Excerpt: On the edge - Political cults right and left

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  1. Introduction
  2. We believe that the practice of politics is vital to the health of a free society.
  3. Without a widespread conunitment to participation in political life, democratic action would be impossible. However, across the world, people are
  4. more disillusioned with politics than ever before. Fewer and fewer can be
  5. bothered to vote, and fewer still to join established political parties. President Clinton was elected in 1992 with only 43 percent of the vote. Given that
  6. a mere 44 percent of the electorate voted, he assumed office with the support
  7. of only 23 percent of those eligible to vote. 1 A bumper sticker, popular at the
  8. time, read: "If God had meant us to vote, He would have given us candidates."
  9. Such quiescence is unhealthy for democracy, but there is another consequence, so far largely unexplored. It is that dysfunctional, damaging, and
  10. dangerous organizations have entered the political arena in search of money,
  11. recruits, and influence. We define such organizations as cults. They hurt those
  12. whom they recruit and inject the venom of hatred into the injured body of
  13. political discourse. Our book is an analysis of thi~ phenomenon, a warning
  14. of its effects, and an argument for a renewed conunitment to a balanced form
  15. of political activity on the part of many more people.
  16. The Impact of Disillusionment
  18. Most of us want to believe in something bigger than ourselves and to create
  19. a better world for our children: in short, to make a difference. We still have a
  20. need to believe in politics. Yet the mainstream parties are losing their appeal.
  21. In part, this is due to the rise of "centrist" politics, personified in the 1990s
  22. ascendancy of Bill Clinton and Tony Blair. Both have rushed to capture the
  23. "middle" ground, by moving their respective parties further to the right and
  24. away from their more radical traditions. One important effect has been to
  25. blend political differences into a succession ofunappetizing souffies, in \vhich
  26. every new dish tastes as bland as the last. The dividing line between left and
  28. .
  30. XI
  32. XII
  36. right has been, at least temporarily, erased. Everyone now stands on the right,
  37. and all debate is conducted within ideological paradigms that reflect the priorities, beliefs, and prejudices of the right. More and more often, voters
  38. struggle to detect genuine differences between the choices presented to them
  39. in elections. The less substantial such differences are, the more politicians
  40. resort to ballyhoo, in order to camouflage the emptiness of what is offered.
  41. Official politics has been dumbed down to a mud wrestling match, complete
  42. with skimpy costumes, fake grunts, and simulated grudge matches. In the
  43. United States, party conventions now have more balloons than ideas.
  44. Furthermore, the blurring of difference has coincided with the reemergence of desperate social and economic problems in every area of the globe.
  45. These conditions are a radical departure from those most people \vere brought
  46. up to expect. The conviction that one's children would be better off than you
  47. were has long defined the "American dream." In Western Europe, Australia,
  48. and New Zealand, welfare states were established in the postwar period,
  49. promising care from the cradle to the grave. People believed in a better future. Today, these hopes are fragile husks. The gap between rich and poor is
  50. wider than ever, job security has been vanquished, and unquestioning faith
  51. in society and its institutions has crumbled. These conditions create a fertile
  52. soil for the doomsday messages of totalitarian cults. Though cults are commonly assumed to exist only in terms of some well-known "religious" organizations, we argue that cultic forms of organization and belief have now
  53. begun to infect the realm of politics.
  54. The despairing mood that is gaining ground in society, and that facilitates
  55. the growth of political cults, was illustrated by the State ofDisunion Survey
  56. conducted by Gallup in 1996.2 This involved face-to-face interviews with
  57. some two thousand American adults. Three out of five respondents feared
  58. for their families, the ethical condition of society, and the state of the economy.
  59. Twenty-one percent said they were "angry" or "resentful" about the criminal
  60. justice system. Only I0 percent thought the United States was improving,
  61. and half felt the United States was in decline. Seventy-seven percent believed that government is usually run by "a few big interests" looking out for
  62. themselves. One in five described the elite in Washington as being "involved
  63. in conspiracy" against the interests of the American people. Only 5 percent
  64. of Americans had "a great deal of confidence" in members of Congress. By
  65. contrast, in 1966 the comparable figure was 42 percent.
  66. Such findings testify to a widespread sense of unfairness, exclusion, and
  67. impotence in the face of what are seen as powerful vested interests. This is
  68. fueled by the awareness that a privileged elite continues to share in the good
  69. times. The average pay of a corporate chief executive in the United States,
  70. by 1990, was 135 times greater than that of the average worker. In 1960, it
  74. XIII
  76. was "only" thirty times greater. Chief executives in 1990 enjoyed a median
  77. salary plus cash bonuses of more than $2 million a year.3
  78. A similar situation exists in Britain. Sir Clive Thompson was appointed
  79. president of the main employers' organization, the Confederation of British
  80. Industry, in 1998. As the chief executive of Rentokill, he enjoyed a fourfold
  81. increase in pay and share options during the previous year, from £2.8 million
  82. to £11.5 million. When appointed, he \varned Tony Blair's Labour government against interfering with executive pay. He also opposed fair employment rights and trade union recognition and condemned Labour's plans for a
  83. modest minimum wage, arguing that it would wipe £10 million (2.4 percent!) off the £417 million profit made by Rentokill. He has described trade
  84. unions as "clutter" and compared dealing with them to "pest control"-a
  85. remark he later described as "a joke."•
  86. "Downsizing" has also become a global trend. For decades Australians
  87. prided themselves on the sobriquet "the lucky country." Yet it was estimated
  88. in 1997 that almost one-third of Austra lian households had experienced job
  89. retrenchment during the previous five years. s Not accidentally, racism in this
  90. continent is also on the rise, with the anti-immigration party One Nation
  91. dominating the media, beginning to score important victories in elections,
  92. and claiming up to 13 percent in some national opinion polls. In an echo of
  93. other cult practices, the three hundred branches that One Nation claims to
  94. have are banned from communicating with one another, ensuring that all
  95. information is controlled by the top leadership. 6
  96. In a climate that provides greater rewards for a few and restricts opportunity for the rest, notions of upward mobility perish. People may believe that
  97. they can climb a short social ladder. However, most recognize that butlers
  98. rarely end up running their own stately homes. Aspiration is replaced by
  99. desperation. In a society driven by consumerism, the conviction that there is
  100. no way up the social hierarchy threatens social cohesion and renders people
  101. vulnerable to the quick-fix "solutions" of political extremists. By 1993, it
  102. was estimated that three-quarters of Americans no longer trusted the federal
  103. government to do the right thing when taking decisions. Back in the far-off
  104. 1950s public opinion held a directly opposite view: three-quarters of Americans then trusted the government to behave ethically and appropriately. 7 Uncertainty has bred disillusionment, and, for many, opened the door to the
  105. unthinkable.
  106. Yet, in the face of such problems, most mainstream parties are anxious to
  107. avoid taking a definite position, in case they offend some important section
  108. of the electorate or alienate those movers and shakers in the boardrooms
  109. who also just happen to be party financiers. They explain their inability to
  110. offer solutions by invoking the specter of"globalization," or other nebulous
  112. XIV
  116. forces outside their control. Increasingly, they proclaim what they cannot
  117. do, rather than what they can. Politicians, these days, resemble eunuchs who
  118. have commandeered the airwaves to boast of their impotence. Faced with
  119. declarations of irrelevance from most of the political establishment, what
  120. can people do? Where can they tum?
  121. The Cultic Alternative
  123. If established politics has been practically emptied of its content, passion,
  124. and commitment to social justice, there are plenty of others prepared to fill
  125. the vacuum left behind with a poison of their own concoction. Accordingly,
  126. politics at the edge has been colonized by extremist sects of the left and
  127. right. These prey upon our uncertainties about the future and create what are,
  128. in effect, miniature totalitarian societies organized around a few simplistic
  129. but compelling myths. They pose a danger to society and lay waste the talents and commitment of their own members.
  130. In these groups, doubt is replaced by total and all-consuming belief. The
  131. one-dimensional nature of the message becomes its main selling point. Comprehensive but paper-thin solutions for all the world's problems are proposed,
  132. invariably involving changes on a revolutionary scale. Such revolutions might
  133. involve (on the left) a reenactment of the 1917 October Revolution, or (on
  134. the right) race attacks against whichever group the cult designates as the
  135. prime cnemy--blacks, Jews, whites, Hispanics, or gays. The common defining characteristic is the need for enemies. Their annihilation is perceived as
  136. the only route to global salvation.
  137. The world is portrayed as a perilous place, in which all mainstream solutions have either failed or are simply a cover for a vast conspiracy against the
  138. people. Democracy is veiled dictatorship; all politicians are crooks; business
  139. is inherently criminal; Armageddon is imminent. Examples of ongoing normality are discounted. Each and every social problem is exaggerated and is
  140. taken as proof that the cult's doomsday scenario is about to be played out in
  141. full. Only the extreme ideology of the group offers any hope, but redemption
  142. is possible only if there are enough true believers prepared to embrace the
  143. group's inflexible theology, strict organizational practices, and often strange
  144. public rituals.
  145. In the industrial nations, the growth of political cults in the recent period
  146. has been almost entirely on the right. However, the strip-tease routine by
  147. which mainstream parties are unveiling the full extent of their ideological
  148. weakness is still in its early stages. We are on the right side of midnightjust. As their nakedness becomes more fully exposed, it is likely that leftwing cults will also face opportunities for growth. Politics is entering a period
  152. XV
  154. of unprecedented volatility, in which a frenzied public opinion, desperate for
  155. reassurance and solutions, is capable of swinging from one extreme to the
  156. other. The more shallow the programs offered by established parties and the
  157. more cynical the conduct of their representatives, the more likely it is that
  158. such swings will occur. The effects are likely to be severe.
  159. What Lies Ahead
  160. This book argues that many extremist organizations, on both the left and
  161. right, can best be understood as cults on a par with the Unification Church
  162. (the Moonies), Scientologists, and other bizarre groupings who regularly
  163. capture media headlines. In chapter I, we explore this notion in more depth,
  164. and offer definitions of cults in general and political cults in particular. The
  165. opening chapters of this book are concerned with establishing the psychological processes that render us vulnerable to the simplistic messages of cults,
  166. and the persuasive devices they employ to ensnare people in their activities.
  167. To date, cults in politics have attracted relatively little attention. There has
  168. been a reluctance on the left to acknowledge that the underlying ideology of
  169. Marxism-Leninism creates thought-starved organizations, who severely limit
  170. the freedom ofth.eir own members and seek to impose a vision of regimented
  171. dreariness on everyone else. There has been a similar refusal to define the
  172. racism and fundamentalist Christian theology of the far right as innately subversive of those democratic norms that distinguish the society it is supposedly attempting to preserve. We challenge what we see as the complacency
  173. of those on the left and right of politics on these issues. In separate chapters,
  174. we explore the real ideological legacy of Marxism-Leninism for today and how
  175. the passions of prejudice impose blinkers on the thinking of many on the far
  176. right of politics. A curious hybrid formation also exists in the form of psychotherapy cults that see themselves as political movements and pursue an increasingly open political agenda The personal has married the political.
  177. The groups we discuss in this book are a threat that needs to be taken
  178. seriously. There are many historical episodes where organizations that can
  179. be defined as cults have taken state power-- for example, in Russia, Germany, and Cambodia. In each case, the consequences have been calamitous.
  180. The fact that political cults are at present little more than flaccid sects does not
  181. guarantee that they will maintain a low-risk profile in the future. If disenchantment with normal politics continues to grow at its present rate, more people will
  182. prove vulnerable to the simplistic sloganeering of the far left and right.
  183. In particular, we argue that a commitment to political action on the part of
  184. many people is a necessary feature of a normal democratic society. However, cults sidetrack political commitment into an environment dominated
  186. XVI
  190. by a guru bent on self-promotion. Such groups are characterized by intense
  191. levels of destructive activity and extreme conformity around a handful of
  192. basic ideas. The eventual outcome is usually burnout and disillusionment on
  193. the part of most people who become involved. In addition, since the central
  194. concern of all cults is to recruit other members and raise money, they prioritize this agenda in their dealings with others. This distracts political activists
  195. from whatever their primary purpose is supposed to be. In this way, political
  196. cults inflict damage out of all proportion to their numerical strength.
  197. Thus, this book analyzes the extent to which a variety of well-known
  198. movements fall within the spectrum of what could be defined as cultic organizations. We examine the organizational measures they employ to suppress
  199. dissent, achieve intense conformity, and extract extraordinary levels of commitment from their members. In the process, we discuss how political activists and organizations can avoid falling into the trap of cultism. We encourage
  200. a critical attitude of inquiry toward the core ideology of all groups to which
  201. people belong, while ensuring that their organizational practices facilitate
  202. the expression rather than the suppression of dissent.
  203. Healthy political organizations and movements are characterized by dissent, disagreement, and conflict rather than by stultifying conformity. People
  204. need to abandon the widely held view that political organizations that permit
  205. frequent important disagreements among their members are unsuitable to
  206. exercise political power. We defend the principles of political involvement
  207. and political action. However, such involvement needs to be kept within a
  208. framework that permits healthy debate and maintains the independence of
  209. each individual concerned.
  210. The tendency of political cults to destroy people's commitment to political activity over time is one of the most pernicious consequences of their
  211. destructive activities in modern society. But politics in general is currently in
  212. an enfeebled condition and in need of intensive care. Under unsanitary conditions, a scratch can develop into gangrene. It is our hope that the present
  213. text will help alert a \vider public to the risk of cultic infection and stimulate
  214. discussion about how to maintain healthy political activity capable of revitalizing our wounded political process.
  216. Part One
  218. The Nature of Cults
  220. Chapter 1
  222. Cults in Politics
  223. Nothing ... can disturb the convert 's inner peace and
  224. serenity-except the occasional fear of losing faith again,
  225. losing thereby what alone makes life worth living, and
  226. falling back into the outer darkness
  227. -Arthur Koestler, 1950
  229. What Are Cults?
  230. Destructive cults have been defined as organizations that remold individuality to conform to the codes and needs of the cult, institute taboos that preclude doubt and criticism, and generate an elitist mentality whereby members
  231. see themselves as lone evangelists struggling to bring enlightenment to the
  232. hostile forces surrounding them. 1 There is only one truth--that espoused by
  233. the cult. Competing explanations are not merely inaccurate but degenerate.
  234. Cults do not have opponents. They have enemies and frequently dream about
  235. their ultimate destruction.
  236. In political cults, people are encouraged to fantasize about what society
  237. will be like when they have seized state power. Members are hailed as inspired founders (sometimes called "cadres"), who will be guaranteed a particularly powerful position in the new world order. Simultaneously, they are
  238. denounced in the present day for their weak grasp of the founders' inspired
  239. ideals. Their inability to work even harder is blamed for the slow rate at
  240. which the cult's dream is being realized. The cult's achievements are credited to the wisdom of the leader. Whatever goes wrong is attributed to the
  241. slovenly behavior of the members. Thus, grandiosity of vision is combined
  242. with a punitive internal atmosphere, aimed at suppressing all dissent. There
  243. is a pathological fear of anything that calls even peripheral aspects of the
  244. group's ideology into question.
  245. Cults embrace the fields of psychotherapy, religion, New Age, self-help,
  246. business training~d politics. 2 Michael Langone,3 one of the leading authorities on the subject, has calculated that as many as 4 million Americans
  248. 3
  250. 4
  252. CHAPTER
  254. I
  256. may have been involved with cult groups. It has been estimated that there are
  257. around 500 cults active in Britain today* and between 3 and 5 thousand in
  258. the United States.5 These figures are almost certainly an underestimate. Larger
  259. cults are full of "wannabe" gurus, who frequently split off to create their
  260. own private little empires. Cults can consist of as few as two people, in
  261. which one person dominates the other and claims a position of privileged
  262. insight for himself or herself.
  263. Political cults form the principal focus of this book. An important reason
  264. for the lack of attention they have so far received may be that political life is
  265. often characterized by frantic activity and intense feelings of party loyalty.
  266. This makes it difficult to differentiate between "normal" political parties and
  267. groups that have reached such a point of obsession that they can be regarded
  268. as cults. In cults, the passion, enthusiasm, and commitment of members is
  269. ruthlessly exploited to achieve ever-higher levels of activity. Members often
  270. feel like athletes competing in permanent Olympic games. When they are
  271. injured or become too downhearted to cany on, their usefulness is over and
  272. they are discarded in favor of the latest enthusiastic recruit.
  273. Broad agreement exists in the research literature on general characteristics that define cult groupings. The American Family Foundation defined
  274. cults as
  275. [a] group or movement exhibiting great or excessive devotion or dedication to
  276. some person, idea, or thing, and employing unethical manipulative or coercive
  277. techniques of persuasion and control (e.g. isolation from former friends and
  278. family, debilitation, use of special methods to heighten suggestibility and subservience, powerful group pressures, information management, suspension of
  279. individuality or critical judgement, promotion of total dependency on the group
  280. and fear of leaving it), designed to advance the goals of the group's leaders, to
  281. the actual or possible detriment of members, their families or the community.6
  283. Such groups strive to achieve extreme conformity, an outcome that Lifton7 characterizes as "ideological totalism," and that we discuss in detail later in this
  284. chapter. The roller-coaster highs and lows of cult recruitment mean that people
  285. are constantly switched between disorientating and mutually opposed emotional
  286. states. Feelings and ideas lose subtlety, shade, and color. Paltry insights are sold
  287. as having cosmic implications. Ideas that may be held by many people are presented as the sole moral property of the group. This further inflates that group's
  288. already magnificent sense of intellectual superiority.
