Racism

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

The practice is named after Elbridge Gerry, a governor of Massachusetts who in 1812 approved a redistricting plan that created a district that resembled a salamander. The term โ€œgerrymanderingโ€ combines the words โ€œGerryโ€ and โ€œsalamander.โ€

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

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

Partisan and racial gerrymandering

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

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

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

Effects of gerrymandering

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

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

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

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

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

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

American Authoritarianism

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

But prejudice and bigotry are beasts that never sleep — only fitfully slumber and simmer beneath the surface. Bigotry has been rebuilding covertly for years and decades, if it can even be said to have gone away. America has always had its strain of autocratic fascination — and that strain of authoritarianism began flirting with what became fascism in the 20th century. The extremists yearning for a consummation of American fascism have continued to work diligently for almost a century, and have now largely succeeded in injecting a virulent form of nationalism, xenophobia, and isolationism into mainstream GOP politics in the 21st century.

The election of Donald Trump in 2016 seemed to unleash these latent forces that have been amassing since the Reagan years, growing more virulent during the 1990s. From Pat Buchanan and Newt Gingrich of yesteryear to Marjorie Taylor Greene and Ron DeSantis today, the American right-wing is more and more overtly appealing to anti-democratic methods and ideologies — and no longer seem to be regarded as the kooks and cranks of the Republican Party as their equivalents were during the John Birch Society era.

