One evening a few weeks ago, I was on a Zoom call with a bunch of academic, think tank and Fed economists for a Bitcoin discussion. A lot of names you’d know if you’re familiar with those circles, the most famous one being Paul Krugman (who, btw, I found to be charming, genuinely open-minded, and surprisingly humble about the entire enterprise of academic economics). I had been invited to be on the anti-Bitcoin ‘side’ of the discussion, but they needn’t have bothered. Because there was no pro-Bitcoin side.
Krugman led with a simple question – what’s the use case for Bitcoin? Not a theoretical thing, but an actual use of Bitcoin to solve a problem in the real world? – which led to an hour-long, extremely earnest and altogether unsatisfying conversation about financial transfers out of Venezuela, trade settlement and securitization on a blockchain, and Taylor Swift’s ability to control the scalper/resale market for her concert tickets.
All of which are real things. All of which are interesting things. All of which are good things. But none of which are what got 20 busy people on a Zoom call at 8 pm on a Thursday night.
None of which ARE Bitcoin.
Now, to be fair, there were no old-school Bitcoin maximalists on the call, or if there were, they were too intimidated to make an Austrian economics, hard money, neo-goldbug, Bitcoin-is-the-inevitable-global-reserve-currency argument in front of Paul Krugman. LOL.
But I finally couldn’t take it anymore.
Is this really why we got on the phone tonight? To talk about a novel form of digital rights management? To talk about payment transfers out of authoritarian third-world countries? Are these REALLY our questions about Bitcoin?
Answer: of course not. What got these academic, think tank and government economists on the phone that night was Bitcoin trading at $50,000. The question that everyone truly cared about, but a question that everyone danced around for the better part of an hour, was this: Is there any there there in the price of Bitcoin?
To which everyone, including the supposedly pro-Bitcoin contingent, said no. Not just no, but no, no, no. The price of Bitcoin was an illusion. The price of Bitcoin was the madness of crowds. The price of Bitcoin had no connection to any fundamental economic activity, just like gold had no connection to any fundamental economic activity, and thus – to this audience – could have no inherent value by definition.
I think this is very wrong. And I’ll tell you, like I told this Zoom call, why I think there is a lot of inherent value in Bitcoin.
Because Bitcoin is good art.
Or better yet, because Bitcoin is elegant and beautiful fashion, sitting at the intersection of art and commerce.
Most importantly, because owning Bitcoin has been an authentic expression of identity, an extremely positive identity of autonomy, entrepreneurialism, and resistance to the Nudging State and the Nudging Oligarchy.
I’ve been saying that Bitcoin is art for more than six years, from The Effete Rebellion of Bitcoin (Feb. 2015) to Too Clever By Half (Feb. 2018, my most popular note ever!) to Riding the Cyclone (June 2018) to The Spanish Prisoner (July, 2019), and it’s been a very frustrating place to be. Frustrating because public stances on Bitcoin are almost immediately turned into cartoons – either you’re the grumpy grandpa “Bitcoin is worthless!” cartoon or you’re the laser-eyed cultist “Bitcoin will be the world’s reserve currency!” cartoon, with no room in between.
The value-deniers, like the Zoom crowd the other night, think I’m agreeing with them when I say that Bitcoin is art. I’m not. The true-believers think I’m trolling them when I say that Bitcoin is art. I’m not. The creation of good art is – in my opinion – what we are put on this earth to do. It is our highest calling. It is my highest praise.
There is lasting value in good art, because it is a very scarce thing and it never gets used up.
Bitcoin is itself an NFT, a unique digital art work instantiated on a blockchain. It’s the most valuable NFT in the world. I don’t mean a Bitcoin, obviously that’s a fungible thing. I mean THE Bitcoin … the 21 million Bitcoins that make up the Bitcoin Project. The notion that Bitcoin would ever “go to zero” is ludicrous. Good art is always worth something. But how do we measure that something … how do we put a price on the value of good art at this particular moment in time? It’s a REALLY tough question.
There are no cash flows to art. There are no fundamentals to art. There is no “use case” to art.
There is only story. There is only narrative. There is only common knowledge – what everyone knows that everyone knows – about the value of art, common knowledge that emerges from our social interaction with story and narrative.
In every respect that matters, Bitcoin IS Epsilon Theory.
The Epsilon Theory Manifesto (June 2013)
Our times require an investment and risk management perspective that is fluent in econometrics but is equally grounded in game theory, history, and behavioral analysis. Epsilon Theory is my attempt to lay the foundation for such a perspective.
So yes, I’ve been saying that Bitcoin is art for a long time now. But what I haven’t been saying – or at least not as loudly – is that bit about identity, and that’s the part that needs to be shouted today. So here it is again, this time a little louder …
Most importantly, owning Bitcoin has been an authentic expression of identity, an extremely positive identity of autonomy, entrepreneurialism, and resistance to the Nudging State and the Nudging Oligarchy.
This, too, IS Epsilon Theory.
Why am I shouting about identity?
Because the artistic Bitcoin identity I admire and value has been subverted by the neutering machine of Wall Street and the regulatory panopticon of the US Treasury Dept.
Because what made Bitcoin special in the first place is nearly lost, and what remains is a false and constructed narrative that exists in service to Wall Street and Washington rather than in resistance.
Yes, the Nudging State and the Nudging Oligarchy strike back. They always do when it comes to money. Not with imperial stormtroopers or legislative sanction, but with golden handcuffs and administrative surveillance.
It’s not that the State and the status quo institutionalization of capital – call it Wall Street, for short – have any desire to ban Bitcoin. Why would they do that? No, far better to accommodate and swallow Bitcoin, like they have every other financial “innovation” for the past 1,000 years. Far better to neuter the censorship-resistant and anonymity-preserving aspects of Bitcoin, and turn it into another gaming table in the Wall Street casino.
In my dystopian vision, Bitcoin isn’t banned or criminalized. Pfft. That’s a rookie, weak State move. No, I see a future where everyone buys Bitcoin. Where you are encouraged to buy Bitcoin. Where Bitcoin is sold to you morning, noon and night. Where normie economists get on conference calls late at night because they’re Bitcoin price-curious.
Except it’s not really Bitcoin.
Instead, it’s Bitcoin! TM — a cartoon version of the OG Bitcoin, either a Wall Street-abstracted representation of the price of Bitcoin or a government-painted version of Bitcoin in Dayglo orange. Either way — abstracted or painted — your Bitcoin! TM is trackable and traceable, fully KYC and AML and FBAR and SWIFT and every other US Treasury acronym-compliant. Either way, your Bitcoin! TM has all the revolutionary potential of a bumper sticker and all the identity signaling power of a small tattoo on your upper arm.
