Author Archives: Dr. Zack

About Dr. Zack

World Wondering Do-Gooder Doctor of Psychology general annoying know-it-all

We need your Courage, not your Violence

All battles are fought on two fronts: the battle with the enemy without, and the battle with ourselves within. This struggle we currently face is no difference, as there has been a regular contentious and argument over the use of violence as a form of political action. And what has been interesting about this argument is that it follows the same path as all discussions on the use of violence tool, whether it be about hitting a child for discipline or the excessive use of force by police: the opponents of violence use history and outcome research to show that violence works against goals and that the the non-violent methods are more effective, while the proponents of violence claim that the facts and research are not reality, that if they can’t be violent then they are just being permissive, and then accuse the opponents of of making the situation worse.

We have the science that shows non-violence is twice as effective as violence when it comes to taking down corrupt regimes, and that it can be aggressive and varied. But as my friend Mark has been regularly pointing out, facts don’t change minds in the current political environment. And the truth is, he’s right, and we sadly have the science about that too. It wasn’t until I was graced with the opportunity to hear the (hopefully soon-to-be Honorable Judge) Henry Sias speak that I was given some insight into the side calling for violence.

Anxiety is the mood, par excellence, of ethicity,” he told the crowd, invoking the words of the great activist Avital Ronell.

All emotions have a purpose for their existence, and anxiety is no different. Anxiety is a warning emotion. It tells you that something is wrong and gives you energy and motivation to address the problem. For those of us in the resistance, this anxiety is our primal motivator, as we fear not just for ourselves, but those we love.

The great problem caused by anxiety, however, comes from the fact that the anxiety of modern man is not the same as it was for early man.

When we were first becoming hardwired as humanity, the threats posed were directly physical. The problems of early man were the beasts and opposing tribes for whom the simplistic solution of violence was appropriate, and because of this, natural selection programmed violence as our instinctual response of fight or flight. This hard wiring is why non-violence seems to counter-intuitive to so many, there is a base level programming in our brains that causes us to see violence as the answer. Violently attack the problem and you can drive it away, and you can drive the anxiety away with it.

However, as humanity matured, our problems became less physical and more existential and abstract. We no longer have the monsters at the opening to our caves ready to strike with tooth and claw. Our monsters sit in ivory buildings attacking us with prejudice and inequalities. These are problems that cannot just be driven away in simple actions, as they are not caused by singular actors but are embedded in the larger social fabric itself. Today’s problems cannot be driven off, as doing so just pushes them out of your bubble for someone else to deal with. Anxiety is the mood of ethicity because anxiety is necessary as a prolonged state for the decisions that need to be made to create an ethical world. Truly solving modern problems requires prolonged and sustained efforts, and maintaining motivation for these efforts requires us to also maintain our motivating anxiety.

In regards to the current administration, I have seen both the fight and the flight reactions to the anxiety that has come to warn us about this very real problem. I know many people who are working hard to maintain the psychological flight of denial in order to chase away that anxiety, and we all know that kind of denial is detrimental in the long run. But they are running into denial because they are answering their anxiety with the flight response. But just as those who are fleeing the anxiety are not choosing the effective answer, those who are calling for violence are likewise just confusing driving away a problem with solving it. You may be able to punch low level nazis out of your personal bubble, but that won’t really effect the well protected administration or change the forces that put it into power in the first place.

It is in building the capacity to tolerate anxiety for the long fight that non-violence finds its true strength. This is not about playing nice so that normal people will feel good about playing with you. Non-violence has nothing to do with placation. Non-violence is about assuring people that you will be beside them to face the anxiety with them until the end, not just push it away from your sphere and leave. Non-violence is about pulling people in and holding their hands so they are willing to push past their own anxious reactions, which can just as likely, or even more likely, turn to flight as it does fight. The methods of non-violent resistance are about saying that they are safe enough to hold their anxiety because you will hold it with them. Non-violence is about keeping each other going until the problem no longer exists, not just merely about driving it away. Violence cannot do this because violence is just the flip side to the flight from anxiety, non-violence is the real counter argument to it.

For the resistance to be successful, need courage, not violence. Courage is not about defeating anxiety, its about persisting in the face of anxiety. The violent reaction to anxiety is the antithesis  to this, as it seeks to drive the anxiety away, not solve the problem that caused it.

