For the last fourteen years, I’ve been studying disinformation campaigns and the data trails they leave behind on the Internet. And I’ve conducted countless one-on-one interviews with dozens of sources from government and military, and with journalists, researchers, and defectors from these networks.
January 6th was the culmination of decades worth of groundwork. We can trace many disinformation and infiltration campaigns back to about 2011. But the broader effort reaches back to the late 1970’s and early 1980’s. And those efforts in turn have roots that go back to the 1930's.
This essay series is an effort to tell this story in a way that is as succinct as possible, but no moreso. Clearly, this narrative is long, complex, and could be expanded to book length. My goal for now is simply to share what I believe is both a correct and sense-making explanation for what we have seen and experienced. Other treatments are likely to follow from myself and others.
Please read these essays, and share them if you also find them instructive. Some may feel bewilderment at the scope of this history, and be tempted to put it aside for that reason. Readers should resist that temptation. This history is well-documented and widely corroborated. When a story is correctly framed, facts are accretive. In all my work on this topic, this story has been augmented and not materially altered with the addition of new information.
“Facts are stubborn things; and whatever may be our wishes, our inclinations, or the dictates of our passion, they cannot alter the state of facts and evidence.”
― John Adams
Read below, or listen to the audio version:
- Part 1: Anti-Communism, Domestic Surveillance, and the Russian Alliance
- Part 2: Gold, Silver, and Cryptocurrency
- Part 3: Fourth Generation Warfare, the Council for National Policy, and Stop The Steal
- Part 4: Intelligence, Big Oil, and The Octopus
- Part 5: Molestation, Cancel Culture, and QAnon
- Part 6: The Bet
- Coda: The Redpill Deception and the Tipping Point
- Documentation and References (Continuously Updated)
The work of multiple researchers and historians has intersected to provide a fuller picture of the historical forces that led to the events of January 6th. The story centers on the Council for National Policy (CNP) and its members and affiliates who were the most active organizers and participants. But the deeper question is why this history unfolded the way it did.
Where did the CNP come from? What are its goals? Considering this larger historical frame apart from the day-to-day frustrations of party politics reveals a number of key themes. CNP was born from the same network of people who created both the John Birch Society and the World Anti-Communist League. In turn, those networks are also tightly associated with the birth of American libertarianism and also harbor a fervent and lingering passion for the gold standard.
Within this community, the fear and distrust of communism cannot be separated from the libertarian “non-aggression principle” and the preference for the gold standard. The fetish for gold is in fact directly tied into the non-aggression principle in that they see inflationary fiat currency as a kind of “molestation,” as articulated by Robert LeFevre, considered by many to be the progenitor of modern American libertarian thought.
The overlap in the work of just these three historians provides the foundation for a deeper understanding of the longer term trends.
Long-term historical conflicts provide a more useful lens for understanding this “big history” than the minutiae of quotidian partisan politics, which should be subordinated to their more important macroeconomic and philosophical drivers. For example, the longer term trends animating current disputes include relitigating the New Deal, the gold standard (now mapped to cryptocurrency), central banks, multilateral alliances, taxation, Vatican II, abortion, women’s rights, climate change, fossil fuel dependence, and anti-Semitism.
Because these contentious issues cannot be resolved in a generation, if indeed they ever can be, their study requires consideration of networked interests that persist over time, rather than a focus on specific politicians or personalities. For example, the network of interests that promoted Donald Trump will persist in time and select another avatar for the same purpose; the details about that person are not especially important. They will either be a net positive or a net negative to the network that selects them. And the issues they carry will either be carried forward for later settlement, or an issue may be resolved with a new consensus.
The overarching conflict is over whether the world should seek to pursue democratic or so-called “neofeudal” forms of governance. Advocates of neofeudalism believe that departure from the gold standard was a mistake, and that scarcity of wealth provides a mechanism for keeping score and assignment of value. People with more gold are thus more valuable. And this scoring is immutable and cannot be “molested” by predators such as central bankers. The philosophy is rooted in a literal zero-sum view of value creation and storage.
For neofeudalists, the accumulation of wealth and power rightly allows for those with extreme wealth to capture the institutions of the state and ultimately dismantle them. The goal is what Robert LeFevre described as “autarchy,” or literal self-rule by the individual. Details are scant on chores like trash collection and how that might be handled, except for hand-waving about the “market” taking care of it.
In the narrative of the modern enlightenment, “democracy” is held as the most just form of government, despite its flaws. The founding myths of the United States reinforce this story in ways that are both propaganda and also factual. And it is true: most Americans aspire to self-governance by, of, and for the people.
Autarchists, hardline libertarians, and free speech absolutists challenge the authority of the state. When allied with anarchists from the left, they may together form a powerful faction that serves to undermine the authority and function of the state. For this reason, it is necessary to address the legitimate concerns that such a unified faction may hold in order that it not come to subvert the will and interests of the majority of the population.
This set of stories — and it is several stories, too wide in scope to tell in one sitting or a single article — centers on this tension between the state and those who would seek to destroy it; it is about the tension between the institutions that brought relative prosperity and peace in the last half of the 20th century, and those who wish to destroy them in favor of something new and as yet unspecified. It is about the tension between “socialism” (both as it is and as it is imagined to be) and hardline libertarianism. And it is about capitalism and its present and future, and what kind of guardrails and safety nets we choose to attach to it.
Social phenomena such as disinformation and influence campaigns are but symptoms of these conflicts playing out in the heavens above. By developing a better understanding of these historical drivers we can seek to explicate the ephemera we observe within the terms of these long-standing conflicts. Additionally, it is useful to consider these conflicts not in partisan political frames, or as those between nation-states, but rather between factions that are globally networked.
Americans wishing to curb illiberal forces are as likely to be fighting a network of factions that exists in the US, Russia, Turkey, Israel, Iran, western Europe, and China, and should prepare accordingly. Citizens United opens up a global portal for these networks; it no longer makes sense to consider nation-state boundaries as especially relevant when looking at networks of influence.
America has had a particularly difficult time the last 5 years trying to deal with well-documented “Russian meddling” and the persistent denial thereof by those who point to Americans as being just as culpable. Ultimately meddling was a counter-descriptive term because a network of Americans, Russians, Europeans, Chinese, Australians, Brazilians and people in many other countries have all collaborated to promote illiberal forces across the globe. It should not be a surprise that Eduardo Bolsonaro was present on January 6th, or that Polish MP Dominik Tarczyński and Germany’s AfD Petr Bystron have attended events hosted by Phyllis Schlafly’s Eagles organization. Indeed, it is a networked coalition.
Continuous immersion in television news and talk radio has crowded out the opportunity to consider more than the present moment. Perhaps by pausing to wonder at the history that has brought us here, we can regain some perspective on what’s happening, and gain a new footing as we seek to curtail the advancement of illiberalism in the world.
This series of essays aims to provide historical context for the events that took place on January 6th. Please follow me on Twitter for subsequent updates as they become available. Media inquiries for features, podcasts, and the like may be directed via email. For additional details on this research, please see this exhaustive documentation.