If you’re a supporter of Donald Trump, and you truly believe the man’s persuasive qualities, business experience, negotiating tactics, and personality are fit for the presidency, good for you. I have no beef with you. Of course I disagree, but I also disagree with millions of Democrats who love Hillary Clinton.
If you believe Trump can unify the GOP, defeat Hillary, and solve some of America’s most complex problems, based on a understanding of the man independent of his own campaign statements, more power to you. Again, I disagree–vehemently. I’ve spilled tens of thousands of words explaining how I disagree, and I won’t rehash those arguments here.
But, before you place yourself in one of the above rational categories, read below. You owe it to yourself, and I assure you it won’t hurt you to read it–I won’t hurt your feelings.
One of the more popular posts over the years on my personal blog is “8 Signs You May Be In A Cult.” It was written with religious cults in mind, but applies to cults of personality also. I’ve adapted these signs for clarity, removing the religious references.
Are you in a cult?
Nobody ever answers that question “yes”.
Yes, I am a follower of Zorg who tells me what to think, and instructs me on life from the time I awake each day, until he summons me to bed each night. I live to do what Zorg desires because Zorg loves me and knows best. Zorg is from the planet Org, and he hears their psychic transmissions. The Orgians are coming to get us soon, and we’ll all have one cosmic Orgy.
Dude, you’re in a cult.
No! Zorg told us you’d say that! When the Orgians come for us, you’re going to be so sorry you missed the cosmic Orgy, and then they are going to destroy Earth to make room for a new Org. You’ll get blasted into eternal stardust with all the other unbelievers.
All righty then. Enjoy your life. Bu-bye!
Cults are destructive, oppressive, life-sucking zombie-producing groups that enrich their leaders at everyone else’s expense. Cult members drink poisoned Kool-Aid, murder whole families, and serve as willing objects of sexual abuse by monomaniacal autocrats. Nobody wants to be in a cult.
But people are in them. Lots of people. Replace that line about Zorg with some real cult (if there are any Zorgians who are offended that I used your cult, please forgive me, I am a very unenlightened soul who never studied Zorg in college) and you’ve probably heard someone say almost exactly those words. Then you told them they’re in a cult, and they denied it.
People stay in cults because only people outside the cult see the cult. From the inside, it’s a mirror ball designed to focus you on the thought that you and your fellow cultists are right and everyone outside the ball is wrong. Mind control? Very much so. Why don’t those poor souls in cults see it? They don’t see it precisely because they don’t think they’re in a cult.
Mind control? Really?
Yes. Persuasion is a form of mind control. Read Scott Adams (Dilbert cartoonist and student of persuasion) blog.
Persuasion is a learned skill. It involves a well-understood set of science-tested tools. For whatever reason, Donald Trump is bristling with talent for persuasion and Hillary Clinton has none (that I can detect) except for basic political skills and her gender identity. Persuasion is not the only talent you want in a president, so I won’t try to oversell it. But let’s see what kinds of issues are susceptible to a president’s powers of persuasion.
So when Trump negotiates a deal, he’s using mind control and persuasion techniques. It’s not always a bad thing in and of itself. But it’s the foundation of cults too.
Here are some signs that you might be in the Trump cult.
Sign #1: You seek out friends who also love Trump and reject those who don’t
People like friends who share their beliefs. That’s only natural. As you get older, you make new friends, and lose some old friends. That’s natural too. When there’s a pattern, where all your new friends believe just like you do in the same doctrine, church, or group, and there’s no dissension at all, that’s a sure sign of a cult. When those new friends start to pressure you to drop your old friends, because they don’t believe, that’s a big, red, flashing sign reading “warning: cult ahead!”
Trump is divisive. He does this on purpose. Unlike Ted Cruz, who believes what he believes and doesn’t change based on people liking him, Trump purposely takes divisive positions to solidify support among those who agree.
There’s a difference between people who agree that Trump would be a terrible president (the #NeverTrump movement) or Cruz supporters, who already share a set of beliefs with Cruz, or libertarians who love Ron Paul, and a cult of personality. Libertarians are quick to call out their idols (Rand, for instance) when he strays from their core doctrine.
Cults don’t withstand outside scrutiny very well, so they encourage people to exclusively associate with other cult members in the extreme cases. Old friends outside the cult are met with suspicion.
If you find yourself feeling awkward around your old pals who might be #NeverTrump, and your new friends are people you wouldn’t be friends with except for Trump (i.e. they laugh at disabled reporters or denigrate women, or black people or Jews), you might be headed for cult membership. It’s time to check yourself and check your new friends.
Sign #2: Nobody questions authority; your loyalty is required
Most groups have some authority structure in the form of a leader or guiding principles. Even anarchist groups have leaders—anonymous and hidden though they may be. A group without a leader is a drinking club, but still someone has to buy the booze and pour.
Cults are built on unquestioning loyalty. In this way, every military service in the world functions like a cult. The recruits are broken down, given a new mindset of instant and unquestioning obedience, and taught deadly skills. This enables them to run to the sound of gunfire and place their lives in danger. The main difference between the military and a cult is that military service is more or less temporary, and leaders change frequently.
Some rather well-known military cults have gotten out of hand. The Nazi SS and the Japanese Imperial Army in WWII are two examples. A modern day example might be the North Korean army, although you could also argue the whole country is one big cult.
Trump hires people based on their personal loyalty to him.
[Lewandowski] gained Trump’s trust by demonstrating he possessed the quality Trump values most: loyalty. “This campaign, above all other things, is about loyalty,” Lewandowski said. In what’s been said to be a unique arrangement for a campaign manager, Lewandowski travels everywhere with Trump, a role normally reserved for the campaign’s “body man.”
If you’re in an organization where unquestioning loyalty and obedience to authority is demanded (aside from the military), you may be a cult member.
