Saturday, February 3, 2018

Lifton's "Cult Formation" (1981) with Commentary

Cult Formation

Robert J. Lifton, M.D.
John Jay College

The Harvard Mental Health Letter
Volume 7, Number 8, February 1981


Cults represent one aspect of a worldwide epidemic of ideological totalism, or fundamentalism.  They tend to be associated with a charismatic leader, thought reform, and exploitation of members.  Among the methods of thought reform commonly used by cults are milieu control, mystical manipulation, the demand for purity, a cult of confession, sacred science, loading the language, doctrine over person, and dispensing of existence.  The current historical context of dislocation from organizing symbolic structures, decaying belief systems concerning religion, authority, marriage, family, and death, and a "protean style" of continuous psychological experimentation with the self is conducive to the growth of cults.  The use of coercion, as in certain forms of "deprogramming," to deal with the restrictions of individual liberty associated with cults is inconsistent with the civil rights tradition.  Yet legal intervention may be indicated when specific laws are broken.
Two main concerns should inform our moral and psychological perspective on cults: the dangers of ideological totalism, or what I would also call fundamentalism; and the need to protect civil liberties.

There is now a worldwide epidemic of totalism and fundamentalism in forms that are political, religious or both. Fundamentalism is a particular danger in this age of nuclear weapons, because it often includes a theology of Armageddon--a final battle between good and evil. I have studied Chinese thought reform in the 1950s as well as related practices in McCarthyite American politics and in certain training and educational programs. I have also examined these issues in work with Vietnam veterans, who often movingly rejected war related totalism; and more recently in a study of the psychology of Nazi doctors.

Certain psychological themes which recur in these various historical contexts also arise in the study of cults. Cults can be identified by three characteristics:

1) a charismatic leader who increasingly becomes an object of worship as the general principles that may have originally sustained the group lose their power;

2) a process I call coercive persuasion or thought reform;

3) economic, sexual, and other exploitation of group members by the leader and the ruling coterie.

Milieu Control

The first method characteristically used by ideological totalism is milieu control: the control of all communication within a given environment. In such an environment individual autonomy becomes a threat to the group. There is an attempt to manage an individual's inner communication. Milieu control is maintained and expressed by intense group process, continuous psychological pressure [a hallmark of the large group awareness trainings that began with EckankarMind Dynamics, est, Silva Mind Control and Lifespring in the late 1960s and early 1970s], and isolation by geographical distance, unavailability of transportation, or even physical restraint. Often the group creates an increasingly intense sequence of events such as seminars, lectures and encounters which makes leaving extremely difficult, both physically and psychologically. Intense milieu control can contribute to a dramatic change of identity which I call doubling: the formation of a second self which lives side by side with the former one, often for a considerable time. When the milieu control is lifted, elements of the earlier self may be reasserted.

Creating a Pawn

A second characteristic of totalistic environments is mystical manipulation or planned spontaneity. This is a systematic process through which the leadership can create in cult members what I call the psychology of the pawn. The process is managed so that it appears to arise spontaneously; to its objects it rarely feels like manipulation. Religious techniques such as fasting, chanting [more typical of the southern Asian style cults like ISKCON, OSHO and TMand limited sleep are used. 

Manipulation may take on a special intense quality in a cult for which a particular chosen human being is the only source of salvation. The person of the leader may attract members to the cult, but can also be a source of disillusionment. If members of the Unification Church, for example, come to believe that Sun Myung Moon, its founder, is associated with the Korean Central Intelligence Agency, they may lose their faith. Mystical manipulation may also legitimate deception of outsiders, as in the "heavenly deception" of the Unification Church and analogous practices in other cult environments. Anyone who has not seen the light and therefore lives in the realm of evil can be justifiably deceived for a higher purpose. For instance, collectors of funds may be advised to deny their affiliation with a cult that has a dubious public reputation.

Purity and Confession

Two other features of totalism are a demand for purity and a cult of confession. The demand for purity is a call for radical separation of good and evil [or "false dilemma," a.k.a. "dichotomizing" or "either/or thinking"] within the environment and within oneself. Purification is a continuing process, often institutionalized in the cult of confession, which enforces conformity through guilt and shame evoked by mutual criticism and self-criticism in small groups.

Confessions contain varying mixtures of revelation and concealment. As Albert Camus observed, "Authors of confessions write especially to avoid confession, to tell nothing of what they know." Young cult members confessing the sins of their pre-cultic lives may leave out ideas and feelings that they are not aware of or reluctant to discuss, including a continuing identification with their prior existence. Repetitious confession, especially in required meetings, often expresses an arrogance in the name of humility. As Camus wrote: "I practice the profession of penitence to be able to end up as a judge," and, "The more I accuse myself, the more I have a right to judge you."

[Public confession was widely utilized by the most powerful cult ever, the Communist Party of China under Mao Zedong. Leaders as high as Zhou Enlai, for over 40 years Mao's second in command, were compelled to compose and present lengthy mea culpas in party congress sessions, some of which took several hours to deliver. The purpose of such confessions was to assure that no one ever developed such standing in the Party that he might challenge the authority of the unquestionable leader.]

Three further aspects of ideological totalism are "sacred science," "loading of the language," and the principle of "doctrine over person." [Again citing the example of China under Mao, the entire country was plunged into a decade-long reign of terror (for the sake of ideological "purification") called the "Cultural Revolution." Mao's objective was to destroy all possible threats to his power by distributing small red books of "Mao Thought" which were to be read a quoted on demand by all members of the party. The upshot was a "purity of ideology" that undermined the pragmatic provincial leadership so thoroughly that "states rights," so to speak, were destroyed and Mao's central authority in Beijing was enhanced.] Sacred science is important because a claim of being scientific is often needed to gain plausibility and influence in the modern age. The Unification Church is one example of a contemporary tendency to combine dogmatic religious principles with a claim to special scientific knowledge of human behavior and psychology. 

The term "loading the language" refers to literalism and a tendency to deify [or sanctify and "make sacred"] words or images. A simplified, cliche-ridden language can exert enormous psychological force reducing every issue in a complicated life to a single set of slogans that are said to embody the truth as a totality. [While I don't think I have ever seen a cult that did not load language, sanctify phrases and images, and reduce "truth" to memes and cliches, the human potential movement cults (e.g.: Scientology, the multi-level marketing cults like Amway and Herbalife, and most of the LGATs) elevated language loading to a science. To become a member of the Sea Org, one literally had to learn scores of demi-militaristic code words understandable only by other Sea Org members.] 

The principle of "doctrine over person" is invoked when cult members sense a conflict between what they are experiencing and what dogma says they should experience. The internalized message of the totalistic environment is that one must negate that personal experience on behalf of the truth of the dogma. [From the standpoint of cognitive-behavioral psychology, the negation of personal experience in favor of instructed belief is the most fundamental cause of anxiety, depression, neurosis and psychosis. In the limited and enclosed universe of the hyper-codependent cult, however, instructed belief may be more acceptable owing to the existence of "groupthink" and "social proof."] Contradictions become associated with guilt: doubt indicates one's own deficiency or evil.

Perhaps the most significant characteristic of totalistic movements is what I call "dispensing of existence." Those who have not seen the light and embraced the truth are wedded to evil, tainted, and therefore in some sense, usually metaphorical, lack the right to exist. That is one reason why a cult member threatened with being cast into outer darkness may experience a fear of extinction or collapse. Under particularly malignant conditions, the dispensing of existence is taken literally; in the Soviet Union, Nazi Germany, and elsewhere, people were put to death for alleged doctrinal shortcomings. In the People's Temple mass suicide-murder in Guyana, a cult leader presided over the literal dispensing of existence by means of a suicidal mystique he himself had made a central theme in the group's ideology. The totalistic impulse to draw a sharp line between those who have the right to live and those who do not is especially dangerous in the nuclear age. 

[Few of the cults I have examined in detail other than the People's Temple, Heaven's Gate and the Branch Davidians of Waco, Texas, have managed to dispense existence as effectively -- and none for as long -- as the Church of Scientology. One has only to read Lawrence Wright's and Jeanna Miscavige Hill's books -- and the Los Angeles Times series on the CoS facility in San Jacinto, California -- to grasp how "functionally" Hubbard's and David Miscavige's pyramids of intimidation worked to enslave hundreds of Sea Org members for as long as a half century.] 

Historical Context

Totalism should always be considered within a specific historical context. A significant feature of contemporary life is the historical (or psycho historical) dislocation resulting from a loss of the symbolic structures that organize ritual transitions in the life cycle, and a decay of belief systems concerning religion, authority, marriage, family, and death. One function of cults is to provide a group initiation rite for the transition to early adult life, and the formation of an adult identity outside the family. Cult members have good reasons for seeing attempts by the larger culture to make such provisions as hypocritical or confused. 

[An entire school of sociology called "social constructivism" is dedicated to the construction and de-construction of society in general and subcultures in particular on the basis of ideological conditioning, values programming, belief indoctrination, socialization, normalization and institutionalization. For those who wish to pursue this fascinating -- if sometimes rather dry -- concept further, one can look into Berger & Luckman or Gergen (and all the social constructivists they cite)... OR... one can look into Berreby, Burrow, Cialdini, Cooley, Durkheim, Ellul, Ewen, Fromm, Henry, Hoffer, Hook, Horkheimer, Kauffman, Lears, LeBon, Lerner, Lippman, Marx, McDougall, McLuhan, Miles, Milgram, Mills, Neumann, Parsons, Postman, Rokeach, H. Smith, Swanberg, Trotter, Tye, Walter, Weber, and Woodward & Denton in the Realpolitik Library for far more entertaining and enlightening examples of how it's actually done.]