Authoritarianism Dictionary

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

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

TermTopicDefinition
1st Amendmentgovernment"Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances."
2nd Amendmentgovernment"A well regulated militia, being necessary to the security of a free state, the right of the people to keep and bear arms, shall not be infringed."
13th Amendmentwhite supremacyThe Amendment that put an end to slavery. It was passed by Congress and ratified by 2/3 of the states in 1865.
14th Amendmentwhite supremacyThe second Constitutional Amendment passed following the Civil War, the Fourteenth Amendment granted citizenship to freed African American former slaves, along with equal civil and legal rights as specified in the Constitution.
15th Amendmentwhite supremacyThird and last of the Reconstruction Amendments, the Fifteenth gave African Americans the right to vote -- and prohibited any type of voter discrimination on the basis of race.
19th AmendmentmisogynyThe woman's Suffrage Amendment gave women the right to vote in the United States.
4chanalt-RightA notorious internet message board with an unruly culture capable of trolling, pranks, and crimes.
4GWFourth-generation warfare, a model of hybrid warfare proposed by William S. Lind (of "cultural Marxism" fame)
8chanalt-RightIf 4chan wasn't raw and lawless enough for you, you could try the even more right-wing "free speech"-haven 8chan while it still stood (now 8kun). Described by its founder Frederick Bennan as "if 4chan and reddit had a baby," the site is notorious for incubating Gamergate, which morphed into PizzaGate, which morphed into QAnon -- and for generally being a cesspool of humanity's worst stuff.
8kunalt-RightThe rebranded incarnation of 8chan after being booted offline and haggling with its founder, Frederick Brennan.
abortionreligious extremismThe safe medical procedure for ending a pregnancy.
active measuresRussianA style of political warfare originating in the Soviet Union in the 1920s incorporating spycraft, disinformation, propaganda, sabotage, and destabilization, among other offensive programs targeting the USSR's geopolitical foes including the United States.
ad populumRhetorical fallacy that assumes an opinion shared by the majority is correct -- without consideration of the credentials of the group.
aggrieved entitlementwhite supremacyA term coined by sociologist Michael Kimmel, who documents the perceived emasculation of America's white male uneducated class and their reactionary rage against social justice and marginal groups getting the spotlight.
America's "original sin"white supremacyA reference to the institution of slavery.
amoralabuse & controlWithout morality; without empathy or compassion.
anti-abortionreligious extremismPolitical movement formed in the 1970s to overturn Roe v. Wade, that has become a major pillar of the Republican Party
anti-Communistconspiracy theoryThe Cold War Red Scare was promulgated by Senator Eugene McCarthy with help from lawyer Roy Cohn -- who later famously weaned Donald Trump in his image. The John Birch Society and movement conservatives seethed about ehe enemies within, as middle America set about booming with the Boomers for an entire generation of widely shared prosperity.
anti-intraceptionpsychological warfarePsychologist Theodor Adorno's term for individuals who resist self-reflection and exhibit the absence of looking inward.
anti-racism
anti-SemitismSee definition: antisemitism
anti-taxplutocracyGrover Norquist is a little piggie
armed robberyorganized crimeHolding someone or something up at gunpoint.
aryan
Ashe experimentspsychological warfare
ASPDabuse & controlantisocial personality disorder
assassinationparamilitaryThe killing of a head of state or other important figure for political or ideological reasons, as opposed to murder as a crime of passion.
astroturfingpsychological warfarePretending a well organized and financed operation is a grassroots groundswell
authoritarianismgovernment
banality of evilHannah Arendt coined the phrase โ€œbanality of evilโ€ to refer to the confoundingly commonplace motives of the Nazis who perpetrated some of the worst war crimes in history -- they would never have struck anyone as potential mass murderers before the war.
banana republicplutocracypolitically unstable countries whose economies are monocultures controlled by an oligarchy; puppet states
bandwagon
Biblical inerrancyBelief in the literal truth of every single passage of the Bible
The Big LieA giant, obviously false lie repeated over and over again until people start to believe it
birth controlmisogyny
birtherismConspiracy theory started by Donald Trump claiming that Barack Obama wasn't born in the U.S. and thus, ineligible for the presidency
bitcoinalt-RightThe original cryptocurrency represents an entirely new form of money; a way to store value digitally usig the blockchain.
Black Codeswhite supremacy
black-pilled
BLMwhite supremacyBlack Lives Matter
BLM (US)governmentBureau of Land Management
blockchainalt-RightDigital ledger of events and transactions that powers cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin.
blood libelconspiracy theory
Blue Checkspsychological warfareReference to Twitter's "verified" feature for certain members, who have satisfied the company that they are who they say they are. Originally the feature was meant to identify the official accounts of news sites and reporters, so it has both an association with -- and a legitimate lineage from -- the media industry.
bolt holeEnd TimesA type of retreat or refuge for those in the survivalist subculture, to be absconded to in case of disaster or apocalypse.
Brooks Brothers RiotSedition Caucus
Brown v. Board of Education (1954)white supremacySupreme Court decision ordering the desegregation of schools. Resistance to the ruling took the form of "states' rights" advocates, among much else.
bugmanNew Right word for liberal men who supposedly lack tangible life skills
bug-out location (BOL)End TimesAnother name for a bolt hole or survivalist refuge location.
CalexitSedition CaucusMovement to split the state of California into East and West states
CalvinismThe ideology of predestination means you can't do anything to change your fate, but you can *act* like you're saved and that's close enough, to Calvin.
capital gains taxplutocracy
carried-interest taxmore significant for private equity than for hedge fundsa subset of capital gains taxationWarren Buffettโ€™s famous complaint that he is taxed at a lower rate than his secretary: โ€œIt offends our values as a nation when an investment manager making fifty million dollars can pay a lower tax rate on her earned income than a teacher making fifty thousand dollars pays on her income.โ€
the Cathedralconspiracy theory
cathexisA kind of fusion the people of a nation may claim to feel with the fascist leader.
Citizens UnitedA Supreme Court case that opened the doorway wide to the influence of dark -- i.e. untradeable, not transparent -- money in American politics.
civil society
Civil Warwhite supremacy
climate change denialism
clown worldconspiracy theory
CloudFlareBig TechA company that protects websites from cyberattacks, it dropped support for 8chan after the mass shooting at a Walmart in El Paso. The shooter had posted his anti-immigrant manifesto on 8chan before the event, another in a series of eerily similar patterned shootings in Christchurch, New Zealand and a San Diego synagogue.
Cluster Babuse & control
collective narcissismabuse & control
Columbine Massacrepolitical violence
Communismgovernment
The Confederacypolitical violence
conscience
conspiracy theorypsychological warfare
convict leasingwhite supremacy
