It’s never too early to sidestep a cult
We don’t have to stretch and think of Waco, ISIS or the Moonies to find examples of Cult recruitment methods at work today. There will be many attempts to recruit you this year, much closer to home.
Whether it is Veganism, Brexit, continued support for Trump’s wall, Sci-entol-ogy, The NRA or Jehovah’s Witness – All have disturbing aspects of a Cult and we need to be more aware of the mechanisms they employ to protect ourself and our loved ones from being inducted against our conscious will.
BTW – If you are part of one of these groups, reading this article will in no way change you. Your programming will enable you to easily resist the 5 points below – In fact you will have already been inoculated against anything in written form that calls your group a cult. And, articles such as this one will drive you in deeper as they act as proof that the “enemy without” exists, thus reinforcing your commitment to your group.
Bizarrely, it is the phenomenon of your inoculation that forms part of the proof that your group is… a cult.
5 False assumptions about cults.
We think of US extremes and people being taken away from their families, being brainwashed to reject all outside communication and performing any act to support and show loyalty to their charismatic leaders – Including bringing in cash and actively recruiting new members. Yes that describes the obvious destructive cult, but be warned, there are other versions that can be equally bad for your rights, your agile mind and your future.
- Destructive Cults only prey on the weak – As you sit amongst your small family, reading a newspaper that is supposedly part of the free press, you may feel pity for the poor saps sucked into some a remote compound or made to sleep with their cult leader.
But, is it time the alarm went off? Actually, the sick, simple and poorest in our community are not the main target of cult recruitment. It is YOU. The hypnotic mechanisms of an effective cult induction programme are, actually, reasonably sophisticated and work best on the educated mind. Most dangerous is the thought that your education is sufficient to protect you from cult messages or you will never be inducted into a cult because you live your life exercising choices, freedom and your wits. Remember. there are those that went to investigate and never came back…
- Negative force is used in the recruitment process for cults
Whilst the mechanisms are manipulative and powerful, force is not normally part of the initial process. The opposite is the case. Love, energy and acknowledgement of the individual are the tools that will attract you in at the beginning (You will be enslaved later.) In my work with corporations as a soft skills trainer, I see that tough love by management is used as part of a behavioural regime of intermittent behavioural reinforcement, that conditions executives to work extra hard, buy into stretch goals and sacrifice more of their free time and other choices in the service of the main corporate mission and a big company vision.
With cults, a dirtier and more subversive version of this happens later in the conversion process and cult induction journey. To start with, the targeted individual is showered with praise, positive affirmation and is deliberately encouraged to feel fabulous and great about themself. This aims to break down the barriers that any sane individual would have when contemplating joining a band of isolated extremists.
The subtle part of the process then follows. The target passes through a barely noticeable series of non-return doors. These suck the prey in and make resistance difficult. Think about yourself at this point. You are really nice, middle class, and an educated person. With a good level of self-worth? So, what will it be difficult for you to do in these surroundings – being showered with love by decent and, supposedly, like-minded people? The answer – Be rude, ask challenging questions, get angry or walk out. (For the Brits it is, “I didn’t want to make a fuss.” This allows the brainwashing to take hold…
- They keep you there by force
The mechanisms of the one-way route during your induction into a cult are ingenious by design. Once your mind has flipped over from resister to congruent follower, You will be filled with a simplified alternative version of reality and “educated” that all other ways are not just wrong but that they threaten the existence of the cult itself. Brilliant gas lighting. When you are fully under the spell of the cult, you will eventually be trusted to venture out on your own. You will be theoretically free to run away – but you will not.
And, it is YOUR mind that will keep you there.
You will, by this stage, super-believe in the tenants of the cult. Hour upon hour of repetition of the key cult messages and models will have worn you down and ensured your compliance with the beliefs of the cult group. And, you will be super-inoculated against all attempts by outsiders to rationalise with you, contact you or plead with you to leave.
