Progressive Movement Building

What are the basic building blocks of a
successful social movement?

  • A discontented group of politicized persons who share the perception that they have common grievances they want society to address;
  • A powerful and lucid ideological vision linked to strategies and tactics that have some reasonable chance of success;
  • The recruitment of people into the movement through pre-existing social, political, and cultural networks;
  • A core group of trusted strategic leaders and local activists who effectively mobilize, organize, educate, and communicate with the politicized mass base;
  • The efficient mobilization of resources that are available, or can be developed, to assist the movement to meet its goals;
  • An institutional infrastructure integrating political coordination, research and policy think tanks, training centers, conferences, and alternative media.
  • Opportunities in the larger political and social scene that can be exploited by movement leaders and activists;
  • The skillful framing of ideas and slogans for multiple audiences such as leaders, members, potential recruits, policymakers, and the general public.
  • An attractive movement culture that creates a sense of community through mass rituals, celebrations, music, drama, poetry, art, and narrative stories about past victories, current struggles, and future successes.
  • The ability of recruits to craft a coherent and functional identity as a movement participant.

(This list is based on the work of Goffman, Zald, McCarthy, Meyer, Gamson, Snow, McAdam, Benford, Klandermans, Johnston, Ewick, Silbey, Polletta, and many other scholars)


“If there is no struggle, there is no progress. Those who profess to freedom and yet deprecate agitation…want crops without plowing. They want rain without thunder and lightening. They want the ocean without the awful roar of its mighty waters. This struggle may be a moral one, or it may be physical, but it must be a struggle. Power concedes nothing without a demand. It never did and it never will.”
Frederick Douglass

To build a movement for progressive social change, we need to reach across boundaries and build coalitions based on mutual respect and accountability. Ideally, we will engage in cross-sector work. Under the banner of a broad global human rights movement, these are some of the various sectors we need to support in a collective and collaborative manner:

Issues & Sectors

Global Human Rights Movement
Civil Rights Peace,
Foreign Policy, & Defense
Civil Liberties
Race, Ethnicity, & Nationality Economic Fairness, Class, & Work Gender & Sexuality
Environmental Sustainability Basic Human Needs
(Food, Housing,
Health Care)
Public Education
Students & Youth Communities of Faith & Spirituality Labor Unions
Cross-Sector Work

Coalition-Building is Crucial!

Bernice Johnson Reagon has discussed the practical problems of coalition work in terms of risk and discomfort. She built a metaphor around her problems breathing due to being at a high altitude for the first time at a 1981 meeting of women in Yosemite National Forest:

“You got one group of people who are in strain—and the group of people who are feeling fine are trying to figure out why you are staggering around, and that’s what this workshop [on coalition politics] is about this morning.”

“I wish there had been another way to graphically make me feel it because I belong to the group of people who are having a very difficult time being here. I feel as if I’m gonna keel over any minute and die. That is often what it feels like if you’re really doing coalition work. Most of the time you feel threatened to the core and if you don’t, you’re not really doing no coalescing.”

      –Bernice Johnson Reagon

Using the Human Rights Framework:

Methods & Infrastructure of
Collaborative Social Movements

International Social Movement Organizing
National Organizing
Community Based Organizing Individual Political Acts State & Regional Organizing
Direct Service Strategy
Issue Advocacy
Movement Philanthropy & Donors Intellectuals and Scholars Visual and Performing Arts
Legal Advocacy & Defense Think Tanks &
Watch Groups
Conferences & Retreats
Training and Technical Assistance Applied Research and Analysis Leadership Development
Networking &
Coalition Building
Collaborative Electoral & Legislative Work Media and Publishing



“…the end is reconciliation; the end is redemption; the end is the creation of the Beloved Community. It is this type of spirit and this type of love that can transform opposers into friends. It is this type of understanding goodwill that will transform the deep gloom of the old age into the exuberant gladness of the new age.”

                                –Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

We need to reach out across the divides within our movement, but also reach out to a broader audience using a variety of methods and media.

Outreach to External Groups

Electoral & Legislative Corporate
Alternative Media & Corporate Media Speakers Invited to Address Meetings National & State Political Party Builders Obtaining News Coverage
Leaflets & Flyers Information Placed in Newsletters Congressional Membership Organizations Op-Eds
Rallies & Events Tabling at Meetings & Conferences Political Coalitions & Networks Letters to the Editor

Based in part on Mapping the Progressive Movement by Jean Hardisty and Ana Perea.


“While many progressive people agree that we must work against racism, sexism, homophobia, anti-Semitism, etc., I’m not sure that we always understand how intricately these oppressions are linked and how deeply they are connected to our very survival. For instance, do white lesbians and gay men truly understand that fighting against racism is key to our freedom? As we pursue liberation, we will have to build politics of connection from those glimpses we get of our shared destiny with other oppressed people.”

“Sometimes I feel our work is like celestial navigation. Before directional instruments were invented, sailors navigated the seas by fixing their compass on the North Star; however, if they fixed on the wrong star, then everything thereafter was off course. We are working against years of a society fixing on the wrong star. This nation has built all its institutions and policies from the starting point of a fundamental lie: that certain groups of people are inferior to others and hence should be subordinated to them. Every direction taken from this fundamental lie puts us off course, and group after group gets lost. If one begins with the lie that people of color are inferior to white people, then it makes equal sense that women are inferior to men. And so it goes. It is our work to fix upon the truth: that all people are of equal worth and deserve justice.”

“We must do this work as though our lives depend on it. Because they do–all of them, no matter what sex or race or sexual identity or class. There must be justice for all of us or there will be peace for none.”

                                        –Suzanne Pharr

Clarifying Basic Principles

While the focus of progressive movement-building is now on creating large organizations “to scale,” yet another of the movement’s greatest challenges is being neglected: We are undecided on the larger principles that underlie our work for social justice. Many people don’t like to do this “big picture” thinking. They prefer results-oriented activism and practical solutions. And they are correct that larger principles must be tied to people’s everyday concerns and identifiable, attainable goals.

But to be successful, mass organizing must be informed by visionary principles as well as nuts-and-bolts techniques. Most bold new policy proposals grow out of the everyday work that activists in submovements do on various issues. These proposals–for example, national healthcare, full rights and services for immigrants, or replacing the racist criminal justice system–are not the polished, poll-tested, slightly left-of-center ones increasingly attractive to Democratic Party centrists. Indeed, they may seem fringe and far out of the mainstream. But they have their roots in real material conditions.

