disinformation

Peter Navarro reports to prison

Former Trump advisor Peter Navarro — who wrote a book claiming credit for the idea to try and overthrow the 2020 election and bragged about it as the “Green Bay Sweep” to MSNBC’s Ari Melber — reported to prison today after the Supreme Court ruled he cannot get out of answering to a Congressional subpoena. Peter Navarro prison time is set to be 4 months for an independent jury’s conviction for Contempt of Congress.

The sentencing judge refuted Navarro’s allegations that he was the victim of a political prosecition: “you aren’t,” Mehta said. “You have received every process you are due.”

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The backfire effect is a cognitive phenomenon that occurs when individuals are presented with information that contradicts their existing beliefs, leading them not only to reject the challenging information but also to further entrench themselves in their original beliefs.

This effect is counterintuitive, as one might expect that presenting factual information would correct misconceptions. However, due to various psychological mechanisms, the opposite can occur, complicating efforts to counter misinformation, disinformation, and the spread of conspiracy theories.

Origin and mechanism

The term “backfire effect” was popularized by researchers Brendan Nyhan and Jason Reifler, who in 2010 conducted studies demonstrating that corrections to false political information could actually deepen an individual’s commitment to their initial misconception. This effect is thought to stem from a combination of cognitive dissonance (the discomfort experienced when holding two conflicting beliefs) and identity-protective cognition (wherein individuals process information in a way that protects their sense of identity and group belonging).

Relation to media, disinformation, echo chambers, and media bubbles

In the context of media and disinformation, the backfire effect is particularly relevant. The proliferation of digital media platforms has made it easier than ever for individuals to encounter information that contradicts their beliefs — but paradoxically, it has also made it easier for them to insulate themselves in echo chambers and media bubbles—environments where their existing beliefs are constantly reinforced and rarely challenged.

Echo chambers refer to situations where individuals are exposed only to opinions and information that reinforce their existing beliefs, limiting their exposure to diverse perspectives. Media bubbles are similar, often facilitated by algorithms on social media platforms that curate content to match users’ interests and past behaviors, inadvertently reinforcing their existing beliefs and psychological biases.

Disinformation campaigns can exploit these dynamics by deliberately spreading misleading or false information, knowing that it is likely to be uncritically accepted and amplified within certain echo chambers or media bubbles. This can exacerbate the backfire effect, as attempts to correct the misinformation can lead to individuals further entrenching themselves in the false beliefs, especially if those beliefs are tied to their identity or worldview.

How the backfire effect happens

The backfire effect happens through a few key psychological processes:

  1. Cognitive Dissonance: When confronted with evidence that contradicts their beliefs, individuals experience discomfort. To alleviate this discomfort, they often reject the new information in favor of their pre-existing beliefs.
  2. Confirmation Bias: Individuals tend to favor information that confirms their existing beliefs and disregard information that contradicts them. This tendency towards bias can lead them to misinterpret or dismiss corrective information.
  3. Identity Defense: For many, beliefs are tied to their identity and social groups. Challenging these beliefs can feel like a personal attack, leading individuals to double down on their beliefs as a form of identity defense.

Prevention and mitigation

Preventing the backfire effect and its impact on public discourse and belief systems requires a multifaceted approach:

  1. Promote Media Literacy: Educating the public on how to critically evaluate sources and understand the mechanisms behind the spread of misinformation can empower individuals to think critically and assess the information they encounter.
  2. Encourage Exposure to Diverse Viewpoints: Breaking out of media bubbles and echo chambers by intentionally seeking out and engaging with a variety of perspectives can reduce the likelihood of the backfire effect by making conflicting information less threatening and more normal.
  3. Emphasize Shared Values: Framing challenging information in the context of shared values or goals can make it less threatening to an individual’s identity, reducing the defensive reaction.
  4. Use Fact-Checking and Corrections Carefully: Presenting corrections in a way that is non-confrontational and, when possible, aligns with the individual’s worldview or values can make the correction more acceptable. Visual aids and narratives that resonate with the individual’s experiences or beliefs can also be more effective than plain factual corrections.
  5. Foster Open Dialogue: Encouraging open, respectful conversations about contentious issues can help to humanize opposing viewpoints and reduce the instinctive defensive reactions to conflicting information.

The backfire effect presents a significant challenge in the fight against misinformation and disinformation, particularly in the context of digital media. Understanding the psychological underpinnings of this effect is crucial for developing strategies to promote a more informed and less polarized public discourse. By fostering critical thinking, encouraging exposure to diverse viewpoints, and promoting respectful dialogue, it may be possible to mitigate the impact of the backfire effect and create a healthier information ecosystem.

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The “wallpaper effect” is a phenomenon in media, propaganda, and disinformation where individuals become influenced or even indoctrinated by being continuously exposed to a particular set of ideas, perspectives, or ideologies. This effect is akin to wallpaper in a room, which, though initially noticeable, becomes part of the unnoticed background over time.

The wallpaper effect plays a significant role in shaping public opinion and individual beliefs, often without the conscious awareness of the individuals affected.

Origins and mechanisms

The term “wallpaper effect” stems from the idea that constant exposure to a specific type of media or messaging can subconsciously influence an individual’s perception and beliefs, similar to how wallpaper in a room becomes a subtle but constant presence. This effect is potentiated by the human tendency to seek information that aligns with existing beliefs, known as confirmation bias. It leads to a situation where diverse viewpoints are overlooked, and a singular perspective dominates an individual’s information landscape.

The wallpaper effect, by DALL-E 3

Media and information bubbles

In the context of media, the wallpaper effect is exacerbated by the formation of information bubbles or echo chambers. These are environments where a person is exposed only to opinions and information that reinforce their existing beliefs.

The rise of digital media and personalized content algorithms has intensified this effect, as users often receive news and information tailored to their preferences, further entrenching their existing viewpoints. Even more insidiously, social media platforms tend to earn higher profits when they fill users’ feeds with ideological perspectives they already agree with. Even more profitable is the process of tilting them towards more extreme versions of those beliefs — a practice that in other contexts we call “radicalization.”

Role in propaganda and disinformation

The wallpaper effect is a critical tool in propaganda and disinformation campaigns. By consistently presenting a specific narrative or viewpoint, these campaigns can subtly alter the perceptions and beliefs of the target audience. Over time, the repeated exposure to these biased or false narratives becomes a backdrop to the individual’s understanding of events, issues, or groups, often leading to misconceptions or unwarranted biases.

Psychological impact

The psychological impact of the wallpaper effect is profound. It can lead to a narrowing of perspective, where individuals become less open to new information or alternative viewpoints. This effect can foster polarized communities and hyper partisan politics, where dialogue and understanding between differing viewpoints become increasingly difficult.

