Tag Archives: politics

Why I’m Considering Quitting Twitter (And What Keeps Me From Quitting)

I’ve been avoiding this subject for a while now. I had a feeling I would eventually have to address it at some point. I would’ve like to wait until the new year. But lately, I’ve been feeling a greater sense of urgency.

I doubt that’ll surprise anyone because it has to do with Twitter.

If you’ve been following the news surrounding Twitter lately, you probably understand why that is. To call it a chaotic trainwreck would be a gross and generous understatement. It’s gotten to a point now that waiting for things to settle is akin to waiting for pink elephants to fly down from Mars.

I don’t want to get too heavily into all the drama surrounding Twitter, as an organization, since Elon Musk purchased the company for $44 billion. If you want an in-depth overview of that affair, there are plenty of sources more qualified than me to cover it. Thus far, I’ve found this video by the Wall Street Journal to be the most comprehensive.

Beyond the business side of things, there’s the state of the site and service itself. I’ve been on Twitter since 2010. I’ve been using it extensively since then, both as a communication tool and a source of information. Whenever I’m waiting for a new movie trailer or major news to drop, Twitter is my go-to source. Usually, it starts trending before a major news outlet reports on it.

Granted, that sometimes means unfounded rumors start to trend as well. It also means I end up following false information for a time, especially when there are conflicting reports about an event or subject. But for years now, that has been my primary means of consuming news and information. It’s also my primary means of interacting with friends I’ve made, usually regarding comics, movies, video games, etc.

I don’t deny there have been issues over the years. At times, Twitter has been a problem in the sense that I either use it too much or I waste too much time trying to make sense of certain trends or threads. But for the most part, I’ve felt that the positives outweighed the negatives.

That changed recently.

Over the past couple of months, since Musk began his overhaul of Twitter, I’ve sensed a shift in overall experience of the site. It feels like Twitter has become less and less ordered, with respect to managing content and toxic trends. The safeguards that existed before Musk were far from perfect, but they were at least tolerable. Now, I’m not so sure.

I’m seeing more and more instances of people just being unrestrained assholes on Twitter. Behavior that once got people banned or suspended are now becoming distressingly common. I’m not just talking about instances of excessive profanity, racial slurs, or bigotry. The messages and content are so egregiously hateful and antagonistic that it’s painting a nasty picture of people, in general.

Now, I’m well-aware that there are some pretty toxic places on the internet. I’m also aware that people will say horrible, disgusting things when they can hide behind the cloak of anonymity. I’ve been to places like 4chan, message boards, and comments sections in fringe news outlets. The kinds of things people say in those spaces is so over-the-top awful that you do have to take a step back, take some deep breaths, and calm yourself before you say or do something foolish in response.

But those spaces tend to be small and concentrated in nature. You don’t usually see those things in places that also stream mainstream news content. Well, in this emerging state within Twitter, I’m seeing this sort of stuff more and more. It hasn’t quite gotten to the same level as your typical 4chan post, but it’s trending in that direction. And personally, I have no desire to see how close it gets to that level.

This has left me at a bit of a crossroads.

I am seriously considering quitting Twitter altogether.

I don’t think I’ll delete my account completely, since it does contain things I hope others would find useful. But at the very least, I’m weighing the benefits of simply stepping away from its platform because its current state is just too difficult to navigate. I worry that if I keep using it as often as I have over the years, my overall faith in humanity will suffer as a result. There’s only so many hateful, bigoted, whiny trolling I can handle before I start to think less of the human species, as a whole.

My faith in humanity has already taken a severe hit in recent years. Between the COVID-19 Pandemic and the current state of politics, I’ve found it increasingly difficult to believe in the inherent goodness of people as a whole. I know that’s dangerous. I also know that Twitter offers a very small sample of human discourse. It’s not even top 5 in terms of social media sites. In general, it presents a very flawed perspective in terms of humanity as a whole. It also, by design, tends to amplify the most extreme, fringe voices.

That’s a good enough reason for many to leave Twitter altogether. I already know some who have, including a few public figures.

However, there are a few things that keep me hesitant to leave Twitter entirely. As bad as it has become, it is still undeniably useful in many regards. In terms of keeping up with news, especially with comics and movies, it still beats many other social media platforms in terms of getting quick, raw information on specific topics of interest. So long as those topics aren’t too politically charged, you can usually avoid the more toxic side of the site.

On top of that, some good friends of mine that I’ve met through comic book message boards, Reddit, and my YouTube channel are on Twitter and that’s the only way I can interact with them. I’ve even reached out to a few to see if they’re reachable on other platforms. Some are, but others aren’t and I genuinely don’t want to lose those connections.

I also feel like I can mitigate part of the toxic experience by simply avoiding the trending topics, especially when there’s politics involved. Doing so does take more will-power than it used to. Sometimes, you curiosity does get the better of you. It also requires you to use the mute and block functions more often. But that can be tedious at times. It can also mean that you craft your own little echo-chambers, which is not at all healthy.

At the moment, I would really prefer not to quit Twitter, if only because it’s still so useful as a tool for news and information of a certain variety.

At the same time, I don’t like the current trend it’s on. I also don’t like how it’s being managed and developed. If it continues its current path, it’ll become more and more populated by the kinds of extreme, radical voices that have made so many other places on the internet and social media untenable. And I have no desire to be part of any online space of that nature. I don’t need that kind of toxicity coloring my view of people, the world, or various issues.

I just hope it doesn’t come to that.

For now, I’m still going to remain on Twitter. However, I’m also actively looking for alternatives that are just as useful and can easily be adopted by my friends. If I do find one that’s just as good as what Twitter used to be, then that makes the decision to leave a lot easier. Until then, the best I can do is be more cautious and mindful of how I navigate Twitter.

If anyone has any insights or advice on this matter, please share it in the comments. I’m certainly open to input and insight, especially for those wrestling with a similar decision. If and when I do decide to leave Twitter, I’ll be sure to announce it on this site and provide information to anyone else who still wishes to follow me.

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Combating Hate And Politics With Kindness (With Lessons From Mr. Rogers)

We live in a strange time.

I know you could say that about many other periods in history. Even within my own lifetime, I’ve experienced periods that are well beyond the scope of what we think of as normal. The recent upheavals with the COVID-19 pandemic certainly qualify.