As I finish, I need to point out that the call for non-violence does not mean there is not a place for those who see themselves as the soldiers of the resistance. Right now, there is a need to provide for the safety of the many who are threatened by the administration’s unofficial agitators. Mosques, Jewish Community Centers, LGBT community centers, synagogues, and minority owned businesses are all under constant threat. Volunteering to stand vigil for the safety of these centers is technically non-violent, as you are not intending to start any fights. Standing as the sentinels of equality and justice is not the same as anxiously reacting through violence. Rather, by standing guard, you are taking on and sharing the anxiety of those who are already threatened, and letting them know you are there to see this through to the end for them. The greatest warriors of legend were more about who they fought for, not who they fought against.

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Understanding the Role of the Attention Economy in the Current Administration

What is the Attention Economy?

The Attention Economy is a concept that has emerged as economics entered the information age. Attention economics conceptualizes attention as a finite resource that is necessary to acquire for information to be consumed by a population. There are few concepts in this that need to be understood about this attention economy:

1) There is a competition for attention capital.  If a person has 30 seconds of attention to give, and there are two competing  30 second advertisements to watch, the advertisement that can draw that limited attention is the one what will be seen and have the chance to sell their product. This concept has become integrated into software design, social media, and is the reason for click-bait and spam.
2) Attention capital can lead to the production of similar media and ideas. If a youtube video involving someone getting hit in the crotch gets a lot of views, there will be a lot more crotch shot videos that get made across the platform.
3) It does not always matter if the attention is positive or negative, all that matters is that the attention capital is monopolized. It does not matter if there a youtube video of me feeding the homeless or flashing a crowd at Mardi Gras. If I get you to watch that video, whether depicting altruism or debasement, I have gotten you to hand over your 3-5 minutes and encouraged similar videos.
4) Social norms can regulate attention capital. We all know the things we are allowed to talk about in a group, and what topics may be taboo. Also, the terms of service on every social media site contains a list of forms of expression that are disallowed, and those limits restrict how one can seek attention.

Essentially, attention, as a limited commodity, is an economic force that leads to the generation of like ideas and the exclusion of competing ideas, and negative attention can be just as effective as positive attention unless socially moderated. This set of concepts is what is important to understand as it is the source of the power in Republican administration.

Attention Economy and the Administration

If you look at the rise of the current administration, a leading factor has been the rise of fake news. Fake news media use psychological manipulations to get your attention. They couch everything in terms of a threat to you or your way of life to get your attention. Once they have your attention, they then feed you the “alternative facts,” and because your attention is on their voice, you never hear the voices that point out how divorced from reality those fake facts are. That is how they carefully crafted a narrative over the past 2 decades that lead people to voting against their own interests and deny the reality of actual science and facts. Their use of emotional draws to acquire the attention capital that allowed them to deliver the lies and out compete actual facts.

Trump has long been operating within the Attention Economy, and saw a way to take advantage of the fake news media efforts and steal away that attention capital for himself. When he would value the “Trump Brand” at a few billion dollars, that was the principle he was applying. His business tactics, such as selling people on emotion, reflect how the fake news sites sell their lies. He spent a few years working his way into their fold and then when he was ready, escalated his attention grabbing. Because the fake news groups never bothered to discourage negative attention, he used that to his advantage to capitalize all the attention of the media.

The administration’s Alt-right Nazi supporters also build their power off of the attention economy. Their entire focus is generating and taking advantage of negative attention. Their leaders intentionally create events where they call for the removal of human rights from people based off their gender identity, sexual orientation, race, or religion. The methods rely on manipulating 4chan, reddit, and internet memes. They know their arguments won’t win on merits, so they monopolize attention to deny the counter arguments from gaining attention. This is why arguing with them does not work, as their win condition is not the truth but attention manipulation. They also have mastered the art of playing the victim. Whenever a people do step up to shut them down, they invoke the narrative of the “social justice warrior” to take attention off of the hate they are spewing and refocus it onto the fact that they are now the victims of the SJW’s, and in the process steal the attention from the people pointing out their hate and place it back onto a false narrative of integrity. As a result these trolls have thrived by creating a situation that forces you to believe there are only 3 options to react to them: ignore them (giving them all the attention), debate them (giving them a chance to monopolize the debate and get more attention), or attack them in a way that violates their rights (causing them to steal attention by playing the victim). The end result is that they monopolize the attention which is then used to encourage the reproduction of of their views and tactics.

So how do we fight this?

Any strategy aimed at fighting and reducing the power of this administration needs to focus on stealing away their attention capital. Beat them at this game and you have rendered them powerless to carry out any of their goals. Here are a few ideas:

1) Don’s just attack or resist, replace. When you attack an idea, you are giving that idea attention. Remember, negative attention is still attention in terms of the issues of attention economics. If you create a counter solution and push that goal, you are creating a competing target that can steal away the attention capital.

