propaganda

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

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

False claims of national origin

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

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

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

Dictionary of Christian nationalism terms

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

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

See also: A list of Christian nationalists

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Climate Change Denial: From Big Tobacco Tactics to Today’s Global Challenge

In the complex narrative of global climate change, one pervasive thread is the phenomenon of climate change denial. This denial isn’t just a refusal to accept the scientific findings around climate change; it is a systematic effort to discredit and cast doubt on environmental realities and the need for urgent action.

Remarkably, the roots of this denial can be traced back to the strategies used by the tobacco industry in the mid-20th century to obfuscate the link between smoking and lung cancer. This companies conspired to create a disinformation campaign against the growing scientific consensus on the manmade nature of climate change, to cast doubt about the link between the burning of fossil fuels and the destruction of the planet’s natural ecosystems — and they succeeded, for over half a century, beginning in 1953.

climate change and its denial, by Midjourney

Origins in big tobacco’s playbook

The origins of climate change denial lie in a well-oiled, public relations machine initially designed by the tobacco industry. When scientific studies began linking smoking to lung cancer in the 1950s, tobacco companies launched an extensive campaign to challenge these findings. Their strategy was not to disprove the science outright but to sow seeds of doubt, suggesting that the research was not conclusive and that more studies were needed. This strategy of manufacturing doubt proved effective in delaying regulatory and public action against tobacco products, for more than 5 decades.

Adoption by climate change deniers

This playbook was later adopted by those seeking to undermine climate science. In the late 20th century, as scientific consensus grew around the human impact on global warming, industries and political groups with a vested interest in maintaining the status quo began to employ similar tactics around lying at scale. They funded research to challenge or undermine climate science, supported think tanks and lobbyists to influence public opinion and policy, and used media outlets to spread a narrative of uncertainty and skepticism.

Political consequences

The political consequences of climate change denial have been profound. In the United States and other countries, it has polarized the political debate over environmental policy, turning what is fundamentally a scientific issue into a partisan one. This politicization has hindered comprehensive national and global policies to combat climate change, as legislative efforts are often stalled by ideological conflicts.

a burning forest of climate change, by Midjourney

Denial campaigns have also influenced public opinion, creating a significant segment of the population that is skeptical of climate science years after overwhelming scientific consensus has been reached, which further complicates efforts to implement wide-ranging environmental reforms.

Current stakes and global impact

Today, the stakes of climate change denial could not be higher. As the world faces increasingly severe consequences of global warming โ€” including extreme weather events, rising sea levels, and disruptions to ecosystems โ€” the need for decisive action becomes more urgent. Yet, climate change denial continues to impede progress. By casting doubt on scientific consensus, it hampers efforts to build the broad public support necessary for bold environmental policies that may help thwart or mitigate some of the worst disasters.

Moreover, climate change denial poses a significant risk to developing countries, which are often the most vulnerable to climate impacts but the least equipped to adapt. Denialism in wealthier nations can lead to a lack of global cooperation and support needed to address these challenges comprehensively.

Moving forward: acknowledging the science and embracing action

To effectively combat climate change, it is crucial to recognize the roots and ramifications of climate change denial. Understanding its origins in the Big Tobacco disinformation strategy helps demystify the tactics used to undermine environmental science. It’s equally important to acknowledge the role of political and economic interests in perpetuating this denial — oil tycoon Charles Koch alone spends almost $1 billion per election cycle, heavily to climate deniers.

A climate change desert, by Midjourney

However, there is a growing global movement acknowledging the reality of climate change and the need for urgent action. From international agreements like the Paris Accord to grassroots activism pushing for change, there is a mounting push against the tide of denial.

Climate change denial, with its roots in the Big Tobacco playbook, poses a significant obstacle to global efforts to address environmental challenges. Its political ramifications have stalled critical policy initiatives, and its ongoing impact threatens global cooperation. As we face the increasing urgency of climate change, acknowledging and countering this denial is crucial for paving the way towards a more sustainable and resilient future.

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Deep fakes, a term derived from “deep learning” (a subset of AI) and “fake,” refer to highly realistic, AI-generated digital forgeries of real human beings. These sophisticated imitations can be videos, images, or audio clips where the person appears to say or do things they never actually did.

The core technology behind deep fakes is based on machine learning and neural network algorithms. Two competing AI systems work in tandem: one generates the fake content, while the other attempts to detect the forgeries. Over time, as the detection system identifies flaws, the generator learns from these mistakes, leading to increasingly convincing fakes.

Deep fakes in politics

However, as the technology has become more accessible, it’s been used for various purposes, not all of them benign. In the political realm, deep fakes have a potential for significant impact. They’ve been used to create false narratives or manipulate existing footage, making it appear as though a public figure has said or done something controversial or scandalous. This can be particularly damaging in democratic societies, where public opinion heavily influences political outcomes. Conversely, in autocracies, deep fakes can be a tool for propaganda or to discredit opposition figures.