So clever is the communication strategy, that the more you plead the more the new cult recruit will smile and say, “They said you would say that.” Evil genius – Your newly brainwashed logic circuits will assign the role of “testing your faith” to outsiders where their pleas make you an active participant in maintaining the cult’s parallel universe. The outsider’s logic will ensure the new cult recruit now believes that the all-wise cult leader was RIGHT all along!!! In a twisted way – you have to admire their dirty craft.
- I live in a democracy and am, therefore, immune from cult recruitment
No, there will be a point in your life when you will be vulnerable. This will come when you are in a state of emotional flux – The death of a parent / child / friend, divorce, recovering from long illness or after being made redundant.
At this point in your life journey, your normal programming about, “Life being fair” or “You get out what you put in” etc. will fail you. In this moment there will be no easy answers at hand. It is now that you will find yourself most open to external warmth, love and the “meaning” of a cult. This is when their powerful weapons of persuasion will work best on you.
Your uncertainty and doubt is their opportunity.
Think of young offenders in prison – lonely, frightened and confused – perfect fodder for the clear, simple story of a radial preacher – Providing a richer context and narrative for their poor and low value lives. It is almost too easy.
- Charisma won’t work on me – I am too rational
People are not rational. That is a myth. We buy emotionally, hate irrationally and our fears can be manufactured quickly, grown cheaply and exploited simply. We are herd animals with the additional hindrance of actively seeking out stories, membership to tribes and having a desperate need to be loved and approved of.
Time and again in Europe, South America and the USA, a population has been swept away by a charismatic leader, only to pay a great cost later. Cult mechanism fuelled the growth of Soviet communism, Chinese communism, Nazi propaganda, the messages of Brexit, and, the divisive communications of British Trade Unions in the 1970’s and the persuasion of the many to give up so much for the benefit of the few. (- please note the balance.)
A Cult Leader
A great public speaker, who understands rhetoric and the key fears of their target audience, can quickly work out, practice and find a platform to deliver cult promises representing a clear and simple alternative to the current state of business.
You too can become a cult leader…
You could do it yourself – Just jot down all the complaints of your community (no matter the actual origin), work out which faction to blame (it does not have to be this targeted group’s fault), come up with a simple alternative reality (it does not have to work) and, hey presto – You have a cult and a speech that will definitely start to draw people in and have them loyally follow you.
You will grab the hearts, minds and wallets of the people who resonate with your list of rapidly cobbled together complaints – just about every time.
For good or evil, a repeated message of clarity, simplicity and improvement works – Obama’s “Yes we can”, Blair’s “For the people”, May’s “The will of the people”, Trump’s “We are going to build a wall”, Thatcher’s “No one has to remain working class – vote for me and your can own your own home”, or, Boris and Dominic Cummings’ “Take back control and save the NHS with lots of money we currently pay to the EU.”
It is so much easier to start a cult than fix real core problems. Problems are
complex, multi-sourced and require intelligent consensus, time, money and commitment from a disparate range of stakeholders. Gathering the necessary support requires… a compelling vision, a charismatic speaker and the recruitment of followers. OMG – we are back here again!
And a democracy (multiple groups having a say and being listened to) makes it much easier for one strong and clear alternative cult guru’s voice to be heard and followed.
Irony stacked upon irony
And once in, there is no quick way out. Rational debate is not possible. The time for listening will be over. Facts will fail.
For the cult member, the need and desire to stay congruent with the cult’s key messages, to feel consistent, loyal and belong to the cult in-group, requires violent rejection of logic and all alternatives. And, more – Rejecting, even the possibility, that their cult might have got it wrong.
And it is this dynamic that generates aggressive words, physical intimidation, lawyers letters, or, at its most miserable extreme, fighting to the death in a foreign land, whilst deluding yourself that you are dying for something valid and real, and, you are dying as a sainted martyr.
Stay vigilant people
Your next cult recruitment message promising a good and simple alternative the complex issues we face today will be coming your way today or tomorrow. Wake up and smell the coffee before you end up being asked to drink the Kool-Aid!
About the Author
Matthew Hill is an Intercultural Trainer, Speaker and Marketeer.