Trumpism part two









The New Republic

December 14, 2018


Escape From The Trump Cult


Millions of Americans are blindly devoted to their
Dear Leader. What will it take for them to snap out of it?


By Alexander Hurst


On December 20, 1954, some 62 years before Donald Trump would be sworn in as president of the United States, Dorothy Martin and dozens of her followers crowded into her home in Chicago to await the apocalypse. The group believed that Martin, a housewife, had received a message from a planet named Clarion that the world would end in a great flood beginning at midnight, and that they, the faithful, would be rescued by an alien spacecraft.


Unbeknownst to the other “Seekers,” three of their group—Leon Festinger, Henry Riecken, and Stanley Schachter—were not there to be saved, but to observe. Psychologists from elite institutions, they had infiltrated the pseudo-cult to study Festinger’s recently elaborated theory of “cognitive dissonance.” The theory predicted that when people with strongly held beliefs were presented with contrary evidence, rather than change their minds they would seek comfort and “cognitive consonance” by convincing others to support their erroneous views.


Festinger’s prediction was right. When neither the apocalypse nor the UFO arrived, the group began proselytizing about how God had rewarded the Earth with salvation because of their vigil. His subsequent book, When Prophecy Fails, became a standard sociology reference for examining cognitive dissonance, religious prophecy, and cult-like behavior. What the three researchers probably never predicted, though, was that over half a century later Festinger’s theory would be applicable to roughly 25 percent of the population of the United States and one of its two major political parties. Nor could they have foreseen that the country’s salvation might well depend on its ability to deprogram the Trump cult’s acolytes—an effort that would require a level of sympathetic engagement on the part of nonbelievers that they have yet to display.





Personality cults are a hallmark of populist-autocratic politics. The names of the various leaders are practically synonymous with their movements: Le Pen, Farage, Duterte, Orbán, Erdogan, Chávez, Bolsonaro, Putin. Or if we were to dip farther back into history: Castro, Franco, Mussolini, Hitler, Stalin. Like religious cult leaders, demagogues understand the importance of setting up an in-group/out-group dynamic as a means of establishing their followers’ identity as members of a besieged collective.


Trump, like the populist authoritarians before and around him, has also understood (or, at least, instinctually grasped) how indispensable his own individual persona is to his ultimate goal of grasping and maintaining power. Amidst his string of business failures, Trump’s singular talent has been that of any con man: the incredible ability to cultivate a public image. Of course, Trump did not build his cult of followers—his in-group—ex nihilo; in many ways, the stage was set for his entrance. America had already split into two political identities by the time he announced his campaign for president in 2015, not just in terms of the information we consume, but down to the brands we prefer and the stores we frequent. And so with particularly American bombast and a reality TV star’s penchant for manipulating the media, Trump tore pages from the us-against-them playbook of the European far right and presented them to a segment of the American public already primed to receive it with religious fervor.


In an interview with Pacific Standard, Janja Lalich, a sociologist who specializes in cults, identified four characteristics of a totalistic cult and applied them to Trumpism: an all-encompassing belief system, extreme devotion to the leader, reluctance to acknowledge criticism of the group or its leader, and a disdain for nonmembers. Eileen Barker, another sociologist of cults, has written that, together, cult leaders and followers create and maintain their movement by proclaiming shared beliefs and identifying themselves as a distinguishable unit; behaving in ways that reinforce the group as a social entity, like closing themselves off to conflicting information; and stoking division and fear of enemies, real or perceived.


Does Trump tick off the boxes? The hatchet job he has made of Republican ideology and the sway he holds over what is now his party suggest he does not lack for devotion. His nearly 90 percent approval rating among Republicans is the more remarkable for his having shifted Republican views on a range of issues, from trade, to NATO, to Putin, to even the NFL. Then there are the endless rallies that smack of a noxious sort of revivalism, complete with a loyalty “pledge” during the 2016 campaign; a steady stream of sycophantic fealty (at least in public) from aides in the administration and its congressional Republican allies; and an almost universal unwillingness by Republican congressional leadership to check or thwart Trump’s worst instincts in any substantive way.


As for disdain, or disgust even, for nonmembers, who include “globalists,” immigrants, urbanites, Muslims, Jews, and people of color? “I suppose that Old Man Trump knows just how much racial hate / He stirred up that bloodroot of human hearts,” Woody Guthrie sang in 1950 about Fred Trump’s discriminatory housing practices. Those words could just as easily apply to Fred’s son Donald, as The New York Times details, about his birtherism, his view that dark-skinned immigrants come from “shithole countries,” his frequent classification of black people as uppity and ungrateful, his denigration of Native Americans, his incorporation of white nationalist thought into his administration, his equivocation over neo-Nazis. The “lock her up!” chants of his rallies are less about Hillary Clinton individually, and more about who belongs and who doesn’t, and what place exists for those who don’t. In perhaps the pettiest form of their disdain, Trump’s supporters engage in “rolling coal”—the practice of tricking out diesel engines to send huge plumes of smoke into the atmosphere—to “own the libs.”


Trump sold his believers an engrossing tale of “American carnage” that he alone could fix, then isolated them in a media universe where reality exists only through Trump-tinted glasses, attacking all other sources of information as “fake news.” In the most polarized media landscape in the wealthy world, Republicans place their trust almost solely in Fox News, seeing nearly all other outlets as biased. In that context, the effect of a president who lies an average of ten times a day is the total blurring of fact and fiction, reality and myth, trust and cynicism. It is a world where, in the words of Rudy Giuliani, truth is no longer truth. “Who could really know?” Trump said of claims that Saudi prince Mohammed bin Salman had ordered the murder of the journalist Jamal Khashoggi. “It is what it is.”


Reason rarely defeats emotion—or, as Catherine Fieschi, an expert on political extremism, told me, gut instinct. If it did, right-wing populist movements from Brexit to Bolsonaro would be on the retreat, not in the advance. Those caught in the web of Trumpism do not see the deception that surrounds them. And if scandals too numerous to list have not dented faith in Trump, those holding out for an apocalyptic moment of reckoning that suddenly drops the curtain—the Russia investigation, or his taxes—will only be disappointed. In all likelihood, the idea that Trump is a crook has been “priced in.”


When presented with his actual record, which has often fallen short of what he promised on the campaign trail, Trump supporters time and again have displayed either disbelief or indifference. As a Trump supporter explicitly stated in reference to the president’s many, many lies, “I don’t care if he sprouts a third dick up there.” What actually is doesn’t matter; what does is that Trump reflects back to his supporters a general feeling of what ought to be, a general truthiness in their guts.


Amidst the frenetic pace of disgrace and outrage, Trump’s support remains stable among too large a chunk of the American public to just ignore. Trump, who insisted on the presence of voter fraud by the millions in an election he ultimately won, and a coterie of prominent Republicans spent the week after the 2018 midterms delegitimizing the very notion of counting all the votes in key races in Florida, Georgia, and Arizona. Trump’s claim that he could shoot someone in the middle of Fifth Avenue and still retain the loyalty of his followers is jokingly referred to as the truest thing he’s ever said, but it’s less funny that 52 percent of them would hypothetically support postponing the 2020 election if he proposed it. What happens when a man who has already promoted political violence, and whose most hardcore supporters have shown their willingness for such violence, finds on election night two years from now that he has just narrowly lost? Do any of us truly believe that Donald J. Trump and his followers will simply slink away quietly into the night?


So, how do we get those caught up in the cult of Trump to leave it?





Daryl Davis has played the blues for over 30 years, including with the likes of Chuck Berry and Jerry Lee Lewis. He’s also spent 30 years talking to Klansmen, over 200 of whom have quit the KKK as a result of their conversations, handing over their robes to Davis—who is black. “When two enemies are talking, they’re not fighting,” Davis told NPR in 2017. “I didn’t convert anybody,” he explained. “They saw the light and converted themselves.”


Davis’s success is more than a cute, feel-good story. It involved the real-world application of techniques that scholars advocate employing to help individuals leave cults. A 2011 study by the RAND Corporation concluded that, “Factors associated with leaving street gangs, religious cults, right-wing extremist groups, and organized crime groups” included positive social ties and an organic disillusionment with the group’s beliefs or ideology. As psychologists Rod and Linda Dubrow-Marshall write in The Conversation, it’s extremely difficult for people to admit they are wrong, and it’s crucial for them to arrive at that realization on their own.


The debate over how to deal with Trump’s anti-democratic following has largely avoided the question of engaging it directly. These days there is no shortage of articles and books dealing with radical-right populism, despots, democratic backsliding, and the tactics that authoritarian leaders deploy. Dozens of experts have pointed out that liberal democratic institutions need constant attention and reinforcement in order to be effective bulwarks. But most of the solutions on offer are institutional in nature: maintaining the independence of the judiciary, thwarting a would-be autocrat’s attempts to grab hold of the levers of justice, maintaining a legislative check on executive authority, enshrining political norms more clearly into constitutions.


In their 2011 book, Defeating Authoritarian Leaders in Post-Communist Countries, Valerie Bunce and Sharon Wolchik conclude that democratization in Eastern European nations like Croatia owed much to assistance from transnational pro-democracy networks, civil society, and energetic election campaigns run by a united opposition. In some ways this analysis offers us a modicum of hope: Trump, despite his desires, commands far less power over the political system than did any of the autocrats that Bunce and Wolchik studied, and the United States enjoys many of the elements they cite as critical, like robust civil society, energetic elections, and a mostly unified opposition. But at the same time, the very things responsible for the success of democratic transition are under near constant assault from Trump and his Republican abettors.


Democracy, especially liberal democracy, has always been dependent on the trust and belief of the self-governed. It is one thing to implement tangible measures to prevent the decay of bedrock institutions, and when it comes to voting rights, elections, the courts, and restraints on executive power, we know what these measures should look like. It’s another, far tougher thing to figure out how to maintain the legitimacy of these same institutions—and how to restore it once lost.


Javier Corrales, a political science professor at Amherst College and expert on the Chavez regime, has written that one lesson from Venezuela’s experience is for the opposition to avoid fragmentation within the broader electorate and, when possible, polarization. When it comes to Trump, he told me that rather than pursuing impeachment, which could backfire by polarizing institutions and the general environment even more, “the opposition needs to focus on strengthening institutions of checks and balances, and embracing and defending policies that produce majoritarian consensus rather than just cater to the base. The more defections they can get from voters that would otherwise side with the illiberal president, the better. If the opposition can get the other side to split, they win.”


When it comes to helping individuals leave cult-like groups, many sociologists agree: Positive social factors are more effective than negative sanctions. Lalich counsels using dialogue to ask questions and reinforce doubts, rather than “to harp” or criticize. Testimonials from former cult members can be particularly helpful in fueling disillusionment, she says.


On a nationwide scale, this would probably look a lot like a field called “conflict transformation.” John Paul Lederach, professor emeritus at Notre Dame’s Kroc Institute for International Peace Studies, laid out the basics of conflict transformation in his 1998 book, Building Peace: Sustainable Reconciliation in Divided Societies. He argued that outsiders should work with mid-level members of the community who could simultaneously engage ordinary people and their leaders. He also called for an “elicitive approach” whereby solutions were developed by people themselves, in accordance with their own specific cultural contexts.


Of the places in the world where conflict transformation has worked, Northern Ireland probably most approximates the United States, in the sense that it was part of a wealthy nation with a democratic tradition (though in the 1980s, Northern Ireland was in a far worse situation of political division and communitarian violence).


Maria Power, a researcher in conflict transformation studies at Oxford, sees strategies from Northern Ireland that could be deployed on the other side of the Atlantic. She cited the example of dialogue-building between Unionist and Republican women, who faced much tougher obstacles to reconciliation since they were “risking their lives” every time they met in East Belfast during The Troubles. She said that the peace effort in Northern Ireland hinged on incredibly tough, person-to-person groundwork carried out by dozens of organizations and ecumenical groups. She emphasized above all the importance of investing effort and time into building trust, first within, and then later between, identity groups.


Power said that conflict transformation in the United States would likely involve local, grassroots community development in the areas that Trump likes to hold rallies. “I don’t mean that progressives should go to these communities and start knocking on doors,” she explained, “that would be the worst thing that could happen to exacerbate tensions. I mean that there should be a focus on real community development in these areas.”


Individuals would be led through a “single identity dialogue,” a safe-space where someone who has gained the community’s trust can guide them through discussion of their identity, why they feel threatened, and why they feel the need to otherize those they see as different. This does presume some legitimacy to their fears; as The Atlantic’s Adam Serwer, among others, has written convincingly, Trumpism is not primarily a story of globalism’s dispossessed, but rather one of identity politics. But there is reality, and there is perception, and the truth is that Trump voters perceive themselves as victims who have been culturally dislocated, disdained, and in danger of being left behind.


Power said that, in the mid-1980s, Northern Ireland had some 300 of these single-identity groups. She added that there was a tough balance to strike between allowing people “to become comfortable enough with their own place in society that other people don’t seem to be a threat,” and “dripping” in truth in such a way that avoided a reinforcement of their existing beliefs.


Only once that step had been undertaken on a local level were people able to have cross-community conversation, and eventually to engage with each other through social action projects—schemes to bring people together, not over political discussion, but in tasks beneficial to their communities. Power lamented that overall this is quite a long-term process, perhaps even a generational one.


That sentiment was echoed by Emma Elfversson, who researches peace and conflict at Sweden’s Uppsala University. Elfversson told me that because trust in the state and institutions is often crucial to reconciliation, democratic backsliding in the U.S. is worrying. “Important work to overcome divides is done at the grassroots level—through NGOs, religious initiatives, social service programs, schools, at the workplace, etc.,” she said, adding, “Civil society organizations that cut across identity borders can promote reconciliation and reduce conflict.”


