Genocide in the United States: Probability and Prevention


Genocide in the United States: Probability and Prevention



  1. Trump and Fascism
  2. Fascism and the Republican Agenda
  3. Genocide Defined
  4. Historical Insights into Genocide
  5. Warnings: Leading Edges of Genocide
  6. Exclusionary Culture
  7. Psychology and Genocide
  8. Trump and…
  9. Stopping Genocide
  10. Reaffirming American Values




This is the first draft of a book that my wife Barbara Anderson and I are writing.  We need to get this draft out in hopes of saving the country.  The final draft should take several months.


The United States is facing the possibility of genocide.

Thanks to advances in social science in the last 10 years, it is possible to predict quite accurately when and how genocide occurs.  It occurs when a highly exclusionary, negative ideology finds a charismatic leader who can win popular support, take over, and slowly erode democracy (or whatever traditional form he faced).  With autocracy—dictatorship or corrupted and compromised democracy—the leader will begin by consolidating his power through political killings.  Then, especially but not only if he is challenged by economic chaos or civil unrest or international war, he will resort to full-scale genocide.  This is the pattern seen in the rise of Hitler, Stalin, Mao Zedong, Suharto in Indonesia, and dozens of other genocidal heads of state.  It is confirmed by independent analyses by several scholars working with different data.

The United States has now elected a classic charismatic “populist” on a platform consisting almost entirely of ethnic, class, and religious attacks.  Trump ran against Muslims, Mexicans, immigrants, poor people, students, refugees, China, NATO, liberals, feminists, and many other groups.  He had no positive planks in his platform at all, except the reasonable but hard-to-achieve goal of keeping jobs in America.  His cabinet and his performance as president fit perfectly with this platform.  This is a level of exclusionary ideology rarely seen even in genocidal leaders.

He is currently moving in ways that resemble the early behavior of Hitler, Mussolini, and others who took total power.  If he takes power, his economic policies will certainly bring major economic dislocation, and his foreign policies are not reassuring.  With consolidation of power in his hands, genocide becomes more and more probable.

At present, the likelihood appears to be about 25%.  If Trump (or someone following him) seizes autocratic power, the likelihood rises to 100%.  This is a prediction as confident as predicting the sun will rise in the morning.  There is no case in our database of well over 100 cases of a situation like this failing to lead to mass murder.

Thus, we need to unite to make sure that Trump or his followers do not take full power, and that the exclusionary ideology identified with his rise is repudiated by Americans.





The Trump Election


We have to spend the next four years (or more) working as hard as we can on unity, solidarity, and reconciliation.

Donald Trump was elected president by a considerable minority of voters, but a majority of the Electoral College.  With him came Republican dominance of the House of Representatives, majority in the Senate, and governorship and control of the legislatures in most states.

Several studies confirm the obvious point that racism and sexism account for much more of the Trump vote than any economic factors do (Lopez 2017).  In general, traditional Republicans and many former Democrats voted for Trump.

There are more, and sadder, factors.  The counties that switched from voting Democratic to voting for Trump are, in most cases, also counties that have rapidly rising rates of suicide, drug addiction, and alcoholism among less educated whites (see Case and Deaton 2015).  There are now over 33,000 deaths a year from opioid overdoses, an estimated 467,000 heroin addicts, and rapid increases in opioid abuse and death (Weir 2017).  Methamphetamines and related hard drugs are also a huge problem.  All these are heavily concentrated in poor rural areas.  Decline of good jobs is the biggest problem, but declines of environment, folk society and community, and local supportive religion (as opposed to faceless radio shows and vast, bland storefront churches) make life much harsher and less rewarding and encouraging.

Bitter alienation, despair, and resentment characterize these regions.  The modern economy has passed them by.  This modern economy—globalization, hi-tech, and all—is identified to a substantial degree with the Democrats.  The Republicans are more identified with the old economy: industrial agribusiness, oil, coal, and other mining, and to an extent the oldest forms of manufacturing.  Older and less educated workers, being more identified with this older world than with the modern (or postmodern) one, resentfully vote Republican.  Indeed, the modern hi-tech economy directly threatens oil and coal, and leads to loss of old-time manufacturing jobs via automation (which is more important than job exporting).  The Democrats have, by and large, responded by appealing to educated, urban citizens rather than finding out how to reach the disaffected.

Ever since World War II, there has been a widening gap between the more backward-looking primary production sectors, especially oil, and the increasingly hi-tech, high-research, high-skill sectors, especially communications and electronics.  Giant industrial firms usually side with the dinosaurs, out of tradition or out of immediate self-interest (the long run is not so hopeful for them).  This split has affected voting and policy in the obvious ways.  As oil and coal see the threat from solar and wind power, the great oil and coal billionaires wax ever more extreme, anti-change, and anti-democratic, whether in the US, Saudi Arabia, Russia, or Sudan.

Trump exploited a form of defiance typical of alienated working-class white culture.  Traditionally, the segments of that demographic that upper-class people call “rednecks” and “poor white trash” (Isenberg 2016) talk about public events in the way Trump does: in exaggerated, confrontational style, with overstatements, outright lies, militant attacks, deliberately provocative racist and sexist rhetoric, and denial of uncomfortable truths.  Above all, this discourse style forbids admitting one’s own weakness or wrongness, and forbids giving any credit to opponents.  Any opponent has to be utterly contemptible.  Bullying, showing off, and being tough are high virtues.

This is a way of dealing with personal weakness.  The people that act this way are often on the bottom, and they know it.  The louder the noise, the more obviously they are trying to deal with both their own weakness and bottom-dog status.  Trump appealed with surgical precision to these voters, using their classic rhetorical styles.  Hillary Clinton and her core voters—highly educated, genteel, and often snobbish toward rural workers—had no clue how to deal with it.

The working-class whites, and most political observers, were fooled.  The real power has gone not to Trump or the workers, but to the giant oil corporations, lobbyists, and right-wing campaign donors.  Also, Trump is also in league with, and apparently to some extent a pawn, of, Vladimir Putin, who is using fascistic politics to weaken the west and especially to weaken NATO and other anti-Russian organizing (see thorough account in Foer 2016).

The success of voter suppression, without which the Republicans would not have won the presidency, may have emboldened them (Wolf 2017).  Attempts to block taking office by the Democratic governor-elect of North Carolina were followed by Trump’s rushing through Cabinet appointments on the day that Obama gave his farewell address.  The Republicans attempted to shut down the independent House ethics investigative body.  Republicans have shut down videotaping in Congress.  They have threatened Planned Parenthood workers at local and national levels.  They have threatened widespread use of the dangerously ill-defined label “terrorist organization”; there is nothing to keep them from labeling the Sierra Club or Planned Parenthood as terrorist organizations.  (One recalls that about ten years ago one George W. Bush appointee semi-seriously referred to the National Education Association as a terrorist organization.)


The New Administration


The “REINS” act, introduced in Congress as soon as Trump was inaugurated, proposes to make Congress vote on all federal regulations, even on rules blocking poisonous substances in the food supply (Pope 2017).  Several other moves indicate a direct program of undermining standard democratic (small-d) institutions.  The Senate has suspended filibustering on appointments, including the designation of Neil Gorsuch to the Supreme Court; this suspension of democratic (small-d) traditions indicates that the Republicans expect to have their way, and will ignore any ordinary procedures.  Their willingness to spend huge sums for security for Trump and his family and his hotels is part of that picture.

On the economic side, most Americans do not realize the enormous scale of direct and indirect subsidies, tax breaks, and other giveaways that go to big oil and other giant firms.  Direct subsidies to oil firms alone run over $37 billion a year.

Class still does matter.  Poverty in America is increasing, as wealth concentrates at the top.  In the 2% worst-off counties in the US (heavily nonwhite, outside of Appalachia where they are heavily white), median household income is $24,960.  In the richest 2% it is $89,723.  Smoking is twice as common in the poor ones, obesity 50% more prevalent.  Life expectancy for women is 75.9 years, for mean 69.8; corresponding figures for rich counties, 83 and 79.3.  Fortunately, relatively few people are in the poor counties: only 14,000, vs. 362,000 in the richest 2% (Kaplan 2016.)  All these poor counties are rural: Black in the deep south, Native American in the northern plains, Hispanic on the border, and lily white in Appalachia, where the very poorest and least healthy are concentrated.  Those Appalachian counties voted about 90% for Trump; the other poor counties were largely for Clinton.

An anonymous teacher calling herself “bkamr” (2017) writes from Kentucky about the desperation and pain in this heaviest of Trump-voting areas.  She points out, among other things, that no Democrats—not even the state legislator from the area—ever come near the place to help.  People desperately need the services that even the poor get in cities.  She explains the self-destructive anger born of hopelessness.

A related problem is the attack on labor.  The Republicans have long pushed for “right-to-work laws” that would make it hard to unionize.  They are now trying for a nationwide right-to-work law, as they have many times before.  They will probably refuse to recognize unions of federal workers and contractor firms.

The Republicans not only refuse to acknowledge or do anything about global warming; they now have weighed in to oppose regulating pesticides and pollutants.  They are trying to repeal the Wilderness Protection Act, Clean Air Act, Clean Water Act, Endangered Species Act, and the rest, and to sell off or give away the national lands.  The movement to privatize national lands is particularly long-lasting and powerful, including things like the “Sagebrush Rebellion” that has been ongoing since the 1970s.  Trump imposed a ban on speaking to the public by the EPA and USDA.  Fortunately, this attracted so much criticism that it was soon rescinded (but it may come again in more insidious form).  Most chilling of all is the long-standing Republican attempt to ban, or at least reduce to the vanishing point, class-action suits.

In the United States, white right-wingers are hoping they will take down nonwhites, women, and liberals such that white right-wingers will prosper, or at least go downhill less rapidly than they would otherwise.  In fact, Trump’s policies will ruin almost everyone except oil billionaires.  The reality is that the Trump voters, especially the less educated rural and working-class ones who really put him in, will almost all be terribly hurt financially and physically.  Their real hope appears to be to make the “others” hurt even worse.  (For full details on Trump and his cabinet, see John Bellamy Foster, “Neofascism in the White House,” 2017; it covers the new administration so well that we can be summary here.  See also Gerber 2017 for small clues that add up, showing Trump is moving rapidly toward autocracy.)

Trump ran an extremist campaign, and has picked the most extreme right-wingers in the United States for his cabinet.

Rex Tillerson, Trump’s Secretary of State, not only deals heavily with the Russians, but was CEO of ExxonMobil during its long period of denying there was any link between human action and greenhouse gases, while its own internal memos showed it knew perfectly well about the links.  Decisions made under Tillotson were clearly based on knowing that the world would warm.  Many deal with issues like the rapid decrease of ice in the Arctic Ocean, and similar global-warming issues.  Yet, through it all, ExxonMobil funded organizations denying climate change and attacking legitmate science (Wasserman 2017).

Jeff Sessions, Trump’s Attorney General, was regarded in his Senate years as to the right of any other senator.  He has a long record of racism, opposition to civil rights and to civil rights laws, and connection with extreme right-wing white-supremacist organizations.  His first moves as Attorney General were to stop six-year-long legal proceedings against Texas’ openly discriminatory voter suppression laws, and to stop all investigations of police killings of unarmed persons.

Full details of his personal closeness to Stephen Bannon, Trump’s openly neo-Nazi head of staff, are reported by Baker (2017).  Bannon and Sessions have expressed mutual admiration on many occasions, and Sessions has granted several exclusive interviews and other favors to Breitbart’s, later Bannon’s, Breitbart News.  These have involved expectable enthusiasm for Breitbart’s racist and anti-feminist reporting.

Scott Pruitt, now head of EPA, is an oil publicist.

Julie Kirchner, Trump’s head of U.S. Customs and Border Protection, was executive director of the white-supremacist and anti-immigrant group FAIR, which opposed all immigration but especially “nonwhite” immigrants as inferior and prone to outbreed “whites” (Piggott 2017).

Elimination of public education and the defunding of a lot of science will cripple the US economically for the long term.  The new Secretary of Education, Betsy DeVos (Tabachnik 2011) is the most visible of the extreme critics of public education—those that want to eliminate it completely.  It is probably safe to say that only a few Republicans actually want to eliminate public education entirely.  But she is not only opposed to public education, but is committed to a “Christian” education that countenances anti-evolutionist, anti-science, racist, anti-gay and similar teachings.  She advocates vouchers so parents can send children to private schools, but voucher-funded private schools provide very inferior education—much worse than public schools—where this program has been tried on any scale (Hiltzik 2017).  She is married to the heir of the classic pyramid scheme Amway, and her brother was the head of the notorious Blackwater firm that indulged in large-scale torture, killing of civilians, and other war crimes in Iraq in the Iraq War (see Edwards 2016).  Clearly she is connected to much more than just opposition to education.  Yet the future of the American economy over the long term may depend on her.

Trump’s voters were less educated than Clinton voters, and his cabinet is much less educated than Obama’s—only Ben Carson has a doctoral degree, and that in a field irrelevant to his charge. Formidably important in Trump’s victory was the plummeting level of public and popular culture in the last few decades.  Trump won and Clinton lost partly because he was a reality TV star and she was a policy wonk.


The Changing Republican Party


Part of the background is the shift of the Republican Party from one of small local businessmen and to a party based on a few big firms, largely representing what may be called the dinosaur economy—big oil, big coal, big agrochemical, and similar sunsetting industries.  They fight to prevent change and progress, since it would plow them under.  They thus oppose science and education across the board, as well as environmental protection.  They protect the enormous subsidies that keep them alive.  They get votes by ever more strident appeals to racism and religious bigotry.   This was the product of the “Southern Strategy,” developed by Lee Atwater and Karl Rove under Richard Nixon, and used with full success by Ronald Reagan.  Slowly, the racists and bigots took over, partly because small businesses and local firms declined relative to the power of giant centralized corporations.   The small businessman—often community-spirited, and pro-education—was replaced by dinosauric corporations appealing to a “base” of bigots.

Spending on education is a good tracker.  California built up its world-class university system under Republican governors.  Some Republican-dominated states still spend considerable money per student: Nebraska, Wyoming, Utah, and (to a lesser extent) a few other high-plains and western states.  Most, however, have devastated educational spending.  Kansas is the most extreme case (as of 2017).  In transition from Democratic to Republican governors, Kansas cut its education spending by an enormous amount.  Tennessee, Florida, North Carolina, Texas, and several other marginal-south states spend very little.  Others never spent much in the first place.

This shift on education can stand as a good proxy for attention to minorities, handicapped people, veterans, women—any population that can use some assistance.  Old-time Republicans took some care of these.  New ones cut assistance to the bone, or into the bone.

The US has shifted far to the right since the 1940s, especially since Nixon’s victory in 1968.  This has been reflected, for example, in falling or stagnant real wages, and steadily increasing tax cuts to the rich, many of whom (apparently including Trump) now pay no taxes at all.  Bill Clinton’s, and now Hillary Clinton’s, policies greatly resembled Eisenhower’s and Nixon’s; Trump’s are to the right even of Joseph McCarthy, Strom Thurmond, and other extreme right-wingers of the 1950s.

The Obama presidency brought out racism, which led to election of openly racist Republicans and drift toward racism of the whole party.  Finally, Trump’s campaign—based on racial, religious, nationalist, and gender hatred—was successful, and the rest of the Republicans quickly came to his support, with the exception of a few traditional conservatives such as John McCain.  The racism of Trump’s campaign greatly exacerbated by his campaign advisor and later chief of staff Stephen Bannon, openly neo-Nazi.  The combination of the Trump-Bannon campaign agenda with the party’s increasing drift toward corporatism has now produced full-scale fascism.

One major part of it is a shift from class politics—the old poor-Democrats, rich-Republicans model—to race, religion, and gender politics.  The center and left has, unfortunately, become narrowly focused on the racialization of politics, increasingly seeing politics as a fight between “whites” and others and between heterosexual males and others.  Of course, in the immediate future, we have to fight hatred and bigotry above all things, but we also have to get back to politics based on actual economic, environmental, and social issues, before politics in the US reaches the stage of actual race war and genocide.

The oldest stratagem in politics is to win by dividing the opposition.  The Republican oligarchy used that trick well in the election, and the Democrats and the left fell for it.  Sanders vs. Clinton, black vs. white, women vs. men, every imaginable division was exploited by the Republican high donorship.

The Sanders vs. Clinton war, waged largely by its followers (Sanders and Clinton remained solid in mutual support), was the worst.  There is a Chinese story of a heron that seized a clam.  The clam clamped its shell on the heron and trapped him.  Neither would let the other go.  A fisherman came and took them both.  That was the 2016 election.

The right is always solidary.  They closed ranks immediately and almost totally behind Trump the minute he was nominated.  The left never could get behind Clinton, and thus helped Trump instead.  The best advice now is to reach out to anybody and anybody, particularly if they are in the crosshairs of the right wing—gay, Muslim, black, transgender, or otherwise directly and immediately menaced.

Johan Galtung, a sociologist who coined the term “structural violence” and who correctly predicted the collapse of the USSR and other states from his research on empires, predicts the US will collapse now that Trump has won and begun his program (Galtung 2009; Gettys 2016 for his latest views).


World Rightward Shifts


Parallels from elsewhere continue to accumulate.  Hungary elected a fascist government recently, under the Trump-like Viktor Orbán.  Hostility to refugees, Muslims, Jews, Roma, and others has increased.  The government is now engaged in a massive suppression of the media, most recently a shutdown of the left-wing paper Nepszabadsag (Johnson 2016) and an attack on the Central European University funded by George Soros.  This follows Turkey’s increasingly savage crackdowns on media and academics, including firing of thousands of academics after a failed coup in 2016.  Turkey under Recep Erdogan has also been moving in a more and more openly fascist direction, whipping up more and more hatred against Kurds and non-Muslims.  As Ana Friedman (2016) put it after traveling in Europe recently, “popular support for liberal dermocracies around the world is on the decline—and support for autocratic alternatives is rising, even in many stable Western nations long thought to be beacons of freedom.”

Causes include dissatisfaction with globalization, but there is obviously much more to it.  Increasing devotion to extremist ideologies, from Chinese Communism to violent right-wing Islam and Narendra Modi’s reactionary Hinduism in India, is clearly involved.

The current wave of extremist right-wing electoral victories is very consistent.  Elected extremist regimes now rule the Philippines, India, Turkey, Hungary, Poland, England (and its Brexit vote), Venezuela, and a few other countries.  The elections were like those in the US: the rural, less educated, and economically backward sections of the populace elected the extremists, often with a plurality rather than a majority.  Moreover, in every case, the dinosauric sectors of the economy—oil, coal, mining, chemical-based large-scale agriculture—funded the extremists.

What is happening is a worldwide change from “progress” to ratfight.  In technical terms, we are seeing people shift from seeing politics and economics as at least potentially a positive-sum game to seeing them as a negative-sum game.  A positive-sum game is one in which everyone can win—in this case, political economy can produce a situation in which everyone gets better off.  A zero-sum game is a typical “game”:  One person or team wins, one loses.  A negative-sum game is one in which everyone loses.

Worldwide, it seems that negative-sum gaming is now the rule.  With populations rapidly rising and resources rapidly shrinking, this makes all too much sense.  It is, however, a strategy that will do nothing but destroy.


We—the rest of us, from radicals to conservatives—can deal with this only by having a clear vision of the alternative and a united front.  It is time for any real conservatives left in the US—that is, people who actually want small government, patriotism, and individual responsibility—to join with liberals against big government used to crush the weak, suspiciously close cooperation with Vladimir Putin, and refusal to take any responsibility or face any accountability.  Many factors lost the election for Clinton, but certainly one of the biggest was the failure of Sanders and Clinton partisans to unite, while the Republicans, after much initial resistance to Trump, united solidly and enthusiastically behind him.







Fascism Defined


Fascism is defined by the Oxford English Dictionary as “an authoritarian and nationalistic right-wing system of government and social organization.”  Wikipedia (, retrieved Jan. 7, 2017) gives dozens of definitions, by fascists, Marxists, humanists, and others.  Benito Mussolini coined the term (at least for its modern use), and variously defined it; one classic definition reads “Fascism includes supremacy of the military, the need for perpetual war and a disdain for pacifism, a  merging of corporate and state power, dismantling the unions, indirect control of the media, national security and patriotism as a motivational tool for the masses, government corruption, candidates appointed by the party command, and an erosion of voter rights.” (Quoted by Rainer Bussmann on Facebook, 2016.)  Several amplifications are provided by Wikipedia.   Anti-woman and anti-gay bias is also characteristic.  It is anti-individual and devoted to the state, again in contrast to classic conservatism.  It practices strong, dominating, often totalitarian government as opposed to the small government of earlier conservative thinking in the United States.

The Republicans in the United States show this shift clearly.  The GOP was always “patriotic” and statist more than individualist, but now patriotism in the old sense is shifting toward creation of new autocratic governance, and sheer obedience to an autocratic leadership is demanded.  Trump demands, and the whole Republican establishment agrees, that he should be above the law—not accountable to laws, traditions, or rules.

Fascism is an authoritarian and anti-democratic system.  Over time, in Italy, Germany, and later other countries, it fused government with giant corporations.  Everywhere, it used ethnic and religious hate to persuade the masses to go along.  It could count on militant bigots to supply its goon squads, usually essential to its operation.  These are represented in the US by the Ku Klux Klan and similar organizations.  Fascist government acts through heavy subsidies and special favors from government to corporations, while the corporations set the policies on industry (including such issues as pollution and labor) for the government.

Fascism draws much more on ethnic, gender, and religious hate, much less on classism, than either conservatism (which favored the upper classes) or Marxism (which favored the working classes).  It is also characterised by militarism and war, strict and highly unequal law enforcement, and restriction of targeted minorities.  It is one expression of capitalism (many have seen it as a natural consequence thereof), but it differs from classic capitalism in that it is the antithesis of a free market.  Instead, it colludes with giant firms to dominate the economy.  This was the outcome of Hitler’s “national socialism” (national sozialismus).  Neoliberalism has an uneasy relationship with fascism; neoliberalism is supposed to be “free market” oriented, but its founder Ludwig von Mises supported Hitler, his disciple F. Hayek supported Pinochet in Chile, and Hayek’s definition of fascism (see Wikipedia, “Definitions of Fascism”) is notably sympathetic.

Hitler’s Nazi variant was extreme, but still an example of a general tendency in culture:  “National Socialism has no faith in society and partidularly not in its good will…. This is the first principle of National Socialist social organization.  The second principle is the atomization of the individual.  Such groups as the family and church, the solidarity arising from common work in plants, shops and offices and deliberately broken down” (Neumann 1944:400).

The word “fascism” derives from the Latin word for a bundle of sticks bound together.  Hiter attacked not only Jews but also Slavs, Roma, gays, liberals, socialists, and others, even to science done by Jews such as Einstein (“Jew physics”), and modern art (“degenerate”).  The dominance of hatred in the fascist ideology has persisted, with modern fascists and neo-Nazis generally identifying it with racism and religious exclusion.


Republican Fascism

The combination of indiscriminate hatred and giant-firm domination of government makes the new Republican Party fascist by this or almost any definition.  The alliance with giant primary-production firms is now well out into the open with Trump’s designation of oil millionaires and oil-related businesspersons for his cabinet.

Republicans in states that the party dominates have indulged in massive voter suppression, gerrymandering, commandism in such matters as reproductive health, and other anti-democratic acts, as well as massive favoring of large firms.  Republican states have posted many cases of police shootings of unarmed African-Americans who were doing no harm, the police being praised or at least let off unchallenged.  Legislation against women’s health has been general and has gone far beyond issues of abortion.

The real fascist nature of modern Republicanism, however, is shown in the combination of Trump’s campaign—little beyond hatred of minorities, Jews, gays, feminists, and many other categories—and the domination of the Republican Party by giant firms, largely oil, and especially the Koch brothers.  Trump ran against minorities, China, Mexico, and Islam; his stated plans to ‘make America great again” were largely limited to breaking the power of those groups.

Also classic fascist is the rapid defunding of anything and everything that could possibly improve lives—health care, arts, education, food stamps, public radio, museums, and all–and shifting the funds to war and to brutal crackdown on undocumented immigrants.  Deliberately singling out aid workers, teachers, and other doers of good was an earmark of the CIA-backed fascists in Guatemala and El Salvador in the 1980s, as well as of fascists from Hitler to the Argentine colonels.  It also characterized the Communist crackdowns by Stalin, Mao, and the Khmer Rouge.  It seems to be a well-known aspect of genocide, apparently taught deliberately at the School of the Americas (where the butchers of Guatemala, El Salvador, and other Latin American regimes of the 1980s were trained; cf. Stoll 1993, Timerman 2002).

Trump’s administration has actually been more extreme than any other regime outside of Hitler’s and Mao’s, in turning against science (all science) as well as the United Nations, international treaties, and the usual list of good things.  Trump’s deliberately conspicuous diversion of money to fund his getaways at Mar-a-Lago is in the grand tradition set by Roman emperors and perfected by Louis XIV:  crush the populace by rubbing into them the fact that the ruler is using their money for his personal glory.

The most reactionary of the giant corporations are always the real architects and backers of authoritarianism.  In the US, that means especially big oil.  “The big oil companies made over $135 billion in profits last year” (Storm Is Coming, Nov. 30, 2016).  The brothers Charles and David Koch, oilmen at heart though Koch Industries has become diversified, have recently been the most consistent and important leaders of the farthest right in the United States.  Other oil, coal, and chemical corporations are on board, as well as some financial and gambling interests.  Bernie Sanders revealed on his Facebook page that the top 25 hedge-fund CEO’s made 11.6 billion last year, while the total pay of all the kindergarten teachers in the US was 8.5 billion.

The rich backers of Republican fascism include, most notably, the right-wing billionaire Robert Merton as well as the Kochs.  High Country News looked at 236 leading early appointments and transition-team members and found 72 of them had ties to the Koch brothers, including most of the Cabinet appointees as well as Vice-President Pence (Gilpin 2017).  The Kochs are well known for their background; their father carried out major projects for Hitler, they were raised by a pro-Hitler nurse, and their agenda all their lives has been straight from that playbook (see Jane Mayer, Dark Money, 2016).  Their policies are allegedly free-market and libertarian, but actually they have backed (strategically or tactically) every right-wing extremist agenda from opposition to birth control and abortion to suppression of minority voting.  Their deepest interest, however, is in removing regulations that affect big oil—notably pollution controls—and winning support for government subsidy and backing of giant firms, especially oil firms.  Via the Tea Party, and their ALEC project, the Kochs have supported voter suppression, massively attacked labor unions, amd fought against all environmental protection and other restrictions on large-scale primary production.

The Koch brothers started the Tea Party, ALEC, and several other organizations, and became dominant in funding several more traditionally conservative venues.  George Monbiot (2016) has revealed the web of liars and lying thinktanks, mostly funded by the Koch brothers, behind the Republican political machine.  The article is sobering, to put it mildly.

In old-time fascism, there was always a split between militarists, who focused on a strong military and frequent deployment in local wars, and traditionalists, who were concerned with legislating morality in ways not always popular with other conservatives.  It is not solely the media stereotype of anti-Semitism and micromanaging.  This is no longer the case; today the militarists and bigots have fused, and traditionalists are either swept along or exiled from the movement.