But as overwhelming as that was, I still find today’s current state of affairs both unusual and striking. It’s not just that things are changing so fast and we’re all struggling to keep up. That has been a constant for much of the modern world. It’s more that people seemed so overwhelmed, so upset, and so frustrated that they’re forgetting the most basic elements of getting along with fellow human beings.

It’s true. People have always been mean, hateful, and downright cruel to one another. You don’t have to look far into the recent or distant past to see humans committing egregious atrocities on other humans. And I certainly don’t deny there have been worse times in that regard. If you’re alive today, you should consider yourself somewhat lucky. It wasn’t that long ago that such atrocities were both disturbingly common and largely unpunished.

But even with that perspective in mind, I feel like our collective capacity to hate one another has escalated considerably. You could blame politics, going back to the 2016 Presidential Election or even the 2008 Presidential Election. You could also blame the media, pop culture, social trends, religion, and everything in between. I know I’ve criticized those things plenty and will likely continue to do so in the future.

At the end of the day, though, I understand there’s only so much you can do to influence another person. Whether it’s on politics, personal tastes, or personality quirks, we’re all still individuals. We still have our own thoughts, feelings, and biases. That has always been the case. But I can’t recall a time when those elements we all share have been the fuel for so much outright hatred.

It’s easy to notice online, but it’s happening more and more in real life. Real people are committing real acts of violence and hatred towards other people for the simple crime of not agreeing with them on something, be it politics, ideology, or pop culture. It’s getting to a point where the disagreements don’t even have to be about something big like politics or religion. Just being different and existing is now sufficient to invite someone’s hatred.

That is not a tenable state of affairs.

That is not good for individuals, people, or the world in general.

You can blame the internet and political polarization all you want on this, but that only goes so far. At the end of the day, it’s people who still act. It’s people who still speak and send messages through various mediums, be it mundane or hateful. The tools we use don’t create the hate. They may reinforce and spread it. But like it or not, we are the ones that create it. We are the ones that use it as excuses for violence and hate.

I don’t deny that I’ve said dumb things on the internet. I’ve expressed hateful sentiments, both in real life and online. I’m only human and I do regret it. But I also try to counter those inclinations with something stronger. And as I’ve gotten older, I’ve come to realize that doing so is not that difficult. It doesn’t even require some kind of radical rethinking of your current thoughts, beliefs, or biases.

It all comes down to a simple approach.

Be kind.

That’s it. That’s really all you need to counter so much of the hate and mistrust that seems to infect our world at every turn. It may sound simplistic or cliched, but make no mistake. There’s real power in kindness. Most people understand that on some levels. But one man, in particular, dedicated his life to understanding it. You’ve probably heard of him. His name is Fred Rogers, better known to generations of kids as Mr. Rogers from “Mr. Rogers Neighborhood.”

Now, there’s a lot I could say about him and his message. There are no shortage of stories about him that are so heartwarming, they help renew your faith in humanity. But in the spirit of keeping things simple, I’ll just share this clip that I think best explains the true power of kindness.

Please take Mr. Rogers’ message of kindness to heart. In a world as divided as ours, a little kindness goes a long way.

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Filed under Current Events, human nature, Jack Fisher's Insights

How Dental Surgery Changed My View Of Drugs (And The Drug War)

Drugs are bad. You shouldn’t do drugs.

That was the mantra I heard every other day in school as a kid. Others my age heard it too. There were entire assemblies about drugs at least twice a year. There were regular PSA’s after some of my favorite kids shows. Every health and PE class, it seemed, took time out of their schedule to talk about the dangers of drugs.

For the most part, I listened to these message and took them seriously to some extent. However, I could never truly buy in. I’ve mentioned before how certain anti-drug programs I went through in school sent mixed messages. These days, I’ve come to see those programs and most of those anti-drug efforts to be either a waste of time, misguided, or outright deceitful.

I’ll go so far as to say that the drug war is a complete and utter failure and should be ended right now.

I’m not trying to make a political statement. I’m just trying to put my attitude towards drugs and the drug war in context. A lot factors went into this current overview. However, there was one particular experience that really re-shaped how I saw this issue. It wasn’t something I experienced in school or some life-changing PSA. It was actually a result of dental surgery.

That, in and of itself, is saying a lot because, as I’ve noted before, I despise going to the dentist.

A big part of that aversion to going has to do with some of my less-than-stellar dental health over the years. I’m not just talking about having a cavity or two. Most people deal with that. I’ve actually had a number of major dental procedures over the years. I’ve had fillings in my molars, gum grafts for my lower lip, and a whitening procedure that made my teeth hurt for days on end.

In short, I haven’t had many pleasant experiences at the dentist. In fact, most of my major medical procedures thus far have been of the oral health variety.

However, it was when I had my wisdom teeth removed that really changed my outlook on drugs. It also happened to be the most significant medical procedure I had done at that point. It marked the first procedure that required general anesthesia and recovery process. Naturally, I was nervous, but it had to be done.

For a lot of people, getting wisdom teeth removed is entirely necessary. I was among those who had to get it done as early as possible. The longer I waited, the more it would damage my teeth, my mouth, and my overall well-being. Those were my dentist’s exact words.

The experience, itself, was fairly standard. Even if I was nervous, I knew it had to be done. My mother even took time off work to take me because she knew I would be out of it for a while. However, I don’t think she knew just how much the drugs used in the procedure would effect me.

Again, this was my first major surgery and my first encounter with the powerful drugs used in said surgery. I had little experience and no tolerance, whatsoever. Naturally, I was going to react. I just didn’t know how colorful my reaction would be.

It went like this.

I sat down in a dental chair, the nurse put something over my nose, and then told me she was delivering some nitrous oxide.

I distinctly remember her putting this tiny rubber mask over my nose. I don’t remember anything three seconds after that.

The next thing I knew, it was over. I woke up, my mouth was full of gauze, and the dentist said we were done. He might have said something more, but I honestly don’t remember because I was laughing so had.

This is when I learned why nitrous oxide was also known as laughing gas. I definitely got the laughing part down.

However, I wasn’t juts laughing. I was light-headed, loopy, and just giggling like the happiest guy in the world. I don’t remember a whole lot about what I did or said, but I felt so good, despite my mouth being bloodied and sore. I’m also pretty sure I told the nurse I loved her and I might have even proposed to her. I don’t know. I’m genuinely worried that I made that nurse uncomfortable.

