Tuesday’s Forum

Steven L. Taylor
About Steven L. Taylor
Steven L. Taylor is a Professor of Political Science and a College of Arts and Sciences Dean. His main areas of expertise include parties, elections, and the institutional design of democracies. His most recent book is the co-authored A Different Democracy: American Government in a 31-Country Perspective. He earned his Ph.D. from the University of Texas and his BA from the University of California, Irvine. He has been blogging since 2003 (originally at the now defunct Poliblog). Follow Steven on Twitter


  1. Jax says:

    Can somebody PLEASE let me out of the freezer? I promise I’ll be good!

    Hopefully this is our last -15. I keep telling myself that, then “spring” tries to kill us again. Our average daily temperature for the month of March is 9 degrees. That’s two degrees colder than the average in January.

  2. daryl and his brother darryl says:

    So Dr. Taylor…
    After watching Trump play the Jan 6 Choir song at his rally, celebrating those domestic-terrorists who attacked our Capitol and system of Government…do you still think MAGA is NOT a cult???

  3. OzarkHillbilly says:

    Putin prepares Russia for ‘forever war’ with west as Ukraine invasion stalls

    The Russian president has managed to rally people around the flag with talk of a fight for national survival

    If Russia wants to survive, they can start by killing that SOB.

  4. Mister Bluster says:

    @Jax: Can somebody PLEASE let me out of the freezer? I promise I’ll be good!

    At first reading I thought you were in moderation.

  5. KM says:

    @daryl and his brother darryl:
    Considering we’re seeing more and more videos of people invoking Trump in a religious sense (as in praying to him and not for or about him), the whole “it’s not a cult” thing seems pretty settled. Anyone not wanting to use the c-word now has a very specific connotation for the word instead of the practical meaning and even then Trump’s pushing the limits. For God’s sake, he choose Waco during the 30 anniversary of an incident his crowd hold dear as an example of the evil shadow government imposing it’s will. That imagery is definitely, definitely intentional to the point even the Branch Davidians are saying it was to echo their cult.

    It’s like people who keep insisting Pluto is a planet because that’s how they learned it. Sorry, but your personal definition/ understanding is incorrect. If Pluto is a planet, so is Ceres, Eris and half a dozen or more celestial objects not just the nine you want them to be. In fact, for several decades prior to 1930 children were taught the solar system has 11 planets (Mercury, Venus, Earth, Mars, Ceres, Pallas, Juno, Vesta, Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus). Arguing with someone who doesn’t like the definition just because of their feelings about Pluto’s “demotion” means their prioritize their internal preference or mental snapshot over facts. It doesn’t “feel” right so it’s not, just like calling MAGA a “cult” doesn’t “feel” right since it’s more political then spiritual.

  6. Kathy says:


    War is Peace.
    Madness is Sanity.
    Mad Vlad is Watching you.

  7. CSK says:


    Given the numerous references to Trump as “sent by God” and “our savior,” it gets more and more difficult not to take MAGAs as cult members, although I understand Dean Taylor’s disinclination to do so.

    But given that Trump is viewed as sent from God and is a savior–maybe even the savior–the distinction between religion and ideology seems to be blurring.

  8. Mu Yixiao says:

    Myanmar’s military-controlled election commission has announced that the National League for Democracy Party (NLD) would be dissolved for failing to re-register under a new electoral law, according to state television.

    The NLD led by Nobel laureate Aung San Suu Kyi was among 40 political parties dissolved on Tuesday after they failed to meet the ruling military’s registration deadline for an election, according to state television.

    The army carried out a coup in February 2021 after the NLD won the December 2020 parliamentary elections and subsequently jailed its leader Suu Kyi.

    Well… Things are heating up all over.

  9. Thomm says:

    @KM: C’mon, what would ex-cult members know about being in a cult, amirite? As I said on Saturday, “remember: it is not a cult and there is no such thing as stochastic terrorism”.
    It is almost as if it is willfully ignoring what has been going on and to try to argue from authority about both of these things, with maybe a slight tinge of not wanting to see some coworkers, colleagues, friends, or family in those terms.
    We all have our blindspots when it comes to certain things, even when they are within our realms of expertise. Kind of like how we always have our nose in our vision, but our brains have trained themselves to blank it out.

  10. Jay L Gischer says:

    So, the Branch Davidians are definitely a cult, by my taxonomy. Referencing another cult positively and looking to leverage any positive feelings someone might have toward them or other cults is exactly the sort of thing that cult leaders don’t do.