Such an approach might seem fuzzy to those who seek to buttress qualitative observations with hard data, but there are concrete examples of places where community-based peace building has been effective. Fieschi thinks that the way to short-circuit populism is to create an environment where people can think. “Populism encourages every fiber of your being not to think,” she told me. “In fact, it pretty much posits that if you have to think you’re not to be trusted. We need to create those spaces and times that offer the opportunity to exercise agency, to think things through.”


The problem for the modern left is that none of this is emotionally satisfying. It’s just hard, hard work. Push too hard, and you risk fostering even greater resentment and reaction. But let people off the hook, and the myths they perpetuate about race and national identity might never get punctured.


Above all, it also rings as profoundly unfair. Why should a group that still enjoys the momentum of historic privilege, and is still afforded outsize political weight, be handheld through an era of demographic change? And why should minority groups, who continue to suffer from oppression, be the ones to extend that hand?





After the end of the Vietnam War, Thomas Robbins and Dick Anthony, two researchers of cults, wrote, “There is a recurrent sequence in American history in which sectarian (and sometimes rather authoritarian) religions emerge and elicit tremendous hostility.” The decline of Cold War orthodoxy after Vietnam, the two noted, had produced a crisis in American civil religion, resulting in “the proliferation of cults as well as the growth of anticult demonology.”


We can understand Donald Trump’s rise as a civil religion giving way to its cultic expression. Con man, cult leader, populist politician: Trump is all of these, rolled into one. He has become all-encompassing, even to nonbelievers. We all feel the fatigue of merely existing in the Trump era, the rapid-fire assault on all of our political and social senses. We want immediate solutions to the Trump problem. We want to beat reason into his followers, until they recognize how wrong they are, or at the very least, submit. We want to blame them—justifiably—for perpetuating his sham.


I want these things. I want them in my gut. But I also know that the cult’s pull is so powerful that it risks destroying its opponents, by eliciting a counterproductive reaction to it. If we want to bring members of the Trump cult back into the mainstream of American life—and there will be plenty of those who say we should move on without them—resistance means not only resisting the lure of the cult and exposing its lies, but also resisting the temptation to punish its followers.


“When the cultic behavior is on a national scale, [breaking it up] is going to take a national movement,” Lalich says. Such an approach promises no immediate gratification. But it also might be the only way to move forward, rather than continue a dangerous downward spiral. Andrés Miguel Rondón, a Venezuelan economist who fled to Spain, wrote this of his own country’s experience of being caught up in an authoritarian’s fraudulent promises: “[W]hat can really win them over is not to prove that you are right. It is to show that you care. Only then will they believe what you say.”




Read More: Politics, Donald Trump, Cults, Populism, Hugo Chavez, Authoritarianism






Feb. 22, 2019


Yale psych prof: If Trump weren’t president

he would be “contained and evaluated”


By Chauncey DeVega


At the center of the chaotic maelstrom that is the Trump presidency is the question of Donald Trump’s mental health. His public behavior (and, by most accounts, his private behavior as well) is that of a man who is a compulsive liar and malignant narcissist, is paranoid, lacks in impulse control and lives in an alternate reality of his own creation.


Donald Trump has recently declared a “national emergency” in order to further expand his power and gut American democracy and the Constitution in the service of his radically destructive right-wing agenda. But in reality it is Donald Trump who is the actual national emergency, an obvious threat to this country and the entire world.


Former acting FBI director Andrew McCabe recently revealed that officials in the Justice Department discussed invoking the 25th Amendment to remove President Trump from power. Yet it also may be true that Trump’s apparent mental health problems are actually helping him to remain in power and to control his supporters.


How are mentally unwell leaders more dangerous than leaders who are “merely” criminals? How have the American people become so numb to Trump and the Republican Party’s assault on American democracy and the common good? How is dangerous behavior normalized in an unhealthy society — such as ours? How are Trump and his movement affecting negatively the mental and physical health of the American people?


In an effort to answer these questions I recently spoke with Dr. Bandy Lee. She is a psychiatrist at Yale University and a leading voice among the growing number of mental health and other medical professionals who have been trying to raise public awareness about Donald Trump’s mental health.



NowThis News


Who is Jared Kushner?


Narrated by Anna Akana

March 4, 2020


We know him as Ivanka Trump’s husband, senior advisor to President Trump, and heir to a $1.8 billion dollar real estate empire that was tarnished with tax evasion scandal. Here’s what you should know about Trump’s one percent-er son-in-law.



Channel 4 News
March 19, 2019


Jared Kushner: power hungry and intent on enriching himself?


They were once considered a moderating influence on Donald Trump’s Presidency. A new book, though, portrays Mr Trump’s daughter and son-in-law, Ivanka and Jared Kushner, as a power-hungry couple, concerned primarily with enriching themselves.


The White House has dismissed it as “fiction”. But there are long-standing concerns in the US over Mr Kushner’s business dealings and the level of influence he has over foreign policy. Kushner has been caught up in investigations by the Mueller Inquiry and Congress. We report from Baltimore.



Democracy Now!
March 22, 2019


Vicky Ward on “Kushner, Inc.”


Web-only extended interview and conversation with investigative journalist Vicky Ward, author of Kushner, Inc.: Greed. Ambition. Corruption. The Extraordinary Story of Jared Kushner and Ivanka Trump.



The Mueller Report – A PBS NewsHour



March 25, 2019


The nearly two-year investigation of special counsel Robert Mueller into Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election has concluded, with Mueller’s final report delivered to Attorney General William Barr for review.





Morning Joe

May 8, 2019


‘It Was Always A Scam; He Was Always Losing Money’


The New York Times obtained ten years of Donald Trump’s tax information, beginning in the mid-1980s, and the Times found Trump lost $1.17 billion from 1985 to 1994. Trump responded to the reporting Wednesday morning on Twitter.




Politics & Society

June 24, 2019


Are We Living in 1984?

George Packer Revisits Orwell’s Dystopian Novel

for The Atlantic


1984 – George Orwell’s seminal work – has enjoyed a

cultural resurgence in the wake of Donald Trump’s presidency.



“Orwell never intended his novel to be a prediction, only a warning,” George Packer writes in Doublethink is Stronger than Orwell Imagined, his latest article for The Atlantic. The book, originally published in 1949, envisions a dystopian future in which the world has fallen prey to ruthless totalitarianism, fueled by terror, surveillance, and political propaganda. Though there are startling similarities between the world today – the haunting phrase “fake news” comes to mind – and Orwell’s nightmarish dystopia, we don’t live under a totalitarian regime. “We are living with a new kind of regime that didn’t exist in Orwell’s time,” Packer writes. “Today the problem is too much information from too many sources, with a resulting plague of fragmentation and division – not excessive authority but its disappearance, which leaves ordinary people to work out the facts for themselves, at the mercy of their own prejudices and delusions.”


Packer offers us a new reading of 1984; today, the heart of the issue is not the state, but the individual. It’s not that Trump might abolish democracy, Packer argues, “but that Americans had put him in a position to try.” Regardless of the political ideologies of the day, 1984 will remain fundamental reading because it wrestles with the enduring concept of truth. Does it exist? Who gets to decide what is and isn’t true? According to Packer, the real political war is the one we wage internally.


George Packer is a staff writer for The Atlantic. His recent book, Our Man: Richard Holbrooke and the End of the American Century, was released in May 2019.




July 12, 2019






The Pedophile, The Prosecutor, And The President


Former US Attorney Joyce Vance, WaPo’s Ashley Parker, former Assistant Director at the FBI Frank Figliuzzi, Move On’s Karine Jean-Pierre, and Bloomberg’s Tim O’Brien on Secretary of Labor Alex Acosta’s resignation, despite Trump saying he had given him his full support.




August 21, 2019


The Last Word

with Lawrence O’Donnell


Psychiatrist On ‘The Essential Emptiness

Of President Donald Trump’


Dr. Lance Dodes, one of the first mental health professionals who questioned Donald Trump’s stability, discusses how Trump has devolved since the beginning of his presidency.



60 Minutes Australia

September 1, 2019


White House insiders reveal damning

allegations against Donald Trump


. . . And as Karl Stefanovic reports, one of the most embarrassing claims is that the supposed “unbreakable” alliance between our two countries, far from being Trumped, was almost dumped.



The Atlantic

December 2019 Issue




A tectonic demographic shift is under way.

Can the country hold together?



By Yoni Appelbaum


Democracy depends on the consent of the losers. For most of the 20th century, parties and candidates in the United States have competed in elections with the understanding that electoral defeats are neither permanent nor intolerable. The losers could accept the result, adjust their ideas and coalitions, and move on to fight in the next election. Ideas and policies would be contested, sometimes viciously, but however heated the rhetoric got, defeat was not generally equated with political annihilation. The stakes could feel high, but rarely existential. In recent years, however, beginning before the election of Donald Trump and accelerating since, that has changed.


“Our radical Democrat opponents are driven by hatred, prejudice, and rage,” Trump told the crowd at his reelection kickoff event in Orlando in June. “They want to destroy you and they want to destroy our country as we know it.” This is the core of the president’s pitch to his supporters: He is all that stands between them and the abyss.


The United States is undergoing a transition perhaps no rich and stable democracy has ever experienced: Its historically dominant group is on its way to becoming a political minority—and its minority groups are asserting their co-equal rights and interests. If there are precedents for such a transition, they lie here in the United States, where white Englishmen initially predominated, and the boundaries of the dominant group have been under negotiation ever since. Yet those precedents are hardly comforting. Many of these renegotiations sparked political conflict or open violence, and few were as profound as the one now under way.





January 2020




From Obama to Trump





“Trump’s Acquittal Shows The GOP Senate Acts Like A Cult”

The Cult of Trump. Source: GQ/Getty Images iStock


[ed. – Longtime observers of Robert Burton and The Fellowship of Friends will recognize the commonalities between Donald Trump, Burton and their devoted followers.


Three “cult experts,” two of whom were interviewed for the article below, have studied The Fellowship of Friends. (Links are provided to their work directly related to the Fellowship.)


In the August 31, 2016 GQ article, “The Cult of Trump”, Rebecca Nelson spoke with Rick Alan Ross, whose Cult Education Institute has tracked The Fellowship of Friends for decades:]

“Cult leaders are most often narcissists,” Ross explains. “They see themselves as the center of the known universe, and everyone revolves around them.” Trump, he says, fits the warning signs of narcissistic personality disorder—an exaggerated sense of self-importance, preoccupation with success, power and brilliance, behaving in an arrogant or haughty manner—to a T (for Trump, probably). Lest we forget, Trump says he went to the “best school in the world,” has “the world’s greatest memory,” and will be “the greatest jobs president God has ever created.”


WhaleRiderMay 11, 2020 Fellowship of Friends Discussion blog


“…he is actually testing people’s loyalty to the ‘laws’ of his mind over the laws of nature, or even impulse for survival. The more he abuses them, the greater their devotion grows, since the psychological cost of admitting their mistake is ever higher — and so it becomes easier to dig a well of unreality than to see the obvious truth.


Mental symptoms do not discriminate between levels of intelligence. What we are seeing is what mental health experts warned would happen if we left a severely impaired person in an influential position without treatment, and what others have described as a cult.


But what I find most insidious is the contagion of symptoms: prolonged exposure…causes you to ‘catch’ his worldview, and even the healthiest, soundest people turn ‘crazy,’ as if afflicted with the same condition.


This is a known phenomenon I have encountered a great deal from working in underserved settings. It is interchangeably called ‘shared psychosis,’ ‘folie à plusieurs’ or ‘induced delusional disorder.’ The cure is removal. Then, quite dramatically, an entire afflicted family, street gang or prison cell-block that seemed almost ‘possessed’ returns to normal.


When experts call out abnormal signs, it is not a diagnosis but important information… It is not up to mental health experts to say how it is to be done, but it is our responsibility to say what must be done, based on our best assessment. Our prescription is removal.”


~ Dr Bandy X. Lee, on testing loyalty in the cult of Trump.





The coronavirus pandemic has made Trump’s psychiatric issues clear. We should remove him for our own safety.


As the death toll from Covid-19 mounts, we have a decision to make.


Bandy X. Lee 
Yale University | March 24, 2020


We knew this presidency would be deadly. We were not exaggerating when, three years ago, we put together the public-service book, The Dangerous Case of Donald Trump: 27 Psychiatrists and Mental Health Experts Assess a President. We meant in part that the president would be dangerous to civic life, to democracy, and to the nation’s mental health — but we also meant that he would endanger lives.


Politics did not concern us. We are health professionals. Everything falls secondary to life and death, including politics.


After we got together to write the book, hundreds, and later thousands, more mental health professionals gathered from all over the country and the world with their shared concerns. Together we formed first the National Coalition, and then the World Mental Health Coalition, to organize around our goal of societal safety.


Through consultation with Congress members, letters, petitions, and education of the public, we tried to emphasize that mental impairment in the office of the US presidency is a serious matter.


“Donald Trump may not have been expecting this, but a lot of other people in the government were—they just couldn’t get him to do anything about it,” an intelligence official recently said about the lack of mobilization around the now deadly coronavirus pandemic.


His behavior is exactly what we expect of someone who is dangerously lacking in mental capacity. Just when surveillance was needed, he was more preoccupied with “keeping the numbers low” than testing and containment. And when behavioral change would decide the scale of the eventual calamity, he defiantly appeared in crowds, shaking hands and touching surfaces all the more.


As his rallies were canceled, he used daily press conferences for his emotional compulsion to create a desired, alternative reality, through delusional-level distortion and misinformation, rather than working to save lives. The pandemic makes stark the deadliness of his symptoms, and if we believe those around him will be able to contain or go around them, we are mistaken.


Here we enter the realm of pathology. What is truly dangerous is not the overt symptoms — even a psychotic patient wearing a tinfoil hat is not very dangerous — but the denial and the extent to which one would go to cover up symptoms. And this also goes for the president’s handlers, by extension. We call this “loss of insight.” It is the loss of ability to take care of oneself or to see that one has a problem, which diminishes all the more in those who need intervention the most.