copperheadismwhite supremacyA citizen of the North who was against the Civil War and favored negotiating a settlement with the South was referred to, pejoratively, as a copperhead.
covert narcissistpsychological warfare
Critical Race Theorywhite supremacy
Critical Theoryconspiracy theory
crocodile tears
crying wolf
cultism
cultsabuse & control
cultural Marxism
Dark Enlightenment
Dark MAGA
dark moneyplutocracy
death cult
deep stateconspiracy theoryNetworks of opposition within governments who undermine the official regime
democratic socialismgovernment
desegregationwhite supremacyThe end of segregation between white and Black society in the U.S., ending formally in the 1950s and 60s.
disinformationpsychological warfare
dispensationalism
domestic violenceabuse & control
Doomsday ClockEnd Times
double standardmisogyny
down ballotgovernment
doxingabuse & controlResearching and broadcasting personally identifiable information about an individual
Drain the SwampMAGACampaign slogan of Donald Trump during the 2016 presidential contest.
eco-fascist
El Paso Walmart shooting
Emancipation Proclamationwhite supremacy
empathy
estate taxplutocracy
"Eternal Rome"Ideology positing Russia as a geopolitical bulwark of conservatism against a weak-kneed West (part of Alexander Dugin's reformulation of Eurasianism theory)
ethnic cleansing
exfiltrationcybersecurityThe removal or copying of data from one server to another without the knowledge of the owner
extra-Constitutional
facial recognitionsurveillance capitalismTechnology that matches surveillance video and photography with large databases of known subjects' faces to identify them
Fairness Doctrine1949 FCC policy requiring broadcast networks to present controversial issues important to the public in a non-partisan way, that was repealed under Reagan in 1987.
fake newsdisinformation
false flagRussiancovert operations designed to deceive by appearing as though they are carried out by other entities, groups, or nations than those who actually executed them
fascismgovernment
fellow travellers
fifth column
fifth world warRussiannon-linear war; the war of all against all
filibuster
Financial Crimes Enforcement NEtwork (FinCEN)organized crimeDepartment within the Treasury that handles and maiontains FBAR filings from US persons holding in excess of $10,000 in foreign banks.
FISA Courtorganized crime
FISA warrantorganized crime
fiscal policyplutocracy
flat earthersconspiracy theory
Foreign Agents Registration Act (FARA)psychological warfareLegal statute requiring those persons lobbying on behalf of a foreign government or other entity to register such with the U.S. government.
foreign bank account report (FBAR)organized crimeRequired disclosure to the US treasury by persons holding in excess of $10,000 in funds in foreign banks.
forensicslaw enforcement
forever wars
The Frankfurt School
Freedmen's Bureau
FreedomFestConservative evangelical event annually in Las Vegas
Free Speech
free tradeplutocracy
fronto-paralimbic areaPart of the brain associated with empathy, along with the anterior insula
fundamentalism
Gabalt-Right
GamerGatealt-Right
genocide
gerrymanderinggovernmentThe practice of selecting voter districts based on party registration lines so as to make it easier to control larger blocks of the elctorate.
gift taxplutocracy
"global cabal"conspiracy theoryeuphemism in far-right Russian discourse to refer to a perceived "Jewish conspiracy" behind the international order of institutions like NATO and the EU
globalists
Grand Jury16 to 23 people impaneled to hear evidence from a legal prosecution, and decide if said prosecution has a caseworthy set of evidence to bring charges.
Greensboro Massacrewhite supremacy
Great Awakening
Great Migrationwhite supremacy
Great Societygovernment
greed
Guantanamo
happy talkTim Snyder's term for the ubiquitous affect of technology & unquestionable conviction that tech is helping significantly and never harming.
human traffickingorganized crime
hybrid warfarepsychological warfare
hypercapitalism
incelmisogyny"involuntary celibate" -- a male individual who believes society owes him sex
inflationplutocracy
information warfaredisinformation
integralist
interest ratesplutocracy
internationalistconspiracy theoryAnother word for "globalist" or "cosmopolitanist," all of them also words for Jewish people
interpositionwhite supremacyDubious theory underpinning the idea of states' rights, which is that individual states have veto power over any laws passed by the federal government
Iran-Contra
iron triangleA conspiracy between organized criminals, corrupt government officials, and business leaders to turn the state into a kleptocracy -- or "rule by thieves"
Jim Crow Southwhite supremacy
Johnson Amendmentprosperity gospelAllowed televangelists to funnel tax-free riches into luxury goods and political advocacy
Karenwhite supremacy
kayfabeThe "play pretend" convention of presenting a staged performance as if it were spontaneous and authentic -- a trope of professional wrestling.
kleptocracyLiterally, "rule by thieves" -- a system of government in which the people at the top steal wealth from the nation and its people for themselves and their cronies.
KochtopusplutocracyTerm for the sprawling political machinery of the Kansas-based billionaire Koch Industries inheritees, Charles and David.
kompromatRussiancompromising material on a head of state or other important figure; typically used for blackmail purposes
lamestream mediaalt-Right
late Republican periodA way of stating a common belief on the New Right, that America is a kind of late-stage Rome awaiting its Caesar
leaderless resistance
liberalismgovernmentPolitical and ethical framework based on individual liberty via human rights and equal protection
libertines
literacy tests
lobbyinggovernment
"Lock her up!"MAGAChant led by Mike Flynn at the RNC in 2016, referring to Hillary Clinton's email scandal which turned out to be a nothingburger
Logan Actgovernment
Lost Cause religionconspiracy theoryAfter the Civil War, the Confederates never accepted defeat. Instead, they wove a noble victim mythology into white southern Christianity, in an attempt to memory hole the terrorism they'd wrought -- and wished to continue practicing without scrutiny or accountability, thank you very much.
lynchingwhite supremacyExtrajudicial murder, sometimes publicly, of Black men and women -- often for invented crimes
Machiavellian
machine learningBig Tech
Mafia stateorganized crimeA systematic corruption of government by organized crime syndicates.
MAGAMAGA"Make America Great Again" -- one of Donald Trump's campaign slogans.
malignant envypsychological warfare
malignant narcissismabuse & control
"man code"Mentioned by Raffensberger in relation to the Trump extortion call: that if Trump hadn't lied about it in public, he might not have released the tape, just chalking it up to "private criminal attempts between two men" aka "man code"
manospheremisogyny
Marxismgovernment
the matrix
mental predationabuse & control
#MeToomisogyny
microaggressions
micropenismisogyny
micro-propaganda machineThe โ€œmicro-propaganda machineโ€ (MPM) โ€” an influence network that can tailor peopleโ€™s opinions, emotional reactions, and create โ€œviralโ€ sharing episodes around what should be serious or contemplative issues
millennarianismconspiracy theory
minority rule
mirror neurons
misogynymisogyny
MK UltraReportedly a CIA program in the 50s that conducted research into mind control and brainwashing -- its findings were apparently so shocking that the program was shut down and never heard from again.
money launderingorganized crimeAttempts and processes to obscure the sources of funds moving into or through a system
multiculturalism
narcissismabuse & control
narcissistic collusionabuse & control
natalityHannah Arendt's term, and her most hopefuly theory for the future of humankind -- that it will continually be renewed by the literal birth of new generations of humans to reinterpret the human condition and our existence in the world.
