I have been writing about cults for over two years online about the Scientology cult as a former member. I was in Scientology for twenty five years and through a long process ended up questioning the group and its founder Ron Hubbard and looked outside the group to several critical sites for several months and then undertook a serious effort to dissect the Scientology cult and understand cults and influence in general.
It involved hundreds and hundreds of hours of study of hypnosis, influence, social psychology, rhetoric, abusive relationships, totalitarian governments, critical thinking, logical fallacies, propaganda analysis, cognitive dissonance theory and many related subjects.
I undertook the task of reading books, watching videos, writing to experts for advice and recommendations on books and interacting with ex Scientologists and critics to get information on cults and to offer my own opinions.
I ended up writing several hundred online posts regarding cults and now it's probably over a thousand comments in total.
I think I have something to offer regarding the subject and now with Donald Trump having won the presidential election it's relevant to the subject of his followers and Donald Trump as a leader and man.
The question of what kind of man he is, how he treats people and what kinds of relationships he has with his followers is important for understanding his actions and likely future choices.
But to many people the term cult is ambiguous or strange. So, first things first - what's a cult ?
I use the term to mean a specific kind of group. A specific kind of destructive group.
To answer the question what is a cult I will quote an article by cult expert Rick Alan Ross from the Guardian.
The question: what makes a cult?
Psychiatrist Robert Jay Lifton, who once taught at Harvard Medical School, wrote a paper titled Cult Formation in the early 1980s. He delineated three primary characteristics, which are the most common features shared by destructive cults.
1. A charismatic leader, who increasingly becomes an object of worship as the general principles that may have originally sustained the group lose power. That is a living leader, who has no meaningful accountability and becomes the single most defining element of the group and its source of power and authority.
2. A process [of indoctrination or education is in use that can be seen as] coercive persuasion or thought reform [commonly called "brainwashing"].
The culmination of this process can be seen by members of the group often doing things that are not in their own best interest, but consistently in the best interest of the group and its leader.
Lifton's seminal book Thought Reform and Psychology of Totalism explains this process in considerable detail.
3. Economic, sexual, and other exploitation of group members by the leader and the ruling coterie.
The destructiveness of groups called cults varies by degree, from labour violations, child abuse, medical neglect to, in some extreme and isolated situations, calls for violence or mass suicide.
Some groups that were once seen as "cults" have historically evolved to become generally regarded as religions. Power devolved from a single leader to a broader church government and such groups ceased to be seen as simply personality-driven and defined by a single individual. For example the Seventh-day Adventists, once led by Ellen White, or the Mormons church founded by Joseph Smith.
Some groups may not fit the definition of a cult, but may pose potential risks for participants. Here are 10 warning signs of a potentially unsafe group or leader.
• Absolute authoritarianism without meaningful accountability.
• No tolerance for questions or critical inquiry.
• No meaningful financial disclosure regarding budget or expenses, such as an independently audited financial statement.
• Unreasonable fear about the outside world, such as impending catastrophe, evil conspiracies and persecutions.
• There is no legitimate reason to leave, former followers are always wrong in leaving, negative or even evil.
Former members often relate the same stories of abuse and reflect a similar pattern of grievances.
• There are records, books, news articles, or broadcast reports that document the abuses of the group/leader.
• Followers feel they can never be "good enough".
•The The group/leader is always right.
• The group/leader is the exclusive means of knowing "truth" or receiving validation, no other process of discovery is really acceptable or credible.
End quote Rick Alan Ross
Now that's a good start to describe a cult, what some people are more specific about and call a destructive cult. I only write about destructive cults usually like Scientology, Aum Shinrikyo , the Unification Church aka the Moonies and others and just use the term cult.
The group Donald Trump leads warrants examination to see if it's a cult.
So to define a cult as having the three key qualities of a charismatic leader who has no meaningful accountability and is an object of worship then second a process of thought reform (I will break that down in fine detail and analysis against Donald Trump's actions and group in another post) and third and finally exploitation of group members by the leader or a small group is a simple enough start.
It's a group with the charismatic leader, thought reform program and exploitation of members by leader and/or a small group.
Now, with fine details on thought reform and a detailed comparison to Donald Trump's supporters it should be clear if his group is a cult.
Just to save room I left thought reform for another post, as it's worth a post or two on its own. I hope to present several short simple posts that outline several things.
What a thought reform program is.
If Trump's group has one.
What cult leaders do that other people don't.
What qualities Donald Trump has and compare them to cult leaders.
The patterns of behavior cult leaders have historically had in common and the likelihood Donald Trump can follow similar behavior patterns himself.
I know many people have different questions and doubts about the future we will have with Donald Trump as our president. I will offer my opinion on his known and likely qualities. I will try to lay out evidence to support my claims and show the supporting evidence cult experts and academics provide along with references to examine to find out more about cults.
I will try to keep the posts short, clear and easy to understand if you have never been in a cult or studied them before in this series. I hope it helps people and they take in and consider the whole series.
I hope this post briefly introduces me, introduces the question of whether Donald Trump's group is a cult or not and laid out a very brief description of a cult too.
It's just scratching the surface and there's a lot beneath that to look at.