  289. Under these conditions, members develop a sense of splendid isolation.
  290. Cherished beliefs that predate cult membership are derided as ancient baggage, to be lightly discarded. A new you is in prospect, in which every waking moment will be imbued with more meaning than you have ever dreamed
  294. 5
  296. possible. The potential recruit is hurtled along at a constantly increased speed,
  297. and faces the prospect of retreating "into doctrinal and organizational exclusiveness, and into all or nothing emotional patterns more characteristic ... of
  298. the child than ofthe individuated adult."8 Paradoxically, they may on journey's
  299. end feel endowed with superhuman insight into themselves and the surrounding \Vorld, rather as some drunks seem to imagine that they are constantly on
  300. the verge of achieving startling new insights into the human condition. The
  301. reality of what is on offer is invariably rather different.
  302. Throughout, the cult attempts to represent its vision as a series of noble
  303. insights capable of transforming the present miserable condition of humanity into something far grander and more noble than anything it has so far
  304. been able to achieve. A moral imperative is created, in which the cult members are encouraged to believe that only their actions can redeem the world.
  305. The alternative, it is alleged, is some form of barbarism, in which all humanity will most probably perish.
  306. A spin on this idea, common in right-wing cults, is the notion that a sizable proportion of the world's population (blacks, gays, or other allegedly
  307. degenerate elements) must be annihilated in any event, to save the rest. There
  308. is no apparent sense of contradiction between the glowing future, which the
  309. group assures its members is its main objective, and the means (civil war,
  310. insurrection, racial genocide, an authoritarian inner-party regime) that are
  311. assumed to be necessary for its realization.
  312. Intense activism prevents members from having a personal life outside their role as party members. Rival social networks atrophy through
  313. neglect, ensuring that members soon come to devote all their spare time
  314. to the cult. The unrelenting pace induces exhaustion and depression,
  315. making it harder to "think your way out"- too many commitments have
  316. been made, all bridges back to sanity are long dynamited, and too little
  317. time is left over from party activity for reflection. In a paradox far from
  318. unique to political cults, the more ensnared people become in the perfumed trap of activism, the harder it is to escape. Members tend not to
  319. leave as the result of rational reflection and conscious decision, but to
  320. drop out in despair, exhaustion, and crisis.
  321. Underlying these practices are the cardinal assumptions that social, economic, and political catastrophe lies on the immediate horizon, that a special
  322. organization in the shape of the cult is necessary to avert this, and that the
  323. nucleus of such a party is to band in the form of the cult. This assumed
  324. specialness encourages illusions of correctness, unanimity, and total political prescience. Armed with such conviction, cult members embark on a frantic quest to save the world by recruiting as many other members as possible.
  325. It might be thought that such a quest is doomed to failure. Who in their right
  327. 6
  329. CHAPTER
  331. l
  333. mind would join a cult? Yet, as the figures cited above suggest, many of us
  334. are in fact vulnerable to the attractions of cult membership.
  335. How Cult.s Recruit and Hold Members
  336. Two leading social psychologists specializing in persuasion, Pratkanis and
  337. Aronson,9 summarize the research on this issue by humorously suggesting
  338. that anyone can create a cult by following a series of simple guidelines derived from what cults actually do. These are:
  339. I. Create y our own social reality. What we think we know about the world
  340. is in large part derived from our interactions with others, and from the way in
  341. which we contrast and compare perspectives derived from different individuals, groups, and media. Cults short-circuit this process by eliminating
  342. all sources of information other than that provided by the cult. Members
  343. work so hard that they interact only with other cult members, or with people
  344. they are in the process of recruiting. They read mostly cult literature. In time,
  345. their vocabulary shifts, so that cult-sanctioned words and expressions predominate. It becomes even harder to communicate with nonmembers, since
  346. both sides lack a common vocabulary with which to exchange ideas. This
  347. leaves cult followers more disposed than ever to the uncritical acceptance of
  348. their organization's propaganda.
  349. 2. Create a grandfal/oon. The term "grandfalloon" is derived from a Kurt
  350. Vonnegut novel (Cats Cradle, 1963), while the process referred to is known
  351. in social psychology as the minimal group paradigm. It reflects the research
  352. finding that when people are assigned to spurious groups, on the basis of
  353. random or minimal criteria, they still identify strongly with those groups and
  354. disparage those outside its ranks. 10 A "grandfalloon" describes an out-group
  355. of some kind, which can be regarded as unredeemed. Who constitutes the
  356. out-group is immaterial-the point is to have one, thereby enhancing the ingroup loyalty of cult members. In the case of left-wing cults, the most obvious out-group is the "bourgeoisie." This is supplemented by an assortment
  357. of other equally heinous grandfalloons--liquidationists, revisionists, opportunists, ultraleftists, or running dogs of imperialism. On the right, typically,
  358. racial minorities, gays, and other races outside the chosen nation are assumed
  359. to be much more different from white Anglo-Saxon Protestant males than
  360. they actually are. Differences are stressed, while similarities are ignored.
  361. Humanity is divided into the chosen and the not chosen, with only those in
  362. the former camp worthy or capable of being saved.
  363. 3. Create commitment through dissonance reduction. When a contradiction arises between our behavior, on the one hand, and our feelings and attitudes on the other we feel uneasy. For example, we may possess a strong
  367. 7
  369. commitment to the values of democracy. If we engage in some action contrary to such values (such as signing a petition demanding that communists
  370. be suppressed), we experience an unease which Festinger 11 describes as "dissonance." The only way to resolve this conflict is by changing either our
  371. attitudes or our behavior, to bring them more in line with each other. Research suggests that most of us have a desire to feel and appear consistent, both
  372. to ourselves and others. 12 Accordingly, once we have embarked on a particular
  373. course of action, we are more likely to adopt further behavior in that general
  374. direction, to create an impression of consistency. We may even help ourselves
  375. along this road, by displaying ever more extreme behaviors at odds with our
  376. previous convictions. The outcome of this process is called conversion.
  377. Cults manipulate it by establishing a spiral of escalating commitment. 13
  378. Prospective members adopt what are at first small behaviors in line with the
  379. group's belief system, and which do not require the formal endorsement of
  380. its ideology. An example would be the act of attending a group meeting. In
  381. the first instance, the new behaviors are not perceived as challenging the
  382. prospective recruit's preexisting belief systems. However, the new behaviors are slowly escalated. Attendance at a meeting might be followed by a
  383. forceful "request" to participate in a weekend conference, followed by voting for the group's proposals at other public forums, leading to asking others
  384. to do likewise, resulting in the selling of group literature on the streets and
  385. climaxing in a public identification with the group's goals.
  386. The gradual nature of what is involved enables the recruit's belief system
  387. to slowly adjust to the new behaviors they have adopted. By the time the full
  388. impact of the changes is apparent, they have become for all practical purposes a new and permanent identity.
  389. 4. Establish the leader's credibility and attractiveness. Most cults promulgate stories and legends concerning the cult leader. Research into the
  390. dynamics of persuasion has long established that the credibility and attractiveness of a message's source are vital ingredients in determining its overall
  391. impact. 14 Accordingly, cults credit their leaders with superhuman qualities.
  392. Lenin on the left and Hitler on the right are viewed in a semidivine light by
  393. their followers. They are regarded as possessing uncommon insight into
  394. society's problems, and with personal characteristics such as honesty, genius, and compassion which it is assumed will be attractive to prospective
  395. recruits. If such founders are dead then the present leaders, in effect, present
  396. themselves as the reincarnation of Lenin, Trotsky, Mao, Hitler or whoever.
  397. Often, the real problems of the leaders (such as alcoholism and drug dependency) are concealed from both prospective and current members.
  398. 5. Send members out to proselytize the unredeemed. This ensures that
  399. members engage in what is known as self-generated persuasion. Recruiting
  401. 8
  403. CHAPTER
  405. 1
  407. others means that they are constantly infonning other people of all the positive advantages of being in a cult. This relentless (and inaccurate) focus on
  408. the positive means that members wind up reconvincing themselves. A feedback loop is created, which is shorn of all interference from the outside world
  409. and in which only the liturgy of the cult has any semblance of reality.
  410. 6. Distract members from thinking undesirable thoughts. The easiest way
  411. to accomplish this is through overwork. A recurrent theme in the chapters
  412. that follow is the enonnous levels of activity required of those involved in
  413. political cults. In this, they share much common ground with their betterknown religious, New Age, and psychotherapy counterparts. For example,
  414. the Workers Revolutionary Party (WRP) in Britain was a small organization
  415. (discussed in chapter I0), never capable of mustering more than I per cent of
  416. the vote when it stood in elections. 15 Nevertheless, it managed to produce a
  417. daily newspaper. This would have been a hugely ambitious project for any
  418. organization, let alone one that still wore diapers. However, the effort required
  419. to write, produce, and distribute a daily paper meant that people were either too
  420. busy or too exhausted to question the political direction they were taking.
  421. 7. Fixate members ' vision on a phantom. In particular, cults create an
  422. ideal image of a future "promised land," which they contrast with the drab
  423. reality of today. This might be a socialist paradise or an ethnically cleansed
  424. America. The cult leaders sing its praises, invent past golden ages when the
  425. phantom previously walked the earth, and insist on its imminent return. The
  426. effect is that true believers are terrified to take a day or an hour off, in case
  427. their dereliction of duty proves responsible for a missed opportunity to recreate Utopia.
  428. The primary concerns of all cults are the recruitment of new members and
  429. the raising of as much money as possible. To do this the members are kept in
  430. pennanent war mode. The consequent state of arousal binds them ever more
  431. tightly to the group's core belief system. However, aspects of the cult mind
  432. set are also given a particular spin in political cults, which generally see
  433. themselves as occupying a distinctive position in comparison to their religious, New Age, and psychotherapy rivals. It is to these aspects of cult life
  434. that we now tum.
  435. The Nature of Political Cults
  437. All cults have much in common, despite their competing ideologies. Political cults tend to put a particular emphasis on the following: 16
  438. I. A rigid beliefsystem. In the case of left-wing political cults this belief
  439. system suggests that all social, natural, scientific, political, economic, historical, and philosophical issues can be analyzed correctly only from within
  443. 9
  445. the group's theoretical paradigm-one that therefore claims a privileged and
  446. all-embracing insight. The view that the group's belief system explains everything eliminates the need for fresh or independent thought, prevents a
  447. critical reappraisal of past practice or the acknowledgment of mistakes, and
  448. removes the need to seek intellectual sustenance outside the group's own
  449. ideological fortress.
  450. In right-wing cults, typically, it is assumed that the race question underpins all other social processes. There is a gigantic conspiracy (ofJews, blacks,
  451. the United States government, or possibly the United Nations) that explains
  452. every twist and turn of events. Whatever happens is interpreted in the light
  453. of the governing ideology and is regarded as proof of its correctness. 17
  454. 2. The groups beliefs are immune to falsification. No test can be devised
  455. or suggested which might have the effect of inducing a reappraisal. The allembracing quality of the dominant ideology rules out reevaluation, since it
  456. implies both omniscience and infallibility. Methods of analysis that set themselves more modest explanatory goals are viewed as intrinsically inferior.
  457. Those who question any aspect of the group's analysis are branded as deviationists bending to the "pressures of capitalism" or as traitors colluding with
  458. the conspiracy, and are driven from its ranks as heretics.
  459. 3. An authoritarian inner party regime is maintained. Decision making is
  460. concentrated in elite hands, which gradually dismantles or ignores all formal
  461. controls on its activities. Members are excluded from participation in determining policy, calling leaders to account, or expressing dissent. This is often
  462. combined with persistent assurances about the essentially democratic nature
  463. of the organization, and the existence of exemplary democratic controls-on
  464. paper. Such a high-control social environment promotes what West and
  465. Singer18 have described as uncertainty, fear, and confusion, with joy and
  466. certainty offered as a reward for surrender to the group.
  467. 4. There is a growing tendency for the leaders to act in an arbitrary way,
  468. accrue personal power, perhaps engage in wealth accumulation from group
  469. members or in the procuring ofsexual favors. Activities that would provoke
  470. censure if engaged in by rank-and-file members (e.g., maintaining a reasonable standard of living, enjoying time off, using the organization's funds for
  471. personal purposes) are tolerated when they apply to leaders.
  472. 5. Leaderfigures, alive or dead, are deified. In the first place, this tends to
  473. center on Marx, Hitler, Pol Pot, Stalin, Mao, Trotsky, or another significant
  474. historical figure. It also increasingly transfers to existing leaders, who represent themselves as defending the historical continuity of the "great" ideas of
  475. the original leaders. In far-right cults this process of identification is accentuated by the wearing of Nazi regalia and the imitation of Nazi salutes. There
  476. is a tendency to settle arguments by referring constantly to the sayings
  478. 10
  480. CHAPTER
  482. 1
  484. of the wise leaders (past or present), rather than by developing an independent analysis.
  485. 6. There is an intense level of activism, preventing the formation of significant outside interests. Social life and personal "friendships" revolve exclusively around the group, although such friendships are conditional on the
  486. maintenance of uncritical enthusiasm for the party line. Members acquire a
  487. specialized vocabulary. For example, they call each other "comrade," or reflexively refer to blacks as the "mud people." This reinforces a sense of
  488. distance and difference from those outside their ranks.
  489. Gradually, the cult's all-encompassing vision and global ambitions come
  490. to dominate the mind, body, and soul of the recruit. Longstanding interests
  491. give way to ceaseless cult activity. Old friends are abandoned, unless they
  492. can be viewed as potential recruits. Family ties snap under the strain. Coping
  493. with this pressure leads to what Lifton 19 has called "doubling," in which a
  494. second self is formed and comes to dominate the earlier, authentic personality. An alternative term proposed is "pseudopersonality."20 The recruit's real
  495. personality is alive and well, but is thoroughly subordinated to the allembracing demands of the cultic environment. The new language, dress codes,
  496. behaviors, and belief systems of the recruit are such that he or she often
  497. appears to be a different person.
  498. The formation of such a pseudo-personality is a key to understanding the
  499. contradictions that run through life in political cults. In his novel Nineteen
  500. Eighty-Four. George Orwell coined the expression "doublethink" to describe
  501. what happens when two or more conflicting ideas are simultaneously advanced by the same person. He was particularly influenced in this idea by
  502. the spectacle of liberty-loving intellectuals insisting that the then-Soviet Union
  503. was the most democratic country in the world. Likewise, in political cults, it
  504. is still common to find the following contradictory positions held by their
  505. members:
  506. I. Love of liberty alongside support for totalitananism. Some left-wing
  507. cults continue to promote the myth ofa democratic Soviet Union, pre-1989.
  508. Others, on the Trotskyist left, visualize the period up to 1923 as a golden age
  509. when full democracy existed, until Lenin's legacy was supposedly usurped
  510. by a demonic Stalin. Right-wing cults talk of individual liberty but aim to
  511. remove democratic rights from everyone they deem socially undesirable-in essence, all those who disagree with them. Democracy is held in platonic
  512. esteem. It is an excellent thing-provided no one is ever tempted to consummate it in practice.
  513. 2. A beliefin equality, combined with the accumulation ofenormous privileges for the cult leaders. The members spend an inordinate amount of time
  515. fundraising on behalf of the group. There are no real controls on how this
  519. 11
  521. money is spent. Leaders lavish funds on pet projects, or a high standard of
  522. living for themselves.
  523. 3. The promotion ofstrict sexual morality, alongside the sexual exploitation offemale members, particularly by group leaders. Several of the case
  525. study chapters that follow document the widespread nature of this contradiction. The primary purpose in dictating the sex life ofmembers is to strengthen
  526. the leadership's power. When the cult influences even the most intimate area
  527. of the members' lives its control is complete. Members who notice that the
  528. leaders have a different set of rules for themselves tend to rationalize this as
  529. a feature of their higher level of existence, to which ordinary members have
  530. not yet ascended.
  531. 4. A den1and that society respect the cult's right to free speech, combined
  532. with the suppression of all dissent within its own ranks. The cult zealously
  534. defends its right to "free speech," often resorting to the courts. Antidemocratic practices by rival organizations are noted and ridiculed, to convince
  535. the membership that higher standards prevail within the cult. In turn, members are told that they are free to raise any criticisms of the group that they
  536. wish. However, whichever method they use to do so is lambasted as "inappropriate." The offending critic is first humiliated within the group, and then
  537. expelled or otherwise pressured to leave.
  538. Ideological Totalism
  539. "Ideological totalism" is a mood of absolute conviction, which embeds ideas
  540. so deeply in people's heads that they grow inoculated against doubt. Ideas
  541. cease to be provisional theories about the world and instead become sacred
  542. convictions, dependent on the word of hallowed authorities for their validation rather than evidence.