national debtplutocracy
national deficitplutocracy
national security
NDANon-disclosure agreement
neggingabuse & control
neomaniaobsession with the new -- a hallmark of American culture
neo-reactionaries
New Dealgovernment
New Jim Crowwhite supremacy
New Right
non-linear warfareRussian
normalcy bias
novichokRussianmilitary-grade nerve agent developed by Russia and used in the poisoning of former FSB agent turned Putin critic Andrei Skripal and his daughter in Lonson in March, 2018
nullificationwhite supremacy
NRxneo-Reactionary, an extremist techophilic ideology popular on the right
obstruction
Oklahoma City bombing
oligarchyplutocracy
one-party stategovernment
open source intelligenceintelligence
oppointelligenceshort form of opposition research
outrage industrysurveillance capitalism
PAC
Palantirsurveillance capitalism
paralipsisdisinformationA rhetorical device in which the speaker feigns ignorance of the thing he or she is saying; "Saying / not saying" -- it offers a thin veneer of plausible deniability in a naked attempt to escape accountabilitty for saying exactly that.
paralogicpsychological warfare
paranoiaExtreme fear to the point of (or beyond) psychological pathology.
pathocracyorganized crime
patriarchymisogyny
peculiar institutionwhite supremacyslavery
peonagewhite supremacy
plausible deniabilityorganized crime
Plessy v. Fergusongovernment1896
plutocracygovernmentPolitical rule by the rich.
political correctness
poll tax
ponerologyThe study of evil
populismgovernment
post-leftist
postmodernismdisinformation
post-truthdisinformation
Potemkin villagegovernmentAny structure or facade built expressly for the purpose of making the situation appear more favorable than it really is
Powell MemoplutocracyLewis Powell's 1970s memo to the wealthy white male elite, in anger over the crackdown against tobacco companies, as a call to arms to organize politically against "anti-capitalist" forces
PRabuse & controlpublic relations
previous question ruleA parliamentary rule present in the initial decades of the Senate, borrowed from British law, that allowed the majority proponents of a bill or measure to call an end to debate about the provision with a short warning period of usually about 5 minutes.
Progressive Eragovernment
propagandaabuse & control
prosperity gospel
prosocial behavior
psychopathabuse & control
psyopsRussianPsychological operations
PUAmisogyny"Pick Up Artist" -- a self-styled lothario who helps train other would-be casanovas in his ways of manipulative charm
Pulse Nightclub shooting
race riotswhite supremacy
race warwhite supremacyThe goal of the accelerationist neo-Nazi idealogues is to start a race war and bring down the American government
RAGEabuse & controlRetire All Government Employees
rape culturemisogyny
Reagonomicsconspiracy theory
the "real economy"conspiracy theoryWhat folks on the New Right consider legitimate parts of the American economy: farm and factory jobs that used to sustain a middle-class income
RedditBig Tech
the regimeconspiracy theory
regression
repression
retweetBig TechWhen a Twitter user amplifies the tweet of another, by "retweeting" it out to her or his network
RICO
Right anterior insular cortexPart of the brain associated with empathy; psychopaths have a deficit here
right-wing authoritariangovernment
Roe v. Wade
Ruby Ridgewhite supremacy
running out the clock
RWDSparamilitaryRight-wing Death Squads -- an acronym used by Proud Boys and worn as patches by some members and branches
sadismabuse & control
sadopopulismgovernment
Sandy Hook school shootingabuse & control
savior complexLike the arsonist who sets the fire and then calls it in to play the hero, right-wingers with the savior complex are constantly holding up the sky as the Evil Democrats try to destroy everything good and holy -- and they want CREDIT for it, dammit!
Second Wave Feminismmisogyny
Section 230Big Tech
senicide
sexual assaultmisogyny
sexual harassmentmisogyny
shadow profilessurveillance capitalismData that Facebook collects on people who are not members of Facebook, via association with their friends who are
sharecroppingabuse & control
shared reality
show trialsRussian
SignalBig Techencrypted messaging app
Silicon Reich
sit-insNonviolent demonstration method used heavily in the 1960s
SJWwhite supremacySocial Justice Warriors -- used as a pejorative by the alt-Right
socialismgovernment
sociopathyabuse & control
sockpuppet accountsdisinformationFake social media accounts used by trolls for deceptive and covert actions, avoiding culpability for abuse, aggression, death threats, doxxing, and other criminal acts against targets.
SMSBig Techtexting
special interest groupsgovernment
spearphishingcybersecurityAn email designed to appear as if from a trusted source, to solicit information that allows the sender to gain access to an account or network, or installs malware that later enables the sender to gain access to an account or network
spite votergovernment
stand your ground
stochastic terrorismparamilitary
suffragegovernmentThe right to vote, sometimes referred to as "the franchise."
SuperPACgovernment
supremacy
surveillance capitalism
surveillance stateabuse & control
swattingalt-Righthoaxed reports to emergency services intended to provoke a SWAT team response at the target's home; a form of Internet-based attack used by Gamergate, the alt-Right, and other groups and individuals
symbolic violence
tax avoidanceplutocracy
tax fraudorganized crime
tax havensplutocracy
Third Wave Feminismmisogyny
totalismpsychological warfare
total warRussian
trial balloonpsychological warfareInformation put out or leaked to the media to gauge public reaction.
trickle-down economicsconspiracy theory
truth decayconspiracy theory
The Turner Diarieswhite supremacy
Tulsa Race Massacrewhite supremacyA mob of murderous whites descended on the Greenwood neighborhood of Tulsa, dubbed Black Wall Street, and razed it to the ground. They dropped homemade bombs in the first ever domestic aerial attack on American soil. Over three hundred Blacks were murdered and hastily buried or burned. Police and other state officials were complicit; no one was ever charged for the crimes and insurance companies refused to honor Black business owner's claims from the destruction of their livelihood and senseless slaughter of their friends, families, and community.
TwitterBig Tech
Uberman
unmaskingcybersecurityIntelligence protocol redacting American identities from transcripts of foreign intercepts
vast right-wing conspiracy
volcel
Voting Rights Actwhite supremacy
Waco, TXparamilitary
wag the dogabuse & control
wage gapmisogyny
war crimes
Watergate
watering holecybersecurityhacker attacks that infect entire websites
whataboutismRussianClassic debate tactic of old Soviet apologists to deflect criticism of Soviet policy; whenever an American would levy a critique, the response would be, "What about the bad things America does?"
white collar crimeorganized crime
white nationalismwhite supremacy
women's liberationmisogyny
word salad
World War IWWI gave job opportunities to blacks in the North, causing a great migration -- as well as a backlash and resistance from Southern law enforcement.
World War II
Yes CaliforniaMovement to secede from the US entirely, run by Marcus Ruiz Evans, Louis J. Marinelli
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Blood libel is a very old anti-Semitic myth that has stubbornly persisted for centuries, one of several conspiracy theories that have scapegoating the Jewish people for all of society’s ills at their core. The heart of the false claim is that Jews murder non-Jewish (or Gentile) children to use their blood for apocryphal religious rituals, during Passover and other prominent Jewish holidays.

