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RAW VIDEO: “America’s Fascist Brew; Will America Fail?” Sneak Preview

RAW VIDEO: If we missed you at last night’s webcast where we shared our thoughts on “If America Fails?:  The Coming Tyranny” – “America’s Fascist Brew; Will America Fail? – the Sneak Peek” – you can catch up at the link below.

Season 1 of “If America Fails?:  The Coming Tyranny,” airs Thursdays, 8:00 pm ET, starting January, 2022, on YouTube.  This TruthWorks Network production is co-hosted by Janice Graham and L. Michelle Odom.

This panel features Dr. Karen A. Ritzenhoff, Professor, Department of Communication, Central Connecticut State University.  Dr. Ritzenhoff is a co-editor of The Handmaid’s Tale:  Teaching Dystopia, Feminism, and Resistance Across Disciplines and Borders, and many other books.

Joining us in this event were Geo Moses and Suzanne Colson.

“America’s Fascist Brew; Will America Fail?” is an introduction to the “If America Fails?  The Coming Tyranny” webcast series.  It features a two-hour online panel discussion where we shared videos from “The Handmaid’s Tale” Hulu TV series and summarized the first four seasons of the show, while exploring key themes.  The panel discussion was followed by a one-hour open chat with the audience, found at this link.    

“IF AMERICA FAILS?:  The Coming Tyranny,” is a real-world exploration of a fictional story.  A new totalitarian society is created in the dystopian world of “The Handmaid’s Tale.”  It resonates, frighteningly, with the dramatic efforts happening in the United States today—to suppress voting rights, limit a woman’s right to choose, criminalize free speech, distort education, rewrite history, and other threats taking place in the country now.  Our Black voice collaborative considers the themes presented by the universally-focused web series, from our own perspective—relating them to real-life current events—and warns, the time to fight fascism is NOW!

Louisiana State Trooper Carl Cavalier Needs Our Support

The Handmaid’s Tale @HandmaidsOnHulu is replete with examples of punishment and death for those who attempt to resist oppression.  So is America.  For example, Louisiana State Trooper Carl Cavalier who revealed an ongoing pattern of brutality toward Black motorists and accused colleagues of murder, will be fired for blowing the whistle.  He needs our support.

On the 2019 Ronald Greene case, see:  “Louisiana governor downplays State Police cover-up allegations in Ronald Greene case,” by Wesley Muller, Louisiana Illuminator, 9/16/21.  — LMO

“LA State Trooper is soon to be fired after going public with allegations of brutality and racism within the department; Black farmers file motion in battle over $5B in debt relief for farmers of color; Michigan looks to replace all of Benton Harbor lead pipes in 18 months; Boston to pay over $1M to a black man who was arrested for being drunk, but he was really having a stroke; DOJ investigates physical and sexual abuse allegations in Texas’ Juvenile Correctional facilities.”  — Roland Martin Unfiltered

Triple Digit Heat Waves: Mother Nature Issues Her Warning

When writers like Octavia Butler and Margaret Atwood incorporated themes of global warming into their dystopian volumes, several decades ago, it was clear, at least among scientists and visionaries, the track we were on as a species with the damage we were doing to Mother Earth.  The artists, authors, scientists and others have been speaking on behalf of the planet – warning us of the worst possibilities – and beseeching humanity to course correct – for decades.

Well, here we are in a new century – and Mother Earth is speaking for herself.  Are we listening?

It’s cool outside now in NYC.  We can breathe, and hopefully, think more clearly than we are able to do in the debilitating heat.  Do we remember the temperatures some parts of our country experienced last summer?