  543. The term "ideological totalism" was introduced by Lifton in I 961, in a
  544. book that has become a classic study of the thought reform process. This
  545. process has been particularly useful in understanding the inner workings of
  546. cults, and has been defined as "the coming together of immoderate ideology
  547. with equally immoderate individual character traits-an extremist meeting
  548. ground between people and ideas."21 Litton's original study.looked at how
  549. Chinese captors reshaped the political convictions ofAmerican soldiers captured during the Korean War, so that many of them, at least for a time, publicly extolled the virtues of Chinese communism against the vices of Western
  550. capitalism. Given their origins, his ideas are particularly apt in considering
  551. the workings of political cults. Lifton made it clear that the potential for the
  552. ideological totalism he described is present within everyone, in the sense
  553. that extreme conformity exists at one end of a continuum, consisting at the
  555. 12
  557. CHAPTER
  559. I
  561. other end of extreme dissent. However, totalistic convictions are "most likely
  562. to occur with those ideologies which are most sweeping in their content and
  563. most arnbitious----or messianic-in their claims, whether religious, political
  564. or scientific. And where totalism exists, a religion, a political movement, or
  565. even a scientific organization becomes little more than an exclusive cult." 22
  566. As this chapter suggests, extremist political organizations on both the left
  567. and right adhere to what we would describe as such an ambitious and messianic ideology. In consequence, they each possess an extraordinarily exalted
  568. view of their role in society. As subsequent chapters will seek to demonstrate, conformity, the banning of dissent, intense activism, and blinkered
  569. political thought are the inevitable consequences of such an approach. This
  570. analysis is reinforced if we consider the eight main conditions that Lifton
  571. identified as indicating the presence of ideological total.ism. These are:
  572. I. Milieu control. As Lifton postulated it, this is primarily the use of techniques to dominate the person's contact with the outside world but also their
  573. communication with themselves. People are "deprived of the combination
  574. of external information and inner reflection which anyone requires to test
  575. the realities of his environment and to maintain a measure of identity separate from it." 23
  576. In some political cults blatant measures are employed to achieve such
  577. effects. The California-based Democratic Workers Party (DWP), which we
  578. discuss in chapter 9, "encouraged" members to share party accommodations,
  579. thus ensuring that even sleep brought no respite from the party environment.
  580. Members of various right-wing militia movements spend a great deal of time
  581. on country "retreats," many of which become semipermanent communities
  582. preparing for Armageddon. Still others simply monopolize the membership's
  583. time, so that they have no practical opportunity to test the group's ideas
  584. against alternatives circulating in the real world.
  585. 2. Mystical n1anipulation. Lifton argues that "Included in this mystique is
  586. a sense of 'higher purpose,' of 'having directly perceived some imminent
  587. law of social development,' of being themselves the vanguard of this development." 24
  588. Cults, in general, are distinguished from their more rational counterparts
  589. by the all-embracing claims which they make for the significance of their
  590. ideology. Such claims become a means of achieving higher and higher levels
  591. of commitment: at stake is the future of the world. Frantic work rates are
  592. intrinsic to vanguard notions of party building and to the one true method of
  593. analysis advocated by the group, assumed to be superior to all others. The
  594. claim of privileged insight is central to the appeal of cult organizations and is
  595. ritually invoked to encourage supporters into binges ofparty building. Again,
  596. we provide many examples of such approaches in the chapters which follow.
  600. 13
  602. 3. The demandfor purity. Here, "the experiential world is sharply divided
  603. into the pure and the impure, into the absolutely good and the absolutely
  604. evil." 25 Members of the cult are assured that they possess a superior insight
  605. to ordinary members of society. At best, nonmembers are considered the
  606. dupes, at worst the degenerate accomplices, of a vast conspiracy against the
  607. cult's core beliefs. Many groups on the far left characterize those who sympathize with them as the "advanced workers." These are pityingly contrasted
  608. with the unredeemed masses, who are as yet too ignorant to appreciate the
  609. organization's virtues. Right-wing cults preach racial purity and often argue
  610. that blacks are the product of interbreeding between people and animals.
  611. 4. The cult ofconfession. In essence, this requires people to confess their
  612. inadequacies, their relative unsuitability to act as a vessel for the group's
  613. pure ideas, and the many ways in which they have let the organization down.
  614. This is usually conducted in group meetings. The central purpose is to break
  615. the remaining individuality of members, while intimidating would-be opponents into silence. This is a widely documented phenomenon in all manner
  616. of cults.
  617. 5. The "sacred science." This aspect of ideological totalism is particularly
  618. apt to political cults. Lifton describes it as follows:
  619. The totalistic milieu maintains an aura of sacredness around its basic dogma,
  620. holding it out as an ultimate moral vision for the ordering of human existence.
  621. This sacredness is evident in the prohibition (whether or not explicit) against
  622. the questioning of basic assumptions, and in the reverence which is demanded
  623. for the originators of the Word, the present bearers of the Word, and the Word
  624. itself ... the milieu .. . makes an exaggerated claim of airtight logic, of absolute "scientific" precision.26
  626. Only the group's ideology offers salvation. The effect is to secure a redoubled
  627. effort from the members in party building, presented as a race between the
  628. creation of mass parties built in its image and world destruction.
  629. 6. Loading the language. Lifton has described this as the extensive use of
  630. what he termed "the thought-terminating cliche," used as "interpretive shortcuts."27 Repetitive phrases are regularly invoked to describe all situations,
  631. and to prevent further analysis. Expressions such as "bourgeois mentality"
  632. or (on the far right) the "mud people" are bandied around as a signifier of
  633. something that is an ulti.mate evil, in contrast to the ultimate goodness of the
  634. group's beliefs. Lifton describes the overall effects thus: "For an individual
  635. person, the effect of the language of ideological total ism can be summed up
  636. in one word: constriction. He is ... linguistically deprived; and since language is so central to all human experience, his capacities for thinking and
  637. feeling are immensely narrowed. "28
  639. 14
  641. CHAPTER
  643. 1
  645. 7. Doctrine over person. Essentially, Lifton argues that historical myths
  646. are engendered by the group as a means of reinforcing its black and white
  647. morality. Then, "when the myth becomes fused with the totalist sacred science, the resulting 'logic' can be so compelling and coercive that it simply
  648. replaces the realities of individual experience . . . past historical events are
  649. retrospectively altered, wholly rewritten, or ignored, to make them consistent with the doctrinal logic...29
  650. In subsequent chapters, we outline many major myths advanced on the
  651. far left and right to achieve this objective. The most prevalent myth on the
  652. left concerns the Russian Revolution of 1917. On the right, a series of myths
  653. speak of race pollution in the past, idealize and idolize the Nazi experience
  654. in Germany during the 1930s, and often fantasize that whites in North America
  655. are the descendants of the lost tribe of Israel.
  656. 8. The dispensing of existence. Fundamentally, this proposes that only
  657. those who adhere to the group's ideology are fully human or fully good.
  658. Others are either conscious agents of evil forces or unconscious barriers to
  659. historical progress who most probably deserve annihilation. The notion is
  660. advanced that outside the ranks of the grouping the member may be corrupted by alien pressures, and can only attain true purity within the cult.
  661. Given that the desire for affiliation is one of the most deeply rooted fearures of human existence, 30 we have an innate desire to identify with powerful social groups. Developing an identity (on a familial, local, ethnic, and
  662. national scale) is an important quest for most people. Thus, if we can be
  663. convinced that the core ideas of a particular group represent a set of truths on
  664. which rests the fate of humanity, we also fmd that our sense of identity comes
  665. to depend for its vitality on continued group membership. The threat of expulsion, coupled with the implication of damnation, is a powerful tool for
  666. keeping members in line and "on message."
  667. Conclusion
  668. This chapter has explored the techniques used by groups on the left and right
  669. to maintain high levels of conformity, activism, and intolerance on the part
  670. of their members. None of this implies that movements for social change are
  671. inherently destined to become obscure cults, or that a sharp critique of modem society is inappropriate. The state of the world is a vitally important
  672. issue, and requires a political rather than a psychological analysis. Our planet
  673. is beset by real difficulties, crying out for solutions. However, it is important
  674. to assess whether those organizations that claim to have embarked on this
  675. task are motivated by the quest for genuine understanding. All too many are,
  676. instead, intent on building monolithic organizations that threaten individual
  680. 15
  682. freedoms and that would replace our present difficulties with ones much
  683. worse.
  684. Cults prey upon our aversion to uncertainty. In reality, they only illuminate the darkness with burnt-out candles. The disillusionment they cause
  685. becomes an enormous waste of democratic energy. As we argued in the Introduction, participation in political life is a precondition for the effective
  686. functioning of democracy. Political cults put all this at risk, and in doing so
  687. damage the whole political process.
  688. They also propose totalistic world visions, which suggest that politics
  689. embraces everything of importance on the earth and hence justifies their
  690. obsessional levels of activity. Paradoxically, it often appears that the more
  691. active people are in the service of"The Cause," the less worthwhile become
  692. their insights into society. In some cases, their pronouncements degenerate
  693. into drivel. Many intelligent, idealistic, and self-sacrificing people belong to
  694. political cults. Unfortunately, the damaged social environment they inhabit
  695. prevents them from making the powerful contribution to political debate that
  696. they intend.
  697. We argue here for a sense of proportion. As Crick expressed it: "Politics is
  698. not religion, ethics, law, science, history or economics; it neither solves everything, nor is it present everywhere; and it is not any one political doctrine,
  699. such as conservatism, liberalism, socialism, communism, or nationalism,
  700. though it can contain elements of most of these things. Politics is politics, to
  701. be valued as itself, not because it is 'like' or 'really is' something else more
  702. respectable or peculiar.,,31
  703. We have the utmost respect for the practice of politics. In recognizing,
  704. with Crick, the limitations ofpolitical activity we believe that people will be
  705. better placed to genuinely help develop solutions for the world's all too abundant supply of problems.
  707. Chapter 2
  709. Groupthink, Big Brother, and
  710. Love Bombing
  711. We dislike arguments of any kind; they are always
  712. vulgar. and often convincing.
  714. -Oscar Wilde
  716. Introduction
  717. Cults exercise an extraordinary influence over the lives of their followers.
  718. As we discussed in chapter 1, cult members often break from their families
  719. and lose contact with old friends. Cherished belief systems are scrapped.
  720. Many cult leaders espouse high-sounding ideals. For all that, their primary
  721. goal is obedience. A toxic internal atmosphere is created, in which dissent
  722. fights a losing battle against conformity. A cult's idea of teamwork is a thousand people doing what the leader says. Why do their followers tolerate such
  723. a lifestyle? Why, as they gasp for air themselves, do they continue to lure
  724. others into the stifling environment of cultism?
  725. It is generally assumed that members of political and other cults are different from ordinary people. Since what cults do is "crazy," their members
  726. must have been bonkers to join. This view is not supported by the research
  727. evidence. A summary ofseveral clinical studies1 concludes that no more than
  728. a third of cult members were psychologically disturbed before their cult experience. Other studies have found that cult members tend to score within a
  729. normal range on psychological tests and psychiatric interviews. It does appear
  730. that we are more vulnerable to cultic recruitment if we have just lost a job, been
  731. divorced, had a severe illness, or experienced other comparable traumas. For
  732. some young people about to enter college, the prospect of leaving home for the
  733. first time feels like a major personal earthquake. Cult recruiters, accordingly,
  734. have been known to target college freshmen for special attention. 2
  736. 16
  740. 17
  742. If the evidence indicates that cultists are mostly normal before their experience, it also suggests that the intense demands of cult activity create psychological disturbance after they have joined. Ex-cultists often require long
  743. periods of counseling before they rebuild a sense of normality. However,
  744. this does not mean that those who join cults do so because they have lost
  745. their grip on sanity. Psychological damage is a consequence rather than an
  746. antecedent of cult membership.
  747. We believe that political cults exercise their influence by manipulating a
  748. number of processes that are inherent to the nature and functioning of any
  749. group. In panicular, most of us have an innate tendency to conform to the
  750. emerging norms of the groups to which we belong, or to adopt those pressed
  751. on us by our peers. Most groups create balancing mechanisms, which hold
  752. such urges in check. Within cults, on the other hand, the breaks on conformity have been disabled. The group races toward disaster, urged on by the
  753. frantic demands of the cult leaders for more obedience, greater status for the
  754. leader, and higher levels of activity by the members.
  755. In this chapter, we look in detail at those features of group life most open
  756. to abuse by cult leaders. These include the issues of how we normally respond to dissent, our basic response to communication with people who have
  757. convinced us that they have a greater status than we do, the role of "love
  758. bombing" in promoting unhealthy affiliative behaviors, and our tendency to
  759. follow bizarre orders on the mere word of authority figures. Unchecked,
  760. such social dynamics lead to paranoid group norms. A cult, in essence, is
  761. paranoia liberated from its straitjacket. In exploring the dark side of life in
  762. groups, we hope that this chapter will assist readers to resist attempts by
  763. cultic groups to embroil them in the fantasy worlds of their leaders.
  764. Dissent, Cohesiveness, and "Grouptbink"
  765. Our membership in various groups helps us to determine who and what we
  766. are, and why. For example, we define ourselves by gender, ethnicity, age
  767. range, profession, familial status, and sexual orientation. We also define ourselves by clarifying what we are not. ("I am an atheist, not a Christian"--or
  768. vice versa.) Affiliation and disaffiliation are fundamental to the shaping of
  769. our self-image.3
  770. An intrinsic requirement of group membership is conformity, to one degree or another. Members must broadly agree with each other on such vital
  771. issues as what tasks they intend to perform, how decisions will be made,
  772. who will perform various leadership functions, and how much freedom group
  773. members will have to express dissident viewpoints. The resolution of these
  774. issues defines and delineates the norms of the group.
  776. 18
  778. CHAPTER
  780. 2
  782. However, and despite the drive toward conformity implicit in resolving
  783. these questions, the quality of decision making improves when groups encourage minority dissent. Dissent prevents powerful majorities from erring.
  784. It stimulates the detection of correct novel solutions, promotes the deployment of multiple strategies to problem solution, and improves recall of information. Dissent also encourages people to examine an issue from multiple
  785. perspectives: precisely what seems to be associated with improved performance and decision making. 4
  786. Nevertheless, groups have a tendency to be suspicious of disagreement
  787. and to punish dissenters, usually through the withdrawal of valued social
  788. rewards. Thus, groups often avoid genuine debate and compel members to
  789. conform at an early stage to the emerging norms and values of the group. It
  790. is difficult to play the role of minority advocate while in the company of
  791. strong-minded individuals, already committed to a particular outcome. Few
  792. of us relish fending off hecklers, while defending an unpopular position before a hostile audience. It is much more satisfying to align ourselves with the
  793. winning team-which usually has superior force on its side.
  794. An important issue here is the extreme conformity that often settles on
  795. groups, and that has been termed "groupthink." Janis has described this as "a
  796. mode of thinking that people engage in when they are deeply involved in a
  797. cohesive in-group, when the members' strivings for unanimity override their
  798. motivation to realistically appraise alternative courses ofaction."s Janis, who
  799. also popularized the term, investigated a series of defective political and
  800. business decisions. He concluded that many poor decisions were the result
  801. of a flawed decision-making process within the groups responsible.
  802. Other work has unearthed an interesting consequence ofsuch intense conformity in groups. Most of us imagine that we are "better" than other people
  803. at conforming to what we regard as valued group norms. Furthermore, we
  804. also believe, quite irrationally, that it is our conformity to group norms that
  805. helps us to stand out from the crowd.6 In reality, the better a soldier is at
  806. marching in formation, the harder it is to distinguish him fro1n his colleagues
  807. on the parade ground.
  808. A further contradiction is that we are often revolted by the conformist behavior of others. They are described as "crawling to the boss," "becoming two
  809. faced," or "are being all things to all men." However, our own conformity is
  810. interpreted as evidence of a heightened, and hence positive, awareness of group
  811. norms--what has been called the "superior conformity of the self' effect.
  812. What can be done to avert such dangers? In Box 2.1 , we list a number of
  813. suggestions, derived from the research literature, which members of all groups
  814. need to take on board. Groups who obstruct such practices, in our view, have
  815. traveled a long distance along the road to becoming a cult.
  819. 19
  821. Box 2. I
  822. Defeating "Groupthlnk"
  823. • The leader should adopt a more neutral role and avoid stating his or her views
  824. at an early stage of group discussion.
  825. • The entire group should encourage the expression of dissident viewpoints.
  826. • It helps if the group assigns the role of"critical evaluator" to at least one, and
  827. preferably all, of its members, when it is faced with important decisions.
  828. • After every big decision, ask these questions: What's wrong with this decision? How could it be improved? What alternatives have we overlooked?
  829. • Assign subgroups to develop proposals independently.
  830. • Periodically bring in outside people or experts to review your deliberations.
  831. • Cults are particularly loath to involve outsiders in their affairs. If your suggestions of outside involvement are met with disapproval , reconsider your membership in the group.
  832. • During important discussions, assign one member to play the role of devil's
  833. advocate.
  834. • After formulating a plan, hold a "second-chance" meeting. Invite everyone
  835. to express residual doubts. Express doubts yourself.
  836. • Always set tasks that involve everyone. Avoid having part of the group wait
  837. passively for orders from above.
  839. Decision Making by Groups--A Risk Too Far?
  840. Consider the following dilemma:
  841. "An electrical engineer may stick with his present job at a modest but
  842. adequate salary, or may take a new job offering considerably more money
  843. but no long-term security."7
  844. In the late 1960s, J. Stoner, a leading psychologist, persuaded people to
  845. answer this question on their own, and then discuss it in groups with a view
  846. to reaching a consensus. Surprisingly, he found that decisions reached by
  847. groups were nearly always riskier than the average of the individual members' pregroup discussion sessions. It also emerged that these results were
  848. "intemalized"-that is, the more extreme opinions advocated by the group
  849. were subsequently reproduced by subjects in individual discussions, who
  850. argued strongly that they were indeed the best decision which could be
  851. reached. This became known as the risky shift phenomenon, and at the time
  852. created considerable alarm. Many vital decisions are made by groups. If
  853. groups make riskier decisions than individuals it would have startling implications for much of human decision making.