Case studies and examples

Historically, authoritarian regimes have used the wallpaper effect to control public opinion and suppress dissent. By monopolizing the media landscape and continuously broadcasting their propaganda, these regimes effectively shaped the public’s perception of reality.

In contemporary times, this effect is also seen in democracies, where partisan news outlets or social media algorithms create a similar, though more fragmented, landscape of information bubbles.

Counteracting the wallpaper effect

Counteracting the wallpaper effect involves a multifaceted approach. Media literacy education is crucial, as it empowers individuals to critically analyze and understand the sources and content of information they consume.

Encouraging exposure to a wide range of viewpoints and promoting critical thinking skills are also essential strategies. Additionally, reforms in digital media algorithms to promote diverse viewpoints and reduce the creation of echo chambers can help mitigate this effect.

Implications for democracy and society

The wallpaper effect has significant implications for democracy and society. It can lead to a polarized public, where consensus and compromise become challenging to achieve. The narrowing of perspective and entrenchment of beliefs can undermine democratic discourse, leading to increased societal divisions and decreased trust in media and institutions.

The wallpaper effect is a critical phenomenon that shapes public opinion and belief systems. Its influence is subtle yet profound, as constant exposure to a specific set of ideas can subconsciously mold an individual’s worldview. Understanding and addressing this effect is essential in promoting a healthy, informed, and open society. Efforts to enhance media literacy, promote diverse viewpoints, and reform digital media practices are key to mitigating the wallpaper effect and fostering a more informed and less polarized public.

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Election denialism, the refusal to accept credible election outcomes, has significantly impacted U.S. history, especially in recent years. This phenomenon is not entirely new; election denial has roots that stretch back through various periods of American history. However, its prevalence and intensity have surged in the contemporary digital and political landscape, influencing public trust, political discourse, and the very fabric of democracy.

Historical context

Historically, disputes over election outcomes are as old as the U.S. electoral system itself. For instance, the fiercely contested 1800 election between Thomas Jefferson and John Adams resulted in a constitutional amendment (the 12th Amendment) to prevent similar confusion in the future. The 1876 election between Rutherford B. Hayes and Samuel J. Tilden was resolved through the Compromise of 1877, which effectively ended Reconstruction and had profound effects on the Southern United States.

Yet these instances, while contentious, were resolved within the framework of existing legal and political mechanisms, without denying the legitimacy of the electoral process itself. Over time, claims of election fraud would come to be levied against the electoral and political system itself — with dangerous implications for the peaceful transfer of power upon which democracy rests.

Voting box in an election, by Midjourney

The 21st century and digital influence

Fast forward to the 21st century, and election denialism has taken on new dimensions, fueled by the rapid dissemination of disinformation (and misinformation) through digital media and a polarized political climate. The 2000 Presidential election, with its razor-thin margins and weeks of legal battles over Florida’s vote count, tested the country’s faith in the electoral process.

Although the Supreme Court‘s decision in Bush v. Gore was deeply controversial, Al Gore’s concession helped to maintain the American tradition of peaceful transitions of power.

The 2020 Election: A flashpoint

The 2020 election, marked by the COVID-19 pandemic and an unprecedented number of mail-in ballots, became a flashpoint for election denialism. Claims of widespread voter fraud and electoral malfeasance were propagated at the highest levels of government, despite a lack of evidence substantiated by multiple recounts, audits, and legal proceedings across several states.

The refusal to concede by President Trump and the storming of the U.S. Capitol on January 6, 2021, marked a watershed moment in U.S. history, where election denialism moved from the fringes to the center of political discourse, challenging the norms of democratic transition. Widely referred to as The Big Lie, the baseless claims of election fraud that persist in the right-wing to this day are considered themselves to be a form of election fraud by justice officials, legal analysts, and a host of concerned citizens worried about ongoing attempts to overthrow democracy in the United States.

Implications, public trust, and voter suppression

The implications of this recent surge in election denialism are far-reaching. It has eroded public trust in the electoral system, with polls indicating a significant portion of the American populace doubting the legitimacy of election results. This skepticism is not limited to the national level but has trickled down to local elections, with election officials facing threats and harassment. The spread of misinformation, propaganda, and conspiracy theories about electoral processes and outcomes has become a tool for political mobilization, often exacerbating divisions within the American society.

Moreover, election denialism has prompted legislative responses at the state level, with numerous bills introduced to restrict voting access in the name of election security. These measures have sparked debates about voter suppression and the balance between securing elections and ensuring broad electoral participation. The challenge lies in addressing legitimate concerns about election integrity while avoiding the disenfranchisement of eligible voters.

Calls for reform and strengthening democracy

In response to these challenges, there have been calls for reforms to strengthen the resilience of the U.S. electoral system. These include measures to enhance the security and transparency of the voting process, improve the accuracy of voter rolls, and counter misinformation about elections. There’s also a growing emphasis on civic education to foster a more informed electorate capable of critically evaluating electoral information.

The rise of election denialism in recent years highlights the fragility of democratic norms and the crucial role of trust in the electoral process. While disputes over election outcomes are not new, the scale and impact of recent episodes pose unique challenges to American democracy. Addressing these challenges requires a multifaceted approach, including legal, educational, and technological interventions, to reinforce the foundations of democratic governance and ensure that the will of the people is accurately and fairly represented.

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A “filter bubble” is a concept in the realm of digital publishing, media, and web technology, particularly significant in understanding the dynamics of disinformation and political polarization. At its core, a filter bubble is a state of intellectual isolation that can occur when algorithms selectively guess what information a user would like to see based on past behavior and preferences. This concept is crucial in the digital age, where much of our information comes from the internet and online sources.

Origins and mechanics

The term was popularized by internet activist Eli Pariser around 2011. It describes how personalization algorithms in search engines and social media platforms can isolate users in cultural or ideological bubbles. These algorithms, driven by AI and machine learning, curate content – be it news, search results, or social media posts – based on individual user preferences, search histories, and previous interactions.

filter bubble, by DALL-E 3

The intended purpose is to enhance user experience by providing relevant and tailored content. However, this leads to a situation where users are less likely to encounter information that challenges or broadens their worldview.

Filter bubbles in the context of disinformation

In the sphere of media and information, filter bubbles can exacerbate the spread of disinformation and propaganda. When users are consistently exposed to a certain type of content, especially if it’s sensational or aligns with their pre-existing beliefs, they become more susceptible to misinformation. This effect is compounded on platforms where sensational content is more likely to be shared and become viral, often irrespective of its accuracy.

