Far-Right Fantasy by James Aho

James Aho, Far-Right Fantasy: A Sociology of American Religion and Politics. New York: Routledge.

The best current book explaining the conspiratorialist narrative of Trump.

History, analysis, literate “interlude” background, and in plain language with academic concepts explained.

See abstract here:  https://www.researchgate.net/publication/302092995


A full review follows soonest.

Crushing College Students with High Tuition Debts

I was working for the National Student Association back in 1974 and was part of an effort to increase loans to students for tuition while adding grants in a way that pushed up increased tuitions.

The first stage in crushing post-secondary college education was this report:

Committee for Economic Development, The Management and Financing of Colleges (New York: Committee for Economic Development, 1973).

The Committee for Economic Development (CED) proposed the following, which was dressed up as equalizing educational opportunities for low income families, but was in fact a plan to saddle individual students with massive debt and refocus the campus experience from a combination of personal education and widening awareness of larger social problems to a competition for diplomas as an entry into a job market where salaries were needed to pay off the loans.

CED Proposal language:
· Public tuitions should be raised until they reach 50 per cent of the cost of instruction.
· Four-year institutions to phase tuition increase in five years;
· Two-year and technical institutions to phase. tuition increase in 10 years.

Federal Government
· Funding should primarily be through grants and loans, made directly to students in accordance with their ability to pay.

Student Aid
· Student aid increases should precede tuition increases.
· Increased tuition income to be redistributed for student aid for students from low-income families.
· Grants and loans should be made directly to students.

Here was our response:

Statement of Kathleen Kelly President, National Student Association, accompanied by Chip Berlet, Editor, NSA Magazine.

[Kelly: This legislation] “is the first piece of legislation in many years which attempts to provide a coherent Federal postsecondary funding policy.

The present programs, as administered, are counterproductive and based on a Neanderthal concept of postsecondary Darwinism which sees education as a means to enrich the individual rather than society as a whole.

The National Student Association Congress in 1965 passed a resolution calling? For free public higher education and that will remain our goal until it is accomplished. We endorse wholeheartedly the low and no tuition principles on which this bill is based.”

David Horowitz’s New Incendiary Campaign Targeting US Campuses

Political provocateur David Horowitz is bottom feeding off the tropes of the Trump campaign about liberal “political correctness” in the latest desperate attempt by Horowitz to raise funds for his loathsome foundation. As in the past Horowitz is taking the serious issue of bigotry on US college campuses and using right-wing incendiary language to focus on the issue in a one-sided way. The campaign is part of the “David Horowitz Freedom Center,” an Orwellian self-aggrandizing name for a group that dispenses right-wing propaganda and is supporting the Trump campaign.

Horowitz has announced a fall campaign to expose and shame the “Hamas-loving Jew haters at American universities” who Horowitz says “defy the rules of political correctness.” This latter reference parasitizes a major theme of the Republican Right in the current election campaign—although it is unclear what Horowitz actually means with this rhetorical bait. (Read more about so-called “Political Correctness” as used by candidates Donald Trump and Mike Pence here)

According to Horowitz, it is “liberal academics” who cheer on the “Hamas-loving Jew haters,” “Jew-hating anti-Israel students,” and “liberal progressive allies in academia” who want to “end free speech and humiliate and harass Jewish students.”

The solution is to send money to Horowitz’s Freedom Center, according to a mid-August 2016 fundraising letter signed by Horowitz, who claims “…Jews face hatred like no other group on campus, with anti-Semitic student groups like Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP) that torture and humiliate students for their Jewish faith and support for Israel.”

There is antisemitism on US college campuses, just as there is Islamophobia, White racism, and bigotry against the LGBTQ community. Many college administrators are attempting to intervene in acts of bigotry that step outside the bounds of the open debate encouraged on US campuses. It’s a precarious situation balancing free speech and protection for all students.

One national group, The Justus and Karin Rosenberg Foundation, provides model program information to combat antisemitism while defending civil liberties. The foundation explains itself in this paragraph on its home page:

==The Justus and Karin Rosenberg Foundation works to combat – and to increase the serious study of – hatred and antisemitism. We emphasize projects that impact high school and college age students. We also help students engage difficult issues like the Israeli/Palestinian conflict, and learn how strong passions may influence thinking. Our projects must be consistent with, and ideally should promote, academic freedom.

