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TBR News July 23, 2020

Jul 23 2020

The Voice of the White House
Comments, July 23, 2020: A worshipful follower of Adolf HIitler, Donald Trump is sending ill-trained government agents into areas of national discontend, dressing them in military uniforms and having them assault and harass any group of protestors that he dislikes. He also wants to strut as a “defender of the white, Christian, race” as part of his campaign to keep the White House in Novemberf. He is polarizing the American public and his idiot antics are dangerously disrupting the American economic system to the point where a civil war might well erupt and put finis to what is slowly disintegrating on it own. Donand might well be worshipped by the few but he is hated by the many and if he loses the election, his screams of rage as he is escorted out of the White House in a straitjacket will resonate as joyful music to the multitudes.

 

The Table of Contents

  • The Pentagon is getting concerned about law enforcement dressing up in US military uniforms
  • Federal agents retreat to Portland base as protesters control streets
  • Biden labels Trump first racist U.S. president
  • The far-right background of Donald Trump
  • Did Donald Trump Keep Hitler Speeches By His Bed?
  • NYPD ‘disapeared’ Black Lives Matter protesters into detention for days as a time. Lawmakers want to end the practice 
  • Court documents reveal secretive federal unit deployed for ‘Operation Diligent Valor’ in Oregon
  • White supremacists pose as Antifa online, call for violence
  • Who Are Antifa, and Are They a Threat?
  • Department of Defense-Domestic Counterinsurgency
  • Tomorrow’s Gods: What is the future of religion?
  • Encyclopedia of American Loons

 

The Pentagon is getting concerned about law enforcement dressing up in US military uniforms
July 22, 2020
by David Choi
Business Insider

Defense Secretary Mark Esper has made the Trump administration aware of his concerns with the appropriation of the US military’s uniforms by law enforcement agencies as they face off with protesters in cities like Portland, Oregon, a Pentagon spokesman said Tuesday afternoon.

“We saw this take place back in June, when there were some law enforcement that wore uniforms that make them appear military,” Defense Department spokesman Jonathan Hoffman said to reporters, referencing the George Floyd protests throughout the country earlier this year.

“The secretary has a expressed a concern of this within the administration, that we want a system where people can tell the difference,” he added.

The confusion became apparent after video footage and pictures showed law enforcement officials, many of whom refused to identify themselves or the agency they were working for, wearing the U.S. Army’s camouflage uniform as they confronted demonstrators.

This confusion has been compounded after other activists, such as the Boogaloo movement, wore pieces of the same uniform or carried with them military-style gear to the same protests throughout the country.

The Custom and Border Protection’s (CBP) immediate-response force, otherwise known as the Border Patrol Tactical Unit (BORTAC), often wear military uniforms with their own custom patches.

Members of this group were sent to Portland to quell the protests, which went on for over 50 days and were linked to the defacement of federal buildings, according to the CBP. BORTAC’s actions at the protests were scrutinized after video footage revealed its agents detaining a suspected anarchist and whisking them away in an unmarked minivan. The incident prompted lawmakers to demand an investigation.

US Army Gen. Mark Milley, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, previously highlighted his concerns about the optics of law enforcement officials dressing like military service members while responding to protests, saying there needs to be clear “visual distinction” between the two organizations.

“You want a clear definition between that which is military and that which is police, in my view,” Milley said during a congressional hearing on July 9. “Because when you start introducing the military, you’re talking about a different level of effort there.”

 

Federal agents retreat to Portland base as protesters control streets
Donald Trump’s shadowy police taskforce has given new life to protests and may not be succeeding in PR terms either
July 22, 2020
by Chris McGrealin Portland, Oregon
The Guardian

Night upon night the chant goes up in front of Portland’s federal courthouse: “Whose streets?”

The answer depends on the hour of the day. After Donald Trump sent federal agents to take control of a city he said had been abandoned by its mayor to anarchists and mob rule, the protesters still turning out in support of Black Lives Matter can make a legitimate claim that these are, as the chant goes, “our streets”.

Department of Homeland Security taskforce agents were again out firing waves of teargas and throwing stun grenades against a hard core of a few hundred demonstrators in the early hours of Wednesday morning. The confrontation centered on the courthouse at the heart of several blocks of downtown Portland that have effectively fallen under the control of the protesters after the city police withdrew.

But after pushing back demonstrators, many of them kitted out in helmets and gas masks, the federal agents retreated into their courthouse citadel to mocking jeers and women who were part of the “Wall of Moms” protest linking arms and chanting: “Our streets.”

This ritual was played out three times on Wednesday morning but the end result was the same as every other night. The DHS officers dispatched by the president to put down the demonstrations have instead become prisoners of the building they are ostensibly there to defend.

“The feds don’t have control of the streets,” said a woman holding a sign, “100% not a terrorist”, who gave her name only as Shannon. “I think they’re more scared than us. They’re hiding in there. They don’t know what they’re doing.”

On Monday, the president declared the deployment of the DHS taskforce a success.

“In Portland, they’ve done a fantastic job. They’ve been there three days, and they really have done a fantastic job in a very short period of time,” he said.

The view from Portland’s streets tells a different story.

The arrival of the federal officers, drawn from several agencies including the US Marshals Service and the border patrol, fleetingly sent a wave of alarm through the demonstrators after men in camouflage began snatching people off the streets in unmarked vans.

Those detained said they were dragged into the courthouse without being told why they were being arrested or by whom and then suddenly let go without any official record of being held. It smacked of police state tactics. So did some of the violence meted out by federal agents who looked more like an occupying army in a war zone.

But if the intent was to intimidate the protesters into abandoning the few square blocks of downtown Portland under their control, it backfired spectacularly.

Residents of a city with a long history of radical street protest were outraged at the tactics which suddenly revitalized a protest movement that was waning after more than 50 nights of demonstrations.

It is now the federal agents who appear under siege, reduced to defending the courthouse from attempts to break in or set it on fire. In a visible surrender of ground, the DHS taskforce has even abandoned bothering to re-erect a fence around the federal building torn down on Saturday night.

Meanwhile, the protesters range free over several city blocks where businesses were first shut down by coronavirus and then boarded up after some shops were smashed in the initial protests that swept the country following the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis in May after a police officer knelt on his neck for nearly nine minutes.

The ubiquitous graffiti on stores, the county jail and the courthouse – including portraits of Floyd and violent denunciations of the police – mark out the protesters’ territory.

If Trump’s intent was to calm things down, he has failed. But if, as some suspect, the president wanted to ratchet up confrontation for political gain, then it is not clear that it has been a success either.

“It’s a power play by Trump. He thinks he’s going to get his base all riled up by pitting the forces of law and order against the anarchists,” said Josh O’Brien who travelled from Seattle to join the protests. “But he’s fucked it up like he fucks everything up. Look who’s here with us. Grandmothers. Doctors. Because like most Americans they don’t think people should be abducted from the streets by the president’s secret police.”

The video of unidentifiable agents bundling Americans into unmarked vans may indeed not play well with some of Trump’s rightwing supporters for whom incidents such as the FBI’s killing of a woman and her teenage son during the 1992 siege at Ruby Ridge have come to represent what they see as an authoritarian federal government.

While the federal agents play out their nightly ritual, the city’s police are visibly absent. Although the Portland police bureau headquarters is in the building next to the federal courthouse, its officers appear to have abandoned any attempt to police the demonstrations after the mayor, who serves as police commissioner, sided with the protesters against the president. On top of that a court order limited the city police’s use of teargas and other means of restraint.

That has, in the eyes of some of the demonstrators, created a “liberated territory” similar to the “autonomous zone” in Seattle until it was cleared earlier this month

The federal court and neighboring county jail are opposite two parks that serve as the demonstrators’ base, and where a food stand has come to symbolize the endurance of the protests. Riot Ribs dispenses sustenance, including a vegetarian option, free to demonstrators. Members of the collective preparing the food have been targeted by federal agents charging out of the courthouse but have returned to cooking after each encounter.

 

Biden labels Trump first racist U.S. president
July 22, 2020
by Trevor Hunnicutt

(Reuters) – Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden labeled Donald Trump on Wednesday the first racist to become U.S. president in remarks his opponent’s re-election campaign quickly rebuked.

Biden, who was vice president under Barack Obama, the first Black U.S. president, fielded a question at a Service Employees International Union roundtable from a healthcare worker concerned about the Republican president calling the coronavirus pandemic the “China virus.”

He responded by saying it was “absolutely sickening” how Trump “deals with people based on the color of their skin, their national origin, where they’re from.”

He added: “No sitting president’s ever done this. Never, never, never. No Republican president has done this. No Democratic president. We’ve had racists, and they’ve existed, and they’ve tried to get elected president. He’s the first one that has.”

Trump campaign senior adviser Katrina Pierson fired back, calling Biden’s comments “an insult to the intelligence of Black voters” given the onetime senator’s past work with segregationist lawmakers. She said Trump “loves all people” and “works hard to empower all Americans.”

A number of U.S. presidents owned slaves or supported policies including the repression of Native Americans and segregation of Black Americans. Princeton University said last month it was dropping former President Woodrow Wilson’s name from the school, citing his racist thinking and policies.

The Biden-Trump exchange marks an escalation in what had already been a heated clash on race in the campaign being waged between the two candidates, who are both white, ahead of their Nov. 3 election contest.

Biden previously criticized Trump for stoking racial division, often saying that he was motivated to run for office by his outrage over Trump’s assessment that “both sides” were to blame for violence between white supremacists and counterprotesters at a 2017 rally in Charlottesville, Virginia.

