Tuesday, December 28, 2021

On How Christmas is uncomfortable and what I'm going to do about it.

     I used to love Christmas. I loved it because lights are beautiful and because there is something magical about snow before you get bored with it, and about presents magically appearing, and about the house being cozy and full of good smells. I loved the music and the ambiance and the everyone being warm toward each other.

    And then somehow I ended up being in charge of putting up the lights, and the snow became more of an impediment than a beauty, and suddenly I was the person who had to make presents magically appear (usually with no budget except what others generously donated), and if the house was going to be cozy and full of good smells, that was on me. I had to make that happen.

I realized that Christmas had been magical because of my mother. SHE was magical, not Christmas. (She still is, actually.) And now I am the mother, and I have no idea how she did that. The entire season, until after the presents appear, is one long stressful imposition on my time and health. And because Tim is making Christmas magical for everyone else's families (using his voice), I'm usually making the magic at home all by myself for the great majority of it. And I'm not very good at it. I'm terrible at decorating. I can't bake cookies and shop for presents at the same time and I don't have energy to do them sequentially. I don't do Christmas cards. I can't find our stockings....And at the best of times I can barely keep on top of the most important of the household work for keeping ten people alive without a holiday interfering.

On top of the practical difficulties of making Christmas worthwhile, I have also grown increasingly uncomfortable with the jarring mismatch between how we celebrate Jesus's birth and who He is and what He taught. Despite overly energetic and unconvincing attempts to justify these things and connect them to the Savior, there is nothing about Jesus in Christmas trees, Christmas lights, candy canes, gingerbread houses, stockings, Santa, elves, glass ball ornaments, tinsel, holly, ivy, mistletoe, wassail, turkey or ham dinners, candles, presents, colorful wrapping paper, decorating literally everything, snowmen, jingle bells, sleighs, snow, fireplaces, hot cocoa, snowflakes, penguins, the Grinch, Scrooge, pajamas, reindeer, glowing noses, magical hats, cookies.....shall I go on? You get the picture.

In fact, the most-quoted texts of the season are "A Christmas Carol" and "How the Grinch Stole Christmas," which are both texts about repentance without Jesus. The most common pictures I saw this year celebrating "Jesus's birth" on social media were new jammies, with a handful of new assault weapons thrown in to "own the libs" and deliberately offend "our enemies" and increase division. Commercialism and stuff-worship are rampant. And the more I listened to Christmas music radio, the more strange it was that we sing "O Holy Night" as a screaming rock song (is -that- what Holy means?) and put "Silent Night" in a playlist with "All I Want for Christmas is You." It was literally mixing the sacred with the profane and then celebrating it and claiming it meant Jesus. "Last Christmas I gave you my heart but the very next day you gave it away" is an awful way to honor the birth of our Savior. Not sure how Jesus feels about us singing about cheating lovers or holding up assault weapons to celebrate His birthday. 

Plus mixing a bunch of fake magical stuff in with scripture makes me worry: If we teach children that Santa is real--just kidding no he's not, and we pair Jesus with the same holiday, are we teaching the same message?

I tried to address this years ago by inventing a new holiday that we use to celebrate Jesus's birthday: White Cake Day. April 6 every year we have a simple birthday party for Jesus that parallels the birthday parties we have for our children. It's lovely. One of my favorite days of the year.

But it didn't solve the problem. Christmas is still entangled with Jesus for me, and not in a healthy, appropriate way. So we do celebrate Jesus's birth in an appropriate way, but what about the mess in December?  I can't just cancel it and say we don't do that without harming my children. And I loved Christmas once upon a time.

Pondering this problem, I realized that we, as a culture, have seasonal festivals for every season. Often we paint these with religious or patriotic themes, but really our actions show we're primarily celebrating the season, not the excuse for having the celebration. Easter is our Spring festival (which I have successfully separated into a dual festival: Saturday is celebrating spring, Sunday is celebrating Jesus's resurrection), Fourth of July is a Summer fest (we say it's about patriotism, but we are celebrating all things summery), Halloween is a Fall Festival (and most of us don't even pretend it's religious anymore--we just use the religious name), and Christmas is a month-long Winter Festival. 

Halloween is an interesting case study, actually. It's very parallel to Christmas: the name has religious origins, there is a strong imaginary magical beings component, and we engage in it as a culture for the joy of it without pretending it's religious at all.

I also realized that we, culturally, embrace celebrating ideas, often with non-religious festivals connected to religious origins. We celebrate romance with a holiday named after St. Valentine, but it's not about him at all. We celebrate Irish lore (and drinking) with a holiday named after St. Patrick, even though it's not about him at all. We celebrate Fall and scary things with Halloween, even though it's no longer about celebrating Saints. We also celebrate being thankful for Thanksgiving. They've all become pretty arbitrary and culturally defined, but void of actual religious meaning--and that has not made them less valuable. They are still things that help define us as a people, that bring us together as communities, that give us chances to do fun things and make good memories with our families. Not all valuable, useful, important things need to be overtly religious in nature.

And I realized that most of the things we use to celebrate Christmas are not necessarily bad in and of themselves. Having the whole family gather and wear matching pajamas is fun. Christmas trees are beautiful, and the ornaments in  many families prompt discussions of family history. Giving gifts is a wonderful, joyous thing. Making cookies together and sharing them with neighbors is fantastic. Grinch and Scrooge teach good lessons. Snowmen are fun. Most of those things on my list above are wonderful ways to make good memories and bond with your family. They are largely harmless or even good. I don't want to remove those from my children's lives.

And if we're okay laughing and talking about vampires and enjoying that lore for Halloween, what's wrong with enjoying the lore about Santa and elves for Christmas? They're the same amount of real. And it's the same amount of fun to talk about pretend things. I'm not opposed to playing pretend--so long as it's clear that we're playing pretend and that Jesus is not pretend.

I don't want to take the fun away. And I don't want my children to be isolated from their own cultural traditions. These are part of who we are. And they're not wrong or bad things. It's okay to embrace them. (Although I think the commercialism and money money money and things things things and me me me parts of Christmas are absolutely wrong and damaging.)

But I don't want to just completely abandon the Jesus parts of Christmas, just like I didn't want to abandon the Jesus parts of Easter. Those are the most important parts, and I don't want to leave those behind in favor of the less important but more prominent things. I don't want to give up on the nativity to embrace the winter festival. Seems like throwing out the precious things because they got mixed with the silly things--and that seems counterproductive.

I actually do love the Nativity story. I do love the creche exhibits. I love looking at a nativity scene and pondering the reality of it. I love the clumsy live re-enactments of Jesus's birth story (and I think Jesus probably loves them, too, with all their poor costumes and mishaps). I love reading Luke 2. I love watching the Church videos about the nativity. I love the Christmas messages about the Savior. I love the family time. I love the sacred Christmas hymns and carols. I love the awkward Christmas sacrament meetings where people present to Jesus and to us their talents, doing their best to offer whatever they have. The deeper meaning in that is so profound to me, even (especially) when the violin is slightly out of tune or the narration is read haltingly and with hesitation. This, to me, is what Jesus would love for his birthday. The service and the generosity and the giving are about Jesus. The families being together making happy memories are what Jesus would want.

There are sacred things scattered among the profane, and I don't want to lose those things. And I don't want my children to lose those things. But I can't bear to have them mixed with all the other things anymore. It doesn't work. It stresses me out, makes me feel dirty, prevents me from embracing the fun because it's inappropriate to pair and associate those things, harmless as they may be, with Jesus. We host dances, but we don't host dances on the temple grounds, you know?