2) When you protest, focus the message on something you want to support. This is what the Women’s March did brilliantly. The subtext was anti-trump, but the explicit and reverberating message was for women, so all the attention was on women’s issues. When people would successfully oppose Westboro Baptist Church, a group that likewise would use speech to provoke negative attention and then capitalize off of victimhood if people attacked them, they would beat Westboro by organizing not to take down Westboro, but to support those Westboro were targeting for attack. When a dozen WBBC member would show up with a message of attack, and a thousand counter protesters showed up with messages of love for the victims, the latter monopolized the attention capital.

3) Ramp up the creativity. Novelty and art are always the strongest attention grabbers. The Pussy hats are part of this creativity, and notice how much attention capital they have generated. At marches, there is actually a sort of status that has emerged with sign creativity, and that garners attention capital. When I was at a WBBC protest at Rutgers years ago, they made sure various choirs were there to use the art of song to monopolize the attention. The event also had people handing out noise makers as another form of creative attention monopolization as well. WBBC knew they lost and left within 15 minutes.

4) Send in the clowns. An offshoot of ramping up creativity, comedy has a special power when it comes to stealing attention. There is a reason why Alec Baldwin and the SNL cast gets the rage they do when they impersonate the administration. When Alec appears as Trump, he essentially transfer’s Trump’s attention onto himself. By assuming Trump’s image, Alec assumes his attention capital. Every form of negative attention Trump has built up gets siphoned off by Alec. This principle is the same that shows like the Daily Show and the Colbert Report had been so politically influential, as they employed political comedy and mockery to pull attention capital away from fake news media.

5) Don’t just make this about one person. There is a reason why I did not mention Trump in the Title and have limited his actual mentioning in the article. The truth is this whole thing is more than just Trump, Paul Ryan, Steve Bannon, and a whole lot of other actors that are playing off of him. Trump is just agreeing to be the focus of negative attention because he has built the system to use it. Bannon wants to minimize attention in himself because he knows that he would not be accepted in his position if the people took a good hard look at him. Paul Ryan still needs to maintain the appearance of legitimacy to keep his voters and position, so he is happy accepting the power from Trump’s negative attention while not being seen as the one getting dirty. The more we decentralize attention, the less we let them play out this power system.

6) When all else fails, be loud. There are videos where people are effectively shouting down Nazi hate speakers, ranging from stars like Shia Labeouf to random people on the street just screaming “Nooooooo!” every time they tried to talk. Being louder than the person takes away their ability to generate attention capital. Acting alone works, but if you can form a crowd, that increases your attention potential. This works better than attacking a person physically, because it removes the possibility of them reclaiming the attention capital as a victim.

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I Need to Ask You to Have Faith

The notion of faith is a difficult topic to bring up in this day and age. Some hold dearly to religious faith, while others question it in all forms. Because of this, I want to put  religious faith aside for this conversation, and talk about a different kind of faith.

The faith in ourselves and each other.

If I were to identify the largest contributor to the  position we are in today, it would be that we chose to hand our faith and power to small groups or singular people over the past few years. Rather than act individually to join our voices to the whole, we surrendered our voice to put faith in the one great leader to do our jobs for us. This is not a criticism of presidents of the past, but rather a criticism of how we grew passive as he did the work for us. This passivity led us to be vulnerable to where we are today.

So now to correct this we have been starting to reclaim our voices. We are marching, writing, letters, making phone calls, etc. But for many of us this reclaiming has not so much been by choice, but rather action taken out of necessity and desperation. Trump pushed our backs to the wall, and so we woke up to push back. And while this new awakening is placing us back in the roles we need to be taking, there is the risk and the temptation that we will retreat to the quick and easy actions again. And rather than solve the problem, the risk is that we will push it down just deep enough so that we can settle back to our passivity and be vulnerable again.

And this is why I need to ask for your faith.

The work needed for us to stay strong in our voices is tedious and tiring, and does not always produce results in the way or at the speed we would want. Without faith in ourselves and each other, the fear of failure sets in. This fear is why many handed over their power in the first place. Those we handed it to offered to take on the fear for us while we hid within our reality shows and lattes. Now that we are confront with the folly of that choice, and have taken up our voices again, but the temptation is there to sacrifice it again for another quick and easy solution so we can hide again.

But what we have forgotten is that there is a value in doing this hard and frightening work. No fear is ever countered by running from it, rather, victory over fear is always found in facing it. And with that victory always comes strength. And as we have seen with the overturning of the Muslim ban, the protection of our national parks, and other victories, when we join together even the most powerful man in the world can be beaten. If we persist, we will be strong, and we will be victorious.

