I like to keep track of US politics, because it's generally less traumatic to contemplate someone else's smoking wreckage than one's own house when it's on fire.
2016 is a Presidential election year in the United States, and I make no predictions as to the outcome. However, a lot of my friends and acquaintances are looking at the Republican party primary debates in slack-jawed disbelief and coming out with variations on, "OMG, we're doomed! Did he really say that?"
Well yes, in most cases he did. What we're seeing is the climactic efflorescence of tendencies that have been running in American right-wing politics for longer than I've been alive, so none of this is a surprise: but if you find it bizarre or confusing and want to know where it's come from, carry on reading.
In the earlier "Long-range forecast" thread, one of the regular commenters said, my human side wonders if the toxins can be sucked out and hatreds healed and works on that assumption. (Innocence-with-awareness).
I fear that her human side is wrong, at least in the short term, for values of "short" on the approximate order of my lifespan. I have two essays I'd like to cite, both by historian-journalists in search of the heart of [American] darkness.
The first one, by Richard J. Hofstadter, was published a month after I was born, so it's over 51 years old and predates Nixon's Southern Strategy: The Paranoid Style in American Politics. It tells you how deep some of the taproots of crazy go. The essay's a classic. In it, Hofstadter explores (per wiki) "political paranoia against Illuminism (intellectual subversion), freemasonry (corporate subversion), and the Jesuits (religious subversion), then progresses through U.S. politics to its contemporary (1950s-60s) modern incarnations of McCarthyism and the John Birch Society." (Note that the John Birch society was co-founded by Fred C. Koch. His children's political activities today should require no introduction.)
The second one is more recent. It's by Rick Perlstein, published in 2012, and it's all about the motives of the people who irrigate those taproots: The Long Con: mail-order conservativism. The key point is that the conspiracy tendencies Hofstadter pointed to in the 1960s are still around and in use to this day by opportunist hucksters who rely on Republican party mailing lists to milk donations from the gullible and frightened, just as televangelists use variant theology to solicit donations from their own flock of believers.
If you've read and inwardly digested these, and have an understanding of Altemeyer's book on Authoritarian Followers (wikipedia crib notes here), then you're equipped to understand how this deeply toxic meme complex perpetuates itself—or at least how it did so up to roughly 2007.
2007 is when the human species accidentally invented telepathy (via the fusion of twitter, facebook, and other disclosure-induction social media with always-connected handheld internet devices). Telepathy, unfortunately, turns out to not be all about elevated Apollonian abstract intellectualism: it's an emotion amplifier and taps into the most toxic wellsprings of the subconscious. As implemented, it brings out the worst in us. Twitter and Facebook et al are fine-tuned to turn us all into car-crash rubberneckers and public execution spectators. It can be used for good, but more often it drags us down into the dim-witted, outraged weltanschauung of the mob.
It turns out that when you take the old paranoid-style driven give-us-all-your-money mailing list scams (and their old-media spin-offs like Fox News and Clear Channel's talk radio shock jocks) and add telepathy, what you get is the whole festering stew of the Neo-reactionary movement, a scream of rage directed against the modern world. (Let's not forget that the ideological roots of the neo-reactionaries, notably Nick Land's writings on accelerationism, emerged during the late 1990s, not at all coincidentally at the same time that internet access among the western bourgeoisie was becoming A Thing.) When you add telepathy to the toxic stew of rejection of the Enlightenment legacy you get an ad-hoc movement of angry ideologues who have jabbed their fungal hyphae into the cerebral cortex of Reddit and n-chan to parasitically control the rageface collective.
Of course higher-order top-down parasites like the NSA, GCHQ, the Five Eyes and the 50-Cent Party have also noticed this fertile disinformation vector and are using it to provide evidence to justify their existing bureaucratic imperatives: and combat newer ad-hoc upstart rivals. Oh, and to drag it all in a circle, if you look at Da'esh and the Neoreactionaries? East is East and West is West and this is your face in a mirror.
But here's the key take-away: 2016 will be the first US Presidential Election where the outcome will be visibly influenced by telepathic broadcasts direct from the political id, with the more plugged-in candidates (cough, Donald Trump) speaking in tweets rather than TV-friendly sound-bites and making their play in real time to their audience reactions, much like the plot of a novel co-written by Neal Stephenson before he got famous. If you've wondered why Trump can say the things he says, it's because his core constituency want him to. If you want to know why Islamic State are so awful, you can find the answer in Hofstadter and Altemeyer's work—just add Islam instead of Capitalism as a guiding ideology. And if you want to know what the worst possible case outcome for the USA looks like (caveat: I think it's highly unlikely it'll go that far), now you've got the tools to figure it out for yourself. It looks kinda like Da'esh's caliphate, only with the NRA instead of religious police, Facebook instead of the Friday sermon after the call to prayer, and a surplus of unhappy zoned-out worker-consumer-units on tranquillizers.