So my new attempt to make Christmas okay...my new plan:

We're going to separate them. We are going to sift the whole lot of things into two different celebrations that happen close to each other: Celebrating the Birth of Jesus, and Having a Winter Festival.

We'll have a Nativity holiday that's all about the birth of Jesus where we do all the sacred things. My plan is to do this from the Sunday after Thanksgiving for a few days. We will decorate the house with nativities and other reminders of Jesus's birth during this time. We won't put up a tree or holly or mistletoe or any of the trappings of the winter festival until AFTER the nativity celebrations are done.

Then we'll have Christmas, which I'm going to think of as our culture's Winter Festival despite the religious origins of the name (just like Halloween isn't about saints and Valentine's day isn't about St Valentine). It's going to include all the "things"--presents, jammies, candycanes, grinches and scrooges, santa and elves, reindeer, silly Christmas movies, Christmas trees and trimmings and decorations, lights, decorating the house, etc. We're just going to embrace that we're celebrating winter the way our culture celebrates winter.

And if you take the superficial "oh we're celebrating Jesus" out of the picture, you start to see that we're doing other good things with Christmas and our winter festival. While we are not really celebrating Jesus (let's be honest--we're not and it's become gross to me to pretend that we are), we are celebrating hope in the darkness of winter, and family, and making beauty in the midst of desolation, and bringing light and warmth into a time of darkness and cold. We are celebrating choosing kindness, choosing family, choosing generosity. We're celebrating that light will come and that we can choose to not let our circumstances overpower and freeze our souls. We're taking time to notice people who are in need in the darkest, coldest days of the year and working to relieve suffering. We're adding beautiful things to our world when it's mostly dead and covered in snow. And we're having fun with magical beings and fun treats, same as we do for Halloween. We're making the effort to reconnect with family despite difficulty, and to be together with other people on purpose and with the goal of deliberately building, maintaining, and improving relationships and connections. We are bringing what nature is still green into our lives.

Christmas is a time to celebrate being good and adding good to the world. It's a time to remind ourselves that in the winters of our lives, there are things we can do to bring joy and hope. And those lessons really do apply to the hard times (to the winters of our lives)--when things are hard, we can choose to deliberately notice or surround ourselves with beauty, we can serve others, we can get closer in touch with nature, we can turn on the lights, we can add music, we can turn to family and other valuable relationships, we can rely on good traditions, we can make fun, we can eat treats--and all of these things help carry us through the difficulties. (And yes, I know that Jesus carries us through the difficulties even better. But the little things we do can have a major impact as well, and remembering what we do for Christmas, which is pretty well ingrained in our beings, can help us remember the list of things that help us through the winters of our lives.)

Oh, and, while we'll decorate at the beginning of the month, we're going to really celebrate our Christmas--our Winter Festival--from winter solstice (because that is a tangible, easily predicted date) to about January 5 because then the presents stuff will be over with at the beginning of the "season", so that I can enjoy it, too, and the performing season will have settled down, so that Tim can enjoy the holidays with us. It takes the pressure (and guilt) off me for not doing more before Christmas day. 

The kids heard me explaining all these ideas to Tim, and I got zero pushback. In fact, the kids were delighted with the idea of having a Winter Festival. They were even more delighted with the idea that both Anda and Tim both separately proposed that if we're embracing this as a Winter Festival, we are not bound by our own religious tradition. We can explore and embrace the good Winter traditions from many cultures (respectfully!) and time periods. We can enjoy cookies from Tim's ancestral homelands, and mythologies from mine, and traditional meals from his mission, and songs from medieval winter celebrations.

We can explore winter festivities and ideas and music and really just party and have fun because we don't need to try to keep it holy (and fail). The holy part is clearly defined and distinct, and that makes it okay for the rest of it to just be fun. 

And that is a huge relief to me.

Wednesday, November 10, 2021

AntiChrists in the Book of Mormon

 I have been working on a research project trying to find similarities in the rhetoric and techniques of AntiChrists in the Book of Mormon off and on for over a year, and finally decided to write up what I've learned. It was going to be a blog post, but it came out 27 pages long. I wrote it all and then set it aside, but recently read a few chapters of the book my brother is writing and I was inspired by that to finish this.

Since it's not practical to paste 27 pages of text here, I'll drop a link to the .pdf instead. Feel free to read or download. Or you can read it in the embedded copy below.


Monday, August 09, 2021

Thoughts on Temples

 There was a lovely lesson on Temples in Relief Society Sunday, and I was too tired to comment. But I had some thoughts, so I'm going to share them here so my kids can have them (and whoever else).

The first thing I remembered during the lesson was in response to the teacher asking, "Why do we go back to the temple? What makes us go?" And I remembered a very vivid dream I had years ago while I was a missionary at a Temple Visitor's Center. I dreamed that masses of people were standing in front of a huge set of ornate doors. An angel was there giving them instructions, and the last thing he said was, "And when you go through these doors, you will no longer be families." The vast majority of the people shrugged and said to each other, "I never really liked you anyway," and when the doors opened, they thronged through into a new world, sort of dimly lit. But a small family looked at each other in fear, and pulled themselves out of the throng--Mom, Dad, and two small children. They pushed to a room on the side of the doors, out of the masses, and found the angel standing there. They said, "But we want to stay a family! Please." And the angel replied, "Wait here," and gestured at a couch. And I woke up understanding that that is why we go to the temple again and again. Because amidst all the millions of people who don't care, there are little families like that, sitting and waiting so they don't have to stop being a family forever. In the temple, we help those people (as well as ourselves) be with the ones they love forever.
I also thought how we often wish that we could be closer to Jesus, But He seems so very far away and unreachable. But, in fact, we can go hang out at his house, like we hang out at friend’s houses. Like, that’s super super cool! But we say “The Lord’s House” so often that it stops meaning, “Hey, come hang out at my house” and starts meaning “edifice of straight faces and whispering.” But we need to not forget that the temple is Jesus’s house and we’re invited to come hang out there–in the grounds or inside. That’s so amazing! Even if he’s not always at home, we’re still welcome. His servants are there and will let us in, show us around, help us enjoy the activities. If we let it become a building of stone and lovely furniture, or a quiet spot to be alone with our thoughts, we're missing a major (and amazing!) aspect of the Temple: It's Jesus's and Heavenly Fathers house, and we're invited to come on over and be there. 

I also remembered the day I did some research on the actual coronation ceremonies of Queen Elizabeth as part of an online class I was taking on the clothing of royal Brits through history. There was a unit on coronation regalia, and that led me to reading more details about actual British coronations. Like, what's the actual ceremony that turns a person from being a person into being a queen? Turns out the very public crown-placed-on-head bit is only a tiny part of the ceremony, and not the most important part.