  854. Further studies found the process much more complex than at first ap-
  856. 20
  858. CHAPTER
  860. 2
  862. peared. Groups do indeed produce different decisions to those which people
  863. tend to reach on their own, but these are not always riskier than what individuals decide when by themselves. ln fact, in the experiments concerned,
  864. they were often much more conservative. More detailed investigation found
  865. that riskier outcomes were only obtained when the average score of the decisions people were inclined to reach when on their own was moving that way
  866. anyway. In short, groups do not produce riskier decisions than individuals,
  867. but they do seem to produce more extreme versions of the original view
  868. which the individuals were beginning to develop prior to a group discussion.
  869. It seems that, overall, we have an innate tendency to overconform to what
  870. we think the emerging norms, values, or decisions of the group are, as a way
  871. of gaining influence within it. Remember: dissenters are penalized, often
  872. with a loss of influence or a reduction in their perceived levels of credibility.
  873. Early dissent from group norms, when the person concerned has yet to build
  874. a strong track record of success and hence has limited status, creates the
  875. impression of an unreliable maverick. Accordingly, we normally attempt to
  876. discover the dominant norms of the group, and align ourselves with them as
  877. quickly as possible. Everyone else does likewise, pushing the group's decisions in an ever more extreme direction. Mob justice is always harsher than
  878. the sentences imposed by a solitary judge.
  879. Our rush to affiliate leads us to prematurely identify many points of agreement with the views of others. We then adjust our opinions in order to fashion a rapid consensus. It appears that, when we think like this, we often
  880. present the group with what has been termed an "empty self,''8 and invite it
  881. to create a personality profile for us. High-activity groups, in particular, offer us regular surges of adrenaline, vistas of unimaginable social change,
  882. and an imperative demand for total personal transformation. They also ensure that we have little time left over from cult activity for reflection. Faced
  883. with mood swings almost calculated to induce manic depression, recruits
  884. grow increasingly reliant on the flawed feedback systems of the group to
  885. maintain a sense of balance. Eventually, they are pushed and pulled into a
  886. pattern of complete subservience. Their personal identity is stripped of all its
  887. individuating markers. Their first response to the unreasonable is no longer
  888. "Why?" but "Why not?"
  889. When Some Are More Equal Than Others •••
  890. Research clearly shows that the quality of decisions made by groups is also
  891. deeply influenced by the status of the various people involved. Who says
  892. something is frequently more influential than what they have to say. This
  893. process is well illustrated by the work of E. Torrance, a prominent social
  897. 2/
  899. psychologist in the 1950s. He assembled three-person navy bomber crews
  900. consisting of a pilot, a navigator, and a gunner. He then presented them with
  901. the following problem:
  902. "A man bought a horse for $60 and sold it for $70. Then he bought the
  903. same horse back for $80 and again sold it for $90. How much money did he
  904. make in the horse business?''9
  905. The correct answer is $20. If you are curious, you can verify this for
  906. yourself. Simply add up how much was spent, how much was received, and
  907. subtract one from the other. This procedure shows that the difference is $20.
  908. However, Torrance found that whether the group would accept this solution
  909. depended on who offered it. When the person of highest status, the pilot, put
  910. forward the correct answer the group was most likely to accept it, but less so
  911. when the navigator advocated it and least of all when the solution was offered by the gunner.
  912. Cultic groups intensify status differentials within their ranks. They encourage us to put blind faith in the opinions of people occupying leadership
  913. roles. The ideas of the leaders are embalmed and displayed for veneration in
  914. musty mausoleums. This prevents the group from developing sensible solutions to whatever problems it is facing.
  915. It may not be possible to entirely escape the emergence of varied status
  916. levels within groups. This is because we all collude in the creation of status
  917. differentials, since they satisfy our need for predictability and order.10 When
  918. we identify the degree of status enjoyed by our coaffiliates, we feel better
  919. able to predict the kind of behavior they are likely to engage in. This stabilizes the group, and enables it to agree on who does what, when, and where.
  920. It also satisfies the attribution urges shared by all of us, which we discuss
  921. further in chapter 3. The ability to attribute different levels of status to group
  922. members, even if such attributions are mistaken, answers our need to reduce
  923. uncertainty.
  924. However, if we cannot eliminate status differentials, then we can at least
  925. reduce them, by diminishing the overt emblems of difference and privilege
  926. which pervade group life. We would suggest that groups should:
  927. • Equalize rewards for all members. Cults allow a few leaders to enjoy
  928. sexual, financial, and lifestyle privileges that are explicitly denied to
  929. others. They then attempt to control the private lives of their members,
  930. as a means of achieving complete domination. Healthy groups will ensure that there is no one set of rules for the leaders, and another for the
  931. rank and file.
  932. •Promote an atmosphere of informality. For example, it helps if group
  933. members are on first-name terms with each other. Healthy groups seek
  935. 22
  937. CHAPTER
  939. 2
  941. to eliminate special titles, while unhealthy groups go out of their way to
  942. create them. In political cults, terms such as "General Secretary," "Imperial Wizard" and "Grand Dragon" proliferate. Like the designation
  943. "Big Brother," they are used to create a false aura of expertise, status,
  944. and infallibility around a select few leaders.
  945. • Respect the ideas ofall members, rather than just those at the top. Cults
  946. usually insist that everyone's ideas are ruthlessly criticized-except those
  947. of the leader. A healthy group life promotes a critical attitude towards
  948. everyone's ideas.
  949. Thus, people whom we perceive to be similar to us exercise a much greater
  950. influence over our thinking than do those we consider to be different. Most
  951. of us, in any event, exaggerate our similarity to significant others; think that
  952. our opinions are more correct than they are; and imagine that our views are
  953. more widely endorsed than most other people's. 11 For example, many members of the British public, in the aftermath of Princess Diana's death in 1997,
  954. appeared on television to announce that "she was just like me." Politicians
  955. frequently claim to be speaking on behalf of the entire nation, although they
  956. have no conceivable means of knowing whether they do or not.
  957. If we engage in public statements in favor of a course of action (and all
  958. cults encourage this on the part of their members), the false view that what
  959. we are commending is widely supported is reinforced all the more. This
  960. effect was neatly demonstrated by one important experimental study, 12 which
  961. required students to walk around a campus for thirty minutes wearing a board
  962. that said simply "Repent." Those who agreed to do this estimated that 63.5
  963. percent of their colleagues would indeed be more likely to repent. Those
  964. who refused expected only something in the region of24 percent to feel this
  965. way. The more visible one's group membership is, to oneself and others, the
  966. more likely it is that such delusions will develop. It is not surprising that
  967. political cults of all hues habirually imagine themselves to be on the verge of
  968. significant social influence, and even the seizure of state power.
  969. Obedience to Author ity: How Far Would You Go?
  971. In an earlier age, it was openly argued that people should never challenge the
  972. decisions of their leaders-under any circumstances. One leader used to such
  973. unquestioning obedience was General Douglas Haig. In July 1916 he ordered eleven divisions of English troops to advance on German lines; 110,000
  974. men attacked. Of these, 20,000 were killed and 40,000 wounded. Two years
  975. later, when a major battle at the Somme left an unimaginable 300,000 British
  976. soldiers dead or wounded, London newspapers printed the following:
  980. 23
  982. How the Civilian May Help in this Crisis.
  983. Be cheerful ...
  984. Write encouragingly to friends at the front ...
  985. Don't think you know better than Haig. 13
  986. Most of us would assume that such attitudes have by now fundamentally
  987. changed. In some respects, they have. The edicts of political and military leaders are scrutinized more critically than ever before. Thanks to
  988. coverage by the media, the consequences of orders to advance are more
  989. obvious to people than was the case in the early days of the twentieth
  990. century.
  991. Nevertheless, it remains the case that human behavior is driven by an
  992. impulse to conform to authority. This impulse means that ordinary people
  993. can be compelled, if they believe that they are in the presence of someone
  994. with high status, to pursue actions contrary to their deepest value systems
  995. and their own best interests. Cults manipulate this process, by (a) depicting
  996. their leaders as powerful authority figures; (b) emphasizing the differences
  997. in status between such "powerful" leaders and their followers; (c) encouraging their members to engage in activities that further separate them from
  998. normal society and so intensify their sense of loyalty to the cult.
  999. It might be assumed that cult leaders achieve these objectives because
  1000. they possess extraordinary depths of charisma, or employ the services of a
  1001. paramilitary apparatus that administers painful sanctions to dissidents. Common sense suggests that few of us would willingly engage in blatantly antisocial behaviors, simply because we are asked to do so. However, research
  1002. into such issues suggests that, in this as in many other respects, common
  1003. sense would be wrong. Many cults today secure unquestioning obedience
  1004. from their followers simply by asserting that their leaders deserve an exalted
  1005. status within the group's ranks. How can this be?
  1006. A famous series of studies, known as the Milgram experiments, have helped
  1007. to illuminate this issue. These were conducted by social psychologist Stanley
  1008. Milgram, initially in the late J950s. 14 He placed advertisements in the press
  1009. and wrote directly to a number of people. In this way he managed to recruit
  1010. forty subjects, between twenty and fifty years of age. The subjects were
  1011. informed that they were participants in a study of memory and learning at
  1012. Yale University. In fact, unknown to them, the real object of the exercise was
  1013. to measure levels of obedience to authority.
  1014. Milgrarn's recruits were brought to his laboratory one at a time, and introduced to another "participant" who was, in reality, a confederate of the experimenter. They were told that one of them would be required to be a "learner"
  1015. and the other "a teacher." Slips of paper were picked from a hat to allocate
  1016. these roles. In reality, each paper bore the word "teacher." This ensured that
  1018. 24
  1020. CHAPTER
  1022. 2
  1024. the genuine subject was always allocated this role. After listening to some
  1025. general information about human memory, subjects were told:
  1026. But actually, we know very Ii/lie about the effects of punishment on learning,
  1027. because almost no truly scientific studies have been made of it in human beings. For instance, we don't know how much difference it makes as to who is
  1028. giving the punishment, whether an adult learns best from a younger person or
  1029. an older person than himself-<>r many things of that sort. So in this study we
  1030. are bringing together a num.ber of adults of different occupations and ages. And
  1031. we're asking some of them to be teachers and some of them to be learners. We
  1032. want to find out just what effect different people have on each other as teachers
  1033. and learners and also what effect punishment will have on learning in this situation: Therefore, I'm going to ask one of you to be the teacher here tonight and
  1034. one to be the learner.
  1036. The so-called learner was then taken into adjacent room and strapped to
  1037. an electric chair-type apparatus. The straps were excused as a measure to
  1038. prevent excessive movement while the learner was receiving electric shocks.
  1039. Electrodes were attached to the learner's wrist, and paste was applied (so the
  1040. "teacher" was told) to stop blisters and burns. The experimenter explained
  1041. that he intended asking the learner a series of questions. The subject was
  1042. instructed to administer electric shocks to the learner each time he or she
  1043. responded with a wrong answer, and furthermore to move one level higher
  1044. on a "shock generator," each time that wrong answers were forthcoming.
  1045. The subject was also told to announce the voltage level before administering
  1046. the shocks. Thus, there could be no doubt in the subject's mind about the
  1047. seriousness of what she or be had embarked upon. The "electric shocks"
  1048. were, of course, bogus: but this was concealed from the person in the role of
  1049. teacher. What followed was remarkable.
  1050. MiJgram had primed his learner to emit a series ofstock responses to each
  1051. electric shock. There was no sign of protest or noise from the learner until
  1052. shock level 300 was reached, but at this point the learner, who was in the
  1053. next room, poundeq on the laboratory wall. This was followed by a silence,
  1054. during which it could be presumed that the learner was unconscious or worse.
  1055. If the teacher showed any reluctance to continue the experiment, a series of
  1056. verbal "prods" was offered. These included "The experiment requires that
  1057. you continue" and " It is absolutely essential that you continue." The prods
  1058. were offered in a calm voice by the experimenter, who wore a white coat as
  1059. a symbol of authority throughout.
  1060. As the experiment progressed, many of the genuine subjects showed signs
  1061. of great nervousness, including sweating, trembling, hysterical laughter, and
  1062. tears. However, none of them stopped short of administering electric shocks
  1063. at the 300 level. Five out of forty refused to go beyond the 300 level-that is,
  1067. 25
  1069. beyond the point at which hammering on the wall could be heard. Four more
  1070. gave one further shock, two stopped at the 330 level, and one each at levels
  1071. 345, 360, and 376. Thus, a total of fourteen subjects (35 percent) chose to
  1072. defy the experimenter. This means that fully 65 percent of them carried on
  1073. with the experiment to the end, despite showing signs of great discomfort.
  1074. Milgram repeated his experiment many times, varying the basic procedure to intensify the teacher's awareness of what they were supposedly doing. For example, the learners escalated their levels of protest in subsequent
  1075. experiments. They made regular requests to "Get me out of here." After 270
  1076. volts had been reached, shouting and screaming commenced. At 330 volts
  1077. there would be an agonized scream, followed by the learner shouting:
  1078. "Let me out of here! Let me out of here! My heart's bothering me. Let me
  1079. out, I tell you! (Hysterically) Let me out of here! Let me out of here! You
  1080. have no right to hold me here. Let me out! Let me out! Let me out! Let me
  1081. out of here! Let me out! Let me out!"
  1082. These variations made no difference to Milgrarn 's basic results: roughly
  1083. 65 percent of his subjects continued to follow his instructions, until they
  1084. thought they had administered the maximum voltage of shocks to the learner.
  1085. When the experiment has been repeated in other countries and at different
  1086. times since, similar results have been obtained.
  1087. What could have induced normal people to behave in what they must
  1088. have realized was an extraordinarily antisocial manner? Follow-up interviews showed that the subjects had no doubt they were participating in a real
  1089. study of memory and learning. Furthermore, they genuinely believed that
  1090. they had been administering near-lethal electric shocks, for no reason other
  1091. than that the learner had offered wrong answers. Presumably, this sort of
  1092. conduct is far from normal practice in civilized societies.
  1093. The initial point of interest in Milgrarn's work arose from the light it shed
  1094. on the practices of Nazi concentration camp guards. These were wont to cite
  1095. the "Nuremberg defense" as an excuse for behavior-"! was only following
  1096. orders." Milgrarn's work suggested that most of us will inflict harm on others, if placed in a position where someone in authority requests or orders us
  1097. to do so. We may well experience considerable distress. However, we evidently conclude that this is less painful than the discomfort we would feel if
  1098. we rebelled against those we perceive as powerful authority figures.
  1099. The most important aspect of Milgrarn 's work, in this context, is the fact
  1100. that the presence of mere authority persuaded people to behave in a very
  1101. antisocial manner and, presumably, contrary to the norms that would ordinarily be suggested by their beliefsystems. Authority was nothing more substantial than a white coat, but it was enough. Also, look again at the
  1102. explanations people received for the experimenter's instructions. These of-
  1104. 26
  1106. CHAPTER
  1108. 2
  1110. fered them a benign cover for their actions, thereby enabling them to further
  1111. rationalize their behavior. This suggests that we can be persuaded into all
  1112. sorts of bizarre activities, if we believe that they are in some way for the
  1113. common good, and if we are urged to do so by people we regard as credible
  1114. authority figures.
  1115. Members of political cults rarely administer electric shocks to members
  1116. of the public--or, so far as we know, to their own members. However, they
  1117. do enter into many activities that violate the values of normal political life-for example, rigging electoral ballots, concealing party affiliations when it
  1118. suits the cult's overall interests, infiltrating larger organizations to poach their
  1119. members (while denying that they constitute a separate organization), and
  1120. defrauding various countries' welfare systems (to pay the salaries of their
  1121. full-time apparatus). They also create a punishing internal atmosphere, which
  1122. destroys the quality of life for their own members. In spite of this, the members generally view themselves as morally upright people who are privileged to belong to the cult and on whose actions the future of humanity
  1123. depends.
  1124. In understanding why this should be so, Milgram's experiment suggests
  1125. that the presence of a powerful authority figure is a vital factor in driving
  1126. human behavior in unfamiliar and self-destructive directions. It encourages
  1127. us to believe that someone else has taken responsibility for our actions, thereby
  1128. absolving us of responsibility for what follows. Psychologists refer to this as
  1129. a state of diffused responsibility. Since many people are responsible for what
  1130. we do, and we therefore feel that relatively little blame will ever be attached
  1131. to us, it is easy to shrug aside the constraints of conscience. ("I was only
  1132. following orders.")
  1133. When people imagine themselves to be associated with an infallible leader,
  1134. they are even more willing to suspend their sense of disbelief. Of course, the
  1135. more outlandish the beliefsystem of the group concerned, the more critical it
  1136. is that the members be persuaded of the leader's unique genius. Instead of
  1137. placing faith in their own perceptions, which might suggest that the towering
  1138. edifice of belief rests on shaky foundations, they are encouraged to place it
  1139. in the wisdom of the leader. The result is large numbers of people bivouacked
  1140. on the foothills of insanity and prepared for a fresh march to disaster.
  1141. Intergroup Conflict: In-Groups Versus Out-Groups
  1142. On June 15, 1990, the Detroit Pistons won the National Basketball Association title for the second time in a row. Fans invaded downtown Detroit to
  1143. party and celebrate. By the end of the evening, seven people had been killed,
  1144. twenty others had gunshot wounds, many hundreds more had been hurt in
  1148. 27
  1150. stabbings and fights, and the city streets were littered with debris from widespread looting.' 5 It appears that, when people perceive themselves as belonging to one group and everyone else as being radically different, the
  1151. potential for aggression and violence is ever present.
