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Photo by Daniel Tafjord on Unsplash

If you want to understand US politics today, you need to understand cults and their mind-control methods. Here, I’ll use the idea of “coalitions of clay” to describe the way some groups are held together by an unstable combination of psychological denial and plausible deniability.

By psychological denial, I mean the “authentically inauthentic” process by which a person becomes genuinely unaware of some reality (at least at points and to some degree) by suppressing it. It happens a lot in abusive relationships, on the side of both the abuser and the abused. It sometimes happens automatically and non-consciously, but it can also be consciously cultivated. Denial is widely trained in the United States as more than a coping mechanism, but as a super-power. Whether we’re talking about its New Agey variants (The Secret) or its business-y variants (power of positive thinking) or its supposedly Christian variants (name it and claim it/“faith” healing/mind-cure), there is no shortage of people who actively coach people in denial as a first principle and ultimate source of power. I imagine the message especially appeals to people who have suffered abuse and who have grown familiar with it as a coping mechanism, which is understandable. There are times and places where some measure of denial helps us survive. But if it is elevated beyond this status, denial quickly becomes a standard tool of cult mind control. NXIVM is in the news lately, and is a fantastic illustration of how the bussiness-y variant of denial, elevated to the level of a first principle, was used to create a truly abusive sex cult. It isn’t difficult to do and it doesn’t require particularly deep insight into human nature, even if non-psychopaths find it hard to believe that psychopaths are able and willing to wield it so destructively and ruthlessly against people. …


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Photo by Meghan Hessler on Unsplash

I think the US is potentially going through a deep political re-alignment right now, especially if Trump and Trumpists don’t end up being prosecuted effectively. The issue here is just the reverse of what happened in the courts with Trump’s election fraud claims: one of the most salient things to point to, in terms of US public life, is that Trump’s efforts collapsed completely in court. (It also doesn’t hurt that people like his communications director are admitting they all knew it was all lies.)

The US needs good prosecutors who can hold Trump legally accountable once he is out of office. Plenty of Trumpists will scream bloody murder if this happens, but others will defect if and when Trump finally faces serious legal repercussions for at least some of his many apparent crimes. …


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Photo by ev on Unsplash

One thing that the US Capital attack on 1/6 can help teach us is why “diversity of tactics” (a euphemism for campaigns that embrace both violence and non-violence, where convenient) is both bad and dumb.

I first encountered the concept of “diversity of tactics” among white anarchist kids during the anti-corporate-globalization movement. There, the debate was largely about whether property destruction is violence at all. Unlike the recent attacks on the US Capitol, nobody was planning things like kidnapping or murder. Still, “diversity of tactics” stood for the idea that it was tactically optimal to have some level of mayhem and destruction in the mix (for some reason), and that those who advocated strict non-violence were basically weak, soft sell-outs. …


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Photo by Matthew T Rader on Unsplash

The other night I had a long conversation with Katie about the use of the term “Banana Republic” in statements like this one: “This isn’t us. This is Banana Republic stuff, not what happens in the United States of America.”

She was disturbed by it and read up on the history of the term, and we talked about what is so wrong with this.

To condense a lot of reflection into a nutshell, the issue is that when someone says this, painful truths are suppressed by this strange and dysfunctional “other kind of country” that has nothing to do with us. This is what I hear when someone says this, but I’m pretty sure they don’t hear it at all: “This isn’t us. This is what happens in the countries that we turn into our plantations. …


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Photo by Andy Feliciotti on Unsplash

This year on Epiphany, the US had a moment that was even more apocalyptic than I was expecting. Apocalyptic doesn’t mean “the end of space-time”. It refers to concealed things becoming clear. Hidden things unveiled.

The events of Epiphany this year revealed the fruit of a particular pattern of power-building that has been with humans throughout recorded history. This pattern involves slander, mafia-style loyalty tests, harsh punishments and recriminations, the pleasures of solidarity (even if only imagined) with the powerful and rich, the hatred of enemies, and the avoidance of truth-seeking reconciliation practices. What does this pattern create? …


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Photo by Ricardo Gomez Angel on Unsplash

Before I saw the Confederate battle flag flying over yesterday’s attack on the US capitol, I was confident that I would find it there. Trump’s entire effort to de-legitimize the votes of cities where many traditionally black-caste Americans live has a terribly familiar ring to it.

I’m not the only one who can see the neo-Confederate stamp on this movement as plain as we all saw that hateful symbol outside of the Senate yesterday. You can ask Senator Lindsey Graham, who until last night was carrying a lot of water for Trump’s attempt to revive the specter of the Confederacy. …


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Photo by Filip Bunkens on Unsplash

Parody packs a double punch, especially when it passes for the real thing. Especially these days, I don’t think we can understand parody without understanding both intentional and unintentional self-parody.

1. Parody Powerfully Discourages Parodied Behavior

On the front end, parody makes something laughable and embarrassing, and so it drives people away from it. Basically, it is a way of saying, “Don’t do that” because “that” (whatever is parodied) is so embarrassing that you should stay very far from it.

For example, I remember the excruciating feeling of watching the British Office while working as a manager, and wondering at every turn if I had ever acted anything at all like David Brent. This was especially powerful because David Brent was played as such a stone cold self-parody. It was brutal. …


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Photo by S Turby on Unsplash

Wars always involve lots of people lining up to die for lies.

I’ve always wanted to understand how that could happen. Now, as I look at the people who are saying they’ll die to keep Trump in office where he rightfully belongs, I understand. This is what men, especially the most manly man’s men, are into. They want to display their strength and nobility so badly that, if no one offers them the option, they’ll line up behind whatever huckster tells them they have something noble for them to die for.

I think that rather than criticize the underlying willingness to die for something noble, the transformative thing is to introduce these men to the non-violent cross. To say that Jesus is Lord means that there’s only one truly noble type of death that suits a manly man’s man, if it comes to that, and it is a non-violent one in which we say of our killers, “God forgive them. …


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Now this tastese like urinal cakes. Photo by Karly Gomez on Unsplash

I’d love to compare notes and stories with other people on Medium who are experiencing parosmia, a long term effect of COVID-19 on some people that is usually very unpleasant.

I developed what I call a “COVID” flavor a couple of months ago, a few months after having COVID. For me, it tastes like “urinal cakes”, the weird, artificial, kind of fruity little biscuits that they put in urinals and sometimes in public toilets.

Yes, everyone asks me how I know what urinal cakes taste like. …


Understanding the Biblical figure of Satan helps us effectively oppose abusive manipulation built on slander

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Photo by Jon Tyson on Unsplash

It is tough to use the category of “satanic” to discuss our world, because to a lot of people it makes you sound like a crazy person. The reaction is understandable. People who complain about satanic influence might just be suffering from paranoid delusions. Here I want to use the language to help us do just the opposite: we will use it to help us dispel the power of paranoid delusions.

Regardless of your opinions about religion, understanding the figure of Satan in the Bible can help you recognize, understand, and effectively oppose the use of slander to control people.

About

Daniel Heck

Community Organizer. Enemy Lover. Pastor. Practices honest, serious, loving and fun discourse. (Yes, still just practicing.) Author of According to Folly, etc.

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