In fact, the girl becomes the Queen through a series of private (and they consider sacred) and public ceremonies that endow her with power and authority to lead England. During the ceremony, the queen takes an oath (which included multiple separate covenants), prays at an altar, and she's ritually washed with clean water and then anointed with sacred oil (on forehead, hands, and breast while wearing a white dress), to symbolically cleanse her and to give her power and authority to run the kingdom, and she’s made a queen of the kingdom and a leader of the church, and she has different items and clothings added to her at different parts of the ceremony--and also before and after--to represent things (The Order of the Garter, for example, worn by royalty represented by a blue sash on the left shoulder, across the chest, fastened at the opposite hip, and the Royal Victorian Order, which sash is worn on the right shoulder; the sash of highest ranking is worn in the ceremony so there are not sashes crossing the chest in every which way, but one, worn on the shoulder that represents the highest Order). Some of it happens in a very small, intimate setting and some happens in a more public ceremony that includes language that is supposed to help everyone--Queen especially--understand the change in status, role, responsibility, and behavior expected. Bible scriptures are read. The Bible is placed on the altar after reminding the new queen that she is to follow the law of the Gospel in her life and decisions. There are tokens of various aspects of her new life as Queen exchanged with the priests who have authority over those things in ritualized actions and words, explained and then given to the queen, who sometimes accepts them (like putting on rings) and sometimes gives them back after receiving them. There's a lot there--you can read up on it. 

All of this helped me understand the temple better. The purpose of the temple is, in part, to endow us with power and authority in God's kingdom and Church. The ceremony educates us and also provides covenants that help direct our outlook and behavior--help us understand and succeed in our roles. Like the queen at her coronation, we are symbolically washed, we are literally anointed with oil--for the same reasons the Queen is. We have symbolic clothing, action, and education. And the point is to make us leaders in the kingdom (which, of course, means servants, not bosses, in God's kingdom). The priesthood is, in fact, called the Order of the Son of God. 

And, like the girl becoming the Queen, the ceremony ought to give us a different view of ourselves and our place in the universe and the Church, and a sense of gravitas and focus in our daily activities and in our bearing and behavior, because we emerge different than we went in, just like the queen emerges different than she went in. Of course, one major difference is England wants but one queen, and God wants all queens. (And kings, of course.) Another is that God's power is real; the Queen's is mostly symbolic. 

Anyway, thinking about all those things during the lesson, and it was lovely to ponder. 

And I just finally got an appointment to go back. YAY!

Sunday, May 02, 2021

Feedburner Died!

 Google finally killed feedburner.

If you want to keep getting emails of my blog when it is updated, please re-subscribe in the box on the sidebar of the blog.

Thank you!


Monday, January 18, 2021

Yikes! The Connection between Nazis and QAnon

 In researching QAnon, I became intrigued by a connection some academics and reporters were making between QAnon and the old Nazi propaganda text "The Protocols of the Learned Elders of Zion."

I tried to read it, but that is one evil book. Also incredibly badly written.

So I found a summary and only read a few sections. 

But what I found was concerning--not because these teaching have been used for centuries in various societies to work people toward genocide (interestingly, and according to researchers other than me), and not just because they seem to have been compiled and plagiarized by someone (possibly Russian Intelligence, who also apparently are being increasingly connected to QAnon), and not just because the stuff is nonsense and dangerous. I found it concerning in part because in all my infiltrating far-right groups over the summer to see what they were thinking and turn them in, I found these things taught on a daily basis. I did not know they were old Nazi propaganda, repackaged to target Democrats, BLM, and antifa. 

So here's the summary of the contents of the Protocols, with the words "Jews," "Elders," "Masons," and "Zion" replaced with "Democrats," "BLM," and "antifa." See if it sounds familiar to you. It did to me. Sadly and scarily familiar. 

Now that I know where these teachings came from, I'm going to be taking them with an even bigger grain of salt. 

PLEASE NOTE: This is the most horrible propaganda, and it is not true. This the stuff that made genocide possible, and the Holocaust possible, and if we find ourselves defending any of these beliefs, we MUST remember where they came from and reject them for more correct, true, nuanced, and loving ideas.

Protocol I: Democrats are deceptive and evil. Democrats believe that non-Democrats are "alcoholised animals" who have been indoctrinated by conspiracies. Democrats don't care about what is good and moral and are willing to participate in bribery and deceit. Democrats and the Deep State are liberal by design--it's part of the plot--and are anti-autocratic, again, as part of the plot to take over the world. Liberalism is the philosophy that enables them to take over the world. Kings and dictators are the only defense against the Democrats and liberals taking over the world. The Democrats have created a new aristocracy made up of the elites, the educated elites,  and the wealthy. 

Protocol II: The Deep state are working toward financial control of the world.  The Democrats control education and have filled public education with Marxist philosophy, which is inherently and eternally dangerous for the rest of us. The Democrats control the media and exploit violence and tragedy to increase their viewers in the media.

Protocol III: Democrats use socialism to their advantage. They use socialism as a promise and a recruiting tool to get people to join them. Ultimately, they turn them into antifa fighting soldiers who they can sacrifice for their wars to gain power. They also recruit people to communism and anarchy for the same reasons.

Protocol IV: Democrats want to destroy religion and all religious people. They will take our religion from us and refuse to let us practice it. They will replace religion with science, math, and materialism. Destroying religion will increase their power over education and business.

Protocol V:  The Deep State (Democrats and liberals) have already infiltrated our government and most of the world governments. They are controlling the media all over to hide their rise to power.

Protocol VI: Democrats have created large monopolies (like Big Pharma and Big Tech) in order to exert control over the rest of us. They are also destroying our credit and savings. They are also raising wages to convince people they are helping everyone, but quietly also raising the cost of necessary goods as a trick.

Protocol VII: Democrats have used the press to create public opinion and also to move governments in a progressive, liberal direction. They will fight a big war to keep this control

Protocol VIII: Democrats get to know what the rest of us live like just so they can manipulate us. They surround themselves with so-called experts, economic powerbrokers, and millionaires.

Protocol IX: Democrats and Antifa orchestrate protests and acts of violence against THEMSELVES to increase compassion for them so that nobody will realize who they really are.  In reality, they want to control every aspect of our lives--especially our own children. Their primary motivation (and weapons) are hatred, malice, vengeance, greed, and ambition.

Protocol X: Democrats want to increase access to voting and help everyone have a greater chance of voting. They want to increase access to voting just to make sure they win elections so that their world domination will appear to be political. Liberalism destroys the safeguards of the non-Democrats, so they push liberal ideology.  The Deep State will install puppet presidents who have shady histories. Democrats use blackmail to further their purposes.

Protocol XI: Once in power, Democrats will remove our rights, including freedom of the press, freedom of assembly, and access to voting. Democrats believe the rest of us are sheep. Democrats are wolves who will destroy us if we let them get power. Democrats are using outside organizations (they cite Freemasonry) to recruit an army of faithful followers who will go along with their plots without questioning.

Protocol XII: The media is so under control of the Democrats and the Deep State that no single announcement will reach people without their input and control over the content and messaging. Democrats and the Deep State control practically every form of media, so you  can't trust any of them. They tailor the message to the audience to keep them fully involved, and all messages are designed to subtly further their nefarious goals.

Protocol XIII: The Deep State has introduced all kinds of gaming and entertainment--they control the entertainment and gaming industries in order to keep people calm and distracted. They promote progress to obscure truth. 

Protocol XIV: Democrats do not want most religions to exist. They will constantly point out the flaws of Christianity and other religions, but only speak positively and never accept criticism of their chosen religions.

Protocol XV: The Russians and Catholics are the main aristocrats that are stopping the Democrats. BLM is creating chapters worldwide to spread their message and recruit followers, but the leadership is centralized and controlled by a few. They are planning to recruit all the most powerful and influential people into their organization, which will legitimize them but also give advantages and acceptance to BLM.  If anyone tries to stop BLM, Antifa, or the Democrats, there will be clandestine executions. 

