The right’s success in media is not a shadowy conspiracy; it has been achieved out in the open, largely through ordinary politics. Much of it can be countered the same way.
At his first official press conference in 2017, Press Secretary Sean Spicer made a telling choice. After giving the first question to the New York Post, he then called on Jennifer Wishon, who was sitting at the back, in the seventh row. He didn’t mention the news organization she represented, but it was no secret: since 2011 she had served as the White House correspondent for the Christian Broadcasting Network.
The consumption of ideological media has been a core part of conservative identity in the United States for two generations.
That President Trump’s press secretary chose to highlight CBN, the evangelical network started by Pat Robertson in 1960, may come as a surprise. After all, even the network’s top official, Gordon Robertson, laughs at the notion that Donald Trump is a devout Christian. But the Trump-CBN partnership dates to well before Spicer took the podium, back to 2011 when Trump was weighing a presidential bid. In the intervening years he has been interviewed on the network about twenty times, including several times as president.
Yet that relationship has received relatively little attention in the press, save a handful of articles a few years ago. While journalists have zeroed in on Fox News and Sinclair Broadcasting and even the upstart network One America News, they have largely ignored CBN and the network of conservative evangelical radio and television stations that crisscross the nation.
Has that relationship simply been overlooked, or has it been deliberately concealed? That is the question that stalks the pages of Anne Nelson’s new book Shadow Network: Media, Money and the Secret Hub of the Radical Right. The “secret hub” at the heart of the book, the Council for National Policy (CNP)—for which CBN founder Pat Robertson served on the board of governors—is a banal-sounding organization with significant conservative political ties. Everyone from presidential candidates to big-money donors to movement organizers has attended the annual meetings or sat on the organization’s board. Add the CNP’s air of secrecy—the meetings are private, and it won’t reveal who attends—and you have the perfect set-up for Shadow Network’s central argument: that a shadowy organization has been coordinating a secret assault on democracy and truth for the better part of forty years.
What Nelson describes as a “shadow network” could better be understood as a political movement.
That argument is not entirely wrong, but it is wrongly framed. What Nelson describes as a “shadow network” could better be understood as a political movement. To be sure, it is a political movement that has worked to undermine faith in media, democracy, and facts. But if we detach the argument from Nelson’s conspiratorial framework, it is much easier to see how the right built a coalition capable of restructuring American politics and doing lasting damage to democratic governance.
Broadly speaking, Shadow Network is the story of how white conservative evangelicals became a core part of the Republican base. In Nelson’s telling, that story begins in the 1960s with the New Right, a set of political operatives who saw an opportunity to mobilize white evangelicals by emphasizing religious and social issues. Using targeted political messaging—one of the founders of the New Right, Richard Viguerie, was an innovator in direct mail—these political operatives turned evangelical devotees into evangelical voters. The New Right used these voters first to transform the Republican Party, then the country.
When the New Right looked at liberals’ elite connections, they saw a clearinghouse of American power. And they wanted in on the action.
The Council for National Policy played a central role in achieving this goal. Modeled after the Council on Foreign Relations (of which Nelson is a member), the CNP sought to bring together conservative donors, politician, and grassroots organizers—to connect “the donors and the doers,” as one member put it. In practice, that largely meant setting a political agenda through regular closed-door meetings—an agenda that would then filter out through organization leaders and right-wing radio—and channeling funds to political initiatives such as the Values Voter Summit, conservative media outlets, and now the Koch-funded i360 data platform, a new data platform developed to target and mobilize Republican voters.
It is telling that they modeled the CNP after the Council on Foreign Relations (CFR), which was a who’s-who of the American elite, especially during the Cold War. Scholars, politicians, journalists, diplomats, presidents—they all found in the CFR a place to connect to other elites and to the deep pockets of the Ford and Rockefeller Foundations. So influential was the CFR that it staffed a good chunk of the foreign policy leadership for three consecutive administrations (Eisenhower, Kennedy, and Johnson). When the New Right looked at this configuration of elite connections, they saw a clearinghouse of American power. And they wanted in on the action.
