political violence

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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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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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.

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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 Łobaczewski 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 Łobaczewski’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. Łobaczewski 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.

Łobaczewski 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?
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September 11, 2001, remains one of the most pivotal days in modern US history — with effects reverberating around the globe. The terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon not only changed global politics but also gave rise to numerous conspiracy theories, many of which persist to this day despite numerous debunkings. These 9/11 conspiracy theories stem from a combination of the event’s unprecedented nature, its immediate global impact, and the numerous subsequent changes in both U.S. and global policies.

9/11 conspiracy theories about the World Trade Center explosions

Top 9/11 conspiracy theories

1. Controlled Demolition of the World Trade Center — One of the most persistent theories is that the Twin Towers fell due to a controlled demolition rather than plane impacts and ensuing fires. Proponents point to the manner of the collapse, the speed at which the buildings fell, and reports of explosions as evidence. However, extensive investigations and reports, including those by the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST), have debunked this, attributing the collapse to fire-induced structural failure.

2. The Pentagon Missile Theory — Another widespread theory suggests that no airplane struck the Pentagon. Instead, proponents argue that a missile caused the explosion and damage. This theory arises from the initial lack of clear video footage showing a plane and the size of the entry hole. However, eyewitness accounts, debris analysis, and further released footage confirm that it was indeed American Airlines Flight 77 that hit the Pentagon.

3. Inside Job — A more disturbing theory suggests that the U.S. government had prior knowledge of the attacks or was even directly involved. This theory is fueled by the Bush administration‘s immediate focus on Iraq and Afghanistan, along with questions about ignored intelligence warnings. However, investigations, including the 9/11 Commission Report, found no evidence of government complicity, though they did highlight intelligence failures.

4. Israeli Involvement — Another theory posits that Israeli agents had foreknowledge of the attacks. This stems from reports of a group of Israelis seen filming the attack and showing apparent foreknowledge. Investigations found these individuals to be Israeli citizens, but no evidence linked them to foreknowledge or involvement in the attacks.

5. No Planes Theory — A more extreme theory asserts that no planes were involved in the attacks, and the impacts we see in footage were computer-generated. This theory ignores the extensive eyewitness accounts, physical evidence, and the sheer implausibility of such a massive orchestration of fake imagery.

6. Stock Market Insider Trading — Before the attacks, an unusual amount of “put” options (bets that a stock will fall) were placed on companies most affected by 9/11, leading to speculation of foreknowledge. Investigations by the Securities and Exchange Commission found no evidence that anyone with advance knowledge of the attacks profited from stock market trades.

7. Hijackers Still Alive — Some conspiracy theorists claim that several of the identified hijackers were found to be alive after the attacks. This confusion arose from mistaken identities and common names. The 9/11 Commission thoroughly vetted the identities of the hijackers, confirming their involvement and deaths in the attacks.

8. NORAD Stand-Down — Another theory suggests that NORAD (North American Aerospace Defense Command) was ordered to stand down on 9/11, preventing an effective military response. This theory misinterprets the chaos and confusion of the day’s events. NORAD and the FAA were unprepared for an event of this nature, leading to delays and miscommunications but not a deliberate stand-down.

9. Phone Calls from the Planes Were Faked — Some theorists argue that the emotional phone calls made by passengers from hijacked planes were fabrications. This theory falls apart under scrutiny, as the calls were well documented and consistent with the known events aboard the flights.

Why so many 9/11 conspiracy theories?

The sheer scale of the tragedy of 9/11, combined with its unforeseen nature and the subsequent geopolitical shifts, created a fertile ground for conspiracy theories. Human psychology plays a role too; in times of great crisis, people often seek complex explanations for catastrophic events. Additionally, the initial confusion, changing narratives, and genuine intelligence oversights contributed to the proliferation of these theories.

While 9/11 conspiracy theories tap into various aspects of doubt and distrust, they have been largely debunked through extensive investigations. Most of the so-called “9/11 Truthers” eventually stopped peddling their swill and moved on to hawking other conspiracy theories. Understanding these theories is useful, not only for historical knowledge but also for protecting oneself from unscrupulous manipulators who tend to come out of the woodwork during times of crisis and uncertainty.