Protocol XVI: Democrats must infiltrate and take over Universities, re-educating people in a new direction. There, they will teach revisionist history and not teach civics, politics, or the constitution so as to keep people unaware of their rights and unable to fight back against their schemes.

Protocol XVII: Democrats are going to destroy religion in part by discrediting religious leaders. They will also create chaos and schisms in religious organizations so they will destroy themselves from the inside. Democrats will keep order by encouraging thought police to spy on and turn in their neighbors. One third of the people will keep the other two-thirds in check, and nobody trusting their neighbors will distract them from noticing what the Democrats are doing.

Protocol XVIII: The Democrats have convinced Antifa members to assassinate political leaders they want out of the way. This is easy as antifa are sheep doing the Democrats bidding. Nobody would ever want to assassinate the Democrat leaders, though, because everyone will love them. The rank and file will be so caught up in the cult of personality that they can't see what the leader is actually doing.

Protocol XIX: The Democrats have re-interpreted history in order to control us and bring thousands of liberals onto their side to help them.

Protocol XX: Democrats are in favor of a progressive tax so that the lowly people will not feel the sting of taxation and so won't be oppose to the things they are plotting, and the rich people won't feel the sting of taxation because they can afford to lose the money. They will then redistribute the money to fund public works projects and an extensive welfare state. The Democrats have been responsible for every economic crash in world history, and every economic crisis. They do it to try to get governments to take money out of the system and move more money to their own elites. The Democrats do this because they are trying to keep the poor, poor and slaves to them.

Protocol XXI: The Democrats are in favor of over-regulating industry so they can control it.

Protocol XXII: The Democrats have stockpiled much of the world's gold and can use it whenever and however they want. Their greatest weapon is economic power.

Protocol XXIII: Democrats want to reduce access of the rest of us to luxuries. They also want to legislate morality so that we feel like they are benevolent and good and then we won't fight against them. Democrats fight to abolish unemployment so they can control people. They want to destroy big business because business has too much influence on people. Their modus operandi is to replace all existing leaders with Democrats, and then demoralize the people so that they feel like the Democrat leaders are a godsend.

Protocol XXIV: The Deep State selects the new leaders and inducts them into their secrets. The Democrats believe that nobody can be entrusted to run a government unless they are first inducted into the secret society of the Deep State.  The people they choose are hard, controlling leaders with no mercy. They will control the education and therefore the thoughts of all the people.

Conclusion of the Protocols: The Democrats are filling education with materialism and removing God from schools. They control everything secretly. A quote from the 1905 English edition's conclusion:  "The end of national liberty is near; therefore personal freedom is approaching its close; for true liberty cannot exist where [the Democrats] use [their] lever of gold to rule the masses and dominate the most respectable and enlightened class of society. He that hath ears to hear, let him hear."

This is CRAZY stuff, and totally not true. If we believe any of it, we should at least be aware of where it came from and also where it leads. 

(If you want to read more, I found summaries of most of the sections here: https://bir.brandeis.edu/bitstream/handle/10192/32311/VickersThesis2016.pdf?sequence=1&isAllowed=y  The original is a super hard text to read--badly written and full of horribleness I couldn't puke my way through most of, so the summaries were brilliantly helpful.)

That said, there are quotes from the intro and conclusion of the 1905 edition that have made their way into QAnon and other far right literature and propaganda surrounding Trump. It's spooky. 

I have concluded that we are not fighting Trump or Trump supporters for the soul of the nation like some people say. We are fighting literally the same thing that motivated and informed Nazis. And that is scary and sad.

So what did I find, overarching theme-wise-in the Protocols?

I found that if you believe them, that they really are what Jews/Democrats are doing and believe, then you will have been led to:

1. Not trust your education, but instead rely on gut reactions even against all the history and science you had learned. Also not trust anyone else's evidence based on history or science because they were "corrupted" by "marxism" and therefore not trustworthy.

2. Not react emotionally or by acting to stop bad things or harms to your fellow men--especially Democrats/Jews--because they were probably attacking themselves in order to get sympathy, and the horrors aren't actually real or are self-inflicted and you wouldn't want to fall for the trick. 

3. Not trust government, big business, or any large organization for fear they are trying to trick you and take away your freedoms (big tech, big pharma, banks, etc.)

4. Distrust your neighbors for fear they are spying on you. This breaks down social norms and community cohesion, which makes things like war possible.

5. Begin to find "proof" of the Protocols (which are 100% fake, and propaganda also) everywhere. The Democrats want to help people by increasing the social safety net? Nope--part of their plot. The curriculum changed at school? Must be Marxist and part of the plot. Democrats want to make it easier for people to vote? Part of the plot. Democrats want to raise taxes on the rich? Part of the plot. Democrats want to help immigrants become citizens? Nope, they're really building their army of sheep. The media shares something that makes you uncomfortable or question something you heard? No worries--they're part of the plot, too.  Consequently, nothing can be understood by it's true, not-connected, simpler explanation, and nobody can have pure ideological reasons for things. Everything must be connected, must be nefarious, must be evil-influenced except the people who are ACTUALLY lying to you. This makes it Very Very Very hard to identify truth and cling to it, and it also makes it so you start living your life in fear and in a false state of finding fake connections between unconnected things that feeds the fear, distrust, and inability to distinguish falsehood from truth.

6. Unashamedly "other" people, demean people, and increase tribalism in your life and in the lives of those around you.

Guess what things we're seeing rampant in our society right now? 


We got played. Same as the Germans before WWII. Hopefully we can pull away and have a different outcome, though, despite the extreme right wing, neo-nazi, QAnon attempts to start a war.

Tuesday, January 12, 2021

A Warning about Conspiracy and Manipulation, part 2 (QAnon vs Conservatives in particular)

 One of the big conspiracy theories out there that are targeting conservatives especially right now is QAnon.

People hear about QAnon all the time as a "lizard people and pedophile-ring-fighting" thing. But QAnon is actually a very sophisticated manipulation and conspiracy theory that is rising quickly to the level of a cult. They even have church services! 

QAnon is run by someone--nobody knows who, but theories range from a pig farmer to Russian Intelligence--who is bent on dividing America so severely that it tears itself apart. 

I do not know why they targeted conservatives. Conservatives are no more gullible or prone to falling for conspiracies than liberals. In fact, everyone is susceptible and at risk. Regardless of why it is happening, it's happening.

And one of the things I've learned in doing research on this is that QAnon is highly skilled and incredibly adept at their game. They are smart and powerful. 

QAnon's basic core belief is not lizard people and killing humans to drink their blood, despite that being part of it (I gather. I'm not joining up to find out because of that susceptibility thing.) This is one description of their actual core belief by Steven Hassan, a cult and conspiracy expert. 

The world is run by a global cabal of Satan-worshipping pedophiles and child sex traffickers who are plotting against President Donald Trump and his supporters and that only Trump can save us.

Here is another explanation, by Marc-André Argentino, a researcher studying "how extremist religious and political organizations create propaganda and recruit new members to ideological causes":

QAnon followers believe global elites are seeking to bring down Trump, whom they see as the world’s only hope to defeat the “deep state.”