Compare this calm rhetoric guarding free speech with that of Horowitz:

===Jew-hating professors across the country shut down debate in classrooms, demonize Israel, and push pro-Hamas propaganda in the classrooms. And last year it seemed to reach a fever pitch….We will find out who the student and faculty supporters of these Jew hating, pro-Hamas student groups are on a dozen hand-picked campuses across America – and put their names on posters that we will circulate when classes start in September….Our goal is to force the press to cover our efforts, exposing cowardly university administrators and forcing universities to stop funding hateful anti-Semitic and pro-jihadi groups.

The endless inflammatory and one-sided rhetoric of Horowitz is one reason he was singled out as not a constructive voice in confronting antisemitism and Islamophobia on US college campuses in the report I edited for Political Research Associates.

I fairness to Horowitz, I present below a partial list of his various projects for your perusal, all of which can be inspected at this Freedom Center page:

Dynamics of Right-Wing Populism

An Introduction

Right-Wing Populism is a blend of the various components listed below:

  • Dualism
    • Demonization
    • Scapegoating
    • Apocalyptic Aggression
  • Populism
    • Producerism
  • Conspiracism
  • Coded Rhetoric and Scripted Violence
  • Propaganda & Deception
  • Authoritarianism
  • White Nationalist Panic
  • Gender Panic
  • Countersubversion Panic


A binary division of the world into competing factions: one good and one evil. Also called Manichaeism.


Read More about Dehumanization and Demonization

The portrayal of individuals and groups as agents of pure evil, perhaps even in league with Satan. A precursor to scapegoating and conspiracism which encourages discrimination and violence against the target. Acts as a form of dehumanization or objectification.

Read More about Demonization


The social process whereby hostility and aggression of an angry and frustrated group are directed away from a rational explanation of a conflict and projected onto targets demonized by irrational claims of wrongdoing, so that the scapegoat bears the blame for causing the conflict, while the scapegoaters feel a sense of innocence and increased unity. It is scapegoating whether or not the conflict is real or imaginary, the grievances are legitimate or illegitimate, or the target is wholly innocent or partially culpable.

Read More about Scapegoating


The belief in an approaching confrontation, cataclysmic event, or transformation of epochal proportion, about which a select few have forewarning so they can make appropriate preparations. From a Greek root word suggesting unveiling hidden information or revealing secret knowledge about unfolding human events.

In Christianity there are competing apocalyptic prophetic traditions based on demonization or cooperation. The dualist or demonized version involves a final show-down struggle between absolute good and absolute evil. Central to Christianity, the tradition also exists in Judaism, Islam, and other religions and secular belief structures. Believers can be passive or active in anticipation; and optimistic or pessimistic about the outcome.


From Right-Wing Populism in America:

Canovan argues: all forms of populism “involve some kind of exaltation of and appeal to ´the people,´ and all are in one sense or another antielitist.” We take these two elements—celebration of “the people” plus some form of antielitism—as a working definition of populism.

Michael Kazin calls populism a style of organizing. Populist movements can be on the right, the left, or in the center. They can be egalitarian or authoritarian, and can rely on decentralized networks or a charismatic leader. They can advocate new social and political relations or romanticize the past. Especially important for our purposes, populist movements can promote forms of antielitism that target either genuine structures of oppression or scapegoats alleged to be part of a secret conspiracy. And they can define “the people” in ways that are inclusive and challenge traditional hierarchies, or in ways that silence or demonize oppressed groups.

Read Domhoff on the difference between conspiracist populism and progressive power structure research CLICK HERE

US populism drew themes from several historic currents with potentially negative consequences, including:~13

· Anti-elitism-a suspicion of politicians, powerful people, the wealthy, and high culture…sometimes leading to conspiracist allegations about control of the world by secret elites, especially the scapegoating of Jews as sinister and powerful manipulators of the economy or media;

· Anti-intellectualism-a distrust of those pointy headed professors in their Ivory Towers…sometimes undercutting rational debate by discarding logic and factual evidence in favor of following the emotional appeals of demagogues;

· Majoritarianism-the notion that the will of the majority of people has absolute primacy in matters of governance…sacrificing rights for minorities, especially people of color;

· Moralism-evangelical-style campaigns rooted in Protestant revivalism… sometimes leading to authoritarian and theocratic attempts to impose orthodoxy, especially relating to gender.