Originating from a series of stereotypes about Jews amassed through the ages, blood libel is also intimately related to the global cabal conspiracy theory and was heavily used in Nazi ideology to justify the horrors of the Holocaust. Somewhat ironically, the Nazis claimed that the Jewish people were inherently violent and murderous — and used this baseless claim as justification of their own systematic program of violence and murder of over 6 million Jewish people in Germany during the 1930s and 40s.

The outlandish claims of blood libel have been thoroughly and repeatedly debunked by scholars, historians, anthropologists, psychologists, and an armada of dedicated truth-tellers — yet the stickiness of the myth persists, even after the consequences of this toxic belief system of antisemitism became apparent during World War II. Today, the blood libel myth has been given new life in the modern revision known as the QAnon conspiracy theory — a movement which contains elements of blood libel, global cabal theory, and a hodge podge of other fantastical and fanatical belief systems that have hooked gullible populations throughout history.

It’s important to remain skeptical of those who make these claims, and to ask who benefits from the deep virulent divisions and bitter partisanship created by the widespread belief in these toxic conspiracy theories.

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Who were the early conservatives? They emerged out of the group of former fascists and Nazi sympathizers in the US.

1930s opposition to Franklin Roosevelt’s New Deal

2 main right-wing factions then:

  1. libertarians — right-wing economics faction led by Milton Friedman, Ludwig von Mises, & Friedrich Hayek. Favors dramatically cutting taxes (aka trickle down economics), reducing social spending, while increasing the military budget dramatically — a math that does not add up, numerically or historically speaking.
  2. anti-communists, antisemites, and Nazi sympathizers — Fred Koch, William Randolph Hearst, Henry Ford, Father Charles Coughlin, Charles Lindbergh, McCarthyites. Culminating in the 1944 Great Sedition Trial and the end of WWII shortly thereafter, without real consequences handed to the perps.

After the Allies won World War II, a number of the early Hitler sympathizers “hid out” in anti-communist circles, allowing them to cloak their underlying fascism inside of the American Cold War project and give it a semi-presentable face in conservatism.

In the 1950s and ’60s we saw the emergence of the reactionary backlash:

In the 1970s, 2 more conservative groups emerged for a total of 5 main sects:

4. neoconservativesRonald Reagan, Dick Cheney,

5. the religious right — the Moral Majority, Jerry Falwell Sr. & Jr., Jimmy Swaggart, Jim & Tammy Fae Baker, Pat Robertson, Jesse Helms, Paul Weyrich, Paul Regnery, William Rusher, prosperity gospel

Conservatives welcomed fascism again in 2016

The ascension of Donald Trump to the presidency of the United States gave permission to all the closet fascists practicing ketman as conservatives to come right on out and let their freak bigotry flags fly.

Bigotry, personified -- Midjourney

All the little white power sleeper cells and now networked anti-government militia groups were let off the chain and invited to take a swing at our national sovereignty and see if they could steal the American government for him. Thanks to the strength and integrity of numerous civil servants and others they did not succeed — however, the festering mass of fascism isn’t going anywhere much just yet.

Other topics

will be fleshing out further:

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hate speech in a town hall

Hate speech is a way of dominating & monopolizing the conversation:

  • It removes the possibility of polite, congenial dialogue.
  • No productive discussion can happen until it is removed, b/c one party is only pretending to be there for dialog but is only there for broadcasting.

Hate speech is a weapon being used to shut down political discourse — under the guise of promoting it.

It’s a kind of false flag operation — a strategy of war disguising itself as “legitimate political discourse.”
Putin and the American right-wing are using the exact same tactics — and this is no accident. It’s not a coincidence Elonely Muskrat is carrying water for Russian dictators and oligarchs — the right-wing as an ideological movement is now global.

It’s also no accident this whole Twitter takeover drama is happening just before the mid-terms. The right-wing needs to inject some juice into the splintering base, some of whom are wavering as the actual (intentionally) obscured vision of the GOP leaks out (i.e. destroy government altogether).

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

What is a conspiracy theory?

