The Violence of Bourgeois Revolutions and Authoritarian Capitalism

Why is there so little understanding of the French Revolution? I’ve previously pointed out that, “More people died in the American Revolution than died in the French Reign of Terror. The British government killed more people in their suppression of the 1798 Irish bid for independence. The Catholic Inquisition in just one province of Spain had a death count that far exceeded the number killed in the entire French Revolution. In criticizing revolution, such counter-revolutionaries were defending colonial empires and theocracies that were more violent and oppressive than any revolution in history. For example, the Catholic Church, that ancient bastion of traditionalism and conservative morality, ordered the death of millions over six centuries. At least, a revolution is typically a single event or short period of violence. Oppressive governments can extend such violence continuously generation after generation.” (The Haunted Moral Imagination; for specific figures, see this comment)

That isn’t meant to rationalize violent revolutions. Still, let’s be honest with ourselves. Who started the French Revolution or else co-opted the revolutionary fervor? Sure, there were the bread riots involving the restless peasants who were starving to death, but that alone would not have led to revolution. It was primarily the clerical elite and landed aristocracy who wanted to wrench power away from what they perceived as a failed and incompetent monarchy in order to increase their own power. The Jacobins, and later on Napoleon, weren’t democrats, much less socialists or even populists. Those who gained control of the French Revolution, as the Federalists did with the American Revolution, were mostly the upper classes who were aspiring to be the new ruling elite — as conspirators, leaders and beneficiaries of what were, in Marxist terms, bourgeois revolutions (different than proletarian revolutions; some Marxists argue that bourgeois revolutions are what create capitalism whereas proletarian revolutions as a following stage of development that happens within capitalism itself after it’s been established, since the latter requires a capitalist working class, the proletariat, to exist before they could revolt). Many of these bourgeois revolutionaries, from Maximilien Robespierre to George Washington, were a variety of what today we’d call right-wing reactionaries, at least going by Corey Robin’s use of that label.

This was the soon-to-be capitalist class. They were radically and violently enforcing capitalism upon a feudal society or what remained of it. We forget that this was the bloody birth of modern economic ideology, following its earlier conception in imperial colonialism and the centuries of privatization/theft of the commons. The French Revolution had everything to do with capitalism, something that would not exist in its present form if not for Napoleon having overthrown all across Europe the despotic pre-capitalist system and local idiosyncrasies of common law, having replaced it with a well-regulated civil law and a common monetary system. This created the groundwork for a certain kind of modern capitalism that has ever since defined mainland Europe. British mercantilism was even more violent, based on a variety of evils, including but not limited to genocide and slavery. Those were among the main models of modern capitalism. If you’re against violent revolution and radical ideologies, then that means you’re opposed to capitalism as we know it. There is no two ways about this. It didn’t emerge naturally and peacefully but was imposed by revolution and empire.

From the Jacobin takeover of the French Revolution to its culmination in the imperial reign of Napoleon, it was a right-wing backlash through and through. It had nothing to do with democracy as mobocracy. It was mostly controlled by wealthy men who were the elite both before and after the revolution. Thomas Paine in the French National Assembly was ignored when he suggested that they should write a democratic constitution ensuring equal rights, including voting suffrage, to all citizens. The ‘revolutionary’ elite thought egalitarianism that included the masses was ludicrous. Don’t forget that Napoleon gave the land back to the former landed aristocracy. Instead of aristocrats, they were then capitalists. Instead of imperialism justified by monarchy, it was an empire built on capitalism. And instead of a king, there was an emperor. It was the same difference. The authoritarian power of the system remained quite similar. Millions upon millions of feudal serfs and foreign populations were sacrificed on the altar of European capitalism.

The rhetoric of capitalism has often used the language of revolution and reform, but in practice those imposing capitalism were less than idealistic. This includes Napoleon in his claims of a civil society where everyone was on equal footing: “Overall, the is no consensus amongst modern historians about the legacy of French and Napoleonic reforms in Europe. The view of Grab (2003, p. 20) that “On a European level, the main significance of the Napoleonic rule lay in marking the transition from the ancien régime to the modern era,” is a common one. Yet there is disagreement about this point, with some, for example Blanning (1989), arguing that reform was already happening and the effects of Napoleon were negligible or even negative. Grab himself notes that Napoleon was “Janus faced”—undermining his reforms by his complicity to the rule of the local oligarchs. He writes: “Paradoxically, Napoleon himself sometimes undermined his own reform policies . . . In a number of states he compromised with conservative elites, allowing them to preserve their privileges as long as they recognized his supreme position” (Grab, 2003, p. 23)” (Daron Acemogluy et al, From Ancien Régime to Capitalism: The French Revolution as a Natural Experiment). Then again, this “Janus faced” tendency remains true of capitalism to this day, such as how the American empire will argue for rule of law in one case while at the same moment elsewhere aligning with local oligarchs or, if the desired local oligarchs don’t already exist, then creating them. That duplicity and complicity is the defining feature of capitalist regimes.

Whatever you think of it, you can’t deny the result of these revolutions was capitalism. Napoleon was a visionary who sought to implement a continental-wide trade system that would make Europe independent. His was a different vision of capitalism than that of the British, but it was capitalism, maybe more akin to Thomas Jefferson’s vision as opposed the corporate hegemony and mercantilism of the British East India Company: “A vision of the peasant smallholder and modest bourgeois landowner – hard-working, self-sufficient leaders of tightly knit rural communities and small towns – to whom the ethos of his legal and financial reforms appealed so much” (Michael Broers, Napoleon was a European to his core – except when it came to England). These two visions, expressed as Federalism and Anti-Federalism, would struggle for power in post-revolutionary America, but what both had in common was the assumption that capitalism inevitably would be the new social order. Feudalism was decisively ended and, though proto-socialism had challenged the establishment as early as the English Civil War, no other alternative was able to challenge the dominance of capitalist realism until much later.

Napoleon was defending the new capitalist system. Yes, it is true that Napoleon was an imperialist, even if it was merely a variant of what came before. There was no conundrum in that. Capitalism, right from the beginning, went hand in hand with this revamped imperialism. This was seen with how colonial corporatism, indentured servitude, slavery, sharecropping, prison labor, company towns, etc were the various expressions of modernized neo-feudalism in carrying over some of the old practices and incorporating them into the emergent capitalism that was taking shape during that period and following it, although eventually many of these traces of feudalism would fade (e.g., the slave plantation and the company town, like the feudal village that came before, would prove to be less profitable than the hyper-individualism that destroyed community and consumed social capital; though feudal-style capitalism still seems to work well in countries like China where workers are locked into factories).

There were other elements during that revolutionary era. But genuine left-wing voices like Thomas Paine, they were silenced and eliminated. That was the case in both major revolutions, American and French, with Paine having failed to fully promote democracy in either one. His advocacy of a free society, a free citizenry, and free markets would not prevail. For the most part, the authoritarians won. In some ways, the post-revolutionary authoritarianism was less oppressive than the feudal authoritarianism. The reason the peasants were restless under the French monarchy is because they were starving to death and food shortages became less of an issue with the modern improvements and reforms of agriculture, trade, etc (when people did starve in the post-revolutionary era as they did in Ireland under British rule, it was done intentionally to weaken and eliminate the population, an artificially-created food shortage by stealing the food and selling it on the international market). But whatever you think of one kind of authoritarianism over another, the point is that it wasn’t left-wing ideology that came to rule in the United States and France, not even when the revolutions were at their height. Both countries sought their own versions of imperialism and attempted to spread across their respective continents, although one attempt was more successful than the other in the long term.

No rational, intelligent, and educated person could blame any of this on left-wingers. Even much of the so-called “classical liberalism” that came to define the capitalist class has since then been claimed by the political right, ignoring the more complex history of early liberalism such as that of the radicalized working class (Nature’s God and American Radicalism). The rabble-rousing left-wing of that era, limited as it had been, was so fully trounced that it took generations for it to regain enough force to be a threat later on in the 19th century (e.g., feminists). Capitalism won that fight, for good or ill, and it was a particular kind of capitalism, plutocratic and increasingly corporatist, mostly that of wealthy white male landowners. Those in favor of capitalism have to accept both credit and blame for what was created through that early modern period of violent revolution and brutal oppression. And, yes, the American Revolution involved a high death count.

The French Revolution was central to the rise of modern capitalism in its relationship to modern rule of law and well-regulated markets, as is rarely acknowledged. But admittedly, it was the American Revolution that was most fully led by a capitalist class, as the colonies were the site of the emergent capitalist mentality. The earliest British colonies, after all, were originally founded as for-profit corporations. That was something that had never before existed. That brand of capitalism, from that point on, would be marked by violence. That has been true ever since, as seen with big biz alliance with Nazis, Pinochet, Saudis, etc, not to mention the CIA overthrowing democratic governments to ensure that big biz can freely exploit foreign workers and natural resources. This continues with the wars of aggression in the Middle East for purposes of controlling oil fields, pipelines, and ports.

Within capitalism, the revolutionary is simply the precursor to the counter-revolutionary. But in a sense, all of modernity has been an ongoing revolution, a radical overthrow of traditional society, a piecemeal dismantling of the ancien regime, the elimination of the commons and the commoners. That revolution maybe is finally coming to its culmination, as there isn’t much left of what came before. The so-called creative destruction of this capitalist revolution, over the ensuing centuries, has consumed itself and what remains is transnational corporatocracy and kleptocracy, a brutal authoritarianism at a scale never before seen. The seed of that violence was apparent in those first modern revolutions. That isn’t to dismiss the genuine democratic reforms that followed in some cases, if less impressive than was hoped for at the time, but the democratic reformers of the revolutionary era could not have imagined how much worse authoritarianism would get. And with fascism returning to public imagination, I doubt we’ve yet seen the worst of it.

Get on board or get out of the way!

How is the American population controlled? The main way is by controlling how the public perceives others in their society and hence how they experience their place in relation to others. It doesn’t matter what people think in their own minds, what beliefs they hold privately, as long as it is kept out of what is allowed to seen and heard in the public sphere. In fact, the more there is a sense of disconnect the more isolated and powerless the individual feels, and this is makes the public all the more easy to manipulate and manage.

Washington Post put out a two-part series about the real moral majority (The Democratic Party has moved left — but so has the U.S. This explains how and why.; & The nation’s liberal shift is likely to continue. Here’s why.). They were brought to my attention by Lane Kenworthy, a professor of sociology and the author of the WaPo pieces “The shift,” he wrote in his blog, “is long-run, unsurprising, and likely to continue.” I wholeheartedly agree. I’ve been saying this for many years, such as a major post I put together about a decade ago (US Demographics & Increasing Progressivism; & American People Keep Going Further Left). It’s amazing to finally see the corporate media come around to acknowledging this fact. I wonder what caused the WaPo to point out the obvious all this time later. Since this has been going on for decades, why haven’t they been hammering home this simple observation? That is a rhetorical question. I’m sure the media elite knew this info all along, as the polling data is from respectable mainstream sources and has been often reported on, despite rarely having been put into a larger context or depth of analysis. My cynical suspicion is that it’s precisely because they knew the American public was going left that they kept talk about it as limited as possible.

The corporate media and political elite, instead of causing could have prevented Donald Trump’s election, assuming they were genuinely worried about it, but that would be a false assumption. Even a crazy plutocrat gaining power within the plutocratic establishment is not a great concern to the plutocratic-owned-and-operated press and bipartisan political machine. Trump was one of their own, a product of wealth and a creature of corporate media. By the way, the main reason Trump won or rather Hilary Clinton lost is because, among those two options, he spoke with stronger progressive rhetoric (Old School Progressivism) — from Lane Kenworthy’s first piece: “Donald Trump’s success in the Republican primary race in 2016 owed partly to the fact that he was, as he tweeted in May 2015, “the first & only potential GOP candidate to state there will be no cuts to Social Security, Medicare & Medicaid.” When President Trump abandoned this pledge and joined congressional Republicans in trying to pare back Medicaid coverage, it was the least popular major legislative proposal since 1990.” Have the Democrats finally learned from this harsh lesson that publicly shamed them on the world stage? Do they even care or have a capacity to be shamed into better behavior? Maybe. Time will tell. We are seeing major push back in the Democratic Party and even the DNC preferred picks (Biden, Warren, and Bloomberg) are embracing more progressive rhetoric, even if its empty rhetoric.

The push back will continue until there is eventually reform within the system or, failing that, riots and revolt that forces change. Until then, the shift will keep going further left and the pressure will keep on building. Already at this point on many major issues, the average American is surprisingly far to the left. Within corporate news reporting that has pushed the Overton window into the reactionary right, majority public opinion is too radically far left to be part of allowable ‘mainstream’ debate. Most Americans are well to the left of the DNC elite not only on economic issues but also ahead of the curve on cultural issues like same-sex marriage. Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama didn’t support same-sex marriage until many years after it had already become majority opinion. I bet the same thing is seen in comparing the average news reader and the media elite. Many, maybe most, WaPo readers surely already knew this was true without a WaPo article telling them it was so. Corporate media has primarily served the purpose of not only protecting corporate interests but also representing the ruling elite of the two-party system. Now will the WaPo write a series of articles showing how the campaign promises of the likes of Warren, Biden, and Bloomberg are to the right of the American voter?

To put it in historical perspective, the two Roosevelts, Kennedy, Eisenhower, and even Nixon were far to the left of the present DNC elite, which leaves the GOP on the distant right-wing fringe about ready to tip over the edge into outright fascism. Neoliberal and war-friendly politicians like the Clintons and Obama are essentially Reagan Democrats. The entire political elite, in both parties, shifted hard right. It’s not that Democrats (or rather the DNC elite) were dragged right. They went in that direction of their own free will. Jimmy Carter and Bill Clinton were Blue Dogs in opposing leftist reform and more direct democracy, labor unions and fiscal liberalism, strong safety net and social democracy, etc. As presidents, that was their political ideology and identity. Look at how Bill Clinton used racist dog whistle politics, such as creating a photo op while standing in front of chained black prisoners with the most infamous KKK memorial in the background when introducing his racist crime bill to the public. And Carter, of course, was president before Reagan. His financial adviser instituted much of what later would be called the “Reagan Revolution”. Reagan inherited this adviser and so it’s somewhat a misnomer to call it Reaganomics, although Reagan did add his own special twist to it (Starve the Beast and Two Santa Claus Theory; National Debt, Starve the Beast, & Wealth Disparity).

That the two corporate parties shifted right doesn’t lessen the author’s point that simultaneously the American public shifted toward what the ‘mainstream’ media hacks and political elite have portrayed as the extreme left-wing. That is the sad part. The divide isn’t a split in the general population. Rather, it’s a class war between the powerful rich and everyone else. In starting this war, the plutocracy sought the support of the shrinking middle class in keeping a solidarity of the majority from forming. The elite have become quite talented and successful in their strategy of divide and conquer. One of their best tactics is lesser evilism, not that they’re limited to this (Inequality Means No Center to Moderate Toward; Political Elites Disconnected From General Public; Wirthlin Effect & Symbolic Conservatism; & The Court of Public Opinion: Part 1). No matter how far right both parties go, the DNC elite always argue that we have no choice but to vote for the DNC candidate who is slightly less right-wing ‘evil’ than the other main party. And so the two-party stranglehold is maintained. Meanwhile, the corporate media works closely with the two-party system to silence third parties and independents who are in line with majority opinion (The Establishement: NPR, Obama, Corporatism, Parties; NPR: Liberal Bias?; Corporate Bias of ‘Mainstream’ Media; Black and White and Re(a)d All Over; & Funhouse Mirrors of Corporate Media).

All of this is brilliant in its Machiavellian evil genius. You have to give them credit. It is highly effective for propaganda campaigns, perception management, social engineering, and social control. The majority of Americans, the real moral majority, have been kept in the dark about the fact that they are the majority. Instead, we Americans have been made to feel isolated and powerless in not realizing most other Americans agree with us. But we the majority aren’t without influence. Slowly, the DNC party platforms have been slowly and reluctantly drifting leftward in following the lead of Democratic voters, although the DNC elite is still trailing behind in this trend. Even conservatives haven’t gone further right and, in some cases, have also gone left, including on social programs — again from Lane Kenworthy’s first piece: “As political scientist Matt Grossman has documented, most conservative states in recent decades have either offered slow increases or no change, rather than reductions. In a few instances, such as universal preschool for 4-year-olds in Oklahoma and Georgia and free community college in Tennessee, these states have led in expanding social policy.” Of course, party elites remain right-wing corporatists, but pressure from below is forcing them to moderate their authoritarian tendencies or at least to hide them better. They are talking the talk, if not yet exactly walking the walk (e.g., Obamacare’s corporate-friendly insurance ‘reform’). But they are coming around on certain issues, such as how Hilary Clinton and Barack Obama finally came out in support of same sex years after it had developed into a majority position. On economic issues, the shift has been slower, though one can feel the ground moving beneath one’s feet.

A right-wing reactionary like Trump having used progressive rhetoric to steal enough votes from the political left and cobble together a narrow victory was a game-changer. Now every candidate has to use progressive rhetoric. This is populism and progressivism returning to its transpartisan roots, as seen in the movements from earlier last century. These kinds of social movements that seize the entire population are never constrained by party politics or else, when they do take partisan forms, it is most often in the form of third parties, independents, and local politics. That is until it becomes an undeniable force that reshapes even the main parties, maybe as we are seeing now. It is a groundswell of change that sweeps up from below, a seismic shift that reorients all of society. That is what we are in the middle of, but it didn’t come out of nowhere. Anyone with their eyes open these past decades saw this coming.

I might add this shift would have happened much more quickly and dramatically if the public hadn’t intentionally been kept ignorant by the media and education system. Polling has shown that the American public has zero tolerance for high inequality. So, why do we have such high inequality without any populist revolt to threaten the plutocracy? It’s because the American public has been lied to with corporatocratic propaganda. Most of the citizenry simply does not know how bad it has gotten, just as most don’t know they are part of a majority. Everything that the public is told is carefully framed and all debate is tightly controlled. The specific lie in this case is the claim that inequality is small when it is actually large (Christopher Ingraham, Wealth concentration returning to ‘levels last seen during the Roaring Twenties,’ according to new research; ). In fact, it is immensely larger than public polling shows most Americans think should be allowed (Dan Ariely, Americans Want to Live in a Much More Equal Country (They Just Don’t Realize It); & Chuck Collins interviewed, U.S. Public Opinion Favors Bold Action to Address Rising Economic Inequality). Why is it that the elites of both parties and all of the corporate media conveniently forget to tell the public this inconvenient truth? That is another rhetorical question.