Race became an even more central issue as protests raged over unarmed African Americans being killed by police in the aftermath of the May death of George Floyd, a Black man who died after a white Minneapolis police office pressed his neck into the pavement for more than eight minutes.

Reporting by Trevor Hunnicutt in New York; Editing by Peter Cooney


The far-right background of Donald Trump

The current American President is directly descended from the German Trumpf family. His ancestor in the direct line, was Johannes Trump(f), a native of the village of Kallstadt where Trump grandfather immigrated from.

The same Trumpf family also produced one Arnold Wilhelm August Trumpf.

Arnold Trumpf was Vorstand Reichsverband Deutscher Landwirtschaftlicher Genossenschaften-Raiffensene.V and Hauptabteilungsleiter III of the Reichsnahrstand, Allegemeine SS since 1934.

This Trumpf was also a director of the Reichsbank.

SS background of Arnold Trumpf:

SS-Oberführer / Leutnant d.R. a.D.

Born: 27. Oct. 1892 in Gifhorn

Died: 7. January 1985 in Garmish-Partenkirchen

NSDAP-Nr.: 389 920 from 1, December 1930

SS-Nr.: 187 119

Promotions:

SS-Oberfuhrer: 30. Jan. 1939

Career:

Bei dem RuS-Hauptamt: (9. Nov. 1944)

Decorations & Awards:

1914 Eisernes Kreuz II. Klasse

 Kriegsverdienstkreuz II. Klasse ohne Schwerter

 Verwundetenabzeichen, 1918 in Schwarz

 Ehrenkreuz fur Frontkampfer

 Ehrendegen des RF SS

 Totenkopfring der SS

The RuSHA was founded in 1931 by Reichsführer-SS Heinrich Himmler

Among their duties were:

  • Kidnapping of children suitable for Germanization
  • Population transfers
  • The persecution and liquidation of Jews

 

The RuSHA also employed Josef Mengele from November 1940 to early 1941, in Department II of its Family Office, where he was responsible for “care of genetic health” and “genetic health tests”

References

  • http://de.metapedia.org/wiki/Trumpf,_Arnold
  • Das Deutsche Führerlexikon, Otto Stollberg G.m.b.H., Berlin 1934
  • Dienstaltersliste der Schutzstaffel der NSDAP 9, November 1944


Did Donald Trump Keep Hitler Speeches By His Bed?
August 6, 2015
by Rachel X. Landes
Forward

In honor of The Donald’s candidacy for the Republican nomination, Vanity Fair has an observation of Donald Trump, written by Marie Brenner. Remember, this was back before his hair (can we even call it that?) was fodder for every comic ever. Instead, they had to settle for his blatant sexism, racism, and overinflated ego.

According to the piece, Ivana Trump told her lawyer Michael Kennedy that Trump often re-read “My New Order,” a collection of Adolf Hitler’s speeches from 1918-1939. What’s more, Trump allegedly kept the book in a cabinet by his bed.

When Brenner asked about the book, Trump said, “Actually, it was my friend Marty Davis from Paramount who gave me a copy of Mein Kampf, and he’s a Jew.”

Later, Trump said, “If I had these speeches, and I am not saying that I do, I would never read them.”

The best part? While Davis acknowledged being Trump’s friend, and giving him a copy of “My New Order” (not “Mein Kampf” as Trump claimed), he isn’t even Jewish.

Donald Trump’s aides recently made headlines for comparing Obama to Hitler on Facebook and inserting Nazi SS uniforms into a promotional Twitter image.

Here’s the full excerpt:

Last April, perhaps in a surge of Czech nationalism, Ivana Trump told her lawyer Michael Kennedy that from time to time her husband reads a book of Hitler’s collected speeches, My New Order, which he keeps in a cabinet by his bed. Kennedy now guards a copy of My New Order in a closet at his office, as if it were a grenade. Hitler’s speeches, from his earliest days up through the Phony War of 1939, reveal his extraordinary ability as a master propagandist

NYPD ‘disappeared’ Black Lives Matter protesters into detention for days as a time. Lawmakers want to end the practice 
July 22, 2020
by Daniel A. Medina
The Intercept

In early June, hundreds of Black Lives Matter protesters languished for days in cramped New York City jail cells. Stuck in holding pens without masks and exposed to soiled conditions amid the coronavirus pandemic, they were unable to reach loved ones or lawyers. The protesters were effectively disappeared into New York City’s detention system.

Attorneys from the Legal Aid Society went to court to demand the protesters’ immediate release. In a lawsuit filed against the New York Police Department, attorneys from Legal Aid, a public defense organization, alleged that over 400 individuals in city detention facilities had been held for more than 24 hours without seeing a judge, in breach of state law and detainees’ constitutional rights.

The public defenders accused the police department of deliberately slow-rolling standard procedures to keep protesters in jail as payback for demonstrations against police brutality. Lawyers for the police asserted that the NYPD faced unprecedented challenges with both a pandemic and widespread protests raging.

In a one-line decision, Judge James M. Burke of the State Supreme Court in Manhattan sided with the police. “All writs are denied,” he ruled. In doing so, Burke accepted the NYPD’s rationale that the conditions on the ground should overrule preexisting state law: The 1991 Roundtree v. Brown decision established the 24-hour standard from arrest to arraignment.

Burke’s decision set off a firestorm. Protesters flocked to Manhattan’s Foley Square, near the state and federal courthouses, demanding the release of the protesters.

“The law doesn’t have a looter exception, it doesn’t have a Covid-19 exception,” said Russell Novack, one of the Legal Aid staff attorneys who brought the suit. “This was deliberate, intentional punishment for protesting.”

In the state capital of Albany, a progressive Democrat from Queens said his new bill would ensure that New Yorkers are never again disappeared into detention. State Sen. Michael Gianaris introduced a bill to codify the Roundtree decision and better track detentions. Already having pushed the legislation through two committees, Gianaris will bring his bill before the legislature’s full upper chamber on Wednesday.

The bill would oblige all police departments in New York State to either bring an arrested individual before a judge within 24 hours or immediately release them upon request.

It would also add a new section to the laws governing habeas corpus in New York, clarifying that anyone held for more than 24 hours before their arraignment is entitled to release unless the police produce “clear and convincing evidence that such a delay” is warranted. Under the new statute, police departments would have to give an individualized explanation for each person’s delay — something the NYPD did not have to do last month.

“In the United States, we like to fancy ourselves as having a justice system that protects civil liberties,” Gianaris told The Intercept. “An important tenet of that is that one shouldn’t be imprisoned without being found guilty of a crime and certainly not without being charged with a crime.”

A key component of the bill, Gianaris said, is that it would force all municipalities in New York state with over a million residents — only New York City would qualify — to create a detained persons registry. The registry would serve as a database of all arrested individuals and be accessible only to authorized users from public defender organizations — such as the Legal Aid Society and others like the defenders network that operates around the city — contracted with the city to represent criminal defendants.

The registry would eliminate the arbitrary power of the police to disappear people in the system, he added. “That’s a very scary proposition,” Gianaris said of allowing police to hold individuals over 24 hours without seeing a judge.

The NYPD did not respond to requests for comment on the bill.

The bill is widely expected to sail through the Democratic-controlled Senate before heading to the Assembly as soon as this week. It is unclear whether Gov. Andrew Cuomo, who in June called on city district attorneys to keep looters in jail for longer than 24 hours, would seek to veto the measure.

The Intercept reached out to several protesters swept up in the mass arrests last month. All declined to speak on the record, citing ongoing cases against them, including breaking Mayor Bill de Blasio’s weeklong curfew, which could carry a Class-B misdemeanor charge.

The district attorneys for Manhattan, Brooklyn and the Bronx have publicly stated that they will not prosecute protesters arrested for low-level offenses. Still, the court cases remain scheduled, in September and October.

Steve Zeidman was a supervisor at the Legal Aid Society on the Roundtree case. Nearly three decades later, he said the decision has never been properly enforced. The Gianaris bill, he said, will only be successful if judges choose to enforce it.

“The court’s unwillingness to hold the prosecutors and the police department’s feet to the fire rendered the Roundtree decision toothless in many cases,” said Zeidman, a CUNY Law School professor. “The crisis is that this bill is even necessary.”

Court documents reveal secretive federal unit deployed for ‘Operation Diligent Valor’ in Oregon
July 22, 2020
by Gabriella Borter

Reuters

The documents, filed on Tuesday, helped shed light on what had been a secretive operation that involved days of violent clashes between unidentified federal law enforcement officers and anti-racist protesters outside a federal courthouse.According to the documents, there are currently 114 federal law enforcement officers in Portland to patrol federal buildings, including personnel from the FPS, Immigration and Customs Enforcement, U.S. Marshals Service and U.S. Customs and Border Protection.

The crackdown in the city has drawn widespread criticism and legal challenges as videos surfaced of officers without clear identification badges using force and unmarked vehicles to arrest protesters without explanation.

Some protesters last week reported that it appeared agents were looking for people who were spraying graffiti on buildings.

There have been 43 federal arrests in Portland since July 4, acting Homeland Security Secretary Chad Wolf told CNN on Tuesday.

The operation has involved the Department of Homeland Security’s Rapid Deployment Force. It stepped up its response to “increasingly violent attacks” in the Oregon city on July 4, the day after a group of people broke into the courthouse, according to the affidavit by the Federal Protective Services (FPS) regional director, Gabriel Russell.

