America is in the midst of an existential crisis. The country seems to be coming apart at the seams. Divisive rhetoric is driving news cycles and the populous is largely split on many major, pressing issues (gay rights, gun control, immigration, climate change and systemic racism to name a few). The divide is present and it drives nearly every national discussion. The aim of this piece is not to exacerbate that wedge but to use proven facts to posit certain individuals as inherently detrimental members of our society who are actively chipping away at the tenets of our free Republic.
The list includes politicians (and a political hopeful), morally corrupt billionaires, members of the "media" and leaders of religious institutions of ill repute. These men are so powerful because they have amassed extremely rabid followings. This is what makes them so dangerous. A whole subset of American society is being fed vitriolic lies and digesting them as revolutionary scripture.
This is a list of men who are creating a mass delusion and hindering any of the necessary progression that needs to take place for America to remain a viable world power. We have become a punchline, a dysfunctional joke fueled by anger produced by fear. These are some of the men perpetuating this cycle of delusion and hate. Thomas Jefferson once wrote, "Nothing can stop the man with the right mental attitude from achieving his goal; nothing on earth can help the man with the wrong mental attitude."
Unfortunately, these men's mental attitudes are wrong and their goals are not in the best interest of the American people. Sadly, in 2015, it appears that nothing can stop the man with the wrong mental attitude from achieving his goal.
10 Martin Shkreli
Martin Shkreli is a hedge fund manager and the CEO of Turing Pharmaceuticals. Shkreli is from a particularly modest background. Born to Albanian and Croatian immigrants and raised in Brooklyn, Shkreli is now a self made multi-millionaire. Yet, aside from this success story, there is very little to like about Martin Shkreli. After his company, Turing Pharmaceuticals, bought Daraprim, a decades old medicine used for treating potentially fatal parasitic infections (and favored by AIDS patients), Shkreli raised the drug's price from $13.50 per tablet to $750 per tablet. Shkreli cited his company's bottom line as the reason for the price increase, saying, "my shareholders expect me to make the most profit. That's the ugly, dirty truth."
9 Rush Limbaugh
8 Wayne LaPierre
Wayne LaPierre has been an executive with the National Rifle Association (NRA) since 1991. At this past year's NRA Convention, LaPierre said, "there's no telling how far President Obama will go to dismantle our freedoms and reshape America into an America that you and I will not even recognize." This type of rah-rah, "they took our guns"-type of speech is commonplace among gun nuts. The fact of the matter is that we have a gun violence epidemic in America and that something needs to be done about it.
The NRA looks to stand up for the personal liberties of Americans based on their constitutional right to bear arms. Yet, the NRA will not budge on any sort of gun control or reform. It's troubling, especially in the wake of the recent mass shooting in San Bernardino. According to opensecrets.com, the NRA has spent upwards of $3 million on lobbying efforts in both 2013 and 2014. So, the NRA is putting an unbelievable amount of money into lobbying for legislation favorable to their cause.
LaPierre is a critic of almost any and all gun control policy. He has written a handful of books about guns, the most recent is titled, America Disarmed: Inside the U.N. and Obama's Scheme to Destroy the Second Amendment.
7 Robert Tilton
Robert Tilton is an American Televangelist who has been doing his thing for years. That thing that he does is extort money from needy people putting their faith in God (and by proxy Tilton). Hilton encourages members of his congregation to donate money. In effect, he preaches, their donations and goodwill (their tithes) will ensure their own good will and good fortune. It's a scam, plain and simple. A 1991 ABC News investigation, led by Diane Sawyer, revealed that Tilton was collecting $80 million, tax-free, per year and showing little to no interest in the concerns and woes of his purported congregation.
6 Alex Jones
Alex Jones is a radio host, originally from Dallas, TX, who has advanced a lot of troubling conspiracy theories over his decades-long career. In fact, New York Magazine once called Jones "America's leading conspiracy theorist", a compliment or insult depending on who you're asking. Jones has propagated a variety of theories over his conspiracies over the years, namely that the United States government was in some way involved with both the Oklahoma City bombing and the September 11 attacks. Jones' ability to twist facts to align with his personal narratives and theories is actually quite impressive.
