conspiracy theories

Oath Keepers

Stewart Rhodes, the founder of the far-right Oath Keepers paramilitary group, has been sentenced to 18 years in prison for his role in a seditious conspiracy to disrupt the electoral count. It’s the harshest punishment so far resulting from the violent assault on the Capitol on January 6, 2021, and is especially significant because Rhodes himself was not present at the Capitol that day. Rhodes, a Yale Law School graduate, was convicted last November of the politically charged sedition charge and multiple other felonies.

Rhodes’s conduct was found to amount to terrorism by U.S. District Judge Amit Mehta, a first in a case related to the Jan. 6th attack. This factored into his calculations under the advisory sentencing guidelines. Attorney General Merrick B. Garland stated that the sentences reflect the grave threat these actions posed to democratic institutions.

Ongoing danger of political violence

Rhodes, who never entered the Capitol building during the siege, was nevertheless described as presiding over the action like a general on the battlefield. Even after his arrest, he repeatedly invoked the prospect of political violence — including during his sentencing hearing. Judge Mehta cited Rhodes’s intelligence and charisma as factors that made him dangerous, as they inspired dozens of people to travel to Washington for the electoral count.

Rhodes plans to appeal his conviction and sentence. He testified in his own defense last year, but this decision backfired after inconsistencies were pointed out in his account of his actions leading up to the Capitol siege and his penchant for conspiracy theories.

Kelly Meggs, a co-defendant also convicted of seditious conspiracy and a former leader of Oath Keepers’ Florida chapter, was sentenced to 12 years in prison. The judge heard emotional accounts from police and congressional staffers who continue to suffer from the aftershocks of the assault on their workplace.

Key takeaways from the Rhodes verdict

  1. The Impact of the Verdict: The sentencing of Stewart Rhodes could influence any sentence Enrique Tarrio, the former chairman of the far-right Proud Boys group, will face on the same charge later this summer. This case sets a precedent for future cases related to the Jan. 6th attack.
  2. The Role of Rhodes in the Capitol Siege: Despite not entering the Capitol building, Rhodes played a significant role in the events of January 6. His leadership and influence over the Oath Keepers were highlighted during the trial.
  3. The Aftermath of the Assault: The emotional trauma inflicted on the police and congressional staffers present during the assault continues to be felt. The sentencing of Rhodes and Meggs is one important step towards holding those responsible accountable for their actions.
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A growing body of psychological and cognitive research is showing that the conservative mind has a few things in common. Some research suggests that conservatives may be more attuned to potential threats and have a stronger emotional response to them compared to liberals. For example, studies have found that conservatives tend to have greater physiological responses to images and sounds that evoke fear or disgust.

Other studies have found that conservatives tend to score higher on measures of cognitive closure, which refers to the tendency to seek closure and avoid ambiguity and uncertainty. This may manifest as a preference for traditional values and a resistance to change. Additionally, conservatives may be more likely to rely on heuristics (mental shortcuts) when making decisions, whereas liberals may be more likely to engage in deliberative thinking.

It’s possible these traits at growing scale could present a profound challenge for American democracy in years to come:

More on conservatives:

Fairness vs. Hierarchy โ†—

Liberals believe in fairness; conservatives believe in hierarchy.

Rule of Law vs. Cult of Personality โ†—

Democracy is built on the rule of law, but the right-wing tends to prefer a cult of personality.

Artists vs. Fundamentalists โ†—

Artists are famously left-wing, and fundamentalists are classically right-wing..

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McCarthyism refers to the anti-communist political repression and paranoia that swept the United States in the 1940s and 1950s, particularly during the tenure of Republican Senator Joseph McCarthy from Wisconsin. It was a period of intense fear and suspicion of communism during the Cold War that manifested in government investigations, trials, and blacklisting of individuals suspected of being communists or communist sympathizers. The era was marked by a pervasive fear of subversion and betrayal, as many Americans believed that communists were working to infiltrate and undermine American institutions.