My son told me when he was in Kuwait about 10 years ago, the temperature got up to 129 degrees – and even higher inside his U.S. Army uniform!  I really can’t even or don’t want to imagine what that feels like.  I am certain I would not survive.  I don’t even see myself surviving the high temps we saw in this country last summer.  Have you forgotten? Here’s a reminder.  May we be inspired to do the work Mother Earth is calling us to do.  Keep cool.   — LMO

“The heat wave that hit the usually cool and rainy American Pacific Northwest was a shock to many — Oregon and Washington were covered by a blanket of heat in the triple digits.  After the temperatures soared, a group of scientists quickly came together to answer a crucial question:  How much is climate change to blame?  Guest: Henry Fountain, a climate change reporter for The New York Times; and Sergio Olmos, a freelancer for The Times.”  — The Daily

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The Power of Ideas: The Battle in America’s Schools

Dan, a character who plays a gay college professor in “The Handmaid’s Tale,” is hung from a pole.  The character Emily, herself a former college professor, was told by her boss, Dan, that she would not be teaching the following semester at the university, to give her a lower profile and avoid attracting criticism for her sexual orientation. Dan is later seen hanged with the word “faggot” painted underneath him.  (See Season 2, Episode 2, “Unwomen”).

Reading by women is made illegal in “The Handmaid’s Tale.”  Serena lost a finger for violating this vile law.  When she proposes that girls be taught to read only from the Bible, and reads from the Bible to make her point, she is punished by having a finger removed.  (See Season 2, Episode 13, “The Word”).

The power of ideas is very threatening to people who seek to control the thoughts of other people.  They seem to realize that people may object to having their thoughts limited and controlled – and are desperately attempting to repress thinking from grade school through college.

Dr. Karen A. Ritzenhoff, discussed the strained environment on college campuses, for example, in her October 14th visit with “If America Fails?  The Coming Tyranny.”

At all levels of America’s educational system, the battle is on.  — LMO

These points were made in the CounterSpin interview with Stevana Sims on anti-racist education:

“Legislators in some 27 states are trying to require teachers to avoid what are termed ‘divisive concepts’ in classrooms and curricula, an extremely thinly veiled effort to force teachers to propagandize about US history rather than teach it, and to punish those that don’t toe the line… It’s deeply disturbing. But it turns out teachers don’t take kindly to being told to underserve their students by distorting historical and present reality. A major campaign is underway to push back, and reassert the importance of critical education and the professional judgment of educators… The American Association of University Professors, the American Historical Association, PEN America—a number of really mainstream, respected organizations are sounding the alarm that these bills around the country are an infringement on the right of faculty to teach, and students to learn.”  — Janine Jackson

“The American Association of University Professors, the American Historical Association, PEN America—a number of really mainstream, respected organizations are sounding the alarm that these bills around the country are an infringement on the right of faculty to teach, and students to learn.”

— Janine Jackson

“It is a direct attack on our K–12 teachers. It is to the point where teachers are getting fired and losing pay. It is to the point where there was a teacher who had a Black Lives Matter flag in her classroom, and was asked to take it down. And because she refused, she was then removed from her position. There was a principal in Texas who was also accused of teaching critical race theory within his school, and he was removed from his job. It’s coming to a point where threats, violent threats, are being made against teachers and educators who are teaching the truth and teaching education. It is scary, honestly.”  — Stevana Sims, Black Lives Matter at School

“It’s coming to a point where threats, violent threats, are being made against teachers and educators who are teaching the truth and teaching education.”

— Stevana Sims, Black Lives Matter at School

Blind Indifference in Pursuit of Power: Over 200,000 Children Sexually Abused by French Clergy

Where are the boy children in Gilead?  Thus far in “The Handmaid’s Tale” we have not seen much about the boy children.  Perhaps we need another show to highlight the atrocities to which boys and all children may be subjected.  The real world, as always, provides much stimuli from which a story could be crafted.  Recent revelations of the sexual abuse of mainly boy children by French clergy, for example, could be used as a starting point.

As I was reading about the indifference of the Catholic Church in the article linked here, I was reminded of a comment by the character Commander Joseph Lawrence.  While trying to coerce June into revealing the location of runaway handmaids, by warning her that her daughter Hannah would be hurt, June said, “No.  Gilead would never hurt a child.  That’s all they care about.”  Lawrence responded:  “Gilead doesn’t care about children.  Gilead cares about power.  Faithfulness, old-time values, homemade bread – that’s just a means to the end – a distraction…”  (See Season 4, Episode 3, “The Crossing,” 34:40). 

