Why do people believe conspiracy theories?

Conspiracy theories are not new. The specific group of theories known as QAnon may be new, but conspiracy theories themselves are a tale(s) as old as time — or at least time as we know it, from the start of recorded history.

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

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

Conspiracy theories tap into psychological needs

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

All of the following common human desires make us vulnerable to believing in conspiracies:

  • Desire for simple solutions
  • Desire for relief from the anxiety of uncertainty
  • Desire for understanding and certainty
  • Desire for control
  • Desire for safety and security
  • Desire for a positive self-image
  • Desire for a positive group image
  • Desire for belonging
  • Desire to offload responsibility to others

Structural properties of conspiracy theories

These persistent myths have different narratives, but structurally and linguistically they have elements in common. All conspiracy theory narratives include:

  • The Villains: Target a specific group that is supposedly conspiring in secret to deceive or do harm to society (The Outgroup)
  • The Heroes: A separate group of people, the believers, who are clued in to the conspiracy theory and heroically trying to expose it (The Ingroup)
  • Emotional storytelling: The language and narratives are loaded with trigger words and grand concepts in an attempt to elicit an emotional response from the readers or listener. This is used as a way of bypassing the rational, logical cognition mechanisms that would otherwise tend to raise a red flag at the outlandishness of the claims.

For more on the language and terminology of these addictive belief systems, check out the conspiracy theory dictionary.

Who is vulnerable to conspiracy theories?

There are certain types of people who are likely to essentially always be susceptible to conspiracy theories, and some types of circumstances that might make someone of a less prone personality type temporarily more vulnerable to conspiratorial messaging.

Traits that increase vulnerability to conspiracy thinking

  • Narcissism — individuals with a narcissistic and extreme need for uniqueness tend to be drawn in by the idea of gaining immediate and secret access to the “green room” of all the world’s events.
  • Intolerance — people who have a low tolerance for uncertainty will naturally gravitate towards ready-made solutions that seem simple and feel good. They will seek cognitive closure more strongly than individuals who can tolerate ambiguity, or take interest in it. Conspiracy theories are one way of providing “off the shelf” cognitive closure, by offering a complete explanatory system that removes all the uncertainty. They squeeze out any anxiety about not knowing what is going to happen in the future. Put another way — bigotry and conspiracy go hand in hand.

Circumstances that increase almost anybody’s vulnerability to conspiratorial messaging

  • Challenging times of great uncertainty and instability
  • Times of loss — a recent breakup, a death in the family, loss of a job, or other major life event could leave one open to appeals from a whole new belief system.
  • Feelings of anxiety and powerlessness
  • Being on the losing side of a political contest

Why are conspiracy theories so ‘sticky’?

Why is it so hard to pierce through the solipsistic “logic” of a conspiracy theory and get someone to evaluate falsifying information again? Why do people often seem to cling harder and go deeper down their rabbit holes each time disconfirming events transpire?

Conspiracy theory can seem a lot more “fun” than the sometimes harsh light of actual reality. Escapism is one of many appeals, as well as an easily-memorable picture of what’s going on that others around you in your tribe seem to share — bringing you closer together in a way that feels intoxicating. Some of the uncertainty of daily life seems bolstered by these clear, simple messages and stories that seem to explain everything in a neat and tidy way.

Some other reasons conspiracy theory is so sticky include:

  • people bolster their social identity with them (white supremacy, e.g.)
  • people use them to assert uniqueness in a “conformist” society
  • it’s a common human habit to put down reason and rational thought just for the sake of doing what feels good
  • Simplicity is seductive
  • Emotion is a key component to our most important memories. It’s our ancient brain’s “hack” for dealing with the reality of limited storage, by triaging the most intense experiences and deprioritizing the rest.
  • Storytelling literally syncs our brainwaves with our social group, forming a kind of psychological bond.
  • Listening to a story can change our neurochemical processes, and are some of the most powerful mechanisms we know of to motivate people to change beliefs and to act on a large scale.
  • Their mechanisms can be neurochemically seductive — and even potentially addictive — in that they valorize the self and one’s in-group while scapegoating and projecting all negativity onto The Other and the out-group, where it can be excised and/or exterminated.

How to protect yourself

  • be skeptical, but not too skeptical
  • gauge your emotions upon reading a piece of news, and be aware of how bias may creep in as a result
  • fact check anything new, ideally in at least 3 independent sources
  • learn more about conspiracy theories, cults, and thought reform

Famous conspiracies throughout history

If we’re likely to believe in one conspiracy, we are also more than likely prone to belief in others. Even before the QAnon surge made the widespread nature of conspiracy theories obvious by putting them front and center in our politics, up to half of all US citizens professed belief in one or more of these viral myths.

Conspiracy cults like QAnon can be a way to declare loyalty to a group and seek inclusion and social reciprocity from other members — without having to espouse any particular ideology. For the followers, there is instant gratification and very little intellectual effort to be done to begin to reap the rewards. For the elites promulgating it, this makes for a glorious tabula rasa or blank slate in which conspiracy proprietors can write whatever they wish and count on the zealotry of the followers to latch on.