Bitcoin!TM doesn’t stick it to the Man … Bitcoin!TM IS the Man.
Welcome to the MMXXI Hunger Games.
Hunger Games (Feb. 2021)
You’ve been told that the odds are ever in your favor. You’ve been told this for your entire life.
More and more, you suspect this is a lie.
This is no “democratization” of Wall Street. You’ve been played. Again.
The abstracted version of Bitcoin! TM is a Wall Street specialty.
What is Bitcoin! TM in abstracted form? It’s a securitization or representation of Bitcoin ownership that promises the price appreciation of Bitcoin without the hassle of Bitcoin ownership. It’s a casino chip that represents the price of Bitcoin. Michael Saylor, for example, is only too happy to sell you a MicroStrategy casino chip. Or maybe you’d prefer to play on the Canadian crypto ETF felt? Or try your luck at the wheel of a Morgan Stanley private fund?
Why does Wall Street loooove abstracted forms? Because there are no fundamental limits to how many of these Bitcoin! TM casino chips Wall Street can sell. It doesn’t matter if all the OG Bitcoin HODLers keep on HODLing. It doesn’t matter if the vast majority of all the Bitcoins ever mined never get caught up in the Wall Street neutering machine. There are an infinite number of games that can be created around the price of Bitcoin as a reference point, just like there are an infinite number of bets that can be made on a football game. There are an infinite number of rehypothecations and derivative representations that can be made off the millions of margined Bitcoins that have already been captured by Wall Street-custodied accounts.
The only limiting factor on how many of these Bitcoin! TM casino chips Wall Street can sell is the effectiveness of the narrative they have created around Bitcoin itself, that Bitcoin is a “hedge against inflation” and a “store of value” that is uniquely positioned to “protect your portfolio” against “dollar debasement” because it is “hard money” immune to “money printer go brrrr”.
It’s rather artistic in and of itself, right? Selling an unlimited number of Bitcoin! TM casino chips off a meme slamming unlimited fiat money printing? Creating an unlimited number of entertaining market games and venues where we can use our Bitcoin! TM casino chips?
If these narratives and casino games sound familiar, it’s because this is exactly the same process of abstraction, securitization and leverage that Wall Street has been using for the past twenty years with precious metals.
What is the GLD ETF? It’s gold! TM. What is a unit in an ETF basket of gold miner stocks? It’s gold! TM. They and their many kin are securitizations of gold ownership that promise the price appreciation of gold without the hassle of gold ownership. They are casino chips that represent the price of gold.
I’m old enough to remember when people bought and sold gold coins in private transactions. I guess we’d call that peer-to-peer today. I’m old enough to remember when well-meaning people would have earnest conversations about gold as a reserve currency, just like well-meaning people today have those earnest conversations about Bitcoin. I’m old enough to remember how quickly those conversations died out after State Street launched GLD in 2004 and took in a billion dollars in a few days. Turns out people didn’t really want the grumpy grandpa identity of owning physical gold in some Mad Max world as much as they wanted gold! TM in their financial portfolios as an abstracted insurance policy against central bank error.
It’s exactly the same with Bitcoin! TM today.
You think “institutional adoption” is driven by a spirit of personal autonomy, entrepreneurialism, and resistance to the Nudging State and Nudging Oligarchy? You think Paul Tudor Jones and Mike Novogratz want to BITFD? LOL.
The ONLY difference to Wall Street between gold and Bitcoin is that gold! TM is tired and Bitcoin! TM is wired.
The king is dead. Long live the king!
This is the artistic genius of Wall Street – the creation of new product to trade and new assets to manage, all through the alchemy of securitization and leverage. This is Flow.
It’s like Ash said about the chest-bursting xenomorph in Alien – you may not admire the creature itself, but you gotta admire its purity. Unclouded by conscience, remorse, or delusions of morality. Yep, that’s Wall Street.
Ditto the US Treasury.
If there’s a Western governmental institution that is more unclouded by conscience, remorse, or delusions of morality than the US Treasury, I am unaware of what that institution might be. But unlike Wall Street, which is motivated by Flow, the US Treasury has an entirely different (but highly compatible!) goal.
The goal of the US Treasury is to see all of the money in the world.
That’s really all it is. That’s what Anti-Money Laundering (AML) regulations are all about. That’s what Know Your Client (KYC) regulations are all about. That’s what Report of Foreign Bank and Financial Accounts (FBAR) regulations are all about. That’s what the Treasury-led Society for Worldwide Interbank Financial Telecommunications (SWIFT) is all about. That’s what the Bank Secrecy Act (BSA) is all about. None of these programs are really about taxes. None of these programs are really about catching crooks or fighting terrorists. All of these programs are really about information for information’s sake regarding the greatest source of power in the world and the raison d’etre of every government on Earth: money.
The US Treasury is the Eye of
— a gigantic panopticon tower that sweeps the world with its unblinking gaze, seeking out the owners of power, i.e. money.
The US Treasury can’t see Bitcoin. It can, however, see Bitcoin! TM.
The giant all-seeing eye of the US Treasury is primarily built on two regulatory structures — the Bank Security Act (BSA) to compel transparency and reporting by financial institutions on their clients and themselves, and the Report of Foreign Bank and Financial Accounts (FBAR) system to compel transparency and reporting by individuals on their financial institutions and themselves. There are a dozen more acronyms and programs involved here, all overseen by Treasury’s Financial Crimes Enforcement Network (FinCEN), but to keep things simple I’m going to refer to all of this as the BSA/FBAR regulatory panopticon.
Everything in plain text in the next two paragraphs is regulatory policy as it currently stands with the BSA and FBAR. Everything in bold italics is a new policy proposed in the past few months and expected to go into effect shortly. Taken together, I think it will be clear how Treasury uses the combined BSA and FBAR instruments to mark your Bitcoin with a DayGlo orange fluorescent paint and create their highly visible version of Bitcoin! TM.
BSA — If you are in the business of money in any way, shape or form (what Treasury calls a “money transmitter”), and you do any of that business in the US, then you are subject to the Bank Secrecy Act. Note that this money transmitter designation and BSA jurisdiction explicitly includes peer-to-peer exchanges that work with self-hosted wallets. If you are subject to the BSA, then it is your affirmative obligation to collect complete identifying information regarding clients who transmit or receive more than $3,000 over your systems, and to collect and immediately report to Treasury complete identifying information regarding clients who transmit or receive more than $10,000 over your systems – including any cryptocurrency (“convertible virtual currency”) transmitted to or from a self-hosted wallet.
