Steve Rensberry / Opinion

2020: A Year of Social Panic,

Spiking Gun Sales, and 

a Pandemic That Still Rages 

By Steve Rensberry
Opinion / Analysis

    EDWARDSVILLE, Ill. - 1/1/2021 - The year 2020 was one for the history books. Gun sales went through the roof, murder and violent shootings practically doubled in major cities across the country, political tensions and polarization was fiercer than ever, and the leader of the free world -- angry at losing an election -- has repeatedly tried to redefine reality, peddle election conspiracies, and downplay a pandemic that has claimed more than 330,000 American lives.
Firearms manufactured in the U.S. by type. Source: ATF
    The trends are worth documenting, and analyzing, though at least one writer on the subject urges patience given the uncertainty and complexity of the situation. Yes, murder and shootings were up significantly in Chicago, but they were also significantly up in most every other major city in the country. Crime analyst Jeff Asher, in fact, looked at 50 major U.S. cities this past year and concluded that murder was up on average by 35-36 percent relative to 2019, all but blowing away the previous year-to-year record change of 12.5 percent.

    Also, while people have been buying guns like it was bread at the supermarket, experts have noted that an estimated 40 percent of those purchases have been by first-time buyers, at least in Illinois, and most were handguns -- which I suppose is a bit more comforting than AK-47s or rocket launchers.

    One indication of just how record-shattering gun sales were in Illinois in 2020 comes from the Illinois State Police (ISP), who reported in early December that they were battling an enormous backlog of Firearm Owners Identification (FOID) card applications.

    The demand has been outstripping the ISP's capacity for years, the ISP said, with the number of FOID card holders growing from 1.2 to 2.2 million in just the past decade. The number of concealed carry permit holders in the state grew from 90,301 in 2014 to 343,2099 in 2020, a three-fold increase.

Firearm registration per state. Source: ATF

"Due to the lengthy budget impasses, the Firearms Services Fund (FSF) was 'swept' in 2015 and 2018 and no plan to maintain or expand staffing was developed during that period," the ISP stated in the notice. "The current administration has not swept the fund and, in 2019, new leadership over ISP FSB (Illinois State Police Firearm Services Bureau) initiated a hiring plan and metrics-based strategic plan focused on outcomes and accountability. This year, the ISP FSB was confronted with a massive work increase across all categories."

    From 2017 to 2020, FOID card applications increased in Illinois by 167 percent, and Firearm Transfer Inquiry Program (FTIP) requests increased by 45 percent from where it was in 2019, to 506,104.

    "ISP FSB processed an unprecedented 64,000+ FTIPs in March 2020 -- the largest number recorded for one month until that record was broken in June with 65,000+ FTIPs," the ISP stated. "More than 400,000 calls came into the FSB Call Center from May to November when a new automated phone system with metrics was activated."

    In 2019, ISP data showed there were 2,285,990 active FOID card holders in the state and 325,187 people with permits to carry a concealed weapon. Although submitting one's fingerprints can speed up the application process, especially for a concealed carry permit, it is not mandated. "Only 0.06% of FOID card holders were fingerprinted as part of the FOID/FCCL application process," the ISP states. 

    FOID card applications totaled 170,178 in 2014, 163,172 in 2015, 187,947 in 2016, 166,649 in 2017, and 256,353 in 2018. In 2019, they climbed slightly higher to roughly 262,000. However, from January 2020 to November 2020 the ISP received 445,945 applications. The number of Illinois residents with concealed carry licenses, meanwhile, has climbed to more than 343,300.

    What is fueling the historic rise? That question has been asked by multiple experts since at least mid-summer. In a Dec. 12, 2020 news story for the Peoria Journal Star, writers Ann Sweeney and Stacy St. Clair quote Illinois State Police Director Brendon Kelly as saying the increase is "undeniable," and describing it as a reflection of tensions seen across the country.

    Sweeney and St. Clair cite an initial spike in March as COVID-19 began to spread and Gov. J.B. Pritzker issued stay-at-home orders. "In that month alone, there were 64,000 background checks performed in anticipation of a firearm sale," they write. Another spike happened in June when racial protests began to spread, with more than 65,000 inquiries.

    Because the tracking of private sales is limited, the total number of guns sold during 2020 is likely to be higher than the 506,104 logged through the Firearm Transfer Inquiry Program, they said. It is also unclear exactly how many firearms are being sold to one individual following just one background check.

    To me, the surge in violent shootings is horrendously sad, and another indication that we simply have a long way to go in reducing crime in the country. Is it due to a lack of policing effectiveness? The result of police being less aggressive for fear of a backlash, or undertaking fewer patrols because too many officers are off sick with COVID-19? Some officials have speculated as much.

    The good news, if you can call it that, is that the current spike in violent crime follows several years of declining numbers, representing mostly a setback.

    As for the spike in gun purchases, it smacks me as both reactionary and fear-driven, yet sadly understandable given the spirit of the times. A lot of people don't feel safe and they don't trust the police, and sometimes even their neighbors. The downside is that experts fear it could seriously increase the risk of suicides, lead to more overall crime through firearm theft and misuse, and lead to more injuries or accidental deaths by first-time buyers, many of whom may have received less than rigorous training because of the pandemic.

    Meanwhile, here we are at the start of another year and COVID-19 infections continue to claim lives, despite the roll-out of promising vaccines. It needs to happen faster.

    What can be said about the pandemic this past year that hasn't already been said? Although it has been highly politicized in the U.S., the fact that it has spread the world over, leading at last count to 1.82 million deaths worldwide and 83.4 million total cases, should be enough for people to pull together and defeat a common enemy.

    As we head into 2021, we can only hope. 



Extremist Ideology Drives


Christian Zionist Crusade

By Steve Rensberry 
Opinion / Analysis

   EDWARDSVILLE, Ill. - 11/9/2020 - Zionist, anti-globalist, and gun advocate Baruch Pletner is a man on a mission. Jewish, born in Russia, and fanatically pro-Israel, Pletner spent the first 10 years of his life in the Russian Federation before moving to Israel, according to an online bio, and served in the Israeli Air Force for a while, before making his way to Boston in 1973 as an engineer. In 2010 he immigrated to Canada, taking up residence in the province of Prince Edward Island.

   Dubbed the “High-Tech Traditionalist,” and a “scientist, entrepreneur and thinker,” Pletner speaks with a noticeable accent and the tone of an expert. He writes, blogs, participates in podcasts, tweets, and appears on talk radio and a handful of Youtube videos, most if not all catering to the views of America's far-right nationalists.

   The sad thing is that what Pletner embraces, in apostle-like fashion, is nothing but a regurgitation of old falsehoods, fears and prejudices. Pre-1990, it was the ominous “New World Order,” long a target of anti-government and fundamentalist Christian groups and a carry-over from the Cold War era, in which it was feared that a godless communism and collectivist world government would replace national sovereignty with totalitarian rule and a One World Government. Progressives, liberals, the United Nations, the welfare-state, international institutions and alliances, all can be seen as building blocks of the beastly globalism trend.

   Books such as the 1903 work, The Protocols of the Elders of Zion (described as an antisemitic canard), H.G. Well's 1940 book, The New World Order, and the work of neo-theosophical occultist Alice Bailey -- a founder of the so-called New Age movement – and other literary works and figures have invigorated the anti-globalism conspiratorial mindset.

   In lockstep with our lame-duck president and others on the right, Pletner defines the Democratic Party as fundamentally evil and its supporters as criminals without honor, with a goal of complete destruction. The “Deep State,” always capitalized, figures prominently in his writing. Ironically, he fears that his enemies will completely destroy people like him if they win, yet nearly in the same breath he states that if they win, Trump will deal his enemies “a final crushing blow, a blow from which they will never recover.” He continues, echoing a belief that the existing establishment must be wiped clean or demolished entirely in order to rebuild the kind of nation they really want. “Yes, this will involve the destruction and rebuilding of many if not most of America's most cherished institutions, but it is the only way that America can be saved, the only way in which this first battle can also be the last one.”    

