The “War on Christmas” is Really the War on Dickens

The “War on Christmas” is really the War on Dickens…or…how to fashion a blunt instrument out of a season of cheer, charity, and goodwill and use it to bludgeon your political opponents.

In his book The Man Who Invented Christmas, popular historian Les Standiford tells how Charles Dickens, with the creation of A Christmas Carol in 1843, helped rejuvenate the wide-spread celebration of the holiday in England and infused the yuletide with a new spirit of universal goodwill and solidarity between all human creatures; a spirit arising from a visceral, common human experience of frailty, mystery, and mortality.

Consider this impassioned entreaty from the young nephew to his stone-hearted old uncle Scrooge from the first “stave” of A Christmas Carol:

“But I am sure I have always thought of Christmas time, when it has come round—apart from the veneration due to its sacred name and origin, if anything belonging to it can be apart from that—as a good time; a kind, forgiving, charitable, pleasant time; the only time I know of, in the long calendar of the year, when men and women seem by one consent to open their shut-up hearts freely, and to think of people below them as if they really were fellow-passengers to the grave, and not another race of creatures bound on other journeys.”

This is precisely the spirit that the propaganda machine responsible for Trump’s political rise could not abide, and was bound to poison and kill at all costs. The stoking of petty grievance; aversion to introspection; and the fanning of smoldering resentment into the flames of bigotry and hatred are the very life-blood of its operation and profitability.

How could it sit by and acquiesce to weeks at the waning of every calendar being given over to general benevolence, fellow feeling, and resolutions of renewed brotherhood for the new year coming? It could not. So it thought up a lie and it thought it up quick.

Actually, the framework of divide-and-destroy was, of course, already very much in place and only needed to be applied to the mission of blowing up the Dickensian vision of Christmas and replacing it with something decidedly more Lizard Brainy — Have Yourself an Amygdala Little Crisis.

The minds of Fox and talk radio consumers have been deluged with lies and inflammatory narratives contrived to quash the expansive spirit of Dickens and twist Christmas into a scorched and shriveled cultural turf.

Turf they are told that is relentlessly under attack by godless, liberal hordes who fail to see the sacrilege inherent in a beleaguered, minimum wage retail worker cheerily saying “Happy Holidays” or the righteousness inherent in an angerball spitting the words “Merry Christmas” at you like a viper spits venom.

But what motivates the propaganda noise-machine’s campaign of destruction is not just antipathy to the heartfelt message of decency, simple joy, and compassion expressed in A Christmas Carol. What it despises even more, as a force dedicated to deception, discord, and division, is the message of redemption through self-reflection, determined searching of the heart, and confrontation with immutable truth:

“‘Forgive me if I am not justified in what I ask,’ said Scrooge, looking intently at the Spirit’s robe,’ but I see something strange, and not belonging to yourself, protruding from your skirts. Is it a foot or a claw.’

‘It might be a claw, for the flesh there is upon it,’ was the Spirit’s sorrowful reply. ‘Look here.’

From the foldings of its robe, it brought two children; wretched, abject, frightful, hideous, miserable. They knelt down at its feet, and clung upon the outside of its garment.

‘Oh, Man. look here. Look, look, down here.’ exclaimed the Ghost.

They were a boy and a girl. Yellow, meagre, ragged, scowling, wolfish; but prostrate, too, in their humility. Where graceful youth should have filled their features out, and touched them with its freshest tints, a stale and shriveled hand, like that of age, had pinched, and twisted them, and pulled them into shreds. Where angels might have sat enthroned, devils lurked, and glared out menacing. No change, no degradation, no perversion of humanity, in any grade, through all the mysteries of wonderful creation, has monsters half so horrible and dread.

Scrooge started back, appalled. Having them shown to him in this way, he tried to say they were fine children, but the words choked themselves, rather than be parties to a lie of such enormous magnitude.

‘Spirit. are they yours.’ Scrooge could say no more.

‘They are Man’s,’ said the Spirit, looking down upon them. ‘And they cling to me, appealing from their fathers. This boy is Ignorance. This girl is Want. Beware them both, and all of their degree, but most of all beware this boy, for on his brow I see that written which is Doom, unless the writing be erased. Deny it.’ cried the Spirit, stretching out its hand towards the city. ‘Slander those who tell it ye. Admit it for your factious purposes, and make it worse. And abide the end.’

‘Have they no refuge or resource.’ cried Scrooge.