On top of this, mental symptoms such as denial, projection (blaming others for what one is doing), and the inflation of non-realities while suppressing reality will be all the more unrelenting and non-negotiable when severe. Not only that, but where there is prolonged exposure to severe symptoms, previously sound individuals will start losing their own grounding in reality and take on similar symptoms.


Disease is unlike normal variation. It brings damage and death, which is why we treat. Just as with the viral pandemic, early signs may be difficult to detect, and warning signs may not always be visible to the untrained eye. But those who have seen similar cases in the past can recognize the signs early, know how serious will be their course, and bring greater precision to needed management, even if the circumstances are novel. In other words, expertise makes a difference. Without it, the danger of minimizing and normalizing pathology is too great.


Normal choices are flexible, adaptable, and life-affirming. Pathology is rigid, stereotypical, and follows very closely other cases of disease. No matter the immediate, accidental advantages — which the president calls his “gut”, when they are actually symptoms — the course is destructive: whether we look at healthcare, domestic tranquility, global security, pandemic preparedness, or an artificially bloated economy, pathological decisions have one eventual trajectory. It is the definition of disease.


As the death toll from coronavirus mounts, we have a decision to make. We have learned from the pandemic that prevention is key. A leadership worse than its absence can mean the difference between a contained outbreak and a catastrophe.


There will be many more critical junctures in not just the coming months but days and even hours as the crisis deepens. A president’s mental incapacity, at this level of severity, is not an issue that non-experts can grasp or handle. Whether it is impeachment, the 25th Amendment, or an ultimatum on resignation is for the politicians to decide, but our prescription is removal. It is a prescription for survival.



“Under Control” by Brian Stauffer



#UNFIT: The Psychology of Donald Trump


“As a Narcissist, Trump can not admit he’s wrong and change course, even when American lives are at stake. We can not let him take the country down with him.”


– Hans Royal, June 2020




June 16, 2020


The Virus: What Went Wrong? (full film)


As COVID-19 spread across the globe, why was the U.S. caught so unprepared? An investigation of how America’s leaders failed to prepare and protect us — and who is accountable.




August 14, 2020


Plagued By Nonsense


Pandemics Throughout History: How Mistakes, Fakes,

and Missing Facts Make Epidemics Worse


Right now, we are all confronting one of humanity’s scariest enemies: epidemic disease. Are we brave enough to face this horror? You bet we are! We’ve done it every day during the Covid-19 pandemic.


Covid is new. Other diseases have plagued our ancestors since ancient times. Mighty civilizations have been devastated by the invisible invaders we call “germs.” But people are not helpless! Over centuries, we learned how to fight back against disease. Our strongest weapons are science and critical thinking. However, germs have a powerful ally: misinformation! How do ignorance and bad ideas help the germs win—and what can we do about that?



60 Minutes

September 17, 2020


Inside Donald Trump’s 18 recorded interviews

with Bob Woodward for his book Rage


In taped conversations with a Washington Post journalist, President Trump said he wanted to downplay the severity of the coronavirus. And the recordings reveal the President’s view on how close the United States came to nuclear war with North Korea. Scott Pelley reports.



Saturday Evening Post

November 18, 2020


Con Watch: Two COVID

Scams to Avoid


Criminals are using the coronavirus to part you from your money or your personal information. Learn how to avoid these scams.


By Steve Weisman, a lawyer, college professor, author, and one of the country’s leading experts in cybersecurity, identity theft, and scams. See Steve’s other Con Watch articles.



Clinical Trial Scams


Many people are quite optimistic about the progress of companies such as Pfizer and Moderna in developing viable vaccines. Many other companies are also intensely working on a vaccine. Presently, there are dozens of clinical trials being conducted. Many people are interested in participating in these trials, both to be able to contribute to the battle against the coronavirus and to collect the payment that participants in such clinical trials receive, which is generally between several hundred and several thousand dollars. Unfortunately, scammers are all too willing to lure you into participating in a phony clinical trial. These sham clinical trials are offered through legitimate-appearing websites, emails, and other promotional material.




September 21, 2020


Expert on cult movements: Trump’s attempts
to falsify reality follows ‘pattern of the Nazis’



By Igor Derysh, Salon 


A prominent psychiatrist who spent years studying Nazi Germany has called for mental health professionals to speak out about President Trump’s “falsification of reality” ahead of the election, warning that his attacks on the truth echo those of the Nazis.


Dr. Robert Jay Lifton, distinguished professor emeritus at John Jay College and the Graduate Center of the City University of New York and a leading psychohistorian who has written extensively about doctors who aided Nazi war crimes, has long called for mental health experts to defy warnings from the American Psychiatric Association (APA) and speak out about Trump’s mental health. Lifton recently published a book entitled Losing Reality: On Cults, Cultism, and the Mindset of Political and Religious Zealotry and was one of the 27 mental health experts featured in The Dangerous Case of Donald Trump, the bestseller edited by Yale psychiatrist Dr. Bandy X. Lee in which mental health professionals assessed the president.


Lifton told Salon that the book and a Yale conference on the topic began the movement of “psychologists and psychiatrists speaking out against Trump.”


“I spoke about what I called malignant normality that was being imposed on us, and the need to be witnessing professionals who told the truth and oppose the malignant normality,” he said in an interview last week.


Lifton said that Trump’s supporters and enablers exhibit the same “cult-like behavior” that he has studied, adding that the current administration has “Trumpified” every part of the federal government, in much the same way that the German government was “Nazified” under Adolf Hitler.



Professor Jason Stanley, in his book How Fascism Works: The Politics of Us and Them, observed that “The leader proposes that only he can solve it and all of his political opponents are enemies or traitors.” Stanley says recent global events, including the pandemic and the protests, have substantiated his concern about how fascist rhetoric is showing up in politics and policies around the world. ~ Wikipedia




David Hoffman: How & Why Germans Bought Hitler’s Pitch



“Say Their Names” by Kadir Nelson







The study of Nazis still offers moral instruction on how evil arises.


By Adam Gopnick

June 15, 2020


Have we come, at last, to the end of morally instructive Nazis? After eight decades, Nazis may seem to have retreated into a class with orcs and cable-TV sharks, fantastic creatures representing evil, rather than historical figures who actually were evil. It is fine to say we should look past the History Channel Nazis—“Hitler and the Occult”—to the real thing, but there comes a time when the iconic imagination really does overwhelm the historical imagination. No one any longer objects to jokes about the Spanish Inquisition, which burned skeptics and Jews alive, but which exists now first of all as a Monty Python sketch (“Nobody expects the Spanish Inquisition!”), while Henry VIII and the Tudors, who burned men, too, and brutalized thousands, are a soap opera before they are a sermon.


Two new books suggest that we may not have come to the end, and that, on the contrary, our struggle to understand how evil happens is still best helped by understanding how evil happened. The subject of David G. Marwell’s Mengele: Unmasking the “Angel of Death” (W. W. Norton) is one of the leading orcs: Josef Mengele, the Angel of Death at Auschwitz, who oversaw selections on the train ramp—sending some family members off to be gassed or worked to death, while conducting bizarre medical experiments on others—and who then escaped scot-free to a secret life in South America. Mengele’s name became synonymous with pure evil of the sinister, educated sort: the movie “Marathon Man,” with Laurence Olivier as the Dustin Hoffman-torturing dentist, making dental visits difficult for a generation, was inspired by Mengele.


Marwell’s life has much new to tell us, both about Mengele himself and, more significant, about the social and scientific milieu that allowed him to flourish. There is nothing surprising in educated people doing evil, but it is still amazing to see how fully they construct a rationale to let them do it, piling plausible reason on self-justification, until, like Mengele, they are able to look themselves in the mirror every morning with bright-eyed self-congratulation.



The Atlantic

June 2020 Issue




American conspiracy theories are entering a dangerous new phase.


By Adrienne LaFrance

Illustrations by Arsh Raziuddin



This article is part of  Shadowland,” a project about conspiracy thinking in America.


If you were an adherent, no one would be able to tell. You would look like any other American. You could be a mother, picking leftovers off your toddler’s plate. You could be the young man in headphones across the street. You could be a bookkeeper, a dentist, a grandmother icing cupcakes in her kitchen. You may well have an affiliation with an evangelical church. But you are hard to identify just from the way you look—which is good, because someday soon dark forces may try to track you down. You understand this sounds crazy, but you don’t care. You know that a small group of manipulators, operating in the shadows, pull the planet’s strings. You know that they are powerful enough to abuse children without fear of retribution. You know that the mainstream media are their handmaidens, in partnership with Hillary Clinton and the secretive denizens of the deep state. You know that only Donald Trump stands between you and a damned and ravaged world. You see plague and pestilence sweeping the planet, and understand that they are part of the plan. You know that a clash between good and evil cannot be avoided, and you yearn for the Great Awakening that is coming. And so you must be on guard at all times. You must shield your ears from the scorn of the ignorant. You must find those who are like you. And you must be prepared to fight.


You know all this because you believe in Q.





WATCHKEEPERS FOR THE End of Days can easily find signs of impending doom—in comets and earthquakes, in wars and pandemics. It has always been this way. In 1831, a Baptist preacher in rural New York named William Miller began to publicly share his prediction that the Second Coming of Jesus was imminent. Eventually he settled on a date: October 22, 1844. When the sun came up on October 23, his followers, known as the Millerites, were crushed. The episode would come to be known as the Great Disappointment. But they did not give up. The Millerites became the Adventists, who in turn became the Seventh-day Adventists, who now have a worldwide membership of more than 20 million. “These people in the QAnon community—I feel like they are as deeply delusional, as deeply invested in their beliefs, as the Millerites were,” Travis View, one of the hosts of a podcast called QAnon Anonymous, which subjects QAnon to acerbic analysis, told me. “That makes me pretty confident that this is not something that is going to go away with the end of the Trump presidency.”


QAnon carries on a tradition of apocalyptic thinking that has spanned thousands of years. It offers a polemic to empower those who feel adrift. In his classic 1957 book, The Pursuit of the Millennium, the historian Norman Cohn examined the emergence of apocalyptic thinking over many centuries. He found one common condition: This way of thinking consistently emerged in regions where rapid social and economic change was taking place—and at periods of time when displays of spectacular wealth were highly visible but unavailable to most people. This was true in Europe during the Crusades in the 11th century, and during the Black Death in the 14th century, and in the Rhine Valley in the 16th century, and in William Miller’s New York in the 19th century. It is true in America in the 21st century.


The Seventh-day Adventists and the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints are thriving religious movements indigenous to America. Do not be surprised if QAnon becomes another. It already has more adherents by far than either of those two denominations had in the first decades of their existence. People are expressing their faith through devoted study of Q drops as installments of a foundational text, through the development of Q-worshipping groups, and through sweeping expressions of gratitude for what Q has brought to their lives. Does it matter that we do not know who Q is? The divine is always a mystery. Does it matter that basic aspects of Q’s teachings cannot be confirmed? The basic tenets of Christianity cannot be confirmed. Among the people of QAnon, faith remains absolute. True believers describe a feeling of rebirth, an irreversible arousal to existential knowledge. They are certain that a Great Awakening is coming. They’ll wait as long as they must for deliverance.


Trust the plan. Enjoy the show. Nothing can stop what is coming.


This article appears in the June 2020 print edition with the headline “Nothing Can Stop What Is Coming.” It was published online on May 14, 2020.



Adrienne LaFrance is the executive editor of The Atlantic. She was previously a senior editor and staff writer at The Atlantic, and the editor of



How Evangelicals became Republicans


J. J. McCullough | July 19, 2020


A history of the religious right and the role played by Evangelical Christians in the Republican Party, 1979 to present.



Democracy Now!
August 7, 2020


Mary Trump on Her Uncle,

President Trump & Why He Must Be Ousted


“In my family, being kind was considered being weak,” says Mary Trump, President Trump’s niece, a clinical psychologist and author of Too Much and Never Enough: How My Family Created the World’s Most Dangerous Man.


We spend the hour with Mary Trump, discussing her book the president doesn’t want people to read, in which she describes his upbringing in a dysfunctional family that fostered his greed, cruelty and racist and sexist behaviors — which he is now inflicting on the world. Mary Trump also discusses the president’s mishandling of the coronavirus pandemic, his long history of lies and misrepresentations, and the dangers of his reelection. “I believe that this country is on the knife’s edge, and I don’t want anybody going to cast their vote in November being able to claim that they just don’t know who they’re voting for,” she says.




July 16, 2020


Psychiatrist: Trump Became The Same ‘Sadistic, Tyrannical And Cruel’ Person His Father Was


Dr. Lance Dodes joins Lawrence O’Donnell to react to the revelations in Mary Trump’s tell-all book and explain why her description of Donald Trump as a sadist is “consistent with everything we know about him.” 


The Atlantic

September 2020 Issue


How the Pandemic Defeated America


A virus has brought the world’s most powerful country to its knees.


By Ed Yong


Updated at 1:12 p.m. ET on August 4, 2020


Editor’s Note: The Atlantic is making vital coverage of the coronavirus available to all readers. Find the collection here.


. . . Beginning on April 16, DiResta’s team noticed growing online chatter about Judy Mikovits, a discredited researcher turned anti-vaccination champion. Posts and videos cast Mikovits as a whistleblower who claimed that the new coronavirus was made in a lab and described Anthony Fauci of the White House’s coronavirus task force as her nemesis. Ironically, this conspiracy theory was nested inside a larger conspiracy—part of an orchestrated PR campaign by an anti-vaxxer and QAnon fan with the explicit goal to “take down Anthony Fauci.” It culminated in a slickly produced video called Plandemic, which was released on May 4. More than 8 million people watched it in a week.


