Amygdala Hijacking to Jewish Genocide in Iraq: How Agency Can Help Avoid Political Manipulation with Dr. Emily Bashah
Play • 1 hr 7 min

This episode of The Optimistic American kicks off season two – listen to learn about what’s to come, addictive technologies, the history of prosecutions in Iraq’s and their impact on Dr. Emily Bashah, and what to consider and do to avoid falling prey to “amygdala hijacking”.


  • This episode discusses what’s to come in season 2, as well as the prosecution of Jews in Iraq and how that impacted – and is still impacting – Dr. Emily Bashah’s family.
  • Paul and Dr. Bashah’s upcoming book Addictive Ideologies discusses the fact that genocides don’t happen with just one person nor overnight. They happen with a group of people that begin to fall into a cult-like type of mentality, and when people begin to lose agency.
  • Paul and Dr. Bashah talk about what they consider to be the exact altar side of the spectrum from authoritarianism: agency.
  • Dr. Bashah shares the connection between agency, the theory of mind, and morality.
  • Paul and Dr. Basha touch upon amygdala hijacking, and what you should consider and do to avoid being manipulated.
  • Dr. Bashah brings Dr. Zimbardo’s Stanford Prison Experiment into the conversation. The study aimed at looking at what brings the evil out of people. The results were that people aren’t inherently evil but they do become if you put them into certain circumstances and conditions.
  • Paul discusses the book In the Garden of Beasts and the four results from studies on obsessive ideologies.
  • Dr. Bashah reads the opening chapter of Addictive Ideologies and talks about the prosecution of Jews in Iraq, how that impacted her family, and the repercussions it still has today.
  • Paul and Dr. Bashah touch upon different key moments in the history of Iraq that led and followed what happened to Dr. Bashah’s family and many other members of the Jewish community.
  • According to Paul, ideologies are about power. If you want to keep your agency, he says, the best ideology is rationalism. It’s about recognizing that all sides bring benefits and detriments, and about having the ability to sort through the options to figure out what’s best – so long as the rule of law stays in place.

Paul and Dr. Bashah give a sneak-peek of what’s to come in season 2 of The Optimistic American and share the 7 ideals future episodes will revolve around.

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