  1152. Alarming as this prospect is, the research evidence also suggests that people
  1153. can be divided into warring groups with relative ease (the minimal group
  1154. paradigm). The simple means by which this is accomplished are routinely
  1155. employed in political cults to heighten group affiliation and suggestibility,
  1156. and to arouse a sense of embattled opposition to mainstream groupings within
  1157. society.
  1158. Some of the most powerful evidence to support this contention comes
  1159. from the work ofM. Sherif16 and his colleagues, who conducted an influential series ofstudies into patterns of friendship formation among young boys
  1160. in summer camps. The boys were split into two groups. Care was taken to
  1161. ensure that preexisting friends found themselves in different groups. These
  1162. were then given separate activities and had minimal contact with each other
  1163. for a few days. Furthermore, a number of competitions were organized between the groups (for example, tug-of-war contests). This led to intense hostility. Members of different groups showered each other-with insults, and a
  1164. number of physical attacks occurred. Friendships formed with members of
  1165. the new group rapidly took precedence over the old.
  1166. This study offers a number of important lessons for the understanding of
  1167. group influence within cults. First, it suggests that it is much easier than
  1168. most people think to create new group affiliations, and to ensure that these
  1169. replace longstanding loyalties and friendships. Second, group membership
  1170. promotes powerful feelings of friendship among participants. Third, new ingroup loyalties are often so pronounced, even in the seminormal conditions
  1171. of Sherif's summer camps, that they encourage the stigmatizing of everyone
  1172. except the favored few who belong to the group. It seems that strong feelings
  1173. of group loyalty and the passions of prejudice march hand in hand.
  1174. As one writer has expressed it: "Gradually we start classifying people:
  1175. there are those in our group, those outside our group and those who could be
  1176. in our group... . Before you know it, we're feeling superior and exclusiv~
  1177. better than the unenlightened masses. If only everyone knew what we knew. " 17
  1178. Cultic influence depends on manipulating these processes. In particular, cults:
  1179. •Ensure that their members spend a great deal oftime with fellow members. For example, both the left- and the right-wing cults reviewed in
  1180. this book put a huge emphasis on internal meetings, from which nonmembers are excluded. They organize regular "mass" rallies, to create
  1181. the impression of an enthusiastic following and shore up the belief sys-
  1183. 28
  1185. CHAPTER
  1187. 2
  1189. terns of their members. An inordinate amount of time is devoted to group
  1190. rituals. Activity within the group is portrayed as a vital investment in
  1191. the future salvation of humanity.
  1192. • Stress all points of difference between members and nonmembers. On
  1193. the right, the wearing of Nazi regalia and the flaunting ofNazi salutes,
  1194. or the white uniform of the Ku Klux Klan, perform this distancing role.
  1195. On the left, members are encouraged to believe that Marxism is a complex "science," expressed in the philosophy of dialectical materialism.
  1196. This is supposed to confer a unique theoretical superiority on adherents
  1197. of the party line, and to distinguish them from all other trends of thought.
  1198. • Encourage cult niembers to view themselves as being engaged in a total
  1199. \Var against the influence of all other political groups. Only the party
  1201. line has the virtue of purity. All other political positions are sullied by
  1202. their association with the "United Nations conspiracy," or the poisonous tentacles of the bourgeoisie. Political cults see the destruction of
  1203. competing intellectual currents as central to their mission, and as a vital
  1204. precondition for the survival of humanity.
  1205. Through these means, political cults spend a great deal of time whipping
  1206. up intense emotions on the pan of their members. Aggression is never far
  1207. below the surface. On the right, Jews, blacks, and gays are pilloried as subhuman. On the left, members are encouraged to feel "class hatred," and to
  1208. rejoice in the perspective of violent revolution. A small revolutionary group
  1209. in Britain once ran a regular feature in their newspaper, entitled "Class Traitor of the Month." When the U.S. politician Hubert Humphrey died, a radical sect in America headlined the news: "Humphrey-Dead at Last." The
  1210. demonstration and counterdemonstration are the favored public arena of the
  1211. extreme left and the extreme right. Such events create an ideal amphitheater
  1212. for the dramatization of powerful feelings.
  1213. An alternative approach to political activity, aimed at stimulating rationality and a mood of calm reflection, is also suggested by the work of Sherif.
  1214. It will be recalled that his work involved dividing young people into spurious groups, which proceeded to develop powerful in-group identities and
  1215. out-group prejudices. The task was then one of reducing the tensions that
  1216. had been so anificially created. The solution Sherif and his coworkers hit
  1217. upon, after a number of failures, was the promotion of positive interdependence. For example, they arranged for a truck to break down miles from
  1218. camp. This could not be started by one group on its own, but it could be if
  1219. two groups cooperated. After a series of such engineered incidents, aggression and prejudice were reduced, while old intergroup friendships were reestablished. This suggests that positive interdependence should be regarde~ as
  1223. 29
  1225. a defining trait of healthy political and group activity. Such interdependence
  1226. can be promoted if group members ask themselves the following questions:
  1227. • Does the group encourage open communication between its members
  1228. and people who belong to other groups?
  1229. • Is such contact rewarded, or is it stigmatized as endangering the purity
  1230. of the group?
  1231. • Is there a willingness to discuss and accept ideas that originate outside
  1232. the group's own ranks?
  1233. • Alternatively, are such ideas viewed with suspicion, precisely because
  1234. their point of origin is suspect?
  1235. •Is most of the group's time spent building alliances with others, or is the
  1236. recruitment of new members its primary (or, indeed, only) preoccupation?
  1237. The Love Bomb-Or the Power of Ingr atiation
  1239. One of the most commonly cited cult recruitment techniques is generally
  1240. known as "Jove bombing." 18 Prospective recruits are showered with attention, which expands to affection and then grows into a plausible simulation
  1241. of love. Leaders go out of their way to praise the individual's contributions
  1242. in group meetings. Points of similarity with the group (such as dress codes,
  1243. positive statements about aspects of the sacred belief system, a concern for
  1244. the welfare of the underprivileged, attendance at meetings, or participation
  1245. in demonstrations) are celebrated and encouraged. Dissimilarities and disagreements are ignored. The targets frequently become convinced that they
  1246. have found truer friends than they have ever known before, and a set of
  1247. people who bear an uncanny likeness to the person's own ideal self-image.
  1248. These are, of course, illusions; but by the time prospective members realize
  1249. this, they may be too deeply submerged in the cult's activities to remember
  1250. where their own minds begin and where the group mind ends.
  1251. A more technical term for the practice of Jove bombing is ingratiation. 19
  1252. As one of the pioneer researchers in this area summarized it: "There is little
  1253. secret or surprise in the contention that we Iike people who agree with us,
  1254. who say nice things about us, who seem to possess such positive attributes as
  1255. warmth, understanding, and compassion, and who would 'go out of their
  1256. way' to do things for us."20
  1257. Thus, we generally cling to those who encourage the further expression
  1258. of our opinions, display approving nonverbals such as smiles and eye contact, express agreement \Vith our beliefs, and shower us with flattery or compliments. Meanwhile, the law of attraction21 holds that the more similar
  1260. 30
  1262. CHAPTER
  1264. 2
  1266. attitudes people have in common, the more they will like each other. As discussed above, cults encourage the notion that all members are more alike than
  1267. they really are, and are more dissimilar from nonmembers than is actually the
  1268. case. When this is combined with ingratiation, the consequences are that:
  1269. • The persons ingratiating themselves become perceived as familiar and
  1270. similar to us. They become liked "insiders" rather than stereotyped "outsiders." Joining with them to form a group seems a natural and riskfree
  1271. next step.
  1272. •Ingratiation activates the "norm of reciprocity." When someone behaves
  1273. in a positive fashion toward us we are inherently motivated to reciprocate their behaviors. In cults, when people share with us their most deeply
  1274. held attitudes, we feel a pull to reciprocate such disclosures, and to
  1275. exaggerate the extent of our agreement with the ideas being expressed.
  1276. • Ingratiation works its black magic in both directions, to the advantage
  1277. of the cult. Relationships are often characterized by an imbalance of
  1278. poiver. This is especially, true of cults. Normally, people of lesser status
  1279. attach more importance to being liked than does the person of high
  1280. status. This encourages them to agree with the high-status person's opinions, to ape his or her mannerisms, and to adapt to the belief systems
  1281. such a person espouses. Those solicited by the cult fmd themselves
  1282. inherently motivated to offer cult leaders the most positive feedback
  1283. possible agreement with their opinions and compliance with their demands. Meanwhile, potential recruits are showered with attention from
  1284. precisely these figures. The two-way ingratiation process described here
  1285. helps to explain both the conformity effects found within cults and our
  1286. subservience to its authority figures, even when their sanctified image
  1287. is only the most feeble phantom of the group's imagination. 22
  1288. Politics and the Paranoid Personality
  1289. Conformity marches hand in hand with membership in any group. Disagreement threatens to shatter the illusions of unanimity, separateness, infallibility, and uniqueness, which are all vital if the members are to sustain a mood
  1290. of total conviction. Dissent cannot be tolerated. Cults therefore relish conformity, and inflate it to absurd dimensions. The weed of obedience is watered thrice daily, and bathed in perpetual sunshine. Inevitably, those who
  1291. cannot conform fall by the wayside, and either abandon activity or form
  1292. their own groups. Political cults tend to become movements of fewer and
  1293. fewer people, agreeing with each other about more and more issues.
  1294. In tum, the leader's sense of self-esteem grows ever more reliant on the
  1298. 31
  1300. acclaim of docile followers. But enough is never enough. In a familiar pattern of addiction, one sycophant must become two, then three, and then several world populations more. The leader becomes increasingly critical of the
  1301. membership's inability to offer sufficient adulation, and demands larger audiences to whom they can dispense their sensational brand of wisdom. The
  1302. failure to acquire real influence gnaws at the leader's entrails, calling forth
  1303. bilious tirades against the inadequate efforts of the membership.
  1304. The possibility of such influence threatens to end the leader's total domination of the group. The more supporters he or she has, the harder it is to
  1305. maintain control. Binges of recruitment alternate with bloody purges, in an
  1306. exhausting spiral of effort that sees the group ascend to fresh peaks of demoralization. The perception that leaders and followers have of each other is
  1307. distorted by the fatally flawed feedback systems that serve as the crux of
  1308. their relationship. Locked in a disorienting cycle of over-the-top praise and
  1309. devastating criticism, they are trapped in a symbiotic embrace that binds
  1310. both sides to the debased belief systems and destructive rituals of the group.
  1311. Both the development of a healthy personality and constructive political
  1312. activity are thwarted. In their place, the group dynamics of conformity, ingratiation, and unwonted obedience cultivate a hermetically sealed environment in which the social ecosystem is dominated by paranoia. The bizarre
  1313. becomes commonplace, conspiracy theories run amuck, and today's friends
  1314. could be tomorrow's bitter enemies, today's enemies tomorrow's vital allies.
  1315. The cult, which often begins with noble ideals and high hopes, turns into a
  1316. closed system of institutionalized paranoia.
  1317. Paranoia is characterized by guardedness, suspiciousness, hypersensitivity, grandiosity, centrality and isolation, fear of loss of autonomy, projection,
  1318. and delusional thinking. 23 These lead the paranoid to incubate a powerful
  1319. sense of uniqueness. Thus, the many left-wing cults that now exist each insist that they alone (hallelujah, comrades!) understand the dynamics of capitalism and are the anointed nucleus of a future mass revolutionary party.
  1320. Furthermore,
  1321. [t]he paranoid style is readily recognizable. Its users believe that a vast and
  1322. subtle conspiracy exists to destroy their entire way of life. What is notable
  1323. about the paranoid's view of history is not that he believes conspiracies exist
  1324. and are important-efter all, they do exist and may be important-but that he
  1325. sees conspiracy as the motivating force in history and the essential organizing
  1326. principle in all politics. Characteristically, the conspiracy is described as already powerful and growing rapidly. is short. Absolute and irreversible
  1327. victory of the conspiratorial group is near. The few people who recognize the
  1328. danger must expose and fight the conspirators. The conflict cannot be compromised or mediated. It is a fight to the death. The conspirators are absolutely
  1329. evil, and so, as the opponents of this evil power, members of the paranoid
  1331. 32
  1333. CHAPTER
  1335. 2
  1337. groups see themselves as the force for good. Indeed, they acquire in their own
  1338. eyes the role of the defenders of all that is good. The struggle is cast in
  1339. Manichaean terms as between good and evit.24
  1341. The central appeal of this approach, taken to an even more ludicrous conclusion in cults, is that it offers a surefire route to the reduction of uncertainty. Those who feel deeply discontented are reassured that the problem
  1342. lies, in every respect, with the external world rather than themselves. They
  1343. can therefore project their personal inadequacies onto others, while deriving
  1344. comfort from the reassuring network of fixed beliefs that characterizes their
  1345. inner world.
  1346. The cult maintains a necessary state of anxiety by echoing the message
  1347. that the person's worst fears are an accurate depiction of the immediate future. The complete meltdown of the capitalist economy, plunging billions
  1348. into poverty and on the road to revolution; invasion by an overwhelming
  1349. mass of differently colored foreigners; the return of Lenin's Bolsheviks, under new leadership; the taking over of the United States by a United Nationrled conspiracy-these are all imminent prospects, in the folklore of
  1350. one group or another. Happily, redemption is also on offer. Recruits are promised a glorious future, in which their personal pain will be eased by the victory of the group's triumphalist ideology. Holy certainty is offered. In return,
  1351. true believers must agree only to deep-freeze their faculty for critical thinking.
  1353. Conclusion: The Engineering of Consent
  1354. Consent to any set of ideas, freely given, implies that people retain the right
  1355. to ask questions, examine alternative sources of information, and review
  1356. their initial commitment to the organization concerned. When group processes concerned with c-0nformity, status, obedience to authority, and ingratiation are manipulated, we are witnessing an attempt to engineer consent.
  1357. The hidden hand of cqmpulsion lurks in the background, threatening people's
  1358. right to withdraw their initial agreement and leave. Consent is extracted
  1359. through pressure, the right to question leaders is withheld, alternative sources
  1360. of information are ridiculed, and people are systematically pressurized into
  1361. escalating their level of involvement with the group.
  1362. This outcome has been termed "mind control," and involves manipulating people's thoughts, feelings, and behavior to the greater gain of the manipulator, at the expense of the person being influenced. 25 Clearly, most human
  1363. interaction consists of attempts to influence the cognition and behavior of
  1364. others, while interaction within a positive reference group is inherently inclined to encourage the development of shared norms and behaviors.26
  1368. 33
  1370. However, cults are characterized by attempts to close down choice, restrict
  1371. information flow, discourage the expression of dissent, focus group norms
  1372. along narrowly prescribed lines, exaggerate participants' sense of commitment by extracting public statements of loyalty (often after participation in
  1373. humiliating rituals), and dominate the normal thinking process of affected
  1374. individuals.
  1375. As we have argued in this chapter, the purpose of the exercise is to submerge recruits in a new belief system and prepare them for public activities
  1376. that may well conflict with value systems they held before cult membership.
  1377. Our susceptibility to the trappings of authority leaves all of us more vulnerable to the lure of various cults than we would like to think.
  1378. The underlying ideology of political cults is an active partner in this dynamic process. Political cults advocate programs of total social transformation. Partial gains and limited influence are interpreted as a defeat. The
  1379. concepts of compromise, democracy, and debate are all viewed with contempt. Political cults see themselves as "movements," rather than simply as
  1380. a normal political party. The effects ofsuch a view have been summarized as
  1381. follows:
  1382. Membership in a movement requires the ability to see particular campaigns for
  1383. particular goals as parts of something much bigger, and as having little meaning in themselves ... (particular campaigns) are needed to provide a larger
  1384. context within which politics is no longerjust politics, but rather the matrix out
  1385. of which something will emerge like Paul's "new being in Christ" or Mao's
  1386. "new socialist man . . .."This kind ofpolitics assumes thatthings will be changed
  1387. utterly, that a terrible new beauty will be bom.27
  1389. Movements have sacred principles that cannot be compromised, they generate intense loyalties, they are officered by high priests proffering the divine interpretation of sacred texts, and they are possessed by a passionate
  1390. conviction that anything is justified if it furthers the "cause." The infinite
  1391. scope of the movement's ideology overwhelms the finite context of the outside world: an air of complete unreality infects all the group's pronouncements. The ends justify the means. Thus, once an organization becomes
  1392. imbued with a conviction that it rests on inviolable principles, and is therefore a "movement," it is only a short step away from blind fanaticism, and
  1393. the status of a cult.
  1394. It is possible to resist such malign group influence. In addition to the
  1395. suggestions we have offered at various points of this chapter, Zimbardo and
  1396. Anderson28 have provided a twenty-point checklist of "ways to resist unwanted social influence," which we believe is of great use. Their suggestions include a willingness to step back and reject a conceptual framework
  1398. 34
  1400. CHAPTER
  1402. 2
  1404. before debating specifics; skepticism regarding the instantaneous love of
  1405. others and an acceptance of the hurt involved in rejecting such love; and,
  1406. above all, a willingness to question authority. It is useful to remember that
  1407. beliefplus commitn1ent minus doubt equals fanaticism. On the other hand,
  1408. healthy organizations are characterized more by debate and disagreement
  1409. than by the absence of conflict.