    Trump seeks to harness all sorts of arational emotional energy, and also the very rational via transactional behavior. There are those who think of him as God’s Hammer, and those who think he’s a horrible person who also got them the Court and the decision they were looking for.

    Again, this is not the behavior of a cult leader, nor the way cult members view their leader.

    The ideation of members looks very similar, to be sure. I mean, I have seen a summary of the beliefs of QAnon, and it reads like the Book of Revelation, even though every action that might be taken in the future can be carried out by secular forces.

  11. Kathy says:


    Work on the weather grid is ongoing, but progress is slow.

    Meantime, you may find some consolation with these fake images.

  12. MarkedMan says:

    @Thomm: Are there Trumpers (as opposed to “trumpers”) who are members of a cult? Absolutely, and the number of them is frighteningly large. But on the other hand, the number of people in any group capable of forming enough engagement, attachment and extremism to rise to cult member is still relatively small. Most people just more or less go along to get along, in anything, so I don’t think it is accurate to say “Trump supporters are members of a cult.” Most Trump supports just aren’t that engaged.

    This doesn’t mean that cults within a larger group can’t be incredibly influential or destructive. For instance, the outsize influence on the Catholic Church by Opus Dei, People of Praise and Legionnaires of Christ demonstrate that.

  13. Kathy says:

    After reading Skeptic’s Guide to The Future, I moved on to The Sisterhood. When I first heard of it last year, it was described as “1984 from Julia’s perspective.” Later I saw it advertised as “a feminist take on 1984.”

    I wondered whether that was necessary. it’s not like 99% of men in Oceania were in any way privileged, being either oppressed proles or oppressed inner party.

    Thinking back on Orwell’s novel, though, Julia is the only female character, past a prole woman Winston sees doing laundry. certainly the only one of consequence.

    I guess we’ll see. the first chapter dives right into the theme.

  14. daryl and his brother darryl says:

    @Jay L Gischer:
    I don’t think there is any question that this is a political cult.
    Authoritarian control, extremist beliefs, isolation from society, veneration of a single individual – the traits are there.

  15. Jen says:

    It’s becoming impossible to defend practically any aspect of our healthcare system in this country. For today’s stupidity files, I present…

    Pay up, kid? An ER’s error sends a 4-year-old to collections

    Dr. Sara McLin thought she made the right choice by going to an in-network emergency room near her Florida home after her 4-year-old burned his hand on a stove last Memorial Day weekend.

    Her family is insured through her husband’s employer, HCA Healthcare, a Nashville-based health system that operates more hospitals than any other system in the nation. So McLin knew that a nearby stand-alone emergency room, HCA Florida Lutz Emergency, would be in their plan’s provider network.

    But McLin said a doctor there told her she couldn’t treat her son, Keeling, because he had second- and third-degree burns that needed a higher level of care. The doctor referred them to the burn center at HCA Florida Blake Hospital, about a 90-minute drive away.

    McLin, who is a dentist, said the doctor told her the stand-alone ER would not charge for the visit because they did not provide treatment.


    McLin also received a bill from HCA Florida Trinity Hospital for its stand-alone ER at Lutz and decided to dispute the charges.

    But after calling the hospital to appeal, McLin said the billing department would not discuss the debt with her because the statement was in her young son’s name.

    “They had him as the guarantor,” McLin said. Unlike Envision, which billed their insurance and Keeling’s parents, McLin said the hospital listed the child as “unemployed, uninsured.”

  16. Michael Reynolds says:


    Most Trump supports just aren’t that engaged.

    I would counter that there are levels of devotion in any cult. Not every Scientologist shows up for every meeting.

    I’ve maintained for many years now that this is not just the usual political sorting because of the clear overlap of religion and MAGA, and the insistence on acceptance of overtly false narratives and the exclusion of any criticism no matter how anodyne. It is not a coincidence that MAGA is strongly White evangelical. As @CSK: points out, MAGAts treat Tump as a savior, as literally sent by God. I don’t recall anything similar with any POTUS in my lifetime.

    I’d guess that about a quarter of Americans are in the cult, and they won’t so much recant over time as re-imagine their own histories over the years, to rationalize their MAGA interlude. MAGA will become the new ‘Lost Cause.’