The Republican administration is following a well-known, well-trodden path.  Trump started his presidency with an inaugural address written by two racists with strong neo-Nazi connections, Stephen Bannon and Stephen Miller.  It included the phrase “America First,” which was the slogan of pro-Hitler Americans in the 1930s and 1940s.  Trump’s group also made use of the phrase “lying press,” the same as Hitler’s lugenpresse.  Trump’s publicity director Kellyanne Conway retitled lies as “alternative facts,” giving a new name to Joseph Goebbels’ Big Lie.  Trump said he was in a “war” with the press: “As you know, I have a running war with the media” (Memoli and Bennett 2017:A1).  In this, he follows authoritarians from Hitler to Putin and Recep Tayyip Erdogan in declaring war on the media.  In all cases, this rhetoric from a head of state has been met with increasing suppression of the press, and indeed Trump has banished reporters from the White House and pulled back from press conferences.  Similarities to China’s dictatorship are evident (Langfitt 2017).  Even the right-wing obsession with eliminating birth control and banning abortion is shared with Hitler and the Nazis (Neumann 1944:148), not with Christianity, in spite of the claimed religious background.

This comes after far more sinister rhetoric in Trump’s campaign.  He demonized a wide range of group and nations: Muslims, liberals, gays and other LGBTQ people, the disabled, the poor, Mexico and Mexicans, Latinos in general, African-Americans, China, and many more.    Many of them—ranging from the Muslims to Mexicans to China—were blamed directly for the problems.  Since election, he has, among other things, blamed the Jews for the desecration of Jewish cemeteries and the burning of synagogues—they are supposedly “false flag” operations to get sympathy.  This is exactly Hitler’s tactic in the 1930s, and seems to be case of outright copying.

Republicans have shut down filibustering on more and more issues, and are trying to cut debate on issues to eight hours maximum.  Republican states are moving to ban public protests—clearly unconstitutional bans, but probably enforceable anyway, given the climate of the times.

The new Republicans “base” of far-right business interests, overwhelmingly dominated by Big Oil and their financiers, white supremacists; and the far-right-wing “Christian” elements has put the Republican leadership in a difficult position.  The white supremacists and religious extremists do not necessarily love big business.  The businessmen are aware that rule by the other two groups would ruin the economy, and as businessmen they are not enthusiastic about that.  The result seems to be, so far, accommodating all by giving in to their most extreme and damaging wants.  Since the most extreme wants of the racists and bigots are literal genocide, we are in danger.

Each group has a different opponent group: giant firms want to shut down opposition, especially scientific challenges; racists want to eliminate minorities (or at least minority leadership); right-wing religious groups have proposed exterminating gays, and giving the death penalty to doctors that perform abortion and even to the women themselves; these religious groups also oppose Islam, atheism, and other challengers, and have made threats.  The choice is clear:  big government crushing minorities and women, with minimal concern for the economy, and opposed to small government and economic priorities (see e.g. Michael 2016).

America’s fascist streak comes largely from the deep south, an area where support for Hitler was strong in the 1930s.  It traces back to the plantation system: rent-seeking owners using slave labor.  Southern fascist and racist politics expanded nationwide from the 1970s as actual business (including actually working for one’s money) was replaced by monopolies or oligopolies, and by rent-seeking in the form of lobbying for subsidies, tax cuts, and exemptions from laws and rules.  This change is the real driver of the whole shift to racial politics and the rise of fascism that led to Trump.

The eagerness of the Republican Party to embrace genocide is proved by their attitude to health care.  They are repealing the Affordable Care Act (“Obamacare”).  They plan to repeal or drastically scale back Medicare and Medicaid.  Finally, Trump, reinstating the famous “gag rule” that forbids US funding for NGO’s that talk about abortion, vastly expanded it, to extend not only to reproductive-health NGO’s but to all NGO’s—including, for instance, those that advise on HIV-AIDS (Goldberg 2017).  This expansion will lead to large increases in deaths from AIDS and from reproductive disorders and pathologies.  There will probably be more deaths than all the abortions that would have resulted from unfettered advice.  Also, Trump (though not all his appointees) has said he plans to bring back torture, hidden prisons, and the deaths involved in those war crimes.  Taken together, the Republican Party under Trump is already verging on genocidal.

As one case in point, Texas’ maternal mortality rate increased from around 17-18 to 33 per 100,000 births as a result of defunding pregnancy clinics as part of a war on abortion and birth control.  Most of the clinics providing pregnancy clinics in the state were forced to close.  Nationwide, not counting California (which reduced its rate) or Texas, the US rate increased from 18.8 to 23.8 from 2000 to 2014.  Texas shared in the national rate, around 18, until 2010, after which it closed the clinics and the maternal mortality rate soared.  Texas now has the highest rate in the developed world, comparable to some African states (Redden 2016).  By contrast, Iceland has had no maternal mortalities for decades.  Rates across Scandinavia are around 1 to 3.

The far-right Breitbart News has emerged as the voice of the Trump administration.  Ironically, the service nests in Westwood, a liberal part of a liberal urban area (Ng 2016).


Fascist Economics


The giant firms that back the Republicans depend heavily on direct and indirect subsidies.  From the average American’s taxes, $4000 go to subsidies, tax breaks, and giveaways, largely for primary-production corporations.  As noted above, big oil gets over $37 billion in subsidies, including money spent by the US government to clear up oil spills, and for roads, ports, rail, pipelines, etc., for big oil.  These firms also obtain tax writeoffs and special tax breaks, such as the oil depletion allowance, which are far greater than the direct subsidies.  The total cost of food stamps and US government welfare for the poor is $7.4 billion (American NewsX, Dec. 15, 2016).

The enormous profits earned with the help of these heavy subsidies are to a great extent either invested overseas, or simply hoarded there—banked in the Cayman Islands, Bermuda, Switzerland, and similar gopher holes for finance.  Most of this wandering money is not invested in the United States, if it is invested at all.  A great deal of it simply disappeared—taken out of circulation for the indefinite future, which is in practice the same as burning stacks of bills.

This is “low-velocity money”—in fact, it may have zero velocity.  Giant corporations are incentivized to invest in increasing efficiency, productivity, and even in production only when hoarding is taxed heavily.  Otherwise, they will be forced by immediate financial considerations to jack up prices for quick high profit, keep production minimal, and hoard the profits.  This freezes the money in numbered bank accounts, where it rarely, if ever, moves to productive investments.

By contrast, the fastest-velocity money—that which is most immediately spent and put in circulation in the economy—is money given to poor people for survival needs.  They have to spend it right away.  The places they spend it usually spend it immediately themselves—for instance, stores have to re-stock.  Medicare, Medicaid, Social Security, food stamps, all such income goes out into circulation and recirculation right away, or even before it arrives (thanks to buying on credit).  Much government transfer payment money goes to active workers who simply do not make enough to live on.  So it is a productive investment, even to those cold-blooded souls who do not see keeping old people and young children alive as productive.

The Republicans plan to give enormous tax cuts to the rich.  They plan to end whole categories of tax (such as inheritance taxes).  They plan to cut corporate taxes to effectively zero—to a level so low that normal deductions will bring effective rates to zero.  They plan to cut income taxes such that few rich would pay.  This will be made up for—partially—by ending the transfer payments.  Social Security taxes will go to the general fund.  Also, the National Endowments for the Arts and the Humanities are proposed for elimination—saving the average taxpayer $0.46 each per year.  The Corporation for Public Broadcasting—best known for NPR—is also slated to be defunded, saving the taxpayer $1.37.  Trump’s projected cuts to these and environmental, civil rights, and arts programs would save the average taxpayer only $22.36 per year; ending the home-ownership mortgage deduction, also proposed, would at least save more—some $296.29 (Tepper 2017).  And of course cutting oil subsidies would save another $11, and cutting waste by the Pentagon (which takes well over $500 of the average person’s taxes) would save hundreds.

Anyone doubting the effects may examine the recent history of oil-dominated countries from Saudi Arabia and Equatorial Guinea to Bahrain and Brunei.  Wealth is amassed and hoarded by the tiny oil-rich and rentier elite, while the people do poorly, and investment stagnates except in increasing oil production.  The governments are also free to indulge in harsh and cruel repression of whole sectors of their population, in ways that would be economically suicidal in a country that needed skilled labor.  Saudi Arabia, for instance, virtually removes women from the work force.

As has often been pointed out, racism, sexism, and similar bigotries are luxuries.  A working economy cannot afford them.  They are found where a rentier elite needs to keep large sections of the population crushed in order to maintain its own predation.  Slave economies like the old cotton south and sugar Caribbean, oil economies, and a few economies based on heavy industry are the economies that succeed that way.

The Republican “right-to-work” and other laws would virtually eliminate labor unions as significant forces.  Republicans are also moving to end workers’ protection of all sorts, from anti-discrimination to health and safety rules.  All this would reduce wages across the board.

Meanwhile, housing prices are rising in most of the US, insurance and health costs are rising, and people are being forced by current economic realities to buy all manner of electronic gadgets.  It is no longer possible to find public phones, so for emergencies we have to carry cellphones.  A house without a home computer is seriously handicapped in many ways.  Expenses for everyone are thus rising fast.  All this impacts consumption of all the goods and services that are not absolutely necessary.

The effect of falling wages, disappearing transfer payments, and “necessity creep” in a consumption-driven economy can easily be imagined: depression.

The Republicans will probably respond like most economically-illiterate regimes challenged with the bad results of their experiments: by printing money.  The resulting inflation will finish the job of wrecking the US economy.  It will never be able to recover; commitment to primary production in a world of rapidly depleting resources and rapidly rising temperatures is suicidal.

In short, we may be in for genocide in the service of an agenda more murderous than any genocide.  The Republicans will exterminate their oppoinents to allow them to pursue the repeal of Medicare, Medicaid, Social Security, all food aid, all environmental protection, and all support to science.  This would lead to literally hundreds of millions of deaths, since the effects of measures like permitting unlimited carbon emissions would spill over into the rest of the world.

Henry Giroux, in a very important article in Truthout (2017b), lists several characteristics of totalitarian regimes that are all visible in the Trump administration’s policies: a rhetoric of irresponsibility and violence; “survival-of-the-fittest discourse [that] provides a breeding ground for…hypermasculine behaviors and hypercompetitiveness”; alternative realities, the famous “alternative facts”; labeling whole groups as dispensible, criminal, and dangerous; ignorance and a positive value, with anti-intellectualism written into school policies; regarding the weak as worthless losers; a “language of borders and walls”; violence as the prime solution, with police and arrest as the solution for homelessness, drug addiction, and misfortune.; rejection of democracy (Trump avoids the word) and democratic institutions; opposition to public education and to everything that leads people to “think critically and act responsibly”; fears of others within society as an alternative to personal responsibility; ending of the welfare state and safety nets; increasing inequality; ultranationalism and militarism; oppression of mainstream media and control of them when possible.  One might add that any and all beauty and loveliness, from art to nature, is utter anathema, to be destroyed when possible.

Giroux has written several books on America’s problems, the latest being America at War with Itself (2017a).  This book recounts the Trump campaign with full details on its racist ideology, then contexts it in the history of racism, racist violence, and structural violence in general.  Giroux also looks at the militarism and idealization of guns in American culture.  The book is an excellent analysis of the whole background of right-wing hatred, violence, and hate ideology that permeates the current political climate.  Unfortuantely, like many others who examine such issues, he has little to say about cures.  He recommends teaching with “critical pedagogy.”  This is certainly a desirable thing (as he describes it: combatting lies and hate with facts and critical analysis, rather than with more lies and hate, as is too often the case).  But it is only one needed thing among many.


Wider Perspectives


A foretaste of the US under conservatives is provided by Guatemala and El Salvador.  The CIA installed dictators trained at the School of the Americas, the CIA’s secret school for autocratic rulers.  The leading ones were Efrain Rios Montt in Guatemala, who was responsible for a genocide that claimed 200,000 innocent lives, and Roberto d’Aubuisson in El Salvador, responsible for politicide that killed several tens of thousands.  A subsequent coup in Honduras in 2009 has added it to the club.  Since these regimes were installed, constant repression and countless further deaths have led to stalled economies with extreme poverty and unemployment, and domination of society by drug gangs, which now rule El Salvador almost totally.  This is the result of regimes installed by American conservatives and faithfully carrying out American conservative policies, including repression, closing of quality public education, repression of private education as well, reducing health care to the bare minimum, pulling back on law enforcement and civil society, and above all allowing giant multinational firms a free hand.

Recent histories of fascism, such as Michael Mann’s Fascists (Cambridge University Press, 2004) and Robert Paxton’s The Anatomy of Fascism (Knopf, 2004), provide background.  Both books define fascism very narrowly—basically as popular, militaristic movements with wide support across classes, and with paramilitary organizations that glorify, and use, violence.  This restricts the term to Germany, Italy, and a few neighboring countries in the 1930s and 1940s, though the authors are quick to see similarities with modern movements like Milosevic’s in Serbia in the 1990s.  Mussolini himself had a wider definition, emphasizing the corporate connections.  Hitler and Mussolini came rather slowly to make these, but depended on them once they were fully in power.

The rise of Mussolini and Hitler was exactly like the rise of Trump, with one major exception—so far:  The Republicans have not (yet) mobilized the KKK and other paramilitary groups to create violence.  Mussolini’s Blackshirts and Hitler’s Brownshirts were critically important to the rise of fascism in Europe, and were widely imitated.  Ironically, the KKK was the world’s first right-wing uniformed paramilitary group.  It could be—and may be starting to be—the source of a militia arm of the Republicans.

Yet these books also provide hope. Fascist movements did not win except when orthodox politicians were disunited.  Civil society in countries like Hungary and France prevented the rise of fascism until Hitler actually took them over.  Civil, peaceful protests have brought down many military and even fascist regimes since.







Genocide may be the defining crime of the 20th century, and is maintaining itself in the 21st.   Not only genocide itself, but indifference to it by the international community, remains a huge problem for the world (Apsel and Verdeja 2013; Hinton 2005; Hirsch 2014; Power 2002; Totten 2012, 2014).

Recently Barbara Harff (2012) and E. N. Anderson and  Barbara A. Anderson constructed models for predicting genocide (see Anderson and Anderson 2012; Doughty 2015; Harff 2012; Heying 2013).  The Andersons’ book followed the original definition by Raphael Lemkin: “the destruction of a nation or of an ethnic group” (Lemkin 1944:79; see Lemkin 2013).  He included cultural destruction through forced assimilation, and also partial or attempted genocide that did not totally succeed.  (Indeed, few totally succeed.)   He further defined genocide as murder by a government of its own citizens or subjects, when they are accused of nothing consequential other than belong to a particular demographic category.

Subsequent research on Lemkin’s papers, including the beginnings of a history of genocide (unfinished), show that he expanded his definition to include other defined groups, and came more and more to stress cultural destruction as well as physical, seeing them as part of the same process (Short 2016:20).  His stress on culture, and his concept of it, came from anthropology, especially from the writings of his fellow Pole, Bronislaw Malinowski (Moses 2010:24-25).

As he wrote. “genocide…is intended to signify a coordinated plan of different actions aiming at the destruction of the essential foundations of the life of national groups, with the aim of annihilating the groups themselves.  The objectses of suh a plan would be disintegration of the political and social institutions of culture, language, national feelings, religion, and the economic existence of national groups…” (Lemkin 1944;79; also quoted and discussed in Short 2016:23-24; Short’s is, at this writing, the most recent of many detailed and thoughtful discussions of the definition of genocide).  However, political extermination—genocide of “liberals” or “conservatives” or some other politically defined group—is now usually counted as genocide also, though it does not really aim at cultural extermination.  It is now often called “politicide.”

By Lemkin’s definition, at least 100 million and possibly more than 200 million people were killed by genocide in the 20th and early 21st centuries, in at least 67 countries (Anderson and Anderson 2012; De Dreu et al. 2010; Rummel 1994, 1998; Tilly 2003:55).  This makes it as potent a killer as malaria or tuberculosis.  Genocides and related mass murders “killed more than 210 million people during the twentieth century alone and since 2000 more than thirty thousand people have been killed by terrorists” (De Dreu et al. 2010:1408).  Wars probably killed about as many (de Waal 2005:5; Pinker 2011).

The category can be a religion or sect, a political philosophy, a “race” (however defined by the genociders), an ethnic group, or any other essentialized cultural category.  It is usually an existing one, but genociders have been known to invent categories.  They use their power to impose their definitions on the victims—often extending the “Jews” or “Tutsi” or “Indians” far beyond normal use of such labels (Short 2016:14).

Killing of actual enemies in declared war, however general and ruthless, does not count.  This means that Lemkin (at first) and we are using a quite different definition from some authors.  However, Lemkin later came to use the term for any mass murder of noncombatants, even enemy noncombatants in an active war (Moses 2010:26).  Since virtually all wars involve this, he studied war in general, throughout all history.

Ben Kiernan, in his magistral work Blood and Soil (2007), defines it as broadly.  He found that most involved “blood and soil”—descent groups, and land to appropriate, conquer, or loot.  Martin Shaw, in his recent book Genocide and International Relations (2013), also critiques much of the usage of the term for being too restrictive; like Kiernan, he would expand it to include almost any violence against defined groups, and also sees  it as typically an ongoing process.  Shaw provides an excellent and thoughtful discussion of the whole concept.

However, Kiernan’s and Shaw’s usages makes genocide virtually universal.  It eliminates the close link between genuine mass violence and dictatorial regimes based on exclusionary ideologies.  It eliminates the vitally important distinction between killing of enemy-side noncombatants in actual international war and killing of one’s own minorities.  The term “genocide” has also been loosely used for all manner of small-scale, though usually serious, killings and abuses (see Totten and Bartrop 2008:167).

These authors, and most of those in The Oxford Handbook of Genocide Studies (Bloxham and Moses 2010), give us two broad definitions of genocide that go well beyond Lemkin’s original one.  First, it can mean any mass killing of enemy civilians in time of war, in which case it is synonymous with war, since every consequential war in history—everything beyond the Soccer War and the War of Jenkin’s Ear—involves that.  For instance, the oft-cited Roman destruction of Carthage was simply normal warfare as practiced in the day.  By this standard, the US carpet-bombing of Dresden and Munich was as bad as—indeed, no different from—Hitler’s genocides.  A few pacifists and rather more neo-Nazis maintain that, but the vast majority of scholars see a basic difference.

Second, it can mean specific killing in wartime of enemy troops, prisoners, and civilians, with a deliberate intention of exterminating their ethnic or religious group.  This clearly blends into genocide by the stricter definition.  When a nation conquers an enemy and subjects the enemy population, what at first is simply killing enemies soon becomes killing one’s own (newly-acquired) subjects.  Then, it is impossible to draw a clear line between actual wartime killing and deliberate peacetime genocide.

This happened in many early religious wars, especially the various crusades.  In those wars, the intent was typically to exterminate as many of the “others” as possible, and mass murder of innocents—even in thoroughly conquered territory—was routine (see Runciman 1987; von Wees 2010).  The same thing happened very frequently in early American history when Native American tribes were conquered.  The Cherokee, for instance, put up a hot fight, but by the time Andrew Jackson sent them on the Trail of Tears, they were a conquered and subject population (Brown 1971; Debo 2013), and his policies were genocidal by the strictest definition.

These and the third, narrowly defined, type of genocide all have different predictors.  War is generally over land and resources or over ideology (religion or politics), less often over traditional ethnic animosity—hence Kiernan’s title Blood and Soil.   War with attendant massacre of civilians caught in the crossfire is almost universal among human societies.  Violence almost endless in many of them; the United States has been at war almost continually since 1776.  England, France, Spain and other countries have been at war more often than not.  Humans are violent animals.

Genocide of conquered enemies is frequently a matter of getting rid of them to clear the land for the conquerors, who want to take it and settle it; this is also a very important factor in peacetime genocides.  It motivated genocides as diverse as  Hitler’s clearances in Eastern Europe and the Anglo- and Latin-American extermination of Native Americans.  Sometimes such genocide is simply an extension of wartime hatreds.

Restricting genocide to murder of a government’s own, peaceful subjects is a different thing.  It indicates some degree of serious fear or hatred, or both.  A large, apparently inoffensive group of citizens or subjects has somehow scared the government into full-scale eradication.  It cannot be explained by need for land if the government already has the land.

Ideology remains a factor, and ethnicity or comparable identity is a factor by definition.  It is often precipitated by war, but often takes place in peacetime, sometimes out of what seems to be a clear blue sky.  As Michael Mann says: “Murderous cleansing has been modern. In earlier times it sometimes resulted when conquerors seized the land but did not require the labor of the natives, while monotheistic salvation religions later attempted forced conversions.  But the pace of murderous ethnic cleansing quickened greatly when modern people sought to establish rule by the people in bi-ethnic environments” (Mann 2005:502).  Indigenous people worldwide would surely object to the “sometimes”—they know settler genocides were more rule than exception—but Mann is broadly correct:  mass murder of one’s own peaceful subjects is largely a modern phenomenon.

The important thing here is that we can take steps to end this type of genocide.  Ending war is probably hopeless, but ending mass murder of innocent subjects is possible.

The strict definition eliminates most of Kiernan’s cases and many of Shaw’s.  It leaves us with two quite different types of genocide (both discussed by Kiernan, but a minor part of his huge sample):  Settler genocides (Wolfe 2006), and modern total genocide.  In the former, an ethnic group takes over an area and clears the land, once the people are subjected, by methodically exterminating them.  This occurred in the New World with many Native American groups (see e.g. Madley 2016), and in Australia with Aboriginal groups (Short 2016).  It differs from simple extermination of conquered people in that the people in question have already been conquered, made subjects, and frequently already deprived of their land.  They are killed out of desire to finish the land-clearance work permanently, or fear that they might rebel, or revenge for actual rebellion, or sheer hate.  These are invariably coupled with discrimination, often including dehumanization.

In modern total genocide, a government picks on long-established citizen or subject groups and exterminates them for what appear to outsiders to be arbitrary or inadequate reasons.  The classic case is Hitler’s extermination of Jews, Roma, homosexuals, handicapped and mentally ill persons, political dissenters, modern artists, and other categories.  Other well-studied examples include the massacre of Armenians and other Christian communities by the “Young Turk” government of Turkey (Akçam 2012) and the genocide in Cambodia in the 1970s (Frye 1989; Hinton 2002a, 2002b, 2005; Kiernan 2007).

It is critical to recognize that the victims are very often subjects who are not citizens.  Genocide of Native Americans in the United States was done when they were not citizens.  Citizen groups were spared.  Genocide stopped just about the time they became official citizens, in 1924.  Hitler killed many Germans, but the vast majority of his six million were in occupied lands in eastern Europe; here he had effectively destroyed the states or ceased recognizing state governments in occupied lands.  Anyone with a passport of an existing country could often escape, and faking passports was frequent.  Many other genocides are similar; people lose citizenship rights and can be killed at will (Snyder 2015:339).

Lemkin’s (initial) definition rules out, for instance, most of the extermination campaigns against Native Americans in the United States.  Most were either actual wars against genuinely combative enemies not under control of the United States Government, or were informal massacres carried out by local people without government authority.  Relatively few actual genocidal massacres had official government blessing.  Those few included the Cherokee Long March, a number of local campaigns in the 1850s, the Shoshone-Bannock “war” of the 1870s, the Sioux campaigns of the 1890s (Mooney 1896), and several other cases, but not, for instance, the mass murders committed in missionization and later de-missionization in California (which have often been called genocide).  Throughout the western hemisphere, the vast majority of deaths were from disease, and these were normally not intentional—indeed they were often much regretted.  However, sometimes the settlers deliberately infected Native populations with disease, or denied them aid and care during epidemics, and this blended into true genocide (Madley 2016; Robins 2010).

Intermittent campaigns that were genuinely genocidal did occur (Cameron et al. 2015; Robins 2010).  For instance, in California in the 19th century, Benajmin Madley finds that there were at least 3,000 killings in government campaigns of extermination, and 6,840 murders by unofficial but often covertly government-accepted settler groups bent on eliminating Native Americans (Madley 2012, 2016).  There were many more killings that were part of actual wars or were simply ordinary crimes; Madley, using the strict definition of genocide, does not count these.  Desperate attempts by Indigenous or enslaved people to fight back have been called “genocidal” (Robins 2010), but this clearly does not meet our definition here.  Random massacres by disorganized, and doomed, people driven to suicidal action is not even remotely comparable to systematically planned annihilation of the powerless by the powerful.

These settler genocides occur when an area occupied by one group is newly settled by another more powerful one.  They are common throughout history, but far more common since the rise of seaborne empires in the 16th century.

Slavery, too, is a different matter.  The slaving wars of the 17th and 18th centuries may have killed more people than all the genocides of the 20th century, but they were not about exterminating groups—quite the reverse.  The killings were an unfortunate by-product of the desperate attempts by colonial powers to get more people to work in their new lands.  On the other hand, slave-taking was an almost universal part of premodern genocides: the able-bodied men and the “useless” old people were killed, while the women and children were enslaved and forcibly acculturated into the conqueror’s society.  Slavery thus presents an ambiguous case (Johnassohn and Björnson 1998:20-22).  Significantly, no one proposed eliminating slavery until the 18th century, and significant moves to eliminate it appeared only in the 19th (Davis 1966,  1971; Pinker 2011).  Before that, it was accepted as part of life.  Christians pointed to Biblical acceptance, until the Quakers protested.

Lemkin was defining a real and extremely important type of killing, and one that vastly and explosively increased in the 20th century, making it exceedingly important as a factor in world history.  Overgeneralizing his term loses us a category that needs serious study.  The other forms of mass destruction, from ordinary international war to California missionization, deserve their own explanations and studies.  This is not to belittle them, but simply to say that they are different phenomena.  Genocide—murder of peaceful subjects by government, without any reason that would convince a bystander—is a special phenomenon, highly predictable as to occurrence, course, and results.

Genocide does include “wars” in which a vastly disproportionate percent of the killing was government extermination of innocent noncombatants, such as the Guatemalan terror of the 1980s, in which over 200,000 people died.  War (including civil war) is often defined as armed conflict with 1000 or more deaths, between recognizable sides, the sides being at least remotely close to equal and thus with at least five percent of deaths on each side (Collier 2007:18).  In Guatemala, the government called this a civil war, but the government was responsible for at least 95% and possibly 97% of the killings, and virtually none of those were combat deaths (see e.g. Stoll 1993, 1999).  Of course this means that there will always be boundary phenomena: things such as civil or national wars with killing just one-sided enough to be debatable as to whether they constitute genocides, and hot pursuit of hated ethnic groups across national boundaries (like the continuing Hutu-Tutsi war in Congo after Rwanda and Burundi are relatively pacified).

Taking people’s land and resources—what Amartya Sen calls “affordances”—without directly killing the people in question must also be seen as genocidal if it clearly leads directly to the death of the people in question.  Here again there are boundary phenomena: where does all-too-ordinary bureaucratic callousness—memorably termed “structural violence” by Johan Galtung (1969)—grade into deliberate mass murder?  In such cases, what matters is clear governmental intent to exterminate defined groups of peaceable people.  This is what we have examined from the point of view of prediction.