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

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

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

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

Conspiracy theories tap into psychological needs

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

Continue reading Why do people believe conspiracy theories?
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Great Replacement Theory is a conspiracy theory animating the radical right wing that claims non-white immigrants are being brought to the U.S. and the west to “replace” white voters with their woke political and cultural agenda. Those who believe this white supremacist ideology see routine immigration policy as a white genocide and extinction of the white race. They also point to low birth rates among white europeans and the promotion of multiculturalism, or “wokeness,” as responsible for the alleged effects.

Promoters of this derivative of Nazi ideology (the claim is that Jews are responsible for this immigration plot) claim that the United States must close its borders immediately to immigration. Many advocate isolationism (“America First!”), white nationalism (and/or forms of nationalism more broadly), and claim that violence may be necessary to keep America under the control of white men.

History of Great Replacement Theory

The term “Great Replacement” was popularized by French writer Renaud Camus in his 2011 book “Le Grand Remplacement.” According to Camus, the alleged replacement is a result of the European elites intentionally allowing mass immigration and promoting multiculturalism to undermine national identity and traditional Western culture.

The Great Replacement Theory has been widely discredited and criticized by experts, as it is based on misinformation, selective data, and biased interpretations. It is important to note that this theory often fuels xenophobia, bigotry, racism, and anti-immigrant sentiments, and has been linked to a number of far-right extremist attacks worldwide.

Demographic changes in Western countries are driven by a complex interplay of factors such as economic migration, political instability, globalization, and changing birth rates. These factors are not part of any orchestrated plot, but rather reflect broader social, economic, and political trends. Unfortunately, it’s in the interest of the right-wing to keep its rabid base riled up — and the Great Replacement Theory conspiracy is an effective tool for generating anger and injecting vitriol into the broader political discourse.

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I’ve been reading Erich Fromm’s Escape from Freedom and it’s synthesizing a few things together for me in new ways — prime among them the realization that collective narcissism is the shared root ideology of both Christian nationalism and Nazism. First off, I’d recommend it:

Next, I’d like to thank it for reminding me about the insidious dangers of Calvinism and the Protestant Work Ethic, as described in sociologist Max Weber‘s most cited work in the history of the field. Beyond the problematic authoritarianism of John Calvin as a person himself, the ideology of predestination coupled with a paradoxical obsessive compulsion with working yourself ragged is a noxious brew that fed the Protestant extrusion of American capitalism as well as the murderous violence of its Manifest Destiny.

Reformation Ideologies

Calvin — like Luther before him — was reacting to the social and economic upheavals of his day which, during the Reformation, were all about the middle class emerging from the security and certainty of feudalism into a far more dynamic world of competition, isolation, and aloneness. It held promise but also peril — hope along with, inescapably, fear.

During the Middle Ages, humankind had retreated from the aspirational virtuousness of the Greek and Roman civilizations and descended into almost 1000 years of darkness, as compared to the dazzling intellectual brilliance of the millennium before it. Those who would prefer cultish cowering in self-righteous ignorance over the humility of fallible science and critical thinking managed to topple a glittering civilization and scatter it to the wolves. It was a return to cruel and arbitrary happenstance, a horrifying Hobbesian world of pestilence and pathology.

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

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

Democracy vs. Authoritarianism is on the ballot in 2022

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

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

Do we want democracy, or authoritarianism?

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

It’s the only question in 2022.

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Professor Altemeyer has studied authoritarianism and the authoritarian personality since 1966. He first published a refinement of Theodor Adorno’s work on authoritarian personalities, known as the Right-Wing Authoritarian Scale in 1981. In 2006, Bob Altemeyer The Authoritarians was slated to be his last work pending retirement — but in 2020 a new work co-authored with Watergate whistleblower John Dean titled Authoritarian Nightmare: Trump and His Followers aimed to warn America about the dangers of Donald Trump’s personality to unleash the very worst in the very worst sorts of individuals.

Meanwhile Bob has made The Authoritarians available free of charge here, and I absolutely encourage you to read it — it’s fascinating stuff and he’s an entertaining as well as informative writer. In this post I’ll do my best to summarize the main points of the book, because I know people are busy and not everyone has time to read a whole book much less scrape together hours to volunteer and do activist work.

Bob Altemeyer The Authoritarians

Dr. Altemeyer defines authoritarianism as “something authoritarian followers and authoritarian leaders cook up between themselves.” Followers submit blindly to the leaders and give them too much free rein to do anti-democratic, brutal, and tyrannical things. Power corrupts absolutely, and power seems to corrupt authoritarians most of all.

Bob Altemeyer -- The Authoritarians book review

He classifies the authoritarians into three primary groups:

  1. Authoritarian followers — typically this group follows the established authorities in their society, including government officials, clergy and traditional religious leaders, business leaders, and self-appointed gurus of all stripes. They tend to have a “Daddy and Mommy know best” approach to the government, believing that authorities are above the law. Psychologically, authoritarian followers exhibit a high degree of submission to authorities they accept as legitimate, high levels of aggression in the name of those authorities (if so called upon), and a high degree of conventionalism and conformity. They tend to be bigots, with prejudices against many types of groups.
  2. Authoritarian leaders — tend to be Social Dominators, who long to control people and affect others’ lives. They are overall highly prejudiced and bigoted, do not believe in the American value of equality, and feel justified in wielding great power over society with little qualification and even less self-reflection. They believe the world is divided into wolves and sheep, and they have no qualms fooling the sheep into opening the pasture gate so they can eat. “Might makes right” is their personal motto.
  3. Double Highs — about 10% of any given sample score highly on both the social dominance test and the right-wing authoritarian scale, which is odd given the social dominator’s otherwise reluctance to be submissive. They exhibit extra prejudice and extra hostility — beyond either the social dominators or the RWAs. They tend to be the “religious” social dominators, who had a fundamentalist upbringing, or had a conversion experience as an adult (George W. Bush, e.g.) and now tend to believe in some form of Strict Father Morality.