But we will not win every victory, so we have to have faith.

They will test us and push us to the edges of our endurance, so we have to have faith.

They will try to wear us down, so we must have faith.

They will mock us to shame us away, so we must have faith

They will threaten us to try to frighten us off, so we must have faith.

We must have faith in ourselves, faith in each other, and faith in our cause. With that faith we can have the strength to abandon the quick and easy for the real work of value. If we can do that, then we can see this through to the other side, and in that process we will undergo a transformation whose results we cannot yet even fathom.

So I need to ask you to have faith.

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Self Care Tips for the Resistance

Right now, I’m seeing a lot of people burning out and falling towards despair. Day after day we are getting his with Trump’s Bullshitzkrieg of executive orders and horrendous statements. Each one has been worst than the last, and it is starting to wear people down. With all the hell this administration is putting the world through, I’m seeing people become overwhelmed with worry and dread.  It would be easy to give up and hide, and that may be what Trump and his ilk are hoping for. This is ultimately an endurance race, and the only way we can win is if we can keep going while waiting for Trump to burn himself out while burning his bridges and supports. But for us to outlast him, we need to take care of ourselves.

And so I want to offer some tips for self care for the resistance

  1. Take care of your health first and foremost. Maintain your diet, give yourself time to sleep, and exercise when you can. If you have been prescribed medication for physical or mental health reasons, take it the way it is prescribed. If you have a medical therapy appointment recommended and scheduled, make sure you go. If you are not taking these basic steps, you are not going to be in a state to be effective in the resistance effort.
  2. Divide time between your resistance and non-resistance life. You are allowed to take care of your own life while fighting for the good. You don’t have to fight every minute of every day, and you don’t have to let your life go to hell. You can focus on your job when working, family during meals and trips, and the cause when you are in the street. You can fight some of the time and heal and support yourself during the other times.
  3. Know your own triggers and the signs when you are starting to get pushed too far emotionally. With this information you can start  pick up when you are approaching a state of being overwhelmed and can take action early so that you can recover and keep going. It is easier to address a problem when it is small and just beginning, and if you wait until a crisis, it is often too late.
  4. Build a plan for when you do start to get overwhelmed. Put together a list of things that help you to calm down, release stress, and reset. When you notice the signs from tip #3, activate this list. If you need certain items, such as a music player, chewing gum, essential oil, etc, make sure you pack them.
  5. Focus on being action/solution oriented, not problem oriented. When a person only looks at problems, all he or she sees it the struggle, and can quickly start to feel helpless and hopeless in the face of the problem. But when a person focuses on identifying actions  to address the problem, his or her mind is now focused on how they can be empowered to take on the problem, and that helplessness and hopelessness disappears. Learn to go from “this is bad” to “this is how we are going to fix it.”
  6. Set smaller goals that lead up to the larger victory. Tell yourself you will make X many phone calls in a day. Commit to writing X many letters. Set fundraising goals as you collect donations for your cause. Make X new friends at each march. See each organized event as its own victory. If your only measure for success is the end of the Trump regime, you will see each day up to that point as a failure.  That is demoralizing. But if you set these small goals, you will have a series of successes to keep you going.
  7. Do more than just fight while you fight in the resistance. Not every moment of resistance has to be about voicing anger. The anger is necessary and justified, but will burn you out if that is all you have. Make friends at protests. Build a community. Organize and join protest parties. Host a letter writing pot puck. Reach out to others. Remember, when facing a dictator who rules by hate, the acts of love, compassion, and community are  themselves acts of resistance, and love, compassion, and community will carry you farther as the anger burns out.
  8. Set limits on your social media behaviors. Give yourself an hour or two away from the feeds so you are not constantly inundated with the Bullshitzkrieg. Don’t argue with trolls when you are online -You can’t reason with them because they aren’t interested in reason and they only want to monopolize the conversation, so don’t give them what they want. If you are already “woke” and committed, you don’t need to watch every video that shows a wrong doing. If you already know someone is prone to spewing hate, you don’t need to watch every video that person puts out.
  9. Pick only a few causes for personal focus while lending support to others. You cannot champion every cause without watering down your efforts in each one. And with Trump’s Bullshitzkrieg in full effect, taking on everything will cause you to just spin out and spin and spin. So pick your cause to research, organize, and take a leadership role in. Just make sure you also are volunteering to support the works of others. If you are adamant about Planned Parenthood funding, focus on that and set up your marches and fundraising for that cause. If your friend is focused on BLM, let them organize around that. But when it comes time for action and support, your friend will show for your Planned Parenthood event, and you will show and support your friend’s BLM event.
  10. Keep hope by remembering that in the end, Trump cannot win. Trump’s policies are a regression, but progress is never linear. There is always a slide back, a recovery, and then we move farther forward. Trump is pushing against history, and history itself will push back. Remember this, because to keep yourself going, you must have hope.

