Essential thinkers on authoritarian personality theory

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

The authoritarian personality is characterized by excessive strictness and a propensity to exhibit oppressive behavior towards perceived subordinates. On the flip side, they treat authority figures with mindless obedience and unquestioning compliance. How did they get this way? Are people born with authoritarian personalities, or is the authoritarian “made” predominately by circumstance?

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

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Why do people believe conspiracy theories?

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 specific group of theories known as QAnon 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.

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.

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Collective narcissism is a bad solution to modern anxiety

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.

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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

Motivated Reasoning

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

Christian Nationalists

The term Christian nationalists brings together a number of radical religious sects seeking to overthrow the democratic republic of the United States and installing a strict theocracy, from dominionists to orthodox Catholics to Evangelicals and many more.

Here are some of the people and groups involved in the modern day movement to establish a Christian theocratic government in America:

  • 700 Club
  • Howard Ahmanson Jr.
  • Awake 88
  • Alexander Acosta
  • Alex Azar
  • Alliance Defending Freedom
  • American College of Pediatricians
  • American Enterprise Institute
  • American Family Association
  • American Family Radio Network
  • American Heritage Girls
  • American Legislative Exchange Council
  • Americans of Faith
  • America Wake Up
  • Robert Arnakis
  • Arlington Group
  • Larry Arnn
  • Edward Atsinger III
  • Marcus Bachmann
  • Michele Bachmann
  • Jim Bakker
  • Steven Bannon
  • Baptist Press
  • George Barna
  • Jeff Barke
  • Mari Barke
  • Stephen Barney — conservative philanthropist
  • David Barton
  • Gary Bauer
  • Glenn Beck
  • David Benham
  • Jason Benham
  • Philip “Flip” Benham
  • Robert J. Billings
  • Dr. Henry Blackaby
  • Sen Marsha Blackburn (R-TN)
  • Morton Blackwell
  • Bob Jones University
  • Bolthouse Foundation
  • Dick Bott
  • Bott Radio Network
  • Lt. Gen. William Boykin (ret.)
  • Lynde and Harry Bradley Foundation
  • Bob Branch
  • Lincoln Brewster
  • Jim Bridenstine
  • Harold O. J. Brown
  • Brown v. Board of Education
  • Pat Buchanan
  • Mark Bucher
  • Building a Nation
  • Jonathan Cain
  • Capitol Ministries
  • Cardinal Mindszenty Foundation
  • Ben Carson
  • CBN University
  • A Choice Not an Echo
  • Christian Broadcasting Network (CBN)
  • Christian Coalition
  • Christian homeschooling movement
  • Christian Satellite Network
  • J. C. Church
  • Church United
  • Church Voter Lookup
  • Tom Coburn
  • Mary Colbert
  • Concerned Women for America
  • Conscience and Religious Freedom Division
  • Conservative Caucus
  • Kellyanne Conway
  • Cornwall Alliance for the Stewardship of Creation
  • Council for National Policy
  • Culture Impact Teams (CITs)
  • Jan Crouch
  • Paul Crouch
  • Ted Cruz
  • Dr. Kenyn M. Cureton
  • Robert Lewis Dabney
  • The Daily Signal
  • Marjorie Dannenfelser
  • Jeff Denham
  • Betsy DeVos
  • Richard DeVos
  • Richard DeVos, Sr.
  • James Dobson
  • Mark Drever
  • Karen Rudolph Drollinger
  • Ralph Drollinger
  • Dinesh D’Souza
  • Alan P. Dye
  • Eagle Forum
  • Stuart Epperson
  • Equal Rights Amendment
  • Frank Erb
  • Tony Evans
  • Jerry Falwell
  • Faith & Freedom Coalition
  • The Family
  • Family Christian Academy (FCA)
  • Family Life Radio
  • Family Policy Alliance
  • Family Policy Councils
  • Family Research Council (FRC)
  • Family Worship Center