Doctors and journalists tried to debunk Plandemic’s many misleading claims, but these efforts spread less successfully than the video itself. Like pandemics, infodemics quickly become uncontrollable unless caught early. But while health organizations recognize the need to surveil for emerging diseases, they are woefully unprepared to do the same for emerging conspiracies. In 2016, when DiResta spoke with a CDC team about the threat of misinformation, “their response was: ‘ That’s interesting, but that’s just stuff that happens on the internet.’ ”


[ From the June 2020 issue: Adrienne LaFrance on how QAnon is more important than you think ]


Rather than countering misinformation during the pandemic’s early stages, trusted sources often made things worse. Many health experts and government officials downplayed the threat of the virus in January and February, assuring the public that it posed a low risk to the U.S. and drawing comparisons to the ostensibly greater threat of the flu. The WHO, the CDC, and the U.S. surgeon general urged people not to wear masks, hoping to preserve the limited stocks for health-care workers. These messages were offered without nuance or acknowledgement of uncertainty, so when they were reversed—the virus is worse than the flu; wear masks—the changes seemed like befuddling flip-flops.


The media added to the confusion. Drawn to novelty, journalists gave oxygen to fringe anti-lockdown protests while most Americans quietly stayed home. They wrote up every incremental scientific claim, even those that hadn’t been verified or peer-reviewed.


In March, a small and severely flawed French study suggested that the antimalarial drug hydroxychloroquine could treat COVID‑19. Published in a minor journal, it likely would have been ignored a decade ago. But in 2020, it wended its way to Donald Trump via a chain of credulity that included Fox News, Elon Musk, and Dr. Oz. Trump spent months touting the drug as a miracle cure despite mounting evidence to the contrary, causing shortages for people who actually needed it to treat lupus and rheumatoid arthritis. The hydroxychloroquine story was muddied even further by a study published in a top medical journal, The Lancet, that claimed the drug was not effective and was potentially harmful. The paper relied on suspect data from a small analytics company called Surgisphere, and was retracted in June.**


Science famously self-corrects. But during the pandemic, the same urgent pace that has produced valuable knowledge at record speed has also sent sloppy claims around the world before anyone could even raise a skeptical eyebrow. The ensuing confusion, and the many genuine unknowns about the virus, has created a vortex of fear and uncertainty, which grifters have sought to exploit. Snake-oil merchants have peddled ineffectual silver bullets (including actual silver). Armchair experts with scant or absent qualifications have found regular slots on the nightly news. And at the center of that confusion is Donald Trump.



“Natural Ability” by Barry Blitt



The Washington Post

September 3, 2020


What’s the worst that could happen?


The election will likely spark violence – and a constitutional crisis


By Rosa Brooks


We wanted to know: What’s the worst thing that could happen to our country during the presidential election? President Trump has broken countless norms and ignored countless laws during his time in office, and while my colleagues and I at the Transition Integrity Project didn’t want to lie awake at night contemplating the ways the American experiment could fail, we realized that identifying the most serious risks to our democracy might be the best way to avert a November disaster. So we built a series of war games, sought out some of the most accomplished Republicans, Democrats, civil servants, media experts, pollsters and strategists around, and asked them to imagine what they’d do in a range of election and transition scenarios.



The Atlantic

September 4, 2020


Why Trump Supporters Can’t Admit

Who He Really Is


Nothing bonds a group more tightly than a common enemy that is perceived as a mortal threat.



By Peter Wehner


. . . In just the past two weeks, the president has praised supporters of the right-wing conspiracy theory QAnon, which contends, as The Guardian recently summarized it, that “a cabal of Satan-worshipping Democrats, Hollywood celebrities and billionaires runs the world while engaging in pedophilia, human trafficking and the harvesting of a supposedly life-extending chemical from the blood of abused children.” Trump touted a conspiracy theory that the national death toll from COVID-19 is about 9,000, a fraction of the official figure of nearly 185,000; promoted a program on the One America News Network accusing demonstrators of secretly plotting Trump’s downfall; encouraged his own supporters to commit voter fraud; and claimed Biden is controlled by “people that are in the dark shadows” who are wearing “dark uniforms.”


Trump believes his own government is conspiring to delay a COVID-19 vaccine until after the election. He retweeted a message from the actor James Woods saying New York Governor Andrew Cuomo “should be in jail” and another from an account accusing the Portland, Oregon, mayor of “committing war crimes.” The president is “inciting violence,” in the words of Maryland’s Republican Governor, Larry Hogan. Trump defended 17-year-old Kyle Rittenhouse, a supporter who is charged with first-degree homicide; and stated that if he loses the election in November it would be because it was “rigged.” At the same time, the second-ranking House Republican, among other of the president’s supporters, has shared several manipulated videos in an effort to damage Biden.


This is just the latest installment in a four-year record of shame, indecency, incompetence, and malfeasance. And yet, for tens of millions of Trump’s supporters, none of it matters. None of it even breaks through. At this point, it appears, Donald Trump really could shoot someone on Fifth Avenue and not lose his voters.



Los Angeles Times

September 11, 2020


Why nothing matters to Trump voters



By David Lauter | Washington Bureau Chief


WASHINGTON – President Trump’s recorded interviews with Bob Woodward, in which he admitted to deliberately downplaying the danger of the coronavirus, blasted through the presidential campaign this week. His words dominated discussion and diverted the candidates from any other topics they had planned to focus on.


What they probably did not do is change many minds.


The same goes for the previous week’s eruption — the Atlantic magazine article quoting anonymous officials who said Trump had disparaged military service members as “losers” — and the one before that, and the one before that and so on.


Many Democrats find the lack of reaction baffling. Surely, they say after each new revelation, this piece of evidence will be the one to cause Trump supporters to abandon their candidate en masse.



Nothing to See



The Atlantic 

September 11, 2020


Donald Trump Is Waiting for You in First Class
‘I Moved on Her Very Heavily’: Part 3


Story by E. Jean Carroll


In her 2019 memoir, What Do We Need Men For?, E. Jean Carroll accused Donald Trump of rape, in a Bergdorf’s dressing room in the mid-1990s. After the president denied ever meeting her and dismissed her story as a Democratic plot, she sued him for defamation. Carroll was not, of course, the first woman to say that Trump had sexually harassed or assaulted her, but unlike so many other powerful men, the president has remained unscathed by the #MeToo reckoning. So in the run-up to the November 3 election, Carroll is interviewing other women who alleged that Trump suddenly and without consent “moved on” them, to cite his locution in the Access Hollywood tape. “I’m automatically attracted to beautiful—I just start kissing them, it’s like a magnet … And when you’re a star, they let you do it. You can do anything. Grab ’em by the pussy.”



NowThis News


Narrated by Julianne Moore
Premiered October 28, 2020


Who is Donald J. Trump?


Donald Trump is the only presidential candidate on the ballot who has publicly agreed that his own daughter is a ‘piece of ass.’ The bronze-gilded mogul is as notable for his multiple rape allegations and history of racist renting practices as he is for putting children in cages and shamelessly funding a campaign to execute 5 innocent Black teens. So how did the man who once said he’d choose Oprah as his running mate end up with yet another campaign endorsement from former KKK grand wizard David Duke?



Nothing to See



60 Minutes Australia

September 20, 2020


EXCLUSIVE: Melania Trump’s former friend

reveals White House secrets


Just as the world has never experienced a United States President quite like Donald Trump, it’s not seen a First Lady like Melania Trump either. Despite being one of the most photographed women on the planet, she remains virtually unknown. But wealthy New York socialite Stephanie Winston Wolkoff is now controversially trying to change all that. She says she was “besties” with Melania for 15 years, and because of their friendship was not only appointed a senior adviser to the First Lady, she was also asked to organise Trump’s presidential inauguration.


But two years ago the friendship between the two women soured. Stephanie claims she was the victim of an orchestrated political hit and was bitterly disappointed when Melania abandoned her. Many are calling it a despicable act of revenge, but Stephanie has now written a tell-all book about the First Lady and her secrets, and as she explains to Liam Bartlett in an exclusive interview, there are plenty of secrets to tell about Melania and the Donald.




September 24, 2020


Say it plainly: The president is a psychopath



By Alan D. Blotcky and Seth D. Norrholm


“Get rid of the ballots” and “there won’t be a transfer,” said Donald Trump on Wednesday. This comment is a direct and dangerous expression of his anti-democratic intention. If unstopped, Trump may well destroy our 244-year-old democracy.


It is time to stop pulling punches. It is time to stop relying on political pundits to weigh in on Trump’s behavior, which they often soften and even normalize.


We are psychologists, and we are convinced Donald Trump is a psychopath. His malignant behavior over the past four years is growing and escalating right before our eyes. Trump’s psychopathy will change us forever if he is not stopped.


This is not hyperbole. This is not an expression of “a left-wing agenda.” This is a mental health opinion based on thousands of hours of documented behavior by this president.


Trump is the most psychiatrically disordered president in history.



Nothing to See



The Atlantic

September 28, 2020


The Tedium of Trump


No matter how many crazy things happen, the fundamentals are the same: The president is a greedy racist and misogynist who does not understand his job.


By Quinta Jurecic


Donald Trump has built his public persona around the central importance of grabbing attention—whether his actions provoke delight or fury. And yet he is, and has long been, boring.


. . . Read any of the tell-alls written by Trump’s former close associates or family members—not to mention journalists such as Bob Woodward—and you will come away with basically the same understanding. As the journalist Jennifer Szalai wrote in her New York Times review of Woodward’s latest chronicle of the Trump administration, “The Trump that emerges in ‘Rage’ is impetuous and self-aggrandizing—in other words, immediately recognizable to anyone paying even the minimal amount of attention.”


There is something uncanny about this. The English novelist E. M. Forster argued that the difference between a fictional character and a real person is that it is possible to know everything about a character in a novel; real people, however, see one another through a glass, darkly. And yet while it may not be possible to know every hidden detail of Trump’s life, it is trivially easy to understand everything about his personality. If he were a character, Forster would call him flat, unrealistic: He does not, as Forster requires, have the capacity to surprise. At some point over the course of the Trump era, this became a running joke among political commentators, who, every time Trump does something appalling and yet obvious, make cracks on social media about how hackneyed the Trump presidency would seem if it were fiction.


This has created a problem for artists as well. Surveying the landscape of anti-Trump art in February 2019, the cultural critic Jillian Steinhauer argued that the work had failed to hit the mark: It was missing, she wrote, “the critical introspection to accompany the laughter.” But such introspection is hard to achieve when the person prompting it is so lacking in depth or interiority.


Likewise, four years into this presidency, uncovering fresh insight into Trump or his administration is difficult. Activists, journalists, and commentators found those insights earlier on. Use of the phrase The cruelty is the point, coined by The Atlantic’s Adam Serwer in 2018, has become widespread in part because it continues to be uncomplicatedly true: A lot of the time, the motivations of Trump and those around him are not actually more involved than a desire to hurt others. The idea is so simple that it’s more or less become a meme, which isn’t to deride its perceptiveness but rather to say that the Trump White House is fundamentally simple. Personally, I wrote a great deal in the first few years of the administration about Trump’s understanding of law as a cudgel against the vulnerable before it dawned on me that I was writing the same article over and over again.






The Story Behind TIME’s ‘Plague Election’

Donald Trump Cover



By D.W. Pine

August 6, 2020

D.W. Pine is the Creative Director at TIME.


For the cover of the Aug. 17, 2020 issue of TIME, longtime collaborator Tim O’Brien revisited his award-winning series depicting the mounting troubles facing President Trump. The new cover is the fourth installment and the first to depart the Oval Office, painting Trump at sea surrounded by COVID-19, as the White House recedes from view. It accompanies a cover story by TIME national correspondent Molly Ball on the ways the pandemic is transforming the 2020 election.


“For the past year, I’ve been pondering one more cover in the series, but there was always a new intervening controversy, scandal, social upheaval, or norm-crushing tweet to change the story,” says O’Brien, a Brooklyn artist who has been creating TIME covers for more than 30 years.


The first three covers in the series featured Trump inside the Oval Office as rainstorms gathered inside: “Nothing to See Here” (Feb. 27, 2017), “Stormy” (April 23, 2018) and “In Deep” (Sept. 3, 2018). The “Stormy” cover was named 2018 Cover of the Year by AdWeek and received a Gold medal from the Art Director’s Club.


“The rising water as a metaphor for chaos in the Trump White House could only end two ways,” adds O’Brien, who has painted more TIME covers (32 and counting) than any artist in the past 50 years. “So he survives only to be in the surging waves surrounded by coronavirus, each one a little bomb.”




October 1, 2020


Trump Announces He’s Tested Positive For The Coronavirus


Early Friday morning on the East Coast, the president announced on Twitter that he and the First Lady had tested positive with the coronavirus after his close aide Hope Hicks tested positive for the virus.



VICE News 

October 5, 2020


After Trump’s Doctors Lied,

New COVID Conspiracy Theories Are Exploding


Conspiracy theorists think Trump is faking it but also that he was infected by Nancy Pelosi.


By David Gilbert


“Joe Biden’s campaign team is coordinating with Russian dissident Alexei Navalny to assassinate President Donald Trump.”


“Trump has been using a body double in recent days to hide the seriousness of his symptoms.”


“Trump was seen using an oxygen tank days before he tested positive for coronavirus.”


These are just a tiny selection of the tsunami of conspiracy theories that flooded social media over the weekend, as people rushed to fill the vacuum created by a series of confusing and misleading statements from White House officials and Trump’s own doctors at the Walter Reed National Military Medical Center.




Anthony Fauci Was ‘Absolutely Not’ Surprised

Trump Got Covid


In an interview with 60 Minutes, Fauci said he believes

the president “equates wearing a mask with weakness.”


By Paul Blest | Oct 19, 2020


. . . While it’s not totally clear where Trump contracted the coronavirus, several high-profile figures who attended the Barrett event and were exposed to people who attended later tested positive for COVID-19. Trump himself was hospitalized earlier this month but has since returned to the campaign trail.