  17. MarkedMan says:

    Kathy’s observations about the “Feminist 1984” book got me thinking about which groups are privileged and which groups have been deemed by society that is okay to despise and mock. When my daughter was still a preteen she started giving us grief over her mother’s and my terrible generation and how it was so bigoted and prejudiced. Typical conversation: “Your generation doesn’t accept gay people, and say terrible things about them and ostracize kids who come out!” “Have you ever heard us say that? And what about (fairly lengthy list of people in our lives who are gay)?” “Sure, but that doesn’t change what your generation does!” (In fairness, it took us a while to realize at that age she considered “your generation” to encompass roughly 1880 to 2010.) Rather than argue, I would ask her, “In 30-40 years, what will the kids your age be yelling at your generation about?” I had a few thoughts about that myself, but like many parents who have thought of a wonderful way to convey a life lesson, I discovered she really had no interest in it whatsoever. If she had asked what I thought, I would have put forth overweight people. Even into the 2000’s, the trope of the hero coming upon the comedic fat friend hidden away somewhere stuffing themselves with food was still around.

    Nowadays though, I think there is a different and perhaps better answer. Who do we as a society privilege without even being aware that we do so? I would say, intelligent, well educated people who have had wide experiences. And who is it okay to mock and make fun of? The less intelligent, less well educated who have never had the opportunity to travel outside the circles they were born in. Worse, we accept that an intelligent person should be rewarded with high paying jobs, better neighborhoods and more social cache, while a less intelligent person should accept transient minimum wage jobs. Of course garbageman should get paid next to nothing while tax accountant should be paid very highly. But why? Can you honestly say that we could do longer without garbagemen than tax accountants?

  18. Thomm says:

    @Jay L Gischer:
    So, are you going with the argument that a new cult leader can’t exploit feelings about a previously existing, now dead cult and/or how they ceased to be as a vector to gain members and adoration from a segment of the population? Especially in this case it is more about how they ceased to be than anything they espoused.
    There are some that have been *very* deep in their feelings about how it went down for about 30 years with their grievances being stoked and now they have a figurehead that is more than willing to exploit those grievances and the people that hold them. Living in Appalachia during that time and observing people like Michael Savage, Liddy, and others keeping the resentment up until a more “mainstream” figure can represent them, I have seen this coming for quite some time.

  19. Mu Yixiao says:


    After reading Skeptic’s Guide to The Future…

    I’m having a bad day. I read that as “Skeptics Guide to Furniture”, and was very confused (and somewhat intrigued).

  20. MarkedMan says:

    @Michael Reynolds: I don’t think we are that far off. I would agree that as much as 25% of self declared Republicans are members of the cult, but not 25% of the country. On the other hand, I think that “levels of devotion” matter quite a bit, and that other 75% are fair weather Trumpists. I think if opinions changed in their social group, they would adopt to it fairly quickly. They wouldn’t even be aware of it happening.

    As for

    that this is not just the usual political sorting

    I think that very, very few people are motivated by politics at all, but rather by social groupings and hierarchies. Just as in religion, people will march off to war to defend their Pope’s view of some obscure religious doctrine, but if the pope had said the exact opposite, they would have marched off to war for that. It’s not the belief, it’s the group.

  21. Mu Yixiao says:


    So… put the 4-year-old on the phone. See how long it takes for the hospital to ask for Mom. 🙂

  22. Mu Yixiao says:


    Just saw this this moring:

    The latest Wall Street Journal-NORC poll found other shifts in public opinion as well. For instance, just 38 percent of respondents said patriotism was very important to them and just 39 percent said the same about religion, down from 70 percent and 62 percent in 1998, when the question was first asked.

    And germane to this discussion:

    The pollsters asked respondents to think about “the various ways that you define yourself as a person” and determine how important each characteristic was “to your own personal identity.” Of the six traits asked about, gender was viewed as the most essential, with 48 percent of those surveyed saying it was vital to their identity. Religion came the closest to gender (34 percent), followed by a three-way tie between race, occupation, and family origin (21 percent). Political affiliation was viewed as essential to identity by just 11 percent.

    [emphasis added]

  23. Kathy says:

    @Mu Yixiao:

    After the end of the audiobook, there was a bonus feature of the Novella brothers talking about the book, with a few questions thrown in by a moderator. They talked about future book projects, too.

    Now, none of the three said anything about a Skeptic’s Guide to Furniture in the works, but none of them ruled such a thing out either.

  24. Joe says:

    listed the [4yo] child as “unemployed, uninsured.”

    : I had the same damn problem with my kids. Effin’ deadbeats. It took me almost 20 more years for them to get decent jobs and off the payroll.

  25. steve says:

    It’s not a religious cult but rather a cult of personality. I think that if you read the description on Wiki it’s pretty easy to make the argument that it fits pretty easily.