“Gilead doesn’t care about children.  Gilead cares about power.  Faithfulness, old-time values, homemade bread – that’s just a means to the end – a distraction…”

— Character – Commander Joseph Lawrence

What other reason than power could there possibly be for the blind indifference of Catholic leadership to the abuse of children in their midst?  — LMO

“French clergy sexually abused more than 200,000 children over the past 70 years, a major investigation released on Tuesday found, and its authors said the Catholic Church had turned a blind eye to the ‘scourge’ for too long.”  — Tangi Salaün and Ingrid Melander | Reuters

The Citizen’s Role in Ensuring Accountability: On January 6th

I wish The Handmaid’s Tale showed more about how the U.S. was overtaken by Gilead.  I think it could help Americans more clearly see connections between seemingly unrelated events, and perhaps increase our sense of urgency around fighting fascism.  For example, it may seem unrelated to our daily lives, but the issue of accountability is key to how smooth or rough is the road to fascism.

Some attention, though hardly enough, is being paid to holding people accountable, at the highest level, in events that transpired at the U.S. Capitol on January 6th.  However, if Congress and the DOJ allow witnesses to blow off subpoenas regarding these events, insurrectionists will learn there are no significant consequences to attempts at overthrowing the U.S. government.  They will try again.  One day they will succeed.

Perhaps as citizens of the U.S., our role is to alert decision makers of our interest in seeing justice served.  #AccountabilityMatters  — LMO

“It has now been over nine months since the January 6 attack on the Capitol, and none of the key perpetrators – Trump, Bannon, Flynn, Stone, etc – have been held accountable. And now they are dodging and defying subpoenas! What the Democrats are showing is that you cannot fight hate speech with weasel words, and you cannot fight accelerationism with inertia. This whole gang is running out the clock – the GOP and the transnational crime syndicate that backs them.”  — Gaslit Nation

The Claremont Institute’s Fight to End Democracy

As we observe a systematic attack on voting rights and election integrity, it’s good to know, at least, the nature of the enemy – their motives, goals, strategies and tactics.  For those who want to preserve and promote democracy – who believe every adult should have a voice in how we are governed – who want to fight back while we still can – we must identify the targets.

In this important conversation, Nick and Jared discuss The Claremont Institute that seeks to destroy democracy and bring in strongman leadership so that those they consider to be more intelligent can rule the world for those they deem lessor beings.  These are the people, said Jared, who are “working overtime to overthrow” our right to vote.  Take a listen.  — LMO

“Co-hosts Jared Yates Sexton and Nick Hauselman…turn their focus on Krysten Sinema and Joe Manchin, two senators hellbent on holding up the process of passing Joe Biden’s agenda.” — The Muckrake Political Podcast

LISTEN From 45:43 | If Facebook Crashes, Does The World End? | The Muckrake Political Podcast with Jared Yates Sexton and Nick Hauselnan | 10/5/2021

When the Defender Needs Defending: Steven Donziger

In The Handmaid’s Tale, a form of a criminal justice system does exist, dubious as it is.  For instance, after Serena was shot in Season 2, Episode 6, “First Blood,” Fred and a group of commanders took the accused out to the woods and shot him.  Justice, really, is just a word – and largely dependent on one’s point of view.

In real life, standing up for Mother Earth and indigenous people is dangerous business – and essentially against corporate law – apparently.  Sometimes, it gets you killed.

The case of Steven Donziger illustrates yet another approach to suppressing dissent – “corporate prosecution” or the use of private resources to punish the enemies of major corporations.  Listen to Michael Moore’s interview of attorney Donziger, and see how you might help.  This lawyer who successfully defended Mother Earth, needs our support. 