FBAR — If you are a US entity (citizen or resident, any type of US-registered corporate or trust structure, etc.) and you have any sort of account (banking, securities, custodial, etc.) with any non-US money transmitter, anywhere in the world, and at any time during the course of the year, you have in the aggregate across all accounts more than $10,000 in value in those accounts – including the value of any cryptocurrency holdings (“convertible virtual currency”) in those accounts – then it is your affirmative obligation to report complete identifying information regarding each of those accounts to the IRS in a Report of Foreign Bank and Financial Accounts (FBAR).
I think the intent here is crystal clear. Whatever rules were in place yesterday regarding transfers of dollars or rubles or pesos through US-touching money transmitters or by US entities … well, now those exact same rules are going to apply to Bitcoin. As soon as your virtual currency holdings land in any financial institution that cooperates with or does business in or is regulated by the United States … BAM! your Bitcoin is painted DayGlo orange and becomes the Treasury-preferred form of Bitcoin! TM.
When these regulations go into full effect, as I understand them, the only remaining safe harbor for keeping your Bitcoin hidden from the BSA/FBAR Eye of Sauron will be to maintain a self-hosted wallet that never connects with a money transmitter that does business in the US.
That’s a safe harbor for the moment, but ultimately nothing is safe from the Eye of Sauron. While 2019 guidance explicitly states that “a person conducting a transaction through an unhosted wallet to purchase goods or services on their own behalf is not a money transmitter”, and so is not subject to the Bank Secrecy Act directly, the December, 2020 proposed rule-making doc also included this doozy of a comment.
The Treasury Department has previously noted that “[a]nonymity in transactions and funds transfers is the main risk that facilitates money laundering.”
The Financial Action Task Force (“FATF”) has similarly observed that the extent to which anonymous peer-to-peer permit transactions via unhosted wallets, without involvement of a virtual asset service provider or a financial institution, is a key potential AML/CFT risk in some CVC systems.
FATF members have specifically observed that unregulated peer-to-peer transactions “could present a leak in tracing illicit flows of virtual assets,” particularly if one or more blockchain-based CVC networks were to reach global scale.
Importantly, as explained below, while data contained on some blockchains are open to public inspection and can be used by authorities to attempt to trace illicit activity, FinCEN believes that this data does not sufficiently mitigate the risks of unhosted and otherwise covered wallets.
That last paragraph doesn’t mince words. Even if the blockchain facilitating a crypto currency allows for “authorities” to trace transactions, “the risks of unhosted and otherwise covered [i.e., hidden from the Eye of Sauron] wallets” are too great to let stand. LOL. I think we all see where this is going.
The response I get from the Bitcoin and larger crypto community to what seems to me to be the clear intent and path of Treasury regulations is always this: well, good luck enforcing that!
Unfortunately, that’s the evil artistry of panopticons like the Eye of Sauron or Treasury’s BSA/FBAR regulatory structure: we are driven to willingly enforce their discipline on ourselves.
A panopticon is an institutional structure that creates a permanent feeling of being watched. Maybe you are and maybe you aren’t at any given moment. But you’re never sure that you’re NOT being watched. And if you ARE being watched, then you better ‘fess up and cooperate before you get your head stuck on an orc’s pike. Did I mention that the penalty for a willful failure to make an FBAR report was the greater of $100,000 or 50% of the unreported foreign assets?
Moreover, a panopticon structure allows you to see the behavior of others. And they of you. If the discipline imposed by the Watcher includes obligations to snitch — and that’s exactly what the Treasury requires here, with obligations on money transmitters to report on clients, and obligations on clients to report on money transmitters — a panopticon sets up a classic Prisoners Dilemma game, where the only equilibrium is for both the money transmitter and the client to volunteer information about the other.
Once you start looking for panopticons in our modern world, you will find them everywhere. And of course there’s an Epsilon Theory note on this.
Panopticon (March 2014)
“Transparency” has little to do with freedom and everything to do with control, and the more “radical” the transparency the more effective the control … the more willingly and completely we police ourselves in our own corporate or social Panopticons.
You’re not opposed to “transparency” are you? Why would you be opposed to “transparency” unless you have something to hide? You’re not a … a … terrorist-lover, are you? No, I didn’t think so.
It’s not just that Wall Street and the US Treasury dominate policy.
Far more perniciously, they also dominate narrative.
And that’s why I’m writing this note.
Frankly, I doubt that the policy battle can be won. This has been my view since I first started writing about Bitcoin, and nothing has happened to change my mind. On the contrary, Treasury’s moves to make crypto visible and controllable have happened faster than I thought they would. I mean, I’m hopeful that we are at least at some point of policy equilibrium with the proposed rule changes to BSA and FBAR, an equilibrium that will at least allow self-hosted crypto wallets to exist in peace. But hope, unfortunately, is not a strategy.
Too Clever By Half (Feb 2018)
The inevitable result of financial innovation is that it ALWAYS ends up empowering the State. When too clever by half coyotes misplay the meta-game, that’s all the excuse the State needs to come swooping in.
Just as they did with Bear and Lehman in 2008. Just as they’re doing with Bitcoin today.
So, no, I don’t think I can help much in the policy battle.
But I think I can help a lot in the narrative battle.
Or rather, the Narrative Machine can help.
Inception (April 2020)
The systematic study of narrative, what we call the Narrative Machine, can be used for analysis, yes, but also as an active instrument to reclaim our autonomy of mind and our generosity of spirit.
Everything else is commentary.
I know you don’t believe me, but we’re going to change the world … you and me.
The Bitcoin narrative must be renewed.
Bitcoin has been an authentic expression of identity, a positive identity of autonomy, entrepreneurialism, and resistance to the Nudging State and the Nudging Oligarchy.
It can be again.
Wall Street and Treasury are running a psyop with their creation of Bitcoin! TM, and it’s necessary to think about Bitcoin in those psyop/narrative terms if the goal is to preserve an active community with an identity of autonomy, entrepreneurialism, and resistance to the Nudging State and the Nudging Oligarchy in the context of Bitcoin specifically and crypto more generally.
That’s my goal, anyway.
I’m not in this for Bitcoin-as-global-reserve-currency. I’m not in this for Number Go Up. I’m not in this for “store of value” against that gosh darn “dollar debasement”. I’m not in this for Flow. I’m not opposed to any of those things, and I don’t think you’re a Bad Person if those are your things. They’re just not my things. I’m in this for Bitcoin as good art and the inspiration it provides to a community that shares my values and goals for making a better world.
Phase 1 of this anti-psyop campaign is to identify Schelling points (game solutions that people arrive at by default in the absence of direct communication … also called focal points) so that people who share this goal of community organization and narrative reclamation can find each other.
I think that one of these Schelling points is maintaining a self-hosted wallet and the capacity for peer-to-peer connections away from the Eye of Sauron.