  • QAnon
  • Blood libel
  • global cabal
  • Lost Gospel of Philip — 3rd century rumour that Jesus and Mary Magdalen were married. Later echoed in The Da Vinci Code.
  • Slave insurrection rumours
  • The Illuminati
  • Jewish global economic denomination / global cabal theory — these conspiracy theories flourished for hundreds of years before erupting violently in the Nazi regime and World War II. Numerous white supremacists in the U.S. still believe this today.
  • JFK assassination and the Warren Report
  • NASA faked the Moon landing
  • Supposed death of Paul McCartney
  • the government is controlled by Lizard People — everyone knows this one is true, obv
  • Holocaust deniers
  • political correctness and “cultural Marxism
  • New World Order
  • 9/11 Trutherism
  • Zionist Occupational Government (ZOG)
  • Anti-vaxxers — cluster of beliefs around vaccines being harmful
  • climate change denialism
  • Birtherism
  • celebrities still alive — Elvis, Tupac, etc.
  • Flat Earthers
  • coronavirus denial
  • the deep state
  • Antifa

Fake Detection

How to detect fake from real

It is going to become increasingly more difficult to discern from fact from fiction, here in this world that seemingly quickly flipped from a world of The Enlightenment to a world of dark disinformation. From AI to vast propaganda machines, from deep fakes to fake lives — it’s going to require more from us to be able to detect what’s real.

Already we can’t rely on old cues, signposts, and tropes anymore. We’re less credulous about credentials, and trust isn’t automatic based on caste, title, or familiar status markers.

Go slow and look for mimics

Here’s one key to more accurate reality detection: take more time to spot the fake. Don’t judge too quickly, because it can take time to weed out the fakesters and the hucksters — some are decent mimics and can fool people who are in a hurry, not paying much attention, or attracted to some irrelevant other quality about the ersatz knockoff and thus forms an affinity with them based on something else entirely. Some drink the Kool-Aid for various reasons.

Clues of fraud

Those who cling absurdly to abstract symbols are often fakes. And in general, any folks who feel like they are just trying a little bit too hard might be fake. Then, of course, there are the full-on zealots and religious nutbags. These theocrats are definitely faux compassionate Jesus-lovers. What better cloak than the robes of a religious man (or, less frequently, woman)? It’s the perfect disguise.

No wonder so many child abusers hide out in churches of all kinds, from famously the Catholic to the more recently-outed (though not surprising) Evangelical Southern Baptist Church. No one will ever suspect them, or want to confront them if they do. Plus, they have Democrats to absurdly try and pin the blame on repeatedly, despite a lack of a shred of evidence.

GOP Tactics

We need to know what our opponents are up to. There is much to learn.

Much more to come — stay tuned!

BehaviorTypeDefinition
ad baculumrhetoricalAppeal to violence
ad hominemrhetoricalAttack the person instead of their ideas.
aggressiontacticalIssue threats and/or violate boundaries.
argumentum ad passionesemotional"I feel it (or I feel *strongly* about it), therefore it must be true."
assaulttactical
Assert the opposite of realityrhetoricalSimply state the opposite of what is true
banning bookslegislativeBook banning is a form of censorship in which government officials or organizations remove books from libraries, school reading lists, or bookstore shelves because of objections to content, ideas, or themes.
Believes oneself to be superior and requiring of association with high-status peoplepathologicalRelated to supremacy and collective narcissism, this worldview is one of extreme entitlement and expected deference.
Black & white thinkingcognitiveA pattern of thought characterized by polar extremes, sometimes flip-flopping very rapidly from one extreme view to its opposite. A symptom of many personality disorders.
Blame Democratsrhetorical"I'm not responsible for my bad behaviors: DEMOCRATS ARE!"
bullyingemotionalIntimidating, harming, or coercing -- usually of someone who is perceived as vulnerable.
charismaemotionalCloying, often superficial or fake charm
charmemotionalCompelling attractiveness that fascinates, allures, or delights
closed mindcognitivenot open to an argument from facts
Cognitive dissonancecognitiveHaving an incongruent value system, or believing mutually exclusive things -- as well as behaving without consistent ethical principles; a sense of randomness to one's approach to life.
cognitive distortion
Communicate by emotional contagionbehavior
Communication is difficult or impossiblebehavior
confusion
Consistent inconsistency
conspiracy theories
contempt
counterattack
Creating unnecessary chaosemotionalCreate conflict to get attention and get a chance to get what you want.
Crocodile tearsemotional
DARVOtactical
Deception
demagogueryemotionalSeeks support through an appeal to desires and prejudices of voters instead of rational arguments.
Demand mirroring of their emotionsbehavior
Denying plain facts
Diverting attention
Do not perform emotional workbehavior
emotional abuse
Emotional manipulationemotional
Envious of others and believes others are enviouspathological
Exaggerating one's achievements and talentspathological
Expecting special favors and unquestioning compliance with your expectationspathological
extortion
fears changeweakness
fears differenceweakness
flying monkeys
fraud
frivolous lawsuits
GaslightingCause you to question your own sanity -- very dangerous to do this to people. The effects are long-lasting and difficult to do; it can take many years to heal from this kind of insidious abuse.
Grandiose sense of self-importancepathological
grandiosity
grooming
Hard to give to; reject efforts to give helpbehavior
high need for closurePrefers to resolve situations quickly and reduce uncertainty as immediately as possible
hypocrisyConsistently fail to live up to their own stated ideals, and the things they demand of others.
idealize, devalue, discardThe narcissistic abuse cycle
Interpsonally exploitative; takes advantage of otherspathological
irrational anger
Lacks empathy; unwillingness to recognize the needs and feelings of otherspathological
lawsuits
Love to play victim and heroemotionalThey want your emotions oscillating all over the place, because it gives them more opportunities to swoop in and capture you at a vulnerable moment and earn your trust -- so they can violate it.
Lying
Malignant envy
Masters of deceptive and misleading storiesrhetorical
Mind gamesemotional
Motivated ReasoningcognitiveThey start with the premise they want and work from there -- they are bad scientists, but good lawyers.
Moving the goalpoststactical
narcissistic rage
narcissistic supply
One-way streetExpect loyalty from you while offering none in return
oppression
panem et circuses
ParanoiaemotionalNurturing and maintaining enemies
Passive-aggressionemotional
PerjurylegalLying under oath, in court or in a deposition
PhobicemotionalTheir main aspect is fear, from bouts of phobia indoctrination
Play the victimemotional
Preoccupied with fantasies of unlimited successpathological
ProjectioncognitiveAccusing your opponent of doing the thing that you yourself are doing.
Provoking angerbehavior
repression
Requires excessive admirationpathological
Resist repairing relationshipsbehavior
retconning
rewriting history
rigidity
sadismemotional
scapegoatingtacticalJust blame Democrats, no matter how absurd
secrecyCovert actions; lack of transparency
See roles as sacred and inviolablebehavior
Seek enmeshment, not emotional intimacybehavior
Selective Exposure
self-aggrandizementemotional
Sense of entitlement; expects others to make unreasonable sacrificespathological
shameemotional
Shows arrogant, haughty behaviors and attitudespathological
SplittingcognitiveSee the world as with them or against them (splitting)
stonewalling
stubbornness
supremacyemotional
Take a thing and turn it into its moral oppositeLabel a good thing bad so you can smear it, or a bad thing good so you can support it
tergiversateto evade; speak circularly
Their self-esteem relies on your compliancebehavior
threats
tyranny
verbal defensiveness
weasel wordsleveraged ambiguity
whataboutism
whitewashing
Word gamestacticalWords are used primarily as weapons
Word saladcognitive