  • Fellowship Foundation
  • Reverend Wilber Fisk
  • Tami Fitzgerald
  • Florida Family Action
  • Florida Family Action PAC
  • Florida Family Policy Council
  • Focus on the Family
  • Foster Friess
  • Free Congress Foundation
  • Lynn Friess
  • Jim Garlow
  • Rosemary Schindler Garlow
  • W. Barry Garrett
  • Godspeak Calvary Chapel
  • Barry Goldwater
  • Peggy Goldwater
  • Grace Community Church, Sun Valley
  • Billy Graham
  • The Green family
  • Ken Ham
  • Abraham Hamilton III — host of American Family Radio’s “Hamilton Corner” who described the 2017 mass shooting in Las Vegas as “Satan’s work” that was “immune to legislation.” He went on to claim that the Democrats were “exploiting” the victims by calling for hearings on gun control
  • Mark Harris
  • Kristan Hawkins
  • Carl F. H. Henry
  • Heritage Academy
  • Heritage Action
  • Heritage Foundation
  • Eric Heubeck
  • Hugh Hewitt
  • Jack Hibbs
  • Rob Hilarides
  • The Hillsdale Collegian
  • Kay Hiramine
  • A. A. Hodge
  • John Henry Hopkins
  • Humanitarian International Services Group (HISG)
  • Nelson Bunker Hunt
  • Institute on Religion and Democracy
  • Larry Jackson
  • David Jeremiah
  • Bob Jones Sr.
  • Bob Jones Univeristy
  • Kingdom Warriors
  • KMMJ
  • C. Everett Koop
  • Ku Klux Klan
  • Beverly LaHaye
  • Tim LaHaye
  • Wayne LaPierre
  • Bill Lee — Governor of Tennessee
  • Leonard Leo
  • Mark Levin
  • Liberty University
  • LifeWay Research
  • Rush Limbaugh
  • Elias Loera
  • Nathan Lord
  • Dave Louden
  • Barry Loudermilk
  • John MacArthur
  • Rachel MacNair
  • Danielle Madison
  • March for Life
  • Ed McAteer
  • The Moral Majority
  • Jeanne Mancini
  • Manhattan Declaration
  • Rob McCoy
  • Mark Meadows
  • Mark Meckler — Tea Party activist and co-funder of Convention of States
  • Janet Mefferd
  • Roy Moore
  • Museum of the Bible
  • The Naked Communist
  • Penny Young Nance
  • National Center for Constitutional Studies
  • National Christian Foundation
  • National Conservative Student Conference
  • National Federation of Republican Women
  • National Right to Life Committee
  • Richard John Neuhaus
  • New Christian Right
  • Kristi Noem — Governor of South Dakota
  • Gary North
  • North Carolina Family Policy Council
  • Michael Novak
  • Old Time Gospel Hour
  • John M. Olin
  • Organicgirl
  • Joel Osteen
  • Sarah Palin
  • “Pastors Briefings”
  • Mike Pence
  • Pentecostals
  • Sonny Perdue
  • Tony Perkins
  • Rick Perry
  • Howard Phillips
  • Buddy Pilgrim
  • Mike Pompeo
  • Art Pope
  • Reverend J. C. Postell
  • POTUS Shield
  • The Power of the Positive Woman
  • Dennis Prager
  • Praise Network
  • Tom Price
  • Erik Prince
  • Scott Pruitt
  • Quiverfull movement
  • Oleg Rachkovski
  • Ronald Reagan
  • Ralph Reed
  • Carolyn Richards
  • Road to Majority Conference
  • Pat Robertson
  • Jim Robison
  • Roe v. Wade
  • Rousas Rushdoony
  • Karl Rove
  • John Rustin
  • SAGE Cons
  • Sarah Huckabee Sanders
  • Salem Radio
  • Richard Scaife
  • Jeff Sessions
  • Francis Schaeffer
  • Phyllis Schlafly
  • Alan Sears
  • Jay Sekulow
  • Ben Shapiro
  • W. Cleon Skousen
  • SonLife Broadcasting Network (SBN)
  • SonLife Radio Network
  • Springs Community Church
  • Horatio Robinson Storer
  • R.J. Rushdoony
  • Southern Presbyterian Church
  • Southern Strategy
  • Darla St. Martin
  • Stop ERA
  • Students for Life of America
  • Susan B. Anthony List
  • Donnie Swaggart
  • Gabriel Swaggart
  • Jimmy Swaggart
  • Jimmy Swaggart Bible College (JSBC)
  • Jimmy Swaggart Telecast
  • Bruce Taylor
  • Jeff Taylor
  • Steve Taylor
  • Taylor Farms
  • Thomas Road Baptist Church
  • James Henley Thornwell
  • Robert Tilton
  • Unity Project
  • “Values Bus”
  • Values Voters Summit
  • Richard Viguerie
  • Young America’s Foundation
  • C. Peter Wagner
  • Chester Ward
  • Washington Watch
  • The Watchmen
  • Doug Wead
  • Well Versed
  • Paul Weyrich
  • Paula White
  • Donald Wildmon
  • Farris Wilks
  • Dan Wilks
  • World Ag Expo
  • World Congress of Families