The roots of McCarthyism can be traced back to the early 20th century, when communism was viewed as a major threat to Western democracy. The Russian Revolution of 1917 and the rise of the Soviet Union fueled anti-communist sentiment in the United States, which intensified during the Red Scare of the 1920s. However, it was not until after World War II that anti-communist fervor reached its peak.

National anti-communist paranoia

In 1947, President Harry S. Truman issued Executive Order 9835, which established a loyalty program for federal employees. The program required all federal employees to undergo a background check and sign a loyalty oath, swearing that they were not members of the Communist Party or affiliated with any other subversive organization. The program was intended to weed out any suspected communists from the federal government, but it soon became the basis for a broader campaign of anti-communist witch-hunts.

In 1950, Senator Joseph McCarthy rose to national prominence with his claims of widespread communist infiltration in the federal government. In a speech in Wheeling, West Virginia, McCarthy claimed to have a list of 205 known communists in the State Department. He provided no evidence to support his claim, but the speech propelled him to the national spotlight and began a period of intense media fascination with the Senator’s provocative claims.

Over the next several years, McCarthy became the face of the anti-communist crusade. He chaired the Senate Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations and conducted public hearings and investigations into suspected communist activity. Many of his targets were innocent, and his tactics often included intimidation, character assassination, and guilt by association.

Army-McCarthy hearings

McCarthy’s tactics eventually led to his downfall. Between April and June of 1954, he conducted televised hearings to investigate alleged communist influence in the Army. The hearings were a disaster for McCarthy, as he made unfounded accusations and engaged in verbal attacks on witnesses. As the hearings progressed, McCarthy’s behavior became increasingly erratic and confrontational. He bullied and intimidated Army officials and witnesses, often interrupting them and accusing them of lying. His behavior turned public opinion against him, and the hearings marked the beginning of his decline.

The turning point of the hearings came when Army counsel Joseph Welch famously confronted McCarthy after he had attacked a young lawyer in Welch’s law firm:

“Senator, you’ve done enough. Have you no sense of decency, sir, at long last? Have you left no sense of decency?”

Joseph N. Welch, Army chief counsel

The exchange was a defining moment in the hearings, and it marked the beginning of the end for McCarthy’s political career after millions of Americans witnessed his aggressive demagoguery. In fact it went on to become one of the most famous moments in the history of congressional hearings, and is often cited as an example of the power of a well-timed and well-delivered rhetorical response.

The hearings ultimately failed to uncover any evidence of communist infiltration in the Army, but they did expose McCarthy’s reckless and abusive tactics and damaged his reputation. They also demonstrated the power of televised hearings in shaping public opinion and holding government officials accountable.

Historical influence of McCarthyism

McCarthyism had far-reaching consequences for American society. Thousands of people were investigated, blacklisted, and lost their jobs or were denied employment on suspicion of being communist sympathizers. The entertainment industry was particularly hard hit, with many actors, writers, and directors being blacklisted for their political beliefs. The unfounded smears against Hollywood contributed to a negative sentiment on the right-wing that continues even to this day.

The era of McCarthyism also had a chilling effect on free speech and political dissent. Many people were afraid to express their opinions or engage in political activism, for fear of being labeled a communist or communist sympathizer. The era demonstrated the dangers of political repression and the importance of protecting civil liberties and freedom of expression.

McCarthyism was a dark period in American history that was characterized by political repression, paranoia, and fear of communism. It was fueled by the perceived threat of subversion and betrayal, and it led to the persecution of innocent people, the erosion of civil liberties, and a chilling climate of fear and suspicion. The legacy of McCarthyism serves as a cautionary tale about the dangers of political repression and the importance of protecting free speech and civil liberties in a democracy.

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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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conspiracy theories, disinformation, and fake news

Conspiracy Theory Dictionary: From QAnon to Gnostics

In half a decade we’ve gone from Jeb Bush making a serious run for president to Marjorie Taylor Greene running unopposed and winning a House seat in Georgia. QAnon came seemingly out of nowhere, but taps into a much deeper and older series of conspiracy theories that have surfaced, resurfaced, and been remixed throughout time.

