Responding to a Society Controlled and Manipulated by Lies

George Orwell’s Nineteen Eighty-four doublespeak included: use of euphemisms, jargon, vagueness, intentional omission, misdirection, and idioms in order to obscure the truth and engage in Machiavellian behavior. Doublespeak is language that deliberately obscures, disguises, distorts, or reverses the meaning of words. One of Orwell’s most important messages in 1984 is that language is of central importance to human thought because it structures and limits the ideas that individuals are capable of formulating and expressing. The true value of Nineteen Eighty-four is it teaches us that power and tyranny are made possible through the use of words and how they are mediated. The theme of lies in 1984 is: lying, deception and false appearance is usually connected with the want for power and control, the belief that no one will find out, and avoiding punishment. This is not so dissimilar from the radical right in the lead up to the 2024 US  election.

“Political language is designed to make lies sound truthful and murder respectable, and to give an appearance of solidarity to pure wind. However much you deny the truth, the truth goes on existing, as it were, behind your back. Nationalism is power hunger tempered by self-deception. War is peace. Freedom is slavery. Ignorance is strength.” (On the manipulation of language for political ends.) “As far as the mass of the people go, the extraordinary swings of opinion which occur nowadays, the emotions which can be turned on and off like a tap, are the result of newspaper and radio hypnosis.  We have now sunk to a depth at which restatement of the obvious is the first duty of intelligent men.”1 Nineteen Eighty-four was written as a warning of what could happen if people allowed their governments to obtain too much power after Orwell saw what happened to the people in Nazi Germany.

Albert Einstein’s most famous quote on thoughts and consciousness is: “The world we have created is a product of our thinking; it cannot be changed without changing our thinking.” False consciousness is a concept in sociology which states, among other things, that individuals in a society are not aware of what their true interests are, or have an otherwise incorrect idea of what constitute their true interests, because the dominant ideology in society has succeeded in effectively deceiving them into thinking that their true interests are something other than what they in fact are. Why, for example, individuals in a capitalistic society more often than not choose lives of complacency in regards to social hierarchies that continue to grow, leaving the masses poor and a few individuals extremely wealthy. As well, working-class people believing that certain politicians and policies will benefit the working class when they actually represent and benefit the ruling elite.

Society is controlled and manipulated as a direct consequence of the practice of a ‘false consciousness’ and the creation of values and life choices that are to be followed. In ‘advanced’ industrial (countries) societies, hegemonic cultural tools, such as compulsory schooling, mass media, and popular culture, indoctrinate workers to a ‘false consciousness.’  False consciousness denotes people’s inability to recognize inequality, oppression, and exploitation in a capitalist society because of the prevalence within it of views that naturalize and legitimize the existence of social classes. One example of false consciousness is when a person votes in such a way that might actually benefit those of a wealthier class rather than benefiting those in his or her own economic range. Voters need to focus on the roll backs of previous progressive legislation, and not be overwhelmed by the manipulative rhetoric of the various front men for the economic elite.

Both religion and ideology are sets of beliefs or ideas which try to explain how things work in the world and society and based on it create a set of rules people may follow. Both espouse world views that are seen as complete by their followers: as “total” systems, concerned at the same time with questions of truth and questions of conduct. Both consider opposing views as incorrect. Both tend to impact human psychology in similar ways through creating an ‘us and them’ mentality. Louis Althusser argues that religion is a part of the ideological state apparatus. Along with education and the media, it transmits the dominant ideology and maintains false class consciousness. False Consciousness doesn’t mean the working classes are idiots, but it does mean that they have been systematically fed untruth. The challenge today is that the masses are being redirected to the right.

One modern example of false consciousness is the American Dream – the belief that, by hard work, anyone can increase their social status, regardless of the conditions they were born into. Although influential, false consciousness has been criticized for its perceived elitism, authoritarianism, and unverifiability. Yet the idea that every American has an equal opportunity to move up in life is false. Social mobility has declined over the past decades, median wages have stagnated and today’s young generation is the first in modern history expected to be poorer than their parents. The lottery of life – the zip or postal code where you were born – can account for up to two thirds of the wealth an individual generates. The growing gap between the rich and the poor, the old and the young has been largely ignored by policymakers and investors until the recent rise of anti-establishment votes, including those for Brexit and for President Trump.

Neoliberalism calls for a government that enables rather than provides. That is, in a neoliberal society the government is only willing to acknowledge a much-muted commitment to look after and be responsible for the well-being of its citizens. Rather the government is tasked with the responsibility of creating enabling conditions that make it possible for all entities, whether they be individuals or complex organizations, to be responsible for their welfare through enterprise and competition in a marketized society. It’s important to realize that we are not being manipulated by a clever group of powerful people who benefit from manipulating us. Rather, we are being manipulated by a deluded group of powerful people who think they benefit from it – because they buy into the basic illusion that their own well-being is separate from that of other people. They too are victims of their own propaganda, caught up in the webs of collective delusion that include virtually all of us; one of the poisons – ignorance.2

Individuals support forms of domination with varying levels of understanding that they are doing so. In many cases, those very structures of domination distort our conceptions of them through mechanisms such as motivated reasoning, implicit bias, affected ignorance, false consciousness, and belief polarization. These various epistemic (relating to knowledge) distortions, in turn, cause social conflict, notably by promoting political polarization. Those worried by social conflict have spent a great deal of energy decrying the increasingly polarized contexts in which we live. However, epistemic distortions in our sociopolitical beliefs also maintain systems of domination, are misrepresentative, and prevent human needs from being met. People turned against each other cannot turn against those responsible. The more we’re thrown into conflict with each other through engineered distrust, the less able we are to unite against those responsible. Trump’s social media use has fueled the fire of extreme polarization, which, in turn, has contributed to the erosion of trust in democratic institutions.3

Self-deception is a personality trait and an independent mental state, it involves a combination of a conscious motivational false belief and a contradictory unconscious real belief. Existentialists observe: We are destined to be self-centered and deceptive unto ourselves. Worst of all we can’t simply stop being reflective and introspective, it’s a part of being! Unfortunately, there is no way out of self-deception while we exist. This is why so many consider Existentialism a philosophy of negative concepts. Self-deception isn’t merely a philosophically interesting puzzle but a problem of existential concern. It raises the distinct possibility that we live with distorted views that may make us strangers to ourselves and blind to the nature of our morally significant engagements. In the philosophy of existentialism, bad faith refers to a state of self-deception. Many of us deceive ourselves about our freedom and about our capacity to change our condition in the world.

Trump’s messaging on January 6 is precisely in line with how he’s historically addressed violence on the part of hate groups and his supporters: He emboldens it. As far back as 2015, Trump has been connected to documented acts of violence, with perpetrators claiming that he was even their inspiration. Trump has continually refused to recognize what’s at the core of this violence: hate nurtured under a tense national climate that he has helped cultivate. Trump’s campaign rallies have always been incubation grounds for violence. His messaging on January 6 is precisely in line with how he’s historically encouraged physical harm against dissenters. On the day that Congress moved to certify the 2020 presidential election results confirming Biden as the winner, Trump encouraged thousands of his supporters to dispute vote counts. He encouraged them to head to the Capitol to support objections to certification of the vote.4

The “narcissism of small differences” was Freud’s 1917 term for his observation that people with minor differences between them can be more competitive and hateful that those with major differences. This concept posits that human nature is essentially egoistic, capable of forming groups only by virtue of shared enemies, a prospect made more depressing because it posits group identities as fictitious, contrived on the basis of denial and distortion. Trump has raised denial to an historical new level. Trump harnessed the social media companies using denial to increase polarization in America. Social media companies do not seek to boost user engagement because they want to intensify polarization. They do so because the amount of time users spend on a platform liking, sharing, and retweeting is also the amount of time they spend looking at the paid advertising that makes the major platforms so lucrative.5

Ideology is a set of collectively held ideas about society, usually promoted in order to justify a certain type of political action. The theory of ideology is an attempt to explain the existence of false consciousness, and false consciousness is a matter of individuals’ acceptance, contrary to their interests, of an oppressive order. In post-truth politics social media assists political actors who mobilize voters through a crude blend of outlandish conspiracy theories and suggestive half-truths, barely concealed hate-speech, as well as outright lies. These “populist” voters now live in a media bubble, getting their news from sources that play to their identity-politics desires, which means that even if you offer them a better deal, they won’t hear about it, or believe it if told. We now realize the need to control how social media is manipulated by big money.

Selwyn Duke observes: “The further a society drifts from the truth the more it will hate those who speak it.” People lie to have control over you. People lie to manipulate you. Excessive polarization leads people to disregard views different from their own, making it hard to achieve democratic solutions to societal problems. Trump deliberately divides the country, as his way of doing politics focuses on creating divisions. He has signaled that a second term would be more radical and vindictive than his first one. He plans to expand the powers of the presidency that he would then wield against a wide range of groups in America. If liberty means anything at all, it means the right to tell people what they do not want to hear. In times of universal deceit, telling the truth will be a revolutionary act.6

1 From Facing Unpleasant Facts Quotes by George Orwell

2  http://neolib.uga.edu/neoliberalism-introduction.php

3  https://sofheyman.org/events/beyond-polarization-epistemic-distortion-and-criticism

4  https://www.vox.com/21506029/trump-violence-tweets-racist-hate-speech

5  https://www.counterpunch.org/2019/04/26/trump-and-false-consciousness/

6 from Partners in Ecocide: Australia’s Complicity in the Uranium Cartel, by Venturino Giorgio Venturini in 1982.

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Collective Narcissist Supports Populism and Authoritarianism

Ayn Rand’s philosophy of Objectivism argues that the purpose of life is the pursuit of happiness, and that the purpose of government is to aid that pursuit. Laissez-faire capitalism, she argues, is the only system that truly protects individual rights. Rand believed: “It took centuries of intellectual, philosophical development to achieve political freedom. It was a long struggle, stretching from Aristotle to John Locke to the Founding Fathers. The system they established was not based on unlimited majority rule, but on its opposite: on individual rights, which were not to be alienated by majority vote or minority plotting.” The core of Rand’s philosophy, Objectivism, is that unfettered self-interest is good and altruism is destructive. Ayn Rand was defined by her rage, not her advocacy of a fantasy version of capitalism. Her message of creative aspiration is laced with anger and cruelty, and endowed with idealized and moralized selfishness and greed.1

A former associate and romantic partner of Ayn Rand, Nathaniel Branden also played a prominent role in the 1960s in promoting Rand’s philosophy. Branden declared that self-esteem was the most important facet of a person in his 1969 publication of The Psychology of Self-esteem. This book promoted the belief that one must do whatever he can to achieve positive self-esteem. The belief that one must do whatever he can to achieve positive self-esteem became a movement with broad societal effects. Education departments adopted this mantra. The world will be saved from crime, drug abuse and under-achievement through bolstering self-esteem. This self-esteem movement has had a significant impact on the school system – in order to ensure positive self-esteem, educational standards were lowered, creating a milieu for extreme individualism. When there is too much self-esteem, there are problems of self-tolerance, entitlement and narcissism. This person demands automatic and full compliance with his/her expectations.