· Americanism-a form of patriotic nationalism…often promoting ethnocentric, nativist, or xenophobic fears that immigrants bring alien ideas and customs that are toxic to our culture.

· Producerism (See below).

Read More about Populism


Producerism is the idea that the “real” Americans are hard-working people who create goods and wealth while fighting against parasites at the top and bottom of society who pick our pocket…sometimes promoting scapegoating and the blurring of issues of class and economic justice, and with a history of assuming proper citizenship is defined by White males.

See a slide show on how producerism works CLICK HERE


A conspiracist theory is a narrative that blames societal or individual problems on a scapegoat. Thus we refer to conspiracism.   While there are real conspiracies throughout history, history is not a conspiracy. Conspiracism is a parody of institutional analysis.

Conspiracism is a form of scapegoating . In Western culture, conspiracist scapegoating is rooted in apocalyptic fears and millennial expectations .

See a slide show of a timeline on various conspiracist movements throughout U.S. history, CLICK HERE

The current wave of anti-government conspiracism has two main historic sources, irrational fears of a freemason conspiracy and irrational fears of a Jewish conspiracy . There are many purveyors of the conspiracist worldview and the belief structure is surprisingly widespread. From the 1960s through the 1990s, conspiracist ideas were promoted largely by two different right-wing institutions, the John Birch Society and the Liberty Lobby . Both groups used a form of right-wing populism in which conspiracist narratives such as producerism are common.

The Liberty Lobby is now defunct, but the John Birch Society continues to operate. The antisemitic version of conspiracist narratives is still circulated by a variety of groups.

See a slide show on how different named scapegoats overlap and create a myriad of conspiracy theories CLICK HERE

In highlighting conspiracist allegation as a form of scapegoating, it is important to remember the following:

· All conspiracist theories start with a grain of truth, which is then transmogrified with hyperbole and filtered through pre-existing myth and prejudice,

· People who believe conspiracist allegations sometimes act on those irrational beliefs, which has concrete consequences in the real world,

· Conspiracist thinking and scapegoating are symptoms, not causes, of underlying societal frictions, and as such are perilous to ignore,

· Scapegoating and conspiracist allegations are tools that can be used by cynical leaders to mobilize a mass following,

· Supremacist and fascist organizers use conspiracist theories as a relatively less-threatening entry point in making contact with potential recruits,

· Even when conspiracist theories do not center on Jews, people of color, or other scapegoated groups, they create an environment where racism, antisemitism, and other forms of prejudice and oppression can flourish.

Johnson’s Five Rules of Conspiracism

George Johnson, author of Architects of Conspiracy, explained that “conspiratorial fantasies are not simply an expression of inchoate fear. There is a shape, an architecture, to the paranoia.” Johnson came up with five rules common to the conspiracist worldview in the United States:

· The conspirators are internationalist in their sympathies.

· [N]othing is ever discarded. Right-wing mail order bookstores still sell the Protocols of the Elders of Zion…[and] Proofs of a Conspiracy.

· Seeming enemies are actually secret friends. Through the lens of the conspiracy theorists, capitalists and Communists work hand in hand.

· The takeover by the international godless government will be ignited by the collapse of the economic system.

· It’s all spelled out in the Bible. For those with a fundamentalist bent, the New World Order or One World Government is none other than the international kingdom of the Antichrist, described in the Book of Revelation.

Read More about Conspiracism

Coded Rhetoric

When you hear someone claim that a handful of secret elites manipulate politics and the economy, who do you think they mean? The Trilateral Commission? Dick Cheney and his pals at Halliburton? Jewish Bankers? With a clever use of rhetoric, a speaker can mean all three, yet never mention the “Jewish Bankers.”

Using coded language to avoid an obvious appearance of bigotry has a long tradition.