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What are the signs of fascism? And what is fascism? Fascism is a complex and multi-faceted ideology that can manifest in various ways, making it challenging to pin down with a single definition. However, there are certain signs, traits, tactics, and behaviors that are commonly associated with it. Here’s an overview:

Traits

  1. Authoritarianism: Fascism is inherently authoritarian, advocating for a centralized power structure, often under a single charismatic leader.
  2. Nationalism: Extreme nationalism is a hallmark, often coupled with the belief in the inherent superiority of one’s own nation over others — a form of collective narcissism.
  3. Militarism: A strong emphasis on military power and aggression as a means to achieve national objectives is common. Many fascists are former military and/or current militia members.
  4. Anti-Intellectualism: Fascist regimes often distrust intellectuals and experts, preferring emotion and popular sentiment. Railing against the “Eastern elite” is a common refrain.
  5. Xenophobia and Racism: There’s often a strong element of fear or hatred towards outsiders or people considered “different.”
  6. Traditionalism: A romanticized, mythologized view of the past and a desire to return to so-called “traditional” values.
  7. Anti-Communism: A strong opposition to left-wing ideologies, particularly communism and socialism.

Tactics

  1. Propaganda: The use of propaganda to manipulate public opinion is rampant in fascist regimes. Often, conspiracy theories are used to whip up strong emotion quickly.
  2. Suppression of Dissent: Any form of opposition is often met with severe punishment, including imprisonment or even death.
  3. Cult of Personality: Leaders often build a cult of personality around themselves, portraying themselves as the saviors of the nation.
  4. Scapegoating: Blaming societal problems on a particular group, often minorities, to divert attention from real issues. One of the oldest examples is antisemitism.
  5. Control Over Media: The media is often state-controlled or heavily influenced to propagate the regime’s messages.
  6. Political Violence: The use of violence, or the threat thereof, is common to intimidate opposition and enforce policies.

Behaviors and Beliefs

  1. Dogmatic Beliefs: A refusal to consider alternative viewpoints or engage in constructive debate.
  2. Manipulation of History: Rewriting, distorting, or hiding historical facts to suit the regime’s preferred narrative.
  3. Secrecy and Surveillance: A lack of transparency and an emphasis on surveillance to monitor citizens.
  4. Economic Control: Often, there’s a form of state capitalism where the government controls key industries.
  5. Social Darwinism: A belief in the survival of the fittest, often used to justify social inequality.

Identifying a Fascist

Identifying someone as a fascist can be complex due to the ideology’s fluid nature. However, if an individual strongly exhibits many of the traits, tactics, and behaviors listed above, it could be a sign. Fascism is a multi-dimensional ideology that can manifest in various ways but generally includes authoritarianism, extreme nationalism, and a range of tactics aimed at maintaining power. Understanding these signs is crucial for recognizing and combating the rise of fascist ideologies.

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What is fascism? Fascism is a far-right political ideology that emerged in the early 20th century, primarily in Italy under Benito Mussolini. It advocates for a centralized, authoritarian government, often led by a dictatorial figure, and places a strong emphasis on nationalism and, sometimes, racial purity. Fascism rejects liberal democracy, socialism, and communism, instead promoting a form of radical authoritarian ultranationalism. It often involves the suppression of dissent, the glorification of war and violence, and the demonization of perceived enemies, whether they be internal or external.

Historical context of fascism

Fascism gained prominence in the aftermath of World War I, a period marked by social upheaval, economic instability, and a crisis of traditional values. Mussolini’s Italy was the birthplace of fascism, but the ideology found its most extreme and devastating expression in Nazi Germany under Adolf Hitler. The Holocaust, the invasion of multiple countries, and the atrocities committed during World War II, including genocide, are dark chapters directly associated with fascist ideology. After the war, fascism was discredited but not eradicated. Various forms of neo-fascism, far-right, and alt-right ideologies have emerged in different parts of the world, although they often avoid the label of “fascism” due to its historical baggage.