  1410. No one in the modem world can avoid becoming a member of many groups,
  1411. teams, organizations, and even "movements." Most of these will be completely benign. They will make invaluable contributions to the welfare of
  1412. society and will benefit their own members. Such groups are characterized
  1413. by vigorous debate and a nonphobic attitude toward dissent. Their leaders
  1414. are restrained by democratic accountability. Their ideas are open to revision
  1415. in the light of the group's experiences in the real world. Such experiences
  1416. take precedence over theory, faith, or prediction. It is our hope that this chapter will help readers identify danger signs in those groups to which they
  1417. belong. In the struggle to contain the dark side of group dynamics, our greatest weapon is awareness.
  1419. 204
  1423. only in a far less intense fashion, through sleep deprivation and, sometimes,
  1424. collective events like rallies, congresses, and demonstrations.
  1425. Special mention needs to be made of radical therapy cults in this context.
  1426. The therapist achieves enormous influence over the patient in the course of
  1427. therapy. As we explore in chapter 7, a transference often occurs during this
  1428. process, wherein the patient becomes deeply dependent on the therapist. It is
  1429. particularly reprehensible when a cult leader takes advantage of this psychological power to control the patient and transform him or her into a political
  1430. follower.
  1431. In Fred Newman's case this process permitted him to assemble a cadre of
  1432. political automatons capable of supporting a right-wing extremist, like Pat
  1433. Buchanan, while believing they are advancing a leftist agenda. Chuck
  1434. Dederich manipulated former drug addicts through group therapy, transforming them into his dependents, rather than curing them of their drug dependency and preparing them for the real world. He then added a goodly dose of
  1435. idealistic middle-class people and created a utopian commune ruled by his
  1436. whims. Harvey Jackins, utilizing his own brand of group therapy, built a
  1437. small international empire ruled in Leninist fashion.
  1438. In a religious cult the object of worship shifts from God to God's messenger. the guru or preacher. A similar process has been noted in political cults.
  1439. A single individual dominates each of the groups studied in this book. Members are encouraged to take a worshipful attitude toward this leader. While
  1440. the ostensible reason for the existence of a political cult is to destroy existing
  1441. corrupt society and replace it with a utopia, be it the communist utopia of
  1442. Marxism or the pure white Christian society of the right, in actual practice
  1443. the group exists to advance the power and influence of its leader: Gerry
  1444. Healy, Ted Grant, Peter Taaffe, Marlene Dixon, Chuck Dederich, Harvey
  1445. Jackins, Fred Newman, Lyndon LaRouche, Bo Gritz, or Gino Perente.
  1446. Political cults, like religious cults, combine a self-sacrificing membership
  1447. with a self-aggrandizing leader. Marlene Dixon lived in an alcoholic stupor
  1448. in a house provided by the members, drove around in a fancy party car, and
  1449. was waited on hand and foot. Gerry Healy, Harvey Jackins, and Gino Perente
  1450. took sexual advantage of their followers on a grand scale. Others, such as
  1451. Ted Grant, appear to revel simply in being acclaimed as the foremost theoretician of the era, and they combine acceptance of this elevated role with a
  1452. lifestyle that is quite modest. Few are so abstemious. Chuck Dederich lived
  1453. like a king, supplied with cars, motorcycles, planes, fine foods, and a majestic home in the Sierras. Lyndon LaRouche enjoys an estate in rural Virginia.
  1454. It is plainly difficult for the guru, surrounded by admiring acolytes, to
  1455. maintain a sense of proportion on any front. An inflated ego convinces itself
  1456. that it deserves more than its fair share of the world's earthly pleasures. If
  1460. 205
  1462. hard-pressed followers have to work ever harder to provide such opulence, it
  1463. comes to be seen as part of the natural order of things. Questions that are
  1464. raised tend to be dismissed as an enemy inspired attack. The members quickly
  1465. learn to conform or face expulsion-a fate that, to the deeply con1mitted,
  1466. seems a form of spiritual death, too terrifying to contemplate.
  1467. Political cults differ from religious cults in their vulnerability to the political climate of the times. Religious belief is more widely held today in the
  1468. United States than at any other time in recent history. Religious cults are
  1469. prospering alongside their established cousins. However, as mainstream politics has drifted toward the middle, left-oriented political cults have been isolated. Conservative times have represented a severe challenge to their belief
  1470. systems. This contributed to the explosive demise of Marlene Dixon's Democratic Workers Party (DWP) and Gerry Healy's Workers Revolutionary Party
  1471. (WRP), as well as to the splitting and marginalization of Ted Grant's Committee for a Workers International (CWI). We are aware of one small MarxistLeninist cult in Minneapolis, known to its members as the "O," which became
  1472. primarily a vehicle for the building of small businesses for the financial benefit of its leader. Politics was never discussed. Others, like LaRouche's National Caucus of Labor Committees (NCLC), and Fred Newman's New
  1473. Alliance Party (NAP), have found new political homes on the right. Rightist
  1474. political cults, on the other hand, have been encouraged by this sea change in
  1475. politics. Once tiny and almost totally isolated, fascistic groups are recruiting
  1476. young people and working feverishly in the broader milieus provided by
  1477. formations like the militias.
  1478. Religion as Politics
  1479. It can be useful to look briefly at religious cults that have taken up a political
  1480. practice. We would like to make a general observation: All cults are political
  1481. in the sense that they construct miniature totalitarian societies. The cult, by
  1483. separating its members from civil society as a whole, cutting them off from
  1484. friends and family, and constructing an authoritarian internal world, creates
  1485. the conditions for a collision with state authorities.
  1486. Not every cult takes up arms against the state. Many are content to live in
  1487. obscurity, chanting their mantras and eating brown rice. However, there are
  1488. many specific reasons why religious cults as diverse as the Rajneesh, the
  1489. Branch Davidians, the Aum, Scientology, the Unification Church, and
  1490. People's Temple either have come into conflict with their respective governments or have been prosecuted for violations of the law. Many cults practice
  1491. child abuse of one sort or another (e.g., Hare Krishna). 2 Cults can develop
  1492. conflicts with their neighbors (MOVE in Philadelphia,3 Rajneesh).4 Cults
  1494. 206
  1498. that build elaborate business empires sometimes violate laws (Unification
  1499. Church). 5 Most frightening, some cults develop visions of Armageddon, accon1panied by a deep paranoia, and seek armed conflict with society (the
  1500. Aum, Branch Davidians,6 and People's Temple). 7
  1501. We will look briefly at three highly political religious cults: the Aum, the
  1502. People's Temple, and the Unification Church.
  1503. The A11n1: The Aum Shinrikyo cult is headed by Shoko Asahara, a partially blind Japanese mystic. It represents an eclectic combination of Buddhism, Hinduism, Christianity, and various New Age nostrums. Asahara
  1504. practiced an extreme form of guruism demanding that his disciples seek to
  1505. "merge" or "fuse" with him to become his clones. 8 The followers were subjected to a number of exercises-meditation, listening to the guru's voice for
  1506. hours, sleep deprivation, drugs, fasting, even drinking the guru's blood-to
  1507. produce an altered state of mind. The most devout became sh11kke or
  1508. renunciants; lived in Aum facilities; were celibate; and devoted themselves
  1509. to "a perpetual, Sisyphean struggle for purity.''9 They were incapable of any
  1510. independent thought and became Asahara 's shock troops. There were around
  1511. 1,400 sh11kkes at the height of Aum's strength. 10
  1512. Asahara borrowed the concept of Armageddon, primarily from Christianity. In his view, virtually the entire human population was impure, civilization was sinful, and the "end times" were near. After the destruction of the
  1513. existing world, Asahara envisioned a new kingdom populated by his adherents and ruled by himself. This vision, shared with many other religious
  1514. cults including the Branch Davidians, was part of his appeal to new recruits.
  1515. Many young people in Japan and in other countries feel alienated within the
  1516. modem materialistic urbanized society. For this reason a religious group like
  1517. Aum had an essentially political appeal.
  1518. The vision ofAum took a grotesque turn when Asahara became impatient
  1519. and decided not to wait for the world's end. Instead, he determined to facilitate it. Having recruited a number of doctors, engineers, and scientists, and
  1520. accumulated considerable financial resources, he put his followers to work
  1521. in an effort to build weapons of mass destruction. After botched attempts at
  1522. germ warfare with botulism and anthrax, he succeeded in making sarin nerve
  1523. gas and employing it in at least two places, including the Tokyo subway. At
  1524. the same time he was trying to obtain nuclear weapons. Asahara also carried
  1525. through assassinations of dissidents and critics. He rationalized his murders
  1526. by invoking the Buddhist principle ofpoa, claiming that by removing people
  1527. who lived in a lower state of existence, he was freeing them to return in the
  1528. next life at a higher state of being.
  1529. The experience of the Aum sheds interesting light on the cult phenomenon in general and on political cults specifically. Asahara 's ability to ratio-
  1533. 207
  1535. nalize to himself and others such a murderous scheme illustrates the degree
  1536. to which a cult can control the human mind and force people to carry out
  1537. inhuman acts. Black means white. Two plus two equals five. In cults, the
  1538. leader's murderous agenda can readily be depicted as a program of love,
  1539. their privileged lifestyle as one of penurious self-sacrifice, and their perverted ideology as humanity's last hope for salvation. As we have discussed
  1540. throughout this book, there is no shortage of techniques to secure the psychological manipulation that allows followers to retain their original, idealized vision of the cult in the face of overwhelming evidence to the contrary
  1541. from the outside world. By the time reality intrudes into the warped world of
  1542. cultic living, enormous damage has been inflicted on the member, and frequently by the member on the wider society.
  1543. The concept of Armageddon has had wide appeal among those disenchanted with the existing state of society. This end-world scenario is particularly popular as we enter the new millennium. It is part of the basic tenets of
  1544. established churches, like the Seventh Day Adventists and the Jehovah's
  1545. Witnesses, as well as small cults like the Branch Davidians.
  1546. It also has its parallels among political cults. Left political cults with a
  1547. Marxist-Leninist ideology have transformed this religious belief into a theory
  1548. of the collapse of the capitalist system. A world crisis of capitalism is predicted, creating conditions for revolutionary upheavals. The revolutionary
  1549. party, led by the political guru who heads the political cult, will triumph and
  1550. a new communist utopia will emerge. The vision of a communal society,
  1551. based on equality and plenty for all, is similar to religious concepts of a postapocalyptic society. Both respond to the ancient dream of humanity for a
  1552. world free of hunger and strife.
  1553. Gerry Healy's Workers Revolutionary Party (WRP) was particularly fervent in its predictions of capitalist crisis and imminent revolution. As we
  1554. have seen, however, his enthusiasm for the prospect of impending economic
  1555. meltdown is widely shared on the far left. Countless Marxist sects insist,
  1556. despite all evidence to the contrary, that economic earthquakes will facilitate
  1557. the construction of stable revolutionary parties--with themselves at its core.
  1558. Economic determinism and an absolute conviction that their own subjective
  1559. role is of vital importance are stitched seamlessly together.
  1560. The political right is even more strident in its predictions of apocalypse
  1561. followed by renewal. LaRouche has borrowed economic catastrophism from
  1562. his Marxist past and today preaches that the global economy will collapse
  1563. unless the world's leaders listen to him. He demands that the political elite
  1564. abolish democracy and assume fascist-like state power to ilnplement the
  1565. LaRouchian program. The extreme right, as spelled out in the Turner Diaries (see chapter 3) predict race warfare leading to mass destruction of the
  1567. 208
  1571. non\vhite populations and the Jews, to be followed by a new epoch of Christian white race rule.
  1572. "The first characteristic of Aum," Lifton comments, "was totalized
  1573. guru ism, which became paranoid guruism and megalomaniac guruism." He
  1574. defines megalomaniac guruism as "the claim to possess and control immediate and distant reality." 11 When those who hold such views emerge into the
  1575. real world, and are confronted by limitations on their vision, the sense of
  1576. frustration is i.mrnense. They are impelled to explain away the various losses
  1577. of control inherent in cult activity-losses that take place because of defe.ctions, child custody battles, conflicts with neighbors, and legal actions taken
  1578. against the group. Rationalization transforms megalomania into paranoia.
  1579. This megalomania/paranoia syndrome was particularly pronounced with
  1580. Healy, Dederich, and LaRouche. All three were prone to exaggerated claims
  1581. and paranoiac theories. In Dederich's case this led to both the accumulation
  1582. of arms and physical attacks on critics. Perente invented a personal history
  1583. to feed his megalomania while accumulating arms to encourage paranoia
  1584. among his followers. Aum joins an illustrious tradition.
  1585. The People's Temple: The Reverend Jim Jones founded his People's Temple
  1586. in Indiana in 1956 as an ordinary Pentecostal church. From the beginning,
  1587. however, it began to acquire distinctive features that nudged it in a cultic
  1588. direction. Members practiced interracialism, preached a social gospel, and
  1589. were encouraged to worship Jones. "I am the only God you've ever seen,"
  1590. Jones once said. 12 When Jones decided in I965 to move his flock to Ukiah in
  1591. northern California, most of his Indiana followers made the trek with him.
  1592. Jones believed in the imminence of nuclear war and felt that northern California was more likely to survive the coming holocaust.
  1593. On the surface Jones's cult was far different from Aum. It functioned like
  1594. a fundamentalist church, with rocking gospel music, revival meetings, and
  1595. faith cures. Jones arranged for his assistants to gather animal intestines, added
  1596. some human blood to the mess, and then convinced parishioners that they
  1597. were coughing up "cancers" as a result of his laying on of the hands. 13 However, his hold on his members was as intense as that of Asahara and led to
  1598. even more catastrophic results.
  1599. Jim Jones was highly political. As he responded to the left political ferment in the 1960s, his politics became correspondingly more radical. "We
  1600. believe in reincarnation," one of his followers told Deborah Layton. "Jim
  1601. was Lenin in his last life.. .. He is trying to teach us that socialism is God....
  1602. Jim is trying to open the m.inds of the people. He can only reach them through
  1603. religion. As he heals and teaches, they will grow to understand that religion
  1604. is an opiate, used to keep the masses down. Only Jim can bring people into
  1605. the light. Through him we can make it to the next plane."14
  1609. 209
  1611. It is doubtful whether Jones began his career with such an understanding.
  1613. He was brought up in a fundamentalist religious environment and began
  1614. preaching even as a child. However, as time passed, his interests turned to
  1615. politics and his megalomania produced a highly political religion that acted
  1616. at times like a Marxist-Leninist cult. He preached socialism with an
  1617. evangelist's cadences and combined the roles of God and Lenin in his singular, highly unstable, personality. His People's Temple is the best example of
  1618. a social space where religion and politics have fused.
  1619. Jones's politics passed through two phases. Between 1975 and 1977, still
  1620. using Ukiah as his base, he built the People's Temple in San Francisco. Jones
  1621. recruited predominantly from the black community. Soon his church had a
  1622. black majority. He then turned his attention to the city's politics. He was able
  1623. to mobilize five hundred activists and in that fashion influence local elections. He threw his support behind the liberal George Moscone and contributed to his election as mayor. 15 In return Jones was rewarded by being
  1624. appointed chairman of the San Francisco Housing Authority. He received
  1625. the 1977 Martin Luther Humanitarian of the Year award in San Francisco, was
  1626. feted by Willie Brown (then a power in the California Legislature and more
  1627. recently mayor ofSan Francisco), Governor Jeny Brown (more recently mayor
  1628. of Oakland), and Rosalyn Carter (wife of then President Jimmy Carter). 16
  1629. The publicity thus received further fed Jim Jones's growing megalomania
  1630. and need for adulation. However, it also brought his group and its cultic
  1631. ways more into the public spotlight. Adverse publicity resulted, which, in
  1632. tum, further fueled Jones's paranoia. In 1975 he had launched Jonestown, a
  1633. utopian communist community to be constructed deep in the jungles of
  1634. Guyana. He chose Guyana because of its relatively left-leaning government
  1635. as well as its physical location. No one, he figured, would bother to drop a
  1636. nuclear bomb on Guyana. A convenient side effect was that it enabled him to
  1637. isolate his followers from all outside influences. They were increasingly at
  1638. his mercy, and were convinced that physical destruction awaited them should
  1639. they step outside the fortified perimeters of Jonestown. During 1977 Jones
  1640. stepped up his colonization efforts. He himself ran away from the bad press
  1641. and possible prosecution to Guyana and took almost all his remaining followers in the United States with him. Only a token group was left behind to
  1642. continue raising funds and spreading the message.
  1643. Jonestown, in its early days before the arrival of the guru, was certainly
  1644. an exciting project. Young people worked hard, trying to transform an unyielding jungle into an agricultural project with much of the zeal of Israel's
  1645. pioneer kibbutzim. All this changed, once Jones arrived on the scene. He had
  1646. become increasingly unstable, addicted to painkillers, brutal in his treatment
  1647. of his followers, and frighteningly paranoiac. The colonizers were forced to
  1649. 210
  1653. work long hours in the hot sun; were fed poorly; and were subjected to continuous, often incoherent, harangues by Jones over a loudspeaker system.
  1654. Armed guards kept people from leaving, and many were beaten. "White
  1655. Night" drills were held, in which guards fired into the air in the jungle while
  1656. Jones pretended the encampment was surrounded by the Central Intelligence
  1657. Agency (CIA). 17 The deception of the outside world was matched by a deception of the followers within.
  1658. Madness grew. All restraints on abnormal behavior were gradually eroded,
  1659. until only the bizarre remained. Jones himself became obsessed with revolutionary suicide. This was a political concept, not a religious one, and is not to
  1660. be confused with the outlook of Heaven's Gate 18 or the Order of the Solar
  1661. Temple. 19 Jones did not promise that his followers would reassemble at the
  1662. "next level" on a planet or in heaven. He envisioned suicide as the ultimate
  1663. political statement, an unanswerable act of defiance of his persecutors. He
  1664. \Vas determined to prove his power over his followers and to make his mark on
  1665. history at the expense of the lives not only of his followers but his own as well.
