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DailyKos: Conversion and Conformity

ccv3h71w8aasjtlPeter Daou wrote about Markos Moulitsos, founder of DailyKos, and his announcement that he will be shifting his support to Hillary as soon as the nomination is wrapped up. Sorry, Bernie fans, time to get in line.

Atrios yesterday wrote that he doubted that one person’s “Why I am Voting for So&So diary” is worth anything. I was happy to see Atrios embrace the idea that your vote is your own but I think he’s dead wrong about the value of the conversion diary. Maybe they’re not as powerful as they used to be but I saw DailyKos lose its collective mind and then get in line twice in 2007-2008. First, it went bat s^&* crazy over John Edwards, then when Edwards became non-viable, it became moonstruck over Obama.

During the infamous Rec List Hostage Crisis of 2008, the pivot from Edwards to Obama was incredibly smooth. I could almost swear that the same people were writing those diaries.

The value of the testimonial can not be underestimated. Maybe we should get John Dehlin, psychologist, former Mormon and host of Mormon Stories to come and explain how it works. The conversion or testimonial is particularly effective in groups that are also exercising other high control tactics, but we’ll get to that in a minute.

A typical conversion story relates how a person is transformed by a moment of revelation. They become “born again” in some important way. People who study high control groups might say the convert’s  behavior has been unduly influenced by informational, emotional and thought control. Go ahead, read about the BITE model and you’ll never see DailyKos in the same way again.

That’s why I think Markos’s conversion story looks like it might not be important to those of us who have figured out how he operates even if it eventually does. His life is only going to change if his revelation leads to more advertising revenue from the Clinton campaign. Deep down inside, I doubt that Markos is wed to any one particular candidate. If anything, he seems to swing Libertarian and attracts the same guys who are stuck in adolescence who aren’t going to let any woman be the boss of them. It’s his business model.

Also, the conversion story does not work in the absence of other features. There has to be praise of the convert. In many religions and high control groups, this would include love bombing. At DailyKos, love bombing is accomplished through the use of recommendations. If a diarist gets enough recommends, their diary can make it to the recommended diary list where its prominence will influence other Kossacks.

The more you toe the founder’s line, the more mojo you get. That is, your level of  authority, at DailyKos increases and you can achieve Trusted User status. A trusted user has very few privileges and while Kossacks are told they don’t mean much, they actually do. A Trusted user can demote recommendations. They are enforcers. A mob of enforcers can deplete a Kossack’s mojo completely. If you don’t stay with the herd, you can be excommunicated and banned from the site.

This is what happened to me in January 2008 when I used the word “jihad” to explain how Obama supporters were mobbing other candidate’s supporters on DailyKos in order to get them banned. In the span of a couple hours, I went from being a trusted user to an exile. I was on to them by the time I posted that diary and while my diary was not meant to get me banned, I watched in fascination how efficiently and quickly the process worked.  I guess to someone who likes to be one of a crowd, that might have been devastating and I saw other Kossacks try very hard to not it happen to them. But for me? It was no big deal. What I learned at DailyKos was that I could write well enough to make the rec list fairly frequently. So, I left and started The Confluence. I didn’t get the fame or the ad money but I’ve enjoyed it anyway.

Those of you who still visit DailyKos can correct me if I’m wrong on any of this. Some of the rules of the game have changed since I was there last. The parameters of the model can be tweaked to keep everyone in line. But Markos knows what he’s doing and he set up his site to enforce conformity and a single message. Yes, there is a bit of wiggle room there. It’s like the difference between being a Methodist and a Presbyterian but it’s still Christianity. And when Markos signs the contract or gives the nod of the head, the machine works of his site will kick into gear and everyone will fall in line, write conversion diaries and disfellowship the apostates.

It’s conformity on a grand blog scale.

Maybe it doesn’t mean as much as it did 8 years ago. But Markos still attracts a lot of the same kind of people. They talk amongst themselves, reminisce about when they had their revelation and swallow their disappointments on queue when their leader gets “new light”.  And when it came time to throw away rules, disenfranchise voters and abbreviate roll call votes in Denver, the Kossacks were enthusiastic supporters of all things not very Democratic. We ended up with an establishment president who is more conservative than just about anyone on DailyKos but by golly, they won, didn’t they? So what if they ripped their party in two in the meantime?

They have a lot in common with Trump supporters.

Yes, conversion diaries, especially many of them, written with the blessing and encouragement and sometimes the coding skills and public megaphone of the founder, can and do make a difference. It simply is what it is, regardless of what Atrios says.


B.I.T.E. Me

Yesterday, I said I was going to talk about BITE and undue influence. Long time readers know that I have been interested in the subject of social psychology and how unsuspecting people have their thoughts reshaped by others. Most people associate this kind of thought reform to the actions of religious cults. I’m of the opinion that elements within the Democratic party used social and psychological manipulation during the 2008 primary season. But what’s even more troubling, and has been for years, is the influence that the right wing political establishment has choked the life out of the media and, as a result, has a chokehold on anyone who watches cable news.