From the 1970s to the 1990s, individualism thrived in the school system. Rights replaced responsibilities. Self-criticism, self-denial, self-control, self-sacrifice were no longer in vogue. Self-expression, self-assertion, self-indulgence, self-realization and self-approval, all which blend into self-esteem, became important. Narcissism has been on the rise and now influences many aspects of our lives, and along with it appears a heightened sense of entitlement. With this sense of entitlement has come expecting well-paid employment and not having to work hard. In an individualistic consumer society, there is a strong focus on rights. Along with these rights are expectations of entitlement to goods and services. However, extreme individualism leads to narcissism. The narcissist exaggerates achievements and talents to a point of lying, and demands to be recognized as superior without commensurate achievements. This has led to a culture of complaint.

In an individualistic consumer society, there is a strong focus on rights. Along with these rights are expectations of entitlement to goods and services.  In complaining, the individual establishes an image of himself that he knows what’s going on (even if it is wrong) and therefore establishes an image of himself as alert and knowledgeable. Complaining amidst a group of like-minded whiners forges a sense of togetherness and community. Donald Trump complained about unfair treatment since, well, pretty much since the beginning of his 2016 campaign. Trump is completely committed to complaining about being a victim. According to him, he’s misunderstood, mistreated, persecuted, falsely accused and unfairly punished. Trump is the complainer in chief, but tells Democrats who complain to leave the country. Aaron James notes: “He’s completely out of touch with the moment, just living in his constructed world of grievance.”

The cult of individualism creates the milieu for excessive narcissism and the accompanying mental manipulation. This manipulation is a subtle thing. Mental manipulators manipulate reactions to things; as reactions come from within, they are manipulating thoughts. Narcissists are excellent at manipulation because they have been practicing from childhood. Typically, they share personal information of themselves to make people feel sorry for them. Initially this may appear that they are sensitive and perhaps vulnerable, but this is only part of their system. Everything they say and do is for effect; to get the reaction they want. The truth is irrelevant; it is whatever works as they play for the reaction they want. This activity makes them extremely observant and perceptive; they can appear to be smart. They will tend to agree with people, that is, tell them what they think they want to hear, and then find subtle ways to undermine it.

Studies conclude that higher social class is associated with increased entitlement and narcissism. Paul Piff from the University of California, Berkeley Psychology Department says that wealth gives rise to a sense of entitlement, a sense that one deserves more good things in life than others, which in turn gives rise to an increased or inflated sense of self-importance, vanity, grandiosity, and omnipotence (narcissism). Piff is a specialist in the area of wealth and personality, as well as its effects on behavior. He has found that upper-class individuals are more likely to lie and cheat when gambling, cut people off when driving, and endorse unethical behavior in the workplace. Social narcissism represents the dark side of intelligence and communication skills. As humans become more intelligent, as we improve our ability to communicate with others, our prospect for understanding reality increases, but our prospect for massive self-deception increases to the same degree.

Narcissism reduces everyone to an object to be maneuvered for the narcissist’s pleasure. The game plans of social narcissists are trivial but effective. At the social level, narcissists tend to be skilled manipulators who trigger and exploit narcissistic impulses in the people around them. Narcissists tend to be ruthless and lacking in empathy, and their dialogue with the rest of the world consists of endless, persuasive rationalizations for their belief system. Based on this game plan and over time, narcissists like Donald Trump make their way into positions of conventional (political) authority. They prefer positions where they can impose simple, inflexible systems of rules on others, and they avoid circumstances where accomplishments matter more than claims. The pathological narcissist though he may seduce and fool those who serve his agenda, has no loyalty and no code of honor. His denial of any objective truth, particularly moral truths, makes him the ultimate nihilist, with no ideology and no belief system.

The narcissist is addicted to the attention of others for admiration, applause and affirmation. They are driven by a need to uphold and maintain a false self projected to the world. Behind this façade they only care about appearances. They feel omnipotent; there is nothing he/she cannot achieve. They rarely admit to ignorance and regard his/her intuition and knowledge as superior to objective data. They are impervious to consequences of their actions; and have an ability to find scapegoats while others see them as ‘getting away with it.’  With this belief system, the narcissist conditions the people around them using intimidation, positive and negative reinforcement, and ambient abuse, covert or controlling abuse.  Narcissistic rage occurs when a narcissist’s beliefs about their perceived importance or grandiosity are confronted. There is an association between undermined self-esteem and collective narcissism. However, endorsing collective narcissism does not predict an increase in self-esteem.

What does collective narcissism do to society? In everyday settings it can keep people from listening to each other. At worst it might fuel violence. Collective narcissism is associated with hypersensitivity to provocation and the belief that only hostile revenge is a desirable and rewarding response. It arises when the traditional group-based hierarchies are challenged and empowers extremist as well as populist politicians. Insteasd of alleviating the sense of threat to one’s self-importance it refuels it. Hostility, entitlement, and resentment lie at the heart of collective narcissism. Those embracing collective narcissism exhibit hostility, prejudice, and susceptibility to biased viewpoints in intergroup dynamics, fostering social dominance and nationalist sentiments. This toxic synergy glorifies the ingroup while disparaging outgroups, fueling societal divisions and hindering inclusivity and understanding among diverse groups. Understanding this interplay illuminates societal complexities and challenges to fostering cohesive and tolerant societies.2

Collective narcissism is associated with the weakening of democracy in America. Donald Trump is an accomplished populist leader, who mobilizes his supporters by defining American national identity in terms of vulnerable greatness. The Capitol attack can be seen as an effect and illustration of such a construction of national identity, particularly when this identity was threatened by its representative’s loss of power. It happened because collective narcissism is associated with support for populist leaders to the point of disregard for democratic procedures, seen as an obstacle to the shared national identity. Studies show that national collective narcissism is robustly associated with right-wing authoritarianism (i.e., obedience to convention and authority and the rejection of deviants; and thus, it is likely to predict support for undemocratic leadership defined by strength and centralization of power).3

Narcissists tend to communicate differently than other people. Their words are often used as tools or weapons. Their language often disguises their true intent. In addition to hoarding conversation time, narcissistic communicators also tend to control and direct conversation topics. They focus on what they want to talk about, the way they want to talk about it, with little or no consideration for alternate views.  Former President Trump stays popular by fueling narcissism – by creating or promoting perceived ingroup disadvantages with his anti-immigrant, anti-elitist, and strongly nationalistic rhetoric. With the moral degradation of the present political governing elites; the lack of virtuous men in power positions, now politics is not a profession, but a profitable part-time job for some seeking to promote and attain certain private advantage. The task at hand is to reverse the decline of democracy in America.

The philosophy of individualism provides the support within the general population that keeps this system of privilege in place. In the 21st century, liberty and self-determination, available to those who have sufficient financial resources and cultural capital, is out-of-reach for much of the population. The culture of extreme individualism ushered in the narcissism influencing decision-making and accountability today. With narcissism, such a person lacks empathy and does not recognize boundaries: personal, corporate or legal. The world viewed from an emotional rather than a rational perspective allows personal feelings to override the distinction between right and wrong. The wealthy know that the collective narcissism in the country will lead to authoritarian regimen. In this climate they elevate their personal interests above the common good. While the overall US economy improves, for the general population inflation is the measuring stick – making them vulnerable to the populist sway of collective narcissism.

Can the courts save the day? Trump has long been an expert in tying the courts in knots by exhausting every single avenue of appeal – often using fanciful legal strategies that nevertheless take time to litigate – to postpone accountability. The former president’s common strategy across his four criminal trials is to use the constitutional protections granted by a legal system he claims is corrupt to push the moment he will stand before a jury until after the election in November. Thus, senseless motions and hearings. In order to delay the process, the narcissist will file senseless motions, excessive hearings, and multiple postponements. This is again done to drain the financial resources of the opponent and create an atmosphere of the never-ending-lawsuit. For a narcissist, all attention is good so dragging things out longer only benefits their ego. The looming existential question, will Trump succeed at running out the clock?

Collective narcissism was at play in 2016, and is in play again for 2024. This means Democrats need to enlist independents, dissatisfied Republicans, women, and those who were planning to sit this election out due to indifference to both candidates. Collective action is required as Trump’s economic message is fool’s gold for swing voters. In addition, expose Trump’s republican enablers in Congress, on how the Trump appointed court killed Roe. Democrats’ messages must include a more progressive tax structure to provide more services and reduce economic inequality by making sure that the wealthiest Americans pay the highest tax rate. If Donald Trump implements all his announced trade barriers, the growth rate of the American economy will fall, even without retaliation from trade partners. Collective narcissism undermines rights of LGBTQIA+ community and Black community. Such groups need to be informed of consequences of another Trump presidency, in order to mobilize turnout. Turnout is key to countering this populist movement to prevent America from slipping into authoritarianism.

1 https://questioningandskepticism.com/to-create-positive-change-reduce-alienation/

2 https://www.byarcadia.org/post/narcissism-can-be-collective-collective-narcissism-and-its-societal-impact

3  https://spssi.onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/pdf/10.1111/asap.12274

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Living a Lie: The Roll of Self-deception in 2024 Election

In 1976, in the foreword to Richard Dawkins’s The Selfish Gene, the biologist Robert Trivers floated a novel explanation for such self-serving biases: We dupe ourselves in order to deceive others, creating social advantage. Psychologists have identified several ways of fooling ourselves that include biased information-gathering, biased reasoning and biased recollections. The steps that Trivers outlined includes the way we seek information that supports what we want to believe and avoid that which does not. Trivers argues that a glowing self-view makes others see us in the same light, leading to mating and cooperative opportunities. Supporting this argument, Cameron Anderson, a psychologist at the University of California, Berkeley, showed in 2012 that overconfident people are seen as more competent and have higher social status. “I believe there is a good possibility that self-deception evolved for the purpose of other-deception,” Anderson says.1

We all do it. We engage in self-deception – hiding the truth from ourselves about our true feelings, motives, or circumstances. When we’re deceiving ourselves, we’re denying evidence, logic, or reality and rationalizing choices or behaviors to serve a false narrative. We’re not seeing or viewing things accurately. Self-deception is often a defense mechanism used for self-protection, and it can be used for self-enhancement. But it often becomes a form of self-sabotage and betrayal because it denies reality. When we deceive ourselves, we become our own enemy posing as a friend. Self-deception can involve denial of hard truths, minimization of painful matters, or projection of fault onto others. Our self-deception usually comes with a fair amount of discomfort and anxiety, in part because of the cognitive dissonance we experience when we do it. (Cognitive dissonance is the mental discomfort we feel when behavior and beliefs do not complement each other or when we hold two contradictory beliefs.)