Copying the liberal establishment of midcentury America was a common tactic of the conservative movement long before the CNP was founded. Many conservatives saw their marginalization in American politics as a function of having been out-organized. When William F. Buckley Jr. founded the National Review in 1955, he explicitly credited magazines such as the New Republic and the Nation for the success of the New Deal, and he hoped to start a similar political revolution with his new conservative magazine. Likewise, the American Conservative Union was modeled after Americans for Democratic Action and the National Association of Evangelicals after the mainline National Council of Churches.
Copying the liberal establishment of midcentury America was a common tactic of the conservative movement long before the CNP was founded.
That’s not to say that the right simply copied the institutions of liberalism. More often, they copied their fever-dream version of what they saw as overtly liberal institutions. Seeing the powerful political influence of liberal organizations in twentieth-century America, they assumed that those organizations had been designed precisely to transform American politics: that New Republic editors wrote only to advance a liberal political agenda, or that universities were dedicated to propagandizing Keynesian economics and secularism. So Fox News became a right-wing fun-house-mirror version of CNN, the Koch Foundation of the Ford Foundation, and the CNP of the CFR.
As that lineage suggests, the CNP was not particularly unusual as a right-wing organization. Like all the above organizations, it was founded with explicit political goals and systemic political strategies already in place. And in fact, though the shadow organization lurks throughout the book, the broader phenomenon Nelson is describing is not a semi-secret network but rather the institutional core of the conservative movement.
That becomes clear in the way Nelson describes the influence of the CNP. She does this primarily by signaling how someone influential, such as Pat Robertson or Mike Pence, was connected to the CNP. These connections become looser later in the book, as Nelson moves into the 2000s and 2010s: CNP founders give way to “CNP members,” “CNP donors,” “CNP affiliates,” and finally “friends of the organization.” But the proliferation of CNP connections often feels like a substitution for a broader argument. Ties to the CNP ultimately serve as a narrative device rather than evidence. Aside from founders and board members, it is not clear that being connected to the CNP means anything for conservatives other than another membership in one of the myriad umbrella organizations that proliferate in politics, such as the American Conservative Union, the Young America’s Foundation, the Council on Foreign Relations, or the Democracy Fund.
And much of what is actually being done by the CNP and “friends of the organization” is not particularly scandalous. Nelson writes that, for the CNP to achieve its goal of a vastly more conservative government, they would need “a long-range strategy to target critical districts and activate previously unengaged voting blocs.” Later, she lays out the right’s new model of grassroots mobilization:
Identify an invisible, disengaged group of potential voters. Find a hot-button issue to activate them. Keep them riled up with targeted media and direct mail. Facilitate their interactions in gathering places they frequent, to reinforce their commitment with groupthink. Follow up with onsite voter registration and transportation to the polls on Election Day.
That . . . sounds a whole lot like run-of-the-mill politics. Even the threat of theocracy doesn’t quite land. For instance, Nelson acknowledges that materials like the Family Research Council’s iVoter guides are used by countless groups, but darkly warns about the role of religious leaders in conservative evangelical organizing: “By making pastors and churches their vehicles of distribution, the iVoter guides gave their recommendations the imprimatur of spiritual leaders—perhaps even an air of divine authority.” But church-based organizing is hardly limited to the right. “Souls to the polls” might sound frightening if deployed by someone like Jerry Falwell, but it is a regular part of Democratic voter turnout.
Set the conspiratorial framework aside, though, and there is something deeply important that Nelson’s work is doing. By focusing on the way central political institutions, especially the press, fractured in the post-Reagan era, she helps explain why right-wing organizations and politics have flourished in the past few decades.
Why did the collapse of journalism benefit the right far more than the left? In part because the right had been hard at work since the 1940s establishing alternative media institutions.
For Nelson, who has held leadership positions at the Columbia School of Journalism and the Committee to Protect Journalism, the “colony collapse” of journalism in the past few decades is a key factor in that explanation. That is partly due to the economic and technological changes that have decimated local news and transformed national outlets, and partly due to changes that have happened to the practice of journalism with the rise of right-wing media in the second half of the twentieth century. Why did the collapse of journalism benefit the right far more than the left? In part because the right had been hard at work since the 1940s establishing alternative media institutions, from magazines to radio shows to television networks. They paired these new institutions with a novel and effective argument about existing news outlets: that these purportedly objective outlets were riddled with liberal bias and could not possibly be trusted.