What we lack are the overarching principles to tie these proposals together. In the 1960s and ’70s progressives generally agreed that government had a responsibility to defend the weak or temporarily weak, protect individual rights, provide a reasonable standard of living and regulate private enterprise to protect the public from rampant greed and criminal behavior. Battered by the right’s relentless assaults on these core principles, progressive movement activists today do not have a coherent vision. Instead, we are driven by a vague sense of what a better society would look like, a recognition of how times have changed and persistent despair as we fight one defensive battle after another.

It is therefore essential that we address several fundamental questions right now: What is the role and responsibility of government? How can the racial imbalance of our movement’s leadership be corrected? What role should religion play in public life? How should progressives respond to globalization? And what social issues should we identify as “bottom line”? As principles that respond to these questions emerge, we must not allow political expediency to trump creativity. The voices of people of color, and young people and women of all races must be explicitly sought out. Funding may facilitate this discussion, but it will not in itself produce a dynamic vision. Think tanks alone will not develop these principles, and framing and messaging will not substitute for them. The process of drawing out larger principles must be an organic one: a step-by-step process of slowly creating broad consensus. Here, we can learn from the right’s success with active listening.

While the challenges we face are considerable, they are not insurmountable. But we must get moving so that when the tide of public opinion turns in our direction, we are not caught flatfooted, with a movement badly in need of reform and lacking the very basics needed to seize the moment and go forward. The right was ready for the backlash of the late 1970s. We must be ready for the coming backlash against the outrages of the past twenty-five years.

Jean Hardisty & Deepak Bhargarva

Wrong About the Right (The Nation, October 20, 2005)

Chip Berlet: Social Movements Need an Infrastructure to Succeed

 Jean Hardisty: My On-Again, Off-Again Romance With Liberalism

How the Right Took Power and the Failure of Liberal Infrastructures

Progressive Movement Building

Featured Allies & More Resources

For more resources:  –

Trump, Right-Wing Populist Demagoguery, and Bigoted Violence

What’s Going On?

Right-wing Republicans, Donald Trump, Ted Cruz,
Fox News, Talk Radio, the Koch Brothers, the Tea Parties,
the Patriot movement, the Oath Keepers, the Oregon Standoff,
the New World Order conspiracy theories,
Obama is a Muslim?

It’s not one big conspiracy folks, but there are linkages and processes that are as old as the Presidency of Andrew Jackson
and the birth of the Ku Klux Klan after the Civil War.

Here is more bad news…even if Trump loses, the toxic bigotry he spews is a form of “scripted violence” that encourages angry people to harm and perhaps kill the scapegoated targets he identifies slyly as enemies of the “real” Americans: Angry White Men

How the Rhetoric of Right-Wing Populism
with its “Producerist” Conspiracy Theories
Fuels a Bigoted Right-Wing Juggernaut
Promoting White Nationalism

Available in these formats:

A Full Slide Show on Right-Wing Populism & “Producerist” Conspiracism:
As Web Pages (html)
MP4 VideoDownloadable PDF File

A Single-Page Chart
A Set of Connected Charts

The Trump Collection Landing Pages:

Progressive Security and Safety:
Threats from Right-Wing fanatics spurred on by demagogic political rhetoric have turned into isolated acts of violence against progressives. Pick up your self-defense homework here.

Ted Cruz, the Christian Right, and Dominionism

How the Right Took Power and the Failure of Liberal Infrastructures

Read more about it!

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How the Right Took Power and the Failure of Liberal Infrastructures

The political right took power in the United States due to a failure of liberal and centrist institutions to appreciate the threat to democracy and human rights.

The complete right-wing network strategy was outlined by progressive, liberal, and even some conservative journalists and scholars starting in the late 1970s.

Here are the main components of how the Right took power:

  • National Think Tanks
  • State Policy Institutes
  • Training of young conservative journalists and scholars
  • Funding of strategic and tactical mass media
  • Funding of national and regional conferences where researchers, ideologues, activists, politicians, and funders could meet each other and develop tactical projects.
  • Funding of national and grassroots social movement activism and SMOs—designed to put pressure on the Republican Party to move it to the Right. (See Scholzman 2015)

This all followed the Powell Memo outline, but was built organically by numerous organizations and individuals over 20 years.

So let’s talk about progressive movement building.

Resources for Challenging the
Right-Wing Juggernaut

Social movements should pull politicians and political movements toward them. It should NEVER be the other way around.

The Obama campaign learned from decades of Democrats losing elections that with a strong infrastructure, lots of resources, a mass movement mobilization, and a clear vision, progressive campaigns can win. But as progressives who welcome an Obama Administration, we can’t rest on our laurels, because the nature of our democracy is a constant struggle over power. The Political Right in the United States has not vanished, they just lost one election. They are already planning their comeback.

The U.S. Human Rights Network observes, “human rights are protected through building social movements.” That has been the clear message of progressive social movements throughout U.S. history, and we should pause and recall some of our past victories and moments of strength:

  • The movement for the abolition of slavery in the 1800s
  • The struggle to gain the vote for women
  • The organized labor union movements of the early Twentieth Century
  • The Civil Rights Movement of the 1950s-1960s
  • The Student Rights Movement
  • The Women’s Movement of the 1960s-1970s
  • The Environmental Movement
  • The movement to secure equal rights for the LGBTQ community
  • The movement against globalizing corporate power.

Since the election of Ronald Reagan who took office in 1980 we have a practical demonstration that human rights can be undermined through building right-wing backlash counter-movements. The Christian Right is simply the largest movements in this network.

Central to the conservative plan was their understanding that social movements pull politicians and political movements toward them, not the other way around. Social movements are often involved in politics, but they step outside the limits of the electoral and legislative system to use other means ranging from demonstrations to civil disobedience and beyond.

Conservative strategists studied how the Labor Movement had yanked the Roosevelt Administration into crafting a social safety net in the 1930s. They studied how the Civil Rights movement had whacked the Democratic Party in the north into pulling away from the segregationist demands of the southern Democratic Party “Dixiecrats.” So conservatives decided to build a right-wing social movement to pull the Republican Party to the right. It worked.

Now we have a chance to put the country back on track toward progressive social change, but only if we have learned from history.

The Democratic Party is not democratic, and is not interested in progressive social change.

The Democracy Alliance raises funds secretly, won’t disclose to whom the funds go, and refuses to let journalists and scholars see the highly-touted Rob Stein PowerPoint that purports to explain how the right took power.  Why can’t we see the slideshow? What if the slideshow content is wrong?

Studying Social Movements

Starting in the 1970s, many sociologists rejected the idea that militant political and cultural activists were engaged in irrational collective behavior, and instead began studying social movements as collections of people with complaints who develop a plan to make the larger society respond to their needs. Since then there has been a tremendous number of studies on what it takes to build a strong social movement.