Here is a more lengthy explanation, published by my favorite investigative journalism source, Bellingcat:

 Here is the core of the QAnon myth: with the aid of a small group of military intelligence officers called the Q team (one or more of whom is supposedly responsible for writing the drops), President Donald Trump is waging a shadow war against a cabal of Satan-worshipping, child-eating pedophiles who are conspiring to obstruct and overthrow him. The military will arrest them en masse in an event called “the Storm.” The cabal’s membership has grown in the telling (at first, it was “many in our government;” within a month, any “celebs” who had “supported HRC” might very well be in on it; a few months later, there were too many to fit into Guantanamo Bay; later still, three other “detention centers [were] being prepped”), but it would be fair to say that virtually anyone who’s angered or defied President Trump is considered part of the cabal, along with the usual suspects like financier and philanthropist George Soros.

After the Storm, military tribunals will ensure that these baby-eating traitors are executed or sentenced to life in prison. Faced with overwhelming proof of the cabal’s existence, a stunned public will mourn; rage; and ultimately unite behind President Trump, ushering in a golden age of patriotism and prosperity. 

Remarkably, this description covers none of the most bizarre corners of QAnon (for instance, in QAnon lore, North Korea was controlled by the CIA but has now been liberated by Trump and the Q team). It also omits a key aspect of the QAnon worldview: that every public act or utterance of President Trump or a suspected cabal member might contain “comms,” or secret messages, which QAnon believers can decode. And it leaves out one of the most important QAnon slogans: “disinformation is necessary,” which some might call a wonderful excuse for Q’s failed predictions, also allowing believers to pick and choose which parts of the theory they embrace.


 True justice and “good government” can only exist after the Storm, when Trump — and Trump alone — rules the country, with all his opposition dead or imprisoned.

I recently watched a propaganda video that laid out QAnon's plans as if they were a speech from Mr. Trump (it was a very convincing fake, and very slick and emotionally impactful). The video stated that it is God's will that Mr. Trump be President of the US for at least another 4 years in order to accomplish God's work at rooting out the evil global elites who are trying to overthrow the US government and instead force us all into socialism that will remove our religions and our freedom. It is God's will that we fight back, with armed uprisings, to put Trump in power one more time so he can return the rule of the country to the people and to God, and God will support and make successful anyone who fights, and it ended with the Lord's prayer and map turning red one state at a time as the narrator intoned "thy will be done, thy kingdom come on earth..."   

You can see clearly that QAnon and Trump are inextricably tied together.  And Q (what people call the puppetmaster pulling the strings, whoever it is) has spent a good deal of time flattering Mr. Trump and getting into his head, too, which has led to the philosophies and ideas of QAnon becoming somewhat mainstream in Republican circles. This is distressing. Especially since most people do not realize that things they are being told are normal Republican ideas and talking points are actually related to Q or have been hijacked and manipulated by Q. Remember, Q is a genius at twisting normal things into threads of his/her conspiracy and propaganda machine.

QAnon's apparent goal is to lead people into the conspiracy theory one tiny step at a time in order to create a divide in American culture and life, and then, once the followers are sufficient in number and sufficiently sucked into the false, manipulated beliefs, incite violence using them as pawns, or cannonballs, or expendables. The goal, apparently, is civil war. 

And it has become shocking how successful Q has been at this. The events at the Capitol on January 6, now that we're getting more information, show how successful Q has been. The fact that the FBI issued a warning to all people that there were going to be armed protests at all 50 state capitols and the US capitol between January 16 and January 22 is another indicator of Q's success at their awful goal.

Q wants to tear us apart from the inside. To destroy our nation and our souls. To make us feel fear and hate for even family members. To make us pray that everyone joins them because everyone who doesn't join will be destroyed for the good of the rest of us, and that is God's will. And Trump is God's chosen vessel to lead us through this destruction and rebirth. 

Q's methods are partially outlined in the article I linked to in Part 1. The red flags that you might be dealing with Q are the same as the red flags for other conspiracy and manipulation groups, so they are outlined in Part 1 as well. To sum it up, Q leads people to slowly, one little step at a time, begin to believe normal but Q-adjacent things, and to use Q's catchphrases and thinking patterns as their "talking points" to discuss political ideas. Any baby step that leads to Q's ideas becoming more mainstream is taken by Q willingly and eagerly, so that millions of otherwise good people are helping Q by using Q-related or Q-adjacent hash tags, catchphrases, explanations for things. Q has taught millions of good people to never criticize Trump on any level for any reason. Q has taught millions of people that sexual trafficking is something it is not. Q has taught millions of people that Democrats' primary (or sole) goal is to overthrow the government and put in a socialist government instead.

Q is a genius as hijacking things that already exist, and twisting them, or changing the words, or corrupting them just a tiny little bit at a time in order to teach people and prime people to accept more and more and more QAnon doctrine, until people are willing to storm the Capitol and think they are doing "the right thing" at the moment, as Josiah Colt, one of the stormers, said when he apologized for doing it. And Q convinces people that they have been enlightened when they have been sucked in and blinded. It's brilliant. They call it "redpilling" in reference to the movie The Matrix, where a character is offered a red pill that will make him "see reality" and "be free." 

I've had so many of their friends complain to me that it's like talking to a wall somehow to communicate with someone who has been redpilled. The friends try to engage with the ideas, try to communicate facts, try to discuss and find out what their friends think, and they are just shut out and shut down and belittled and demeaned. Suddenly, communication is no longer possible, and the person who is redpilled loses respect (even basic human respect) for all their friends who have not been redpilled, even while accusing others of that exact same thing. It's heartbreaking for the friends who disagree but do not feel any disrespect, and it further pulls the redpilled one into QAnon because they are trained to dismiss and hurt their friends and then see the insult as being pushed against them, not by them. 

Of course, not everyone who is believing or spreading Q or Q-adjacent (stepping stones to Q) ideas are redpilled. Most are relatively innocently going about their lives, believing seemingly reasonable things taught to them by the media and their redpilled friends, without ever realizing it's wrong. Q's ideas have spread far and wide in conservative circles and in conservative media sources--especially since Q managed to convince almost all conservatives to not engage with any other than the "approved" news sources--the ones that are Q-influenced and spreading Q ideas, or even just Q language and Q-appropriate talking points.

Q has successfully hijacked things that seem unrelated to his/her goal. For example, child trafficking. This is a real problem. And who wouldn't be against child trafficking? So Q jumped in there and has manipulated and corrupted the information being spread in a way that tells the wrong story. And, nefariously, in a way that makes normal people feel fear every single day, and makes them look at their own neighbors and fellow citizens as possible threats instead of as humans. Consequently, millions of white suburban housewives are now passionate about anti-child sex trafficking, but the thing they are fighting against is the made-up, mostly false narrative about it that was pushed by Q (that, for example, children are being kidnapped by foreign-looking men out of schools and grocery stores by the millions on a daily basis and sold into prostitution). 

The result of this has been that conservative white women now almost-universally fear "foreign-looking men" and were completely willing to not just go along with Stephen Miller's cruel and horrible immigration policies as a result, but to push them and promote them against common sense and their own religious beliefs, and against the wishes of actual anti-trafficking experts (Miller's immigration policies actually increase trafficking). It drove a wedge into society and did absolutely nothing to help the actual anti-child trafficking work going on. It also made anti-child-trafficking work a partisan issue, giving all credit to Trump as if this has never existed before he came along (despite all evidence to the contrary). 