Damien Short (2016) links genocide and ecocide.  Ecocide usually means destroying nature or ecosystems, but Short is here referring to scorched-earth methods of destroying people.  He points out that this has been done by Israel in Palestine, with more than 1.5 million trees destroyed, most of them profitable olive trees that were the mainstay of the rural Palestinian economy, and with major damage to water resources (Short 2016:69-92).  Sri Lanka also devastated Tamil agriculture in its long war with its Tamil minority (Short 2016:93-126), and there are many attacks on Indigenus ecologies.  The destruction of the buffalo by white Americans in the 19th century was done partly to destroy Native American cultures and economies.

Governments invoke genocides, often coldly and with advance planning, but depend on mobilized citizenry to carry them out.  This requires creating a mood of extreme fear and/or hate of the people to be eliminated.  People after a genocide often recall feeling out of their minds—either crazed with blood lust or feeling like automatons (Anderson and Anderson 2012 review a long literature; see also Staub 1989, 2011).  From a considerable literature on evil and human hate, especially valuable are Scott Atran’s Talking to the Enemy (2010), Roy Baumeister’s Evil (1997), Aaron Beck’s Prisoners of Hate (1999), and Erwin Staub’s The Roots of Evil (1989).

An important point is made by S. I. Wilkinson, as quoted by Martin Shaw (2013:160):  “’…the constructivist insight that individuals have many ethnic and nonethnic identities with which they might identify politically.  The challenge for politicians is to ensure that the one that most favours their party is the one that is most salient in the minds of the majority of voters…in the run-up to an election’ (Wilkinson 2006:4).”  Shaw adds:  “By the same token, the challenge for activists mobilizing riots and other…violence is to stigmatize the ‘enemy’ through the most lethal combination of identities that can be ascribed to it” (Shaw 2013:160).  Trump in the United States appealed to white women who might otherwise have voted for a fellow woman (Clinton) and appealed to working-class whites who clearly voted against their economic self-interest.





Genocidal Origins


Genocide on a vast, nationwide scale is relatively new, really beginning with the Turkish genocides of 1895 and 1915.  However, genocide has a long history.  Tribal groups throughout history exterminated each other.  That was usually done in war and was done to people eager to do the same to their opponents, so it is outside our definition here.  Sometimes, however, cold-blooded extermination of a group was carried out simply to get their land or to take slaves.

Empires routinely involved killing by the emperor or his group of anyone that opposed them, especially open rebels.  Typically, not only the individuals in question but their entire families were exterminated, since kinship loyalty forced any surviving family members to try for revenge.  Empires often suffered from succession wars, also.  In these, heirs fought each other for the throne, or one heir preemptively killed all the others (a practice routinized in the Turkish Empire).  These events were kin-structured, not ethnically or religiously or ideologically structured, and so are only somewhat comparable with modern genocides.

More comparable are the conflicts in old China between advocates of conflicting policies.  Sometimes the winning faction would persuade the Emperor to execute the membership of the opposing one, thus presaging modern politicide.

Small-scale massacres of one’s own, for religious and similar reasons, are recorded from early times.  The Bible includes several horrific descriptions of genocide, mostly in wartime but done to already-conquered people (for these and other cases see von Wees 2010).  The one most often cited is particularly notorious because God ordered the Israelites to be so cruel that they could not go through with it.  He ordered Saul to smite the Amalekites, not only all the humans but all the livestock.  The Israelites smote most of the humans, but kept the better livestock, for which God punished Saul (1 Samuel 15:2-28).

Closer to a modern genocide was the episode that made “shibboleth” a watchword today.  The word means “ear of grain,” but its significance here is that it was hard to pronounce for an unfortunate group who did not use the sh sound.  Jephthah, judge of Israel, and his Gileadites were at war with Ammon.  The Ephraimites refused to help, so Jephthah conquered them too, after which “…the Gileadites took the passages of Jordan before the Ephraimites: and it was so, that when those Ephraimites which were escaped said, Let me go over; that the men of Gilead said unto him, Art thou an Ephraimite? If he said, Nay; Then said they unto him, Say now Shibboleth: and he said Sibboleth: for he could not frame to pronounce it right.  Then they took him, and slew him at the passages of Jordan: and there fell at that time of the Ephraimites forty and two thousand” (Judges 12:5-6; the number of slain is surely exaggerated).

In later times, Roman repression of Christians comes to mind, but was not as constant and serious as Christian traditions often allege (Gibbon 1995; Jonassohn and Björnson 1998:191-195).  In Rome and other early empires, only rarely was genocide in the modern sense practiced, though there were settler genocides and occasional exterminations of enemy populations.


Religion, Exclusion, and Genocide


Serious mass extermination campaigns of one’s own peaceful citizens may be said to begin with the rise of monotheistic religions, with their notorious intolerance of “heresy.”  Jews were targeted by Christians from the very first, with huge expulsion and extermination campaigns punctuating European history, especially in the west—the region that now, ironically, prides itself on being the birthplace of the Enlightenment.  It is doubly ironic that much of the thinking that led to the Enlightenment was done by Jews such as Spinoza.  Central and East Europe was usually more tolerant, except for pogrom-ridden Russia.  The Islamic world was far more tolerant, serving as the great refuge area for Jews expelled from Europe.  (Islamic intolerance and European tolerance are both relatively recent.)

The wars and suppression campaigns against heretics involved true genocide on modern scales.  The Catharist crusade in France in the 13th century became particularly famous for this, partly because at the siege of Béziers in 1209, the conquering French general, Simon de Montfort, wished to spare as many people as he could, and asked his Cistercian field chaplain Arnaut Amaury how to tell the heretics from the faithful.  Amaury reportedly replied caedete eos, novit enim Dominus qui sunt eius (Totten and Bartrop 2008:11), memorably translated as “kill ‘em all, let God sort ‘em out” (or in French, tuez les tous, Dieu reconnaîtra les siens).  It is not certain if those were his exact words, but in any case that is what happened, and the city was put to the sword (Anderson and Anderson 2012:91; O’Shea 2002:269; Roux-Perino and Brenon 2006).  Since it had fiercely resisted, this was more an act of war than actual genocide, but what matters here is that Amaury’s instructions were taken far beyond Béziers, and the Cathars were exterminated, even those who were peaceable shepherds and farmers.

After that, not only were other groups wiped out, but the witch craze gathered momentum in the 15th  and 16th centuries, and at least 40,000 to 60,000 innocent people—some estimates run as high as 100,000 to 200,000—were put to death as witches (Totten and Bartrop 2008:54).  Meanwhile, the Spanish Reconquista became more and more bloody, leading to outright genocide after the final fall of the last Muslim stronghold in 1492.  The Spanish crown consolidated power by driving out hundreds of thousands of Muslims and Jews, but then cracked down on survivors, and especially converts suspect of being insincere .  Thousands were killed, often by burning at the stake.  This was true genocide by the narrowest definition.  Techniques of genocide, from systematic insults, cultural destruction, child removal, and forced humiliation to torture, terrorization, and mass murder—were perfected in the Spanish Inquisition.  For one example, Jews and Muslims were forced to convert or die (or leave Spain) and were then forced to eat pork and were called marranos, “swine.”  Betrayal was encouraged and rewarded; goods were seized from suspected backsliders and sometimes given to the betrayers.

The Protestant Reformation and subsequent wars of religion in the 16th and 17th centuries led to hundreds of thousands of deaths of innocent noncombatants.  Also at this time, anti-Jewish pogroms spun out of control in Russia and east Europe.  The historic massacre of some 100,000 Jews under Bogdan Chmielnicki in the 1640s and 1650s (see Totten and Bartrop 2008:70) set the tone and became immortalized in Jewish lore.  (Isaac Bashevis Singer’s novel Satan in Goray, frequently reprinted, gives a dramatic picture of the period).  The Russian state winked at such massacres, if it was not in collusion, and thus set the stage for modern genocides.

The Treaty of Westphalia was signed in 1648, ending the age of religious wars and of dominance by the Pope over much of European politics.  Nation-states took their modern form.  The nation-state then set about insuring loyalty by force.  A final religious war but also a birthing war of the nation-state was the English civil war of 1642-1649, involving genocidal murder of Catholic Irish and of religious dissidents in general.

Other countries had their own religious massacres, including India’s multisided warfare of Vaishnavites, Shaivites, Sikhs, Muslims, Jains (Jonassohn and Björnson 1998:219), and others.  These gave rise to the ironic Indian story of the blind men and the elephant; the blind men are the religions of India, the elephant is God.  The fight between the blind men over their ridiculous misunderstandings of the elephant, and the acute embarrassment of the sighted spectators, was the wise thinker’s comment on religious war.  The Chinese had occasional campaigns against Buddhism and Daoism, but these were more political and economic than religious.  Some at least were shamelessly open ploys to seize the monasteries’ wealth.


Ethnic and Political Murder


By contrast to religion, extermination of ethnic groups was apparently rare until recently, except in settler genocides or actual wars.  The Mongols killed countless thousands of people, but (in most cases) only actual enemies.  They would often decimate conquered cities to prevent or punish rebellion.  Still, their bloody reputation has been exaggerated.  This was largely because they used a tactic known from ancient Mesopotamia to Inca Peru: they sent agents out to circulate vastly inflated stories of punishments to cities that resisted, scaring many cities into submitting without a fight (Buell 2008; Weatherford 2004).

Politicides were common, but usually structured along kinship lines.  Emperors and kings killed their individual enemies and the families thereof.  Princes killed each other—brother against brother, cousin against cousin—in succession wars, but such episodes are not genocide.  Now and then a paranoid or psychopathic leader of a successful revolution might kill vast numbers of conquered subjects without real cause, and this should count as genocide; in China, Zhu Yuanzhang at the start of Ming in the 1300s was one striking case (Mote 1999:576-578).  This was a true consolidation genocide, a type of genocide very common since 1900.

Tamerlane, the Mongol-Turkic warlord of the 15th century, was more murderous and cruel, obliterating whole populations with little excuse; his campaigns certainly verge on the genocidal by even the strictest defintion.  China’s expansion to the south and into central Asia often involved settler massacres of minority groups in the same way that Europeans overwhelmed and eliminated Indigenous peoples in the New World (see e.g. Perdue 2005 for western China; Wiens 1954 for the south).  Thai clearances of Cambodians from much of what is now east-central Thailand was at best “ethnic cleansing,” at worst genocidal.  There were many other cases of settler genocides; few expansions into previously occupied territory have ever been merciful.  Massacres by governments of their own established minorities are considerably fewer in the record.

Settler genocides accompanied the rise of modern seaborne colonial empires, which had really begun with the Portuguese and Spanish conquests in the 15th and 16th centuries.  England, the Netherlands, and France weighed in.  Seaborne empires exacerbated the age-old problem.  Especially in the New World, settlers cleared the land of Indigenous peoples.  Disease did most of the killing, but far from all of it; massacres were routine and appalling (see Anderson and Anderson 2012:95-100; Cameron et al. 2015; Hemming 1978; Las Casas 1992).  The Spanish, English, Dutch, and later other colonial powers unleashed mass extermination campaigns to clear the land (Kiernan 2007).  The Chinese in central Asia ocasionally did this too (Perdue 2007).

Labor shortage thus developed in newly conquered lands, driving the slave trade.  Colonial wars were at first about control of trade, especially the slave trade, which led to tens of millions of deaths over 300 years.  It was slowly shut down (though incompletely) in the 19th century.  It was not true genocide—the slaves were not from the slaver nations’ citizenry—but it certainly was mass murder of innocent people.  Treatment of enslaved people in the Colonies, and of escaped groups (“Maroons”), did reach genocidal levels on many occasions.  In the 18th century, planters were accused of not bothering to keep enslaved workers alive because it was cheaper to buy new ones (Watts 1990).

The lands and especially the home countries soon filled up, and by the 20th century the problem was excess labor power, not labor shortage.  This excess did not cause, but did allow, genocide.  In earlier centuries, no sane ruler would have killed millions of his own people without good reason; he could not have afforded the loss of workers and soldiers.  In the 20th century, with public health and high birth rates, finding jobs for the rapidly increasing workforce has been the key and chronic problem.  There is no incentive for a ruler to preserve all his subjects.  If he can consolidate his power by whipping up hate of one or another group, nothing stops him from doing it, and eventually acting on the hate.


The Rise of Exclusionary Ideologies


This, however, does not happen in most countries; it happens under only very specific circumstances.  One of them is the extremist exclusionary ideology mentioned earlier.  Very often, rich elites whip up hatred in order to consolidate their own position.  Often the hatred takes over, and the elites are harmed or even destroyed (along with many others) when the leaders of the hate agenda take over.  This happened most conspicuously in the case of Hitler’s Germany.  Hitler was put in power by the conservative political and economic elite of Germany.  They were ruined along with him.  The most motivated and emotionally driven will often win, in political battles, and in times of extremism that means the leaders of hate.  Hugh Gusterson (2007) pointed out that genocides tend to take on a life of their own, drifting from targeted groups to wider and wider circles of victims.

The long and sorry history of genocide in the 20th century has been told so often that there is no need to recapitulate it here (see especially Jones 2011, Kiernan 2007, and Mann 2005 for comparative analytic histories; also, among specially interesting and distinctive analyses are Charny 1994; Kuper 1983; Levene 2005; Rummel 1998; Semelis 207; Totten et al. 1997; many others).  The first genocide on a vast scale was that carried out by the Turkish government against the Armenians and other religious minorities, especially in 1915 (see Akçam 2012; G. Balakian 2009; P. Balakian 2007; Mann 2005; Hofmann 2015; Kaiser 2010; Smith 2015, introducing a whole journal issue on this genocide; other sources cited in Anderson and Anderson 2012).

Hitler’s Holocaust has been the subject of tens of thousands of books and articles, and the standard of scholarship has been high, from Franz Neumann’s great Behemoth (1944) and The Democratic and Authoritarian State (1957) through William Shirer’s classic The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich (1960) to Timothy Snyder’s brilliant Black Earth (2015).  Many have pointed out that the initial appeal of Hitler and Mussolini was surprisingly wide—not just the small businesspeople and better-off workers.  Many intellectuals and perhaps most academics were pro-fascist.  Poets from e.e. cummings to T. S. Eliot and William Butler Yeats were early sympathizers; Ezra Pound remained pro-Nazi all his life (on the wide appeal of fascism, see Mann 2004, 2005; Paxton 2004).  So did Martin Heidegger, the Nazi’s pet philosopher (Bourdieu 1991).  His philosophy of individual, will, and somewhat solipsistic perception of the world fit all too well with the thought of Hitler and Carl Schmitt.  D. H. Lawrence’s novel Kangaroo describes his flirtation with a fascist movement in Australia.

Stalin’s purges in the USSR have received less attention, but are still well covered, as are the major later genocides.  He resorted to deliberate starvation—at least three million died in the Ukraine famine of 1932-33 (Mann 2004)—as well as imprisonment in death camps, along with more ordinary methods of extermination.  Mao’s appalling death campaigns in China have received attention (e.g. Dikötter 2010, 2013, 2016).  Cambodia has inspired a particularly extensive and excellent literature (especially the work of Alexander Hinton 2005—an exemplary work—and Ben Kiernan 2004, 2008).  There seems little need to go over the detailed history of these well-documented cases.  These are only the most extreme of the Communist genocides; in fact all Communist regimes have resorted to mass murder in consolidating and maintaining control.  Communism adds itself to fascism as the two truly great exclusionary ideologies.

Since these early and enormous mass murders, genocide has become a routine tool of statecraft in authoritarian nations.  Among major ones are such disparate countries as Guatemala (Stoll 1993) , India (during the break with Pakistan), Indonesia, Nigeria, Rwanda (Dallaire 2003; Prunier 1995, 2007; Straus 2006), Serbia, and Sudan (Prunier 2007).  Dozens of smaller campaigns have occurred (see Appendix).

The effects of genocide on culture are permanent.  Christians still remember the persecution under the Romans.  Our Maya friends talk of the Spanish Conquest and the psychopathic murders by Bishop Diego de Landa as if these had happened last year instead of 500 years ago.  Other Native Americans have similar memories, and of course memories of slave days are fresh and bitter among formerly enslaved populations.  Armenians remain deeply traumatized by the Turkish genocide of 1915 (see Whitehorn n.d. for some particularly evocative evidence).  Jews have certainly not forgotten the Holocaust.  We need every memorial, book, and symbol that we can find, to remind people how terrible genocide is.  Never again is a watchword that has, alas, not worked so far.  We need to take that charge seriously.




Genocide Preconditions


As we have seen, modern genocide was predicted by 1) authoritarian government; 2) a major challenging situation to it, almost always either consolidation after it just seized power, or civil or international war in which loss by the government was very likely.  Often there is a “trigger” (Totten and Bartrop 2008:429): a single event that sets off, or provides an excuse for, government crackdown and genocide.  This can be an assassination, a coup attempt, or an external or internal attack.  The great genocides of the Young Turks, Pol Pot, and others emerged in wartime conditions.  Minor civil war or unrest triggered others, as in Guatemala, Sudan, and Peru.  On the other hand, the great genocides of Stalin in the USSR and Mao in China, and many lesser genocides, came out of a fairly clear sky with little triggering.  Mao’s Great Leap Forward and Great Cultural Revolution, in particular, were without real provoking incidents. Hitler’s genocide began by 1938 (Snyder 2015), though it grew much worse after he went to war in 1939.

The oft-mentioned link of genocide and war is based on the wide definition of genocide, which makes it universal in wartime.  By our narrow definitions, genocide occurs in peacetime or only slightly disturbed times as often as it does during war.  Communist regimes usually do it in peacetime, to consolidate control.  The genocides under Milosevic in former Yugoslavia, under the Interahamwe in Rwanda, under the Dergue in Ethiopia, and universally in Latin America in the bloody 1970s and 1980s (Feierstein 2010), all came in peacetime or in times of trivial civil disturbance.

Settler genocides, and conquest genocides if they are similar, are not so dependent on triggers, though they often follow killings by target (victim) populations.  Settler genocides are always expected when a government of settlers (conquerors) is consolidating control, and has reduced the conquered people to subjects but is still afraid of rebellion or outbreak.

Barbara Harff (2012), a student of conflict and civil unrest, developed this model, and it was independently found by Anderson and Anderson (2012) and later Hollie Nyseth Brehm (2017).  Harff and her husband Ted Gurr were leading authorities on conflict and on risk assessment for conflict (Harff and Gurr 2005).  Gurr had identified “risk factors” for conflict in general, including “salience of group identity…group incentives for collective action…group capacity for collective action…domestic opportunities…and international opportunities” (Totten and Bartrop 2008:369).  Summing up, Timothy Snyder noted that “social scientists have shown that ethnic cleansing and genocide tend to follow state collapse, regime changes, and civil war” (Snyder 2015:339).

Harff used Lemkin’s definition.  She followed the United Nations definition, elaborated from (and partly by) Lemkin (but she and we follow Lemkin and not the UN where they differ, basically in Lemkin’s inclusion of political-ideological massacres).  She defines genocide as governmental attempt “to destroy, in whole or in part, a communal, political, or politicized ethnic group” (Harff 2003:58, her italics).  She does not make a point of noncombatant status, but she sympathetically cites others who do; she does not deal with the possibility that religion, gender identity, or modern art could be definers, but they sometimes or often are.  She specifically includes politics, thus including “politicide,” a term she coined (see also Tilly 2003).  Her sample in 2003 was genocides from 1955 to 1997 (Anderson and Anderson’s was 1900 to 2007).

In her predictive model of genocide, Harff (2003, 2012) summarized the direct correlates of genocide succinctly: “almost all genocides of the last half-century occurred during or in the immediate aftermath of internal wars, revolutions, and regime collapse”  (2003:57).  Ben Kiernan, in spite of his far wider definition of genocide, is aware of the same phenomenon:  “By 1910…a new phenomenon emerged: genocides perpetrated by national chauvinist dictatorships that had seized control of tottering, shrinking, or new empires…” (Kiernan 2007:393)—difficult to define but similar to Harff’s findings.

Consolidation of power by a totalitarian regime almost always includes political killing, and often goes into full-scale genocide almost immediately, as in Cambodia, Rwanda, and other modern cases.  Otherwise, wars and political unrest are often precipitating events.  Economic disruptions can be triggers also.  However, many genocides have no obvious triggers.  Timothy Snyder’s recent history, Black Earth (2015), painstakingly records the rise of murder of Jews, Poles and other Slavs, Roma, disabled persons, and other categories; murders began by 1938, and were moving into six-figure totals by the time Hitler was fully engaged in war in 1939.  Similar rapid onset of mass murder is seen in many other cases.  In China’s Cultural Revolution in the 1960s, in spite of a lack of trigger event, mass murder broke out almost immediately once the campaign was under way.

Harff also, and perhaps more importantly, identified the critical role of exclusionary ideologies (Harff  2003, 2012).  Hollie Nyseth Brehm, in a major recent paper (2015), uses this term and finds it inseparable from genocide.  Gregory Stanton (2013) and others write of progressive dehumanization, and others (Anderson and Anderson 2012; Beck 1999; Staub 1989, 2003, 2011) talk more bluntly of  hate ideologies, hatred, and evil.  Helen Fein, another leading theorist and generalist in this field, has referred to more extreme forms of such ideologies as “ideological genocide”; this refers to the extreme case in which “religious traditions of contempt and collective defamation, stereotypes, and derogatory metaphor” treat subjects as “inferior, sub-human (animals, insects, germs, viruses),..Satanic,…” and so on (Fein 1990:27).  Fein has also evaluated revolutionary and antirevolutionary ideologies as frequent contributors to genocide.  Ideological genocide would certainly include Donald Trump’s continual outpourings on the subjects of Muslims and Mexicans, especially if he does indeed begin mass killing, as seems likely.

The key principle of exclusionary ideology is rejection of some groups on the basis of imagined essential badness.  They are differentially judged; they are inferior, unworthy, beneath consideration (see Sen 1982, 1984, 1992).  In a relatively mild form, this is seen when certain populations are displaced to make way for projects that benefit other, “more deserving” populations; the classic case is displacing poor rural people to make way for dams and reservoirs that benefit rich urban people (Scudder 2005).   Far more serious is denial of health care to the poor, and the subsequent “death gap” (Angell 2017).  As such exclusionary ideology becomes more serious and hateful, it leads to killing, and eventually, at worst, to genocide.

The progress is the same: regimes that come to power through exclusionary ideology get trapped by their own rhetoric and forced to deliver.  When they face serious challenge, they respond by launching mass killings of targeted groups.

Ideologies of this type, however, are not confined to genocides or genocidal leaders.  They are widespread, and create much killing outside of actual wars or genocides.  Harff points out that all genocides must have, underlying them, some ideology that not only legitimates mass murder, but makes it seem like a noble cause.  Leaders manipulate existing hatreds, and must make the murders seem necessary and virtuous.  (This will be examined in the following chapter.)

Broadly similar ideas have recently surfaced in genocide scholarship (see e.g. Aijmer and Abbink 2000;  Charny 2016; Jones 2011; Lewy 2012; Mann 2005; Meierhenrich 2014; Stanton 2013; an anonymous posting on Motherboard, 2015, notes that the use of words like “cockroaches,” long known to be associated with genocide, are actually predictive of it).

Harff stresses the role of autocratic governments, and also “political upheaval” (Harff 2003:62; her italics) as the near-invariable immediate cause.  She emphasizes the frequency of prior genocides in a nation’s record.  Anderson and Anderson did not find this, due to working with a larger sample over a longer period of time, which washed out this variable by including almost all the period of modern genocides.  She discusses the existence of “ethnic and religious cleavages” Harff 2003:63) and found no correlation; all nations have diversity but only some have genocide.

“Low economic development” (Harff 2003:64; cf. Harff 2005, 2008) also bought her little variance, and again the Andersons’ wider sample confirms this, indeed to the point of destroying any correlation.  Major genociders included Germany at a time when it was one of the three or four richest countries in the world, and within her time frame there were genocides in middle-income Argentina, Chile, China, Serbia, and elsewhere, as she notes.  More recently, Israel has engaged in genocidal activities in Palestine (Short 2016:68-92), with calls by major government figures for outright extermination of Palestinians (Robinson 2014; Short 2016:75).  Several other affluent nations have hovered on the brink.

There is no correlation between genocide and environmental problems and very little relationship with poverty (Anderson and Anderson 2012; Harff 2012).  Even today, claims that genocide follows geography are not unknown.  Alexis Alvarez has recently analyzed possible genocide due to climate change in the future, when  some 200 to 700 million people may be refugees from climate change.  He notes that conflict over resources is inevitable and conflict typically accompanies genocide: “In point of fact, genocide scholars have long identified tough times as one common factor leading up to the genocidal impulse” (Alvarez 2016:31).  However, the tough times accompanying genocide are civil or international war, not resource conflicts, which—if not exacerbated by pre-existing political tensions—are generally resolved by negotiation and treaties, not war (see e.g. Wolf 2007).  Several other false leads in explaining genocide have been address by Anderson and Anderson (2012:67-78).  Warlike nations are at no special risk; “agrarianism” is totally unrelated; many other “causes” are genociders’ excuses, not actual causes.

An important recent article by Hollie Nyseth Brehm (2017), based on a study of fully 150 nations, finds that “economic upheaval…does not influence the odds of genocide.  Instead, political upheaval that enables a repressive leader to come to power (including coups, assassinations, civil wars, and successful revolutions) and political upheaval that directly threatens those in power (including coup attempts, campaigns against the state, unsuccessful revolutions and civil wars that do not coincide with regime change) have the strongest influence on the onset of genocide.”  Her research also “highlights the role of discrimination and exclusion” (Nyseth Brehm 2017:61), but notably fails to find other risk factors important.  This all fits perfectly with the Harff and Anderson models.

Ecological damage is not closely correlated.  Poverty is closely tied to civil war (Collier 2003; Collier and Sambanis 2005), and thus has some link to genocide, which often results from civil war.  Yet poverty is not predictive of genocide.  Rich nations kill too.

Wealth derived from primary commodities, especially fossil fuels, minerals, and plantation agriculture, is associated with violence, mass killing, and genocide, though it is not predictive.  The reasons have been well analyzed.  Basic is the fact that these primary-production industries involve simple extraction of crude materials from a generally rural context.  This makes them easy to control.  Dictators tend to emerge in such situations, and maintain their power by rent-seeking coupled with brutality (see Anderson and Anderson 2012:79-82; Bunker and Cicantell 2005, an excellent review; Collier 2007, 2010; Collier and Bannon 2003; Juhasz 2008; Ross 2012).  Wealth from such sources is also associated with hate ideologies, ranging from militant Islam to fascism, and thus contributes indirectly to genocide.  Wealth from oil, gems, and other minerals naturally fits well with kleptocratic or frankly psychopathic dictators, contributing to genocides in Chile, China, Congo (D. R.), Indonesia, Iraq, Nigeria, Sri Lanka, Sudan, and many other countries.  This has led to references to the “resource curse” and the “oil curse” (Ross 2012).  This said, many genocides took place in countries with diversified and modernized economies.

