Far-Right Propaganda and More [Trenchant Edges]

In which we discuss the future of the newsletter, some new subject matters, and correct some mistakes. Estimated reading time: 4 minutes, 44 seconds. Contains 948 words

Welcome back to the last full week of our Trenchant Edges Blitz.

When September starts we’ll be moving to a new format, perhaps a new pricing structure for new subscribers, a new name, and a less… busy publication schedule. That’ll let me polish the prose and give y’all some time to breathe.

If you’re a subscriber, you’ll be getting an email from me on Friday Mornings and Sundays. If you’re not, you’ll just be getting one double-length email on Sunday Mornings. All at 10 am.

*slow wink*

If you can’t afford a subscription but want the Friday emails anyway, just ask and I’ll comp you.

I have no clue what the new name or branding will be yet. I’m working through a process. We’ll probably have a newsletter this week about it.

Anyway, let’s get onto today’s topic.

Oh, and you can still book a time to talk with me via zoom.

Corrections on John Lilly

Last week we had a fun piece on neuroscientist, interspecies communication expert, and ketamine enthusiast John Lilly and a commenter pointed out some things that require some correction.

First, apparently, they only gave LSD to one dolphin one time. I was under the impression it happened a lot more than that, but that turns out to have been based on rumor and sensationalism.

My bad.

The other thing, less fun, is the fact that much of Lilly’s research in the 1950s and maybe past that was, well, if not about brainwashing specifically than brainwashing adjacent.

I’ve only had time to pull one article from this paper about the Paranoid Style in neuroscience, but Lilly was In the New York Times talking about how his research could be used for brainwashing in 1956. If you’d like the article, just reply and ask for it.

Those of you who are familiar with the giant slush fund called MK-Ultra, this is at least a yellow flag. I’ve never heard credible allegations that John Lilly was involved in the CIA’s mind control/manipulation experiments, but they spent pretty widely and this is exactly the kind of headline that’d get their attention.

So we’ll have to dive into that a bit deeper. At the very least looking at the sources from the paper and following up. I’ve got a couple of friends who know Martin Lee, who wrote Acid Dreams which includes a ton of detail about MK Ultra, so I’ll be reaching out there as well.

We’ll see where this rabbit hole goes.

New Investigations; Fascist Propaganda and the Deep History of the New Age

I’d like to propose two additions to our formal investigations.

The first is the last century and some change of far-right propaganda. I’ve been spending a huge amount of time developing a more comprehensive background in the subject over the last year and I don’t think we can really ignore it as a subject.

Fringe ideas can be fun and insightful, but a shocking number of them turn out to be red herrings for ultranationalist political projects and antisemitism.

I’ve been tracing lineages in American fascist movements over the last year by listening to such excellent podcasts as I Don’t Speak German, The War On Everyone, and Knowledge Fight and feel about ready to start picking through primary sources.

My main interest is tracing the influence of the John Birch Society on modern politics, but I know the real relationships and connections are FAR more complex and deeply rooted than merely the JBS. To pick two examples at random of their influence, the JBS introduced Charles Koch to the brand of libertarian economics he’s spent the last 50 years insinuating into modern politics and the JBS were the main source for the rebranded nazi cultural marxism conspiracy theory.

I’m gonna be doing this no matter what and it’s relevant. In fact, I think I’d be actively misleading y’all if I didn’t address the klan robes in the room.

It dovetails well with the main message I’d like everyone to take from this newsletter: While there’s a great deal of value and benefit in the fringe, it’s just as dangerous and untrustworthy as the “mainstream” ever is.

The other side, which intersects with the rise of fascism in several places, is the hundred-year or so prehistory of the 1960s “New Age” movement. Which if you scratch a bit you find plenty of roots in esoteric Christianity, spiritualism, and the wilting branches of the western hermetic tradition.

Almost everything they were discussing in occult bookstores in the 1960s had roots in the New Thought movement or Theosophy or Anthroposophy.

And all of those link up with many other movements including Esoteric Hitlerism.

I don’t want to hyperfocus on these subjects, but they’re interesting and important. Much of today’s hippie antivax movement has roots in various new thought gurus rejecting regular medicine for their own brands of snake oil.

I low key expect the roots of all this to go back to the First and Second Great Awakening in the pre-US colonies. Maybe not in content, but in the sense of an anti-authority, experiential, intuition-driven movement of enacted faith.

But, uh, I’ve got a lot more layers to dig through before I can be sure of that.

Wrapping Up

Alright, so first I want to thank everyone who reads this newsletter regularly. Y’all make the work I put in so much more rewarding.

And keep calling me out when I’m wrong. ;-)

I’d also like to thank those of you who have been supporting me financially. It’s really made the last couple of months where my income has been messy possible.

I’m excited to see where our investigations take us over the next year.

Since I’m going to be doing a lot more interviews over the next few months I’ll probably start recording them and making them available.


  1. What do you think of the new Investigations?

  2. Do you have any advice for me?