I had a discussion with a really good person who I care about on social media who had been so blinded by the "talking points" that Q was pushing that she was advocating literally executing--without due process--anyone even suspected of being a pedophile, and accused me of being a horrible person who was beyond help when I suggested it might be a good idea to identify who is at risk of pedophilia and get them help before they commit any crimes against children. Zero victims was my goal. Death to pedophiles was hers. And there was absolutely no way to discuss it because the idea had been planted, and it was final. No nuance. No discussion. And no ability to comprehend other options or analyze it (this is a normally smart woman, too!). She had been infected by a virus and there was no way to get through to her, past the virus. 

One horrible thing about this is, once Q had successfully pushed their corrupted ideas into enough heads, they then pushed the idea that child trafficking would increase because of covid-related mask wearing, and so if we cooperated with health agencies as the Church asked us to do, we would be sacrificing our children to traffickers, who would get away with it because of masks. It was insane, but it drew a lot of people into behavior that was against the Church teachings, against their normal nature, against brotherly love, and into greater fear. They started seeing all the people who were wearing masks as people who were trying to help the "bad guys" steal their children.

And, in the mix, Q has been pushing the idea that the pedophiles are all Democrats. And all Democrats are either pedophiles or love pedophiles or are helping pedophiles.

Q took a normal, good idea, and corrupted it and corrupted it until it led many people to have more fear, less love, and the idea that the Democrats, liberals, or, in fact, anyone who did not support Tump was worthy of death. Sneaky. One little step at a time. Almost imperceptible. 

That's just one example of ideas that have been hijacked or introduced and then twisted and manipulated and used to lead people slowly but steadily into a corrupted reality created by Q to destroy them and all of us.

And we are all susceptible! And Q is targeting conservatives. Hard. Brilliantly. Liberals a bit, but conservatives hard.

There are hashtags that can be warnings for you of Q-corrupted ideas and Q-influenced people (who you should love but who you should be very wary of being used to suck you into the conspiracy). They include, among others, SaveOurChildren, wwg1wga (QAnon's motto is Where We Go 1, We Go All), thestormiscoming, patriots, qanon, wwg, wga, trump, maga, thegreatawakening, q, kag, darktolight, obamagate, pizzagate, draintheswamp, covid, qarmy, pedogate, deepstate, savethechildren, donaldtrump, conservative, redpill, fakenews, pedowood, adrenochrome, makeamericagreatagain, a, truth, thesepeoplearesick, usa, walkaway, bhfyp, wgaworldwide, coronavirus, republican, wakeup, thestorm, america, greatawakening, trumptrain, wethepeople, trusttheplan, epsteindidntkillhimself, followthewhiterabbit, sheepnomore, digitalsoldiers, americafirst, clintonbodycount, pizzagateisreal, wearethenewsnow, chan, newworldorder, qanonarmy, painiscoming, freedom, godwins, hisnamewassethrich, wakeupamerica, unitednotdivided, pro. nwo, thebaqery, maga2020.  (You can find more Q-related hashtags in this article: https://www.bellingcat.com/news/americas/2021/01/05/how-the-insurgent-and-maga-right-are-being-welded-together-on-the-streets-of-washington-d-c/ )

You can easily see that many of these look inocuous, and many have been outright hijacked. Despite how innocent they look, you have to be extremely wary whenever you see these hashtags because they indicate the person posting the information, whether knowingly or unknowingly, has been influenced by Q and is spreading Q's goals and Q's doctrines. Do not use these hashtags, even if you mean them in innocent ways, because they are calling cards inviting people to engage with you and spread Q's ideas and goals in and through you.

It is astonishing to me that Q has been so successful at the goals that people who spent their whole lives fearing a New World Order are now using that as a hashtag and advocating for it. People who spent their whole lives fearing an authoritarian leader would rise up and use the government against the people (and they would need to arm themselves against the uprising) are flocking to the aid of the very authoritarian government they feared, using their own weapons as the guns they spent their lives planning to defend their family against. 

It should not be a surprise that religious hashtags are included. The worst terrorist regimes in history all used religious language to manipulate the people and religious fervor to get them to commit atrocities. Q is not different--why not use something that has been incredibly successful in the past? Q kidnaps our faith and uses it to work against God and against our nation. In the name of following God and saving our nation, Q gets people to work against both, without ever realizing what they are doing. 

I have no words for it but astonishing. 

And yet, we are all susceptible to this influence and we are all at risk of joining, and all conservatives have targets on their heads right now.

Now, here's the really uncomfortable bit to post. I have compiled a list of ideas, talking points, etc., that are created by Q, stepping-stones to Q (influenced by and opening doors to greater influence by Q), hijacked by Q, or otherwise being used to spread Q's ideas and goals. All of these things are partially or completely false, but most are widely accepted as true by conservatives (and a few by liberals) thanks to Q and QAnon in general. This list is not comprehensive. But these are some of the ideas we've been fed, tricked into believing, have had hijacked, or have been spread by Q-influenced politicians, including the President (who appears to have been tricked into believing that going along with Q is doing good in the world.)

PLEASE please please please do not be offended if things you believe are on this list. We have all been tricked by Q. Q is targeting us to trick us. Being tricked by a master trickster is not something to be ashamed of. Clinging to it and diving deeper once you know better is concerning, though. I was tricked by Q about antifa and didn't even know until I prayed to know what things I believed were true that were not true. You were probably tricked by Q about something else. We all have been. But we don't need to cling to it. We can reject Q. 

Just like all the things Q does many of these are not all false, but only partially false. Finding the bit that's false can help us integrate nuance and critical thinking into all our ideas, and that is an excellent way to combat Q.

You will notice that Q did not invent a lot of these ideas. Some have been around for literally decades. Way longer than Q has been around. But, like the hashtags above that Q did not invent, Q has hijacked all these ideas, and they serve Q's purpose now. 

Ideas probably originating with Q or that help spread Q's message that should be checked

