MAGA for a day — or here’s how you can really own the Libs

Alan Tabor
10 min readSep 6, 2022


Key points:

  • Schismogenesis is a term from Gregory Bateson, noted anthropologist and systems theorist.
  • It names a ‘positive feedback loop’ that can cause societies to break apart.
  • The term was developed as he observed how gender roles progressed in severe opposition to each other in the Iatmul people — and the Naven ceremony that seemed designed specifically to counteract that.
  • This framework provides insight into the fracturing of the US politics.
  • But how do we work with that?

…schismogenesis, unless it is restrained, leads to a progressive unilateral distortion of the personalities of the members of both groups, which results in mutual hostility between them and must end in the break-down of the system.
-Gregory Bateson, Steps To An Ecology Of Mind

First, I need to testify. I’m a Gregory Bateson fanboy!

I was a newbie analyst/coder in the early ’80s. Bateson, and folks like Stephen J Gould, provided me with my own version of a pattern language in their descriptions of complex natural systems. Bateson’s statement, “Information is any difference that makes a difference,” guided my career as an IT guy for Berkeley hippy companies making world-class outdoor gear. I used his maxim to focus every time I started building some new system. Every time.

As a result, I was familiar with his term schismogenesis for destructive ‘positive feedback loops’.

Positive feedback in a system is not a good thing. It’s not telling your spouse they’re looking good. In a looping system, positive feedback adds an uptick to reinforce the difference each iteration; ‘negative feedback’, in contrast, dampens the difference.

The biggest danger is that positive feedback can end up as a runaway system. All the water on Venus is in the atmosphere above a super-heated surface as the result of positive feedback. The hotter it got, the more…



Alan Tabor

Berkeley Backpacking Biz Lifer, System Builder, Coder, Community Organizer, Music and Evolutionary Biology Geek. Sign up and my projects at