The affidavit was filed by the Department of Homeland Security and the U.S. Marshals Service as part of a broader lawsuit brought by journalists against the city of Portland and those agencies. The plantiffs claim that police had attempted to “intimidate the press” by attacking journalists.

“On the morning of July 4th, the DHS Rapid Deployment Force implemented tactics intended to positively identify and arrest serious offenders for crimes such as assault, while protecting the rights of individuals engaged in protected free speech activity,” Russell wrote of the operation.

Portland’s mayor called the intervention an abuse of federal power and said it was escalating the violence. Oregon’s attorney general filed a lawsuit against the federal agencies on Friday, saying they had seized and detained people without probable cause.

A top U.S. Homeland Security official on Monday defended the federal crackdown on protests in Portland, including the use of unmarked cars and unidentified officers in camouflage gear and said the practice wi

“We will maintain our presence,” Ken Cuccinelli, the acting Department of Homeland Security deputy secretary told CNN on Monday. “When that violence recedes and those threats recede, that is when we would ratchet back down to what I would call normal presence defending and protecting federal facilities.”

Reporting by Gabriella Borter; Editing by Aurora Ellis


White supremacists pose as Antifa online, call for violence
by Donie O’Sullivan

CNN

New York A Twitter account that tweeted a call to violence and claimed to be representing the position of “Antifa” was in fact created by a known white supremacist group, Twitter said Monday. The company removed the account.

Before it emerged the account was run by white supremacists, Donald Trump Jr., President Donald Trump’s son, pointed his 2.8 million Instagram followers to the account as an example how dangerous Antifa is.

“This account violated our platform manipulation and spam policy, specifically the creation of fake accounts,” a Twitter spokesperson said in a statement. “We took action after the account sent a Tweet inciting violence and broke the Twitter Rules.”

Although the account only had a few hundred followers, it is an example of white supremacists seeking to inflame tensions in the United States by posing as left-wing activists online.

The revelation of the account comes as President Donald Trump increasingly blames left-wing activists for violence occurring at protests across America.

On Sunday, Trump tweeted he would designate Antifa a terrorist organization, despite the US government having no existing legal authority to do so. Antifa, short for anti-fascists, describes a broad, loosely-organized group of people whose political beliefs lean toward the left — often the far-left — but do not conform with the Democratic Party platform.

Antifa positions can be hard to define, but many people espousing those beliefs support oppressed populations and protest the amassing of wealth by corporations and elites. Some employ radical or militant tactics to get out their messages.

The fake account, @ANTIFA_US, tweeted Sunday, “ALERT Tonight’s the night, Comrades Tonight we say “F**k The City” and we move into the residential areas… the white hoods…. and we take what’s ours #BlacklivesMaters #F**kAmerica.”

“Absolutely insane,” Trump Jr. wrote on Instagram, sharing a screenshot of the tweet, “Just remember what ANTIFA really is. A Terrorist Organization! They’re not even pretending anymore.”

A spokesperson for Donald Trump Jr. did not provide comment to CNN Tuesday morning, but later the post was removed from Trump Jr.’s Instagram feed. There is no indication whatsoever that Trump Jr. knew who was behind the account or that it was fake.

Twitter said that the account was in fact linked to Identity Evropa, a white power fraternity.

Though Twitter referred to the group as Identity Evropa when discussing the account’s removal, the Anti Defamation League (ADL) states that the group dissolved and reformed under the name the American Identitarian Movement, which it also calls a white supremacist group.

The group promotes itself as “identitarian,” that white people should preserve their racial and cultural identity. The American Identitarian Movement says it prohibits violence and illegal activity.

CNN has reached out to the group for comment.

Twitter said it had shut down other fake accounts linked to Identity Evropa, too.

The phenomenon of people on the right creating fake Antifa accounts predates the current wave of protests. The takedown Monday is not the first time a fake Antifa account linked to white supremacists has been suspended by Twitter, the spokesperson confirmed.

CNN’s Betsy Klein in Washington contributed reporting


Who Are Antifa, and Are They a Threat?
June 4, 2020
by Seth G. Jones
Center for Strategic and International Studies

In response to the death of George Floyd, an unarmed African American who died after his neck was pinned under a police officer’s knee for nearly nine minutes in May 2020, protests erupted in over 140 U.S. cities. While the vast majority of protesters were peaceful, some violence and pillaging occurred. In New York City, for example, looters tore off the plywood that covered Macy’s iconic store in Herald Square on 34th Street, smashed windows, and stole whatever items they could grab before police chased them away. Others ransacked a nearby Nike store after shattering windows and walking off with armloads of athletic shirts, jeans, jackets, and sweatpants. In other cities—from Raleigh, North Carolina, to San Francisco, California—a small minority of individuals burned cars, attacked police officers, and looted businesses. In response, some U.S. officials fingered—without evidence—Antifa as the main culprits. On May 31, President Trump tweeted that he intended to designate Antifa as a terrorist organization. Attorney General William Barr similarly remarked that “the violence instigated and carried out by Antifa and other similar groups in connection with the rioting is domestic terrorism and will be treated accordingly.”

Q1: Who are Antifa?

A1: Antifa is a contraction of the phrase “anti-fascist.” It refers to a decentralized network of far-left militants that oppose what they believe are fascist, racist, or otherwise right-wing extremists. While some consider Antifa a sub-set of anarchists, adherents frequently blend anarchist and communist views. One of the most common symbols used by Antifa combines the red flag of the 1917 Russian Revolution and the black flag of 19th century anarchists. Antifa groups frequently conduct counter-protests to disrupt far-right gatherings and rallies. They often organize in black blocs (ad hoc gatherings of individuals that wear black clothing, ski masks, scarves, sunglasses, and other material to conceal their faces), use improvised explosive devices and other homemade weapons, and resort to vandalism. In addition, Antifa members organize their activities through social media, encrypted peer-to-peer networks, and encrypted messaging services such as Signal.

Antifa groups have been increasingly active in protests and rallies over the past few years, especially ones that include far-right participants. In June 2016, for example, Antifa and other protestors confronted a neo-Nazi rally in Sacramento, California, with at least five people stabbed. In February, March, and April 2017, Antifa members attacked alt-right demonstrators at the University of California, Berkeley using bricks, pipes, hammers, and homemade incendiary devices. In July 2019, William Van Spronsen, a self-proclaimed Antifa, attempted to bomb the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement detention facility in Tacoma, Washington, using a propane tank but was killed by police.

Like some other types of domestic extremists in the United States, Antifa follow a decentralized organizational structure. In an influential article in the 1992 edition of the magazine Seditionist, anti-government activist Louis R. Beam advocated an organizational structure that he termed “leaderless resistance.” As Beam noted, “Utilizing the Leaderless Resistance concept, all individuals and groups operate independently of each other, and never report to a central headquarters or single leader for direction or instruction, as would those who belong to a typical pyramid organization.” Beam argued that the tactic was just as useful for left-wing as it was for right-wing extremists. “The New American Patriot,” he wrote several years later, “will be neither left nor right, just a freeman fighting for liberty.” Leaderless resistance became a useful model for many types of extremists, including far-left networks like Antifa.

Q2: What role have Antifa groups played in the protests?

A2: While it is difficult to assess with fidelity the identity or ideology of many of the looters, my conversations with law enforcement and intelligence officials in multiple U.S. cities suggest that Antifa played a minor role in violence. The vast majority of looting appeared to come from local opportunists with no affiliation and no political objectives. Most were common criminals.

Still, there was some evidence of organized activity by left-wing and right-wing extremists, including from individuals that traveled from other states. John Miller, the deputy commissioner of intelligence and counterterrorism at the New York Police Department, warned that a small, fringe network of extremists organized violence in New York City. “Before the protests began, organizers of certain anarchist groups set out to raise bail money and people who would be responsible to be raising bail money, they set out to recruit medics and medical teams with gear to deploy in anticipation of violent interactions with police,” he said, based on intelligence collected by New York’s Joint Terrorism Task Force. “They prepared to commit property damage and directed people who were following them that this should be done selectively and only in wealthier areas or at high-end stores run by corporate entities.” There were also multiple reports of white supremacists infiltrating peaceful protests in cities like Boston, Denver, Tampa, and Dallas.

To add to the confusion, there was significant disinformation and a proliferation of fake accounts on social media platforms. For example, Twitter shut down several accounts that it said were operated by a white supremacist group called Identity Evropa, which was posing as Antifa. In one fake account with the Twitter handle @Antifa_US, Identity Evropa members allegedly called for violence in white suburban areas in the name of Black Lives Matters. “Tonight’s the night, Comrades,” one tweet noted with a brown raised fist emoji. “Tonight we say ‘F— The City’ and we move into the residential areas… the white hoods…. and we take what’s ours …” As Twitter explained, “This account violated our platform manipulation and spam policy, specifically the creation of fake accounts. We took action after the account sent a Tweet inciting violence and broke the Twitter Rules.” More broadly, extremists flooded social media with disinformation, conspiracy theories, and incitements to violence—swamping Twitter, YouTube, Facebook, and other platforms.

Q3: What is the broader threat from Antifa and other types of extremists?

A3: The threat from Antifa and other far-left networks is relatively small in the United States. The far-left includes a decentralized mix of actors. Anarchists, for example, are fundamentally opposed to the government and capitalism, and they have organized plots and attacks against government, capitalist, and globalization targets. Environmental and animal rights groups, such as the Earth Liberation Front and Animal Liberation Front, have conducted small-scale attacks against businesses they perceive as exploiting the environment. Antifa followers have committed a tiny number of plots and attacks.