In providing substitute symbols for young people, cults are both radical and reactionary. They are radical because they suggest rude questions about middle-class family life and American political and religious values in general. ["Radical," however, is a relative term: Radical vs. what? American political and religious values were considerably more moderate in Lifton's time. Thirty-seven years later, the average American is a regular consumer of alcoholic beverages and at least an occasional user of recreational drugs. He or she is almost half again as likely to be single or divorced, publicly identified in the LGBT spectrum or the Libertarian takeover of the Republican Party. A third or more of the working class of 1981 is now either upper middle class or welfare poor... and either not affiliated with any religion or affiliated with a non-traditional religion of other "spiritual" practice.] 

They are reactionary because they revive pre-modern structures of authority and sometimes establish fascist patterns of internal organization. Furthermore, in their assault on autonomy and self-definition some cults reject a liberating historical process that has evolved with great struggle and pain in the West since the Renaissance. Cults must be considered individually in making such judgments. Historical dislocation is one source of what I call the "protean style." This involves a continuous psychological experimentation with the self, a capacity for endorsing contradictory ideas at the same time, and a tendency to change one's ideas, companions and way of life with relative ease.

The imagery of extinction derived from the contemporary threat of nuclear war influences patterns of totalism and fundamentalism throughout the world. Nuclear war threatens human continuity itself and impairs the [traditional, Judeo-Christian] symbols of immortality. Cults seize upon this threat to provide immortalizing principles of their own. The cult environment supplies a continuous opportunity for the experience of transcendence -- a mode of symbolic immortality generally suppressed in advanced industrial society. [An aspect of "traditional" society easily (and sometime rather accurately) critiqued in dystopic fashion by many -- not all -- cults and presented as stressful and damaging to human potential. Transcendence of Tart's "consensus consciousness" (or more perjoratively, "consensus trance") is a good example of the zeitgeist here, though I have never seen a cult provide nearly so complete a rendering of cultural constructivism... and for seemingly good reason: Were such as Tart's model to be fully revealed to the lower levels of the cultic pyramid, the cult itself would be in jeopardy.]

Role of Psychology

Cults raise serious psychological concerns, and there is a place for psychologists and psychiatrists in understanding and treating cult members. But our powers as mental health professionals are limited, so we should exercise restraint. When helping a young person confused about a cult situation, it is important to maintain a personal therapeutic contract so that one is not working for the cult or for the parents. Totalism begets totalism. What is called deprogramming includes a continuum from intense dialogue on the one hand to physical coercion and kidnapping [which was, in fact the case in the Ted Patrick era when this piece was written], with thought-reform-like techniques, on the other. 

My own position, which I have repeatedly conveyed to parents and others who consult me, is to oppose coercion at either end of the cult process. Cults are primarily a social and cultural rather than a psychiatric or legal problem. But psychological professionals can make important contributions to the public education crucial for dealing with the problem. With greater knowledge about them, people are less susceptible to deception, and for that reason some cults have been finding it more difficult to recruit members.

Yet painful moral dilemmas remain. When laws are violated through fraud or specific harm to recruits, legal intervention is clearly indicated. But what about situations in which behavior is virtually automatized, language reduced to rote and cliche, yet the cult member expresses a certain satisfaction or even happiness? We must continue to seek ways to encourage a social commitment to individual autonomy and avoid coercion and violence.

Related Articles

Intervention & Deprogramming (in the comments on this Reddit thread) 


Peter L. Berger & Thomas Luckman: The Social Construction of Reality: A Treatise in the Sociology of Knowledge; New York: Doubleday, 1966.

Gao Wenqien: Zhou Enlai: The Last Perfect Revolutionary; New York: Perseus Books, 2007.

Kenneth Gergen: An Invitation to Social Construction; London: Sage, 1999. 

Jenna Miscavige (Hill), Lisa Pulitzer: Beyond Belief: My Secret Life inside Scientology and My Harrowing Escape; New York: Morrow / HarperCollins, 2013.

Lawrence Wright: Going Clear: Scientology, Hollywood, & the Prison of Belief; Alfred A. Knopf, 2013.

Friday, February 2, 2018

Compensatory Lying and Mis-re-present-ation

There's lying. There's lying. And there's lying.
I say that because misrepresentation (mis-re-present-ation) of the facts is always a result of the context in which it is originally done. Children may learn to lie at a very early age because telling the truth is not rewarded with kindness; it is persecuted and punished
Moreover, it is often done under threat of, or during, physical abuse or other harm... including complex combinations of invalidating the child's reality, or being discounted, disclaimed, rejected, invalidated, confused, betrayed, insulted, criticized, judged, blamed, embarrassed, humiliated, ridiculed, denigrated, derogated, victimized, demonized, persecuted, picked on, dumped on, bullied, gaslighted, and/or scapegoated.
When that is repeatedly the case, the child's memories of both the abuse and his response to it are conditionedsocialized and normalized into the brain's default mode network. Done enough times, the conditioning is habituated by becoming a neural network; a physical actuality that will remain in existence unless or until the abuse ends, and there is no longer a need to re-run the neural firing pattern.
Sadly, in children who were the victims of such abuse as described, the neural wiring I have described develops so much density via alternative networking over time... that it becomes a relatively permanent "fixture" in the brain. And -- just like an amygdala or a hippocampus (which are in fact parts of such neural networks) -- every bit as much a fixed "part" of the brain as those two subcomponents. And those neural circuits will fire off and produce behavior whenever the amygdala and hippocampus sense that the past is being re-present-ed.
Theoretically, at least, all forms of behavior can be de-conditioned with the techniques of classical and/or operant re-conditioning. This is done by specialists in "behavior modification." But when the original conditioning is repeated in a substantial number of slightly different contexts, the neural circuitry that produces the (later undesired) response becomes so dense with alternative channeling that the de-conditioning process may be almost impossibly complex.
When that is the case, the de-conditioning behavior modification will very often have to be done in conjunction with the use of dopamine-channel-blocking, neuroleptic medications at low to moderate dose levels vs. the much higher dosages used for schizophrenia and other forms of psychosis.
Additionally, the treatment team may need to enlist the patient in exposure-based reduction of the emotional energy associated with the repeated, original trauma (see section 7c in this post on Reddit's CPTSD sub). But even then, the neural circuits may just be too dense and alternative to get a "100% perfect" result.
Finally: Shame, guilt, worry, remorse, regret and morbid reflection all play a big part in any addictive process cycle including compulsive misrepresentation. When that is the case,
. . . 1) the habitual liar's entire cognitive schema has to be addressed, definitely including embedded, conditioned beliefs he has about the sources of threat and other triggers that cause the amygdala, hippocampus and default mode network to fire off, and
. . . 2) those stored emotions and sensations as they are related to the original trauma in most or all of the specific contexts will have to be accessed and "bled off."

Wednesday, January 17, 2018

Toward Skills-Training + Modern Exposure Therapies in Unified Algorithms

Someone wrote... "Exposure therapy for trauma is basically bad science." I answered thus (see below in dark red), but would like to expand more on the topic of a unified approach to trauma treatment that combines psychoeducational, psychodynamic, cognitive, behavioral, mindfulness and "affect digestion" components.
While I usually agree with your posts -- and would have agreed with this one in about 2010 -- I have to take issue with it now. Albeit in stages.
Edna Foa's techniques actually did (and still do) work when the the therapist has adequately prepared to patient to manage the affects that come up with, say, Mindfulness-Based Cognitive Therapy (MBCT), Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT, the long-time gold standard for severe anxiety symptom management), Acceptance & Commitment Therapy (ACT), Mind-Body Bridging Therapy (MBBT), and Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) skills training.
That said, such prep followed by "old school" ET is a longer way around the barn than is needed for somepatients. I, too, like (actually lovePat Ogden's SP4T, as you probably know. But I know I would not have been able to do it without developing the 10 StEPs on the heels of utilizing what I picked up from vipassana meditationREBT and those skills therapies.
My sense (in no small part owning to what I pick up in the Evolution of Psychotherapy conferences) is that the profession is still in the process of moving from
1) "old school," behavior-mod ETs like Foa's through
2) more modern (and "compassionate") approaches like Eye-Movement Desensitization & Reprocessing (EMDR), Narrative Exposure Therapy (NET), Internal Family Systems Therapy (IFST), Trauma Focused Therapy (TFT), Hakomi Body Centered Psychotherapy (HBCP), Somatic Experiencing Psychotherapy (SEPt), Sensorimotor Processing for Trauma (SP4T), and the Neuro-Affective Relational Model (NARM) to
3) use of those therapies after skills training "pre-therapies," towards
4) "unified field" approaches that algorithmically deal with each unique patient by combining the skills training, CBT and newer, affect-processing, exposure therapies in ways that are affordable (via economies of scale like group participation and workbooks) as well as ethical, compassionate and effective.
Patients do have to process and digest the energy of their lingering emotions. That is a Fact. But we can deliver the means of processing in more skillful, appropriate and cost-effective ways... so that the patients can process their affects when they encounter them out there in the real world, instead of just in the therapy room. And will be increasingly doing so in the next few years as the therapies of the moment become components of the unified approaches of the near future.

My cogitations are rather preliminary at this stage -- and, I expect -- well behind the curve of others in the Evolution of Psychotherapy crowd who have already gone further up the hill on this than I have. But, if for no other reason that organize my own thoughts, the following began to percolate some time back:

Would we accomplish more for those who suffer from complex trauma by moving such patients into... 

1) medication and 

2) skills training for distress tolerance and emotion regulation as the first order of business, followed by 

3) critical thinking approaches like REBT, schema therapy and/or collegiate critical thinking more or less concurrently with 

4) simplified, psychodynamic psychoeducation on trauma theory as Janet, Herman, van der Hart, Briere, Kurtz, Courtois, van der Kolk, Walker, et al have developed it over a century, and then move pts with EMDR-resistant complexes into the 

5) best components of the modern exposure therapies like Narrative Exposure Therapy (NET), Internal Family Systems Therapy (IFST), Trauma Focused Therapy (TFT), Hakomi Body Centered Psychotherapy (HBCP), Somatic Experiencing Psychotherapy (SEPt), Sensorimotor Processing for Trauma (SP4T), and the Neuro-Affective Relational Model (NARM)?