Cults and Mind Control Books

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

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

Here’s the cult leader playbook:

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

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

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

Qualities of a Cult Leader

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

…remind you of anyone in particular?!

Conspiracy Theory Books

In half a decade weโ€™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.

Repression causes authoritarianism

Research has shown that emotional repression is causative of authoritarianism (Altemeyer, Adorno, Stenner et al). Fundamentalist religious groups favor the most repression, culturally — ergo, fundamentalist groups are at the highest risk for nurturing authoritarian traits.

Emotional repression is the keystone of fundamentalist parenting. The strict application of “Biblical law” as cherry-picked by extremists is inherently contradictory & hypocritical, stunting emotional and psychological growth through corporal punishment and capricious applications of anger for sometimes opaque reasons.

When trusted caregivers apply physical violence to a developing mind, seeds of deep distrust and paranoia are planted. Children learn to “obey” by repressing negative parts of themselves so deeply they fall out of conscious awareness altogether & rule the personality “from below.”

The abused child learns “splitting” as a psychological defense mechanism, which later in adulthood is considered a “superpower” — they present a saccharine but False Self in their outer aspect to the tribe, and sequester negative id impulses deep down into an “inner sociopath.”

Repression creates divided minds

Never being given the required emotional support to transcend the paradoxical human project of reconciling the positive & negative aspects inherent in all people, they become “arrested” at a moment of obsession with punishment as the only solution to every problem. They see the world in very black and white terms — the classic “you’re either with us or against us” zero-sum worldview in which everybody who doesn’t agree with you must be delegitimized and eradicated completely.

To borrow from an apt phrase of common wisdom: all they have is a hammer. Or even more pointedly, all they ARE is a hammer: a paranoid, psychologically dissociated fragile shell of a self — easily set off by observations of non-familiar things & behaviors in their environment.

To again paraphrase Bob Altemeyer’s research on authoritarians: they are like little bubbling volcanos walking around ready to blow at the slightest inconvenience. They are fundamentally creatures of war walking around in search of excuses to unleash the deep primal pains inside.

The political organization of authoritarian footsoldiers

The right-wing political technology machine targets these groups of “pre-made” authoritarians both directly (CNP, ALEC) & indirectly (ML/AI).

The largest bloc of fundamentalist political strength in America are the Evangelicals (~75 million), w/Southern Baptists still the majority within that group. Ironically Baptists were the sect that first DEMANDED the separation of church & state: having been persecuted in Europe.

Now it’s the Baptists slavering & champing at the bit to install their version of theocracy as a replacement for secular government — demanding the right to wield religious persecution against others. Full circle.

Confederates too are running a “payback” program for Civil War.

The global rise of authoritarianism

On the other side of the globe, Putin is running a revanchist playbook to rebuild the Russian empire — reflecting psychological arrested development since 1989/91. Meanwhile, the ousted demagogue Trump praises Viktor Orban, in a way eerily similar to William Randolph Hearst’s transatlantic flirtation with Hitler in the 1930s.

What if history is just the long cyclical looping of revenge grudges on the part of groups who can’t get over it?

What if our failure to advance emotionally and developmentally beyond the adolescent stage is our undoing?