Psychology of adherents

Understanding the psychology of those who adhere to fascist ideologies can be challenging but is crucial for a comprehensive view. Several factors contribute to the appeal of fascism:

  • Social Identity: People often gravitate towards ideologies that offer a strong sense of community and identity. Fascism’s emphasis on nationalism and often ethnocentrism can be attractive to those feeling alienated or marginalized.
  • Economic Insecurity: Fascism often gains traction during times of economic uncertainty. The promise of stability and prosperity can be enticing to those who feel left behind by other political systems.
  • Fear and Prejudice: Fascist ideologies often exploit existing prejudices, whether they be racial (like white nationalism), religious (like Christian nationalism), or otherwise, to create an “us versus them” mentality.
  • Desire for Order: The authoritarian nature of fascism can appeal to those who value social order and are willing to trade off democratic freedoms for promised or perceived safety and stability.
  • Charismatic Leadership: Fascist movements often rely on charismatic leaders who can galvanize public sentiment and offer simplistic solutions to complex problems. So do cults.

What is fascism? Fascism is a far-right ideology that has had a profound impact on global history and continues to exist in various forms today. Its appeal lies in its ability to offer simple solutions to complex problems, often at the expense of individual freedoms and ethical considerations. Understanding the historical and psychological factors that contribute to the rise of fascism is crucial for recognizing and combating it in the modern world — where it is once again on the rise.

Be sure to get familiar with the signs of fascism.

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Fascism is a specific type of authoritarianism. Both are forms of government characterized by tightly centralized power, either under a sole dictatorship / demagogue or a small cadre of rulers — typically of wealthy oligarchs — where rule is absolute and the vast majority of people have little say in policy-making or national events. Identifying authoritarianism vs. fascism isn’t always a clearcut distinction, particularly given that one of the hallmarks of fascism is often that fascist leaders tend to conceal or hide their ideological aims until they achieve power and sometimes even beyond — so as not to alert the public to their true plans until it’s too late for people to fight back.

Under both authoritarianism and fascism, there is little or no political freedom and few (if any) individual rights. Authoritarian governments often use force or coercion to maintain control, dissent is typically suppressed, and political violence is tacitly encouraged so long as it is in support of the ruling regime.

fascists marching in the streets, by Midjourney

Fascism is one type of authoritarian political system

Fascism is a type of authoritarianism with distinct ideological features that emerged in the early 20th century. In addition to the core characteristics of authoritarian government, fascism is typified by extreme nationalism, a belief in the superiority of one’s own race or nation (a form of collective narcissism), and propaganda about both a mythical past and a promised utopian future. The idea of hierarchy is central to fascist mythology, with a core belief in a “natural” social hierarchy that — curiously — must be maintained by force.

Fascist regimes often promote aggressive foreign policies and use violence and intimidation to suppress opposing views. Other key features of fascism include a cult of personality around the leader, a focus on traditional values, and the use of propaganda and disinformation to control public opinion.

Fascist regimes of the 20th century

  1. Italy (1922-1943): Italy was the birthplace of fascism, and under the leadership of Benito Mussolini, it became the first fascist regime in the world. Mussolini and his National Fascist Party came to power in 1922, and ruled Italy as a one-party state until he was deposed in 1943.
  2. Germany (1933-1945): Nazi Germany, led by Adolf Hitler and the National Socialist German Workers’ Party, was a fascist regime that came to power in 1933. The Nazi regime was known for its extreme racism, antisemitism, militarism, and aggressive expansionism, which ultimately led to World War II and the genocide of the Holocaust.
  3. Spain (1939-1975): After a bloody civil war, General Francisco Franco established a fascist dictatorship in Spain in 1939. Franco’s regime was characterized by authoritarianism, repression, and a focus on traditional Catholic values.
  4. Portugal (1932-1974): Portugal was ruled by a fascist regime under the Estado Novo (New State) government, led by Antonio de Oliveira Salazar, from 1932 until 1974. The Estado Novo government was characterized by authoritarianism, nationalism, and corporatism.
  5. Romania (1940-1944): Ion Antonescu, a military dictator and fascist sympathizer, came to power in Romania in 1940. Antonescu’s regime was characterized by anti-Semitism, political repression, and a close alliance with Nazi Germany.
  6. Hungary (1944-1945): Hungary was ruled by a fascist government under Ferenc SzΓ‘lasi and the Arrow Cross Party from 1944 until the end of World War II. The Arrow Cross regime was known for its extreme anti-Semitism and brutality.
Adolf Hitler and Benito Mussolini shaking hands in front of a crowd of soldiers, by Midjourney