New York


The National Interest

October 6, 2020 


Trump Turning Down Pelosi’s Stimulus Deal

Is the Worst Political Blunder in History



By Jonathan Chait


In May, the House of Representatives passed a $3 trillion economic relief bill. Over the next four and a half months, Republicans in the White House and Senate dithered, alternating between good-faith engagement and lethargy. The apparent final blow came in the form of a series of tweets by President Trump announcing an end to negotiations.



The David Pakman Show 

October 6, 2020


Anthony Scaramucci Tells All:

Trump an “Unstable Nutjob”




October 8, 2020


Whitmer says Trump ‘complicit’ after feds

reveal thwarted plot to kidnap her



By Allan Smith


Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer said Thursday that President Donald Trump is “complicit” in fomenting extremists as she addressed a thwarted plot to kidnap her revealed earlier Thursday. 


“Just last week, the president of the United States stood before the American people and refused to condemn white supremacists and hate groups like these two Michigan militia groups,” she said, pointing to Trump’s comments about the “Proud Boys” group during last week’s presidential debate. “‘Stand back and stand by,’ he told them. Stand back and stand by.”


“Hate groups heard the president’s words not as a rebuke, but as a rallying cry,” she said. “As a call to action. When our leaders speak, their words matter. They carry weight. When our leaders meet with, encourage, or fraternize with domestic terrorists, they legitimize their actions and they are complicit.”


Whitmer thanked law enforcement after more than a dozen men were charged with federal and state crimes in connection to the plot. Six of the men were arrested on federal charges while seven more were hit with state charges. Federal investigators had utilized informants and were tracking the individuals for months.


According to the federal criminal complaint, the men sought to take Whitmer hostage before the November election and conducted surveillance of her vacation home. They had also conducted combat training and sought this week to purchase explosives.


The president has repeatedly criticized Whitmer over her strict efforts to contain coronavirus, calling her the “lock-up queen” in an interview just hours before news of the alleged plot broke. In an April tweet that began recirculating after the charges were announced, Trump wrote: “LIBERATE MICHIGAN.”



Yahoo! news


Wisconsin is battling Americas’s worst

coronavirus outbreak, and the state’s

broken politics are partly to blame


Andrew Romano West Coast correspondent


Look at a map of daily COVID-19 cases in the U.S. Most of the Northeast and West Coast is yellow, indicating limited spread. The numbers across the Southeast tend to be moderate, or orange. Move into the Upper Midwest and more red hot spots start to appear. 


And then there’s one state that’s covered in crimson: Wisconsin. 


Right now Wisconsin is battling the worst coronavirus outbreak in America. The question is why. What about Wisconsin is different from, say, the neighboring states of Michigan, Minnesota and Illinois, where the virus isn’t spreading nearly as fast? 


The answer, at least in part, is politics: specifically, the brand of cavalier, it-will-go-away politics propagated by President Trump and parroted by lower-level Republicans who seem hell-bent on resisting efforts to sustain social distancing and mask wearing when the spread is still low enough to contain — and in Wisconsin’s case, who continue to resist even after infections spiral out of control.  




October 13, 2020


‘He Knows’: Trump Fixated on ‘Likely’ Loss To Biden, Per Trump Insider


New reporting shows Trump’s inner circle worried he failed to handle Covid hitting the White House, bungled debates over a final stimulus package before the election, and ‘blew’ his chance to reset the campaign – raising broader questions of whether he is self-sabotaging. ‘Art of the Deal’ co-author Tony Schwartz discusses Trump’s penchant for hurting himself, how his approach has coarsened over the years, and the wider potential danger facing the U.S. if Trump loses and tries ‘to bring us down with him’ before leaving office, in this interview with MSNBC’s Ari Melber.





 October 22, 2020


Trump’s Crackdown On Diversity Training Is Fascist.

And Terrifying.


The White House ban on anti-racism training is an authoritarian attack on free speech and already doing serious damage.


By Emily Peck


One of the president’s most dangerous attacks on civil rights and free speech is getting relatively little attention amid the firestorm of news as Election Day approaches. 


In an executive order and a series of administrative actions issued over the past month and a half, the Trump administration effectively banned diversity and inclusion training in the federal workforce and at any company or entity that contracts with the government or receives federal funding, a huge swath of American businesses and universities, covering millions of workers and students.


As part of the administration’s continued efforts to effectively ban anti-racism training, the Labor Department announced Wednesday it would begin collecting information on diversity training from contractors (Verizon, which owns HuffPost, is one such company) as a way of policing the way diversity is discussed within private companies.


The president ironically claims to be doing this in the name of equality. The administration says these trainings are un-American propaganda, claiming that learning about the history of race in the United States teaches the language of hate.


But diversity training is standard corporate practice, meant to encourage workers of all backgrounds to treat each other fairly. As the Me Too movement began, there was a shift to focus on sexual harassment education. These days, companies are increasingly concentrating on racism. 


In the case of diversity training, the White House is basing its opinion on the findings of one conservative activist, Christopher Rufo, who has appeared on Fox News and written for the New York Post and Wall Street Journal.


The word Orwellian is thrown around quite a bit in the Donald Trump era, but the doublespeak in this order stunned the lawyers, executives, activists and academics who have pushed for diversity, inclusion and equality for decades.





Associated Press

October 23, 2020


Trump and Biden clash over raging COVID-19 pandemic in final debate that showcased their vastly different visions for the nation


By Jonathan Lemire, Darlene Superville, Will Weissert and Michelle L. Price

President Donald Trump and Democratic challenger Joe Biden fought over how to tame the raging coronavirus during the campaign’s closing debate, largely shelving the rancor that overshadowed their previous face-off in favor of a more substantive exchange that highlighted their vastly different approaches to the major domestic and foreign challenges facing the nation.


The president declared the virus, which killed more than 1,000 Americans on Thursday alone, will “go away.” Biden countered that the nation was heading toward “a dark winter.”


“Anyone who is responsible for that many deaths should not remain as president of the United States of America,” Biden said.



With less than two weeks until the election, Trump portrayed himself as the same outsider he first pitched to voters four years ago, repeatedly saying he wasn’t a politician. Biden, meanwhile, argued that Trump was an incompetent leader of a country facing multiple crises and tried to connect what he saw as the president’s failures to the everyday lives of Americans, especially when it comes to the pandemic.




“American Tumult” by Richard McGuire





  November 2, 2020 Issue



Exclusive excerpt from Barack Obama’s new Memoir,

A Promised Land




The story behind the Obama Administration’s

most enduring–and most contested–legacy:

reforming American health care.


By Barack Obama

October 26, 2020



The quest for some form of universal health care in the United States dates back to 1912, when Theodore Roosevelt, who had previously served nearly eight years as a Republican President, decided to run again—this time on a progressive ticket and with a platform that called for the establishment of a centralized national health service. At the time, few people had or felt the need for private health insurance. Most Americans paid their doctors visit by visit, but the field of medicine was quickly growing more sophisticated, and as more diagnostic tests and surgeries became available the attendant costs began to rise, tying health more obviously to wealth. Both the United Kingdom and Germany had addressed similar issues by instituting national health-insurance systems, and other European nations would eventually follow suit. Although Roosevelt ultimately lost the 1912 election, his party’s progressive ideals planted a seed: accessible and affordable medical care might one day be viewed as a right more than a privilege. It wasn’t long, however, before doctors and Southern politicians vocally opposed any type of government involvement in health care, branding it as a form of Bolshevism.

The Atlantic

November 2020 Issue


The Election That Could Break America


If the vote is close, Donald Trump could easily throw the election into chaos and subvert the result. Who will stop him?


By Barton Gellman


Editor’s Note: This story appears in the November issue of The Atlantic; we’ve published it early on our website because of its urgency. Subscribers to the print magazine can expect to receive the issue in mid-October.


There is a cohort of close observers of our presidential elections, scholars and lawyers and political strategists, who find themselves in the uneasy position of intelligence analysts in the months before 9/11. As November 3 approaches, their screens are blinking red, alight with warnings that the political system does not know how to absorb. They see the obvious signs that we all see, but they also know subtle things that most of us do not. Something dangerous has hove into view, and the nation is lurching into its path.


The danger is not merely that the 2020 election will bring discord. Those who fear something worse take turbulence and controversy for granted. The coronavirus pandemic, a reckless incumbent, a deluge of mail-in ballots, a vandalized Postal Service, a resurgent effort to suppress votes, and a trainload of lawsuits are bearing down on the nation’s creaky electoral machinery.


Something has to give, and many things will, when the time comes for casting, canvassing, and certifying the ballots. Anything is possible, including a landslide that leaves no doubt on Election Night. But even if one side takes a commanding early lead, tabulation and litigation of the “overtime count”—millions of mail-in and provisional ballots—could keep the outcome unsettled for days or weeks.


If we are lucky, this fraught and dysfunctional election cycle will reach a conventional stopping point in time to meet crucial deadlines in December and January. The contest will be decided with sufficient authority that the losing candidate will be forced to yield. Collectively we will have made our choice—a messy one, no doubt, but clear enough to arm the president-elect with a mandate to govern.


As a nation, we have never failed to clear that bar. But in this election year of plague and recession and catastrophized politics, the mechanisms of decision are at meaningful risk of breaking down. Close students of election law and procedure are warning that conditions are ripe for a constitutional crisis that would leave the nation without an authoritative result. We have no fail-safe against that calamity. Thus the blinking red lights.


“We could well see a protracted postelection struggle in the courts and the streets if the results are close,” says Richard L. Hasen, a professor at the UC Irvine School of Law and the author of a recent book called Election Meltdown. “The kind of election meltdown we could see would be much worse than 2000’s Bush v. Gore case.”


A lot of people, including Joe Biden, the Democratic Party nominee, have mis­conceived the nature of the threat. They frame it as a concern, unthinkable for presidents past, that Trump might refuse to vacate the Oval Office if he loses. They generally conclude, as Biden has, that in that event the proper authorities “will escort him from the White House with great dispatch.”


The worst case, however, is not that Trump rejects the election outcome. The worst case is that he uses his power to prevent a decisive outcome against him. If Trump sheds all restraint, and if his Republican allies play the parts he assigns them, he could obstruct the emergence of a legally unambiguous victory for Biden in the Electoral College and then in Congress. He could prevent the formation of consensus about whether there is any outcome at all. He could seize on that un­certainty to hold on to power.


Trump’s state and national legal teams are already laying the groundwork for postelection maneuvers that would circumvent the results of the vote count in battleground states. Ambiguities in the Constitution and logic bombs in the Electoral Count Act make it possible to extend the dispute all the way to Inauguration Day, which would bring the nation to a precipice. The Twentieth Amendment is crystal clear that the president’s term in office “shall end” at noon on January 20, but two men could show up to be sworn in. One of them would arrive with all the tools and power of the presidency already in hand.


“We are not prepared for this at all,” Julian Zelizer, a Prince­ton professor of history and public affairs, told me. “We talk about it, some worry about it, and we imagine what it would be. But few people have actual answers to what happens if the machinery of democracy is used to prevent a legitimate resolution to the election.”


Nineteen summers ago, when counterterrorism analysts warned of a coming attack by al‑Qaeda, they could only guess at a date. This year, if election analysts are right, we know when the trouble is likely to come. Call it the Interregnum: the interval from Election Day to the next president’s swearing-in. It is a temporal no-man’s-land between the presidency of Donald Trump and an uncertain successor—a second term for Trump or a first for Biden. The transfer of power we usually take for granted has several intermediate steps, and they are fragile.


The Interregnum comprises 79 days, carefully bounded by law. Among them are “the first Monday after the second Wednesday in December,” this year December 14, when the electors meet in all 50 states and the District of Columbia to cast their ballots for president; “the 3d day of January,” when the newly elected Congress is seated; and “the sixth day of January,” when the House and Senate meet jointly for a formal count of the electoral vote. In most modern elections these have been pro forma milestones, irrelevant to the outcome. This year, they may not be.


“Our Constitution does not secure the peaceful transition of power, but rather presupposes it,” the legal scholar Lawrence Douglas wrote in a recent book titled simply Will He Go? The Interregnum we are about to enter will be accompanied by what Douglas, who teaches at Amherst, calls a “perfect storm” of adverse conditions. We cannot turn away from that storm. On November 3 we sail toward its center mass. If we emerge without trauma, it will not be an unbreakable ship that has saved us.


Let us not hedge about one thing. Donald Trump may win or lose, but he will never concede. Not under any circumstance. Not during the Interregnum and not afterward. If compelled in the end to vacate his office, Trump will insist from exile, as long as he draws breath, that the contest was rigged.



President Donald Trump: The 60 Minutes Election Interview

October 26, 2020


In an interview that’s made headlines this week, Lesley Stahl presses President Trump on once-again rising coronavirus cases and what his priorities would be if re-elected. Stahl also speaks with Mr. Trump’s running mate, Vice President Mike Pence.




November 2020


Illustration by Mark Smith





Secret powers and the presidency


By Andrew Cockburn, the author, most recently, of Kill Chain: The Rise of the High-Tech Assassins


A few hours before the inauguration ceremony, the prospective president receives an elaborate and highly classified briefing on the means and procedures for blowing up the world with a nuclear attack, a rite of passage that a former official described as “a sobering moment.” Secret though it may be, we are at least aware that this introduction to apocalypse takes place. At some point in the first term, however, experts surmise that an even more secret briefing occurs, one that has never been publicly acknowledged. In it, the new president learns how to blow up the Constitution.