Disinformation campaigns, aware of these dynamics, often exploit filter bubbles to spread misleading narratives. By tailoring content to specific groups, they can effectively reinforce existing beliefs or sow discord, making it a significant challenge in the fight against fake news and propaganda.

Impact on political beliefs and US politics

The role of filter bubbles in shaping political beliefs is profound, particularly in the polarized landscape of recent US politics. These bubbles create echo chambers where one-sided political views are amplified without exposure to opposing viewpoints. This can intensify partisanship, as individuals within these bubbles are more likely to develop extreme views and less likely to understand or empathize with the other side.

Recent years in the US have seen a stark divide in political beliefs, influenced heavily by the media sources individuals consume. For instance, the right and left wings of the political spectrum often inhabit separate media ecosystems, with their own preferred news sources and social media platforms. This separation contributes to a lack of shared reality, where even basic facts can be subject to dispute, complicating political discourse and decision-making.

Filter bubbles in elections and political campaigns

Political campaigns have increasingly utilized data analytics and targeted advertising to reach potential voters within these filter bubbles. While this can be an effective campaign strategy, it also means that voters receive highly personalized messages that can reinforce their existing beliefs and psychological biases, rather than presenting a diverse range of perspectives.

Breaking out of filter bubbles

Addressing the challenges posed by filter bubbles involves both individual and systemic actions. On the individual level, it requires awareness and a conscious effort to seek out diverse sources of information. On a systemic level, it calls for responsibility from tech companies to modify their algorithms to expose users to a broader range of content and viewpoints.

Filter bubbles play a significant role in the dissemination and reception of information in today’s digital age. Their impact on political beliefs and the democratic process — indeed, on democracy itself — in the United States cannot be overstated. Understanding and mitigating the effects of filter bubbles is crucial in fostering a well-informed public, capable of critical thinking and engaging in healthy democratic discourse.

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

Origins and Usage

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

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

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

Types and purposes

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

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

Historical effects

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

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

Honeypot hackers and cybercriminals

Ethical and practical considerations

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

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

Cyber attackers and defenders

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

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

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

From playful deception to malicious misinformation

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

The political weaponization of “hoax”

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

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

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

Case Studies: The “Hoax” label in action

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

The impact on public discourse and trust

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

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

Moving Forward: Navigating a “post-hoax” landscape

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

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

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Wealth Cult -- rich men behaving badly, by Midjourney

A network of exceedingly wealthy individuals and organizations have channeled their vast fortunes into influencing American politics, policy, and public opinion — they’ve formed a wealth cult. And they’ve leveraged that cult and its considerable fortune to influence and in many ways dramatically transform American politics.

The term “dark money” refers to political spending meant to influence the decision-making and critical thinking of the public and lawmakers where the source of the money is not disclosed. This lack of transparency makes it challenging to trace the influence back to its origins, hence the term “dark.”

And, it is dark indeed.

Wealth cult anchors the trench coat

The Wealth Cult is one of 3 primary groups or clusters supporting the right-wing and generally, the Republican Party. It anchors the trench coat by funding the 2 cults above it: the Christian Cult, and the White Cult.

Its story is stealthy and significant.

A bunch of billionaires toast themselves to themselves, by Midjourney

The wealth cult has funded disinformation campaigns, the spread of conspiracy theories, created fake social movements through astroturfing, enabled violent extremists to attack their country’s capitol, cruelly deprived vulnerable people (especially immigrants, poor people, and women) of the kind of state aid granted generously throughout the developed world, bribed regulators, rigged elections, crashed economies, and on and on in service of their extremist free market ideology beliefs.

They believe in “makers and takers,” or Mudsill Theory, as it was once called by pedophile and racist Senator and slavery enthusiast James Henry Hammond. Some people were born to serve others, they say. Hierarchies are natural, they claim. Wealthy men should make all the decisions — because that’s what’s best for everyone, they say in paternalistic tones.

I don’t buy it. I believe all men are created equal. So did a certain Founder of our country.

Continue reading Wealth Cult: The oligarchs influencing American politics from the shadows
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Below is a list of the covert gang of folks trying to take down the US government — the anti-government oligarchs who think they run the place. The Koch network of megarich political operatives has been anointing itself the true (shadowy) leaders of American politics for several decades.

Spearheaded by Charles Koch, the billionaire fossil fuel magnate who inherited his father Fred Koch’s oil business, the highly active and secretive Koch network — aka the “Kochtopus” — features a sprawling network of donors, think tanks, non-profits, political operatives, PR hacks, and other fellow travelers who have come to believe that democracy is incompatible with their ability to amass infinite amounts of wealth.

Despite their obvious and profligate success as some of the world’s richest people, they whine that the system of US government is very unfair to them and their ability to do whatever they want to keep making a buck — the environment, the people, and even the whole planet be damned. Part of an ever larger wealth cult of individuals spending unprecedented amounts of cash to kneecap the US government from any ability to regulate business or create a social safety net for those exploited by concentrated (and to a large extent inherited) wealth, the Koch network is the largest and most formidable group within the larger project of US oligarchy.

The Kochtopus

By 2016 the Koch network of private political groups had a paid staff of 1600 people in 35 states — a payroll larger than that of the Republican National Committee (RNC) itself. They managed a pool of funds from about 400 or so of the richest people in the United States, whose goal was to capture the government and run it according to their extremist views of economic and social policy. They found convenient alignment with the GOP, which has been the party of Big Business ever since it succeeded in first being the party of the Common Man in the 1850s and 60s.

Are we to be just a wholly-owned subsidiary of Koch Industries? Who will help stand and fight for our independence from oligarchy?