  1666. In 1979 a U.S. congressman, Leo Ryan, responded to the growing concern of many Jonestown residents' relatives and organized a visit to the
  1667. Guyanese jungle. Representative Ryan's visit was too much for Jones. It
  1668. proved to be the final affront from the outside world that severed his tenuous
  1669. grip on reality. When a small group of followers expressed a wish to return
  1670. to the United States with Ryan, Jones snapped. In retaliation he arranged for
  1671. the murder of Ryan and others as they assembled at the local airport, and
  1672. then carried through the mass murder/suicide of his nine hundred disciples.
  1673. After Jonestown, no one can view cultism lightly. The massacre was the
  1674. result of a political paranoia. It is precisely the political aspect of the Jonestown
  1675. experience that remains only dimly recognized by the public.
  1676. Jim Jones was a classic example of the psychopathic personality. Robert
  1677. Hare has defined psychopaths as "social predators who charm, manipulate,
  1678. and ruthlessly plow their way through life, leaving a broad trail of broken
  1679. hearts, shattered expectations, and empty wallets. Completely lacking in conscience and in feeling for others, they selfishly take what they want and do
  1680. as they please, violating social norms and expectations without the slightest
  1681. sense of guilt or regret."20 As Tobias and Lalich noted, "the combination of
  1682. charisma and psychopathy is a lethal mixtur~erhaps it is the very recipe
  1683. used at the Cookie-cutter Messiah School! "21
  1684. We have already noted that Marlene Dixon fitted this profile perfectly.
  1685. Gerry Healy, Lyndon LaRouche, Chuck Dederich, and Gino Perente, all of
  1686. whom are discussed in this book, are additional examples. As Jim Jones
  1687. illustrates, psychopaths are by no means particular to political cults. David
  1688. Koresh comes to mind. However, much too frequently, we find that leaders
  1692. 2]]
  1694. of all types of cults are psychopaths. Their mutual antipathy masks a commonality of means, ends, and leadership personality traits.
  1695. Asahara's Aum and Jones's People's Temple shared a heritage of violence. Dederich 's rattlesnake attack, Perente 's accumulation of arms, Healy's
  1696. physical attacks on his members, the Ruby Ridge shootout, and the Oklahoma City bombing suggest that the pervading influence of violence in our
  1697. culture has affected political cultists as well. This represents a fundamental
  1698. difference between twentieth-century cultists and those of the nineteenth
  1699. century. Further, the need to preserve cult boundaries from incursions by the
  1700. more invasive modem state has led to a paranoia and violence that were
  1701. absent from the idyllic and pastoral existence of the Oneida Community or
  1702. the Shakers. This makes it all the more urgent that we understand the cult
  1703. phenomenon and combat it as best we can.
  1704. The Unification Church: Reverend Sun Myung Moon's Unification Church
  1705. has become the quintessential religious cult in the public's consciousness.
  1706. Most people have come across Moooies soliciting funds--its members average $100 to $500 a day--or heard of the church's mass marriages. It is well
  1707. known for its "love bombing" of stray young people. Members, once recruited, are separated from their families and taken to live in church facilities, such as the New Yorker Hotel in midtown Manhattan. 22
  1708. Our interest in the group lies specifically with Reverend Moon's political
  1709. agenda A congressional investigation in 1977 found evidence that the Unification Church "had systematically violated US tax, immigration, banking,
  1710. currency, and Foreign Agents Registration Act laws."23 Moon served eleven
  1711. months in federal prison for filing false tax returns.
  1712. Moon established close political relations with the right-wing Korean
  1713. government early on in his career. He was charged in the 1977 hearings with
  1714. organizing demonstrations of his American followers at the behest of the
  1715. Korean CIA.
  1716. Moon involved himself in U.S. politics almost from the moment he began
  1717. recruiting followers in this country. His political slant was and is consistently conservative. He organized a media campaign in support of President
  1718. Richard Nixon during Watergate, claiming that "at this moment in history,
  1719. God has chosen Richard Nixon to be President of the United States." Nixon,
  1720. perhaps recognizing an equally corrupt kindred spirit, met with him to thank
  1721. him for his support. 24
  1722. More recently Moon launched the Washington 'limes, a daily newspaper
  1723. espousing right-wing causes. The paper has given him a visible presence in
  1724. the capitol and significant political influence. Former President George Bush
  1725. "has reportedly received hundreds of thousands of dollars for his appearances at several Moon events." Moon has also arranged speaking engage-
  1727. 2 J2
  1731. ments for Jack Kemp, Gerald Ford, and Ralph Reed, as well as prominent
  1732. figures in Britain, including former Tory premier Ted Heath. He has received
  1733. support from Senator Orin Hatch who "extolled the Jong suffering and personal sacrifice of Mrs. Moon and her husband." Trent Lott introduced a resolution on the Senate floor supporting Moon's "True Parents Day" campaign.25
  1734. Moon's approach to American politics, particularly after his jail term, has
  1735. proved to be more effective and longer lasting than the apocalyptic rantings
  1736. and terrorist tactics of the Aum. It could prove, in the long run, more damaging to the body politic. Moon exercises an intense control over the minds of
  1737. his followers. He utilizes the funds they raise as well as their numbers to
  1738. advance the conservative causes he believes in. As a result, his mind-warping
  1739. cult has gained considerable respectability and has come to exercise undue
  1740. influence over American political life.
  1741. Moon has become disappointed, however, with his American operation.
  1742. Membership has reportedly dwindled from an inflated 30,000 to around 3,000.
  1743. His holdings in South Korea, estimated to be worth billions, have suffered
  1744. from the economic turmoil that gripped Asia in the late 1990s. He is preparing a move into the greener pastures of Catholic South America, investing
  1745. some $30 m.illion and buying up 220 square miles of farmland in the underpopulated Brazilian State of Mato Gross do Sul. One cannot but think of
  1746. Jones in Guyana. There is considerable unease over the potential influence
  1747. of this cult in the area, as well as throughout Brazil. Conflict with neighboring communities and the state could be brewing. 26
  1748. Scientology has followed a similar trajectory in recent years. It has pulled
  1749. back from a confrontational approach to the federal government and won,
  1750. with the help of its movie star recruits Tom Cruise and John Travolta, official
  1751. status as a church with the Internal Revenue Service (lRS). This saves the
  1752. group millions of dollars. However, problems persist. It has faced an investigation by the Florida state attorney over the death of a member, Lisa
  1753. McPherson, at its headquarters in Clearwater.27 Relations with governments
  1754. abroad are strained, particularly in Germany 28 and Russia. 29
  1755. Marxism-Leninism: Seedbed for Cults
  1757. Many of the groups surveyed in this book trace their origins to MarxismLeninism. These include the Maoist/Stalinist Democratic Workers Party and
  1758. the Communist Party (Provisional), the Trotskyist Workers Revolutionary
  1759. Party and Militant Tendency, the Radical Therapy Newman/Fulani group,
  1760. and the rightist National Caucus of Labor Committees. Harvey Jackins and
  1761. Charles Dederich were both influenced by Marxism-Leninism, while Jim
  1762. Jones considered himself a reincarnation of Lenin. Given the enormous in-
  1766. 2 J5
  1768. 1930s. The accounts of many writers who shared the same experience are
  1769. revealing on this point. Koestler characterized his state of mind while he was
  1770. a Communist Party member in the following terms:
  1771. Gradually I learnt to distrust my mechanistic preoccupation with facts and to
  1772. regard the world around me in the light of dialectic interpretation. It was a
  1773. satisfactory and indeed blissful state; once you had assimilated the technique
  1774. you were no longer disturbed by facts; they automatically took on the proper
  1775. color and fell into their proper place. Both morally and logically, the Party was
  1776. infallible: morally, because its aims were right, that is, in accord with the Dialectic of History, and these aims justified all means; logically, because the Party
  1777. was the vanguard of the proletariat, and the proletariat the embodiment of the
  1778. activf'principle in History.35
  1780. In addition to foregrounding the need for a revolutionary party, MarxistLeninist groups insist that such a party must be governed by the principles of
  1781. what Lenin termed democratic centralism. For those on the far left, Lenin is
  1782. regarded as a demigod, beyond criticism. The hope is that imitating his practice and rote-learning his writings will, by alchemy, transform groups from
  1783. small sects into mass organizations.
  1784. Democratic centralism sees the "party" as a tightly integrated fighting
  1785. force with a powerful central committee and a rule that all members publicly
  1786. defend the agreed positions of the party, whatever opinions they might hold
  1787. to the contrary in private. The goal of the members is to become professional
  1788. revolutionaries, preferably on a full-time basis. Between conferences the
  1789. party's leading bodies have complete authority to manage its affairs, arbitrate in internal disputes, update doctrine, and decide the party's response to
  1790. fresh political events. As Lenin expressed it: "The principle of democratic
  1791. centralism and autonomy for local party organizations implies universal and
  1792. full freedom to criticize, so long as this does not disturb the unity of a defined action; it rules out all criticism which disrupts or makes difficult unity
  1793. of action decided upon by the party."36
  1794. Given what is now known of social influence, this approach is intrinsically destined to prevent genuine internal discussion. First, it is not at all
  1795. clear when "full freedom to criticize" can be said to disturb the unity of a
  1796. defined action. The norms of democratic centralism confer all power between conferences onto a central committee, allowing it to decide when a
  1797. dissident viewpoint is in danger of creating such a disturbance, normally
  1798. presumed to be lethal. The evidence suggests that they are strongly minded
  1799. to view any dissent as precisely such a disruption, and to respond by demanding that the dissidents cease their action on pain of expulsion from the
  1800. party. It should be borne in mind that the leaders of these groupings view
  1804. 2] 7
  1806. veneration for "October," as a distraction from their present-day impotence.
  1807. Activists become archives of useless trivia from the history of Bolshevism.
  1808. This prevents them from updating their analysis of the 1917 Revolution and
  1809. its aftermath.
  1810. Many on the left have begun to revise their earlier reliance on Leninist
  1811. orthodoxies. They have concluded that the October Revolution was by no
  1812. means above criticism.38 In addition to such a political reappraisal, left-wing
  1813. activists need to temper enthusiasm for change with a stronger awareness of
  1814. the techniques of social influence, and a greater skepticism toward totalistic
  1815. philosophies of change. Without such an approach, individuals face lifelong
  1816. disillusionment with any form of political action. In learning from organizations such as those discussed in this book it will be more possible to engage
  1817. in political action which genuinely liberates our thinking, and thereby influence the political process.
  1818. Cultic Belief Systems and the Standard of Falsification
  1820. Political cults are built around complex and self-contained belief systems.
  1821. These provide the impetus for frenetic levels of activity and the creation of
  1822. high-control environments, in which the authority of the leader expands in
  1823. all possible directions. Cults promote a doctrine of exceptionalism toward
  1824. their own belief system, in which nothing can be criticized, combined with
  1825. incessant attacks on other ideologies, organizations, and leaders. Such
  1826. exceptionalism gains a hold over the minds of many precisely because our
  1827. thinking tends to be distorted by a number of logical fallacies.39 These include the following:
  1828. • Theory often influences observation, rather than the other way round.
  1829. As discussed in chapter I, the expectations we have of our environment af-
  1831. fect how we perceive it. In right-wing politics, a theory that suggests that
  1832. some group is the source of all society's problems encourages its adherents
  1833. to perceive only instances of alleged misbehavior by members of the stigmatized group and to ignore the more numerous occasions when they behave
  1834. quite normally. The gurus who lead Marxist sects typically scan the press for
  1835. the gloomiest facts and figures available on the state of the economy. This is
  1836. depicted as reflecting the views of "the serious strategists of capital." Any
  1837. analysis that suggests further growth is likely to occur will be ignored. It
  1838. connotes "bourgeois propaganda." The heavily filtered economic data are
  1839. then presented to the panic-stricken members as a "scientific" analysis that
  1840. supports the group's Armageddon perspective. Thus, facts are twisted into
  1841. whatever shape is suggested by the ideology of the group.
  1843. 218
  1847. • Anecdotes are regarded as a good basis on which to declare a new
  1848. "science." Researchers have found that most of us tend to place too much
  1850. reliance on stories and to distrust more rigorous fonns of data. ("There are
  1851. lies, damned lies, and statistics.") This allows what may be nothing more
  1852. than unrepresentative scare stories to gain a grip on our overheated imaginations. For example, two researchers looked at how teachers and administrators in schools responded to recommendations contained in repons. 40 They
  1853. found that the teachers were quite supportive of particular recommendations
  1854. when the report contained no statistics, were slightly supportive if frequency
  1855. data and percentages were included, but tended to reject the same set of
  1856. recommendations ifthe report contained notations for type ofstatistical analysis and significance. We have repeatedly documented instances of bogus
  1857. belief systems that attempt to claim the sanctity of science. In general, however, they rest only on a small number of cases (as with reevaluation counseling; see chapter 6) or even on outright guesswork. A genuinely scientific
  1858. approach, on the other hand, requires us to quantify a large number of examples, in order to prove clear causal trends.
  1859. • Scientific language is assumed to denote a science. Recognizing this,
  1860. many defective belief systems camouflage their prejudices in the jargon of
  1861. science. This is especially true of many adherents of Marxism and its innumerable warring fragments. Since the days of Marx and Engels, its adherents have described their belief system as "scientific socialism." The
  1862. nomenclature sounds objective, truthful, accurate, and irrefutable. Who
  1863. wouldn't be in favor of that? In reality, we need to ascertain the extent to
  1864. which the belief system is based on real evidence, rather than wind and hyperbole. It should produce testable theories and display an openness to selfcriticism before it can be regarded as truly scientific. None of the cultic belief
  1865. systems explored in this book meet these criteria.
  1866. • Bold statements carry more conviction than admissions ofuncertainty.
  1868. Each of the cults discussed in this book claims to have discovered the "Truth."
  1869. Moreover, they generally assume that their version of the truth is at the cutting edge of knowledge or is at least indispensable for salvation. Were any of
  1870. true, then the extraordinary efforts demanded of cult members might
  1871. indeed be justified. However, such claims are not made because they are
  1872. accurate. Rather, they reflect the cult leadership's understanding that most of
  1873. us are impressed by dramatic claims, since these create a messianic aura
  1874. around the ideology and leaders concerned, while appearing to offer a range
  1875. of sensational benefits. Cult leaders seek to terrify people with the specter of
  1876. imminent catastrophe, while simultaneously offering the only sure-fire means
  1877. of averting it-for the small outlay of your mind.
  1878. • Heresy is often confused lvith correctness. The apparent failure of many
  1879. established ideologies encourages us to believe that only something com-
  1883. 219
  1885. pletely new offers a way forward. Ergo, in periods ofdisillusionment, a novel
  1886. theory has a head start over its weary rivals. For this reason, many people
  1887. suffering from severe illnesses embrace the ministrations of uncredentialed
  1888. alternative practitioners. We often fail to appreciate that novelty does not
  1889. equal creativity, or even common sense. Our only protection is to insist that
  1890. innovative ideas be subject to the same standards of evidence and proof as
  1891. more established ideologies.
  1892. • Failures are rationalized. Cults do not frame their theories in the form
  1893. ofpredictions that can be falsified, and that might call their underlying propositions into question. A genuinely scientific theory asserts a general law, which
  1894. in tum suggests a series of testable propositions. Cults, on the other hand,
  1895. propose general theories, but any fact that contradicts the theory is rationalized as an exception that leaves the underlying rule intact. Thus, many rightwing cults maintain that the U.S. government was itself responsible for the
  1896. 1995 Oklahoma bombing. Evidence to the contrary is interpreted as an indication of the devious nature of the Zionist conspiracy against the right. No
  1897. amount of evidence can be imagined that would cause such groups to revise
  1898. their initial interpretation.
  1899. For the left, the failure of the capitalist system to collapse in the manner
  1900. predicted by many Marxist gurus poses a conundrum. Rather than review
  1901. the original prediction, stabilization and growth are dismissed as components of a freakish aberration, like a heat wave in winter. Again, there is no
  1902. conceivable turn of events that could be interpreted as evidence that the
  1903. organization's most fundamental assumptions are mistaken. Even if capitalism now embarked on a hundred-year boom, of a magnitude unprecedented
  1904. in human history, it would be viewed as a temporary detour, before Marx's
  1905. predictions will with certainty be borne out.
  1906. • Hasty generalizations are the norm. One piece of evidence is used to
  1907. prematurely create a theory. When the ancient Greeks first witnessed mounted
  1908. horse riders, known as Scythians, they concluded that the horse and rider
  1909. were one, and went on to invent the legend of the centaur. In politics, likewise, cults often leap to conclusions based on isolated events. Despite their
  1910. exceptional character, and despite the possibility of other interpretations, such
  1911. events are viewed as confirmation of the group's most important ideological
  1912. assumptions. In a major overgeneralization, left-wing cults tend to assume that
  1913. a single event (the 1917 October Revolution) offers the only viable model of
  1914. social reconstruction for all countries on the planet. The need for new Octobers
  1915. becomes a mantra, chanted in the loneliness of the night. On the right, it is often
  1916. assumed that relatively minor gains for minority groups (e.g., positive action to
  1917. produce more minority students on university campuses) represent conclusive
  1918. proof of systematic discrimination, and even genocide, against whites.