Daniel Chirot and Clark McCauley (2006) showed in detail that trade, capitalism, and mercantile action are not preventive or even particularly related.  The great bugaboos of modern leftists, “capitalism” and “neoliberalism,” are problematically related.  The greatest genocides—those of Stalin and Mao—took place under communism.  The greatest genocide in terms of percentage of population killed—that in Cambodia under the Khmer Rouge—did also.  Hitler’s fascism was a distinctive economic form, “national socialism,” that was capitalist in a very inclusive sense, but not in a strict one.  (The state controlled too much of the means of production to make it fit Marx’ model of capitalism.)  Conversely, many genocides were carried out by militant champions of capitalism and neoliberalism, attempting to exterminate socialists; this was the case in Chile, Guatemala, Indonesia, Peru, and many other countries.  One can only conclude that a hate-driven dictator will use any economic excuse that presents itself.  Thus fixing “capitalism,” whatever it is, will not stop genocide.  Nor is capitalism exonerated from blame for genocide.  It was involved as a key ideological claim in many of them.  But so were fascism, communism, religion, and any other available ideology that could be commandeered for hate.  Exclusion, not specific philosophy, is what matters.

Harff found that recent genocides are more likely in countries that were relatively isolated or independent of the world-system (Harff 2003:65).  Again this does not hold for older genocides.  Even in her sample, it is difficult to defend.  For instance, China’s genocides have recently been in remote western areas (Tibet, Xinjiang), but China was thoroughly open to the world at the time (Harff 2003:69).

Her final result (2003:66) was that autocratic government and prior genocides were both correlated at .9 with genocides that occurred.  Autocracy has also existed in countries without genocide, but only very rarely in the last 100 years; most autocratic governments kill.  Prior genocide is somewhat predictive, but Germany is only the most obvious of a large number of exceptions.  Other political upheaval correlated only .47, but “exclusionary ideologies” and rule by members of a self-conscious ethnic minority both correlated .69.  Openness to trade, a proxy for world-system incorporation, correlated .7.  She admits that the model did not predict genocides in rich, trade-involved countries (e.g. Chile), or even poor but trade-involved ones (Philippines, El Salvador, several others).

In 2012 she reaffirmed her risk factors, and predicted serious troubles in several countries.  First on the list was Myanmar, which in fact has had genocidal attacks on Rohingya Muslims since she wrote.  As she pointed out, it was rather a simple prediction, since the country was a military dictatorship with almost continual war against minorities.  Second was Syria, and we know what has happened there.  Third was China, and indeed the Uighur genocide has come up since she wrote.  Fourth was Sudan, but the breakaway of South Sudan damaged the government so much that it has not had the energy to do much more than harass Darfur and Nuba, though that long-running bloody action continues.  Meanwhile, South Sudan has had genocides of its own.  Less successful predictions were the next few:  Pakistan, Ethiopia, Zimbabwe, Rwanda, and Iran, though the first two have had a great deal of violence and repression.  Then comes a partial hit, D. R. Congo; violence was already ongoing there when she wrote, and the rampant ethnic killings there have not been government-sanctioned.  A number of lower-risk countries follow, of which only Central African Republic has had a genocide, and there—for once—the international community moved fast to damp it down (Brown 2013).  The others include very stable countries like Saudi Arabia.

Anderson and Anderson’s and Nyseth Brehm’s models have the advantage of breaking regime consolidation out from response to disruption, and also noting that economic and military disruptions are causative and predictive.  One may also add that the presence of specific militias or guard units for carrying out the exclusionary ideology are a very significant warning sign (see Paxton 2004 on European fascism).

Harff and others have independently come to stress more and more the ideological side.  Governments that live and maintain themselves by mobilizing hatreds are almost always forced sooner or later to exterminate the people they say they hate.

The level and indiscriminateness of hatred is highly predictive of the level of genocide.  The extreme hatred ideology of Hitler was associated with far greater killing than the much less hate-driven fascism of Franco or Mussolini.  Pinochet in Chile was brutal enough, but did not single out whole groups; Efrain Rios Montt in Guatemala killed far more people, in a smaller country, because he targeted whole groups, ranging from aid workers to Mayan Indigenous groups.  Fidel Castro in Cuba displayed less hateful rhetoric than Stalin, and accordingly killed fewer people.  Great genociders are men of their word in one way:  they promise to exterminate their citizens on a vast scale, and they do it.

In one well-studied case, exclusionary rhetoric did not lead to genocide: Mahathir bin Muhamad’s Malaysia in the 1970s (see Mahathir bin Muhamad 1970—a particularly neat and concise statement of extreme exclusionary ideology).  That case may be instructive.  Mahathir was elected Prime Minister on a ticket of hatred and suppression of the Chinese, after several years of ethnic rioting and violence in which Bumiputera (Malays) and Chinese battled (E. N. Anderson, personal research and observation during and after residence in Malaysia in 1970-71).  Under Mahathir, the Chinese gave as little cause as they could for actual repression, tolerated a great deal of impact, and meanwhile they and other Malaysians worked terribly hard to build up the economy and make sure Mahathir and his group were beneficiaries of this.  His position softened in direct proportion to his own and his political group’s economic success.  Thus hate ideologies are real and dangerous, but enough economic success may convince haters to be more quiet.  Critical was Mahathir’s failure to close down democracy.  Malaysia remained relatively democratic through it all, inhibiting any killing that Mahathir might have intended.

It is noteworthy that the neighboring nations of Thailand and Singapore were also free from genocide, in spite of multiethnic populations and fairly authoritarian regimes.  Similarly, in Africa, multinational countries with histories of communal violence, such as Cote d’Ivoire and Mali, avoided genocide by avoiding extreme exclusionary rhetoric and ideology in government (Straus 2015).

A list of steps toward genocide is found in “The Ten Stages of Genocide,” posted by Gregory Stanton (2013) on his Genocide Watch website—a very useful resource.  The ten stages are classification, symbolization, discrimination, dehumanization, organization, polarization, preparation, persecution, extermination and denial.  They are indeed stages to watch for, and Stanton gives quick definitions and suggests countermeasures, including things for governments and the United Nations to do.  Dr. Stanton maintains on his website a list and map of countries that are genocidal or threatening to become so:  The assessments are similar to Barbara Harff’s (whom he cites).  His earlier posting, “Twelve Ways to Deny a Genocide” (2005), neatly summarizes that unpleasant aspect of mass murder.

With Harff and Stanton actively predicting risks and advocating preventive measures, and with other new work summarized below, knowledge about genocide prevention has been revolutionized.  One hopes that this will translate into action, but continued fecklessness of the world community in the face of ISIS and Boku Haram indicate that the lessons are not being learned.

Umberto Eco listed 14 points that, to him, identified a fascist leader; as an Italian, his experience was largely Mussolini.  The fourteen, as recently listed in AlterNet, include:  cult of tradition; rejection of modernism; cult of action for action’s sake; opposition to analytical criticism—disagreement is treason; exacerbating natural fear of difference; appeal to frustrated middle class; obsession with plots; permanent warfare as natural; sexual aggressiveness.  All fourteen seem relevant to Trump (Holloway 2016).

Samuel Totten, veteran student of genocide and especially of mass murder of Indigenous minorities, has added his own more immediate warning signs—signs that genocide is ongoing, not just that it is potential:

–A specific groups is “demeaned, ostracized, marginalized, segregated, excluded, or isolated”;

–“mass deportations and forcible transfer”;

–Government forces “kill unarmed civilians at will” [hardly a warning sign—it is really the genocide itself!];

–“test massacres are carried out”;

–“mass rape and enforced pregnancy are taking place.”  (Totten 2014:24).

Totten takes a long view, stressing hatred and ideology.  He states: “There is no single set of preconditions that always and definitely leads to the perpetration of genocide” (Totten and Bartrop 2008:340).  But he is referring only to the ideological back story, not to a direct set of triggers such as Harff and others identified.  This entry continues with a discussion of “radical racist ideology…cleavages…extreme nationalism…a group targeted…tribal power…struggles for power; and consolidation of despotic power.”  These do form the back story to genocide, but indeed do not predict it.  When they combine, however—when extreme ethnic hate leads to a regime based on hatred and exclusionary ideology taking totalitarian power and consolidating it under challenge—they always lead to genocide.  There are no exceptions in recorded history.

Ambiguity occurs when a regime is only partly hate-based, or has autocratic but not totalitarian power; such regimes may or may not commit genocide, based on contingent factors, especially the level of hate among the leaders at the time.

This is perhaps most clearly shown in the erratic genocides of Native Americans in the 19th century in the United States.  A theoretically “democratic” government—but one in which the Native Americans were not citizens and were governed in an autocratic manner, without real civil rights—committed genocide when the President (Andrew Jackson, for one) or the state governors or the generals (notably under Grant’s presidency) had extreme racial views.  Mexico had a similarly mixed record, but the worst genocides were under Porfirio Diaz’ dictatorship.


Genocide Typologies and Questions

Helen Fein has created some typologies of genocide (Fein 1990, 2007).  She recognized “developmental,” i.e. settler genocide; “despotic,” basically political; “ideological”; and “retributive,” going after perceived enemies.  Most modern genocides could well be fitted under all the last four heads.

Some other typologies of genocide are listed in Samuel Totten and Paul Bartrop’s Dictionary of Genocide (2008:433-434).  They report that Leo Kuper noted ethnic, terrorizing, and ideological genocides, with decolonialization and secession or independence as frequent factors.  Roger Smith recognized ideological, monopolistic, institutional, and utilitarian (settler) genocides.  Vahakn Dadrian noted cultural, retributive and, again, utilitarian, as well as what he sardonically called “optimal,” i.e. total extermination.  Again, it is hard to imagine classifying the great genocides (Germany, Turkey, Cambodia, and so on) under only one or even two or three heads.  A concept of “utopian genocide” has been added (Totten and Bartrop 2008:452), for the perverse grand visions of men like Hitler and Pol Pot.  Most genocides have a utopian component, if only the notorious desire to “purify” that runs through almost all of them.

Kristin Doughty (2015) identified several needs for future work.  These include “the political and moral economy in which violence and humanitarianism occur,” and looking more at “recent anthropological work on violence, the state, collective belonging, and human rights” (Doughty 2015:175).  She notes that when genocide is defined as state murder of its own citizens, there may also be genocidal pursuit of people across national boundaries.  (This is also noted by Martin Shaw, 2013).  This occurred most notably in Hitler’s massacre of the Jews and others; he murdered all he found in any country under his control.  It is seen more recently in the hot pursuit by Tutsi and Hutu of each other into the D.R. Congo.  She asks “how the act of labeling violence is political and…mobilized within specific historical trajectories of global configurations of power” (Doughty 2015:175).  Ben Kiernan, Taner Aksam, and others have dealt with this issue at length.

Much more serious is her other question: “What are the warning signs that the human tendency toward group hate is being exploited by powerful people for violent ends?”  (Doughty 2015:175).  The appalling failure of the world at large to spot this in Hitler’s early speeches, the Koch brothers’ manipulation of the Tea Party (Mayer 2016), the Saudi Arabian manipulation of extremist Islam over many decades, the oil industry’s machinations in Nigeria, Sudan, and several other countries (Juhasz 2008; Ross 2012), and many other individuals’ and governments’ exploitation of hate shows this is indeed a particularly pressing problem.  It remains the most troubling question for the future.

Civil war is quite different from genocide, epidemiologically and otherwise.  Economics is clearly associated with civil war (Collier and Sambanis 2005).  In contrast, genocide is countereconomic; eliminating a large percentage of one’s workers and taxpayers cannot really be beneficial.  Civil war usually occurs when a region feels oppressed and wishes to break away, or when a huge rebellion seriously threatens a regime (Collier and Sambanis 2005); genocide occurs when the regime preempts such situations by exterminating the groups that might so act.  A link with newly independent nations that arise from the collapse of empires has been traced for civil war (Wimmer and Min 2006), and holds for genocide also; the two tend to merge into each other in such situations.


The Progress of Genocides


In modern genocides, the progress is typical:  A leader seizes total power, abolishing or suspending the constitution or equivalent, and almost immediately begins killing those who opposed him.  (All genocidal leaders in our sample are male.)  Consolidation genocides are well recognized in scholarship, and are essentially universal in totalitarian societies.  They have a long history; political killing of potential opponents was normal when new dynasties took over in the Roman Empire, imperial China, the Ottoman Empire, and other early societies.

If the leader was democratically elected—as Hitler and Mussolini were, and later many other genociders—he always starts by demonizing the free media and the political opposition, and cracks down increasingly on them.  He also demonizes minority groups that are vulnerable and unpopular.  He then begins arresting leaders in the media and in the minority groups.  By this time, his policies—generally ill-conceived—have hurt the economy or at least failed to grow it, and he escalates blame of his political foes.  Hitler’s increasingly strident demonization of the Jews, whom he blamed for everything from communism to diseases, is only the best-known case of a universal practice.  Stalin blamed the rich peasants (among others), Mao blamed the landlords and intellectuals, the Interahamwe in Rwanda blamed the Tutsi, Slobodan Milośevič in Serbia blamed the Muslims, and so it went, throughout history.

Once in power, a totalitarian leader will almost invariably launch a genocide when threatened seriously by civil war, rebellion, or international war.  Sometimes, mere economic and social problems are enough.  Then the level of killing is dependent on several factors, but the most important one seems to be the level of indiscriminate hatreds the leader invoked in his campaigns.  Leaders like Trump, who attack any and every available group, are rare in the historical record.  Particularly dangerous is a situation in which the leader is backed into a corner by inability to deliver on promises of economic progress or military might.  At this point he increases his rhetoric against the “others,” seizes dictatorial power, and begins killing opponents.  If challenged by violent conflict, he escalates the killing into large-scale mass murder.

The key moment is the time when an autocratic rulers sees his best chance of getting or consolidating rule as coming through whipping up fear and hate.

Once in office, the persons who deployed the campaign consolidate power by promising security and prosperity if repression of the hated groups is increased.  Often the regime consolidates power at this point by massive political killings.  Finally, a crisis—economic or military or both—makes it impossible to deliver on that promise.  Very often, this is a civil war, since the temptation to exterminate the “other” side is great; civil wars and local guerrilla outbreaks have been the breeding grounds of many modern genocides (Anderson and Anderson 2012; Totten and Bartrop 2008:73).

The regime seizes total power and begins genocide as the only way they see clear to maintain power and deliver on their promises.  It makes little or no difference whether the regime was democratically elected (like Hitler in Germany and Efrain Rios Montt in Guatemala) or seized power in a coup (like Pinochet in Chile) or won a war or revolution (like Franco in Spain and Mao in China).  A serious hate-based ideology, combined with autocratic power, always leads to genocide.


A final note on cause is another epidemiological one: how genocide spreads.  Rudolph Rummel (1998) documented in great detail how it spread with Leninist-Stalinist Communism, occurring in essentially all countries that adopted that particular form of Marxism. (Marx himself did not, of course, advise any such thing, however much he may have counseled the elimination of ruling-class elements.)  Rummel also documented the spread of genocide under fascism, especially, of course, Hitler’s particular form of fascist doctrine.

A point somewhat missed by Rummel was the degree to which the United States spread genocide, via its CIA operations in Latin America, the Middle East, and Southeast Asia.  How much this was foreseen—let alone deliberately planned—is controversial.  However, genocide followed CIA-backed takeovers in Chile, El Salvador, and Guatemala.  Mass killing of dissident followed coups by covertly CIA-supported military men in Ecuador, Paraguay, Uruguay, and several other countries (Feierstein 2010).  Worst of all was the true genocide committed under Argentina’s military dictatorship  from 1976 to 1983, which eliminated at least 30,000 people and probably more.  It was, however, less directly related to United States initiatives.

Often, the genociders had been trained at the School of the Americas operated by the U.S. Department of Defense.  It began in Panama in 1946, but was ejected from there as a destabilizing force, and relocated in Fort Benning, Georgia.  It was renamed as “Western Hemisphere Institute for Security Cooperation” in 2000, and its mandate reduced, but it continues.  This school trained Rios Montt of Guatemala and Roberto D’Aubuisson of El Salvador, as well as participants in the genocides in Haiti and Argentina (AlJazeera 2012; Feierstein 2010). It taught a range of techniques and established a values system based on exterminating perceived enemies of military regimes.

The Guatemalan and Argentine armies it trained and allied with had long-standing relationships with Hitlerian fascism; the Guatemalan army had been trained in the 1930s and 1940s by pro-Hitler Germans, and Mein Kampf was required reading for Argentine military officers in the years before the genocide of the 1970s there (see e.g. Lewis 2001; Timerman 2002).  In some countries, including Paraguay, actual ex-Nazis who had served under Hitler were recruited to organize mass murder (Feierstein 2010).  Thus, many of the 20th century genocides can be traced to three origin points and to a very few men.






Back Story: The Rise of Exclusionary Ideology


“Genocide has two phases, one, the destruction of the national pattern of the oppressed group; the other, the imposition of the national pattern of the oppressor” (Lemkin 1944:xi, quoted by Shaw 2013:55).

This quote reminds us that genocide is definitely about culture; it is about the elimination of a lifeway as well as a people.  The most extreme form of exclusionary ideology, when open extermination of the group is advocated, has been called “eliminationism” in Daniel Goldhagen’s intense history of genocide (2009).  Jacques Sémelin has written a very sensitive history of extreme ideology, using Foucault among other sources, under the significant title Purify and Destroy (2007).

Exclusionary ideologies are those that teach that society is a bundle of contending groups, in conflict or competition with each other, such that one group benefits only by keeping another down or forcing it down.  Society becomes a zero-sum or negative-sum game.  This is not a rational matter: it is inevitably highly emotional.  It mobilizes people’s deepest fears and hates.

The common exclusionary ideologies are extremist religion, fascism (Neumann 1944, 1957), racism (Sussman 2014), and the more extreme and radical forms of communism.  These ideologies are defined simply: they all advocate indiscriminate violence to eliminate or terrify by mass killing some particular large group of people, defined such that men, women, children, old people, the sick, and noncombatants in general are all equally targeted.  The roots of all these in religious killings have been explored (Rubinstein 2004).

Exclusionary ideological movements are generally splinter movements within splinter movements.  Radical terrorist Islam, for instance, is an extreme offshoot of Wahhabism and Salafism, themselves extreme offshoots of Hanbali Sunni, which is itself the most rigid and narrowly legalistic of the Muslim law interpretation schools.  The terrorist form is almost universally condemned by Muslims and Muslim scholars and religious figures (see e.g. Schewitz 2015); even the arch-advocate of Salafism, Sayyid Qutb, repeatedly condemned murder of noncombatant women, children, and old people (Sayyid Qutb 2007, passim).

The extremist Christianity that leads to murdering abortion clinic workers, gays, and Muslims is similarly far from the teachings of Jesus.  Stalinist-Maoist communism is extreme by communist standards.  Fascism, by definition, is a murderous hate ideology, but there has been considerable variation in how bloody the fascist regimes have been.  Hitler was far more murderous than Franco, for instance.  Much more general ideologies, like “socialism,” “religion” (in general), and “capitalism,” are even less relevant.  Blaming such grand generalities for the murderous behavior of ISIS or the anti-abortion bombers and murderers is no more accurate than blaming democracy, or, for that matter, blaming bread (the staple food of the relevant groups).

Hollie Nyseth Brehm (2015) studied the history of 159 nations from 1955 to 2009 to find correlates of the rise of exclusionary ideologies—ethnic privileging (as in South Africa under apartheid), Stalin-Maoism, radical Islam, and similar movements.  She scored 1537 country-years as having been spent under such rules.  “Irregular regime change”—coups and revolutions—was particularly dangerous.  Exclusionary ideologues rise to the top in violently unsettled times, following the common principle that in a ratfight the most vicious rat wins.  Alternatively, a civil war often precipitates not only genocide but the rise of exclusionary ideologies on all sides.

Decolonialization was also dangerous, specifically in countries where the colonial powers had resorted to divide-and-rule strategies, favoring some groups over others to maintain control.  The longer a country was a colony, the worse the odds.  This, of course, works for the United States in its much earlier case, as well as for post-1955 cases like Indonesia.

Oddly, and paralleling Mann’s (2005) findings on earlier regimes, democratization was dangerous; the transition from authority to democracy was often aborted by an exclusionary group taking over, or an autocratic-leaning “democratic” regime showing its true colors.  Even so, democracy is usually protective, and even exclusionary ideologues may be softened and neutralized by democracy, as in Malaysia.  Large drops in income can be dangerous.

In general, these countries took off-the-shelf ideologies: Stalin-Mao communism, Hitlerian fascism, extreme Wahhabi or similar Islam, or military dictatorship (albeit sometimes “democratic” on paper) based on ethnicity or political crackdown.  Working out new ideologies seems rare.  On the other hand, working out particularly violent and ruthless variants of the traditional ones is seen in Khmer Rouge Cambodia, Rwanda under the Interahamwe, and a few other cases.  Iran’s murderous regime is based on Shi’a Islam, rather than the Hanbali Sunni of Wahhabism, and represents an extreme form of Shi’a militance. Venezuela’s current unique brand of “socialism” is now moving toward genocide, as is Duterte’s Philippines, and these might represent relatively original forms of exclusionary thought.

            The clear theme in all this is direct threat to a shaky but autocratic regime.

An important point made by surprisingly few students of such movements is that they cannot promise only hate (or exclusion) and gratification of hate.  They cannot succeed if they simply call for indiscriminate mass murder.  They need some professed high ideals.  Most often, these are the most exalted ideals of all: those of world religions.  Secular ideologies, however, must have equivalents.  Fascism and racism promise purity, prosperity, and safety from hordes of criminal and inferior minorities. Communism professed ideals of equality, progress, social justice, and welfare that it did indeed deliver in some of its milder manifestations, but failed to deliver when it drifted into genocidal extremism, as in Stalin’s USSR and Mao’s China.  Genocidal movements in Rwanda, Burundi, Uganda and elsewhere promised prosperity, peace, homogenous societies, and similar benefits if the enemy ethnic groups were eliminated (Shaw 2012).  These were essentially the same promises Trump made in connection with deporting Mexican immigrants and preventing Muslim immigration.  He would “make America great again” by crushing Latinos, Chinese, Muslims, immigrants, refugees, gays, liberals, and on through a long list.

This provides the key step in developing exclusionary ideology: it makes it moral to hate.  Normal people in normal life have plenty of angers, frustrations, and even hatreds, but they know that acting on those always brings trouble and rarely brings benefit.  They know that “a house divided against itself cannot stand”—turning a nation into a mutual-destruction game hurts everyone.  If, however, they are convinced by their leaders that hatred of certain groups is a moral duty, they will usually accommodate.  Many otherwise decent human beings in the United States hate homosexuals simply because preachers tell them to and they believe it to be a genuine religious duty.  British and French felt it necessary to hate, or at least scorn, each other for hundreds of years, because of national rivalry and “patriotism.”  Studies of terrorism routinely show that terrorists are usually fairly ordinary people swept up in a moral but violent cause (Atran 2003, 2010; Horgan and Kazak 2017, passim).  They may be more often disturbed psychologically than the general population, but the difference is not striking (Gill and Corner 2007).

Morality not only justifies the hate; it makes it worse.  It lays guilt on individuals, making them feel they should be ever more hateful.  It makes them hate opponent groups for being “immoral” as well as different or competitive.  It makes people feel good about themselves when they do the moral act of taking down an opponent-group member.

This provides a simple, direct place to attack potential genocide:  Exclusionary ideology.  If it is shot down, ordinary social controls—cultural conventions for normal civility—will take care of ordinary hatreds.

As pointed out by Ben Kiernan in Blood and Soil (2007), similar ideologies animated settlers taking over land from Indigenous peoples; they would have peace and prosperity if they could take over the land, eliminating its rightful owners in the process.  Concepts like “Manifest Destiny” were created to justify this.  However warped and twisted all these benefits may seem in retrospect, they provided excuses for eliminating or decimating vast numbers of ethnic groups worldwide.

Thus, a hate ideology must have more than hate going for it.  Even Hitler managed to promise progress, purity, virtue, superiority, and other goods, promises still associated with fascist leanings in some parts of German society (Voigtländer and Voth 2015).

Rios Montt’s fascist rule in Guatemala may have failed to eliminate the targeted groups partly because of his failure to tell a convincing story.  In spite of his deployment of evangelical Christianity, he provided thin promises.  Christians in Guatemala were not convinced that mass murder of innocent people is a Christian act; the evangelical churches there are not (on average at least) as right-wing as United States ones.  Partly because of this, Rios Montt and other rulers of the country could not mount as effective a genocide as they apparently wanted (Shepherd 2016).  He has been judged guilty of genocide (Fausset 2014; Sanford 2013) but the judgment was annulled, and many Guatemalans still yearn for a mano dura (“firm hand”) rule (Torres 2016).

By contrast, ISIS sells itself by offering the revival of the Caliphate and the glories of Islam.  Its publicists can sound downright utopian.  Scott Atran and other investigators have found that it is these utopian calls, not the murder and bloodshed, that attract young Muslims, especially those facing prejudice and discrimination in Europe and America (Atran 2015a, 2015b).

On the other hand, direct, unsubtle hate appears to be necessary to make people torture and kill.  Subtlety does not work well in hate ideologies when they play out on the ground.  Kteily, Bruneau et al. (2015) found that hate ideologies tend to compare people either to disgusting animals (rats, cockroaches) or to unfeeling machines (robots).  These can be ideologically represented, and always seem to be in hate ideologies, especially the animal comparisons.  The authors noted a tendency for richer groups to be “robots,” poorer minorities to be compared to animals, but there was substantial overlap, especially in the animal insults.  Following up on this, Kteily, Hodson and Bruneau (2016) found that these stereotypes get mutually applied: stigmatized groups return the favor by dehumanizing their oppressors, and a vicious cycle emerges in which groups demonize each other more and more.  This has occurred over the years in the Israeli-Palestine conflict.  It now appears in the widespread mutual dehumanization of each other by Muslims and right-wing Europeans and Americans.   It leads to escalation of terrorist bombing by extremist Muslim groups, and that in turn leads to indiscriminate air strikes by European powers and the United States in Iraq and Syria.

Dehumanization, however, is only one part of a continuum that extends from simple dislike and devaluing to contempt, callousness, deliberate irresponsibility, bigotry, and ultimately real hatred.  The common theme is rejecting people as people.  Structural violence (Galtung 1969) can be as bloody and total as genocide.  Corporations that simply take no notice of pollution-caused deaths, dam-builders that do not plan to resettle displaced persons, and oil companies that allow local militias to “protect” company operations by indiscriminate violence are on a very slippery slope toward genocide (Anderson 2010; Ross 2012).  It is possible that this type of murder-by-neglect has actually killed as many people as genocide in the last 100 years, since famines are now essentially all due to government action, not to natural disasters (Sen 1982).  The Bengal famine of 1942-43, the Chinese famine of the Great Leap Forward, the Ethiopian famine of the 1970s, and other such government-created events each killed tens of millions.

Hatred ideologies win over countries through military coups, elections (Hitler was democratically elected—by a bare plurality; see also Nyseth Brehm 2017), or outright revolutions.  Sometimes an already authoritarian state turning suddenly more extreme, almost always when challenged by stresses, but sometimes simply through normal succession practices that happen to bring a brutal ruler to power, as has happened today in Xi Jinping’s China.