See also: Christian nationalism terms

Fascists became conservatives in the 1920s and 30s

(notes / draft) Who were the early conservatives? Former fascists and Nazi sympathizers in the US.

1930s opposition to Franklin Roosevelt’s New Deal

3 main right-wing factions then:

  1. libertarians — right-wing economics faction led by Milton Friedman, Ludwig von Mises, & Friedrich Hayek
  2. traditionalists — William F. Buckley, National Review (1955), Barry Goldwater
  3. anti-communists and Nazi sympathizers — John Birch Society, Robert Welch, Fred Koch, William Randolph Hearst, Henry Ford, Father Charles Coughlin, Charles Lindbergh, McCarthyites

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

4. neoconservatives — Ronald Reagan

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 became fascists 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.

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:

  • neoliberals & theocons — Dick Cheney, Donald Rumsfeld, George W. Bush, and others who led us into forever wars in the Middle East
  • MAGA
  • white supremacists & Lost Cause religion
  • right-wing anti-government violence
    • domestic violent extremism
  • conservative ideology
    • a form of totalism

Bullies

How to deal with bullies

Or, DADA vs. MAGA. Defense Against the Dark Arts was like the women’s self-defense class of Hogwarts — it taught you how to prepare yourself for the evil that was out there lurking and waiting for you out there. This course of DADA will follow suit, aiming to offer ways to detect, defend, and defeat the cultism rising in America and beyond.

It will be a work in progress over time, so please bear with me as I assemble learnings from a number of sources.

Red Flags: Traits to watch out for

  • evasiveness
    • vagueness
    • slipperiness
    • can’t be pinned down
    • won’t answer straightforward questions
  • denialism
  • cognitive dissonance
    • doublespeak
    • paleologic
    • word salad
    • contradictions
    • nonsense
  • black and white thinking
    • “my way or the highway”
    • rigid and inflexible, even when obviously off the mark
    • all or nothing framing
    • narrow range of observations
  • motivated reasoning
  • deceptiveness
  • easily angered
    • almost anything seems to trigger them

Attention: Take Back Control of Our Minds

The internet, social media, seemingly infinite channels of entertainment and franchises in gaming are but tips of the giant iceberg that now competes for our time and attention. The number of options to choose from has scaled exponentially over the past several decades — but our amount of time to spend has not increased whatsoever. If anything, it’s decreased

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:

brainwashing

A technique of torture and compliance, brainwashing is used in many contexts to control victims. From personal relationships and marriage to cults, all the way up to the scale of nation-states, removing or reducing independent thinking and action in a person or population gives the brainwasher enormous power and advantage.

The word’s origin is from a Chinese term meaning “forcible indoctrination to induce somebody to give up basic religious, social, or political beliefs and attitudes in favor of a belief system imposed by the brainwasher.” It’s also been referred to as mind control, thought reform, undue influence, or coercive persuasion — and is a form of highly unethical emotional and psychological manipulation.

Thought reform

Brainwashing is essentially a method of inducing a false personality into a target, after breaking them down psychologically. There are many different methods and techniques employed, from disinformation and sleep deprivation to hypnosis to emotional, physical, and sexual abuse. The goal of this “thought reform” project is to remove the individual’s agency and train them to follow the orders of the cult or high-demand group.