Also, remember that my mother is there. She has never seen me this doped up before. She had hard time not laughing. If she’s reading this right now, she might start laughing at the memory because I really was that out of it. I was so drugged up that my mother actually got my dad on the phone so he could hear me. I don’t remember what I said, but I’m pretty sure he laughed too.

Eventually, the effects did wear off. When they did, my mouth hurt. It het a lot. It was at that point when drugs stopped being funny and I realized something important.

Sometimes, you really do need drugs in order to get through something.

For me, it was serious dental surgery.

For others, it might be something else and it doesn’t always have to with medical procedures.

On top of that, these drugs work. Seriously, I do not know how I could’ve possibly endured getting my wisdom teeth removed without anesthesia. I’m pretty sure I wouldn’t have laughed nearly as much or flirted with the nurse.

Beyond the actual procedure, I was also prescribed some prescription strength pain killers to help with the pain afterwards. I won’t say what type of pills the were. I’ll just confirm that they were a form of opioids. Yes, they were those kinds of opioids.

I’ll also confirm that those pills worked. They were very effective at making my jaw hurt less as I recovered from the procedure. Sometimes, they worked a little too well. That was why I was generally very reluctant to take them. However, they did get the job done. Were it not for those pills, my recovery from that surgery would’ve been a lot more painful.

That’s really what it all came back to, pain and comfort. These drugs were necessary for me. They also made me feel really good while I was enduring something very distressing. That put a very different context around drugs, the drug war, and why people do drugs. Suddenly, all those anti-drug messages I got from school seemed woefully shallow.

Yes, drugs can be very dangerous and harmful. The number of people who die from overdoses is proof enough of that. However, people don’t just take drugs to overdose from them. There’s generally another reason behind it and that reason doesn’t always revolve around getting high.

While that does happen, it’s not nearly as damaging as many of those anti-drug messages claim. My experience with dental surgery gave me a taste of how pleasant it could be. I wouldn’t blame anyone at all for wanting to pursue that feeling, even if doing so came with serious risks.

More than anything else, my dental surgery experience complicated the whole issue of drugs, drug abuse, and why we wage war on drugs. The feelings I experienced, especially with the benefit of hindsight, convinced me that waging a war on drugs just isn’t winnable. These drugs work too well and people generally like to feel good. Like it or not, that’s exactly what these drugs do.

As time goes on, I’m also convinced that the drug war and the overly simplistic “drugs are bad” message is a gross oversimplification, as well as a misguided crusade. Why people do drugs varies, but let’s not avoid the truth. These drugs have potent effects and so long as people desire these effects, there will be those who seek drugs and abuse them.

To those who have only a limited understanding of drugs and drug abuse, I hope this experience helps change your perspective a bit.

Also, to that nurse who was there after I had my dental surgery, I sincerely apologize if I said anything inappropriate. It turns out nitrous oxide just has that effect on me.

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Filed under health, human nature, politics, psychology, real stories

I Paid Off My Entire Student Debt Years Ago, But I Gladly Support Student Debt Forgiveness

When I was in grade school, I got beaten up by a bully. It was painful, humiliating, and left lasting scars that I would not want anyone to experience.

When I was still in college, I tried to put together my first website that I hoped would help me make a few extra bucks on the side. I even paid for this service that was supposed to help get my site listed on major search engines at the time. That turned out to be a scam and I lost $150 at a time when I couldn’t afford to loes that kind of money. I don’t want anyone to experience that, either.

We all have experiences in our lives that we don’t wish for others to experience. It’s a big reason why parents strive to create better lives for their children, especially if they themselves had a difficult upbringing. I’ve known people who had horribly abusive parents, but they made it a point to ensure their children got the love and kindness that she never got.

This is an objectively good and moral thing. It’s something most are inclined to celebrate and support. So, with all that in mind, why should forgiving student loan debt be any different?

It had been talked about and entertained a great deal during the 2020 Presidential Election. Some candidates even made it a central part of their platform. But earlier this week, it became official. President Biden announced that a sizable chunk of student loan debt for millions of Americans would be forgiven.

USA Today: ‘Debt and no degree’: Biden cancels as much as $20K in student loan debt: Recap

Now, I understand there are a lot of political machinations behind moves like this, none of which I’m smart enough to make sense of, let alone articulate. I also understand there are some real, logistical reasons as to why forgiving student loan debt is difficult and will likely incur a greater cost in the near and far future. I’m sure I’ll notice that cost personally at some point.

All that being said, I still strongly support this. I would even support more student loan debt forgiveness, especially for those who were hit hardest by the COVID-19 pandemic and the economic downturn it triggered. And I say that as someone who paid off every penny of his debt back in 2011.

I know that makes me a bit of an anomaly, especially when compared to my peers in my graduating class. I knew some people who had taken out as much as $100,000 in loans in order to go to college. It wasn’t because they were reckless or stupid. They just came from families who could not afford to save money for college without starving. They also didn’t qualify for grants or scholarships.

And for the record, many of these peers were not majoring in “useless degrees.” I didn’t know a single person majoring in gender studies, philosophy, or underwater basket weaving. Most majored in things like engineering, medicine, and computer science. They were smart people who had the skills to get quality jobs as soon as they graduated. But not all of them were able to find jobs and even those that did still had what amounted to a mortgage payment cutting into their salary every month.

This is not a tenable system.

It’s also not how other industrialized countries do higher education.

In general, sending young people to college is an investment in people. We, the tax paying public, understand that there’s social and economic value in educating people at a high level. It’s a critical component for a functioning, prosperous society. And we don’t do that society any favors by shackling them with a massive amount of debt that they can’t get rid of, even in bankruptcy.

Looking back on it, I probably could’ve moved forward in my life much faster if I didn’t graduate with the debt I had. Granted, my debt was considerably smaller than most, but it still ensured I had to live at home a number of years and couldn’t afford any major investments, be it retirement or a car. I can only imagine how much further it held back peers with far bigger debts.

On top of that, the cost of college has gotten considerably more expensive since I graduated. I even went back and checked the tuition from my old school. Even with in-state benefits, I would’ve paid more than twice the amount I paid for the same degree. And the job market after I graduated would be nowhere near what it was years ago.

Despite these circumstances, as well as the undeniable burdens that come with being shackled with so much debt, I still here a common complaint from those who oppose student loan debt forgiveness. It has similar themes, but it usually boils down to comments like this.