As a result, the consumption of ideological media has been a core part of conservative identity in the United States for two generations, something that has no parallel on the left. That built-in base allowed conservative media not only to survive the colony collapse of journalism in the late twentieth century, but to thrive—especially after the elimination of the Federal Communication Commission’s Fairness Doctrine in 1987 opened up the radio dial for the proliferation of right-wing voices.
In tying the transformation of media to the transformation of politics, Nelson is advancing an important argument. Our media environments and our political environments constitute one another; they cannot be separated. This is as true today as it was at the founding, when a free press was seen as vital to a healthy republic. The current fractured, factious, and fact-challenged landscape of political news both reflects and promotes the same qualities in our politics.
The right’s undermining of democracy has not been the function of a secret cabal of conservative elites—who are often forced to bow to the desires of their base, rather than brainwashing the base into following their lead.
The institutional decline that Nelson is less attuned to, and which helps explain the rise of organizations such as the CNP, is the decline of political parties. Yes, the Democratic and Republican parties still exist. But their traditional function, as Nelson ably charts, have been outsourced to other institutions. On the Republican side, that means the conservative movement has largely taken over for the party. The party’s fundraising function now belongs to foundations, Super PACs, and dark-money peddlers. The messaging function now belongs to right-wing media. And the mobilization function now largely resides with groups such as Americans for Prosperity and Turning Point USA.
The collapse of these core institutions of American democracy is deeply worrisome, highlighting the fragility of democracy. A few technological changes, a few tweaks to the institutional apparatus of elections, and suddenly the whole structure of democracy has been weakened. Not just weakened, but willfully undermined. The American right has taken aim at key parts of the democratic process: access to the ballot box, accurate information, checks and balances.
But that undermining has not been the function of a secret cabal of conservative elites. It has been as much, if not more so, about the desires of the base—the grassroots that organizations such as the CNP are “registering, indoctrinating, and mobilizing,” as Nelson puts it. It is far from clear that these conservative evangelicals are in as subservient a position as Nelson suggests. Their theology and politics are largely absent from Shadow Network, but the evangelical base is a powerful force in American politics. Yes, organizers help find a language and urgency that drove white evangelicals to the polls in the 1980s and 1990s. But to call that “indoctrination” is to posit a unidirectional line of political influence that simply does not exist.
In fact, as the durability of Trump support suggests, conservative organizations and media are often forced to bow to the desires of their base, rather than brainwashing the base into following their lead. Trump led in the polls well before he led among conservative elites. A base-driven perspective undermines the idea of a “shadow network,” but it is far more in line with how GOP politics have functioned in the past decade or so.
The dislocations of the Trump era have stoked a hunger for books like this: works that try to find Patient Zero for the dramatic reorientation of the American right away from the now familiar conservative politics of the Reagan era and toward those of 2016. Pinpointing a shadowy conspiracy behind that transformation is comforting: if it was something that happened out of sight, then we couldn’t have known about it, and therefore couldn’t have stopped it and aren’t responsible for it. Yes, the norms of democracy have been violently violated, but it was done in secret, so we can be forgiven for not understanding what was happening.
Pinpointing a shadowy conspiracy behind the transformation of conservative politics is comforting. But it lets us off too easily.
That lets us off too easily. The attacks on America’s democratic institutions and processes have not been happening in some secret hub of the radical right. They have been happening out in the open, little by little, with too few people paying attention. In the early days of conservative organizing, right-wing activists were dismissed, understandably enough, as fringe figures with no real relevance to American politics. And at the time they were, in fact, a small contingent. If journalists and liberal activists could be forgiven for missing the organizational strength of conservatives in the 1950s and 1960s, however, there was no excuse for dismissing it in the 1980s and 1990s, after Reagan had won two landslide elections and Republicans had swept the 1994 elections. That they were continuously caught offguard by conservative political success, and regularly overlooked conservative organizing, marked a catastrophic failure to understand the core operations of American politics.
