Snitching For Jesus

You really can’t make this stuff up.

A reader recently shared an article from Resolute Square, an interesting site of which I had not previously been aware.

The article was by American historian Ruth Ben-Ghiat, who studies fascism and authoritarianism, and it documented a telling–and extremely troubling–tactic being deployed by the far Right. In an echo of the Third Reich, these activists are encouraging students to become “informants.”

A bill that has been approved by the Tennessee House and Senate, for example, would encourage students and staff to “report professors who taught about the legacies of racism and slavery and other “divisive concepts” in their 2022 classes. Empowering students to police their instructors helps the state weed out people who they claim are “advancing political or social agendas,” in the words of Tennessee Republican State Rep. John Ragan.

Another example is something called “Professor Watchlist.” That site was founded in 2016 by Turning Point, one of the many Koch-funded organizations that litter the American political landscape. The Professor Watchlist encourages students to “expose and document college professors who discriminate against conservative students and advance leftist propaganda in the classroom.” The Professor Watchlist is one of several   surveillance efforts dedicated to compiling “instances of radical behavior among college professors.” What is especially chilling is that the site includes the phone number of that instructor’s college or university, to facilitate the inevitable calls to complain.

When I was teaching, I occasionally had a student who found lessons about the First Amendment’s Separation of Church and State to be “liberal propaganda.” I can only imagine the other lectures that might trigger Professor Watchlist complaints, or the reactions of teachers and professors to such monitoring. As Ben-Ghiat points out,

In an authoritarian state, there are few figures more feared and despised than informers. Ordinary people are paid by the government to monitor their compatriots and report on dissident speech or behavior at work, sports stadiums, grocery stores, bars and buses, and in classrooms. The anonymity of informers is key to their success in helping the state to break bonds of solidarity and trust among people and create a climate of suspicion, fear, and hostility. Not knowing who the informers are means that anyone could be monitoring you at any time.

One outcome of this psychological pressure is widespread self-censorship, which is a survival strategy for those living in regimes and makes the state’s job of indoctrination much easier. Both propaganda and silence feature in authoritarian campaigns to retrain minds, emotions, and behaviors. Some ideas must be repeated obsessively in the media and daily life, and other ideas must ideally be no longer heard at all in public —self-censorship factors in here.

The essay recounts the role of informers in Nazi Germany and in Mussolini’s Italy, and notes that educational institutions and the people who work within them are always high on the list for scrutiny when authoritarianism is growing.

From the recruitment of informers to the expulsion of dissidents, what happens on campus reflects and often anticipates larger transformations as authoritarianism takes hold….

The Republican assault on educators in America who expose students to ideals of peace, equality, justice, and compassion and the history of righteous struggle continues a trajectory that dates back to the Fascist era. Whether in Tennessee or New York City, encouraging students to become informers as a means of intimidating professors into censoring themselves is part of a calculated plan to erode democratic models of education and reward authoritarian models of social relations. History is clear on the destruction that ensues when societies take this path.

The White Christian Nationalists who are frantically fighting modernity and cultural change are pulling out all the stops. I am (relatively) confident that they are fighting a losing battle, but the ability of MAGA Republicans representing a largely rural population to cling to power is distorting the democratic process and impeding rational governance.

Worse, as that Christian Nationalist movement suffers defeats, a not-insignificant faction is turning to violence. Another post to the Resolute Square site points out that violence is the hallmark of authoritarian and fascist movements –and that we are seeing the “condoning, encouragement, incitement, and escalation of political violence as an acceptable means of political expression.” January 6th was a vivid example, and it is unlikely to be the only one.

We sure do live in interesting times.


  1. Roll back child labor laws, funnel tax dollars to religious education, control educational content, pass laws to roll back individual freedoms and encourage both adults and children to inform on their fellow citizens. Sure sounds like Big Brother to me. Guess 1984 will have to be banned this new regime.

  2. Lately I have been wondering if we humans are simply some other planet’s A I experiment run amuck.

  3. I see the word “propaganda” being used again. Imagine that!

    I also found this snippet above, “advance leftist propaganda.”

    So, accurate history and truth-telling are now considered propaganda, while the twisted rhetoric of our authoritarian state is mainstream truth-telling. Fascinating.

    We’ve already learned the government has forced censorship on the internet to eliminate the Leftist’s truth-telling, while conservatives clamor “censorship against Trump and Christians.”

    It’s really an upside-down world. My publication will stick to the truth and let the informers perform their role. Despite Google, Facebook, and Twitter’s best efforts, I still get subscribers and readers.