Like virtually every domestic extremist group in the United States—including such white supremacist organizations as the Base and the Atomwaffen Division—the U.S. government has not designated Antifa as a terrorist organization. Instead, the U.S. government has generally designated only international terrorist groups, such as al-Qaeda and the Islamic State. In April 2020, the Trump administration designated the Russian Imperial Movement, an ultra-nationalist white supremacist group based in Russia, as a terrorist organization. The designation allowed the U.S. Treasury Department’s Office of Foreign Assets Control to block any U.S. property or assets belonging to the Russian Imperial Movement. It also barred Americans from financial dealings with the organization and made it easier to ban its members from traveling to the United States. While President Trump raised the possibility of designating Antifa as a terrorist organization, such a move would be problematic. It would trigger serious First Amendment challenges and raise numerous questions about what criteria should be used to designate far-right, far-left, and other extremist groups in the United States. In addition, Antifa is not a “group” per se, but rather a decentralized network of individuals. Consequently, it is unlikely that designating Antifa as a terrorist organization would even have much of an impact.

Based on a CSIS data set of 893 terrorist incidents in the United States between January 1994 and May 2020, attacks from left-wing perpetrators like Antifa made up a tiny percentage of overall terrorist attacks and casualties. Right-wing terrorists perpetrated the majority—57 percent—of all attacks and plots during this period, particularly those who were white supremacists, anti-government extremists, and involuntary celibates (or incels). In comparison, left-wing extremists orchestrated 25 percent of the incidents during this period, followed by 15 percent from religious terrorists, 3 percent from ethno-nationalists, and 0.7 percent from terrorists with other motives. In analyzing fatalities from terrorist attacks, religious terrorism has killed the largest number of individuals—3,086 people—primarily due to the attacks on September 11, 2001, which caused 2,977 deaths. In comparison, right-wing terrorist attacks caused 335 fatalities, left-wing attacks caused 22 deaths, and ethno-nationalist terrorists caused 5 deaths.

Viewed in this context, the threat from Antifa-associated actors in the United States is relatively small.

 

Department of Defense-Domestic Counterinsurgency
NUMBER 3005.20
July 10, 2020 USD(I)
SUBJECT: DoD Domestic Military Order-Counterinsurgency Overview : See Enclosure 1
Domestic Military Order – Counterinsurgency Overview

Part 5

Purpose and Importance of Mobilization

The purpose of mobilization is threefold. First, it builds local allies that can actively or passively assist COIN forces in carrying out their mission.  Second, it creates a permissive operating environment for COIN forces, improving operational security, reducing tactical friction, and allowing commanders to contemplate more ambitious operations than would otherwise be possible. Finally, it marginalizes insurgents, denying popular support to their activities, forcing them to spend more effort on force protection and security, and often causing them to turn against the populace – further exacerbating their loss of support.

Populace mobilization is fundamentally a political activity, and will normally be directed by civilian interagency leaders, primarily the district or area team, working in close cooperation with the military force commander and his staff. At unit level and below, commanders within the security forces work to support a broader set of political objectives designed to win over the populace.

Mobilizing the populace underpins all aspects of COIN. All operations, even logistic and force protection postures, or small-unit actions, affect the overall progress of political mobilization. And all operations, if mishandled, have the potential to undermine efforts to mobilize the populace. Every Soldier needs to understand that his or her actions have strategic consequences in a COIN operation.

Populace mobilization is an incremental, gradual process. It occurs by cementing the support of local allies, winning over uncommitted members of the populace, and marginalizing hostile elements (insurgent sympathizers or supporters) within the populace. Large, spectacular, “quick-fix” activities rarely succeed in winning over the populace. A steady stream of incremental measures to build trusted networks normally works better.

Populace mobilization is primarily a matter of perception management

–addressing the populace’s expectations and perceptions to generate a desired effect. Perceptions matter more than reality in this context, and for the populace you are trying to influence—their perception is their reality. COIN forces must strenuously avoid creating expectations that cannot be fulfilled, leading to disappointment and loss of support. Commanders must constantly seek to understand and counteract rumors, popular misperceptions, and relationships with key community leaders.

Relationship to “Hearts and Minds”

Often the saying “winning the hearts and minds” is stated as a goal in COIN operations. Completely winning the hearts and minds is an unachievable endstate however, we are battling for support of the populace. Mobilizing the populace is a subset of “hearts and minds” activities. Hearts and Minds are two distinct but related areas of perception management, as follows:

  • The “Hearts” dimension seeks to persuade the populace that their interests are best served by the COIN force’s success. This is achieved by building a commonality of interest between the security forces and the populace, and giving the populace a stake in success. For example, development and assistance programs should be turned over to local community leaders, with the absolute necessary minimum of COIN force support – this allows the community to “own” these projects and feel they have a stake in the success of the counterinsurgency.
  • The “Minds” dimension seeks to persuade the populace that the COIN force is going to succeed in its mission. This helps convince wavering community leaders to join the winning side, and deter those who might otherwise support the insurgents. It is achieved by demonstrating consistency, reliability and authority, building the prestige of the security forces and those who cooperate with them. For example, a visible security force presence in key populace centers, combined with public successes in arresting key insurgent leaders or defeating insurgent attacks, creates a sense of confidence in the populace. This must all be done while “maintaining the moral high ground” and keeping our honor clean.

Minimizing Alienation

All kinetic operations, particularly those that result in civilian death, wounding or property destruction, tend to alienate the local populace and reduce their support for COIN forces. This does not mean that such operations must be avoided – on the contrary, they are an essential part of COIN. Rather, commanders must apply force sparingly, seek to understand the effects of their operations on public perception, and act to minimize the resultant alienation. The concept is to recognize the local populace must identify that maturity, morality, and genuine concern abides with us, not the enemy.

Commanders must understand the process of alienation. Most commanders realize that popular resentment increases in the aftermath of a negative incident (such as the killing of a non-combatant i.e. the young, or apparently “peaceful demonstrators”). But most incorrectly assume that such resentment gradually subsides after such an incident, until another incident occurs In fact, it is more normal for resentment to remain high after an incident or even increase, until the next incident raises it to a new high

Therefore commanders must have a detailed knowledge of the history of security force interaction with a given urban area , populace group or location in order to understand the degree of alienation and resentment in that area, and hence the amount of work required to win over that populace group. In general terms, when a populace has become alienated, only a concerted effort– usually working with and through local community leaders – will win back that populace. The mere passage of time or absence of additional “unfortunate incidents” will not suffice.

Methods of Mobilizing the Populace

Applying the concepts described above, the COIN force may adopt any or all of the following methods to mobilize the populace:

Physical Mobilization. Control over the methods and routes that the populace uses to move about the area assists in mobilizing popular support. Conducted properly, presence patrols, vehicle checkpoints and security posts provide a feeling of security to the populace and allow commanders to influence their perceptions. Movement assistance (e.g. convoying or escorting civilian vehicles, providing transport for movement of goods to market, prevention of transport disruption, security of gasoline and oil supplies) also provides opportunity to build networks within the populace and win over uncommitted members of the community.

Psychological Mobilization. Mobilization of the populace through a range of psychological operations and influence activities provides  everage over key community leaders and groups. Activities should initially be directed to mapping the human terrain in the area of operations, identifying opinion leaders and influential groups and individuals. Once these are identified, influence operations should comprise two basic types: activities directed at securing the support and cooperation of key individuals, and activities directed at influencing the populace at large. Military Information Support Teams and tactical psyop teams are employed using similar methods as in other forms of warfare.

Political Mobilization. Political staff of the military occupation team, or the COIN force headquarters will direct activities in support of political mobilization. These may include support to registering of voters, protection of political rallies and canvassing activity, polling place protection during elections, support to local government administrators, intelligence activity to protect local political leaders allied to the COIN force, and support to electoral registration, vote-counting or election monitors. Close cooperation with interagency leaders is critical to ensure that troops’ activities and posture supports established political objectives.

Socio-Economic Mobilization. The COIN force may support activities to mobilize the populace through developing social and cultural leverage via the trusted networks.  Humanitarian and economic assistance, business promotion activities, reintegration and employment programs and support to commercial activity are key elements of socio-economic mobilization. Such activities are normally directed by Intelligence, civil affairs, aid and development and embassy political staff. Deployed units provide protection to key personnel conducting these activities, and provide a critically important stream of tactical reporting that enables commanders to assess progress in building networks.

  • Media—The media offers a platform for both the host nation and the world. Television, newspapers and magazines circulate information, right or wrong, to a large audience. They can be biased and sensational, and can help your cause or destroy it. Again, they cannot be controlled or manipulated however it is incumbent upon you to ensure they have access to your message and your actions.  Reporters are professionals with experience in uncovering lies and relating to their audience. This can be the best opportunity you have to build support and let the world see what good you are doing; or it can be the worst enemy to your cause. The effect depends on how you treat the information/ media. Tell the truth; do not hide facts to try to protect your mission. If your unit makes mistakes, be honest with the people and let them know what actions you are taking to rectify the problem. Brief the media and give them access to what you are doing; sell your campaign, sell the human rights efforts you are taking and answer their questions honestly. Do not speak out of your lane; if you are a squad leader tell the reporters about your squad and what it is doing. Be prepared to speak with the media, consider designating an individual for that purpose. At the company level, one soldier should be charged with keeping contact with the PAO and coordinating media operations. Do not sell out your security; ensure that reporters understand your operational security requirements and let them know the rules as to what and where they have access. Once again, in the end your actions will speak louder than your words. Some media agencies will try to undermine your efforts; the majority of legitimate newspapers and broadcasters will report what they see and understand. Your job is to offer accurate information, protect sensitive information, speak only for yourself and your unit and do what you say you will do.
  • Rules of the Road for Interacting with the Media.