The session introduces “presidential emergency action documents,” or PEADs, orders that authorize a broad range of mortal assaults on our civil liberties. In the words of a rare declassified official description, the documents outline how to “implement extraordinary presidential authority in response to extraordinary situations”—by imposing martial law, suspending habeas corpus, seizing control of the internet, imposing censorship, and incarcerating so-called subversives, among other repressive measures. “We know about the nuclear briefcase that carries the launch codes,” Joel McCleary, a White House official in the Carter Administration, told me. “But over at the Office of Legal Counsel at the Justice Department there’s a list of all the so-called enemies of the state who would be rounded up in an emergency. I’ve heard it called the ‘enemies briefcase.’ ”


These chilling directives have been silently proliferating since the dawn of the Cold War as an integral part of the hugely elaborate and expensive Continuity of Government (COG) program, a mechanism to preserve state authority (complete with well-provisioned underground bunkers for leaders) in the event of a nuclear holocaust. Compiled without any authorization from Congress, the emergency provisions long escaped public discussion—that is, until Donald Trump started to brag about them. “I have the right to do a lot of things that people don’t even know about,” he boasted in March, ominously echoing his interpretation of Article II of the Constitution, which, he has claimed, gives him “the right to do whatever I want as president.” He has also declared his “absolute right” to build a border wall, whatever Congress thinks, and even floated the possibility of delaying the election “until people can properly, securely, and safely vote.”


“This really is one of the best-kept secrets in Washington,” Elizabeth Goitein, the co-director of the Liberty and National Security Program at NYU’s Brennan Center for Justice, told me. “But though the PEADs are secret from the American public, they’re not secret from the White House and from the executive branch. And the fact that none of them has ever been leaked is really quite extraordinary.” Goitein and her colleagues have been working diligently for years to elicit the truth about the president’s hidden legal armory, tracing stray references in declassified documents and obscure appropriations requests from previous administrations. “At least in the past,” said Goitein, “there were documents that purported to authorize actions that are unconstitutional, that are not justified by any existing law, and that’s why we need to be worried about them.”



The Atlantic

November 4, 2020


A Large Portion of the Electorate Chose the Sociopath


America will have to contend with that fact.



By Tom Nichols

Author of The Death of Expertise: The Campaign Against Established Knowledge and Why It Matters


The moment every Donald Trump opponent has been waiting for is at hand: Joe Biden seems to be taking the lead. So why am I not happy?


I am certainly relieved. A Biden victory would be an infinitely better result than a Trump win. If Trump were to maintain power, our child-king would be unfettered by bothersome laws and institutions. The United States would begin its last days as a democracy, finally stepping over the ledge into authoritarianism.


A win for Biden would forestall that terrible possibility.


But no matter how this election concludes, America is now a different country. Nearly half of the voters have seen Trump in all of his splendor—his infantile tirades, his disastrous and lethal policies, his contempt for democracy in all its forms—and they decided that they wanted more of it. His voters can no longer hide behind excuses about the corruption of Hillary Clinton or their willingness to take a chance on an unproven political novice. They cannot feign ignorance about how Trump would rule. They know, and they have embraced him.


[ David Frum: The American system is broken ]


Sadly, the voters who said in 2016 that they chose Trump because they thought he was “just like them” turned out to be right. Now, by picking him again, those voters are showing that they are just like him: angry, spoiled, racially resentful, aggrieved, and willing to die rather than ever admit that they were wrong.


To be clear, I never expected a Biden landslide in a country as polarized as the United States. I was a wet blanket even among my Never Trump comrades, holding out only the modest hope that Biden would recapture the states Clinton lost in 2016, and possibly flip Arizona. But I expected the margins in all of those states—and especially in Biden’s birth state of Pennsylvania—to be higher. I suspected that Biden had no real chance in places such as Texas or Georgia or even North Carolina, all states in the Trumpist grip.


Nor was I among the progressives who believed America would repudiate Trump’s policies. For one thing, I am a conservative—and I know my former tribe. Trump voters don’t care about policy. They didn’t care about it in 2016, and they don’t care about it now. The party of national security, fiscal austerity, and personal responsibility supports a president who is in the pocket of the Russians, has exploded the national deficit, and refuses to take responsibility for anything. I had hoped, at the least, that people who once insisted on the importance of presidential character would vote for basic decency after living under the most indecent president in American history.




  November 9, 2020


As Trump Loses WH, Robert De Niro Shares Relief And The Hope For Accountability


Legendary Oscar-winning actor Robert De Niro speaks out in his first interview since Pres. Trump’s defeat, telling MSNBC’s Ari Melber that he is relieved about Trump’s loss and concerned about how someone like Trump could get as far as he did in American government, warning that “more people like” Trump may test democracy again. De Niro also reflects on Trump’s ethics, his silence since Saturday’s election call, why he believes Trump has “no center” and the appeal and role of “tough guys” and mafia films in American life and culture.



GBH News

November 9, 2020


Mary Trump On How Far A Wounded Trump

Might Go To Hold Onto Power Despite Electoral Loss



Real Time with Bill Maher
November 20, 2020


New Rule: The Great Disappointment


In his final New Rule of 2020, Bill explores the striking similarities between Donald Trump and other infamous cult leaders.



The Atlantic

November 20, 2020


Trump’s Indifference Amounts to Negligent Homicide


The president’s behavior may not meet the term’s legal definition, but it captures the horror a government is visting upon its people.



By James Fallows

He and his wife, Deborah Fallows, are the authors of the 2018 book Our Towns: A 100,000-Mile Journey Into the Heart of America, which was a national best seller and is the basis of a forthcoming HBO documentary.


Negligent homicide has a specific meaning in the law books. The standards of proof and categories of offense vary from state to state. But the essence is: Someone died because someone else did not exercise reasonable care.


An adult leaves loaded weapons where children can find them. A factory owner or amusement-park operator ignores the safety standards for their equipment. A motorist in a hurry, or heading back from a bar, roars through a school-crossing zone full of children. A parent leaves an infant “just for a few minutes” in a car with rolled-up windows on a baking-hot day. Prosecutors and juries draw the line between cases like these and murder, based mainly on intent. Did the person who caused the death actually mean to do harm? It’s a distinction that matters a lot to the defendant, but not to the victim. Whatever the legal outcome, a person who—except for another’s indifference to risks that should have been foreseen—would still be living and learning and loving, instead is dead.


That’s the law of negligent homicide. The ultimate legal reckoning for what we are now living (and dying) through will be a matter for legal authorities to take up, or decide to drop, when they have the evidence; I have no standing to do so. Instead, I want to consider the nonlegal, commonsense meanings of the term, and of its more gruesome-sounding cousin, manslaughter.


Many terms that have legal connotations can be useful in their plain everyday sense as well. Not everything we’d call an assault matches the state-by-state standards that define that crime. Not everything we call theft—or blackmail, or even rape—would count as such in an indictment or could be proved in court. Similarly, when removed from their courtroom and legal implications, terms like negligence and manslaughter and, yes, homicide are useful right now. They give us a way of assessing the horror a government is visiting upon its people.




November 20, 2020


I Grew Up Surrounded By Religious Fanatics.

Here’s What I know About Trump Supporters


“Like Trump and his supporters working to undermine our democracy illustrate, deluded fanaticsm is always harmful, and my family was no exception.”



Olivia Christensen – Guest Writer


During the days immediately after the election, most of which I spent doomscrolling through social media on my phone in a kind of trance, my childhood best friend sent me a clip. Her caption was simple: “When people ask me why I don’t go to church anymore.” I gave the wry chuckle of someone who knows a joke before it’s told, and since my friend and I share a background steeped in religious fundamentalism, in a way, I did.


I clicked the link for a laugh, and there stood televangelist Kenneth Copeland with his unnaturally dark hair, his wizened, waxy face, and his fervent eyes. “The media says Joe Biden’s the president!” he exclaims before he begins laughing like a washed-up comedian who’s decided the best way to get a laugh is to cue the audience with one of his own, which is an apt description, all things considered.


The clip dripped with the viral potential it would go on to fulfill in the coming days. A prominent man melting down in such a publicly awkward way was apparently the laugh so many people needed after several nail-biting days of election returns. But as I saw the familiar face twisted with delusional laughter, a chill came over me. I recognized the manic glitter in his eyes, and I couldn’t laugh.


I grew up in a home tinged with religious mania, and my Christian fundamentalist home-school family ran exclusively in circles where this mania was not only tolerated but encouraged.





Michael Shermer with David Barash – On the Brink of Destruction


This dialogue was recorded on November 24, 2020 as part of the Science Salon Podcast series hosted by Michael Shermer and presented by The Skeptics Society, in California.


In a conversation based on the book Threats: Intimidation and its Discontents, Shermer and Barash discuss:


• 2020 as the most momentous year of the past half century,


• judging historical figures based on modern morals (e.g., race and slavery),


• whether humans are naturally gullible or skeptical,


• the evolutionary logic of deterrence,


• how animals deal with threats,


• how humans deal with threats,


• game theory of deterring threats,


• nuclear deterrence (Mutual Assured Destruction) as a threat strategy,


• the motives behind nuking Hiroshima and Nagasaki,


• the U.S. arms race against the U.S.S.R.,


• the arms race within the U.S. between the Army, Navy, and Air Force,


• close calls with nuclear weapons and why this is not a sustainable strategy,


• how to deal with threats like Iran, China, Russia, and North Korea,


• Trump and what he did right with regard to North Korea.



December 2020 Issue


The Silenced Majority


Can America still afford democracy?


By Rana Dasgupta


Concern about American democracy is often expressed as a parable of the Thirties: We must prevent another Hitler. The word “fascism” has appeared frequently in denunciations of Donald Trump; many have accused him of a führer-like contempt for the American system. But it is time to ask whether the system itself is not thereby too conveniently excused. Mass political participation has come only recently and reluctantly to America; voter suppression is the more traditional American way. And for reasons that have nothing to do with fascism, even that partial efflorescence may be coming to an end. Trump’s baleful theatrics have distracted us, in fact, from the broader disintegration of the twentieth-century interregnum, of which he is only a symptom. That process has much further to go, and will produce dangers greater than he.


Hitler’s moment differed vastly from our own: with total industrialization, the Western working masses manufactured the world’s most valuable products, and were essential to global economic growth. The defeat of Great Power fascism established democracy as the dominant political technology in the capitalist world and relegated totalitarian economic organization to the other side of the Iron Curtain. Western democracy then flourished during the postwar era of fast-growing national economies, when Western populations were much wealthier than those of other countries. But these conditions have changed. One of the most significant processes of our own moment is the re-exclusion of the Western masses from the center of world affairs—a position they occupied for less than two centuries. And while the economic aspects of this development are much discussed (the demise, not only of public subsidies, but, most importantly for the Western psyche, of salaries greatly inflated compared with those of the rest of the world), the resultant political unwinding will be even more traumatic.


Democracy—in its twentieth-century Western guise—is not compatible with just any economic arrangement. Eighteenth-century Europe could neither afford nor tolerate it, and democratic talk was sternly forbidden. A delicate and unusual set of circumstances brought democratic change. But those circumstances did not occur much outside the West. And now they are disappearing here too.


Instead of seeking lessons from twentieth-century Germany, we should look back to the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries of the Anglo-American complex. That will remind us that most of the phenomena we label fascist—nationalist fictions of ethnic supremacy, mass disenfranchisement, censorship—are fully compatible with free-market capitalism.



The New York Times
Dec. 11, 2020


The ‘Trump Won’ Farce Isn’t Funny Anymore


Republicans are now seriously arguing that elections are legitimate only when their side wins.




To tell a joke to a crowd is to learn a little something about the people who laugh.


For our purposes, the “joke” is President Trump’s ongoing fight to overturn the election results and hold on to power against the wishes of most Americans, including those in enough states to equal far more than the 270 electoral votes required to win the White House.


“#OVERTURN,” he said on Twitter this week, adding in a separate post that “If somebody cheated in the Election, which the Democrats did, why wouldn’t the Election be immediately overturned? How can a Country be run like this?”


Unfortunately for Trump, and fortunately for the country, he has not been able to bend reality to his desires. Key election officials and federal judges have refused his call to throw out votes, create chaos and clear a path for the autogolpe he hopes to accomplish. The military has also made clear where it stands. “We do not take an oath to a king or a queen, a tyrant or a dictator. We do not take an oath to an individual,” Gen. Mark A. Milley, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said in a speech not long after the election.








Opinion | What the Science of Addiction Tells Us About Trump


It turns out that your brain on grievances looks a lot like your brain on drugs. And that’s a problem not just for the outgoing president, but for the rest of us.



By James Kimmel, Jr., a lecturer in psychiatry at the Yale University School of Medicine, co-director of the Yale Collaborative for Motive Control Studies, and author of The Trial of Fallen Angels, a novel.



President Donald Trump has made grievance a primary feature of his life and presidency, from the thousands of lawsuits he has filed to, most recently, his repeated claims of national election fraud. His opponents, and even many of his supporters, have wondered why he can’t seem to control his urges to lash out at perceived enemies.


I am a violence researcher and study the role of grievances and retaliation in violent crime. Recently, I’ve been researching the way grievances affect the brain, and it turns out that your brain on grievance looks a lot like your brain on drugs. In fact, brain imaging studies show that harboring a grievance (a perceived wrong or injustice, real or imagined) activates the same neural reward circuitry as narcotics.


This isn’t a metaphor; it’s brain biology. Scientists have found that in substance addiction, environmental cues such as being in a place where drugs are taken or meeting another person who takes drugs cause sharp surges of dopamine in crucial reward and habit regions of the brain, specifically, the nucleus accumbens and dorsal striatum. This triggers cravings in anticipation of experiencing pleasure and relief through intoxication. Recent studies show that similarly, cues such as experiencing or being reminded of a perceived wrong or injustice — a grievance — activate these same reward and habit regions of the brain, triggering cravings in anticipation of experiencing pleasure and relief through retaliation. To be clear, the retaliation doesn’t need to be physically violent—an unkind word, or tweet, can also be very gratifying.