Despite being trapped in this black iron prison of managed perception, many see through the spectacle and illusion while still others sense, if unclearly, that something is wrong, that there must be something else than what is being shown. Even in not fully grasping how bad it is, the vast majority nonetheless support more regulations on corporations and more taxes on the rich. Americans are strongly in favor of better social programs and a stronger social safety net. There is split opinion about how to pay for it, but that brings us to the next part of how social control is maintained. Our demiurgic overlords in their paternalistic concern explain so kindly that we can’t afford it, as if chastising a child asking for cake for breakfast. Money doesn’t grow on trees. All that wealth belongs to others and it would be wrong to take it. Naughty children! The intellectual elite over at Reason Magazine, the propaganda rag for the Koch Robber Barons with numerous corporate front groups as the funding sources (SourceWatch, Reason Foundation), want to help us understand the error of our ways: “Tens of trillions of dollars in new taxes are likely to prove a bit of a hurdle for Americans who want lots of new goodies from the government only if they’re entirely free” (J. D. Tuccille, More Americans Want Bigger Government—If It’s Free).

Trillions? Such a big scary number. Really, asshole? I think I’ve seen where the trillions go. We can’t afford ‘socialism’, you say. Well, I suspect most Americans would agree with me in thinking that we can’t afford kleptocracy, socialism for the rich (Americans Can’t Afford Kleptocracy). Just look at one small part of one industry over a single year, and it still would be an underestimation because most of the wealth, resources, and other benefits given away goes uncounted: “fossil fuels enjoy $5 trillion in direct and indirect subsidies” (Brian Kahn, Building All the Fossil Fuel Projects Already in the Pipeline Would Wreck the Climate). Multiply that by the other areas of big energy such as nuclear and coal. Then multiply that by the numerous other industries that suck at the government teat: big tech, big ag, etc. And finally multiply that over the many decades that have bled the American public dry. Just over the past decade alone, we could be talking about the equivalent of hundreds of trillions of dollars of public wealth being stolen and stuffed into the pockets of the already rich. Now think about the incomprehensible amount of wealth that has disappeared into the private sector over our lifetimes, most of it probably having been diverted into foreign investments and secret bank accounts or wasted in financial gambling and conspicuous consumption.

All that money stolen and wasted, not to mention externalized costs on top of that. According to a study sponsored by the United Nations, “The report found that when you took the externalized costs into effect, essentially NONE of the industries was actually making a profit. The huge profit margins being made by the world’s most profitable industries (oil, meat, tobacco, mining, electronics) is being paid for against the future: we are trading long term sustainability for the benefit of shareholders. Sometimes the environmental costs vastly outweighed revenue, meaning that these industries would be constantly losing money had they actually been paying for the ecological damage and strain they were causing” (Michael Thomas, New UN report finds almost no industry profitable if environmental costs were included; also see An Invisible Debt Made Visible). So, not only are industries like that of big energy taking trillions of dollars of corporate welfare as part of plutocratic socialism for they are simultaneously, on the other side of the equation, offloading trillions of dollars of costs onto the public. And we have no way to measure the further costs externalized through pollution and ecological destruction. It is an incomprehensibly large net loss for all of society, in the United States and across the world.

We are told that we can’t afford a few trillion to ensure most Americans don’t suffer and die from preventable and treatable health concerns, some of it caused by the very costs of pollution externalized on the public, especially the poor who are more likely to live in industrial toxic zones. That is psychopathic to a degree that is truly evil, not lesser evil, just plain evil. If the public ever figures this out, it will be game over for the plutocracy. And the plutocracy knows it. This is why they spend so much of their wealth in keeping the American public ignorant, confused, and divided. It is an investment in maintaining plutocracy itself. Yet, for all this effort of manipulation and deception, the entire population continually and steadily heads further left, in an instinctive reaction to such grotesque corruption as the public runs away from the stench. Americans, in being kept in the dark for so long, don’t know where they are heading in embracing a progressive sensibility, but they understand that there is no other moral choice than to seek something different by leaning forward into new possibilities. That is the first step toward radical imagination and political will, wherever it might end up.

The self-appointed ruling class will either get out of the way and follow the public’s lead or they will be find themselves trampled under foot. As we face global crises of a scale never before seen, old school authoritarianism won’t work in the way it did in the past. Such authoritarianism could only make things worse, for poor and rich alike. I don’t know that, if given a chance, progressivism will succeed, but nothing is going to stop the masses from trying. With climate crisis and global catastrophe on its way, the sense of urgency will only increase and with it public demand for justice and fairness. Either we will find a way to create a better society or we will go crashing into mass conflict, quite possibly not just world war but total war. We would be lucky if such mass conflict merely ended in revolution.

This isn’t about one ideology defeating some other ideology. What is at stake is the survival of civilization as we know it. This is why most people, not only in the United States but in many other countries as well, are looking toward egalitarianism. Amidst the threats of disaster, we humans somehow hold onto a sense of hope, that maybe, just maybe we will pull out of this tailspin at the last moment before smashing into the ground. Is that sense of hope realistic? If nothing else, it is far more realistic than what the kleptocratic kakocracy is offering with more of the same and worse in wringing every last drop of wealth out of society. Instead of cynicism, maybe its time to try something else. Let’s choose hope and see where it takes us. But if so, that would mean choosing egalitarianism as the first step before anything else would be possible.

A highly unequal society is inherently unstable and conflict-ridden. And as Walter Scheidel argues in The Great Leveler, there has been no society in human existence, from hunter-gatherers to empires, where wide disparities of wealth did not end in violence, if not revolution or war then catastrophe and collapse. Put that in the context that the inequality in the present United States is higher than anywhere in the world and higher than any other society in all of history and prehistory, and it’s getting worse (Immobility Of Economic Mobility; Or Running To Stay In Place; Inequality Divides, Privilege Disconnects; Inequality in the Anthropocene; On Conflict and Stupidity; Class Anxiety of Privilege Denied; The Coming Collapse; & “Not with a bang but with a whimper.”). So, willingly or unwillingly, this age of concentrated wealth and desperate poverty will end. How it ends is our only freedom of choice. Knowing that this oppressive and unjust social order is doomed, we could choose to soften the crash landing by overhauling society as quickly as possible with mass reforms. Peaceful resolution is always a possibility, if we so choose, but that would require us to envision it as a real and desirable possibility. I’m not sure we have the wisdom and foresight to take this course of action, as history shows that humans and especially Americans tend to react to vast problems only after it’s too late to correct them. Have we learned from such mistakes and will we avoid repeating them?

I could end there, but let me shift gears. This kind of discussion can feel abstract, in speaking about a ‘majority’ and ‘inequality’. Looking at data, whether polling data or economic figures, can create a psychological distance from lived human experience. The reality on the ground is that ordinary people are involved, people who are suffering and struggling as individuals, families, and entire communities. An increasing number of Americans are trapped and isolated in poverty and this has stark consequences (Keith Payne, The Broken Ladder; Kate Pickett & Richard G. Wilkinson, The Spirit Level).

In speaking of the upper, upper (self-identified) “middle class,” what is in fact the top 9.9% that is only below the 0.1% ruling elite, Matthew Stewart offers the kind of class critique that is almost shocking to find published in the corporate media (The 9.9 Percent Is the New American Aristocracy). This 9.9% is the right hand of the powerful, whereas it is the 0.1% that owns the media, buys elections, controls society, and such, the puppet masters behind the scenes (we wouldn’t know about the puppet masters at all if not for investigative journalism that has dug up their covert actions, dark money, and webs of influence: Jane Mayer’s Dark Money, the Buzzfeed expose, a WaPo investigation, etc). The new aristocracy of inherited wealth and privilege are the henchmen who carry out the orders of the ruling elite or else act as a buffer between the ruling elite and the dirty masses — they are the upper class professionals: politicians, lawyers, lobbyists, CEOs, corporate board members, think tank operatives, talk show hosts, movie producers, etc. Together, the top 10% maintain the rigid hierarchy of inequality and the social control that protects and enforces it.

Matthew Stewart writes that, “The sociological data are not remotely ambiguous on any aspect of this growing divide. We 9.9 percenters live in safer neighborhoods, go to better schools, have shorter commutes, receive higher-quality health care, and, when circumstances require, serve time in better prisons. We also have more friends—the kind of friends who will introduce us to new clients or line up great internships for our kids. These special forms of wealth offer the further advantages that they are both harder to emulate and safer to brag about than high income alone. Our class walks around in the jeans and T‑shirts inherited from our supposedly humble beginnings. We prefer to signal our status by talking about our organically nourished bodies, the awe-inspiring feats of our offspring, and the ecological correctness of our neighborhoods. We have figured out how to launder our money through higher virtues.” This is how the immense gulf between wealth and poverty has been hidden. It’s not only hidden from the poor and the dirty masses, including those directly below them, the genuine middle class. More importantly, the reality of their privilege is hidden from their own awareness, a total dissociation. They are playing make-believe because the reality of inequality would cause them to feel uncomfortable and one of the most cherished advantages to higher class status is the ability to maintain a sense of comfortable numbness to the suffering of others, but this requires also maintaining the inequality that keeps the rest of humanity separate for if the 9.9% ever saw how most others lived their illusion would be shattered.

Pretending to be middle class is necessary for plausible deniability about class war. Rather than flaunting their status, the upper classes have flown under the radar. The 9.9% present themselves as ordinary Americans, as “middle class.” And the 0.1%, for the most part, don’t present themselves at all. Consider how disheveled and unimpressive Steve Bannon appears, and I have to wonder if that is an intentional disguise. In reality, he is one of those 9.9% working on behalf of the ruling elite. Bannon had a successful career in Wall Street banking and Hollywood movies, but he wasn’t part of the highest echelon of the capitalist class. He was one of those henchmen who, even if he aspired to be part of the ruling elite, was used and funded by those far more powerful than he is (the Mercer, Koch, and Trump families). He was used and, when no longer useful, he was discarded. Yet he remains influential within his lesser sphere and will be comfortable for the rest of his life. He will go on playing his games of power and privilege, and he will go on trying to scramble further up the socioeconomic ladder while kicking down at those behind him.

This is the world we find ourselves in and one of the results is disparity of not only wealth but also of health. To be rich means to live well and to live long while poverty is a sentence of life-long suffering and dying young. Socioeconomic status is built into our lives and bodies. This is to be comfortable in a visceral and concrete way, to experience full physical development and expression, to ensure optimal health — as explained by Stewart: “This divergence of families by class is just one part of a process that is creating two distinct forms of life in our society. Stop in at your local yoga studio or SoulCycle class, and you’ll notice that the same process is now inscribing itself in our own bodies. In 19th-century England, the rich really were different. They didn’t just have more money; they were taller—a lot taller. According to a study colorfully titled “On English Pygmies and Giants,” 16-year-old boys from the upper classes towered a remarkable 8.6 inches, on average, over their undernourished, lower-class countrymen. We are reproducing the same kind of division via a different set of dimensions. Obesity, diabetes, heart disease, kidney disease, and liver disease are all two to three times more common in individuals who have a family income of less than $35,000 than in those who have a family income greater than $100,000. Among low-educated, middle-aged whites, the death rate in the United States—alone in the developed world—increased in the first decade and a half of the 21st century. Driving the trend is the rapid growth in what the Princeton economists Anne Case and Angus Deaton call “deaths of despair”—suicides and alcohol- and drug-related deaths.”

We are seeing a decline in the health of Americans (Health From Generation To Generation; Dietary Health Across Generations; A Century of Dietary and Nutritional Trends; & Malnourished Americans), but it isn’t not affecting everyone equally. The wealthy, of course, are doing well. But the older generations, having grown up at a time of greater wealth in the general population, are also doing better than the younger generations with increasing poverty. Many of the 9.9% (or their parents or grandparents) were able to enter the new aristocracy at a time when there was much greater and easier upward mobility that created a once growing middle class that, for many, served as a step ladder into the upper classes. If you look at wealth, it is also disproportionately tilted toward the older generations. On average, those in the Boomer and Silent generations were never as poor when younger and started off with many advantages; cheap education and housing, unionized jobs with large pensions, a booming economy that grew their stock market investments, etc. The class divide is magnified and further hidden within a generational divide, not unlike how class gets obscured by race. Instead of talking about class, we use proxies that are tied into economic realities.

Health is another one of those proxies. Since data began to be kept, American longevity has been continually increasing, that is until the past three years. It’s not for a lack of healthcare funding, as the money going into the healthcare industry is increasing, but we are getting less bang for our buck, in spite of spending way more than other developed countries that get better health results, including longevity rates that continue to rise. It is hitting the young the hardest — Joel Achenbach writes that, “By age group, the highest relative jump in death rates from 2010 to 2017 — 29 percent — has been among people age 25 to 34” (‘There’s something terribly wrong’: Americans are dying young at alarming rates). That is not a positive sign, considering the young represent the future. It is already fueling social and political unrest: “About a third of the estimated 33,000 “excess deaths” that the study says occurred since 2010 were in just four states: Ohio, Pennsylvania, Kentucky and Indiana — the first two of which are critical swing states in presidential elections. The state with the biggest percentage rise in death rates among working-age people in this decade — 23.3 percent — is New Hampshire, the first primary state.” And it is cutting across racial demographics: “Increasing midlife mortality began among whites in 2010, Hispanics in 2011 and African Americans in 2014, the study states.” So, we’re not only talking about the resentment politics of poor whites. The anger and anxiety did help Trump in his victory, but keep in mind that Trump also gained strong support from older Hispanics in the rural Southwest, Haitians and Cubans in Florida, etc. The sense of social fracture doesn’t always follow simplistic media narratives and political rhetoric.

Much of the health problems, by the way, are tied into metabolic syndrome which is primarily caused by diet — Achenbach continues: “Obesity is a significant part of the story. The average woman in the United States today weighs as much as the average man half a century ago, and men now weigh about 30 pounds more. Most people in the United States are overweight — an estimated 71.6 percent of the population age 20 and older, according to the CDC. That figure includes the 39.8 percent who are obese, defined as having a body mass index of 30 or higher in adults (18.5 to 25 is the normal range). Obesity is also rising in children; nearly 19 percent of the population age 2 to 19 is obese. “These kids are acquiring obesity in their early teen years, sometimes under the age of 10,” said S. Jay Olshansky, a professor of public health at the University of Illinois at Chicago. “When they get up into their 20s, 30s and 40s, they’re carrying the risk factors of obesity that were acquired when they were children. We didn’t see that in previous generations.” “This isn’t a one-time phenomenon,” he added. “It’s going to echo through time.”” The quotes directly above come from one of the articles linked by Chuck Pezeshki in his recent post with a long descriptive title, More Societal Implications of the Obesity Epidemic — Insulin Resistance, Epigenetic Preloading and Obesity Showing Up in Mortality Stats.

Pezeshki takes a systems approach to understanding humanity and often focuses on health with a rare understanding of diet as part of a food system, specifically the problems of a high-carb diet in being the main contributing factor to metabolic syndrome. He has had a prediction, one that I agree with: “That prediction is that our awful diet that excludes saturated fats, and gives a pass to sugar and refined carbs, is combining with epigenetic preloading of insulin resistance and driving obesity in our young people. This earlier expression of insulin resistance, leads to earlier onset of Type II diabetes, and the incumbent Western diseases that flow from that. And that will lead to an increase in All-Cause mortality at younger and younger ages, leading to an enormous public health crisis.” But it’s coming quicker than he predicted: “I thought that it would take until the 2030s to really see some effect. As the data shows, I was wrong. The bell is tolling now.” And  it may result in “a compounding civilization-altering event.” Also shared, he has an even better piece, linking diet and a growth in authoritarianism (which was used as a jumping-off point for one of my own writings, Diets and Systems). Like some others, he points out that, “The states most affected are swing states looking for reversals of their fortunes, because their people are suffering.”

Similar to my own perspective, he links a high-carb diet to a particular mentality and way of being in the world, from addiction to authoritarianism. But more fundamentally is the most immediate and undeniable impact on the body: “What’s really wild is the documentation, through photos, of the obesity and incumbent diabetes crisis. Though obesity is not even discussed, almost all the photos included in the article show people who are morbidly obese. The kicker is the one healthy person in the story resisted his doctor’s advice and put himself on a de facto ketogenic diet.” A ketogenic diet, in case you didn’t know, is one that is extremely restrictive of starches and sugar; and a diet, I’d add, that probably was the norm of human society and evolution prior to modern agriculture. The shift to a high-carb diet was dramatic and traumatic and, since then, has become systemic with immense consequences in altering how the body functions.

“Even the basic concept of diet as a metabolic destabilizer — the real phenomenon going on here — is not understood. It’s not surprising. We still count food in terms of meaningless calories, instead of the most powerful medicine we ingest regularly into our systems. The problem with the whole issue of metabolic destabilization is that it drives diseases that are well-recognized, like cancer, with their own pathologies and entire industries set up to treat. Few scientists or physicians are talking about how to prevent cancer in the first place. It’s not that these people are evil — with rare exception (like cigarette smoking) the causal thought just doesn’t occur to them. Like the AIDS virus that destabilized its victims’ immune systems, leading to contracting all sorts of diseases one normally has resistance to, metabolic destabilization runs under the surface of the epidemic. Out of sight, out of mind. And that, dear readers, is a function of the social structure that is investigating the problem. Medical and dietary research organizations are just not set up to investigate root cause.”