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Activate the 43

Last night I had a dream.

I wish I could say it was as grand as the one where a great man was standing on a mountain top. But alas, I am no great man.

Instead my dream began in the kitchen of my father’s old apartment. My father was showing me how he had learned magic, and was using it to clean his kitchen. If felt a revulsion, and picked up a dish and started cleaning it by hand, telling him “there is a value in doing this.”

I’ve probably lost you at this point. I was confused myself. Maybe some context will help. Maybe.

Every day we have been getting hammered with more and more bad news generated from the office of Trump. Within 3 days, he has literally downgraded our democracy. After spending day after day trying to be functional at my job while trying to figure out how to keep fighting, I go to sleep with a fantasy that this will all be over, and that tomorrow some great hero will have fixed it all.

My dream was telling me that those rescue fantasies are what caused the problem in the first place.

As we keep trying to figure out what went wrong to put us in this mess, the number 43 keeps repeating in my mind. As we keep trying to attack and argue with the 26% of voters that voted for Trump, we have come to ignore the 43% that did not vote at all. I can’t say if this is ignorance or just misdirection, but as a result our focus is on the 26% who we can’t sway, and we are letting the 43% we can stay in indecision.

And this is why they are winning.

That 43% does not only represent the largest failure to vote in 20 years, it signals that we have forgotten that there is a value in participation in our government. We have bought into a magical thinking about democracy. For some, this meant that we just vote for who we like and everything is taken care of. For others, this meant that they really didn’t even have to do that much. We gave up following legislation in favor of following sports teams. We stopped hounding our politicians in favor of pounding our favorite lattes. We forgot the value that comes from speaking loudly in a Democratic Republic.

And this is what we need to reverse.

The Women’s March was a great start. For all its flaws, it got people active again. But we need to do more than march. We need to find those in the 43% and let them know that there is no magic to fall back on, they need to be the power involved. We have to invite them in to letter writing, making phone calls, organizing, fundraising, and other actions to help them to be heard. We need to take them by the hand, walk then through the steps, and teach them to see the value. If just a tenth of those wake up, if just a tenth of them become active, we will have enough in our number to pressure Trump and any administration to listen to the will of the people again.

We need to activate that 43%

 

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Punching Nazis Makes them Stronger

It is very cathartic to want to think that video of Spencer the Nazi getting punched is an effective solution to the problem of the Nazi invasion of American society. It is tempting to fantasize about following in the footsteps of Captain America, Superman, and pretty much every patriotic superhero since the 1940’s or relive some of our favorite scenes from movies and video games and just knock the snot out of them. It seems like common sense that if you hit them hard enough they will learn their lesson and go away.

The problem with those thoughts is that if you are having them, you are thinking like a rational human being who connects cause and effect. In other words, you think that way because you are not a Nazi.

The Nazi mindset can best be described as that of someone with a paranoid personality organization. The fundamental characteristic of the paranoid personality organization is the inability to tolerate the feeling you are “bad” and respond to that by projecting that badness onto others and then trying to destroy the badness outside yourself. Essentially, they use the “I’m not bad, you are bad” defense. This is the reason why the racist is so quick to identify groups that need to be fought against and frame them as some invading force that needs to be dispelled. The Gay agenda, the Vagenda of Manocide, the need for racial purity, equating BLM with cop killing,  and every other paranoid narrative are all a manifestation of this externalized badness. The racist needs to attack them or else he has to face his own inadequacy. As a result of this, rational reasoning and cause and effect are thrown out the window. Citing facts does not work because they are not making their decisions based on reality but rather on their need to escape their inadequacy through projection. Attack them and they won’t think they did something wrong, learn their lesson, and change, because their paranoia prevents them from facing that they could ever be wrong.

When the Nazi was punched, he was given what he wanted. Right now, he is in the news playing the victim, a casualty of the the war he is fighting. But as he is doing that, he is recruiting others by calling for bodyguards. In secret, you better bet he is wearing that punch as a badge of honor to encourage more of his ilk into confrontations. What he is not doing is disappearing from public view or shrinking.

So if arguing won’t work and beating his ass won’t work, what do you do?

Be like Shia LeBeouf

The only way to fight a modern Nazi is to drive them away by activating their sense of badness through the application of shame. They want to believe they are secretly the resistors speaking for the people, the heroes in the shadows. Show them that you refuse to accept them whenever they show, and you challenge their narrative. Don’t argue with them, surround them and shout them down, and they have no recourse but to shrink away in failure. Make them face that badness that they fear so much.