Psychologists have traditionally argued we evolved to overestimate our good qualities because it makes us feel good. But even if individuals don’t bear specific responsibility for their being in that state, self-deception may nevertheless be morally objectionable, destructive and dangerous. Some argue that self-deception evolved to facilitate interpersonal deception by eliminating the cues and cognitive load that consciously lying produces and by mitigating retaliation should the deceit become evident. On this view, the real gains associated with positive illusions and other self-deceptions are by-products that serve this greater evolutionary end by enhancing self-deceiver’s ability to deceive. Von Hippel and Trivers contend that “by deceiving themselves about their own positive qualities and the negative qualities of others, people are able to display greater confidence than they might otherwise feel, thereby enabling them to advance socially and materially.” The inherent danger of self-deception is that for as long as you do, no one may really be able to help you.

Of all the problems in organizations, self-deception is the most common, and the most damaging. Self-deception can lead to treating people like objects because we view their needs as less important than our own, inflating our own virtues and other people’s faults. This can lead to a vicious cycle of mutual blame and mistreatment. It’s contagious. The more self-deception occurs, the more it will spread to others. Though it can be hard to detect, there are signs of self-deception in action. For example, we’re probably deceiving ourselves when we: (1) keep making excuses for ourselves, (2) can’t accept responsibility for things, (3) keep blaming others, (4) keep avoiding unpleasant realities. (5) feel defensive or threatened when people challenge us. On the plus side, self-deception can make us feel better about ourselves and help us maintain our confidence in the face of challenges and setbacks. But it can also help us avoid taking responsibility for our actions.2

Some people spend their entire life in self-deception or denial, but the situations or circumstances that we are denying will usually get worse with timeobserves Terri Cole, Licensed Clinical Social Worker. This can lead us to detract from our mental and emotional clarity; cause us to lose sight of who we really are and what’s real because we’ve been deceiving ourselves so long; lead us to deceiving others often, not just ourselves. In short, it can become a downward spiral leading to further self-deception and a host of other problems in our lives, many of which are quite serious. And the longer we do it, the more we believe the lies. In leadership roles self-deception: can prevent us from seeing beyond our own opinions and priorities, lead to unethical decisions and behaviors, including justifying poor behavior, such as intimidation, harassment, or bullying.

All political projects are to some degree based on unifying myths and imagined future possibilities. The conservative movement created a past and a future for itself: a past ideal of America to mourn, elevate, and try to re-create, and a future in which it vanquishes the forces deforming the country. Self-deception could be the common ground between Trump and his supporters. His lies may be all about self-deception. Back in 2016 religious leaders acknowledged Trump to be a “flawed leader” who has support of conservative Christians because he opposes “pro-abortion, pro-gender-confusion, anti-religious liberty, tax-and-spend, big government liberalism” that was embodied by the Democratic nominee. Trump’s bond with white Christian nationalists reaches level we haven’t seen before. Trump sells his lies with conviction. That a sizeable segment of the country has given up on whether there was a riot, labeled insurrection or not, is a case of mass denial of self-deception.

An existential threat, put simply, is a threat to society – a veritable threat to existence does not have to be present for someone to experience a sense of existential threat. Trump draws fervent support from conservatives who believe the president is willing to restore the country to its moral and constitutional foundations. Trump’s existential threat: “If we don’t win on November 5th, I think our country is going to cease to exist. It could be the last election we ever have. I actually mean that. If we don’t win, I think this could be the last election we ever have…” On the other hand, Donald Trump represents an existential threat to the current system. Trump won the nomination as the candidate who lied the most, won the presidency as someone known to lie; has an unshakable base despite ongoing lies. Former President Donald Trump amounts to an “existential threat” to democracy and the rule of law, claim legal experts.

Trump’s enablers must face consequences too.  By aiding and abetting President Trump even as his lies are repeatedly exposed, they’ve become complicit – and, with tear gas in the streets and more than 200,000 dead from the coronavirus, the price of collaboration has already turned out to be extraordinarily high. Enablers support the Trump’s behavior out of fear, love, or a misguided sense of loyalty. Autocrats, like Trump, surround themselves with their political cronies and lackies rather than competent people – have no way of eliciting, recognizing or assessing useful criticism. They are unwilling to hear anything negative – that leads to very bad decisions. There’s no doubt that Donald Trump was the instigator of the 2020 insurrection. But the former president’s schemes never would have gotten far (or even off the ground) without the participation of right-wing media executives, lawyers and pliant state officials. Without holding these enablers accountable, democracy and the rule of law will remain at risk.

We live in a world of crisis and existential threat caused by authoritarianism, militarism, racism, poverty, and environmental destruction – all of which limit our freedom and lead to the oppression of others. Existentialists call on us to live in freedom in active rebellion against the oppressive forces that keep people from being able to live in responsible freedom in our world. Actively living out responsible freedom in a world of existential threats requires actively working for the liberation of others, especially those who are the most vulnerable to the oppression of dehumanizing systems within our societies.  However, we must do so in such a way that we do not lose ourselves to some external entity but rather continue to will our own genuine freedom in the midst of a community of equal persons who also will their freedom.

Von Hippel offers two pieces of wisdom regarding self-deception: “My Machiavellian advice is this is a tool that works,” he says. “If you need to convince somebody of something, if your career or social success depends on persuasion, then the first person who needs to be [convinced] is yourself.” On the defensive side, he says, whenever anyone tries to convince you of something, think about what might be motivating that person. Even if he is not lying to you, he may be deceiving both you and himself. Self-deception in politics in America is a big problem. The most important step in countering self-deception in America is for voters to turn out and reject Donald Trump, and overwhelmingly vote for President Joe Biden. Also, support free thinking Republicans who are considering a Party in Exile to return when Trump is removed – will ensure a functioning Republican Party in the future that supports democracy.

 1 https://www.scientificamerican.com/article/living-a-lie-we-deceive-ourselves-to-better-deceive-others/

2  https://greggvanourek.com/self-deception/

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Proposed Changes: Overview of Trump’s 2024 Social Contract

Change is a direction or set of decisions translated into actions that influence a difference in organizational operations, identity, and overall ethos. Social change refers to changes in the political or economic context of societies which affect the vast majority of the population, albeit not necessarily in a uniform way. The political philosophers would explain the social contract theory as individuals giving power to the government (state) to govern over them in exchange for protection. It must not be misinterpreted that an individual, who is under the social contract has to give up their total freedom rather, the person is still at liberty to do as they please so far as it does not cause harm or impede on another individual’s freedom. Giving up this freedom under the social contract is viewed as a benefit to the society. The social contract can be used as a tool to track changes within a country.

John Locke (1632-1704) developed a theory of natural laws and natural rights which could be used to distinguish between legitimate and illegitimate government, and to argue for the legitimacy of revolt against a tyrannical government. It was the government’s responsibility to protect them. Reason served to control and order political life. Individuals relinquish power, but not rights to government (as the government is supposed to preserve rights). He believed that no one ought to harm another with respect to his life, health, liberty, or possessions. For Locke, the role of the social contract that placed authority over people was to protect human equality and freedom; this is why social groups agreed to a social contract that placed an authority over them.1 Donald Trump has made a slew of promises related to the economy, immigration, climate change, and more should he win the 2024 election.

Hegel’s theory is basically that mankind is merely a series of constant philosophical conflicts. That Hegel (1770-1831) was in some sense a critic of social contract theory is beyond dispute. The social contract theory maintained that in organized society the individual must forfeit a certain number of individual rights to the state as the representative of the collective interest of the community. The struggle that Hegel envisioned is the great tension between ‘is’ and ‘ought,’ between the way things are and the way they ought to be. Hegel claims individuals are in various states of alienation – the tension created between the way things are and the way they ought to be. Once the potentialities of a particular society had been realized in the creation of a certain mode of life, its historical role was over; its members became aware of its inadequacies, and the laws and institutions they had previously accepted unquestioningly in the past were now experienced as fetters, inhibiting further development and no longer reflecting their deepest aspirations.

A fair and equitable distribution of income is a fundamental element of the social contract. Social contract theory says that people live together in society in accordance with an agreement that establishes moral and political rules of behavior. Some people believe that if we live according to a social contract, we can live morally by our own choice and not because a divine being requires it. During the 21st century the cost of many discretionary goods and services has fallen sharply, but basic necessities such as housing, healthcare, and education are absorbing an ever-larger proportion of incomes, aggravated by wage stagnation. These shifts point to an evolution in the “social contract”: the arrangements and expectations, often implicit, that govern the exchanges between individuals and institutions. Broadly, individuals have had to assume greater responsibility for their economic outcomes. For many individuals the changes are spurring uncertainty, pessimism, and a general loss of trust in institutions.

Two main reasons have been put forward to explain Donald Trump’s surprising victory at the 2016 presidential election: blue-collar workers’ feeling of socioeconomic insecurity and their feeling of cultural insecurity. The technical reason Trump won the presidency is that he won very narrow victories in just a few key Rust Belt swing states. But the geography and math of the Electoral College ended up working to Trump’s benefit. The white working-class voters who strongly backed Trump are over represented in Electoral College math, while Clinton’s non-white and urban backers tended to be packed into a few key states –even while Hillary Clinton won the electoral vote with a margin of almost three million votes, Donald Trump won the Electoral College vote. A significant chunk of voters were dissatisfied with their choice of candidates. Thus, the number of people electing not to vote for the Republican or Democratic nominee went up by 4.5 million votes, nearly tripling from 2012.

From his first days in Washington to his last, Trump seemed to revel in the political fight. He used his presidential megaphone to criticize a long list of perceived adversaries, from the news media to members of his own administration, elected officials in both political parties and foreign heads of state. The more than 26,000 tweets he sent as president provided an unvarnished, real-time account of his thinking on a broad spectrum of issues and eventually proved so provocative that Twitter permanently banned him from its platform. In his final days in office, Trump became the first president ever to be impeached twice – the second time for inciting an insurrection at the U.S. Capitol during the certification of the election he lost – and the nation’s first chief executive in more than 150 years to refuse to attend his successor’s inauguration.