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

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

Tales as old as time

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

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

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

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

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

Conspiracy Theory Dictionary

TermDefinitionNotes
4chanA notorious internet message board with an unruly culture capable of trolling, pranks, and crimes.alt-Right
8chanIf 4chan wasn't raw and lawless enough for you, you could try the even more right-wing "free speech"-haven 8chan while it still stood (now 8kun). Described by its founder Frederick Bennan as "if 4chan and reddit had a baby," the site is notorious for incubating Gamergate, which morphed into PizzaGate, which morphed into QAnon -- and for generally being a cesspool of humanity's worst stuff.alt-Right
9/11 truthersPeople who believe the attacks on the Twin Towers in New York City in 2001 were either known about ahead of time and allowed to happen, or were intentionally planned by the US government.
alien abductionPeople who claim to have been captured by intelligent life from another planet, taken to a spaceship or other plane of existence, and brought back -- as well as the folks who believe them.UFOs now real, nbd
American carnageEvocative of "immense loss" in the Nazi mythology
AntifaAntifa is anti-fascism, so the anti-anti-fascists are just fascists wrapped in a double negative. The real cancel culture -- and a dangerous one.
Anti-SemitismOne of history's oldest hatreds, stretching back to early biblical timesReferred to as "the oldest hate," anti-Semitism is also inherently anti-feminist, because Jewish societies wereย once matrilineal.
Biblical inerrancy
birtherismOne of Donald Trump's original Big Lies -- that President Barack Obama wasn't born in the U.S. and therefore, wasn't a "legitimate" president.
Black Lives Matter
blood libel
child trafficking
Christian Identity
climate change denial
The Confederacy
contamination
cosmopolitanismAnother term for globalist or internationalist, which are all dog whistles for Jewish people
Crossing the Rubicon
cultural MarxismAnti-semitic conspiracy theory alleging that Jewish intellectuals who fled the Hitler regime were responsible for infecting American culture with their communist takeover plans and that this holy war is the war the right-wing fights each day.
deep state
DVEdomestic violent extremism
fake news
GamerGate
George Soros
Hollywood
Illuminati
InfoWars
JFK assassination
John Birch SocietyThe QAnon of its day (circa 1960s), this extreme right-wing group was theoretically about anti-communist ideals but espoused a host of conspiracy theories and outlandish beliefs
lamestream mediaDerogatory term for any media that isn't right-wing media.
leftist apocalypse
Makers and Takers
micro-propaganda machineMPMthe โ€œmicro-propaganda machineโ€ โ€” an influence network that can tailor peopleโ€™s opinions, emotional reactions, and create โ€œviralโ€ sharing (๏ฟฝ๏ฟฝLOL/haha/๏ฟฝ๏ฟฝRAGE) episodes around what should be serious or contemplative issues
motivated reasoning
New World Order
nullificationA constitutional "theory" put forth by southern states before the Civil War that they have the power to invalidate any federal laws or judicial decisions they consider unconstitutional. It's never been upheld by the federal courts.
One World Government
PizzaGate
post-truth
PRpublic relations
propaganda
Protocols of the Elders of ZionForged anti-semitic document alleging a secret Jewish child murder conspiracy used by Hitler to gin up support for his regime.
PsyOpsPsychological operations
QAnon
Q Drops
reactionary modernism
Reichstag fire
Rothschilds
sock puppets
"Stand back and stand by"
The Storm
WikiLeaks
ZOGZionist ---- Government
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Words, words, and more words.

In a world of increasing disinformation, it’s more important than ever to be armed with actual information. And being curious about the meaning, nature, and origins of things is a rewarding journey in and of itself.

Think of these dictionaries as tools for your mind — they can help you make connections between concepts, understand the terminology being used in the media and all around you, and feel less lost in a sea of dizzying complexity and rapid change. A fantastic vocabulary also helps you connect with people near and far — as well as get outside your comfort zone and learn something new.

Dictionaries List

This section includes dictionaries and definitions of important terms in important realms — and is continually being built out. Stay tuned!