This goes back to inequality, not a topic Pezeshki talks much about. Structures and institutions calcify as hierarchies form and become entrenched. This is why systems lose the capacity to cause change from within. And when reform fails, the only option is revolution or some violently disruptive equivalent, whether from internal factors (e.g., economic collapse) or external factors (e.g., plague), as Walter Scheidel describes in his history of inequality. Demagogues, sociopaths, and social dominators like Ancel Keys become increasingly common as the system rigidifies, since it becomes prone to authoritarian control. All Keys needed was to co-opt the American Heart Association and draw in some political allies, and from there he was able to command a total transformation of the US nutrition studies, food system, government recommendations, and medical practice that enforced a dietary pattern onto the entire population. That society-wide change is still with us more than a half century later. It is unsurprising that, during that same period, inequality kept growing greater and greater. Going back many centuries, it was understood that dietary ideology was important for social control, based on an explicit understanding that food alters not only health but thought, mood, and behavior (Diets and Systems), and I argue that the high-carb diet not only has to do with addiction and authoritarianism but also the fracturing and isolation of a hyper-individualistic worldview.

Let me use the example of doctors to make an important point. To return to the topic of the 9.9%, Matthew Stewart asks a key question and offers an explanation: “Why do America’s doctors make twice as much as those of other wealthy countries? Given that the United States has placed dead last five times running in the Commonwealth Fund’s ranking of health-care systems in high-income countries, it’s hard to argue that they are twice as gifted at saving lives. Dean Baker, a senior economist with the Center for Economic and Policy Research, has a more plausible suggestion: “When economists like me look at medicine in America—whether we lean left or right politically—we see something that looks an awful lot like a cartel.” Through their influence on the number of slots at medical schools, the availability of residencies, the licensing of foreign-trained doctors, and the role of nurse practitioners, physicians’ organizations can effectively limit the competition their own members face—and that is exactly what they do.” Yes, a cartel. That is another way to say a hierarchical and authoritarian system, which is to say an expression of the mentality of control.

As part of the 9.9%, doctors play a pivotal role in moderating the harm and decline of our society. It fits a high inequality society that medical practice has come to primarily focus on treating symptoms rather than preventing, reversing, and curing disease. The authority of doctors helps shift the blame of societal problems onto individuals and so scapegoat the patient who is supposedly suffering the wages of their own sin because of gluttony (eating too many calories, fat, etc) and sloth (not exercising enough). But the reality is that most doctors are as ignorant as the rest of us since, in never having been educated on the topic, they know little about the science of diet and nutrition (Most Mainstream Doctors Would Fail Nutrition; & “Simply, we were dumb.”). The problem is, as authority figures, few of them will admit their ignorance. And the fact of the matter, most doctors at this point have become simply one more cog in the machine. Most doctors today are employees of large hospitals and clinics, not independent practitioners, and so they aren’t free to do what they want. If they don’t toe the line, they can have their license removed. Doctors, in being key to the system of social control, are also under the thumb of those above them. That is the plight of the 9.9%. Even among the wealthiest Americans, there is an underlying sense of being trapped within the dominant paradigm, though rarely acknowledged, and ideological realism makes it seem inescapable. So, most people just go along to get along.

What this does, though, is make all the problems worse in the long run. It doesn’t only shut down the ability to change but also shuts down the awareness of the need for change, in the way that the 9.9% refuse to acknowledge that they are on the top of a vast hierarchy that leaves most people impoverished, powerless, and disenfranchised. They might be the 9.9% in the United States, but still they are among the tiny fraction of a percentage in terms of global inequality. These are among the richest people in the world, but all they see is the super-rich far above them. It’s hard for this new aristocracy to realize what they are and the role they play. The drugs they overprescribe and the diet they tell their patients to follow, these are integral parts to a system of corporate profit. To challenge that oppressive and harmful system would mean, instead of being a beneficiary of power, making oneself a target of that power (as happened to Tim Noakes, Gary Fettke, Shawn Baker, etc). If only unconsciously, the 9.9% know they are disposable and replaceable.

If that is how the 9.9% is feeling, imagine the impossible situation for the rest of the population. Undermployment has become rampant, affecting nearly half of Americans and, as with so much else, that is probably an undercount because of who is excluded from the data (Alexia Elejalde-Ruiz, Nearly half of U.S. workers consider themselves underemployed, report says). This means that these people and their families are barely making ends meet or, without welfare, they aren’t even able to pay the bills and are forced to skip meals. Consider that the majority of welfare recipients are employed, but minimum wage no longer pays enough to live on in many places, much less enough to try to raise a family with. No one actually knows how many unemployed and homeless there are, as an official full count has never been done. The permanently unemployed, imprisoned, and institutionalized are purposely kept out of the unemployment records. As jobs have become more scarce, teenage employment has gone down as well, but the government doesn’t count that either as part of total unemployment (Teen Unemployment). Combine all forms of unemployment and underemployment, throw in welfare and disability and so much else, and we are talking about the vast majority of the population is largely or entirely out of commission, what some would call “useless eaters” (Alt-Facts of Employment; Worthless Non-Workers; Whose Work Counts? Who Gets Counted?; Conservative Moral Order & the Lazy Unemployed; Invisible Men: Mass Incarceration, Race, & Data; Invisible Problems of Invisible People; On Welfare: Poverty, Unemployment, Health, Etc; When Will the Inevitable Come?; & A Sense of Urgency).

At least a third of the population and growing is now a permanent underclass, in that they inherit poverty as the upper classes inherit their wealth (the data shows that most wealth in the US is inherited, not earned), that is to say we’ve become a caste system. Most of the lower classes, of course, are without higher education (70+% of the population) and, unlike other developed countries, little is being offered in way of job retraining or any other form of useful assistance to better their lives. They are simply being left behind, abandoned by the economy and government — surely, that is how it feels to these people and the injustice of it burns, but more than anything they’ve given up trying or hoping for anything else. This is why we are seeing the return of multi-generational households, for purposes of survival.

Along with the wealth gap, we are falling into another kind of inequality, that of work. There are those who have little, if any, employment and, on the other side, there are those working multiple jobs and long hours. Those doctors, for example, in order to keep their jobs have to be willing to work 16 hour days and 60-80 hour work weeks. That is why there is much drug abuse. It’s just that doctors and other white collar professionals use prescription uppers, instead of meth, but it’s the same difference. The safer and more reliable sources of drugs along with better access to healthcare and drug rehabilitation programs, though, for these wealthier folk means they are less likely to die, as happens in poor communities, from drug overdose and poisoning. A large part of the rising death toll among in certain demographics is partly due to untreated drug use. Poor people are forced to turn to the unregulated black market for their drugs and that is not conducive to health and long life. Whether uppers to help work long hours and hard work or downers to deaden the despair of poverty and hopelessness, the entire American population is turning to ever greater drug use.

Both conditions create stress and failing health, the drug use merely being one of many symptoms of an ailing society (Stress and Shittiness; & The World Around Us). On top of that, quality healthcare is increasingly out of reach for most Americans, that is when they can afford healthcare insurance at all, and without healthcare insurance people simply don’t go to the doctor. Even when it’s a life or death situation, many people won’t call an ambulance because they know that ambulance ride alone will put them into permanent debt that they might never escape: “Not long ago a young boy came into the emergency room at Pemiscot Memorial with a severe asthma attack. His mother didn’t know how to use the inhaler properly. She hesitated before seeking help, and she drove him to the hospital herself rather than pay for an ambulance. The boy died. “To have a kid die of asthma,” Dr. Arshad says, “who’d have thought that could happen in 2017?”” (Sarah Brown & Karin Fischer, A Dying Town). They can’t afford to go on living, and in some cases dying can be more cost than families are able to pay. So, people die at home from preventable health conditions, often dying alone, to save on costs.

Beyond lack of healthcare, the poorest communities also lack clean air and water, with heavy metal toxins in their water pipes, not to mention the paint chipping away in their aging houses and schools, and on top of that it is in these communities that old industrial zones and toxic dumps are located. In areas of the South, the living conditions are equivalent to what used to be called “third world” with open sewage that causes high parasite load, which like lead toxicity contributes to developmental and neurocognitive issues (Lead Toxicity is a Hyperobject). That contributes to even more need for the very healthcare they don’t have. To deal with the worst problems, local and federal government is being forced to pick up the costs in treating the most basic of preventable diseases. In the US, we spend more on healthcare and get less for it, as compared to other Western countries. It’s not only the costs of healthcare but also the costs of increased number of people taking sick days, on disability, and spending their time taking care of sick family members. Furthermore, such things as lead toxicity stunts impulse control and increases aggressive behavior, which translates as higher rates of abuse, bullying, violence, crime, policing, and incarceration (Connecting the Dots of Violence). The diseases of civilization keep on rising and soon will be so costly as to bankrupt our society. Add that to the costs of an entire planet become sick from destroyed ecosystems, housing burned down from wildfires, storms devastating entire coastal areas, people starving and dislocated from droughts and plagues, political unrest, wars over limited resources, and wave after wave of refugees.

The world seems out of control. Sadly, it is the modern ideological system of control that has created the very problem of being out of control and then offers to solve the problem it caused. It just so happens that the rich get richer in selling us their solutions or in being funded by the government to do so. The whole paradigm of control is the problem itself, not the solution. But the system of control keeps us from seeing outside to any other possibility, as it keeps us from seeing how bad inequality, public health, etc has become. We are trapped in Fantasyland mediated by corporate media. We are a well managed population, but disease and climate change doesn’t give a fuck about human ideologies of control. Our ignorance and obliviousness of our situation is not helping us, and in the big scheme of things it isn’t even helping the rich and powerful. But we are addicted to control because the two are inseparable, such that control serves no purpose other than furthering the desire for control or, as William S. Burroughs put it, control is controlled by its need for control. Basically, a system of control is a self-contained reality tunnel. As it gets worse, the imposing of authoritarian control becomes greater. And the more control is asserted, it gets worse still as we spiral out of control.

The data does tell us much: shifting public opinion, rising inequality, declining public health, worsening climate change, and on and on. It offers a dark view of where we are and where we are heading. But all the data in the world can’t really explain anything, can’t offer any deeper insight nor any meaningful response. We didn’t get to this point out of no where, as the cultural underpinnings were put into place over centuries and maybe even millennia. I look at something like the EAT-Lancet report and what stands out is the narrative being told, the framing of perceived reality (Dietary Dictocrats of EAT-Lancet). This is part of what I’ve called corporate veganism. The argument goes that human health, moral order, the environment, etc are out of control and so need to be put back under control. According to the EAT-Lancet report, the ruling elite need to enforce a different diet and food system onto the global population by way of food regulations, taxes, and bans. The public itself needs to be controlled because they are acting badly in eating too much meat that, as claimed, is harming humanity and destroying the world.

This is a particular way of seeing the world. There is a reason why diet has long been understood to be central to culture and social control, since food influences thought and behavior, and so public health has played a key role in moral panic and culture wars, public policy and political action (The Agricultural Mind; “Yes, tea banished the fairies.”; Autism and the Upper Crust; To Be Fat And Have Bread; Diets and Systems; Moral Panic and Physical Degeneration; The Crisis of Identity; The Disease of Nostalgia; & Old Debates Forgotten). Maybe this relates as well to the inequality we see in who gets access to quality healthcare, food, and nutrition. There historically has been a caste or class separation in what people eat and are allowed to eat. Slaves, serfs, and indentured servants typically subsisted on a high-carb diet of cheap grains and root vegetables. Based on Belinda Fettke’s research, I’ve noted that modern “plant-based” rhetoric originates in the Seventh Day Adventist’s agenda to control the sinful nature of humanity, such as advocating high-fiber grains (e.g., cereal) to suppress libido and so lessen the attraction to moral wrongdoing and sexual deviancy such as masturbation that endangers the mortal soul. So, eat your veggies! The Seventh Day Adventists seem to have inherited this dietary ideology from the older cultural strain of thought of Galenic theory of humors that was revived, popularized, and Christianized during the Middle Ages. Social control was essential to maintaining the feudal order and, as red meat was considered invigorating, it was often banned, although fish allowed (maybe explaining the cultural bias of why vegetarians and vegans will sometimes make exception for inclusion of fish in their diets).

Why has Western society been so obsessed with control? This goes back quite far and so is obviously significant. Control is definitely more important as inequality goes up and the social order destabilizes. As a contrast, consider the Mongols contemporaneous with European feudalism. Mongols had low inequality, lacked rigid hierarchy, and apparently required no oppressive social control. Even in organizing a large military, they operated in an organic manner that allowed them to be extremely adaptable to changing conditions on the battlefield without requirement of a strict chain-of-command to tell them what to do in every moment. Europeans, in their rigid minds and rigid social order, couldn’t respond quickly enough and were overwhelmed.

That is an old conflict, farmers vs herders, Cain vs Abel; and this was made part of the American mythos with the Wild West narrative where clod-hoppers and businessmen clashed with open-range ranchers and cowboys. This same basic contest of ideological and cultural worldviews echoes in the present public debate over a plant-based diets and animal-based diets where one side must win and dominate, but interestingly it is primarily the plant-based advocates who are interested in this public debate and so it’s a bit one-sided. Meat-eaters don’t tend to be opposed to plant foods in the way that vegetarians and vegans hold such strong opinions about meat. And so the meat-eaters are less interested in enforcing dietary control on the other side. Maybe there is something about the two diets that feeds into different mentalities and attitudes about control. Related to this, maybe this explains the coinciding rise of inequality and the high-carb, plant-based diet based on the big ag and big food. Industrial agriculture and the modern food system is all about enforcing control on nature to ensure high yields in order to make cheap, shelf-stable, and highly profitable food products. This has brought inequality into farming itself where the small family farm and small farming community has almost entirely disappeared.

Yet it is this modern economy of industrialization and neoliberalism, plutocracy and inequality that has caused so many of the problems. We wouldn’t need to control nature, from big ag to climate change measures, if we hadn’t done so much damage to the environment in the first place, if we hadn’t gotten so far out of balance in creating an unsustainable society. Everything feels precarious because we’ve collectively taken actions that create instability, something that in the past was openly and proudly embraced as creative destruction. But now everything feels out of control with creative destruction threatening to become plain destruction. Climate change causes catastrophes and that sends waves of refugees around the world. Those refugees are dangerous and so must be controlled. Whether it’s building a wall to keep people out or enforcing a vegan diet to keep people in line, it’s the same desperate demand for control. And the demand for control comes from up high with the dirty masses, foreign and domestic, as the target of control. But the only way the ruling elite can control society is by controlling the public mind. And likewise any revolution of society would mean revolution of the mind, the ultimate threat to a system of control. That is what some of the American founders understood. The revolution of the mind came first and prepared the way. I’d add that it came from the bottom up. Decades of social unrest, populist riots, and organized revolts preceded the American Revolution. To go further back, there had been uprisings since the early colonial period in the British colonies.

Here is the issue. We know changes were happening in the colonies. But why were they happening? And despite Thomas Paine’s attempts to inspire his fellow Englishmen, why did revolution fail to take hold back in England? Maybe that is where diet and food systems come in. What changed before both society and mind was a change in diet. In the colonies, some of the most common foods were fish, meat, lard, and butter (Nina Teicholz points this out, as quoted in Malnourished Americans); whereas back in England, the poor, when they weren’t starving, were still eating a peasant’s diet with few animal foods. It’s a rather simple dynamic. Unlike the English poor, the colonists were healthy and strong. Also, their food system was independent as they were surrounded by an abundance of wild game. From a Galenic viewpoint, it’s maybe relevant that the colonists were eating a lot of red meat, the very thing the old order of the ancien regime feared. Red meat was sometimes specifically banned before Carnival for fear that riots might develop into revolts. They genuinely thought red meat had this power over collective behavior and maybe they were right. As long as we modern Americans remain under the control of a high-carb, plant-based diet, we might never be able to achieve a revolution of mind and so no any other kind of revolution could follow from it. If we are hoping for radical change toward a free society, we’ll first have to have a dietary revolution and regain autonomy of our own food sources. As with the American Revolution, this will be a fight against the imperialism that has colonized our minds and lives and the transnational corporations that seek to dominate our society.

The American Revolutionaries had to create a new identity as a public. We’ll have to do something similar in coming to realize we the public are a moral majority, a progressive majority. That means changing the most basic structures of our lives that shape and influence who we are. Political change will be an effect of that, not a cause. There are many possible leverages, but maybe we’ve been overlooking one of the most powerful, that of diet and food systems. A nutrient-dense(and bioavailable), animal-based, and largely ketogenic diet sourced in local regenerative farming could be revolutionary with repercussions we cannot as yet imagine. Once there has been a shift in neurocognition and consciousness, then and only then can we begin to open up some space for radical imagination. Following that, we can do the hard work of working out the details, the same challenge the American colonists were faced with once their own mentality had started to shift in a new direction. But first things first. Changing diet is a far easier thing to accomplish and will make all the rest easier as well. Until we regain our birthright of physical and mental health, we will go on struggling as a society and find ourselves without the strength to fight back with determination. To have a revolution of the mind, we will have to nourish our brains and bodies. In the coming era of crises, we are going to need all of our human potential out on the table.

Corporate Veganism

The main purpose here is to share resources on a traditional healthy diet, in contrast to industrial diets of big ag and processed foods (from SAD to vegan), as related to human evolution, agricultural practices, food systems, corporate capitalism, modern civilization, and environmental sustainability. Below are listed documentaries and books, along with the names of health advocates and public intellectuals who have shaped my thinking or simply come onto my radar, and a few select videos. These recommendations can be found at the end of this post, but first I wanted to share what motivated me to make this list. One thing that has received a lot of attention lately is the just released vegan documentary The Game Changers, a slick Hollywood production with big money and big names behind it, such as James Cameron, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Pamela Andersen, Jackie Chan, and many more, including sports stars and a celebrity chef — all producers or executive producers which means they contributed either money or influence for the film. (By the way, if you want a mainstream analysis of the science, check out Paul Kita’s review at Men’s Health: This New Documentary Says Meat Will Kill You. Here’s Why It’s Wrong.)