I see programs fairly much like this in some of the better (and more expensive) residential treatment systems now. But isn't it possible to utilize these components in an algorithmic, manualized fashion in much less-expensive, partial day programs that takes into account... 

1) each patient's easily observable levels of treatability (as, say, measured by Prochaska & DiClemente's five stages of recovery and Kubler-Ross's five stage of grief processing, along with other instruments) vis their ego strength and psychological-mindedness at any given time, 

2) as well as cost-effectiveness via group (or "class") cohort skills training via 

. . . a) contemporaneous homework in workbooks followed by group discussion there of, 

. . . b) psychodynamic psychoeducation segmentally adjusted to each patient's cognitive and affect management capacities at any given time, and

. . . c) one-on-one or very small cohort utilization of the modern exposure therapy (or therapies) best suited to each client's strengths and observed orientations?

I do understand that to segment each component (of the five listed above) into even just "lower-functioning" vs. "higher-functioning" cohorts would require patient populations of two or three dozen at the outset to provide the "critical mass" necessary for effective group conditioning, socialization and normalization, as well as a combination of sufficiently educated and experienced, regular and contract-employed staff that would be about a dozen at minimum. 

In whatever event, I understand that this is just thinking out loud that may be reinventing wheels others have already bolted onto very fast cars. 

References my be found here

Saturday, January 13, 2018

Abuse of Narrow Focus Meditation for Mind Control

I was monitoring a conversation between a TM practitioner and another person on a reddit thread the last couple of days, when the other person asked me, "Would you mind helping me explain why and how meditation can exacerbate the effects of the mental abuse and manipulation?" Inasmuch as the context of the "debate" was about TM, I answered thus, which may be of interest to others here who want to understand the dynamics of cult manipulations.

TM is a narrow focus meditation done with a repeated mantrum solely on the aural sensory channel. This is diametrically opposed to an open-awareness meditation (like Vipassana) that usually begins with paying attention to the breath, but then expands to paying attention to the entire body on any or all sensory channels, including whatever the mind has to say about the sensory experience. The awareness, however, is *outside* the paradigm (i.e. "frame" or "box") of that commentary.
Because the former is PoF, it cancels out incoming awareness of stimuli on other channels, as well as any consideration of or commentary about such stimuli. Which makes it the perfect vehicle for setting up its practitioners to train the subject to focus solely on what the guru or leader is saying.
If commentary on cults going back to Jesus's time is accurate, PoF has been abused by gurus for several millennia. Exiters of several ostensibly "Hindu" and "Buddhist" cults (including ISKCON and OSHO), as well as some of the "human potential" cults (including CoS, SMC, Ekankar and est), told me that they were subjected to increasingly more abusive "harrangues" and "verbal abuse" as they moved up the levels of the pyramid toward more loyal, "responsible," authoritarian, guru-replicant levels.
None of them understood what was going on. But it became clear to me as a Watson-, Skinner- and Bandura-trained, "behavior modification" psychotherapist that they were being subjected to a far more efficient, effective and cynical version of what used to be called "sensitivity training" in police academies, "management-by-intimidation training" in radical business management schools, and "instructional conditioning" in military officer candidate school. (Think "An Officer & A Gentleman.")
Thus, PoF meditation itself does not so much exacerbate the effects as it concentrates the mind's attention onto the "emotional blackmail" utilization of "FOG" -- or fearobligation & guilt -- as well as shame for failing to meet the guru's and peers' mandates, expectations and requirements. (The mandates, expectations and requirements are increasingly internalized into the superego's of the PoF meditation practitioner who is subjected to this type of behavior modification scheme.)
The true believing original poster here will now go to the list of pull-quotes he has been given (or has developed himself, IDK4S) to attempt to refute what I just wrote. He cannot do otherwise because his own mind has internalized the instructional conditioning via applied use of social constructivism. He is no longer free to react in any manner other than to defend what he has been animal-trained to believe without feeling discomfiting fear, failed obligation and intolerable guilt if he fails to do so.

Other Articles on Cult Dynamics

Intervention & Deprogramming (in the comments on this Reddit thread) 

Thursday, January 11, 2018

Erikson's Pathway Out of Kernberg's Hell

Erik Erikson is one of my absolute faves. Along with Otto Kernberg. In applying Otto's notion of "splitting" as the direct result of abuse and/or stress to each of Erik's stages, one comes to understand pretty much exactly what happens to those who are driven by abuse into borderline personality disorder (about which Kernberg was a leading expert). Many people with CPTSD do not "catch" BPD, but those who have survived severe child abuse without effective treatment for its results are an estimated five to six times as likely to meet the diagnostic criteria as are those who do not have severe abuse histories.

Because in those who have been severely abused (or neglected, ignored, abandoned, discounted, disclaimed, and rejected -- as well as invalidated, confused, betrayed, insulted, criticized, judged, blamed, embarrassed, humiliated, ridiculed, denigrated, derogated, victimized, demonized, persecuted, picked on, dumped on, bullied, scapegoated, and/or otherwise abused -- by others upon whom they depended for survival in early life), ...

1) Trust so often becomes split into too much and too little, or mis-trust and dis-trust, causing such people to be co-dependent here and alternately counter-dependent there; 

2) Autonomy so often becomes split into too much and too little, or hyper-detachment and over-attachment, causing some such abusees to slip into reactive attachment disorder in childhood and deepen their co- and counter-dependence in adulthood;

3) Initiative so often becomes split into too much and too little, or obsessive and compulsive behavior here vs. discouraged depression and lack of initiative there, often confusing the bejesus out of their parents, siblings, playmates and teachers;

4) Competence (which used to be called Industry) so often becomes split into an obsessive drive for -- and achievement of -- capacity and capability here vs. gross incompetence and proneness to making mistakes or even displaying intermittent explosive disorder symptoms when their initiative and drive for competence is frustrated;

5) Identity so often becomes split into fragments of, perhaps -- but not limited to -- "I am extremely capable and competent" here vs. "I am a totally helpless mess" there, or, "I am a sexy goddess everyone wants" here vs. "I am an ugly frump no one wants" there;

6) Intimacy so often becomes split into a dire need for connection driven by fear of being alone vs. an equally dire need to be detached and separate from others driven by an equally powerful fear of being abused;

7) Generativity so often becomes split into a hyper-disciplined obsession with career and achievement on one end of a polarity that includes "who gives a flying f--k about this stupid job" on the other; and...

8) Integrity so often becomes split into something a tortured, hyper-moralistic obsession with being "real" *here* vs. acquisition of dramatic, romantic, delusional, fantasy-steeped "alters" *there*.

Can all this splitting be reversed? In my view (after 30 years of working on the problem personally and with many others), only if Erikson's path of development is rebuilt from the bottom up.

Well. How is that accomplished? Precisely as Briere, Courtois, van der Kolk and Walker (as well as the authors of the books at the end of this reply) have all suggested: On a platform of skills for distress tolerance and emotion regulation like these those learned in Mindfulness-Based Cognitive Therapy (MBCT), Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT, the long-time gold standard for severe anxiety symptom management), Acceptance & Commitment Therapy (ACT), Mind-Body Bridging Therapy (MBBT), and/or Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR)... and Eye-Movement Desensitization & Reprocessing (EMDR), Narrative Exposure Therapy (NET), Internal Family Systems Therapy (IFST), Trauma Focused Therapy (TFT), Hakomi Body Centered Psychotherapy (HBCP), Somatic Experiencing Psychotherapy (SEPt), Sensorimotor Processing for Trauma (SP4T), and/or the Neuro-Affective Relational Model (NARM).

John Briere's Therapy for Adults Molested as Children: Beyond Survival;

Christine Courtois's It's Not You: It's What Happened to You: Complex Trauma and Treatment;

Laurence Heller's Healing Developmental Trauma: How Early Trauma Effects Self-Regulation, Self-Image, and the Capacity for Relationship;

Peter Levine's In An Unspoken Voice: How the Body Releases Trauma and Restores Goodness;

Patricia Ogden's Trauma and the Body: A Sensorimotor Approach to Psychotherapy;

Francine Shapiro's EMDR: The Breakthrough "Eye Movement" Therapy for Overcoming Anxiety, Stress, and Trauma;

Pete Walker's Complex PTSD: From Surviving to Thriving; and... 

Bessel Van der Kolk's The Body Keeps the Score: Brain, Mind, and Body in the Healing of Trauma.

Saturday, January 6, 2018

Realpolitik I

Theodor Adorno, Daniel Levinson, et al: The Authoritarian Personality: Studies in Prejudice; orig. pub, 1950, New York: W. W. Norton, 1993. Thesis: Most are simply followers who were conditioned, socialized and normalized in childhood by their parents, teachers and peers to go along to get along with those who seem to know... or have financial or political power over them.  

H. K. Ahn, H. J. Kim, P. Aggarwal: Helping Fellow Beings: Anthropomorphized Social Causes and the Role of Anticipatory Guilt, in Psychological Science, 2013; DOI:10.1177/0956797613496823 Peer-reviewed, journal-published, formal research (which is the case every time one sees "DOI" with a bunch of #s after it on this list) suggests that putting a human face on the campaign for a social cause increases statistically measured support for it.

Christopher Ailsby: The Third Reich Day by Day; New York: Chartwell Books, 2010. Because the Nazis were obsessive photographers, we are left with a unique pictorial record of the ascent of duplicitous "national socialism" that proved to be no such thing at all, but sounded good to the confused and desperate in the horrible Weimar era. All the usual subjects are illustrated, including Hindenburg, Hess, Rohm, Himmler, Goebbels, Heydrich, Speer, Braun and Goring. A fine, easy to read, basic primer of the Rise & Fall. 

Saul Alinsky: Reveille for Radicals; New York: Random House, 1946. " organizer inspired a generation of activists and politicians [with] the original handbook for social change." The manual for labor, racial, feminist, and environmental movement organizers for decades. Based largely on Vladimir Lenin's organizing principles. 