Seemingly normal, totally “average” people can fall under the sway of brainwashing techniques in use by cults much more easily than one might think. Cults and abusive organizations prey on people at vulnerable times in their lives, when they are most suggestible and least likely to mount an opposition. People who have gone through a loss, or a major life change, or are feeling particularly adrift may be lured by the sway of a deceptive organization. It can be very exhilarating to feel plugged in to an intense community after going through a period of grief or anxiety — almost irresistable, to some.

7 brainwashing tactics

  1. isolation — separating you from family and friends, or any kind of support network who may provide alternative and negative views of the abuser
  2. monopolization of attention — they seek to have the target orient their entire world around the abuser, leaving them little time to think about anything else
  3. weaken your resistance — wearing down your defenses over time, so their messages take firmer hold
  4. give occasional indulgences — providing temporary relief or even pleasure contributes to the overall program of intermittent reinforcement, to induce dependency on the abuser for stimulation of any kind
  5. demonstrates “all-knowingness” — becomes an absurd moral authority on your entire life, presenting the truth about your inner self and past history with more omniscience than you yourself possess. They know you better than you know yourself — and you believe them!
  6. destroy all sources of joy — the brainwasher needs to ensure that they are the sole source of pleasure and pain, for complete operant conditioning control over the target. All other pleasures in life are eradicated or eroded.
  7. degradation and humiliation — if the target gets close to figuring out the truth about the power imbalance and impropriety of the abuser’s behavior, the abuser will immediately begin a scathing shame campaign to punish the temerity of daring to stand meekly on one’s own

Brainwashing in politics and religion

Use of brainwashing by communist officials in China, Korea, and Vietnam gained attention in the U.S. in the mid-20th century. The brainwashing technique is also used by gangs, cults, and organized crime networks to control both members and outgroups.

Perhaps most commonly it is associated with fringe religious groups like the Peoples Temple, Unification Church (or Moonies), Children of God, Branch Davidians, Heaven’s Gate, Aum Shinrikyo, The Manson Family, and thousands of other cults less well known. Sometimes the brainwashing is intended to limit the followers’ access to the outside world, and sometimes it is about grooming them to perform criminal acts from financial crimes to murder to starting a race war.

Important research

Many interdisciplinary minds across multiple fields have studied the topic of brainwashing and undue influence, or have contributed significantly to our understanding of behavioral influence. Here are some highly consequential thinkers, researchers, and experiments on the subject:

Related to:

  • Mao Zedong
  • Nazis
  • Moscow Trials
  • Jim Jones
  • David Koresh

See also:

  • undue influence
  • thought reform
  • mental predation
  • indoctrination
  • hypnosis
  • Stockholm Syndrome

The Conservative Mind

A growing body of psychological and cognitive research is showing that the conservative mind has the following in common, indicating a profound challenge for American democracy in years to come:

  • are low in the “openness” trait — seek comfort and familiarity, and avoid novelty or challenge
  • dislike change and difference
  • rigid and dogmatic thinkers; close-minded
  • have a strong need for closure
  • have a high tendency to jump to conclusions while exuding self-righteous conviction
  • are high in conscientiousness, but low in conscience — many see life as a game to win at all costs, especially the social dominators
  • value loyalty
  • more likely than liberals to engage in motivated reasoning
  • more likely to have strong religious beliefs
  • more likely to engage in magical thinking
  • more likely to believe in conspiracy theories
  • more likely to exhibit authoritarian personality traits
  • more likely to harbor aggressive tendencies

See also:

Billionaires 2021

The Richest People in the World

The vast majority of billionaires in the world got richer during the year of the pandemic — fantastically richer. And they still demand more!

Inequality grows and grows, warping both capitalism and government, and yet still the plutocrats press their advantage further while whining about their invented delusional oppression.