Terms and Concepts

Authoritarianism and American Fascism

Psychology

Definitions and terms relating to the study of the mind, including ideas from social psychology and political psychology.

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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 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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It’s not just here at home in the US that fascism seems to have taken root in the population. There are many burgeoning nationalist movements resurrecting right-wing populism around the world, and as per many experts’ warnings, right-wing authoritarianism is on the rise around the globe.

Many of the right-wing populist thatches that have sprung up are at least in part, seeds planted by Vladimir Putin in his quest for Russian revanchism against the West following the end (or so we thought…) of the Cold War. Rumoured to be the richest man in the world by far, the former KGB agent was working in East Germany when the Berlin Wall fell, and has been pursuing his Lost Cause grievance ever since.

see also:

The right-wing authoritarianism movement is global

Given how seemingly easy it is for Charles Koch to buy American elections as the 15th richest person in the world, imagine what someone far wealthier and less provincial could accomplish. Marine Le Pen’s National Front in France took campaign cash directly from The Kremlin, Viktor Orban’s Hungary is Vladimir Putin’s strongest ally in the EU, the Belarusian dictator is propped up by Putin, who still occupies Ukraine’s Crimea, and the UK’s Brexit campaign acted as the canary in the coalmine for later disgraceful invasions of other nations’ sovereignty — perhaps most notably, election interference in the 2016, 2018, and 2020 US elections.

As such, it would be foolish not to see what’s happening here in America as part of a broader wave of right-wing populism and authoritarian fever that is very dangerous. We need to find out a lot more information about how all these puzzle pieces fit together, and get to the bottom of the real conspiracy clearly going on — if we can find it through all these smokescreen conspiracy theories clogging the propaganda waves.

Here’s a list of some of the extreme right-wing parties on the rise around the globe:

CountryFlagPartyAbbreviation
Austria๐Ÿ‡ฆ๐Ÿ‡นFreedom PartyFPO
Belgium๐Ÿ‡ง๐Ÿ‡ชFlemish BlockVB
Britain๐Ÿ‡ฌ๐Ÿ‡งUK Independence PartyUKIP
Britain First
National Front
Czech RepublicFreedom and Direct DemocracySPD
Denmark๐Ÿ‡ฉ๐Ÿ‡ฐDanish People's PartyDPP
Finland๐Ÿ‡ซ๐Ÿ‡ฎTrue Finns
France๐Ÿ‡ซ๐Ÿ‡ทNational FrontFN
Germany๐Ÿ‡ฉ๐Ÿ‡ชAlternative for GermanyAfD
Patriotic Europeans Against Islamization of the WestPegida
Greece๐Ÿ‡ฌ๐Ÿ‡ทSyriza
Hungary๐Ÿ‡ญ๐Ÿ‡บMovement for a Better HungaryJobbik
Fidesz
Italy๐Ÿ‡ฎ๐Ÿ‡นNorthern League
National Alliance
Japan๐Ÿ‡ฏ๐Ÿ‡ตNippon Kaigi
The Netherlands๐Ÿ‡ณ๐Ÿ‡ฑParty for FreedomPPV
Liveable Netherlands
Pim Fortuyn's ListLPF
Norway๐Ÿ‡ณ๐Ÿ‡ดProgress Party
The Philippines๐Ÿ‡ต๐Ÿ‡ญ
Poland๐Ÿ‡ต๐Ÿ‡ฑLaw and Justice party
Portugal๐Ÿ‡ต๐Ÿ‡นPopular Party
SerbiaSerbian Radical PartySRS
Spain๐Ÿ‡ช๐Ÿ‡ธ(Catalonian secession)
Sweden๐Ÿ‡ธ๐Ÿ‡ชSweden Democrats
Switzerland๐Ÿ‡จ๐Ÿ‡ญSwiss People's PartySVP
United States๐Ÿ‡บ๐Ÿ‡ธRepublican PartyGOP
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In paleologic thinking, logical arguments flow from a false premise. Typically this premise is something emotional, religious, and/or mythical, and believed very strongly by their ingroup.