Chip Berlet: Social Movements Need an Infrastructure to Succeed

 Jean Hardisty: My On-Again, Off-Again Romance With Liberalism

How the Right Took Power and the Failure of Liberal Infrastructures

Progressive Movement Building

Featured Allies & More Resources

Ted Cruz, the Christian Right, and Dominionism


“The Christian Right wants to take dominion,” noted sociologist Sara Diamond, but it also wants to work within “the existing political-economic system, at the same time.” The broader the Christian Right stretches as an electoral coalition, the more obvious it becomes that some of its key leaders want a theocracy rather than a democracy. According to  Diamond, “Largely through the impact of Rushdoony’s and North’s [Reconstructionist] writings,  the concept that Christians are Biblically mandated to ‘occupy’ all secular  institutions has become the central unifying ideology for the Christian Right.”

The Table of Contents is arranged in the order of a study guide

Author Chip Berlet,curator of Research for Progress, was co-editor of the Encyclopedia of Millennialism and Millennial Movements and a contributor to the Encyclopedia of Fundamentalism and the second edition of the Encyclopaedia Judaica. He has researched Right-wing movements for over 30 years, and written numerous scholarly and popular articles and book chapters.

Table of Contents

Current Discussion of Christian Dominion in the 2016 election

Several current articles have raised the issue of Ted Cruz and “Dominionism.” And also on the different types of Christianity being represented by various Republican candidates.

The articles:
John Fea, “Ted Cruz’s campaign is fueled by a dominionist vision for America” (COMMENTARY)

John Ward, “Rubio’s supporters are the future of evangelicalism. But will they vote?”

Warren Throckmorton, “John Fea on Ted Cruz’s Dominionism”

Still Misleading America About Thomas Jefferson
History News Network
by John Fea, 
February 7, 2016

Who is Larry Huch and What Does He Have to Do With Ted Cruz?
John Fea, February 6, 2016 

For evangelical voters, Rafael Cruz may be Ted’s best apostle
Jonathan Tilove, Austin American Statesman, July 31, 2015

Useful Reliable Background Information

Note that the information and analysis in this older articles may not represent the current views of the authros.

Michelle Goldberg

A Christian Plot for Domination?” Michelle Goldberg, 2001/08/14

Sarah Posner

The Christian right’s “dominionist” strategy, Sarah Posner, Salon, 2011 08/21

Frederick Clarkson

When Exemption is the Rule: The Religious Freedom Strategy of the Christian Right, Frederick Clarkson, Report, Political Research Associates, 2016/01/12

The Rise of Dominionism
2005/05/12, Frederick Clarkson, Report, Political Research Associates

Rachel Tabachnick

The Rise of Charismatic Dominionism

More on the Seven Mountains, comments provided by Rachel Tabachnick

The “Seven Mountains” concept is like a simplified and condensed version of the Worldview Documents of the Coalition on Revival. Several leading New Apostolic Reformation apostles were involved in the Coalition on Revival including C. Peter Wagner and Dennis Peacocke.

The Seven Mountains campaign was launched 2006/2007 by New Apostolic Reformation Apostles Lance Wallnau and Os Hillman. It built on the foundations of the internationally-promoted “Transformations” series of movies which facilitated the teaching of the New Apostolic Reformation’s version of spiritual warfare and spiritual mapping.

The launching of the 7 Mountains campaign included a movie and other media materials with the claim that a divine mandate had been given simultaneously in 1975 to Bill Bright and Loren Cunningham and revealed to Francis Schaeffer a few months later.

The movies and subsequent “Transformation” organizations around the world have been instrumental in shifting emphasis from saving souls to “taking territory.”

Since 2007 the 7 Mountains meme has spread far beyond the New Apostolic Reformation and its leadership. For example, it has been the focus of the National Day of Prayer and is the framework for organizations that are not explicitly New Apostolic Reformation.
This is Os Hillman’s site including version of 7 Mountains movie
Johnny Enlow wrote this widely used text on meaning of the7 Mountains.

Following the 2011 media exposure, Wallnau and Hillman hastily hosted and publicized interviews denying that their7 Mountains mandate is about “dominionism” and warning their audiences to use terms like “influence” when speaking in public. Behind the scenes they emphasize the need for stealth. Hillman warns in his book Change Agent, “Kingdom solutions sometimes need stealth solutions so that the secular world can accept them.”



Many articles on Dominionism and the Christian Right can be found on Talk to Action, especially by authors Rachel Tabachnick, Bruce Wilson, Frederick Clarkson, and Chip Berlet.


Background from within the
Dominionist Movements

“Let’s Take Dominion Now,” C. Peter Wagner

C. Peter Wagner, Dominion! How Kingdom Action Can Change the World

Following the brief period of mainstream press exposure in late summer and early fall of 2011, New Apostolic Reformation leaders tried to downplay what they meant by “dominion.” Most of the November 2011 issue of Charisma Magazine was dedicated to a response to the sudden media exposure, but after the spotlight was gone C. Peter Wagner wrote the following article:

“Why You Must Take Dominion Over Everything”


Criticism from within Christianity

Deception in the Church


Inside the Christian Right Dominionist Movement That’s Undermining Democracy

by Chip Berlet

Ted Cruz, Rick Perry, Michele Bachmann and Sarah Palin have all flirted with Christian Right Dominionism, but there’s lots of misinformation about just what that means.

Dominionists want to impose a form of Christian nationalism on the United States, a concept that was dismissed as eroding freedom and democracy by the founders of our country. Dominionism has become a major influence on the right-wing populist Tea Parties as Christian Right activists have flooded into the movement at the grassroots.

At the same time, legitimate questions have been raised about whether or not potential Republican presidential nominees Ted Cruz, Rick Perry, Michelle Bachmann, or Sarah Palin have moved from a generic form of Christian Right Dominionism toward the more totalitarian form know as Dominion Theology.

Clueless journalists and crafty Christian Right pundits have mocked the idea that Dominionism as a religiously motivated political tendency even exists. Scholars, however, have been writing about Dominionism for over a decade, some using the term directly, and others describing the tendency in other ways. Many articles on Dominionism can be found on Talk to Action, especially by authors Rachel Tabachnick, Bruce Wilson, Frederick Clarkson. Several of the authors who pioneered the discussion of Dominionism have written for the Public Eye Magazine.

Dominionism is a broad political impulse within the Christian Right in the United States. It comes in a variety of forms that author Fred Clarkson and I call soft and hard. Fred and I probably coined the term “Dominionism” back in the 1990s, but in any case we certainly were the primary researchers who organized its use among journalists and scholars.

Clarkson noted three characteristics that bridge both the hard and the soft kind of Dominionism.

