Donald Trump

Stochastic terrorism is a term that has emerged in the lexicon of political and social analysis to describe a method of inciting violence indirectly through the use of mass communication. This concept is predicated on the principle that while not everyone in an audience will act on violent rhetoric, a small percentage might.

The term “stochastic” refers to a process that is randomly determined; it implies that the specific outcomes are unpredictable, yet the overall distribution of these outcomes follows a pattern that can be statistically analyzed. In the context of stochastic terrorism, it means that while it is uncertain who will act on incendiary messages and violent political rhetoric, it is almost certain that someone will.

The nature of stochastic terrorism

Stochastic terrorism involves the dissemination of public statements, whether through speeches, social media, or traditional media, that incite violence. The individuals or entities spreading such rhetoric may not directly call for political violence. Instead, they create an atmosphere charged with tension and hostility, suggesting that action must be taken against a perceived threat or enemy. This indirect incitement provides plausible deniability, as those who broadcast the messages can claim they never explicitly advocated for violence.

Prominent stochastic terrorism examples

The following are just a few notable illustrative examples of stochastic terrorism:

  1. The Oklahoma City Bombing (1995): Timothy McVeigh, influenced by extremist anti-government rhetoric, the 1992 Ruby Ridge standoff, and the 1993 siege at Waco, Texas, detonated a truck bomb outside the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building, killing 168 people. This act was fueled by ideologies that demonized the federal government, highlighting how extremism and extremist propaganda can inspire individuals to commit acts of terror.
  2. The Oslo and Utรธya Attacks (2011): Anders Behring Breivik, driven by anti-Muslim and anti-immigrant beliefs, bombed government buildings in Oslo, Norway, then shot and killed 69 people at a youth camp on the island of Utรธya. Breivik’s manifesto cited many sources that painted Islam and multiculturalism as existential threats to Europe, showing the deadly impact of extremist online echo chambers and the pathology of right-wing ideologies such as Great Replacement Theory.
  3. The Pittsburgh Synagogue Shooting (2018): Robert Bowers, influenced by white supremacist ideologies and conspiracy theories about migrant caravans, killed 11 worshippers in a synagogue. His actions were preceded by social media posts that echoed hate speech and conspiracy theories rampant in certain online communities, demonstrating the lethal consequences of unmoderated hateful rhetoric.
  4. The El Paso Shooting (2019): Patrick Crusius targeted a Walmart in El Paso, Texas, killing 23 people, motivated by anti-immigrant sentiment and rhetoric about a “Hispanic invasion” of Texas. His manifesto mirrored language used in certain media and political discourse, underscoring the danger of using dehumanizing language against minority groups.
  5. Christchurch Mosque Shootings (2019): Brenton Tarrant live-streamed his attack on two mosques in Christchurch, New Zealand, killing 51 people, influenced by white supremacist beliefs and online forums that amplified Islamophobic rhetoric. The attacker’s manifesto and online activity were steeped in extremist content, illustrating the role of internet subcultures in radicalizing individuals.

Stochastic terrorism in right-wing politics in the US

In the United States, the concept of stochastic terrorism has become increasingly relevant in analyzing the tactics employed by certain right-wing entities and individuals. While the phenomenon is not exclusive to any single political spectrum, recent years have seen notable instances where right-wing rhetoric has been linked to acts of violence.

The January 6, 2021, attack on the U.S. Capitol serves as a stark example of stochastic terrorism. The event was preceded by months of unfounded claims of electoral fraud and calls to “stop the steal,” amplified by right-wing media outlets and figures — including then-President Trump who had extraordinary motivation to portray his 2020 election loss as a victory in order to stay in power. This rhetoric created a charged environment, leading some individuals to believe that violent action was a justified response to defend democracy.

The role of media and technology

Right-wing media platforms have played a significant role in amplifying messages that could potentially incite stochastic terrorism. Through the strategic use of incendiary language, disinformation, misinformation, and conspiracy theories, these platforms have the power to reach vast audiences and influence susceptible individuals to commit acts of violence.

The advent of social media has further complicated the landscape, enabling the rapid spread of extremist rhetoric. The decentralized nature of these platforms allows for the creation of echo chambers where inflammatory messages are not only amplified but also go unchallenged, increasing the risk of radicalization.

Challenges and implications

Stochastic terrorism presents significant legal and societal challenges. The indirect nature of incitement complicates efforts to hold individuals accountable for the violence that their rhetoric may inspire. Moreover, the phenomenon raises critical questions about the balance between free speech and the prevention of violence, challenging societies to find ways to protect democratic values while preventing harm.

Moving forward

Addressing stochastic terrorism requires a multifaceted approach. This includes promoting responsible speech among public figures, enhancing critical thinking and media literacy among the public, and developing legal and regulatory frameworks that can effectively address the unique challenges posed by this form of terrorism. Ultimately, combating stochastic terrorism is not just about preventing violence; it’s about preserving the integrity of democratic societies and ensuring that public discourse does not become a catalyst for harm.

Understanding and mitigating the effects of stochastic terrorism is crucial in today’s increasingly polarized world. By recognizing the patterns and mechanisms through which violence is indirectly incited, societies can work towards more cohesive and peaceful discourse, ensuring that democracy is protected from the forces that seek to undermine it through fear and division.

Read more

The war in Ukraine is less “surprising” to some who’ve seen it raging since 2014. Although it escalated greatly in 2022, the Ukraine timeline dates back all the way to the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991.

To understand the backstory — which is now inextricably intertwined with our own presidential history given the impeachment of Donald Trump over his phone calls with Zelensky to the Republican Party‘s current-day support of the aims of Vladimir Putin — we have to go back to a time when no one was stronger on anti-Russian policy than GOP darling Ronald Reagan.