‘Are there no prisons.’ said the Spirit, turning on him for the last time with his own words. ‘Are there no workhouses.'”

Truth and the fruits of truth in the human spirit are what the propaganda noise machine hates and fears the most.

Let’s enter the new year resolved to revive a spirit of truth in the land that recalls our values, is focused on the struggle of the moment, and carries the hope of what the future will hold when we depart, as one people, from the ways that have led our democracy to the brink of annihilation.

If you’re so moved to support us in this important work, please give what you can here. Or sign up to take our training in 2018:

The HearYourselfThink Project is a 501c3 non-profit that defends American values of truth, reason, and the common good by exposing how demagogues tap into the reptilian mind to divide and conquer. We are 100% funded by small donations.


Dave & Erin Ninehouser, Co-Founders


P.O. Box 116
Ambridge, PA 15003
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After the Marches, Keep on Walking the Walk to Defend Democracy

After the Marches, Keep on Walking the Walk to Defend Democracy

The marches across America yesterday were an inspiring demonstration of hope blooming in the face of adversity.

It was also a shining example of what’s best about social media – organizing online to take offline action, in the real world where it counts. As a result, the world witnessed a powerful and peaceful uprising of citizens determined to defend democracy.

The marches stand in stark contrast to the last two years of scorched-earth keyboard warfare and the self-segregation into ideological bubbles where fake news stories and conspiracy theories ran wild and were accepted as fact, strongly contributing to a post-truth demagogue’s ability to win despite his total unacceptability as a candidate and repulsiveness as a human being.

President Obama sees this phenomenon as a direct threat to our democracy.

“The media is so splintered now,” Obama said in 2015, “that we’re not in a common conversation. The fact is that if you watch Fox News you inhabit a completely different world with different facts than if you read the New York Times.”

We can draw inspiration from these actions (as well as our secret and public Facebook chats), but while we’re resisting the real and present danger to our democracy we should also resist the temptation to retreat into the self-defeating comfort of ideological echo chambers.

We can lead by example by not scrolling past misinformation when it’s shared in our feed (sign-up for updates from Snopes and so you’re armed with reality-based information to counter propaganda and context-free memes). And most importantly, we can speak up whenever we hear people saying something harmful, hateful, or flat-out factually wrong so that racists, misogynists and bullies aren’t given free-reign to be the loudest voice in the room.

That’s what our work at the HearYourselfThink Project is all about.

We’d love to share our tools and strategies for having conversations that create insights, not political food fights, and give you a chance to practice before jumping into action. Contact us at 412-370-5247 or to schedule a house party or larger-group training.

Let’s seize this moment as an opportunity to show that we’re still the country that we carry in our hearts.

As President Obama said,

“If you’re tired of arguing with strangers on the Internet, try talking with one in real life.  If something needs fixing, lace up your shoes and do some organizing…  Show up. Dive in. Persevere.

The HearYourselfThink Project is a 501c3 non-profit that defends American values of truth, reason, and the common good by exposing how demagogues tap into the reptilian mind to divide and conquer. We are 100% funded by small donations.


Dave & Erin Ninehouser, Co-Founders


P.O. Box 116
Ambridge, PA 15003
Donate Online

Register to Vote

Rock the Vote (Español)

Howling at the Moon in Moon, PA: Media-Driven Satanic Panic Fuels Hillary Hatred at Trump Rally

Howling at the Moon in Moon, PA: Media-Driven Satanic Panic Fuels Hillary Hatred at Trump Rally

Thousands of hardcore supporters turned out for another Western PA Trump campaign stop in Moon today, just two days before the election.

Erin and myself decided to go and talk to folks about Alex Jones and see how much buy in there would be to his ravings about Hillary Clinton being possessed by demons, smelling of sulfur, etc.

What happened? Well, we managed to not get ourselves burned at the stake. Barely.

But the tragic reality is that the minds of Trump supporters have been fried by decades of right-wing media brainwashing, hate, and ideological indoctrination.

Rather than fight the inexhaustible supply of conspiracy and misinformation point-by-point, we used the example of the Salem witchcraft hysteria of 1692 to try and create breakthrough moments that help people step out of the cacophony of madness and think about how they’ve been swept up in a Hillary-hating frenzy.


The HearYourselfThink Project is a 501c3 non-profit that defends American values of truth, reason, and the common good by exposing how demagogues tap into the reptilian mind to divide and conquer. We are 100% funded by small donations.