  • Dominionists celebrate Christian nationalism, in that they believe the United States once was, and should again be, a Christian nation. In this way, they deny the Enlightenment roots of American democracy.
  • Dominionists promote religious supremacy, insofar as they generally do not respect the equality of other religions, or even other versions of Christianity.
  • Dominionists endorse theocratic visions, believing that the Ten Commandments, or “biblical law,” should be the foundation of American law, and that the U.S. Constitution should be seen as a vehicle for implementing Biblical principles.

At the apex of hard Dominionism is the religious dogma of Dominion Theology, with two major branches: Christian Reconstructionism and Kingdom Now theology. It is the latter’s influence on the theopolitical movement called the New Apostolic Reformation that has been linked in published reports to potential Republican presidential nominees Perry, Bachmann or Palin. All three of these right-wing political debutantes have flirted with Christian Right Dominionism, but how far they have danced toward the influence of hard-right Dominion Theology is in dispute. It would be nice if some “mainstream” journalists actually researched the question.

“While differing from Reconstructionism in many ways, Kingdom Now shares the belief that Christians have a mandate to take dominion over every area of life,” explains religion scholar Bruce Barron. And it is just this tendency that has spread through evangelical Protestantism, resulting in the emergence of “various brands of `dominionist’ thinkers in contemporary American evangelicalism,” according to Barron.

The most militant Dominion Theologists would silence dissenters and execute adulterers, homosexuals and recalcitrant children. No…seriously. OK, they would only be executed for repeated offenses, explain some defenders of Christian Reconstructionism. Even most Christian Right activists view the more militant Dominion Theologists as having really creepy ideas.

Much of the controversy over the issue of Dominionism is caused by writers who use the term carelessly, often conflating the broad term Dominionism with the narrow term Dominion Theology. Some on the Left have implied that every conservative Christian evangelical is part of the Christian Right political movement; and that everyone in the Christian Right is an active Dominionist. This is false. Some critics even state that the Christian Right is neofascist. Few serious scholars of fascism agree with that assessment, although several admit that if triggered by a traumatic societal event, any contemporary right-wing populist movement could descend into neofascism.

Advocates of Dominion Theology go beyond the democracy eroding theocracy of Dominionism into a totalitarian form of religious power called a “theonomy,” in which pluralistic democracy and religious tolerance are seen as a problem to be solved by godly men carrying out God’s will. Karen Armstrong calls Christian Reconstructionism “totalitarian” because it leaves “no room for any other view or policy, no democratic tolerance for rival parties, no individual freedom.” Matthew N. Lyons and I call Christian Reconstructionism a “new form of clerical fascist politics,” in our book Right-Wing Populism in America, because we see it echoing the religiously based clerical fascist movements that existed during World War II in countries including Romania and Hungary.

According to Fred Clarkson:

Reconstructionists believe that there are three main areas of governance: family government, church government, and civil government. Under God’s covenant, the nuclear family is the basic unit. The husband is the head of the family, and wife and children are “in submission” to him. In turn, the husband “submits” to Jesus and to God’s laws as detailed in the Old Testament. The church has its own ecclesiastical structure and governance. Civil government exists to implement God’s laws. All three institutions are under Biblical Law, the implementation of which is called “theonomy.”

Christian Reconstructionists believe that as more Christians adopt Dominion Theology, they will eventually convert the majority of Americans. Then the country will realize that the U.S. Constitution and Bill of Rights are merely codicils to Old Testament biblical law. Because they believe this is God’s will, they scoff at criticism that what they plan is a revolutionary overthrow of the existing system of government. Over the past 20 years the leading proponents of Reconstructionism have included founder Rousas John (R.J.) Rushdoony, Gary North, Greg Bahnsen, David Chilton, Gary DeMar, and Andrew Sandlin. Kingdom Now theology emerged from the Latter Rain Pentacostal movement and the concept of Spiritual Warfare against the literal demonic forces of Satan. It has been promoted by founder Earl Paulk as well as C. Peter Wagner, founder of the New Apostolic Reformation movement.

For many, President Obama and the Democratic Party are among these “demonic forces.” This has real world consequences.

In 2006 former Florida Secretary of State Katherine Harris told thousands of cheering Christian Right activists that beating the Democrats in the upcoming elections was a battle against “principalities and powers,” which many in the audience would hear as a Biblical reference to the struggle with the demonic agents of Satan. Harris (who played “ballot bowling” in Florida to elect George W. Bush in 2000) told the audience at the annual Values Voter Summit in Washington DC that she had studied religion in Switzerland with the godfather of the Christian Right, theologian Francis A. Schaeffer. Her speech there, which I witnessed and wrote about, qualifies her as a Dominionist.

In 2004 Ohio Secretary of State Kenneth Blackwell, another Dominionist, oversaw the election apparatus giving his favored candidate George W. Bush a boost into the Oval Office.

Religion scholar Bruce Barron explains that “unlike the Christian Right, Reconstructionism is not simply or primarily a political movement; it is first and foremost an educational movement fearlessly proclaiming an ideology of total world transformation.” According to sociologist Sara Diamond, Christian Reconstructionism spread the “concept that Christians are Biblically mandated to `occupy’ all secular institutions” to the extent that it became “the central unifying ideology for the Christian Right.”

William Martin is the author of the 1996 tome With God on Our Side, a companion volume to the PBS series of the same name (Martin and I were both advisers to the PBS series). Martin is a sociologist and professor of religion at Rice University, and he has been critical of the way some critics of the Christian Right have tossed around the terms “dominionism” and “theocracy.” According to Martin:

It is difficult to assess the influence of Reconstructionist thought with any accuracy. Because it is so genuinely radical, most leaders of the Religious Right are careful to distance themselves from it. At the same time, it clearly holds some appeal for many of them. One undoubtedly spoke for others when he confessed, `Though we hide their books under the bed, we read them just the same.’

Martin reveals that “several key leaders have acknowledged an intellectual debt to the theonomists.” The late Christian Right leaders Jerry Falwell and D. James Kennedy “endorsed Reconstructionist books” for example. Before he died in 2001, the founder of Christian Reconstuctionism, R. J. Rushdoony, appeared several times on Christian Right televangelist programs such as Pat Robertson’s 700 Club and the program hosted by D. James Kennedy.

“Pat Robertson makes frequent use of `dominion’ language,” says Martin. Robertson’s book, The Secret Kingdom, “has often been cited for its theonomy elements; and pluralists were made uncomfortable when, during his presidential campaign, he said he `would only bring Christians and Jews into the government,’ as well as when he later wrote, `There will never be world peace until God’s house and God’s people are given their rightful place of leadership at the top of the world.’ ”

Martin also pointed out that Jay Grimstead, who led the Coalition on Revival, “brought Reconstructionists together with more mainstream evangelicals.” According to Martin, Grimstead explained “`I don’t call myself [a Reconstructionist],” but “A lot of us are coming to realize that the Bible is God’s standard of morality…in all points of history…and for all societies, Christian and non-Christian alike….It so happens that Rushdoony, Bahnsen, and North understood that sooner.”