  4. “…helps the state weed out people who they claim are ‘advancing political or social agendas,’ in the words of Tennessee Republican State Rep. John Ragan.” The utter and appalling irony of this is that they want to “weed out” people who are doing precisely what THEY are doing: advancing political and social agendas. Bald faced hypocrisy for which they feel no shame.

  5. I would hope that more than one teacher/ professor would immediately sue the fck out of the Tennessee legislature and whatever other right wing white nationalist state legislatures who are doing the same bullshit. Of course now that the SCOTUS is filled with right wing Kock suckers this country is screwed for a generation. The good news is that when the total ecological and economic collapse comes in less than 10 years those right wing a-holes will die too

  6. 1984? the threat of religion,to maintain a goverment,closed education to indoctrinate,young minds to con,the easy mind to distroy for ones own needs. stigma,perpetuated by people who have their own agenda. greed. religion,shows,t.v. radio, seems to always have a number to call to donate and a mouthpiece to tell you why. where does that money go,and who gets the rewards(jets,rolls,mansion).its all by design, lawyers in church,accountants and economics pundants in chirch,con artists in church. politcal science, therapists,computer wiz,and the whole,have come together like a goverment to do some shamans work. (jesus/god may exist,but hes not here)
    the typical rambler of rightnwing evangelism (telling the good word) seems to profit well. where does that money go? seems the big rats ass gets the excuse to flaunt it in front of their own flock,”telling them i need more”and the flock donates more to save something in their blindness. seems like a perpetual voice for that outcome that has only become a weapon to distroy a democracy. its all greed baby… the IRS should have a field day at these domes of jesus and expose the graft..then we can take it from there.. is jesus moving east,with his tornados? might as well start another plot..

  7. Professsor Kennedy said “site was founded in 2016 by Turning Point, one of the many Koch-funded organizations that litter the American political landscape.”

    I am very frustrated with what might otherwise be good news broadcasts that they very seldom, when reporting on the absolutely bat shit crazy stuff coming out of the Republican Part, especially at the state level, “follow the money” back to the Koch family and others funding various right wing think tanks that are the real driveres of much of this.

  8. For those who don’t know, Turning Point is a fast growing organization of college groups, many chapters on regular, not religious, campuses. So much for young people saving the world…

  9. Shiela, the argument and content makes the case in this post without the unnecessary title that most mainstream Christians would find offensive, including myself, many who otherwise welcome your advocacy for social justice.

  10. Norris, I’m sure that some people will be offended. One who won’t be is Jesus, who had a great sense of humor and frequently employed irony to teach.

    Does it surprise anyone that the Koch’s long term plan is coming to fruition? They’ve been dumping billions into this effort since the seventies.

    Just an update on Florida Man: The state senate passed a load of bills making it harder to vote. Among those bills was one that clarifies that resign to run doesn’t include running for President or Vice President. Now the House will vote and I really don’t see them not approving every bit of every bill. I’m sure it will be wrapped up first thing on Monday.

  11. Joseph Momma,

    Correct in every way. But I don’t think we’ll have another generation that enjoys democracy if we let this current collection of KOCH-fueled idiots run the show much longer. Where Hitler created overt chaos with things like the Reichstag’s fire, Koch and his fellow travelers are doing it more quietly by funding the campaigns of the most despicable, dumbest and amoral creatures to get into elected office and the courts.

    This is where I say again, “I’m glad I’m old.”

  12. Maybe a partial countermove would be “Snitching ON Jesus”. Report church activity that violates their tax free status.

  13. I would have thought that mainstream Christians would have felt shame at the title used today, not offended. Maybe that is the real problem… no shame.

  14. Marsha Gessen, emigre Russian journalist, writes chillingly of autocracy’s rebirth after fall of the USSR in “The Future Is History: How Totalitararianism Reclaimed Russia.” Stalinistic use of informants, suppression of free speech, control of media, and political violence sustain Vlad-the-impaler’s regime. The Chinese government likewise uses informants and denouncement for suppression of speech and thought. Other modern totalitarian autocracies are evolving in Hungary and Turkey, for example. The efforts of the current day American far right have us well on the road to destruction of “the American experiment.” If liberal democracy and representative governance fail here, they are likely doomed everywhere. Sadly, the gerentocratic Democrat party is not up to the task of halting our slide into repressive white-supremacist autocracy. Where is a young JFK– or Lincoln– hiding?