Certainly not all rich people are gigantic assholes, but a depressing many of them are. We can hang onto the good ones while tossing the others out of the Titanic lifeboats where their rugged masculinity can carry them to shore.

see also:

NameNet WorthWealth SourceIndustry
Jeff Bezos$177 BAmazonTechnology
Elon Musk$151 BTesla, SpaceXTechnology
Bernard Arnault & family$150 BLVMHFashion & Retail
Bill Gates$124 BMicrosoftTechnology
Mark Zuckerberg$97 BFacebookTechnology
Warren Buffett$96 BBerkshire HathawayFinance & Investments
Larry Ellison$93 BsoftwareTechnology
Larry Page$91.5 BGoogleTechnology
Sergey Brin$89 BGoogleTechnology
Mukesh Ambani$84.5 BdiversifiedDiversified
Amancio Ortega$77 BZaraFashion & Retail
Francoise Bettencourt Meyers & family$73.6 BL'OrΓ©alFashion & Retail
Zhong Shanshan$68.9 Bbeverages, pharmaceuticalsFood & Beverage
Steve Ballmer$68.7 BMicrosoftTechnology
Ma Huateng$65.8 Binternet mediaTechnology
Carlos Slim Helu & family$62.8 BtelecomTelecom
Alice Walton$61.8 BWalmartFashion & Retail
Jim Walton$60.2 BWalmartFashion & Retail
Rob Walton$59.5 BWalmartFashion & Retail
Michael Bloomberg$59 BBloomberg LPMedia & Entertainment
Colin Zheng Huang$55.3 Be-commerceTechnology
MacKenzie Scott$53 BAmazonTechnology
Daniel Gilbert$51.9 BQuicken LoansFinance & Investments
Gautam Adani & family$50.5 Binfrastructure, commoditiesDiversified
Phil Knight & family$49.9 BNikeFashion & Retail
Jack Ma$48.4 Be-commerceTechnology
Charles Koch$46.4 BKoch IndustriesOil & Gas
Julia Koch & family$46.4 BKoch IndustriesOil & Gas
Masayoshi Son$45.4 Binternet, telecomTechnology
Michael Dell$45.1 BDell computersTechnology
Tadashi Yanai & family$44.1 Bfashion retailFashion & Retail
François Pinault & family$42.3 Bluxury goodsFashion & Retail
David Thomson & family$41.8 BmediaMedia & Entertainment
Beate Heister & Karl Albrecht Jr.$39.2 BsupermarketsFashion & Retail
Wang Wei$39 Bpackage deliveryService
Miriam Adelson$38.2 BcasinosGambling & Casinos
He Xiangjian$37.7 Bhome appliancesManufacturing
Dieter Schwarz$36.9 BretailFashion & Retail
Zhang Yiming$35.6 BTikTokTechnology
Giovanni Ferrero$35.1 BNutella, chocolatesFood & Beverage
Alain Wertheimer$34.5 BChanelFashion & Retail
Gerard Wertheimer$34.5 BChanelFashion & Retail
Li Ka-shing$33.7 BdiversifiedDiversified
Qin Yinglin & family$33.5 Bpig breedingFood & Beverage
William Lei Ding$33 Bonline gamesTechnology
Len Blavatnik$32 Bmusic, chemicalsDiversified
Lee Shau Kee$31.7 Breal estateReal Estate
Jacqueline Mars$31.3 Bcandy, pet foodFood & Beverage
John Mars$31.3 Bcandy, pet foodFood & Beverage
Yang Huiyan & family$29.6 Breal estateReal Estate
Alexey Mordashov & family$29.1 Bsteel, investmentsMetals & Mining
Robin Zeng$28.4 BbatteriesEnergy
Hui Ka Yan$27.7 Breal estateReal Estate
Susanne Klatten$27.7 BBMW, pharmaceuticalsAutomotive
Vladimir Potanin$27 BmetalsMetals & Mining
Dietrich Mateschitz$26.9 BRed BullFood & Beverage
Pang Kang$26.4 Bsoy sauceFood & Beverage
Klaus-Michael Kuehne$26.3 BshippingLogistics
Vladimir Lisin$26.2 Bsteel, transportMetals & Mining
Wang Xing$26.1 Be-commerceTechnology
German Larrea Mota Velasco & family$25.9 BminingMetals & Mining
Leonardo Del Vecchio & family$25.8 BeyeglassesFashion & Retail
Takemitsu Takizaki$25.8 BsensorsManufacturing