How to identify deep fakes

Identifying deep fakes can be challenging, but there are signs to look out for:

  1. Facial discrepancies: Imperfections in the face-swapping process can result in blurred or fuzzy areas, especially where the face meets the neck and hair. Look for any anomalies in facial expressions or movements that don’t seem natural.
  2. Inconsistent lighting and shadows: AI can struggle to replicate the way light interacts with physical objects. If the lighting or shadows on the face don’t match the surroundings, it could be a sign of manipulation.
  3. Audiovisual mismatches: Often, the audio does not perfectly sync with the video in a deep fake. Watch for delays or mismatches between spoken words and lip movements.
  4. Unusual blinking and breathing patterns: AI can struggle to accurately mimic natural blinking and breathing, leading to unnatural patterns.
  5. Contextual anomalies: Sometimes, the content of the video or the actions of the person can be a giveaway. If it seems out of character or contextually odd, it could be fake.

In democratic societies, the misuse of deep fakes can erode public trust in media, manipulate electoral processes, and increase political polarization. Fake videos can quickly spread disinformation and misinformation, influencing public opinion and voting behavior. Moreover, they can be used to discredit political opponents with false accusations or fabricated scandals.

In autocracies, deep fakes can be a potent tool for state propaganda. Governments can use them to create a false image of stability, prosperity, or unity, or conversely, to produce disinformation campaigns against perceived enemies, both foreign and domestic. This can lead to the suppression of dissent and the manipulation of public perception to support the regime.

Deep fakes with Donald Trump, by Midjourney

Response to deep fakes

The response to the threat posed by deep fakes has been multifaceted. Social media platforms and news organizations are increasingly using AI-based tools to detect and flag deep fakes. There’s also a growing emphasis on digital literacy, teaching the public to critically evaluate the content they consume.

Legal frameworks are evolving to address the malicious use of deep fakes. Some countries are considering legislation that would criminalize the creation and distribution of harmful deep fakes, especially those targeting individuals or designed to interfere in elections.

While deep fakes represent a remarkable technological advancement, they also pose a significant threat to the integrity of information and democratic processes. As this technology evolves, so must our ability to detect and respond to these forgeries. It’s crucial for both individuals and institutions to stay informed and vigilant against the potential abuses of deep fakes, particularly in the political domain. As we continue to navigate the digital age, the balance between leveraging AI for innovation and safeguarding against its misuse remains a key challenge.

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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 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?
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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 โ†—

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

disinformation

Why do people believe conspiracy theories? โ†—

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

conspiracy theories

๐Ÿ“š Conspiracy Theory Books ๐Ÿ“– โ†—

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

Lizard People conspiracy theory
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Propaganda is a form of communication that aims to influence people’s beliefs, attitudes, or behaviors towards a particular cause, idea, or ideology. It involves the use of persuasive techniques to shape public opinion and to create a favorable image of a person, group, or organization, while discrediting or demonizing its opponents.

Propaganda can take many different forms, including posters, speeches, films, radio broadcasts, social media posts, and news articles. It can be used for political, social, religious, or commercial purposes, and it is often associated with authoritarian regimes or totalitarian societies.

One of the key characteristics of propaganda is its use of emotional appeals, rather than rational arguments, to sway people’s opinions. Propagandists often appeal to people’s fears, hopes, bigotries, or prejudices, and use catchy slogans, symbols, or images to make their message more memorable and persuasive. They may also use repetition, exaggeration, or distortion of facts to reinforce their message and to create a sense of urgency or crisis.

Disinformation at scale

Another key feature of propaganda is its use of selective or biased information to support its claims and to discredit opposing views. Propagandists may use half-truths, rumors, lies, or Big Lies to create a false or misleading picture of the situation, and to manipulate people’s perceptions of reality. They may also use censorship or propaganda techniques such as suppression of dissent, demonization of opponents, or use of fear to create a chilling climate of fear and intimidation.

Propaganda can also be used to create a sense of unity or identity among a group of people, by emphasizing their shared values, beliefs, or interests, and by portraying outsiders or enemies as a threat to their well-being. Propaganda can thus be used to mobilize people for a common cause, such as a war or a political campaign, or to reinforce existing social norms and values.

However, propaganda can also have negative consequences, such as creating divisions, fostering hatred, or suppressing dissent. It can lead to the dehumanization of other groups or individuals, and to the justification of violence or discrimination. Propaganda can also undermine democracy by limiting people’s access to accurate information and by creating a distorted view of reality.

To resist propaganda, it is important to be critical of the messages we receive, to question the sources and motives of the information, and to seek out alternative perspectives and sources of information. We should also be aware of our own biases and prejudices, and strive to be open-minded and tolerant of different opinions and viewpoints.