  • 1991 — Ukraine declares independence and becomes an independent entity after the fall of the Soviet Union
  • 1994 — Ukraine agrees to give up its nuclear arsenal in exchange for a protection agreement with Russia, United States, Britain, and Ireland (Budapest Memorandum)
  • 2004Viktor Yanukovich “wins” election under dubious circumstances and is deposed for a do over election, which he loses to Viktor Yuschenko (Orange Revolution)
  • 2006 — Viktor Yanukovych begins working directly with Paul Manafort, in an effort to boost his image after his electoral loss. Manafort was known for his work helping the “Torturers’ Lobby” of brutal dictators around the world in the 1980s, with Roger Stone (another infamous dirty trickster best known for his role as a fixer for Richard Nixon).
  • 2007 — Yanukovych’s Party of Regions does well in the Ukranian parliamentary elections, gaining a large number of seats credited to Manafort’s strategic advice about Western-style campaigning.
  • 2010 — Yanukovych is elected President of Ukraine, again largely crediting Manafort’s strategies for his comeback.
  • Nov 2013 — Having promised a more European-style government in order to win the presidency in 2010, Yanukovych turned on his word and initiated more pro-Russian policies than the Ukranians had signed up for. Yanukovych is now beset by enormous public protests against the corruption of his regime, and his unilateral decision to abandon an association agreement with the EU in favor of a trade agreement with Russia (Maidan Revolution / Revolution of Dignity)
  • Feb 2014 — After a harrowing 93 days barricaded inside Kyiv’s Maidan Square, activists are victorious; Yanukovich is deposed and flees to Russia
  • Mar 2014 — Russian forces invade and annex the region of Crimea within Ukraine
  • Apr 2014 — Russian forces invade the Donetsk and Luhansk regions in eastern Ukraine, escalating a war that continues to this day and had already killed more than 14,000 people by the time the 2022 large scale invasion began
  • Apr 2014 — Hunter Biden and business partner Devon Archer join the board of Burisma
  • May 2014 — Candy magnate Petro Poroshenko succeeds Yanukovych as president of Ukraine
  • Feb 10, 2015Viktor Shokin takes office as the prosecutor general of Ukraine, tasked with getting a handle on rampant corruption
  • Oct 8, 2015 — US Assistant Secretary of State Victoria Nuland reiterates strong concerns that Shokin is failing to prosecute obvious corruption in Ukraine, and that efforts at anti-corruption must be stepped up there
  • Dec 8, 2015 — Then VP and point person on Ukraine Joe Biden gave a speech to the Ukrainian parliament, urging them to step up their efforts to pursue anti-corruption reforms to help strengthen their young democracy
  • Winter 2015-6 — Biden is talking to Poroshenko about how Shokin is slow-walking their anti-corruption efforts
  • Feb 16, 2016 — Viktor Shokin resigns as Prosecutor General of Ukraine
  • May 12, 2016Yuriy Lutsenko is appointed as the new Prosecutor General, despite having no law degree or legal experience. At first he takes a hard line against Burisma.
  • Aug 14, 2016 — “Black ledger” payments to Paul Manafort from Viktor Yanukovych go public
  • May 10, 2017Trump hosts Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov and Ambassador Sergey Kislyak in the Oval Office, the day after he has fired James Comey as the Director of the FBI over “the Russian thing” — only a photographer for Russian news agency Tass is allowed to cover the meeting
  • June 2017 — The NotPetya malware emerges and causes extensive damage — especially in Ukraine. It is widely fingerprinted as a Russian state-sponsored attack.
  • October 30, 2017 — Paul Manafort is indicted by Special Counsel Robert Mueller for money laundering, acting as a foreign agent, making false statements, and conspiracy against the United States, as part of the ongoing investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 US presidential election.
  • Apr 30, 2018 — At a Trump dinner in his DC hotel, Lev Parnas and Igor Fruman tell Trump they think Ukraine Ambassador Yovanovitch isn’t loyal enough to him
  • May-June 2018 — Lev Parnas pressures US Congressman Pete Sessions to pressure Trump to fire Yovanovitch in exchange for campaign funding; he and Fruman are later arrested for this scheme and other federal charges of illegal foreign funding of election campaigns
  • Summer 2018 — Trump reportedly frets a potential Biden run for the presidency
  • August 2018 — Lev Parnas’s company, which is named (I kid you not) “Fraud Guarantee,” hires Rudy Giuliani‘s firm for $500,000 to continue working on getting Ambassador Yovanovitch fired for doing her job pursuing corruption in Ukraine.
  • Sept 2018Congress passes and Trump signs a spending bill for the Department of Defense, including $250 million in military aid to Ukraine under the Ukraine Security Assistance Initiative (USAI)
  • Late 2018 — Lev Parnas arranges for Giuliani to meet with both Shokin and Lutsenko on multiple occasions; Devin Nunes also secretly meets with Shokin in Vienna.
  • Dec 6, 2018 — Trump pressures Parnas and Fruman to pressure the Ukrainian government to open an investigation into the Bidens
  • Late Feb, 2019 — Parnas and Fruman pressure then-President Poroshenko to open an investigation into the Bidens, in exchange for a state visit at the White House that would help his challenging re-election campaign against the popular young upstart comedian Volodymyr Zelenskyy
  • Spring 2019 — A “working group” of Giuliani, Parnas, Fruman, conservative Hill reporter John Solomon, Joseph diGenova, Victoria Toensing, and Devin Nunes’s top aide Harvey meet regularly to work on the quid pro quo project
  • March 2019 — Prosecutor General Lutsenko opens 2 investigations: 1 into alleged Ukrainian involvement in the 2016 US election (a Russian conspiracy theory) and a 2nd into Hunter Biden’s involvement with Burisma (he will later retract many of his allegations).
  • March 24, 2019 — Don Jr. tweets criticism of Ambassador Yovanovitch
  • March 28, 2019 — Giuliani hands off a smear campaign packet of disinformation cobbled together on Yovanovitch, intended for Secretary of State Mike Pompeo
  • April 24, 2019 — Trump orders Marie Yovanovitch recalled from her diplomatic mission in Ukraine, after Giuliani and other allies reported she was undermining and obstructing their efforts to extort Ukrainian president Volodomyr Zelensky to claim he was investigating the Bidens for corruption.
  • July 25, 2019 — On a phone call with Zelensky, Trump pressures him to investigate Biden in exchange for the release of funds to keep the Russians at bay in Crimea. He disparages Yovanovitch on the call, referring to her as “bad news.”
  • Oct 3, 2019 — Ambassador to Ukraine Marie Yovanovitch is unsummarily fired by Donald Trump after recently having been invited to continue her post for several more years
  • Dec 18, 2019 — The House of Representatives votes to impeach Donald Trump for abuse of power and obstruction of Congress, the first of two times Trump will be impeached.
  • Feb 5, 2020 — The Republican-controlled Senate voted along party lines, having called no witnesses, to acquit Donald Trump of both impeachment charges.
  • Feb 2022 — Russian forces begin a large scale land invasion of Ukraine including massive attacks on civilian cities.
  • Feb 2024 — Donald Trump holds up a bipartisan immigration deal in Congress that would allow military aide funds to Ukraine to be released. Running for a second term as US President, Trump continues to break with 80 years of the post-WWII international order — in refusing to support NATO, the alliance widely regarded as keeping the peace in Europe broadly, as well as in supporting the regime of Vladimir Putin in Russia’s war of aggression against Ukraine.
Read more

