltrate the political systems of countries like the UK, Ukraine, and the US.

What are sockpuppet accounts?

A sockpuppet account is a fake online identity used for purposes of deception. Unlike simple trolls or spam accounts, sockpuppets are more sophisticated. They mimic real users, often stealing photos and personal data to appear authentic. These accounts engage in activities ranging from posting comments to spreading disinformation, all designed to manipulate public opinion.

The Strategic Use of Sockpuppets

Sockpuppet accounts are a cog in the larger machinery of cyber warfare. They play a critical role in shaping narratives and influencing public discourse. In countries like Russia, where the state exerts considerable control over media, these accounts are often state-sponsored or affiliated with groups that align with government interests.

Case Studies: Russia’s global reach

  1. The United Kingdom: Investigations have revealed Russian interference in the Brexit referendum. Sockpuppet accounts spread divisive content to influence public opinion and exacerbate social tensions. Their goal was to weaken the European Union by supporting the UK’s departure.
  2. Ukraine: Russia’s geopolitical interests in Ukraine have been furthered through a barrage of sockpuppet accounts. These accounts disseminate pro-Russian propaganda and misinformation to destabilize Ukraine’s political landscape, particularly during times of crisis, elections, or — most notably — during its own current war of aggression against its neighbor nation.
  3. The United States: The 2016 US Presidential elections saw an unprecedented level of interference. Russian sockpuppets spread divisive content, fake news, and even organized real-life events, creating an environment of distrust and chaos. Their goal was to sow discord and undermine the democratic process.
Vladimir Putin with his sheep, by Midjourney

How sockpuppets operate

Sockpuppets often work in networks, creating an echo chamber effect. They amplify messages, create false trends, and give the illusion of widespread support for a particular viewpoint. Advanced tactics include deepfakes and AI-generated text, making it increasingly difficult to distinguish between real and fake content.

Detection and countermeasures

Detecting sockpuppets is challenging due to their evolving sophistication. Social media platforms are employing AI-based algorithms to identify and remove these accounts. However, the arms race between detection methods and evasion techniques continues. Governments and independent watchdogs also play a crucial role in exposing such operations.

Implications for democracy

The use of sockpuppet accounts by authoritarian regimes like Russia poses a significant threat to democratic processes. By influencing public opinion and political outcomes in other countries, they undermine the very essence of democracy – the informed consent of the governed. This digital interference erodes trust in democratic institutions and fuels political polarization.

As we continue to navigate the complex landscape of digital information, the challenge posed by sockpuppet accounts remains significant. Awareness and vigilance are key. Social media platforms, governments, and individuals must collaborate to safeguard the integrity of our political systems. As citizens, staying informed and critically evaluating online information is our first line of defense against this invisible but potent threat.