There is an obvious and direct conflict of interest, and more importantly there was no disclosure of this fact. Cameron, as the leading name among the executive directors, is the founder (along with his wife, Suzy Amis Cameron) and CEO of Verdient Foods, the largest pea protein processing plant in the world in which he owns a hundred and forty million dollars worth of investment, according to Shawn Baker (stated in video below). To a lesser degree of conflict, though also unstated, others involved in the documentary have vegan-related and “plant-based” products and services they sell: supplements, retreats, online programs, meal planning service, publishing, books, DVDs, etc (Meredith Root, The Game Changers – A Scientific Review With Full Citations; Layne Norton, The Game Changers Review – A Scientific Analysis (Updated)). That might explain why wealthy individuals would put so much money into a documentary that is guaranteed to lose money.

It’s an investment and advertisement, what Lance Ng said “felt like ‘covert marketing’ — the kind of secret sponsorship of product placement, blogging, or social media posts that brands do today to subtly influence consumers” (Is Game Changers Funded by Impossible Foods or Beyond Meat?). And Ng goes on to say that, “The documentary was also somewhat ironic. It lambasted the cigarette industry for using sports stars and doctors in the past to promote smoking and play down health concerns. It then accused the meat industry of doing the same to create the perception that ‘real men eat meat’, as well as funding research to dispel the link between cancer and meat diets. But throughout the whole documentary, it was interviewing athletes, scientists and doctors who endorsed plant-based diets. Wouldn’t that be a classic case of ‘pot calling the kettle black’?” I’ll note that something like pea protein is a product of big ag and big food, a key concern for me as I will explain. How would you perceive an expensive documentary produced by the Ford car company advocating that Americans should buy more cars and drive more often because it would make them happier, more attractive, improve their sex life, or whatever?

Industrially produced and processed supplements like pea protein are becoming big business, as it’s “a key ingredient in Beyond Meat, which is in short supply right now” (Lance Ng). “Financial publication MarketWatch explained that the recent moves will allow Ingredion to “capitalize on the growing taste for plant-based foods and diets.” Ingredion predicts that the global plant-based food market will reach $1.5 billion by 2022″ (Jemima Webber, James Cameron Participates in $140 Million Vegan Protein Investment). To put this in further context, Ingredion is “one of the leading global ingredient suppliers” (Anthony Gustin, Game Changers Movie Review: Fact vs. Fiction). These are no small players in corporate capitalism and neoliberal trade. And it extends beyond a single company, including a network of business interests. “I found at least one direct link between celebrity investment and The Game Changers. Remember Chris Paul, the executive producer and NBA star? He’s an investor in Beyond Meat. […] There’s another less direct but much more pertinent link. James Cameron and his wife are both producers of The Game Changers. Cameron and his wife met on the set of Titanic, which starred… Leonardo DiCaprio, another Beyond Meat investor” (Lance Ng). It’s not really about getting people, I’d argue, to become fully vegan but to spin industrial products as “plant-based” health foods.

I came across another example of vegetarianism and veganism getting promoted by corporate interests. Frédéric Leroy, in a recent talk about scapegoating meat, gave an analysis of how “this narrative gets propagated by mass media.” His focus was on ‘mainstream’ newspapers. The example given was amazing in how blatant it is as perception management and social engineering: “The Guardian has received a substantial amount of money to publish a series called animals farmed which goal is to depict animal agriculture as harmful to humans, the planet, animals, etc. Now this money is originating from the Open Philanthropy Project which is also an investor in Impossible Foods, by the way” (from the last video below). That is corporate-funded fake news being presented as actual news reporting. Anyone, even vegans, should find this disturbing. Could you imagine the public outrage if a major investor in a beef company paid for a series of articles depict industrial agriculture producing fruits and vegetables as “harmful to humans, the planet, animals, etc.” That would be considered unacceptable or else laughable. The reputation of the newspaper would have taken a major hit. So, why does this kind of corporate propaganda get published without any other major news source doing an investigative piece on it? Maybe because all of the corporate media receives similar money from various corporate interests.

Sadly, one has to assume that any news reporting in corporate media might be part of a larger corporate agenda, unless proven otherwise. Whether or not a particular news outlet is getting direct funding to lie to or otherwise manipulate the public, the whole bias and spin that has been manufactured seeps into all of the corporate media and beyond. Here is another example that makes me suspicious, even if I don’t know the exact corporate interests behind it. It’s from Carte Blanche, a South African news program that has done award-winning investigative journalism. In a show that just put out, Meat vs Planet (11/17/19), they portray themselves as investigating the issue without bias. It’s simply a matter, according to the narrative, of our choosing either meat or the planet. Framed like that, it really is a tough decision. I do like meat, but the planet also has its advantages. Too bad there wasn’t a way to have both meat and the planet. Jeez! That is so pathetic as supposed “investigative journalism” that everyone involved in that show should resign in shame. In a post on Facebook, Carte Blanche further framed it as “Meat vs Beans“. It’s so fucking idiotic. Basically, you must eat beans for the rest of your life, if you care about continued existence of the planet. Eating some meat is equivalent to planetary mass homicide. Anyone who is even vaguely familiar with this topic knows it’s not this simplistic. This has stood out to me ever since I researched the EAT-Lancet report that advocated a “plant-based” diet to save humanity and all life on earth (Dietary Dictocrats of EAT-Lancet; also see the rest of the voluminous info at that piece):

“One might note that EAT-Lancet is specifically partnered with big biz, including big ag companies such as Monsanto that has poisoned the world’s population with Roundup (i.e., glyphosate), and understand that big ag is among the most powerful interests in the US considering our country’s wealth was built on agriculture (a great example being the wealth of the plutocratic and corporatist Koch brothers whose wealth in part came from manufacturing fertilizer). Other companies involved are those developing meat alternatives produced from the industrially-farmed crops of big ag. And big ag is dependent on big oil for production of farm chemicals. EAT Foundation president and founder, Gunhild Stordalen, has been noted as a significant figure in the oil industry (Lars Taraldsen, ONS 2014 conference program to feature oil industry heavy hitters). But don’t worry about how this carb-laden diet of processed foods will harm your health with the majority of the American population already some combination of insulin sensitive, pre-diabetic, and diabetic — they’ve got this covered: “The drug company Novo Nordisk supports Eat-Lancet. Smart. Insulin is 85% of their revenue” (P. D. Mangan). I’m beginning to see a pattern here in the vested interests behind this proposal: “Eat lancet sponsors. Chemical companies, pharmaceutical companies (mostly making diabetes meds), the world’s biggest pasta manufacturer, the world biggest seed oil supplier, the world’s biggest breakfast cereal supplier” (David Wyant); “Pesticides, fertilisers, #gm (Bayer/Monsanto, BASF, Syngenta);sugar+fake flavourings/colourings (PepsiCo, Nestle, Givaudin, Symrise);ultraprocessed grains/starches (Cargill, Kellogg’s);#palmoil (Olam); additives and enzymes (DSM)- companies backing #EatLancet diet. I wonder why?” (Joanna Blythman).

“Just to throw out a crazy idea, maybe transnational corporations are the problem, not the answer. “Just think about it. EAT Lancet is the processed food industry telling us that eating more processed food is good for our health & planet. That’s like oil industry stating burn more fossil fuel will save planet. Vested interests think we are that gullible?”, in the words of Gary Fettke, an outspoken surgeon who (like John Yudkin and Tim Noakes) was bullied and harassed when challenging the powers that be, for the crime of advising an evidence-based low-carb/sugar diet. “This Poison Cartel of companies,” writes Vandana Shiva in reference to the corporate alliance behind EAT-Lancet, “have together contributed up to 50% Green house gases leading to climate change, and the chronic disease epidemic related to chemicals in food, loss in diversity in the diet, industrially processed junk food, and fake food.” The Lancet Journal itself, from a new report, is now warning of us the exact same thing, in that many corporate sectors (including those backing EAT-Lancet) receive $5 trillion in government subsidies: “Big Food’s obstructive power is further enhanced by governance arrangements that legitimize industry participation in public policy development” (Swinburn et al, The Global Syndemic of Obesity, Undernutrition, and Climate Change).”

But the most damning part is that these corporate backers of EAT-Lancet were hidden on a page buried many layers deep on the EAT Foundation website. It’s strange that big biz wants to push a particular diet on the entire world population, as is the stated intention of the EAT-Lancet campaign. What specifically about “plant-based” diets is to the benefit and profit of big biz? And why were they hiding their involvement, as opposed to using it as a PR opportunity for greenwashing their corporate image? The EAT-Lancet report was supposedly about saving humanity and the earth. That sounds like a positive thing. Why the secrecy? It made no sense that these corporations wouldn’t want to be openly associated with it, if their intentions were truly good as argued in the report.

Then it occurred to me that these corporations want to shape the political narrative and manipulate the public debate but without it seeming like a special interest agenda. It was being spun as environmentalism and humanitarianism, but the thing about many environmentalists is that they’d be suspicious of such a corporate campaign openly being framed as a corporate agenda. Those attracted to environmentalism tend to be critical of big biz, and so to manipulate activists and the rest of the public it is necessary to make it seem like a neutral project to improve the world. So, instead of advertising the corporate-friendly nature of it, the EAT Foundation was joined by Lancet that would give it scientific credibility and public respectability. It was also spun as an issue of morality, as part of hyper-individualistic consumer-citizenry. Adopt the right dietary social identity and buy the right products. Then you are free of all sin and guilt. You are one of the good guys and so can feel morally righteous as part of the cause. Tapping into people’s need for self-worth and belonging is a powerful motivator. Yet, this kind of hyper-individualism always casts a shadow of authoritarianism, as seen in how vegans and vegetarians argue for laws that would force compliance (e.g., EAT-Lancet). There is the elect who choose righteousness and then there is the rest of fallen humanity who must be made to get into line.

Still, why is a “plant-based” diet used to enact such a vision and agenda? Vegans and vegetarians are always claiming that the world is ruled by corporations producing animal foods, the secret cabal of beef and dairy lobbyists. So, why are some of the most profitable and powerful big ag, big food, and other big biz companies choosing to push rhetoric that blames animal foods and scapegoats meat-eaters? During recent HHS and USDA hearings about the 2020 dietary guidelines, the beef industry lobbyist didn’t even advocate for a meat-based diet, much less an all-meat diet (2020 Dietary Guidelines: Fight Over Low-Carb). Instead, he weakly and defensively pointed that meat could be part of a healthy, balanced diet along with grains, fruits and vegetables, hardly a controversial or biased position to take. This is a standard argument from the beef industry — consider a similar point made in the Beef Magazine: “Because the heart of the matter isn’t if we eat meat or just plants. What truly is at stake here is our freedom of food choice and our freedom to farm. And beyond that, this advice is dangerous, elitist and irresponsible” (Amanda Radke, Why Schwarzenegger’s “Game Changers” documentary is dangerous). This is far from an extreme, biased position. Instead, it’s a plea for moderation and balance.

It’s not the animal foods companies and their lobbyists spinning plant vs meat rhetoric nor even telling people to eat an animal-based diet, much less an all-meat carnivore diet. This is in contrast to something like EAT-Lancet that very much has gone on the offense in making a hard sell for the plant-based diet, not moderation as part of a balanced diet but pushed to an unhealthy extreme. They aren’t simply making scientific-based recommendations for including fruits, vegetables, mushrooms, nuts, and seeds along with diet that also allows equal portions of meat, eggs, and dairy. Nor is it even a focus on vegetarianism that potentially allows large helpings of animal foods, as one could be vegetarian while eating eggs and dairy with every meal. Instead, based on moralistic dogma, this is advocacy for a plants-only diet, where “plant-based” or “plant-forward” is thinly veiled vegan propaganda. Isn’t that an intriguing distinction? The plant foods industry is attacking the animal foods industry in trying to get consumers to buy less animal foods, but there is no equivalent action in the other direction. I’ve never come across a beef, egg, or dairy representative or lobbyist arguing against plant foods, much less attacking vegetarians and vegans. So, why this one way hatred and judgment, dismissiveness and scapegoating?

This isn’t hard to understand once you realize the immense profit in industrial agriculture and processed foods. Meat is irrelevant, as far as big biz is concerned. Most processed foods are not made with animal foods but with shelf-stable ingredients such as wheat, soy, corn, corn syrup, seed oils, etc. The real issue here isn’t meat vs beans or meat vs planet or whatever other bullshit. It’s sustainability of regenerative farming vs externalized costs of industrial agriculture (Carnivore Is Vegan). Besides, these companies are hedging their bets. The parent companies operate businesses in multiple areas. The same company making hamburger patties, for example, likely is also under another brand name making veggie burgers. If the sales of one product goes down, the sales of the other product likely will go up. Their only concern is to ensure they control the system and dominate the market, whether producing animal-based processed foods or plant-based processed foods, although the latter does have a better profit margin. What is unimportant to profitability is that, in analysis, production of some of the veggie burgers causes far more environmental harm than the raising of cows in factor farms for hamburgers. What is being sold is an image of health for humanity and the earth. As for the inconvenient details, they can be smoothed over with nice-sounding rhetoric.

It’s worse than this. The fact of the matter is that all animal foods could be produced through regenerative farming, as only 5% of the land in the United States and 5-10% of the usable land in the world can be used for farming, what is called arable land, whereas 100% of it can be used for grazing (about two-thirds of all land could produce food for humans, i.e. usable land, not considering other lands available for hunting and trapping). To feed the world with plant foods on a few percentage of the usable land requires industrial agriculture with high-yield harvests from chemical-drenched monocrops. So, promoting a “plant-based” diet is a way of promoting industrial agriculture without having to state it that way. No one, vegan or otherwise, is going to become a political activist to defend big ag. It must be presented as something else and that must be given a compelling narrative, which is where emotion-laden environmentalism comes in. The greatest threat to industrial agriculture is not meat in general, definitely not factory-farmed meat, but specifically meat that is sustainably produced. Industrial agriculture is not sustainable and that is the public debate big biz hopes to avoid. And in avoiding that, they are avoiding the messy details of how closely linked is big ag to the entire network of big biz interests: big oil, big defense, big tech, etc (Is California a Canary in the Coal Mine?). Immense effort goes into avoiding that public debate.

It just so happens that “plant-based” diets are a perfect fit for the big biz profits and the power structure they represent. That is even more true for veganism, since veganism is literally impossible without industrialization of not only agriculture but transportation systems, fortified foods, and supplements. By the way, this is what potentially differentiates veganism from vegetarianism (Vegetarianism is an Animal-Based Diet); like omnivore and carnivore diets, vegetarianism theoretically could be done with regenerative farming, assuming the vegetarian would eat mostly eggs and dairy during the season (winter and spring) when locally-grown organic plant foods aren’t available; and so any of the animal-based diets, including vegetarianism, can avoid deficiencies of animal-sourced nutrients (fat-soluble vitamins, choline, carnitine, etc; even cholesterol that is required for brain function). The industrial diet, veganism most of all, is so nutrient-deficient that it requires nutrients to be added back into the diet (by the way, calling a supplement-dependent diet ‘healthy’ is a joke; one could survive, if not thrive, by literally eating shit as long as the shit was nutrient-fortified and one had plenty of supplements). That is the reason veganism did not exist prior to industrialization. Big biz doesn’t actually give a fuck about the environment or human health. It’s just convenient rhetoric to get animal-loving environmentalists on board as useful idiots. As long as they keep the attack on meat-eaters, the typically anti-corporatist environmentalists will never pause for a moment to look at the corporate interests that are directing their attention away from the corporations themselves. The average vegan or vegetarian watches an unscientific documentary like Cowspiracy or The Game Changers and they suddenly think they’re informed. They have no idea of the evil genius and Machiavellian powers that are manipulating them through carefully crafted rhetorical framing used in line with the propaganda model of media.

The question is what makes these otherwise critical left-wingers such willing dupes. My sense is it has to do with the religious nature of these dietary ideologies. Vegetarianism was introduced to the West from Hinduism and veganism emerged out of a divine vision of a late 19th century Seventh Day Adventist. These “plant-based” diets have maintained their religiosity and zealotry. It’s not only a diet but an entire social identity tied into a readymade social movement. There is a reason that a much more scientifically-supported diet like the Mediterranean diet with no origins in religion doesn’t attract such a loyal following or gain such extremes of media and political attention. Even the carnivore diet, the equivalent extreme opposite of veganism, never draws as much interest. Or take the keto diet that has been scientifically studied for a century or other low-carb diets that have been scientifically studied going back to the 19th century. None of these other diets have ever been turned into sociopolitical movements that make arguments about it being the End Times and so we must convert to their dietary promise of salvation.

This goes deep into our cultural inheritance. As I’ve noted before, social control as dietary control has a long history in Western civilization and is rooted in Christian authority as seen in Medieval food laws and in theology of the sins of gluttony and sloth (The Agricultural Mind & Diets and Systems), the latter is discussed by Gary Taubes. This Christian belief often expresses as an idealism and paternalism that, in the modern world, often expresses as techno-utopianism and technocracy (Hubris of Nutritionism) with the key example being EAT-Lancet. The vegan argument is that we can separate ourselves from the cycle of life and death. That is essentially a Christian argument for an idealized Heaven that transcends this fallen world. The reality, though, is that veganism is part of an industrial system that wreaks immense havoc. Vegans aren’t above it all. The only way they could attain their moral innocence and purity would be by living in isolated and self-contained bunkers that were disconnected from all ecosystems and where all food was industrially-produced or lab-grown, and so no life would be harmed because no life would be possible other than human life and the microbes that inhabit us. That is the ultimate conclusion of vegan idealism of harm-free diet and food system.

I doubt this utopianism is possible. It’s a death denial. It’s similar to many right-wing libertarians I’ve come across who are former fundamentalists, in how they go from hoping for eternity in Heaven to fantasizing about cryogenic immortality and space stations among the stars. It’s a desire to be free of the messy complications of earthly life. On the opposite side of this dualistic worldview are those like neocons, kleptocrats, corporatocrats, etc as death-mongers who, rather than denying it, want to rule over the world of misery and decay like gnostic demiurges. Between these demented extremes, there can be no genuine moderation and balance, no real world solution. The idea of sustainability through regenerative farming doesn’t fit into this entire ideological paradigm. Actual sustainability would be revolutionary. Interestingly, both sides of the mainstream debate are fighting back against this revolutionary possibility. In fact, both sides have a secret compact. Look at EAT-Lancet where idealistic vegans, if unknowingly (?), have formed an alliance with Machiavellian industrialists. Both sides, supposedly in opposition, are working together to ensure that health and sustainability never happens.