  • Philip Anschutz — Founder of Qwest Communications. Colorado oil and entertainment magnate and billionaire dubbed the world’s “greediest executive” by Fortune Magazine in 2002.
  • American Energy Alliance — Koch-funded tax-exempt nonprofit lobbying for corporate-friendly energy policies
  • American Enterprise Institute — The American Enterprise Institute (AEI) is a public policy think tank based in Washington, D.C. Established in 1938, it is one of the oldest and most influential think tanks in the United States. AEI is primarily known for its conservative and free-market-oriented policy research and advocacy.
  • Americans for Prosperity
  • Harry and Lynde Bradley — midwestern defense contractors and Koch donors
  • Michael Catanzaro
  • Cato Institute
  • Center to Protect Patient Rights — The Koch network’s fake front group for fighting against Obama‘s Affordable Care Act.
  • CGCN Group — right-wing lobbying group
  • Citizens for a Sound Economy
  • Club for Growth
  • Competitive Enterprise Institute — Right-wing think tank funded by the Kochs and other oil and gas barons
  • Continental Resources — Harold Hamm’s shale-oil company
  • Joseph Coors — Colorado beer magnate
  • Betsy and Dick DeVos — founders of the Amway MLM empire, and one of the richest families in Michigan
  • Myron Ebell — Outspoken client change denier picked to head Trump’s EPA transition team who previously worked at the Koch-funded Competitive Enterprise Institute.
  • Richard Farmer — Chairman of the Cintas Corporation in Cincinnati, the nation’s largest uniform supply company. Legal problems against him included an employee’s gruesome death thanks to violating safety laws.
  • Freedom Partners — the Koch donor group
  • Freedom School — the all-white CO private school funded by Charles Koch in the 1960s
  • FreedomWorks
  • Richard Gilliam — Head of Virginia coal mining company Cumberland Resources, and Koch network donor.
  • Harold Hamm — Oklahoma fracking king and charter member of the Koch donors’ circle, Hamm became a billionaire founding the Continental Resources shale-oil company
  • Diane Hendricks — $3.6 billion building supply company owner and Trump inaugural committee donor, and the wealthiest woman in Wisconsin.
  • Charles Koch — CEO of Koch Industries and patriarch of the Koch empire following his father and brother’s death, and estrangement from his other younger brother. Former member of the John Birch Society, a group so far to the right that even arch-conservative William F. Buckley excommunicated them from the mainstream party in the 1950s.
  • The Charles Koch Foundation
  • (David Koch) — deceased twin brother of Bill Koch and younger brother to Charles who ran a failed campaign in 1980 as the vice presidential nominee of the Libertarian Party — netting 1% of the popular vote. In 2011 he echoed spurious claims from conservative pundit Dinesh D’Souza that Obama got his “radical” political outlook from his African father.
  • The Leadership Institute
  • Michael McKenna — president of the lobbying firm MWR Strategies, whose clients include Koch Industries, picked by Trump to serve on the Department of Energy transition team
  • Rebekah Mercer — daughter of hedge fund billionaire and right-wing Koch donor Robert Mercer, she worked with Steve Bannon on several projects including Breitbart News, Cambridge Analytica, and Gab.
  • Robert Mercer — billionaire NY hedge fund manager and next largest donor after the Kochs themselves, sometimes even surpassing them
  • MWR Strategies — lobbying firm for the energy industry whose clients include Koch Industries, whose president Michael McKenna served on the Trump energy transition team
  • John M. Olin — chemical and munitions magnate and Koch donor
  • George Pearson — Former head of the Koch Foundation
  • Mike Pence — Charles Koch’s number one pick for president in 2012.
  • Mike Pompeo — former Republican Kansas Congressman who got picked first to lead the CIA, then later as Secretary of State under Trump. He was the single largest recipient of Koch money in Congress as of 2017. The Kochs had been investors and partners in Pompeo’s business ventures before he got into politics.
  • The Reason Foundation
  • Richard Mellon Scaife — heir to the Mellon banking and Gulf Oil fortunes
  • David Schnare — self-described “free-market environmentalist” on Trump’s EPA transition team
  • Marc Short — ran the Kochs’ secretive donor club, Freedom Partners, before becoming a senior advisor to vice president Mike Pence during the Trump transition
  • State Policy Network
  • The Tax Foundation
  • Tea Party

Koch Network Mind Map

This mind map shows the intersections between the Koch network and the larger network of GOP donors, reactionaries, and evil billionaires who feel entitled to control American politics via the fortunes they’ve made or acquired.

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An echo chamber is a metaphorical description of a situation where an individual is encased in a bubble of like-minded information, reinforcing pre-existing views without exposure to opposing perspectives. This concept has gained prominence with the rise of digital and social media, where algorithms personalize user experiences, inadvertently isolating individuals from diverse viewpoints and enabling people to remain cloistered within a closed system that may contain misinformation and disinformation.

The role of digital media and algorithms

Digital platforms and social media leverage algorithms to tailor content that aligns with users’ past behaviors and preferences. This personalization, while enhancing engagement, fosters filter bubbles—closed environments laden with homogeneous information.

Such settings are ripe for the unchecked proliferation of disinformation, as they lack the diversity of opinion necessary for critical scrutiny. The need for critical thinking is greatly diminished when we are only ever exposed to information and beliefs we already agree with.

Disinformation in echo chambers

Echo chambers serve as breeding grounds for disinformation, where false information is designed to mislead and manipulate. In these closed loops, disinformation finds little resistance and is readily accepted and amplified, bolstering existing biases and misconceptions.

We all have psychological traits that make us vulnerable to believing things that aren’t true. Whether sourced via deception, misinterpretation, conspiracy theories, propaganda, or other phenomena, false beliefs are made stickier and harder to debunk when one is surrounded by an echo chamber.

Political polarization exacerbated

Beyond the scale of lone individuals, the isolation facilitated by echo chambers significantly contributes to political polarization more broadly. As people become entrenched in their informational silos, the common ground necessary for democratic discourse dwindles. This division not only fosters extremism but also undermines the social cohesion essential for a functioning democracy.

The impact of confirmation bias

Within echo chambers, confirmation bias—the tendency to favor information that corroborates existing beliefs—becomes particularly pronounced. This cognitive bias solidifies ideological positions, making individuals resistant to changing their views, even in the face of contradictory evidence.

The real-world effects of echo chambers transcend digital boundaries as well, influencing real-world political landscapes. Political actors can exploit these dynamics to deepen divides, manipulate public opinion, and mobilize support based on misinformation, leading to a polarized and potentially radicalized electorate.

Strategies for mitigation

Combating the challenges posed by echo chambers and disinformation necessitates a comprehensive approach:

  • Media Literacy: Educating the public to critically assess information sources, understand content personalization, and identify sources of biases and disinformation.
  • Responsible Platform Design: Encouraging digital platforms to modify algorithms to promote diversity in content exposure and implement measures against disinformation.
  • Regulatory Interventions: Policymakers may need to step in to ensure digital environments foster healthy public discourse.

Echo chambers, particularly within the digital media landscape, significantly impact the spread of disinformation and political polarization. By reinforcing existing beliefs and isolating individuals from diverse perspectives, they contribute to a divided society. Addressing this issue is critical and requires efforts in education, platform design, and regulation to promote a more informed and cohesive public discourse.

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Christian nationalism, a complex and multifaceted ideology, intersects the realms of faith, politics, and cultural identity. At its core, it seeks to fuse Christian and national identities, advocating for policies and governance that reflect a particular interpretation of Christian values as foundational to the national identity and public life.