   That's some iron-clad, black-and-white thinking.

    Pletner writes about a coming civil war, about annihilating liberals, and about the collapse of nations -- a good thing in his mind, it seems, necessary to rid the world of bad people and to set things right. He may be educated in engineering and have experience abroad, but his essays lean heavily on exaggeration, misrepresentation, and inflammatory language. It is us vs them, and everything is on the table.

   “The globalist world order is in full collapse. Nobody is buying the wares that it is peddling. Extreme secularism, acceptance and glorification of LGBTx , extreme feminism, and 'wokeness,' are all being rejected in favor of nationalism, traditionalism, and renewed religiosity. There is and yet will be a lot of screaming at the sky, but this reality is undeniable. And so are its consequences,” Pletner writes. See: up for grabs

   In his last column before the election, Pletner called the Bidens a crime family with less honor even than the Cosa Nostra (Sicilian Mafia), and a worse choice for elected office than Al Capone or Meyer Lansky would have been. “These men may have been gangsters, but they loved America,” he says. Loyalty and allegiance are, apparently, Value No. 1. Morals and characer are somewhere further down the list.

   Former Utah Congressional candidate Debbie Aldrich has interviewed Pletner on her YouTube channel and radio show “Freedom Voice Radio.” Aldrich, meanwhile, is listed as an “On Air Talent/Roving Reporter on the CDMedia staff page, as well as author for the Center for Security Policy (CSP) – an organization categorized by the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) as a hate group, primarily anti-Muslim. 

   As stated in the SPLC report: “Frank Gaffney, Jr. founded the neo-conservative-turned-anti-Muslim think tank CSP in 1988, following his tenure as deputy assistant secretary of defense for Nuclear Forces and Arms Control Policy in the Ronald Reagan administration. From the late '80s to the mid-2000s, CSP was seen as a mainstream though hawkish organization that favored the so-called 'peace through strength' doctrine popularized by President Reagan. Following the collapse of the Soviet Union, the CSP never left its Cold War mentality, and instead shifted its focus from battling Communism to fighting Islam.”

   In a 2018 article posted on about former Arizona state Sen. Kelli Ward, Aldrich was described thus: “Ward has done three interviews with Debbie Aldrich, a conservative pundit who made a failed bid to fill the seat of retiring Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R-Utah) in a special election last year. On her Twitter feed, Aldrich falsely called Obama a Muslim and promoted the Pizzagate conspiracy theory. She blamed Obama and 'all his anti-white hate mongers' for 'inciting race riots,' and said he gave 'these #Black Thugs #BLM Carte Blanche to DESTROY AMERICA.'” 

   You might surmise that both Pletner and Aldrich are supporters of our lame-duck president Donald Trump, along with being big contributors to the broader far-right and conservative media networks that support him, and you would be right. Of note:

  • In addition to YouTube interviews and podcasts, Pletner and Aldrich are both contributors to CDMedia, a site run by far-right writer and conspiracy publicist L. Todd Wood. In addition to his own site, Wood's articles reach the Washington Times, Washington Examiner, New York Post, and a long list of other right-wing sites. 

  • Wood is featured on a podcast hosted by Steve Bannon (Breitbart, Trump admin), Raheem Kassam (former editor-in-chief of Breitbart) and Jack Maxey.

  • Wood hails from the financial industry as a bond trader (Cantor), Bannon as an investment banker (Goldman Sacs), as does another person on Wood's contributor list, Peter Cecchini (Cantor). See also: L. Todd Wood

  • Wood has a connection to some degree with the anti-Iranian M.E.K. group, which was once listed as a terrorist organization before rebranding itself and earning U.S. support, including from Newt Gingrich and Rudy Giuliani, both of whom were in attendance at a 2012 rally in Paris for the M.E.K. Also in attendance: Pennsylvania Gov. Ed Rendell, former State Department spokesman P.J. Crowley, and former Bush U.N. Ambassador John R. Bolton. “The M.E.K.'s political arm, the National Council of Resistance of Iran, has its headquarters in Paris.” See: Iranian terrorist group

  • Bannon's writing and reputation outpaces Wood's, but both make wide use of many of the same techniques. Bannon was heavily involved with the alt-right news site Breitbart and recently had his account suspended on Twitter after calling for the beheading of Dr. Anthony Fauci. Bannon also faced arrest in August in a case involving the suspected misuse of fundraising dollars. Wood's account was suspended, as well, for spreading fake news and misinformation related to the Bidens.

  • Bannon was VP of the Board of Cambridge Analytics, “a data-analytics firm which allegedly used illegal tactics to target American voters in the 2016 election and is owned largely by the Mercer family, the family that also co-owns Breitbart News.” He was appointed chief executive of Trump's presidential campaign 88 days before the 2016 election, but the two appeared to part ways under public pressure. See Bannon.

  • Bannon has described himself as an economic nationalist and “proud Christian Zionist.” He has also been described as an admirer of paleoconservative commentator Pat Buchanan, with an ideology that “is substantially similar to that of Stephen Miller, Tucker Carlson, Benny Johnson, Raheem Kassam and Matthew Boyle, the latter two having been protégés of Bannon at Breitbart.”  

   While there is widespread ideological agreement among each of these players, Pletner, interestingly, accuses Bannon in one of his articles of conducting a “counter-coup resting on rotten foundations of residual white bigotry, real and imagined white oppression, and white nostalgia for what never was and never will be,” while fully sharing Bannon's Zionist, Democratic-hating, anti-globalist world view. Both men, however, have been apologists, and publicists, for our 45th president. 

   As for the split between Bannon and Trump, read this paragraph from an article by “author and political analyst” Ava Armstrong. The article, titled, Is There a Secret Strategy to the Trump and Bannon Division and Feud?, was posted on the America Out Loud site after Bannon was given the boot from the White House early in Trump's presidency.

   “Consider this, Donald Trump is a very unconventional individual in his thinking and his tactics, a strategist, an asymmetric schemer and out-right pretty clever man,” Armstrong writes. “I believe this was by design, contrived by Trump and Bannon as a tactic of presenting an overt separation between the two – providing an appearance of severing of their political and perhaps ideological ties. But here’s the deception, nothing has really changed as they are clandestinely maintaining a covert dual track strategy designed to destroy the Establishment and the Swamp. This new tiff, albeit artificial and maybe made for politics and the media, perhaps is just part of the perception designed to provide the cover to create the illusion of a severing and separation between Bannon and Trump. The cover story so to speak, to all of this presents the belief that Trump no longer answers to Bannon … and no longer does Bannon have any association or influence with Trump." 

   This may only be one person's opinion, that of Armstrong's, but the attacks on established institutions and norms we've witnessed over the past four years would seem to bear it out, as well as from things Trump himself has said.

   If there's one thing that Pletner, Aldrich, Bannon, Wood, and all the rest seem fixated on it's destruction. They want to destroy their opponents, not merely win or beat them at the polls. They want to destroy the establishment, not merely improve it, build on it, or reform it, or even replace it. Concepts like diplomacy and compromise are rarely mentioned. And they assure themselves, without evidence, that their enemies want to destroy them in return.

   This is not a sign of healthy minds, nor of good intentions with respect to the future of our country and the world.

   On Nov. 7, 2020, Biden accepted the election results as president-elect of the United States, as the world awaits final certification of the results, as well as the results of various court challenges the Trump campaign has filed. Given the depth and history of the anti-globalist conspiracy, and the sheer number of voters who remained loyal to the president in his re-election bid, such fanaticism could very well intensify.