Starting today, Epsilon Theory will accept Bitcoin as payment for all annual subscriptions through our BTCPay server. It’s a plain vanilla Raspberry Pi set-up. We’re not holding ourselves out as crypto mavens. We’re signaling an identity of autonomy, entrepreneurialism, and resistance to the Nudging State and the Nudging Oligarchy in the context of Bitcoin.
Phase 2 of this anti-psyop campaign is to use the Narrative Machine to measure and visualize the narrative archetypes and story arcs of Bitcoin! TM. In exactly the same way that there are only, say, a dozen archetypal scripts for every TV sitcom episode ever filmed, or in exactly the same way that there are three acts to every modern movie screenplay, so is there an underlying structure and a finite number of underlying archetypes to the media coverage of every market entity.
We believe that we can measure these narrative structures and archetypes as they apply to Bitcoin! TM, and map those structural dynamics to market behaviors.
Seeing is believing, and I think there is no better way to prove the existence of Bitcoin! TM, in both its Wall Street-abstracted and its Treasury-painted form, than to show the psyop in action. I think this sort of analysis and visualization will get a lot of people who would otherwise be quick to dismiss our claims to take a fresh look at the ways in which we have been nudged.
Phase 3 of this anti-psyop campaign is simply to call things by their proper names. That starts with locating the value of Bitcoin in its elegant art and its ability (like all elegant art) to inspire great things away from the art itself. Yes, great things away from Bitcoin itself, so that even if Bitcoin! TM dominates financial markets (which it will), the story arc of Bitcoin doesn’t end there, but generates a thousand new initiatives to improve our world.
We don’t have to tell a story of price. We don’t have to tell a story of apocalypse. We don’t have to scold or “educate”.
We can tell an Old Story of autonomy of mind and generosity of spirit within a new context of Bitcoin and crypto.
You know, a couple of thousand years ago, a really smart guy — the most subversive, revolutionary guy you can imagine — had a good line. Render unto Caesar what is Caesar’s.
Bitcoin! TM definitely belongs to Caesar. It’s part of his game. But Bitcoin doesn’t have to be. It can be part of our game. Still. Again. And that will change everything.
After spending more than 700 days under house arrest, a human rights and environmental lawyer was found guilty last month of criminal contempt in a legal saga that has demonstrated the deep-rooted conflicts of interest layered throughout the judicial system when it comes to climate justice. In Steven Donziger’s conviction, the initial judge who referred him to trial, the second judge who was asked to lead the trial, and the private prosecutors who tried him all had deep ties to Chevron, the company Donziger had won a landmark multibillion-dollar ruling against.
The story began in 2011 when Donziger brought litigation against Texaco (now Chevron) in Ecuador for the harm it caused the Indigenous people in the Ecuadorian Amazon, where the fossil fuel company decided to deliberately discharge 16 billion gallons of toxic waste from its oil sites into rivers, groundwater, and farmland. A refusal from Chevron to adhere to environmental regulations—which earned the company an extra $5 billion over 20 years—led to more than 30,000 Ecuadorians being directly harmed by the oil giant’s actions, the judges in that case found. The case Donziger led made it all the way to the Ecuador Supreme Court, and successfully secured $9.5 billion in environmental damages for the Amazonian communities in a historic climate justice decision.ADVERTISEMENT
In a letter sent to the Administrative Office of the U.S. Courts at the end of last month, Sens. Ed Markey and Sheldon Whitehouse brought into question specifically the use of private prosecutors in the contempt case against Donziger. The three prosecutors that Kaplan appointed, Brian Maloney, Sareen Armani, and Rita Glavin (who is also Andrew Cuomo’s personal lawyer), were all at the time with the law firm Seward & Kissel. That firm had represented Chevron as recently as 2018. “These prosecutions,” the senators wrote, “are highly unusual and can raise concerning questions of fundamental fairness in our criminal justice system.”
Indeed, the apparent conflict of interest the private prosecution had is directly at odds with Supreme Court precedent. In the 1987 decision of Young v. United States ex rel. Vuitton et Fils, the Supreme Court ruled that, when it comes to private prosecutors pursuing criminal contempt cases, they “certainly should be as disinterested as a public prosecutor who undertakes such a prosecution.”ADVERTISEMENT
“Public confidence in the disinterested conduct” of the private prosecutor, the court warned, is essential to maintaining the integrity of the judicial system. That means that even the appearance of interest on the part of the private prosecutor can be considered a violation of Vuitton.
“Appearances are really functionally important for the rule of law, and for our judiciary,” said Guha Krishnamurthi, an associate professor of law at the University of Oklahoma. Krishnamurthi argues that one of the “biggest protections” of the criminal justice system is a disinterested prosecutor who can determine whether or not pursuing a case is to the benefit of the criminal justice system. The fact that a public prosecutor is accountable to the government and to the public, he says, reinforces this protection in a way that private prosecutors do not.
“I think it’s such a clear abuse that it violates the defendant’s constitutional right to due process. You can’t have someone who’s got a conflict of interest, who has personal reasons for wanting to see a person they’re prosecuting convicted,” said Louis Raveson, a professor of law at Rutgers Law School and the founder of the university’s Environmental Law Clinic. “That’s not an appropriate procedure, and, in my view, it’s not a constitutional procedure.”
“This is a perversion of justice, the whole idea that you can have a lawyer who previously worked for Chevron then prosecuting Donziger in the criminal case,” said Martin Garbus, Donziger’s attorney and a prominent veteran of human rights litigation. “It’s clear that it violates the law. … If you look at the body of law that deals with disinterest, people are disqualified for something far, far less than the involvement here.”
Raveson acknowledged that in certain instances, like police brutality cases or other times when the government is being asked to prosecute itself, private prosecutors can be truly beneficial. A private prosecutor there would likely be necessary in order to ensure disinterest and justice, as the public prosecutor works for the government. Often, though, they’re used in cases like Donziger’s, after a disinterested public prosecutor declines to pursue the charge and the judge decides to move forward anyway. “That’s all the more reason that judges need to err on the side of no possibility of a conflict,” Raveson said. Speaking of the Donziger case, he added, “It appears that a conflict is almost inevitable … and clearly that’s not by accident.”ADVERTISEMENT
When it comes to the decisions that could prevent one of the largest climate justice judgments of the past decade from taking effect, such appearances of conflict of interest are incredibly significant—and could be detrimental to future climate justice litigation.
“It’s scary going after a large corporation [and] it’s scary going after governments because they have so much power and so much influence that they can do a lot of damage to someone’s life,” Raveson said. “If the lawyers who bring [environmental justice cases like Donziger’s] are subject to biased determinations as to whether or not they should be punished … it’s going to have a deterrent effect on lawyers to bring these kinds of cases.”