Project 2025 mind map of entities

Project 2025, led by Paul Dans and key conservative figures within The Heritage Foundation, sets forth an ambitious conservative vision aimed at fundamentally transforming the role of the federal government. Leonard Leo, a prominent conservative known for his influence on the U.S. Supreme Court‘s composition, is among the project’s leading fundraisers.

The initiative seeks to undo over a century of progressive reforms, tracing back to the establishment of a federal administrative framework by Woodrow Wilson, through the New Deal by Roosevelt, to Johnson’s Great Society. It proposes a significant reduction in the federal workforce, which stands at about 2.25 million people.

Essential measures include reducing funding for, or even abolishing, key agencies such as the Department of Justice, the FBI, the Department of Homeland Security, and the Departments of Education and Commerce. Additionally, Project 2025 intends to bring semi-independent agencies like the Federal Communications Commission under closer presidential control.

At its heart, Project 2025 aims to secure a durable conservative dominance within the federal government, aligning it closely with the principles of the MAGA movement and ensuring it operates under the direct oversight of the White House. The project is inspired by the “unitary executive theory” of the Constitution, which argues for sweeping presidential authority over the federal administrative apparatus — in direct contradiction with the delicate system of checks and balances architected by the Founders.

The Project 2025 Playbook

To realize their extremist, authoritarian goal, Dans is actively recruiting what he terms “conservative warriors” from legal and government networks, including bar associations and offices of state attorneys general. The aim is to embed these individuals in key legal roles throughout the government, thereby embedding the conservative vision deeply within the federal bureaucracy to shape policy and governance for the foreseeable future.

Continue reading Project 2025: The GOP’s plan for taking power
Read more

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.”

Read more

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.

Read more

SOTU 2024 Joe Biden Presidential address

Strong economic messages of the Keynesian buttressing of the middle class that is Bidenomics were everywhere in evidence at last night’s State of the Union address, Biden’s third since taking office in 2021. In SOTU 2024 he spoke about stabbing trickle-down economics in its gasping heart as a repeated failure to the American people. Instead of giving another $2 trillion tax cuts to billionaires, Biden wants to give back to the people who he says built America: the middle class.

The President delivered strong, sweeping language and vision reminiscent of LBJ’s Great Society and FDR‘s New Deal. He also delivered a heartwarming sense of unity and appeal to put down our bickering and get things done for the American people.

“We all come from somewhere — but we’re all Americans.”

This while lambasting the Republicans for scuttling the deal over the popular bipartisan immigration bill thanks to 11th hour interference from TFG (“my predecessor” as JRB called him). “This bill would save lives!” He is really effective at calling out the GOP‘s hypocrisy on border security with this delivery.

“We can fight about the border or we can fix the border. Send me a bill!”

He is taking full advantage of being the incumbent candidate here. He has the power and the track record to do all these things he is promising, and he’s telling the exact truth about the Republican obstructionism preventing the American people from having their government work for them.

SOTU 2024 Joe Biden fiery speech with Kamala Harris and Mike Johnson in the background behind him

I love that he calls out Trump in this speech, without naming names — almost a kind of Voldemort effect. He who must not be named — because giving him the dignity even of a name is more than he deserves.

He says that Trump and his cabal of anti-democratic political operatives have ancient ideas (hate, revenge, reactionary, etc.) — and that you can’t lead America with ancient ideas. In America, we look towards the future — relentlessly. Americans wants a president who will protect their rights — not take them away.

“I see a future… for all Americans!” he ends with, in a segment reminiscent of the great Martin Luther King’s “I Have a Dream” speech, with its clear vision of power and authority flowing from what is morally right and just, instead of what is corrupt and cronyish. It gave me hope for the future — that Americans will make the right choice, as we seem to have done under pressure, throughout our history. ๐Ÿคž๐Ÿฝ

Continue reading Biden SOTU 2024: Success stories and big policy ideas
Read more

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.

Read more

In it simplest form, active measures incorporates information warfare aimed at undermining the West.

Active measures (“ะฐะบั‚ะธะฒะฝั‹ะต ะผะตั€ะพะฟั€ะธัั‚ะธั” in Russian) refer to a form of political warfare conducted by the Soviet Union and now, by extension, Russia, to influence the course of world events. These measures include a wide range of activities, such as espionage, the dissemination of propaganda, and the establishment of front organizations, all aimed at manipulating the public opinion and decision-making processes in other countries.