Leonard Lauder$25.5 BEstee LauderFashion & Retail
Thomas Peterffy$25 Bdiscount brokerageFinance & Investments
Vagit Alekperov$24.9 BoilEnergy
Leonid Mikhelson$24.9 Bgas, chemicalsEnergy
Jim Simons$24.6 Bhedge fundsFinance & Investments
Jiang Rensheng & family$24.4 BvaccinesHealthcare
Gina Rinehart$23.6 BminingMetals & Mining
Rupert Murdoch & family$23.5 Bnewspapers, TV networkMedia & Entertainment
Shiv Nadar$23.5 Bsoftware servicesTechnology
Zhang Zhidong$23.4 Binternet mediaTechnology
Iris Fontbona & family$23.3 BminingMetals & Mining
Lei Jun$23 BsmartphonesTechnology
Zhang Yong$23 BrestaurantsFood & Beverage
Richard Qiangdong Liu$22.4 Be-commerceTechnology
Gennady Timchenko$22 Boil, gasEnergy
Stephen Schwarzman$21.9 BinvestmentsFinance & Investments
Goh Cheng Liang$21.7 BpaintsManufacturing
Stefan Quandt$21.6 BBMWAutomotive
Li Xiting$21.5 Bmedical devicesHealthcare
Pierre Omidyar$21.4 BeBay, PayPalTechnology
Stefan Persson$21.3 BH&MFashion & Retail
Abigail Johnson$20.9 Bmoney managementFinance & Investments
R. Budi Hartono$20.5 Bbanking, tobaccoFinance & Investments
Andrew Forrest$20.4 BminingMetals & Mining
Ray Dalio$20.3 Bhedge fundsFinance & Investments
Michael Hartono$19.7 Bbanking, tobaccoManufacturing
Li Shufu$19.7 BautomobilesAutomotive
Zhong Huijuan$19.7 BpharmaceuticalsHealthcare
Xu Hang$19.5 Bmedical devicesHealthcare
Lui Che Woo & family$19.4 Bcasinos/hotelsGambling & Casinos
Emmanuel Besnier$19.1 BcheeseFood & Beverage
Laurene Powell Jobs & family$19 BApple, DisneyTechnology
Eric Schmidt$18.9 BGoogleTechnology
Sun Piaoyang$18.9 BpharmaceuticalsHealthcare
Theo Albrecht, Jr. & family$18.8 BAldi, Trader Joe'sFashion & Retail
Alisher Usmanov$18.4 Bsteel, telecom, investmentsMetals & Mining
Robert Pera$18.3 Bwireless networking gearTechnology
Wu Yajun$18.3 Breal estateReal Estate
Fan Hongwei & family$18.2 BpetrochemicalsEnergy
Dhanin Chearavanont$18.1 BdiversifiedDiversified
Peter Woo$18 Breal estateReal Estate
Chen Bang$17.9 BhospitalsHealthcare
Andrey Melnichenko$17.9 Bcoal, fertilizersEnergy
Dustin Moskovitz$17.8 BFacebookTechnology
Su Hua$17.8 Bvideo streamingMedia & Entertainment
Donald Newhouse$17.6 BmediaMedia & Entertainment
Petr Kellner$17.5 Bfinance, telecommunicationsFinance & Investments
Lee Man Tat$17.4 BfoodFood & Beverage
Pavel Durov$17.2 Bmessaging appTechnology
James Ratcliffe$17 BchemicalsManufacturing
Jorge Paulo Lemann & family$16.9 BbeerFood & Beverage
Reinhold Wuerth & family$16.8 BfastenersManufacturing
Charlene de Carvalho-Heineken & family$16.7 BHeinekenFood & Beverage
Radhakishan Damani$16.5 Bretail, investmentsFashion & Retail
Wang Chuanfu$16.3 Bbatteries, automobilesAutomotive
Steve Cohen$16 Bhedge fundsFinance & Investments
Ken Griffin$16 Bhedge fundsFinance & Investments
Chen Zhiping$15.9 Be-cigarettesManufacturing
Ernest Garcia, II.$15.9 Bused carsAutomotive
Uday Kotak$15.9 BbankingFinance & Investments
Carl Icahn$15.8 BinvestmentsFinance & Investments
Suleiman Kerimov & family$15.8 BinvestmentsFinance & Investments
Thomas Frist, Jr. & family$15.7 BhospitalsHealthcare
Lukas Walton$15.6 BWalmartFashion & Retail
Mikhail Fridman$15.5 Boil, banking, telecomEnergy
Wei Jianjun & family$15.5 BautomobilesAutomotive
Zuo Hui$15.5 Breal estate servicesReal Estate