The cognitive dissonance of fascist ideology

One of the many things I find problematic about fascism’s core belief system is its insistence on enforcing a “natural” social hierarchy. Personally, I find this to be something I call a “self-evident falsehood” — because if the social hierarchy were really natural, it would not require force to maintain it. It would exist in a state of natural equilibrium that does not require the expenditure of effort.

Applying violence and coercion to a population requires a considerable amount of work, and work comes at a cost — a cost factor that is both an unnecessary waste and a destabilizing force acting on society. Those who claim today in America to be upholding the nation’s “original ideals” would do well to remember the self-evident truths we fought a Revolution over: “that all men are created equal.”

Authoritarian regimes in world history

Authoritarianism is an older and more prevalent form of government than fascism, given its origins over 2000 years ago with the Roman Empire. Some of the most notable authoritarian regimes are as follows:

  1. The Roman Empire (27 BC – 476 AD): The Roman Empire was a vast and powerful empire that was ruled by an authoritarian government, after Julius Caesar overthrew the Roman Republic shortly before the turn of the millennium in 27 BC. After his son Octavian emerged victorious from a series of civil wars that followed, a succession of Roman emperors who had almost unlimited power ruled the Empire, and dissent was often suppressed with violence.
  2. The Mongol Empire (1206-1368): The Mongol Empire was one of the largest empires in history, and it was ruled by a series of authoritarian leaders who conquered and subjugated vast territories across Asia, Europe, and the Middle East — most notably Genghis Khan.
  3. The Ottoman Empire (1299-1922): The Ottoman Empire was a vast and powerful Islamic empire that was ruled by a series of sultans who held absolute power over their subjects.
  4. The Soviet Union (1917-1991): The Soviet Union was a communist state that was ruled by the Communist Party and its leaders, including Joseph Stalin. The Soviet regime was characterized by totalitarianism, repression, and the suppression of political dissent.
  5. China under Mao Zedong (1949-1976): Mao Zedong was the founder of the People’s Republic of China and the leader of the Chinese Communist Party. During his rule, China was transformed into a socialist state, but the regime was also characterized by repression, mass killings, and the suppression of political dissent.
  6. North Korea (1948-present): North Korea is a communist state that is ruled by the Workers’ Party of Korea and its leader, currently Kim Jong-un. The North Korean regime is known for its extreme repression, propaganda, and human rights abuses.
Authoritarian regimes like the Soviet Union, by Midjourney

Learn More:

Essential thinkers on authoritarian personality theory β†—

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

American Fascists & the Global Right β†—

The rise of American fascists and right-wing extremism around the world has been a trend for decades.

Authoritarianism Dictionary β†—

This dictionary of authoritarianism collects definitions and charts the recent resurgence of language, ideology, tactics, and rhetoric of authoritarians in America and around the world.

More posts on fascism.

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Racists tend to see democracy itself as a conspiracy against white people, thanks in large part to the Lost Cause Religion that sprouted up after the South lost the Civil War and had to live with themselves after destroying their economy and stature for immoral ends. Authoritarians tend to get very agitated by diversity and difference. White nationalism is the Venn diagram between these two groups.

White nationalist ideology gained renewed attention in the late 20th and early 21st centuries, often manifesting through hate groups, online forums, and political movements. White nationalists argue for policies that would establish or maintain a white majority in the country, often opposing immigration from non-European countries and advocating for policies that they believe would preserve white culture. These views are widely considered to be based on racial prejudices and are often associated with hate crimes and domestic terrorism.