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

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

Paleologic in politics

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

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

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January 6: A Day that will live in ignominy. The day Capitol riots broke out when an angry mob, following instructions from Donald Trump, stormed the halls of Congress and came within minutes of a potential hostage situation or worse: a massacre.

I’m still processing the events of Wednesday, as are many. Even though I fully anticipated something horrifying given the utter obviousness of the confrontation brewing, I did not have a particular picture in mind of what that thing was going to be.

Despite having steeled myself for the past 4+ years, I wept many times at some of the imagery and video footage. The defilement of the people’s halls by a violent armed mob who took selfies with Capitol Police was just not something I could have conceived of.

There must be accountability

This was one of the darkest days of our nation. Even during the Civil War the Confederates never stormed the US Capitol, so to see the Confederate flag waving in Congress was a desecration. It twisted me up to have such a raw display of America’s deepest gash of white supremacist history taken symbolically and literally to the nation’s capital.

This event was broadcast around the world, to our allies and to our enemies. We received rebukes from Moscow, Beijing, and Tehran. We — the supposed bastion of democracy. The country that lectures other nations around the world on how to do democracy better. We have been humiliated for the entire planet to see.

We need answers about what happened here. The people deserve to know who planned this, who helped this along, who looked the other away, and perhaps most importantly: who still agrees with it (Hawley and Cruz, for one — they must go).

We must stop fascism in America

The rot of fascism has been allowed to spread to the point where a violent mob of white supremacists, QAnon conspiracy nuts, MAGA faithful and a demon’s host of all stripes came within minutes of taking hostages inside the chambers of Congress. Five people lost their lives and already are being made into martyrs.

This did not begin with Trump, but he certainly amplified the signal at a much more psychotic rate than under previous administrations, certainly of my lifetime. We are now at a dangerous precipice: in a time of staggering wealth inequality, a once in a century health crisis largely being ignored by the right wing, deeply bitter partisanship played out over decades, the creep of authoritarianism around the world — and now at home.

Wednesday’s Capitol Riots did essentially mark the “crossing of the Rubicon” that the Trump cult begged him to do — it was a coming-out day for fascism. It was the President of the United States instructing an armed mob to walk up to the Capitol where lawmakers were certifying the election for the guy who won it, and telling them to “take our country back” and give it to him — by force if necessary. Which, of course, was necessary.

That is the Rubicon — the Rubicon is the willingness to use political violence when you have exhausted all other legal, shady, illegal, and hideously criminal means. That is the fascist twist. If we do not react now; if we do not censure, remove, and allow justice to hold these individuals accountable — both inside and outside of the government — they will take it as permission to try again and again until we deal with this.

We must hold the insurrectionists accountable — if we are to keep this republic.

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“Global cabal” is one of several popular conspiracy theories in radical right-wing discourse that refers to a perceived “Jewish conspiracy” behind the international order of institutions like NATO and the EU. There are many euphemisms and alternate names for the same core conspiracy theory alleging the existence of a single group of people who control world events behind closed doors as clandestine world rulers. It has appeared in many forms, derivatives, and retellings throughout history, from Nazism to QAnon.

A cabal is a small, usually secretive group that uses its considerable power to establish control over a larger group, or more broadly over society itself. The term is derived from the word kabbalah, a school of thought in Jewish mysticism that is concerned with the essence of God. Thus the concept of a global cabal ruling secretly over the world has deeply anti-Semitic origins, even though a number of its proponents are unfamiliar with the foundations of the idea in anti-Jewish hatred.

Structure and origin of global cabal conspiracy theory

The most basic tenet of the global cabal conspiracy theory genre is that a single group controls everything that happens in the world, but manages to keep that control entirely secret from everyone except those who believe in the global cabal. The identity of the controlling group may be different in different networks of believers: Jewish bankers in the case of the Nazis (emerging out of the anti-Semitic blood libel conspiracy theory), Freemasons, The Illuminati, reptilian lizard people, Democratic pedophiles in the case of QAnon, and so on.