Trump is driving Evangelicals from the flock

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

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

Shrรถdinger’s Moral Leadership

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

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

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

Proteanism vs. cultism: The battle between open and closed societies

  • proteanism is Robert Jay Lifton’s idea of a model for the self that could serve as an aspirational escape hatch from the clutches of cultism, which is otherwise always happening
  • cultism (i.e. “losing reality“) is what happens “by default” if effort is not made to form and maintain healthy cultures
  • cultism is what most individuals devolve to or maintain throughout their lives, if they lack proteanism
  • I believe professor Lifton is onto something real in this particular interpretation of our Manichaean struggle — in which the political left and the right have self-sorted into separate clusters with wildly disparate interpretations of reality
  • the cultists are dying (quite literally) for the words of a delusional sociopath who swept them out of power with his spew of thinly veiled white supremacy and gold veneer charm
    • they want the apocalypse to come
    • The oil preachers have brainwashed the masses into believing climate change is The Rapture — they want climate change. They think it’s God’s plan.

Cultism as a kind of collective personality disorder

  • we all get stuck in our own mental loops sometimes. Some people are exclusively stuck in their own mental loops — most are disregarded, but some achieve wide notoriety, wealth, and sometimes political power.
  • Some nefarious mental predators thrive on getting other people stuck in *their* loops — everyone from garden variety abusers to cult leaders take this general approach to convincing others to abandon their own ways of thinking and spend all their time consumed with thoughts of The Authority’s Philosophy. Some individuals with an authoritarian worldview willingly submit to a strongman and abdicate decision-making to untrustworthy others.
  • Charismatic leaders have ruled over human groups since the dawn of humanity itself, but only in the past century with the invention of mass media technologies and techniques have demagogues been able to achieve a kind of totalist saturation of the common space and common understanding — giving them an ability to spin the entire agenda in their favor, and in turn, effectively “own reality”
  • When a leader with a personality disorder achieves power, he draws the other antisocial sleeper cells out of hiding for the coming feast.
  • The leader installs his cronies into positions of power and corrupts the institutions that are meant to safeguard democracy. Instead of acting as a bulwark against nefarious intent, these agencies begin to look the other way against crimes committed by the leader and his buddies — and later, will directly participate and optimize their contributions.

The enemy at the gates is us

  • Cultism can be induced very simply, by stressing a population. That’s it — that’s all it takes, for people to turn inward, become suspicious, and react with excessive fear in the face of gnawing uncertainty.
  • It takes strong character to resist the siren songs of disinformation and spoon-fed flattery
  • Building strong character is hard work. Much much harder than most people are interested in putting in — or even capable of
  • Consequently, many people of weak character are easily taken in by con men, grifters, and slick talkers of all stripes.
  • However, these con artists are very good at one thing: convincing people of weak character that specific enemies are to blame for all their troubles, and getting them to give money or take action against these Satanic Democratic pedophiles who want to ruin the world with their Leftist Apocalypse, instead of ruining the world with the proper Rightist Apocalypse and Rapturing all the evil elites away!
  • These pawns, peons, and proles will dutifully go looking over hill and dale, under Pelosi’s chair for the violent Antifa socialists who want to take over the government
  • They want to build a physical border wall to keep out poor, bedraggled refugees while allowing foreign bidders to pay pennies on the dollar to buy political influence through Facebook, Google, and other unregulated new media platforms
  • It’s McCarthyism turned on its head — but since we’ve already cried wolf once, no one will really believe that Russians pulled off the greatest psyops campaign of all time
proteanismcultism
seeks expansion of event horizonradical reduction of the "size of the universe" and human potential
open systemclosed system
personal growthstagnation; stasis
Bayesian logicmotivated reasoning
collects dataselective exposure
positive disintegrationimmaturity
questions authorityfollows orders
new ideasold dogma
improvisationalritual
iterativerecursive
expansivelimited
motivated by lovemotivated by fear
generativedestructive

phobia indoctrination

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

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

Phobia indoctrination is a tool of cults

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

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

Relevant book list:

paleologic

In paleologic thinking, logical arguments flow from a false premise. Typically this premise is something emotional, religious, and/or mythical, and believed very strongly by their ingroup.

The logic goes, “because I feel strongly about this, it must be true” — which, of course, can lead one down any number of rabbit holes or garden paths.

It relates closely to magical thinking, where the childlike sense of imagination carries darkly into adulthood to fester Machiavellian dreams of power and revenge.

Paleologic in politics

Professor Jerrold Post wrote about the paleologic of the paranoid personality disordered in his 1997 book, Political Paranoia: The Psychopolitics of Hatred. The nature of paranoia itself lends greatly to its role in American politics over the centuries — profound social distrust is simply bad for the fabric of a nation.

Our country has been under the fraying sway of distrust and bitter partisanship for so long. One way to avoid going further over the edge is to find a way to reduce the temperature, and commit to self-examination of our society, our culture, and our language along with our laws and our lawmakers.

Unthinking

Unthinking is a kind of militant stance against thinking, for oneself and others. It goes beyond a simple distaste for or preference against thinking, and on into something of a dedication, mission, or serious zeal for anti-intellectualism. As well, the Unthinking mentality includes a sort of reverence for instinctiveness and impulsiveness, and a distaste or contempt for “over-thinking” or being “overly sensitive.”