Then Grimstead added, “there are a lot of us floating around in Christian leadership–James Kennedy is one of them–who don’t go all the way with the theonomy thing, but who want to rebuild America based on the Bible.”

So let’s choose our language carefully, but let’s recognize that terms such as Dominionism and Theocracy, when used cautiously and carefully, are appropriate when describing troubling tendencies in the Christian Right that are helping push the current political scene toward confrontation and intolerance.

Oregon Patriot Standoff – 2016

See Also: Chip’s article for FAIR:
The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly – Media Study

More Resources Page for the Fairness and Accuracy Media Study <<<

Chronological List of Articles and Posts Jan. 1-4, 2016

More Background Resources

Welcome Readers from the Fairness and Accuracy in Media Study

Corrections to the FAIR article:
I should have caught my editing errors on my final reading. Apologies. Corrections online coming soonest.

>>>Paragraph shortened, originally was:

The DHS Report (2009) contained much reliable research, but the ACLU and other civil liberties groups protested it was flawed by a failure to make a distinction between ideology and rhetoric (which are protected by the First Amendment) and criminal acts. As as early as 2008 the ACLU (5/8/08)  was criticizing the Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs. The ACLU also collected a list of criticisms of the activities of DHS. These criticism are embedded in a controversy over the new rhetoric of political repression developed by the US government and its advisers with language such as “Violent Extremism,” and “Violent Radicalization” which falsely imply that radical ideas on the Left and Right lead inexorably to violent criminal acts.

>>> “starling should be “startling”

Be sure to read: “How Media Turned Right-Wing ‘Willing to Kill’ Extremists Into Peaceful ‘Rancher’s Rights Protesters’” by Ben Norton at FAIR.

The issue of the LDS church, W. Cleon Skoussen, the JBS, and Glenn Beck is complicated. A truly thoughtful analysis is from May 1, 2012 by Matthew Bowman: Utah: A Mormon Scholar Meets Latter-Day Libertarians. Please, before you send me or post messages that I don’t understand the issue, please read this essay by Bowman.

Wildfire Today-The timeline for the Oregon rancher-arsonists

Spencer Sunshine of Political Research Associates has been studying the right-wing backlash in Oregon for several months

David Edwards, Raw Story–Ammon Bundy: Armed militia is ‘a defense mechanism’ so we can ‘unwind’ federal ownership of land

Alan Pyke, Think Progress–What You Need To Know About The Current Militia Standoff In Oregon

Chip Berlet: ‘Trumping’ Democracy: Right-Wing Populism, Fascism, and the Case for Action

Doug Gilbert–U.S. Hard Right Being Bolstered by the Mainstream

Naomi Braine– Terror Network or Lone Wolf?
Disparate Legal Treatment of Muslims and the Radical Right

Eugene Robinson, Washington Post–

The Oregon standoff and America’s double standards on race and religion

Political Research Associates, Clinic Defense–
Those Who Demonize Are Morally Culpable

Reporters Guide-MN Law Library: Legal Theories of Sovereign Citizens, Common Law Courts, Patriots, Tax Protesters

Glenn Beck, an LDS (Mormon) convert is a major source of conspiracy theories about liberalism and the alleged plot to impose tyranny in America.

Search using:
“Glenn Beck” “John Birch Society” Mormon conspiracy
“Latter Day Saints” “Glenn Beck” conspiracy
Note that the LDS rejects the conspiracy theories peddled by Glenn Beck and some other Mormons.

And read this excellent article:

Background Resources

What is the Patriot Movement?

Bibliography for Serious Research on the US Patriot Movement

Trump, Right-wing Populism & Fascism

Theoretical Conversation on Fascism


Title of claimed conspiracy
  • Agenda 21
  • New World Order
  • United Nations
  • New Dark Ages
  • Illuminati
  • Protocols of the Elders of Zion
  • Clinton Administration

See also:

Patriots and Armed Militias: Battling the Feds & New World Order
From Chip Berlet and Matthew N. Lyons. 2000.
RightWing Populism in America: Too Close for Comfort. New York: Guilford Press.

Chip’s Obscure Online Articles:

Dances with Devils: Apocalyptic & Millennialist Themes
& Right Wing Scapegoating & Conspiracis

Toxic to Democracy:
Conspiracy Theories, Demonization, & Scapegoating

Collectivists, Communists, Labor Bosses, & Treason:
The Tea Parties as Right-Wing Populist Counter-Subversion Panic

And don’t be a cheapskate, buy spend a few bucks and buy a used copy of the book Matt Lyons and I wrote: Right-Wing Populism in America: Too Close for Comfort
$14.95 at Powell’s

    Racist White Nationalist Nativism
+ Christian Right Assaults on LGBTQ & Women’s Rights
+ Neo-Liberal “Free Market” Economic Class Warfare
+ Militarism & International Aggression
+ Right-Wing Populist Demagoguery
===Can Lead to=============================
Devolution of Democracy into Neofascism

{{ Build Multi-issue Grassroots Coalitions Now ! }}

Amnet Sample

In the late 1980s, this is what a computer
Bulletin Board System would look like
on your home compute screen which would
only display text, including numbers and
punctuation found on a teletypewriter

Captured 05/01/87



What you see on your computer screen when you call the BBS


Nulls, if needed, (0-9)? 0

Operating 24 hours -1200/300 baud

Sponsored by the National Lawyers Guild
Civil Liberties Committee

With cooperation from The Center for
Democratic Renewal (CDR) & The Fund for
Open Information & Accountability, Inc.
(FOIA, Inc.)

Chip Berlet – SYSOP (System Operator)

Contributing Editors:
Howard Katz – Ann Mari Buitrago
Mark Alphonso

NewsBase BBS Program (c) 1986, R. Gaikowski

Enter FIRST Name: chip
Enter LAST Name: berlet
Checking file…

Your PASSWORD: 123456

Is today’s date 05/01/87 ‘Y/N’ ?n

Enter today’s date as MM/DD/YY: 05/05/87
Logging name to disk…

You are caller number: 464

ŠUse CTL-S or S to PAUSE, CTL-K or K to END


– – – – – – – – – – – – – – 02/14/87
The new system is up on a
Xerox 820-II utilizing nearly
four-megabytes of a hard disk.
Text files not on the main menu
can be found on Drive A: in
User Areas 0-4. Password is “STAR”
– – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – –

Welcome to AMNET!