Dave & Erin Ninehouser, Co-Founders


P.O. Box 116
Ambridge, PA 15003
Donate Online

Register to Vote

Rock the Vote (Español)

Do You Hear What I Hear? FEAR.

Do You Hear What I Hear? FEAR.

“the angel said unto them, Fear not…” — Luke 2:10

Three years ago this week, NRA CEO Wayne LaPierre, after a week of stonewalling, responded to the horrific mass shooting at Sandy Hook elementary school with a diatribe designed to activate America’s threat-center while short-circuiting logic and higher moral reasoning.

This brand of fear-mongering propaganda, which is incessantly amplified on Fox and right-wing radio as well, has worked not only to stymie any Congressional action to prevent gun violence but also to keep guns flying off the shelves as millions of people are kept in a perpetual state of paranoia and fear.

Watch our video and contribute today to help us expose the NRA’s cynical strategy and to reclaim America’s brain from the fear profiteers:

During the Holidays, as we reflect on the fragility of life and how fleeting is our time here on Earth with the ones we love, our hearts are opened to what is truly valuable and meaningful.

If we are to carry that spirit into the New Year we cannot allow voices dedicated to poisoning the better angels of our nature to go unchallenged.

Please consider a donation to help us expose their cold-blooded campaign to profit off of fear and violence.

America’s Fear-Center is Hooked on Fox. It’s Time For an Intervention.

America’s Fear-Center is Hooked on Fox. It’s Time For an Intervention.

Hey there… American Amygdala?

We need to talk.

American Amygdala

Whoa, whoa, whoa, take it easy, big guy! It’s just me. Put down that freaking gun, will ya?

THAT was close. Good thing you opened fire on your own shadow and missed me entirely.

And, uh, looks like you shot some of your other guns. You should think about locking them up for their own protection.

I know I shouldn’t have barged into your bunker without knocking, but this is important.

Could you turn down the racket, for Pete’s sake?… I can’t hear myself think. That’s better.

You had O’Reilly and Limbaugh on at the same time? You’re not helping yourself.

Listen. I know you’re the fear-center and it’s your job to respond to threats but things are getting way out of hand.

No, I wasn’t sent by Obama’s gun-confiscation unit. No, this isn’t a false flag.

This is exactly what I’m talking about; you’re getting paranoid. You’re responding to dangers that don’t exist. Not everything is a threat or a conspiracy.

Look at yourself. Have you been on the roids again?… Cause you look like a twitchy freak-a-zoid.

Oh, you always feel pumped after eight consecutive hours of Fox and Limbaugh? Really gets the rage-juices flowing, huh?

There’s your problem, Amygdala.

All that fear and anger you’re hopped-up on have highjacked America’s mind. We’re running on, like, 90% fear to 10% thinking brain. And mostly you’ve got us thinking about how scared and pissed off we are.

It’s a vicious cycle.

Did you know that intense feelings of threat in the Amygdala, the brain’s fear-center, can actually cause the Neo-Cortex, the rational brain, to shut down?

That’s why you’re so aroused when Sean Hannity says stuff like,“I define peace as the ability to defend yourself and blow your enemies into smithereens.”

And why you go all 5 alarm nut-job when Fox has an alleged “terrorism expert” on to say, “There are many, many jihadists… who can be mobilized on a moment’s notice… The problem is exacerbated by the fact that we have an administration that’s in bed with these radical Islamic groups…

Remember last year when you hulked out because Obama was going to kill us all with Ebola terrorists?

Well, I do. I believe you ended our discussion on the matter by calling me a libtard.

You’d been listening to a lot of Michael Savage who said Obama was bringing disease to America on purpose. Savage, actually, and on purpose, spat this into a live mic:

Obama wants equality and he wants fairness and it’s only fair that America have a nice epidemic or two or three or four in order to really feel what it’s like to be in the Third World. You have to look at it from the point of view of a leftist.”

Scary! If totally insane. Have you noticed that the federal government’s response to the relatively minor American Ebola outbreak completely worked to stop the disease’s spread? And with U.S. assistance, its being controlled in Africa, too? And there hasn’t been another case in the US since?

Please stop humming. And take your fingers out of your ears.

Demagoguing and sensationalizing instead of educating and informing on important issues makes the Lizard Brain stronger at the expense of the part of the brain where rationality and higher moral reasoning happen.