In an email, Fabrice DeClerck, science director of the EAT-Lancet Commission, admitted that, “the meat consumption limits proposed by the Commission were not set due to environmental considerations, but were solely in light of health recommendations.”(Frank M. Mitloehner, EAT-Lancet’s environmental claims are an epic fail. And the Commission knows it.). But if you closely read the EAT-Lancet report, they point to all the exceptions of people who wouldn’t be healthy on this diet and basically admit that the dietary recommendations don’t apply to most of the global population. Besides, the food industry contributes less to carbon emissions than does the healthcare industry. Mostly or entirely plant-based diets, in creating ill health and greater demand for healthcare, would increase carbon emissions; and that would be true even in ignoring the carbon emissions from industrial agriculture. So, what exactly is the effective agenda, as opposed to empty rhetoric, of something like EAT-Lancet and The Game Changers? We are forced to conclude that the branded identity of “plant-based” diets has become just another product to be sold by big biz. Health and sustainability is irrelevant.

* * *

EAT-Lancet Supported by Massive Food/Pharma/Chemical Industries. A Look At the Interests Behind This Report.
by Nina Teicholz

The Corporate Interests Behind EAT-Lancet

EAT-Lancet was launched simultaneously in 40 cities with a massive PR budget. Who funded all this? All we know is that EAT has an extensive array of corporate partnerships.

Tim Rees of Nutritional Therapy Online created a table of all the EAT-Lancet corporate funders. These include;

—Seven Big Pharma companies, with drugs for many nutrition-related diseases

—About 20 Big Food companies, including Kellogg’s, Nestle, and PepsiCo.

Note that the companies selling highly processed foods, like Nestle and Kellogg’s are essentially vegan. The vast majority of packaged foods sold on the inner aisles of supermarkets—cookies, crackers, chips (crisps), candy, cereals—are made up of the same basic ingredients: soy, corn, grains, sugars, and salt. This is vegan. These companies would presumably like nothing more than to but a big green V on their packages to give them a reason to advertise their foods as healthy.

Meanwhile, the pharmaceutical companies profit from selling drugs, insulin, and devices that sick people need. Would these companies be backing EAT if this diet were to genuinely improve health, reduce disease, and thus, shrink their profits? It’s hard to imagine.

Moreover, also supporting the EAT-Lancet report are:

—14 chemical companies, including BASF, the “world’s largest chemical company.”

What is the interest of these companies in supporting a report targeting animal agriculture as the main driver of global warming if not—perhaps—to displace attention away from their own polluting activities? Or perhaps they make the pesticides that grow crops.

One cannot know the answer to all these questions, but the massive level of corporate backing clearly raises serious questions about the interests behind this report, especially when there is no rigorous evidence to support the idea that this diet promotes human health and quite a bit of evidence to show that it causes harm.

* * *

Videos:

From video directly above:

Frédéric Leroy talking about the business of “plant-based” fake foods that are industrially-produced, highly-processed, and additive-filled: egg-free eggs, milk-free milks, hamburger-free burgers, etc (from above video):

“You have to mimic something extremely complex and you need a lot of technology to do so. Now you could say this is the future food only to a minority. We don’t really have to mind it all that much. It’s just a couple of people. And you know, soon it will pass. And it’s just one of those things that food industry comes up with. But this narrative is starting to cross a certain line which I find quite concerning.

“Now I’ll present you here to a tweet from the official account of UN Environment. I’ll read it to you: “So warning no meat was used in the following video. Cutting back on meat is an essential part of preventing the degradation of our environment.” And then the most worrisome part: “Mainstreaming meatless burgers benefit businesses, consumers & our planet.” Now it has a little video that goes with this. And in the video you see that in 2018 UN Environment has declared Impossible Foods and Beyond Meats as champions of the earth.

“Now we’ve just seen Beyond Meat. It was the burger I just showed you before. Impossible Foods is a similar company and this company has also as a goal to eliminate the need for animals in the food chain by 2035. So let this sink in for a minute. We have an official account of the United Nations promoting ultra-processed foods and an extreme agenda.

“At this point I would like to introduce you to something that is called the pharmakon. I think it’s a useful concept to look at this problem. The pharmakon is a philosophical idea that has been used by Jacques Derrida in the previous century and goes all the way back to Plato. Now pharmakon is a substance that is both beneficial and harmful. So it’s something that is at the same time a cure and a poison. And you see that also in the concept of pharmacists, in the word pharmacy. The pharmacy sells medicine which is, at the same time, a bit of poison.

“See what it’s coming from. And I would say that meat is a perfect example of the pharmakon. And that is because one side of society would refer to meat as something nourishing. That’s a long-standing connotation, to offer you strength, vitality, and nutrients. And at the same time, another narrative would state that it causes cancer, it will kill you, and all sorts of things. Now, the pharmakon concept has been used in philosophy to expose Western thinking for being binary and reductionist. And you have this tension here at play and such attention always brings about another concept which is called pharmakos. Pharmakos is Greek for scapegoat. So one of these ideas has to go out. So you’re scapegoating something. Meat has become a scapegoat and we’ll come back to this.

“What I find particularly toxic is that this narrative gets propagated by mass media. You may know or not know that The Guardian has received a substantial amount of money to publish a series called animals farmed which goal is to depict animal agriculture as harmful to humans, the planet, animals, etc. Now this money is originating from the Open Philanthropy Project which is also an investor in Impossible Foods, by the way.

“Last year we published a study that looked into discourses in the Daily Mail. Now the Daily Mail is another major British newspaper and what we have done is analyzing every single article that was published dealing with meat and health during 15 years, so the first 15 years of the century. And we have quantified certain aspects. We also have done discourse analysis. And what we found is that it’s not all that much about science, but it is about post-truth being prone to cherry-picking invention effects.

“So it’s not about the facts that such is how you put them together and you create a storyline. And it is also about the attention economy and that has to do with the way those kind of mass media systems are financed. So they’re financed by advertisers and those advertisers want clickbait. That’s how how you generate income. So the more attractive you make your headlines the more money it brings in. So you’ll end up with these screaming headlines. This is an example. It’s also an example of a pharmakon. This is the British breakfast the British fry up. One article in The Daily Mail stated that is the healthiest breakfast of all and another one states that it may raise risk of bowel cancer by 60%. So how to confuse your public.

“And you can say, well this is the Daily Mail. It’s a sensationalist newspaper in the first place. But what we have seen is that it has not always been the case, at least not to the same extent. Now in the first years of the period, we notice that the headlines were quite moderate. We’ve seen an increase, as you can see in the graph over there. We’ve seen an increase in the length of the title’s over the years, especially starting after 2005-2006, and also more sensationalism within those headlines.

“One of the headlines, for instance, taken from 2006, “Red meat can raise cancer risk,” which I would say is a fair headline. You can discuss about those things, but as a headline it’s pretty much okay. The ones you get at the later stages, well you see a couple of examples on the right side. If you want to see the other ones, you can find them in my paper. But some of them are really interesting. Just to give an example: “Why feasting on steak makes it difficult for men to father a child (it makes their sperm slow),” “Vegetarians have a better sex life,” etc. etc.

“A very interesting one — and it’s also the point where we stopped our analysis — was the one from 2015 at the bottom. Let me zoom into this one: “Bacon, burgers, and sausages are a cancer risk, say World Health Chiefs.” And then they compare processed meats to cigarettes and asbestos. Now this refers to the IRC/WHO report, World Health Organization. And this is of course not what the report is saying, but this is what the Daily Mail made out of it. And what you see here is very important, “World Health Chiefs,” because this shows you that authority is stepping in. So you will have appeal to authority, which is reinforced I would say from 2015 on. It’s very hard to argue about place of red meat and processed meats if you have to face authority because people will always refer, yes but WHO said, and that blocks a lot of the debate. Now what you can notice is that it’s a very strong authority.”

Documentaries/Shows:

(lists here & here)

The Perfect Human Diet

The Magic Pill
The Paleo Way
Love Paleo
My Big Fat Diet
Fed Up
Fat Head
Fat: A Documentary
Globesity
Cholesterol, The Great Bluff
Statin Nation
Carb Loaded
What’s With Wheat?
Is Sugar the New Fat?
Sugar Blues
That Sugar Film
The Big Fat Surprise (in production)

Books:

James Suzman – Affluence without Abundance
John Gowdy – Limited Wants, Unlimited Means
Marshall Sahlins – Stone Age Economics
Christopher Ryan – Civilized to Death
Murray Bookchin – The Ecology of Freedom; & Post-Scarcity Anarchism
George Monbiot – Feral; & How Did We Get Into This Mess?
Derrick Jensen – A Language Older Than Words; The Culture of Make Believe; Railroads and Clearcuts; & Strangely Like War
Abdullah Öcalan – Civilization: The Age of Masked Gods and Disguised Kings; & Capitalism: The Age of Unmasked Gods and Naked Kings
James Scott – Against the Grain; Seeing Like a State; & The Art of Not Being Governed
John Zerzan – A People’s History of Civilization; Why Hope?; Future Primitive; Future Primitive Revisited; Twilight of the Machines; & Running on Emptiness
Jared Diamond – Guns, Germs, and Steel; Crisis; Upheaval; Collapse; & The World Until Yesterday
Joseph Tainter – The Collapse of Complex Societies
William Ophuls – Immoderate Greatness; & Plato’s Revenge
William Ruddiman – Earth Transformed; & Plows, Plagues, and Petroleum
William Catton – Overshoot
Andrew Rimas & Evan Fraser – Empires of Food
Marcel Mazoyer & Laurence Roudart – A History of World Agriculture
Richard Manning – Against the Grain; Grassland; Rewilding the West; & Go Wild
David Montgomery – Dirt; Growing a Revolution; & The Hidden Half of Nature
Wendell Berry – The Unsettling of America
Laura Lengnick – Resilient Agriculture
Gabe Brown – Dirt to Soil
Joel Salatin – Folks, This Ain’t Normal; & Salad Bar Beef
Judith Schwartz – Cows Save the Planet
Graham Harvey – Grass-Fed Nation; & The Killing Of The Countryside
Allan Savory – The Grazing Revolution; & Greening the Desert
Paul Shepard – Traces of an Omnivore; Tender Carnivore and the Sacred Game; Coming Home to the Pleistocene; The Only World We Got; The Others; Thinking Animals; Man in the Landscape; & Nature and Madness
Tovar Cerulli – The Mindful Carnivore
Lierre Keith – The Vegetarian Myth
Mara Kahn – Vegan Betrayal
Natasha Campbell-McBride – Vegetarianism Explained
Michael Crawford & David Marsh – Nutrition and Evolution
John Nicholson – The Meat Fix
Harlan Walker – The Fat of the Land; & Disappearing Foods
Vilhjalmur Stefansson – The Fat of the Land
Shawn Baker – The Carnivore Diet
Susan Allport – The Queen of Fats; & The Primal Feast
Samuel Pepys – Fat is Our Friend
Gary Taubes – Good Calories, Bad Calories; The Case Against Sugar; & Why We Get Fat
Nina Teicholz – The Big Fat Surprise
Nicolas Rasmussen – Fat in the Fifties
Zoë Harcombe –The Obesity Epidemic
Carl Lavie –The Obesity Paradox
Tim Noakes – Lore of Nutrition; Real Food On Trial; Challenging Beliefs; & The Real Meal Revolution
Tim Noakes et al – Diabetes Unpacked
Richard Feinman – Nutrition in Crisis; & The World Turned Upside Down
April Merleaux – Sugar and Civilization
James Walvin – Sugar: The World Corrupted: From Slavery to Obesity
Elizabeth Abbott – Sugar: A Bittersweet History
Rebecca Earle – The Body of the Conquistador: Food, Race and the Colonial Experience in Spanish America, 1492–1700
Michael LaCombe – Political Gastronomy: Food and Authority in the English Atlantic World
Henry Notaker – A History of Cookbooks
Sarah Walden – Tasteful Domesticity
John Coveney – Food, Morals and Meaning; & Food
Susan Friedland – Food and Morality; & Vegetables
Kathleen LeBesco & Peter Naccarato – Edible Ideologies
James McWilliams – A Revolution in Eating
Anne Wilbraham & J.C. Drummond – The Englishman’s Food
Sandra Oliver – Food in Colonial and Federal America
Ken Albala – Eating Right in the Renaissance; Food in Early Modern Europe; Food and Faith in Christian Culture; & Wild Food
Trudy Eden – Cooking in America, 1590-1840
Katherine Leonard Turner – How the Other Half Ate
Abigail Carroll – Three Squares
Bee Wilson – The Way We Eat Now
Harvey Levenstein – Fear of Food
Tristram Stuart – The Bloodless Revolution
Adam Shprintzen – The Vegetarian Crusade
Benjamin Zeller et al – Religion, Food, and Eating in North America
Ronald Numbers – Prophetess of Health
Howard Markel – The Kelloggs
Brian Wilson – Dr. John Harvey Kellogg and the Religion of Biologic Living
Katharina Vestern – A Taste of Power
S. Margot Finn – Discriminating Taste
Helen Zoe Veitn – Modern Food, Moral Food
Julie Guthman – Weighing In
Louise Foxcroft – Calories and Corsets
E. Melanie DuPuis – Dangerous Digestion
Kyla Tompkins – Racial Indigestion
Lizzie Collingham – The Taste of Empire; & The Taste of War
Bryan McDonald – Food Power
Anastacia Marx de Salcedo – Combat-Ready Kitchen
Susan Levine – School Lunch Politics
Denise Minger – Death by Food Pyramid
Joanna Blythman – Swallow This
Krisin Lawless – Formerly Known as Food
Marion Nestle – Food Politics; & Unsavory Truth
Michael Carolan – Embodied Food Politics
Carl Cederström & Andre Spicer – The Wellness Syndrome
Charlotte Biltekoff – Eating Right in America
Gerardo Otero – The Neoliberal Diet
Alyshia Gálvez – Eating NAFTA
Andrew Fisher – Big Hunger: The Unholy Alliance between Corporate America and Anti-Hunger Groups
Michele Payn – Food Bullying; Food Truths; & No More Food Fights!
Sarah Bowen, Joslyn Brenton, & Sinikka Elliott – Pressure Cooker
Anna Kirkland & Jonathan Metzl – Against Health
Verner Wheelock – Healthy Eating
Loren Cordain – The Paleo Diet; & The Paleo Answer
Robb Wolf – The Paleo Solution
Mark Sisson – The Primal Blueprint
John Durant – The Paleo Manifesto
Jack Wolfson – The Paleo Cardiologist
Fred Provenza – Nourishment
Nora T. Gedgaudas – Primal Body, Primal Mind
Sally Fallon Morell – Nourishing Diets
Catherine Shanahan – Food Rules; & Deep Nutrition
Sarah Ballantyne – The Paleo Approach; & Paleo Principles
Valerie Bracken – My Life without Bread; Uncle Wolfi’s Secret; & Dr Wolfgang Lutz and his Chickens
Konstantin Monastyrsky – Fiber Menace
Steven Gundry – The Plant Paradox
David Perlmutter – Grain Brain
William Davis – Wheat Belly; & Undoctored
Richard Harris – Rigor Mortis
Ken Berry – Lies My Doctor Told Me
Malcolm Kendrick – Doctoring Data; The Great Cholesterol Con; & Fat and Cholesterol Don’t Cause Heart Attacks and Statins Are Not The Solution
Uffe Ravnskov – The Cholesteol Myths; Fat and Cholesterol are GOOD for You; & Ignore the Awkward!
David Evans – Cholesterol and Saturated Fat Prevent Heart Disease; & Low Cholesterol Leads to an Early Death
Jack Kruse – Epi-paleo Rx
Daniel Lieberman – The Story of the Human Body: Evolution, Health, and Disease
Christopher James Clark – Nutritional Grail
Stephen Simpson & David Raubenheimer – The Nature of Nutrition
Stephen Hussey – The Health Evolution
Barry Groves – Trick and Treat
Eric Westman & Jimmy Moore – Cholesterol Clarity; & Keto Clarity
Stephen Phinney & Jeff Volek – The Art and Science of Low Carbohydrate Living
Eric Kossoff, John Freeman, Turner Zahava, & James Rubenstein – Ketogenic Diets
Susan Masino – Ketogenic Diet and Metabolic Therapies
Mackenzie Cervenka – The Ketogenic and Modified Atkins Diets
Thomas Seyfried – Cancer as a Metabolic Disease
Travis Christofferson – Tripping Over the Truth; & Curable
Miriam Kalamian – Keto for Cancer
Nasha Winters & Jess Higgins Kelley – The Metabolic Approach to Cancer
Siim Land – Metabolic Autophagy
Jason Fung – The Obesity Code; & The Diabetes Code
A. Simmonds – Principia Ketogenica
Jacob Wilson & Ryan Lowery – The Ketogenic Bible
Mary Newport – The Complete Book of Ketones; & The Coconut Oil and Low-Carb Solution for Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, and Other Diseases
Amy Berger – The Alzheimer’s Antidote
Dale Bredesen – The End of Alzheimer’s
Terry Wahls – The Wahls Protocol
Carol Simontacchi – The Crazy Makers
John Yudkin – Pure, White and Deadly
Robert Lustig – Fat Chance; & The Hacking of the American Mind
E. M. Abrahamson – Body, Mind, & Sugar
David Courtwright – The Age of Addiction
Sally Fallon Morrell – Nourishing Fats; Nourishing Traditions; & Nourishing Diets
Weston A. Price – Nutrition and Physical Degeneration
Francis Marion Pottenger Jr. – Pottenger’s Cats: A Study in Nutrition
Kate Rheaume-Bleue – Vitamin K2 And The Calcium Paradox
Paul Greenberg – The Omega Principle
Gyorgy Scrinis – Nutritionism
Catherine Price – Vitamania
Lee McDowell – Vitamin History, the Early Years; & Mineral Nutrition History, The Early Years
Jessica Mudry – Measured Meals

Blogs/Websites:

(recommendations here)

Gary Taubes
Nina Teicholz
Tim Noakes
Richard David Feinman
Mary Newport
Robert Lustig
Gary Fettke
Jeff Volek
Stephen Phinney
Loren Cordain
Robb Wolf
Mark Sisson
Malcolm Kendrick
Ken Berry
Nora Gedgaudas
John Durant
Jimmy Moore
Pete Evans
Zoë Harcombe
Chris Kresser
Chris Masterjohn
Sarah Ballantyne
Catherine Shanahan
Shawn Baker
Lierre Keith
Terry Wahls
Will Cole
Siim Land
Josh Axe
Dave Asprey
Mark Hyman
Joseph Mercola
David Perlmutter
William Davis
Jimmy Moore
Natasha Campbell-McBride
Joanna Blythman
Kristin Lawless
Paleohacks
The Weston A. Price Foundation
Price-Pottenger
Ketopedia

St. George Tucker On Secession

“And since the seceding states, by establishing a new constitution and form of federal government among themselves, without the consent of the rest, have shown that they consider the right to do so whenever the occasion may, in their opinion require it, we may infer that the right has not been diminished by any new compact which they may since have entered into, since none could be more solemn or explicit than the first, nor more binding upon the contracting partie.”
~St. George Tucker *

Secession from the Articles of Confederation, the first Constitution, set a legal and moral precedent. The Constitutional Convention was initiated with the limited mandate of improving, not replacing, the first Constitution. Not all the states were present at the Constitutional Convention and the the second Constitution was initially ratified and enacted prior to the agreement and consent of all states, which was directly and explicitly unconstitutional according to the first Constitution (The Vague and Ambiguous US Constitution). The first Constitution originated in unanimous agreement and required unanimous agreement to make any changes to it, but the second Constitution was an act of fiat and so a non-violent coup.