Michael Moore asks us to speak out by, among other things, calling the U.S. Attorney General, Merrick Garland, on 202-514-2000 or writing the DOJ.  — LMO

“Steven Donziger has spent the last 800 days under house arrest with a government tracking device around his ankle. His crime? Well, Donziger is the lawyer who successfully sued the oil giant Chevron on behalf of the people of Ecuador for deliberately discharging 16 billion gallons of toxic waste in the Ecuadorian Amazon between 1964 and 1992. Donziger and his colleagues succeeded and won a $9.5 billion judgment on behalf of the indigenous and poor communities of Ecuador in 2011. Chevron has yet to pay a dime on this judgement and instead, have brought this case to the friendly confines of the United States and turned Donziger, the person who successfully prosecuted them, into the one doing time. Mike is joined by Steven Donziger, live from his house arrest, to explain the Kafka-esque/Twilight Zone case in which Donziger is serving as the punching bag of corporate America, with the American people footing the bill. They discuss this bizarre and unprecedented case, his condition, and what we all must do to fight back.”  — Rumble with Michael Moore

Our Human Needs for “Community, Meaning, Purpose & Ritual” May Lead to Vulnerability to Cults

There’s a sort of “cultish” quality to the people who bring Gilead to life in The Handmaid’s Tale.  Where key actors in the new regime, Fred and Serena Joy Waterford, were booed in the U.S. and Serena was shot, by the time they are detained in Canada, disturbingly, they have developed a new group of pro-Gilead followers.  (See Season 2, Episode 6, “First Blood” and Season 4, Episode 8, “Testimony”).

The word “cult” is thrown around a lot these days in the U.S., especially when trying to grasp whatever is going on with the Republican Party.  Cults are also the subject of a new book – Cultish:  The Language of Fanaticism by Amanda Montell.  Below are excerpts from Montell’s interview with CIIS Public Programs host Zara Zimbardo.  The women consider how our human needs for “community, meaning, purpose and ritual” may lead to vulnerability to cults, in the episode, “Amanda Montell: On Cults, Language, and Social Science.”  — LMO

Here are a few excerpts from the transcript:

“What makes cults so intriguing and frightening? What makes them powerful? The reason why so many of us binge Manson documentaries by the dozen and fall down rabbit holes researching suburban moms gone QAnon is because we’re looking for a satisfying explanation for what causes people to join—and more importantly, stay in—extreme groups. We secretly want to know: could it happen to me? Author and journalist Amanda Montell’s argument is that, on some level, it already has.

“In this episode, CIIS professor, writer, and speaker Zara Zimbardo talks with author and journalist Amanda Montell about her latest book, Cultish, in which she argues that the key to manufacturing intense ideology, community, and us/them attitudes all comes down to language. Zara and Amanda discuss influence, the social science of cults, and how to recognize the language of fanaticism all around us…”  — CIIS

“…when we are earnestly talking about spiritual groups, religious groups, socio-political groups, throwing around the cult accusation willy-nilly, it can really shut down conversations because nobody wants to be told you’re in a cult and if your ideologies and your group affiliations vastly differ from others who have equally strong ideologies and affiliations, that cult label is going to do nothing but increase and widen that rift.”  — Amanda Montell

“…throwing around the cult accusation willy-nilly, it can really shut down conversations because nobody wants to be told you’re in a cult…”

— Amanda Montell

“…certain terms, certain concepts, certain kind of, like, ‘wink’ code words can create a kind of a warm community of shared understanding that can be liberatory, that can be in the service of healing or social change. And then those same terms can get wielded in a way that can be abusive, policing, or justifying this treatment for people who have become heavily, emotionally, psychologically, financially invested in whatever the community is, and the- I’m wondering if we could hang out for a bit with this concept of thought terminating clichés, coined by psychiatrist Robert Jay Lifton in the early 60s because you returned to this again and again from different angles and from different contexts, what is a thought terminating cliché and how does it function, and how can we be sensitized to it, to them?”  — Zara Zimbardo

“Yes. Well, this is one of the key elements of cultish language. It’s one of those things that once you become aware of it, you won’t be able to unhear it. So, a thought terminating cliché again, I wish I’d come up with it. It’s the perfect label for this phenomenon which you’ll find everywhere. Also known as a semantic stop sign. They’re these stock expressions that are easily memorized, easily repeated, and aimed at shutting down independent thinking or questioning. So, as you mentioned, questioning is the enemy number one for a cult. They’re trying to accomplish things that can’t be accomplished if people are allowed to express dissent and push back and weigh in individualistically on what’s going on. So, you need a robust glossary of thought terminating cliches to make sure people are not able to do that, to express that pushback.