Yeah, you’re the Lizard Brain. No offense.

Oh, you like being in control over that nerdy Neo-Cortex, do you?

Well, you know that old Star Trek episode where the transporter malfunctions and Kirk gets split into two Kirks? One is the mindless, aggressive side and the other is the overthinking, sensitive side? And after Spock and McCoy have their usual tiff, Kirk’s two sides have to be brought back together or they’ll both die?

No, not the one where Kirk fights the cool Lizard-man. That was “The Arena.” This one was called “The Enemy Within.” Nice Kirk vs. violent Kirk.

At first it seems like violent Kirk will win but the power that nice Kirk has is he can hold on to his reason, while violent Kirk succumbs to fear.


I know it’s a corny premise. But it makes a good point. We can’t live out of balance.

Why do I think you’re out of balance?

I just showed you a picture of a three year old Syrian refugee and you shrieked.

Yes, that was you; there’s no little girl in here.

Put down the gun.

It’s ok, the first step is realizing you have a problem.

Now, why don’t we step out of the Bunker for a while, get some fresh air and sunshine, and calmly talk some things over together.

Sure, I’ll hold your hand.

Cruz’n with Ted and Ayn into the Arms of Big Government

Cruz’n with Ted and Ayn into the Arms of Big Government

Ted Cruz revealed, last week, that he, himself, would be signing up for health coverage under the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, aka, Obamacare. Yes, the same Ted Cruz who compared Obamacare to Nazism and said: “I intend to speak about defunding Obamacare until I am no longer able to stand.”

“But…but…but,” many of us sputtered as our rational brains short-circuited on their way to complete implosion, “ his whole reason for political existence is demagoguing on repealing Obamacare because he says it’s the most evilest thing ever! How can this much hypocrisy fit into the universe??? AAARRRGGGGGG!!!!”

But by now our minds shouldn’t be blown at all. For the millions who have disappeared down the right-wing media rabbit hole, it’s just another day in bizarro world.

One of the built-in features of the “Fox/Talk Radio Effect,” that Tea Partiers like Cruz benefit from and help perpetuate is cognitive dissonance (on steroids), which means that contradictory notions can be held in the brain without any need being felt to reconcile them using one’s critical faculties. It also means never having to say, “God, what an incredibly repugnant hypocrite I am!”

Recall the woman with Graves’ disease featured in the NYTimes article from last September who was thrilled that her daughter and herself were able to get covered through the Affordable Care Act. She gushed: I’m tickled to death with it…It’s helped me out a bunch.” And then she comes around with the cognitive sucker punch, when in her next breath she says of President Obama, “Nobody don’t care for nobody no more, and I think he’s got a lot to do with that…”

Um, excuse me, what? So the guy who put his political butt on the line to get you the disease treatment you desperately need and also healthcare for your daughter (along with 16 million other Americans) is responsible for a culture of uncaring, but the Republicans who tooth-and-nail opposed the lifesaving law and who still want to repeal it, even as good news keeps rolling in, are epitomes of empathy?

A benefit of buying into the right-wing media cult is you are given license to embrace extreme ideological positions that provide instant psychological gratification and catharsis. And — as a bonus — you are never expected to actually adhere to inconvenient principles implied by those positions that would bring unpleasant consequences to you personally.

So you can take full advantage of the thing your favorite pundit denounces as pure evil as long as you maintain Cognitive Dissonance enough to keep your real-world experience from popping the bubble of extremist ideological delusion. And be sure to keep on repeating those echo chamber approved talking points! — even when they contradict your direct experience.

There’s always a rhetorical maneuver or rationalization on hand to release bubble-dwellers from personal accountability. Fox-style propaganda exists to malign and demonize external situations, people, and institutions with fingers ever pointing outward. Self-reflection and adherence to intellectual consistency are not on the to-do list.

That’s how Fox-addled seniors can keep straight faces while hoisting signs at Tea Party rallies that demand, “Keep Your Government Hands Off My Medicare.”

The summation: “FREEDOM” means I claim the right to do whatever I damn well please, no matter how riddled with contradictions, while blaming and flaming others as treasonous and vile. Self-absorbed righteousness becomes its own twisted reward.

Their “religious” and “patriotic” “principles” boil down to: It’s fine for me but to hell with thee.

And Ayn Rand, the high-priestess of the right-wing cult of anti-government zealotry, took Social Security. And Medicare. Amen.