    “A cult of personality, or a cult of the leader,[1] is the result of an effort which is made to create an idealized and heroic image of a leader by a government, often through unquestioning flattery and praise. Historically, it has developed through techniques of mass media, propaganda, fake news, spectacle, the arts, patriotism, and government-organized demonstrations and rallies. A cult of personality is similar to apotheosis, except that it is established by modern social engineering techniques, usually by the state or the party in one-party states and dominant-party states. A cult of personality often accompanies the leader of a totalitarian or authoritarian countries. It can also be seen in some monarchies, theocracies, failed democracies and even in liberal democracies.”


  26. CSK says:

    @Michael Reynolds:

    Nor do I recall any president being regarded as the savior.

    If you Google “Trump as Jesus” you get 35,400,000 results.

  27. Jen says:


    Of course garbageman should get paid next to nothing while tax accountant should be paid very highly. But why? Can you honestly say that we could do longer without garbagemen than tax accountants?

    Several times recently, I’ve pointed out that if there’s one thing ChatGPT should show us is that “thinking” jobs that can be tied to rules/algorithms are vulnerable to replacement. Jobs that require problem-solving and have a physical component (e.g., plumbers, electricians) are actually going to be more resistant to replacement.

  28. CSK says:

    One big difference between Trump and Jim Jones and David Koresh is that, unlike the followers of the latter two, Trump’s fans don’t feel compelled to drink poison or die by immolation.

  29. gVOR08 says:


    but if the pope had said the exact opposite, they would have marched off to war for that. It’s not the belief, it’s the group.

    Indeed. I’ve said before that if you ask the average professed Christian if they believe their denomination’s doctrine on transubstantiation, 90% would say they do. But if you asked what that doctrine is, I doubt 10% could tell you, or even what “transubstantiation” is.

    I would partly alter Reynold’s statements by broadening “religion”. There are large numbers of people, mostly conservative, that have a deep need to believe in something, and it doesn’t have to be sacred. The need for belief seems to me a common thread in conservative writing. What you believe matters less than that you believe. This was, for instance, the great truth Russell Kirk kept talking about in The Conservative Mind but never quite got around to defining. For many Trumpers the “religion” isn’t spiritual, it’s the fuzzy ball of gut feelings that constitutes their political and social beliefs. That they deeply believe in.

  30. Gustopher says:

    @Jen: The unpaid debt will roll off the 4 year old’s credit report before they’re a teenager.

    Problem solved.

  31. Kathy says:


    Shouldn’t that kind of flaw be fixed?

  32. Slugger says:

    @Mu Yixiao: What do people mean by “patriotism”? Was support for the second war on Iraq patriotic, or was it a foolhardy emotional reaction? Is flying a flag on your car patriotic, or is it a meaningless gesture? To me, a patriot is someone who promotes the good of the country ahead of personal benefits and is willing to make sacrifices for the greater good. For instance, a healthy young person who gets vaccinated and wears a mask because it protects vulnerable older people.

  33. Just nutha says:

    @Jay L Gischer: I don’t get why it’s important to identify MAGAts as a cult, but I don’t care what they’re identified as to any great degree either. “A rose by any other name” still causes sneezing and shortness of breath.

  34. Mu Yixiao says:


    The full article goes into that a bit more, essentially saying that “patriotic” is more vague than other terms in the poll, but suggests that “extremely important” probably leans toward “jingoistic”, while “somewhat important” is more like the things you’re saying.

    It’s a poll about how people self-identify, so it’s not exactly exact to 12 significant figures. 🙂 But it gives a general idea of how our society as a whole is changing in their attitudes.

  35. MarkedMan says:

    @steve: Given that definition for Cult of Personality, I don’t think there is any question that Trumpers fall right into the category.

  36. Kathy says:

    The attempt at making puff pastry with an apple and pecan filling was, all things considered, pretty ok.

    The texture is fine, and shredding the apples was a good idea. I need to roll the pastry dough thinner, which is something I have trouble with. I think I need a better rolling surface than the slanted large wood board I’ve at home. Something easier to wash, too. Maybe a large acrylic board. And while the powdered nuts were ok, inside I should stick to chopped nuts instead.

    The pastries also were not as sweet as I’d hoped. I must add that I don’t use sugar in this or any desert, which makes things harder. I thought the apples would be sweet enough. There are two varieties of golden apples, both sweeter than red apples. I’ll try the other one next time.

    I may also try a hack I read online, using apple juice instead of water to cook them in the pan. the problem is finding real apple juice, rather than the more common 20% apple juice+water+sugar drink that’s sold as apple “nectar” these days.