Prominent white nationalists

With the emergence of the alt-right and neoreaction groups espousing flavors of accelerationism during the Trump era, a host of white nationalists have come out of the closet and said the quiet parts out loud. Here are a few figures to watch out for:

Related to white nationalism

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

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

the global cabal, by me and Midjourney

Structure and origin of global cabal conspiracy theory

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

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

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

The New World Order, by Midjourney

How to deprogram global cabalists

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

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

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

Media echo chamber, by Midjourney

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

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

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

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

Conspiracy theories, by Midjourney

Global cabal conspiracies list

Global cabal is part of a broader category of conspiracy theories, which often involve secret or hidden groups working behind the scenes to control events or manipulate public opinion. While these ideas can be intriguing, they are often unsupported by evidence and can lead to misinformation, great misunderstanding, and even political violence.

Here’s a list of other belief systems that are related to or often associated with global cabal conspiracy theories:

  • The Illuminati: A supposed secret society controlling all world events.
  • New World Order: A proposed authoritarian world government.
  • Nazism: Adolf Hitler‘s ideology of fascism was little more than an appropriation of pre-existing global cabal theory and anti-Semitic blood libel
  • Freemasonry: Often linked to various conspiracy theories, though it’s a legitimate fraternal organization.
  • Bilderberg Group: An annual private conference of influential people, often associated with global control theories.
  • Cultural Marxism: a version of the global cabal conspiracy theory revived from the Nazis by Paul Weyrich and William S. Lind
  • Chemtrails: The belief that aircraft trails contain harmful substances that the government is spraying on the earth for purposes of a top-secret geoengineering program.
  • Area 51: Associated with UFOs and government secrecy.
Area 51 aliens chillin' in the desert in the style of a Hunter S. Thompson acid trip
  • False Flag Operations: The idea that governments stage attacks to manipulate public opinion.
  • MK-Ultra: A real CIA program that has spawned various conspiracy theories.
  • 9/11 Conspiracy Theories: Various theories about the September 11 terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon.
  • Moon Landing Hoax: The belief that the moon landings were faked.
  • Reptilian Elite / Lizard People: The idea that shape-shifting reptilian beings control Earth.
  • HAARP: A research program that has been associated with mind control and weather manipulation theories.
  • Vaccine Conspiracy Theories / Anti-vax movement: Various theories about the hidden dangers of vaccines.
  • Zionist Occupied Government (ZOG): Anti-Semitic theories about Jewish control over governments, and a chosen secret cabal of the anti-government white power movement that flourished in the U.S. after the Vietnam War.
  • Flat Earth Theory: The belief that the Earth is flat, not spherical.
  • Big Pharma Conspiracy: The idea that pharmaceutical companies suppress natural cures.
  • Deep State: The belief in a hidden government within the legitimate government, popularized by Trump.
The Deep State, by Midjourney
  • Satanic Ritual Abuse / Satanic Panic: The belief in widespread satanic ritual abuse, often linked to elite groups.
  • QAnon: A wide-ranging conspiracy theory alleging a secret plot against President Trump. The latest incarnation of the global cabal casts Donald Trump in the role of savior from the shadowy group of Democratic pedophiles who run the country and — via NATO and the UN — the world.
  • PizzaGate: False claims that the Democratic Party was running a child sex trafficking ring out of a DC pizza shop.
  • Crisis Actors: The belief that events like mass shootings are staged with actors.
  • The Great Replacement conspiracy theory: white nationalist variant of the global cabal conspiracy, in which the nefarious plot of the shadowy Elites this time is to dilute the white race by allowing sane immigration policy. This stochastic violence strategy is being waged by Rupert Murdoch‘s Fox News via fish stick-heir Tucker Carlson, resulting in directly named ideological inspiration for some of the most heinous mass murders of our time including the Anders Breivik killing of 77 in Oslo, Norway and the assassination of 10 people, mostly Black, in a Buffalo supermarket the shooter chose for its high percentage of Black people. Great Replacement theory is also known as white genocide conspiracy theory.

