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    Secret Societies and American Democracy with Colin Dickey

    enSeptember 18, 2023

    Podcast Summary

    • Fear of Secret Societies and American DemocracyAmerican democracy's instability and success led to deep-rooted paranoia and suspicion towards secret societies, shaping American politics and fueling cultural fascination with the mysterious and hidden.

      Learning from this conversation with Colin Dickey is that the fear of secret societies has deeply influenced American democracy since its early days. Paranoia and anxiety about the success and stability of the democratic project led to various conspiracy theories about foreign saboteurs undermining the American Revolution and the French Revolution. This nervousness and suspicion towards secret societies continued to shape American politics throughout history, fueling a cultural fascination with the mysterious and the hidden. Dickey's book, "Under the Eye of Power," explores this phenomenon in depth, providing a fascinating perspective on how America's DNA of paranoia has shaped its political landscape.

    • Individualized comfort for couples in Sleep Number bedsSleep Number beds provide customized comfort solutions for couples, leading to higher customer satisfaction as per JD Power ratings.

      Sleep Number smart beds offer individualized comfort solutions for couples, resulting in better sleep. These beds have received top customer satisfaction ratings from JD Power. Meanwhile, the Freemasons, a secretive organization popular among upper class men during colonial times in North America, served as a platform for discussing progressive ideas, including atheism and democracy. Membership was seen as a status symbol, and figures like Benjamin Franklin and George Washington joined. Franklin's induction was unique, involving the publication of Masonic secrets. Freemasons became a public demonstration of citizenship and philanthropy, with symbols still visible today. Despite common misconceptions, Freemasons were not a secretive or scary organization during Franklin's time. However, their image changed in the 19th and 20th centuries. Both topics - Sleep Number beds and Freemasonry - offer intriguing insights into their respective domains.

    • The Freemasons shifted focus from aristocracy to secrecy and rituals to keep the organization together.The Freemasons evolved from an elite club to a secretive organization, fueling public perception of danger and mystery.

      As the Freemasons membership grew and the aristocratic elite ceased to be the primary bond, the secrecy and mysterious rituals became the new means to keep the organization together. This shift in focus led to public perception of the Freemasons as a mysterious and potentially dangerous group. An infamous event involving the disappearance of William Morgan in 1826, who threatened to reveal their secrets, solidified this perception and became the most notorious act of violence associated with the Freemasons. Interestingly, secret societies like the underground railroad, which worked to violate laws to aid in the abolition of slavery, also fit the definition of a secret society. This discovery broadened the scope of the book to include various secret societies throughout American history.

    • Historical Fear and Moral Panics: Anti-Catholic Conspiracy TheoriesThroughout history, conspiracy theories have fueled societal fears and moral panics, with anti-Catholic sentiment serving as an early example. These beliefs led to hysteria and violent actions, resembling modern-day moral panics like Pizzagate or Sharia law fears.

      Throughout American history, conspiracy theories have shaped societal fears and moral panics, with anti-Catholic sentiment serving as an early template. This fear was fueled by the belief that Catholics, due to their religious allegiance, could not be trusted to fully participate in democracy. Another strand of anti-Catholic rhetoric involved accusations of secret sexual abusers and satanic rituals. These beliefs led to hysteria and violent actions, such as the burning of a convent in Massachusetts in 1834 based on false allegations. These conspiracy theories bear striking resemblance to modern-day moral panics, like the belief in Sharia law or the Pizzagate conspiracy theory. Anti-Catholic sentiment served as a testing ground for new conspiracy theories, which eventually spread beyond their original boundaries.

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      Companies like 1800 Flowers put heart and love into every product and service they offer to help people celebrate life's special moments. Meanwhile, Lume provides effective and long-lasting deodorant solutions using mandelic acid, ensuring users never have to worry about body odor. For Mother's Day and self-care, consider trying OneSkin's products, which focus on cellular aging and include the proprietary OS one peptide proven to switch off aging cells. Lastly, the Federal Reserve's history before 1917 was marked by frequent recessions and depressions due to the lack of monetary control and central banking, leading American politicians and bankers to realize the need for the federal government's intervention.

    • The creation of the Federal Reserve was shrouded in secrecyThe clandestine process of creating the Federal Reserve led to conspiracy theories and unease over private financiers' involvement in the public economy.

      The creation of the Federal Reserve in the United States was shrouded in secrecy due to public distrust of bankers. A group of senators, bankers, and economists met in secret at Jekyll Island, Georgia, to work out the details of the Federal Reserve, disguising their trip as a hunting excursion. This clandestine process led to conspiracy theories, and the involvement of private financiers in the public economy continues to be a source of unease and distrust. Additionally, the speaker discusses the paradoxical nature of antisemitism, which can accuse Jews of being both rapacious capitalists and Bolshevik communists. The belief in conspiracy theories, including those rooted in antisemitism, provides a simplistic explanation for complex issues and helps people make sense of the world.