This movement is not monolithic; it varies widely in its manifestations and intensity, ranging from a general preference for a Christian cultural ambiance to more extreme calls for the implementation of laws that strictly adhere to certain Christian doctrines. Despite its name, Christian nationalism is less about religious faith per se and more about leveraging religious identity as a marker of belonging and legitimacy within the national narrative and overall political power structure of the United States and elsewhere.

False claims of national origin

The Christian nationalists of America today present a false narrative surrounding the origin story of the United States as part of their fundamental claim to power. Contrary to their claims of America as a Christian nation, the Framers of the Constitution took great pains to separate religious authority from democratic governance — having seen the deleterious effects of state imposed religion by the Church of England. In fact, one of the primary reasons many original American colonists left their native homeland was to flee the mandates of the church and seek the religious freedom to worship in their own ways, whether Puritanism, Lutheranism, or other Protestant sect.

Part of a broader pattern of right-wing Big Lies, the idea that the Founders intended anything other than a strong separation of church and state belongs in the realm of propaganda, not in the realm of truth. Moreover, Jesus himself seemed to be quite allergic to the desire for accumulating political power — famously saying, “render therefore unto Caesar the things which are Caesar’s; and unto God the things that are God’s” in Matthew 22:21. The imposition of Christian nationalism in America would destroy the very religious freedom the United States was actually founded upon.

Jesus in the template of the money-changers, by Midjourney

Dictionary of Christian nationalism terms

We will continue to update this dictionary of terms relating to Christian nationalism as the ideology evolves in American politics. For additional reading, check out our collection of books about Christian nationalism.