Such a deterrence could have massive consequences for the climate, especially at a time when, as this week’s new report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change showed, the world is barreling further toward climate catastrophe, a crisis that is driven in no small part by fossil fuel companies like Chevron. “It’s up to the judiciary to really ensure that that kind of chilling and deterrence … doesn’t happen,” Krishnamurthi added. “And the way you do that is by having more than just the formality of the rules, [but] having a true fidelity to conflicts of interest and disqualifying where necessary.”
SINCE THE start of the COVID-19 pandemic, evangelical Christians have been among the most polarizing voices in a divided nation struggling to respond to a grave public health emergency. From the moment authorities began addressing the crisis last year, evangelicals have protested government-ordered lockdowns, resisted measures such as mask-wearing, defied restrictions on indoor worship services, and fought public health officials all the way to the Supreme Court.
More recently, white evangelicals have emerged as the demographic group most resistant to getting vaccinated against COVID-19. Their embrace of conspiracy theories and overall pandemic denialism contributed to their avid participation in the January 6 insurrection at the United States Capitol. A religious group that prides itself on its patriotism has become a major impediment to advancing the United States’s goals.
The pandemic brought to the surface self-defeating forces that had been churning for years inside the United States’s most politically powerful faith community. One evangelical church in particular both illustrates and helped to drive this phenomenon. Of all the evangelical organizations that defied pandemic health orders and fought the government during this crisis, none was more prominent or influential than Grace Community Church in Los Angeles. Grace is a 65-year-old megachurch in the San Fernando Valley led by a low-key, theologically conservative pastor named John MacArthur. Since August 2020, the church has been locked in a highly publicized legal battle with Los Angeles County over restrictions on in-person worship. The church defied a county prohibition against large indoor gatherings beginning last summer and worked with a lawyer from Trump’s reelection campaign to fight the county in court. MacArthur, who is among the most widely known evangelical pastors in the United States, appeared multiple times on Fox News, and his court case became a rallying cry for evangelicals worldwide. A graduate of a seminary he founded on the Grace Church campus was arrested in January after persuading his own church in Canada to disobey official health orders. MacArthur portrayed his fight against the government in epochal terms. “Christ, not Caesar, is the head of the church,” he proclaimed in July.
MacArthur merits special scrutiny because, unlike many other evangelicals, he cannot be dismissed as a partisan Donald Trump supporter. Until last year, MacArthur studiously avoided politics. He voted for Trump grudgingly (“I’m voting for an ideology that is closer to Scripture,” he told a church leadership magazine in 2016) and rarely preached about political issues. He pointedly criticized the prosperity gospel preachers who became Trump’s closest Christian allies. “John doesn’t involve himself in politics,” a statement on a Grace Church website reads. “Since God left the church on earth to make disciples (not Democrats or Republicans), John believes the best way a pastor can spend his time, energy and influence is by preaching God’s Word.”
Pastor at Grace since 1969, MacArthur, 82, is regarded by evangelicals as a Christian elder statesman. His Bible studies and other books have been translated into more than two dozen languages, and his sermons are broadcast in English and Spanish throughout the United States and in 23 countries in Europe and Latin America. Graduates of The Master’s Seminary, founded on the Grace campus in 1986, lead churches around the world. MacArthur’s stature as a conservative biblical expositor, not a political activist, demands a different, subtler, more telling explanation for his and other evangelicals’ pandemic defiance.
Though Grace initially closed its doors in compliance with a statewide lockdown order, MacArthur changed course four months later, reopening his church’s 3,500-seat sanctuary to indoor worship, defying mask mandates. It was a remarkable change in posture. In a livestreamed conversation in April, MacArthur had spoken of Grace members who were hospitalized with the virus and said one of a pastor’s most sacred duties is protecting his congregation. “If we defy this and if we say we’re going to meet anyway, we run the risk of exposing people to this illness needlessly,” MacArthur said. “And why would we want to do that?”
Why, indeed. Something happened during those first four months of the pandemic that not only changed MacArthur’s mind but galvanized him into outright public anti-government opposition. He ignored a cease-and-desist letter from Los Angeles County, then countersued when the county sought to block the in-person services in court. News coverage of the case caught Trump’s attention. Spotting an opportunity to cultivate his religious conservative base, Trump called MacArthur to offer encouragement, and one of his campaign lawyers, Jenna Ellis, signed on to help represent the church in court. “Bring it on,” MacArthur taunted authorities during a Fox News appearance. One month later, citing a debunked interpretation of Centers for Disease Control mortality data, MacArthur proclaimed, “There is no pandemic.” The church has met in person every Sunday since. In March of this year, local health authorities ranked COVID-19 as the leading cause of death in Los Angeles County.
MacArthur citied various reasons for his defiance, including those debunked mortality figures and his umbrage that churches were kept closed even as casinos reopened and social justice protesters were allowed to congregate outdoors in large numbers. His top concern, however, had nothing to do with conservative talking points. A closer examination of his public statements, especially in sermons and other church appearances, shows that for MacArthur, the pandemic primarily challenged his personal and ministerial power. “Everything has been taken out of our control,” he lamented in a January sermon.
Now all of a sudden, all kinds of people were telling us what to do. […] [We’re] forbidden to meet, forbidden to sing, forbidden to fellowship, forbidden to have social events, forbidden to be with each other, forbidden to have funerals, weddings. […] If you’re in leadership, you would understand that there is a need to control things.
Throughout 2020, MacArthur preached about leaders in the Bible who gave in to worldly temptation and lost control over the tasks God had set for them. The pandemic, he implied, presented churches with a stark choice: retain power over their own affairs or surrender power to outside forces hostile to God. “A man who has character, conviction, virtue, righteousness, wisdom, honesty will be very careful with power,” MacArthur preached in September. “And the first thing he’ll do with his power is to make sure he honors God, and the church of God.” In an August court filing, Grace’s lawyers summed up the church’s position: “We see [Los Angeles County’s] action against us as an illegitimate misuse of power.”
MacArthur “does not like anyone telling him what he can or cannot do,” said Dennis Swanson, a former Master’s Seminary administrator who worked for MacArthur for over two decades. Swanson said that in recent years, MacArthur has dedicated himself to “cutting out as much of the outside influence as possible. […] He’s become more insular.” Swanson said he was fired in 2015 after warning MacArthur that conflicts of interest and an authoritarian leadership culture at the seminary would cause it to lose accreditation. Three years later, the Western Association of Schools and Colleges placed the seminary and a companion university on academic probation, citing lack of accountability in the schools’ leadership and an overall “climate of fear, intimidation, bullying, and uncertainty among significant numbers of faculty and staff.” (The schools were removed from probation last year after MacArthur stepped down as president, but an abrupt leadership shakeup in February suggests that MacArthur is seeking to reassert control and remove the seminary permanently from the accreditation process.)