Or was it non-violent? The American Revolution continued on with numerous rebellions by the veterans of the Revolutionary War. These rebellions were violently put down by the federal government (e.g., Shays’ Rebellion). This was the very thing that the Anti-Federalists feared and warned about. They sensed the imperialist and authoritarian aspirations of some of the leading pseudo-Federalists. Once a large centralized government controlled both taxation and military, the ruling elite would have total control and a free society would be doomed (Dickinson’s Purse and Sword). It turns out the Anti-Federalists were right

Since the second Constitution was an entirely new constitutional order enforced through coercion, there is no reason a third (or fourth or fifth) Constitution could be blocked on constitutional grounds. A third Constitution would not require legitimacy based on the second Constitution any more than the second Constitution required legitimacy based on the first Constitution. Unless there is consensus, as was the case with the first Constitution, any further Constitutions would be acts of secession, as was the case with the second Constitution. The fact that we, nonetheless, accept the second Constitution as legitimate explicitly gives legitimacy to secession itself.

Neither of the constitutional orders were formed without violence. And as the second Constitution was a secession from the Articles of Confederation, the first Constitution was likewise a secession from the British Empire. There is a strong precedence of secession in American history. The Southern states weren’t wrong in affirming this right of secession. The initiation of the Civil War wasn’t done to stop secession. The federal government would not have had public support for attacking the Confederacy, if Southern rebels had not first attacked the federal government in shooting cannons at Fort Sumter. Without that initial act of violence, the South probably would have successfully seceded and so would have set a new precedent for peaceful secession.

Secession had long been part of American thought. Leaders in the Northern states had earlier discussed secession as well. That was one of the original rights of the Articles of Confederation, that the union was an agreement freely joined according to consensus of all states. The states were considered independent. That is why they were called states, in the sense of being nation-states in a union. Democracy was assumed to operate within the separate (nation-)states, as the federal government was intentionally constrained. The federal government served the states, as the states served their citizenry, not the other way around.

Ultimate authority exist within the public mandate of each local citizenry. A state seceding from the United States, as such, is no different than secession of the UK from the European Union. This is what it means to be part of a free society where citizens are free to choose their own government.

* * *

* Quoted in a comment at the Civil War Talk forum.

St. George Tucker was an American Revolution veteran, slave emancipation advocate, law professor, respected legal scholar, and federal judge. He wrote View of the Constitution, the first detailed commentary on the U.S. Constitution after its ratification, and Commentaries that became the most important text on early American law.

He was an Anti-Federalist (i.e., true Federalist) and a strong believer in Natural Rights. His defense of the Second Amendment was not in favor of individual rights but states rights, that is to say he saw the purpose of the public owning a gun not as a justification for vigilantism but as a way for citizens to protect their freedom against authoritarianism (Saul Cornell, St. George Tucker and the Second Amendment: original understandings and modern misunderstandings).

Americans Can’t Afford Kleptocracy

“While countries have shown aspirations to reduce emissions, the reality is far more bleak and complicated. The global economy is currently hardwired to run on fossil fuels. As incumbents, the multibillion corporations that extract gas and petroleum have a huge built in advantage over upstart renewable companies. In addition, fossil fuels enjoy $5 trillion in direct and indirect subsidies, and there’s ample infrastructure to extract and burn them. As a result, the levers of policies are pulled largely in favor of preserving this status quo despite the existential risk it poses.”

That is part of a damning critique by Brian Kahn over at Gizmodo (Building All the Fossil Fuel Projects Already in the Pipeline Would Wreck the Climate). The argument he is making there is about why it is hard to make rational changes everyone knows we have to make when there are so many vested interests. It’s an entire system of wealth and power, as always. That is the point I made in looking at California’s environmentally-unsustainable economy (Is California a Canary in the Coal Mine?). But that isn’t why I decided to quote the above.

What disturbs me is that the US ruling elite throw around trillions of dollars as if it were chump change. That is trillions of dollars every year (quite possibly an undercount at that, as not only is wealth given away but resources, opportunities, and access are given away before they are measured as wealth in any accounting, all of it defended and enforced by a military empire that is costly beyond imagination, costly also in terms of lives and human potential callously sacrificed). And we are talking about only one industry. They also waste trillions of dollars in selling other natural resources below market prices, in no-bid contracts for the defense industry, in all that goes into big ag, and much else. A few trillion here, a few trillion year, and on and on, in every sector of the economy every year, repeat ad nauseum for decades and generations on end. Yet we are told we don’t have enough money for basic needs of survival for Americans, that we can’t afford even to raise minimum wage for those who don’t earn enough to pay the bills, despite working multiple jobs. There are millions of Americans without affordable healthcare, sometimes without homes even, and going without food on a regular basis. But we can’t afford to ensure the public good. Well, I’m pretty sure those trillions upon trillions multiplied over a lifetime or longer could have gone a long way in investing in housing for all, universal healthcare, good schools even for the poor, clean water that is free of lead, and on and on.

Compare that to another country rich in natural resources, Iceland. They used a public company to sell their oil on the market and they sold it at market prices. The oil is still part of the same environmental problems, but at least the profits went to create a massive national surplus in preparing for the future. That surplus equates to millions of dollars per citizen and it can only be used for the public good, such as funding their large social safety net. That is what a functioning democracy looks like. Instead, what we Americans have is kleptocracy. What is going on is outright theft of the commons. The fact that such theft is part and parcel of the destruction of the world makes it all the worse. But even ignoring that, I want back the millions of dollars that were stolen from me. How about you? Do you want what was wrongfully taken from you? Or would you rather remain a slave?

What we’re talking about is reparations, not only for African-Americans descended from slaves and Native Americans whose ancestors survived genocide. This would be reparations for all Americans who have had wealth, resources, and opportunities stolen from them. Think about those who died young because of a lack of healthcare. Those are years of life stolen, loved ones taken from us too soon. How does one repay that? There is no amount of money that can undo the harm caused by the evil from generations of theft, corruption, and injustice. Even if we took all the wealth from the rich, it still couldn’t offset the harm caused to individuals and to society. The plutocrats have already wasted most of that wealth and so it’s gone. That is what psychopaths and authoritarians tend to do with other people’s money. They waste it. Yet they still have some of the wealth they sole from us Americans. Getting recompense for a fraction of what they stole is better than nothing. We only want what is rightfully ours. The kleptocrats took it from us and we want it back.

The ruling elite say we can’t steal from the rich because they only have so much money. I don’t want to steal from them. I want back at least some of the wealth they stole from me and my fellow Americans (easily hundreds of trillions of dollars over the past generation alone), not to mention what they stole from foreign populations. It should be given back because it is the right thing to do. It’s that simple. How do the police retrieve stolen property? Well, there is a well established protocol for enforcing justice in cases of theft. It’s done by the police pointing a gun at the robber, arresting them, placing them in jail, and then putting them on trial. All we Americans are asking for is justice, that our our free society be defended and our rights protected. Why aren’t the police doing their job? That is their job, right? If not, maybe others should do the job for them. Fear of violent oppression can only maintain the social order for so long.

Why do we accept this, allow this? As the American founders made clear, it has always been in our hands to choose our own government, our own constitution, and it has always been our right and responsibility to demand it by any means necessary, even revolution as our country was founded*. In dealing with this existential crisis humanity is facing, we are going to need all of our wealth to re-invest in a better society. We never should have tolerated kleptocracy, corporate welfare, and socialism for the rich. We can’t afford it.

* * *

*Whether revolution will be non-violent or violent would depend on the response of the government and ruling elite. If they choose violence, it will be violent. But I’m sure the American people would prefer a peaceful transition, if that is allowed by the powers that be. That is what Bernie Sanders is asking for when he speaks of revolution. And there is historical precedence for this, such as Portugal’s Carnation Revolution.

Either way, know this. Revolution will happen. It cannot be stopped. That is because the system is unsustainable. As I said, it’s simply unaffordable. The costs are too high. Shifting those costs onto the poor and future generations, shifting the costs onto foreign populations and the environment… that doesn’t solve the problem. It only delays it for a while. Now we are at the end point. No further delays are possible. The bill has come due. We can do this the easy way or the hard way.

As Ralph Nader put it, “there’s always a party before the party’s over.”

* * *

Cookie Cutter corporate media hack trying to defend plutocracy:

“Do you then ultimately believe that the most ultra-wealthy of us should give back in this way by being taxed in this way? I know you wrote a book Only the Super-Rich Can Save Us! Do you really believe that that’s their duty and they should do it through a wealth tax of this sorts?

Ralph Nader:

“Well, definitely Warren Buffett and Lawrence Fink of Blackstone and Yvon Chouinard of Patagonia and others have talked about a reset in terms of corporate response and in response to the wealthy. But look. After years of political campaign cash and sending their candidates into high office, the super-rich have got huge tax escapes; they have huge subsidies, bailouts, giveaways, Wall Street, General Motors; they have huge antitrust protection, monopolistic prices; they’ve stalled or frozen wages.

“These are trillions and trillions of dollars that come from people who work hard every day, but have not received what they should have received given their earned effort. So this is like a restoration of fair play. And let me tell you. You’ve heard the old saying, there’s always a party before the party’s over. And some good guys in Wall Street and some of the more responsible corporate executives know they’re pushing that envelope too far in the face of the American people. And that’s why they’re huge polls supporting a lot of Sanders and Warren’s measures and they include quite a few conservative voters. You can’t have 65, 70, 75 percent vote for cracking down on corporate abuses, for a living wage, for universal health care unless you have quite a bit of conservative voters as well, right?”

Vegetarianism is an Animal-Based Diet

“Some cultures like the Plains Indians, like the Lakota, they lived mostly on Buffalo. And they were the longest lived people in history. More centenarians per capita than any other population at the turn of the century.”

Dr. Mark Hyman mentioned that as a side comment, in a talk with Tom Bilyeu (27 minutes into the video below). This caught my attention for the obvious reason. The Lakota, on a carnivore diet as they were in the 19th century, hold the world historical record for the longest lived population. Let’s give credit where it’s due. And the credit goes to those nutrient-dense buffalo that gave up their lives for the greater good of the Lakota.

But the thing that surprised me is that Hyman brought this up at all. He is not a carnivore advocate. In fact, he was advising against it. He isn’t even particularly paleo in his dietary views. Of the alternative health doctors, he is one of the more well known and one of the more mainstream. I wouldn’t exactly say he is conventional, although he doesn’t tend to stray far into extreme dietary regimens. His comment was a bit out of character.

I looked it up and found where he spoke of it in one of his books: Eat Fat, Get Thin (at the beginning of chapter 7). That passage gives more context there for why he highlights that exemplary population. He brings up another long-lived population, the Seventh Day Adventists who are vegetarians. “What gives?” he asked. “Meat or veggies? Maybe we’re asking the wrong question. The answer seems to be that it is not the meat or the veggies, but the sugar and refined carbs that are part of the typical meat eater’s diet and our highly processed inflammatory diet that we should be concerned with.”

That makes more sense of why he was interested in the Lakota. He presents two diets that most people would take as extreme and then seeks a moderate position. Then he concludes that it isn’t what either diet includes but what they both exclude. That is a fair enough point (reminiscent of Catherine Shanahan’s assessment of industrial seed oils in Deep Nutrition; see Dr. Catherine Shanahan On Dietary Epigenetics and Mutations). The same basic argument comes up in an article on his official website, Is Meat Good or Bad for You?. He states that the “whole carnivore-vegan debate misses the real point”.

Sure, it misses the point. But did you see the sleight-of-hand he did there. He switched the frame from a carnivore-vegetarian debate to a carnivore-vegan debate. That is problematic, since vegetarianism and veganism are extremely different. Vegetarianism is animal-based omnivorous diet. It allows animal foods such as eggs and dairy (some even include seafood). If a vegetarian so desired, they could eat almost entirely animal foods and remain vegetarian. That is not possible with veganism that entirely excludes animal foods of all varieties (ignoring vegans who likewise make exceptions).

In comparing long-lived carnivores and long-lived vegetarians, maybe there is more going on than the unhealthy processed foods that their diets lack. The early Lakota obviously were getting high-quality and highly nutritious animal foods, but the same could be true of the vegetarians among Seventh Day Adventists. Both could be getting high levels of fat-soluble vitamins, along with other animal-sourced nutrients such as EPA, DHA, choline, biotin, etc. A vegan lacks all of these without artificial sources of non-food supplementation. That isn’t a minor detail.

We have no comparable vegan population that has been studied or about which we have a historical data. Interestingly, veganism didn’t exist as a diet until a Seventh Day Adventist received it as a message from God. Yet even to this day, there are no significant number of vegans among Seventh Day Adventists or any other population, much less vegans who have been on the diet for their entire life or even multiple generations. There is no such thing as a long-lived vegan population. In fact, few people who start a vegan diet remain on it for long. We have no clue what would happen to an entire population maintained on veganism for their entire lives. It’s a complete unknown. But what we do know is that populations that allow animal foods, from carnivore to vegetarian, can maintain good health and can produce centenarians.

This gets overlooked in mainstream debate where vegetarianism and veganism are conflated as plant-based diets. That confusion is purposely promoted by vegans (e.g., the documentary The Game Changers) who don’t want a public discussion about animal foods, especially not nutrient-dense animal foods as part of regenerative farming, and so vegans want to dismiss all animal foods as factory-farmed ‘meat’ supposedly destroying the world. For some reason, many experts like Dr. Hyman have fallen into this framing, a framing by the way that corporate interests have likewise promoted (Dietary Dictocrats of EAT-Lancet).

If vegetarianism is to be lumped with veganism as plant-based, then we are forced to be honest in admitting that most modern diets are plant-based, including the paleo diet and the Standard American diet. Most people eat foods consisting primarily of plant-based ingredients. Just look at the wide variety of junk food and other prepackaged foods that are largely or entirely made from plants. Commercial candy, snack mixes, potato chips, crackers, cookies, breads — all typically vegan and the few that aren’t barely have any animal-based ingredients in them. Most Americans eat these foods all day long. Their cupboards at home and their desk drawer at work are filled with them, always ready at hand when those addictive cravings hit for the next hit of starchy carbs and sugar.

Also, the supposedly ‘healthy’ foods people start their day off with — breakfast, the so-called most important meal of the day — are mostly plant foods (toast, muffins, bran cereal, granola bars, oatmeal, fruit, etc), maybe with some dairy added but even plant fake milks and fake butter is putting a major dent in the dairy industry, having recently put some dairy companies out of business, despite the fact that research shows that they are less healthy than their dairy equivalents. Even the most meat-loving Americans eat massive loads of grains, potatoes, table sugar, high fructose corn syrup, seed oils, etc in a thousand different forms and all of them destructive to health. Think of all that goes with a hamburger at a fast food restaurant: bread, pickles, maybe onions, ketchup, mustard, french fries, soda pop, and maybe a desert item — and don’t forget, Supersize that!

Is that really animal-based? No one honestly could claim it is. This plant-based Standard American diet is one of the great successes of big ag and big food industrial complex. Yet there is still more propaganda for a “plant-based” diet in pushing people to eat more plant foods (Ethan Varian, It’s Called ‘Plant-Based,’ Look It Up). But that demonstrates how, other than describing veganism, the label of “plant-based” is next to meaningless or not particularly useful in distinguishing between common diets, much less distinguishing between which modern diets are supposedly health and which supposedly unhealthy. Still, it is useful in distinguishing between most modern diets and most traditional diets, since veganism is a modern invention that didn’t exist until the late 19th century. For example, studies show that the majority of hunter-gatherers, even those surrounded by plants, don’t adhere to a plant-based diet since they get most of their energy and nutrients from animal foods.

So, what are we pretending this fake debate is about? And what is it really about? I can’t answer that for others, but here is my simple point. Most of the essential nutrition people get from their diet comes from animal foods, not plant foods. This is the reason that vegans are among the most malnourished groups, as shown in numerous studies, with high rates of mental illness, infertility, etc. Yet those on animal-heavy diets that exclude the industrially-produced plant foods tend to be in great health. What distinguishes a vegetarian from a vegan is precisely that one eats nutrient-dense and nutrient-bioavailable animal foods and the other doesn’t. That makes all the difference in the world.