  • 10 Commandments — The 10 Commandments are a set of biblical principles relating to ethics and worship, which play a fundamental role in Judaism and Christianity. They include directives on worship, morality, and human relationships, as outlined in the books of Exodus and Deuteronomy in the Bible.
  • acolytes — Acolytes are individuals who assist in religious ceremonies, particularly in Christian liturgical traditions, performing duties such as carrying processional crosses, lighting candles, and assisting with preparations for communion. Their role is to support the clergy and enhance the ceremonial aspects of worship.
  • affirmative action — Affirmative action refers to policies and measures designed to increase opportunities for underrepresented groups in areas such as education and employment, aiming to redress historical injustices and discrimination. It seeks to promote equality by considering factors like race, gender, or ethnicity in decision-making processes.
  • American exceptionalism — American exceptionalism is the idea that the United States is inherently different from other nations, often due to its unique historical evolution, democratic institutions, and national ethos. This concept suggests that America has a special role to play in human history and global affairs.
  • apostles — the primary disciples of Jesus Christ in Christianity, chosen by Him to spread His teachings. The term traditionally refers to the Twelve Apostles in the New Testament, who were sent out to proclaim the message of Jesus across the world.
  • apostates — individuals who renounce or abandon their faith or religious beliefs. This term is often used in a religious context to describe someone who has turned away from the religious faith they once professed.
  • baptism — a Christian sacrament of initiation and purification, symbolizing the believer’s spiritual cleansing, rebirth, and admission into the Christian community. It is typically performed by sprinkling water on the head or by immersion, signifying the washing away of sins and the individual’s commitment to follow Jesus Christ.
  • Biblical values — the moral and ethical principles derived from the teachings and narratives found in the Bible. These values include love, justice, compassion, humility, and integrity, guiding the behavior and decision-making of believers.
  • Biblical worldview — a way of understanding and interpreting the world from the perspective of biblical teachings, seeing all aspects of life through the lens of Scripture. It encompasses beliefs about God, morality, human nature, and the purpose of life, influencing how individuals perceive and interact with the world around them.
  • born-again — within Christian nationalism, being born-again is not just a private spiritual matter but also a call to action to bring about a nation that aligns with specific Christian principles. The born-again experience is thus politicized, serving as a catalyst for engaging in activities aimed at shaping national identity, policy, and governance in accordance with a particular Christian worldview.
  • Calvinism — a major branch of Protestantism that follows the theological tradition and forms of Christian practice set down by John Calvin and other Reformation-era theologians. It emphasizes the sovereignty of God, the doctrine of predestination, and the total depravity of humans, among other key points.
  • cheap grace — cheap grace refers to the concept of receiving forgiveness and moral absolution without any personal cost or commitment to ethical transformation. It’s often criticized for reducing the complexities of faith and morality to a simplistic transaction, undermining the depth and rigor of spiritual practice.
  • “Christian journalism” — refers to the practice of journalism within a Christian framework, emphasizing reporting, analysis, and commentary that align with Christian values and perspectives. It aims to provide news and insights on various issues, including moral, ethical, and social matters, from a Christian viewpoint.
  • Christian Reconstructionism — Christian Reconstructionism is a theological movement within conservative Calvinist Christianity, advocating for the application of a particular interpretation of biblical law to all areas of life, including civil governance. It promotes the idea that society should be reconstructed along biblical lines, with a significant emphasis on the Old Testament’s legal codes.
  • City Upon a Hill — The phrase “city upon a hill” is often invoked in conservative discourse to emphasize America’s role as a beacon of freedom, democracy, and moral leadership for the world. Originating from a sermon by Puritan leader John Winthrop in 1630, the term has been adapted to advocate for a vision of American exceptionalism and the importance of upholding traditional values.
a Vision of American exceptionalism: the Statue of Liberty. by Midjourney
  • clergy — individuals who are ordained for religious duties in Christian and other religious traditions. They perform various spiritual functions, including leading worship services, performing sacraments, and providing pastoral care to the congregation.
  • communion — Communion, also known as the Eucharist in some Christian denominations, is a sacrament that commemorates the Last Supper of Jesus Christ with His disciples. It involves the partaking of bread and wine (or grape juice) as symbols of Jesus’ body and blood, signifying participation in the divine grace.
  • Conservative Resurgence — historical period in the late 1970s and early 80s that started to reverse the trend backwards from the political and economic philosophies of the New Deal, and away from church liberalization efforts and towards a more hardline, fundamentalist approach complete with purges of moderates
  • conversions — In a religious context, conversions refer to the process by which an individual adopts a new religious belief, often resulting in a change of affiliation from one religion to another. It typically involves a personal experience of transformation and acceptance of the new faith’s tenets.
  • culture war — The term “culture war” refers to the ideological and social conflicts that arise when different groups clash over issues like religion, morality, politics, and social norms. These battles often manifest in debates over topics such as LGBTQ+ rights, abortion, immigration, and the role of government, and they can deeply influence public opinion and policy.
  • defense of marriage” — The term “defense of marriage” often refers to political and social efforts to uphold the traditional definition of marriage as a union between one man and one woman. It is frequently used in debates over the legal recognition of same-sex marriages and related legal and policy issues.
  • demons — In Christian theology, demons are considered malevolent spiritual beings opposed to God and humanity. They are often associated with temptation, possession, and various forms of evil, and are believed to be fallen angels led by Satan.
  • End Times — The End Times, also known as the eschaton in theological terms, refer to a future period described in biblical prophecy where world events reach a final climax, leading to the return of Jesus Christ, the final judgment, and the establishment of God’s kingdom. Different Christian traditions have various interpretations of the signs, events, and timing related to the End Times.
The End Times; armageddon. By Midjourney
  • family values — “family values” often refers to a set of traditional beliefs that emphasize the importance of the nuclear family, marital fidelity, and conservative religious principles. These values are seen as the bedrock of a stable society and are often contrasted with more progressive or liberal social norms.
  • flyover country — a colloquial term often used to describe the central regions of the United States perceived as less significant or overlooked by coastal elites. It implies a region primarily flown over by air travelers from one coast to the other, with the insinuation that these areas are less culturally or politically important.
  • fundamentalism — originally referred to a movement within American Protestantism that emerged in the early 20th century, emphasizing a literal interpretation of the Bible and adherence to its fundamental doctrines. The term has since broadened to describe any religious movement across various faiths that holds to strict adherence to foundational principles and often rejects modernism.
  • The Golden Rule — treat others how you wish to be treated; Jesus referred to this teaching as his “Greatest Commandment”
  • The Great Awakening — a series of religious revivals that swept through the American colonies in the 18th century, marked by a renewed enthusiasm for religious experience, personal piety, and evangelism. It significantly influenced American Protestantism and the country’s social and cultural landscape.
  • groupthink — a psychological phenomenon that occurs within a group of people when the desire for harmony or conformity results in an irrational or dysfunctional decision-making outcome. It is characterized by the suppression of dissenting viewpoints, leading to a lack of critical evaluation of decisions.
  • holy ghost — one of the three persons of the Holy Trinity; believed to be the active presence of God in the world today. The Holy Ghost is often associated with guiding believers, empowering them with spiritual gifts, and serving as a comforter or advocate.
  • holy spirit — considered the third person of the Trinity in Christian theology, alongside God the Father and God the Son (Jesus Christ). The Holy Spirit is believed to be the presence of God active in the world, guiding, inspiring, and empowering believers, and playing a central role in their spiritual life and growth.
Holy ghost; holy spirit. By Midjourney
  • homeschooling — an educational approach where parents choose to educate their children at home instead of sending them to traditional public or private schools. This method allows for a personalized education, often tailored to the child’s learning pace, interests, and values, and can include various educational philosophies and curricula.
  • hypocrisy — the act of pretending to hold beliefs, attitudes, virtues, or feelings that one does not actually possess. It is often highlighted in moral and religious discussions as a vice, where an individual’s actions contradict their professed values, demonstrating a lack of integrity or moral consistency.
  • i360Charles Koch‘s massive database of 230 million voters and their intimate demographic data, deployed for use in a wide range of Republican campaigns
  • The Johnson Amendment — The Johnson Amendment is a provision in the U.S. tax code, enacted in 1954, that prohibits nonprofit organizations, including churches and other religious organizations, from endorsing or opposing political candidates. It aims to maintain the separation of church and state by restricting the political involvement of tax-exempt entities.
  • Kingdom action — “Kingdom action” refers to activities or initiatives undertaken by Christians to advance the kingdom of God on Earth, in alignment with the teachings and example of Jesus Christ. This can include evangelism, social justice efforts, charitable works, and other forms of ministry aimed at reflecting God’s love and righteousness in the world.
  • liturgy — Liturgy refers to the prescribed set of rituals, prayers, and ceremonies that make up the formal public worship in religious traditions, particularly in Christianity. It serves as a structured framework that guides the communal expression of faith and devotion.
  • love thy neighbor — “Love thy neighbor” is a fundamental ethical injunction in many religious traditions, emphasizing the importance of treating others with kindness, compassion, and respect, akin to one’s self. In Christianity, it is second only to loving God and is central to the teachings of Jesus Christ.
Love thy neighbor, by Midjourney
  • “moral decay” — a term often used to describe a perceived decline in the ethical standards, values, and behavior of a society, suggesting a move away from traditional morals towards increased vice and immorality. It is frequently cited in cultural and religious critiques of contemporary social trends.
  • the “natural family” — used within certain ideological frameworks to describe a family unit based on heterosexual marriage, with clear gender roles and biological offspring. It is often promoted as the foundational building block of society and a standard for raising children.
  • The New International Version (NIV) Bible — The New International Version (NIV) Bible is a contemporary English translation of the Bible, first published in 1978, with a focus on a balance between word-for-word and thought-for-thought translation techniques. It is one of the most popular and widely used modern translations of the Bible.
  • the New Right — refers to a conservative political movement that emerged in the United States in the late 20th century, advocating for free market principles, a strong national defense, traditional family values, and a reduction in government intervention in the economy. It played a significant role in reshaping the Republican Party.
  • The New Testament — The New Testament is the second part of the Christian biblical canon, consisting of texts that describe the life, teachings, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ, as well as the early Christian Church’s teachings and history. It includes the Gospels, Acts, Epistles, and Revelation.
  • The Old Testament — the first part of the Christian Bible, comprising religious texts that are also sacred in Judaism. It includes a collection of books that cover the creation of the world, the history of Israel, laws, and prophetic writings, laying the foundation for Christian and Jewish religious beliefs.
  • nuns — women who have taken solemn vows and dedicated their lives to religious service within a monastic order in Christianity. They live a life of prayer, contemplation, and community service, often within a convent or monastery.
Nuns, by Midjourney
  • paleoconservatives — proponents of a political philosophy emphasizing tradition, limited government, civil society, and non-interventionist foreign policies, often advocating for a return to older conservative values and skepticism towards globalism and neoconservatism.
  • party of character — The term “party of character” often refers to a political group or movement that emphasizes moral integrity, ethical conduct, and virtuous leadership as central principles. It asserts that character and personal ethics are crucial for public officials and the governance of society.
  • pastors — ordained leaders within Christian churches who are responsible for guiding the congregation, preaching, administering sacraments, and providing pastoral care. They play a key role in the spiritual life and education of their community members.
  • pious — Pious describes someone who is devoutly religious and deeply committed to the observance of their faith’s rituals and moral principles. It implies a sincere and earnest approach to religious practice and a life led in accordance with one’s spiritual convictions.
  • predestination — the Calvinist concept that God has chosen individuals for salvation prior to their birth
  • priests — In many religions, priests are ordained figures authorized to perform sacred rituals and provide spiritual leadership to the community. In Christianity, particularly within Catholicism, Orthodoxy, and some Anglican and Lutheran traditions, priests administer sacraments, lead worship, and offer pastoral care.
  • proselytizing — Proselytizing refers to the act of attempting to convert someone to a particular religion, belief system, or ideology. It often involves persuasive techniques and may be carried out through various means such as one-on-one conversations, literature distribution, or public speaking.
  • Prosperity Gospel — The Prosperity Gospel is a controversial theological belief that financial blessing and physical well-being are always the will of God for them, and that faith, positive speech, and donations to religious causes will increase one’s material wealth. Critics argue it often exploits vulnerable believers.
  • Rapture — In Christian eschatology, the Rapture is a future event where believers in Christ will be caught up from Earth to meet the Lord in the air, preceding the tribulation period and Second Coming of Christ. Interpretations of the timing and nature of the Rapture vary among Christians.
The Rapture -- by Midjourney
  • received wisdom — refers to ideas, principles, or knowledge that are traditionally accepted and passed down through generations without being questioned or critically examined. It often pertains to established norms or beliefs in society or within specific communities.
  • religious freedom / religious liberty — Religious freedom or liberty is the principle that supports the freedom of an individual or community, in public or private, to manifest religion or belief in teaching, practice, worship, and observance without government interference or restriction.
  • “right to work” — statutes in some U.S. states that prohibit union security agreements between companies and workers’ unions. Under these laws, employees in unionized workplaces cannot be compelled to join the union or pay regular union dues, even if they benefit from the collective bargaining agreements.
  • sacrament — In Christianity, a sacrament is a rite recognized as of particular importance and significance. Different Christian traditions hold varying views on the number and nature of sacraments, but they are generally seen as means of grace. Common sacraments include baptism and communion.
  • “school choice” — refers to policies that allow parents to choose their children’s educational pathways, including public, charter, private, and home schooling options. It’s based on the idea that providing various educational options can improve the quality of education by fostering competition.
  • Second Vatican Council — The Second Vatican Council, or Vatican II, was an ecumenical council of the Roman Catholic Church held from 1962 to 1965. It marked a significant shift in liturgical practices, ecclesiastical approach to the modern world, and the promotion of ecumenism, updating the church’s role in the contemporary world.
  • sermon — an oration or lecture by a preacher (often a religious leader) intended to provide moral or spiritual guidance, typically based on a passage from the Bible. Sermons are a central part of Christian worship services.
Sermon, by Midjourney
  • seven mountains dominionism; 7D — Christian movement that advocates for Christian influence in seven major spheres of society: Religion, Family, Education, Government, Media, Arts & Entertainment, and Business. The goal is to bring about societal transformation in accordance with biblical principles.
  • soft coup d’etat — refers to a non-violent overthrow of a government or significant change in power structures, achieved through non-traditional means such as legal challenges, political maneuvering, or psychological operations rather than direct military action.
  • Telecommunications Act of 1996 — a comprehensive law in the United States that overhauled telecommunications regulation. It aimed to deregulate the broadcasting market, encourage competition, and promote the rapid deployment of new telecommunications technologies.
  • televangelism — the use of television broadcasts to spread Christian religious teachings. Televangelists often appeal to viewers for financial donations and may be associated with charismatic preaching and the Prosperity Gospel.
  • theoconservatives — Theoconservatives, or “theocons,” are conservatives who advocate for the integration of traditional religious values into public policy and government. They emphasize the role of faith in political life and often champion causes related to moral and social issues.
  • “traditional marriage” — typically refers to a socially recognized and legally sanctioned union between one man and one woman. Advocates for this definition often oppose the legalization of same-sex marriage, arguing for the preservation of historical and religious norms.
  • War on Christmas — a term used by some to describe perceived attempts to minimize or eliminate public expression of Christmas traditions, symbols, and expressions in secular or public spaces, arguing that such efforts undermine Christian values and cultural heritage.