Tax records show that MacArthur has consolidated authority over the church among a small number of family members and close associates, including his son Mark MacArthur, who was sued by the Securities and Exchange Commission in February 2020 for defrauding customers of his investment firm. Grace Community Church and a related nonprofit have funneled hundreds of thousands of dollars in compensation and no-bid contracts to MacArthur’s son-in-law and the relatives of other senior church leaders. In April, Grace withdrew from the Evangelical Council for Financial Accountability, a church oversight organization, after they requested recent financial statements. MacArthur’s pandemic fears of losing control followed years of efforts to ensure that no outside force challenged his power. “This is the closest thing to the experience of a church in war,” he preached in January.
Understanding the causes of evangelical radicalization has preoccupied many of the journalists and scholars who study contemporary American religion. Since Trump’s election, a publishing genre has emerged that could be called The (Evangelical) Plot Against the United States. Books such as The Power Worshippers: Inside the Dangerous Rise of Religious Nationalism by New York Times contributor Katherine Stewart and Unholy: How White Christian Nationalists Powered the Trump Presidency, and the Devastating Legacy They Left Behind by investigative reporter Sarah Posner purport to draw back the curtain on a dangerous and organized effort by religious conservatives to hijack American government and public life. Analysts posit various reasons for this trend toward extremism. Pollster Robert P. Jones’s White Too Long: The Legacy of White Supremacy in American Christianity identifies racism as evangelicals’ (indeed all American Christians’) original sin. The Atlantic’s Peter Wehner points to a decades-long devil’s bargain with conservative political operatives. Others cite evangelicals’ anti-rational rejection of science or their resistance to changes in American sexual mores. Even evangelicals themselves have joined the explanatory effort. Conservative commentators in recent years have invoked hostile intellectuals, secular media, anti-religious government, and even youth sports on Sundays as reasons for evangelicals’ oppositional anger.
In August 2020, New York Times religion correspondent Elizabeth Dias filed a 4,000-word front-page story from Sioux Center, Iowa, that wove many of these strands together into a single, comprehensively reported theory. Evangelicals, Dias wrote after spending several days in a conservative heartland town, feel alienated from and unfairly maligned by a nation that is pivoting away from their faith. To halt or at least slow the pace of the change, evangelicals have concluded they have no choice but to seize political power by any means necessary. “The Trump era has revealed the complete fusion of evangelical Christianity and conservative politics,” Dias reported. “Mainstream evangelical Christianity has made plain its deepest impulses and exposed where the majority of its believers pledge allegiance.”
Though there is widespread agreement about the broad outlines of this theory, I remain skeptical. Explanatory consensus about complex social issues is as likely to stem from groupthink as it is from true insight. If you arrive in a small town in Iowa and ask people why they support Donald Trump or resist wearing medical masks, you will hear stories like the ones in Dias’s reporting. If, instead, you ask people of faith what their hardest struggle was in the past year, you will get a very different kind of information. In my own journalistic conversations with evangelicals during the pandemic, I heard very little about political, racial, or cultural grievances. I heard far more often about prosaic concerns, such as the challenges of elder caregiving, fraying marriages, struggles with addiction, worries about children, lost jobs, grief, regret, and overall stress.
Christians go to church for help with everyday troubles such as these. And it is here, I believe, that a deeper explanation lies both for evangelicals’ anti-social pandemic behavior and for their larger pattern of divisive, anti-government attitudes. In recent decades, motivated by a combination of evangelistic zeal and everyday human ambition, evangelicals have embraced an explicitly business-oriented approach to ministry that has remade Christianity in the image of corporate America. In 2018, many of the United States’s most prominent evangelical leaders paid tribute to a church growth consultant named Bob Buford, who died that year after a decades-long career regarded by many evangelicals as transformative for their movement. Buford, a Texas cable television executive and disciple of the management guru Peter Drucker, used his personal fortune to bring business principles to evangelical churches. He is credited with catalyzing the growth of megachurches, elevating evangelicals’ longstanding affinity with corporate America into outright emulation.
The resulting “evangelical industrial complex” (so dubbed by critics) has succeeded in its goal of building large Christian organizations and attracting attention to Jesus through a variety of media. Life.Church in Edmond, Oklahoma, a pioneer in digital ministries, reported $150 million in revenue in 2019 and $325 million in total assets. In 2013, First Baptist Church in Dallas, led by prominent Trump supporter Robert Jeffress, opened a $130 million, 500,000-square-foot worship center with a 150-foot-wide video screen behind the altar, a glass sky bridge, and a baptistery fountain that plays hymns in time with water jets. First Baptist’s 44-person leadership team includes two executive pastors to oversee business operations, a communications director, and a wedding coordinator.
One thing such churches have proven less able to do, especially at a time of national crisis, is meet people’s everyday spiritual needs. Since the megachurch movement took off in the 1990s, the percentage of Americans identifying as evangelical has declined from nearly a third to just over a fifth. A mere six percent of megachurch attendees in 2008 were converts to the faith, according to Leadership Network, a church consulting organization. The rest migrated from smaller churches, which have withered as megachurches captured a larger share of the Christian market. A 2016 survey by Lifeway, the research arm of the Southern Baptist Convention, found that fewer than half of all evangelicals were able to identify or state their agreement with core Christian beliefs. A separate Lifeway survey found that a quarter of all evangelicals have read no more than “several passages or stories” from the Bible. More than a third believes faith in God will make you rich. Barna Group, an evangelical market research firm, now classifies a large proportion of American Christians as “notional” believers: people who identify as Christian but do not maintain strong ties to a church and view religion more as a cultural or political identifier than as a way of life. In the 2016 presidential election, 26 percent of voters identified themselves as evangelical. Just seven percent correctly answered a series of questions indicating knowledge of core evangelical principles.
Conspiracy theories and political extremism have filled the gap left by churches’ preoccupation with market share and media reach. Elizabeth Neumann, an evangelical who formerly served as a top homeland security official in the Trump administration and now studies religious extremism, told an interviewer recently that she sees a direct connection between how evangelicals run their churches and how they behave in the public sphere:
There was a big movement in the ’90s called Seeker-Friendly Churches. Willow Creek [one of the most prominent of those churches] did a self-assessment about 10 or 15 years ago, and one of the things that they found is while they had converted people to Christians, there was a lack of growth in their faith. They were not learning the scriptures. They were not engaged in community. They were not discipling anybody. And [Willow Creek’s] assessment was: We failed. We baptized some people, but they’re not actually maturing. […] My thesis here is that if we had a more scripturally based set of believers in this country — if everybody who calls themselves a “Christian” had actually read through, I don’t know, 80 percent of the Bible — they would not have been so easily deceived.