Robert Altemeyer: The Authoritarian Specter, Boston: Harvard University Press, 1996. Picked up where Adorno, Milgram and Miller left off decades earlier as the first of two books (see below) on the copious primary research the author did on the mechanisms of authoritarian influence and manipulation. 

Robert Altemeyer: The Authoritarians, Charleston, SC: Lulu, 2006.

Kevin Arceneaux & Ryan Vander Wielen: The Effects of Need for Cognition and Need for Affect on Partisan Evaluations, in the Journal of Political Psychology, Vol. 34, No, 1, February 2013. Neither a purely emotional nor a purely rational approach to rhetorical arguments can be counted upon to work. The forces of culture in general, and family interactions in particular, have conferred upon us all a requirement for both the rational and emotional.   

Hannah Arendt: The Origins of Totalitarianism (The Burden of Our Time), orig. pub. 1951, New York: Harcourt, Brace, Jovanovich, 1973. Thesis: The wealth-accumulating, authoritarian cynics (e.g. T. Roosevelt & Jan Smuts) used the myth of superior race &/or culture to fuel expansion, manifest destiny & imperialism.

Karen Armstrong: A History of God: The 4,000-Year Quest of Judaism, Christianity and Islam; New York: MJF Books, 1993. Abstruse at times to the point of numbing the reader's mind, Armstrong (one of the leading theological scholars ever) nevertheless clarifies the arguments for deities as both emotional stimulant and tranquilizers, as well as social constructivist, authoritarian inventions to organize clans, tribes and (ultimately) cultures for the sake of survival and/or expansion.    

Jan Ketil Arnulf, Kai Rune Larsen, et al: Predicting Survey Responses: How and Why Semantics Shape Survey Statistics on Organizational Behaviour, in PLoS ONE, September 2014; DOI:10.1371/journal.pone.0106361"The methods used for surveys are making it difficult to get at what's unique about an organization rather than what's embedded in general language." "...people naturally responded to surveys by selecting answer options that were similar in language to each other..."

Steven Arterburn & Jack Felton: Toxic Faith: Understanding and Overcoming Religious Addiction; Nashville: Oliver-Nelson, 1991. Coming from an inside-the-box-of-faith-and-belief, Christian perspective (similar to Martin's much earlier Kingdom of the Cults; see below), the authors nevertheless face the matter of obsessive "hyper-religiosity" relatively head-on. They approach it more from an addiction paradigm rather than a cult mind-control or thought reform frame, however.

Herbert Asbury: The Gangs of New York: An Informal History of the Underworld; Orig. Pub. 1929, New York: Random House Vintage, 2008. Rampant lawlessness in Manhattan through the 1800s, including the Civil War draft riots that killed and injured thousands in 1863. Future governor & president Teddy Roosevelt built a career as police commissioner in the 1890s when he led the charge that finally put the Tammany-supported gangs down.

S. E. Asch: Effects of Group Pressure upon the Modification and Distortion of Judgments; in H. Guetzkow (ed.): Groups, Leadership and Men; Pittsburgh: Carnegie Press, 1951. Thesis: Peer pressure crushes the independent ego in more authoritarian cult-ures.

Jan Assman: Moses the Egyptian: The Memory of Egypt in Western Monotheism; Cambridge, MA: Harvard U. Press, 1998. Speculatively (though with dense scholarship) connects the dots from Akhenaten's first blush (and soon hotly rejected and buried for centuries) monotheism to the "recovered" (from "repression?") Hebrew, Xtian and Islamic recreations of it. Goes way beyond Freud's speculations in his own Moses and Monotheism.

Jan Assman: The Price of Monotheism; Palo Alto, CA: Stanford U. Press, 2009. "The Hebrews in thrall to pagan idolatry are converted to monotheism by Moses, Paul converts Jews and gentiles to Christianity, Mohammed converts Jews, Christians, and infidels to Islam; and in all these situations of conversion the Mosaic distinction between true and false is reintroduced and tightened. The Mosaic distinction must constantly be drawn anew."

S. Atir, E. Rosenzweig, D. Dunning: When Knowledge Knows No Bounds: Self-Perceived Expertise Predicts Claims of Impossible Knowledge; in Psychological Science, 2015; DOI: 10.1177/0956797615588195 Those who believe they know more than they actually do are susceptible to fake data, which can be used by politicians to manipulate the behavior of pseudo-knowledgeable elected officials, their staffs, and voters.

Russ Baker: Family of Secrets: The Bush Dynasty…; New York: Bloomsbury Press, 2009. Traces family involvement with the Saudi royal family back to even before Prescott Bush's involvement with the OSS and CIA.

Aaron Beck: Prisoners of Hate: The Cognitive Basis of Anger, Hostility and Violence; New York: Harper-Collins, 1999. Thesis: Hate is conditioned by a combination of abuse and instructed belief, in no small part in categorical dualism.

Sharon Beder: Selling the Work Ethic: From Puritan Pulpit to Corporate PR; London: Zed Books, 2001. "...material affluence is accompanied by increasing levels of stress, insecurity, depression, crime, and addiction. The environment that life itself depends on is also being destroyed." 

Peter L. Berger & Thomas Luckman: The Social Construction of Reality: A Treatise in the Sociology of Knowledge; New York: Doubleday, 1966. Human beings rationalize their experience by creating re-presentational (as per McGilchrist) models of the social world, then reify these models through language to create the consensus trance (as per Tart) of "intersubjective reality." The seminal book on social constructivism.

Peter Berger: The Sacred Canopy: Elements of a Sociological Theory of Religion, New York: Doubleday, 1967. From a review: "...religion makes permanent the temporary, transcendentalizes the immanent, sacralizes the profane, and ensures a rational and law-based rather than chaotic reality."

Edward L. Bernays: Crystallizing Public Opinion; New York: Boni & Liveright, 1926. In which the author utilizes his Uncle Sigmund's psychoanalytic theories as the basis of mass influence via the popular media. See also Larry Tye below.

Jeremy Bernstein: Oppenheimer: Portrait of an Enigma, Chicago: Ivan R. Dee, 2004. One of several books on how the genius of both the manipulation of physics and the management of other egomaniacal geniuses who guaranteed that America would win WW2 became so shattered by witnessing the effects of his creation that he became a national security risk denied a security clearance. 

David Berreby: Us & Them: The Science of Identity; U. of Chicago Press, 2005. Thesis Our minds are conditioned and instructed to perceive the world on the conceptual basis of absolutistic, permanent, categorical dualism to the exclusion of seeing, hearing and otherwise sensing a universe in constant, evolving, plastic flux. 

Christina Binkley: Winner Takes All: Steve Wynn, Kirk Kerkorian, Gary Loveman, and the Race to Own Las Vegas; New York: Hyperion, 2008. Moves the epic forward into the '90s and early '00s. Best book on Kerkorian's acquisitions. 

Kai Bird: The Chairman: John McCloy & The Making of the American Establishment; New York: Simon & Schuster, 1992. The life & times of one of the most expert, capable and effective of the Cold Warriors.

Kai Bird & Martin Sherwin: American Promethius: The Triumph & Tragedy of J. Robert Oppenheimer; New York: Alfred Knopf, 2005. Similar to Bernstein's book above, though more artfully packaged. 

Jack & Jeanne Block: Nursery school personality and political orientation two decades later; Journal of Research in Personality, Vol. 40, 2006. "Preschool children who 20 years later were relatively liberal were characterized as: developing close relationships, self-reliant, energetic, somewhat dominating, relatively under-controlled, and resilient. Preschool children subsequently relatively conservative at age 23 were described as: feeling easily victimized, easily offended, indecisive, fearful, rigid, inhibited, and relatively over-controlled and vulnerable."

Allan Bloom: The Closing of the American Mind: How Higher Education has Failed Democracy and Impoverished the Souls of Today's Students; New York: Simon & Schuster, 1987. Thesis: We ignore the classics in the interest of using "higher ed" to turn out good little technologists who are blind to the Big Picture. But the descriptive language he uses is way too opaque for anyone but a schizoid Ph.D. from Berkeley to comprehend. The book is great influenced by J. J. Rousseau's Emile, or On Education, which Bloom translated from the French some years before.

Boethius of Rome: Consolation of Philosophy, somewhere in what is now Switzerland or southern Germany: The Holy Roman Church, c. 524. From Wikipedia: "... written in AD 523 during a one-year imprisonment Boethius served while awaiting trial – and eventual execution – for the alleged crime of treason under the Ostrogothic King Theodoric. Boethius (of 'St. Francis's Prayer' fame) answered religious questions without reference to Christianity, relying solely on natural philosophy and the Classical Greek tradition." Boethius is revered, however, not for coming to terms with the truth, but for convincing himself with tortured, quasi-"spiritual" (actually moralistic) logic that he and others like him deserve their fate to protect the cohesiveness of the Christian cult-ure against the threats of paganism. Why he wasn't ever canonized is beyond me, unless the irrationality of his discourse was just too obvious for the lords of the Roman Church to take a risk on.    

Jean Bottero, et al.: Ancestor of the West : Writing, Reasoning, and Religion in Mesopotamia, Elam, and Greece; Chicago: U. Chicago Press, 2000. Thesis: Religion evolved from a dire need for order in a disorderly and uncontrollable world, leading to love of the "orderer(s)"... and fear of it / Him / Her / Them.

Jean Bottero: The Birth of God: The Bible and the Historian; orig. pub. 1986; Philadelphia: Penn State Press, 2010. One of the foundations of all the noise in the West about the ostensibly Abrahamic-Mosaic rip-off of Egyptian religious traditions and parables, though room is made for Moses himself being an invention of priests during or after the destruction of the first Temple by the Babylonians. 