During the 2016 campaign he told people he was not beholding to wealthy donors. Trump’s policy record included major changes at home and abroad. He achieved a string of long-sought conservative victories domestically, including the biggest corporate tax cuts on record, the elimination of scores of environmental regulations and a reshaping of the federal judiciary. In the international arena, he imposed tough new immigration restrictions, withdrew from several multilateral agreements, forged closer ties with Israel and launched a tit-for-tat trade dispute with China as part of a wider effort to address what he saw as glaring imbalances in America’s economic relationship with other countries. His corporate tax cuts disappear next year. For the 2024 campaign Trump needs help from donors for both campaign funds as well as for his personal finance that has been triggered by two lawsuits. Digital World sets up a scenario where money interests will be able to influence many of Trump’s future decisions.2

However, a social contract can be used as a tool of analysis. Today many argue that a social contract is neither good nor bad by nature but is an equilibrium of the give-and-take between those in power and the rest of society, which reflects the distribution of power. A social contract can be defined as the entirety of explicit or implicit agreements between all relevant societal groups and the sovereign (i.e., the government or any other actor in power), defining their rights and obligations toward each other. Social contracts can be quite different from each other, depending on the nature of state-society relations and the distribution of power. In return for providing deliverables, governments expect members of society to comply with its rule, to confirm – or at least not object to – the legitimacy of its rule, and to remain loyal when conflict with others arises. Social contracts help to create a sense of social cohesion and cooperation, which is necessary for the functioning of any society.

Governments may also require citizens to pay taxes or provide “national” services, such as military or civil service. In this way, analyzing the social contract helps identify what different regimes – authoritarian as well as democratic – have on offer for citizens and what they expect in return. The social contract between an authoritarian regime and its citizens is supposed to create compliance with repressive laws and practices in exchange for security and prosperity. Perspectives on authoritarian rule reflects the “contract” between dictators and different constituencies whereby the latter acquiesce to constraints on their political participation and liberties in exchange for economic security. Rich in oil and natural gas, Russia has utilized its national income to prop up public goods provision. However, while these resources have left Russia nearly free of sovereign debt held abroad, economic development has been limited. The Russian social contract exchanges inaction and loyalty for public safety and reliable access to public goods.

Unfortunately, America’s social contract broke down in the 1980s when the gap between wage growth and productivity growth first started to appear, creating the conditions that Trump tapped into during the 2016 election.  Trump used the primary contest as a tool for purging the party of dissent, and took over the Republican Party. What is Trump’s new social contract for 2024? In efforts to achieve a new social contract workers may elect an authoritarian, in this case, Donald Trump. However, Trump is a symptom of the problem, not the cause. The Republican Party, is now a party without dissent or internal debate, one that exists only to serve the will of one man. Trump admires Putin, but will be unable to emulate Putin’s social contract, as Trump lacks access to national income to help the working man, rather, he will be looking after the concerns of the one percent.

The 2016 election gave voice to the deep-seated frustrations and anger of those who felt left behind by economic forces and fear their children will experience a lower standard of living than they did. Election rage shows why America needs a new social contract to ensure the economy works for all. A new social contract would tie together the main stakeholders of an economy, its workers, business leaders, educators and government, and ensures each group meets it obligations to each other while also pursuing its own goals. Workers, for example, want good wages and careers and have an obligation to work productively and contribute to the success of their enterprise. Employers have to balance the expectations of investors, employees and customers. Trump’s 2024 social contract will not address these key issues. Trump’s proposed changes: 10% import tax along with tax breaks for the rich will not trickle down to those in need of relief.

1 file:///C:/Users/horsm/Downloads/Objectivism-Lost-2012.pdf  2012 (p 55)

2https://www.thenation.com/article/politics/donald-trump-debts-corruption/

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The World of Misinformation and Escapism

In psychology, escapism is when a person routinely uses an activity or behavior to escape life’s realities. It is a way of distracting the mind. Examples include social media, substance use, or playing games to avoid thinking about or facing something else, such as a relationship conflict or a stressful assignment deadline. Escapism and social media overuse are likely to become diagnosable disorders in the future since in many ways they replace positive coping mechanisms with real-world stressors. Flipping through social media feeds or binge-watching an entire season of a television show seems to be a new normal. Inherently social media platforms and forms of escapism are not bad, but anything done excessively can lead to negative consequences. For a man like Trump who has long relied on his loyal crowds and for validation and reassurance – any rally seems like an exercise in escapism.

The main thing is, the society Orwell portrays on 1984 has no real politics; it is just a system of lies and terror which has lost any raison d’etre besides self-perpetuation. And this situation is not all that dissimilar from what we observe two wars and deterioration of dialogue in 2024 election campaign in US. Many Americans, no doubt, can’t see a difference between the candidates. A declining faith in government has not been replaced by any new hope for opposition or reform. Whether or not the Constitution says we all participate in making decisions of government, the average citizen is helpless against the murky forces of economic powerhouses. This crisis of participation, a chief trait of the Orwellian world, has not occurred as a result of the natural, uninhibited growth of the state. This has been carefully engineered by the ruling minority of our society.

Written in 1932, Huxley’s dystopian novel describes a world that has been completely structured to allow humans to completely indulge themselves at every desire by using their new technological advances. Kids are conditioned and brainwashed from a young age to dislike things that stir up emotion: books, music, nature, art, religion, and long-term relationships with family and lovers. These relationships of lovers have been replaced with daily one-night stands or orgies. The world is run around a new drug called Soma. Whenever someone feels even slightly down, they can just take a hit of the drug and such emotions will disappear. The user becomes stoned and happy. In sum, the people of Brave New World are able to maintain peace at the cost of any strong emotions. They spend their time with meaninglessness and indulge their every biological urge. There are no benefits to avoidance.1

Why escapism is so good? Escapism provides a safe haven from the trials and tribulations of the real world. It allows individuals to temporarily detach from their problems, worries, and stressors, offering a much-needed respite. This temporary escape into a fictional universe can serve as a form of self-care, akin to a mental vacation. Any life change can lead to escapism, even if the change is positive. Life challenges and traumatic events can also lead to escapism. Feelings of sadness, fear, depression, anxiety, exhaustion, and lack of self-esteem can all increase the desire to escape. It was used by Sebastian Scherr of Texas A&M University and Kexin Wang of Zhejiang University in a paper that argued people mainly use TikTok so they can avoid doing something else. Tik Tok is an online form of escapism. Your escapism can be either a healthy form of self-care or a potentially dangerous habit that interferes with your daily life.

There are many self-care activities that allow us to take momentary breaks when needed and then return to our current circumstances feeling more refreshed. Escapism becomes harmful when it becomes avoidance, and it can involve partaking in unhealthy activities or even healthy ones in excess. Fantasizing about running away, or getting close to actually doing so, is perhaps more common than you may think. At its core, running away is a means to escape our current world – a world that isn’t serving us the way we desire. Maybe you feel stuck or bored and are craving a renewed sense of vigor. Understanding escapism involves delving into the psychological triggers that compel individuals to seek refuge in activities or thoughts that distance them from their current realities. At its core, escapism is often a response to stress, anxiety, or dissatisfaction with one’s life circumstances.

There has always been something of this unreality about Trump’s behavior in the presidency. From the very beginning, it has seemed that Trump almost fully inhabits a boorish, narcissistic psychodrama playing in his head. Through the power of his personality and celebrity, he has been able to draw others into that fantasy world for decades, and through the power of the presidency he was able to project it onto the real world and draw yet more followers into it. Like so much of what Trump has wrought, the attack on the Capitol had the feel of fiction, and even many of the people involved seemed to be playing out a fantasy in their heads, living in a world in which sinister forces had stolen the election from their lion-hearted hero and they had come to set things straight by a show of strength. It’s all a lie, every part of it, yet the actions taken by the crowd were very real, and very dangerous.

The curious power and appeal of Trump’s conspiracism is deeply intertwined with its irresponsibility. How President Donald Trump handled the risk of coronavirus infection was irresponsible – for example, during a global pandemic, thousands came out shoulder-to-shoulder in a windowless warehouse rally – exacerbated the pandemic that killed more than 200,000 people in the United States. In addition, President Biden says it was ‘irresponsible’ for Trump to keep classified documents at Mar-a-Lago. If Trumpism means anything, it would seem to mean this distinct kind of irresponsibility. It’s not the same as populism – which always risks entanglements with demagogues but also has legitimate concerns and priorities that deserve to be heard and should not be confused with one man’s failings. It’s not any particular policy agenda or set of reforms, Trumpism is a style, an ethic that amounts to a dangerous and highly toxic irresponsibility.2

Life is generally full of stress, heart break, mental health difficulties and challenging emotional experiences. Taking a step back from reality is a very effective way of experiencing a few moments of respite to help cope with life’s hardships. During economic downturns or political instability, people may collectively attempt to find relief from reality, turn to entertainment or religion as a form of escape. Republican Donald Trump has launched his general election campaign not merely rewriting the history of the Jan. 6, 2021, Capitol attack, but positioning the violent siege and its failed attempt to overturn the 2020 election as a cornerstone of his bid to return to the White House. The coming eight months also promise to be a battle of messaging, during which Biden and his surrogates will do their best to stress the strong economic numbers that have characterized the past year, and to remind voters why Trump left office with the highest final disapproval rating of any president since the resignation of Richard Nixon.

Imagined reality is whatever you imagine it to be. It is annoyingly abstract I know. That is the thing most people don’t realize or have a hard time processing; our reality is only what we imagine. We create the world we live in. In most instances, escapism isn’t harmful. Escapism, like anything else, can go too far. It can cause problems at work, damage personal relationships, and maybe even cut yourself off from normal social circles. It’s important to evaluate whether your escapism is a healthy form of self-care or a potentially dangerous habit. The problem occurs when we escape a little too often for a little too long, or when escaping interferes with our daily life. Focus on being mindful and present in your daily life rather than letting your thoughts drift mindlessly. Switching up your routine, distracting yourself, practicing mindful meditation, and allowing yourself regular breaks can keep you from obsessively fantasizing about things.