Although these are new findings and the research in this area is not yet settled, what this suggests is that similar to the way people become addicted to drugs or gambling, people may also become addicted to seeking retribution against their enemies—revenge addiction. This may help explain why some people just can’t let go of their grievances long after others feel they should have moved on—and why some people resort to violence.



NowThis News

Dec. 15, 2020


‘We Need Brain’: Top 10 Funniest Politics Videos of 2020


From his wild scientific theories to his unprecedented ‘knowledge’ of windmills and bleach, Trump made us laugh almost as much as he made us cry.




December 25, 2020


Opinion | Trump’s last-minute pardon spree shows why Joe Biden just can’t ‘move on’


By Amanda Marcotte – Commentary


No one should be surprised that Donald Trump is on a pardon spree for some of the most notorious crooks in politics. You have the men that were convicted for their role in colluding with Russia’s version of the Watergate conspiracy to hack Democratic emails during the 2016 election, such as Trump campaign manager Paul Manafort and Trumpian gadfly Roger Stone. You have former congressional GOP scumbags Chris Collins, Duncan Hunter, and Steve Stockman, all convicted for financial crimes like insider trading stealing from campaign donors and stealing from charity. You have Jared Kushner’s father, Charles Kushner, who was sent to the clinker for tax evasion. And for good measure, Trump also sprung some outright murderers, mercenaries who worked for Blackwater, which is run by Trump’s buddy, Erik Prince. These men were convicted for their role in an outright massacre of Iraqi civilians, including a 9-year-old boy.



IT WAS ALL A LIE: How The Republican Party

Became Donald Trump, by Stuart Stevens | 2020


“In his bare-knuckles account, Stevens confesses to the reader that the entire apparatus of his Republican Party is built on a pack of lies… This reckoning inspired Stevens to publish this blistering, tell-all history… Although this book will be a hard read for any committed conservatives, they would do well to ponder it.”  Julian E. Zelizer, The New York Times


From the most successful Republican political operative of his generation, a searing, unflinching, and deeply personal exposé of how his party became what it is today.


Stuart Stevens spent decades electing Republicans at every level, from presidents to senators to local officials. He knows the GOP as intimately as anyone in America, and in this new book he offers a devastating portrait of a party that has lost its moral and political compass.


This is not a book about how Donald J. Trump hijacked the Republican Party and changed it into something else. Stevens shows how Trump is in fact the natural outcome of five decades of hypocrisy and self-delusion, dating all the way back to the civil rights legislation of the early 1960s. Stevens shows how racism has always lurked in the modern GOP’s DNA, from Goldwater’s opposition to desegregation to Ronald Reagan’s welfare queens and states’ rights rhetoric. He gives an insider’s account of the rank hypocrisy of the party’s claims to embody “family values,” and shows how the party’s vaunted commitment to fiscal responsibility has been a charade since the 1980s. When a party stands for nothing, he argues, it is only natural that it will be taken over by the loudest and angriest voices in the room.




“In With The New” by Harry Bliss




January 2, 2021


A photo op, World War III, and bleach injections:

The wildest politcal moments in the US in 2020


So much has happened in 2020 that people often forget

Donald Trump was impeached.


Griffin Connolly and John T. Bennet


The final year of the Trump administration has been full of tumult — from the third presidential impeachment in US history, to the president’s combative response to a reinvigorated racial justice movement, to his governing and personal trials with the coronavirus pandemic.


Few Americans who survived 2020 will forget the names George Floyd and Breonna Taylor, whose deaths from encounters with police reignited the conversation surrounding law enforcement and the treatment of Black Americans in this country. Millions will remember the more than 330,000 spouses, parents, children, siblings, and friends who died from the coronavirus pandemic.


These historic events unfolded in the middle of a presidential election year with a White House incumbent, Donald Trump, whose flair for the dramatic produced some of the most iconically absurd moments this country has witnessed.




January 2021 Issue


The Gate of Heaven Is Everywhere


Among the



By Fred Bahnson



All happy religious families are alike; each unhappy religious family is unhappy in its own way.


The family of American Christianity has been unhappy for quite some time, so much so that it’s hard for many of us to imagine that it could be otherwise. The past four years have brought these feuds into the open. For Catholics, there is the glaring pedophilia scandal. For evangelicals, there is disagreement over church leaders’ alliance with power, their unwavering fealty, since 2016, to the crotch-grabbing Caligula of Mar-a-Lago, whose every abuse of office made them double down on their support.


For mainline Protestants like me, the discontent has been less visible. Denominational squabbles over human sexuality have made headlines, but across every denomination a certain lassitude pervades, a general lukewarmness that makes it feel as though Protestantism has run its course. When the five hundredth anniversary of the Reformation rolled around in 2017, a few academics published monographs on Luther, and a commemorative study Bible appeared, but with church membership declining in every mainline denomination, Protestant circles shrugged. We knew there wasn’t much to crow about. What was it, exactly, we were still protesting?


Outwardly, it might look as if the family dynasty is on the wane, a decline that deepens with every new Pew study. What of the alternatives? A growing number of people are simply leaving the Christian household altogether, becoming Spiritual But Not Religious. Among some conservatives, there is talk of “strategic withdrawal” into tiny neighborhood enclaves. In The Benedict Option, Rod Dreher asserts


that serious Christian conservatives could no longer live business-as-usual lives in America, that we have to develop creative, communal solutions to help us hold on to our faith and our values in a world growing ever more hostile to them.


Dreher laments “the breakdown of the natural family, the loss of traditional moral values, and the fragmenting of communities,” which he blames on “the flood of secularism.” But the Ben Op, as Dreher calls it, feels a lot like old culture-war stuff repackaged with a catchy title; what Dreher really means by “our values” is protecting the Christian family from “the LGBT agenda.” By accepting gay marriage, his argument goes, the church has failed. “I have written The Benedict Option to wake up the church . . . while there is still time,” he warns.


Meanwhile, those on the Christian left are also digging in politically. The primacy of race-class-gender (in the world of progressive theological education it’s often said breathlessly, as one word) as an interpretive grid, the focus on political advocacy, the intense energy directed toward voter registration or climate justice or affordable housing—all of this can make it feel as if progressive churches have become religious versions of MoveOn. The drive to stay politically relevant makes it hard to talk about prayer or salvation or Jesus, unless it’s a prayer that everybody at a rally can get behind, a salvation that exists in this world, or a Jesus who is just a political rabble-rouser. If conservatives like Dreher fear assimilation, progressives fear being too Christian. Having grown up in one camp (conservative), I long ago threw in my lot with the other (progressive), but my point here is not to promote camps or criticize platforms. It is precisely to say that religious life, to its detriment, has been reduced to a platform.


Like the Kardashians, the American Christian family has become obsessed with its own profile. It has become faith as public spectacle, faith as political engagement, as party affiliation, as reputation—anything but faith as paradox, as mystery, as the hidden and seductive dance between spiritual desire and satiation, the prolonging of a hunger so alarmingly vast and yet so subtle that it disappears the moment it’s made public.


In early monastic Christianity, that hunger was acknowledged and channeled, given shape and form and expression. It went by different names—contemplatio (silent prayer) or hesychia (stillness)—which led first to an inner union with Christ, and then to a deep engagement with the suffering of the world. The order was important. In John Cassian’s Conferences, a fifth-century account of the early Christian monastic movement in the deserts of Egypt, a certain Abba Isaac describes how the monks modeled their prayer on Jesus’ practice of going up a mountain alone to pray; those who wished to pray “must withdraw from all the worry and turbulence of the crowd.” In that state of spiritual yearning, God’s presence would become known. “He will be all that we are zealous for, all that we strive for,” Abba Isaac said. “He will be all that we think about, all our living, all that we talk about, our very breath.”


What the early monks and the Christian mystics who followed sought union—an intense experience of inwardness that is glaringly absent in what many of us get from American Christianity today. Perhaps this absence is the real reason for the mass exodus from churches. Perhaps it is not Christianity that many followers are disappointed in, but Christendom.


While the mysteries of contemplative Christianity were once handed down by emaciated anchorites in the Egyptian desert, the modern wisdom seeker might find himself, as I did, in the Albuquerque Convention Center, watching Richard Rohr speak on a Jumbotron.



PBS NewsHour

 January 5, 2021


Former defense secretary

urges top brass to resign or

resist questionable Trump orders


All 10 living former secretaries of defense signed a column published in The Washington Post on Sunday that urged the Trump administration to allow a peaceful transition of power and to keep the Pentagon out of it. One of the signatories was William Cohen, a former Republican senator who served as secretary of defense under President Bill Clinton. He joins Judy Woodruff to discuss.



The Washington Post

January 3, 2021


All 10 living former defense secretaries:

Involving the military in election disputes

would cross into dangerous territory


Ashton Carter, Dick Cheney, William Cohen, Mark Esper, Robert Gates, Chuck Hagel, James Mattis, Leon Panetta, William Perry and Donald Rumsfeld are the 10 living former U.S. secretaries of defense.


As former secretaries of defense, we hold a common view of the solemn obligations of the U.S. armed forces and the Defense Department. Each of us swore an oath to support and defend the Constitution against all enemies, foreign and domestic. We did not swear it to an individual or a party.


American elections and the peaceful transfers of power that result are hallmarks of our democracy. With one singular and tragic exception that cost the lives of more Americans than all of our other wars combined, the United States has had an unbroken record of such transitions since 1789, including in times of partisan strife, war, epidemics and economic depression. This year should be no exception.


Our elections have occurred. Recounts and audits have been conducted. Appropriate challenges have been addressed by the courts. Governors have certified the results. And the electoral college has voted. The time for questioning the results has passed; the time for the formal counting of the electoral college votes, as prescribed in the Constitution and statute, has arrived.


As senior Defense Department leaders have noted, “there’s no role for the U.S. military in determining the outcome of a U.S. election.” Efforts to involve the U.S. armed forces in resolving election disputes would take us into dangerous, unlawful and unconstitutional territory. Civilian and military officials who direct or carry out such measures would be accountable, including potentially facing criminal penalties, for the grave consequences of their actions on our republic.


Transitions, which all of us have experienced, are a crucial part of the successful transfer of power. They often occur at times of international uncertainty about U.S. national security policy and posture. They can be a moment when the nation is vulnerable to actions by adversaries seeking to take advantage of the situation.


Given these factors, particularly at a time when U.S. forces are engaged in active operations around the world, it is all the more imperative that the transition at the Defense Department be carried out fully, cooperatively and transparently. Acting defense secretary Christopher C. Miller and his subordinates — political appointees, officers and civil servants — are each bound by oath, law and precedent to facilitate the entry into office of the incoming administration, and to do so wholeheartedly. They must also refrain from any political actions that undermine the results of the election or hinder the success of the new team.


We call upon them, in the strongest terms, to do as so many generations of Americans have done before them. This final action is in keeping with the highest traditions and professionalism of the U.S. armed forces, and the history of democratic transition in our great country.



Read more:





Nation’s capital braces for violence as extremist groups converge to protest Trump’s election loss


Will Carless


Protests planned for Washington, D.C., this week are likely to attract large numbers of President Donald Trump’s supporters, including conspiracy theorists, militia groups and members of the extremist group the Proud Boys, raising concerns of violent confrontations.


The rallies are planned to coincide with the official congressional vote to certify the Electoral College votes from the November presidential election and declare President-elect Joe Biden the winner. Far-right groups from around the country have vowed to descend on the capital to protest the vote and attempt to pressure lawmakers into voting against certifying the results, an outcome that even the leaders of the effort admit is extraordinarily unlikely to happen.


Trump himself has amplified conspiracy theories about the election and encouraged his supporters to show up at the protests. “Statistically impossible to have lost the 2020 Election. Big protest in D.C. on January 6th. Be there, will be wild!” he tweeted on December 18. On Sunday, the president again promoted the protests, writing on Twitter, “I will be there. Historic day!”



ABC News

January 7, 2021


World leaders react to siege on the Capitol


International headlines offered reactions to the thousands of Trump supporters storming the Capitol building.






Extremists intensify calls for violence ahead of

Inauguration Day




Updated 9:28 PM ET, Friday, January 8, 2021


“Trump or war. Today. That simple.”


The New Republic

May 5, 2021


Our Friend, the Trump Propagandist


We knew David Horowitz when he was a radical leftist. Then he became a conservative. Then he joined the MAGA cult.


By Ronald Roddosh and Sol Stern


According to our old friend David Horowitz—the radical leftist turned thoughtful conservative turned Trump propagandist whom we’ve been acquainted with, in his various political guises, for more than 60 years—America is on the brink of destruction by way of a communist takeover that only the patriots of the MAGA movement can prevent. That’s the main message in Horowitz’s new book, The Enemy Within: How a Totalitarian Movement Is Destroying America. On the book’s cover are portraits of the seven Democrats allegedly plotting the revolution: Nancy Pelosi, Chuck Schumer, Kamala Harris, Bernie Sanders, Elizabeth Warren, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, and Ilhan Omar.


This third book Horowitz has published about Trump since 2017, The Enemy Within, is even more of a jihad against liberals and progressives than his previous two (both bestsellers). Horowitz’s justification for writing yet another Trumpist screed is that, in the aftermath of the Democrats stealing the 2020 election, an event he describes (in lip sync with the former president) as “the greatest political crime in the history of the country,” the “totalitarian” threat the party poses is now imminent.


The book begins with a lamentation: “Americans are more divided today than at any time since the Civil War.” The trouble is that almost everything Horowitz has recently written has been calculated to fan the flames of division. Yet he can’t make up his mind whether the tyranny the Democrats are about to install would be more like twentieth-century communism or fascism. He asserts, for example, that the diversity training programs favored by Democrats are akin to the surveillance system of “people’s commissars” created by the Bolsheviks. In practically the same breath, he announces that the Biden administration “has clearly defined itself and its party as a fascist vanguard.”



ABC News

August 23, 2021


How Rupert Murdoch’s Fox News promoted Donald Trump’s propaganda and helped destabilise democracy in the United States: the first of our two-part special.