− Don’t divulge classified or details on updoming operations

− Don’t provide the enemy with insights to how we operate.

− Don’t give the enemy specifics on BDA or casualties.

− Share your courage with the American people and the population you are helping, “No  Fear”

− Never grieve in public for a lost comrade.

Considerations for Information Operations—In counterinsurgency, IO is marketing; your operation is just like a new product that uses advertisements to make people aware of it. For people to buy it, it still needs to be a quality product. You are marketing your unit, your actions and your message to the local populace and, very likely, to the world.

  • Informational Objective (What message are you sending in conducting a particular mission?)

− Establish dominance

− Create security

− Establish rule of law

− Achieve a tactical advantage

− Provide a civil service

− Remove a portion of the insurgency

  • Minimizing Collateral Damage

− What steps are you taking?

− How are you ensuring this?

− What are you doing to advertise this?

  • Control and Care of Civilians

− What control measures are in place to control onlookers?

− How are you caring for civilians affected by your actions?

  • Control and Care of Enemy Captured and Wounded
  • Means of Advertising

Women—Women play an important role in counterinsurgency operations. There is a perception in many cultures that women are unapproachable and should not be spoken to by men, especially soldiers.  You should recognize both the cultural protocol and the place women hold in the society. In many areas they are trusted and respected members of the household and the population, therefore, women have a great deal of influence on the opinions of the family, and civic area.  Find out their needs and wants, which are often times based around their families’ well being. Work to get them on your side and do not dismiss their opinion/ influence.

Intelligence Operations

Just as with information operations, intelligence gathering will span across all of your missions. This goes beyond Commander’s Critical Information Requirements (CCIR) and Priority Intelligence Requirements (PIR). Gathering information on local movements, businesses, networks, cells, local disputes and business practices is  essential to acquiring and maintaining your understanding of the situation and the area. You must continuously update your IPOA and cell and network diagrams. Each patrol you send out, regardless of their main purpose, must know what information is needed and must have specific information requirements to fill intelligence gaps. Every individual is an intelligence collector when trained and motivated properly. Intelligence gathering is a continuous process and is accomplished through four primary means: reconnaissance patrolling, surveillance, human source intelligence and signals intelligence. Each form is effective and is complementary to each other. The following paragraphs present guidelines for using these tactics/ procedures.

Reconnaissance—Reconnaissance is the active search for raw information and is normally focused on search for specific information requirements. Some cases will require a clandestine team to conduct reconnaissance, but this is not always the case—overt patrols can, in some cases, perform the necessary tasks. In either case, units require a high degree of proficiency in communications, recording, reporting, patrolling, observation, photography and field sketching. Trained reconnaissance units are not always available so ensure that squads are prepared to perform these tasks. It is always possible to train a squad to perform such tasks. Reconnaissance patrols fall into two basic categories:

  • Area. An area reconnaissance is a directed effort to obtain detailed information concerning the terrain or enemy activity within a prescribed area such as a town, ridgeline, woods or other features critical to operations. An area reconnaissance could also be made of a single point, such as a bridge or installation. An area reconnaissance is useful in acquiring details on a specific objective. A recon of an objective, a route recon and an HLZ recon, are all examples of area reconnaissance. Place importance on the required, detailed information; limit the scope but not the depth of raw information you require.
  • Zone. A zone reconnaissance is a directed effort to obtain detailed information concerning all routes, obstacles (to include chemical or radiological contamination), terrain, and enemy forces within a zone defined by boundaries. A zone reconnaissance is normally used when the enemy situation is vague or when information concerning cross-country traffic ability is desired. The commander specifies routes or areas of interest within the zone. The zone to be reconnoitered is usually defined by a line of departure, lateral boundaries and a limit of advance.

Surveillance—Surveillance is a passive form of gathering information and is most effective when it is done in a clandestine nature. The range of tasks for a surveillance team can vary from observing a specific objective or individual to recording and reporting information about a street, neighborhood or area of interest. As with reconnaissance teams, those performing this task should be well versed in the disciplines of communications, recording, reporting, patrolling, observation, photography and field sketching. The teams should be small in order to remain undetectable with “guardian angels” maintaining over watch of their mission. Snipers are the ideal personnel for this task, however, it is advantageous to train personnel in your unit to perform this task as well.  The methods of surveillance range from observation posts and hides to the use of personnel either mixed with the civilian populace or from the civilian populace to track and follow individuals, if the situation allows.

Human Source Intelligence—Gathering information from human sources, either from indigenous personnel, captured insurgents or third party witnesses can be the most effective form of generating intelligence. On the other hand, it can prove to be unreliable and incorrect. Both the Army and the Marine Corps have human intelligence personnel that are trained to develop sources and extract and analyze information from the population. Such personnel are valuable attachments even though every Marine or Soldier is a potential human source gatherer. Train your unit to talk with indigenous personnel and to record and report their findings.

Continued……

Tomorrow’s Gods: What is the future of religion?
Throughout history, people’s faith and their attachments to religious institutions have transformed, argues Sumit Paul-Choudhury. So what’s next?
August 2 201
by Sumit Paul-Choudhury
BBC News

Before Mohammed, before Jesus, before Buddha, there was Zoroaster. Some 3,500 years ago, in Bronze Age Iran, he had a vision of the one supreme God. A thousand years later, Zoroastrianism, the world’s first great monotheistic religion, was the official faith of the mighty Persian Empire, its fire temples attended by millions of adherents. A thousand years after that, the empire collapsed, and the followers of Zoroaster were persecuted and converted to the new faith of their conquerors, Islam.

Another 1,500 years later – today – Zoroastrianism is a dying faith, its sacred flames tended by ever fewer worshippers

We take it for granted that religions are born, grow and die – but we are also oddly blind to that reality. When someone tries to start a new religion, it is often dismissed as a cult. When we recognise a faith, we treat its teachings and traditions as timeless and sacrosanct. And when a religion dies, it becomes a myth, and its claim to sacred truth expires. Tales of the Egyptian, Greek and Norse pantheons are now considered legends, not holy writ.

Even today’s dominant religions have continually evolved throughout history. Early Christianity, for example, was a truly broad church: ancient documents include yarns about Jesus’ family life and testaments to the nobility of Judas. It took three centuries for the Christian church to consolidate around a canon of scriptures – and then in 1054 it split into the Eastern Orthodox and Catholic churches. Since then, Christianity has continued both to grow and to splinter into ever more disparate groups, from silent Quakers to snake-handling Pentecostalists.

If you believe your faith has arrived at ultimate truth, you might reject the idea that it will change at all. But if history is any guide, no matter how deeply held our beliefs may be today, they are likely in time to be transformed or transferred as they pass to our descendants – or simply to fade away.

If religions have changed so dramatically in the past, how might they change in the future? Is there any substance to the claim that belief in gods and deities will die out altogether? And as our civilisation and its technologies become increasingly complex, could entirely new forms of worship emerge?

To answer these questions, a good starting point is to ask: why do we have religion in the first place?

Reason to believe

One notorious answer comes from Voltaire, the 18th Century French polymath, who wrote: “If God did not exist, it would be necessary to invent him.”Because Voltaire was a trenchant critic of organised religion, this quip is often quoted cynically. But in fact, he was being perfectly sincere. He was arguing that belief in God is necessary for society to function, even if he didn’t approve of the monopoly the church held over that belief.

Many modern students of religion agree. The broad idea that a shared faith serves the needs of a society is known as the functionalist view of religion. There are many functionalist hypotheses, from the idea that religion is the “opium of the masses”, used by the powerful to control the poor, to the proposal that faith supports the abstract intellectualism required for science and law. One recurring theme is social cohesion: religion brings together a community, who might then form a hunting party, raise a temple or support a political party

Those faiths that endure are “the long-term products of extraordinarily complex cultural pressures, selection processes, and evolution”, writes Connor Wood of the Center for Mind and Culture in Boston, Massachusetts on the religious reference website Patheos, where he blogs about the scientific study of religion. New religious movements are born all the time, but most don’t survive long. They must compete with other faiths for followers and survive potentially hostile social and political environments.

Under this argument, any religion that does endure has to offer its adherents tangible benefits. Christianity, for example, was just one of many religious movements that came and mostly went during the course of the Roman Empire. According to Wood, it was set apart by its ethos of caring for the sick – meaning more Christians survived outbreaks of disease than pagan Romans. Islam, too, initially attracted followers by emphasising honour, humility and charity – qualities which were not endemic in turbulent 7th-Century Arabia.

Given this, we might expect the form that religion takes to follow the function it plays in a particular society – or as Voltaire might have put it, that different societies will invent the particular gods they need. Conversely, we might expect similar societies to have similar religions, even if they have developed in isolation. And there is some evidence for that – although when it comes to religion, there are always exceptions to any rule.

Hunter-gatherers, for example, tend to believe that all objects – whether animal, vegetable or mineral – have supernatural aspects (animism) and that the world is imbued with supernatural forces (animatism). These must be understood and respected; human morality generally doesn’t figure significantly. This worldview makes sense for groups too small to need abstract codes of conduct, but who must know their environment intimately. (An exception: Shinto, an ancient animist religion, is still widely practised in hyper-modern Japan.)