For further reading: 

Psychological Warfare and 

Anti-PC Fanaticism Are  

A Threat To Peace 

By Steve Rensberry 
Opinion / Analysis

EDWARDSVILLE, Ill. -  (RP NEWS) - 9/25/2020 - The term political correctness has become thoroughly weaponized in today's socio-political climate. It's a cheap shot meant to tar, knock down, and delegitimize an entire framework of thought and reasoning, but it works.

   Most often it is used as a pejorative term against liberals -- denoting an intolerance toward certain types of speech and offensive behavior -- but a chorus of writers has made the case in recent years that the far bigger and more pervasive threat to the country is right-wing political correctness, also dubbed conservative correctness, or patriotic correctness

It is, as they say, all relative -- especially in terms of linguistics, with the meaning of words dependent almost entirely on the context.

If your world view dominates and is reinforced by social institutions, if your norms and values seem favored in educational, government, and business environments, then to you it is likely going to feel like justified normalcy, something good and right, the way things ought to be, and no more a political matter than the fact that the earth revolves around the sun. If you're the outsider, on the other hand, of course it's going to feel to you like this dominant value system is politically constructed, something false and alien in contrast to your own presumed genuine values. And consequently, the words one uses to describe what's going on are going to reflect that.

Summarizing how those on the right have used the term politically, Moira Weigel writes in a story for The Guardian: “PC was a useful invention for the Republican right because it helped the movement to drive a wedge between working-class people and the Democrats who claimed to speak for them. 'Political correctness' became a term used to drum into the public imagination the idea that there was a deep divide between the 'ordinary people' and the 'liberal elite,' who sought to control the speech and thoughts of regular folk. Opposition to political correctness also became a way to rebrand racism in ways that were politically acceptable in the post-civil-rights era.”

The term has been framed as a contest over civil rights, as a battle between the establishment of social norms, as an exercise in the definition of reality, as a measure of offense sensitivity levels, as a manifestation of cultural Marxism, as Capitalist realism, as a struggle over social framing, and as typical human behavior meant to establish acceptable in-group and out-group behavior.

All of these analyses have some merit, I think. The problem is that the phrase has shifted in meaning over the years, and continues to be used and weaponized in novel ways.

In a piece published in the CS Monitor, Linguist Geoffrey Nunberg claims that the person critical of modern PC culture is largely arguing for a license simply to say whatever they want to say, regardless of the repercussions. “It’s a license to say things that at one time would have branded you as a boor or a bigot. Whenever you’re charged with those things, now you can respond by invoking political correctness. That invests the criticisms with a political meaning, and suggests they’re merely the self-indulgent concerns of an elite that’s out of touch.”

U.S. President George H.W. Bush made an interesting assertion in a 1991 commencement speech he gave in Michigan, tacitly acknowledging the country's long-standing prejudices while joining the trend of anti-PC criticism. "The notion of political correctness has ignited controversy across the land,” Bush said. “And although the movement arises from the laudable desire to sweep away the debris of racism and sexism and hatred, it replaces old prejudice with new ones. It declares certain topics off-limits, certain expression off-limits, even certain gestures off-limits."

There is a deeper story to all this, as you might expect, given a term that has meant different things to different people at different times in history, but three of the most disturbing and recent connections are to William Lind, Theodore Kaczynski (a.k.a. the Unabomber), and to President Donald Trump, all of whom appear to view political correctness solely in terms of a liberal-leftist existential type of threat, and an idea and set of beliefs worthy only of complete destruction.

Lind, a paleoconservative, conspiracy thinker and author, is one of the first to have weaponized the term. Working with others, Lind helped develop the theory of fourth-generation war theory (4GW) in the late 1980s, war which would be fundamentally decentralized and mainly psychological in nature. It's clear from reading Lind's writings that he lives in a conspiratorial world aligned with the alt-right, far-right, and the president's own words, a world where the media have conspired with academia and leftist politicians to destroy traditional culture and traditional orthodox values, and therefore must be destroyed. Lind's work can be found here.

Salon staff writer Chauncey Devega notes: “A sub-component of 4GW is William Lind’s conspiracy theory of the internal war for supremacy between what he called 'cultural Marxists' and their ideology of 'Political Correctness' or 'multiculturalism' and the 'traditional American culture' or 'Judeo-Christian culture.' Lind argued that 'cultural Marxists' hate America’s 'Judeo-Christian culture' and were seeking to destroy it. The losers were to be rich, white, conservative, Christian, heterosexual men.”

Trump's core policies, Devega says, are consistent with Lind's writings from 2005, citing his call for a “Berlin-style wall on the U.S.-Mexican border,” support for the Minutemen militia, and likening Latino and Muslim immigrants to invaders. “Lind’s ideas have circulated throughout the right-wing for just over a decade. Trump is just telling the Republican base what they have already heard or read.”

Say all you want about the idea of 4GW, but one thing that plays heavy is the use of deception and propaganda, enacted through a prolonged conflict involving embedded enemies and a deliberate blurring of the lines between ordinary citizens, activists and combatants.

I would encourage you to read Devega's article in full, given that it was written in 2016 before Trump was first elected, and about as relevant today as it was then. “Trump is reaping what the Christian Right, Fox News, conservative talk radio, Christian radio and television, and the blogosphere has sown,” Devega says.

And that brings us to Kaczynski. It doesn't take long to realize that he was a nut -- a former mathematics professor and certified right wing extremist who railed in a lengthy manifesto against political correctness, cultural relativism, identity politics, class warfare, and leftism in general. Kaczynski, born in 1942, is currently serving eight life sentences without the possibility of parole, incarcerated in the supermax prison in Florence, Colorado. 

Kaczynski feared an all-powerful government, hated the modern technological world, and idolized primitive, historical civilizations where people were free from “non-productive” work (meaning work that doesn't contribute to the basic necessities of life). If this brings to mind a life of perpetual slavery with no time to actually live and enjoy the fruits of one's labor, or to create and invent, you can be forgiven. You can also be forgiven if this raises a red flag with respect to actual human history and the brutality and bloodshed that has taken place, not to mention the fact that half the world likely would die if industrial and agricultural-based systems were destroyed.

“A return to primitive society would soon entail a return to primitive, tyrannical forms of governance as a result, not a new age of liberty,” this entry on Wikipedia states.

I know there have been some who have praised Kaczynski's manifesto as ingenious and actually rational, but to me it is nothing but a delusional, conspiratorial, anti-liberal hack job, providing plenty of fodder for both critics and extremists, but not really saying much of anything except to show Kaczynski's incredible ignorance of human history. Although there were early attempts to describe Kaczynski as a left-wing “ecoterrorist,” his manifesto makes it clear what his real target is: leftism and all of the “politically correct” thinking that goes along with it.

Consider this (delusional) excerpt: “Leftism is collectivist; it seeks to bind together the entire world (both nature and the human race) into a unified whole. But this implies management of nature and of human life by organized society, and it requires advanced technology. You can’t have a united world without rapid transportation and communication, you can’t make all people love one another without sophisticated psychological techniques, you can’t have a “planned society” without the necessary technological base. 

After alleging, in so many words, that “leftists” (and only leftists) are ruled by weak emotions and a lust for power, Kaczynski states: “We use the term 'leftism' because we don't know any better words to designate the spectrum of related creeds that includes the feminist, gay rights, political correctness, etc., movements, and because these movement have a strong affinity with the old left.”

Equality is another one of his targets, as well as a target of Lind's and Trump's, suggesting the push for equal opportunity for minorities is merely a political power grab, and a dire threat to the entire country.