The 2024 Republican front-runner has a robust record of deploying misinformation and lies. Trump trades on something psychologists and political scientists have known for years – that people don’t necessarily make decisions based on facts. Trumpism is a form of escapism that follows the political ideologies associated with Donald Trump and his political base. The actions of Trump’s followers are embedded in a fantasy spun up by conspiracists, and especially the way in which the President of the United States took up his place in that fantasy world and sought to govern from within it. The curious power and appeal of Trump’s conspiracism is deeply intertwined with its irresponsibility. At its core is a form of self-pity. The president blames others for disrespecting and abusing him, and therefore refuses both to take ownership of his obligations and to face reality. Outside of escapism, misinformation and disinformation have always been part of human existence.3

1  https://www.thecrimson.com/article/1985/1/14/we-didnt-escape-1984-pbefore-we/

2  https://www.aei.org/op-eds/trumps-rebellion-against-reality/

3  https://www.vox.com/policy-and-politics/2016/11/16/13426448/trump-psychology-fact-checking-lies

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Trump’s Enablers Are Driving the Authoritarian Bus

Resentment as a cultural response to economic struggle has political consequences. More than half of US workers are unhappy with their jobs. The frustration you experience by not living the life you imagined is created by the resentment that the outcome of an event is less than you imagined it would be. Donald Trump himself is a cauldron of resentment, who has deeply internalized a life-time of deep resentments, and thus is able to tap into, articulate, and mobilize the resentments of his followers. Donald Trump – figured out how to harness their disillusionment and growing anger – is superior to the others in exploiting the narcissism of small differences to recruit the Republican base. His support for lower taxes and smaller government has surrounded himself with enablers. Enablers support the Trump’s behavior out of fear, love, or a misguided sense of loyalty. Autocrats, like Trump, surround themselves with their political cronies and lackies rather than competent people – have no way of eliciting, recognizing or assessing useful criticism.

From 1949 to 1967 Leo Strauss served as a professor in the University of Chicago political science department, and became the source of the inspiration of the neoconservative ideology of the Republican Party. He developed a political philosophy based on deception, the power of religion, and aggressive nationalism. This was a system in which the people are told no more than they need to know as deception is a norm in political life. He recommended the use of religion for the morals of the masses, but not applying to the leaders. If the masses really knew what was going on it would lead to nihilism. The void was to be filled with religious values. Many of the writings of Leo Strauss were dedicated to combating the “crisis of modernity”. This crisis was for him the advent and acceptance of nihilism – a state of being wherein any principle one dare dream is allowed and judgment must be withheld.

Harry V. Jaffa (1918-2015) was professor of government at Claremont College and Claremont Graduate University, and was one of Strauss’s Ph.D. students at the New School of Social Research. During the 1964 presidential campaign, Jaffa, who was serving as a speechwriter to Republican candidate Barry Goldwater, penned the line, “Extremism in the defense of liberty is no vice, and moderation in the pursuit of justice is not a virtue” in his acceptance speech for the Republican presidential nomination. Although Goldwater claimed repeatedly that the line originated in a speech by Cicero, it appears nowhere in Cicero’s works, and was in fact authored by Jaffa. Jaffa believed that the Constitution followed natural law principles, and therefore prohibited states from protecting abortion or homosexuality. Today the Claremont Institute is now an anti-democracy think tank. It has fueled Trump’s election fraud fantasies.

Established in 1979 by four of Harry Jaffa’s students an independent organization separate from the college where Jaffa taught, the Claremont Institute engages “in the battle to win public sentiment by teaching and promoting the philosophical reasoning that is the foundation of limited government and the statesmanship required to bring that reasoning into practice.” The institute publishes the Claremont Review of Books, a highbrow quarterly of opinion and ideas, and The American Mind, an online magazine that provides more frequent and freewheeling commentary on politics and culture. The institute also conducts often-formative seminars on American political thought and the history of political philosophy for college students and recent graduates. The institute caused controversy by granting a fellowship in 2019 to the Pizzagate conspiracy theorist Jack Posobiec; and the publication of a 2020 essay by senior fellow John Eastman that questioned Kamala Harris’ eligibility for the vice presidency.

Then there are the connections to the January 6th riot at the Capitol. On 5 January 2021 using the hashtag #HoldTheLine, Claremont president emeritus Brian Kennedy tweeted from Capitol Hill: “We are in a constitutional crisis and also in a revolutionary moment…We must embrace the spirit of the American Revolution to stop this communist revolution.” John Eastman is a longtime Federalist Society member, including a tenure as the chair of the organization’s Federalism & Separation of Powers Practice Group. Eastman’s involvement with efforts to overturn the 2020 election was so alarming that they led to calls for corporations to halt contributions to the Federalist Society altogether. Claremont’s ties to the insurrection go deeper than Eastman – Claremont Senior Fellow Michael Anton helped promote the “stop the steal” campaign in an article titled “Game on for the Coup.” Additionally, Charlie Kirk, leader of Turning Point USA Action, a key planner of the January 6th rally, was named a 2021 Claremont Fellow.

 In 2020 The Daily Beast stated Claremont “arguably has done more than any other group to build a philosophical case for Trump’s brand of conservatism. The Claremont Institute’s mission, as its president, Ryan Williams, recently put it, is to “save Western civilization.” Since the 2016 presidential race, Claremont tried to give an intellectual veneer to the frothy mix of nativism and isolationism represented by candidate Donald Trump. The institute became a significant player in the Trump administration, adding a Washington office and contributing ideas and personnel to the administration. In 2019 Trump awarded the Claremont Institute with a National Humanities Medal. In June 2020 former Claremont Institute president Michael Pack became head of the U.S. Agency for Global Media (USAGM) under Trump. Prosecutors also highlighted an alleged meeting between Eastman, Trump and Pence that was held a few days before Jan. 6. – to delay the official date for counting electoral votes in order to make time for certain states to appoint unlawful electors.1

In April 2022 Thomas B. Edsall of the New York Times observed the institute’s magazine The American Mind and other publications, comprised the “substantial intellectual infrastructure that has buoyed the Trumpist right and its willingness to rupture moral codes and to discard traditional norms.” In 2021 Claremont senior fellow Glenn Ellmers wrote a controversial essay in Claremont’s The American Mind arguing that the United States had been destroyed by internal enemies and that a “counter-revolution” was necessary to defeat the majority of the people who “can no longer be considered fellow citizens”. According to Ellmers, “Most people living in the United States today – certainly more than half – are not Americans in any meaningful sense of the term.” “Were it not for the patronage of billionaire conservatives and their family foundations, the Claremont Institute would likely be relegated to screaming about its anti-government agenda on the street corner,” says Kyle Herrig, president of government watchdog group Accountable.2

Shortly after law school, Eastman worked as a law clerk for Judge J. Michael Luttig at the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals and then later for Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas. Eastman is a founding director of the Center for Constitutional Jurisprudence, a law firm that is part of the conservative think tank of The Claremont Institute. Eastman and Trump are accused of filing a false document in the United States District Court for the Northern District of Georgia that made multiple false claims that thousands of ineligible people voted illegally in the Georgia election. Earlier that day, according to the indictment, Eastman had admitted in an email to attorneys connected with the Trump campaign that some of these claims were not true. Eastman was also a primary focus of the House Jan. 6 committee’s investigation in June 2022. Under a subpoena to testify, he responded to nearly 150 questions by pleading the Fifth Amendment, according to CNN.3

Thanks to Eastman’s influence, Claremont is a driving force in conservative efforts to rewrite voting laws and remake the electoral system based on conspiracies about the 2020 election – pushing election conspiracies well into 2022. Right-wing activists and allies of Donald Trump are challenging voter rolls in critical presidential battleground states, which observers say is an under-the-radar effort that could seriously affect close or contested elections. Activists are pressuring local officials in strongly Democratic areas of Michigan, Nevada and Georgia to drop voters’ names from the rolls. As The New York Times points out, one town in Michigan removed 100 names from its roll after activists, who call themselves “election investigators,” used an obscure state law from the 1950s as their rationale. “The Michigan activists are part of an expansive web of grassroots groups that formed after Trump’s attempt to overturn his defeat in 2020,” the Times’ report states. It’s not known exactly how many voters have been removed by the effort, but in some states a challenge alone is enough to limit a voter’s access to a mail ballot, according to the Times.4

After the Thatcher revolution, the think tank industry became a means by which the political class outsourced policy and built a new anti-democratic way of consolidating the new consensus which emerged. The think tank revolution in the UK is a story of the decline of party, which can be seen in the dilution of party research departments. In the United States, the fact is, think tanks have been better suited to the politics of the right-wing. Democracy is undergoing an “alarming” decline across the world as a growing number of countries move towards authoritarian rule. More authoritarian powers are now banning opposition groups or jailing their leaders, dispensing with term limits, and tightening the screws on any independent media that remain. Authoritarians are not interested in right-wing economic ideas about the free market. Neither do they possess the classic conservative’s love of the status quo.

The Federalist Society is the most powerful and far-reaching legal group for conservative lawyers and judges, thanks to the leadership of conservative kingpin Leonard Leo. Over the past four decades, the Federalist Society has grown its efforts to influence the federal judiciary and has ties to all six sitting conservative Supreme Court Justices. With support from Senator Mitch McConnell and Trump White House counsel Don McGahn, Leo ensured that nearly 90% of Trump’s judicial nominees were affiliated with the Federalist Society.  Eastman isn’t the only far-right Federalist Society member linked to efforts to overturn the election. Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton and Senators Josh Hawley and Ted Cruz are also longtime members.3 Trump has taken over the RNC: he placed an election denier as chair and his daughter-in-law as co-chair. How much RNC funds go to Trump’s legal bills remains to be determined.

As he seeks a stunning White House return four years after trying to overturn the last election, Donald Trump has made his intentions clear to govern in a more authoritarian way if he’s president again. He is promising a presidency of “retribution” against his political enemies in a campaign pulsating with some of the most venomous anti-immigrant and autocratic rhetoric in modern US history. His demonstrated record of contempt for democratic institutions means that the country’s political, legal and constitutional guardrails are facing a severe new test from a GOP candidate who could be a convicted felon by Election Day and who may see restored executive power as a tool to thwart federal prosecutions. The 2024 election will test American democracy to a degree the nation hasn’t experienced in 150 years. Donald Trump has put America on notice – his second term will be even more disruptive and turbulent than his first. The spectre of America sliding into an authoritarian regime is on the horizon.