See also: A list of Christian nationalists

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The phenomenon of anti-vaccination disinformation, often referred to as the “anti-vax” movement, is a complex and multifaceted issue that has evolved over time, particularly in the United States. It intersects with public health, misinformation, societal trust, and cultural dynamics — to name a few.

History and evolution in the U.S.

The roots of anti-vaccination sentiment in the U.S. can be traced back to the 19th century. Initially, it was based on religious and philosophical grounds, with some opposition to the smallpox vaccine. However, the contemporary form of the anti-vax movement gained momentum in the late 20th and early 21st centuries.

A significant turning point was a 1998 study published by Andrew Wakefield, which falsely linked the MMR vaccine (measles, mumps, and rubella) to autism. Despite being debunked and retracted, this study sowed seeds of doubt about vaccine safety.

a vaccine needle, by Midjourney

Key proponents and spreaders of disinformation

The modern anti-vax movement is characterized by its diversity, ranging from fringe conspiracy theorists to wellness influencers and some celebrities. The internet and social media have been crucial in disseminating anti-vaccine misinformation.

Websites, forums, and social media platforms have allowed the rapid spread of false claims, often amplified by algorithms that favor sensational content — because that’s what keeps people consuming content on the sites. It’s part of a larger process of radicalization that social media can contribute to.

Impact on society and sulture

The impact of anti-vaccination disinformation is profound and multifaceted:

  1. Public Health: It poses a significant threat to public health. Reduced vaccination rates can lead to outbreaks of preventable diseases, as seen with the resurgence of measles in recent years, as well as the refusal to get vaccinated to prevent the spread of covid-19.
  2. Trust in Science and Institutions: It erodes trust in medical science, healthcare professionals, and public health institutions. This skepticism extends beyond vaccines, impacting broader public health measures and leading to an increasing science denialism in culture more generally.
  3. Social Polarization: It contributes to social, cultural, and political polarization. Vaccination status has become a contentious issue, often intertwined with political and ideological beliefs.
  4. Economic Impact: There are also economic implications, as disease outbreaks require significant resources to manage and can disrupt communities and businesses.