Another telling excerpt: “The leftist wants equal opportunities for minorities. When that is attained he insists on statistical equality of achievement by minorities. And as long as anyone harbors in some corner of his mind a negative attitude toward some minority, the leftist has to re-educate him. And ethnic minorities are not enough; no one can be allowed to have a negative attitude toward homosexuals, disabled people, fat people, old people, ugly people, and on and on and on. It’s not enough that the public should be informed about the hazards of smoking; a warning has to be stamped on every package of cigarettes. Then cigarette advertising has to be restricted if not banned.”

Why Kaczynski should be offended having to treat “disabled people, fat people, old people, and ugly people” with respect, and not spit on them or insult them, or to treat other people in society in a humane fashion, says a lot about his level of disdain for other human beings, as well as about his deep-rooted bigotry. He rails against identity politics, but plays the game himself even more intensely. He rails against the left as being totalitarian and petty, but advocates for a system and culture that would turn out to be even more so. He attempts to discredit entire groups and cultures as being a threat to the very existence of the nation and western civilization, but wants to destroy those groups himself in order to dominate and control every aspect of society with his own all-embracing, totalitarian mandates. He paints the left as dehumanizing and violent, then goes on to kill three people and seriously wound 23 others through a terrorizing mail-bombing campaign that lasted from 1978-1995.

Where does Donald Trump and those he surrounds himself with get their ideas? From the very same poisoned well of ideological bigotry and ignorance.

For Further Reading:

A Phrase in Flux: The History of Political Correctness

Anti-PC is 'Political Correctness' for the Right

Right-Wing Political Correctness, Censorship, and Silencing

Political Correctness is Rampant on the Right

Conservative Political Correctness and Colin Kaepernick


Democracy in an Age of

Anti-Majoritarian Doublespeak

By Steve Rensberry
Lincoln in Springfield, Ill./  RP News Photo
(RP News) - 8/15/2020 - “America is a republic, not a democracy.” How often have you heard that phrase?
    I've heard it on and off my whole life, but most recently came across it as the title of a work by Assumption College Professor Bernard Dobski, described as a visiting scholar with the Simon Center for American Studies by The Heritage Foundation (First Principles No. 80: Foundational Concepts to Guide Politics and Policy, June 2020)
    The publication is too predictable. There is little disagreement that America is not a pure democracy. Neither are there a lot of voices arguing that it should be. The founding documents themselves, particularly the Federalist Papers, explicitly limited public and collective control of government in favor of elected representatives--gatekeepers of sorts--who could temper the citizenry's excessive impulses.
    Such representatives, however, are ultimately chosen through an electoral process set up to operate democratically with fixed regularity --- in effect turning the majoritarian public into gatekeepers for the gatekeepers. Our Constitutionally mandated system of laws and precedent is meant to guide the boundaries of acceptable behavior further still. The Electoral College, arguably, performs a similar gate-keeping function.
    Some people prefer the term “Constitutional republic,” but the best term in my view is “representative democracy,” which fairly well describes a country that is of the people, by the people, and for the people, yet incorporates a system of representation that guards against mob impulses. Are we splitting hairs? Possibly.
    Neither the Heritage Foundation nor Dr. Dobski seem too keen on the democracy part of it though, as this published summary of the article shows. (reference) To quote:

   America is a republic and not a pure democracy. The contemporary efforts to weaken our republican customs and institutions in the name of greater equality thus run against the efforts by America’s Founders to defend our country from the potential excesses of democratic majorities. American republicanism and the ordered liberty it makes possible are grounded in the Federalists’ recognition that non-majoritarian parts of the community make legitimate contributions to the community’s welfare, and that preserving these contributions is the hallmark of political justice. But, the careful balance produced by our mixed republic is threatened by an egalitarianism that undermines the social, familial, religious, and economic distinctions and inequalities that undergird our political liberty. Preserving the republican freedoms we cherish requires tempering egalitarian zeal and moderating the hope for a perfectly just democracy.

   I'll try to keep my argument short but have four points to make:
   1) Protecting one's country from the excesses of anything sounds eminently reasonable, especially if such excesses are of a negative nature, whether due to a tyrannical minority or a misguided majority.
   2) It is entirely understandable how modern efforts toward greater equality might weaken “republican customs and institutions” -- especially if those customs and institutions have helped to perpetuate discriminatory and abusive or socially harmful behavior, which is kind of the point.
   3) While we are not a pure democracy, neither are we a pure republic. The authority and power of ordinary citizens, or the collective population, is limited, as is the power of representatives who have a sworn duty to do what is in the best interests of the people who elected them.
   4) Read this sentence from Dobski carefully: “American republicanism and the ordered liberty it makes possible are grounded in the Federalists’ recognition that non-majoritarian parts of the community make legitimate contributions to the community’s welfare, and that preserving these contributions is the hallmark of political justice.” Now ask yourself, what does “ordered liberty,” “non-majoritarian parts,” and “political justice,” mean? They can and do mean a whole lot of things. “Ordered liberty” could just as well mean a jail cell as it does traffic laws, and Dobski's use of the term “non-majoritarian parts” is disturbingly open-ended, contrary to the concept of non-majoritarian institutions, which I don't think he means. 
    It's clear from this quote and others that the concepts of equality and egalitarianism are particularly loathsome to Dobski, and to others discontented with democracy. Is it because such ideas challenge established social hierarchies, or pose a challenge to groups or religious institutions who would rather not be held accountable? I would argue yes.
    Consider Dobski's own words:
   “As [Alex de] Tocqueville correctly foresaw, the limitless passion for equality—the root cause for seeking direct democracy—undermines respect for all of those social, familial, civic, and religious institutions that separate individuals from one another, establish hierarchies, dictate codes of behavior, and, most importantly, help us preserve our liberties,” he writes.
   In other words: Separation and division are good and natural, while things like unity, acceptance of diversity, and equality are bad and artificially imposed.
   Truth is, the society that Dobski defends is a society that works best when everyone knows their place, and where religious leaders, political leaders, and those who “know best” are given preference in all things, even science. One of many stretches in logic he makes is theorizing about a “democratic theory applied to minds,” with respect to the COVID-19 crisis. He writes: “The democratic theory of minds does not recognize a hierarchy of human knowledge in which scientific expertise is governed and regulated by prudential political judgments, themselves drawn from an understanding of the political good.”
   I think it's his way of saying that democratic minds just don't understand the big picture, because they're all about numbers, but republican minds do.
   The solvency of democratic governments around the world, and respect for democratic institutions in general, has definitely been a topic of concern in recent years, with our own anti-majoritarian political shift to the right mirrored by similar shifts in other parts of the world. It's not the first time we've seen this tug-of-war. Looking through an old copy of a 1955 book by famed political columnist Walter Lippman, The Public Philosophy, I came across this paragraph mid-way through: (reference)
   “The plight of the modern democracies is serious. They have suffered great disasters in this century and the consequences of these disasters are compounding themselves,” Lippman wrote. “The end is not yet clear. The world that is safe for democracy and is safely democratic is shrunken. It is still shrinking. For the disorder which has been incapacitating the democracies in this century is, if anything, becoming more virulent as time goes on.”
   He could have written it yesterday.