5 Steve Drain
The Westboro Baptist Church of Topeka, KS. is one of America's most derided institution. They're the people who attend military funerals with signs that read, "God Hates Fags!" The church was founded by Fred Phelps, a sad bigot who dedicated his life to bastardizing the bible and spreading hate as an important tenet of faith. In his latter years, Phelps' main confidant and right-hand man was Steve Drain. After Phelps died in March of 2014, Drain took over control of the church, continuing with their overarching message of hate and exclusion. The interesting thing about Drain is that he first approached the Westboro Baptist Church to make a documentary condemning their behavior entitled Hatemongers. Instead, Drain immersed himself in the church and subsequently rose to its most prominent position. Although Drain's managerial approach seems to be less abrasive to that of Phelps', their message remains the same (the congregation's url is still www.godhatesfags.com).
4 David Miscavige
David Miscavige is the current leader of the Church of Scientology. His family joined the church in 1971 and moved to Saint Hill Manor, England where the church's headquarters used to be located. During this time, Miscavige was deputized a "Commodore's messenger" by Scientology founder, sci-fi novelist and reputed "freakazoid," L. Ron Hubbard. According to recent reports (including actress Leah Remini's tell all, Troublemaker: Surviving Hollywood and Scientology, and HBO's recent Going Clear documentary) Miscavige rules the Church of Scientology with an iron fist, lording over his congregation, dodging taxation and, according to a 2014 Vanity Fair expose, ostensibly incarcerating his wife who, since 2006, "was being housed at one of the church's secretive and tightly controlled outer bases."
Although recent reports like those aforementioned is shining new light on Miscavige's reign as the leader of the Church of Scientology, it's only a corroboration of things that have been insinuated and speculated upon. In a 1991 feature in Time Magazine, Miscavige was accused of being the head of a "hugely profitable global racket that survives by intimidating members and critics in a mafia-like manner."
3 Lamar Smith
Lamar Smith is a U.S. Representative from Texas who is the chairman of the House Science, Space and Technology Committee. This is ironic because Smith is a climate change denier; an enemy of scientific development and truth. Not only this, Smith is using intimidation and fear to question findings that go against his personal beliefs. According to a November U.S. News piece, "Smith has demanded via subpoena, public pronouncements and heated letters that the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration turn over internal emails on global warming research. The Texas Republican also has sought to bring agency staffers and NOAA Administrator Kathryn Sullivan into closed-door, deposition-like interviews."
Why are federally-funded scientists being treated like criminals for reporting their findings? Although the world community is moving towards almost universal acceptance of climate change, the Republican Party, and officials like Lamar Smith, continue to be abrasive and combative about the subject with potentially grave implications abound.
2 Koch Brothers
Charles G. Koch and David H. Koch are the owners of Koch Industries, the second-largest privately held American company. According to Wikipedia, Koch Industries specializes in "the manufacturing, refining, and distribution of petroleum, chemicals, energy, fiber, intermediates and polymers, minerals, fertilizers, pulp and paper, chemical technology equipment, ranching, finance, commodities trading, and other ventures and investments."
According to the most recent Forbes 400 list of the richest Americans, Charles and David are tied for fifth place with $41 billion a piece. The issue with The Koch brothers is their incredible influence on American politics. This influence has been greatly magnified since the U.S. Supreme Court's decision in the 2010 Citizens United vs. Federal Election Commission deemed political donations to be a form of free speech, lifting any cap or regulation on the amount of money donated by individuals. The Koch's, and their Super PAC (Americans For Prosperity), are now swaying policy by investing ungodly amounts of money into elections. In a recent Politico report, reporting on a "secret Koch memo", it was revealed that the Kochs are "planning an ambitious $889-million spending plan in the run-up to the 2016 election.
1 Donald Trump
What else can be said about "The Donald" that hasn't already been said? He's xenophobic? Hard-headed? Short-sighted? All of the above? His rhetoric "transcends fact"? For the past year, the American media has tried to convince the American people that Donald Trump is an un-electable, boorish loon unfit to hold the nation's highest office. How have Americans reacted? By eating up every single tidbit that Trump does and says. He is controlling the internet, commanding the zeitgeist.
How is he doing it? By lying and grandstanding, mostly. We have gotten to a point in this election cycle where we have to accept Trump as a viable candidate and that's extremely scary. Aside from the fact that he has no previous political experience and, if elected, will be the oldest President to take office for a first term, Trump's ideas and ideals seem to be out of line with those that are inherently American. For example, Trump's policies on Mexican and Muslim immigration to the United States and his proposal to close certain mosques challenge very basic tenets of our democracy and identity.
Historically, America is a nation of immigrants; immigrants who have a right to practice their faith freely. If his campaign rhetoric is any indication, the prospect of a Trump presidency is incredibly scary for the future of America.