Zhou Qunfei & family$15.4 Bsmartphone screensTechnology
Donald Bren$15.3 Breal estateReal Estate
Hinduja brothers$14.9 BdiversifiedDiversified
Lakshmi Mittal$14.9 BsteelMetals & Mining
Georg Schaeffler$14.9 Bauto partsAutomotive
Eric Yuan & family$14.9 Bvideo conferencingTechnology
Wang Jianlin$14.8 Breal estateReal Estate
Kwong Siu-hing$14.7 Breal estateReal Estate
Robin Li$14.7 Binternet searchTechnology
Pallonji Mistry$14.6 BconstructionConstruction & Engineering
Eduardo Saverin$14.6 BFacebookTechnology
Roman Abramovich$14.5 Bsteel, investmentsDiversified
David Tepper$14.5 Bhedge fundsFinance & Investments
Gong Hongjia & family$14.4 Bvideo surveillanceFinance & Investments
Mike Cannon-Brookes$14.2 BsoftwareTechnology
John Menard, Jr.$14.2 Bhome improvement storesFashion & Retail
Seo Jung-jin$14.2 BbiotechHealthcare
Cheng Yixiao$14.1 Bvideo streaming appMedia & Entertainment
Liang Wengen$14.1 Bconstruction equipmentManufacturing
Scott Farquhar$14 BsoftwareTechnology
Finn Rausing$13.9 BpackagingFood & Beverage
Jorn Rausing$13.9 BpackagingFood & Beverage
Kirsten Rausing$13.9 BpackagingFood & Beverage
Brian Chesky$13.7 BAirbnbTechnology
Joseph Lau$13.6 Breal estateReal Estate
David Duffield$13.5 Bbusiness softwareTechnology
Charoen Sirivadhanabhakdi$13.5 Balcohol, real estateFood & Beverage
Kim Jung-ju$13.3 Bonline gamesTechnology
Robert & Philip Ng$13.3 Breal estateReal Estate
Zhang Bangxin$13.3 BeducationService
Anders Holch Povlsen$13.2 Bfashion retailFashion & Retail
Wang Wenyin$13.2 Bmining, copper productsMetals & Mining
Wang Liping & family$13.1 Bhydraulic machineryManufacturing
Tatyana Bakalchuk$13 BecommerceFashion & Retail
Michael Platt$13 Bhedge fundsFinance & Investments
Huang Shilin$12.9 BbatteriesEnergy
Ricardo Salinas Pliego & family$12.9 Bretail, mediaFashion & Retail
Kumar Birla$12.8 BcommoditiesDiversified
Dang Yanbao$12.7 BcoalMetals & Mining
Cyrus Poonawalla$12.7 BvaccinesHealthcare
Robert Kuok$12.6 Bpalm oil, shipping, propertyDiversified
Hank & Doug Meijer$12.6 BsupermarketsFashion & Retail
Jack Dorsey$12.5 BTwitter, SquareTechnology
Lu Zhongfang$12.5 BeducationAutomotive
Ma Jianrong & family$12.5 Btextiles, apparelFashion & Retail
Zhang Tao$12.5 Be-commerceFashion & Retail
Nathan Blecharczyk$12.4 BAirbnbTechnology
John Doerr$12.4 Bventure capitalTechnology
Joe Gebbia$12.4 BAirbnbTechnology
Forrest Li$12.4 BgamingMedia & Entertainment
Yu Renrong$12.3 BsemiconductorsManufacturing
Liu Yonghao & family$12.1 BagribusinessService
Gordon Moore$12.1 BIntelTechnology
Jeff Yass$12 Btrading, investmentsFinance & Investments
Bobby Murphy$11.9 BSnapchatTechnology
Patrick Drahi$11.8 BtelecomTelecom
Jensen Huang$11.8 BsemiconductorsTechnology
Alexander Otto$11.8 Breal estateReal Estate
Cen Junda$11.6 BpharmaceuticalsHealthcare
Joseph Tsai$11.6 Be-commerceTechnology
Aliko Dangote$11.5 Bcement, sugarManufacturing
Marcel Herrmann Telles$11.5 BbeerFood & Beverage
Mikhail Prokhorov$11.4 BinvestmentsFinance & Investments
Jorge Moll Filho & family$11.3 BhospitalsHealthcare
Viktor Rashnikov$11.2 BsteelManufacturing
Harry Triguboff$11.2 Breal estateReal Estate
Leonid Fedun & family$11.1 BoilEnergy
Eyal Ofer$11.1 Breal estate, shippingDiversified
Evan Spiegel$11.1 BSnapchatTechnology
Luis Carlos Sarmiento$11 BbankingFinance & Investments