Levi Boxell, Matthew Gentzkow, Jesse M. Shapiro: Greater Internet use is not associated with faster growth in political polarization among US demographic groups; in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, September 2017; 201706588 DOI: 10.1073/pnas.1706588114 "...groups least likely to use the internet experienced larger changes in polarization between 1996 and 2016 than the groups most likely to use the internet,"

James Bradley: The Imperial Cruise: A Secret History of Empire and War; New York: Little, Brown & Co., 2009. Thesis: Teddy Roosevelt caused the Japanese invasion of China & Korea, as well as WW2 in the Pacific by telling the Japanese in 1905 that America supported their westernizing influence in Asia. 

James Bradley: The China Mirage: The Hidden History of American Disaster in Asia; New York: Little, Brown & Company, 2015. Thesis: "Prominent Americans -- including FDR's grandfather, Warren Delano -- made their fortunes in the 19th century China opium trade. Meanwhile, American missionaries sought a myth: noble Chinese peasants eager to Westernize. The media -- including Luce's Time and Life magazines (see below) -- propagated this mirage, and FDR believed that supporting Chiang Kai-shek would make China America's best friend in Asia." 

Mark Brandt, Jarrett Crawford, J.: Answering Unresolved Questions about the Relationship between Cognitive Ability and Prejudice, in Social Psychological and Personality Science; July 29, 2016 DOI:10.1177/1948550616660592 "People with low cognitive ability tended to express prejudice towards groups perceived as liberal and unconventional (e.g., atheists, gays and lesbians), as well as groups of people perceived as having low choice over group membership (e.g., ethnic minorities). People with high cognitive ability... tended to express prejudice towards groups perceived as conservative and conventional (e.g., Christians, the military, big business)."

Emma Brown and Danielle Douglas-Gabriel: Since 1980, spending on prisons has grown three times as much as spending on public education; Washington Post, July 7, 2016. "Total corrections spending grew 149 percent in Massachusetts compared with 850 percent in Texas. Total education spending rose from 18 percent in Michigan to 326 percent in Nevada."

Zbigniew Brzezinski: The Grand Chessboard: America’s Primacy and it’s Geostrategic Imperatives; New York: Basic Books, 1998. “Most Americans are close to total ignorance about the world. That is an unhealthy condition in a country in which foreign policy has to be endorsed by the people if it is to be pursued. And it makes it much more difficult for any president to pursue an intelligent policy that does justice to the complexity of the world.” “[American exceptionalism] is a reaction to the inability of people to understand global complexity or important issues like American energy dependency. Therefore, they search for simplistic sources of comfort and clarity. And the people that they are now selecting to be the spokespersons of their anxieties are, in most cases, stunningly ignorant.” 

John Buntin: L. A. Noir: The Struggle for the Soul of America's Most Seductive City; New York: Three Rivers Press, 2009. The lives and times of Benjamin "Bugsy" Siegel, Morris "Mickey" Cohen, Jack Dragna, Gene Biscailuz and William H. Parker in mid-century Los Angeles.

Trigant Burrow: The Social Basis of Consciousness; New York: Harcourt, Brace, 1927. Possibly the fundamental text on social constructivism. These: The ego is socially implanted. Psychodynamics is bigger than mother> or family>child. The culture makes the unwitting, "average" person "sane" and "crazy" via all the various agents of the social organizers who profit therefrom. Otto von Bismarck and John Dewey take some heat here for the "cultural nomalization" movement in public education.

Dana Carney, John Jost, et al: The Secret Lives of Liberals and Conservatives: Personality Profiles, Interaction Styles, and the Things They Leave Behind; Journal of Political Psychology, Vol. 29, No. 6, 2008. These: Extremists of both types are true believers, but more moderate liberals tend toward questioning and investigation while moderate conservatives tend toward social conventions and authority-following. 

Robert Caro: The Years of Lyndon Johnson: The Path to Power; New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1982. From poverty in hardscrabble south Texas to success as a populist messiah in Congress in the late '30s.

Robert Caro: The Years of Lyndon Johnson: Means of Ascent; New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1990. Torn between his desire to be a hero and rescuer, and his ruthless misinformation and media manipulation, Congressman Johnson advances by dint of fate to the U. S. Senate in the late '40s.

Robert Caro: The Years of Lyndon Johnson: Master of the Senate; New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 2002. An enormous ego with a talent for figuring people out and manipulating them propels LBJ to Senate Majority Leader in the '50s.

Robert Caro: The Years of Lyndon Johnson: The Passage of Power; New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 2012. Stymied by the Kennedys as a powerless (and resentful) vice president, LBJ nevertheless retains the Kennedy cabinet and advances their liberal social agenda here -- and their Cold War containment agenda there -- that changes America for the next half century, puts the Solid South in the hands of the GOP (after a century of control by his own party), abets the scourge of opiates, and chews up the lives of a half million military veterans.  

Chapman University: "What do Americans fear?" in Science Daily, 12 October 2016. <> 1) Corruption of government officials (same top fear as 2015), 2) Terrorist attacks, 3) Not having enough money for the future, 4) Being a victim of terror, 5) Government restrictions on firearms and ammunition (new), 6) People I love dying, 7) Economic or financial collapse, 8) Identity theft, 9) People I love becoming seriously ill, 10) The Affordable Health Care Act ("Obamacare"). (But... bear in mind that CU is a thoroughly conservative school in California's Orange County.)

Ron Chernow: The House of Morgan: An American Banking Dynasty and the Rise of Modern Finance; New York: Atlantic Monthly, 1990. On the investment in the railroad and real estate industries that bankrupted millions of small farmers while making JPM, Collis P. Huntington, Cornelius Vanderbilt, Charles Crocker, John Jacob Astor and the other "robber barons" fabulously wealthy during the "gilded age."

W. J. Chopik, M. Motyl: Ideological Fit Enhances Interpersonal Orientations; in Social Psychological and Personality Science, July 2016; DOI:10.1177/1948550616658096 "Lack of ideological fit with one’s environment was associated with a difficulty to form close relationships and lower perspective taking."

Winston Churchill: The Second World War: The Gathering Storm; New York: Houghton Mifflin, 1948. His version of how he saw it all coming when the others didn't as far back as the late '20s.  

Robert Cialdini: Influence: Science and Practice, 4th Ed.; New York: Allyn and Bacon, 2000. A colorless, (cynical?), mechanistic, manualistic treatment of the tools built on research into behavioristic conditioning, socialization and normalization. Great stuff for Mad Men, flacks and cable news spinmeisters.

Aleksandra Cichocka, MichaƂ Bilewicz, John T. Jost, Natasza Marrouch, Marta Witkowska: On the Grammar of Politics -- or Why Conservatives Prefer Nouns; in Political Psychology, January 2016; DOI: 10.1111/pops.12327 "This use of nouns, rather than adjectives, is seen to preserve stability, familiarity and tradition -- all of which appear to be valued more highly by conservatives than liberals. Because nouns 'elicit clearer and more definite perceptions of reality than other parts of speech', they satisfy the desire for 'structure and certainty' that is common among social conservatives." Thesis: Conservatives tend to stop at Piaget's concrete operational processing; liberals tend to move on to formal (rational-empirical) processing. 

Richard Clarke: Against All Enemies: Inside America’s War on Terror; New York: Free Press, 2004. Reagan's, Bush 41's, Clinton's and Bush 43's initial National Coordinator for (Cyber) Security claims Cheney, Rice, Wolfowitz, Perl, et al stonewalled his memos reporting on Al Queda before 9-11.

Joshua J. Clarkson, John R. Chambers, et al: The self-control consequences of political ideology, in PNAS, June 22, 2015 DOI: 10.1073/pnas.1503530112 "...conservatives outperformed liberals only when participants believed free will has a beneficial impact on self-control. When participants believed free will could undermine self-control, liberals outperformed conservatives."

Clark Clifford: Counsel to the President: A Memoir; New York: Random House, 1991. Cold War memoirs of a major political adviser to Democratic Presidents Harry S. TrumanJohn F. KennedyLyndon B. Johnson and Jimmy Carter. His official government positions were White House Counsel (1946–1950), Chairman of the President's Intelligence Advisory Board (1963–1968), and Secretary of Defense (1968–1969).

Flo Conway & Jim Siegelman: Snapping: America's Epidemic of Sudden Personality Change; New York: Dell, 1978. Superior (especially for the time) rundown of the major thought reform / mind control cults in the US in the '60s an '70s.

Charles Cooley: Human Nature and the Social Order; Piscataway, NJ: Transaction, 1902, 1986. Emphasized influential psychologist William James's notion of self-awareness as the required route out of common cultural conditioning, but did not quite assert "social constructivism."

Sarah M. Coyne, Laura Stockdale, et al: Pow! Boom! Kablam! Effects of Viewing Superhero Programs on Aggressive, Prosocial, and Defending Behaviors in Preschool Children, in Journal of Abnormal Child Psychology, January 2017; DOI: 10.1007/s10802-016-0253-6 Thesis: Research suggest it's conceivable that many who grew up in the superhero era saw Arnold S. and Donald T. as superheroes, and voted for them accordingly.

M. A. Craig, J. A. Richeson: On the Precipice of a "Majority-Minority" America: Perceived Status Threat From the Racial Demographic Shift Affects White Americans' Political Ideology, in Psychological Science, 2014; DOI:10.1177/0956797614527113. Facing the prospect of racial minority groups becoming the overall majority in the United States, many Caucasian voters moved away from the left toward the conservative end of the political spectrum.

Catherine Cramer: How Rural Resentment Explains the Surprising Victory of Donald Trump, in The Washington Post, Nov. 13, 2016, at "For people who were feeling ignored, disrespected and overlooked by the urban elite, the Trump campaign had a strong appeal."