The election was stolen
There was a massive amount of fraud in the 2020 election
Fake voters exist and voted in huge numbers
Trump won the election
There were thousands of dead voters voting
Trump won by a landslide
There is a ton of proof that the election was rigged
Antifa is nationwide, organized, violent, and coming to get you
All violence is rooted in and committed by Antifa
You need to be very, very scared of Antifa
Antifa doesn't actually exist
Antifa is an ideology with no organization and adherents never show up and do violence
Children are at risk of kidnapping and being sold into sex slavery at every moment
Children are regularly kidnapped by foreign men and used for sex slavery by them
Democrats love pedophiles and push pedophilia and want to make it legal
Masks do more harm than good
Covid is not real
Covid is the flu
Covid cannot hurt you
The best way to end covid is to open the economy and have zero restrictions
Doctors are making money for diagnosing covid and so do it without any covid
Anything about Trump Derangement Syndrome (both the liberal and conservative meanings)
Democrats are going to institute socialism and take away your religion
Democrats are going to institute socialism immediately in an effort to destroy the government
Big-S Socialism and small-s socialism are the same thing
All socialism is the same as '60's socialism and communism
The Church wants members to fight all forms of socialism everywhere in the world always
All Black Lives Matter protests were violent
BLM is a terrorist organization
BLM is trying to institute marxism all through the nation
Jeffrey Epstein isn't dead
Jeffrey Epstein didn't kill himself
The Clintons have had a bunch of people executed
Whole cities were burned by black people rioting in the name of protesting
Black people are thugs
There was no russian collusion (and don't say anything bad about Russia at all)
The Mueller Report reported that Trump did nothing and it found nothing
Mueller was investigating a hoax
All Democrats hate Trump
Anyone who doesn't love Trump hates him
Anyone who doesn't support Trump does so from being full of hatred
Anyone who doesn't support Trump 100% hates me personally
Anyone who doesn't support Trump 100% is brainwashed by the media
Democrats have been trying to stop Trump from day one because of politics and politics alone (not because he's doing something wrong or dangerous)
Trump never lies
Trump has never done anything wrong
Trump is a godly man who is a prophet
Trump is all evil all the time and has never done anything good
Democrats are full of hatred
Republicans are all blind and brainwashed
There is an organized fascist Democrat movement trying to take over and destroy the country, and all Democrats are part of it--every single one, including family members and friends (alas)
Plandemic (all of Plandemic)
Democrats all lie; Republicans never do
Anyone who doesn't love Trump is a Democrat
Trump is called of God to save our country
Trump was called to have an 8-year term and since he didn't get re-elected, God wants us to overthrow the government all together and return the power to the people (and make Trump "First Citizen")
Patriots take up arms to defend themselves
The only good Democrat is a dead democrat
All Democrats are baby killers
If you vote for Democrats, you are voting to kill babies
All Democrats are in favor of using abortion as birth control and like abortions
Democrats hate babies
All Democrats want full up-to-birth abortions legalized and paid for by the government
There are zero exception to abortion prohibitions that are okay with the Church or any good people
All righteous people are Republicans
There are no righteous Democrats
You can tell a person's righteousness by how they vote
All Republicans worship Trump
If a guy is on our side, it means he's good no matter what he's done
We're the good guys and nobody else can be
The mainstream media is biased and therefore wrong
The conservative mainstream media is not biased
You cannot trust the Mainstream Media in any way in any realm and should never read or listen to anything they have touched
Non mainstream media are more reliable than anyone else and we don't have to check their bias or where the money comes from or even their facts--especially the "approved" sources of information
Non mainstream media has no agenda and would never lie
If you are not one of us, you are a liar or mistaken and I would be wrong to listen to you or consider your ideas
If a source uses a single loaded word or ever makes a single mistake (even if they retract it), everything they produce is wrong and unreliable and manipulating you

There are more. Many many more. I couldn't catalog them all and I wouldn't want to. Since this is a post of warning to conservatives, I focused most heavily on those, but there are liberal Q lies as well, and I included a few of those. I'm sure you could think of a lot more. We're always more attuned to the lies others believe than we are to the lies we believe. And nobody wants to think that something they believe is actually wrong. Nobody wants to think they were misled. Nobody wants to think their ideas are actually simplistic black-and-white thinking that is a stepping stone to something awful like Q, or that things they've believed for a long time have been hijacked by Q. 

I might even be wrong about some of these. Hard to tell when you're wrong. 

The only thing I've found that consistently works to help me see what I believe that is wrong is to pray and ask Heavenly Father to help me "know the things I know that just ain't so," as my dad once said to me. I learn one bit at a time. I think it would work for everyone. God loves us all. He helps us all shed our false or incorrect beliefs and the vain traditions we've learned one piece at a time, helping us replace them with true things. 

I have also found it helps immensely to take my brother's advice to give people the benefit of the doubt. Surely they have come to conclusions through some thought process. Surely they are not all evil simply because they believe something different from me. We can continue to remind ourselves that we are all humans and children of God, and that we don't want to us-vs-them or "other" people, but let them be human and learn and grow and evolve together. We especially don't want to make people dig in their heels and defend themselves in a falsehood because of how we behave (I am still working on this--it is an definite fault of mine.)

In the meantime be aware of the spreading lies and keep your compassion and critical thinking skills at the forefront.

Read more here: https://www.nbcnews.com/think/opinion/trump-s-qanon-followers-are-dangerous-cult-how-save-someone-ncna1239828

and here: https://theconversation.com/the-church-of-qanon-will-conspiracy-theories-form-the-basis-of-a-new-religious-movement-137859

A Warning About Conspiracy and Manipulation, Part 1 (Conspiracy, Manipulation, and Red Flags in General)

 I recently read an excellent article on Games and Conspiracies. (https://medium.com/curiouserinstitute/a-game-designers-analysis-of-qanon-580972548be5)

This was a paradigm-shifting article for me to find. Profoundly so. 

I have been baffled for 5 years how people I respect, who are intelligent humans, could be led into believing wildly cruel, untrue, or inappropriate things that are against their core beliefs. Some of them have even fallen into a conspiracy theory named by its believers "QAnon."

It turns out the surest hint that you are susceptible to these wildly led-astray beliefs is to be sure that you are not susceptible. Apparently everyone is susceptible to falling into and believing conspiracies and wildly untrue but logically satisfying things--and the more you think you, personally, are not, the more likely you are to be led astray.

And it's all done in a clever, well-documented, structured way that consistently works.

For example, from the article: 

QAnon grows on the wild misinterpretation of random data, presented in a suggestive fashion in a milieu designed to help the users come to the intended misunderstanding. Maybe “guided apophenia” is a better phrase. Guided because the puppet masters are directly involved in hinting about the desired conclusions. They have pre-seeded the conclusions. They are constantly getting the player lost by pointing out unrelated random events and creating a meaning for them that fits the propaganda message Q is delivering.

There is no reality here. No actual solution in the real world. Instead, this is a breadcrumb trail AWAY from reality. Away from actual solutions and towards a dangerous psychological rush. It works very well because when you “figure it out yourself” you own it. You experience the thrill of discovery, the excitement of the rabbit hole, the acceptance of a community that loves and respects you. Because you were convinced to “connect the dots yourself” you can see the absolute logic of it. This is the conclusion you arrived at...

 ...It’s easy for people to forget that they are not discovering the story, but creating it from random data.

 You should read the whole article. VERY eye opening.

There are things you can watch out for that are signs that something you are engaging with are potentially conspiracy-related, false, or dangerously manipulative.

 Some of the red flags:

 1. They use the phrase "Do Your Own Research."

You hear this from anti-vaxxers, anti-Mormons, and QAnon supporters all the time. It's almost cliche. Why do they say this? Telling people what to believe makes them resist. Leading them along and planting thoughts in their heads while convincing them the thoughts are their own is way more effective. Making them think they came to the conclusion you planted is the surest way to convince them to continue with what you want them to believe. They call this "following a trail of breadcrumbs."  The breadcrumbs are hints that make you think you are doing your own research, but actually the research prompts, questions, and suggested resources are 100% designed to lead you to a particular conclusion. This often includes refusing to answer questions outright, but instead giving dodgy answers or respond with questions. (This is a legitimate educational technique also, but if they never give a straight answer, that's a red flag.)

2. They tell you that you can only trust their sources of information. 

The manipulators here, the puppetmasters, don't just go cold-turkey. They rely on real situations that are problematic, like that media is biased and that the majority of media organizations appear to lean left instead of right. Then they take that concern and magnify it, convincing people to not trust or listen to any other sources of information. If someone or some belief system is insisting you cannot get accurate information from anyone but them, or that you should never trust experts in the fields involved or even the people actually involved in the work at hand (like elections officials or epidemiologists) that should be a huge red flag that there is conspiracy and manipulation going on, and you should absolutely turn away.

3.  They convince people that evidence against something is actually evidence FOR it. 

The fact, for example, that nobody has heard of a particular thing is reinterpreted as a vast conspiracy to keep it secret rather than as evidence that it's not real or true. 

4. The explanations for things are complicated, convoluted, and winding, but they tie up every loose end and use every piece of the puzzle, leaving every single fact accounted for and explained in one beautiful, complex thread that winds here and there but catches everything. 