Fascism and cults have a technique in common: “thought stopping.” In cults, followers will be directly taught to attack negative and critical thoughts from their minds via use of a mantra — this further insulates them from independent sources of information outside the cult and its belief systems. Under fascism, the tactics of this type of unthinking are more easily disguisable:

  • short, repetitive slogans (“Lock her up!” “Build the wall!”)
  • arouse fear — invent enemies, dramas with the enemies, and distrust of allies to sniff out disloyalty
  • create confusion — say one thing, then confidently say its opposite
  • sow doubt — plant rumours, falsehoods, and conspiracies amongst the people
  • intimidate — threaten, while pledging to rescue

Unthinking is a reactionary response to professionalization and globalization

Unthinking is the sinking feeling that perhaps more of Gustave Le Bon’s controversial 1895 Study of the Popular Mind is true than one might hope. Our willingness to trade away our independent, critical thinking faculties to follow orders from authorities has been well-documented — yet somehow we still struggle to wrap our minds around those folks who, well, don’t seem to be nearly as interested in wrapping their minds around stuff.

Those folks do exist, and they have no intention of coming in second place to the coastal brainiacs who manage to enjoy mental labor thank you very much. In the Trumpian world view, if you are at a deficit in the intellect department, you do not under any circumstances accept the intellectual authority of The Enemy as legitimate. You simply rebrand yourself as the “smartest guy in the world” no matter what the subject, and you say it confidently, no matter how absurdly false it is and no matter that all the people around you know it to be false. It is their compliance with your non-stop stream of lies that brands them as useful pawns and allows them to live another day under your beneficent gaze.

It’s the status, stupid

Much has been made about how the so-called “Hillbilly Elegy” types are actually a distribution that includes plenty of comfortable and well-off business owners and working professionals who are not struggling economically. While that is true, I think it’s still relevant to the upper-middle class whites who support Trump that they perceive themselves as having not done as well as their liberal Commie counterparts in big cities. They may not be hurting so much themselves in Barbara Eirenreich fashion, but they are “hurting” in terms of status wounds. They are not being recognized as much as they believe they are due.

And they know the reason they’re missing out on this entitlement is because some globalist scum outsmarted them. They know instinctively, whether consciously or unconsciously, that they cannot win in an intellectual battle with the Coastal Elite Enemies. This vulnerability is absolutely unforgiveable and can never be discovered by anyone — so they move the goalposts. They claim that intelligence is a worthless thing to have, and/or that if you have it you’ll be impure and no longer worthy of membership in the tribe. This anti-intellectual streak on the right is equal parts self-delusion (“smarts don’t matter!”) and hyper-competition — by discouraging potential rivals from becoming more educated than they are.

Unthinking is a reactionary response to secularization

The seemingly inexplicable Evangelical support for the violence of Trumpism can perhaps in part be explained by the great paranoia and growing existential fear of a secularizing nation. In a way, they’re not wrong to be foretelling of the End Times — most likely not the one they’re envisioning from the book of Revelations, but the one where Christianity dwindles from the landscape, leaving a roiling mass of American heathen liberal commies to eat babies at their pedo parties right out in the open.

That reality is happening before our eyes — the dwindling part, anyway, if not so much the rest (if anything, evidence so far has shown those pedo parties are on the Right…). Older believers are dying out, and new ones are not being formed fast enough to create a new base. You could look at this as a triumph of science over superstition, as liberals do — or, you could look at it as a threat to your way of life, as the Trumpists do.

It is highly problematic that there are not really many or even any replacements for religion and the church in terms of providing people a place and a platform for spirituality. As religious adherence continues to drop, this hunger for spiritual solidarity will only grow — many folks will seem as if hungry ghosts, gasping for a wisp of organized religion’s shared hivemind experiences.

Where else shall we get our sacred? What new institutions can we collectively devise, by which to safely explore the mystical unknowns of our most basic existence? How can we find, regain, or re-imagine a sense of shared togetherness and fellowship? How can we rebuild basic reciprocity?

It is urgent we find these answers, for the doomsday clock is running for American democracy.

The Republican Party is a criminal organization

Only 7 out of 50 among them are patriots — the rest, cowards and knaves who continue to seek destruction of this republic out of self-interest and an authoritarian’s need to dominate others. Today’s impeachment vote of acquittal for Trump’s role in the January 6 insurrection was brutal but of course, not surprising. It highlighted once again something that’s been hiding in plain sight for some time — that the Republican Party is a criminal organization.

“Law and Order” is just another Big Lie

It’s used to cover up quite the opposite — criminality, entitlement, sadism, and a zeal for the domination of others. Including both the violent insurrectionist kind and the pasty jowly turtly slow walking kind on the right wing. The GOP is an insult to the rule of law.

There is no best time to impeach a president

Unfortunately the spineless toothless Republican Senators defanged the Constitution today, by casting into doubt its power to achieve healthy checks and balances between the branches of government. They gleefully gave up the role of Congress in moderating the chief executive — to the probable detriment of us all.

As usual, they performed a series of timeline hacks, rhetorical games, and parliamentary tricks that resulting in the “logical” impossibility of ever successfully impeaching a US president. They are masters at avoiding responsibility for their actions, and fiercely protect their own, even despite heinous crimes.

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell and his merry band of “institutionalists” have managed to do more damage to our institutions than any other Republican administration, and that’s truly saying something.

In addition to sowing doubt about our elections, throwing SCOTUS and the courts under the bus despite having packed them with conservative judges and loyalists for years, damaging our sovereignty and our national security, and impugning our reputation with nations around the world, they’ve managed to turn the United States into a kleptocracy. It’s official: the Republican Party is a criminal organization.