The New Republic

August 12, 2021


Donald’s Plot Against America


Now, he and his GOP enablers are peddling the Second Big Lie: That January 6 was just legitimate protest. It’s the crucial ingredient in convincing America to return them—and him—to power.


By Mary L. Trump


I felt as though I had stumbled across a crime scene so violent that I couldn’t process it, let alone synthesize the images in front of me. The parts remained stubbornly separate, and there was no way to grasp the meaning of the whole.


In the early afternoon of January 6, while the mob was still swarming the stairs of the Capitol, I was asked in an interview what I thought of the unfolding situation. I watched the crowd that had been stoked that morning by my uncle, and by Republicans like Ted Cruz, Josh Hawley, and Mo Brooks, with their Confederate flags, their MAGA hats, and their Camp Auschwitz shirts; I watched the smoke (the origin of which I couldn’t yet discern) drift through the air, and I heard their shouts of grievance and anger. It looked like a scene from a failed country whose government had just been toppled, a banana republic; but it was the United States of America, my country, our country, and, knowing who was responsible for the chaos here, the first word that came to my mind was “tawdry.”


Of course, it was so much more than that—so much more dangerous and serious than that, as we would eventually find out. At around 2:15, while Republicans Cruz and Paul Gosar were objecting to the legitimate results of the election, the insurrectionists breached the Capitol, Congress was adjourned, and frantic attempts were made to get the vice president and all of the senators and representatives to safety.


Two hours later, the Georgia Senate race was called for Jon Ossoff. It mattered, certainly; it meant that the Democrats would control the Senate. But there was no room for celebration. After four years of Donald’s incessant attacks and ineptitude, we were already exhausted. Joe Biden’s victory was supposed to have offered us some reprieve, but having given Donald room to promote his Big Lie, elected Republicans had now granted him the opportunity to incite an insurrection. So there would be no respite from the madness, from Donald’s particular blend of mendacity, cruelty, and destructiveness. There would be no celebrating.


That horrific day—which we now know General Mark Milley, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, referred to as a “Reichstag moment”—was bracketed by Donald’s incendiary speech given just before noon and a video released two hours after the Capitol had been breached that added more fuel to the fire. The speech itself was full of grievances—lies about the “landslide election” that had been stolen from him, threats to Mike Pence, whom he led the crowd to believe had the power to overturn the results of the election, fabulations about people voting as Santa Claus and Democrats’ taking down statues of Jefferson and Lincoln, and calls to action demanding that the crowd force Congress to “do the right thing.” In the 62-second video, Donald says the word peace three times, presumably because somebody convinced him he had to distance himself from the role he played in stoking the mob’s violence; but, because he can never help himself in these instances, he kept hammering away at what was supposedly stolen from them. The video sickened me just as the “apology” video he recorded after the Access Hollywood tape was released had sickened me. I feared the same result—that there would be no consequences.


That night, after I was finally able to turn off the news, the only two things I knew with absolute certainty were: one, that for the first time in our nation’s history there had not been a peaceful transfer of power, because my uncle, who could not accept his resounding defeat and the humiliation that came with it, had attempted to inspire a coup; and two, the next two weeks before Joe Biden’s inauguration would be the most dangerous this country had ever lived through.


On November 7, after Joe Biden was declared the winner, Donald began peddling the Big Lie—massive voter fraud and cheating by Democrats had turned Donald’s landslide victory into a loss. The phrase “the Big Lie,” coined by Adolf Hitler, describes the technique of saying something so outrageously false that people will believe it simply because they think nobody would have the audacity to lie so brazenly. This has been a specialty of Donald’s since, as a teenager, he had to convince his father everything he did was always the biggest, the greatest, and the best. Back then, his lies protected him from his father’s wrath. The Big Lie about the election protected him from having to face the deep narcissistic wound he’d suffered after losing to Biden. In addition, it kept his base riled up—keeping them afraid of what a Biden administration planned to take away from them (or force upon them) and enraged by what he claimed had been stolen from them.


In Donald’s January 6 video, the Second Big Lie was born. By telling them that they are loved and special, he transformed the violent anti-American mob into patriots who had merely been trying to save their country from the Democratic Party’s treasonous attempt to steal the election from him—and therefore from them. We’ve seen how this has become a strategy for almost every single Republican politician as well. Despite the testimony given by D.C. police officers Daniel Hodges and Michael Fanone, Capitol Police Officer Harry Dunn, and Capitol Police Sgt. Aquilino Gonell in front of the House select committee on July 27, which was impossible for any empathetic human being to watch without feeling a visceral rage and profound sadness, this will continue to be the Republican strategy. They know that if midterm voters still remember the truth about January 6, they’re in trouble. The insurrection of January 6 should have been a wake-up call. It looks, instead, to have been a dress rehearsal.


In the mind-bogglingly long and destabilizing year since the publication of my first book, Too Much and Never Enough, America’s weaknesses and structural deficiencies have been laid bare because one man, Donald John Trump, did something none of his predecessors would have dreamed of doing—through his destruction of norms, he actively set out to undermine and dismantle the very institutions that were designed, in part, to protect us from leaders like him. Keeping him in check required a functioning legislative branch and Cabinet secretaries, like the attorney general or the head of health and human services—who were willing to act with some independence—to put country over party. But having shown himself incapable of building anything, Donald has always been expert at tearing things down. In this endeavor, he has had plenty of sycophants, enablers, and users, just as he has throughout his life. And Republicans saw a way to make the most of it.


As a politician, Donald has benefited greatly from his rabid base of supporters. He embodies their fear and gives expression to their grievance. He doesn’t just give them permission to indulge in their white supremacy; he champions it. He makes them feel good about their prejudices. Following him by denying the virus or claiming immunity from it is another way for them to feel superior. It’s bizarre, because in the process they are putting themselves and those they love at risk, but it is similar to the function lynching has historically served for white people. Lynchings are not only about showing the power of the aggressor but also about demonstrating the other person’s weakness and total subservience. That makes sense in the context of what white supremacists and white supremacy were trying to accomplish, because, in an incurably racist society, the power so clearly belonged to the one race, and the vulnerabilities so clearly belonged to the other. The response to Covid—the denialism and disdain for science—functions the same way, but in this case, whether they acknowledge the reality and the risk or not, the denialists are victims, too. These are devout (for lack of a better word) Republicans. If the people they’ve voted for, at every level of government, equate mask-wearing with being liberal or claim that worrying about catching a deadly virus somehow makes you weak, you will follow their lead. Donald took it a step further. In order to demonstrate their allegiance and support, it was no longer enough for them to attend a rally. They had to do so in the middle of a deadly pandemic without social distancing or wearing a mask.


That’s the part that is confounding. But it demonstrates how deeply it matters to them that they, at least in their own minds, maintain a position of superiority over those they consider less-than—particularly Black Americans and immigrants—and stay connected to a man who, through a mesmerizing dance of his followers’ micro-concessions and his own micro-aggressions against them, keeps them in thrall. That their children are dying or their parents and friends are dying isn’t beside the point—it is the point.



The Washington Post

October 31, 2021




As Trump propelled his supporters to

Washington, law enforcement agencies failed

to heed mounting warnings about violence on Jan. 6.


The head of intelligence at D.C.’s homeland security office was growing desperate. For days, Donell Harvin and his team had spotted increasing signs that supporters of President Donald Trump were planning violence when Congress met to formalize the electoral college vote, but federal law enforcement agencies did not seem to share his sense of urgency. On Saturday, Jan. 2, he picked up the phone and called his counterpart in San Francisco, waking Mike Sena before dawn.


Sena listened with alarm. The Northern California intelligence office he commanded had also been inundated with political threats flagged by social media companies, several involving plans to disrupt the joint session or hurt lawmakers on Jan. 6.




July 12, 2021


The LAST THING before WE GO tonight is a new appreciation of



Carl Sagan Predicted The Mess 2021 Would Be

25 Years Ago


Astrophysicist and author Carl Sagan managed to predict a lot of things and challenges America faces in the year 2021 all the way back in 1995 when he was writing a book, The Demon-Haunted World: Science as a Candle in the Dark, published just before his death in 1996. MSNBC’s Brian Williams shares the details.




April 30, 2022


Trump’s latest hate rally: A master class

in cult mind control


By Chauncy Devega, Salon – Commentary


Donald Trump’s political circus and freak show is continuing its American tour. Everywhere it stops, Donald Trump unleashes a torrent of lies, hatred, ignorance, bigotry, racism, narcissism, authoritarianism, threats of violence and other antisocial and evil values.


Trump’s political rallies resemble George Orwell’s “two minutes of hate” from 1984, expanded to two hours or so.




World History Documentaries

May 21, 2022


The Seedy Underbelly Of The American Presidency


This doc probes the presidential campaigns that have changed America through the eyes of former campaigners, journalists and researchers. Find out how financing, crime and corruption, and TV debates play a major role in swaying political opinion on the way to the White House.




August 20, 2022


Donald Trump and Mike Pompeo spoke at a ‘Moonies’-affiliated event, despite Japan controversy


By Alia Shoaib


The Unification Church, formed in South Korea in the 1950s by self-declared messiah Sun Myung Moon, is known to have deep-rooted ties with conservative politicians worldwide. Its followers are often colloquially referred to as “Moonies.”


Former CIA director and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich spoke in person at a conference affiliated with the church in Seoul on August 12 to coincide with the 10th anniversary of the death of Sun Myung Moon.


Pompeo and Gingrich’s speeches spoke about the value of religious freedom and the dangers of communism – a view they share with the church.


The controversial religious organization – formally known as the Family Federation for World Peace and Unification – has been in the spotlight following the assassination of former Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe.


The assassin told police that he was motivated by anger towards Abe and his links to the church. It is widely described as a cult by former members.


Former President Donald Trump recorded a video message played during the meeting, per Japanese outlet NTV News 24. During his speech, Trump said that Abe was a “good friend and a great man” and praised Reverend Moon’s widow Hak Ja Han, who now heads up the church.


Other billed speakers included former Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper and former US ambassadors and generals.


According to Dr. Steven Hassan, an expert on cults and a former Moonie, the ties between right-wing politicians and the church are due to a shared hatred of communism and the group’s vast wealth and influence.


The Moon empire has been estimated to be worth billions of dollars and includes ownership of the conservative newspaper The Washington Times.


“It doesn’t shock me that Pompeo, the former head of the CIA and the State Department, spoke for them. I’m sure he got a lot of money. I’m sure Trump got a lot of money,” Hassan told Insider, speculating about their speaker’s fees. “I’m sure they don’t believe Moon was the Messiah.”




September 6, 2022




FRONTLINE’s season premiere investigates American political leaders and choices they’ve made that have undermined and threatened democracy in the U.S.


In a two-hour documentary special premiering ahead of the 2022 midterms, FRONTLINE examines how officials fed the public lies about the 2020 presidential election and embraced rhetoric that led to political violence.



The Agenda | TVO Today | Steve Paikin

January 31, 2023


Truth and Trump: An Evening with Bob Woodward


The disruptive impacts of Donald Trump’s presidency continue to wreak havoc in America and influence politics abroad. Two years after losing the presidency, is his influence behind him or is his MAGA movement still a force to be reckoned with?




May 5, 2023


The E. Jean Carroll witness decision that

could haunt Donald Trump


Should the jury be entitled to hear from any of Trump’s other accusers? That was the weighty question Judge Lewis A. Kaplan had to decide.


By Carol C. Lam, former U.S. attorney for the Southern District of California


On Thursday, E. Jean Carroll officially rested her case. This means a jury in New York City will soon be asked to decide whether Donald Trump raped, and then later defamed, the former magazine columnist and media personality. The general public will draw its own conclusions about the civil lawsuit, a remarkable event not only because Trump is the former president of the United States, but also because he is a presidential candidate once again. But because jurors are instructed to reach their decision only on the evidence they see or hear in the trial, the decisions U.S. District Judge Lewis A. Kaplan makes about what evidence comes in — and what does not — are of enormous importance.


This week, the jury heard from four key witnesses likely to be top of mind for the jurors when they begin their deliberations. Two women — Lisa Birnbach and Carol Martin — testified that Carroll talked to them shortly after the attack in 1996 and that her account back then was consistent with her testimony at trial. This evidence is important corroboration of Carroll’s testimony — that is, it was introduced to show that the rape allegation was not a recent fabrication. (Trump has denied Carroll’s claims, calling them a “scam.”)


But Judge Kaplan’s more fraught decision was whether to allow Carroll’s legal team to introduce evidence from two other witnesses: Jessica Leeds and Natasha Stoynoff.


Dozens of women have publicly accused Trump of sexual misconduct of some kind, up to and including assault. Trump was never indicted on criminal charges for any of these alleged acts, and the statute of limitations has expired on most of them. (He also claims he has never forced himself on any woman.) The battery (i.e., rape) claims that were in Carroll’s lawsuit were made possible only by a temporary 2022 law that extended the statute of limitations for sexual assault lawsuits. In that sense, it is an alternative means of holding Trump accountable outside a criminal courtroom. Given the unusual situation, should the jury be entitled to hear from any of Trump’s other accusers? That was the weighty question Kaplan had to decide.


He did so in a 23-page opinion. Kaplan ruled that Leeds, who said Trump sexually attacked her when she was seated next to him on a plane, and Stoynoff, a reporter for People magazine who said Trump sexually assaulted her while she was at Mar-a-Lago covering a story, should be allowed to testify.





May 9, 2023



Politics, Power and the Supreme Court


As controversy erupts around Clarence and Ginni Thomas, FRONTLINE tells the inside story of their path to power. This investigation from veteran filmmaker Michael Kirk and his team traces how race, power and controversy collide in the rise of the Supreme Court justice and his wife and how the couple has reshaped American law and politics.





A Science on the Nature of Evil

Adjusted for Political Purposes