1 https://www.rollingstone.com/politics/politics-news/devos-bradley-claremont-trump-election-fraud-insurrection-1274253/

2 https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Claremont_Institute

3 https://www.pbs.org/newshour/politics/what-you-need-to-know-about-john-eastmans-2020-election-charges

4 https://www.rawstory.com/trump-voter-rolls/

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Following Trump: the straight road to nihilism

Fyodor Dostoevsky had, in his work, explored what happens to society when people who rise to power lack any semblance of ideological or moral convictions and view society as bereft of meaning. But then a disturbing public trial spurred him in a more overtly political direction. What would happen when people lacking any semblance of ideological or moral convictions rise to power? A young student had been murdered by members of a revolutionary group, The Organization of the People’s Vengeance, at the behest of their leader, Sergei Nechaev. His focus turned not only to moral questions but also to political demagoguery, which, he argued, if left unchecked, could result in devastating loss of life. Although set in a sleepy provincial Russian town, Demons serves as a broader allegory for how thirst for power in some people, combined with the indifference and disavowal of responsibility by others, amount to a devastating nihilism that consumes society, fostering chaos and costing lives.

From 1949 to 1967 Leo Strauss served as a professor in the University of Chicago political science department, and became the source of the inspiration of the neoconservative ideology of the Republican Party. He developed a political philosophy based on deception, the power of religion, and aggressive nationalism. This was a system in which the people are told no more than they need to know as deception is a norm in political life. He recommended the use of religion for the morals of the masses, but not applying to the leaders. If the masses really knew what was going on it would lead to nihilism. The void was to be filled with religious values. Also, Strauss proposed the use of aggressive foreign policy to unite the masses. In Strauss’s view perpetual deception of the citizens by those in power is critical because they need to be led, and they need strong rulers to tell them what’s good for them.

Donald Trump has held very few consistent positions since he began running for president in 2015. The one that stands out? His relentless bashing of the media as “fake news” and insistence that Republicans tune out all forms of mainstream media. His decade in public life is littered with just that sort of over-the-top rhetoric, with few actual facts to back his wild claims up. Remember that Trump told us exactly what he was up to back in 2018, speaking to a VFW gathering. “Don’t believe the crap you see from these people, the fake news,” Trump told the crowd. “What you’re seeing and what you’re reading is not what’s happening.” He wanted to be the sole disseminator of information – and “facts” – to his base. That desire was driven by selfish and political concerns: Trump wanted to create an alternate reality in which he was winning at everything from the economy to immigration to even Covid-19.1

The former president has many ways of creating a reality on Truth Social that supports him. He shared a screenshot of a Newsweek story – though something was undeniably off about its contents. Trump’s version, shared on his Truth Social account, omits a lead reference to the outcome of the 2020 election (which Joe Biden won), and cuts a line about the “81-year-old” Biden being seen as too old to run for president. Trump is 77 years old. Also, MeidasTouch caught him altering another piece by the weekly news magazine, posting screenshots of an article titled “Donald Trump Poised to Be First Republican to Win Popular Vote in 20 Years,” removing several sections from the original story that referenced Biden’s strengths as a candidate, Biden’s predicted wins, and Trump’s failures. The only indication that he heavily edited the piece was some ellipses.2

One of the primary ways in which Trump persuades his audience is through repetition. Repetition is a persuasive technique often used by politicians, journalists, and advertisers. According to several psychological studies, repeating simple words and phrases can convince us that they are true, even if they aren’t. This is partly because we tend to take repetition as a social cue; when we hear something more than once, we are inclined to accept it as true because we think that the rest of the group might also believe it. In addition, we are more likely to believe ideas that come easily to us; therefore, the more familiar we become with words and ideas, the more we will take them to be true. More importantly, studies show that using repetition as a persuasive tactic is most powerful when the audience is not paying close attention.

Trump’s digressions and rambles – or, as he says, when “the back of the sentence reverts to the front” – are much easier to follow in person thanks to subtle cues. His style of speaking is conversational, and may even stem from his New York City upbringing. As George Lakoff, a linguist at UC Berkeley, told me, “[The] thing about being a New Yorker is it is polite if you finish their sentences for them. It’s a natural part of conversation.” This may be why Trump’s sentences often seem, in transcript form, to trail off with no ending. “He knows his audience can finish his sentences for him,” Lakoff says. He makes vague implications with a raised eyebrow or a shrug, allowing his audience to reach their own conclusions. And that conversational style can be effective. It’s more intimate than a scripted speech. People walk away from Trump feeling as though he were casually talking to them, allowing them to finish his thoughts.3

The Mandela Effect, is an unusual phenomenon where a large group of people remember something differently than how it occurred came into use long before Donald Trump helped the terms “Fake news” and “Alternate facts” go mainstream. The term was coined by writer and paranormal researcher Fiona Broome in 2009 after she spoke at a conference about how she remembered his death in jail in the 1980s and many among the audience had the same collective memory of the event, which of course never happened. The Mandela Effect, which gave its name to a movie, refers to this type of mass but false memories. Through these processes more and more of the majority will gradually change towards the cause resulting in the snowball effect which will ultimately result in societal change, once this has happened social cryptomnesia occurs which is when people can remember a change but not how it came about.

“Trump’s primary use of Twitter has been to spread propaganda and manipulate public opinion,” said Sam Woolley, director for propaganda research at the University of Texas at Austin’s Center for Media Engagement. “He used Twitter to delegitimize information or to delegitimize the positions of his opponents.” Of Trump’s 10 most-popular tweets, four contained false claims related to the 2020 election results. Of his 100 most popular posts, 36 contained election-related falsehoods. “Trump uses social media and terms like ‘fake news’ and ‘witch hunt’ and his power there to create the illusion of popularity for ideas that actually have no basis in reality,” said Woolley. “Often what this does is create a bandwagon effect for supporting false or misleading things, or more generally attacking institutions,” which may include health care, science, education, and the government, in addition to the media.4

The nihilist wants to destroy the existing social order for no valid reason, and the narcissist strives to feed from others even if it destroys them. While these are not the same, there are some overlapping ego-centric ideologies. Trump is not a nihilist; he is a narcissist. The narcissist is infatuated with his own opinion, while the relative values of everyone else’s opinion approaches zero. At its greatest limit nihilism and extreme narcissism are equivalent. What concerns people in 2024? For the first time in forty years, we heard the term “existential threat.” Existentialism – a loss of hope in reaction to a breakdown in one or more defining qualities of one’s self or identity – is the attempt to confront and deal with meaninglessness… to not succumb to nihilism, to not give up or avoid responsibility. Trump is associated with “existential threat” because many perceive his actions threaten American democratic values and believe America will be governed against their will.

For Nietzsche, there is no objective order or structure in the world except what we give it. Penetrating the façades buttressing convictions, the nihilist discovers that all values are baseless and that reason is impotent. Political nihilism is the belief that no government is really needed, it believes that humans can get by without any social institutions. Full political nihilism denies the meaningfulness of all social institutions, and results in personal political apathy. It is the belief that one can just drop out and be an observer and be fine as most of our youth do. Nihilism of the Alt-Right refers to the attitude that the future collapse of civilization is impossible to avert; an attitude has evolved in the movement that no matter what one may do or believe, the end is rapidly approaching and inevitable. The Alt-Right want to be on the winning side, or if this is not possible, help bring down the existing system.

Nietzsche considered nihilism a transitional stage that accompanies human development. It arises from frustration and weariness. When people feel alienated from values, and have lost the foundation of their value system but have not replaced it with anything, then they become nihilists. Dostoevsky warned of the strain of nihilism that infects Donald Trump and his movement: power for power’s sake, playacting at revolution. The only way to fight against this nihilism is to replace cynicism with a politics that offers the possibility of meaningful change. This means proposing bold progressive programmes that would dramatically challenge the status quo. In order to restore democracy in America it will be necessary to throw off neoliberal policies of wage suppression, deregulation, and tax cuts; and, once again, put political power in the hands of the American working class.

1 https://www.cnn.com/2021/08/30/politics/trump-legacy-fake-news/index.html

3 https://www.vox.com/policy-and-politics/2017/1/11/14238274/trumps-speaking-style-press-conference-linguists-explain

4 https://www.cnbc.com/2021/01/13/trump-tweets-legacy-of-lies-misinformation-distrust.html

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Restoring Peatlands to Mitigate Climate Change

Peatland Restoration is a term used to describe management measures that aim to restore the original form and function of peatland habitats to favourable conservation status. The principal activity involved in restoration is management of site hydrology which in turn helps to control emissions of greenhouse gases such as carbon dioxide. Depending on the starting point, peatland sites may need drain blocking to rewet them using a variety of techniques including peat dams, plastic piling and bunding, plantation removal, pollution control, Sphagnum transfer and/or control of grazing, burning, water quantity and quality. Peatlands are among the most carbon-rich ecosystems on Earth. In a natural condition, peatlands have a net cooling effect on climate, reduce flood risk, and support biodiversity. Dianna Kopansky, UNEP’s Global Peatlands Coordinator, emphasized that “Peatlands are crucial ecosystems for people, nature and for our climate future.”

Peatlands are wetlands where dead Sphagnum moss – as well as other mosses, sedges and woody plants forming peat – accumulates over time. More than one-third of the world’s peatlands are in Canada, and they cover over 14% of Canada’s land area and store an estimated 150-160 Gt of carbon in their soils. Peatlands are wetlands that are different from marshes, shallow open-water wetlands and most swamps because of the buildup of layers of peat. This peat creates the unique conditions found in these wetlands. The first 30 to 50 centimetres of the surface of a peatland is mostly formed by living mosses and plants. Peat is found under this living layer. Peat is made up of the dead and decomposing Sphagnum mosses and the many other wetland plants that were once living at the surface, over which new, living plants have grown.

Altogether, Canada has more than one million square kilometres of peatlands, which store an estimated 150 billion tonnes of carbon, roughly equal to 25 years of the country’s current greenhouse gas emissions. This carbon is stored in the form of dead plant matter that, after falling to the ground, begins to decay and release the CO2, but at a much slower rate than normal, thanks to the moist ecosystem. Around 70 per cent of Canada’s wetlands (some of which are peatlands) have been either destroyed or degraded. Even beyond the loss of greenhouse gas storage, this can mean an increase in emissions. For example, human activities on peatlands, such as mining or peat extraction, involves draining them of moisture, meaning the dead organic material decays faster. Globally, drained and degraded peatlands release an expected two billion tonnes of carbon dioxide or more.