Combatting anti-vaccination disinformation

Addressing anti-vaccination disinformation requires a multi-pronged approach:

  1. Promoting Accurate Information: Healthcare professionals, scientists, and public health officials need to proactively disseminate accurate, easy-to-understand information about vaccines. This includes addressing common misconceptions and providing transparent information about vaccine development, safety, and efficacy.
  2. Engaging with Concerns: It’s essential to engage respectfully with individuals who have concerns about vaccines. Many people who hesitate are not staunchly anti-vaccine but may have genuine questions or fears that need addressing.
  3. Media Literacy and Critical Thinking: Promoting media literacy and critical thinking skills can help individuals discern reliable information from misinformation.
  4. Policy and Regulation: There’s a role for policy and regulation in addressing misinformation on social media and other platforms. This includes holding platforms accountable for the spread of false information and considering policies around vaccine requirements for certain activities or institutions.
  5. Community Engagement: Leveraging community leaders, including religious and cultural figures, can be effective in promoting vaccination, particularly in communities that are distrustful of government or mainstream healthcare.
  6. Global Perspective: Finally, recognizing that this is a global issue, international cooperation and support are essential, especially in countering misinformation in low and middle-income countries.
virus, by Midjourney

Combating anti-vaccination disinformation is a complex task that requires a nuanced understanding of its historical roots, the mechanisms of its spread, and its societal impacts. Efforts must be multidisciplinary, involving healthcare professionals, educators, policy makers, and community leaders.

The ultimate goal is to foster an environment where informed decisions about vaccinations are made based on credible information, thus protecting public health and societal well-being. To that end, we’ve got a long way to go.

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The “lizard people” conspiracy theory is one of the more fantastical narratives that have found a niche within modern conspiracy culture. This theory suggests that shape-shifting reptilian aliens have infiltrated human society to gain power and control. They are often depicted as occupying high positions in government, finance, and industry, manipulating global events to serve their sinister agenda.

Origins and evolution

The roots of the reptilian conspiracy theory can be traced back to a mix of earlier science fiction, mythological tales, and conspiracy theories. However, it was British author David Icke who, in the 1990s, catapulted the idea into the mainstream of conspiracy culture. Icke’s theory combines elements of New Age philosophy, Vedic texts, and a wide array of conspiracy theories, proposing that these reptilian beings are part of a secret brotherhood that has controlled humanity for millennia — a variation on the global cabal conspiracy theory framework that shows up in a lot of places.

The Lizard People conspiracy theory, as illustrated by Midjourney

Icke’s initial ideas were presented in his book “The Biggest Secret” (1999), where he posits that these entities are from the Alpha Draconis star system, now hiding in underground bases and are capable of morphing their appearance to mimic human form. His theories incorporate a broad range of historical, religious, and cultural references, reinterpreting them to fit the narrative of reptilian manipulation.

Persistence and appeal

The persistence of the lizard people conspiracy can be attributed to several factors. First, it offers a simplistic explanation for the complexities and injustices of the world. By attributing the world’s evils to a single identifiable source, it provides a narrative that is emotionally satisfying for some, despite its utter lack of evidence.

Second, the theory thrives on the human tendency to distrust authority and the status quo. In times of social and economic upheaval, conspiracy theories offer a form of counter-narrative that challenges perceived power structures.

The Lizard People are bankers too

Third, the advent of the internet and social media has provided a fertile ground for the spread of such ideas. Online platforms allow for the rapid dissemination of conspiracy theories, connecting individuals across the globe who share these beliefs, thus reinforcing their validity within these communities.

Modern culture and society

In modern culture, the lizard people conspiracy theory occupies a peculiar niche. On one hand, it is often the subject of satire and parody, seen as an example of the most outlandish fringe beliefs. Shows, memes, and popular media references sometimes use the imagery of reptilian overlords as a humorous nod to the world of conspiracy theories.

On the other hand, the theory has been absorbed into the larger tapestry of global conspiracy culture, intersecting with other narratives about global elites, alien intervention, and secret societies. This blending of theories creates a complex and ever-evolving mythology that can be adapted to fit various personal and political agendas.

Despite its presence in the digital and cultural landscape, the reptilian conspiracy is widely discredited and rejected by mainstream society and experts. It’s critiqued for its lack of credible evidence, its reliance on anti-Semitic tropes (echoing age-old myths about blood libel and other global Jewish conspiracies), and its potential to fuel mistrust and paranoia.

Current status and impact

Today, the reptilian conspiracy theory exists on the fringes of conspiracy communities. While it has been somewhat overshadowed by newer and more politically charged conspiracies, it remains a staple within the conspiracy theory ecosystem. Its endurance can be seen as a testament to the human penchant for storytelling and the need to find meaning in an often chaotic world.

The Lizard People, young dapper and woke crowd, by Midjourney

The impact of such theories is a double-edged sword. While they can foster a sense of community among believers, they can also lead to social alienation and the erosion of trust in institutions. The spread of such unfounded theories poses challenges for societies, emphasizing the need for critical thinking and media literacy in navigating the complex landscape of modern information.

The lizard people conspiracy theory is a fascinating study in the power of narrative, belief, and the human desire to make sense of the unseen forces shaping our world. While it holds little sway in academic or scientific circles, its evolution and persistence in popular culture underscore the enduring allure of the mysterious and the unexplained.

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Hybrid Warfare

Information warfare involves the use and management of information to gain a competitive advantage over an opponent, including both offensive and defensive measures. Offensive tactics might involve cyber attacks, hacking, and disinformation campaigns aimed at undermining an adversary’s decision-making process or public morale. Defensive measures focus on protecting one’s own information systems and networks from similar attacks. Information warfare is heavily reliant on technology and the internet, making it particularly relevant in the digital age.

Information warfare, by Midjourney

Geopolitical conflict is now less about the collision of massive armies and much more about a combination of information warfare, intelligence, espionage, criminal networks, cyberwarfare, psychological warfare, and an overall blend of strategies in addition to traditional “hot” war mechanisms like troop deployment — as well as more modern twists on military engagement including drone strikes and cyberoffensives (the Russia-Ukraine conflict is a canonical modern example of this hybrid warfare strategy). Russian psychological warfare of the Cold War era presaged much of what was to come in modern day spy vs. spy intensity, and the advent of the Internet, social media, and an entirely new digital threat horizon heralds the growth of this form of conflict for years and decades to come.

Information warfare in the United States

Nor is it simply a geopolitical problem manifested by foreign adversaries — now information warfare is a domestic disturbance fomented largely by right-wing political actors and reactionaries in a massive backlash to the cultural and social progress of multiethnic democracy in America since the Civil Rights movement of the 1960s. From massive corporate PR campaigns lying to the public about the cancerous consequences of smoking to the deliberate seeding of conspiracy theories like QAnon into political discourse, the information warfare playbook has gone mainstream within the Republican party.

Whether we’re aware of it or not, we as American citizens are unwitting infantry in a new form of slow-moving Civil War. In this war, some of the first armaments to pick up are in this set of dictionaries below. Knowledge has always been power — but now, knowledge is one of our best defenses against the Dark Arts as well.

Information warfare terms

More dictionaries »

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

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

Bespredel means a society without morals

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

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

Bespredel operates in multiple contexts

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

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

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