Unless they get pissed off and swing at you, then it is self defense

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What the Women’s March Did Right and Why This is Important

The Women’s March is probably the biggest protest march in as yet recorded history. The low estimate if the total participation in the US is over 3.6 million people and the high estimate being over 4.5 million people, with Washington DC itself estimating an attendance between 500,000 and 1 million marchers (numbers via this source and referenced at the time of the writing of this article). And the target of the march, Donald Trump, noticed and felt the numbers, causing him to react in envy to the size of the crowd by attacking the media with lies so stark that even Fox News felt to call him out on it.

People have been trying to downplay the importance and power of the march, claiming it will ultimately go no where, that it is just a show. This attack on the march was made because its detractors know that it did the one thing they feared the most: it activated bystanders.

The national discourse over how Trump won has consistently been leaving out one frightening fact: voter turnout was at a 20 year low this election. As a result of that overlooked fact, all the discussion has been focused on what can be done to convert the 26% that voted for Trump, and all of it has been ignoring the better strategy: activating the 43% of voters who were too on the fence or felt too uninvolved to vote. Maybe this is accidental, or maybe this is intentional misdirection, but the result has been people banging their heads trying to figure out how to convert the entrenched minority rather than trying to figure out how to activate the much larger group of the unentrenched and undecided. That focus on the former is foolish at best. The real goal for real change needs to be to activate those bystanders.

The Women’s March did that beautifully

But how? But why?

One of the biggest weaknesses of recent organizational efforts is that it relies on attack. Attack the 1%, attack systematic racism, attack misogyny, etc, have been the call on the left for the past 5+ years. These were used because they were the open and honest statements, but the problem is that the language of attack challenges empathy. When attack and empathy collide, only those who can resolve the conflict by attaching their anger to their empathy through protection. This is not easily done naturally and usually involves great tragedy. Organizations of the far right and alt-right know how get around this. They carefully craft a narrative to unite their target audience to their side with an illusion of unity, craft a narrative to create a group of others that are against them, and then rile up their group with a false narrative of attack that need defense. This is why Trump Voters thought he would drain the swamp, because HE is one of THEM. And this is why BLM’s message of “stop killing us” automatically gets linked with an attack on the police to say “if we listen to BLM, then we can’t keep those you love safe.” This is why Trump supporters did not bat an eye when voting for a candidate that ran on hate, because they were made to feel attacked by his targets, and they were told that they were defending their way of life. But this is why the right has been more effective at motivating. The right likes to craft the narrative before telling you what needs to be attacked, and the left likes to be be straight forward and honest. The right likes to activate its followers before sending them off to war, the left likes to be open and make open calls for action.

What the Women’s March did right was that it was both open and activating. The Women’s March cause was straight forward and honest. There was no careful narrative that needed crafting. Reality and Trump’s own words did that for them. The group being spoken for, women, has a natural empathy that needed no cultivating among the majority of Americans, and women’s causes, like the right to make choices about their bodies, is supported by the majority of Americans. The march organizers were also explicit in that they wanted to bring in all allies, they let the out groups choose themselves rather than create one from scratch. They did not need to craft an illusion, their case was the reality the right seeks to fake. And with the inclusion of reality came that larger draw.

So how do we keep this going?

  1. The next step to fixing the problems caused by the Trump Administration is to keep people activated. We need reasons for more marches. Let’s send Trump a reminder on February 20th, aka, President’s Day. Let’s make National Woman’s Day a reminder of women’s importance. Lets keep giving people reasons to get out.
  2. After that, lets go to marches with the purpose of meeting people and building bonds. We need to find those former bystanders and link with them to encourage them to stay active.
  3. Then we need to invite our new friends to organizational and fundraising meetings. Let them have a chance to take meaningful roles in the movement. Give them a chance to raise money for Planned Parenthood and the National Organization for Women. Encourage them to take a role and then show them all ways they can continue to be active and let them choose. This gives them a stake in continuing in the fight.
  4. Keep educating them on their rights and the law. Protesting is a learned skill and we need to use skill building to counter worries and fears. The more they learn, the more they know, the more powerful and activated they become.

Do this, and we can render Trump inert. Do this and we can press congress to impeach him over his current and future Constitutional violations. If they don’t impeach or don’t fight  his most egregious policy plans, threaten to remove representatives at the next election (imagine the 100,000 who showed to the march in Wisconsin showing up on Paul Ryan’s doorstep demanding impeachment or he loses his seat.) This is how we will fight, and this is how we will win, and The Women’s March is a major force in making this happen.