Epistemology, U.S. Politics,

and the Social Construction of Reality

By Steve Rensberry
BergerLuckmann / Wikimedia Commons
EDWARDSVILLE, Ill. - 7/28/2020 -
In the late 1980s, I was a fired up, eager-to-learn sociology major at Greenville University, eager enough to never miss a class with either of my two main sociology instructors, professors Rick Stephens and James DeLong. I respected both as knowledgeable experts in their field, though each later went on to teach elsewhere while I decided to make a switch and transfer to Southern Illinois University Edwardsville to study journalism.
   Sociology is a field of study I admire for a lot of reasons, but one concept I found particularly intriguing was called “the social construction of reality.” If you've ever had even an entry-level sociology class, you may recall the phrase because it's a major sociological theory, introduced in 1966 through a book written by Thomas Luckmann and Peter L. Berger, entitled: The Social Construction of Reality: A Treatise in the Sociology of Knowledge. (Penguin Books, New York, 1966)
   Thinking about this theory the other day, it suddenly dawned on me just how much of a living example today's tumultuous situation is. Are we witnessing “the social construction of reality” in action, in all its messy, dirty and chaotic glory? Maybe so.
   It's not a simple concept, but in short, “the social construction of reality” refers to the idea that:
  •    People are shaped by their life experiences, backgrounds and interactions with others, including their perceptions of reality.
  •    An inter-personal and social process of repetition and “habitualization” leads to the creation and institutionalization of various social structures, reciprocal roles, and moral codes. See: Introduction to Sociology
  •   What people understand as “reality” is really the product of a complicated interpersonal social-interaction and negotiation process that societies go through in determining what is socially acceptable. See: Identity and Reality
   According to the Thomas Theorem, “successive definitions of the situation” play a key part in establishing such norms of social acceptability. Other sociologists have described the process, on the individual level, as a type of self-fulfilling prophecy -- such as when a false idea or rumor, if actually believed to be real by the person who holds it, can end up having real-world consequences. In other words, the individual's reality, though false, was essentially “constructed by an idea."
   Well what I see happening is just that -- one big mammoth struggle to “define the situation,” to define who we are as a country, as a culture, and as human beings, to establish meaning and values and our shared “social reality,” and ultimately to see whose definition will stick.
   Add to that the influence of an epistemological divide that has existed in Western Civilization since its inception, and the current state of U.S. politics and the cultural divide becomes more understandable yet.
   What type of evidence is sufficient on which to pin a belief, especially one that would rise to the level of foundational?
   Does subjective, emotional evidence suffice? What about empirically-based evidence? Or evidence that you can only touch, see and verify with the senses? What about revelation-based or supernatural evidence? Does evidence only qualify as valid if based on group identity? These are straight up epistemological questions about the validity of knowledge and how to attain it -- and how you answer them is every bit related to our current state of affairs, I'd say.
   Do you believe that truth, values, and knowledge are easily discernible through intuitive means, emotive reasoning, common sense or are simply innate to human nature? Or do you believe they are only really trustworthy when they correspond with hard facts, experience, science, and logic? You can see where I'm going with this.
   I should also say that I'm not the first to point out the “epistemic crisis” we're experiencing.
   “The US is experiencing a deep epistemic breach, a split not just in what we value or want, but who we trust, how we come to know things, and what we believe we know -- what we believe exists, is true, has happened and is happening,” writes David Roberts in a Nov. 2, 2017 Vox piece entitled, America is facing an epistemic crisis.
   Roberts blames “the US conservative movement” for much of the crisis, through its attacks and rejection of the mainstream media and other institutions, such as science and academia, which “society has appointed as referees in matters of factual dispute.”
   I would agree that what we're seeing today has been exacerbated by partisan attacks on key social institutions -- institutions of the kind you might even expect to play a roll in the theorized “social construction of reality,” but Roberts should know that progressive interests have attacked the credibility of various institutions that conservatives respect as well, religious organizations being one of them, and from the view of conservatives have been doing it for a long time. I'm not taking sides, but I know how they feel.
   Roberts does make a good point though, by pointing out some fundamental differences.
   “The pretense for the conservative revolution was that mainstream institutions had failed in their role as neutral arbiters — that they had been taken over by the left, become agents of the left in referee’s clothing, as it were,” Roberts writes. “But the right did not want better neutral arbiters. The institutions it built scarcely made any pretense of transcending faction; they are of and for the right.”
   I don't disagree with him.
   My opinion: Today's glaring ideological polarization seems to me to be just more of the same old “way-of-thinking” drama that has been playing out on the world's stage for centuries, interspersed with relative periods of peace before the next crisis in truth, trust and knowledge flares up, as it has now, like a bad virus. Complete prevention may be impossible, but not letting it get out of control by selecting leaders with level heads and the ability to speak truthfully and with love for all of humanity, rather than put up walls, would seem to me a good idea. I believe that this goes for all leaders, whether in government, ecclesiastical institutions, academia, private organizations, or in the world of business.
   One more suggestion: pay attention to your teachers and professors, because you never know when some of the wisdom they impart -- while appearing irrelevant at the time -- just might be of value years down the road! I'm sure glad I did.

Further reference:

Conspiracy Theories, Straw Man

Arguments, And Far-Right

Political Crackpottery

By Steve Rensberry
   EDWARDSVILLE, Ill. - July 21, 2020 - Under the right conditions and the right circumstances almost every human being, I think, can find themselves tempted to climb aboard the conspiracy crazy train, cockamamie reasoning and all. Newer research has begun to show us why some people seem particularly susceptible to it, but my guess is the risk is there for all of us under times of stress, being the imperfect creatures that we are.
Note: Venn diagram is for illustration purposes only. See ref for link.
Fortunately, cold hard reality has a way of straightening most of us out most of the time, after we discover that the sky really isn't falling like they said it was, or that the government really isn't coming to take away our guns after all. But such theories don't die easily, especially in the kind of complex, internet-driven, changing world of today, a fact that has been brought to light in multiple news stories in recent months. In some cases, perpetrators have acted on such beliefs in violent and socially harmful ways, one example being the case of Robert D. Bowers in Pittsburgh. See: Pittsburgh Gunman Embraced Conspiracy Theories 
   “More than a quarter of the American population believes there are conspiracies 'behind many things in the world,' according to a 2017 analysis of government survey data by University of Oxford and University of Liverpool researchers,” writes Melinda Wenner Moyer in a March 1, 2017 Scientific American essay, People Drawn to Conspiracy Theories Share a Common Cluster of Psychological Features.
   Citing research by Stephen Lewandowsky of the University of Western Australia (Psychological Science, 2003), Moyer adds: “New research suggests that events happening worldwide are nurturing underlying emotions that make people more willing to believe in conspiracies. Experiments have revealed that feelings of anxiety make people think more conspiratorially. Such feelings, along with a sense of disenfranchisement, currently grip many Americans, according to surveys. In such situations, a conspiracy theory can provide comfort by identifying a convenient scapegoat and thereby making the world seem more straightforward and controllable.”.   
   Moyer cites research questioning the wisdom of even trying to counter conspiracy theories with logic or evidence, noting older research that suggested it can just cause some adherents to dig in deeper, but I'm going to give it a shot.  See: Joseph Uscinski
   With that said, I came across a piece recently that I can only describe as a phenomenally fragmented and hysterical piece of mind-numbing conjecture. It was posted on the online site “” and is basically a conspiracy theory mash-up piece, written by someone going by the name of “Dex Bahr” and entitled “Know Your Enemy: Undeniable Truths About the Left.”
   One thing the article does do rather nicely, intentional or not, is roll just about every far-right conspiratorial idea making the rounds into one little narrative, awkward but concise, and perfect for a bit of literary and logical dissection.
   They're all here: heavy pro-Trump ideation, the denigration of the Black Lives Matter movement, the Covid lockdown “hoax,” Marxist/Socialist/Leftists/Communist/Democratic Party collaboration, and by the “sycophantic media. Add to that conspiratorial actions by Google, Facebook and Twitter to squelch conservative voices. Social justice and multiculturalism take a hit, China takes a hit as the source of the “Wuhan virus,” Democrat governors and mayors take a hit, and ordinary citizens in general concerned about systemic racism and inequality in America take a conspiratorial hit. It's all black and white and crystal clear in Mr. Bahr's mind. You're either part of the freedom-loving, patriotic, God-fearing conservative right, or you're a violent, power loving leftist who loves Maxism, authoritarianism, and control. It is an argument stealing and psychological projection masterpiece in some ways, exemplifying that which it criticizes and reapplying many of the identical arguments and criticisms the left uses, in mirror-image fashion.
   One thing that Mr. Bahr's article definitely does not contain, despite its claims, is a list of “undeniable truths.” Instead it contains some rather glaring falsehoods which, if taken literally and acted upon by unstable individuals, could lead to some serious and real harm.
Falsehood No. 1
    Quote: “First, we must begin by properly labeling the truth as it is,” he writes. “For example, everything that is happening now is because the left's plans to remake the United States from a Constitutional republic into (a) borderless global state were (sic) thwarted by the people electing Donald J. Trump for president.”
    The idea that Trump “saved” a country on the brink of a complete leftist takeover is all over the conservative web universe, on sites like “theconservativetreehouse” and “americanthinker,” as is idea of a “borderless global state,” a conspiracy theory centered around George Soros' supposed personal quest to create a borderless utopia. I'm not advocating for any one particular vision, but one thing left unanswered is why such a so-called utopia would not be preferable--conceptually speaking--to living in a “massively-bordered hellhole,” which is more or less the opposite he seems to be advocating for.
Falsehood No. 2
   Quote: “The left not only hates Trump for beating their savior Hillary Clinton, it also loathes the citizens who voted for him.”
   The problematic part of this “undeniable truth” is that it really just insults and broadly stereotypes any American citizen who happens not to be a supporter of the president, for any reason, people who the author just lumps into one giant ugly category he calls “the left.” He is right that a lot of people do loathe citizens who voted for Trump, but what is not to understand about that when some people sincerely believe that Trump is a dangerous and unstable individual? Bahr is being ridiculously over-simplistic and engaging in mere character assassination, attempting to undercut the integrity of law-abiding, patriotic Americas who he doesn't even know.
   Finally, no one I know thinks of Hillary Clinton as anything other than a decent though imperfect human being, least of all a “savior.”
Falsehood No. 3
    Quote: “Once you honestly grasp the level of hatred the left has for us, you begin to understand that the Wuhan virus extended lockdowns and the Black Lives Matter/Antifa led riots are for (sic) express purpose of bringing misery and terror to those who dared to vote for Donald Trump in 2016 and those who are planning to vote for him in November.”
   It's hard to know whether he seriously knows what he's even writing about, least of all understand the principle of cause and effect, but once again he is just insulting and mocking those more liberal than himself, downplaying the lockdowns and protests, misidentifying them as “Antifa led riots” and maligning a movement genuinely concerned with racial justice and equal freedom under the law.
    He's on a hunt to demonize, it appears, at a time when others are trying to work constructively toward a better and more inclusive America, failing to understand because he doesn't want to.
Falsehood No. 4
    Quote: “If past behavior is any indication of future behavior, then the Democrats will continue to scapegoat you for all that is wrong with the country. This is exactly what they are doing now when they speak of white privilege and systemic racism.”
   This is one of those statements that tells us more about the writer than it does about the intended subject matter. The Democrats who I know don't do a lot of scapegoating, but understand that a lot of factors are at play in the country's struggles. Mr. Bahr, however, makes it clear that he thinks white privilege and systemic racism are illegitimate causes.
   Who is scapegoating who? Once again, the author takes a common criticism of the right, as scapegoating negative outcomes by blaming “the media” or Democrats, or left-wing radicals, and attempts to turn it around to use against his enemies.
Falsehood No. 5
   Quote: “The left hates any American who disagrees with them.”
   Sorry, but there's not much that's “undeniable” about this so-called truth either, which is just another case of over-generalization and psychological projection. Traditionally it has been the conservative right who has behaved with intolerance, defending cruel and inhumane punishment, torture even, and hating those who disagree with them in predicable, knee-jerk fashion, a fact which I suspect the writer is keenly aware of.
   And who is this “left” he keeps talking about? It's brothers, sisters, cousins, neighbors, co-workers, pastors, parishioners, sometimes husbands and wives who just might happen to differ in their political views, as leftists, rightists, centrists, or as nothing at all.
   He doesn't know them from Adam, but wastes no time painting them as hateful and hyper-intolerant human beings who can't stand disagreement. He is really just describing himself.
Falsehood No. 6
    Quote: “Leftists hate free speech, especially if it criticizes their agenda.”
   Well, you know, nobody likes their agenda to be criticized, but what difference is there between his obvious hatred for “leftist's speak” and what he presumes is leftist hatred for his far-right conservative speech? Not much at all.
   The thing that bugs me the most about this tired old conservative talking point and slur is that rarely does anyone say exactly what kind of speech they feel so restricted from engaging in. Are they angry because that they can't say the “N” word? Is it because they want to be able to call women sluts and dames in public, without repercussions? Is it because public lying, slander and hate speech, speech that hurts and abuses people, has become culturally unacceptable?
   Mostly, the statement is just false, ridiculously broad and simple-minded.
Falsehood No. 7
   Quote: “Leftists love Marxism and therefore hate liberty.”
   Yet another slur and term which many conservatives imagine to be true about “the left,” all evidence aside, and also one which presents a false dichotomy. There may indeed be some left-leaning Americans who love Marxism, as there are right-leaning Americans who are dangerous anarchists and fascists, but I am not one of them and neither are any “leftist” that I know, and to use that as a defining term for the entire spectrum of left-leaning Americans is just ignorance in motion.
   As for hating liberty, I just don't see it in the left's fight for worker's rights, public health, environmental concerns, and marketplace fairness. Bahr wants “the left” to look very evil though, to fire up his buddies, so he tries very hard to make them look that way, by definition. One could equally say, however, with the same evidence-less bluster: “Rightists love fascism and therefore hate liberty,” then call it an undeniable truth.
Falsehood No. 8
   Quote: “The Democrat Party has been hijacked by the Marxist left.”
   This is really part of the same definition and word play the author engages in when he says that “leftists love Maxism,” and another imagined reality without a real-world connection.
   I would agree that the Democrat party has been influenced by the left, but they have also been influenced by moderate and conservative wings of the party. Both parties have undergone shifts in recent years, with one of the most noticeable shifts being a Republican Party's shift to the right, accelerated by Tea Party supporters and the current president's election in 2016, while the Democrat Party hasn't changed nearly as much.
Falsehood No. 9
   Quote: “Marxism is the theory behind socialism and communism, although they all lead to the same result of despair and slaughter. Both are the antithesis to capitalism, yet our federal government and many of our state governments continue to fornicate with socialism? Obamacare, anyone?”
   While Marxist ideas did have an influence on European social democratic parties in the 19th century, the author is simply incorrect to say that Marxism is the de facto theory behind socialism and communism. Socialism can be traced back to the 1789 French Revolution, while Karl Marx didn't pen The Communist Manifesto with Friedrich Engles until 1848, with the specific term they used being “scientific socialism.”
   Finally, while the idea that you can group, mix-and-match, or interchange the words socialist, communist, Marxist, leftist, and the like may be popular among the hard right, it really smacks of shoddy research and a lack of scholarly due diligence. He could with the Encyclopedia Brittannia's entry on what Marxism is and isn't. See: Marxism
Falsehood No. 10
Quote: “Socialism is the foot in the door under the guise of equality and communism is the thug who breaks down the door, holds your prisoner and forces you to work for his benefit.”
   It's a nice way to frame a political theory, using an allegory, but once again we can equally say in this preachy word-definition game he likes to play, that “Capitalism is the foot in the door under the false promise of easy property ownership and easy wealth, and the unregulated free market is the thug that breaks down the door, holds you prisoner and forces you to work for his benefit.”