The origins of the global cabal conspiracy trace back to the 18th century, when the Illuminati conspiracy theory began to circulate. The Illuminati conspiracy theory alleged that a secret society of Freemasons was working to overthrow the governments of Europe and establish a New World Order. This conspiracy theory quickly spread to other parts of the world, and it has been used to explain a wide range of events, from the French Revolution to the 9/11 attacks.

Global cabal conspiracies have a predilection for collapsing the distinction between opposites. The Nazis claimed that communism and capitalism were both Jewish plots; conspiracists in America allege that bitter political rivals like the Bushes and the Clintons are actually BFFs in on the “real” story conducted behind the scenes and out of the public eye. The Russian rhetorical tactic of whataboutism is a quintessential manifestation of this phenomenon, wherein the speaker refutes an accusation by stating that other people elsewhere have also done that thing, often people on the accuser’s side or team.

How to deprogram global cabalists

The staying power and allure of conspiracy theories surprises many people — why would anyone want to believe in these far-fetched, over the top ridiculous ideas about how the world works? People believe in conspiracy theories because they offer simple solutions in a complex, overwhelming world. They also offer a sense of superiority and positive self-image by means of collective narcissism — which likewise makes them fragile and prone to insecurities and doubts.

People going through traumatic or epochal life events are especially vulnerable to the power of conspiracy theories. They find comfort and easy social support in the arms of the group of believers, but buy in to the cultish practice of demonizing and dehumanizing the non-believers. Their abrasiveness can make it difficult to approach them about the topic of their belief in conspiracy theory, even if they’re a close family member — sometimes especially if they’re a close family member.

Often the conspiracy theory believer will refuse to read any information from a source that is not in the right-wing echo chamber. If you think they might, however, send them this essay by Yuval Noah Harrari. It’s the best I’ve found to explain the core essence of the “belief system” and the core con of the whole thing.

If they won’t accept information from credible sources, you might find an opening by asking them questions about their beliefs, getting them to talk more about the ideas, and look out for opportunities to ask “frame breaking questions” that address the fundamental flaws of the global cabal theory: that even small numbers of people are difficult to control, much less a whole planet; and that no one can predict the future with a high degree of accuracy.

In reality, there is not one but many conspiracies at work all around us to knit the fabric of history together. James Madison called them factions. Many of these conspiracies work directly against one another, and many work entirely independently but pursue some percentage of similar goals in common.

Global cabal conspiracy theory is totalitarian, in the sense that it collapses all of the immense complexity of human existence into billions of puppets pulled by the strings of a very few puppetmasters. Real life is a multiverse — and that can be overwhelming, and confusing.

The anxiety of the modern world can be intense, and conspiracy theories offer a seductively simple relief. But ask your global conspiracist friend or family member whether or not they think there are some things that are too good to be true: like a story about a handful of people causing everything that happens in the world.

Global cabal examples

  • Nazism — Adolf Hitler’s ideology of fascism was little more than an appropriation of pre-existing global cabal theory and anti-Semitic blood libel
  • Cultural Marxism — a version of the global cabal conspiracy theory revived from the Nazis by Paul Weyrich and William S. Lind
  • Zionist Occupation Government (ZOG) — chosen secret cabal of the anti-government white power movement that flourished in the U.S. after the Vietnam War
  • QAnon — the latest incarnation of the global cabal, casting Donald Trump in the role of savior from the shadowy group of Democratic pedophiles who run the country and — via NATO and the UN — the world
  • The Great Replacement conspiracy theory — white nationalist variant of the global cabal conspiracy, in which the nefarious plot of the shadowy Elites this time is to dilute the white race by allowing sane immigration policy. This stochastic violence strategy is being waged by Rupert Murdoch‘s Fox News via fish stick-heir Tucker Carlson, resulting in directly named ideological inspiration for some of the most heinous mass murders of our time including the Anders Breivik killing of 77 in Oslo, Norway and the assassination of 10 people, mostly Black, in a Buffalo supermarket the shooter chose for its high percentage of Black people. Great Replacement theory is also known as white genocide conspiracy theory.
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