Thomas Curran, Andrew P. Hill. Perfectionism Is Increasing Over Time: A Meta-Analysis of Birth Cohort Differences From 1989 to 2016, in Psychological Bulletin, December 2017; DOI: 10.1037/bul0000138 "Meritocracy places a strong need for young people to strive, perform and achieve in modern life," said Curran. "Young people are responding by reporting increasingly unrealistic educational and professional expectations for themselves. As a result, perfectionism is rising among millennials." The upshot of the law of unintended consequences in Germanistic culture striving to continue to dominate against ever-improving foreign competition? No! Couldn't be. 

Adam Curtis: The Century of the Self; a BBC documentary broadcast in 2002 (based on Ewen's PR!: A Social History of Spin, see below). Compelling report on research demonstrating the use and effectiveness of Freudian psychoanalytic and Watsonian behavioristic techniques used by the mass media (and those who manipulate it) to influence and enhance narcissistic cultural beliefs & values, consumer spending and voting on both candidates and issues.    

Charles Darwin: The Descent of Man...; orig. pub. 1871, New York: Penguin Classics, 2004. Natural selection, survival of the fittest, genetic predispositions, etc.

Margaret Leslie Davis: The Culture Broker: Franklin D. Murphy and the Transformation of Los Angeles, U. California Press, 2007. Frustrated university administrator exits Kansas to become the head man at UCLA and then the CEO of the Los Angeles Times. And in so doing, becomes a very key figure in the transformation -- and legitimization -- of El Lay east of Hollywood and Beverly Hills into a respectable center of arts and culture. Intriguing largely because of leveraging of culture to empower (what one would now call a "moderately") conservative political agenda on behalf of the Chandlers and other scions of the city. 

Mike Davis: City of Quartz: Excavating the Future in Los Angeles, 2nd Ed., New York: Verso Books, 2006. Uneven but nonetheless interesting collection of essays on the history of El Lay as the Place To Watch to see where the rest of America is headed sooner or later.

Ronald Davis: The Glamour Factory: Inside Hollywood's Big Studio System; Dallas: SMU Press, 1993. Typical of its genre, but includes the most detailed rundown of the demise of the system including before and during the black list era.

Arthur Deikman: The Observing Self; Boston: Beacon Press, 1982. The founder of transpersonalism lays out his own bridge from Watts and the East-West Institute of the '50s and '60s to the mindfulness movement of the '90s and '00s. Siddartha would have been pleased, I think.

Arthur Deikman: The Wrong Way Home: Uncovering the Patterns of Cult Behavior in American Society; Boston: Beacon Press, 1990. Fine rundown of the human potential movement, it's contaminations of Asian meditation and philosophy, and it's worst corruptions of both from the expert p.o.v. of one who understood Asian philosophy and practice at least as well as anyone of his era.

Arthur Deikman: Them and Us: Cult Thinking and the Terrorist Threat; Berkeley, CA: Bay Tree Publishing, 2003. Update of the book above, with added input on the thought reform and mind control components of the radical Islamist gangs.   

Ovid Demaris: The Last Mafioso: Jimmy the Weasel Fratianno; New York: Bantam, 1985. The Code of Omerta held for three quarters of a century before the FBI broke Jimmy down. Over time, most of a generation of Cosa Nostra head men were taken down, as well. (Demaris, btw, wrote The Godfather.)

Sally Denton & Roger Morris: The Money and The Power: The Making of Las Vegas and it’s Hold on America; New York: Vintage Books. 2002. Head and shoulders above the rest of the genre, this is a truly superior and scholarly work. Not only on the arrival of the mid-western syndicate and the small-time crooks who preceded them, and the "Casino" era, but on the power and influence accumulated wealth can purchase all the way to both ends of Pennsylvania Avenue.  

Jared Diamond: Guns, Germs and Steel: The Fates of Human Societies; New York: W. W. Norton, 1999. The Way the West was Won, from 1492 onward, for sure. But more than that: The real mechanisms on empire-building from the Romans through the New Anglican Empire. (Pulitzer Prize winner.)

Jared Diamond: Collapse: How Societies Choose to Fail or Succeed; New York: Penguin, 2005. "Environmental damage, climate change, globalization, rapid population growth, and unwise political choices were all factors in the demise of societies around the world, but some found solutions and persisted." Far from as convincing as the previous book, but still interesting. 

G. William Domhoff: Who Rules America? Challenges to Corporate and Class Dominance, 6th Ed.; New York: McGraw-Hill Humanities, 2009. UC Santa Cruz psychology prof de-constructs the "power elite" in America a la Cooley and Mills. A campus favorite for decades, now in its seventh edition.

Simon D. Donner, Jeremy McDaniels: The influence of national temperature fluctuations on opinions about climate change in the U.S. since 1990, in Climatic Change, 2013; DOI: 10.1007/s10584-012-0690-3 The warmer it gets, the more given the volk are to political action; the cooler the less.

Robert J. Donovan: Conflict & Crisis: The Presidency of Harry S Truman, 1945-1948, New York: W. W. Norton, 1977. Faced with the repudiation of the grand alliance that won WW2, the roll-down of the "iron curtain," and the threats to US hegemony in both Europe and the Western Pacific, Truman and the "wise men" did the best they could to contain what pretty much everyone saw as "monolithic" communism on the Eurasian land mass.  

Robert F. Dorr: Air War: South Vietnam; London: Arms & Armour, 1989. Detailed, pretty much apolitical account of the USAF, USN, AFRVN and AFNVN activities from 1960 to 1975 south of the DMZ and west into Laos and Cambodia. Mostly anecdotal, but somewhat strategic.  

Robert F. Dorr: Air War: Hanoi; London: Arms & Armour, 1988. Detailed, pretty much apolitical account of the USAF, USN, AFRVN and AFNVN activities from 1960 to 1975 north of the DMZ and west into Laos. Mostly anecdotal, but somewhat strategic.   

James W. Douglass: JFK and the Unspeakable: Why He Died & Why it Matters; Maryknoll, NY: Orbis Books, 2009. Thesis: Kennedy was a cold warrior who turned to peace-making, and that as a result he was killed by his own security apparatus. (One of about ten books I read on the JFK & RFK assassinations, but chose not to list most of here because -- while they all bark up some very interesting trees -- none of them, including this one -- come anywhere near a definitive, documented conclusion.)

Riley Dunlap, Aaron McCright, Jerrod Yarosh: The Political Divide on Climate Change: Partisan Polarization Widens in the U.S., in Environment: Science and Policy for Sustainable Development, Vol. 58, 2016 - No. 5, September 2016, online at The gap between Republicans and Democrats on global warming is no closer than it was five years ago, but Republicans are moving increasingly toward acceptance at the same pace, albeit starting at a diminished baseline.

Emile Durkheim: The Division of Labor in Society; orig. pub. 1883, London: The Free Press, 1933. "Moral regulation is needed, as well as economic regulation, to maintain order (or organic solidarity) in society." 

Emile Durkhem: The Elementary Forms of Religious Life; orig. pub. 1912, London: Allen & Unwin, 1915. "Collective consciousness" and the development of religion for the sake of emotional security through communal living. More early work in the rubric of "social constructivism." 

Ivan Dylko : How technology encourages political selective exposure; in Communication Theory, Vol. 26, No. 4, October 2016. doi: 10.1111/comt.12089 Speaks to the political effects of customizability, a technology that personalizes a website's subject as is the case on Facebook, Google News, Twitter and others.

Jacques Ellul: The Technological Society: The Effect of an Increasingly Standardized Culture on the Future of Man; orig. pub. 1954; New York: Vintage, 1965. From Wikipedia: "As people [forsake] learning ancient languages and history, they... produce a situation in which... stress is placed on [technical] information [to the exclusion of historical and philosophical perspective]. The focus in those schools is to prepare young people... to be able to work with computers... knowing only their reasoning [and] their language... This movement is invading the whole intellectual domain and also that of conscience." In Ellul's view, our schools are training, conscience-less human robots.  

Jacques Ellul: Propaganda: The Formation of Men's Attitudes; orig. pub. 1965; New York: Vintage, 1973. How the media is utilized to produce cult-ural conformity, productivity, consumerism & patriotism.

T. J. English: Havana Nocturne: How the Mob Owned Cuba... and The Lost it to the Revolution; New York: MJF Books, 2008. Meyer Lansky and Fulgencio Batista team up to turn Havana in the Macau of the 1930s, '40s and '50s. That they didn't see Fidel Castro as a real threat until it was too late cost them a lot of money, though they had already made inroads into Las Vegas by then. The Big Questions, of course, are, "Would Vegas and AC have become what they did had Castro been stopped by the CIA-sponsored invasion Jack Kennedy refused to support?" and "Was this the real reason Jack got blown away in Dallas after the plot was (it's on FBI wiretaps) moved there from Miami?" 

Stuart Ewen: Captains of Consciousness: Advertising and the Social Roots of the Consumer Culture; orig. pub. 1976, New York: Basic Books, 2001. Superior de-construction (in the best of the "social constructivist" tradition) of the advertising & product publicity industry and its profound effect upon the impulsively narcissistic and materialistic society of the "me era" of the '80s and henceforth Lasch and Roberts described later on in their own books.  

Stuart Ewen: All Consuming Images: The Politics of Style in Contemporary Culture; orig. pub. 1988, New York: Basic Books, 1990. A somewhat disjointed, but still worthy, collection of essays on the use of style and imagery by the mass media and those who control it to influence consumer and voter behavior. A more "passionate" version of Cialdini's and Woodward & Denton's books, somewhat in the style of Jackson Lears.

Stuart Ewen: PR!: A Social History of Spin; New York: Basic Books, 1996. Compilation of research demonstrating the use and effectiveness of Freudian psychoanalytic and Watsonian behavior modification techniques used by the mass media (and those who manipulate it) to influence and enhance narcissistic cultural beliefs & values, consumer spending and voting on both candidates and issues. See also Adam Curtis above.

Miguel Farias, Valerie van Mulukom, Guy Kahane, et al: Supernatural Belief Is Not Modulated by Intuitive Thinking Style or Cognitive Inhibition, in Scientific Reports, July 2017; DOI: 10.1038/s41598-017-14090-9 "'We don't think people are 'born believers'... sociological and historical data show that what we believe in is mainly based on social and educational factors... 'Religious belief is most likely rooted in culture rather than in some primitive gut intuition."