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Image source: http://people.com/politics/womens-march-on-washington-america-ferrera/?xid=socialflow_twitter_peoplemag

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Trump’s Bullshitzkrieg and how to stop it

Donald Trump’s twitter account is a wreck. It seems like there is one indefensible tweet after another. The statements he makes seem to violate every rule of common sense and logic. His tweets keep coming one after another, each more outrageous than the next, and we are getting so deluged it is hard to keep up and respond to each one.

But what if that is the point?

Ladies and gentlemen, welcome to the Bullshitzkrieg.

Trump’s antics have been described by social media as a DDoS on sanity. Basically, by continuously hitting us with new and increasingly bizarre statements, we don’t have time to properly respond. Instead, we are being put in a consistently reactionary state, which leaves us vulnerable to his manipulation. As part of this manipulation, he not only keeps us from gaining any traction, but he also distracts us from the real issues that scare him.

Remember his tweet about the 3 million illegal votes? Remember how it created a flurry of responses to contradict his claims? What you probably don’t remember is that it happened right after the New York Times published this article about all the potential conflicts of interest with his presidency.

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Remember that irate tweet about how the Hamilton cast confronted Mike Pence where Trump demanded an apology? Remember how everyone responded by criticizing his claims that theater needed to be safe? Did you notice that was the same weekend of his Trump University settlement?

Trump will only remain in power so long as we cannot concentrate on and organize around his corruption. He knows this. So he is playing Three Card Monty with our attention, keeping us focused on the jokers on the table when the ace we are looking for was palmed and moved to his pocket. It’s not a very sophisticated strategy, its just an effective one. He is willing to call attention to things that will get him scolded so long as we don’t see the thing that would really get him in trouble. And he knows that all he has to do to distract us is say something guaranteed to piss us off into a reaction.

So, how do we stop the Bullshitzkrieg?

The most effective way would be to just ignore his tweets. Render them worthless by withdrawing their power. Unfortunately, I don’t think it would be possible to do that as he has a few million followers, and it would take too long to get them all to ignore him. Because of this, we need a different strategy: Operation Mjolnir

Named after the favored weapon of a deity who loved to “thrash trolls,” Operation Mjolnir is a coordinated effort to redirect each one of Donald’s tweets back to a scandal he wants to hide. Keep reading the investigative news and learn every dirty secret that gets uncovered. Every time he tweets, drop the hammer on him by asking about the scandal.

“Nice deflection, Donald, but I’d rather hear you comment on the fraud case you just settled.”

“That was proven to be false. How about responding to the Conflicts of interest investigation instead?”

“You can’t pass that law. Now tell us about how you own a stake in the oil company currently trying to destroy tribal land.”

I think you get the picture.

The goal of Operation Mjolnir is to show him that his Bullshitzkriegs will no longer work, and that every time he tries to deflect from the news he does not want us to hear, we will drop the hammer.

UPDATE: Operation Mjolnir has apparently begun as a natural evolution, as one hero has spontaneously called out his tweets

 

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The Rule of Assholes

The Rule of Assholes: every group has their assailed, the true test of a group is if they put them in charge.

The rule of assholes was invented due to a disturbing growing adherence to the false equivalency fallacy in order to attempt a straw man argument about a hypocrisy that may or not be there. There are those who feel that if you point out hundreds of instances of a wrongdoing,  your whole argument can be undone if your opponent can find singular incidents where others are doing the same thing. 

Basically, the argument becomes you can’t call out group A on bad behavior because I can find instances of group B doing the same thing. 

The Rule of Assholes answers this by acknowledging that every group will have someone who will push action past moral boundaries. That is inevitable. The Rule of Assholes, however, responds to this inevitability not by absolving all groups, but by making how the leadership responds to the assholes. Does the leadership reject the assholes? Does the leadership take responsibility by trying to offer restitution? Or does the leadership encourage the assholes? Does the leadership show off the asshole as the ideal? Does the leadership give the assholes a place in the leadership.

Essentially, we all have that friend who drives like an asshole, but smart people make him a passenger and never give him the keys to the car.

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The Dark Sin Eater, or, What is the real appeal of Trump?

The term “Sin Eater” refers to an old world occupation where an individual would sit on or at a grave site and have a meal with the recently dead. Through this ritual act, the person would take on all the sins of the departed. This usually would be done if the departed died before last rites or other forms of ritual sin cleansing could be performed, and the sin eater would take on those sins so the loved one could enter heaven. In many ways this was a beautiful solution to an existential religious anxiety about the powerlessness felt against the fear of dying unexpected and without preparation. The dead, now powerless to repent their own sins, had someone who could repent for them. It was a role taken on that reflected the self-sacrifice made by Jesus from the Christian religion the Sin Eaters spawned from: your sin is too oppressive, so I will serve you by taking it on and having it forgiven for you.