The pandemic struck at the heart of evangelicals’ ministry model. Though only 10 percent of American Christians attend a megachurch, their worship style and business orientation have become inescapable standards in evangelical Christianity. Pastors of even small churches are expected to grow membership, cultivate a social media following, and provide high-tech entertainment on Sunday mornings. A robust network of parachurch organizations exists to help pastors meet such goals. Websites furnish worship bands for rent, provide tools to help churches boost their social media following, and offer to coax contributions from high-income donors at weekend “Journey of Generosity” retreats.
All such activities became difficult or impossible at a time when indoor gatherings were prohibited, and many Americans were staying home, losing jobs, or juggling work and childcare. More to the point, ministries organized around marketing principles simply were not equipped to respond to church members’ sudden fears, economic dislocation, and need for one-on-one, compassionate support. “COVID revealed a fundamental weakness in the church,” Pastor Rick Warren of Saddleback Church in Orange County told an interviewer in December. “Most churches only have one purpose: Worship. And if you take worship away, you’ve got nothing.”
Over the course of the pandemic, I spoke with dozens of evangelical church members and leaders. I observed a consistent pattern. Churches that were already doing a good job providing pastoral and social services to their congregations and communities weathered the crisis and even thrived, developing new ministries and gaining respect for their work. Size was not a criterion. Churches large and small found success. What seemed to make the difference was a focus on one-on-one ministry and a commitment to local communities. Saddleback, one of the United States’s largest churches, transformed itself into a social services hub, providing food and other resources to local residents and helping to promote vaccines via an online conversation between Warren and National Institutes of Health Director Francis Collins, who is himself an evangelical. For years, Saddleback has encouraged members to join small fellowship groups that provide the kind of personal contact and accountability otherwise lacking in large, anonymous megachurch services. In Austin, Texas, medium-sized Covenant Presbyterian Church bought and forgave $10 million worth of local medical debt. Oak Park Baptist Church in Jeffersonville, Indiana, with roughly 400 members, focused on a youth services program that benefits residents of nearby public housing complexes.
By contrast, evangelicals who spoke out most vocally against pandemic measures tended to belong to churches that depend heavily on in-person worship services and the star power of prominent pastors. Such churches suffered from the prohibition of indoor gatherings and left members searching for alternative ways to cope with the pandemic’s many hardships. Leaders fought to return to business as usual. Members gravitated to us-versus-them explanations for their troubles. The rise of pandemic radicalism reflected a massive failure of evangelical ministry.
Grace Community Church is an example of such ministerial failure. Though John MacArthur is admired by evangelicals for the influence of his ministry and his adherence to theological fundamentals, former Grace members say the church more resembles a family business presided over by a long-lived patriarch who brooks no opposition to his prerogatives. For members who agree with MacArthur’s approach, that arrangement works just fine. For others, the top-down structure creates what Roberto van Dalen, a former Grace Church deacon, called “a toxic church environment” and an “us versus them” leadership culture. Van Dalen said many church members and leaders are afraid to disagree with MacArthur because “if you get blacklisted, you lose everything.” Another former member, who asked to be identified only as Gregory, said elders and other church leaders told him they are forbidden from speaking publicly about church affairs without MacArthur’s permission and have been asked to sign non-disclosure agreements as a condition of employment. “They may disapprove of a lot that is going on, but they’re now an older staff who need the job,” Gregory said. “They couldn’t ever risk speaking to someone.”
The focus on MacArthur’s authority and star power weakened Grace’s ability to respond to the pandemic. Grace is what is known as a “commuter church.” In 2015, Swanson, the former Master’s Seminary administrator, was asked to write a report about Grace’s future prospects for growth. “I said the demographics are bad here,” Swanson said he told church leaders:
Sixty-seven percent of Grace Church attendees live more than 30 miles from the church. […] They’re coming to hear John MacArthur and when that ends they’re not going to drive that far. I would estimate the church will decline 40 to 60 percent when John MacArthur is not there.
Under MacArthur’s leadership, Grace has become almost wholly disconnected from the community surrounding it. Just 18 percent of residents in the Sun Valley neighborhood of Los Angeles are white, according to Census figures. A majority were born in Mexico and El Salvador. The median age is 28. Grace does not publish the demographic characteristics of its congregation, but video footage of sermons shows a mostly white, older audience. Of 40 senior leaders listed on the church’s website, all but three are white. “I don’t tend to notice people of color” attending Grace, said Judith Poppe, who has lived around the corner from the church and watched members walk to the sanctuary from their cars for 47 years.
In a January sermon, MacArthur spotlighted some of Grace Church’s accomplishments during the pandemic. Atop his list was holding in-person services in defiance of local authorities and suing Los Angeles County. To address community needs, MacArthur said Grace donated orchids to local police stations, celebrated a police officer’s retirement, gave away $70,000 worth of food to families in the congregation, distributed MacArthur’s books in prisons, and protested outside an abortion clinic. For comparison, I inquired about pandemic outreach at Mariners Church, a megachurch in nearby Orange County similar in size to Grace that for years has prioritized local service work. Chief Content Officer Cathi Workman told me that Mariners provided childcare for essential workers, offered workspace and technology assistance to families adapting to online school, delivered more than 1,000,000 meals, held blood drives, and helped to provide services for local adults with special needs. Workman said Mariners complied with local health orders and sought to keep politics out of pandemic ministries. “I see most churches just honestly, humbly trying to navigate an era that no one has seen before,” she said. “A lot of creativity is emerging.”
Grace’s defiance of public health rules had predictable effects. In October, county officials began investigating outbreaks at both the church and The Master’s University and Seminary. Officials confirmed three cases at the church. In December, a former longtime Grace member who remains in contact with church leaders wrote on his personal blog that numerous elders and other church staff had contracted COVID after attending a church Christmas party. “Hundreds” of church members and leaders were sick, the former member said via email. In an April court statement, MacArthur justified not reporting COVID cases at the church to health authorities “because none of the people listed on [a church prayer list of sick members] are church employees.”
In January, a Master’s Seminary student in his 60s died from COVID. Accounts of sickness and hospitalizations began appearing on Grace’s social media pages. “I just have not had the strength to give a report on my health status of over two weeks of Covid,” wrote Grace pastor and seminary teacher William Varner on his personal Facebook page on December 25. “Know what you’re feeling, Will. Wayne & I are entering our second week today,” responded Grace member Lyn Baldwin. Other church members chimed in: “Praying for you, Dr. V. Rina and I tested positive yesterday.” “It is no fun. Starting my second week […] the coughing is the worse.” “I am just home, discharged. Thank you for your prayers.” Varner and other church members who discussed their illnesses on social media did not respond to requests for comment.