  15. Norris Lineweaver, I understand your issue. In my Unitarian Universlist Church we had to make a fuss about people, when talking about right wing Christians, not differetiating them from moderate Christians, not to mention followers of Jesus, who might not even call themselves Christian.
    Peggy Hannon and Vernon Turner, this is why we have to annihilate the Republican party in 2024

  16. This is something new? This has been going on for a long time. I think everybody remembers Marv Kramer, he brought out this very issue concerning Nazi Germany. We both communicated on a regular basis about that issue.

    Children turning in their parents, families snitching on their neighbors, it doesn’t stop. Of course there is a breaking point to everything, but it’s just getting started, comparatively, right now.

    And like I brought up before, FEMA actually does have camps that were built under the Reagan years. And we can see how that reeducation is going to work. Look at China and the Uyghurs, they are placing those of Islamic belief in re-education camps. And they’re doing it by the millions! Russia, they’re doing something similar with the blessing of their Russian Orthodox Church! You also have bands of thugs attacking everyone that they don’t agree with, including the gay community. Ron DeSantis has tapped into that issue with the ‘Don’t Say Gay’ roll out in Florida. I mean, using Walt Disney as a foil? There is no shame. All of the talk goes nowhere, the same with elections, the deck is stacked, therefore, when you put your faith in the perishable, like a house of cards, but you don’t take away the ability of The fire starters, running around with cans of gasoline and matches. The handwriting is on the wall so to speak!

    Take a look at the Nazi elite secret police, The youth brigade, and their medals, They carry the insignia of the swastika and the cross!

    The Nazi sympathizers and those first and second generation Nazis in the United States simply disbanded around 19 41. The organization was called The Bund!

    They melded into society and they formed their own white supremacist followings, they also incorporated elements of the KKK. The KKK was an extremely religious organization. At least they were passionate about their interpretations. And I don’t mean to make this past tense, because it isn’t.

    It’s interesting how people can ignore what’s right in front of their face. It’s almost like you see the roach out of the corner of your eye when you turn on the light, but you don’t get serious until you see hundreds running around your house not concerned with light or dark. They’ve become established and they’re almost impossible to get rid of.

    The die has been cast, What could have been will never be. on top of everything else we are looking at a paradigm shift in super power supremacy. This country has become fat lazy and self-absorbed, and of course you have those who want to become that way so they work harder. They want their place at the top of the mountain. Of course, eventually there will be no top! And that’s really right around the corner.

    For those who are putting their faith in the kids? Well, you really better look at history! That very thing has been extolled throughout the centuries. And, it was all to no avail. This time is no different. The purveyors of ignorant turpitude put their faith and hope in failed agendas that have existed as long as humanity.

    Ultimately, the realization of that very thing doesn’t usually occur until society is collapsing.

    Do we feel society is on a firm foundation? If it is, it’s the bizarro world! There’s a bad moon rising and it’s going to be here pretty quick.

    Folks better try to acquire some faith or hope in something, tunnel vision is a terrible thing, the periphery is where one needs to look.

  17. Norris….what would YOU call it? When we’re ”offended,” we must ask ourselves exactly why we’re upset. If we don’t like the truth, we often try to silence others by expecting them to avoid ”offending” us.

  18. Where is a young Lincoln or JFK

    Well, there is RFK Jr. But I’m sure the DNC will shit on him, and the commenters of this very forum will summarily follow suit.

  19. The concept of state dictated knowledge is based on making sure that nobody knows anything more than law makers do.

    If MJG and Boebert are to be the smartest among us I want to withdrawal from the human race right now.

  20. Where is a young Lincoln or JFK? Try the current governors of KY and KS – both RED states. But, Biden and the ruling DEMs won’t encourage them to step up to lead the country. Power is addictive and corrupts.

  21. “advancing political or social agendas,” is exactly what these lying bastards are doing!
    “We sure do live in interesting times.” “May you live in the most interesti/ng of times,”
    is said to be an “ancient Chinese curse.”
    “So, accurate history and truth-telling are now considered propaganda….” Also known
    About the title, this atheist sees it to be off target, though not by very much: the use of
    the, if you will “Jesus” factor has always just been a political ploy, a manipulation for the
    purpose of setting up a knee-jerk reaction from the very religiously indoctrinated. Not that
    a “Christian Nation” has not been a part of the Koch agenda from the get go.

  22. Some folk asked why I am offended by the title of this blog. Snitching is among the lowest form of human behavior by any standard invoked by the world’s greatest religions. To entitle the article: “snitching for Judas” would be offensive and draw accusations of anti-semitism. Never manage … never invoke the lowest common denominator of human behavior, and then suggest by content of the argument, those identified with the same religious identity is guilty of the same behavior.

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