Efficiency isn’t everything

There are many things in life you don’t want to rush through; many experiences you wish to linger. The American cult of efficiency is a kind of over-optimization, and over-fitting of a line that delusionally demands up and to the right every single day, every single quarter, every single time.

The benefits of stopping to smell the flowers have been extolled by sages and philosophers throughout the ages. In all of recorded human history lies some form of the mantra, “haste unto death” — for it is true. We rush headlong off the cliff after all the lemmings ahead of us. We can’t help ourselves — eternal moths to eternal flames.

The slow life

From the cuisine to jurisprudence, from behavior economics to psychological well-being, moving more slowly has numerous well-established benefits. Efficiency should never be the only goal, in any domain or at all times. As Madison strongly agreed with, “moderation in all things” is the mathematically optimal way to approach life, justice, and governing. Influenced by the Marquis du Condorcet, the invention of statistics, and a distaste for extremism in all forms, The Founders were prescient regarding the later theory of the wisdom of the crowds. They sought to temper the passions of the crowds via checks and balances in our system of governance.

“The arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice,” said Martin Luther King, Jr. That the veracity of the quote remains unsettled is unsettling, like strange fruit swinging in the southern breeze. Yet the “quick justice” barbaric efficiency of slavery, the Confederacy, Jim Crow, superpredators, and mowing down unarmed Black men for traffic violations to name a few, are no examples of fairness. Faster isn’t always better, especially when it comes to justice. It takes time to gather facts, talk to witnesses, piece together the crimes and document them in an airtight way, brokering no doubt in the mind of a single jurist.

More efficiency topics

Areas I’ll be further exploring:

  • Slow thinking — Daniel Kahneman’s behavioral economics and cognition theory about slow and fast thinking systems in the brain, how they physiologically arose, and their implications for bias, decision making, geopolitics, and more.
  • Journey vs. Destination — It’s not just about getting to the same restaurant and eating the same thing. The end doesn’t always justify the means. Traveler vs. Tourist. Go with the flow. Roll with it, baby.
  • An ounce of caution — A stitch of time. He who makes haste makes waste. Don’t count your chickens before they hatch. Be careful!
  • Self-reflection — Thoughtfulness. Rumination. Mindfulness. Presence.
  • Being too busy speeds up time, not necessarily in a good way. Leads to the unexamined life, a Stoic no-no. Socrates would not approve, dude.
  • Enoughness — Sustainability. Patience. Non-violence. Whole-heartedness.
  • Hierarchy vs. Fairness — Consensus takes a lot longer. Dictators and monarchs are nothing if not efficient.
  • The appeal of fascism — History and ideology of the Nazis and their obsession with efficiency.
  • PR — soundbites. Simple narratives. Tropes, slogans, repetition.
  • Entertainment — intellectual empty calories. Neil Postman. McLuhan.
  • Automation — AI, bots, robotics, threats to labor
  • Walking vs. Transportation
  • The slow food movement
  • Speed reading
  • Speed runs — video games