By the time liberals started to take conservative organizing seriously, they were several decades behind and often failed to understand the broader ideological rationale that gave conservative institutions their power: the belief that all institutions are ideological, and that any institution that purports to be objective is untrustworthy. Without that, it is almost impossible to build reliance on ideological media. That became clear when Air America launched in 2004. It was supposed to be the left’s answer to conservative talk radio. Though a few commentators such as Rachel Maddow launched their careers out of Air America, by 2010 it had collapsed. There just wasn’t enough demand for left-wing talk.
The liberal-left has had more success in copying right-wing institutions in other arenas. In 2014 Democratic activists launched SIX, the State Innovation Exchange, as an answer to the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), which has developed model legislation for conservative state legislatures across the country. Founded in 1973, ALEC had a forty-year head start, but it is significant that left-wing activists are finally following its lead.
There is, finally, a growing awareness of how effectively the right has organized to seize control of American politics—an awareness Shadow Network will help spread. But now that a critical mass of people is waking up to the assault on American democracy, we need to be straight with them: this wasn’t some secretive plot against America. It has been happening out in the open the entire time, largely through the normal functioning of politics. And as a result, much of it can be countered the same way.
This video answers the question: How can people that are narcissistic and psychopathic use emotions to manipulate people? What I’m really talking about here is a specific type of manipulation, where people try to elicit a specific emotion to achieve objective. We know this tends to be more associated, as a behavior anyway, with narcissism and psychopathy. Somebody doesn’t have to be narcissistic or psychopathic to be manipulative. When we talk about emotions what we see is that emotions are thought of as helpful.
If we look at emotions, we see there are only six basic emotions and they are present across all cultures. The emotions are anger, disgust, fear, happiness, sadness, and surprise.
Emotions are simple, immediate, and they’re constricted to really just six types, although the amount of expression would be different depending on the situation.
typically without the personality traits
of narcissism and psychopathy another
reason that narcissists encyc could pass
they’re so successful manipulation is
they lack empathy and this is a real key
even at the subclinical level here even
if somebody has narcissism and
psychopathy but doesn’t rise to the
level of any type of disorder any type
of mental disorder they’re still gonna
have some lack of empathy and that’s
going to be enough to facilitate
emotional manipulation in some cases now
we talked about specifically grandiose
narcissism and psychopathy so leaving
out vulnerable narcissism for a moment
we see the individuals with grandiose
narcissism and individuals who are
psychopathic are not vulnerable to
emotions right they’re exempt from the
rules they’re not invested and this gets
into what I call the trail of
destruction so imagine like an
individual who’s in a totally fireproof
suit it’s not only fireproof but it’s
resistant to heat they can pour gasoline
everywhere and play with matches if
something burns they’re ok with that if
something doesn’t burn they’re ok with
that too another expression here is
they’re playing with the houses money so
if they go into a casino and the people
the casinos say look here’s $10,000 but
you have to gamble it it’s not a big
deal you’re playing with the houses
money it’s not your money you’re not
losing anything you’re not risking
anything and that’s kind of how we look
at this grandiose narcissist and
Psychopaths don’t have anything to lose
because they’re not again they’re not
vulnerable to emotions
they don’t have to play by the same
rules they don’t have a way to get hurt
with the emotions the same as somebody
who does not have those personality
traits now the last reason that
narcissist in Psychopaths can be
successful with emotional manipulation
is they tend to be attracted to the
suffering of other people sometimes we
call this schadenfreude oh right the joy
and the suffering of others except with
narcissism and psychopathy it’s a little
more intense and if somebody lacks
empathy and they’re not vulnerable to
emotions and they like what other people
suffer it makes sense more or less why
they would use emotional manipulation
from their point of view that’s logical
it helps them to meet their goals so
what do all these strategies have in
common I find this pretty interesting we
look at all the emotional manipulation
strategies including examples I used
before what they have in common well
they’re all immature right that’s what
they really have in common they indicate
immaturity not sophistication so we know
that school-age children know these