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Dark money refers to political spending by organizations that are not required to disclose their donors or how much money they spend. This allows wealthy individuals and special interest groups to secretly fund political campaigns and influence elections without transparency or accountability.

The term “dark money” gained prominence after the 2010 Supreme Court decision in Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission. In that case, the Court ruled that corporations and unions could spend unlimited amounts of money on political campaigns, as long as the spending was not coordinated with a candidate’s campaign.

This decision opened the floodgates for massive amounts of dark money to flow into political campaigns, often with no way for the public to know who was behind it. Dark money can come from a variety of sources, including wealthy individuals, corporations, trade associations, and non-profit organizations.

Hidden donors

Non-profit organizations, in particular, have become a popular way for donors to hide their political contributions. These organizations can operate under section 501(c)(4) of the tax code, which allows them to engage in some political activity as long as it is not their primary purpose. These groups are not required to disclose their donors, which means that wealthy individuals and corporations can funnel unlimited amounts of money into political campaigns without anyone knowing where the money came from.

Another way that dark money is used in politics is through “shell corporations.” These are companies that exist solely to make political donations and are often set up specifically to hide the identity of the true donor. For example, a wealthy individual could set up a shell corporation and then use that corporation to donate to a political campaign. Because the corporation is listed as the donor, the individual’s name does not appear on any public disclosure forms.

The money can be used to run ads, create content and propaganda, fund opposition research, pay armadas of PR people, send direct mail, lobby Congress, hire social media influencers, and many other powerful marketing strategies to reach and court voters.

These practices erode at the foundations of representative democracy, and the kind of government the Founders had in mind. One is free to vote for who one wishes, and to advocate for who ones wishes to hold power, but one has no Constitutional right to anonymity when doing so. It infringes on others peoples’ rights as well — the right to representative and transparent government.

Dark money impact

Dark money can have a significant impact on elections and public policy. Because the source of the money is not known, candidates and elected officials may be influenced by the interests of the donors rather than the needs of their constituents. This can lead to policies that benefit wealthy donors and special interest groups rather than the broader public.

There have been some efforts to increase transparency around dark money. For example, the DISCLOSE Act, which has been introduced in Congress several times since 2010, would require organizations that spend money on political campaigns to disclose their donors (the acronym stands for “Democracy Is Strengthened by Casting Light On Spending in Elections”). However, these efforts have been met with resistance from groups that benefit from the lack of transparency — who, somewhat ironically, have been using their influence with the Republican Party to make sure the GOP opposes the bill and prevents it from passing, or even coming up for a vote at all.

In addition to the impact on elections and policy, dark money can also undermine public trust in government. When voters feel that their voices are being drowned out by the interests of wealthy donors and special interest groups, they may become disillusioned with the political process and less likely to participate.

Overall, dark money is a significant problem in American politics. The lack of transparency and accountability around political spending allows wealthy individuals and special interest groups to wield undue influence over elections and policy. To address this problem, it will be important to increase transparency around political spending and reduce the influence of money in politics.

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The Big Lie about the 2020 Election was hardly the first or even the Biggest of the Big Lies in American history — fomented in vast majority by the right wing. Call it a personality trait, an ideology, or perhaps a financial preference — but Republicans seem to lean towards the disingenuous end of the truth scale.

What are Big Lies?

A Big Lie refers to a propaganda technique that involves repeating a falsehood or exaggeration so frequently and convincingly that people begin to accept it as truth. The term was popularized by Adolf Hitler in his book Mein Kampf, where he wrote that propaganda must be based on a “big lie” because people are counterintuitively more likely to believe a colossal falsehood than a small one because of its sheer audacity.

The technique of the Big Lie is often used by authoritarian leaders, political parties, and movements to manipulate public opinion and gain power. It relies on the psychological phenomenon known as the “illusory truth effect,” which suggests that people are more likely to believe something if they hear it repeatedly. Ironically, even a debunking of the Big Lie can contribute to the illusory truth effect by keeping the content of the falsehood top of mind in the eye of the believer.

Examples of Big Lies

Examples of the Big Lie include the claim that the 2020 US presidential election was stolen from former President Donald Trump, the false assertion that vaccines cause autism, and the Nazi propaganda (blood libel and global cabal theory, among other hateful ideologies) that blamed Germany’s problems on the Jewish people, scapegoating them unfairly and setting up a justification for the horrific murder at scale known as the Holocaust.

The danger of the Big Lie is that it can lead to widespread disinformation, polarization and hyper partisanship, and even violence. It is essential to fact-check claims and resist the impulse to accept information at face value. Instead, critical thinking, fact-checking, and seeking out multiple sources of information can help individuals and society avoid falling prey to the Big Lie.

The following table is a compendium of GOP Big Lies known so far.