I’m going to post a few more things on “undue influence” soon but I thought I would start simply with the BITE model developed by mind control expert Steve Hassan. Check out his website Freedom of Mind. Here’s a video from a former Mormon, explaining how it works. Unsurprisingly, to me at least, he found the clearest explanation of how mind control works from former Jehovah’s Witnesses. A warning to Jehovah’s Witnesses out there, you’re not going to like this:


As Jane Caro, Australian writer, recently said, what we are seeing across the globe today is “a struggle between authoritarianism and small “l” liberalism”.  In the past couple of decades, the authoritarians have really stepped up their game.  Back in the early 90s, the right thought they had a lock on the presidency.  Bill Clinton was not supposed to win the White House, much less win it twice.  Well, that would never do, so the right subjected the Clintons and us to 8 years of distractions.  That time could have been better spent reforming health care and catching Osama bin Laden.  And that was the point.  Clinton wasn’t supposed to get anything done.

It’s been all downhill from there.

We know why they do it.  They never liked the New Deal, they hate Social Security and over the decades, many of them are convinced that regular workers in the 99% are just lazy, parasitic slackers who have a lot of illegitimate children and take drugs.  We have the audacity to own refrigerators.  We are getting above our station.  Am I right, David Brooks?

Now, how are they doing it is another matter altogether.  This is where the former Jehovah’s Witnesses who are now apostates can explain how it’s done and know where the resources are that spell it all out.  If  Caro’s hypothesis is correct and the authoritarians are trying to put out our light, that suggests that we are being treated to high control group tactics.  Cults are one extreme of a high control group but let’s not kid ourselves, politicians and political parties are not above using high control tactics.  And who owns the politicians?  They’re the same people who own pretty much everything in this country, especially the media.  And they have been using their ownership and power to shut down independent thought.  Just yesterday, the area in a building that houses GlobalRevolution, Occupy Wall Street’s livestream, was closed by the city.  Officials claimed that it was “imminently perilous to life”, which is weird because there was someone living right down the hall who didn’t have to leave.  Ooooo, a livestream is so threatening to the 1% that they have to stuff a sock in it.  Actually, that’s kind of a good thing, isn’t it?  It means the message is getting through in spite of the filters.

Information control is only one part of the BITE model of mind control.  I would put it in the realm of propaganda techniques on steroids.  BITE stands for Behavior control, Information Control, Thought control and Emotional control.  It’s one thing to fling Orwellian references around. It just *feels* Orwellian.  It’s quite another thing to go through the list of the examples of each one of these control tactics and realize that they are uncomfortably familiar. We might not even realize what they are at first.

Take Behavior Control, for example.  I can see at least three items on that list that we have all experienced.

Rigid rules and regulations– have you flown anywhere lately?  Applied for a passport, drivers license, voters registration?

Financial dependence– Do you worry about losing your health insurance, house and savings if you lose your job?  What about your retirement funds?  Are you strapped into a 401K that you can’t get out of?

Individualism discouraged; group think prevails– Did you put a yellow ribbon on your car after 9/11?  Did the Obama campaign convince you that you were a racist in 2008 if you didn’t vote for Obama?

Little or no time spent on leisure, entertainment and vacations.  Afraid to take a day off for fear you’ll lose your job?  Have so many jobs that you can’t focus on anything else?  People who are overwhelmed with tasks don’t have time to rebel.

Need for Obedience and Dependency– Have you bought into the idea that the Occupy Movement is just a bunch of trouble makers who are challenging the system in the wrong way and that they deserve to be beaten up and peppersprayed for being disobedient?  Do you have a kid in school who can’t breathe without permission?  I have two daughters, 14 years apart, and their childhoods could not be more different.  One had a normal childhood, playing outside and sleepovers in 4th grade and seeing friends in an informal setting.  The other kid was on lockdown.  Oh, she went outside to try to play with other kids but there wasn’t ever anyone out there.  It was like a street scene from “I Am Legend”.  Eventually, she gave up.  School is even worse.  They have video cameras everywhere now watching everything you do.  You can get an in-school suspension for saying your math class is boring.  I’m not kidding.  It’s awful.

It’s hard to dismiss the feeling that these kids are being conditioned for something.  The question is, what?

Now, not every item on this list will strike a nerve.  There may be things they just haven’t gotten around to yet.  And in some cases, the change has been so gradual that we weren’t even aware of what was going on until we were forced to go through a half hour ordeal in the security line at the airport.  But there is no doubt in my mind at least that the small evil group to which no one we know belongs is engaging in high control tactics against us.

The worst of it is that those of us stuck in the middle chronologically are flanked by older, more conservative voters who are vulnerable to the high control tactics of Fox and the right wing, while younger voters are vulnerable to the high control tactics of the Wall Street financed Democratic party.  It’s worse for younger voters because they were just children during the Clinton years and it’s very easy to convince them that the Clintons were evil because it’s so easy to control information and shape thoughts.  Just rewrite history and drop comments everywhere.  I don’t mind critics as long as they’re honest.  No one is perfect.  But the smear job on the Clintons is purposeful because, I suspect, they aren’t as pliant to the high control group as someone like Obama. If you grew up in the 60s, 70s and 80s, you may remember that America didn’t use to be like this.  That’s why the middle will be torn to pieces economically.  They’ve got too much cultural memory and might start clamoring for the old days.  Let’s distract them with saving their financial lives.

This is what we’re up against.  And what we need to figure out is how to deprogram an entire country and the rest of the world.  That’s probably why GlobalRevolutionTV was kicked out of its studios.  It is trying to reverse the indoctrination and it is succeeding.

As Donald Rumsfield once said, “it’s going to be a long, hard slog”.