   Bahr's consistent problem is phrasing things in such broad, universal terms that the meaning is all but lost. He's grandstanding to get applause from the converted and taking pot shots at the concept of equality. Its the talk of a privileged and contemptuous mind, not of one which cares much about those less fortunate or in need, unless perhaps spiritual conversion is involved.
Falsehood No. 11
   Quote: “Leftist governors and mayors have gone full communist under the guise of safety in their removal of freedoms during the Wuhan virus lock downs”
   Here we are once again with the communism and leftism tirade, and a gross misrepresentation of the health restrictions put in place to save American lives during a worldwide pandemic. The virus threat has never been a political issue, but this writer is intent on making it one.
   “Mayors have gone full communist!” he says.
   Did they seize all private property? Have they suspended all travel and the entire Bill of Rights?
 I'm sure that Mr. Bahr knows quite well that the virus is more than just “a Wuhan virus” and that the restrictions on his freedoms are only temporary, but he's got an axe to grind and is obviously all-in with defending the president and his judgement. He's playing a game of politics, not undeniable truths.
Falsehood No. 12
    Quote: “They went after our right to peaceably assemble, our free exercise of religion, and our right to free speech. The left went after our right to peaceably gather by limiting the number of people we could congregate with and initiating social distancing. Next, they impeded our free exercise of religion by deeming churches as non-essential and forbidding us from gathering for church services; even if they were drive-thru services. Finally, free speech was attacked when leftist social media platforms like Facebook and Twitter censored any posts or tweets that went against the Covid-19 media narrative.”
   Once again, this is a gross misinterpretation and downplaying of the danger posed by the Covid19 virus and the extenuating circumstances surrounding it, with the limitations put in place after they were urged by non-partisan entities, scientists and health care professionals all across the country and globe, explicitly for reasons of public health. Bahr, however, is doing his best to politicize it and make Covid-19 seem like a weapon “the left” is using against the right merely to limit their freedoms. This is not a partisan issue, but he wants it to be. As for limiting speech, he cites policy changes Facebook and Twitter made to limit fake news and false information from being spread about a serious health issue, then claims both are “leftist social media platforms.”
   Bahr likely knows that the charge of social media bias cuts two ways. Both major platforms have been criticized by the left for their perceived conservative biases, as well as from the right. Think about it though. If Twitter was a “leftist social media platform,” as he says, would it have tolerated Trump's tweets for one day, never mind for three years going on four?
Falsehood No. 13
    Quote: “Google even controls what information you have access to with a search and now is even manipulating stories regarding the up-tick on positive cases of Covid-19.”
   Not to leave out anything, the author next goes after Google, alleging that it manipulates the Covid-19 numbers. The proof? A phenomenon he says occurs whenever you type a number into the Google search bar along with the phrase “new covid cases” after which it always scores a hit. “Think I am kidding” he says, “Just enter any random number and 'new covid cases' and you'll get a series of stories with the numbers you want.”
   This is both bizarre and inaccurate. I personally typed in several numbers that brought up zero hits. Likewise, the frequency of any random number being associated with a Covid-19 search is really not all that surprising is it, given an infection rate that has risen exponentially in just a few short months?
Falsehood No. 14
    Another unfounded assertion he makes is that the Democrats, the media, or “the left” as he imagines it, is playing fast and loose with polling data in an effort to manipulate people into thinking Trump is doing poorly, and to therefore just give up.
   “This is all to dispirit you. Since March, there has been a non-stop pile-on of your emotions. This, in (sic) an all-out, no holds barred effort to convince you to give up all hope and reject President Trump,” he writes.
   I'm sure glad he knows exactly why the Democrats do what they do, and exactly why the polling data is in error, but it sure would be nice if he would present at least some evidence to justify it. Polls are easy to criticize, we all know that, and they also are notoriously upended in due course, and we all know that, but calling this some kind of intentional, underhanded trick the Democrats are playing to deceive the public is lame at best, least of all indisputable.
Falsehood No. 15
    Quote: “The left is willing to destroy race relations, shred the Constitution, call for the defunding of the police, and validate lawlessness, all for the express purpose of achieving an election victory in November.”
   Please tell me the writer isn't so out of touch that he really thinks that everyone to the left of his far-right political philosophy are that shallow and insincere, because they're not. Sorry, but I'm not buying it and Bahr presents not a shred of evidence to justify it.
   The fact is, Trump himself has been accused of shredding the Constitution, destroying race relations, and validating lawlessness, repeatedly and with good evidence. The quote, as well, is worded to once again undercut the integrity of the Black Lives Matter movement, by framing it as a mere political tool used to hurt Trump's re-election chances.
Falsehood No. 16
    Quote: “They claim to offer new enlightenment to the sins of our forefathers, but all they can offer is condemnation as if they are judge, jury and god . . . In the absence of worshiping a Creator, the left blasphemes by making themselves little gods where everything they demand should be a dictate for all and nothing they say is worthy of criticism.”
   Though mostly a religious tenet of the kind that one hears from the pulpit, the author presents this snidely phrase as yet another “undeniable truth about the left,” which it clearly isn't.
   I understand his angst, I really do, and it's informative to know that this is how he and some others on the far-right think, by he should know that there are a lot of people who say the exact same thing about hard-right orthodox conservatives like himself, dogmatic hard-liners who “claim to offer new enlightenment” of some kind, but instead deliver nothing but pain and restrictions -- and act like they are judge, jury and god. Some, in fact, attribute this exact behavior to our current president.
Falsehood No. 17
   Quote: “Arrogance and hubris are two other truths about the left . . . ”
   I realize that this is what the author believes, and that he wants others to believe it too, but it's really just another boring insult and falsehood. Ironically, judging by Mr. Bahr's lengthy rant and the tone of it, he could not fit the description any better himself if he tried. Although he may be a nice enough individual in person, his article is written in a way that makes him appear arrogant, full of hubris, and self-righteous.
Falsehood No. 18
    Another falsehood the writer puts forth is the idea that African-American or black support for President Trump, and Democrat fears about him getting re-elected, is “a huge reason for the left fanning the flames of racial unrest under the lie of systemic racism and white privilege.”
   One thing he does do with this statement is make clear what he thinks about systemic racism in America, which is not very much. Ditto for the idea of white privilege.
   I would serious question, however, whether one single Democrat has ever even considered using race or racial tension as a political tool. I know, as an ex-conservative, that a lot of conservatives and right-leaning Americans have a hard time believing that a lot of liberals or leftists actually care about people, sincerely and deeply, but they do.
Falsehood No. 19
   The author's finally “truths” are all aimed at what he called the “sycophantic media,” a phrase which is seriously ironic given that the Trump administration is considered by some to be one of most sycophantic administrations ever. (
   Attacks on the mainstream media by conservatives are nothing new. The truth is, more than one study has shown conservative media influence in the United States to be just as biased, if not more so, than its liberal counterpart, and far more influential in many areas of the country when talk radio, conservative regional newspapers and other independent religious or conservative media entities are taken into consideration.
Falsehood No. 20
   Quote: “We are in the midst of a cultural revolution brought to you courtesy of the left.”
   This is an interesting statement but another example of argument stealing and projection.
   Simply put, Bahr is looking for intent and malice where there is none. Maybe a cultural revolution is needed., you know, like it has been needed time and again throughout history. Those are the issues he should be addressing.
    As far as who started the "revolution," all I can say is that religious conservatives began waging a "culture war" on the nation and on non-believers more than 40 years ago. My own bookshelves carry several titles about the “the culture war,” going back to the early 1980s, and every last one of them is written by a Christian conservative writer, most of whom were calling not for the war to end but for Christians to jump in with both feet and gain control of every aspect of society and government for Christ and his church. Norman Geisler, Francis A. Schaeffer, Herbert Schlossberg, Marvin Olasky, George Grant, John Whitehead of the Rutherford Institute, et al, have sounded the same repetitive and hollow note, fighting to stop "secular humanism" from having a place in American society or the world. They want to dominate.  It's not the American way, nor is it the democratic way, in my opinion, but they're convinced they're right.
   Who is Mr. Bahr? That's the million dollar question. You won't find his picture on the internet, but you will find a link to his book, written in 2010, called “No Christian Man Is An Island.” Published by Xulon Press, described as the nation's largest self-publisher of Christian books, the work is a 270-page diatribe saturated with religious allegories and spiritual warfare talk. It takes on secular humanism, the political left, and all the rest of the demons that religious conservatives have created for themselves decades ago. Some sites list the author's name as “Shirly Baar” and others as “Dex Bahr,” which makes me suspect one or the other, or both, are just pen names. No photos accompany any online article or links to the author's book, city or state of residence is given, and the author has no personal website of his own or social media page with any “real-person” information.
   One short bio online says he is a freelance writer, former broadcast news reporter, and has been a Christian since 1980. In the book's acknowledgements he credits his Lord, “my heavenly Father,” a former paster, a friend, some heroes he admires, namely George Washington, General Patton, Ronald Reagan, Jackie Robinson, and Clarence Thomas. Then comes the last line: “I also thank my contemporaries, like James Dobson and Rush Limbaugh, for their immense talent in speaking the truth and for their inspiration.” There's his worldview, in a nutshell.
   It's informative to know how a document like this, as full of confusion and falsehood as it is, can get posted on so many conservative websites, blogs, and news networks, dozens of them, without so much as a single-word being edited or the truthfulness of the article questioned, apart from some negative feedback in the comment sections.
   Around the second week of July, 2020, the entire document, word for word, was published on, together with several other right-wing sites, including:, abjure, financialsurivival network, reddit channel “DescentIntoTyranny,” reddit channel “freeworldnews,”,,,, lock N Load with Bill Frady podcast,, freedomandlibertylive.blogspot,,,,,,, (the voice blog on facebook),,,,,,,,,,,,,, and, and others.
   Two conspiracy-stoking religious sites,, and, posted the article; as did a dozen or more with Russian and other foreign domain addresses. I have, by choice, not made an exhaustive and complete investigation of every site the documents has been posted on, which would no doubt take considerable time.
   Two other articles with the “Dex Bahr” byline were posted in similar fashion approximately two months ago, Trump with his bible: Fighting for the soul of America, in which Bahr goes full throttle in defending the president's use of St. John’s Episcopal Church as a photo op during protests ; and Everything with the left is political -- representing another attempt to steal a criticism that has been levied repeatedly at Trump and his supporters. Apart from right-wing websites, a search of Facebook shows the article “Undeniable truths” has made the rounds there too, and probably continues to, with many obvious supporters of the president posting it at length. “A lot is said here,” one person commented. “Much of which can give us hope that even some of the left is seeing their party attempting to destroy their homeland, Keep your Faith and Trust that God Will not abandon his choice for PRESIDENT of our Nation. Know Your Enemy . . . ”