 As my brother recently noted: real life is messy. It leaves thing unexplained. There is no unifying theory that ties every single observation into one lovely whole.

Real life is also not as complicated as these theories are. Occam's Razor does fall short in trying to insist that the simplest explanation is most likely the real one, but it is a useful tool for protecting us from conspiracy theories and manipulation. If there is a simpler explanation, we should at least consider it seriously, even if it does not give the heady satisfaction of understanding (or creating) a wonderfully complicated theory of everything. 

5. The ideas require whole masses of people to think, believe, and act the same way consistently and over time. 

In real life, people are not as smart as they are in conspiracy theories. They can't think through and implement all the myriad pieces and threads required for a conspiracy theory to happen. It's actually more likely that we have coincidence than that all the threads could possibly be tied together by all the people required all the time with no mistakes and nobody spilling the beans. People can't actually conceive of and implement things like massive, large-scale frauds because it's nearly impossible to get everyone on the same page, agreeing, competent, and consistently cooperative. Think about how hard it is just to get family pictures taken! Is it at all reasonable that someone somewhere could implement the kinds of complex frauds or theories being proposed? Usually not. Humans are not that adept, or smart, or cooperative in real life. This goes from massive election fraud all the way to the media all believing and acting in sync to accomplish some goal. Real humans just don't function that way. They're just not cooperative enough.

 6. The majority of the people explaining the ideas appear only on certain websites or YouTube and nowhere else

 If the information can't be found anywhere outside the circle that promotes it, look critically at it. Truth gets spread far and wide and picked up by all kind of sources and people. Conspiracy tends to stay limited in scope and distribution.

7. They insist the "truth," once you've come to the conclusion they desire, is so self-evident that it does not need to be questioned or tested (as by scientists or data analysis) or even confirmed. 

If someone's main argument is "it's obvious," that would be a red flag. True things can be analyzed, explored, and confirmed. You can find evidence from myriad sources. It can be questioned and stand up to scrutiny. It doesn't have to remain only self-evident.

8. They insist that whole classes of people en masse (and also anyone who disagrees with them) are evil.  

Anyone who tries to convince you that other humans as a class (other political parties, other races, other religions, other nations, etc.) are inherently and irredeemably always wrong or evil is not working for God. God wants us to love one another, not despise, belittle, demean, or mock others (including such small things as name calling). He also does not want us to consider an entire class of our brothers and sisters to be so morally or intellectually bankrupt that they become lesser or even worthy of destruction. The puppetmasters or manipulators also encourage people to cut off communication with those who refuse to accept the ideas or who change their minds or leave the ideas behind. But we should not be cutting off all communication with family and loved ones. That makes this a big red flag. Anything that encourages us vs them thinking should be suspect. This includes anything that reduces other people's motives or beliefs to some simple and oft-repeated negative catchphrase (like "you just hate ____.") rather than giving them the benefit of the doubt, a chance to explain or even believe something, or the respect that humans deserve as humans.

9. They encourage simplistic black vs white, good vs evil thinking.

In real life, there is complexity in every situation. There is nuance and exception and depth and information we didn't know or didn't consider that changes the way things are interpreted. There is good vs evil in the world (truly, Jesus is good and Satan is evil). But the vast majority of situations are not easily classed. The nuance and detail gets in the way, so that there is not one single, simple right and one single wrong answer. Most things are not just black or white. There are all kinds of colors. There are all kinds of shades of gray. You can see this reflected in Church statements and policies on things like abortion, surrogacy, and immigration. Thank goodness for modern prophets to help us see where the lines and pictures are in the sea of colors and shades that fill the world! If someone is encouraging this kind of simplistic black vs white thinking, that's a red flag.

10.  Everyone involved tends to use the same phrases but declines to engage in complex, nuanced discussion. 

If the whole group that believes the things you are looking at discourage critical and complex thinking and reduce most ideas to a few seemingly-quoted catchphrases, that would be a red flag. When real people are thinking and discussing, they do use phrases they've heard before, but they usually can expand on them and explain them and talk around them. If everything seems to be reduced to catchphrase-y "reasons" that everyone quotes but nobody talks about in depth, that is a red flag that this is a conspiracy or a manipulation. This was explained by a cult expert as "Use of loaded language and clichés which constrict knowledge, stop critical thoughts and reduce complexities into platitudinous buzz words."  I think that sums up what happens with non-cult conspiracy clusters as well. In fact, you can sometimes see believers shut down discussions that challenge the buzzwords. They use things like denial, justification, flat out rejection of rational analysis without engaging with it or seeming to hear it at all, or say the words "agree to disagree" or "I'm out" to end the discussion rather than have their conspiracy-related or manipulated ideas challenged in a way that might set them free from the ideas. As with number 8, this includes using simplistic, dismissive phrases to explain away ideas that threaten the belief.

 11. They forbid criticism of some key thing (the leader, the text, the ideology, etc.)

If a group or a teacher completely forbids criticism at all of a key focus of their ideas, this is a red flag. Do they only say positive things and never allow or acknowledge or even process any criticism of someone or something? That's a problem. In real life, we see mistakes and errors even in things we love (like the Bible, for example). We acknowledge freely that the president we admire is not perfect and did something we disagree with. If criticism is not allowed, this is a red flag.

12. They make their ideas or their people the only way to accomplish the desired outcome

In real life, there are usually many ways to a desired end. One leader can accomplish things just as successfully as another. We recognize that different approaches appeal to different people or succeed better with different groups. If there is a one way or one man only thinking involved, that would be a red flag.

13. They instill fear and promote fear or motivate with fear or justify their actions using fear.

Jesus does not want us to fear. God did not put a spirit of fear in our souls. Fear is not a tool of good. If someone or some group is working or pushing an agenda by encouraging fear, that's not of God. If they make you fear your neighbors, or immigrants, or gay people, or poor people, or rich people, or things that are very different from you, or a set of ideas, or a source of information, that is a red flag that you might be dealing with conspiracy or manipulation. 

14. They want more personal information from you that you normally would give. Or they ask for money in order for you to learn more "truth."

Do they need photos of your drivers license, front and back, to join their organization? Do you have to pay a fee to hear the rest of the vital truths they think everyone should know? Do they tell you some parts, promising this can change your life or answer all your questions, and then tell you if you come to their workshop or seminar, you'll learn more? And then there's another seminar? And another workshop? And you have a chance to "level up" like it's a game? (Energy work practitioners, Multi-level Marketers, and Self Help Organizations do this often!) If they want your money or your identity in order to share "truth" or ideas with you, or let you join, this is a huge huge huge red flag that you are being led into a conspiracy or into a manipulation. As with phone and email scams, if they want your ID or ask for any money at all, walk away and tell someone else to get back up and to clear your mind and get another perspective.

 No doubt there are more warning signs that something or someone you are engaging with might lead you into believing something that is not true, is a conspiracy, or is a big old manipulation. I'd love to hear the ones I've missed here.

Unfortunately, at the moment, the "puppetmasters" who are getting a lot of traction from this are targeting conservatives hardcore, so we have to be especially careful. That is not to say that liberals are too smart or immune. It just so happens that at this moment in history, conservatives have a target on their backs for this kind of stuff, so we have to be extra careful to watch for the red flags because they abound.

Check out Part 2 for more information on specifically QAnon and their work to hijack conservative ideas and conservatives themselves,