Funding Exclusion


Someone has to fund extremist ideology.  Hitler had his giant corporations: Krupp, Volkswagen, I. G. Farben and others.  Farben, Krupp, and Bayer (of aspirin fame) used Nazi prisoners as slave labor (Totten and Bartrop 2008:396-397).  Elie Wiesel, among others, was incarcerated in the Monowitz concentration camp and forced to work for Farben (Totten and Bartrop 2008:143, 289).  Mussolini had corporate backing. ISIS lives by selling oil on black or gray markets, with added income from looting anquities and from selling Yazidis and Christians into slavery.  Fascism and similar military dictatorship in many African countries, from Sudan to Nigeria (in the 1970s) to Equatorial Guinea, has been funded and supported by the giant multinational oil corporations.  The right-wing genociders in Guatemala were beholden to United Fruit.

Of course, big firms do not explain communist genocides, or such ethnic outbreaks as the genocides in Rwanda and Burundi.  Nor—contra a widespread belief—was Hitler actually put in power partly by the giant firms (Mann 2004, Paxton 2004).  Mussolini, similarly, got the giant firms on his side only after seizing power and shifting well to the right in his politics (Mann 2004).  Both leaders were economically and ideologically eclectic, glorying in individualism and arbitrary responses.

On the other hand, Hitler and Mussolini quickly formed close links with giant firms.  Hitler developed a whole fascist economics, based on government collaboration with cartels, which Neumann (1944:261) described as “totalitarian monopoly capitalism.”  The extremely authoritarian structure of giant conglomerate corporations was eminently friendly to fascism (Neumann 1944:284-288).  The government interfered in the economy, but not with the thoroughness and care that the United States government does via subsidies and tax breaks.  Government promises of free market were highly qualified by government linkage with, or even creation of, giant oil firms and the like.

Neumann translates an editorial from a 1941 source on the oil economy (Neumann 1944:356-358) which is chillingly close to current oil policies in the United States, especially when one remenbers that the father of the oil millionaires Charles and David Koch was a contractor for Hitler at the time.  Neumann’s summary is:  “Four distinct groups are thus represented in the German ruling class: big industry, the party, the bureaucracy, and the armed forces” (Neumann 1944:361).  These were theoretically fused, but the situation was evolving rapidly when war struck.  Fascism created monopoly capitalism, in which law was almost irrelevant, partly because of the concentration of power, partly because the regime simply acted arbitrarily.  “The…legal system is nothing but a technique of mass manipulation by terror” (Neumann 1944:458).  The US Supreme Court under Trump appears to be moving in that direction.

Neumann’s description of this economy remains necessary to an understanding of fascism.  It is ominous for the United States, since the fusion of giant oil and banking firms with government, and the primacy of the military within government, under Donald Trump have re-created Hitler’s economy.  The Nazi background of the Koch brothers make it highly unlikely that this resemblance is merely fortuitous.

Also, the US subsidy and tax structure has been carefully engineered by the giant oil, coal, chemical, and agribusiness firms (among others) to benefit them at the expense of their competition.  This is a major factor in American politics, since these firms donate heavily to politicians who support them and keep the subsidies high, while working against politicians who in any way inhibit oil, coal, agribusiness, and other older industries.  These firms are primary producers of bulk commodities, often those rendered obsolete by modern research and development.  They are what we may call the paleoeconomy, as opposed to a neoeconomy of sustainable farming, renewable energy, hi-tech, high efficiency, and the like.

The psychological effects of increasing domination by giant firms are profound.  They not only dominate economic life; they control most congresspersons, they control much of Trump’s white house, and they control the media and thus popular culture.  The steady and rapid deterioration of popular culture. from Mozart to gangsta rap over the last couple of centuries, is hard to miss, and of clear origin.  Psychologically, people are weakened and infantilized by the sheer lack of control and the aridity of popular cultural forms.

In the last analysis, exclusionary ideologies, not giant firms, make genocide, but giant firms are all too often happy to have their critics and challengers exterminated, so firms can almost always be found to back genocide.

The costs of genocide are enormous.  Wars—mostly genocidal—cost Africa an estimated $284 billion from 1990 to 2006 (Bengali 2007).  One can only imagine the costs of greater genocides.  One aspect of this is that educated people are often singled out for elimination, as in Cambodia under the Khmer Rouge and Guatemala under Rios Montt.

The linkage of giant firms and hate ideologies must be broken.  We need laws to prevent corporations from deliberately stirring up hate.  We need to be vigilant and always call them on it, never allowing it to hide in the shadows.  Hate plus greed cause genocide—always, if they are both strong. Greed can serve good causes; we need to convince the corporate elites that they can only lose, in the end, from fascism.

In particular, the paleoeconomy—the dying, unsustainable economy of fossil fuels, industrial farming, big mining, and deforestation, with cooperation from certain financial firms—has been the major source of funding and political effort for the extreme right.  This economy must be cut adrift to die, rather than subsidized and supported.  Above all, its influence in politics must be countered by all legal means.  It is the real root source of our trouble.

We have to strengthen and enforce antitrust laws.  Tax and financial laws must be changed to end subsidies to giant corporations, to tax them at full and fair rates without special breaks or favors, and to ban them utterly and completely from offshoring capital in tax havens or designating headquarters outside the United States.  Doing those things must be criminalized, with the CEOs and CFOs jailed for such behavior.  Also, pollution laws must be strengthened and enforced, with—again—CEOs bearing full responsibility for endangering public health by massive release of dangerous pollutants.  As long as giant firms are rewarded for antisocial and dangerous behavior, they will fund fascism.  The economic order of fascism must be broken.  Evil firms always reinvent it otherwise.  Simply dealing with hatred is not enough.

Everybody except the right-wing rich seems to agree that their tax breaks and special favors are a bad thing.  Extreme inequality is bad enough in itself, but it also gives very disproportionate political power to the rich, especially in this post-Citizens-United world.  Indeed, overturning the Citizens United ruling and getting sane regulations on campaign spending should be another immediate priority.

            “Neoliberalism,” in the United States, is a misleading term.  It originally referred to the extreme laissez-faire economic teachings of Ludwig von Mises, Franz Hayek, and Milton Friedman, especially as applied by autocratic politicians in the 1980s.  Those three economists already flirted with fascism.  True neoliberalism persists as basic policy in the UK, where it regularly denounced by The Guardian.  It flourishes in some other countries.

It is part of Trump’s economic agenda.  However, it has been largely replaced in the United States by fully fascist economics: government cooperation to the point of fusion with giant right-wing firms, and repression or discriminatory policies against other businesses.  The Trump administration is basically ExxonMobil, Goldman Sachs, Koch Industries, and the Mercer combine writ large, along with Trump’s own business empire and a few collaborators.  These firms have become part of government.  Koch Industries dominates politics in several states, including Wisconsin and Kansas.  All these firms are de facto parastatals.  They run the government for their benefit, via subsidies, tax breaks, giveaways, and special policies.  Innovative technologies are targeted for demolition, and small business is cut adrift.  This is the extreme antithesis of laissez-faire.  Even communist economies (except perhaps North Korea’s) are less driven by government interference and autocratic meddling.  China, for instance, has giant state firms very comparable to our government-favored firms, and a good deal of government meddling in other firms, but apparently not the extreme distortion of the economy that we see here.  At least, their private sector continues to flourish.

David Harvey has recognized the general phenomenon, and redefined neoliberalism in his recent works (see Harvey 2007), to include government collusion.  However, this and other redefinitions have left the word so general that it lacks meaning.   Attacking neoliberalism deflects attention from the real problems.

The ideal mix of government and free enterprise has not yet been found (nor is it likely to be), but a very good mix has been achieved by Scandinavian countries, as shown by their stunning economic and social success.  Compared to the United States, they have single-payer government-managed health care, more investment in public education, higher taxes on corporations, and other trappings of “socialism,” but the real difference from the US seems to be that their free-enterprise sector actually is free enterprise, rather than a creation of intense government meddling to favor a few giant firms at the expense of everyone else.






Human Unreason


The challenge to social science in these models is clear.  Social science has overwhelmingly assumed that people were rational, and acted in their rational self-interest.  Such is clearly not the case; humans are often creatures of irrational hate (on emotion, including fear and hate in politics, see Marcus 2002; Westen 2007).  Many are psychopaths, out of the reach of normal economic or social restraints.

The Harff, Totten, and other models have extremely high success in predicting and explaining behavior based on two assumptions–implicit in Harff and Gurr, explicit in the Anderson model.  First humans are primarily social.  Second, they are primarily creatures of emotion, not reason; in the words of David Hume, “Reason is, and ought only to be the slave of the passions, and can never pretend to any other office than to serve and obey them”  (A Treatise of Human Nature, p. 462).  Third, since ignoring a threat can be deadly, the emotion of fear tends to get priority.

Fear, if not dealt with by rational means, often leads to hate.  When it does, and fear and hatred combine, there is no amount of self-interest that people will not abandon to kill their rivals, and even their friends and neighbors.  The entire history of war and suicidal terrorism proves that people will happily sacrifice their lives if they can take a few enemies with them.

Fear comes most often and most seriously from social threat—from attacks by valued members of one’s social world.  Fear also comes from threats to life and livelihood, to future benefits, and to well-being.  Many people fear more for their loved ones than for themselves; extremist leaders often find that followers who refuse to kill for their own benefit will do anything in defense of family, home, and community.

Social science will have to start over from the ground up.  Rational material self-interest has very little explanatory power—certainly nothing like the explanatory power granted to it in most social science models.  Fear and hate are far more prevalent.  Love and solidarity also occur, to say nothing of unreasonable levels of greed, power-madness, and desperate need for control.  Rational self-interest certainly does occur, but usually in the service of one of these emotions.  People are wholly rational about their war planning, suicide bombing, and genociding.  As Captain Ahab put it, “all my means are sane, my motive and my object mad” (Melville 2001:202).

One other area of exploration is the connection of genocidal ideology with individual crises.  Loss of personal control—self-efficacy in a broad sense—is evidently associated in many cases with individuals taking up extreme and hateful belief systems (Baumeister 1997; Beck 1999; cf. Bandura 1982, 1986 on self-efficacy in general).  On the other hand, too much can be made of this.  Scott Atran’s work shows that many reasonably well-adjusted young people can be captured by radical suicide-bomber ideologies, especially if they have lost family members or otherwise been traumatized.  It would appear, however, that such traumatization manifests the sort of uncontrolled situation that might lead to individuals falling into a psychological space of the sort that precipitates hate and violence.

Fascism and genocide in the 20th and 21st centuries tracked conflict between highly traditional societies (including their authority structures) and new ones: democratic, postcolonial, technocratic, and other new and rising social fractions.  Traditional social fractions facing rapid change and erosion were the sponsors:  old white males in today’s US; comparable groups in 1930s Europe; farmers and aristocrats in 1930s Japan; ethnic groups losing from decolonialization in 1970s-2000s Africa; fast-changing traditional fractions in today’s India and Turkey; etc.  The traditional fractions are both losing their former stability and cohesiveness, and losing out economically and politically to newer fractions.  National cycles, immediate crises, and other possible alternative structural causes do not predict fascist movements or genocidal ideation.


Basic Psychology of Mass Killing


This allows us to examine the back story in human psychology.  Israel Charny, a veteran psychologist of genocide, lists the foundations as projection and scapegoating, need for power and addiction to it, dehumanizing others, doing what is expected or what everyone does, “going with the flow,” being a bystander, conforming for acceptance or adulation, enjoying a controlling role, “total commitment to a divine call of ideology,” sacrificing others, denial, and self-delusion (Charny 2016:32-33).  He is particularly thorough and analytic in dissecting the role of going along with others—conforming, getting caught up in a collective agenda, and being passive in the face of horror (Charny 2016:71-103).

These are too often minimized or unconsidered in analyses of genocide.  Genocidal policies are usually invoked by a single leader or a small extreme movement; they use extreme exclusionary ideologies to whip up mob hate; but then the enormous force of social conformity, going along with it all, passivity, and fear of being different take over.

Timothy Snyder documents this at length in Black Earth (2015).  The vast majority not only of Germans but of Poles, Hungarians, Russians, Lithuanians, and every other nationality went along with exterminating Jews and also killing their own co-ethnics over trivial political matters.  The Nazis ordered it; the people did it.  The few exceptions, Snyder notes, were typically nonconformists (Snyder 2015:250-297).  Similar findings are virtually universal in genocide research.  The Hutu in Rwanda described being caught up in national hysteria.  Otherwise mild, tolerant Cambodians and Indonesians reported the same thing after genocides.  Indeed, it seems likely that the ordinary perpetrators of genocide are usually brought into it by conformity and obedience to authority, and then by communal hysteria or breakdown, rather than by sheer hatred (Anderson and Anderson 2012; Charny 2016; Shaw 2013; many other sources).

The famous experiments of Philip Zimbardo, which had to be terminated after only a few days, involved students playing prison guard and others playing prisoner.  Even in a tightly supervised role-playing situation, violence and cruelty got out of hand within days (Zimbardo 2008).  Zimbardo, a normally decent person, was horrified, and has spent years trying to deal personally and professionally with what he found.

Charny reports the same thing on a mass scale: prison guards who were perfectly decent people and still are when not in their role, doctors who do what they are told even when it involves torture, soldiers who are at first literally nauseated by their killing and later find it “just a job.”  All accounts of genocide agree that these are the typical genociders; they do what their leaders tell them, even when the leaders are clearly demented.

This is especially true if there are real dangers in nonconformity.  Being denounced and given over to the torturers and death camps is a feature of all the more extreme genocidal societies.  Speaking out requires more and more courage as the process accelerates.  Today, many commentators after Trump’s election warned of the danger of “normalizing” him.

We have already noted that all well-reported genocides were presaged and accompanied by a great deal of name-calling.  The victims are “cockroaches” (this seems the favorite worldwide), “germs,” “cancers,” “insects,” “savages,” and so on for pages of documentation (Charny 2016:64; Totten and Bartrop 2008:103-104).  Ethnic slur terms are routinely used.  Victim groups are accused of being liars, cheats, criminals, thugs, rapists, and so on.  Trump in his campaign used a whole dictionary-worth of such terms to describe Mexicans and Muslims.  Conversely, genociders refer to their own activities with euphemisms (Totten and Bartrop 2008:137-138).

Another important point Charny makes is the degree to which people get sucked into these extreme movements by emotional appeals, charismatic leaders, media hype, and general social pressure (Charny 2016:112-124).  Many of these movements are specifically religious, incliuding, of course, the original genocides—persecution of heretics and dissidents in ancient and medieval times.  Today, extremist Muslim terrorism, Buddhist persecution of Hindus in Sri Lanka (Short 2016) and Muslims in Myanmar, Jewish calls for genocide of Palestinians, and Trump’s evangelical “Christian” support indicate that religion is far from dead as a factor.

However, they are put in the shade by the religion-like ideologies of fascism and Leninist Communism.  As Charny says:  “many scholars regard Nazism as a secular religion with ‘religious’ pinciples that included blood, race, land, and nation.  At least three Communist regimes (Soviet, Chinese, and Cambodian) adopted similarly quasi-religious forms.  Interestingly, although all three of these regimes were Communist, they did not necessarily emulate one another.  Rather, each underwent individual processes that developed ideologies that were like religions in their totality and absolutism” (Charny 2016:116).

The resemblances to religion are the total commitment required, the degree to which these are total social forms and ideologies with their own moral codes, and the degree to which they whip up emotions to get the public involved in the ideology.

Just as people get swept up into killing, they get more and more swept up into extremist ideologies.  Trump’s movement grew like a snowball.  He eventually convinced virtually all Republicans, as well as many Democrats and independents, to vote for him—in spite of early doubts.  Accounts of full genocides, such as in Rwanda and China, regularly involve long quotes from people who were initially cold to the movement but got increasingly caught up in it and eventually committed violence.

We are also all too familiar with the phenomenon of the sweet old lady who loves her pet cat and her porcelain figurines but who wound up voting for Trump—or, earlier, for Hitler, or Mussolini, or Rios Montt, or other elected genociders—because she feared the “others.”  People who are otherwise not only good, but exceptionally good, are not at all immune to the rhetoric, because they are fearful.  Their very goodness may make them especially worried about their loved ones, or their country, or their faith.

There is a sad record (noted above) of literary and cultural figures who espouse extremism.  Fascism in Europe was viewed with favor, and even enthusiasm, by people such as T. S. Eliot and W. B. Yeats, though they quickly cooled.  Stalwarts like Ezra Pound and Martin Heidegger remained fascists all their lives.  Similar support for communism  by leading figures is well known.

Perhaps the most horrifying, in retrospect, were the truly dedicated and devoted social activists who wound up defending genocidal regimes.  Stalin had diehard defenders in the west. Another example is found in the “two-hundred-percenters”:  The foreign non-Chinese apologists for Mao’s Communism, who wrote passionately in favor of it even when it drifted into genocide that was insane and uncontrolled even by other genocides’ standards.  The peaceable, socially idealistic New Zealanders Rewi Alley and H. W Youren (a politically moderate farmer) make fascinating cases—they were model citizens, lovers of social justice  They supported the early Mao for the best of reasons, and got caught up in denial once Mao turned pathological (Beattie and Bullen 2014).  They, like many others, were ultimately disillusioned and regretful.

Few, if any, good people sympathized with Rios Montt or the Rwanda Interahamwe, but the point is made:  even the best people can get swept up in even the worst genocide.

Denial is also well known.  We still have countless Americans that deny the Holocaust happened.  Turkey still denies the Armenian genocide.  This being the case, it is easy to see how Trump supporters can walk back on his inflammatory remarks, and how Republicans can deny the mass murder implicit in their across-the-board repeal of health care, food for the poor, and even Meals on Wheels and similar programs.

Hate is fed by lies, the bigger and more obvious the better.  This is Joseph Goebbels’ famous Big Lie technique, not his invention but certainly perfected by him, and used by many since.  Trump has fed white racism, and also a wider white backlash against “political correctness” and perceived favoring of nonwhites by media and liberal Democrats (see e.g Kaleem 2016).

Exclusionary ideologies everywhere depend on divide-and-conquer strategies, splitting people by race, ethnicity, language, religion, class, occupation, place of origin, political opinions, anything—if one divider fails, exclusionists will simply turn to another set.  There is no way to combat all these hatreds one by one.  We have to preach overall tolerance.  Exclusionists also love violence, oppression and bullying, so violent protests tend to bring a more violent return, and merely make things worse.


Human Innate Aggression?
To this psychological back story, there is an even further back story: the question of how violent and hateful humans are.  This has been debated since long before history (see, again, Pinker 2011).  The most obvious point is that humans vary from incredibly murderous to incredibly peaceful.  There are societies where killing is almost unknown, and societies that almost or quite exterminated themselves through violence.  There are people who seem irredeemably violent—psychopaths—and others who never hurt a fly.  Over history, there seems a tendency for alternating peace and war in most societies, but this is often due to one or two warlike societies (such as the Germans in Europe, the Turks in Asia) forcing others societies to defend themselves.  The vast majority of societies have faced war rather often (Bowles 2008, 2009; Guilaine and Zammit 2001; Keeley 1996; LeBlanc and Register 2002), but there is plenty of evidence for usual peacefulness and preference for peace; the Hobbesian picture of humans does not stand (Dentan 1966, 2008; Gusterson 2007; Robarchek 1989a, 1989b; Robarchek and Robarchek 1998; Roscoe 2007).

Humans are naturally cooperative (Bowles and Gintis 2011), with altruism and mutual aid typical.  Such traits, rare in nature, evolved in a world of shared hunting and defense.  This usually makes for peace, but when the group is threatened, violence in its defense is common.   Humans probably evolved in groups of 50 to 150 (see e.g. Dunbar 1993, 2004; Van Vugt  et al. 2008).  These may have warred from the start (Bowles 2006).  In any case, they compete.  Within the group, people usually display loyalty and solidarity, but large groups are apt to break up.  Both contingencies can set the stage for tribal massacres, and in modern times—when groups are far larger—for genocide.

In particular, segmentary bonding and segmentary breakdown is a continual source of problems.  It is captured in the Arab proverb “I against my brother, my brother and I against our cousin, our cousin, brother and I against the village, and our village against the world.”  (Scott Atran, 2010:256, gives an Afghan variant.)  Classically, uniting against a common enemy has been the easiest way to unite people (Arrow, 2007; Bowles 2006; Choi and Bowles 2007; Nowak 2006).

People also routinely misperceive risks (Beck 1992; Douglas and Wildavsky 1982).  They overemphasize large, dramatic risks over ordinary ones.  They displace fears, especially social fears, onto inappropriate topics—such as harmless minority groups.  They scapegoat these.

Violence, in general, is controllable, is getting less (over the long term), and is not a universal trait of humans (not even of young men).  Genocide is not explained by human nature.  It is explained, to some degree, but the tendency of psychopaths to rise in the system.  They lead; people follow in so far as the psychopathic leaders are charismatic, persuasive, and good at touching on deep fears.  Leaders of genocidal regimes seem to fall into four types: outright psychopaths, religious zealots, Communist extremists, and cold, brutal, bullying military men.  However, more studies of actual leaders are needed; no one seems to have stepped forward to evaluate them comparatively.

Aggression, when it occurs, is always socially controlled and manipulated (Geen and Donnerstein 1998).  It is not some free-floating, inevitable part of human nature.  It is structured and culturally managed.  Young men tend to be relatively violent, but it is older men and women that instigate genocide, and, usually, war.  Genocide, above all, is a calculated policy, not a random outbreak (Anderson and Anderson 2012).

We can thus assume that people are basically “good,” in the sense that they want warm, supportive sociability as well as some independence and control of their lives.  The problems come when those two basic drives come into conflict—when sociability causes stress and fear of rejection and ostracism, or when the need for control makes people too independent and defiant.  Fear, weakness, and threat then produce defensiveness.  Defensiveness with still further fear typically makes people lash out irrationally.  Alternatively, it can scare them into passivity and conformity, including following orders to exterminate “threats.”

In war, it is reported that four out of five soldiers in combat never fire their weapons (Pinker 2011).  Steven Pinker (2011) holds that people have been getting progressively less violent over time, as civilization moves to higher moral levels.  This has been strongly questioned (Fry 2013); Pinker exaggerated the levels of pre-civilization war, and certainly understates the extent of killing in the last century.  Still, Pinker seems to have the best of it: the diminution has been much less than he thought, but it is there.

However, the biggest reason he is close to wrong is, in fact, genocide.  This crime has exploded in the last century and a half—from extermination of small local groups to get their land to extermination of entire populations for no sane reason at all.  Pinker counts the openly violent genocides, but ignores the structural violence that killed hundreds of millions of people over the last century through deliberately-invoked famines, displacement, denial of medical care, and the like.  When these were targeted at specific populations (like the Ukrainian famine of 1933 which killed 3.3 million people) they were genocidal.  Even when not so targeted, if food supplies or resettlement or medical care were deliberately withheld from one segment of the citizenry, we can talk of genocide.  The Great Leap Forward, for instance, led to about 45,000,000 excess deaths in China (Dikotter 2010).

On the other hand, the killing in the last century or two has been rather localized.  It has been common in empires—from imperialist and colonialist regimes to the USSR empire of 1917-1989.  Temporally, it had a huge peak from 1914 to 1945.  Clearly, people are not born killers, or we would not see the secular decline and local fluctuations.  Most people today, at least outside the Middle East, go through life without seeing much in the way of violence.  The truly violent are often obviously abnormal psychologically, in the sense that they are well outside the usual distribution of mental traits.  They are psychopaths or have trouble controlling aggression.

Unfortunately, they function all too well in society; studies hold that a very disproportionately high number of CEOs and politicians are psychopathic.  This makes society as a whole more violent.  The reason is simple: cutthroat competitiveness usually succeeds.  Rare is the competitive situation where one loses through having no morals and no conscience.  More typical is the success of fighting dirtier than anyone else.  It works poorly in marriage, but well in politics.

This is especially true when competition is zero-sum or negative-sum.  A positive-sum game, as business is supposed to be in a growing economy, can attract better souls and weed out the hard cases.  Politics is usually zero-sum: one party loses when another wins.  War is, of course, negative-sum in most cases; even if “we” win “their” land, we lost so many men and women and so much money in the process that we are worse off.  This is truer all the time, as wars get more expensive, and is one reason for international wars becoming less common.

Destructive competition feeds and fuels genocide.  Dominant groups must feel seriously threatened by the “others” for genocide to be truly popular.  Hitler had to work hard to make Germans believe that the Jews were keeping the Germans down and making them poor; the Great Depression helped Hitler in this.  The Interahamwe in Rwanda had a similar task convincing the Hutu that the Tutsi were the villains.  Mao could convince many Chinese that landlord elements were ruining the whole country.  Trump convinced millions of Americans that it was Mexicans, Asians, and gays that were causing America to suffer from a purely-imaginary crime wave and an equally unreal economic decline.


Basic Evil


There is a small but excellent literature on human evil.  The major titles are Simon Baron-Cohen,  Zero Degrees of Empathy (2011); Stephen Bartlett’s The Psychology of Man (2005); Roy Baumeister, Evil:  Inside Human Cruelty and Violence (1997); Aaron Beck, Prisoners of Hate (1999); Zimbardo’s book already noted; and above all Erwin Staub’s great trilogy The Roots of Evil (1989), The Psychology of Good and Evil  (2003); and Overcoming Evil (2011).  Amartya Sen’s Identity and Violence (2006) is important for showing how hate is copuled with identity.  Carolyn Nordstrom (1997) has applied many of these ideas to genocide and mass killing.  We have already discussed the psychological backgrounds of genocide in some detail elsewhere (Anderson and Anderson 2012).  All define evil more or less the same way: as gratuitous physical harm to people.

The main conclusion of these works is that anyone, anywhere, can be induced to be evil—to do perfectly horrible things in an indefensible cause.  All agree that the typical evil-doer is an ordinary person coerced by his military superiors, or genocidal government, or criminal gang, or religious body, or other such unit.

All these sources also agree that domestic violence, sexual abuse, torture, criminal gang activity, and genocide are all linked.  The exact nature of the links is unclear, but all are related to need for control in situations where loss of control is feared.  Men beat their wives because they fear being abandoned or cheated on; governments exterminate their minorities because they fear minority cultural power.

However, these are followers, coerced or ordered.  The actual instigators are a different case.  Some are psychopaths.  Some appear to have started as ordinary rabble-rousers and then gotten carried away with their own rhetoric.  Some are merciless military men whose training led to callousness and a belief that dealing with “enemies” meant extermination.  Some were motivated by hatred from the beginning; Hitler’s hysterical hate of Jews is evident from his earliest writings.  Many, however—possibly most—were swept away by hateful rhetoric, those “exclusionary ideologies” in their most direct manifestation.   We still lack full biographies of most genociders.

Also relevant is the literature on domestic violence (see B. Anderson et al. 2004), which shows striking similarities to genocide—it is, almost, genocide miniaturized, or, more accurately, genocide is domestic violence on a huge scale.  Domestic violence has everything to do with maintaining control when the perpetrator feels a desperate need to control family members and yet feels threatened and inadequate.  Dictators in similar situations act similarly, on a vast scale.  Challenges to one’s reference group brings out even worse behavior (Atran 2003).

Psychologists have long known that being raised in erratic, unpredictable, violent surroundings makes troubled children, as opposed to children raised in warm, stable homes (Werner 1989; Werner and Smith 1982).  Data on genociders is inadequate to tell whether leaders had problematic backgrounds.