Let the DOJ do its work

Even Trump’s own lawyer advocated for it, along with McConnell. Though he can’t be trusted and will surely have tricks up his sleeve, it would be cathartic to see Attorney General Merrick Garland and the much-maligned Department of Justice bring down the largest RICO case in the history of history. I hope that karma brings justice to all of them, regardless of the actual outcome here and now.

cult definition

A cult is a social group, usually insular, defined by unorthodox beliefs and/or practices. The cult usually shares religious, philosophical, or ideological values and goals. The cult definition of “values” may be greatly outside of mainstream norms.

The term cult is usually taken as a pejorative, for its connotation of excessive devotion to a charismatic leader with a shady past, or blind devotion to questionable practices and unusual precepts. Believers might say they are following a spiritual quest, while their estranged family and friends would say that are being exploited by unscrupulous conmen.

Cults employ various recruitment techniques to grow membership as well as to cement the new belief system into their minds over time. Brainwashing, isolation, sleep and food deprivation, and other tactics help erode the resolve and individuality of recruits until they fully adopt the new way of being the cult leader would prefer for them.

The destructive cult

There have been hundreds and even thousands of relatively innocuous cults throughout human history, but the most famous by far are the destructive cults. A cult of this type involves members physically harming or killing themselves, other members of the group, or other people.

A subset of the destructive cult, a Doomsday cult commits violence inwardly or outwardly due to adoption of an apocalyptic or millenarian belief system whose rules require anything from murder to mass suicide. These groups foretell disaster and catastrophe preceding a massive transformation, or potentially the destruction of the entire world. In the case of millenarian conspiracy theories, their cataclysmic predictions include a period of utopia following the upheaval.

Millenarianism

Common themes among millenarian beliefs include claims that contemporary society and its leaders are corrupt, and will soon be destroyed by a more powerful force. The inherent evil of the status quo cannot be purged without this dramatic upheaval of society.

Within millenarianism there are finer groups still, including the easily linguistically confused Millennialism. Millennial movements are a type of Christian millenarianism in which the period of utopia following the apocalypse is expect to last 1000 years.

Famous cults

  • The Peoples Temple — Jim Jones and the Jonestown mass suicide
  • The Manson Family
  • The Unification Church
  • The LaRouche Movement
  • Ku Klux Klan
  • Sullivanians
  • Branch Davidians — aka the Waco cult
  • Children of God
  • Heaven’s Gate Cult
  • Al-Qaida
  • Aum Shinrikyo
  • ISIL
  • Dominionists

See also:

Cults and mind control books

Hyper Partisanship: How to understand American politics today

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 we are getting rid of the Trump crime family soon, 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?

These are some of the resources that helped me grapple 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

  • Karen Stenner — Australian political psychologist Karen Stenner found that approximately 1/3 of populations are authoritarian, or have authoritarian tendencies.
  • Hannah Arendt — The Origins of Totalitarianism
  • 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 Czesล‚aw Miล‚osz‘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
  • Fascism — elevation of the id as the source of truth; enthusiasm for political violence
  • Tyrants
  • 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
  • Richard Hofstadter — The Paranoid Style
  • Lakoff — moral framing; strict father morality
  • Neil Postman — Entertaining Ourselves to Death
  • Anti-Intellectualism
  • Can be disguised as hyper-rationalism (Communism)