Niall Ferguson: Colossus: The Rise and Fall of the American Empire; New York: Penguin, 2004. Thesis: US policy is to democratize, capitalize and consumerize the entire world, but US practice is (too often) to abandon the effort before it succeeds.

Matthew Feinberg, Robb Willer: From Gulf to Bridge: When Do Moral Arguments Facilitate Political Influence?, in Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, Vol. 41, No. 12, 2015. DOI: 10.1177/0146167215607842 "...if they really care about making even modest in-roads with each other, they'll pay attention to research showing that arguments based on a political opponent's moral principles, rather than one's own, have a much better chance of success.

Andrew Feinstein: The Shadow World: Inside the Global Arms Trade; New York: Farrar, Straus & Giroux, 2011. From a review: "Arms manufacturers do particularly well when they sell to both sides. Even better is when one side uses lots of expensive weaponry to destroy the other's. That way the arms dealer can make decent profits re-vamping the victor's arsenals. On very rare occasions things turn out even better, especially if the loser gets deposed and the new regime buys weapons from the very same companies." The US and Russia are by far the Big Boys profiting from it all, but the Chinese are coming along fast. 

Bob Fennis, Loes Janssen, Kathleen Vohs: Acts of Benevolence: A Limited-Resource Account of Compliance Across Charitable Requests, in Journal of Consumer Research, Vol. 35, No. 6, April 2009. How solicitors manipulate potential contributors by asking how their day went, etc.

Steve Fischer: When the Mob Ran Las Vegas: Stories of Money, Mayhem and Murder; Las Vegas, NV: Berkline Press, 2005. Typical of the genre: more on the Lansky / Dalitz / Spolotro days, and less than Binkley on the Wynn / Kerkorian and Adelson era. Regardless, the use of "ran" may be intentionally misleading. 

R. Chris Fraley, B. N. Griffin, et al: Developmental Antecedents of Political Ideology: A Longitudinal Investigation From Birth to Age 18 Years; Psychological Science, Vol. 23, No. 10, October 2012. "Consistent with long-standing theories on the development of political attitudes, our results showed that parents' authoritarian attitudes assessed when children were 1 month old predicted conservative attitudes in those children more than 17 years later. Consistent with the findings of Block and Block (2006), our results also showed that early childhood temperament predicted variation in conservative versus liberal ideologies."

Sigmund Freud: Group Psychology and the Analysis of the Ego; orig. pub. 1921, New York: W. W. Norton & Company, 2002. Supports the notion that cultural normalization to dichotomized thinking and authoritarianism lay at the bedrock of polarized, religious and political radicalism, and that what we saw in 2016 was the predictable upshot of educating the masses to follow the leader rather than look to see what is.  

Otto Friederich: City of Nets: Hollywood in the 1940s; New York: Harper & Row, 1986. When the Nazis took over in '33, the Jews and homosexuals in the German film industry began to migrate to Hollywood. Their influence was considerable, but -- in fairness -- there were many more Jews and homosexuals already on the scene. And this was the era of the Code.    

Otto Friederich: Before the Deluge: A Portrait of Berlin in the 1920s; New York: HarperPerennial, 1995. This one can be read as a prelude or back story to the pervious one: Weimar Berlin was "Cabaret progressive." Way too progressive for the LGBT- and Jew-loathing brown shirts who would propel the Nazis to power from 1930 to 33.

Jared Parker Friedman, Anthony Ian Jack: What Makes You So Sure? Dogmatism, Fundamentalism, Analytic Thinking, Perspective Taking and Moral Concern in the Religious and Nonreligious, in Journal of Religion and Health, 2017; DOI: 10.1007/s10943-017-0433-x "...religious participants as a whole had a higher level of dogmatism, empathetic concern and prosocial intentions, while the nonreligious performed better on the measure of analytic reasoning. Decreasing empathy among the nonreligious corresponded to increasing dogmatism. The more rigid the individual, whether religious or not, the less likely he or she would consider the perspective of others."

Frimer, J.A., Gaucher, D., Schaefer, N.K.: Political Conservatives' Affinity for Obedience to Authority is Loyal, Not Blind, in Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, Vol. 40, No. 9, September 2014. DOI: 10.1177/0146167214538672 "...beneath the surface of some of these ideological debates is a fundamental need to belong to a group that has a strong leader. Both sides feel the need. And both sides believe that people should do as their leader tells them to do. The difference between the groups is not whether they value obedience to authority. Rather, the difference is about which authority they think is worthy of obedience." (Supports Hoffer's The True Believer and Milgram's Obedience to Authority; see below.)

David Fromkin: A Peace to End All Peace: Creating the Modern Middle East 1914-1922; London: Andre Deutsch Ltd, 1989. Superior disquisition of the "Lawrence of Arabia" era in British Palestine, clearly connecting the dots to the modern age of "petroleum politics" and "Islamic terrorism." A worthy companion to Yergin's two books. 

Erik Fromm: Escape from Freedom; New York: Harper & Row, New York: Farrar & Reinhart: 1941. "If humanity cannot live with the dangers and responsibilities inherent in freedom, it will probably turn to authoritarianism." And, of course, it did... and continues to, because of the educational philosophy of "just follow my instructions" to suit the imperatives of the elites to train the masses to be good little producers, consumers and defenders of wealth since Hammurabi 3700 years ago.  

Erik Fromm: The Heart of Man: It's Genius for Good and Evil; New York: Harper & Row, 1964. Highly Freudian analysis of how individual and societal narcissism, self-obsession and survivalism corrupts imperialist cultures.    

Neal Gabler: An Empire of Their Own: How the Jews Invented Hollywood; New York: Crown Books, 1988. Excellent examination of the mostly Russian Jewish invention and development of the motion picture industry from the nickelodeon era onward. Gabler asserts they we assimilators and -- as such -- purveyors of the predominant values of the WASP culture, but they were also semi-socialist progressives, which was especially evident during the late '20s and pre-Code '30s. To save their own necks, they all played ball with the more powerful political forces of agrarian bible belt through the blacklist days of the early '50s.   

Lazaro Gamino: Urban and Rural American are Becoming Increasingly Polarized, in The Washington Post, Nov. 17, 2016, at Urban swing to left and rural swing to right has increased each year since 2004.

Gao Wenqien: Zhou Enlai: The Last Perfect Revolutionary, New York: Perseus Books, 2007. China under Mao (and now Xi?) was as much a giant, hyper-ideologicical, dominance & submission cult as North Korea under the Kims. Zhou survived by breaking eggs over his head again & again. Cult-of-personality autocracy may veer back and forth from commericial liberal to ideological conservative perspectives, but acquiescence to unquestionable authority is deeply socialized & normalized into a paradigm that is unseen and easily manipulated by the "guru." May be one of the most significant books of the early 21st century... if anyone outside the State Department ever reads it.   

Brian Gardner: The East India Company: A History; New York: Dorset Press, 1971. Epic portrayal of the evolution of British maritime, commercial imperialism from the 1600s through the mid-1800s. Takes no positions, but connects the dots very effectively from the decline of the Portuguese and Dutch hegemonies to the very early days of the American. Including the functional use of mercenaries run by chartered merchants with profit incentives to bear the cost, rather than fund it out of general taxation.

R. Kelly Garrett, Shira Dvir Gvirsman, et al: Implications of Pro- and Counter-attitudinal Information Exposure for Affective Polarization; in Human Communication Research, May 2014; DOI: 10.1111/hcre.12028 Thesis: There are multiple polarizing effects of paying selective attention to media on one end of the political spectrum. Emotional reasoning and all-or-nothing perception are just two of them.

Rodger Garrett: Boxed Up in Political Polarities? Or Watching the Show from Outside the Box? Escape Hatches from Mediated Normalization to "This" or "That." Online at Thesis: If people can see the manipulation for what it is, they can make choices in their actual self-interests. But if they can't see the cynical use of dichotomism, they can be lead down a primrose path to the complete opposite: Tart's "consensus trance" of productivism, consumerism and pseudo-patriotic accumulation and defense of elite wealth at the expense of their lives and limbs. 

Peter Gay: The Enlightenment: The Rise of Modern Paganism; New York: W. W. Norton & Company, 1995. Thesis: The (mostly) American and French fell into rapture with -- and romanticized -- the rediscovered, empirical, rational but idealistic Greeks. Needlessly verbose at times, but very useful as a dot connector from 18th century anti-mysticism to modern progressivism.

Peter Gay: The Enlightenment: The Science of Freedom; New York: W. W. Norton & Company, 1996. Thesis: The rediscovery of classical Greek rhetoric and speech criticism formed the basis of the critical thinking movement that has since evolved into cognitive behavioral psychotherapy.  

Curt Gentry: J. Edgar Hoover: The Man and The Secrets, New York: W. W. Norton, 1991. Published just before it became popular to parody Hoover's homosexuality, it was surely one of the direct causes if such. Beyond that, however, it moves further into discoveries of Hoover's alliances with organized crime in the service of adding "troops" to the effort to halt the spread of socialism in the US. Sadly, yet another example of the ill-considered, righteous, unbalanced, over-the-top, de-constructionist, 20th century liberalism that ultimately added to the fuel of the noisily polarized partisianism of the equally unbalanced alt right in early 21st. Sigh.     

Misha Glenny: McMafia: A Journey Through the Global Criminal Underworld; New York: Alfred Knopf, 2008. A very unsettling collection of essays on the rise of the New Gangsterism in the former Soviet Union, the former Yugoslavia, sub-Saharan Africa, Latin America and the US itself in the late 20th and early 21st century. Another of the potentially most significant books of this ear... if enough people read it. 