“…a thought terminating cliché…Also known as a semantic stop sign. They’re these stock expressions that are easily memorized, easily repeated, and aimed at shutting down independent thinking or questioning…questioning is the enemy number one for a cult.”

— Amanda Montell

“So, examples of thought terminating cliches that we might hear in our everyday lives include things like ‘well, boys will be boys’. Or ‘well, everything happens for a reason’ or ‘you know, it is what it is. It’s all in God’s plan’ and expressions like that are really compelling because it’s work to think. And it’s a relief not to have to and they alleviate cognitive dissonance or the uncomfortable discord you feel in your mind when you’re holding two conflicting ideas in there and at the same time. So, let’s come up with some cultish examples and in those contexts, these can be a lot more destructive and nefarious.

“…examples of thought terminating cliches that we might hear in our everyday lives include things like ‘well, boys will be boys’. Or ‘well, everything happens for a reason’ or ‘you know, it is what it is. It’s all in God’s plan’”

— Amanda Montell

“So, in Synanon for example, where everybody is physically isolated, and their lives are being dictated by this one person at the top. This guy named Chuck Dederich. If someone in Synanon wanted to question, you know, why do we have to play the game, the Synanon game, every single night, or why aren’t kids allowed to go to outside schools? Or you know, why do we have to shave our heads? Why do we have to be reassigned new Synanon partners? There was a thought terminating cliché that could be served on command, and it went ‘act as if’ and it was this imperative to act as if you believed in this policy that Chuck Dederich put in place until you did because if you’re feeling dissonant about it, well that’s a you problem. This is the gaslighting that you were talking about, that’s a you problem, and Chuck is a visionary and a genius and he knows what’s best. And so, if you have an issue, act as if and then you can tell your- you can sort of brainwash yourself, right? Like you want badly to believe that this place where you spent the past 5, 10, 15 years, is everything that it would promised it would be, you don’t want to have to cut your losses, you don’t want to have to create conflict and so you’re going to use ‘act as if’ as a cue to put that cognitive dissonance in that dis- that, you know, dissent to bed. In a group like NXIVM, if folks binged the NXIVM docuseries like I did, you might recognize thought terminating clichés that Keith Ranieri would use things like, ‘well don’t let yourself be ruled by fear’ or dismissing valid concerns as ‘limiting beliefs’. In Jonestown and so many different cultish groups throughout history and the world of thought- classic thought terminating cliché is ‘it’s all the media’s fault. Blame the media.’ So thought terminating- [Zara: Fake news?] fake news! Yeah. And that’s an example of loaded language, right? So, they’re up there, so many examples of that, but yeah, the media is a classic, classic scapegoat and it’s, you know, it’s tricky. And this is what toxic relationships are in general. Whether you’re in a toxic one-on-one relationship, or in a toxic relationship with the group you’re in, like, there’s always some truth to what’s going on there. If there weren’t, you would, you would never have joined, you would never have stayed. And so, you know, it’s like we do need to express skepticism toward the media to a degree, we do need to, you know, check preconceived notions that we have in our minds about what our limits are and what we can achieve or can’t achieve. Like there’s a little bit of truth there. But when you have these stock expressions that are there to shut you down anytime you have a question, that’s a red flag because anything legitimate will stand up to scrutiny…

“…anything legitimate will stand up to scrutiny…”

— Amanda Montell

“I think the multi-level marketing industry is this sort of really extreme case study in toxic positivity and the prosperity gospel that imbues all of American workplace culture in general. But the way that the multi-level marketing industry exploits this American value for you know, productivity and progress and self-improvement is well, it’s, I don’t know how far I want to go back, but you asked about the language of, you know, pseudo feminism and how the multi-level marketing industry exploits that.

“I think the multi-level marketing industry is this sort of really extreme case study in toxic positivity and the prosperity gospel that imbues all of American workplace culture in general.”