One conclusion from all these works is that the concept of “dehumanization,” so often cited in regard to genocide, needs considerable unpacking.  Baumeister points out at length that victims of the worst evil are tortured psychologically and physically in ways that make sense only if the torturers realize the victims’ fully human nature, and know exactly how to make a human being suffer.  Calling people “lice,” “cockroaches,” “rats,” and other terms distances them somewhat, but no one designs extreme and carefully calculated tortures to kill insects or rodents.  One simply squashes them or traps them.  Barroom brawlers call each other “son of a bitch” to insult them, not dehumanize them; nobody calls a male dog a son of a bitch, though it would be the literal truth.  Works like David Livingston Smith’s Less Than Human (2011) undermine their own case.  Smith, and others, describe horrible tortures done to people who were first called by humiliating names.  However, the tortures are exactly and specifically those used by domestic abusers and brutal bullies on their victims, not things anyone would really do to a cockroach or rat.

On the other hand, structural violence—allowing millions to die simply out of bureaucratic callousness—does involve dehumanization.  However, the victims are not called cockroaches or rats; they are called “collateral damage” or “displaced” or are simply not mentioned at all.  The people displaced by large dam projects are notoriously invisible to developers, bureaucrats, aid workers, and others, though they die by the tens of thousands (Scudder 2005).  The same is true of victims of preventable famines and epidemics (Angell 2017).  These people are victims of genocide by many definitions.  However, within our narrow definition, genocide victims are fully human, and their oppressors know it.


Grounding All This in Common Humanity


Particularly valuable for understanding both good and less ideal human behavior is Albert Bandura’s Social Foundations of Thought and Action (1986).  Bandura has shown over decades that people’s sense of self-efficacy is basic to their psychological functioning.  Knowing one can control one’s life, or at least some of it, is critically important to humans.  Knowing what can be done, especially about fears and threats, is most important of all.  People need a sense of control over their lives and surroundings (Langer 1983; Schulz 1976), and challenge to their control is one of the surest ways to make people violent.

From these and the sources on genocide we can construct a theory of hate and killing.   We have seen (with Israel Charny) that most perpetrators are driven by society and culture, but someone has to start the ball rolling.  Someone has to devise the hate ideology, declare the dictatorship, start the murders.

In short, weakness, or—more accurately and generally—perceived lack of self-efficacy in a situation, lead to overnegativism and overreaction.

Fear is critical in all this.  Fear is a normal human emotion (LeDoux 1996).  It must be prioritized, because threats can be deadly if not addressed immediately.  Fear leads to a fight-flight-freeze reaction that can easily slide over into violence.  Among mammals, humans seem particularly prone to violence when threatened or stressed.  Even humans are usually peaceable, solving problems as reasonably as possible, but can easily be moved to violent outbreaks.  This is especially true in social situations where the group is stressed.  When a majority is afraid of a minority, disaster is likely.  This is why genocides are often against minorities perceived as “rich” and “powerful”:  Jews in Germany, Tutsi in Rwanda, landlords in China.  On the other hand, most genocides, especially settler genocides, target the weak; this is often scapegoating and displacement.

Hatred is due to fear, threat, and stress—to real or dreaded harms.  There are many ways to deal with fear and threat; one can take rational steps, or run away, or fight directly against it.  Group hate and exclusionary ideologies are usually the result of a fourth coping strategy: displacing the anger onto a weak, vulnerable group.  In the 2016 elections, millions of genuinely suffering working people gave up trying to vote their class interest and simply voted against weaker groups: Latinos, Muslims, the poor.  There was a perception that these groups were “causing the problems,” but there was also a clear tendency to try to take down rival groups.

It is natural for people to defend their group; defend their place in the group; and defend their standing in the group.  If they are ordinarily strong and resilient, they will usually do that without resorting to hate crimes.  We can be proud of our groups and identities without cutting others down.  We can feel entitled to get what we deserve from society without letting entitlement turn into “white privilege” or other privilege or special favors.  However, vulnerable people with low self-efficacy often feel driven to desperation.  This emerges strongly from, for example, Scott Atran’s recorded narratives of Islamic terrorists.

At some level, taking this bully option requires a certain sense of one’s own weakness and vulnerability, and consequent defensiveness.  Abuse, hatred, and genocide are a weak person’s ways of defending his or her social place.  If one feels that control over one’s life is slipping away, one often becomes desperate.  This is where understanding of domestic violence becomes useful, since that is the key finding of domestic violence studies; typically, men very unsure of their worth and social position will try to control women by violence.

Another useful individual-level model is the extreme concern with personal “honor” found in certain societies (notably including the rural and southern United States; see Baumeister 1997; Henry 2009).  Individiuals are so concerned about their social standing that the slightest hint of disrespect will cause outbreaks of verbal or physical aggression.  Family “honor” leads to “honor killings” in many societies around the world.  As these grow in number during bad times, they begin to look more and more like genocide (on gender violence and genocide, see Totten 2008).

Prejudice (Allport 1954) and group hatred stem from these emotions.  Displacement of anger, prickly “honor,” fear of superiors, excessive concern for social place, and other aspects of social weakness and fear support hatred.  People hate opponent groups within their own societies.  They also worry about anyone within their own groups that is conspicuously “different” in thought or behavior (Pinto et al. 2010).  Even conspicuously good people are disliked (Parks and Stone 2010).  Envy of their goodness is part of it, just as envy of success is a problem for successful minorities such as the Jews in Europe.


The ultimate common sink of all these evils is essential rejection: regarding certain humans as beneath consideration simply because of what they are, rather than because of what they do.  Certain people are worthy only of being shoved out of the way: displaced, exiled, rounded up in reservations, and, ultimately, eliminated completely.  They are not so treated because they have done anything, but because they are poor, or different-looking, or different in religion, or different in lifestyle, or different in politics.  Simply being poor or rich, black or brown, Muslim or Christian means that they are to be moved out of the way by the most expedient means.

Feelings of entitlement often make this worse.  White supremacists feel threatened by the very existence of African-Americans, let alone their success.  Muslims and Christians each claim to have the exclusive truth, and see each other as a challenge to that.

This essential rejection—rejection because of essence, not because of action or behavior—usually comes from one of four things: weak fear, psychopathic hatred, sheer distancing (especially bureaucratic callousness), or longstanding enmity.  Usually “longstanding” here refers to many generations, not just a few years.  German anti-Semitism and Japanese antagonism toward China surfaced in WWII, but had a long prior history.

All four can be culturally constructed.  Weak fear is the most apt to be turned over time into a cultural thing.  It is the result of being genuinely frightened when one is in a position of low self-efficacy: personal weakness or loss of control.  Fear of Jews in Germany, African-Americans in the southern United States, Tibetans in China, Armenians in Turkey, and so on through the long list is coupled with guilt about how those groups were treated over time.  They are frightening because of what they might do, with full justification, if they could.  Guilt, shame, and regret can be mutated into scapegoating and bullying.  “I’m better than you” and “I’m worse than you” are bad enough, but the worst is “I’m worse than you so have to pretend I’m better, and if in power I have to bully you.”

Often revealing is the hatred of beauty, enjoyment, and good that we have noted before as a telltale sign of genocidal mentality in some autocrats.  Thus the decline of folk society with its traditional art forms, and the decline of arts in the schools and universities in recent years, are dangerous and unfortunate.

The opposite of rejection is acceptance—specifically, the moral decision to accept the world as it is, enjoy it as much as possible, and deal coolly and rationally with the rest.  Never just “bear”; if one cannot fix a problem, one can at least analyze it, try to understand it, and figure out what should be done if opportunity permits.

Cowardly defensiveness and cowardly aggression are behind the barroom-brawl attitude that seems so general among genociders, hateful leaders, and participants in cultures of exclusionary ideology.  Other corollaries of weak fear are failure to take or show responsibility, and failure to oppose leaders who are clearly on a wrong track. Most serious is a tendency to react negatively and irrationally to challenge or perceived threat.  Weak fear goes with unreason, and coolly rational response to challenge is the focal way to cope with it.  One explanation is that even small slights and personal cuts can be deadly to a weak person.  They not only hurt feelings, but can go with real threats that a weak person cannot handle.

On the other hand, weak fear is hard to combine with genocidal leadership, although the deep insecurities of Hitler, Stalin, Mao, and others have been the subjects of much speculation.  Leaders have managed to turn what fears they have into open, vocal hate.  They are also apt to be more directly motivated by lust for power, self-absorption, culturally learned hatreds (like Hitler’s Austrian hate of Jews), and even outright psychopathy.

People can see that we are all in this together, and that long-term, wide-flung calculations of good must be invoked if we are to survive.  However, they naturally tend to more short-term, narrow calculus (see e.g. Kahneman 2011).  This can, and often does, lead to playing the world as a negative-sum game.


Hate Comes to Government


A government that claims total power, but is really facing a crisis that brings out its weaknesses, resorts to extreme violence.  Mass murderers who lasted long in office, such as Stalin and Mao, constantly reiterated their fears for the Revolution.  Always, some huge number of innocent people had to die, because the Revolution was under imminent threat from dark and frequently unknown forces.  On the right, Rios Montt in Guatemala constantly reiterated his claims that the nation was under constant attack from all manner of leftist elements that had to be utterly eradicated to preserve even mininal order.  The extreme intolerance of ISIS for even the most trivial differences within Islam, let alone for other religions, verges on (if it does not actually become) paranoia.

This frightened negativity is reflected also in the opposition to general humanistic values that characterize so many totalitarian regimes.  They outlaw or at best de-fund the arts.  They drastically curtail medical care.  They eliminate famine relief.  They deny science and invent their own “facts.”  Such regimes are characterized by a general fear, and consequent hate, of the creations of the human spirit.

Violence is especially likely if that is the one thing that the leaders are reasonably certain that they control.  Again, domestic violence is strikingly informative:  physical abusers tend to be those who are physically powerful and/or trained to fight using weapons, but who fear they are at a disadvantage in other ways.  Experience with schoolyard bullies is the same: physical abusers are “big kids” who have little but strength going for them; verbal abusers are physically less impressive but verbally fluent; and so it goes.  At the national scale, an elite confident of its ability to solve economic crises will not invoke genocide if the economy turns sour; that recourse is left to regimes that have military strength but no economic competence.

This leads to the prediction that totalitarian societies with poor perceived control over their citizens’ violence will be the most genocidal.  On the whole, this is the case.  It explains why genocides are so concentrated just after dictators take over and, again, when civil or international war occur.  Peacetime genocides are, however, common, and one must have recourse to the apparent paranoia of the dictators in those cases, with Stalin and Mao coming to mind once again.

Thus the real conflict in society is always tolerance, harmony, and getting along versus hate, intolerance, and rejection.  The extreme form of the latter is seen not only in Hitler’s Nazism, but in the bigotry and hysterical mob hate that dominated the 2016 election (and was not confined to the right wing).  Class differences are difficult enough, economics and rational economic concerns are serious enough and motivating enough—we cannot ignore them—but we have to work on them from an underlying platform of unity, solidarity, cooperation, accommodation, and mutual aid.






Donald Trump was elected by a coalition of three groups: Big Oil and their cooperating interests, the racist and sexist right, and the right-wing “Christians.”  The latter two are motivated by extreme hate, Big Oil only by ordinary everyday self-interest (“greed”).  If history holds, the racists and religious extremists will take over, and start a campaign of genocide that will devastate capitalist interests, including Big Oil.

In all history, very few political campaigns have consisted so strictly as Trump’s of demonizing so many opponents.  Those few always ended in huge genocides.  Hitler’s Germany is the obvious case, but the USSR under Stalin, China under Mao Zedong, Cambodia under the Khmer Rouge, Turkey under the Young Turks in 1915-1916, Ethiopia under the Dergue in the 1970s, and Indonesia under military rule in the 1960s provide other examples.  Even targeted hate campaigning, with only one or two groups demonized, has led to mass genocide in countries such as Serbia, Rwanda, and Burundi in the 1990s and Sudan in the 2000s.

How much Trump is consciously following the playbook is not clear, but Stephen Bannon at least is known to be well aware of Hitler’s steps to power, and appears to be copying them quite faithfully.

However, there is hope in the current situation.  Constant peaceful protest, and exposure of lies, will succeed against Trump if pressure is kept on but no violence is allowed in the process.  There are several cases of successful peaceful resistance—though disturbingly few—in the international record of the last century (Chenoweth and Stephan 2012).  There are even a few cases were autocratic regimes—generally relatively mild ones, but some quite murderous ones—were turned out by massive continued protest and international pressure, as in Chile, the Philippines (under Marcos), South Africa, South Korea, and Taiwan.  Depressingly, the great genocidal regimes usually ended only when forced out by war, though the most murderous country of all, the Soviet Union, slowly declined into relatively peaceful mildness in the 1950s, before collapsing completely in 1989.

Thus, applying prior experience to the United States, we can specify the especially frightening possibilities ahead.  First, armed militias—the Black Shirts and Brown Shirts—were instrumental in the rise of fascism in Italy and Germany, and comparable militias or armed groups (from the Red Guards to the Interahamwe) arose in virtually all other major genocides.  The United States has the Ku Klux Klan, the White Aryan Nation, and other groups, all of which militantly supported Trump and are ready to serve him.  If they are put into service, the risk of genocide goes sharply up.  Second, attacks on the mainstream media and academics are already daily events.  If they lead to actual imprisonment or other suppression, the risk is again much higher.  Third, demonization of the opposition by the hard-right is constant and becoming more strident.  Fourth, the current rush by the Republican Party to abolish or avoid traditional democratic institutions and balances appears to be a deliberate move toward authoritarian control.  Fifth, economic problems, threats of terrorism, and serious multifront war (currently focused in Syria) are providing excuses for crackdowns.  Finally, an actual coup, or suspension of the Constituion in a “state of emergency,” would make genocide virtually certain.

In short, all the danger signs that foretold prior genocides are already visible, but in early forms.  This progression can still be nipped in the bud.

The best way to predict a genocidal future is to see what was done by dictators trained, put in place, and instructed by the American right wing.  These range from Rios Montt in Guatemala to Pinochet in Chile.  Pinochet was relatively moderate, and confronted a well-developed civil society that eventually prevailed and forced him out; he killed a large number of opponents and suspected opponents, but no more than ten to twenty thousand.  Rios Montt took over a more troubled country with less civil society, and began a campaign of mass murder that targeted Maya Indigenous communities, teachers, aid workers, community organizers, and other good-doers, as well as political opponents.  His genocide claimed 200,000 lives—2% of the total population.

Given the extreme levels of hatred that the Republicans have aroused, a Republican genocide would probably kill at least 2%, six and a half million people.  This would be in a consolidation genocide: the initial campaign to insure control once dictatorship has been declared.  The next steps would lead to more.  A Republican government would eliminate corporate and estate taxes and cut all taxes for the rich.  If present trends are any indication, the resulting enormous infusion of cash to the rich would be banked in offshore accounts or invested in other countries—not invested in the United States.  It would be a huge drain on the economy.  Also, the Republicans currently propose to eliminate Medicare, Medicaid, Social Security, and indeed all transfer-payment programs, leading to extreme poverty in the US.  The resulting decline in consumer spending would devasstate the economy.  Resulting unemployment and disruption would lead to a further genocide to suppress dissent, probably eliminating another 2%.  Targeted groups of these genocides would be political opponents and Democrat leadership in general; minority leadership; feminist leadership; gays in general (many Republicans have called for exterminating them); and probably other groups.  Republicans are also proposing a new constitution for the United States, to eliminate the measure making any child a citizen if born in the US; such a new constitution would certainly eliminate the Bill of Rights (except the second amendment), the 14th Amendment, and other protections.

All historical genocides have moved very rapidly once started.  Killing escalates within months or days.  We will have no time to stop it if we do not start now.

A scenario for permanently eliminating Democrats from power is clearly taking shape in the GOP:  National right-to-work law and other measures to destroy labor unions, plus gerrymandering and voter suppression.  Unions are not only the biggest single source of Democrat funding and the way to mobilize the working class; they are also the main counterbalance to the rich urban liberals who want to restrict politics to debating “neoliberalism” and “intersectionality.”  We have to get back to uniting for economic justice and stop dividing over meaningless verbiage.  Only the workers can keep the Democrats on that track.

The United States, before Trump, was well placed to stop genocide, because it had evolved the exact opposite: a system based on liberal democracy.  Guaranteeing basic human and civil rights expanded fairly steadily up until 2016, and in spite of many obvious problems, the US had worked out a solid, well-constructed plan for fair treatment, justice, and inclusion.  That plan is now in ruins.  It can and must be restored and strengthened.

Our enemy is hate. It was the reason for the Trump vote—the sole real issue in his campaign.  It takes the forms of bigotry, bias, intolerance, exclusionary ideology, cowardly and fearful resistance, and irrational anger.  The outrageous amoral greed of Trump and his cronies succeeds only because their supporters and voters are motivated by hate to vote and act against their own self-interest.  Most of the hate was directed downward socioeconomically—to the pooor and to poor minorities—but intellectual elites and the Washington “establishment” came in for their share.

Trump supporters apparently think of the United States not as one country where people work together to move forward, but as a set of hopelessly antagonistic blocs, fighting each other in a declining economy, each one surviving only by taking down the others.  Unfortunately, this view is not confined to Republicans; many disaffected leftists hold it.

The counter is not to be angry or hateful toward Republicans.  The only counter is solidarity, reasonableness, mutual respect, and personal responsibility.

Trump’s victory shows that, unfortunately, people vote their hate—not really news to many political scientists, but apparently news to the Democratic Party.  Hatred is a far more important motive than any other, at least in politics.  There is a worldwide context, rooted in increasing resistance to democracy because it is associated with globalization and rising inequality everywhere (Fukuyama 2016).

This led to the sad fact that millions of otherwise perfectly good, decent, honorable people voted for Trump, simply because he tweaked their one spot and got them to vote against not only their economic self-interest but also against the 90% of their moral and emotional compass that was not hateful.  Democrats, and especially intolerant liberals, should remember this.  Hatred is no nicer in a liberal who rejects any and all Trump voters than in a “redneck” racist.

Hatred is also the cause of motivated belief in lies.  The astounding propagation of blatant, obvious lies—there is no global warming, all Muslims are terrorists, and so on, things that anyone could see were false—is explained by people believing anything that justifies and shores up their hates.  There is also cognitive dissonance to consider; the more one has personally invested in a belief, the more one believes it when it is disproved.  This will lead many to become even more hateful to minorities and Muslims when Trump’s presidency fails to deliver (as it certainly will).

We thus need a specific attack on the Great Lies—the ones that just go on and on and are apparently universally believed by the right wing:  Racism, religious bigotry (especially against Jews and Muslims), the nonexistence of global warming, and the unworthiness of the poor (the idea that the poor are all lazy—not working, and that because of laziness and stupidity).  Fake news, lies in general, and the Republican acceptance of lies is bad enough, but these four are really especially awful, and they never go away.







The most ambitious plan for curing hate and genocide is Ervin Staub’s life work, epitomized in Overcoming Evil (2011).  This book summarizes all the causes of genocide and terrorism.  It then gives an extremely comprehensive and detailed account of what can be done by ordinary people to damp down the vicious cycles of hate and violence that lead to mass murder.  The methods range from getting people from the different sides to talk to each other and work out their problems (the classic group therapy techniques) to active-bystander intervention, and on up to political, media, and educational approaches.  The latter will certainly be needed, since encounter groups can never be comprehensive and widespread enough to do the job—though they are surely desirable, even necessary.  Staub emphasizes the need to see others as ourselves—to see that we are all in the same boat, all humans together (see summary point, p. 515).

Ultimately, and especially for those individuals low in self-efficacy who might otherwise be tempted by violence, the only cure is tolerance.  We must teach that, including valuing diversity and valuing solidarity and community.  This cannot be expected to do all the work, however.  Yugoslavia had a good program of teaching mutual tolerance and appreciation, because of the country’s bitter past of genocides and ethnic hatreds.  The program was not enough; the nation dissolved into warring and genocidal splinter countries in the 1990s.  Relative peace has now come, at the cost of tens of thousands dead, millions with shattered lives, and whole nations ruined.

Above all, we have to make hatred socially unacceptable, and confront hatred and bigotry directly.  Hate is an emotion that hugely dominates the human animal when it is aroused, and it can be dealt with only by patient, rational discourse kept up with constant pressure.  We have to teach ordinary egalitarian civility and politeness—not showing dislike of others, simply as a matter of decency.

That said, no really effective campaign of fighting hate has worked without giving people something to unify them.  Conquest worked in the bad old days, but the Mongol hordes are not an ideal model for today.  Defense sometimes works in a threatened country, as it did for the United States in WWII, but surprisingly often it fails to unify people against a common enemy.  Uniting to fix an economic mess saved the United States in the 1930s.  A charismatic, visionary leader is often necessary.

An ethic of helping people, not hurting them, is obviously an essential component to all the above.

Another, quite different, agenda is addressing the claims that the country, or the world, is getting steadily worse off, and that the Jews, gays, Latinos, Chinese, or other entities are to blame.  The surest cure to genocide may be convincing people that we are all getting better off, or could get better off, and that the way to do this is for us all to pull together.

In short, the cure for genocide is the realization that we are all in this together, and that we progress in so far as we all work for the good of all.

A major part of this is remembering the old American watchword:  My rights stop where yours start.  “Your freedom to swing your arm ends at my nose,” as folklore puts it.  One of the most deadly rhetorics in the modern United States is the idea that “religious freedom” means freedom for right-wing “Christians” to bully, oppress, and brutalize those who do not follow that faith.

Prevention of genocide and bringing genociders to justice have moved forward.  Governments are more aware of international sanctions.  Some years ago, John Heidenreich (2001) gave us a number of ways that diplomacy and political resolve could stop genocide.  Leo Kuper (1985) suggested a number of cultural methods and diplomatric initiatives to stop genocide.  Unfortunately, time has not been kind to these.  Laws, diplomacy, international courts, and other due process means have been unable to stop genocide or bring more than a very few genociders to justice.  Typically, the mills of justice grind so slowly that genociders die of old age before they can be convicted.  Notable cases include Slobodan Milosevic and August Pinochet.

Thus, Alex Bellamy (2010), among others, forthrightly states that only superior military force can stop genocide, at least once it is in progress.  Since he wrote, this has indeed been successfully done in the Central African Republic, where religious war between Muslims and Christians was nipped in the bud by an international force.  Conversely, genocides in Myanmar and elsewhere have gone on, unstopped by diplomacy in spite of international protests.  ISIS continues to exterminate Yazidis without much notice (Travis 2016), though liberation of some ISIS areas has occurred as of 2017.

On the other hand, we have seen that Mali and Cote d’Ivoire avoided genocide in spite of communal violence, by avoiding exclusionary ideology (Straus 2015).

These and subsequent additions are conveniently summarized by Samuel Totten and Paul Bartrop (2008:342):  “conflict resolution efforts…mediation…diplomacy…sanctions…radio/television jamming…signing of peace agreements…peace-enforcement troops; establishment of effective safe havens…no-fly zones…outright combat by outside forces to prevent genocide from being carried out.”  Of these, safe zones, and troops on the ground, have proved effective.  Little else has.  Economic sanctions, for instance, have no detectable effect at all, positive or negative (Krain 2017).  Calling out hate speech and propaganda is obviously necessary and important, but more to alert good people than to stop the evil ones.  It awakens the world to the problem, but usually merely hardens the evildoers in their ways.  One remembers the astonishing resistance of Trump supporters to every proof that Trump and his backers had lied outright.  However, calling out hatred sometimes persuades the undecided to decide against evil.  Immediate international diplomatic sanctions against hate-based political action is clearly warranted.  In the end, prediction followed by troop deployment is probably necessary for serious threats.


Confronting Prevention


We will all have to confront the crimes of genocide and mass murder at national and international levels, and throw the whole weight of citizenry behind ways to reverse vicious spirals and get people to see each other as all in the same lifeboat, and not fighting over the provisions on it.

One other essential thing, however, is to have real, unified, dedicated counterleadership, to give the vast mass of reasonably well-meaning people some leaders to follow and conform to. If conformity and morality are indeed the overwhelmingly most important drivers in the followers of genocide, as appears to be the case, then having a higher and more moral counter-standard to conform to is obviously basic.  As noted above, we need to attack exclusionary ideologies, above all the moralizing of hatred and exclusion.  We can do this only if we also advocate replacing them with ideologies of inclusion, tolerance, mutual aid, and solidarity.

This would involve, most obviously, insistence on tolerance and truth: no “alternative facts” or fake news or racism or climate change denial.

That would require some serious changes to American educational systems.  We too often teach falsehoods.  Worse, we do not teach critical thinking and analysis.  There is also a wider concern: unless we teach genuine appreciation of people, cultures, arts, nature, and the world in general, the gullible and passive will still be seduced by the psychopathic.  Only positive good can truly counteract positive evil.

From the above, it is obvious that at any point, a concerted movement could stop genocide, except in cases where an extremist government had taken total power in war.

All that is required is for ordinary citizens to face what is going on, and refuse to play.  But this means keeping a clear vision in mind of human good, and of the really good people in the world.

Treating fear is clearly a priority.  Fear, and above all irrational behavior due to fear, is due in large part of loss of feelings of self-control, self-efficacy, and control over one’s life (Bandura 1982; Beck 1999; Kemper 2006; LeDoux 1996; many others).  It also involves giving up on controlling that which one cannot control; the Serenity Prayer remains a key ideal to strive for, however hard to reach in practice.  More directly, comprehensive medical care, assurance of food in times of want, reasonable hope of jobs for workers, and above all security of life, identity, and property are essential.  Genocidal leaders thrive on whipping up fear for livelihood.  On the other hand, they are adept at whipping up hatreds even among the affluent and self-assured, so security is ancillary to direct opposition to hate and its ideologies.

Again, there is a back story.  We in the United States have been beneficiaries of the Enlightenment—the visionary program devised in the 18th century that invented such new ideas as participatory democracy, liberty of conscience, a slavery-free society, equal justice for all, and equal opportunities for people of all classes.  These were completely new ideas at the time—as strange to most people as computers and the Internet were to my generation.  They rode a wave of exploration, trade, commerce, prosperity, and adventure.  Unfortunately, it was also a wave of colonialism, war, slavery, oppression, and, of course, genocide.  The Enlightenment leaders were largely reacting against this, but one must remember that some of them profited from it, directly or indirectly.

In any case, we now live on the basis of a program that proved not only very good for people but also stunningly good for the economy.  Democracy and freedom of opportunity paid off, at least as well as any investment in history.  Steven Pinker (2011) argues that the Enlightenment reduced both interpersonal violence and international war.  The jury is out.  In any case, we are now seeing a massive turning away from the Enlightenment program—in the United States, in China, in Turkey, in India, in Hungary, and indeed worldwide.  We need to save the old Enlightenment ideals, and add to them now ones targeted at mass killing.

Human rights remain the key. The rights developed in the Enlightenment—freedom of speech, assembly, religion, and conscience; freedom from torture, oppression, arbitrary “justice”—remain necessary for the world if we are not to fall into mutual destruction.  The governments that deny these and regard them as mere western constructions pay the price in evrything from lost wealth (through destroying their most thoughtful and productive citizens) to total war.  There will always be those who defend genocide as a good thing, but they are basing their vision on hatred and on lust for power, not on any beneficial results.