    Next time may be this weekend or the next, depending on what else I feel like making. I’m pondering a variant on the potato sauce, adding some tomato and using it for meatloaf.

  37. Mister Bluster says:

    self immolation
    Thich Quang Duc
    Rest in Peace

  38. Jay L Gischer says:

    @Thomm: You said:

    So, are you going with the argument that a new cult leader can’t exploit feelings about a previously existing, now dead cult and/or how they ceased to be as a vector to gain members and adoration from a segment of the population?

    You use the word “can’t” here. I never used that word. I am making an empirical observation. I’ve never seen a cult leader do that. And there is a reason they don’t do that – it distracts people, it might make them question things. Cults tend to view other cults very negatively, cult leaders included. They also view mainstream religions with disdain, but it has a lesser temperature.

    I feel like we are talking at cross-purposes. Certain backers of Trump exhibit behavior that is definitely cult-like. And Trump encourages it. However, his encouragement is quite different from that of a cult leader, in that he maintains a distance from them – a credible deniability – that cult leaders never do.

    This allows him to maintain his transactional relationship with a bunch of other Republicans who sigh and shake their heads, but tell themselves “it brings in voters”.

    I don’t, by the way, reject the description of “stochastic terrorism”. That seems a pretty good description of what Trump is engaging in.

    The purpose of my pushback is understanding. I also push back on “Trump is stupid”. He is not stupid. That line of thought will lead to underestimating him, and that’s dangerous. There’s a bunch of stuff he doesn’t care about, and therefore is ignorant of. That’s not the same thing as stupid. It’s more like willful ignorance. Also, to me, it’s far more irritating than basic stupidity.

  39. MarkedMan says:

    @Jen: If you think about it, “characteristics that are highly valuable to society” have changed over the centuries, with physical traits dominating for most of human history. It reminds me of John Henry, the Steel Driving Man. As a kid, I thought that “laid down and died” was an odd ending. He had won the bet! 15 feet to 9 feet! As an adult, I realized that he died because even in winning, it marked the end of his worth, of his specialness. Sure, John Henry could do 15 to the machines 9, but the average steel man would likely lose. And the next generation of the machine would probably beat John Henry himself. He knew that he would go from being the most celebrated man in the crew to just another gofer.

  40. MarkedMan says:

    @gVOR08: I sometimes think there are two kinds of people in the world: the ones who think “he held faith even when all evidence pointed to the contrary” is high praise, and those who think it is an insult.

  41. Mister Bluster says:

    he held faith even when all evidence pointed to the contrary

    faith in what?
    that your main squeeze isn’t screwing around on you or that Jesus resurrected from the dead?

  42. CSK says:


    I’ve read speculation that the MAGAs as a whole are less infatuated with Trump himself than they are with the notion of having a community of like-minded people. Trump is literally a rallying point for them.

    I hasten to add that this by no means renders Trump any less destructive.

  43. MarkedMan says:

    @Jay L Gischer:

    I also push back on “Trump is stupid”. He is not stupid.

    I don’t know if this is argument by definition or not, but I think Trump is very cunning, but incredibly stupid. Well, maybe cunning is the right word. He has an animal ability to manipulate people into doing what he wants them to do, but what he wants is very transactional and simplistic, and often leads to a bad outcome.

  44. CSK says:


    Agree totally. He’s stupid and he’s easily manipulated himself,but he has feral cunning.

  45. Stormy Dragon says:


    If Pluto is a planet, so is Ceres, Eris and half a dozen or more celestial objects not just the nine you want them to be.

    I just want to mention that as a Discordian, it gives me no end of satisfaction that an object named after Eris was responsible for Pluto getting demoted =)

  46. Kathy says:

    @Jay L Gischer:

    Maybe not stupid in an absolute sense.

    The famous Dunning-Kruger effect is much misunderstood. In that vein, I pose Benito is stupid in the popular interpretations of Dunning-Kruger: he think he knows more than he does, and he believes he’s smarter than he is.

    If you care for an older reference, he’s the embodiment of hubris.

  47. KM says:

    Most people at Jonestown didn’t choose death – it’s myth they all willing drank poison. Most had to do so at gunpoint. Frankly Jones and his inner circle murdered them.

    Many MAGAts however take medication meant for large animals in potentially lethal doses to avoid actual medicine and proudly infect themselves with a modern plague that’s claimed over a million lives. The death urge seems far more present and immediate in them in their base ideology then it ever was in People’s Temple.