— Amanda Montell

“So, since the dawn of the modern direct sales industry in the 1940s and 50s, the industry has always targeted non-working wives and mothers as the primary sales force. The reason why is very interesting, I won’t get into it. But so, while in the 40s and 50s, Tupperware, just like the OG multi-level marketing company, MLM, was pitched as like, the best thing to happen to women, since they got to vote, this opportunity to be a businesswoman to earn a full time living with part time work from home. Now multi-level marketing companies and Tupperware, still around, pitch themselves as an opportunity for ‘girl boss’, ‘boss babe’, ‘mompreneurs’ to become part of an empowering movement. So, the precise terms have changed but MLMs have always capitalized on whatever commodified pseudo feminist language was trendy at the moment to convince women that they should be a part of not only this industry, but a movement, a community and that’s part of what makes these companies so cultish is that they’re not just sort of scammy and predatory, they are missionary in character. They are helmed by these charismatic leaders that members come to revere and worship almost in a religious way. There is such intense pressure in these groups that truly codependent life consuming relationships start to form when you invariably do not become a millionaire mompreneur within a year like they promised, because mathematically, it’s not possible.

“The way that these pyramid scheme-esque organizations are structured, they will do what these other cultish groups that we’ve been mentioning before do, they will gaslight you into believing that you didn’t try hard enough, you aren’t really dedicated to the American dream like you should be because this is a good system, and a good system always works. And the exit costs are incredibly high because of these high pressure, boundaryless relationships that have formed since everything- since everybody’s financial success depends on the financial success of the recruits below them. So yeah, I decided it was important to focus on the language of multi-level marketing, not only because it is fascinating in and of itself, but it says something about our workplace values in America at large…

“The way that these pyramid scheme-esque organizations are structured, they will do what these other cultish groups that we’ve been mentioning before do, they will gaslight you into believing that you didn’t try hard enough, you aren’t really dedicated to the American dream like you should be because this is a good system, and a good system always works.”

— Amanda Montell

“So, it’s this, it’s this combination of vulnerability with sort of resilience and idealism in the face of that vulnerability that can make someone attracted to cultish groups and that doesn’t necessarily have to be bad. You just have to approach them with the right combination of fact checking and cross-checking. And all of these things that we’ve been talking about the, the skepticism to keep you safe.”  — Amanda Montell

“Slouching Towards Gilead,” by Megan Garber, The Atlantic

“The Handmaid’s Tale showed the ease with which the unthinkable can become ordinary—a lesson crucial in the age of the Big Lie…

“When the TV version of The Handmaid’s Tale premiered in 2017, the show was a textbook piece of Trump-era resistance art—a direct reply to the preening misogynies of the newly elected president. Both the book and the show were timely parables of gendered violence, reminders that history can also move backwards. And they retain that power today: The Trump administration may have concluded, but its encroaching cruelties have not. State leaders are currently attempting to legislate away the rights of, among many others, trans people, of other LGBTQ people, of women. But The Handmaid’s Tale is urgent again for another reason as well. Lawmakers in several states, empowered by the nearly friction-free spread of Trump’s Big Lie, are attempting to limit people’s ability to vote—and building the power to cast as ‘fraudulent’ those electoral outcomes they find politically inconvenient. They are doing much of this in a way that might be familiar to Atwood’s readers: They are treating these elemental threats to democracy as if they were business as usual…

“One of the paradoxes of this moment of democratic emergency is that the threat, strictly speaking, doesn’t always look like the crisis it is. Laws being passed by lawmakers: This would seem to be business as usual. The whole thing is, for the most part, very orderly. Part of the challenge, for the public, will be to see the emergency for what it is—even if the encroachments are bureaucratic rather than outwardly violent, and even if the changes come slowly before they come suddenly. There are many ways to attempt a coup. And there are many ways for the unthinkable to become, finally, banal.”

— Megan Garber, The Atlantic

“One of the paradoxes of this moment of democratic emergency is that the threat, strictly speaking, doesn’t always look like the crisis it is. Laws being passed by lawmakers: This would seem to be business as usual. The whole thing is, for the most part, very orderly. Part of the challenge, for the public, will be to see the emergency for what it is—even if the encroachments are bureaucratic rather than outwardly violent, and even if the changes come slowly before they come suddenly. There are many ways to attempt a coup. And there are many ways for the unthinkable to become, finally, banal.”

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