AMNET is a computer bulletin board
serving the movement for democratic
change in America by providing
information about civil liberties and
civil rights.

Thanks to:
Richard Gaikowski – NEWSBASE design
Alan Fenske – system design & testing
Irv Hoff – help with BYE.COM
Dennis Recla – original RBBS.COM

Please do not compromise this
system by leaving messages that are
not public, uploading copyrighted
material, engaging in any criminal
activity, or otherwise exposing us
to legal liability.

Thanks, enjoy your visit…

-=**:[ MAIN AMNET (NEWSBASE 2) MENU ]:**=-

Private Messages [password protected] EM – PRIVATE E-MAIL

Public Messages [no privacy – open to all] DE – DEBATE

Section Menus for Electronic Newsletter
System Commands
C – TO CP/M – MORE TEXT [upload/download files] / – OTHER COMMANDS

Type “BYE” to EXIT and Logoff [Disconnect]



1 Schoolbook Censorship Cases
2 CIA Secrecy and the Democratic Process
3 LaRouche: unravelling the Gordion Knot {ITT}
4 Jerry Falwell’s Christian Bill of Rights
5 Sanctuary Movement Converts Colonel
6 Reagan and the World Anti-Communist League

/ = Other commands | M = Main Menu



by Richard Criley [THIS IS A LONG FILE!] 2 Censorship in the Classroom – ACLU
3 Drug Testing – Rights of Employees – ACLU
4 COINTELPRO Revisited – Spying & Disruption
by Brian Glick [This is a long File!] 5 Even LaRouchies & Crazies Have Rights
6 Nationwide Police Spy Network Exposed in Chicago
7 List of Agencies in Police Spy Network
8 Visa Denials Equal Censorship – ACLU
9 Equal Rights After the Brown Decision – ACLU
10 The Constitution Coulkd Save Us From Our Worst Mistakes!
From Civil Liberties – ACLU (Reprinted from the New Yorker)

/ = Other commands | M = Main Menu

by Richard Criley [THIS IS A LONG FILE!]


Use CTL-S or S to PAUSE, CTL-K or K to END


by Richard Criley

Bill of Rights Foundation

“Congress shall make no law . . .

abridging the freedom of speech, or of

the press; or the right of the people

peaceably to assemble and to petition the

Government for a redress of grievances.”

First Amendment to the
U. S. Constitution (1)

We assume that the United States is dedicated to individual

freedoms; it’s part of our national identity.

But as individuals, we seldom appreciate our constitutional

freedoms until we are unjustly treated. An abusive police

officer, an unfair judge, an unresponsive tax auditor, or some

other person in a position of authority can vividly show us how

easily our rights can be trampled. Then we are outraged and want

to do something to defend our fragile freedoms.


What can we do? Our system of individual rights depends

Šupon their availability to {{{everyone}}}–including some people whose

beliefs we may not like. But if the constitutional rights of any

[story continues – edited here for space]

To read or enter public comments on this article PRESS ‘Y’ y

Sorry no comments have been entered for that file
To enter a comment press ‘E’

>> COMMENT FILE (E)nter,(R)ead,(S)can by title :e

Msg # will be 1

To (RETURN for ALL):
Subject: Informed Consent

Enter up to 40 lines of text (NO semicolons).
When finished, hit two RETURNs in a row.

1> One problem is the lack of serious education concerning
2> pluralism and democracy. How can we expect to defend democracy
3> when we don’t know what it is or what its enemies are like?

(S)ave (A)bort (C)ontinue (E)dit (L)ist
(D)elete or (I)sert line (or’?’for help): s
Updating Summary file, Next Message #, Active Messages, and Message file.



1 MONITOR – Newsletter of the
Center for Democratic Renewal (CDR)
2 CDR Statement
3 CDR Press Release
4 Lyndon LaRouche – Fascism in the 1980’s
by Chip Berlet
5 Racist Computer Networks
6 Racist and Anti-Semitic Farm Activism
by Lenny Zeskind – CDR
7 The White Racist Alliance in Illinois
by Midwest Research
8 Advice on How Right-Wing Fundamentalists
can Infiltrate the Political Process
Š – as disclosed by People for the American Way

/ = Other commands | M = Main Menu



1 Groups Researching or Organizing Against the Right Wing
by Midwest Research
2 Bugs, Wiretaps and Informers – an Overview
by Linda Lotz, American Friends Service Committee
3 Common Sense Security
by Sheila O’Donnell, Public Eye Network


4 Documentation and Instructions
5 Sample FBI Request Letter
6 Sample Federal Agency Request Letter
7 Sample Appeal of Denial or Deletions Letter
8 List of FBI Main & Field Office Addresses
9 List of Selected Federal Agency Address

10 Illinois Freedom of Information Act – Sample Letter
11 Chicago Open Records Executive Order – Sample Letter

/ = Other commands | M = Main Menu


>>PRIVATE E-MAIL BOARD<< Number of Active Entries: 2 Board's Last Entry Number: 17 ***COMMANDS USED*** E.) Enter message S.) Scan message by title R.) Read messages D.) Delete message F.) Feedback for Sysop /.) Other commands Š Hit RETURN for previous menu To Read more than one message at a time enter R;1+ or R;23+ to start reading messages from whichever number you want to start at. >>PRIVATE E-MAIL> R,S,D,E,/ or’?’:


>>DEBATE BOARD<< Number of Active Entries: 12 Board's Last Entry Number: 13 Last Entry You Read: 13 ***COMMANDS USED*** E.) Enter message S.) Scan message by title R.) Read messages D.) Delete message F.) Feedback for Sysop /.) Other commands Hit RETURN for previous menu To Read more than one message at a time enter R;1+ or R;23+ to start reading messages from whichever number you want to start at. >>DEBATE> R,S,D,E,/ or’?’: r;1

Use CTL-S or S to PAUSE, CTL-K or K to END

Msg #: 1
Date: 09/22/86
From: Allan Fenske


Message Number: ( 1- 13) to Read (RETURN to quit) : 2

Msg #: 2
Date: 10/23/86
From: Ben Masel
Re: #1

bravo. a couple weeks back thea cop shot a guy, handcuffe
d on the groumnd, for having picked 3 wid plants.
This was the day after ron and nacncy”s tv show.
Marijuana and anti-urine test rally we held on Wisc. ca
Capitol grounds has become an issue in governor”s race.
the republican challenger says we should never have been
allowed to hold it.
Why are they so sanctimonious when all their pals push
Virginia Hill, girlfriend of Buggsy Siegal, in autobiogr
aphy, refers to reagan introducing Siegal to “Unofficial
Mayor” of SF Chinatown, which link, i suspect , played
a part in SE Asia to USA Heroin traffic. (Koumintong mai
ntains an army in Golden triangle area of Burma which
dominates upstream end of eroin flow. Remember, Reagan
remained loyal to Koumintang long after Nixon “s trip
to Peking. And then there”s the Contras.