Further research:

Cal Thomas Twists Facts To Defend

a  Divisive President

By Steve Rensberry
EDWARDSVILLE, IL - July 12, 2020 -- Pundit and Christian conservative icon Cal Thomas took his penchant for exaggeration and his undying devotion to our current president to new heights in a recent column, in which he responds to criticism of the president's July 3 Mount Rushmore speech as being divisive. 
I hate to say it, but in the past 40 years of sharing his views on politics and religion in public life, I don't think Thomas has learned a thing.
“One reads and hears this from every media outlet and Democrats in Congress. President Trump is dividing America. Talk radio is divisive. The right wing is undermining our 'unity,'" Thomas writes. “What is really meant by the divisive slur is that conservatives decided not to take it anymore. They are pushing back and the biggest push-backer of all is the president.”
Say what?
Overlooking the literary awkwardness of Thomas' comments, notice that he does not really deny that the speech was divisive, but rather reframes it, then more or less asserts that what is really going on is just the actualization of a necessary and just cause, being led by righteous, angry, fed-up conservatives.
It's a mighty strange and inadequate defense, however, and a distraction from the real issue. Thomas' comments also fly in the face of what millions of Americans heard and saw with their own eyes, from both left and right. Trump supporters themselves have as-much admitted embracing division and chaos as a political strategy, with the goal of toppling the presumed “liberal establishment.” They wanted to shake things up, clean the swamp and take down the status quo, isn't that what we heard?
Have there been any voices at all in the Trump camp who have tried to build constructively on the successes of the previous administration? Has Cal Thomas tried? No. They've blocked, tried to repeal, divided, denied and destroyed jobs and careers in the pursuit of total control and ideological purity. The one and only thing they have tried to build is a wall along our southern border. Trump and Thomas are both guilty of fanning the flames of the culture war, the consequences of which have pitted family member against family member, neighbor against neighbor, and public servant against public servant, and for what? Over the desire to divide, control, and dominate in a changing culture, rather than learn how to get along with others, to peacefully coexist?
One highly critical response to the Mount Rushmore speech, addressed to conservatives no less, came from an opinion piece written by Mona Charen and published in the Chicago Sun-Times.
Speaking about Trump's remarks on protecting Confederate-era monuments, Charen wrote: “The conservative reflex to resist accusations of racism is worse than misguided in this instance. Why? Because in this case the accusation is not false. It’s blatantly, obviously true. Where is the 'white supremacy'? How about the fact that Trump is threatening to veto the National Defense Authorization Act if Congress follows through on plans to rename military installations named after Confederate generals? This is not a conservative making the case against racial preferences. It is not a reasoned argument about school choice, or welfare reform, or disparate impact. It is straight-up white supremacy. The Confederacy was not the United States of America. It was a whole other country. So, no, that’s not patriotism. It’s kind of the opposite.”
The words Trump used in his speech to describe American protesters, as though they were foreign enemies, also was divisive and unbecoming of a president.
“Trump’s chosen message on Independence Day was the good news that 'I am deploying federal law enforcement to protect our monuments, arrest the rioters, and prosecute offenders to the fullest extent of the law. ... I am pleased to report that yesterday, federal agents arrested the suspected ringleader of the attack on the statue of Andrew Jackson in Washington, D.C., and, in addition, hundreds more have been arrested.' News of arrests is supposed to make patriotic hearts swell with pride? Leadership of a large diverse nation requires certain grace notes that every president in living memory has found it in his heart to pronounce on important occasions. This president has chosen and continues to choose division and vitriol,” Charen said.
Having downplayed the divisiveness of his political idol, Thomas then does the one thing he never tires of doing: he creates a straw man argument to bash the imaginary villains he assumes are behind everything that is wrong with America, which to him include abortion, the welfare state, the “entitlement mentality” and a weird thing he calls “the promotion of 'any human relationship that can be conjured up in the most twisted of minds.'”
Judging by just about every column Thomas has written on gay rights and family relationships, it's obvious what he means by “the most twisted of minds.” It's also ignorant. I'm not saying he doesn't have a right to say what he feels, but he should expect to be criticized if he does.
Christian conservatives like Thomas love to play the part of victim and firmly believe that they are being systematically persecuted at the hands of mean, secular, immoral perverts, that is “the left,” which has become the current catch-all phrase for every evil deed they can imagine, and for people who they wrongly assume want nothing except to control your life and usher in a totalitarian, godless global state.
It's nothing but a grown-up fairy tale and scapegoat, and easily refuted by the evidence, but without things to demonize and fears to stoke, people like Thomas just might have to rethink some of those hateful, divisive thoughts they keep having.
That fear mongering is a part of it should come as no surprise. What was the title of Thomas' column, published in the July 8, 2020 online edition of the Washington Times?: “Democrats want to impose socialism and worse on America.” Right, Thomas barely talks about socialism, and barely even defends against the accusation of divisiveness, and this is the headline they give it? No fear mongering going on here.

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