When politicians talk about “Welfare Queens” many White Americans first envision a Black mother with ten children, even though most welfare recipients are White.

Dan T. Carter writes about how the 1968 third-party presidential campaign of Alabama Governor George Wallace used coded language:

“With an instinctive sense for language, [Wallace] exploited these racial fears through the skillful use of what soon came to be called coded language. He railed against federal, state and local officials for their timid response to Molotov-throwing urban rioters, but he never referred to them explicitly in racial terms.

“He talked about brutal and marauding criminals who transformed America’s urban streets into war zones. But he did not directly mention race.

“He constantly complained of shiftless free-loaders, collecting their welfare checks—paid for by the hard-working American. But he scrupulously avoided using racial language to describe this new parasitic welfare class.

“Even when he dealt with explicit racial issues, he always insisted that his objections to busing or affirmative action had nothing to do with race, but fairness for white as well as black Americans.”

–Dan T. Carter, “George Wallace and the Rightward Turn in Today’s Politics,” The Public Eye Magazine, Winter 2005.
Read the full article

Wallace welded together populism, libertarianism, and a White backlash against the civil rights movement.

To see how Wallace did this, read his statement about integration and the federal government CLICK HERE

The phrase “international bankers” is another example of a coded phrase that has long been used in public discussion. “International bankers” is often used by bigots to suggest Jewish bankers. So has the phrase “money manipulators.” This is complicated by the fact that for some conspiracists, the target is not Jews, but another banking group or family. For example, in the 1960s, the term “internationalists” can refer to Jews or the Rockefeller family, depending upon the author and context. In the early 1960s Phyllis Schlafly wrote about the “Secret Kingmakers” who controlled the Republican Party. She is referring to the Rockefeller wing of the Party, yet some readers who were antisemitic would assume she really meant the global Jewish elites.

See a slide show on how different conspiracist audiences interpret statements in different “coded” ways CLICK HERE

Propaganda & Deception

Read More about Propaganda & Deception


Canovan, Populism , pp. 289, 293, 294; Canovan notes that there are “a great many interconnections” among her seven forms of populism, and that “many phenomena—perhaps most—belong in more than one category.” She adds that “given the contradictions” between some of the categories, “none could ever satisfy all the conditions at once.”

Kazin, Populist Persuasion. See also Harrison, Of Passionate Intensity.

Techniques of the Propagandist

In 1923 Edward L. Bernays wrote the book Crystallizing Public Opinion and later, in 1928, the text Propaganda, considered seminal works in the field. “There is propaganda and what I call impropaganda,” said the 98-year-old Bernays impishly when I interviewed him a few years prior to his death. Propaganda originally meant promoting any idea or item, but took on its current pejorative sense following the extensive use of sinister propaganda for malicious goals during World War I and World War II.

While all persuasion uses the techniques of traditional propaganda, what Bernays calls “impropaganda”is “using propaganda techniques not in accordance with good sense, good faith, or good morals…methods not consistent with the American pattern of behavior based on Judeo-Christian ethics.” Bernays, who is called the “father of public relations,”is worried about the increased use of “impropaganda”in political campaigns and has spoken out against it. “Politicians who use techniques like these lose the faith of the people,” said Bernays.

In 1936 Boston merchant Edward Filene helped establish the short-lived Institute for Propaganda Analysis which sought to educate Americans to recognize propaganda techniques. Alfred McClung Lee, Institute director from 1940-42, and his wife Elizabeth Briant Lee, co-authors of The Fine Art of Propaganda, Social Problems in America, wrote an article in the periodical Propaganda Review in which they suggested educating the public about propaganda techniques was an urgent priority. The Lees also discussed the Institute’s symbols for the seven hallmark tricks of the manipulative propagandist:

  • Name Calling: hanging a bad label on an idea, symbolized by a hand turning thumbs down;
  • Card Stacking: selective use of facts or outright falsehoods, symbolized by an ace of spades, a card signifying treachery;
  • Band Wagon: a claim that everyone like us thinks this way, symbolized by a marching bandleader’s hat and baton;
  • Testimonial: the association of a respected or hated person with an idea, symbolized by a seal and ribbon stamp of approval;
  • Plain Folks: a technique whereby the idea and its proponents are linked to “people just like you and me,” symbolized by an old shoe;
  • Transfer: an assertion of a connection between something valued or hated and the idea or commodity being discussed, symbolized by a smiling Greek theater mask; and
  • Glittering Generality: an association of something with a “virtue word” to gain approval without examining the evidence; symbolized by a sparkling gem.