“You took out a big loan? Too bad! Get a job and pay it back, you lazy moochers!”

“I paid back all my debt years ago. Why should you get to avoid paying yours?”

“It’s not fair! I didn’t even get to go to college because I was too poor. Why should I pay for your degree?”

Now, first off, if you’ve ever said something like this out loud to another human being who is currently struggling to keep up with loan payments in a terrible job market still recovering from a pandemic, I have one thing to say to you.

Fuck you.

Seriously, fuck all the way off.

Second, if your opposition boils down to all these young people getting an advantage you never got when you were that age, know that that’s a total bullshit reason. Even if you paid all your debts off by hard work and sacrifice, who are you to force millions of young people to do the same? Their situation is different. Times have changed a great deal since you were in college. They’ve changed a great deal in the past five years alone.

These aren’t all the self-entitled brats you hear Bill Maher and Tucker Carlson whining about every week. Those people do exist, but they’re an extreme minority who just happen to whine the loudest. Most of the millions of students who will benefit from this program are genuine, hard-working young people trying to build better lives. They just can’t do that when they’re shackled with this kind of debt.

To ignore their plight because you think it’s unfair to those who paid off their debts isn’t just a dick move. It makes no sense. Think back to those incidents I mentioned earlier about enduring a hardship that I wouldn’t wish on others. Dealing with student loans is a serious hardship. And even if you got out of it, why condemn others to suffer?

That’s akin to opposing polio vaccines, antibiotics, and lead free paint because you had to deal with the world before all these terrible things. So you want others to deal with it too. That’s not fair. That’s not just. That’s just you being a cruel, sadistic prick to millions of your fellow Americans.

Again, fuck you.

I don’t care that I paid off all my loans already. I don’t care that many young people will get to skip the hardships I endured when I was younger. If anything, I will gladly cheer on those who benefit from this act. You have an opportunity I never enjoyed. I sincerely hope to make the most of it.

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Filed under Current Events, political correctness, politics

How To Survive An Authoritarian Regime: 6 Tips For Resisting (And Surviving)

The following is a video from my YouTube channel, Jack’s World. This video is based on an piece I wrote on this site back in 2017. It covers my tips and strategies for resisting an authoritarian government. It wasn’t a battle plan for soldiers as much as it was a guide for ordinary people. In a world where authoritarians are always seeking more power, I thought this was a relevant issue to explore. I tried to craft it in a manner that wouldn’t require combat training and could be done by anyone seeking to both resist and survive. Enjoy!

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Filed under history, human nature, Jack's World, politics, YouTube

Why I Don’t Feel Bad For Enjoying Alex Jones’ (Growing) Misfortune

In general, it’s not good, healthy, or ethical to take pleasure in someone else’s misfortune. Even if you despise someone for what they do, what they say, or what they believe, it’s usually not good for someone mentally or emotionally to take excess joy in someone else’s suffering. I won’t say it’s entirely wrong to feel a slight twinge of happiness when someone you don’t like endures loss or misfortune. It’s just one of those things you should not overdo.

I certainly don’t deny that I’ve had those feelings in the past. There have been a number of occasions in which I felt genuinely happy to hear that someone hurt themselves or in some way faced meaningful consequences for some egregious misdeed. I’m not proud of it. I generally try not to feel that way when it happens and when it does, I try to remind myself that this isn’t good for me as a person.

All that being said, I will gladly make an exception for someone like Alex Jones.

Now, if you’ve never heard of Alex Jones, consider yourself very lucky. Hell, I envy anyone who has lived much of their life having never seen or heard of this unhinged, eccentric blowhard. I won’t provide a detailed breakdown of why he’s a relevant figure, how he came to become a mini-celebrity of sorts, or recount his lengthy history of gross misdeeds.

I don’t even want to link to the man’s Wikipedia page. I flat out refuse to burden anyone with excess knowledge of who this man is.

All you really need to know about Alex Jones is that he is the most extreme of extreme right-wing media grifters. He is also one of the loudest/most obnoxious proponents of the most insane and extreme conspiracy theories to ever be conjured by unthinking minds. This isn’t just a guy who believes there’s a shadowy cabal of elites who secretly control and guide the course of world events. This is a guy who thinks aliens, shape-shifting lizards, and Jewish bankers conspire to turn frogs gay.

Seriously, I wish I were making that last one up, but that’s disturbingly real. It became a meme for a while and is supposed to be funny. But make no mistake, there’s nothing funny about the extremism that Alex Jones promotes or the suffering it causes.

You need look no further than the suffering he’s caused the families of the children who died tragically at the Sandy Hook shooting. It’s bad enough that these parents suffered the loss of their child, a pain no parent should ever have to endure. But because of Alex Jones and the people who take him seriously, those grieving parents were subjected to endless harassment by those who claimed they were crisis actors and that their child never even existed.

Seriously, that’s what Jones actively promoted. He believed the whole Sandy Hook shooting (and most other mass shootings, for that matter) was a plot orchestrated by the government to enact stricter gun control laws so that the general populous could be disarmed. It’s as crazy, callous, and downright ghastly.

Just take a moment to appreciate what these parents have been through. First, they had to bury their own child. Then, some asshole on the internet claims they’re just actors pretending to be sad and they’re actually plotting with shape-shifting lizard people in the government. And because there are too many sadistic assholes with internet connections, they start harassing you and your family, claiming the child you loved and had to bury never existed.

There’s being a dick, there’s being cruel, and then there’s that. I honestly don’t have a word for just how awful that is on so many levels. Nobody should have to endure that, let alone the parents of grieving children.

That’s why when the parents of the Sandy Hook victims sued Alex Jones for defamation, I eagerly cheered them on. I never expect Jones or anyone like him to go to jail or anything. They’re too good at hiring competent lawyers and pushing the limits of free speech to ever suffer a fate that deserving. At the very least, I hoped they would hit Jones in his wallet in a way that really hurt.

A part of me even hoped that this lawsuit would render Jones penniless, homeless, and no longer able to maintain his bullshit conspiracy show. I know that was hoping for too much. However, it seems as though his egregious behavior is finally catching up to him. Thanks to his own ineptitude, and a huge mistake by his own lawyer, Alex Jones has lost this defamation case.