We need to work on a morality based on helping others, not hurting them.  One would think this was simple and straightforward, but common experience shows otherwise.  We now live in a world where religious leaders preach hatred and mass murder, and sometimes nothing else.

Next comes countering hatred.  This basically requires education, not only in school but in public media.  Clearly dishonest claims of racial difference and of religions that call for murder of innocent people need to be continually refuted at all levels and by all media.  More ambiguous propaganda requires more nuanced approaches.  Meeting extremist Islam (Salafism) with even more extremist intolerant Christianity merely makes things worse.  Meeting racism with generic attacks on white people is no help (though sensible, reasonable critique of white privilege is sorely needed in this day and age).

Economics courses should teach about the link of genocide with special breaks for giant firms.  History courses should include material on how Hitler, Mussolini, and Stalin got whole nations to go along with them in missions of hatred and mass murder. Philosophy, psychology,, literature all have their role.  Science courses should not only debunk lies, but also teach how to evaluate claims in the media.  And there certainly should be comparative religion courses, including the full story of the corruption of religion by demagogues for evil ends.

Child-rearing should focus very solicitously on raising children to be civil, polite, and considerate to everyone, and to talk out their problems with parents, siblings, and peers.  Children need to be taught to take responsiblity for everything from daily chores to their own feelings.  They need to respect others, but not give in to others.  A correlation of harsh, repressive child-rearing and genocide has been raised in much of the literature (see the cited works on Evil, above); it does not hold up robustly, but has some support.  Empowerment should be a major goal. In this imperfect world, sensitivity and self-confidence from actual support by parents and others should be combined with actual testing and developing self-efficacy.

In the wider society, we need to unite economic policies that bring fairness with media arguments for decent treatment of all and a wider morality of tolerance and mutual aid.  Failed, vacillating, or grossly unfair economic policies are a genocider’s dream.  Even more closely connected, usually providing the actual economic base of genocide, are paleoeconomic forms: obsolete industries, crude extractive industries (especially oil), highly traditional sectors (agriculture is notorious), and other basic industries challenged by new, higher-technology sectors.

Again, responsibility is vitally important.  This seems rarely stressed in the literature, but reading accounts of hate ideologies and resulting genocides makes it clear that progressive shrinking from responsible behavior is one common theme.

By far the worst problem is deliberate circulation of all manner of hate propaganda, from flat racist lies to carefully nuanced and disguised bigotry, by the giant firms and super-rich business owners.  The Koch brothers and Robert Mercer have carved out a special niche in funding hate propaganda (see detailed analysis of the Mercer empire, which includes Stephen Bannon; Gertz 2017).  They are not the only ones.  This needs to be continually daylighted.

Of course, most obvious of all is the need to teach that the combination of autocratic government, hate ideology, and economic or violent disruption is almost inevitably deadly.  One therefore hopes for more effort to prevent situations that bring out the worst in people.  Steven Pinker said it well:  “The decline of genocide over the last third of a century…may be traced to the upswing of some of the same factors that drove down interstate and civil wars: stable government, democracy, openness to trade, and humanistic ruling philosophies that elevate the interests of individuals over struggles among groups” (Pinker 2011:342).  Of course we have seen genocides among societies with those traits.  The Weimar Republic that nourished Hitler had them all.  Conversely, conspicuously lacking them all has not brought genocide to a few of the smaller dictatorships like Qatar or Bahrein.  In general, though, they stand up under scrutiny.  Rudolph Rummel was right: autocracy kills, and the more oppressive it is, the more deaths follow when any disruption perturbs the system.

International scrutiny of autocratic states in troubled times must therefore take a high priority, with threat of direct multinational intervention made very real.  Experience suggests that nothing else works when genocide is under way, and even armed intervention does not always have any effect, since dictators may simply keep killing until they themselves are forcibly removed from office.

Attacking hatred in general and the specific correlates of genocide are thus both equally necessary.  Generic attacks on intolerance have never been enough.

Finally, the worst failing of the international community has been in condemning genocide and bringing genociders to justice.  Accountability is absolutely necessary.  The mills of trial and sentencing move so slowly that genociders brought to trial often die of old age before final sentencing.  The international community has been far too comfortable with genocide, human rights abuses, and oppression of minorities.  (For much more detail on all these issues, see Anderson and Anderson 2012:127-156 and Staub 2011.)









Immediate Basics


We need to get people to stop seeing American politics as a negative-sum game, in which “my” group hurts itself just to do worse damage to “their” group.  This is clearest and worst in race and gender politics, but is unfortunately common.  Obama did an amazing, though far from perfect, job of bringing us together to work together to build.  Trump, Sanders, and Clinton unfortunately ran quite divisive campaigns; Trump made no pretense otherwise.  Trump, Fox News, and the far-right media whipped up a level of hatred not seen in the United States for decades, possibly not since the Civil War.  A huge anti-hatred civic action movement is absolutely necessary.  But, also, since hate comes from fear, we need to encourage people in the literal sense of the word:  Give them courage.  Fear, and weakness caused by facing the giant corporations in all their power, is the ultimate source of the outbreak of hatred, now so cynically manipulated by the most reactionary of those corporations.

The real problem now is developing solidarity among those opposed to Trumpism.  One way is uniting people around classic conservative virtues—patriotism, loyalty, respect for the Constitution, honesty, personal honor, and courage—as well as the liberal ones of tolerance, fairness, and justice.  Above all, we need simple acceptance.  Love is not the opposite of hate; the opposite of hate is acceptance of people as they are.  Tolerance, valuing diversity, and above all mutual respect are the basic values.  This does not mean tolerating or accepting evil behavior; it means evaluating people as human beings, not as representatives of groups.  In particular, they are not merely parts of imagined, invented, or socially constructed groups.  They are not mere fragments of their religion or their ethnicity or their political party.  They are human beings.

We need a program that has wide support but sharply defines the sane majority against the extremists (see Mounck 2016).  Having no program beyond opposition to Trump and his administration will not work.  Neither will having an extreme or exclusionist “progressive” program.  We have to have clear goals.  These should be both immediate and for the farther future.  Immediate goals should be steps toward utopia.  Any progress in that direction helps, and if we do not have a clear vision of the good society, we will not know where to start or how to evaluate what efforts we make.

The longer-term issues are health and environment.  American life expectancy, infant mortality, and maternal mortality are a disgrace—far worse than in any other developed country, and down with much poorer countries like Cuba, Costa Rica, and China.  Our environmental situation is deteriorating fast.  Global warming threatens to get out of control and devastate the planet.  We have to fight anti-scientific nonsense on all these fronts.

We want an economy that produces jobs but not subsidies, breaks, giveaways, and getting rich through crime, corruption, and cheating.

We want collective goods like free public education, a functioning infrastructure, and a beautiful and healthy environment as well as a sustainably productive one.

We have to have good public health.  One thing conservatives forget is that we cannot have individual good health; it has to be public or nothing.  Epidemics do not know about race, religion, or, on the whole, gender.  They are worse for the poor but the rich do not escape them. The health gap between rural and urban America is increasing, with death rates declining less rapidly or actually rising in the rural areas (Frostenson 2017).  This is directly due to rural choice: they have been voting more and more consistently for Republicans and against health care.  The greatest gap is in maternal and child mortality, because of the rural bias against abortion and indeed against women’s health care in general.

Above all, we want, or should want, a society where civil rights and voting rights are real, equal, and enforced.  We want a society where collective goods allow individual “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.”


One thing to do right away is to document everything we can.  We may have to make sure that documentation in stored out of the United States to be protected in other countries.  We will probably face suppression of the press and legitimate radio and TV.  Trump has already started it.  His admired friend Vladimir Putin has killed many reporters, as well as shutting down opposition media.  We can expect that.  The legitimate media are already weak enough in this world of Twitter and Fox News.  They will collapse, leaving us without honest news, if real suppression happens.  So, we have to get the word out, by conventional media, social media, word of mouth.  Let the light shine.

Robert Reich identifies four syndromes to avoid:  normalizing, outrage-numbness, cynicism, and giving up (AlterNet, Dec. 20, 2016,

Loss also comes from having too broad and vague an agenda—something people cannot relate to.  Supporting “capitalism” or “socialism,” in this day and age when those words are defined any which way, will not work.  We have to be specific.

The civil rights struggle is perhaps the most relevant, if only because many of the same people—the same individuals—that are backing Trump now were leaders of the anti-civil-rights forces, or were coming of age under them.  Jerry Falwell, for instance, was a vocal opponent of civil rights.  His son is still with us, backing Trump.  Guns, attack dogs, tear gas, water cannons, and the whole force the south could muster was thrown against the civil rights activists.

Another very relevant case was the labor movement.  From the 1870s and even earlier, workers fought bosses for minimal pay and rights.  Labor largely lost until the 1930s, but the workers kept up the fight, against incredible odds and with many martyrdoms.  “Solidarity forever” was the watchword, and almost 100% of the variance as far as success went, though having a clear and not too unreachable agenda (the eight-hour day, for instance) was also important.  It really is time to revive the old song “Solidarity forever.”

We need activists who know exactly what we’re in for:  fighting over the long term, against a full-scale, merciless fascist movement.

On the other hand, all polls agree that the vast majority of Americans, including most Republicans, are not on board with Trumpism.  We have to have an actual platform, or at least solid ideas of what we want, and it has to be based on saving America—maintaining democracy and freedom, stopping and reversing the rapid trend toward inequality not only in wealth but also before the law.  We have to get back to demanding real public education, medical care available to all, voting rights for all adult citizens, protection of life and liberty, and other obvious matters on which there is broad agreement.

So, first, unite against hate.   Vote!  Organize! “The best solution is old-fashioned organizing, focused on the issues of the most pressing concern to voters: healthcare, jobs and wage” (Zimmerman 2017).

Second, recognize the level and depth of the threat, especially the way that cynical and evil people are deliberately whipping up the hate to get votes and support for their side and to divide our side.

Third, stop ignoring working-class and rural whites.  Stay with the real grassroots, anywhere and everywhere.  Find out what is happening there.

Fourth, do everything possible to maintain solidarity, including steady advocacy for civil rights and equality before the law.

Fifth, support legitimate media!  Anyone against Trump should subscribe to a (real) newspaper, support networks that carry real news, support websites that carry real news and expose lies.  The honest media are our best hope, and, if the Trump regime is consistent with other fascist regimes, will be the first target.  The first and hardest battle will be to maintain civil rights and access to truth.  Trump will surely attempt to follow the examples of Hitler, Putin, Erdogan and others, and shut down “hostile” media, i.e. those that report truth.  By the same token, avoid and call out the lying media that exist only to serve evil bosses:  Fox News, Breitbart, and the like.

Sixth, join the major civil rights groups and send them money when possible.  In the end, they are probably our next best hope.  The most stalwart and persistently rights-defending groups in the US are the ACLU, Amnesty International, and the Southern Poverty Law Center.  There are other worthy organizations.  Similarly for the environment, where the Sierra Club clearly has the best track record.  Natural Resources Defense Council has also done a consistently fine job.  Beware of “astroturf organizations” (phony grassroots organizations). Do not waste money on hopeful startups too small to accomplish anything consequential.

Seventh, hold Republicans’ feet to the fire.  Stop using euphemisms.  This is fascism and hatred, not politics as usual.  The extreme and pervasive anti-Jewish hate speech of Trump, Stephen Bannon, and others makes clear the fascist roots of it all.  It is not “white nationalism” or “populism.”  Confront that.  Force every Republican in Congress to defend or cut loose the anti-Jewish hatred of people like Bannon.  Stop crediting the Republicans with wanting “small government”; they are instituting tyranny.  (Look at voter suppression, the crushing of women’s reproductive rights and other rights, and indeed almost everything the Republicans currently favor.)  Stop saying they want the “free market”; they want subsidies and government/giant firm cronyism.  They give us not free enterprise, but fusion of government and big business, as seen in Trump’s cabinet.   Stop crediting them with wanting to help the poor or the working people or the sick; they want to hold those groups down or cut them adrift.  They know perfectly well that their plans to “help” actually harm.  We have hundreds of years of evidence on the effects of lowering wages, breaking unions, and eliminating public health care.  Democrats and ordinary Republican voters may be fooled, but no congressperson or cabinet member could possibly be under the illusion that such measures do anything but harm.  If they seriously try to repeal Medicare and Medicaid, call them mass murderers.  If they eliminate regulations on banking and finance, tell them they know perfectly well that that leads to depression.  And so on down the list.

Eighth, protest unendingly and noisily.  Phone and write your representatives.

Ninth, work to change attitudes.  Michael Shermer (2017) has provided simple rules for this:  “1.  Keep emotions out of the exchange, 2 discuss, don’t attack…, 3 listen carefully and try to articulate the other position acurately, 4 show respect, 5 acknowledge that you understand why someone might hold that opinion and 6 try to show how changing facts does not necessarily mean changing worldviews.”

So, get the word out, by conventional media, social media, word of mouth, anything.  Let the light shine.  We need to document everything, especially deaths from refusal of health care, suppression of the press and media, and job losses from Trumpist policies.  We desperately need good reporters and media.

We need a serious leader,  or leaders, with a clear, consistent ideology, the opposite of Trump’s.


Reaffirming Values


One thing is sure:  the United States must go either up or down.  Continuing on the path of Trump and the Republican Party leads to fascist dictatorship, genocide, and national destruction.  The only alternative is to create a better, more fair, more honest, better educated society than we have had before.  Going back to the days of Clinton and Obama is impossible.  In any case, it would almost certainly lead to a repeat of what happened before: set the United States up for fascism.

The only good that can come of the Trump administration would be forcing Americans of the left, center, and traditional right to get together, reaffirm classic values, and fight these fascists down.  That would, however, be a monumentally good thing.  It happened in the Depression.  It could happen now.  Germany, Italy, Japan, and several other genocidal countires emerged from fascism with far more democratic and free regimes than the ones they had before.  On the other hand, de-communisation did not notably help Russia or most of the former USSR (with the conspicuous exceptions of the Baltics).  Only lack of will makes the difference.

We will have to start over from scratch with the classic American project of creating a fair society, with justice consisting of equality before the law and rights consisting of freedom to act in so far as it does not inhibit another’s welfare or freedom.  Under Trump, the rich, the white, and the fundamentalist-Christian have enormous special privileges before the law and in economic and rights-based terms.  The whole idea of “we’re all in this together” has been lost; the Trump administration, including the Republican congress, are engaged in a single-minded war on weaker Americans.

For the future, the key is to learn and rationally understand instead of hating; act and fight on instead of giving up and falling into passivity; be independent instead of conformist!  These self-disciplines have to underlie and be the foundation for restored tolerance, civility, and solidarity in American life.  It will take hard work for all of us to buck the system and do this.  Just do it.  America and all of us Americans are fighting for our lives now.

Psychologists inform us that values clarification makes one happier, healthier, and more successful in everything from exam-taking to courtship.  We need to get serious about restoring American values of liberty, equality, solidarity, and democracy.

Recently, the United States has been losing its traditional values.  Both the right—now ruling—and the more extreme and vocal end of the left have abandoned a good deal of what most Americans agreed on until recently.

Civil rights have priority, since they are most essential to the American vision and they are most under attack.

Freedom of speech is most at risk.  The Trump administration is attacking the media in exactly the way Hitler did in the 1930s.  Unfortunately, some of the misguided “progressive” camp is going after the media too, in the name of suppressing “hate speech.”  There are classic problems with this, all identified by the Founding Fathers, and also by Tom Paine and John Stuart Mill:

Hate speech is in the eye of the beholder.  No definition can be tight enough to stop people from insisting that what they say is not hate speech, and what their opponents say is always hate speech no matter how nicely phrased.  (Politeness can be a way of subtly maintaining white privilege, for instance.)

Hate speech can be educative–if not the speech itself, then from the fact that people say it, believe it, and act on it.

Suppressing speech drives it underground, where it spreads like wildfire—as censored things always do—and is attractive simply because it was suppressed.  There is an Arab saying that “if you forbid people from rolling camel dung into little balls with their fingers, they would do it, because if it is forbidden there must be something good about it.”  Moreover, suppressing speech makes the suppressed people into instant martyrs, no matter how unsavory they seemed before.

Since the people in power will naturally be the ones doing the censoring, all opposition to those in power will soon be censored, and everything that supports them will be permitted, no matter how vile it is.  This is, in practice, the greatest reason why censorship is generally bad.

Last, it is immoral to shut other people up because you happen to dislike what they say.  They have a right to their opinions and their mouths.

If what they say is downright libel, or a direct call to violence, or a lie that directly leads to physical harm to people (like the anti-vaxx lies), that is something else.  Freedom is not a matter of absolute freedom; it is a matter of considering others’ rights.  Speech that actually and directly causes physical harmful is not defensible.  However, the wise activist errs on the side of liberty.

All this we learned in the Free Speech Movement in Berkeley in the 1960s, but it has all been said before, ever since Voltaire and Jefferson.

On the other hand, there are limits.  Libel is properly outlawed.  Yelling “fire” in a crowded theatre is too, and inciting to riot is dicey; some hate speech falls into that category.  Above all, lying under oath is properly forbidden.  It has been suggested that campaign speech should be sworn testimony, at least when facts are stated, and thus lies like Trump’s would be illegal.

Similar conclusions apply to freedom of press, assembly, and religion.  However, religion has now been so thoroughly abused as a cover for political campaigning and even for money-laundering and profiteering that it will have to be protected from these abuses.  Taxing the churches seems an inescapable necessity if the US is to flourish.  Politics is probably protected speech, up to a point, but outright campaigning—with donations of laundered or illegally-gained money—must be stopped.  Preachers who are clearly in it for the money rather than the souls are all too common, and tax laws have to recognize this.  The problem is not just one of politics; the rapidly escalating religious hate that has swept the world, and notably the United States, in the last generation is to a very large degree a product of preaching for money.  Corrupt and evil men posing as preachers find that the easiest way to make it pay is to preach hate and right-wing politics.  This is the story of ISIS and the Taliban as well as of Trump’s preacher claque.

Thus, cleaning up the institution of religion would seem to be a part of assuring liberty of conscience.  Above all, though, liberty of conscience must be preserved.


Second is tolerance, which is also under an astonishing amount of attack from the left as well as the right.

It really should need no defense.  Many of the same considerations as those above will apply.

If you do not tolerate others, they will not tolerate you.  They may not even if you do tolerate them, but, in general, hate breeds hate, acceptance breeds acceptance.

We are all in this together.  A functioning society has to grow, change, and build, and can do that only by unified effort, mutual aid, and solidarity.  The alternative is mutual destruction.  The dominant group may win for a while by doing others down, but it merely hurts itself—first by losing those other groups and whatever they have to offer, but second by starting a spirit of hate and rivalry that inevitably tears up the dominant group itself, in due course of time.

As usual, there are limits.  Obviously, we do not want to tolerate rape, murder, or robbery.  The argument is for tolerating people as individuals—the essential personhood behind whatever unacceptable behavior they may sometimes present.  They deserve fairness and consideration.  If they are acting to harm others, they have to be stopped.  Toleration of ideas is a good, but we need to argue and negotiate and work them out.  Toleration of particular behaviors is allowable only in so far as those behaviors do not actively and unnecessarily harm people.  Not all harm to people is bad—Plato and Aristotle were already pointing out 2400 years ago that surgeons “harm” people for their own good.  One wants to minimize hurt, but some pain is necessary.

In short, tolerance is a major goal, but has to be qualified by common sense.  None of this affects tolerating people as human beings, or, for that matter, tolerating other life forms.  Essential acceptance of living beings, simply on the basis of being fellow travelers on the planet, is the basic and essential need of a functioning society.

It is therefore unacceptable to hate or reject anyone on the basis of skin color, ethnicity, language, history, or the like.  No morality can justify that.  Total personal rejection of anyone for any reason is unacceptable.  We may have to kill a person in self-defense, but we are not given license to hate that individual simply for being.  We know that “races” are not biological entities, and that all human groups are pretty much identical in potential, but even if we did find a group that was—say—less intelligent by some measure than the average, we would morally have to pay them the same respect and treatment as everyone else.

This is the real underpinning of the classic Enlightenment virtues: liberty, equality, fairness, justice as fairness, and civil behavior in civil society.  Never mind that the Enlightenment was financed by slavery and colonialism.  The point is that much of its content was explicitly directed against slavery and class discrimination.  No one in the history of the world had opposed slavery in general until 18th-century religious thinkers, largely Quakers, did so.   Fairness has to mean serious attention to disadvantaged groups, not just even-handed treatment of all.  Equality before the law has been in sorry shape under Trump, with flagrant favoring of whites and rich people ove the rest.  With the Attorney General an open racist, nothing but trouble can be expected.  That way lies genocide and nothing else.


This brings us to solidarity:  Mutual aid, mutual support, mutual empowerment and strengthening.             It worked for the labor movement and for the old-time Democrats; disunion, carefully nurtured by the right wing, has led to the decline of both those institutions.  The war between Clinton and Sanders supporters took down Clinton in 2016, and will guarantee a Republican gain in the congressional elections of 2018 if it is not resolved.

A major part of this is civility.  We are getting farther and farther from civil discourse.  The right wing is usually the leader and always the most successful in extreme, exaggerated, intemperate, and insulting remarks, and we should leave that to them.  We always lose if we try that tactic.

We can move on to the four C’s—civility, caring, compassion, and considerateness—and the three R’s: Respect, reasonableness, responsibility.  Those last three alone would fix the US’ problems if applied consistently. Thus there is some need to be beyond tolerance.  Compassion and caring for others is a learned skill that should be taught.  They too do not just happen, nor does modern life encourage them.  They have to be taught in schools, workplaces, and elsewhere.

Another value in extreme danger under the Trump administration is education.  His Secretary of Education opposes the whole idea of education, in the usual sense, and totally opposes public education.  She is systematically planning to minimize schooling and turn it into indoctrination in right-wing views.  We need the exact opposite: education to produce genuinely better people—people who are not hateful bullies, but who actually want to help others.

Americans are not getting the type of education they need.  This would be one that 1) teaches civics, including the Constitution and a non-whitewashed US history; 2) teaches actual science and how one can tell falsehoods and investigate truth; 3) actually teach the young about the depth and complexity of human emotions.  Humanistic education these days runs too heavily to comic books and other media that may be well enough in themselves, but do not have the sustained engagement with human feelings and thoughts that one gets from Shakespeare, Cao Xueqin, Dostoievsky, Mann, or Toni Morrison.  Serious music seems to have disappeared from most people’s lives; again, whatever is true or not about “quality,” music of Victoria or Beethoven engages much more deep and complex emotions than the popular stuff.  Whatever one likes or feels is appropriate, people need more insights into humanity than they get from American popular culture.  A reasonable order of teaching children would be starting them with civil behavior (considerate, respectful, sharing; responsible reasonable), then going on to teach compassion and helpfulness because we are all in this together and must follow something like the Golden Rule.  This really has to be done along with reading, writing, history, and math, if we are to survive.


This brings up science and environment.  The Trump administration, including the Republicans in Congress, have launched a full-scale war against both.  They do not stop with dismissing science that is embarrassing to their corporate donors, such as research on climate change and pollution.  They have attacked everything from conservation science to Darwinian evolution.  This is perhaps the area where the Republican base—giant primary-production firms, racists, and right-wing religious extremists—shows itself most clearly.  “Scientific” racism and creationism are now supported; the genuine science that disproves these is attacked.  Budget cuts to basic science and to science education are planned; they are serious enough to virtually destroy both.  Republicans realize that promoting such a wide anti-scientific agenda—climate change denial, claims that pesticides are harmless to humans, anti-vaccination propaganda, anti-evolutionism, racism, and so on—can only succeed if the entire enterprise of science is attacked.  The whole concept of truth is a casualty, with the calls for “alternative facts.”  Ideas of proof, evidence, data, and expertise are regarded as basically hostile to Republicanism.

Clearly, it will be national suicide ot allow this to go on.  Not only is further scientific research necessary to progress; a government that makes policy in defiance of the facts of the case will not survive.  We have already been afflicted with Zika, MRSA, and a host of other germs because of indifferent attention to public health.  Rising sea levels are eating away at coastlines.  Bees and other critically important insects are disappearing.  Foreign policy made in a fact-free environment has devastated the Middle East.  The future will be incalculably worse.  Attention to science education, moral education, and humanistic education remains small.

Part of this is environmental concern, and there we need to draw on traditional moralities.  Most cultures, worldwide, have solved the problems of sustainability—usually by teaching respect for all beings.  Children absorb this at a very young age.  They go on to remember that trees, fish, grass, and future humans all need to be regarded as worthy of consideration—to be used only as necessary and to be protected for future uses or simply to keep them alive.  The western world has long been an outlier, worldwide, by treating resources as things to destroy without a second thought.

With a proper spirit of respect, we will be able to preserve species and environments and to avoid destroying the environment with pollutants and excessive construction.  In the short run, we will have to fall back on laws.  The framework existing as of 2016 was inadequate but was a good start; it is now lost, and we will have to start from scratch, hopefully with better laws to be designed in future.  There are countless books on solving the environmental crisis, and to go further into it here would be tedious.  What matters is recognizing that we have to think of sustainability and respect.


All the above are what may be called “process goals.”  These are goals that we will never fully achieve, but should keep trying for, because any progress in that direction is pure good.  We will never be perfectly healthy, but any progress toward health is good.  Sustainability is another such case, though this one has to be qualified with the point that achieving sustainability by drastically reducing incomes and welfare would not be good.  Justice, fairness, truth in politics and public life, and civility are all process goals.  Fairness means giving everyone a fair chance, not making everybody equal in a mindless, mechanical way.

We can go on to plan Utopia, but we have to reaffirm and restore the classic American values first, at least as a platform to build on.


The key is to learn and rationally understand instead of hating; act and fight on instead of giving up and falling into passivity; be independent instead of conformist!  These self-disciplines have to underlie and be the foundation for restored tolerance, civility, and solidarity in American life.  It will take hard work for all of us to buck the system and do this.  Just do it.  America and all of us Americans are fighting for our lives now.  Choose life.









Appendix 1.  Background, Data on the Election, 2016


It is fairly easy to see what most mattered in Trump’s victory, by looking at which counties flipped from voting for Obama in 2012 to voting for Trump in 2016.  They were largely small-town and rural counties.  They were concentrated in the northern Midwest, but there were quite a few in the rural northeast and border south.  This is the pattern expected if Trump held the Republicans and added most of the formerly Democratic working-class whites—including women—in those areas.

If Clinton’s main problem had been left-wing defections, the difference would have showed up in the cities, not the rural areas.  Her weak campaigning was clearly a factor, but if it had been deadly there would have been a decline in voting overall.  There was a slight decline, due to general lukewarmness and more specific voter suppression.  However, the overwhelming main difference between 2012 and 2016 was in the votes cast by the rural and small-town interior of America.  Trump appealed most of all to the white male working-class voters who have seen their lives steadily eroding in recent decades.  He also appealed to the women; white women voted for Trump, and many who did not were supporters of Sanders or Stein.  Feminism did not make many vote for Hillary.