“After Christmas, my family ended up getting COVID,” said Katarina Ritter, a former Grace Church member whose parents and brother still attend the church. “We think it’s from my cousins who had it, but it could have been from someone at Grace. We just don’t know.” Ritter said her parents and brother followed MacArthur’s lead in believing that the pandemic had been overblown and that masks and social distancing were not necessary. “John MacArthur is very persuasive,” she said. “My parents say, ‘No one wears a mask, so we’re not going to either.’”
The family’s COVID symptoms were serious. Ritter said her father has asthma and “felt tightness in [his] chest and shortness of breath.” Her grandmother was hospitalized and placed on oxygen. Though Ritter said her parents work in Grace’s youth ministry, and her brother helps lead the church’s junior high school band, none of the family’s COVID cases were reported to public health authorities. Ritter said she tried to talk her family out of attending the church in person, but they always replied, “I don’t know anyone who has COVID” at Grace. “Two weeks later, [my mother] is like, ‘There’s a family in my Bible study that has COVID.’”
Following a December 20 sermon, MacArthur abruptly disappeared from the pulpit. Church elders gave various reasons for his absence: he was resting or preparing for an upcoming pastors’ conference. When MacArthur reappeared on January 17, he appeared to be recovering from an illness and labored to breathe. After coughing several times at the start of his sermon, he paused and said, “It’s still in there. You’re going to get it later this morning.” That comment was subsequently edited out of a video and transcript of the sermon posted on the church’s website.
The tragedy of MacArthur and other evangelicals’ pandemic denialism is not simply the illness, deaths, and disunion that resulted from their defiance. The evangelical prioritization of growth and power that motivated MacArthur has robbed the United States of an important source of social cohesion in a time of crisis. “There is this vast social science literature that finds these positive correlations between religiosity and what we think of as good outcomes: Low crime rates, lower rates of drug and alcohol abuse, higher income, better educational attainment,” said James Choi, a behavioral economics professor at Yale University. In a supportive religious environment, Choi said, “You have high value in God’s eyes and that’s an encouraging thing for people to hear. If I have a setback I can pick myself up and carry on.”
The lack of such resilience was evident everywhere during the pandemic, and evangelical leaders such as MacArthur missed a prime opportunity to help ameliorate it. Focused on their own power and privileges, those leaders instead exacerbated division in the United States and left their followers searching for alternatives, which they found in Donald Trump’s thrilling anti-American aberrance. This ministerial failure, and the institutional structures and incentives that contributed to it, deserve closer study as Americans attempt to understand why the nation’s most powerful religious movement has become a force for subversion.
For his part, MacArthur remains unbowed. In an April court statement, he dismissed news coverage of the situation at Grace as “falsehoods” and mockingly compared medical masks to veils worn in ancient Near Eastern culture. He remained fixated on power. “It is simply not the church’s duty to enforce executive orders based on a politician’s whimsy,” he proclaimed. “Government officials have no right to interfere in ecclesiastical matters in a way that undermines or disregards the God-given authority of pastors and elders.”
The ruling class is the social class of a given society that decides upon and sets that society’s political agenda.
The sociologist C. Wright Mills (1916–1962), argued that the ruling class differs from the power elite. The latter simply refers to the small group of people with the most political power. Many of them are politicians, hired political managers, and military leaders. The ruling class are people who directly influence politics, education, and government with the use of wealth or power.
There are several examples of ruling class systems in movies, novels, and television shows. The 2005 American independent film The American Ruling Class written by former Harper’s Magazine editor Lewis Lapham and directed by John Kirby is a semi-documentary that examines how the American economy is structured and for whom.
In the novel Brave New World, by Aldous Huxley, everyone is genetically made and classified. The Alpha class is the ruling class because they have the highest positions possible and control most of the world in the novel. This situation can also be found in the George Orwell novel Nineteen Eighty-Four where Big Brother and the government literally control what the nation hears, sees, and learns.
Examples in movies include Gattaca, where the genetically-born were superior and the ruling class, and V for Vendetta, which depicted a powerful totalitarian government in Britain. The comedic film The Ruling Class was a satire of British aristocracy, depicting nobility as self-serving and cruel, juxtaposed against an insane relative who believes that he is Jesus Christ, whom they identify as a “bloody Bolshevik”.
Irami Osei-Frimpong discusses the significance of the divisiveness in the country and the impact it could have on a L shaped recovery.
Rising is a weekday morning show with bipartisan hosts that breaks the mold of morning TV by taking viewers inside the halls of Washington power like never before. The show leans into the day’s political cycle with cutting edge analysis from DC insiders who can predict what is going to happen. It also sets the day’s political agenda by breaking exclusive news with a team of scoop-driven reporters and demanding answers during interviews with the country’s most important political newsmakers.
Activist and former Democratic presidential candidate, Marianne Williamson, discusses the latest updates in the Julian Assange case.
A narcissist deals with shame by offloading it on to other people, a psychopath deals with it by repeatedly bashing your head on the pavement.
Psychopaths have deeply internalised shame which is dealt with by violence. It isn’t that psychopaths do not register shame, but that it is only a fleeting emotion, quickly replaced by rage.Psychopathy-related personality traits and shame management strategies in adolescents – PubMedThe purpose of this study was to examine whether there is a correlation between the amount of psychopathy-related personality traits and the type of shame management in adolescents. Two hypotheses were examined; first, that there is a positive correlation between psychopathy-related personality trai …https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/22948170/
Psychopaths are not the cool calm robots of Quora fairy tales, they are creatures of hair trigger rage. Attempting to shame a psychopath is incredibly foolhardy, and rather than harsh words, or feigned indifference, you may be met by very real violence.
Narcissists like to appear to be at the top of the pecking order by affecting the superficialities of power, psychopaths have a system of working out who is there by raw, real world might, physical or otherwise.
Psychopaths are hierachical, like reptiles or apes – you will fight for your position and inciting shame in another is a challenge for their spot, or a refutation of the status they appear to be claiming.
A narcissist in a group of psychopaths who attempted to shame or devalue them in any way would soon receive a physical challenge to their assumed superiority. With psychopaths it’s put up or shut up. Got to pay the cost to be the boss.
As Mac Davidson says, there are no narcissists in prison.
If you ever find yourself in the unfortunate situation of being surrounded by psychopaths, be very civil and polite, do your best not to act haughty or superior as they are very sensitive to shame. Psychopaths do not care about being thought to be a good person, they only care about where they sit in the pecking order. Chances are you’re at the bottom, so act accordingly. Self depreciation is your go to here.
Beat them with brains,