Message Number: ( 1- 13) to Read (RETURN to quit) : 3

Msg #: 3
Date: 11/26/86
From: David Orme
Re: Issues

What do you think that the other real issues are?

I agree that the cop shooting the guy while he was handcuffed
was not a good idea, but is that really a widespread issue
like the drugs we hear about at work, at school, and elsewhere?


Message Number: ( 1- 13) to Read (RETURN to quit) : 4

Msg #: 4
Date: 11/26/86
From: Ben Masel
Re: same

What is becoming widespread is the attitude that the au
thorities can do no wrong, so long as they are fifghting
the drug menace. Thus the reedom of Information act is
wiped as a rider in the drug package.
And the 4th amendment deserves a decent burial. (Anyone
know a stonecarver?)


COMMANDS used on this system:

NOTE: You can not re-enter the BBS from CP/M
You must redial to re-enter BBS

A>BYE <---To sign-off A>DIR <---To get a directory of the software on the drive A>DIR $L <---To list all files in all LIBRARY files on drive A>TYPE <---For Type menu A>KMD <---For KMD menu for uploads & downloads A>HELP <---For detailed instructions CHECKSUM PROTOCOL USERS NOTE: Most MS-DOS, PC-DOS and APPLE users use the Checksum file accuracy algorithm (Most CP/M folks use CRC). IF YOUR PROGRAM USES CHECKSUM RATHER THAN CRC PROTOCOL: The KMD commands to use to send NewsBase a file is KMD RC filename To have NewsBase send you a file the command is: KMD SC filename For MS-DOS user to send a file from within a library file KMD LC libraryname filename.ext NewsBase supports the Christensen, XMODEM & KMD protocols! Entering CP/M... Booting AMNET RCP/M... Type HELP for assistance Š Minutes left: 42 BYE .COM 8K | DIR .COM 8K | HELP .COM 8K | INDEX .COM 8K KMD .COM 16K | TYPE .COM 8K | USER .COM 8K | XMODEM .COM 8K >>> DRIVE:A USER:0 FILES:8 SPACE USED:72K (3288K FREE) <<< Maximum Directory entries: 512 of which 8 were found used and 504 left. A0>user 1


PRIBBS .005 16K | PRIDATAM.006 8K | PRIEND .009 8K | PRIINTRO.001 16K
PRILAWEN.004 8K | PRILIABL.003 8K | PRIORWEL.008 8K | PRIPRIV .002 16K
PRISURV .007 24K
>>> DRIVE:A USER:1 FILES:9 SPACE USED:112K (3288K FREE) <<< Maximum Directory entries: 512 of which 9 were found used and 503 left. A1>user 2


>>> DRIVE:A USER:2 FILES:3 SPACE USED:88K (3288K FREE) <<< Maximum Directory entries: 512 of which 3 were found used and 509 left. A2>user 3


>>> DRIVE:A USER:3 FILES:6 SPACE USED:56K (3288K FREE) <<< Maximum Directory entries: 512 of which 6 were found used and 506 left. A3>user 4


>>> DRIVE:A USER:4 FILES:3 SPACE USED:120K (3288K FREE) <<< Maximum Directory entries: 512 of which 4 were found used and 508 left. A4>user 0



Type “BYE” to say Goodbye and break connection with AMNET
Type “DIR” for sorted directory of files
Type “DIR A:” for sorted directory of files on Drive A:
Type “DIR A: $L for sorted directory of Library files (.LBR)
Type “DIR A: $A for sorted directory of files on all User areas

Type “USER 2” for changing to USER area 2
Public user areas are 0-4
Password for public user areas PW=STAR

Type “TYPE” for help in screen display of text files
Use this to capture ASCII text by modem
Type “KMD” for help in Uploading or Downloading
Use this for “XMODEM” type binary transfer

Sorry, you cannot return to the first AMNET menu from here….

A0>user 4


>>> DRIVE:A USER:4 FILES:3 SPACE USED:120K (3288K FREE) <<< Maximum Directory entries: 512 of which 4 were found used and 508 left. A4>type visa.txt

TYPEL v3.2 (c) ESKAY 05-23-84

by Susan Blank From: “CIVIL LIBERTIES”,
American Civil Liberties Union,
No. 357 Spring, 1986

In 1983, Nino Pasti, an Italian peace activist who had been a Senator and
NATO general, was invited to the United States to address an antinuclear
rally. Invoking the McCarran-Walter Immigration and Nationality Act, the U.S.
State Department refused Pasti a visa on the grounds that he was seeking to
enter the country to engage in activities that “would be prejudicial to its
interests or endanger its security.”

This spring the State Department’s assertion that it has the authority to
impose such a ban was significantly undercut. In a case brought by the ACLU,
a federal court of appeals ruled that Pasti and three other foreigners should

[story continues, edited for space]



Social Movements Need an Infrastructure to Succeed

by Chip Berlet

Adapted from an article that first appeared in Z Magazine (September 2005) and then Nonprofit Online News Journal (May 2006)
Gentle revisions in 2008 and 2015

Since I worked for over thirty years at a progressive think tank, Political Research Associates, the claim that progressive funders should help build a movement infrastructure is obviously self-serving, but that doesn’t make it inaccurate. Studies by the National Committee for Responsive Philanthropy have reached similar conclusions. I talked with folks at several other research groups that study the Political Right (those that haven’t gone under in recent years) and it seems we all have research tasks we would like to pursue, and research, monitoring, or training projects for which we have unsuccessfully sought funds.

Here is just one example. The Center for New Community has a Building Democracy initiative designed to counter “racism and other forms of bigotry through strategic research, community organizing, education and training. Its work to develop an anti-racist youth culture; its collaboration with human, civil, and immigrant rights organizations in response to anti-immigrant activity; and its release of nationally recognized research reports mark its recent advances to address these realities.” The Center would like to expand this work. It lacks the funds. In a similar way, more staff and resources could be put to good use at other groups such as the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force Policy Institute, Americans United for Separation of Church and State, and Political Research Associates.

Want another concrete example? Among the earliest progressive researchers who wrote books and articles about the rise of the Political Right were Sara Diamond, Russ Bellant, and Fred Clarkson. For a time Diamond wrote an excellent column about the Political Right for Z Magazine. In the long run, however, none of these three fine researchers and journalists could make a living doing what they did best. Compare them to Ann Coulter, Dinesh D’Souza, and the swarm of right-wing ideologues plucked fresh from college and generously financed with stipends, grants, and fellowships from conservative foundations.