The goal is often to destabilize opponents and weaken alliances contrary to the interests of the Soviet Union or Russia, without engaging in much riskier direct military conflict.

Disinformation in active measures

Historically, active measures have included complex operations, such as spreading disinformation, orchestrating smear campaigns, and using psychological warfare to sow discord and confusion among the target population. For example, during the Cold War, the KGB engaged in active measures to spread false information about the United States, aiming to weaken its credibility and influence on the global stage.

These operations were meticulously planned and could span years or even decades, employing a variety of tactics from leaking altered documents to fostering relationships with sympathetic or unknowing individuals within influential positions.

In the digital age, the concept of active measures has evolved with technology. Social media platforms and the internet have become fertile grounds for such operations, allowing for the rapid spread of disinformation and the manipulation of public opinion on a scale previously unimaginable.

These modern active measures can involve cyber attacks, the use of trolls and bots to amplify divisive content, and the strategic release of hacked information to influence political outcomes, as seen in various elections around the world (the Wikileaks email dumps that helped Trump eke out the presidency in 2016, e.g.). The adaptability and covert nature of active measures make them a persistent challenge for governments and societies trying to safeguard democratic processes and maintain national security.

Read more

A “meme” is a term first coined by British evolutionary biologist Richard Dawkins in his 1976 book “The Selfish Gene.” Originally, it referred to an idea, behavior, or style that spreads from person to person within a culture. However, in the digital age, the term has evolved to specifically denote a type of media โ€“ often an image with text, but sometimes a video or a hashtag โ€“ that spreads rapidly online, typically through social media platforms like Facebook, Twitter/X, Reddit, TikTok, and generally all extant platforms.

Memes on the digital savannah

In the context of the internet, memes are a form of digital content that encapsulates a concept, joke, or sentiment in a highly relatable and easily shareable format. They often consist of a recognizable image or video, overlaid with humorous or poignant text that pertains to current events, popular culture, or universal human experiences. Memes have become a cornerstone of online communication, offering a way for individuals to express opinions, share laughs, and comment on societal norms.

Grumpy Cat meme: "There are two types of people in this world... and I hate them"

Once primarily a tool of whimsy, amusement, and even uplifit, in recent years memes have become far more weaponized by trolls and bad actors as part of a broader shift in internet culture towards incivility and exploitation. The days of funny cats have been encroached upon by the racism and antisemitism of Pepe the Frog, beloved patron saint meme of the alt-right. The use of memes to project cynicism or thinly-veiled white supremacy into culture and politics is an unwelcome trend that throws cold water on the formerly more innocent days of meme yore online.

Memes as tools of disinformation and information warfare

While memes are still used for entertainment and social commentary, they have also become potent tools for disseminating disinformation and conducting information warfare, both domestically and abroad. This is particularly evident in political arenas where, for instance, American right-wing groups have leveraged memes to spread their ideologies, influence public opinion, and discredit opposition.

  1. Simplicity and Virality: Memes are easy to create and consume, making them highly viral. This simplicity allows for complex ideas to be condensed into easily digestible and shareable content, often bypassing critical analysis from viewers.
  2. Anonymity and Plausible Deniability: The often-anonymous nature of meme creation and sharing allows individuals or groups to spread disinformation without accountability. The humorous or satirical guise of memes also provides a shield of plausible deniability against accusations of spreading falsehoods.
  3. Emotional Appeal: Memes often evoke strong emotional responses, which can be more effective in influencing public opinion than presenting factual information. The American right-wing, among other groups, has adeptly used memes to evoke feelings of pride, anger, or fear, aligning such emotions with their political messages.
  4. Echo Chambers and Confirmation Bias: Social media algorithms tend to show users content that aligns with their existing beliefs, creating echo chambers. Memes that reinforce these beliefs are more likely to be shared within these circles, further entrenching ideologies and sometimes spreading misinformation.
  5. Manipulation of Public Discourse: Memes can be used to distract from important issues, mock political opponents, or oversimplify complex social and political problems. This can skew public discourse and divert attention from substantive policy discussions or critical events.
  6. Targeting the Undecided: Memes can be particularly effective in influencing individuals who are undecided or less politically engaged. Their simplicity and humor can be more appealing than traditional forms of political communication, making them a powerful tool for shaping opinions.

Memes in political campaigns

Memes have been used to discredit candidates or push particular narratives that favor right-wing ideologies. Memes have also been employed to foster distrust in mainstream media and institutions, promoting alternative, often unfounded narratives that align with right-wing agendas.

Trump QAnon meme: "The Storm is Coming" in Game of Thrones font, shared on Truth Social

While often benign and humorous, memes can also be wielded as powerful tools of disinformation and information warfare. The American right-wing, among other political groups globally, has harnessed the viral nature of memes to influence public opinion, manipulate discourse, and spread their ideologies. As digital media continues to evolve, the role of memes in political and social spheres is likely to grow, making it crucial for consumers to approach them with a critical eye.

Read more

The term “alternative facts” gained widespread attention on January 22, 2017, when Kellyanne Conway, then-Counselor to President Donald Trump, used it during a “Meet the Press” interview. Conway was defending White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer’s false statements about the attendance numbers at Trump’s presidential inauguration the day before.

When challenged by the interviewer, who cited several facts indicating a much smaller crowd size relative to President Obama‘s inauguration, Conway asserted that Spicer was offering “alternative facts” to the media reports, which suggested a lower attendance compared to previous inaugurations.

Kellyanne Conway, by Midjourney

Philosophical and Historical Context

The term, while new in its specific phrasing, taps into a long-standing philosophical debate about truth and reality. Historically, the idea that there can be different interpretations of facts has roots in relativism and constructivism.