At the other end of the spectrum, the teeming societies of the West are at least nominally faithful to religions in which a single watchful, all-powerful god lays down, and sometimes enforces, moral instructions: Yahweh, Christ and Allah. The psychologist Ara Norenzayan argues it was belief in these “Big Gods” that allowed the formation of societies made up of large numbers of strangers. Whether that belief constitutes cause or effect has recently been disputed, but the upshot is that sharing a faith allows people to co-exist (relatively) peacefully. The knowledge that Big God is watching makes sure we behave ourselves.

Or at least, it did. Today, many of our societies are huge and multicultural: adherents of many faiths co-exist with each other – and with a growing number of people who say they have no religion at all. We obey laws made and enforced by governments, not by God. Secularism is on the rise, with science providing tools to understand and shape the world.

Given all that, there’s a growing consensus that the future of religion is that it has no future.

Imagine there’s no heaven

Powerful intellectual and political currents have driven this proposition since the early 20th Century. Sociologists argued that the march of science was leading to the “disenchantment” of society: supernatural answers to the big questions were no longer felt to be needed. Communist states like Soviet Russia and China adopted atheism as state policy and frowned on even private religious expression. In 1968, the eminent sociologist Peter Berger told the New York Times that by “the 21st Century, religious believers are likely to be found only in small sects, huddled together to resist a worldwide secular culture”.

Now that we’re actually in the 21st Century, Berger’s view remains an article of faith for many secularists – although Berger himself recanted in the 1990s. His successors are emboldened by surveys showing that in many countries, increasing numbers of people are saying they have no religion. That’s most true in rich, stable countries like Sweden and Japan, but also, perhaps more surprisingly, in places like Latin America and the Arab world. Even in the US, long a conspicuous exception to the axiom that richer countries are more secular, the number of “nones” has been rising sharply. In the 2018 General Social Survey of US attitudes, “no religion” became the single largest group, edging out evangelical Christians.

Despite this, religion is not disappearing on a global scale – at least in terms of numbers. In 2015, the Pew Research Center modelled the future of the world’s great religions based on demographics, migration and conversion. Far from a precipitous decline in religiosity, it predicted a modest increase in believers, from 84% of the world’s population today to 87% in 2050. Muslims would grow in number to match Christians, while the number unaffiliated with any religion would decline slightly

The pattern Pew predicted was of “the secularising West and the rapidly growing rest”. Religion will continue to grow in economically and socially insecure places like much of sub-Saharan Africa – and to decline where they are stable. That chimes with what we know about the deep-seated psychological and neurological drivers of belief. When life is tough or disaster strikes, religion seems to provide a bulwark of psychological (and sometimes practical) support. In a landmark study, people directly affected by the 2011 earthquake in Christchurch, New Zealand became significantly more religious than other New Zealanders, who became marginally less religious.

We also need to be careful when interpreting what people mean by “no religion”. “Nones” may be disinterested in organised religion, but that doesn’t mean they are militantly atheist. In 1994, the sociologist Grace Davie classified people according to whether they belonged to a religious group and/or believed in a religious position. The traditionally religious both belonged and believed; hardcore atheists did neither. Then there are those who belong but don’t believe – parents attending church to get a place for their child at a faith school, perhaps. And, finally, there are those who believe in something, but don’t belong to any group.

The research suggests that the last two groups are significant. The Understanding Unbelief project at the University of Kent in the UK is conducting a three-year, six-nation survey of attitudes among those who say they don’t believe God exists (“atheists”) and those who don’t think it’s possible to know if God exists (“agnostics”). In interim results released in May 2019, the researchers found that few unbelievers actually identify themselves by these labels, with significant minorities opting for a religious identity.

What’s more, around three-quarters of atheists and nine out of 10 agnostics are open to the existence of supernatural phenomena, including everything from astrology to supernatural beings and life after death. Unbelievers “exhibit significant diversity both within, and between, different countries.

Accordingly, there are very many ways of being an unbeliever”, the report concluded – including, notably, the dating-website cliche “spiritual, but not religious”. Like many cliches, it’s rooted in truth. But what does it actually mean?

The old gods return

In 2005, Linda Woodhead wrote The Spiritual Revolution, in which she described an intensive study of belief in the British town of Kendal. Woodhead and her co-author found that people were rapidly turning away from organised religion, with its emphasis on fitting into an established order of things, towards practices designed to accentuate and foster individuals’ own sense of who they are. If the town’s Christian churches did not embrace this shift, they concluded, congregations would dwindle into irrelevance while self-guided practices would become the mainstream in a “spiritual revolution”.

Today, Woodhead says that revolution has taken place – and not just in Kendal. Organised religion is waning in the UK, with no real end in sight. “Religions do well, and always have done, when they are subjectively convincing – when you have the sense that God is working for you,” says Woodhead, now professor of sociology of religion at the University of Lancaster in the UK.

In poorer societies, you might pray for good fortune or a stable job. The “prosperity gospel” is central to several of America’s megachurches, whose congregations are often dominated by economically insecure congregations. But if your basic needs are well catered for, you are more likely to be seeking fulfilment and meaning. Traditional religion is failing to deliver on this, particularly where doctrine clashes with moral convictions that arise from secular society – on gender equality, say.

In response, people have started constructing faiths of their own.

What do these self-directed religions look like? One approach is syncretism, the “pick and mix” approach of combining traditions and practices that often results from the mixing of cultures. Many religions have syncretistic elements, although over time they are assimilated and become unremarkable. Festivals like Christmas and Easter, for example, have archaic pagan elements, while daily practice for many people in China involves a mixture of Mahayana Buddhism, Taoism and Confucianism. The joins are easier to see in relatively young religions, such as Vodoun or Rastafarianism.

An alternative is to streamline. New religious movements often seek to preserve the central tenets of an older religion while stripping it of trappings that may have become stifling or old-fashioned. In the West, one form this takes is for humanists to rework religious motifs: there have been attempts to rewrite the Bible without any supernatural elements, calls for the construction of “atheist temples” dedicated to contemplation. And the “Sunday Assembly” aims to recreate the atmosphere of a lively church service without reference to God. But without the deep roots of traditional religions, these can struggle: the Sunday Assembly, after initial rapid expansion, is now reportedly struggling to keep up its momentum.

But Woodhead thinks the religions that might emerge from the current turmoil will have much deeper roots. The first generation of spiritual revolutionaries, coming of age in the 1960s and 1970s, were optimistic and universalist in outlook, happy to take inspiration from faiths around the world. Their grandchildren, however, are growing up in a world of geopolitical stresses and socioeconomic angst; they are more likely to hark back to supposedly simpler times. “There is a pull away from global universality to local identities,” says Woodhead. “It’s really important that they’re your gods, they weren’t just made up.”

In the European context, this sets the stage for a resurgence of interest in paganism. Reinventing half-forgotten “native” traditions allows the expression of modern concerns while retaining the patina of age. Paganism also often features divinities that are more like diffuse forces than anthropomorphic gods; that allows people to focus on issues they feel sympathetic towards without having to make a leap of faith to supernatural deities.

In Iceland, for example, the small but fast-growing Ásatrú faith has no particular doctrine beyond somewhat arch celebrations of Old Norse customs and mythology, but has been active on social and ecological issues. Similar movements exist across Europe, such as Druidry in the UK. Not all are liberally inclined. Some are motivated by a desire to return to what they see as conservative “traditional” values – leading in some cases to clashes over the validity of opposing beliefs.

These are niche activities at the moment, and might sometimes be more about playing with symbolism than heartfelt spiritual practice. But over time, they canevolve into more heartfelt and coherent belief systems: Woodhead points to the robust adoption of Rodnovery – an often conservative and patriarchal pagan faith based around the reconstructed beliefs and traditions of the ancient Slavs – in the former Soviet Union as a potential exemplar of things to come.

So the nones mostly represent not atheists, nor even secularists, but a mixture of “apatheists” – people who simply don’t care about religion – and practitioners of what you might call “disorganised religion”. While the world religions are likely to persist and evolve for the foreseeable future, we might for the rest of this century see an efflorescence of relatively small religions jostling to break out among these groups. But if Big Gods and shared faiths are key to social cohesion, what happens without them?

One nation under Mammon

One answer, of course, is that we simply get on with our lives. Munificent economies, good government, solid education and effective rule of law can ensure that we rub along happily without any kind of religious framework. And indeed, some of the societies with the highest proportions of non-believers are among the most secure and harmonious on Earth.

What remains debatable, however, is whether they can afford to be irreligious because they have strong secular institutions – or whether being secular has helped them achieve social stability. Religionists say even secular institutions have religious roots: civil legal systems, for example, codify ideas about justice based on social norms established by religions. The likes of the New Atheists, on the other hand, argue that religion amounts to little more than superstition, and abandoning it will enable societies to improve their lot more effectively.

Connor Wood is not so sure. He contends that a strong, stable society like Sweden’s is both extremely complex and very expensive to run in terms of labour, money and energy – and that might not be sustainable even in the short term. “I think it’s pretty clear that we’re entering into a period of non-linear change in social systems,” he says. “The Western consensus on a combination of market capitalism and democracy can’t be taken for granted.”

That’s a problem, since that combination has radically transformed the social environment from the one in which the world religions evolved – and has to some extent supplanted them.