Cognitive and psychological data

  • conservative minds don’t accept new information coming in
    • vs. Bayesian logic
    • vs. Thomas Kuhn scientific revolutions
  • Psychological biases
    • Status quo bias
  • The Asch Experiment — more than 60% of the time, people bow to social pressure
  • Stanley Milgram 1974 — we will submit to the demands of authority to a far greater extent than we might expect
    • it absolves us of responsibility
    • a “loophole” to quickly route around our conscience, making “normal” persons susceptible to the appeals of psychopaths
  • The Marshmallow Experiment — drive towards instant gratification
  • Edward Bernays — Propaganda
  • Narcissism and Sadism | The Dark Triad — difficult personalities
    • narcissism = seeing oneself “above”
    • Christopher Lasch — Culture of Narcissism (1979). Idea that narcissism is a defense mechanism against social change and instability in the modern world. It’s a method of psychological self-preservation in a hostile, threatening world; a cynical ethic.
    • Tom Wolfe — The Me Decade
    • Jerrold Post — authoritarian parenting
    • The Dangerous Case of Donald Trump
    • Mary Trump — Too Much and Not Enough: How My Family Created the World’s Most Dangerous Man
    • narcissistic injury
    • narcissistic rage
    • aggrieved entitlement — elevated expectations combined with resentment at society for not meeting them (Michael Kimmel, 2013)
    • dehumanization of the Others
    • splitting; black and white thinking
    • object permanence
    • magical thinking — relation to Norman Vincent Peale and prosperity gospel
    • Political ponerology — the nature of evil; interaction of difficult personalities with power and politics
      • pathocracy — Andrew ลobaczewski (2007)
      • sadopopulism — Tim Snyder
    • Narcissistic collusion — the interplay of the grandiose expectations of the tyrant and his followers. It gives him power as a meshing of mutually compatible needs.
    • Narcissism of small differences — Freud 1991
    • Scapegoating
    • Psychological decompensation
    • Psychopath World
      • The Upside Down — up is down, black is white
      • No conscience
      • No empathy
      • The ultimate narcissist
      • Obsession with power, dominance, and hierarchy
      • Primitive goals, relentlessly pursued
      • Rigidity; inflexibility
      • No access to higher human ideals
      • Performative; mask-wearing
      • See people as objects for their use
      • Control issues
      • Cruel and sadistic
      • Empty and thrill-seeking
      • Enjoy breaking rules
      • Inauthentic; insincere
      • Projectivity
      • Destructiveness; recklessness
      • Conspiracy-minded
      • Cold and inaccessible
      • Reptilian
    • Terminology: ASPD and the shifting umbrella of personality disorder and Cluster B
    • Malignant narcissism as a historical conception of this group of personality traits
  • Paranoia
  • Abuse culture
    • Bullies
    • Emotional abuse
    • psychological abuse
    • physical abuse
    • financial abuse
    • legal abuse
    • abuse of power
    • Alice Miller — Her work identified the psychological impact of childhood neglect and abuse, not just at the individual level but at the societal level — where it has a tendency to produce a hierarchical worldview characterized by the need to control the environment.
    • One-sided development — Dฤ…browski (1996)
  • Cults
  • “Big Cults” — rise to the level of nation-state and even beyond
  • Psychological warfare
    • Propaganda
      • Bernays –> Goebbels
      • Michiko Kakutani — The Death of Truth
    • Emotional abuse
    • Interrogation techniques
    • Disinformation
      • Conspiracy theories
      • Fake news
        • “Flood the channel” strategy
        • Overwhelm and drown out the truth
        • Deep fakes
      • Lying with statistics
    • Bot networks and cyborg botnets
      • agents
        • distraction
        • confusion
        • probing
        • persuasion
        • conversion
        • neutralization
      • flying monkeys
      • automated response
      • timed response
    • Extortion
    • Doxxing
  • Religious extremism
    • Evangelicals
    • Dominionism and extremist religious circles believing literally in the End Times and the rapture coming soon (Tim LaHaye et al), including at the highest levels of government (Pompeo, Pence, etc.)
    • Calvinism
    • Prosperity gospel
  • Living on Fantasy Island
    • Norman Vincent Peale — the power of positive thinking (1952)
    • Ernest Becker — The Denial of Death & the basis for fundamental self-deception
    • Buddhist / Shambhala conceptions of “The Cocoon” — a mental place of safety we construct for ourselves to remain shielded from Real Reality
    • Republican Denial Bubbles: climate change, trickle-down economics, “no one is racist,” birtherism, covid is a hoax, everything is hunky dory, you are getting very sleepy…
    • It Was All a Lie — Stuart Stevens, former GOP strategist and co-founding member of the Lincoln Project, spills the beans on the Republican capture of civic discourse with a set of false narratives all spinning out from the white supremacist backlash to the civil rights movement of the 60s.

HISTORY

  • Capitol Riots and Putsch — insurrectionists storm the Capitol
  • Raffensperger extortion call
  • Georgia runoffs
  • Biden elected + Big Lie begins (continues, really)
  • George Floyd murder and summer of protest
    • long struggle with police brutality and “driving while Black”
  • Votings Rights Act gutted
  • Citizens United
  • Growing nationalization of politics parallels the demise of local news

Hyper Partisanship in Congress: The Gingrich Years

  • Newt Gingrich and the Contract on America — Steve Kornacki, Julian Zelizer
  • Rise of Evangelicals and the deals with the devils (Paul Weyrich, Jerry Falwell, Pat Robertson, prosperity gospel, etc)
    • ALEC
    • abortion as a 180-degree turn for use as a wedge issue
    • Brown v. Board of Education & the fight over segregated Christian private schools
  • White nationalism’s reputational laundering
    • David Duke popped back up in both the 90s and the 2010s
    • Some Vietnam vets nurtured their own “stabbed in the back” culture after the war
    • Rise of the militia movement
      • Many returning soldiers saw the fringe left Communist movement in the US as an “enemy at home”
      • Greensboro, NC massacre
      • The Order
      • KKK & KKKK
    • Paramilitary operations in El Salvador, Nicaragua, Dominica, the Dominican Republic, and elsewhere in Latin America to “bring the war home”
    • After the fall of Communism, the movement needed a new enemy. During the immediate post-Vietnam era they claimed to be working on behalf of the state, but towards the end of the 80s they did a 180-degree turn to a hard anti-government stance
    • Survivalist fringe
      • Timothy McVeigh and the Oklahoma City bombing
      • Waco
      • Ruby Ridge
      • Unabomber / Ted Kaczynski
    • Intersection of militia movement with NRA
      • Intersection of NRA with Russian active measures
    • Lost Cause lineage
      • Confederate holdouts

Post-Soviet Capital Flight and the Rise of Russian Organized Crime

Rise of Dark Money

The explosion of Super PACs and other seemingly endless vehicles for anonymous money lending to political campaigns exploded after the Supreme Court’s Citizens United ruling in 2010. The hyper partisanship tilted even further when the GOP quietly began accepting far more foreign contributions than many people realized.