However, the way “alternative facts” was used implied a more radical departure from the accepted notion of objective facts, tilting towards a post-truth era where the line between truth and falsehood becomes blurred. It indicated an intentional strategy of disseminating disinformation early on in the Trump administration, and articulated it out loud in a way that previous presidents had never done before.

Use in US politics

The use of “alternative facts” in US politics has been controversial and highly debated. Proponents argue that the term simply reflects different perspectives and interpretations of events. Critics, however, see it as an attempt to legitimize falsehoods or misleading information, particularly when used by those in power to contradict evidence and well-established facts.

The term quickly became symbolic of the Trump administration’s relationship with the media and its approach to information dissemination. It was seen as part of a broader strategy that involved discrediting mainstream media as so-called “fake news,” promoting favorable narratives, and challenging the notion of objective truth. It extended the already prevalent right-wing strategy of science denialism into a kind of denialism of reality itself — a dangerous path towards authoritarianism reminiscent of the use of Newspeak in George Orwell’s famous classic dystopian novel, 1984.

Donald Trump spewing "Alternative Facts" into the disinformation ecosystem, by Midjourney

Implications for American democracy

The implications of the widespread use of “alternative facts” for American democracy are profound and multifaceted:

  1. Erosion of Trust: The concept challenges the role of a free press and fact-checking institutions in democracy. When official statements are at odds with verifiable evidence, it erodes public trust in both the government and the media.
  2. Polarization: It exacerbates political polarization. When people cannot agree on basic facts, finding common ground becomes challenging, leading to a more divided society.
  3. Manipulation and Propaganda: The term can be weaponized for political ends, allowing for manipulation of public opinion and spreading propaganda.
  4. Accountability and Governance: In a democracy, accountability is key. If leaders are seen to use “alternative facts” without consequence, it undermines democratic governance and the expectation that leaders are truthful and transparent.
  5. Public Discourse and Decision Making: Accurate information is crucial for informed decision making by the electorate. When false information is disseminated under the guise of “alternative facts,” it impairs the public’s ability to make informed decisions.
  6. Legal and Ethical Concerns: The concept raises ethical concerns about honesty and integrity in public office and can complicate legal proceedings when factual accuracy is disputed.

The dangers of “reality denial”alternative facts” in political discourse

“Alternative facts,” as a term and a concept, represents more than just a linguistic novelty; it signifies a shift in the landscape of political discourse and the relationship between truth, power, and democracy. Its emergence and use reflect deeper tensions in society about trust, media, and the nature of reality itself. For American democracy, grappling with the implications of this term is not just an intellectual exercise but a necessary endeavor to preserve the integrity of our democratic institutions and public discourse.

It’s one thing to have legitimately different perspectives on the issues. It’s quite another to throw out the founding ideals and Enlightenment principles of rational inquiry, scientific observation, and reality testing altogether. If we cannot agree even on the basic facts of a situation, the ability to arrive at any kind of policy consensus about what to do to solve issues and problems in society that will always occur is deeply impaired — and indeed, our democracy is placed in great peril.

We must recommit fully to the finding of Actual Facts — and put behind us the childish nursing of our favored Alternative Facts.

Read more

The “deep state” conspiracy theory, particularly as it has been emphasized by supporters of former President Donald Trump, alleges the existence of a hidden, powerful network within the U.S. government, working to undermine and oppose Trump’s presidency and agenda. In reality, the epithet is an elaborate way of discrediting the non-partisan civil service personnel who are brought in to government for their expertise and competence, who typically remain in their posts through Presidential transitions regardless of which party is occupying the White House.

The deep state gathers in front of the US Capitol, by Midjourney

Origin of the deep state meme

The term “deep state” originated in Turkey in the 1990s, referring to a clandestine network of military officers and their civilian allies who, it was believed, were manipulating Turkish politics. In the American context, the term was popularized during the Trump administration as a meme, evolving to imply a shadowy coalition — echoing other popular conspiracy theories such as the antisemitic global cabal theory — within the U.S. government, including intelligence agencies, the civil service, and other parts of the bureaucracy.

Main claims

  1. Bureaucratic opposition: The theory posits that career government officials, particularly in intelligence and law enforcement agencies, are systematically working against Trump’s interests. This includes alleged sabotage of his policies and leaking information to the media.
  2. Manipulation of information: Proponents believe that these officials manipulate or withhold information to influence government policy and public opinion against Trump.
  3. Alleged connections with other theories: The deep state theory often intersects with other conspiracy theories, like those surrounding the investigation of Russian interference in the 2016 election and the impeachment proceedings against Trump. It suggests these events were orchestrated by the deep state to discredit or destabilize his presidency.

Contextual factors

  1. Political polarization: The rise of the deep state theory is partly attributed to the increasing political polarization in the U.S. It serves as a narrative to explain and rally against perceived opposition within the government.
  2. Media influence: Certain media outlets and social media platforms have played a significant role in propagating this theory. It’s often amplified by commentators who support Trump, contributing to its widespread dissemination among his base.
  3. Trump’s endorsement: Trump himself has referenced the deep state, particularly when discussing investigations into his administration or when responding to criticism from within the government.

Criticism and counterarguments to deep state “theory”

  1. Lack of concrete evidence: Critics argue that the deep state theory lacks substantial evidence. They contend that routine government processes, checks and balances, and the separation of powers are mischaracterized as clandestine operations.
  2. Undermining trust in institutions: There’s concern that such theories undermine public trust in vital governmental institutions, particularly those responsible for national security and law enforcement.
  3. Political tool: Detractors view the deep state concept as a political tool used to dismiss or discredit legitimate investigation and opposition.
Deep state conspiracy theory, as illustrated by Midjourney

Impact on governance and society

  1. Influence on supporters: For many Trump supporters, the deep state theory provides an explanatory framework for understanding his political challenges and defeats. It galvanizes his base by portraying him as an outsider battling corrupt, entrenched interests.
  2. Public trust and conspiracism: The theory contributes to a broader erosion of trust in government and institutions, fostering a climate where conspiratorial thinking becomes more mainstream.
  3. Policy implications: Belief in the deep state can impact policy discussions and decisions, as it frames certain government actions and policies as inherently suspect or malicious.

