What do a fungus and fake news have in common? This is no joke.

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The fungus, Claviceps purpurea, is a parasite on rye, as well as some other grains, and it is also known as ergot. Ergot is so common that it was once thought to be part of the rye plant. In 1853, Louis Tulasne, worked out the life cycle for the Ergot of Rye (Claviceps purpurea) and realized it was responsible for ergot poisoning. Since humans started growing grains ergot has been poisoning them. Ergot poisoning is characterized by nervous dysfunction, the body is twisting and contorting due to severe pain, there is trembling and shaking, and a characteristic fixed twist of the neck, which seems to simulate convulsions or fits. Muscle spasms, confusions, delusions, and hallucinations, are also well-known symptoms. The constriction of blood flow to the twisted parts of the body may result in gangrene. In the Middle Ages, villages would sometimes have outbreaks of ergot poisoning and the common explanation was evil spirits, devils, and the punishment of gods. Accusations of witchcraft soon followed the outbreaks.

While studying the development of the rye flower, in 1853, Louis Tulasne concluded that ergot was a fungus growing on the minute flower of the rye plant. The ergot stage of the fungus contains a toxic cocktail of compounds. Some of these molecules have been used as pharmaceutical drugs. However, others are fatal when consumed. But, the molecule that made ergot famous is LSD (Lysergic acid diethylamide). LSD distorts reality for the person using it and continued use can result in flashbacks – where the brain will act as if LSD is present, even when it is not.

Human brains are extremely malleable and sensitive to the power of suggestion. Anyone who has watched a hypnotist at work as observed the power of the brain over the rest of the human body. I once saw a hypnotist tell a person that they would be burned with a cigarette but would not feel any pain. The hypnotist touched the person’s hand with a pencil eraser, and a burn mark appeared. The brain was prepared to respond because of the suggestion.

For decades the far right media has prepared those sensitive brains to receive messages that most would consider on the fringe of reality, messages that are alternatives to reality. These are intended to counter what the far right see as the “leftist philosophies” (in reality these are ideas from anyone who disagrees with them). Fox News, Breitbart, and other media organizations have been planting the spores of ergot in the brains of their consumers for decades. The far right brains have been prepped to accept the mainstream media as “fake news” and the fringe ideas as normal. Witchcraft, devils, evil spirits are believable if you have no alternative rational explanation for ergot poisoning. If you don’t understand that molecules can alter the way you think, as can the power of suggestion, you are easily fooled.  Make no mistake – the US democracy is at stake from those who bend reality in the minds of the susceptible.

The question is how long will it take, for the rational segment of the Republican Party to get over their mass hallucination of Trump and his clown show?