Conditions in peatlands are unique. Decaying peat produces humic acid, making peatland water acidic (its pH is low), nearly as much as vinegar. Also, the water in the peat is anoxic (with low oxygen content) and has low levels of nutrients, such as nitrogen. These conditions, added to the low soil temperatures of northern latitudes, make decomposition a very slow and difficult process below the surface. Many decomposing microorganisms lack much of what they need to survive in the peat layers, so instead of quickly decomposing when it dies, the moss accumulates as new moss grows at the top. This accumulation, instead of decomposition, leaves large amounts of dead plants remains as peat, which is made of 40 per cent carbon. So instead of being released in the atmosphere as carbon dioxide (CO2 is one of the products of decomposition and a greenhouse gas), carbon is stored in the peatland.1

This is why the world’s peatlands are one of the most important terrestrial carbon stores; they contain about 30 per cent of the global soil carbon and are important regulators of climate change. Globally, peatlands hold more than twice as much carbon as the world’s forests do, according to the United Nations Environment Programme. But in many places, humans have turned vast expanses of these environments from long-term carbon sinks into carbon sources. The most dominant and widespread peat-forming species in peatland ecosystems are Sphagnum mosses. They are keystone species, meaning that they modify their environment to create many peatland ecosystems. There are roughly 120 species of Sphagnum mosses worldwide. Long dubbed “wastelands,” peatlands are the most valuable terrestrial ecosystem on the planet in terms of carbon sequestration. They currently cover only about 3% of the planet’s land mass, but store more carbon (around 600 billion metric tons) than all the world’s terrestrial vegetation combined.

“It’s a long-term carbon store that’s been building up for long periods of time … You need to give the system time,” Maria Strack, professor at the University of Waterloo’s department of geography and environmental management, told The Weather Network.  Over the years, Canadian scientists and companies have learned how to get the ball rolling to restore peatlands. A well-studied method called the moss layer transfer technique (MLTT) can put these vital ecosystems on the right track again, sequestering carbon dioxide rather than emitting it. However, MLTT is primarily a tried, tested, and true fix for one kind of peatland degradation: peat extraction for farm and garden products. And, while the process can handily turn an impacted peatland from carbon source to carbon sink, peatlands, and their restoration, still face many challenges in Canada.2

 So far, Brandon University peatland researcher Peter Whittington said the fastest way to regrow peat is through the “moss layer transfer method.” To restore a drained or extracted peatland, a restorer can level the remaining peat in an area and redirect water systems to ensure the land is saturated with water. Basically, in MLTT, a thin layer of moss can be moved onto the decaying moss from an existing peatland. The moss is covered with straw mulch to create a humid environment and stop it from drying out. Whittington said if the method is used within four years of peat extraction, a peatland can become a carbon-accumulating ecosystem in up to 20 years. Canada has more than 281 million acres of peatlands (25% of the world’s supply). Harvested peat moss improves plant and soil health wherever applied. Peat Moss grows more than 60 times faster than it is harvested. Peat Moss is abundant and environmentally sustainable.3

Peat extraction was responsible for about 2.1 megatonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent emissions in 2021 — about as much as the yearly emissions from five gas-fired power plants, according to Environment Canada. That does not account for the emissions the extracted peat may have been able to capture. While some experts say peat is the most sustainable way to support agriculture, others insist it’s time to stop releasing carbon and disturbing peatland ecosystems. Peatland soils contain more than 44 per cent of all the planet’s soil carbon, according to the International Union for the Conservation of Nature, despite only making up three per cent of the planet’s land surface. And while extracted peatlands can be regenerated, the process is laborious and takes years.3

Every year, about 1.3 million metric tonnes of Canada’s peatlands are dug up for sale to farmers and gardeners. With every hectare lost, planet-warming carbon dioxide is released into the air. That said, around 70 per cent of Canada’s wetlands (some of which are peatlands) have been either destroyed or degraded. Even beyond the loss of greenhouse gas storage, this can mean an increase in emissions. For example, human activities on peatlands, such as mining or peat extraction, involves draining them of moisture, meaning the dead organic material decays faster. However, this can be reversed. Once the trees have been cleared, we shift our focus to re-wetting the peatland. We do that by installing peat dams in the drains, and often flipping stumps, and smoothing the ploughed ridges and furrows. One of the great things about restoring bogs is that you can see a significant impact quite quickly.

In recent years, positive examples of restoration of drained peatlands have taken place across Canada. For example, Bois-des-Bel (in Quebec) is an area of peatland that had been extensively drained, then abandoned for 25 years with no sign of regrowth. Rewetting, creating pools and spreading sphagnum moss fragments enabled a recovery of the barren landscape to a functional ecosystem rich in flora and fauna in just five years. A study carried out 14 years after the rewetting determined that the restored peatland was once again acting as a net carbon sink. Restoration projects like this will benefit from the new natural climate solutions fund under the Emissions Reduction Plan.4 Therefore, restoring disturbed and degraded peatlands is an emerging priority in efforts to mitigate climate change. As the recovery of degraded peatlands is fundamental to achieving net-zero goals and biodiversity targets, sound science and monitoring efforts are needed to further inform restoration investments and priorities.

1 https://www.hww.ca/en/wild-spaces/peatlands.html

 2 https://www.theweathernetwork.com/en/news/weather/forecasts/inside-canadas-fight-to-save-its-peatlands

3 https://www.nationalobserver.com/2023/07/07/news/canadas-carbon-storing-peat-digs-climate-dilemma

4 https://www.decadeonrestoration.org/stories/canadas-emissions-reduction-plan-confirms-commitment-peatlands

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Biochar: Part of the Future in Sustainable Agriculture

Scattered throughout the Amazon rainforests are localized patches of exceptionally fertile soil referred to as the Amazonian Dark Earths. These soils were created by the people of this region more than 2,000 years ago by developing and adding biochar to soils year after year in the form of charcoal, a byproduct from cooking, mixed with broken pottery, animal bones and manure. As a result, these soils are some of the most fertile on the planet and home to more than 80,000 different plant species. Carbon is one of the key elements to healthy soils and flourishing plant life. The diversion of biomass from landfill or open burning in fields to biochar production offers an improvement in waste management. Also, the heat and the carriers of renewable energy co-produced during biochar production can be recovered to meet the energy needs of the local communities adopting a biochar system.

A recent  research paper published online in the journal Biomass and Bioenergy argues that the battle against global warming may be better served by instead heating the biomass in an oxygen-starved process called pyrolysis, extracting methane, hydrogen, and other byproducts for combustion, and burying the resulting carbon-rich char. Plants absorb carbon dioxide from the air during photosynthesis, and transform it into carbohydrates and a variety carbon-based molecules to create their leaves, branches, stems and roots. Every year, plants absorb and retain about 60 gigatonnes of carbon, while decomposing biomass releases about the same amount of carbon to the atmosphere as CO2. If we prevent some of that biomass from decomposing, by converting it to biochar, and use it to improve soil fertility, we’re helping to address the issues of climate change and food security.

Even if this approach would mean burning more coal – which emits more carbon dioxide than other fossil-fuel sources – it would yield a net reduction in carbon emissions, according to the analysis by Malcolm Fowles, a professor of technology management at the Open University, in the United Kingdom. Burning one ton of wood pellets emits 357 kilograms less carbon than burning coal with the same energy content. But turning those wood pellets into char would save 372 kilograms of carbon emissions. That is because 300 kilograms of carbon could be buried as char, and the burning of byproducts would produce 72 kilograms less carbon emissions than burning an equivalent amount of coal. Such an approach could carry an extra benefit. Burying char – known as black-carbon sequestration–enhances soils, helping future crops and trees grow even faster, thus absorbing more carbon dioxide in the future.

A group of Canadian and French companies will build a $80 million plant in Quebec to turn forestry waste into biochar, so-called black carbon which can store carbon for hundreds of years and improve soil quality at the same time. Located about 850 kilometres northeast of Montreal, the plant will have an initial biochar production capacity of 10,000 tonnes per year. By 2026, annual plant production capacity will triple, making it the largest biochar facility in North America. When added to concrete or asphalt formulations, biochar brings new functionalities to the final material while helping to reduce its carbon footprint, a key issue for the construction sector. The production of biochar at high-temperature and with oxygen-free pyrolysis will generate surplus energy in the form of steam or pyrolysis oil, which can be directly reused on site. By transforming forest and agricultural residues into carbon sinks and fertilizers, creates value over the entire life cycle of the material.2

However, biochar has not been standardized. Different feed stocks and processing temperatures and times lead to products with different properties. Research is ongoing to find the combinations that make the best biochar for specific applications, and the best percentage of biochar in the soil to maximize production. Risk of contamination of biochar exists (PAHs, heavy metals, dioxins) when contaminated feedstocks are used and/or the process conditions used to make the biochar are such that temperatures are greater than 500 C are used. Also, extremely high rates of biochar application could have negative effects on earthworm survival rates – this would be in cases where application rates are greater than 67 kilograms per square meter of land (an impractical level of biochar application). More research is needed to fully map the life cycles of biochar’s effects on soil organic matter. The biggest downside so far, though, is the cost.

Biochars are generally found to increase soil water-holding capacity, which would enhance resilience of agricultural systems to drought, especially under climate change and may further explain the positive effects of biochars in sandy soils, especially in arid and semiarid areas. The properties of biochar and its effects within agricultural ecosystems largely depend on feedstock and pyrolysis conditions. Grass and straw biochars increase water-holding capacity to a greater extent than woody biochars. Heavy metals may be present in biochar produced from feedstocks such as sewage sludge and treated timber. Although the pyrolysis process concentrates most heavy metals, some metals such as Cd and Zn and can be partly volatilized during pyrolysis resulting in lower concentrations than the feedstock. Therefore, selecting the appropriate biochar type to address heavy metal contamination, suited to the soil properties, type of plant, and specific heavy metal, can result in effective remediation while safeguarding food quality.3

Biochar, an inert and highly porous material, can play a key role in helping soil retain water and nutrients, and in sustaining microorganisms that maintain soil fertility. Many soils have lost appreciable soil organic matter from overgrazing, cultivation, forest harvesting, and erosion. These soils could benefit from biochar additions during reforestation because it adds a highly recalcitrant form of carbon and promotes long-lasting effects: retention of cations, anions, and water. One way to increase the conversion of forest woody residues into biochar is to expand markets for using bioenergy and biochar. Biochar from woody biomass has been used to increase agricultural crop, grass, and urban tree growth. Because of these benefits, an obvious potential market for biochar is use in nurseries, especially if it could replace expensive, non-sustainable ingredients in growing substrates, such as Sphagnum peatmoss, perlite, or vermiculite.4

Biochar enthusiasts are a hopeful biochar could solve our energy, food, and climate woes. There are others calling out a need to beware of these messages. Turning soils into a commodity is profitable to industry but disastrous for the poor. Several patent applications have been made for charcoal use in soil and for pyrolysis with charcoal production. If granted, those will ensure that any future profits from the technology will go to companies, not communities. Those locally and culturally adapted methods depend on regional climate, soils, crops and biodiversity.  Attempts to commodify soils and impose a “one-size-fits all” approach to soils and farming risks appropriating, undermining and destroying this knowledge and diversity just when it is most critically needed. There still needs to be field trials on various varieties of biochar to ensure biochar carbon really will store carbon reliably in soils. could solve our energy, food, and climate woes.5

“Bioenergy through pyrolysis in combination with biochar sequestration is a technology to obtain energy and improve the environment in multiple ways at the same time,” writes Lehmann in a research paper to be published soon in Frontiers in Ecology and the Environment. “The issue of how much you should burn and how much should go back to the land is partly an economic issue and partly a sustainability issue. The temperature used to heat the feedstock and length of time the plant material is exposed to that temperature strongly influence the biochar’s physical and chemical properties, so it is important to know about the production process for each biochar that you use. The production vessel plays a significant role in the particle size as well. The heating process can be fast or slow depending on the heating rate and exposure duration.