More traits of authoritarian followers

  • They tend to feel more endangered in potentially threatening situations that most people do (think: Dick Cheney‘s descent into bunker mentality after 9/11)
  • More afraid than most people; they tend to have overactive amygdalas
  • Were raised by their parents to be afraid of others — both parents and children have told researchers so
  • More likely to issue threats than low authoritarians
  • Most orthodox — were raised fundamentalist and are highly repressed
  • Most hardline
  • Believe “whatever I want is right”
  • Paradoxically, want to “be normal” very badly — they tend to get tugged by the people around them

Authoritarian aggression

Authoritarians prefer not to have fair fights out in the open — they tend to aggress when they believe their hostility is welcomed by established authority, or supports established authority. They also often aggress when they have an obvious physical advantage over the target — making women, children, and others unable to defend themselves as ideal targets. These cowards have the gall to feel morally superior to the innocent victims they assault in an ongoing asymmetrical warfare between supremacists and marginalized groups.

To make matters worse, authoritarians do their dirty deeds in the shadows and scream bloody murder at anyone who dares try and expose their dark secrets to the light. Their theatrical and performative self-righteousness is just an act to avoid accountability and responsibility for what they do — even unto themselves.

Moreover, authoritarians are extra punitive against lawbreakers they don’t like (though exceedingly permissive for lawbreakers they *do* like, which is infuriatingly hypocritical), because they believe fervently in the value of punishment. Many advocate child corporal punishment — spanking and worse — for children as young as 1 year old. Authoritarian followers tended to report feelings of “secret pleasure” when hearing of the misfortunes of high school classmates who had misbehaved, believing they got what they deserved in life.

It would be accurate to think of authoritarians as “little volcanoes of hostility,” almost heat-seeking their way into authority-approved ways to erupt and release their pent-up anger. Many of them do not, and will not ever realize that their fundamentalist upbringing has sadly left their brains underdeveloped, and ill-equipped to navigate the modern world with its rapid changes, accelerating inequality, advancing climate change, and political instability.

Lethal Union

When a social dominator becomes an authoritarian leader, and leads his authoritarian followers down malevolent roads from informing to threatening to vigilanteism, researchers refer to this state of affairs as a “lethal union.” It’s a highly dangerous and volatile time for a democracy, one warranting caution and vigilance from concerned citizens.

Throughout history, these are the situations that tend to devolve further into aggression, political violence, civil war, genocide, and worse. We need to be very damn careful about who we elect as our leaders — we cannot allow our government to be captured by special interests and the narrow, quixotic delusions of old billionaires outshining daddy and staving off death.

More books about authoritarians

If you’ve already read Bob Altemeyer The Authoritarians, or you’re just looking for more resources on authoritarianism — here’s a list to get started:

More resources on authoritarianism

Essential thinkers on authoritarian personality theory โ†—

The authoritarian personality is characterized by excessive strictness and a propensity to exhibit oppressive behavior towards perceived subordinates.

Authoritarianism Dictionary โ†—

This dictionary collects definitions and charts the rise of language, ideology, tactics, and historical movements of American authoritarians.

Koup Klux Klan: The authoritarian movement trying to take over America โ†—

We are facing an unprecedented crisis of democracy under attack by a roster of extremists, hardliners, theocrats, plutocrats, and others of their ilk.

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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 artificial intelligence 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.

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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
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Motivated reasoning is a common daily phenomenon for all of us, assuming we’re human and/or interact with other humans. It’s a cognitive science term that refers to a type of emotional bias in which we have a tendency to prefer decisions or justifications based on their personal desirability vs. an unbiased examination of the facts.

Thinking and feeling aren’t anywhere near as “separate” in the brain as is commonly believed — they are very intertwined, and it’s also incredibly difficult for us to understand or detect from moment to moment which parts of our stream of consciousness are “thinking” and which are “feeling.”

What’s worse, we have other biases that exacerbate the motivated reasoning bias — like the “Lake Wobegon Effect” wherein we tend to overestimate our own abilities vs. others. So, we’re overconfident — at the same that we are less rational than we think we are. That can be a volatile combination — especially when found in individuals who hold a lot of power, and make decisions that affect people’s lives.

For we know not what we do

It can be infuriating to deal with people who are using motivated reasoning to make decisions instead of critical thinking: they tend to work backwards from the conclusion they wish to reach, and ignore evidence that contradicts their pre-existing beliefs. The way they deal with the cognitive dissonance of conflicting information is simply to toss the new information out, instead of evaluating it. Generally, though, they are unaware that their brain is in the habit of making that easier choice, and tend to get angry when this is pointed out.