tricks they use these tricks of
emotional manipulation so why do they
work on adults why they continue to work
as people grow older that’s because
people believe that emotions and
feelings necessitate a response again
they tell us something important we
should listen to them follow your heart
go with your gut trust your intuition
all those phrases are based on
separating yourself from logic and
following emotions even though there’s
not strong evidence that they always
point in the right direction now another
reason these strategies work is
impulsivity it’s hard to discount the
power of impulsivity so this is when
somebody has a negative emotion or
positive motion and they fail to
restrain themselves they feel compelled
to act on that emotion so impulsivity
again is a big part and believing that
emotions tell us something important is
a big part of it so when somebody
realizes that emotional manipulation is
occurring how can it be stopped how can
we stop emotional manipulation from half
well I talked about this in videos
before boundaries boundaries are a real
key follow the rules that you set all
the boundaries that you set before
experiencing an emotion so don’t wait
until a time when the emotions are
strong make those rules make those rules
when the emotions are expressed at a
relatively low level or there’s no
emotion now when people fail to react to
efforts to manipulate that will
eventually extinguish the behavior right
so another tactic here would be to cut
off the reward so if somebody’s trying
to manipulate you and you react to that
that’s only rewarding them for that
attempt to manipulate so we can think
about it from the point of view of like
operant conditioning right goes back to
the roots of behaviorism if there’s an
animal being used in an experiment and
they have to press a button to get a
pellet of food and every time they press
that button the power of food comes down
they’re gonna continue to press that
button if the reinforcement schedule has
changed so they have to press the button
twice they’re still gonna do it they’re
gonna press it twice and get the palette
of food and this number can be increased
quite a bit they can have to press the
button ten times or twenty times and
they’ll still do it because they know
that eventually they’re gonna get that
food so the only way to really
extinguish the behavior is to never
reinforce it it’s really surprising how
many times people will engage in
behaviors without the reward because
they know it’s still possible now I’ve
heard another argument in this area that
another tactic here would be to have the
opposite reaction that the manipulator
expects but in my experience this is
still a reward this is still a response
and it may not be the response the
person wants but it still may bring some
sort of pleasure or be satisfactory so I
would say that’s not always a good
strategy no reaction I think in terms of
behaviorism is a more effective strategy
most of the time now these ideas about
how to avoid emotional manipulation
they’re not the same thing as not having
emotions rather not engaging in a
or at least not engaging in it when the
person who’s narcissistic or
psychopathic or whoever they are can see
you if you have to react if there’s no
way to kind of suppress that reaction
have that reaction in a place where you
could not be observed by the person who
is attempting the manipulation again
whether their narcissistic psychopathic
or not that’s still a way to avoid
rewarding them so I know whenever I talk
about narcissism psychopathy
manipulation whether it’s emotional or
not there are always going to be
different thoughts people are going to
agree or disagree or have other opinions
please put those opinions in the
comments section they always generate a
really interesting dialogue as always I
hope you found this description of
emotional manipulation to be interesting
thanks for watching
Today I interviewed Debbie Mirza, author of a new book called The Covert Passive-Aggressive Narcissist, available on Amazon. In this video we are talking about the traits of covert narcissists, how they differ from overt narcissists and what’s the best defense against covert narcs.
A covert narcissist cares about what others thing of them.
A covert narcissist is very subtle in their manipulation.
They are not broadcasting their grandiosity.
Are often pillars of the community. Often have good jobs. Money is very important. Image is very important.
A covert narcissist can turn overt during the discard phase. And some people can be a mix of covert and overt. At some phase the mask slips and they reveal themself.
Overt narcissists are more impulsive. The covert is more premeditated.
Going to therapy with a covert is the worst idea because that is their training ground. Often the therapists is impressed with a covert narcissist and not see through them. Therapy tells them where all the cracks in their mask is so they can fill it in.
A covert narcissist can appear vulnerable and in-touch with their feelings.
They can bring up past girlfriends to triangulate.
#1 Defense: you can trust yourself. You are your most accurate barometer. Pay attention to your body.