    • The human tendency to seek explanations and narratives when feeling powerlessPeople may falsely perceive patterns or narratives when feeling powerless, leading to conspiracy theories or false accusations, as seen in the satanic panic of the 1980s.

      When people feel powerless or out of control in certain areas of their lives, they may look for patterns or narratives in seemingly random events or situations as a way to regain a sense of control. This can manifest in various forms, such as conspiracy theories or even false accusations, as seen in the satanic panic of the 1980s. In this period, many daycares and families were falsely accused of satanic rituals and abuse based on children's suggestible testimony. Research suggests that those most likely to perceive hidden images or patterns where none exist are individuals experiencing anxiety or uncertainty in other aspects of their lives. The satanic panic illustrates the human tendency to seek explanations and narratives, even if they are not grounded in reality, as a means of coping with feelings of powerlessness.

    • Satanic Panic and Modern Conspiracy Theories: Impact on Justice and FearBelief in unproven moral panics and conspiracy theories can lead to miscarriages of justice and unnecessary fear and hysteria. It's important to approach such claims with skepticism and rely on physical evidence and credible sources.

      During the Satanic Panic era in the US, there was a widespread belief in satanic rituals involving child abuse and human sacrifice, leading to numerous investigations and trials based on children's testimonies, even when there was no physical evidence. This paranoia resulted in innocent people being wrongly convicted, while actual child abusers may have gone free. The McMartin Daycare case is a notable example of this moral panic's impact, with some jurors unable to convict due to the unprovable nature of the alleged satanic rituals. Fast forward to the present day, and we see the emergence of QAnon, a modern conspiracy theory that covers a wide range of topics, from reptiles to missing celebrities and secret child sacrifices. Belief in QAnon, which started on the anonymous posting board 4chan, has spread widely among Americans, despite its cryptic and often unverifiable nature. The consequences of such moral panics and conspiracy theories can be severe, leading to miscarriages of justice and unnecessary fear and hysteria. It is crucial to approach such claims with a healthy dose of skepticism and to rely on physical evidence and credible sources to separate fact from fiction.

    • From porn boards to political conspiracyQAnon is a vague belief system that originated from illegal Japanese pornography message boards and provides a comforting narrative for those feeling let down by political figures. Experts widely consider it a hoax.

      The QAnon conspiracy theory's vague and nebulous nature allows believers to interpret it in various ways, making it an all-encompassing belief system. Its origins can be traced back to illegal Japanese pornography message boards, and its appeal lies in providing a comforting narrative for those who feel let down by political figures they once trusted. The theory's ludicrous nature, however, is widely accepted as a hoax by experts. The creators of QAnon likely tapped into the desire of Donald Trump supporters for a secret narrative to explain the chaos of the world. Today, the theory continues to spread, with believers interpreting cryptic messages and connecting seemingly unrelated events to the grand conspiracy.

    • The power of narratives to blur fiction and realityRecognize moral panics, question sources, and beware of the potential for harm from past tragedies' narratives.

      The line between fiction and reality can be blurred, and the power of narratives should not be underestimated. From the allegorical representation of fascism in the form of reptilian lizards in a 1980s sci-fi miniseries, to the belief that these beings are actually infiltrating our world and politics, the transformation of a fictional concept into a conspiracy theory is a sobering reminder of the ease with which narratives can be manipulated by malevolent actors. The author's hope is that readers will recognize the recurring nature of moral panics and the importance of questioning the sources of information and the intentions behind them. The seemingly ludicrous and bonkers beliefs of the past, such as the Salem witch trials and the McCarthy red scare, have the potential to become sources of great tragedy and terror in the present.

    • Staying Vigilant Against Misinformation and DisinformationBe informed, fact-check, and help those around us who may be swayed by misinformation. Stay vigilant and proactive against unexpected threats to truth.

      We should be prepared for unexpected threats to information and truth, and take a proactive approach to help those who may have fallen into misinformation or conspiracy theories. Colin Dickey emphasized the importance of staying vigilant and not being complacent, as these issues can arise from seemingly unlikely sources. He also suggested strategies for reaching out to those who have been influenced by misinformation, with the goal of bringing them back from the rabbit hole. Overall, the conversation underscored the importance of being informed and engaged in the face of misinformation and disinformation. As Dickey put it, "We have more of a responsibility to get out in front of these things than to sort of wake up one morning and think, well, I thought this never happened anymore." So, let's all do our part to stay informed, fact-check, and help those around us who may be swayed by misinformation. And don't forget to support independent bookstores by ordering Dickey's book, "Under the Eye of Power," through bookshop.org. Thanks for tuning in! The show is hosted and executive produced by me, Sharon McMahon, and our audio producer is Jenny Snyder. Don't forget to subscribe, leave a review, or share this episode on social media to help spread the word!

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