“I’d be careful about calling capitalism a religion, but a lot of its institutions have religious elements, as in all spheres of human institutional life,” says Wood. “The ‘invisible hand’ of the market almost seems like a supernatural entity.”

Financial exchanges, where people meet to conduct highly ritualised trading activity, seem quite like temples to Mammon, too. In fact, religions, even the defunct ones, can provide uncannily appropriate metaphors for many of the more intractable features of modern life.

The pseudo-religious social order might work well when times are good. But when the social contract becomes stressed – through identity politics, culture wars or economic instability – Wood suggests the consequence is what we see today: the rise of authoritarians in country after country. He cites research showing that people ignore authoritarian pitches until they sense a deterioration of social norms.

“This is the human animal looking around and saying we don’t agree how we should behave,” Wood says. “And we need authority to tell us.” It’s suggestive that political strongmen are often hand in glove with religious fundamentalists: Hindu nationalists in India, say, or Christian evangelicals in the US. That’s a potent combination for believers and an unsettling one for secularists: can anything bridge the gap between them?

Mind the gap

Perhaps one of the major religions might change its form enough to win back non-believers in significant numbers. There is precedent for this: in the 1700s, Christianity was ailing in the US, having become dull and formal even as the Age of Reason saw secular rationalism in the ascendant. A new guard of travelling fire-and-brimstone preachers successfully reinvigorated the faith, setting the tone for centuries to come – an event called the “Great Awakenings”.

The parallels with today are easy to draw, but Woodhead is sceptical that Christianity or other world religions can make up the ground they have lost, in the long term. Once the founders of libraries and universities, they are no longer the key sponsors of intellectual thought. Social change undermines religions which don’t accommodate it: earlier this year, Pope Francis warned that if the Catholic Church didn’t acknowledge its history of male domination and sexual abuse it risked becoming “a museum”. And their tendency to claim we sit at the pinnacle of creation is undermined by a growing sense that humans are not so very significant in the grand scheme of things.

Perhaps a new religion will emerge to fill the void? Again, Woodhead is sceptical. “Historically, what makes religions rise or fall is political support,” she says, “and all religions are transient unless they get imperial support.” Zoroastrianism benefited from its adoption by the successive Persian dynasties; the turning point for Christianity came when it was adopted by the Roman Empire. In the secular West, such support is unlikely to be forthcoming, with the possible exception of the US. In Russia, by contrast, the nationalistic overtones of both Rodnovery and the Orthodox church wins them tacit political backing.

But today, there’s another possible source of support: the internet.

Online movements gain followers at rates unimaginable in the past. The Silicon Valley mantra of “move fast and break things” has become a self-evident truth for many technologists and plutocrats. #MeToo started out as a hashtag expressing anger and solidarity but now stands for real changes to long-standing social norms. And Extinction Rebellion has striven, with considerable success, to trigger a radical shift in attitudes to the crises in climate change and biodiversity.

None of these are religions, of course, but they do share parallels with nascent belief systems – particularly that key functionalist objective of fostering a sense of community and shared purpose. Some have confessional and sacrificial elements, too. So, given time and motivation, could something more explicitly religious grow out of an online community? What new forms of religion might these online “congregations” come up with?

We already have some idea.

Deus ex machina

A few years ago, members of the self-declared “Rationalist” community website LessWrong began discussing a thought experiment about an omnipotent, super-intelligent machine – with many of the qualities of a deity and something of the Old Testament God’s vengeful nature.

It was called Roko’s Basilisk. The full proposition is a complicated logic puzzle, but crudely put, it goes that when a benevolent super-intelligence emerges, it will want to do as much good as possible – and the earlier it comes into existence, the more good it will be able to do. So to encourage everyone to do everything possible to help to bring into existence, it will perpetually and retroactively torture those who don’t – including anyone who so much as learns of its potential existence. (If this is the first you’ve heard of it: sorry!)

Outlandish though it might seem, Roko’s Basilisk caused quite a stir when it was first suggested on LessWrong – enough for discussion of it to be banned by the site’s creator. Predictably, that only made the idea explode across the internet – or at least the geekier parts of it – with references to the Basilisk popping up everywhere from news sites to Doctor Who,  despite protestations from some Rationalists that no-one really took it seriously. Their case was not helped by the fact that many Rationalists are strongly committed to other startling ideas about artificial intelligence, ranging from AIs that destroy the world by accident to human-machine hybrids that would transcend all mortal limitations.

Such esoteric beliefs have arisen throughout history, but the ease with which we can now build a community around them is new. “We’ve always had new forms of religiosity, but we haven’t always had enabling spaces for them,” says Beth Singler, who studies the social, philosophical and religious implications of AI at the University of Cambridge. “Going out into a medieval town square and shouting out your unorthodox beliefs was going to get you labelled a heretic, not win converts to your cause.”

The mechanism may be new, but the message isn’t. The Basilisk argumentis in much the same spirit as Pascal’s Wager. The 17th-Century French mathematician suggested non-believers should nonetheless go through the motions of religious observance, just in case a vengeful God does turn out to exist. The idea of punishment as an imperative to cooperate is reminiscent of Norenzayan’s “Big Gods”. And arguments over ways to evade the Basilisk’s gaze are every bit as convoluted as the medieval Scholastics’ attempts to square human freedom with divine oversight.

Even the technological trappings aren’t new. In 1954, Fredric Brown wrote a (very) short story called “Answer”, in which a galaxy-spanning supercomputer is turned on and asked: is there a God? Now there is, comes the reply.

And some people, like AI entrepreneur Anthony Levandowski, think their holy objective is to build a super-machine that will one day answer just as Brown’s fictional machine did. Levandowski, who made a fortune through self-driving cars, hit the headlines in 2017 when it became public knowledge that he had founded a church, Way of the Future, dedicated to bringing about a peaceful transition to a world mostly run by super-intelligent machines. While his vision sounds more benevolent than Roko’s Basilisk, the church’s creed still includes the ominous lines: “We believe it may be important for machines to see who is friendly to their cause and who is not. We plan on doing so by keeping track of who has done what (and for how long) to help the peaceful and respectful transition.”

“There are many ways people think of God, and thousands of flavours of Christianity, Judaism, Islam,” Levandowski told Wired. “But they’re always looking at something that’s not measurable or you can’t really see or control. This time it’s different. This time you will be able to talk to God, literally, and know that it’s listening.”

Reality bites

Levandowski is not alone. In his bestselling book Homo Deus, Yuval Noah Harari argues that the foundations of modern civilisation are eroding in the face of an emergent religion he calls “dataism”, which holds that by giving ourselves over to information flows, we can transcend our earthly concerns and ties. Other fledgling transhumanist religious movements focus on immortality – a new spin on the promise of eternal life. Still others ally themselves with older faiths, notably Mormonism.

Are these movements for real? Some groups are performing or “hacking” religion to win support for transhumanist ideas, says Singler. “Unreligions” seek to dispense with the supposedly unpopular strictures or irrational doctrines of conventional religion, and so might appeal to the irreligious. The Turing Church, founded in 2011, has a range of cosmic tenets – “We will go to the stars and find Gods, build Gods, become Gods, and resurrect the dead” – but no hierarchy, rituals or proscribed activities and only one ethical maxim: “Try to act with love and compassion toward other sentient beings.”

But as missionary religions know, what begins as a mere flirtation or idle curiosity – perhaps piqued by a resonant statement or appealing ceremony – can end in a sincere search for truth.

The 2001 UK census found that Jediism, the fictional faith observed by the good guys in Star Wars, was the fourth largest religion: nearly 400,000 people had been inspired to claim it, initially by a tongue-in-cheek online campaign. Ten years later, it had dropped to seventh place, leading many to dismiss it as a prank. But as Singler notes, that is still an awful lot of people – and a lot longer than most viral campaigns endure.

Some branches of Jediism remain jokey, but others take themselves more seriously: the Temple of the Jedi Order claims its members are “real people that live or lived their lives according to the principles of Jediism” – inspired by the fiction, but based on the real-life philosophies that informed it.

With those sorts of numbers, Jediism “should” have been recognised as a religion in the UK. But officials who apparently assumed it was not a genuine census answer did not record it as such. “A lot is measured against the Western Anglophone tradition of religion,” says Singler. Scientology was barred from recognition as a religion for many years in the UK because it did not have a Supreme Being – something that could also be said of Buddhism.

In fact, recognition is a complex issue worldwide, particularly since that there is no widely accepted definition of religion even in academic circles. Communist Vietnam, for example, is officially atheist and often cited as one of the world’s most irreligious countries – but sceptics say this is really because official surveys don’t capture the huge proportion of the population who practice folk religion. On the other hand, official recognition of Ásatrú, the Icelandic pagan faith, meant it was entitled to its share of a “faith tax”; as a result, it is building the country’s first pagan temple for nearly 1,000 years.

Scepticism about practitioners’ motives impedes many new movements from being recognised as genuine religions, whether by officialdom or by the public at large. But ultimately the question of sincerity is a red herring, Singler says: “Whenever someone tells you their worldview, you have to take them at face value”. The acid test, as true for neopagans as for transhumanists, is whether people make significant changes to their lives consistent with their stated faith.

And such changes are exactly what the founders of some new religious movements want. Official status is irrelevant if you can win thousands or even millions of followers to your cause.