William Goetzmann: Money Changes Everything: How Finance Made Civilization Possible; Princeton, NJ: Princeton U. Press, 2016. Terrific dot connector from the days of Hammurabi (and even before) to the present day on the ever-increasing sophistication of lending and projective investing. Required reading for anyone who aspires to understand capitalism.  

Doris Kearns Goodwin: The Bully Pulpit: Theodore Roosevelt, William Howard Taft, and the Golden Age of Journalism; New York: Simon & Schuster, 2013. Rather old-schoolish until the final chapters examination of the two men and the relationship between them that cleaned up a horribly crime-infested New York City, established the US as a member of the Colonial Club, put an end to the monopolistic "trusts," and -- with the help of Ida Tarbel, Lincoln Stephens and McClure's Magazine -- produced the post-robber-baron / pre-scandal golden age of Republican law & order politics. To read this is to understand that the GOP of the early 21st Century in no way resembles that of the early 20th. 

Al Gore: The Assault on Reason; New York: Penguin, 2007. Thesis: Bush, Cheney, Murdoch, Hannity, Limbaugh and the rest are using emotional reasoning to whip up the simple minded "consensus trance" crowd into an un-reason-able assault on climate change, equal pay for women, pseudo-patriotic imperialism, etc., to serve as a smoke screen while the thugs of Wall Street and Big Oil loot everyone they can from Baghdad to Baltimore. Proved to be prophetic when the real estate bubble burst that year, and the Great Recession began, but few paid attention owing to a smear campaign that succeeded as long as was needed. (Gore later won the Nobel Prize for his environmentalism, but by then it didn't much matter.) Read now, it will seem far too "reason-able" in contrast to the all the cry-baby muckraking of the frustrated left.

Jesse Graham, Brian Mosek & Jonathan Haidt: The Moral Stereotypes of Liberals and Conservatives: Exaggeration of Differences across the Political Spectrum; in PLoS One, Vol. 7, No. 12, 2012. "...liberals endorse the individual-focused moral concerns of compassion and fairness more than conservatives do, and conservatives endorse the group-focused moral concerns of in-group loyalty, respect for authorities and traditions, and physical/spiritual purity more than liberals do." Which suggests liberals are more Brahmin and conservatives are more Abrahamic.

Alan Greenwald: The Totalitarian Ego: Fabrication and Revision of Personal History, in American Psychologist, Vol. 35, No. 7, July 1980. "...(a) ego, or self, is an organization of knowledge, (b) ego is characterized by cognitive biases strikingly analogous to totalitarian information-control strategies, and (c) these totalitarian-ego biases [link] to preserve organization in cognitive structures. Ego's cognitive biases are egocentricity (self as the focus of knowledge), "beneffectance" (perception of responsibility for desired... outcomes), and cognitive conservatism (resistance to cognitive change)." Supports Fromm's thesis in Escape from Freedom (in needlessly contorted language; sigh).

Dennis Griffin: The Battle for Las Vegas: The Law vs. The Mob, Las Vegas: Huntington Press, 2006. Typical, mostly pre-Wynn / Adelson / Kerkorian material, but does get into the role of Mormon bankers as possible money launderers.

Stephane Groueff: Manhattan Project: The Untold Story of the Making of the Atomic Bomb; New York: Little, Brown & Co., 1967. One of the very first mass market books to utilize recently de-classified material to look into Albert Einstein, Enrico Fermi, Robert Oppenheimer, Leslie Groves and the unfortunately rushed, watershed race to develop The Bomb before the Germans, Japanese and Russians.  

Richard Grunberger: The 12-Year Reich: A Social History of Nazi Germany 1933-1945; New York: Da Capo Press, 1971. Read on the heels of Otto Friederich's clarification of the Weimar era and culture, and along with Hobsbawm's work on the conditioning of the thentofore agrarian and Lutheran German people from Bismarck's imposition of technological education (almost identical to US educational policies since the Sputnik shock in '57), the book provides an effective sense-making of the conditioned beliefs, values and blind-lemming authoritarianism of the German people in the Fatherland, (what is now) the Czech Republic and Austria that made it possible to rationalize the excesses of Nazism. Disturbingly, it brings into focus the beliefs, values and authoritarianism of the American and British alt right in 2017.     

Andrew Guess, Brendan Nyhan, Jason Reifler: Selective Exposure to Misinformation: Evidence from the consumption of fake news during the 2016 U.S. presidential campaign, January 3, 2018 (pre-publication). Abstract: ...We... estimate that approximately 1 in 4 Americans visited a fake news website from October 7-November 14, 2016. Trump supporters visited the most fake news websites, which were overwhelmingly pro-Trump. However, fake news consumption was heavily concentrated among a small group — almost 6 in 10 visits to fake news websites came from the 10% of people with the most conservative online information diets. We also find that... fact-checks of fake news almost never reached its consumers.

Jeff Guinn: Manson: The Life and Times of Charles Manson; New York: Simon & Schuster, 2013. Portrayed by the popular media as a rage-steeped whack job, Charlie was also an educated and astute one.... given his attempts at compensating for a classic, The Boy Who Was Raised as a Dog childhood. Long before he tried to launch "Helter Skelter," Charlie had spent most of a wretched life in "reform" schools, violent juvenile detention and on the streets. But his JJS observers knew he was fond of books: He read Hubbard's Dianetics, Berne's Games People Play, and at least one book by Alan Watts (for sure; possibly along with Lifton's Thought Reform and the Psychology of Totalism) to try to make up for his lack of stature and formal education. He was the dangerously empowered poster child of David Lykken's disquieting essay, "The Case for Parental Licensing" and worse: A trained sociopath who knew how to use what he learned to manipulate his drug-addled, often sexually abused, rageaholic women and sex-drug-and-rock-&-roll-addicted men in a victimhood-dodging, rescuing (and persecuting) cult of personality similar to Korresh's, Hubbard's, and Jones's.

Richard Hack: Hughes: The Private Diaries, Memos and Letters; Beverly Hills CA: New Millennium Press, 2001. Bipolar from the git, raised by Calvinistic perfectionists, driven to be the best, addicted to equine and sexual excitement, probably the victim of multiple traumatic brain injuries, addicted to barbiturates and ???, and finally slipping ever further into madness, he was a legitimate genius. He was also the ostensible -- but not actual -- "rescuer" of Vegas from the mid-western syndicate who continued to run the show behind the flashy legalities of his supposed ownership. Save for the thugs from Cleveland and Chicago, everyone from Kate Hepburn and Ava Gardner to J. Edgar, Ike and Dick Nixon asked "How high?" when Howard said, Jump."

Liat Hadar & Sanjay Sood: When Knowledge Is Demotivating: Subjective Knowledge and Choice Overload; in Psychological Science, Vol. 25, No. 7, July 2014; DOI:10.1177/0956797614539165 The degree to which consumers perceive themselves to be knowledgeable about a product influences the likelihood that they will buy a particular product, whether they are actually knowledgeable or not. Think this influences voting? 

Jonathan Haidt: What Makes People Vote Republican? Online at, 2008. "People vote Republican because Republicans [seem to] offer 'moral clarity' — a simple vision of good and evil that activates deep seated fears in much of the electorate. Democrats, in contrast, appeal to reason with their long-winded explorations of policy options for a complex world." Squares precisely with at least a half dozen other collections of research results on this list.

David Halberstam: The Best and the Brightest; New York: Random House, 1972. Thesis: JFK built a cabinet of administrators and advisors from Harvard, Cal Berkeley and U. Chicago. But they didn't know what they didn't know... and didn't know that they didn't know it. (Including the history of French colonialism and the Asian use of communism as a means to finesse anti-colonialist nationalism.) LBJ kept them on when he inherited the oval office. Together, they managed to slaughter several million Southeast Asians and 56,000 Americans in a pointless war that ignored the laws of unintended consequences and "too much of a good thing may not be," and squandered the immense rewards of having won WW2.

David Halberstam: The Powers That Be; New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1979. For it's time, a detailed and insightful inquiry into Otis Chandler's moderately liberal Los Angeles Times, Katherine Graham's decidedly liberal Washington Post, Henry Luce's arch-traditionally conservative Time & Life magazines, and William Paley's CBS Television during their apogees as arbiters of what the public should -- and shouldn't -- know. One cannot call the book truly "de-constructivist," but it did provide at least some of the background needed to grasp the relevance of Chayefsky's 1976 Oscar winner and predictor of post-millennial "fake news," Network.

Lars Hall, Thomas Strandberg, et al: How the Polls Can Be Both Spot On and Dead Wrong: Using Choice Blindness to Shift Political Attitudes and Voter Intentions, in PLoS ONE, 2013; 8 (4): e60554 DOI:10.1371/journal.pone.0060554 "Our results indicate that political attitudes and partisan divisions can be far more flexible than what is assumed by the polls, and that people can reason about the factual issues of the campaign with considerable openness to change." Which Donald Trump proved correct when he went where Hillary decided not to, and turned supposedly "hard-core blue" states into red ones in November 2016. And providing further evidence that the GOP pays more attention to political science than dose the DNC.  

W. Travis Hanes & Frank Sanello: The Opium Wars: The Addiction of One Empire and the Corruption of Another; New York: Barnes & Noble, 2005. Great Britannia made the mistake addicting itself to Chinese tea in the 1700s. And when the addiction grew so widespread that the UK ran out of pure trade to pay for it, the Chinese warlords demanded payment in gold in the early 1800s. (Much as their descendents will when they've addicted America to cheap electronics and Walmart essentials?) The British turned the tables (for a time) by addicting no less than a third of the Chinese population to opium by 1825. When the Chinese pushed back, the teabags went after them with the big guns of the world's largest war fleet... ultimately resulting in the subjugation of China for a century by several European powers, as well as the loathed Japanese. We're still living with the... unintended consequences. The Big Question now is, "Will the consequences get worse when the Chinese have the military capacity to wrench the Philippines and Japan, as well as South Korea, from American hands?"

List continues at Realpolitik II and Realpolitik III