Examples of motivated reasoning:

  • Bigotry and prejudice
  • Belief that you can “reduce covid cases” by not testing
  • Belief that you can get Republicans elected by refusing to count Democratic votes either outright or via procedural means

Related concepts:

  • Emperor’s New Clothes
  • Potemkin Village
  • tautology
  • foregone conclusion
  • Catch-22
  • ouroborous
  • self-fulfilling prophecy
  • revealed wisdom
  • divine right of rule
  • teleological thinking
  • self-interest bias
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Majority Leader Schumer is right to come around to the idea that the filibuster must be changed in order to pass voting rights and save our democratic republic from the forces of authoritarianism.

The filibuster is an archaic rule that was at first only there by accident, then whittled into a sharp blade of minority rule by Southern plantation owner and virulent white supremacist John C. Calhoun — a man credited with laying the groundwork for the Civil War.

The South Carolina plutocrat strategized on behalf of wealthy aristocratic ambitions in the 1820s and 30s. Dubbed the “Marx of the master class” by historian Richard Hofstadter, Calhoun consumed himself with an obsession over how to establish permanent rule by his 1% brethren. He was an early proponent of property over people — the original “just business” kind of cold calculating supremacist that would come to typify the darker southern shadow culture of America.

Calhoun came to the conclusion that the Founders had made a grave mistake when creating the nation, and had put in too much democracy and too little property protection. He had a conviction that collective governance ought to be rolled back, because it “exploited” the wealthy planter class such as himself. During his time in the Senate he engineered a number of clever devices for the minority to rule over the collective will of the public — dubbed a “set of constitutional gadgets” for restricting the operations of a democratic government by a top political scientist at the time.

Public choice theory and Charles Koch

Slaveholding Senator John C. Calhoun inspired a series of men in the future to take up the torch of minority rule and its apparatus. James McGill Buchanan combined ideas from F. A. Hayek with fascist strains of Calhoun’s ministrations in the Senate to pack a conservative economic punch with public choice theory.

A young Charles Koch was exposed to Buchanan’s re-interpretation of Calhoun’s re-intepretation of the founders’ intentions, and embarked on a lifelong mission to indoctrinate the world in the religion of hyper-libertarian Ayn Randian fiscal austerity.

New lie, same as the old lie. The old lie is that America was never intended to be a democracy — which is doublespeak nonsense. The old lie is that the Declaration of Independence was wrong — that all men are not created equal; that the entire reason we founded a new nation was somehow misguided. But “conservatives” have been fighting fervently for this original Big Lie since time immemorial.

So: Charles Koch is the new John C. Calhoun. He and his vast navel-gazing empire of “think tanks” and other organs of self-regurgitation have managed to brainwash enough people and operate enough bots to make it almost a coin toss whether the average citizen believes the nation was founded as a democratic republic or an authoritarian theocracy.

The filibuster is one of the strongest minority rule tools in their toolbox.

We must bust the filibuster.

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But you don’t have to take our word for it — just ask the Vice President of the Confederacy what his reasons were in the infamous Cornerstone Speech of 1861, just a few weeks before the Confederates fired on Fort Sumter:

“The new [Confederate] constitution has put at rest, forever, all the agitating questions relating to our peculiar institution โ€” African slavery as it exists amongst us โ€” the proper status of the negro in our form of civilization. This was the immediate cause of the late rupture and present revolution . . . The prevailing ideas entertained by . . . most of the leading statesmen at the time of the formation of the old constitution, were that the enslavement of the African was violation of the laws of nature; that it was wrong in principle, socially, morally, and politically. . . Those ideas, however, were fundamentally wrong. They rested upon the assumption of . . . the equality of races. This was an error . . .

Our new government is founded upon exactly the opposite idea; its foundations are laid, its cornerโ€“stone rests upon the great truth, that the negro is not equal to the white man; that slavery โ€” subordination to the superior race โ€” is his natural and normal condition.”

โ€” Alexander H. Stephens, March 21, 1861, reported in the Savannah Republican, emphasis in the original

More ways we know the Civil War was about slavery

  • The state secession declaration documents mention the words “slave”, “slavery“, and “slave-holding” over 150 times, along with a number of related words including abolition, abolitionist, race, African, white race, and negro among yet others.
  • The Constitution of the Confederate States of America is almost identical to the US Constitution; in most of the several places that had been modified, the subject of the change regarded slavery and the claimed rights of Southern white men to own black human beings as a captive labor force.
  • Contemporaneous speeches given by Southern leaders at the time leading up to the war and during the war uniformly named the question of slavery as the core animus for their fight.
  • The Confederates rejected the idea floated internally of enlisting Blacks to replace the much-drained manpower of the South even though the final year of the war — despite ample evidence of the capabilities of black fighting forces as evidenced by their use by the Union to rout Southern Armies in bloody battle after bloody battle.
  • The secessionists even hampered their own ability to get diplomatic recognition, by refusing to clarify any sort of end date for slavery or apologia for the moral failings of the peculiar institution to a Britain and France who saw the practice as barbaric by that time. In other words, they chose slavery over independence when push really literally came to shove.
  • The Lincoln-Douglas debates were almost entirely about slavery and the question of whether it should be extended further into new US territories of the West, halted, or ended altogether. Lincoln was on the side of halting slavery, and when he was elected President in 1860 the Southern states began seceding from the Union.
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