    @Just nutha:
    Honestly it’s because of thinking like the above comment (no offense @CSK, using you as example). Jonestown’s become a joke and byword for thoughtless suicide on the whims of a madman but that’s not what happened. They got the label of “cult” and so it was easy to dismiss the tragedy that really occurred – mass murder. Cults tend to murder within and kill their own first. We know of the few that lash out like Aum Shinrikyo but for the most part it’s one of those “common sense” definitions people tend to associate with cults is that they mainly hurt themselves.

    Meanwhile the world’s got a real bad tendency to ignore things they label as “political movements” and turn out to be cults that cause mass murder of people outside the cult as well as inside. So many genocides in the last few centuries are the result of cult thinking – religious cult, social cults, political cults, cults of personality. Words really do color how we perceive things and since the word seems to spark some revulsion and awareness in people that “political movement” doesn’t, we need to call things what they are to help stop them before it gets worse.

  48. CSK says:


    Oh, that’s one of his mantras: “I know more about everything than anybody.”

  49. Just nutha ignint cracker says:

    @MarkedMan: I come from a different perspective on John Henry than you do. I’ve always held that you shouldn’t ever tell someone they can’t do something because the moment you do, he will work himself to death so that the last words from his chest can be when he looks up at you and says “See, I knew you were wrong.”

  50. Just nutha ignint cracker says:

    @Mister Bluster: How about the most important faith of all–that I know better than you do?

  51. Jen says:

    I know someone linked to this via Twitter yesterday, but I have to say, only in America would something like this happen:

    She was in the vicinity of the Covenant School on Monday, supporting her friend Shaundelle Brooks, whose son’s nearby school went into lockdown amid the gunfire. It was gun violence that linked the two women in the first place: Brooks’s older son was killed in the 2018 shooting at a Waffle House in Antioch, Tenn., and they connected over their shared experiences.

    Beasley, a Highland Park resident who was visiting family in Nashville, had planned to meet Brooks for lunch. Instead, Brooks called in a panic, terrified for her child’s safety once again.

    “I couldn’t even fully process it,” Beasley said. “What do you say? Because only in America can you survive a mass shooting and go and make a friend who is the victim of a mass shooting and then go to meet that friend for lunch … and end up in the middle of another mass shooting event.”

    Survivor of Highland Park gunfire crashes Nashville shooting news conference

  52. Joe says:

    I don’t recall anything similar with any POTUS in my lifetime.

    @Michael Reynolds and @CSK: I don’t know how old you both are but there’s this little number in our nation’s Capitol.

  53. Gustopher says:

    People in cults believe things. They’re earnest.

    A movement based on nihilism, grievance and spite just doesn’t.

    Trumpism is less of a coherent worldview and more a collection of ever shifting slogans that are meant to make the in group feel good and the out group feel bad with no consideration for internal logic or truth (even their own truth). It’s a collection of bad faith arguments and an embrace of bad faith at every level, rather than just the leaders issuing new revelations.

    It’s not like the followers are hooked into an alternate reality so much as they have rejected the concept of reality. Arguments and “reasons” don’t have to make sense, they just have to be loud and either feel good or make the out group feel bad.

    I don’t even think it’s a cult of personality, outside of a small minority. Trump just pisses off liberals more. It’s a better troll to support Trump than DeSantis. He’s Pepe the frog.

    It’s GamerGate. Larger and bigger, but just GamerGate.

  54. CSK says:


    I think I can speak for Michael when I say that neither of us was around during the G. Washington administration.

  55. Gustopher says:

    @Stormy Dragon:

    I just want to mention that as a Discordian,

    The Discordians thought it would be a good idea to promote a bunch of mutually exclusive conspiracy theories to make people question reality and that this would wake them up and get them to stop supporting American imperialism in Vietnam (among things).

    Operation Mindfuck.

    They weren’t great at it, as it was always a little bit tongue-in-cheek, so more people found it “fun” than anything serious, but the root was there.

    I don’t think that turned out well. I think it pioneered the same “random bullshit in place of reality” thing that we see with QAnon, GamerGate and Trumpism, where the purveyors of the bullshit stopped doing it tongue in cheek.

  56. Sleeping Dog says:


    Saw an article in the last couple of days that was predicting ChatGTP and its brethren will be different than prior waves of automation, rather than coming for low skilled jobs that feature repetitive tasks, the jobs that will be first be lost will be middle management types, whose value comes in making judgement based on experience.

    For anyone having discussions with someone choosing a career, law and accounting are bad investments.