The problems have been offshoring of jobs, automation, and giant corporations forcing speedups and other exploitative moves, but it proved very easy for Trump to shift the blame to the weak:  Minorities, “illegal aliens,” the poor, women, gays, anybody that seemed weaker than the white males.  Given rising population, shrinking opportunities, rapidly increasing inegality, and above all a sense of losing control over their lives, the working class voted against their self-interest.  Even the Republican middle class clearly voted against themselves.  No one benefits from the Trump presidency except the giant primary-production corporations—the most reactionary, dinosauric segment of society.

In 2012, Obama got about as many votes as Hillary did in 2016, Romney got about as many as Trump.  And about 125,000,000 eligible voters did not turn out at all.   Only 55.6% the eligible voters turned out, and Democrats suffered far more than Republicans, as usual.  That means that the 20% of voters who were hateful represent only a bit over 10% of the general population.  (Accusations of illegals, dead people, and duplicate-voters for Clinton have not turned up a single case.  On the other hand, many faked votes for Trump have been disclosed.)  Clinton won fewer than 500 counties, but they included almost all the large urban ones; Trump won the rest of the 3141 counties in the US, but these were overwhelmingly rural.

Men and women were almost mirror image: Men broke 53-41 for Trump, women 42-54.  People under 30 voted 37-55, over 30 52-43.  (Other votes went to third party people, with little effect on overall results.)  Whites broke an amazing 58-37, probably a record.  Hispanics were 29-65, blacks 8-88 (!).  College-educated people, especially women, broke for Clinton; less educated whites broke very heavily for Trump.  The most economically productive counties in the US voted overwhelmingly for Clinton, giving her 64% of the economy (going by counties); of rich, economically active counties, Trump won only Maricopa County, AZ (Phoenix and suburbs) and Tarrant County, TX (Fort Worth area) (Tankersley 2016).  The economically less successful counties Clinton carried were almost all minority-dominated.  This economic breakdown is rare at best, and unique in Democrat history.

Evangelicals broke 81 to 16% for Trump, a record.  In all, the GOP constituency turned out in force and was loyal.  There was also a reversal of the recent trend for rich to vote Democratic.  Most of the press and many giant corporations supported Clinton, but the traditional Republican constituency—well-to-do whites, suburbanites, farmers—went as heavily Republican as they did in the 1980s, unlike their shift toward Obama in 2008 and 2012.  The poorer whites broke for Trump, slightly, but overall 52 to 53% of less affluent voters went for Clinton—largely because the number of minorities is so high in that income category.  Even so, Trump got 15% more of the less educated and less affluent (under $30,000/year) white vote than Romney got in 2012.  People under 30 broke heavily for Clinton, but not so heavily as they had broken for Obama.  In all, the pattern was a return to the George W. Bush years.

Trump voters tend to believe that whites are more discriminated against than blacks, Hispanics, or Muslims—in contrast to the US average and especially Clinton voters.  A Huffington Post-YouGov poll revealed that 10% of Clinton voters and 45% of Trump voters thought there was” a lot of discrimination” against whites (the US average was 24%).  Clinton voters were far more prone than average to see more discrimination against the other named groups, reaching a high of 88% for Muslims (Edwards-Levy 2016).

Interesting are the huge changes in the last 50 years, even in the last 30.  The cities are now so heavily Democratic that, for instance, the whole Los Angeles Basin was a sea of blue when the precincts were counted, with only a few tiny pink (not red—the pink districts were barely carried by Trump) spots in the most traditionally rich and conservative areas.  Even San Marino, former home of the John Birch Society and a city that went approximately 90% for Reagan in 1980 and 1984, was split into a pale pink ward and a blue one.  Pasadena and La Canada-Flintridge, formerly major Republican strongholds, were deep blue.  So were millionaire strongholds like Malibu and the Westside.  Other cities all over the state, and indeed all over the country, showed the same trajectory.

By contrast, rural areas that were solidly Democratic as recently as 1980, and in some cases even 2012, were solidly red all over the country, including California.  The only exceptions were rural counties that are overwhelmingly minority-populated.  Idaho was the most liberal-voting state in the country in the 1960s.  It is now the second most Republican, after Wyoming.  The Dakotas and Montana were solidly Democrat then; they are now Republican strongholds. Of course the deep south switched because the Republicans replaced the southern Democrats as the party of racism, but the border south was generally liberal Democrat through the 1960s; it is now second only to the northern interior west in Republican dominance.  Among other things, this thoroughly disproves theories of “innate” and “genetically determined” politics and party affiliation—bits of nonsense that reappear every election.

The result was that Clinton carried 88 of the most populous 100 counties in the US, but lost virtually all the rural and suburban counties—essentially all of the ones that were not dominated by nonwhite minority populations.

Voter suppression since 2010 had a huge amount of effect in this, and several other games were played.  Russian hacking of voting machines clearly benefited Trump, to an uncertain degree.  Republican voter suppression and intimidation cost Clinton Wisconsin, North Carolina and Ohio, and possibly Arizona,.  Some 1,100,000 voters, mostly poor and nonwhite, were disqualified, or their ballots somehow disappeared; reporter Greg Palast traced the story and found out how Republicans had managed it (Palast 2016a, 2016b).  Google counted voter incidents reported to them, and found a clear and enormous pattern of repression and corruption of many kinds, from rigged machines to long wait times, often from closed polling places (Garland 2016). There was also apparent gaming of voting machines.

Bill Palmer has noted that there was an astonishing decline in Black turnout even from the primaries, let alone 2012.  There were other mysterious declines of minority voters, in states with voter suppression laws.  He also noted that Clinton carried the early vote in Florida, where most people voted early, but then Trump won the state—requiring a vote of 70% for Trump by the election-day voters.  Florida, Wisconsin, Pennsylvania and Michigan turned in late-breaking Trump wins with 1% or less of the vote—consistently.  Polls were mysteriously far wrong (with one or two exceptions).  Voter turnout was surprisingly light, and mysteriously much lighter than expected in precisely the states where suppression was already ongoing and registration therefore down.  Any one or two of these anomalies could be chance, or late-breaking changes of mind by the voters, but all of the anomalies put together look highly suspicious.  Further detailed analysis of the numbers by Bob Fitrakis and Harvey Wasserman (2016) and Greg Palast (2016a, 2016b) prove Palmer right, and reveal many other suspicious matters.

Of course the Koch brothers were intensely involved at all levels.  They did not like Trump and refused to support him directly, but poured over $750 million dollars into Senate and other races and general build-up of Republican agendas.  They are now poised to tell the solidly Republican congress exactly what to do (Skocpol et al. 2016).  It took them no time to accept Trump and work with him.  Their operator Marc Short is now Trump’s liaison to Congress (Eskow 2017)—a group he knows well from prior work for the Kochs, who are huge donors to the most right-wing congresspersons.


Many of the Democrat nonvoters were disaffected supporters of Bernie Sanders.  They refused to vote for Clinton, and that was one of the things that cost her the election.

Democrats often fail to turn out large percentages of their typical “base demographics.”  Democrats did better in 2008 and 2012, but their turnouts in 2010 and 2014 were derisory.  Only a very small percentage of registered Democrats turned out in those midterm years.

So, there were many causes of Clinton’s loss.  The biggest was clearly the failure of turnout, especially the disaffected voters.  Clinton’s lack of charisma and personal touch, and Trump’s abundant endowment with both, was clearly and heavily decisive.  These two together led to massive loss of working-class white votes (see e.g. Maslin 2016).  Possibly even more important was Clinton’s establishment ties and her inability to escape them.  She always embodied the Washington establishment so clearly and unmistakably that voters weary of that enterprise voted against her, no matter what they thought of Trump.

Clinton’s one really hateful remark—calling the most racist of Trump supporters “a basket of deplorables”—may have cost her the election, but Trump’s hundreds of hateful remarks merely fed his supporters.  They came on top of decades of Republicans deliberately whipping up racial, gender, and religious hatred, to divide the voters and set them against each other.  Lies (especially on talk radio and Fox News) and dirty tricks did the rest.  The Clinton campaign blamed especially the tricks played by James Comey, head of the FBI and a Trump Republican, in the last month of the campaign.  He apparently timed email investigations and his letters about them to do maximal damage.

Part of the back story included progressive distancing of the Democrats from working-class and rural voters over three decades.  This has thrown an increasingly desperate and miserable group of people to the wolves (as “bkamr” 2017 notes, Democrat representatives did not show up in desperately troubled eastern Kentucky).  An excellent account of their problems and the exploitation thereof by the hate-merchants is given by Chris Hedges (2016).  Part of the problem is a hard-to-define but easy-to-see difference between traditional American rural and working-class culture—defiant, independent, but loyal to charismatic leaders—and the urban intellectual culture that dominates the Democratic Party today.

Even worse was the rapid decline of newspapers and serious news magazines, and their replacement by biased and “clickbait” sites, hate propaganda, non-print media (especially on talk radio and Fox News), and trash entertainment.  The media both eliminated serious coverage of news and set people up to believe any story or to disbelieve all stories, including climate science and other vitally important truths.

Reversal of any one of these many causes would have meant a win for Clinton.

In the days after the election, everybody seized on his or her pet cause as “the” cause, and flayed anyone who thought differently—guaranteeing problems with fixing the situation in future.  The leftists and liberals revealed their fondness for what many refer to as their typical “circular firing squad.”

The basic fact, though, is that people voted their hate—or hatred of all the alternatives led the  not to vote.  Trump and Clinton had the lowest approval ratings of any candidates in the history of polling—Trump was the worst ever, Clinton second.  Trump’s savage hatemongering gave him this reputation; Clinton was the victim of a huge and systematic Republican smear campaign, but if she had been more personable and less connected with big banks and big business she could have blown that off, as Obama did and as her own husband did when they were subjected to similar treatment.  She appeared elitist; that made her connection with the banks and firms seem deadly serious rather than mere ordinary politics.


This election is unique in the history of the US, and rare in the history of the world.  In most elections, the candidates at least pretend to discuss real issues.  This one was entirely about hate, from Trump’s side—even his “positive” proposals were all things to be done by getting rid of Mexicans, Chinese, Muslims, anyone.  Sanders avoided hate, but his followers did not; they circulated lies about Clinton, often recycled from the Trump propaganda mill.  (Some “pro-Sanders” lies may have been Russian hack jobs, however.)  Clinton did not run a very positive or hopeful campaign either.  One kept hoping and expecting her to give a clarion call for national unity and solidarity—everyone standing and working together.  She never did.  She appealed to every demographic in the country except white males.  It didn’t work.  She had no real proposals for major change; she ran far too much on Obama’s record.  It was a record of global trade deals, support for hi-tech, and other moves that proved anathema to rural and working-class whites, who felt left out by the latter and genuinely harmed by the former.  They understandably felt that the new economy was being constructed at their expense.  Almost all commentators since the election have agreed that Clinton should have appealed to this traditionally Democratic group of voteres by promising economic reforms that would benefit them.  Instead, what little she promised in the way of economic reform was of interest largely to affluent urban voters.  Part of the context is the decline in manufacturing jobs in the US from 17 million as recently as 2000 (after already huge job flight) to 11 million at the depth of the 2008-9 recession.  It recovered to over 12 million by 2016, but one can certainly see why blue-collar America is disaffected.  The Clinton wing blames automation, but exporting jobs to low-wage, labor-suppressing countries may be the real problem.  It was certainly the problem salient to the white working class, and to many other workers too.

Previous US elections—all of them—highlighted solidarity and national unity (even while working cynically against it, as many presidents did).  Even Calvin Coolidge, previously the most right-wing president, ran more upbeat campaigns and made more solid contributions than Trump.  Earlier campaigns also invariably included numerous proposals for change and growth—again, often to betray them all later, but the promise was important.  Most of our elections have matched one pleasant stuffed suit against another, with no vast outpouring of hateful rhetoric and no huge difference in programs.  Not in 2016.

Worldwide, elections with this breadth and depth of hate on the part of the winner have been confined to fascist takeovers, especially Germany in 1932-33, of course, but also Mussolini’s victories, and hard-right victories in various Latin American countries over the decades.  Modi’s win in India involved much hatred, but had many promises too (still to be fulfilled).

Several studies confirm the obvious point that racism and sexism account for much more of the Trump vote than any economic factors do (Lopez 2017).  In general, traditional Republicans and also racist and sexist former Democrats voted for Trump.

The Los Angeles Times (Lauter 2016) reports that the clearest demographic difference between Trump and Clinton was education: whites without college education broke overwhelmingly for Trump.  No other demographic did.  Young people, as usual, did not vote in large numbers, and given their well-documented support for Clinton, that low turnout itself doomed her.  Blue-collar white voters and counties that went for Obama in 2008 and 2012 went heavily for Trump; conversely, relatively conservative educated whites flipped the other way.  The biggest change was in the northern midwest, formerly a solid Democratic stronghold, now—and not only in the presidential race—almost as right-wing as the deep south.

One reason the final result—Trump’s solid win nationwide—was so surprising was last-minute voters breaking for Trump.  These seem to have been partly Republicans who had trouble stomaching the man, and partly independents and traditional Democrats who both disliked Hillary and wanted a more aggressive change agenda.

A long, excellent article in the Washington Post (Hofmann 2016) describes Shannon Monnat’s research on 3106 counties.  Trump’s vote surpassed Romney’s by 10% in downwardly mobile, largely white counties with high rates of drug, alcohol, and suicide deaths, especially if such deaths have been increasing.  These are counties where farming, manufacturing, and mining formerly provided good livings, but have declined or died out.  Trump did worse by 3% in better-off counties.  Typical was Scioto Co., Ohio: Trump ran 33% better than Romney—and drug, alcohol, and suicide death rates have doubled in that time, as pill-pushing clinics came in and manufacturing went out.  Mingo Co., WV, the drug, alcohol and suicide death rate rose from 53.6 to 161.1 in the years 1999-2014.  In Coos County, NH, Manufacturing shrank from 38% of jobs to 7%, and pay for it from 49% to 9%, from the 1980s.  It went heavily for Trump.  All across the northern Midwest, Trump did better than Romney, especially in rural and small-town counties.

Clinton should have opposed hatred from the start—hatred in general, across the board.  Instead, she joined in (with her infamous “deplorables” remark) or, at best, protested against hatred of specific groups, notably women.  Clinton could have and should have talked more to economic issues, especially those that concern less educated workers.  Derek Thompson (2016) points out that she did in fact focus on those matters.  However, she did not highlight it.  The media did not cover it, which is yet another proof that the media were hypnotized by Trump and thus did much to elect him.

Clinton ran far worse than Obama did in 2012.  Trump also ran worse than Romney in most places.  The World Almanac for 2017 gives county-by-county totals, making research easy. For a random example, Shawnee County, Kansas, returned 33,074 votes for Clinton, 35,260 for Trump, as opposed to 36,975 and 97,782 for Obama and Romney respectively.  Leslie County, KY, one of the most pro-Trump counties in the US, returned 400 and 4,015 vs. 433 and 4,439.  (This county, with which I am quite familiar, is one of the poorest in the US, with extremely high unemployment, mortality, and substance abuse rates.)  The state of Mississippi ran 457,569/668,987 vs. 562,949/710,748 (reflecting a tendency of Black voters—almost the only Democrats in the state—to stay home in 2016).

Notable was that, as James Hohmann (2016) reports, Trump did best in the counties with the highest alcoholism, drug abuse, and suicide rates.  These are the areas of white working-class hopelessness: worked-out coal-mining areas, ruined industrial cities, small towns ruined by big agribusiness.

Part of the reason was voter suppression.  The shift in Wisconsin was about 300,000 total, and that is exactly the estimated number of votrs forced off the rolls by Governor Scott Walker’s policies.  In Michigan, the Clinton shortfall almost exactly equaled the mysteriously missing or misrecorded 75,000 votes from Detroit, apparently uncounted for very dubious reasons (Palast 2016).

Sometimes,Trump picked up many votes that must earlier have gone to Obama.  To pick a random but typical county, Buchanan County, Iowa, reported 3,966 votes for Clinton, 5504 for Trump, vs. in 2012 5,911 for Obama and 4450 for Romney.  This was a very typical pattern across the northern midwest—the Rust Belt and especially its rural environs.  Even Minnesota, which Clinton carried handily, had voted far more strongly for Obama.  It seems more than unlikely that all these Trump voters were racist, since so many had gone for Obama only four years earlier.  A few urban areas reported more votes for Clinton than Obama, but the increase reflects population increase fairly accurately.

Overall, rural areas, especially in the Appalachians and Plains (where many counties went over 10-1 for Trump), reported lopsided wins for Trump; many urban areas reported lopsided wins for Clinton (Berkeley, CA, reported 3% for Trump—even Jill Stein got more).  In Oregon, Multnomah County (Portland) went 4-1 for Clinton (and both candidates got fewer votes than Obama and Romney, respectively, got in 2012); Harney County, in the remote ranching east, more than 4-1 for Trump.  There is an extreme split in the US.

The Democrats will never win again unless they reverse the rapid swing of rural and small-town areas away from them.

More and more evidence shows a full-scale conspiracy involving James Comey, head of the FBI, and Clinton’s emails (Abramson 2017).

However, Trump most certainly lost the total vote.  The final count was 62,979,879 for him, 65,854,954 for Clinton, and several million for others, totaling 74,074,037 against him. The final count shows Clinton got 2,864,974 more votes than Trump, without rechecking states like Florida and Michigan.


In state-by-state breakdowns (World Almanac 2017):

Clinton won more votes than Obama, Trump more than Romney in

FL, IA, NV, TX—basically only in states with large population increases, except for Iowa.

Clinton more than Obama, Trump less than Romney:


Clinton less than Obama, Trump more than Romney

AL, AR, CT, DL, HI, IN, KY, LA, MN, MI, MN, MO, NB, NH, NJ, NY, NC, ND, OH, PA, RI, SD, TN, VT, WV, WY—note this includes most of the old Democratic strongholds, which should absolutely terrify Democrats.  Even New York and Vermont.

Clinton less than Obama, Trump less than Romney:

AK (quite huge difference), AZ, CA (but not all votes had been counted when the World Almanac was published), CO, DC, ID, IL, KS, MD, MS, MT, NM, OK, SC, UT (huge drop from Romney to Trump vote because of the popularity of Evan McMillan and Gary Johnson as alternate right-wing candidates), VA, WA, WI.  Note many of these are solid Red states, where disgust for Trump was widespread, but also several Democrat strongholds.


For the future, minimally, the Democrats must:

Fight hate.  Preach unity, solidarity, tolerance, valuing diversity, civil behavior, politeness, responsibility.

Deal with an economy that has been incresaingly distorted and corrupted by giant firms and their enormous subsidies and tax breaks.

Stress classic American values, especially egality, genuine freedom (as opposed to the freedom to bully weaker people), opportunity, and public goods.

Attack corruption, gerrymandering, voter suppression, and violence.

Tactically, first, stop trying to win by mobilizing demographics that don’t vote!  There is no hope of getting the turnout of Latinos, Asian-Americans, or, above all, young people up to the point where they can turn an election.

Go for grassroots.  Ask ordinary people what they want.

Attack dark money and everything connected with it.  Daylight it.





Pierce Salguero

In the wake of the 2016 election, the core values I hold as an individual and that I believe are emblematic of the academic professions (e.g., multicultural inclusion, critical inquiry, and pursuit of truth) have come under direct attack. I believe that this situation necessitates a coherent and strategic response from any of us who are in a position to speak out. Below is my own personal action plan for the post-election era. I have arranged these ideas, compiled with the goal of maximizing my impact within the limitations of my power, from the personal to the community to the national level:

  2. SELF-EDUCATION. At the personal and individual level, I plan to educate myself about the deep historical roots as well as the more recent factors that have led to the rise of right wing populism in the US and around the world. I plan to reach out to colleagues in history, political science, economics, sociology, and other fields, to ask for help identifying readings and resources. Although this critical inquiry does not necessarily relate directly to my own academic field, I plan to make time for this and to integrate it into my weekly schedule.
  3. INTERROGATING PRIVILEGE. I plan to continue to understand, reflect on, and critically interrogate my own privilege as a white, straight, cisgendered, able-bodied male. I need to identify and work to break down my own inherent biases. Where I can, I should leverage my privilege in order to intervene on behalf of those who do not share it. I plan to keep reading, attending workshops at conferences and on campus, and learning from colleagues in who are engaged in this field of study. While these conversations may sometimes be uncomfortable, I need to remain open, engaged, and moving forward in this area.
  4. RESPONSIBLE USE OF SOCIAL MEDIA. Part of my surprise about the results of this election was no doubt due to my being comfortably ensconced in a heavily left-leaning social media bubble. I plan to break out by reading more widely and seeking out a more diverse circle of contacts. Responsible use of social media also means recognizing its limitations. I need to know when to set down the computer and engage in the real world.
  5. SELF-CARE. I’ve noticed that this crisis has weighed more heavily on me than I would have anticipated. Stress, anxiety, and depression are not productive for critical inquiry. I am also finding myself in a very judgmental space right now. I need to be able to cultivate empathy in order to understand other people — especially when I strongly disagree with them. For all of these reasons, I need to continue to tap into my spiritual community, and to engage in activities for physical and mental wellbeing. Although it feels like copping out, knowing when to step away to care for myself will make me a stronger advocate in the long tun.
  7. CAMPUS ORGANIZATIONS & EVENTS. In addition to my own private life and personal space, I also know I can be an agent for diversity, equity, and inclusion within the communities of which I am a part. On campus, I have the opportunity to engage with these issues through committees and faculty senate. I can also continue to be involved in mentoring for student clubs, organizing or attending multicultural celebrations, and participating in other opportunities that bring me into regular contact with our diverse student body. I can also organize reading groups, small discussion groups, or public lectures on related issues, both on campus and locally where I live.
  8. PUBLIC STATEMENTS. I can draft a declaration opposing hate and bigotry, and propose this to my campus administrators and my faculty senate. I can also work to introduce a similar statement as legislation in the townships where live and where my workplace is located, as well as in organizations with which I have a connection. (Note that I must engage in this activity as a private citizen and not as a representative of the college where I work, cognizant of my employer’s policies regarding engagement in politics or media.)
  9. PROFESSIONAL ASSOCIATIONS. I was pleasantly surprised with the proactive stance on dealing with post-election climate taken by several of the professional associations I am affiliated with. Where such efforts are being made, I can support them, and I can utilize the resources and community that such associations provide in order to expand my circle, connect with people who have expertise I need to tap into, and keep myself informed. Where such efforts are not already being made, I can advocate for these issues to be taken up by writing letters to association officers.
  10. BECOMING A BETTER ALLY. I need to challenge myself to learn more about being a trustworthy ally for my most vulnerable friends, colleagues, students, and community members. I need to continue to read up on this, to reach out to colleagues who are more knowledgable than me, and to engage with the Office of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion on my campus. I can also prioritize mentoring underrepresented faculty, staff, and students on campus, through my professional associations, at conferences, and in other professional settings.
  11. PEDAGOGICAL DEVELOPMENT. As my courses do not focus on the modern period, I do not often have the opportunity to directly engage in classroom discussions related to contemporary politics. When I do, I need to focus on the analytical tools my discipline brings to the discussion, taking pains not to present an unbalanced account or to state my own opinions as fact. I also need to remain cognizant that students have varying viewpoints and backgrounds, and not abuse my position of power at the front of the classroom. I need to continue to develop inclusive pedagogical methods that actively bring all students into the conversation. An openness to all perspectives is especially important since I want my classroom to be a safe space for dialogue and growth — both for students and myself. I need to seek out knowledgable colleagues who can help me to develop pedagogical methods that ensure I am doing this well and responsibly.
  13. ENGAGE IN POLITICS. It’s in this arena where I feel the most helpless, but I am recommitting to supporting organizations that promote higher education, multicultural inclusion, civil liberties, and investigative journalism, as well as public academic and cultural institutions. I need to stay involved at the local, state, and national level, and not let myself get complacent in the interim between elections. My support cannot be limited to social media posts, online petitions, and private conversations; I need to contribute materially to the causes I believe in. I am unlikely to be able to support all of these causes financially, but I should do so where I can and seek out other means of supporting where I cannot.
  14. PRIORITIZE PUBLIC SCHOLARSHIP. Finally, as a professor, scholar, and author who cares about critical inquiry, multiculturalism, and the future of higher education, I need to reach more diverse audiences, across disciplines, both inside the academy and beyond. In this “post-truth” and anti-intellectual climate, the burden is on me to demonstrate why what I do is relevant and important. With this goal in mind, I can write up my methods and findings in accessible ways in blogs, websites, popular magazines, and other outlets with further reach than scholarly journals. I can contribute to the circulation of academic humanities and social science research more widely, which in the long run may lead to deeper public understanding of critical thinking, the role of education, and the importance of the academic professions for civic life in the US.

I am an interdisciplinary humanities scholar interested in the role of Buddhism in the crosscultural exchange of medical ideas. See more at

Appendix 3.


Timothy Snyder’s twenty lessons, from On Tyranny (Snyder 2017).

  1. Do not obey in advance.
  2. Defend institutions.
  3. Beware the one-party state.
  4. Take responsibiloity for the face of the world.
  5. Remember professional ethics.
  6. Be wary of paramilitaries.
  7. Be reflective if you must be armed.
  8. Stand out.
  9. Be kind to our language.
  10. Believe in truth.
  11. Investigate.
  12. Make eye contact and small talk.
  13. Practice corporeal politics.
  14. Establish a private life.
  15. Contribute to good causes.
  16. Learn from peers in other countries.
  17. Listen for dangerous words.
  18. Be calm when the unthinkable arrives.
  19. Be a patriot.
  20. Be as courageous as you can.


Appendix 4. A constitution for a united world:

FIRST, the standard freedoms, including all human and civil rights, guarantee of impartial justice (especially impartial to dollars) and rights to organize.  Explicitly, money is not speech.

Next, full rights to a decent environment—minimal pollution and waste, no subsidies for primary production, preservation of as much of nature as possible given the need to maintain a decent standard of living.

Next, no offensive war; war only to defend the country from direct attack, but that can cover going after terrorists abroad.

Then, firm graduated tax rate, written into the constitution  No tax exemptions except for legitimate business and work expenses, and actual, effective charities. No exceptions for churches, for “charities” that do not spend >80% of their incomes on actual charity work, or political outfits masquerading as “non-profits.”  Offshore tax havens, offshore headquarters of firms with 98% of their activities far from the headquarters country, and the like absolutely illegal, with extreme penalties.

No subsidies, no favoring particular businesses, minimal restriction of business and trade, but firm regulations such that harm and cheating don’t happen.

Free universal health care (free up to a point—small deductibles possible, and no free plastic surgery to conform to fashion).

Free universal liberal-arts education.  National educational policy guaranteeing accurate content, attention to differentially abled students, strict equality of opportunity, and quality literature and arts.  Private schools allowed, but not doctrinaire religious schools.  Content of education strictly monitored; disproved or effectively disproved material not allowed.

Savage penalties for corruption, including for donating campaign funds beyond a set limit.  Campaign fund regulations, especially in sensitive things like judicial elections.

Universal national service: a year in the military, a year doing environmental work, then a year of social work.  Lifetime emergency call-up, as in Switzerland.

Discouragement of hate and hate speech.  Citizens see their duty as opposing it and damping it down.  No penalties, but extreme, savage penalties for violating civil rights and for hate crimes.

Aesthetics encouraged; national conservation in natural and historic sites, museums, galleries, and the like; art, music and literature important in schools.












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