AP News: Alex Jones ordered to pay Sandy Hook parents more than $4M

It’s no longer a matter of if Jones will have to pay the parents of the Sandy Hook victims money for his bullshit. It’s just a matter of how much he’ll have to pay. That $4 million is just for compensatory damages. The amount for punitive damages is potentially much higher. Given the amount of suffering this man has caused to parents grieving the deaths of their children, I honestly don’t know if there’s an amount high enough for him to pay.

I don’t care that Jones claims his company is bankrupt, which is bullshit. Even if he were, he deserves to pay a high price for what he’s done.

This isn’t about free speech, as he loves to claim.

It’s not about silencing him, as he also loves to claim while playing the victim.

This is about what he has done and the consequences of those deeds. Because of the crap he spewed on his show, the parents of these dead children have suffered horrendous abuse. On top of that, Alex Jones knew about this. The trial presented ample evidence that he knew and he did not do anything to stop it, let alone rectify it.

Like it or not, he is responsible for the continued suffering of these people.

He should pay a price.

He’s gone many years saying egregiously wrong things, spreading misinformation and conspiracy theories. In the process, real people have suffered real harm that they never would’ve endured, had it not been for Jones.

Yes, he still has a right to say what he said. He can’t be punished for that.

But that sacred right of free speech is not a shield from consequences.

For too long, he has evaded any semblance of consequence for what he’s said and done on his joke of a show. On top of that, he uses that same show to peddle bullshit supplements and products like the worst kind of snake oil salesman. As a result, he’s made millions from his viewers and his used his platform to elevate the voices of some truly despicable people who have done too much to foster hate, mistrust, and ignorance.

Now, Jones is finally poised to suffer real, tangible loss for his misdeeds. And since his misdeeds go beyond even harassing the parents of slain children, it sets a precedent for others to follow. Personally, I hope more follow the lead of the Sandy Hook parents. I hope more opt to sue Jones for every last penny he has and then some.

It’s bound to hurt him financially, as well as personally. But whatever he suffers, I don’t feel a shred of sympathy for him. I’ll even let myself take some enjoyment in his failure to evade repercussions. Because sadly, it’s exceedingly rare for assholes with money to face any real consequences for their actions. I don’t expect this trail with Alex Jones to change that on a large scale, but a little karmic justice goes a long way these days.

It’s still not clear how much the results of this trial will hurt Jones in the long run. Whatever it does, it’s still far less than he deserves. And in case there’s still any lingering ambiguity about how I feel on this issue or this arrogant blow-hard, allow me to end this with one simple message.

Fuck you, Alex Jones!

Fuck off, you lying, selfish, ignorant, grifting, loud-mouthed, snake-oil selling, pitiful excuse for a slob of a man!

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A Frightening (But Possible) Scenario For The Near Future

It has been a strange, scary, and distressing time for the United States of America. Anyone who has been following the news in any capacity these past five years would likely agree. Between the politics, the culture wars, and people whining about female characters in “Star Wars,” it has gotten quite ugly.

I also sincerely regret that I have likely contributed to that ugliness at times. I don’t deny that I have written things on this site that, in hindsight, were probably misguided in terms of both intent and overall point.

However, I won’t go so far as to delete what I’ve written or deny that I ever felt differently than I do now. I just accept that there have been times in my life where I believed, accepted, and propagated things I thought to be right, but eventually realized were wrong.

That’s neither good nor bad.

That’s just life and how your perspective changes with time.

Except now, I’m at an age where it’s a little easier to see the forest from the trees, with respect to current events. Not long ago, I thought I understood the general arc of politics, trends, cultural issues, and what not. I could see the patterns that began with people whining about Marilyn Manson and “South Park” in the 90s and culminated with people whining about diversity in children’s shows and boob armor today.

I now realize I was wrong, yet again.

I didn’t know just how messy, regressive, and irrational these issues could be, even in a first world country like the United States of America.

If I ever gave the impression that I was more informed than most, I apologize. I’m not. I know now that I hadn’t been on this planet long enough to see just how bad things could get or how much large groups of people could collectively deny objective reality.

As a result, the optimism with which I once harbored about the future of America and the human race in general has taken a severe hit. I won’t say it’s utterly dead, but it is on life support at the moment. With each passing day, I see people with objectively un-American ideas about freedom claiming they’re the true patriots. I also see people exercising blatant, unambitious hypocrisy and paying no price and feeling no shame.

Now, in wake of the Supreme Court’s ruling overturning Roe v. Wade and setting abortion rights back 50 years, I’m just about out of hope. It’s not just that I’m strongly against forcing women to have babies they don’t want or using misguided religious zealotry to justify certain laws, policies, or positions. These are all positions that a vast majority of people don’t agree with.

The same goes for organized religion. It has been in steady decline for decades. Young people, especially, are no longer buying into this old dogma. Despite that, the religious right has never been more powerful and it shows no signs of waning. And I’ve been on this planet long enough to understand something disheartening and distressing.

When uptight, repressive people gain power, they seek to use it. And they will use it in ways that are bound to be unpopular, damaging, and destructive. Since my beliefs, politics, and background are not at all in line with these zealots, I will likely feel that impact. I might not feel it as much as others, but I will feel it.

I don’t claim to know the future. I also know that things always change, no matter how hopeful or bleak they seem. However, given the cycles I’ve seen and the trends I’ve seen throughout my adult life, I get the sense the direction of that change is not going in a good direction. Moreover, it’ll never go in the direction it needs to for more people to prosper.

In order to illustrate this sentiment, I want to offer the following scenario that may or may not be a result of ongoing trends.


The year is 20XX.

The White House, both sides of Congress, and the Supreme Court are dominated by conservative Christian republicans. They’ve spent the past two years furthering their agenda, passing wildly unpopular policies that curtail abortion rights, denigrate LGBTQ communities, undermine public education, and embolden politically connected religious organizations.

Now, the mid-terms are coming up and it looks very likely that they’ll lose control of Congress. Several prominent democrats even promise to block any further policies by the religious right. However, rather than accept the loss of power that comes with every election cycle, leaders in the religious right decide to take action.

First, they start passing laws meant to “preserve democracy,” but end up limiting peoples’ ability to vote.

Then, they start promoting stories claiming that the other side is preparing to cheat during the election.

Then, they elevate news stories of questionable credibility that claim operatives within the democratic party have been arrested or charged with potential election crimes.

Then, in the name of preserving democracy, the upcoming election is deferred several months.

Then, protests and outrage break out across many major cities.