  57. OzarkHillbilly says:

    @Jen: I once got a call from Laclede Gas about my 4 year olds $1,000+ gas bill. (yeah, my ex pulled that scam with both my sons) They wanted me to pay it. The Csucker even tried to guilt me into paying it by saying, “But what’s he gonna do when he comes of age and has to pay it?” I told him to blow it out his ass, that there was no court in the country that would make him pay for his mother’s thievery and they should get off their lazy asses and make sure the SS# matched with an adult human being before turning on the gas.

    My ex eventually made good on it when he tried to get the gas at his first apartment turned on. No doubt she gave him some bullshit story about how I wasn’t paying the child support but he knew she was pathological liar and never brought it up to me.

  58. Stormy Dragon says:

    In my case it’s recognizing that there’s a psychological need for ritual and community that was going unfulfilled, so this was a way to fulfill that need without that overtly dangerous parts of mainstream religions where people actually believe it.

    It’s also a variation of the “Jesus promised an end to death, Thor promised an end to frost giants. I have not seen a frost giant recently” line of argument. Given the level of chaos going around, praying to a goddess of chaos seems the best way of dealing with that stress.

    Plus I enjoy responding to a passive-aggressive “Jesus loves you” with “Eris finds you boring and doesn’t care one way or the other”

  59. dazedandconfused says:


    Yes, and since Trump wanted people to get vaccinated (and wanted people to show up last Tuesday) and they did not it puts a monkey wrench in the “cult of personality” label…which in some ways, on some fraction of the population, is no doubt accurate.

    The labels make us stupid. They may be useful as talking points but not infrequently serve to also shut down our own thinking. They work much better on things than they do on people.

  60. KM says:

    Wouldn’t then the earnest, heartfelt, bone-deep conviction that world is cruelly unfair to them count? Grievance and spite tend to be deeply held, and if it informs so much of their personality and choices it’s 100% sincere. If nothing else, they all hold the belief that everything would be better if you just did whatever they wanted because it’s what they want. Nihilists still tend to believe they themselves have value enough to matter when nothing else does. How can you cheat someone if they have nothing to cheat them of?

    The cult of trolling online is indeed one of bad faith and delights in ruining logic and reason in favor of malicious nonsensical whims. It believes in assholery, drive by conversation bombs and watching the world burn for the hell of it. Sh^tposting is somewhat of a sacrament they gleefully take part in and getting to do it IRL is the newest escalation. That’s why they love Trump so – a tupla seemingly made from 4-chan posts and drunken racist grumblings from your hateful uncle. That’s why it’s a cult of personality – he’s an object of veneration for what he stands for as much as a leader. He’ll likely hold onto power and relevance specifically for his trolly Pepe-ness instead of political reasons.

  61. Stormy Dragon says:


    Also, in modern terms, I’d say Discordianism is closer to “Birds Aren’t Real” than QAnon

  62. OzarkHillbilly says:

    @gVOR08: Thanx to you I had took that up, something Tom Lehrer never managed to do.

  63. grumpy realist says:

    @MarkedMan: I can’t remember whether this was an older kid’s book or a magazine article, but someone tracked down the actual John Henry and the events that the song supposedly covered. John Henry was being held in the local prison for having landed on the wrong side of the law (since he was black there’s a lot of doubt about whether the accusations were true) and there were quite a lot of other cross-currents/groups involved in the whole affair. Fascinating.

  64. Joe says:

    @CSK: I’ve seen @Michael‘s picture so I am not making assumptions.
    – p.s.: I look about the same.

  65. Kathy says:

    If you get a clear day and can find an unobstructed view, you may want to glance at the west and see a rare planetary alignment shortly after sunset.

    Mercury is really hard to spot in the average human lifetime. I last saw it during the great eclipse of 1991.

  66. gVOR08 says:

    @Kathy: Planning an early dinner and down to a west facing beach with a couple prosecco in a cooler.

  67. gVOR08 says:

    @Just nutha ignint cracker:

    How about the most important faith of all–that I know better than you do?

    Depends on how much information to the contrary there is.

  68. gVOR08 says:


    The Discordians thought it would be a good idea to promote a bunch of mutually exclusive conspiracy theories to make people question reality

    That’s the theory of Russian disinformation and other propaganda, not to convince the subjects of anything in particular, but to in, I think, Hanna Arendt’s phrase, to believe everything and nothing.

  69. Just nutha ignint cracker says:

    @gVOR08: Not if it’s an article of faith it doesn’t.

  70. DK says:

    @Just nutha:

    I don’t get why it’s important to identify MAGAts as a cult, but I don’t care what they’re identified as to any great degree either.