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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-pickingCherry-picking refers to the practice of selectively choosing data or facts that support one's argument, while ignoring those that contradict it. This biased approach can misrepresent the overall truth or validity of a situation, leading to skewed conclusions.https://doctorparadox.net/dictionaries/disinformation-dictionary/cherry-picking/
@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/
cognitive 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/psychology/cognitive-closure/
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/dictionaries/disinformation-dictionary/con-artist/
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/dictionaries/disinformation-dictionary/confirmation-loop/
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/dictionaries/disinformation-dictionary/cultivation-theory/
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/models/dunning-kruger-effect/
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/
ego defenseEgo defense mechanisms are psychological strategies employed by the unconscious mind to protect an individual from anxiety or social sanctions and to provide a refuge from a situation with which one cannot currently cope. These mechanisms can lead to the formation of false beliefs, as they may distort, deny, or manipulate reality as a way to defend against feelings of threat or discomfort.https://doctorparadox.net/psychology/ego-defense/
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/dictionaries/disinformation-dictionary/election-denial/
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/dictionaries/disinformation-dictionary/fact-checking/
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/dictionaries/disinformation-dictionary/filter-bubble/
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/
The Heartland InstituteThe Heartland Institute is an American conservative and libertarian public policy think tank focused on promoting free-market solutions to various social and economic issues. It is well-known for its skepticism of human-caused climate change and its advocacy against government regulations.https://doctorparadox.net/dictionaries/disinformation-dictionary/the-heartland-institute/
hoaxA deliberately fabricated falsehood made to masquerade as truth.https://doctorparadox.net/dictionaries/disinformation-dictionary/hoax/
honeypotIn 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/dictionaries/hybrid-warfare/honeypot/
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/
kompromatKompromat is a Russian term that refers to the gathering of compromising materials on a person or entity to be used for blackmail, manipulation, or public shaming, often for political purposes. It typically involves collecting sensitive, embarrassing, or incriminating information to exert influence or gain leverage over individuals or groups.https://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/
malwareMalware, short for malicious software, refers to any software intentionally designed to cause damage to a computer, server, client, or computer network. It encompasses a variety of forms, including viruses, worms, spyware, and ransomware, aiming to exploit, harm, or unauthorizedly access information and systems.https://doctorparadox.net/dictionaries/disinformation-dictionary/malware/
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/
Mean World SyndromeMean world syndrome is a term in media theory that describes how people who consume large amounts of violent or negative media content tend to perceive the world as more dangerous and hostile than it really is. This phenomenon, coined by communications professor George Gerbner, suggests that heavy exposure to media violence shapes viewers' beliefs about reality, increasing their fear and anxiety about being victimized.https://doctorparadox.net/dictionaries/disinformation-dictionary/mean-world-syndrome/
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/
microtargetingMicrotargeting is a marketing strategy that analyzes consumer data to identify and target specific segments of a population with highly personalized messages, often through social media and online platforms. In disinformation campaigns, it's used to manipulate public opinion by spreading tailored misinformation to vulnerable groups, exploiting their beliefs or fears for political or ideological gain.https://doctorparadox.net/dictionaries/disinformation-dictionary/microtargeting/
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/
political advertisingPolitical advertising encompasses the use of media and communication strategies by politicians and parties to influence public opinion and voter behavior, often highlighting policy positions, achievements, or criticisms of opponents. In disinformation campaigns, it can be strategically deployed to spread false or misleading information, aiming to manipulate public perception and undermine trust in political processes or adversaries.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/
prebunkingPrebunking is a proactive strategy aimed at preventing the spread of disinformation by exposing individuals to weakened versions of common misleading techniques before they encounter them. This method helps build resilience by teaching people how to critically analyze and question the validity of information they come across.https://doctorparadox.net/dictionaries/disinformation-dictionary/prebunking/
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/
psychographic profilesPsychographic profiling in political microtargeting involves analyzing individuals' personality traits, values, interests, and lifestyles to tailor messages that resonate on a deeply personal level, often used to influence voter behavior. This technique has raised concerns about disinformation, as it allows for the manipulation of perceptions and opinions by targeting susceptible segments of the population with tailored, and potentially misleading, content.https://doctorparadox.net/
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 amnesiaSource amnesia refers to the phenomenon where one can recall information but not the source it came from, a situation that exacerbates the spread and entrenchment of misinformation. In the digital age, this contributes significantly to the challenges of distinguishing credible information, as misinformation can spread widely once detached from its dubious origins​.https://doctorparadox.net/dictionaries/disinformation-dictionary/source-amnesia/
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/
"spirit cooking"Spirit cooking refers to a form of performance art popularized by Marina Abramović, which uses ritualistic elements and symbolic gestures in a dinner party setting, often incorporating themes of life, death, and renewal. The term gained widespread attention and controversy in the context of John Podesta's emails released by WikiLeaks in 2016, where an invitation to a spirit cooking dinner led to various conspiracy theories, though it was associated with Abramović's art rather than any literal practice.https://doctorparadox.net/
splittingSee the world as with them or against them; an extension of black and white thinking.https://doctorparadox.net/
stochastic terrorismRefers to the use of mass communication to incite random individuals to carry out violent or terrorist acts that are statistically predictable but individually unpredictable. It involves the dissemination of rhetoric and propaganda that demonizes certain groups or individuals, creating an environment where violence is implicitly encouraged without directing specific acts.https://doctorparadox.net/dictionaries/disinformation-dictionary/stochastic-terrorism/
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://foundations.doctorparadox.net/Dictionaries/Tech/trolling
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/dictionaries/disinformation-dictionary/wallpaper-effect/
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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The Snow Revolution was a series of popular protests beginning in Moscow in 2011, demanding the reinstatement of free elections, the ability to form opposition parties, and the end of massive state corruption. The protests were sparked by claims of electoral fraud in the 2011 Russian parliamentary elections and were further fueled by Vladimir Putin‘s announcement that he would seek a third presidential term.

Tens of thousands of Russians took to the streets in Moscow and other cities, marking the largest public demonstrations since the fall of the Soviet Union. 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.

Snow Revolution in Russia, by Midjourney

The role of social media in the Snow Revolution

The protests were notable for their use of technology and social media, which played a crucial role in organizing and spreading awareness. This was a new phenomenon in Russian political activism, reflecting the influence of the digital age on political movements.

One of the leaders of the Snow Revolution, Alexei Navalny, emerged as a serious rival to Putin’s rule. In 2020 the Russian dictator had the popular blogger-turned-political leader poisoned with the powerful nerve agent novichok. He was treated in Germany and managed to survive, only to voluntarily return and be thrown into prison indefinitely by the Russian state.

Alexei Navalny in a high-security prison, by Midjourney

Aftermath of the Snow Revolution

The Russian government responded with a mix of concessions and repressions. While some dialogue was opened with opposition figures, and a few electoral reforms were promised, there was also a significant crackdown on protesters, opposition leaders, and non-governmental organizations, especially those receiving foreign funding.

The Snow Revolution did not lead to immediate substantial political change in Russia. Putin was re-elected in 2012, and the United Russia party maintained its dominance. However, the movement had a lasting impact on the Russian political landscape. It exposed the growing divide between the government and a significant segment of the population, particularly among the urban, educated middle class. It also demonstrated a rising discontent with authoritarian governance and a growing awareness and engagement in political processes among the Russian public.

The Snow Revolution marked a significant moment in modern Russian history, highlighting the power and limitations of protest movements in challenging entrenched political systems.

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republican vs. democrat cage match boxing ring

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

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

Right-Wing Authoritarianism

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

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

Scholars of authoritarianism

  • Hannah Arendt — The Origins of Totalitarianism
  • Bob Altemeyer — The Authoritarians
  • Derrida — the logic of the unconscious; performativity in the act of lying
  • ketman — Ketman is the psychological concept of concealing one’s true aims, akin to doublethink in Orwell’s 1984, that served as a central theme to Polish dissident 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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