Then, the republican president declares a state of emergency, which includes enacting martial law within multiple states, especially those likely to have democratic governors or majorities.

Then, the National Guard and local police are deployed to quell riots and ensure peace.

Then, mass arrests take place. The fact that many of those arrested happen to be democrats or minorities is claimed to be just a coincidence or unrelated.

Then, voting rights for those arrested and charged with crimes are suspended.

Then, “special elections” take place, but under strict rules governed by a republican Congress and many republican dominated state governments.

Then, democratic leaders sue and attempt to block the act, but the conservative Supreme Court rules against them.

Then, the election results are in and, despite vast swaths of the public not being able to or allowed to vote, the conservative Christian republican candidates win and win big.

Then, armed with this new power, they alter more rules regarding elections and legislation in the name of “preserving the peace” or “protecting the public” or “maintaining democracy.”

In the end, the only citizens who are allowed to or are capable of voting are conservative Christian republicans and the only candidates they can vote for just happen to be conservative Christians. As a result, more regressive laws are passed that are not at all popular, let alone constitutional.

But that doesn’t matter at this point. It’s too late. They have the power and they’re never letting it go again.


Now, what I just described is only one possible scenario. I freely admit it’s an extreme scenario, not unlike what played out in “The Handmaid’s Tale.” However, extreme or not, the possibility is there, as are the disturbing trends.

The reversal of Roe vs. Wade and the domination of the Supreme Court by conservative right wing Christian may very well be the first act in a new trend. I’ve seen throughout my adult life how bold and unapologetic these types of shameless bullies can be.

It doesn’t matter if they’re caught lying.

It doesn’t matter if they’re caught in an act of blatant hypocrisy.

It doesn’t even matter if someone finds out they paid their mistress to get an abortion.

They face no consequences and feel no shame. They keep getting away with their deplorable behavior and they have every incentive to seek more power and influence. So long as they get the right people to vote for them, use the flaws of the system to their advantage, and depend on the relative apathy of most citizens, they’ll remain in power and they’ll keep securing more.

That’s always the endgame. It’ll go on as long as there’s are new opportunities and no obstacles, be they laws or people, to get in their way. And at this point, I honestly don’t know if there’s enough obstacles anymore.

Encouraging people to vote doesn’t seem to work anymore because voting has become so diluted in the United States. Unless you live in a swing state, it really doesn’t matter.

Encouraging people to protest doesn’t seem to matter, either. At most, it just inconveniences people who are rich, powerful, and capable of hiring private security. They literally have no incentive to change anything about what they’re doing or why they’re doing it.

I wish I knew of a solution or recourse. I really do. Maybe there is and I’m just not smart enough to realize it, let alone articulate it. But at the moment, I’ve never been less hopeful about the future of the United States and the human race in general. I really hope I’m wrong about my current outlook, but I’m not sure what could change these distressing trends.

If we’re at a point where we can’t even agree on objective reality anymore, then what hope do we have of creating a better reality for our future?

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A Re-Re-Post In Wake of Recent Events: How Overturning Roe v. Wade Can (And Probably Will) Backfire

I know I reposted this once before after the death of Ruth Bader Ginsburg. I really hoped I wouldn’t have to repost it again, but I had a sinking feeling that I would. Given recent events surrounding the Supreme Court and Roe v. Wade, it looks like it’s about to be official. Abortion rights in the United States of America are going to backslide in ways we haven’t seen in over 40 years.

To anyone who has any appreciation of women, justice, and bodily autonomy, this should be very distressing. To those who support and celebrate this change, I hope re-posting this will offer some balance.

While I’ve generally avoided talking about issues like this in the past couple years, this is one I have a feeling nobody will be able to avoid. I also suspect it’s going to get uglier, meaner, and more volatile. I’m not looking forward to it, but there’s no way to avoid it anymore. This is the ugly world we live in. We just have to endure it.


unintended-consequences

As much as I dislike talking about abortion, I don’t deny that I’ve written more about it in the past year than I have since I started this website. I know that sends mixed messages, but I feel there are valid reasons for that.

I watch the news too, although never on a full stomach. I see the same thing everyone else sees with respect to the increasingly tenuous state of abortion rights. With each passing year, more and more restrictions are placed on abortion. As other parts of the world liberalize their laws, the United States is going in the opposite direction.

Now, in wake of shake-ups on the Supreme Court, it’s more likely than ever that Roe v. Wade, the case that legalized abortion nationwide in 1973, will be overturned. While I don’t think it’s guaranteed, I do think it’s possible. If I had to put betting odds on it, I would say that there’s a 50/50 chance that Roe v. Wade could be overturned by 2024.

If that happens, there are many implications. Many people who are more informed on this issue have already articulated as such. Making abortion illegal could lead to more unwanted pregnancy, increases in crime, increases in poverty, and serious health risks for women seeking back-alley abortions.

We’re already seeing some of these impacts play out in states where abortion is severely restricted. Several states have imposed so many restrictions that they’re down to only one abortion clinic. Due to these burdens, the impact on women, especially those who are poor, has been exceedingly harsh.

Those impacts are likely to intensify if Roe v. Wade is overturned, but I don’t want to get into that part of the issue. I also don’t want to focus on the legal issues, since I’m not a lawyer. Instead, I want to focus on unintended consequences.

I know that the anti-abortion crowd has this Utopian vision of a world after Roe v. Wade. They have this dream that the Supreme Court will overrule the 1973 decision and shortly after, every state will outlaw the procedure. They’ll throw a parade. They’ll proclaim to the world that they won.

Suddenly, women can no longer end an unwanted pregnancy. As a result, they have to start carrying their pregnancies to term. This will force the women, the men who impregnated them, and their families to take responsibility for their actions. They can no longer be sexually promiscuous. They now have to temper their behavior and live more restrained lives.

While nobody can predict the future, I can say without reservation that this dream will not come true. Human nature is never that simple, especially when it comes to law. Overturning Roe v. Wade will not end abortion. It will not make women carry more pregnancies to term. It will not lead to a society consistent with Pat Roberston’s values.

That’s because there’s one law that no court can ever overturn and that’s the law of unintended consequences. Make no mistake. There will be unintended consequences for overturning Roe v. Wade, many of which I doubt the anti-abortion movement has contemplated.