  1920. 220
  1924. Like Arthur Koestler, the poet Stephen Spender belonged to the Communist Party during the 1930s. Years later, he reflected sadly on his experience,
  1925. and observed that "nearly all human beings have an extremely intermittent grasp
  1926. on reality."41 We see what we want to see. We see what our theory tells us to see.
  1927. We see what we think ought to be there, rather than what is. Cults specialize in
  1928. the ruthless exploitation of precisely these gaps in human perception.
  1929. Millennial Madness
  1931. We have explored political cults on both the left and the right. Our conclusion is that the major threat of terrorist acts and armed confrontations today
  1932. comes primarily from the extreme right. Deeply disappointed by the swing
  1933. within the conservative camp in a more moderate direction, attracting followers from individuals whose social roots have been uprooted by globalization and the development of new technologies, rightist cults are arming
  1934. themselves to the teeth. Many are convinced that the end times are here and
  1935. now. We live, or so they maintain, in the twilight of human civilization. A
  1936. long, cold night lies ahead. As Aum illustrates, it is not a big leap from predicting race war and apocalyptic confrontations with the state to provoking
  1937. such outcomes.
  1938. The threat of right-wing terrorism takes two forms. Most common is the
  1939. deranged individual, drawing his ideology from a cross section of groups,
  1940. who transforms himself into a one-person cult, picks up the gun, and goes on
  1941. a rampage, shooting up abortion clinics, killing blacks or Jews, or blowing
  1942. up government buildings. The right wing is particularly receptive to this
  1943. individualistic activity. Such Rambo types, while not part of a group environment centering on an individual leader, as in a typical political or religious cult, are nonetheless cultic. They share a worldview in common with
  1944. organized groups, are driven by a mind-set created in the cultic environment
  1945. of rightist political circles, and view their actions as part of a war of survival
  1946. against an evil society.
  1947. A number of cultic groups have also been spawned, that have separated
  1948. themselves from society at large and have accumulated great stores of arms.
  1949. Limited gun controls in the United States make their task all the easier.
  1950. Millennial events can lead some of these groups to feel themselves under
  1951. siege and instigate armed conflicts, as in Ruby Ridge and Waco. As Robert
  1952. Jay Lifton42 and Walter Laqueur4 3 warn, and Aum illustrates, it is not to be
  1953. excluded that political cults could in the near future get their hands on relatively compact and cheap weapons of mass destruction. If they do, the consequences may be catastrophic.
  1954. Left cults represent a different kind of danger. Terrorist activity has fallen
  1958. 22 J
  1960. out of favor. Old guerilla groups in Germany, Italy, Japan, Guatemala, El
  1961. Salvador, Uruguay, Chile, and elsewhere, have either dissolved or given up
  1962. arms and entered the democratic political arena. Uruguay's Tupamaros were
  1963. once among the most secretive and feared terrorist groups in South America.
  1964. Their kidnapping and execution of Daniel A. Mitrione, a CIA agent, was the
  1965. basis for the Costa-Gavras film State of Siege. They are now a legal party,
  1966. are part of the broad leftist Frente Amplio, and hold two seats in the senate
  1967. and four more in the chamber of deputies.44
  1968. However, the left cults that survive continue to have a pernicious influence. Organizations like the National Labor Federation (NATLFED) still
  1969. recruit, though in relatively small numbers. However, each recruit is a young
  1970. life wasted, and a family disrupted. Others, like the Fred Newman-Lenora
  1971. Fulani cabal in the Reform Party, illustrate that a relatively small group of
  1972. talented individuals, organized to operate in lockstep under the direction of
  1973. the political guru, can do significant political harm.
  1974. We have made no attempt in this book to be encyclopedic. Instead, we
  1975. have chosen to discuss specific political cults that are illustrative of the phenomena. There remain hundreds of political groups in different countries
  1976. that share some, if not all, cultic characteristics with the groups we have
  1977. studied. In each case, they have become miniature totalitarian societies. Only
  1978. their small size prevents them from wreaking much greater social havoc.
  1979. Whatever ends they proclaim in public, their real goal is to perpetuate their
  1980. own existence. Genuine relevance to real social problems is not on the agenda.
  1981. In understanding this dynamic, we are reminded of George Orwell's novel
  1982. Nineteen Eighty-Four, which stands as an unsurpassed account of totalitarianism. Here, O'Brien is explaining to Winston Smith the raison d'etre for
  1983. the existence of the party:
  1984. The Party seeks power entirely for its own sake. We are not interested in the
  1985. good of others; we are interested solely in power. Not wealth or luxury or long
  1986. life or happiness: only power, pure power.... Power is not a means, it is an
  1987. end. One does not establish a dictatorship in order to safeguard a revolution;
  1988. one makes the revolution in order to establish the dictatorship. The object of
  1989. persecution is persecution. The object of torture is tonure. The object of power
  1990. is power. Now do you begin to understand me?4 5
  1992. Conclusion
  1994. Our study of political cults has convinced us that the human mind is vulnerable to control and manipulation by others. We are social beings. This makes
  1995. us extremely sensitive to the moods, feelings, and views of others. Our sense
  1996. of self is always, in part, a social product. And so it should be. The success of
  1998. 222
  2002. the human race is derived from a combination of individual intelligence and
  2003. social existence. However, what makes us capable of living in peace and
  2004. harmony can also be manipulated to subordinate us to the whims and evil
  2005. purposes of strong individuals. Sometimes, this happens to whole countries.
  2006. The cases of Hitler's Germany, Stalin's USSR, and Pol Pot's Cambodia illustrate the point.
  2007. Cults, however, cannot be suppressed. To suppress them would be to surrender to the mentality of cult leaders. Further, the effect would be to drive
  2008. such groups underground where they would function better. Strange as it
  2009. may seem, while those who perform surgery on our brains require lengthy
  2010. training and are subject to state and professional licensing boards, there is
  2011. little regulation of those who perform "psychic surgery" on our minds, the
  2012. product of our brain. One is tempted to demand new laws and better regulation, at least of phony therapy cults. However, in a free society, such cures
  2013. generally prove to be worse than the disease.
  2014. Freedom can never be protected by legislating that it must always be used
  2015. wisely. The only effective weapon against cults is to expose them in the
  2016. course of a democratic dialogue as part of developing an educated civil society. The stronger the fabric of such a society, the less vulnerable we will all
  2017. be to cultic manipulation and abuse.
  2018. The influence of cults grows when people believe that the existing system
  2019. is the preserve only of the rich and powerful, and offers no way forward.
  2020. Elizabeth Dole is by no means an underprivileged victim of society. However, when someone in her position bows out of a presidential race, admitting that she can never raise the funds needed to challenge a well-connected
  2021. rival, ordinary people are even more likely to draw back in disgust from the
  2022. political process.
  2023. The challenge facing politics throughout the world is the same. It is to
  2024. ensure its continued relevance to the lives of ordinary people. Radical politics, in particular, faces the need to break from the remnants of its vanguardist
  2025. past, and to fashion a new ideological support structure that takes account of
  2026. events after 1917.
  2027. Our study of political cults illustrates all too clearly the alternatives that
  2028. lie ahead. For many people, the political system is now at the edge of its
  2029. relevance to their lives and problems. Change has become a torrent, sweeping away the certainties of the past. Buffeted by events, cut adrift from the
  2030. past, many of us can dimly apprehend the alluring figures of cultism, and
  2031. can hear seductive voices promising good times ahead.
  2032. If the present system offers only anguish, the songs of the sirens may yet
  2033. become irresistible.
  2035. Notes
  2037. Introduction
  2038. I. G. Esler, The United States ofAnger (London: Michael Joseph, 1997).
  2039. 2. The Gallup Organization, Slate ofDisunion Survey (University of Virginia, 1996).
  2040. 3. Esler, Anger, p. 32.
  2041. 3. The Observer Business Supp/emenl, July 26, 1998, pp. 1-2.
  2042. 4. Sydney Morning Herald, October 21 , 1997.
  2043. 5. Ibid., August 14, 1998.
  2044. 6. Esler, The United Slates ofAnger, p. 28.
  2046. Chapter 1
  2047. I. J. Hochman, "Iatrogenic Symptoms Associated with a Therapy Cult: Examination
  2048. of an Extinct 'New Psychotherapy' with Respect to Psychiatric Deterioration and 'Brainwashing,•" Psychiatry 47 (1984): 366--377.
  2049. 2. S. Hassan, Comba1ing Cu/1 Mind Control (Rochester, NY: Parle Street Press, 1988).
  2050. 3. M. Langone, "Helping Cult Victims," in Recovery from Cults, ed M. Langone
  2051. (New Yorlc: Norton, 1993), p. 29.
  2052. 4. I. Haworth, "Myths and Realities," Counseling News (June 1993): 14.
  2053. 5. M. Singer, with J. Lalich, Cu/IS in Our Mids1.· The Hidden Menace in Our Everyday Lives (San Francisco: Jossey-Bass, 1995.)
  2054. 6. American Family Foundation, "Cultism: A Conference for Scholars and Policy
  2055. Makers," Cu/tic Studies Journal 3, no. I (1986): 119-120.
  2056. 7. R. Lifton, Though/ Reform and 1he Psychology ofT01a/ism: A Study of "Brainwashing" in China (New Yorlc: Norton, 1961). Most quotations from Lifton in this section come from this book.
  2057. 8. Ibid., p. 435.
  2058. 9. A. Pratkanis and E. Aronson, Age ofPropaganda: The Everyday Use and Abuse of
  2059. Persuasion (New York: Freeman, 1991 ).
  2060. 10. H. Tajifel, Human Groups and Social Categories (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1981 ).
  2061. 11. L. Fcstinger, A TheoryofCogni1ive Dissonance (Evanston, IL: Row and Peterson,
  2062. 1957).
  2063. 12. R. Cialdini, Jnfluence: Science and Practice, 3d ed. (New Yorlc: HarperCollins,
  2064. 1993).
  2068. 2
  2070. AND
  2072. 3
  2074. 225
  2076. I 0. R. Brown, Group Processes, 2d ed. (Oxford: Blackwell, 2000).
  2078. 11. S. Sutherland, Irrationality (London: Constable, 1992).
  2079. 12. L. Ross, D. Greene, and P. House, "The 'false Consensus Effect': An Egocentric
  2080. Bias in Social Perception and Attributional Processes," Journal of Experimental Social
  2081. Psychology 13 (1977): 279-301.
  2082. 13. H. Zinn, Declarations of Independence: Cross-Examining American Ideology
  2083. (New York: HarperCollins, 1990), p. 265.
  2084. 14. S. Milgram, Obedience and Authority (London: Tavistock, I 974).
  2085. 15. R. Baron, N. Kerr, and N. Miller, Group Process, Group Decision, Group Action
  2086. (Buckingham, UK: Open University, 1990), p. 125.
  2087. 16. An excellent summary of these experiments can be found in Brown, Group Processes, pp. 246-248.
  2088. 17. J. Goldhammer, Under the Influence: The Destructive Effects ofGroup Dynamics
  2089. (Amherst, NY: Prometheus, 1996), p. 16.
  2090. 18. S. Hassan, Combating Cult Mind Control (Rochester, NY: Park Street Press,
  2091. 1988). This phenomenon is also well documented in several of the chapters in
  2092. Langone: Recovery.
  2093. 19. E. Jones, lngrotiation (New York: Appleton-Century-Crofts, 1964).
  2094. 20. E. Jones, lnrerpersonal Perception (New York: W.H. Freeman, 1990).
  2095. 21. D. Byrne, The A11rac1ion Paradigm (New York: Academic, 1971).
  2096. 22. P. Rosenfeld, R. Giacalione, and C. Riordan, Impression Managemenl in Organizations (London: Routledge, 1995).
  2097. 23. R. Robins and J. Post, Political Paranoia: The Psychopolitics of Hatred (New
  2098. Haven: Yale University Press, 1997).
  2099. 24. Ibid., p. 37.
  2100. 25. P. Zimbardo and S. Anderson, "Understanding Mind Control: Exotic and Mundane Mental Manipulations," in Langone, Recovery.
  2101. 26. J. Turner, Social Influence (Milton Keynes, UK: Open University, 199 I).
  2102. 27. R. Rorty, Achieving Our Country: Leftisr Thought in Twentieth Century America
  2103. (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1997), p. 115.
  2104. 28. Zimbardo and Anderson, "Understanding," pp. 120--122.
  2106. Conclusion
  2107. I. R. Lifton, Though1 Reform and rhe Psychology of Tora/ism: A S1udy of 'Brainwashing' in China (New York: Norton, 1961 ), pp. 25-26.
  2108. 2. L. Goodstein, "Hare Krishna Movement Details Past Abuse at Its Boarding Schools,"
  2109. New York Times. October 9, 1998.
  2110. 3. M. Galanter, Cu/rs: Fairh Healing and Coercion, 2d ed. (New York: Oxford University Press, 1999), p. 118-121
  2111. 4. F. Fitzgerald, Ci1ies on a Hill (New York: Simon and Schuster, 1986), pp. 247-381.
  2112. 5. Galanter, Cu/rs, pp.122- 126.
  2113. 6. M. Breault and M. King, Inside 1he Cult (New York: Signet, 1993).
  2114. 7. D. Layton, Seductive Poison (New York: Doubleday, 1998).
  2115. 8. R. Lifton, Destroying rhe World ro Save It (New York: Henry Holt, 1999), p. 23.
  2116. 9. Ibid., p. 25.
  2120. 239
  2122. IO. Ibid., p. 35.
  2123. 11. Ibid., p. 203.
  2124. 12. J. Reston Jr., Our Father IYho Art in Hell (New York: Times Books, 1981 ), p. 56.
  2125. 13. T. Reiterman, Raven: The Untold Story ofthe Rev. Jim Jones and His People (New
  2126. York: Dutton, 1982), pp. 16-17.
  2127. 14. Layton, Seducll've, pp. 45-46.
  2128. 15. Shortly after winning 1he election, George Moscone and gay supervisor Harvey
  2129. Milk were murdered by a deranged right-wing supervisor, Dan While.
  2130. 16. J. Mills, Six Yean with God (New York: A and W, 1979), p. 46.
  2131. 17. Layton, Seductive, pp. 119 ff.
  2132. 18. G. Niebuhr, "On the Furthest Fringes ofMillenialism," New York Times, March 28,
  2133. 1997.
  2134. 19. C. Nullis, "Leader's Paranoia Led to Swiss Cult Deaths, lnvesigators Say," Associated Press, November 20, 1994.
  2135. 20. R. D. Hare, Without Conscience: The Disturbing Wolfof the Psychopaths Among
  2136. Us (New York: Pocket Books, 1993), p. xi
  2137. 21. M. Tobias and J. Lalich, Captive Hearts, Captive Minds (Alameda, CA: Hunter
  2138. House, 1994), p. 68. See chapter 5: "Characteristics of a Cult Leader," for an excellent
  2139. description of the cul1 leader as a psychopath.
  2140. 22. D. Durham, Life Among the Moonies (Plainfield, NJ: Logos, 1981).
  2141. 23. K. St. Clair, "Rev. Moon Has a Vision for America's Youth," East Bay Express
  2142. (Berkeley), November 5, 1999, p 11.
  2143. 24. Galanter, Cults, p.124.
  2144. 25. St. Clair, "Rev. Moon," p. 11.
  2145. 26. L. Rohter, "Suspicion Following Sun Myung Moon to Brazil," New York Times.
  2146. November 28, I 999.
  2147. 27. D. Frantz, "Death of a Scicntologist Heightens Suspicions in a Florida Town,"
  2148. New York 1imes, December I, 1997.
  2149. 28. C. R. Whitney, "Scientology and Its German Foes: A Bitter Conflict," New York
  2150. 1imes, December 2, 1997.
  2151. 29. A. Dolgov, "Moscow Scientology Center Raided," Associated Press, February 26,
  2152. 1999.
  2153. 30. J. Higgins, More Yeanfor the Locust: The Origins ofthe SWP (London: International Socialist Group, 1997).
  2154. 31. T. Crawford, Amended Report on the LO Fete of30, 31May&June1, 1998 (in the
  2155. authors' possession).
  2156. 32. "The Road to Jimstown," Bulletin ofthe External Tendency ofthe IST. no. 4 (Oakland, CA, May 1985).
  2157. 33. R. Blick, The Seeds ofEvil: Lenin and the Origins ofBolshevik Elitism (London:
  2158. Steyne, 1995).
  2159. 34. P. Cohen, Children ofthe Revolution: Communist Childhood in Cold War Britain
  2160. (London: Lawrence and Wishart, I997), p. 152.
  2161. 35. A. Koestler, in The God That Failed, ed. Richard Crossman (Lo ndon: Right Book
  2162. Club, 1949), p. 43.
  2163. 36. V. Lenin, Collected Works, vol. 5 (Moscow: Progress, 1977), p. 433.
  2164. 37. R. Cialdini, Influence: Science and Practice, 3d ed. (New York: Addison Wesley
  2165. and Longman, 1993).
  2166. 38. Sec, for example, Blick, Seeds.
  2167. 39. These fallacies are discussed in detail by Michael Shermer, IYhy People Believe
  2168. Weird Things: Pseudoscience, Superstition and Other Confusions a/Our 1ime (New York:
  2169. W.H. Freeman, 1997).
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