Biochar application is a relatively recent and attractive strategy for sustainable agriculture, but it is still in its infancy. Biochar, a promising soil amendment, is believed to help achieve sustainable agriculture by improving soil quality, reducing greenhouse gas emissions, and promoting crop production. It can become one of the key materials for a sustainable future green solution to improve soil fertility and productivity. Biochar companies can use wood cleared from forests at risk of wildfires, for example. And the biochar itself can also be used in other ways, including as an ingredient in concrete to help make the material stronger while it stores carbon. Biochar is considered a relatively permanent form of carbon storage, unlike planting trees that face the risk of later being cut down or burning in a forest fire. There is a broad consensus that biochar is a suitable tool for carbon sequestration and thus could help to mitigate climate change.6

1 https://www.technologyreview.com/2007/04/26/225876/the-case-for-burying-charcoal/

2 https://esemag.com/solid-waste/quebec-new-biochar-plant-largest-north-america/

3 https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/full/10.1111/gcbb.12885

 4 https://www.fs.usda.gov/rm/pubs_journals/2020/rmrs_2020_dumroese_k001.pdf

5 https://www.rainforest-rescue.org/updates/1150/declaration-biochar-a-new-big-threat-to-people-land-and-ecosystems

6  https://www.weforum.org/agenda/2023/10/biochar-climate-change-mitigation-tool/

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Reduce Methane & Impacts of Global Warming

Cutting methane emissions is the fastest opportunity we have to immediately slow the rate of global warming, even as we decarbonize our energy systems. It’s an opportunity we can’t afford to miss. Methane has more than 80 times the warming power of carbon dioxide over the first 20 years after it reaches the atmosphere. Methane is a big contributor to global warming. Methane has accounted for roughly 30 per cent of global warming since pre-industrial times and is proliferating faster than at any other time since record keeping began in the 1980s. In fact, according to data from the United States National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, even as carbon dioxide emissions decelerated during the pandemic-related lock downs of 2020, atmospheric methane shot up. Sixty-percent of the global methane emissions result from human activity. Addressing methane emissions is critical for fighting climate crisis.

Methane is emitted during the production and transport of coal, natural gas, and oil. Methane emissions also result from livestock and other agricultural practices, land use, and by the decay of organic waste in municipal solid waste landfills. China was the world’s largest methane emitter in 2022, having released 55.7 million metric tons worth of methane. The United States and India ranked second and third that year, with each country emitting roughly 30 million metric tons of methane. Around 40% of China’s methane emissions are gas that escapes during the mining of coal. Another 42% is from agriculture, including livestock and rice cultivation, says the iGDP. The largest source of greenhouse gas emissions from human activities in the United States is from burning fossil fuels for electricity, heat, and transportation. The two predominant sources of methane emissions in India are ‘enteric fermentation’ (methane from the intestines of animals) and paddy cultivation (from standing water).

Carbon dioxide remains in the atmosphere for hundreds to thousands of years. This means that even if emissions were immediately and dramatically reduced it would not have an effect on the climate until later in the century.  But it takes only about a decade for methane to break down. So, reducing methane emissions now would have an impact in the near term and is critical for helping keep the world on a path to 1.5°C. According to the International Energy Agency, the annual increase in methane concentration from 2020 to 2021 was the highest on record and real-time data shows that levels continued to increase in 2022. When using fossil gas for electricity generation, lifecycle methane emissions must not exceed 3% of delivered volumes, because in climate terms, it would then be better to use coal for electricity generation. Abating methane emissions is therefore highly relevant to achieving the 2050 climate objectives.

One-third of methane production from human activity comes from the energy sector. For oil and gas, companies would need to frequently survey their equipment to detect leaks. If found, they would need to be repaired immediately, mostly within 5 or 15 working days and monitored to ensure that repairs were successful. The proposal also bans venting and routine flaring, allowing venting only in exceptional or unavoidable circumstances for safety reasons. It allows flaring only if re-injection, utilization on-site or transport of the methane to a market are not technically feasible, with more restrictive rules for how it can be carried out. At COP27 in 2022, the EU also confirmed its commitment on methane emission reduction by endorsing a ‘Joint declaration on reducing greenhouse gas emissions from fossil fuels’, together with the United States, Japan, Canada, Norway, Singapore, and the United Kingdom.

For coal, the proposal envisages a phase out of venting and flaring of methane, ensuring that safety aspects in coal mines are accounted for. The proposal also obligates EU countries to establish mitigation plans in the case of abandoned coal mines and inactive oil and fossil gas wells. Methane is naturally destroyed by both chemical and biological processes, including reaction with atmospheric hydroxyl [OH] and chlorine, and by methane-consuming bacteria (methanotrophs) in soil and water. Abating methane from ventilation systems is the single most important measure the coal industry can take to reduce its emissions. It would reduce CMM on a global level by almost 30%. It is estimated that around 70% of methane emissions from fossil fuel operations could be reduced with existing technology. In the oil and gas sector, emissions can be reduced by over 75% by implementing well-known measures such as leak detection and repair programmes and upgrading leaky equipment.1

When we landfill organics, it produces greenhouse gases (GHG’s). Reducing your organic waste is one thing many can do to reduce GHG emissions and help protect the environment. Waste prevention and recycling (including composting) divert organic wastes from landfills, reducing the methane released when these materials decompose. Recycling is the most popular method of waste diversion and comes in many forms. While not all materials are eligible for recycling, it is very efficient with some materials, such as paper (making it the most commonly diverted material in the world). Approximately one-third of all food produced for human consumption is lost or wasted. In cities, food often makes up the majority of waste that ends up in landfills. Only 1% of Sweden’s trash is sent to landfills. By burning their trash, another 52% is converted into energy and the remaining 47% gets recycled. The amount of energy generated from waste alone provides heating to one million homes and electricity to 250,000.

Methane is an important greenhouse gas and a major contributor to global warming with a short-term climate impact many times greater than carbon dioxide. It is also the primary component of natural gas. As a result, methane emissions occur throughout the oil and gas industry, which is Canada’s largest anthropogenic source of those emissions. Natural gas is not just one gas but a combination of them, such as methane, ethane, propane, carbon dioxide and nitrogen. Natural gas is mostly methane – around 95%. This gas comes to your home via pipelines or compressed natural gas (CNG) tanks. Coal production, transportation, storage and use account for roughly 40% of global greenhouse gas emissions. The most effective way to address coal mine methane emissions is to reduce the use of coal, particularly in power generation.

Methane generation is accomplished by anaerobic digestion (biological oxidation in the absence of oxygen) of organic substances such as livestock waste and plant refuse. The gas produced in an on-farm digester is only about 65 percent methane, the rest being carbon dioxide and trace organic gases. One potential use for digester gas just now receiving attention is as a heat source to operate an on farm alcohol production plant. Some producers are experimenting with a system of fermenting corn to alcohol that includes feeding the`stillage grain’ byproduct to livestock, using livestock manure to generate methane, then using the methane directly to fuel the alcohol production process. Anaerobic digestion for biogas production would take place in a sealed vessel called a reactor, which is designed and constructed in various shapes and sizes specific to the site and feedstock conditions.2

Researchers have found that 37% of methane emissions from human activity are the direct result of our livestock and agricultural practices. This makes agriculture is a significant source. Livestock emissions – by burps from ruminant animals, primarily dairy and beef cattle – is the number-one source of emissions; and from manure – account for roughly 32 per cent of human-caused methane emissions. Feed additives for cattle show promise at reduction:  additives such as, 3-NOP, which is made from nitrate and alcohol, and red seaweed extract can be incorporated into feedstock. Trials have shown that it could reduce methane emissions between 20 to 90 percent, although there are some questions about how long the effects might last. The other major source of methane emissions from animal agriculture comes primarily from concentrated animal feeding operations with more concentrated production systems with liquid waste lagoons. The most popular solution to this issue to date is to build methane digesters, which capture emissions while also producing energy.3

Scientists are using artificial photosynthesis to make methane out of carbon dioxide, water and sunlight. A new device could be added to solar panels to essentially recycle fossil fuels. The expansion of green methanol as an alternative fuel to fossil fuels is particularly attractive to the maritime industry because, being liquid at room temperature, it is much less costly to store and transport than gaseous fuels, and has the lowest carbon footprint of all liquid fuels. It can also be used in both internal propulsion engines and to power fuel cells, providing flexibility depending on individual needs. Researchers at the University of Florida studied an above-ground liquid manure storage structure which was modified for use as a methane digester. The study employed a large, covered storage tank, with waste additions made daily. Gas production was about 60 percent of that in a conventional digester.

Feed additives for cattle, new rice-farming techniques, advanced approaches to oil and gas leak detection, coal methane capture, and modern water and waste facilities can all be effective. The next frontier: composting organic waste on an industrial scale provides a tremendous natural resource. All the organic waste you don’t want or need can, if properly separated, can be recycled back into the soil and used to feed crops of every kind and size. Processing organic waste can even put all that harmful greenhouse gas to good use – biogas produced by organic waste can be converted into renewable electricity and heat. The by-products are turned into fertilizer, which is used to grow crops. Feed additives for cattle, new rice-farming techniques, advanced approaches to oil and gas leak detection, coal methane capture, and modern water and waste facilities can all be effective. Continue to reduce methane and you reduce the impacts of global warming.

1 https://ember-climate.org/insights/commentary/why-the-world-must-act-on-coal-mine-methane

2 https://www.extension.purdue.edu/extmedia/ae/ae-105.html

3 https://civileats.com/2021/10/06/methane-from-agriculture-is-a-big-problem-we-explain-why/

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