What follows are several unintended consequences of overturning Roe v. Wade that will make the anti-abortion crowd cringe. Whether they oppose abortion for religious reasons or for ethical reasons, these are consequences that will do more than taint that abortion-free fever dream of theirs. At the very least, I hope it gives those who oppose abortion a moment of pause.


Consequence #1: Abortion Will Become More Common (And Harder To Protest)

Remember when the United States banned marijuana and shortly after that, it disappeared completely? Neither do I because not only did that fail to occur, the exact opposite transpired. Marijuana has been illegal for nearly a century in the United States and it’s more popular now than it was in the days before “Refer Madness.”

Abortion is not like illicit drugs, but it’s subject to similar influences. In the same way making drugs illegal didn’t make them go away, making abortion illegal won’t make it disappear. It’ll only send it into the depths of the underground economy where the red tape that helps regulate the procedure doesn’t exist.

The history of “back alley abortions” is already well-documented. On top of that, these locations are not clinics where people can gather and protest. That’s what happens when you send something into the shadows. It’s harder to see, study, and scrutinize. In that environment, abortion won’t just become more dangerous. It may become more common because the traditional barriers for entry aren’t there.

If you think that seems like a stretch, just consider the choices involving marijuana. Would you rather try to sneak into a liquor store with security cameras or buy it in a dark alley from someone who has just as much incentive to avoid cops?


Consequence #2: Organized Religion’s Decline Will Accelerate

Even though the influence of religion remains strong, the steady decline of religion is well-documented. This is especially true among the younger generations who are more educated and informed than any generation before them. As a result, they will notice when religious groups take credit for banning abortion.

While those same groups often present themselves as saving babies, that’s not how everyone else will see it. We already live in a world where every racist, misogynistic, theocracy-loving sermon is captured on the internet. The same people who are becoming less religious will have even more reason to resent organized religion.

They won’t see the religiously-motivated, anti-abortion crusaders as holy people who saved innocent babies. They’ll see those people the same way we see those who used religion to justify slavery and racial segregation. Unlike previous years, being non-religious isn’t nearly as taboo and for organizations that rely heavily on adherents giving them money, that’s a big problem.


Consequence #3: An Entire Political Party Will Become The Anti-Woman Party

In the same way banning abortion could accelerate organized religion’s decline, a sizable chunk of the political spectrum could take a similar hit. In the United States, it’s primarily conservatives who oppose abortion and frequently side with religious institutions. They too probably see banning abortion as protecting innocent babies.

Again, that’s not how others will see it. Instead, an emerging generation will see conservatives as the party that put a gun to the head of every pregnant woman and demanded that she endure nine months of bodily rigor to have a child she may not be able to afford. Since women vote and make up half the population, it doesn’t bode well for their ability to win support in the future.

Women already disproportionately lean liberal and banning abortion will likely widen that gap. History shows that it’s hard for any party to overcome those gaps and stay in power. As I’ve noted before, this already played out in the 1960s in Romania. Conservatives would be wise to heed that lesson because that did not end well for the communist party and its leader.


Consequence #4: More Advanced Contraceptives Will Emerge Faster (For Women And Men)

One of the most confounding aspects of the anti-abortion movement is how much certain segments of the movement also oppose contraception. It’s downright hypocritical since education and contraceptive use has definitively shown time and again that it’s the most effective way to reduce abortions.

The fact that the anti-abortion crowd so rarely promotes those policies implies that a sizable chunk of that movement is less concerned about babies and more concerned about sex. I’ve tried to distinguish this crowd from the more sincere segments of the movement, but the lines have become more blurred in recent years.

Those lines might become a lot clearer if abortion were banned nationwide because that suddenly makes the contraception market a lot more valuable. At the moment, there isn’t much incentive to improve on the current contraceptives we have. Granted, they’re much more effective than they were before 1973, but there’s still room for improvement.

Without Roe v. Wade, the need for those improvements will be far greater and it won’t just be focused on women. Contraception for men will also get a boost because unlike 1973, there are more laws in place affecting men with issues like child support. For once, men will have to be just as vigilant about avoiding unwanted pregnancy.

This means emerging technology like the male birth control pill and Vasalgel will get a sizable boost in investment. It also means long-term, more-effective birth control like IUDs for women will get a boost as well. When the same anti-abortion crowd starts protesting that, they’ll reveal just how little they cared for babies in the first place.


Consequence #5: Promiscuous Sex Will Increase (For Entirely New Reasons)

Are you faithful or promiscuous? The answer could lie in your index finger  | The Independent | The Independent

This could also be a direct result of the boost contraception research will get from banning abortion. It’s not just because people will have access to more effective contraception, though. This is one of those backlashes that has more to do with social forces than logistical forces.

For those who are sexually active and value their sexual freedom, overturning Roe v. Wade will come off as a direct personal attack. If you’ve been on the internet for more than five minutes, you know people rarely take personal attacks lying down. They’re more likely to fight back and do the exact opposite of what you hope.

In the same way people in a debate double down on their beliefs in a heated argument, those who supported Roe v. Wade will have another reason to engage in the kind of reckless behavior that the anti-abortion crowd hates. To them, it won’t just be a form of protest. It’ll be a form of trolling.

People already have plenty of reasons to have sex just for the fun of it. No government or religious institution has ever been able to stop that and banning abortion certainly won’t do the trick. While it’s true that banning abortion will make promiscuity more dangerous, it’s also true that people are attracted to danger. If it pisses off someone you already despise, then that’s just a bonus.


Consequence #6: Providing Abortion Services Will Become More Lucrative (And Harder To Regulate)

For every unintended consequence, there’s usually a basis in money. Even for issues that are fueled with high emotions and deeply-held beliefs, it often comes back to money. That’s why the drug war can never be won. That’s why Disney will never stop making movies with singing animals. It’s all about the money.

Abortion, in its current form, is not a huge money-making venture. It’s treated like a medical service. However, put it in the same black market as illicit drugs and suddenly, the profit margins go way up. Remove it from the current medical infrastructure and all the regulations that keep it from being profitable go with it.

Instead of skilled, licensed doctors doing this procedure, people with questionable qualifications can get into the mix. On top of that, they can charge as much or as little as they want without the AMA or the FDA condemning them. That’ll make it more dangerous, but if there’s money to be made, it’ll happen.

Remember, making abortion illegal doesn’t make the women seeking abortion disappear. If they’re desperate enough, they’ll brave that danger and they’ll pay that price. Those willing to navigate that danger and exploit those situations will gain the tax-free profit. For the anti-abortion crowd and the government, it’s lose-lose.