Consider the “Witnesses of Climatology”, a fledgling “religion” invented to foster greater commitment to action on climate change. After a decade spent working on engineering solutions to climate change, its founder Olya Irzak came to the conclusion that the real problem lay not some much in finding technical solutions, but in winning social support for them. “What’s a multi-generational social construct that organises people around shared morals?” she asks. “The stickiest is religion.”

So three years ago, Irzak and some friends set about building one. They didn’t see any need to bring God into it – Irzak was brought up an atheist – but did start running regular “services”, including introductions, a sermon eulogising the awesomeness of nature and education on aspects of environmentalism. Periodically they include rituals, particularly at traditional holidays. At Reverse Christmas, the Witnesses plant a tree rather than cutting one down; on Glacier Memorial Day, they watch blocks of ice melt in the California sun.

As these examples suggest, Witnesses of Climatology has a parodic feel to it – light-heartedness helps novices get over any initial awkwardness – but Irzak’s underlying intent is quite serious.

“We hope people get real value from this and are encouraged to work on climate change,” she says, rather than despairing about the state of the world. The congregation numbers a few hundred, but Irzak, as a good engineer, is committed to testing out ways to grow that number. Among other things, she is considering a Sunday School to teach children ways of thinking about how complex systems work.

Recently, the Witnesses have been looking further afield, including to a ceremony conducted across the Middle East and central Asia just before the spring equinox: purification by throwing something unwanted into a fire – a written wish, or an actual object – and then jumping over it. Recast as an effort to rid the world of environmental ills, it proved a popular addition to the liturgy. This might have been expected, because it’s been practised for thousands of years as part of Nowruz, the Iranian New Year – whose origins lie in part with the Zoroastrians.

Transhumanism, Jediism, the Witnesses of Climatology and the myriad of other new religious movements may never amount to much. But perhaps the same could have been said for the small groups of believers who gathered around a sacred flame in ancient Iran, three millennia ago, and whose fledgling belief grew into one of the largest, most powerful and enduring religions the world has ever seen – and which is still inspiring people today.

Perhaps religions never do really die. Perhaps the religions that span the world today are less durable than we think. And perhaps the next great faith is just getting started.

Encyclopedia of American Loons

Dorothy Spaulding

Though she may not be among the most famous televangelists working in the US, Dorothy Spaulding, President and Founder of Watchmen Broadcasting, is certainly one of the truly whacky ones – a sort of low-budget, poor man’s version of Cindy Jacobs, if you wish – and her network show Club 36 has been dubbed “perhaps the most hilarious Christian train-wreck TV this great country has produced in … decades.”

Indeed, Spaulding’s show is probably the go-to place if you feel the need to talk about how you were attacked by 80-foot demons or rant about Satanic baby farms and want to be taken seriously. Here, for instance, you can watch Spaulding and her guest, one Henry Lewis, discuss the dangers of Pokémon; Pokémon are “oriental demons”, and the names of the Pokémon characters are apparently the real names of these oriental demons. Here is a list of names of Pokémon characters for those unfamiliar with the universe (one imagines that the practice of fundamentalist Christianity would look very different had Revelations mentioned Jigglypuff and Wigglytuff by name). There is also, in addition to wild-eyed rantings about witches and Harry Potter, some kind of attack on the theory of evolution in there, for good measure – you wouldn’t really suspect Spaulding of being anything but a young-earth creationist, would you?

She has also written a book Walk by Faith, and is apparently especially “passionate about telling the truth of what is happening in Israel” – her reaction to the 80-foot demon story doesn’t really convey much trust in her ability to distinguish truth from other things, though.

Diagnosis: Possibly worth checking out for some cheap entertainment; otherwise, a potential reminder that what goes on at the grassroots level is often even crazier than the stuff that goes on in the top echelons of American evangelism.

Salo Stanley

Now what is this? Salo Stanley is apparently a chiropractor who consistently calls herself “Dr. Stanley”, apparently on the grounds that she received some degree from Life Chiropractic College West. That place received a bit of attention in 2015 when its students gave Andrew Wakefield standing ovations for telling them to oppose Senate Bill SB277, which would limit non-medical vaccine exemptions. Hers is not a degree to be particularly proud of, in other words. But Salo Stanley is so much more than a mere chiropractor. She is “a sound therapist, psychic, medium, musician, artist, researcher, professional speaker and ordained minister of the Universal Life Church in Modesto, California” who “does paranormal research with trans-communication radio devices to contact the Spirit World and provides channeled information to various groups.” She has even had her own cable TV show with Barb Heintzelman called “BS in Fresno” (very apt, though we suspect they thought it was an acronym for “Barb and Salo”), and currently gives “lectures on consciousness, positive thought and spirituality,” including a monthly “Spiritual Potpourri.”

Though she assures us that “she also does spiritual readings over the phone to help you with your spiritual purpose,” Stanley’s main area is sound therapy. “After a crystal therapy treatment in July 1992 Dr. Stanley experienced a spiritual awakening that opened her up to new talents for sound, music and intuitive qualities,” claims her bio, and she ostensibly developed her own brand of sound therapy in response to her experiences. Stanley’s brand of sound therapy, more aptly called “sound healing”, “consists of tuning forks applied to acupuncture points on the body.” As evidence, she offers two quotes: “Every illness is a musical problem and every cure has a musical solution” (attributed “Novalis 16th century” – we haven’t checked whether Novalis really said this, but the fact that Stanley is off with about two centuries on his life sort of suggests that she hasn’t actually read him either) and “[t]he Body is held together by sound. The presence of disease indicates that some sounds have gone out of tune” (attributed to Deepak Chopra – we haven’t double checked this one either but will happily grant that it sounds like Chopra).

How exactly the treatment is supposed to work is somewhat unclear, however, so we’ll just give you Stanley’s full description: “Tuning forks are applied to acupuncture points on the body. Light therapy is above the treatment table and a Infratonic sound therapy machine with alpha waves is placed on the shoulder or belly to give the patient a sense of relaxation. Alpha waves are the first state of meditation/relaxation. It trains the brain to relax/meditate and gain access to a whole new way of living: less anxiety, less stagnation, greater health, fewer accidents, more creativity, clarity, more peak performance, and more happiness.” You are probably supposed to fill in the details yourself, but she suggests that her tuning forks could “maybe even break up some calcium deposits in our psychic center of the Pineal Gland to create and enhance connection to our higher self, intuition, guides and angels.”

She has apparently also produced a CD, “Walking Between Worlds”, but we have somehow failed to tempt ourselves into sampling it. Her website also contains ample information on astrology, earth changes and crystal skulls. Do visit it (but you need to google it yourself).

Diagnosis: It’s all there. We honestly suspect her alma mater would be proud of her. Utter rubbish, of course, but probably harmless.

Chuck & Lency Spezzano

Pschology of Vision (POV) is, allegedly, a “transpersonal model of healing that employs cutting edge psychological tools and methodology with the miracle power of grace.” Yes, it’s New Age bullshit, and there is some entropy principle at work here to the effect that for any word in a sentence on a New Age website beyond the tenth, the probably increases exponentially that it will devolve into a word salad. And as New Age bullshit POV is, of course, as nonsensical and hollow as you get it, and the movement seems mostly to be some kind of New Age personality cult revolving around Charles L. “Chuck” and Lency Spezzano.

At some point Chuck Spezzano marketed himself as “one of the world’s leading psychologists” and “experts on relationships and personal growth therapy”, though there is apparently a 2004 court decision in Hawaii that promises him more than a slap on the wrist if he or his minions falsely market him as a professional “psychologist” (Spezzano is not a psychologist and has never been licensed as a psychologist) – his minions (such as POV trainer Avril Woodward) still seem to forget themselves so frequently that it is hard to explain it as honest mistakes. Lency Spezzano, on the other hand, is “pioneering POV’s mystical path through her joining method, which utilizes the feminine, direct access to divine love, resulting in the release of emotional pain from the body/mind and the experience of miracles of forgiveness and grace.” That seems, frankly, to be a rather more illustrative description of what they are actually doing. It would be interesting (or not) to hear Lency Spezzano try to define “method”. What they jointly promote seems to be something closely resembling the Law of attraction, which seems to have become the fundamental common tenet on the New Age self-help circuit. There are also vibrations, of course (“29 of February, 2016 is an extremely high vibrational day, so it is essential to focus on remaining grounded, centered and balanced to absorb and fully integrate the energies”), and numerology: “In numerology (2+9=11) and (2+2+1+6=11) equates to 11:11. According to numerology the number 11 has the energy and the qualities of patience, honesty, spirituality, sensitivity, intuition and is idealistic and compassionate” – more or less like all the other numbers according to numerology, in other words. You’d probably encounter some difficulties trying to explain the use–mention distinction or what a category mistake is to these people.

Chuck Spezzano has apparently “authored over 40 books and card decks [!]” and his “greatest inspirations come from A Course in Miracles.” You have, in other words, to be pretty lost to confuse him with a psychologist. His New Age rantings have, however, garnered what seems to be something of a following in the US and Europe, to whom he apparently comes across as something of a guru – indeed, the last few years Spezzano seems to have owned that role completely, even adopting the title “Master Chuck”.

There is a lot of information about POV, the Spezzanos and the international cult they have somewhat successfully built up here.

Diagnosis: To be honest, it is hard to shake the feeling that the Spezzanos know exactly what they are doing, but if they don’t they must count as being among the most nonsense-dense specimens in the New Age circus currently enjoying even a modicum of success in their cult-building efforts. You wouldn’t think they’d be particularly dangerous, but cults are strange beasts. Caution is recommended.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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