  • Citizens United
  • Koch Brothers / Kochtopus
  • offshore tax havens
  • unregistered FARA agents (Flynn, Manafort, Elliott Broidy, etc)
  • Jane Mayer
  • Panama Papers — biggest offshore data leak in history
  • FinCEN files

Rise of Russian Hybrid Warfare

  • Gerasimov Doctrine
  • Vladislav Surkhov’s surrealistic war theater
    • Fifth World War: all against all
  • Cheka –> KGB –> FSB / GRU
  • Psychological warfare
  • Cyber warfare
    • energy grid
    • US Treasury
    • election infrastructure
    • nuclear weaponry
  • Information warfare
    • Disinformation
    • Cyborg bot networks
    • IRA & Robert Mueller indictments
    • Cambridge Analytica, data theft, and microtargeting
    • Astroturfing, fake activism, paid crisis actors
  • Financial warfare
    • Magnitsky Act
      • Bill Browder
      • Natalia Veselnitskaya
      • Trump Tower meeting June 9, 2016
    • Campaign funding
      • Marie Le Pen (France)
      • Viktor Orban (Hungary)
      • Brexit (UK)
      • Trump / GOP (US)
      • Law and Justice (Poland)
    • Corruption — organized crime, money laundering, bribery, human trafficking, drugs, arms, fraud, racketeering, etc.
  • Proxy warfare
    • Private security forces and arms’ length deniability
      • Yevgeny Prigozhin
      • Erik Prince
    • Ukraine
    • Belarus
    • Syria

Role of Facebook, Google, and Big Tech

Silicon Valley played its part in enabling — and profiteering from — hyper partisanship not just in the U.S., but around the world. Facebook in particular has a reputation for being callously cheap about moderating content from hate speech to live mass shooting video, including arguably playing a significant role in the Rohingya genocide in Myanmar.

  • Facebook as a rogue nation state with almost 3 billion non-voting citizen-serfs
    • Reluctant moderators require regulating
    • Questionable ethics
      • Moral hazard in political leanings
      • Paid propaganda machine for dictators and authoritarian regimes around the world
      • Allow disinformation to “skirt around” the rules too often, or fail to police bad actors at all
      • Fail to live up to their own moderating standards repeatedly
      • Refuse responsibility for arguably essential roles in geopolitical disasters including the Rohingya massacre in Myanmar and
      • A business model that fundamentally benefits from human conflict
      • Cambridge Analytica
      • Traumatic conditions of the Facebook moderation team, in the US and abroad
  • Google’s capture of the web
    • monopoly powers
    • surveillance powers
    • AI powers
    • collapse of online advertising market
    • collapse of local journalism
    • Youtube radicalization
  • Bozo Bezos & the Billionaire Space Race
  • Surveillance capitalism
  • Data as the new oil
  • Crypto & DeFi

Economic insecurity and staggering inequality

  • Piketty
  • Gilded Age
  • Progressive Era
  • Anti-Trust
  • Herbert Hoover –> FDR
  • Great Depression –> New Deal prosperity
  • Keynesian economics
  • Hillbilly elegy
    • Bowling Alone
    • The Big Sort
  • Globalization
  • Opioid crisis

Republican Myths

As further enabled by the rise of the PR-state

  • White supremacy and the myth of American innocence
  • Trickle down economics –> Reagan
  • Powell Memo –> Think Tanks
  • McCarthyism; John Birch Society
  • America as a Judeo-Christian nation
  • Immigration is bad
  • Climate change denialism
  • Smoking is good for you

Americana and Hyper Partisanship through the ages

  • 2020 election
  • 2016 election
  • Obama years
  • 2008-09 financial crash
  • 9/11, WMD delusions, Iraq War, Islamic terrorism
  • 2000 Bush v. Gore
  • Welfare queens
  • Clinton and the Crime Bill
  • Reagan years
  • Watergate
  • Spiro Agnew
  • Nixon’s war on drugs as a proxy for the war on 60s counterculture
  • White militia movement
  • Civil rights & Vietnam
  • Cold War
  • The Holocaust; Stalin’s Great Terror; Mao’s famine
  • WWII & fascism
  • New Deal
  • Great Depression
  • Warren G. Harding
  • Woodrow Wilson
  • WWI
  • Gilded Age
  • Snake oil
  • PT Barnum
  • Great Awakening preachers George Whitefield & Jonathan Edwards
    • they argued that church authorities should not own people’s direct relationship with God
  • KKK
  • Jim Crow
  • Reconstruction
  • Civil War & Confederacy — the ur-Hyper Partisanship.
  • States’ Rights
  • Anti-Intellectualism
  • Slavery
  • Racism, Misogyny
  • Federalism vs. Decentralization
  • The Constitution and the Rule of Law
  • Democracy overthrows monarchy
  • Spirit of the Laws — Montesquieu
  • Social contract; consent of the governed
  • Puritans
  • Religious freedom
  • Liberty vs. freedom
  • The Enlightenment
  • Magna Carta
  • The Bible

Tactics of emotional predators

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

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

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

How to identify an emotional predator

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

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

  • Manipulating your emotions
  • Creating unnecessary chaos
  • Consistent inconsistency; intermittent reinforcement
  • One-way street
  • Masters of deceptive and misleading stories
  • Love to play victim and hero
  • Diverting attention
  • Disregarding the law
  • Denying plain facts; denialism
  • Assert the opposite of reality
  • Magical thinking
  • Projection
  • See the world as with them or against them (splitting)
  • Nurturing and maintaining enemies (paranoia)
  • Moves the goalposts
  • Refuses to take responsibility or admit fault
  • Gaslighting — causing you to question your own sanity
  • Bullying
  • Frequent liar / compulsive liar
  • Aggressive and easily angered

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