Consequence #7: An Entire Generation Will Despise Its Elders (And Their Traditions)

Throughout history, younger generations have rebelled against older generations. You don’t need to single out the hippie generation of the 1960s to see that. Young people and old people have always whined about each other. These days, you can’t go more than five minutes without seeing a story about how Millennials are ruining something we used to love.

With abortion, there is already an established divide. According to Pew, younger generations tend to be more pro-choice than older generations. On top of that, abortion laws are more likely to affect them because they’re still building their lives and they’re going to get horny/lonely along the way.

This same generation is already more accepting of things that older people resent. They’re more accepting of divorce, polyamory, homosexuality, and all sorts of sexual practices that make priests, monks, mullahs, and rabbis gag. It certainly doesn’t help that the people in power deciding these issues are often old men who will never need an abortion. In terms of optics, it’s a pretty ugly sight.

It won’t just stop at young people distancing themselves from organized religion. It won’t stop at distancing themselves from a political party, either. Overall, the emerging generations will see their elders as the ones who stripped them of a right that they got to enjoy all their lives. That doesn’t just paint them in a negative light. It turns their values and traditions into a target.

Young people don’t need many reasons to rebel against their elders, but this is bigger than someone who can’t work a cell phone. This is an issue that affects the ability of an entire generation to make choices about their bodies, their sexuality, and their future. When another generation takes that away from them, it’s going to evoke more than ridicule. It may get pretty damn ugly.


As always, I want to remind everyone that this is just speculation. I can’t predict the future and there’s no telling what other factors may emerge in this exceedingly controversial issue. That said, I still feel comfortable stating that overturning Roe v. Wade will have consequences, many of them unintended. Some will be minor, but some will result in a full-fledged backlash. It’s just a matter of how we’ll deal with them.

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Happy Martin Luther King Jr. Day

Today is Martin Luther King Jr. Day. It’s not just another national holiday. It’s an opportunity to remember just how far we’ve come as a nation reconciling with its unjust past and how much further we have to go in realizing one man’s dream. Regardless of your politics or attitude, take advantage of that opportunity today. The past cannot be changed, but the future can be molded.

In that spirit, please take a moment to re-listen to Dr. King’s legendary speech, if only to keep that dream alive.

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How To Tell If You’re In A Cult With The B.I.T.E. Model

5 Cult Leaders With Murderous Intentions – AmongMen

Like it or not, religion is a big part of many peoples’ lives. Whether you’re an ardent atheist or an impassioned believer, there’s no getting around it. There are still millions of religious people all over the world, living their lives and practicing their faith. Even though religion, in general, has been in decline in recent decades, it’s still a powerful force in many communities.

By and large, most religious people are every bit as ordinary and decent as non-religious people. They live their lives, love their families, and generally go about their business. For some, their religion generally enriches their lives and that’s a good thing. I know plenty of people like that.

However, this is not about them.

This is about those who take religious ideology to a dangerous and damaging extreme.

I’ve talked about this kind of extremism before. It has led to some legitimately harmful trends. In some cases, it has the potential to be an existential threat to the world at large. While any ideology can be taken to a harmful extreme, religion can be uniquely damaging because it deals in abstracts, beliefs, and spirituality.

There are things you can’t touch, measure, or quantify. As a result, they’re incredibly difficult to contest and argue against. You can give someone all the irrefutable evidence in the world. If their preferred holy book or cult leader says the world is made of cheese, that’s what they’ll believe and they’ll cling to that belief with all their might.

This sort of thing manifests most prominently in cults. Now, not every cult is religious in nature, but religion is often a powerful driving force in many. Most of the cults that make the news for all the wrong reasons were religious in nature.

How people end up in these cults varies. You can listen to former cult members from all walks of life and get a different perspective for how they fell into it, how they got out, and why they became so captivated. These stories are quite harrowing and I encourage everyone to seek them out. They have many lessons to offer.

Following these stories may also make you wonder what sets a cult apart from a traditional religion. Like I said before, most religious people don’t conduct themselves in the way cult members do. On top of that, those who are in a cult probably don’t think they are. To them, this is their normal, skewed as it might be.

Given how diverse cults can be, it’s not easy to determine when a certain religion or ideology has crosses that threshold. Some argue that certain Christian denominations and political movements are cults, but usually as a means of insult or denigration.

Thankfully, people far smarter than me have given this subject much more thought and study. There’s one particular model out there that I find to be quite useful in discerning cults from ordinary religious activity.

It’s called the B.I.T.E model. Developed by Steven Hassan, a mental health professional who has studied behavioral control tactics, it’s a handy tool for assessing the cult-like structure of both religious and political ideologies.

The model and the name are an acronym for four general patterns of behavior that tend to manifest in cults. They are as follows:

Behavior Control: Involves regulation and micromanagement of peoples’ behavior from how they dress, how they eat, and what they do with their time.

Information Control: Involves organized efforts to withhold, distort, or manage the information people see in terms of knowledge, news, and education.

Thought Control: Involves organized efforts to shape opinions and worldviews of everything from their moral code to the language they use. The ultimate goal is to instill a warped view of reality.

Emotion Control: Involves manipulating and channeling a wide range of feelings, both positive and negative. The result is often involves instilling fear of outsiders and any differing opinions, as well as a sense of worthlessness that only the organization can help them resolve.

It’s not a perfect model, but it’s one of the simplest and most comprehensive to date. The model is structured in a way to include both religious and non-religious ideologies. If you were to apply this model to organizations like NXVIM or basic personality cults, it would check the same boxes as any religious cult.

At the same time, it also helps highlight how certain religious and political ideologies do not count as cults. Some may fit certain parts of the model, but not all. For something to really be a full-fledged cult, it needs to check all four bases and in a meaningful way. That also helps sift through instances where someone tries to call something a cult as an insult.

With this model in mind, I encourage everyone to use it to evaluate their own religious or political affiliation. That may not be easy. Like I said, people in cults usually don’t think they’re in a cult. Many don’t even realize how deep they were into it until they leave.

That makes self-assessment of your beliefs and affiliations that much more critical. The B.I.T.E model might not be perfect, but it is both useful and insightful. We all need to be critical of our beliefs. Given how dangerous certain cults can be, it’s important we know the signs before it’s too late.

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