Psychology Magazine

Cults, Cabals, White Power, and Trumpism

By Deric Bownds @DericBownds

The men of "all men are created equal" in the U.S. Declaration of Independence - white male property owners -  have remained the American ruling class for more than 200 years as voting rights have been extended to women and people of color who will soon account for more that half the population. The only means by which a white minority can maintain power is to suppress voting by minorities who are becoming majorities,  and to follow the scripts of Turkey, Poland, or Hungary in transitioning to an authoritarian rule that masquerades as democracy. (Fortunately Trump has been too inept to pull this off, but the next time we may not be so lucky.) 

The threatened white minority, particularly its fundamentalist christian faction that wants to impose a Taliban-like religious state,  forms the core constituency of the Trumpism cult (aka, the Republican party) and many of its members adhere to faith in fact challenged conspiracy theories that invoke hidden cabals actually running the show (QAnon, Pizzagate, the election theft conspiracy, etc.). 

Harari does a nice piece (you should read it) on the lure of cabal theories and their inherent falsehood. His core points:

The Structure - Cabal theories argue that underneath the myriad events we see on the surface lurks a sinister group... the basic structure remains the same: The group controls almost everything that happens, while simultaneously concealing this control. 

The Lure - Cabal theories are able to attract large followings in part because they offer a single, straightforward explanation to countless complicated processes...if I believe some kind of cabal theory, I enjoy the comforting feeling that I do understand everything... this offers me entree into an exclusive circle — the group of people who understand. It elevates me above the intellectual elite and the ruling class: professors, journalists, politicians. I see what they overlook — or what they try to conceal.  

The Flaw - Cabal theories suffer from the same basic flaw: They assume that it is relatively easy to manipulate the world. A small group of people can understand, predict and control everything, from wars to technological revolutions to pandemics...Whether you’ve served on a school board or local council, or merely tried to organize a surprise birthday party for your mom, you probably know how difficult it is to control humans. You make a plan, and it backfires. You try to keep something a secret, and the next day everybody is talking about it. ...Global cabal theories ask us to believe that while it is very difficult to predict and control the actions of 1,000 or even 100 humans, it is surprisingly easy to secretly puppet master nearly eight billion. 

The Reality - There are, of course, many real conspiracies in the world. Individuals, corporations, organizations, churches, factions and governments are constantly hatching and pursuing various plots. But that is precisely what makes it so hard to predict and control the world in its entirety...Realizing that no single cabal can secretly control the entire world is not just accurate — it is also empowering. It means that you can identify the competing factions in our world, and ally yourself with some groups against others. That’s what real politics is all about.


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