* * *

The Dark Mind of Robert David Steele

There is an area of social science research that speaks powerfully to the reactionary mind and why it is so hard to pin down. In a reactionary society such as ours during this reactionary age of modernity, it can be hard to tell who is and who is not a reactionary. I suspect that all of us have a bit of reactionary in us, as potential that can become manifest when we let down our guard. One of the tricky parts is reactionaries rarely identity as reactionaries nor would think of themselves that way. That is part of the nature of the reactionary mind, to appear as something else, even to the person possessed by it. To map out the terrain, it’s helpful to look to the Dark Triad — the potent mix of authoritarianism, narcissism, and Machiavellianism. The third facet, less often discussed, is my focus here (Silvio Manno, The dangerous falsehoods fabricated by Machiavellian leaders afflict the world today).

Machiavellianism relates to suspicious paranoia that can express as belief in conspiracy theories. We tend to think of this tendency in negative terms, but let’s keep in mind that, “On the positive side, belief in conspiracy theories has been associated with openness to experience… and support for democratic principles” (Sutton & Douglas, see below). As it has been said, just because you’re paranoid doesn’t mean they aren’t out to get you. Maintaining an attitude of mistrust toward the threat of authoritarianism is a reasonable and moral response to authoritarianism. Yet on the other hand, mistrust pushed to the extreme makes one vulnerable to the lures of the reactionary mind, fear turned in on itself and projected out onto others. A deficit of trustworthy sources of info, as happens under oppressive conditions, creates a vacuum that must be filled and people do their best to make sense of the patterns they perceive. This is not a healthy situation. When culture of trust is lacking, people perceive others as untrustworthy and they act accordingly. “Machiavellianism predicted participants’ agreement with conspiracy theories,” wrote Sutton and Douglas. “Also, participants’ personal willingness to conspire predicted the extent to which they endorsed the conspiracy theories. This mediated the relationship between Machiavellianism and endorsement of conspiracy theories.” This is how the dark triad comes to dominance, in the world and in the mind. It warps our sense of reality and creates warped individuals.

Just think of Trump and you have the idiot savant’s version of this phenomenon (heavy emphasis on the idiot part), although I’d advise careful awareness as it can express in a much more sophisticated manner (e.g., Karl Rove and his cynical manipulation of the “reality-based community”). Even so, let’s stick with this obvious example for the very reason that apparently it isn’t obvious to many. There are those who think of themselves as good people, shocking as it may seem, who genuinely believe and have faith in Trump (I’ve already analyzed the authoritarianism of Clinton Democrats and so I will ignore that for the time being). I know such people. Some of them are simply not all that thoughtful and so are easily manipulated by lies, melodrama, partisanship, and whatever other bullshit. I have a hard time being too harshly critical, as many of them really don’t understand anything about what is going on in the world. They are useful idiots to the social dominators aspiring to their authoritarian dreams, but they honestly don’t have a clue what they’re being used for. This makes them potentially dangerous, even if they are less of a direct threat. There is another class of Trump supporter, though, that is far more dangerous and concerning, not to mention bewildering.

Consider Robert David Steele, a military officer and supposedly a former (?) CIA spy who has since re-styled himself as a political reformer, open source advocate, and freedom fighter. Going by my initial take, he comes across as a right-wing nationalist and populist with a Cold War vibe about him, the weird mix of religious patriotism and pseudo-libertarianism, capitalist realism and regressive flirtations with progressive language… or something like that, although when he is criticizing corrupt power and advocating open source he can almost sound like a leftist at times. He was the 2012 Reform Party’s presidential nominee and he is more well known, across the political spectrum, for advocating electoral reform. Some of what he says sounds perfectly reasonable and respectable, but he also makes some truly bizarre statements. He has claimed that the world is ruled by Zionists, especially Hollywood, that Hillary Clinton wants to legalize bestiality and pedophilia, and that NASA is sending abducted children to be sex slaves on a Martian colony (Kyle Mantyla, Robert David Steele: Hillary Clinton Was ‘Going To Legalize Bestiality And Pedophilia’; Ben Collins, NASA Denies That It’s Running a Child Slave Colony on Mars; Wikispooks, Robert Steele: Mars child colony claims). In his Zionist fear-mongering, he has associated with the likes of Jeff Rense, David Icke, and David Duke — as dementedly and dangerously far right as you can get without falling off the edge of flat earth.

I’m familiar with right-wing paranoiacs and I’m not without sympathy. There is a soft place in my heart for conspiracy theories and my curiosity has led me into dark corners of humanity, but I must admit that Steele is an extreme example among extremes. More than a few people think that, if not outright incompetent, he is controlled opposition and a paid fake, a disinfo agent, a fraud, hustling a buck, or that something is not right about him, maybe even that Once CIA always CIA, while it’s also been said he sounds like Alex Jones — the latter is understandable since he has been interviewed by Jones (Richard Wooley, Donald Trump, Alex Jones and the illusion of knowledge). The same accusations are made against Alex Jones as well and they do ring true. Some wealthy interests are promoting Jones and probably Steele too, for whatever reason that might be — the alt-right is filled with shills, paid trolls, and a variety of mercenaries (Competing Media ManipulationsGrassroots or Astroturf?, Skepticism and Conspiracy, Hillsdale’s Imprimis: Neocon PropagandaVictor Davis Hanson: Right-Wing PropagandistBerkeley Scholar Doesn’t Admit He Is A Corporate Shill). I’m not sure it matters whether or not Steele, Jones, and similar types are true believers. Either way, they’re influential figures to keep your eyes on.

Steele has also done talks and interviews with The Guardian’s Nafeez Ahmed, RT’s Max Keiser, Coast to Coast AM’s Lisa Garr, and many others, including multiple appearances on BBC Radio. His writings can be found in a wide variety of publications, such as: Forbes, Huffington Post, Veterans Today, CounterPunch, openDemocracy, etc. Articles about him and his election reform campaign have appeared in the mainstream media as well. Bernie Sanders and Thom Hartmann wrote prefaces to one of his books, and Howard Bloom wrote a foreword to another one. The guy gets around and draws some significant figures into his orbit. He also has appeared alongside the leftist citizen-journalist Caitlin Johnstone. She has sought cross-ideological alliance with the ‘anti-establishment’ right which unfortunately, I’d argue, is inseparable from the alt-right despite her claims to the contrary. She received a lot of flack and now regrets allowing herself to get associated with him: “I made a very unwise appearance alongside the very shady Robert David Steele” (A Year Ago I Wrote About Cross-Ideological Collaboration. Here’s How It’s Been Going). She got played by Steele, as did former Congresswoman Cynthia McKinney, although the latter was already well on her way to discrediting herself with conspiracy theories and antisemitism (see her page on Rational Wiki and on Discover the Networks). McKinney is obviously drawn to Steele because of his own inclinations toward conspiracy theories and antisemitism; but what is Johnstone’s excuse? Her husband, Tim Foley, says “she adores” McKinney and that is precisely how she got mixed up with Steele in the first place (10 Facts About Caitlin Johnstone, From The Guy Who Knows Her Better Than Anyone). Such unwise decisions seem inevitable once entering the murky waters and miasmic fog where swamp creatures dwell.

Johnstone’s husband blames himself for letting that situation happen, as he encouraged her to go on the show: “Before we knew it there she was, with Steele talking about how “the alt-right and the alt-left” need to come together, a position Caitlin never held, but in too much of a mental fog to protest” (10 Facts About Caitlin Johnstone, From The Guy Who Knows Her Better Than Anyone). That doesn’t seem accurate. After the show, she had a positive appraisal of Steele: “Here’s Cynthia McKinney, PhD and Robert David Steele coming to my defense over the right-left collaboration against the deep state I keep talking about.” (Facebook, July 21, 2017). Those words express no desire to protest nor a delayed realization that there was a potential problem. “If you recall, this is around the same time,” writes Scott Creighton, “that swindler Robert David Steele was pushing for the same “unite” cause but at least he was honest when he said he was doing it in order to bring the alt-left into the Trump camp in order to ensure his victory in 2020. That fraud fell apart and eventually Caitlin realized what a cretin [Mike] Cernovich was and she too gave up on this effort” (How Caitlin Johnstone is Just Plain Wrong about “Conspiracy Theories”).

This is how right-wing reactionaries seek legitimacy, by co-opting the rhetoric of the political left (e.g., Glenn Beck writing a book about Thomas Paine) and, by disguising their true intentions, drawing in those who otherwise would be resistant and unpersuaded (e.g., Steve Bannon as the architect behind Donald Trump using New Deal Progressive rhetoric as campaign promises). This is a lesson I learned in dealing with the alt-right. I used to debate with race realists such as human biodiversity advocates, until I realized all that I was accomplishing was giving them legitimacy in treating their views as worthy of public debate. It was irrelevant that they presented themselves as rational and weren’t explicitly racist, even in their denying racist allegations with shows of sincerity, as their rhetoric was making racism more acceptable by spinning it in new ways. That is their talent, spreading bullshit. Reactionaries are brilliant in manipulating the left in this manner. This is what worries me about Steele, in how he is able to speak to the concerns of the political left and then use the support he gains to promote Trump’s truly sick agenda or rather to promote the agenda of the lords and masters of the swamp hidden behind Trump’s buffoonery.

There is good reason Johnstone came around to calling Steele ‘shady’. His response to free speech of others is to threaten their free speech. The economist Michael Hudson, among others, has written about Steele’s use of frivolous lawsuits to shut down opponents (Robert David Steele’s ‘Feral’ Lawsuit Movement). In writing about this anti-democratic behavior (Robert David Steele: The Pinocchio Effect), he drew the ire of Steele himself who, in a comment from just a couple of days ago, wrote: “Thank you for this. I have copied it to my attorney with the suggestion that we add you to the roster of those to be called to testify about the conspiracy to defame me. The facts are the facts. I have two witnesses, both employed by NATO, who will testify to the truth of my claim. You are now part of my lawsuit against Jason Goodman, Patricia Negron, and Susan Lutzke. Congratulations.” Instead of countering with a fair-minded response and fact-based counterargument, he immediately went on the attack to silence someone who dared oppose him, which ironically substantiates the mindset portrayed in the article itself. It’s even more amusing in the context that, a little less than a decade ago, Steele specifically told people they should “listen to” Michael Hudson (No Labels “Non-Party” Equals “Four More Years” for Wall Street, Goldman Sachs, Grand Theft USA). This demonstrates lizard-brain levels of moral depravity, and the hypocrisy of it is beyond depressing. He is the guy presenting himself as a defender of an open society. Obviously, he isn’t to be trusted.

Yet I can’t help but feeling sorry for the guy. In the way that Trump appears to be exhibiting early onset dementia, I wouldn’t be surprised if Steele is suffering from paranoid schizophrenia or some other mental illness. Then again, maybe that is a given in a society that is insane. People become Machiavellian because that is how a Machiavellian society shapes them, and most definitely Steele is so shaped at this point, after having spent his entire career in right-wing authoritarian institutions of power, the military and CIA. That is what first occurred to me when my progressive friend asked me to look into him. The kind of anti-Zionist language goes far beyond criticisms of Israel as an authoritarian state, in the way the United States is also authoritarian. In his Machiavellian-minded support of President Trump, Steele wants to believe that Trump’s outward show of support for Machiavellian ‘Zionists’ is a deceptive ploy of Machiavellian genius: “The announced move of the US Embassy to Jerusalem – what one erudite British citizen labels a “diplomatic bon-bon” [7] – may have been part of a deeper strategy to finish Benjamin Netanyahu off while uniting the Arab tribes” (Is Zionism Over?). Ah, the tangled webs the paranoid mind weaves. His obsession with conspiracy theories about Zionists and pedophilia rings is typical of a certain kind of right-wing mindset, but I’m not sure that he was always this way.

My friend was inspired by his book, The Open Source Revolution, written back in 2012. That book does not deal in conspiracy theory, as far as I can tell, nor does it once mention Zionism, pedophilia, etc. Here is a taste of it: “The goal is to reject money and concentrated illicitly aggregated and largely phantom wealth in favor of community wealth defined by community knowledge, community sharing of information, and community definition of truth derived in transparency and authenticity, the latter being the ultimate arbiter of shared wealth. When we relate and share knowledge authentically, this places us in a state of grace, a state of “win-win” harmony with all others, and establishes trust among all” (from excerpt). Sounds nice, inspiring even. He mentions how he had originally believed in Barack Obama before realizing he was more of the same. That is what led to his writing an earlier book, Election 2008: Lipstick on the Pig. By the time 2012 rolled around, his identity as a patriotic, paternalistic, and progressive Democrat was clearly changing. In the book from that year, he wrote that,

“Understanding and accepting this sorry state of affairs has been part of my own personal and professional rejection of American exceptionalism and the rule by an elite. This shift in perspective recognizes the need for a new planet-wide consciousness based on an open information sharing and direct democracy. For many years I thought that our elected representatives had been corrupted by corporations and, more recently, by banks (or, I should say, the people who use these structures as veils for their own unethical accumulation of profit). I was in error. As we now know from numerous cases, the most blatant being that of former Congressman Randy Cunningham, it is more often elected representatives who have been shaking down banks and corporations in order to fund their own ambitions to remain in power and to profit at the expense of the people.”

Though not speaking in the overt language of the conspiratorial-minded, his words were beginning to express more of that worldview. Rather than it being a systemic problem of capitalism and corporatism, it is the fault of devious individuals who manipulate the system. The elite, rather than being an enlightened technocracy, are something darker — in this black-and-white dogmatism, those in positions of power are either good or evil with no gray area, no shade or tint, much less nuances of color. Before it was the banks that were the problem, but with his shift of focus it’s a small step to embracing the alleged child-molesting Zionists as the real source of power behind the banks. He used to talk about peaceful reform, but, in recent years, he has taken on more of the dark vision of Christian fundamentalism with hints of gnostic-like demonic archons and End Times longing. Nonetheless, I was curious and felt a desire to give Steele a fair hearing. So, I used a web search function to look for results prior to Trump’s presidential campaign, prior to Obama’s administration, and prior to the 9/11 terrorist attack. He didn’t sound all that crazy in the past and, the further I looked back, the more normal he spoke.

Even in 2012 when he started ranting about Zionists, it was relatively mild in tone while also giving voice to anti-authoritarianism and anti-colonialism, almost left-wing in ideology (The after effects of the Arab Spring, good or bad for Israel?). It’s true that Steele was on Alex Jones show as early as 2006, but keep in mind that Jones was far less crazy back then and far more coherent in his own criticisms of corrupt and abusive power (Kourosh Ziabari, Google following CIA’s path in confronting Iran). It can be easy to forget that, when you go back far enough, Jones had a significant following on the political left. It was a different world before both Trump lunacy syndrome and Obama derangement syndrome. It’s been a slow but steady decline for people like this. Decades ago, all that Steele was known for was his open source advocacy in arguing that secrecy was a bad way of doing anything, especially government. There was nothing controversial about this, other than being controversial to secretive authoritarians.

He went from that to his present belief that there are NASA martian colonies filled with child sex slaves. In both cases, he comes across as wholly earnest, for whatever that is worth. Still, earnest or not, there might be forces greater than him that are using and manipulating him for purposes he does not fathom. Seeing Machiavellianism in others opens one up to manipulation by Machiavellian social dominators. If there actually were demonic/Satanic forces as he believes, then one might suggest he is possessed by them. He has turned to the dark side or rather his mind has become lost in dark places, but it’s an all too common, if extreme, example of spiritual sickness and soul loss. His fear-mongering about pedophiles ruling the world is not only mental illness for there are real-world consequences, such as Alex Jones spreading conspiracy theories about pedophilia (Pizzagate) until one of his listeners took him seriously enough to go out and shoot up a restaurant.

I have no desire to discredit the lifework of Robert David Steele. His earlier message of freedom for all remains valid, but as a spokesperson he is damaged goods and his writings are tainted. I gave an accounting of this to my aforementioned friend who inquired about him. My friend became convinced that he should no longer recommend him to others. It’s sad to see someone’s mental breakdown play out on the public stage. And even sadder is that the message itself loses credibility in the process and so public debate about democracy becomes muddied. That furthers the agenda of anti-democratic forces. If nothing else, we can learn from such cases, learn about the importance of intellectual self-defense and psychological self-care. It’s too easy for any of us, in reacting to reactionaries, to become reactionaries ourselves. We should be aware of how hatred and fear can consume the mind. We can only be ruled by the darkness outside of us when it has first come to rule inside of us. Maintaining a positive vision is most important as a candle to light our way, to see the passage ahead and to see the precipice we walk along. It’s a long way down to tumble, if we lose our footing.

* * *

Power, Politics, and Paranoia
ed. by Jan-Willem van Prooijen, Paul A. M. van Lange
“Examining the monological nature of conspiracy theories”
by Robbie M. Sutton and Karen M. Douglas

People generally want to explain socially significant events such as the deaths of celebrities and major international disasters (e.g., Leman and Cinnirella, 2007 ; Weiner, 1985 ), but lack direct access to definitive proof of the truth or otherwise of a conspiracy theory. Even the educated middle classes of functioning democracies need to rely on second, third, and n th hand reportage and interpretation in media channels, since they lack direct access to the facts (Sutton, 2010 ). Writing from a political science perspective, Sunstein and Vermeule ( 2009 ) speculate that communities who lack even this information tend to be more susceptible to conspiracy theorizing. These communities include disadvantaged and marginalized groups, and citizens of highly authoritarian states. Such communities experience “a sharply limited number of (relevant) informational sources,” which leads them to experience “crippled epistemologies” in which they are forced to rely on unreliable sources (p. 204). As psychologists, we would suggest that lack of knowledge, however severe, forces members of the public to rely not only on indirect and unreliable sources but also on cognitive heuristics that allow workable, even if unreliable, inferences in the face of incomplete information. One such heuristic is projection: using beliefs about the self as a basis to evaluate claims about other people.