Investigative reporter Bill Berkowitz has managed to continue to write about the Political Right, as have I, and there is a new crop of writers including Michelle Goldberg,  Esther Kaplan, Jeff Sharlet,  Sarah Posner, David Neiwert, Alex DiBranco, and others. But there still is no long-term consistent funding for progressive research on the many sectors of the U.S. Political Right.

Most liberal and left foundations will tell you up front that they don’t fund research, conferences, or media. That’s exactly what the Political Right funded to help build the infrastructure of their successful social movement. The staff of many progressive foundations privately will admit that they are well aware of this scenario, but they are not able to get foundation priorities and guidelines shifted to respond to the strategic and tactical challenges funded by the conservative infrastructure.

For 25 years the progressive movement for social change has been fed head first into a gigantic, well-funded, right-wing, ideological sausage-making machine, while foundations that consider themselves progressive are dispensing band-aids. If we figured out how to stop the machine, we wouldn’t need the band-aids.

Since we believe in progressive social change, then we must believe in the democratic process. Democracy is a process that involves several components, all of which are necessary, but none of which is sufficient. This is how it works.

Democracy is a process that assumes the majority of people, over time, given enough accurate information, the ability to participate in a free and open public debate, and can vote without intimidation, reach constructive decisions that benefit the whole of society, and preserve liberty, protect our freedoms, extend equality, and defend democracy itself.

Just days after the election of Barak Obama as President, we can see attempts to constrain his progressive agenda. A strong, diverse, democratically-run, vibrant progressive social movement is the best way to build support for turning the vision outlined in Obama’s uplifting rhetoric into a reality for all us.

Chip Berlet: Social Movements Need an Infrastructure to Succeed

 Jean Hardisty: My On-Again, Off-Again Romance With Liberalism

How the Right Took Power and the Failure of Liberal Infrastructures

Progressive Movement Building

Featured Allies & More Resources

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Roosevelt’s The Four Freedoms

“In the future days, which we seek to make secure, we look forward to a world founded upon four essential human freedoms.”

“The first is freedom of speech and expression–everywhere in the world.”

“The second is freedom of every person to worship God in his own way–everywhere in the world.”

“The third is freedom from want–which, translated into world terms, means economic understandings which will secure to every nation a healthy peacetime life for its inhabitants-everywhere in the world.”

“The fourth is freedom from fear–which, translated into world terms, means a world-wide reduction of armaments to such a point and in such a thorough fashion that no nation will be in a position to commit an act of physical aggression against any neighbor–anywhere in the world.”

“That is no vision of a distant millennium. It is a definite basis for a kind of world attainable in our own time and generation. That kind of world is the very antithesis of the so-called new order of tyranny which the dictators seek to create with the crash of a bomb.”

                                                   –President Franklin Delano Roosevelt,
January 6, 1941

Chip’s essay on Defending the Four Freedoms written after the right-wing terror attack on the Oklahoma City Federal Building

See also this excellent essay on the Four Freedoms:
“What We Can Learn From FDR”
by Harvey J. Kaye
April 10, 2014

Trump’s Demagoguery Threatens Democracy Itself

Now is the time for blunt talk. Donald Trump is a dangerous demagogue generating “scripted violence.” Trumpism threatens not just the First Amendment but democracy itself. I call him a right-wing populist using fascistic rhetoric to target scapegoated groups. Other journalists and scholars have dubbed him a fascist or a totalitarian. But we all smell the stench of the burning bodies.

So let us have our terminological debates, but setting aside all intellectual disagreements, as citizens of an increasingly unfree society, we must stand up and speak out.The First Amendment guarantees the free exercise of religion, and that includes the right to call religion ridiculous. It protects devout Roman Catholics and those in the church of the Flying Spaghetti Monster–even those who sometimes wear colanders as hats. At Talk to Action, where this essay was first posted, we are nonpartisan, welcome respectful contributions discussing human, civil, and constitutional rights, and find debates between theists and atheists annoying (no trolls blasting either are allowed). Democracy is what we cherish…and it is in trouble.

Some early studies of prejudice, demonization, and scapegoating treated the processes as marginal to “mainstream” society and an indication of an individual pathological psychological disturbance. More recent social science demonstrates that demonization is a habit found across various sectors of society among people who are no more prone to mental illness than the rest of society.Philosopher Hannah Arendt taught us that ordinary people can become willing–even eager–participants in brutality and mass murder justified by demonization of scapegoated groups in a society

Lawrence L. Langer raises this as a troubling issue regarding the Nazi genocide:

“The widespread absence of remorse among the accused in postwar trials indicates that we may need…to accept the possibility of a regimen of behavior that simply dismisses conscience as an operative moral factor. The notion of the power to kill, or to authorize killing of others, as a personally fulfilling activity is not appealing to our civilized sensibilities; even more threatening is the idea that this is not necessarily a pathological condition, but an expression of impulses as native to ourselves as love and compassion.”

A troubling concept–that some of us who helped jumpstart this website have discussed for decades–is that when most people in a society realize that a fascist movement might actually seize state power, it is too late to stop it. So let us act now: as Republicans, Democrats, Independents and the folks who think voting just encourages a corrupt system. As people of faith, the spiritual, the agnostic, and those who think that God is Dead because she doesn’t exist. We are all in the same lifeboat here. Grab an oar.

Facing History and Ourselves reminds us of the “Fragility of Democracy” in a series of essays by Professor Paul Bookbinder, an international expert on the Weimar Republic in Germany in the period just before that nation collapsed into the inferno of Nazi rule and genocide. No, we do not face a crisis like that faced by the German people in the 1920s and 1930s. Yet as Bookbinder observes, there were moments when Hitler’s thugs could have been stopped.

In her small yet powerful book, Eichmann in Jerusalem, Arendt concluded that evil was banal, and that if there was one clear universal truth, it is that ordinary people have a moral obligation to not look away from individual or institutional acts of cruelty or oppression. We recognize the processes that lead from words to violence, they are well-studied, and the theories and proofs are readily available. Silence is consent. Denial is complicity with evil.

What is Democracy?

What is Democracy?

Democracy is an ongoing struggle,
not a specific set of institutions.

Democracy is a process that assumes
the majority of a free and equal people,
over time:

  • given an education that inspires curiosity,
  • have access to accurate information,
  • participate in free, open, public debates,
  • and can vote without intimidation,

Reach constructive decisions
that benefit the whole of society, and:

  • preserve liberty,
  • protect our freedoms,
  • extend equality;

and thus, defend democracy itself.

-Chip Berlet