The Institute’s last newsletter reflected that “in modern society an element of propaganda is present in a large portion of human affairs…people need to be able to recognize this element even when it is serving `good’ ends.”

What are the Fallacies of Logic?

Investigative reporting and progressive research took a detour during the probe of the Iran-Contra affair. Because the executive branch was engaged in a coverup, and Congress refused to demand a full accounting, speculation about conspiracies blossomed. There certainly are conspiracies afoot in the halls of government and private industry. Documenting illegal conspiracies is routinely accomplished by prosecutors who present their evidence to a judge or jury. The burden of proof can be high, as it should be in a democracy. Journalists frequently document conspiracies, and their published or broadcast charges can be tested against standards of journalistic ethics and sometimes in court in cases of alleged libel and slander.
Coverage of unsubstantiated conspiracy theories in recent years, however, routinely violated common journalistic practices regarding second sourcing. A theory that cannot be documented, or for which there is only one source of questionable credibility, is a rumor…not investigative journalism.

With so much political and journalistic confusion it is useful to remember that academia has produced a long list of useful tools and techniques to evaluate the logical and conceptual validity of any argument regardless of political content or viewpoint.
Useful rational standards by which to judge the merits of any statement or theory are easily found in textbooks on debate, rhetoric, argument, and logic.

These books discuss which techniques of argumentation are not valid because they fail to follow the rules of logic. There are many common fallacious techniques or inadequate proofs:

  • Raising the volume, increasing the stridency, or stressing the emotionalism of an argument does not improve its validity. This is called argument by exhortation. It is often a form of demagoguery, bullying or emotional manipulation.
  • Sequence does not imply causation. If Joan is elected to the board of directors of a bank on May 1, and Raul gets a loan on July 26, further evidence is needed to prove a direct or causal connection. Sequence can be a piece of a puzzle, but other causal links need to be further investigated.
  • Congruence in one or more elements does not establish congruence in all elements. Gloria Steinem and Jeane J. Kirkpatrick are both intelligent, assertive women accomplished in political activism and persuasive rhetoric. To assume they therefore also agree politically would be ludicrous. If milk is white and powdered chalk is white, would you drink a glass of powdered chalk?
  • Association does not imply agreement, hence the phrase “guilt by association”has a pejorative meaning. Association proves association; it suggests further questions are appropriate, and demonstrates the parameters of networks, coalitions, and personal moral distinctions, nothing more. Tracking association can lead to further investigation that produces useful evidence, but a database is not an analysis and a spiderweb chart is not an argument. The connections may be meaningful, random, or related to an activity unrelated to the one being probed.
  • Participation in an activity, or presence at an event, does not imply control.
  • Similarity in activity does not imply joint activity and joint activity does not imply congruent motivation. When a person serves in an official advisory role or acts in a position of responsibility within a group, however, the burden of proof shifts to favor a presumption that such a person is not a mere member or associate, but probably embraces a considerable portion of the sentiments expressed by the group. Still, even members of boards of directors will distance themselves from a particular stance adopted by a group they oversee, and therefore it is not legitimate to assume automatically that they personally hold a view expressed by the group or other board members. It is legitimate to assert that they need to distance themselves publicly from a particular organizational position if they wish to disassociate themselves from it.
  • Anecdotes alone are not conclusive evidence. Anecdotes are used to illustrate a thesis, not to prove it. A good story-teller can certainly be mesmerizing-consider Ronald Reagan–but if skill in story-telling and acting is the criteria for political leadership, Ossie Davis would have been president, not Ronald Reagan. This anecdote illustrates that anecdotes alone are not conclusive evidence, even though most progressives would think that Davis would have been a kindler, gentler president than Reagan or Bush.