Comparative perspective

Globally, similar theories exist in various forms, often reflecting local political and historical contexts. They typically emerge in situations where there is a distrust of the political establishment and are used to explain perceived injustices or power imbalances.

The deep state conspiracy theory as espoused by Trump’s MAGA movement plays a significant role in current American political discourse, impacting public perception of government, policy debates, and the broader social and political climate. Its lack of verifiable evidence and potential to undermine democratic institutions make it a dangerous propaganda prop applied recklessly by the current GOP frontrunner for the 2024 nomination.

Read more

PizzaGate originated in 2016 from the hacked emails of John Podesta, Hillary Clinton‘s campaign manager, published by WikiLeaks. Internet users on platforms like 4chan and Reddit began to interpret these emails, focusing on those that mentioned pizza and other food items. They falsely claimed these were code words for a child sex trafficking ring operated by high-ranking Democratic Party members and associated with a Washington, D.C., pizzeria named Comet Ping Pong.

The theory was fueled by various coincidences and misinterpretations. For instance, references to pizza were interpreted as part of a secret code, and the pizzeria’s quirky artwork was misconstrued as sinister symbolism. Despite the lack of credible evidence, these interpretations quickly gained traction online.

PizzaGate conspiracy theory, imagined by Midjourney

The broader political context

PizzaGate should be understood within the broader political context of the 2016 U.S. presidential election. This period was marked by intense partisanship and the proliferation of disinformation and fake news, with social media acting as a catalyst. The theory emerged against the backdrop of a highly contentious election, with Hillary Clinton as a polarizing figure. In such a climate, conspiracy theories found fertile ground to grow, particularly among those predisposed to distrust the political establishment.

Impact and aftermath

The most immediate and dangerous impact of PizzaGate was an incident in December 2016, when Edgar Maddison Welch, motivated by the conspiracy theory, fired a rifle inside Comet Ping Pong. Fortunately, there were no injuries. This incident highlighted the real-world consequences of online conspiracy theories and underscored the potential for online rhetoric to inspire violent actions.

In the aftermath, social media platforms faced criticism for allowing the spread of baseless allegations. This led to discussions about the role of these platforms in disseminating fake news and the balance between free speech and the prevention of harm.

Lasting effects

PizzaGate had several lasting effects:

  1. Polarization and distrust: It exacerbated political polarization and distrust towards mainstream media and political figures, particularly among certain segments of the population.
  2. Conspiracy culture: The incident became a significant part of the modern conspiracy culture, linking it to other conspiracy theories and contributing to a growing skepticism of official narratives.
  3. Social media policies: It influenced how social media companies manage content, leading to stricter policies against misinformation and the promotion of conspiracy theories.
  4. Public awareness: On a positive note, it raised public awareness about the dangers of misinformation and the importance of critical thinking in the digital age.
  5. Legitimacy of investigations: The theory, though baseless, led some people to question the legitimacy of genuine investigations into sexual misconduct and abuse, potentially undermining efforts to address these serious issues.

Caveat, Internet

PizzaGate serves as a stark reminder of the power of the internet to spread misinformation and the real-world consequences that can ensue. It reflects the complexities of the digital age, where information, regardless of its veracity, can be disseminated widely and rapidly. As we continue to navigate this landscape, understanding phenomena like PizzaGate becomes crucial in fostering a more informed and discerning online community — as well as thwarting the march of fascism.

Read more

Donald Trump pathocracy, by Midjourney

Pathocracy is a relatively lesser-known concept in political science and psychology, which refers to a system of government in which individuals with personality disorders, particularly those who exhibit psychopathic, narcissistic, and similar traits (i.e. the “evil of Cluster B“), hold significant power. This term was first introduced by Polish psychiatrist Andrzej ลobaczewski in his work “Political Ponerology: A Science on the Nature of Evil Adjusted for Political Purposes.”

The crux of pathocracy lies in the rule by a small pathological minority, which imposes a regime that is damaging to the majority of non-pathological people. The key characteristics of pathocratic leadership include a lack of empathy, a disregard for the rule of law, manipulation, authoritarianism, and often, brutal repression.

Origins and development of the concept of pathocracy

Pathocracy emerges from ลobaczewski’s study of totalitarian regimes, particularly those of Nazi Germany under Adolf Hitler and Communism in the Soviet Union under Joseph Stalin. Born in Poland in 1921, he witnessed the upheaval and transformation of his own country during the horrors of World War II and subsequent Communist occupation.

He suffered greatly to arrive at the insights in his work — arrested and tortured by the Polish authorities under Communist rule, he was unable to publish his magnum opus, the book Political Ponerology, until he escaped to the United States during the 1980s. ลobaczewski spent the rest of his life and career trying to unpack what had happened to him, his community, and his nation — such brutality over such a shockingly short span of time.

ลobaczewski posits that these authoritarian and fascist regimes were not merely politically oppressive, but were also psychologically abnormal. He studied the characteristics of these leaders and their closest supporters, identifying patterns that aligned with known personality disorders. His work also identified a much higher percentage of personality disordered individuals than is still commonly understood, finding that about 7% of the general population could be categorized as severely lacking in empathy and possessing the tendencies — latent or overt — leading to the rise of pathocracy in society.