When I talk about a “Dark Sin Eater,” I am referring to a phenomenon that has emerged over the years that serves as a corruption of this role.  The Dark Sin Eater does not serve the dead, does not provide the relief for the dearly departed, but rather targets the living. Those that call upon the Dark Sin Eater are not incapable of repenting their sins, as is the dilemma for the dead, they just don’t want to. They love their sins, but want to avoid the consequences of sinning. They want to sin, but they also want to be seen as being sinless. The Dark Sin Eater does this not by taking away your sins in a Christ-like sacrifice, but rather by taking away your responsibility for them. but in that dark absolution comes the hidden cost, for when you hand over your responsibility, you also hand over your power and freedom. The deal is simple: Sin all you want, I will let you feel good about it, and in return, I get to rule you.

Where does this sin come from?

In order for any society to function, people have to abide by certain restrictions. We can’t just take what we want when we want it, we just can’t attack people because we have the urge to, etc. We have these restrictions because without them, society will fall to chaos. The urges to attack others, whether fueled by fear or just the drug like high of aggression, and the urges to take what we want have to be restrained.

Because of this, many of us learn to restrain ourselves. The whole process of growing up and maturing occurs as we learn to accept we have to work for things, that we can’t have everything we want, that we have to grow past fears, and that we have to reject the drug like reward for being aggressive. Empathy helps us along with this task, but it still involves a lot of frustration as we get torn between the shame of hurting others and the childlike desire for impulse indulgence. The overall reward for going through this process is a stable society that cares for us as we care for it.

However, not everyone follows this path. Fear can be overwhelming, the urge for that drug like hit from aggression can be too tempting, or we just feel too entitled. When this happens, society steps in to correct. Sometimes, it does so through official sanctions, such as through applying fines and jail time. However, the most common way society corrects is through the application of shame and stigma. We know we cannot survive outside of society, and to be separated from others is far more frightening than most other fears we have. In short, when we do something we want to but society tells us “NO!”, we feel shame. We feel bad. We have sinned. But we can be absolved by changing and growing up with the rest of society.

People, however, still want to indulge these immature urges. They want to find a way to make the theft, aggressions, and fearful lashing out acceptable. They try very hard to define the sins as sinless, often by finding ways to “other” people, defining the target as separate and therefore “less than”. This technique has often worked, as seen in the rampant prejudice and victim blaming that has plagued humanity over the past centuries. But as society continues to grow up, the newly emerging mature sensibilities are allowing this to occur less and less. Many have openly embraced the abandonment of this prejudice and victim blaming. Others are begrudgingly accepting the evolution of these sensibilities. Still others, sadly, are fighting it tooth and nail.

And this is where Donald Trump gets his appeal.

From the start of his campaign, Donald has been walking the path of the Dark Sin Eater. Whether through speeches glorifying violence against protesters, making stochastic threats against Hillary, claiming he was powerful enough to shoot people without repercussion, or othering minority groups like Muslims and Mexicans, Donald’s speeches flaunt a disdain for societal rules against violence, nullifying its sinfulness among his supporters. And when you hear his supporters speak, they don’t talk about his economic plans or policy points, they support him because “he says what he thinks,” praising him for telling them what they want to hear so that they don’t have to feel shamed for their fearful or aggressive urges. His method of gaining support frighteningly invokes a process similar to how racist groups will manipulate people into supporting them. Where society has been trying to tell them that threats and violence are wrong, he has been telling them that if he were to be put into office, they could indulge guilt free. His whole appeal is based in this absolution of the horrific.

So at each of the debates, stop and ask what vision of America Trump is building. Does he present real steps for a stable country and world? Does he have an outline on how to make more society just and fair? Does he have any real policy details that he puts out? Or does he just speak to indulgence of emotional urges? Does he tell you about scary minorities and how he will ruthlessly attack them and punish them for you to help you feel safe again? Does he just attack and attack, pushing the idea that truth comes from violence and aggression? Does he argue point by point, respecting the rules of the debate, like a mature citizen and leader? Does he childishly cut people off, shout over them, and focus on appealing to emotion and making personal attacks? Is he acting as the Leader who will help America continue to grow and mature, or is he acting as the Dark Sin Eater, telling America he will let you do what you want guilt free if you just let him rule you?

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