Further down the rabbit hole:

Disinformation Dictionary β†—

Disinformation is a practice with a unique Orwellian lexicon all its own, collated in this disinformation dictionary.

disinformation

Why do people believe conspiracy theories? β†—

Our ability to see patterns in randomness and dissemble stories on the spot, along with numerous otherΒ cognitive and psychological biases, make us vulnerable to belief in conspiracy theories.

conspiracy theories

πŸ“š Conspiracy Theory Books πŸ“– β†—

In an increasingly complex world of information bombarding us as blinding speed and high volume, the cognitive appeal of easy answers and turnkey β€œcommunity” may be much stronger than ever before.

Lizard People conspiracy theory
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Oath Keepers

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

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

Ongoing danger of political violence

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

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

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

Key takeaways from the Rhodes verdict

  1. The Impact of the Verdict: The sentencing of Stewart Rhodes could influence any sentence Enrique Tarrio, the former chairman of the far-right Proud Boys group, will face on the same charge later this summer. This case sets a precedent for future cases related to the Jan. 6th attack.
  2. The Role of Rhodes in the Capitol Siege: Despite not entering the Capitol building, Rhodes played a significant role in the events of January 6. His leadership and influence over the Oath Keepers were highlighted during the trial.
  3. The Aftermath of the Assault: The emotional trauma inflicted on the police and congressional staffers present during the assault continues to be felt. The sentencing of Rhodes and Meggs is one important step towards holding those responsible accountable for their actions.
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Freedom is freedom from the fear of death.

Freedom is freedom from fearing you’ll be gunned down at school.

Freedom is freedom from fear your kids won’t come home from school.

Freedom is freedom from fear of going to the grocery store.

Freedom is freedom from senseless violence.

Freedom is freedom from murderous rampages replayed night after night.

Freedom is freedom from domestic warfare.

Freedom is freedom from weapons of warfare in our communities, in our churches, in our schools, in our stores, on our playing fields, on our streets.

Freedom is freedom from injustice.

Freedom is freedom from inaction.

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

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

Democracy vs. Authoritarianism is on the ballot in 2022

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

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

Do we want democracy, or authoritarianism?

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

It’s the only question in 2022.

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

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

Bob Altemeyer The Authoritarians

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

Bob Altemeyer -- The Authoritarians book review

He classifies the authoritarians into three primary groups:

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

More traits of authoritarian followers

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

Authoritarian aggression

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

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

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

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

Lethal Union

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

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

More books about authoritarians

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

More resources on authoritarianism

Essential thinkers on authoritarian personality theory β†—

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

Authoritarianism Dictionary β†—

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

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

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

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Or capital vs. labor, oligarchs vs. plebes, plutocrats vs. proles, rich vs. poor — however you want to narrate it, the property vs. people struggle continues on in new and old ways, each and ere day.

Here in America, the plutocrats have devised many clever methods of hiding the class struggle behind a race war smokescreen, that is both real and manufactured — instigated, exacerbated, agitated by the likes of schlubby wife abusers like Sloppy Steve Bannon, wrinkly old Palpatines like Rupert Murdoch, and shady kleptocrats like Trump and Putin.

The United States has nursed an underground Confederacy slow burning for centuries, for sociopathic demagogues to tap into and rekindle for cheap and dangerous political power. Like The Terminator, racist and supremacist troglodytes seem always to reconstitute themselves into strange and twisted new forms, from slavery to the Black Codes to sharecropping to convict leasing to Jim Crow to Jim Crow 2.0 — the psychopaths want their homeland.

The political left loves people, and our extremists for the most part destroy capital or property that insurance companies will pay to make shiny and new again — unlike the right wing extremists who bomb federal buildings, killing hundreds of people and costing taxpayers’ money to replace.

Meanwhile, the right wing claims to be the righteous party for its extreme fixation on life before birth, yet its regulation-allergic capitalists destroy people and the natural world more broadly, from factory farming to deforestation, the destruction of habitats, strip-mining and other toxic extraction practices, and on into climate change itself. Being in fact the chief architects of manmade atmospheric devastation, they have managed to make themselves invisible from the deed by simply (wink wink!) denying it exists.

WWJD?!

Certainly, not anything the Republican Party is up to. Jesus would be sad.

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