Characteristics of pathocratic leadership

  • Psychopathy: Leaders in a pathocracy often display traits synonymous with psychopathy, including a lack of empathy, remorse, and shallow emotions.
  • Narcissism: Excessive self-love and a strong sense of entitlement often drive pathocratic rulers.
  • Manipulation: These leaders are adept at manipulation, using deceit and coercion to maintain their power. They also often exhibit other traits and behaviors of emotional predators.
  • Paranoia: A heightened sense of persecution or conspiracy is common, leading to oppressive and authoritarian measures.
  • Corruption: Moral depravity, ethical degeneration, and widespread corruption are endemic in a pathocracy, as pathological leaders tend to surround themselves with similarly affected individuals who feel no shame about performing unethical and/or illegal actions either in secret, or in broad daylight with little fear of retaliation.
Continue reading Pathocracy Definition: Are we in one?
Read more

The special grand jury in Georgia that investigated efforts to overturn the state’s 2020 presidential election results in favor of loser Donald Trump has recommended indictments against 39 individuals, a number significantly higher than the 19 people ultimately charged by prosecutors. Among those recommended for indictment in the Georgia RICO case but who were not charged were South Carolina Sen. Lindsey Graham, former U.S. Senators Kelly Loeffler and David Perdue of Georgia, and former Trump national security adviser Mike Flynn.

The report suggests that Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis exercised discretion in streamlining the case, possibly due to factors like immunity deals, federal protections, or insufficient evidence. The grand jury accused the individuals of various offenses, including racketeering, conspiracy to defraud the state, false statements, perjury, and criminal solicitation to commit election fraud.

39 Georgia co-conspirators recommended for indictment

Rudy Giuliani with a hair dye problem
  1. Rudy GiulianiRudy Giuliani is an American attorney and politician, best known for serving as the Mayor of New York City from 1994 to 2001. He gained national prominence for his leadership during the 9/11 terrorist attacks. Later, he became a personal lawyer to Donald Trump and was involved in various legal challenges related to the 2020 U.S. Presidential election.
  2. John EastmanJohn Eastman is a constitutional law scholar and attorney. He gained attention for advising former President Donald Trump on legal matters, particularly concerning the 2020 election. Eastman has been criticized for promoting theories that questioned the election’s integrity.
  3. Kenneth Chesebro — Kenneth Chesebro is a less-publicized figure, primarily known as a Harvard Law School lecturer. He specializes in legal writing and research, but has not been prominently involved in mainstream political or legal events.
  4. Donald TrumpBusinessman and television personality. His presidency was marked by a polarized political climate, economic highs and lows, and two impeachments. He remains a highly influential figure in American politics.
  5. Cleta MitchellCleta Mitchell is an American lawyer specializing in election law and campaign finance. She gained attention for representing Donald Trump in matters related to the 2020 presidential election and has been a vocal critic of its outcome.
  6. Jenna Ellis — Jenna Ellis is an American attorney and author. She served as a legal advisor to Donald Trump during his presidency and was involved in legal challenges concerning the 2020 election. Ellis is known for her conservative viewpoints.
  7. Mark Meadows — Mark Meadows is an American politician who served as the White House Chief of Staff under Donald Trump. Prior to that, he was a U.S. Representative from North Carolina. Meadows is a founding member of the Freedom Caucus in the House of Representatives.
  8. David Shafer — David Shafer is a Republican politician from Georgia, serving as the Chairman of the Georgia Republican Party. He has been involved in state politics for years and was a vocal supporter of Donald Trump during the 2020 election.
  9. Ray Smith III — Ray Smith is a Georgia-based attorney who gained attention for representing the Trump campaign in legal matters related to the 2020 election in Georgia. He specializes in civil litigation and business law. He is accused of making false claims of election fraud at legislative hearings in December 2020.
  10. Lin Wood — Lin Wood is an American attorney known for high-profile defamation cases. He became a controversial figure for his involvement in legal challenges related to the 2020 U.S. Presidential election and his promotion of conspiracy theories.
  11. Lindsey Graham — Lindsey Graham is a U.S. Senator from South Carolina, serving since 2003. A member of the Republican Party, Graham is known for his conservative stance on issues like national security and his close relationship with Donald Trump.
  12. Sidney PowellSidney Powell is an American attorney and author. She gained national attention for her involvement in legal challenges related to the 2020 presidential election, promoting theories that have been widely discredited.
  13. Robert Cheeley — Robert Cheeley is a Georgia-based attorney specializing in personal injury law. He gained attention for his association with Lin Wood in various legal matters but is not a mainstream political figure. He is accused of making false claims of election fraud at legislative hearings in December 2020.
  14. Mike FlynnMichael Flynn is a retired U.S. Army Lieutenant General who briefly served as National Security Advisor under Donald Trump. He was convicted of lying to the FBI but was later pardoned by Trump.
  15. William Ligon — William Ligon is a Republican politician who serves as a State Senator in Georgia. He gained attention for his efforts to challenge the results of the 2020 presidential election in Georgia.
  16. David Perdue — David Perdue is an American businessman and politician who served as a U.S. Senator from Georgia from 2015 to 2021. A member of the Republican Party, Perdue was a close ally of former President Donald Trump. He lost his re-election bid in the 2021 Georgia runoff to Democrat Jon Ossoff.
  17. Kelly Loeffler — Kelly Loeffler is an American businesswoman and politician who served as a U.S. Senator from Georgia. Appointed in 2019, she lost her seat to Democrat Raphael Warnock in the 2021 Georgia runoff. Loeffler is co-owner of the Atlanta Dream, a WNBA team.
  18. Cathy Latham — A previously lesser known figure in Georgia politics.
  19. Misty Hampton — A previously lesser known figure in Georgia politics.
  20. Scott Hall — A previously lesser known figure in Georgia politics.
  21. Boris Epshteyn — Boris Epshteyn is a Russian-American political strategist and commentator. He served as a special assistant to President Donald Trump and has been a vocal supporter of Trump’s policies.
  22. Jeffrey Clark — Jeff Clark is an American attorney who served as the Assistant Attorney General for the Environment and Natural Resources Division under the Trump administration. He gained attention for his role in Trump’s efforts to overturn the 2020 election results.
  23. Kurt Hilbert — Kurt Hilbert is an American attorney based in Georgia. He gained attention for his involvement in legal challenges related to the 2020 U.S. Presidential election, particularly in Georgia.
  24. Stephen Lee — A previously lesser known figure in Georgia politics.
  25. Trevian Kutti — Trevian Kutti is a public relations consultant who has worked with high-profile clients, including politicians and celebrities. She is not a mainstream political figure but has some influence in the PR world.
  26. Harrison Floyd — Harrison Floyd is a military veteran and political activist. He has been involved in conservative political campaigns and organizations but is not a mainstream political figure.
  27. Alex Kaufman — Alex Kaufman is an American attorney based in Georgia. He specializes in election law and has been involved in various legal matters related to elections, although he is not a widely recognized public figure.
  28. Joseph Brannan — A previously lesser known figure in Georgia politics.
  29. Vikki Consiglio — Vikki Consiglio is a Georgia-based political activist and member of the Republican Party. She has been involved in local politics and grassroots organizing but is not a mainstream political figure.
  30. Carolyn Fisher — A previously lesser known figure in Georgia politics.
  31. Burt Jones — Burt Jones is an American businessman and politician serving as a Republican State Senator in Georgia. He has been in office since 2013 and is known for his conservative stances on issues like healthcare and education. Jones was a vocal supporter of Donald Trump and has been involved in efforts to challenge the 2020 election results in Georgia.
  32. Gloria Godwin — A previously lesser known figure in Georgia politics.
  33. Mark Hennessy — A previously lesser known figure in Georgia politics.
  34. Mark Amick — A previously lesser known figure in Georgia politics.
  35. John Downey — A previously lesser known figure in Georgia politics.
  36. Brad Carver — Brad Carver is an American attorney and political strategist based in Georgia. He is a partner at Hall Booth Smith, P.C., and specializes in governmental affairs. Carver has been involved in Republican politics and has served as a delegate to the Republican National Convention.
  37. Shawn Still — A previously lesser known figure in Georgia politics.
  38. C. B. Yadav — C. B. Yadav is a businessman and community leader based in Georgia. While not a mainstream political figure, Yadav has been involved in local community initiatives and has received recognition for his philanthropic efforts.
  39. Jacki Pick — Jacki Pick is an American attorney and conservative commentator. She has appeared on various media platforms to discuss legal and political issues. Pick is known for her conservative viewpoints and has been a guest speaker at several conservative events.