MythDefinition
"Antifa did it"This is a pre-planned "reusable" false narrative for right-wing extremist actions. It's a ready-made "false false flag" conspiracy for repeated deployment as white supremacists and homegrown extremists ratchet up the level of political violence.
"government overreach"When Democrats pass a law that Republicans don't like
"Makers and takers"
"National security party"
"Quality" of votes
2nd Amendment"We can't do anything about guns because 2A" (and also because NRA) + "Democrats are coming to take our guns!"
Abu Ghraib
American DreamThey inverted it away from a sense of social justice and equal opportunity (self-governance) to simply embody the venal pursuit of money.
America FirstInvoked by right-wing propaganda campaigns over the past century, starting with Charles Lindbergh in 1939 through to Reagan (1980s), and again with lazy plagiarizing Donnie
American Exceptionalism
Anti-gay
Anti-immigrant
Anti-TaxWhat do you get for the billionaire who has everything? Tax policy.
Be Best
Black and white thinkingLabel anything slightly left of center as socialism or Communism
Blacks are commies
Cancel culture
Christian nationalism
Cities are bad
Climate change is a hoax
Coastal elites
Communists
Confederate statues
Conscience voters
Corporate liberalsAnti-Semitic throwback with a modern twist
Covid is a hoax; covid is overblown
Covid is no big deal
Crime
crisis actor
Critical Race Theory
Cry more, lib
Democrats are Satanic
Drain the SwampRather than rid Washington of its layers of corrupt supplicants as he had promised on the campaign trail, he invited all of his cronies in to benefit from the greatest expansion of corrupt graft under any President we know of thus far.
Economic superiority
Election integrityVoter suppression
elites should rule others
Elite resentment
Enemy of the people
Flawed savior
Free speech
Freedom of religion
George SorosHungarian billionaire whose liberal politics irritate Vladimir Putin.
Government is the enemyThe Reagan-flavored twist on drowning government in the bathtub
Government spendingBlack and white thinking: "all govt spending is bad" (except military)
Great Man theory
Guantanamo Bay
Heroic redeemerThis singular leader who saves the nation has a mystical connection with his people and takes the nation out of all time
HollywoodPart of an "excuse framework" to ignore or dismiss something, by smearing it with vague "Hollywoodness." A cue to tune out and discredit the source. Prominent in the Qanon ideology.
Identity politicsThe right are the ones who often insist on identity politics...
Insults
Jim Crow
Job creatorsRepublicans claim their system of trickle down economics produces jobs and growth, but it inhibits both as compared to a less extreme approach.
Kyle Rittenhouse deification
Law and order"White people should fear Black people, and support other white people who fear Black people (or brown, or women, or gays, or trans, or immigrants, whatever is the hatred du jour)"
Leftist apocalypse
LiberalsIt's like Russia recycled the Greatest Hits of Cold War Lingo and piped it in through every orifice starting (at least) during the 2016 election cycle.
Lost CauseAn American mythology manufactured after the Civil War by the Confederates, to soothe their wounds from the loss and whitewash the role of slavery in fomenting their sedition. In the Reconstruction era and beyond, the retcon held that "states' rights" had animated the southern states to secede from the union when in fact, the bitter contest had been inarguably about whether or not the peculiar institution was to continue in the new nation.
MAGA
Marxism
minority rule
Mueller Report
MuzzledSaying "I'm muzzled!" means "I can't talk openly about how much I hate certain types of people!"
National debtSuddenly out of nowhere (aka, when a Democrat comes to town), the national debt is a pressing problem.
Nostalgiathe role of nostalgia in fascist politics is to harness people's strong emotions to the central tenets of the ideology:* authoritarianism* hierarchy* purity* struggle
Personal responsibility
Poll taxes
Pro-life
QAnon
Racism"We're not racists and it's racist to call us racist, you racist."
Reaganomics
Refuse to recognize the legitimacy of one's opponentQuestion the use of legitimate authority for spurious or unsubstantiated allegations, to create the appearance of impropriety even if there is none.
Religious freedom
Run the country like a business
Sadism
silent majorityLoudly extremist minority
small government1) Grab resources 2) Privatize government functions 3) Cheat 4) Crime
Social Justice Warriors
SocialismAnything Democrats do or want to do is socialist and/or communist
States' rightsA dog whistle for first whitewashing the reasons for the Civil War, and later to rationalize defense of segregation
The Big Lie
The Civil War wasn't about slavery
The New Deal was bad for America
The Swamp...corruption?!
Trickle down economics
Trump "says it like it is"They mean that he agrees with them about saying the racist, sexist, or X-ist quiet parts out loud
Uberman
Venezuelaa dog whistle for socialism
Voting is a privilege, not a right
War on Christmas
Warmongers
Welfare queens
WMDs
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