Specifically, we contend that the social-cognitive tool of projection can help people in these uncertain situations (Ames, 2004 ; Krueger, 2000 ; McCloskey, 1958 ). When people are unsure about what someone may or may not have done, they can use their own thoughts, feelings, motivations, or action tendencies as a source of information. That is, they can judge others by judging what they themselves think they would do. For example, people may be more likely to adopt the hypothesis that Princess Diana was assassinated if they believe that they, personally, would be willing to take part in this act if they were in the same situation. So, a person’s perception that “I would do it” informs their perception that “others did it.” Beliefs in conspiracy theories – even about completely unrelated events – may therefore be held together by people’s judgments of their own moral tendencies.

We tested the role of projection in two studies (Douglas and Sutton, 2011 ). In the first study, we asked participants to complete the scale for Machiavellianism – an individual differences variable associated with personal morality (Christie and Geis, 1970 ). Measuring Machiavellianism allowed us to test the prediction that the relationship between personal moral qualities and beliefs in conspiracy theories would be mediated by projection of those moral qualities onto others. We asked participants to rate their agreement with a range of conspiracy theories and measured their tendency to project by asking them, for each individual conspiracy theory, how willing they would have been to participate in the conspiracy themselves (e.g., “If you had been in the position of the US government, would you have ordered the attack on the Twin Towers on 9/11?”). As hypothesized, Machiavellianism predicted participants’ agreement with conspiracy theories. Also, participants’ personal willingness to conspire predicted the extent to which they endorsed the conspiracy theories. This mediated the relationship between Machiavellianism and endorsement of conspiracy theories.

In a second study, we experimentally manipulated participants’ feelings of personal morality. We reasoned that by recalling a time when they behaved in a moral and decent manner, people would perceive themselves as less likely to participate in conspiracies. As predicted, participants asked to remember a time when they helped someone in need were subsequently less willing to conspire than control participants. They also endorsed a range of conspiracy theories less strongly. This decline in conspiracy belief was mediated by a decrease in willingness to conspire. These two studies, taken together, suggest that conspiracy theories may be held together by projection. Beliefs may not support each other, but instead may be held together by believers’ perception of their own moral tendencies (Douglas and Sutton, 2011 ).

Old Debates Forgotten

Since earlier last year, I’ve done extensive reading, largely but not entirely focused on health. This has particularly concerned diet and nutrition, although it has crossed over into the territory of mental health with neurocognitive issues, addiction, autism, and much else, with my personal concern being that of depression. The point of this post is to consider some of the historical background. Before I get to that, let me explain how my recent interests have developed.

What got me heading in this direction was the documentary The Magic Pill. It’s about the paleo diet. The practical advice was worth the time spent, though other things drew me into the the larger arena of low-carb debate. The thing about the paleo diet is that it offers a framework of understanding that includes many scientific fields involving health beyond only diet and also it explores historical records, anthropological research, and archaeological evidence. The paleo diet community in particular, along with the low-carb diet community in general, is also influenced by the traditional foods approach of Sally Fallon Morrell. She is the lady who, more than anyone else, popularized the work of Weston A. Price, an early 20th century dentist who traveled the world and studied traditional populations. I was already familiar with this area from having reading Morrell’s first book in the late ’90s or early aughts.

New to me was the writings of Gary Taubes and Nina Teicholz, two science journalists who have helped to shift the paradigm in nutritional studies. They accomplished this task by presenting not only detailed surveys of the research and other evidence but in further contextualizing the history of powerful figures, institutions, and organizations that shaped the modern industrial diet. I didn’t realize how far back this debate went with writings on fasting for epilepsy found in ancient texts and recommendations of a low-carb diet (apparently ketogenic) for diabetes appearing in the 1790s, along with various low-carb and animal-based diets being popularized for weight-loss and general health during the 19th century, and then the ketogenic diet was studied for epilepsy beginning in the 1920s. Yet few know this history.

Ancel Keys was one of those powerful figures who, in suppressing his critics and silencing debate, effectively advocated for the standard American diet of high-carbs, grains, fruits, vegetables, and industrial seed oils. In The Magic Pill, more recent context is given in following the South African trial of Tim Noakes. Other documentaries have covered this kind of material, often with interviews with Gary Taubes and Nina Teicholz. There has been immense drama involved and, in the past, there was also much public disagreement and discussion. Only now is that returning to mainstream awareness in the corporate media, largely because social media has forced it out into the open. But what interests me is how old is the debate and often in the past much more lively.

The post-revolutionary era created a sense of crisis that, by the mid-19th century, was becoming a moral panic. The culture wars were taking shape. The difference back then was that there was much more of a sense of the connection between physical health, mental health, moral health, and societal health. As a broad understanding, health was seen as key and this was informed by the developing scientific consciousness and free speech movement. The hunger for knowledge was hard to suppress, although there were many attempts as the century went on. I tried to give a sense of this period in two massive posts, The Crisis of Identity and The Agricultural Mind. It’s hard to imagine what that must’ve been like. That scientific debate and public debate was largely shut down around the World War era, as the oppressive Cold War era took over. Why?

It is strange. The work of Taubes and Teicholz gives hint to what changed, although the original debate was much wider than diet and nutrition. The info I’ve found about the past has largely come from scholarship in other fields, such as historical and literary studies. Those older lines of thought are mostly treated as historical curiosities at this point, background info for the analysis of entirely other subjects. As for the majority of scientists, doctors and nutritionists these days, they are almost entirely ignorant of the ideologies that shaped modern thought about disease and health.

This is seen, as I point out, in how Galen’s ancient Greek theory of humors as incorporated into Medieval Christianity appears to be the direct source of the basic arguments for a plant-based diet, specifically in terms of the scapegoating of red meat, saturated fat and cholesterol. Among what I’ve come across, the one scholarly book that covers this in detail is Food and Faith in Christian Culture edited by Ken Albala and Trudy Eden. Bringing that into present times, Belinda Fettke dug up how so much of contemporary nutritional studies and dietary advice was built on the foundation of 19th-20th century vegan advocacy by the Seventh Day Adventists. I’ve never met anyone adhering to “plant-based” ideology who knows this history. Yet now it is becoming common knowledge in the low-carb world.

On the literary end of things, there is a fascinating work by Bryan Kozlowski, The Jane Austen Diet. I enjoyed reading it, in spite of never having cracked open a book by Jane Austen. Kozlowski, although no scholar, was able to dredge up much of interest about those post-revolutionary decades in British society. For one, he shows how obesity was becoming noticeable all the way back then and many were aware of the benefits of low-carb diets. He also makes clear that the ability to maintain a vegetable garden was a sign of immense wealth, not a means for putting much food on the tables of the poor — this is corroborated by Teicholz discussion of how gardening in American society, prior to modern technology and chemicals, was difficult and not dependable. More importantly, Kozlowski’s book explains what ‘sensibility’ meant back then, related to ‘nerves’ and ‘vapors’ and later on given the more scientific-sounding label of ‘neurasthenia’.

I came across another literary example of historical exegesis about health and diet, Sander L. Gilman’s Franz Kafka, the Jewish Patient. Kafka was an interesting case, as a lifelong hypochondriac who, it turns out, had good reason to be. He felt that he had inherited a weak constitution and blamed this on his psychological troubles, but more likely causes were urbanization, industrialization, and a vegetarian diet that probably also was a high-carb diet based on nutrient-depleted processed foods; and before the time when industrial foods were fortified and many nutritional supplements were available.

What was most educational, though, about the text was Gilman’s historical details on tuberculosis in European thought, specifically in relationship to Jews. To some extent, Kafka had internalized racial ideology and that is unsurprising. Eugenics was in the air and racial ideology penetrated everything, especially health in terms of racial hygiene. Even for those who weren’t eugenicists, all debate of that era was marked by the expected biases and limitations. Some theorizing was better than others and for certain not all of it was racist, but the entire debate maybe was tainted by the events that would follow. With the defeat of the Nazis, eugenics fell out of favor for obvious reasons and an entire era of debate was silenced, even many of the arguments that were opposed to or separate form eugenics. Then historical amnesia set in, as many people wanted to forget the past and instead focus on the future. That was unfortunate. The past doesn’t simply disappear but continues to haunt us.

That earlier debate was a struggle between explanations and narratives. With modernity fully taking hold, people wanted to understand what was happening to humanity and where it was heading. It was a time of contrasts which made the consequences of modernity quite stark. There were plenty of communities that were still pre-industrial, rural, and traditional, but since then most of these communities have died away. The diseases of civilization, at this point, have become increasingly normalized as living memory of anything else has disappeared. It’s not that the desire for ideological explanations has disappeared. What happened was, with the victory of WWII, a particular grand narrative came to dominate the entire Western world and there simply were no other grand narratives to compete with it. Much of the pre-war debate and even scientific knowledge, especially in Europe, was forgotten as the records of it were destroyed, weren’t translated, or lost perceived relevance.

Nonetheless, all of those old ideological conflicts were left unresolved. The concerns then are still concerns now. So many problems worried about back then are getting worse. The connections between various aspects of health have regained their old sense of urgency. The public is once again challenging authorities, questioning received truths, and seeking new meaning. The debate never ended and here we are again, and one could add that fascism also is back rearing its ugly head. It’s worrisome that the political left seems to be slow on the uptake. There are reactionary right-wingers like Jordan Peterson who are offering visions of meaning and also who have become significant figures in the dietary world, by way of the carnivore diet he and his daughter are on. T?hen there are the conspiratorial paleo-libertarians such as Tristan Haggard, another carnivore advocate.

This is far from being limited to carnivory and the low-carb community includes those across the political spectrum, but it seems to be the right-wingers who are speaking the loudest. The left-wingers who are speaking out on diet come from the confluence of veganism/vegetarianism and environmentalism, as seen with EAT-Lancet (Dietary Dictocrats of EAT-Lancet). The problem with this, besides much of this narrative being false (Carnivore is Vegan), is that it is disconnected from the past. The right-wing is speaking more to the past than is the left-wing, such as Trump’s ability to invoke and combine the Populist and Progressive rhetoric from earlier last century. The political left is struggling to keep up and is being led down ideological dead-ends.

If we want to understand our situation now, we better study carefully what was happening in centuries past. We are having the same old debates without realizing it and we very well might see them lead to the same kinds of unhappy results.

Is California a Canary in the Coal Mine?

About present ecological problems in the Sunshine State, Patrice Aymes presented her own take on what is going on (Burn California, Burn… The Price of Hypocrisy?). Her perspective is from that of being a Californian, apparently from the specific location of Central Valley in Northern California. She argues that the main problem is urban sprawl. Based on that working hypothesis, she speculates the situation could be remedied by simply enforcing more dense urbanization and so disincentivizing large houses in areas that are difficult to protect against fire. Besides that, she also thinks better resource management would help. Let’s look at the data to get a sense of the challenge, data that to my mind is shocking. The Californian population is immense and growing, which problematizes any attempt at resource management. And climate change makes everything worse.

My take on the situation is, in some ways, simpler than the suggestion of reforming the system and restructuring housing. No matter how you dice it, the population is plain too large for the ecological constrains of California. It’s a variation on, if maybe less extreme version of, the Dust Bowl. There was a wetter period that attracted people to California. Also, as in earlier times, the Federal government encouraged people to move West. But the wet period inevitably didn’t last and the weather patterns returned to their historical norm. This was exacerbated in California. Franklin Delano Roosevelt implemented federal farm subsidies in California before they were ever used anywhere else in the country. Along with diverting water in from other states, this created a big ag that otherwise wouldn’t have been possible. Yet there is too much profit and too many powerful lobbyist groups invested in maintaining the status quo that, in the long term, cannot be maintained.

The purpose of artificially constructing this big ag was partly to feed the growing population (further promoted by the Nixon administration guided by the corporatist vision of Earl Butz). And a large reason for that was because the Federal government needed a massive workforce to be employed in the defense industry so that the United States military could have a presence on the West Coast. This defense industry also funded decades of the tech industry. Much (most?) of the Californian economy is, directly or indirectly, connected to and dependent on the military-industrial complex. This has brought immense wealth into the state and so created a wealthy class demanding luxury. They live beyond their means through taxpayer money and externalized costs. California, as it is presently structured, would not exist if not for the intervening alliance of big gov and big biz.

Even if urban sprawl was eliminated and housing concentrated, the same basic ecological problems would remain without solution. It’s likely to get worse. As with large areas of Australia, there probably will be a mass exodus from California until the declining population reaches a sustainable size. But the motivation for that change will require mass crisis and catastrophe. That is my sense of things, anyway. These are just my thoughts. I can defend parts of my argument. I’ve written about the emergence of big ag in California and it’s interesting history. The military-industrial complex, in California as elsewhere is not only interesting but concerning. (See: Fascism, Corporatism, and Big Ag, From Progressivism to Neoconservatism, Vicious Cycle: The Pentagon Creates Tech Giants and Then Buys their Services, & Plutocratic Mirage of Self-Made Billionaires.) All of that, from what I can tell, is pretty much straightforward facts that are well-established and agreed upon.

As an example of hard-hitting data: “About 60 percent of all precipitation evaporates or is transpired by trees and vegetation” (Water Education Foundation, California Water 101); still, California receives a fair amount of precipitation… but: “There’s a catch. While parts of Northern California receive 100 inches or more of precipitation per year, the state’s southern, drier areas receive less precipitation – and just a few inches of rain annually in the desert regions. That means 75 percent of California’s available water is in the northern third of the state (north of Sacramento), while 80 percent of the urban and agricultural water demands are in the southern two-thirds of the state.” Consider that 80% of California’s surface water is used by the agricultural industry, whereas the average water usage for urban areas is only 10%. Besides draining aquifers, the state has lost “as much as 90 percent of the original wetlands acreage—a greater percentage of loss than any other state in the nation” (Water Education Foundation, Wetlands).

As for water appropriated from the Colorado River, there is competition for it from many other states with their own agricultural needs and growing populations. The part about how much population could be supported through the local environmental resources is more speculative. A strong case against sustainability, though, can be and has been made. Many others have written about it. If you do a web search, you can find numerous scientific papers and news reporting on the relationship of water shortage and overpopulation in California, including comparisons to the Dust Bowl. (See: Water Use in California by Jeffrey Mount & Ellen Hanak, The California Water Crisis: More Than Just Another Drought from Calsense, & California faces ‘Dust Bowl’-like conditions amid drought, says climate tracker by Chris Megerian.)

My comments have been about all of California, not limited to one region. A fairly small proportion of the Californian population lives north of the Bay Area. Maybe that area has a sustainable population. The greatest population concentration in Northern California is the Bay Area. But even if you look at all of Northern California including the Bay Area, that is only 15 million compared to the 25 million in Southern California. So, Northern California is far less than half of the population of the state and the Bay Area alone is half the population of Northern California. Northern California minus the Bay area is less than 18% of the total population. When I traveled across California, what stood out to me was not only that the Southern half had a larger population but also more densely populated, although I don’t know in terms of urban concentration (specifically in comparison to the Bay Area and Central Valley). Northern California seemed relatively empty, as large swaths of it wasn’t inhabited. My observations are cursory, though. Besides the Bay Area, the urban areas I saw were smaller.

All of Central Valley that includes multiple cities is only 6.5 million, but as a comparison even that is larger than 39 other states and territories in the US (much larger than many farm states, and about 12 times that of the least populated state). There are only 16 states, excluding California itself, that have more population than Central Valley and Central Valley is one of the least populated areas of California. That is in the context of California being the most populated state in the country. To really emphasize the massive population we’re talking about, Central Valley is larger than 124 countries in the world, Northern California is larger than 160 countries, and all of California is larger than 197 countries. Only 35 countries in the world have more inhabitants than California. Such an immense number of people crammed together in such a small area, with or without urban sprawl, is hard to imagine and comprehend, specifically in terms of the implications and effects. Data can be barely convey the immensity of the ecological challenge.

That brings us to carrying capacity. California is one of the dryer places in the United States (in top 10 of states of low precipitation with 5 out of 9 the largest American cities with less than 20 inches as yearly average). There are many other states that have far more water than California, even though no state has more residents. This is why California is dependent on taking water from other states, specifically the Colorado River, and even then California is also draining its own aquifers faster than they can be refilled. Sure, using resources more wisely would help, but that can only go so far. It’s unclear what the carrying capacity is for the entire planet and some argue we’ve already overshot maximum population load, an argument I’ve found persuasive or at least a point of serious concern. The larger complication involves the repercussions of going beyond the carrying capacity, in that the full externalized costs wouldn’t show up for decades or even generations later. As such, if we’ve already traipsed past this breaking point sometime these past decades, we might not be forced to acknowledge this stark reality until later in the century when the bill finally comes due.

It’s all rather speculative, as I said. But we do know that climate change is irreversible at this point. The melting of ice is a half century ahead of schedule, according to many predictions. It’s happening far more quickly than expected. Large parts of the world are experiencing droughts and are draining their aquifers, which exacerbates desertification. Even the 100th Meridian is moving eastward and drying out what used to be some of the most productive farmland in the world, the region that has been the breadbasket of the world. My own attitude is that of the precautionary principle. I see no advantage to seeing how close we can get to the carrying capacity of any particularly area or for the whole planet before going too far. But ignoring that, it’s possible that the carrying capacity could be extended a bit more, if we find more sustainable ways of living. Maybe or maybe not. As always, time will tell.

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As a related issue, maybe one should consider the importance of trees and the dire situation of their loss as related to climate change, in California and elsewhere:

Creeping toward Permanent Drought
by Kate Marvel

An American tragedy: why are millions of trees dying across the country?
by Oliver Milman & Alan Yuhas

California’s Trees Are Dying At A Catastrophic Rate
by Laura Geiser & Mette Lampcov

18 Million Trees Died in California in 2018, Forest Service Study Finds
by Ron Brackett

California’s Drought Killed Almost 150 Million Trees
by Jason Daley

150 million trees died in California’s drought, and worse is to come
by Nathanael Johnson

California has 149 million dead trees ready to ignite like a matchbook
by Umair Irfan

The hard truth about being a 21st century tree in California
by Mark Kaufman

Can the Los Angeles We Know Survive the Death of Its Trees?
by Brandon R. Reynolds

Scientists: Future of oldest tree species on Earth in peril
by Scott Smith

Earth’s Oldest Trees in Climate-Induced Race up the Tree Line
by Kat Kerlin