What is RICO?

Georgia RICO brings racketeering to the fore, by Midjourney

The Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act (RICO) is a U.S. federal law enacted in 1970, designed to combat organized crime. Initially aimed at dismantling the Mafia, RICO has evolved to address a broad range of illegal activities carried out by enterprises, which can include businesses, gangs, and even political organizations. The law targets patterns of racketeering, which may involve activities like money laundering, drug trafficking, and fraud.

In the legal profession, RICO cases are approached with meticulous care due to their complexity. Prosecutors must prove four key elements: the existence of an “enterprise,” a pattern of racketeering activity, a connection between the enterprise and the criminal conduct, and the defendant’s participation in the enterprise through the pattern of racketeering. Establishing a “pattern” usually requires at least two acts of racketeering activity within a 10-year period.

Defense strategies often focus on dismantling one or more of these elements. For instance, they may argue that the alleged activities do not constitute a “pattern” or that the defendant was not sufficiently involved in the enterprise. Given the severe penalties, which can include hefty fines and up to 20 years in prison per racketeering count, both sides often rely on extensive documentation, expert testimonies, and intricate legal arguments.

Trials are usually long-drawn affairs, involving multiple parties and numerous charges. The prosecution may use tools like wiretaps, surveillance, and informants to build their case, while the defense may scrutinize the validity and legality of such evidence. Due to the high stakes, RICO cases are typically handled by attorneys with specialized expertise in this area of law.

TL;DR: RICO is a powerful tool for prosecuting organized criminal activities, but its cases are complex and require a nuanced legal approach.

Read more

The Council for National Policy is a conservative organization founded in 1981 by far-right Republican activists in the U.S. including Paul Weyrich, Richard Viguerie, Phyllis Schlafly, and Tim LaHaye to advance a Christian Right agenda in American politics.

Today, the CNP is enormously influential on the right and almost unknown on the left. Its secretive cabal designs policy for federal and state lawmakers to amplify or parrot, and they dutifully do. Members include a who’s who of the Trumpian rogue gallery, from Steve Bannon and Kellyanne Conway to Mike Pence, Jim Jordan, Cleta Mitchell, and of course, Ginni Thomas.

The CNP gave Mike Flynn an annual award. Then-President Trump spoke at their 2020 annual meeting. That tells you pretty much all you need to know about how dangerous and well-connected this organization is, and how great is the extent of the group’s influence on American politics — and it’s only the tip of the iceberg. Columbia University scholar Anne Nelson describes the primary impact of the group as โ€œconnecting the manpower and media of the Christian right with the finances of Western plutocrats and the strategy of right-wing Republican political operativesโ€ in her excellent book, Shadow Network: Media, Money, and the Secret Hub of the Radical Right.

CNP and the Big Lie

They go to great lengths to conceal their activities, membership rosters, and connections within the corridors of Washington as well as in state legislatures and the judiciary. For more than 40 years the CNP has united the deep pocketbooks of right-wing donors with strategists, media campaigns, and activists. The group was deeply involved in both the efforts to overturn the 2020 election, leading up to and including the January 6 insurrection — from funding and planning to propaganda and “legal” challenges.

The CNP continues to press its narrow, historically revisionist ideas about America, including efforts to influence the 2022 midterm elections and, undoubtedly, the 2024 contest. In the quest to understand this fractious moment of bitter partisanship, the Council for National Policy is one of the secret keys to unlocking the true inner workings of the right-wing political machine.

Read more