    Exactly this. Call it a cult, don’t call it a cult, how many fairies can dance on the head of a pin. So what? Doesn’t change anything. Still radical right extremist fascist loons who must be defeated, no matter what label you slap on it.

  71. Flat Earth Luddite says:


    Thanks for this reference! In retrospect, I’m astonished at the skill and artistry involved in the artist’s work, such that “figures, up to 15 feet tall, were painted to be intelligible from close up as well as from 180 feet below.”

    I’m going to be trying to wrap my head around that concept for a while. Wow doesn’t begin to cover it.

  72. Gustopher says:

    @Stormy Dragon: “Birds aren’t real” and “Flying Spaghetti Monster” are innocuous fun.

    You can’t go far into the history of Discordia without the freaks who thought they were doing something of significance by corrupting the notion of reality, and then losing their own grip on it. Folks like Kerry Thornley, who was an Army Buddy of Lee Harvey Oswald, and eventually ended up wandering around telling people that he was involved in the grand conspiracy, and seemed to believe it. Would we have JFK Conspiracy Theory without them? Not in its current form definitely. Nor would the Bavarian Illuminati have returned to the forefront in conspiracy circles.

    It just seems kind of unseemly at this point to play with their delusions like toys when they have caused so much damage*. Not like ironic holocaust denial, but not entirely unlike it either.

    To be fair, though, I love the music of Phil Ochs, who eventually believed that he had been killed and replaced by the CIA and that he needed to kill the doppelgänger. Most people at the time assumed it was a bit of performance art, like when he was staging celebrations for the end of the Vietnam war while that was still going on. Then he killed himself. Totally impossible to tell what music was just crazy delusions.

    *: Did they cause damage of destroying faith in institutions (as they set out to do), or did they merely shape the damage? Probably a little of both.

    On the other hand it gave us wonderful stories about Thornley sending anonymous trolling tips to Jim Garrison (the dude played by Kevin Kostner in JFK**) that he was involved in the assassination, and then having paranoid anxiety attacks because he thought he was being followed.

    **: That movie could have been so much better if Oliver Stone didn’t think there was a conspiracy. Man fails to uncover conspiracy is a less compelling story than man falls into the trap of conspiracy theories.

  73. Gustopher says:


    Wouldn’t then the earnest, heartfelt, bone-deep conviction that world is cruelly unfair to them count? Grievance and spite tend to be deeply held, and if it informs so much of their personality and choices it’s 100% sincere.

    The nature of the grievance is left very vague with the MAGA crowd, so there aren’t any shared “facts” among the followers. It’s ill-defined “socialism” and things like that. And nothing is promised to the followers other than abusing their enemies.

    Cults offer something for their followers — eternal salvation, heaven on earth, 15% off shoes from major brand names, etc. Go through fire, get the reward. The Republicans offer burning everything to the ground as the goal. Nihilism and trolling and that’s it.

    A cult would be nicer.

  74. Kathy says:

    A bit of odd trivia, unconfirmed, to close out the day:

    Thomas Edison thought the phonograph would mostly be used for correspondence. People would record messages on cylinders, and send them off by post to the recipient, who would reply in kind.

    Alexander Graham Bell believed the telephone would be used to play live music remotely to audiences all over the world.

    I don’t know what John Logie Baird intended, but I’ve read a lot about the potential to use TV for education. There were many attempts, as I recall, including this one in India

    And I dare say billions of people today do listen to music on their phones.

  75. CSK says:


    Here’s some really trivial trivia: I lived a few blocks away from where Thomas Watson received the first phone call from Bell.

  76. Kathy says:


    All the places where I’ve lived are too recently developed to have any historical significance.

  77. MarkedMan says:

    @Kathy: The people who lived there over the course of the last few millennia might have a different perspective 😉

  78. steve says:

    “The labels make us stupid. ”

    I think that is often true but think they can also help us understand. There are still people who seem to believe that the current Trump lie or bad deed or insult will be the one that will open the eyes of his supporters and they will leave him, but it never really happens. Ordinarily, a politician caught inn a really bad lie suffers and if it happens over and over they lose followers. In a cult of personality the leader can do no wrong. By definition they are always correct. If you understand that With Trump his followers act like a cult of personality then what happens makes sense.


  79. dazedandconfused says:


    Certainly some terms must be adopted for brevity of conversation, but with caution lest we begin to believe our own BS.

    “Cult of personality” only fits the small segment of the population that runs around waving his flag. It may be fitting to use the same term to describe the followers of Jim Jones on them. “Understanding” Trump must encompass the other 70 or so million who voted for him, as without them he is irrelevant.