True, I've gone from supporting Trump to wildly supporting Trump. "Coulter appears to sour on ‘mental’ Donald Trump"https://t.co/g9qXqoa42W
— Ann Coulter (@AnnCoulter) March 31, 2016
Sign #3: The source of authority is vested in a person.
Living or dead, most cults have their genesis rooted in an individual, whose special skills, revelation, or understanding have a unique, exclusive quality and magnetism to which people are drawn.
Trump claimed in an interview with the Washington Post that he can clear up American’s $19 trillion debt in 8 years. The only source of this claim is Donald Trump.
The CBO projected revenues would be about 18.1 percent of the gross domestic product in the 2017-2024 period. We checked the historical records and found that revenues in the last half century once reached a peak of 20 percent of GDP in 2000 — during the Bill Clinton administration, the last time the government ran a budget surplus.
But even if revenues achieved 20 percent of GDP year after year, that would only add an additional $4 trillion in revenue over eight years. (We are assuming the elimination of basic government functions does not wreck the economy.)
Trump is still $12 trillion short.
(Source: Washington Post)
If you think that the Washington Post lies about the Congressional Budget Office or that the CBO itself is against Trump, you might check yourself. The CBO has been around since Nixon created it in 1974.
If you agree with Trump’s “I alone can fix” attitude, you need to ask some hard questions. If you find yourself or your peers immediately getting defensive at the mere suggestion that questions the authenticity, truthfulness or authority of the Trump, you ought to check yourself for other signs of being a cult member, because this sign is a big one all on its own.
Sign #4: There is no independent evidence of that person’s authority
I am declaring myself the world’s coconut bowling champion. Nobody is better at coconut bowling than me. I know this to be true. That’s because I just invented coconut bowling. I am making up the rules as I’m writing this. If you have your own version of coconut bowling, it’s not the authentic coconut bowling since I am the authoritative source of all knowledge for coconut bowling.
Of course, I’ve never tried coconut bowling, and I’ve never written down the rules. Until I do, you have no reason to trust my authority to determine who the champion is (it’s me though). My point is that genuine authority cannot be claimed unless it’s independently witnessed and testified to.
Trump says he’s a conservative, because he says so. But conservatives all over America (National Review devoted an entire issue to this) disagree with his statement. Thousands of Twitter and Facebook followers, many accounts which are in themselves suspect or of unknown origin, support Trump. Suddenly, groups of people who have never attended a single GOP meeting, never supported a single candidate, never taken up a political cause, say they are true conservatives, because they support Trump.
It’s a circular argument, like my coconut bowling example. You can’t call something that already exists something else just because other people hijack it. (That’s what liberals have done to the word “gay” or rainbows. It’s an Alinsky tactic.)
Beware groups whose source of authority lacks evidence. It leads to blind faith, and blind faith is never good. Never.
Sign #5: Doctrine must not be questioned
When you are criticized for even questioning, that’s the sign of a cult. Knowledge and learning thrive on questioning and challenging what is known and what isn’t known. When what is known directly contradicts what’s being taught, or just doesn’t line up with the group’s doctrine, it’s time to ask questions and challenge doctrine.
Authentic groups welcome the challenge in any form.
Ted Cruz makes his staff crazy because he’ll stay late after a rally to convince one person on one issue, and take an hour to win them over. Trump rarely mingles with the crowd after rallies and he’s more likely to throw out people who challenge him. But he will cancel an important appointment to give a long interview to famous reporter Bob Woodward.
Any group that can’t stand by its teachings without punishing the questioner is not a group I’d want to join, and if you value independent thought, you should avoid them too.
Sign #6: Secrecy and excommunication
Trump makes all his employees and staffers sign non-disclosure agreements. He thinks it’s a good idea for government too. Yes, if you handle secrets, an NDA is necessary, but for everyone? Only if you work for Trump.
[Bob Woodward]: Do you think these are airtight agreements? [Donald Trump]: Yeah, totally. I think they’re very airtight. They’re very . . . .
BW: And that no one could write a book or . . . .
DT: I think they’re extremely airtight. And anybody that violated it — let’s put it this way: it’s so airtight that I’ve never had . . . you know, I’ve never had a problem with this sort of thing.
Secrecy, when in combination with disfellowship or shunning of former members, is one of the hallmarks of a cult. Remember that cults perpetuate themselves by keeping outsiders at a distance, and keeping insiders within a bubble that reflects all feedback and discourages questions. Secrecy and oaths are one of the ways that cults keep members in and outsiders out.
If you are in an organization which discourages you from speaking to former members, or hushes up those who leave as a scandalous event, flee. Even if the group you’re in isn’t a cult, it’s better to separate yourself from people who consider themselves above basic human courtesy, who don’t seek reconciliation with those who disagree.
Trump never apologizes for anything, as a rule. Nor does he reconcile; he only conquers.
Sign #7: Ideas are supported by reality
This last sign is fairly easy to understand. Going back to Zorg, if the only reference to Zorg and Org and the Orgians came from me, you’d correctly count me crazy. That’s because there’s no basis in reality for me to make this claim. Only slightly more reality-based is a cult called Heaven’s Gate, who you might remember suffered 39 suicides in 1997 when the promised spaceship trailing the Hale-Bopp comet failed to beam them up.
Hale-Bopp was at least a real comet, but that’s where reality ends. There was zero evidence that a spaceship was trailing the comet, zero evidence that the promised aliens would end the world. In 2012, the remaining members of that cult were still waiting to be whisked away. They will wait forever, because it’s not going to happen.
It's easier to believe that Elvis is alive than to believe some of the latest conspiracy theories circulating about some candidates.
— Dr. Michael L. Brown (@DrMichaelLBrown) April 4, 2016
There are more whack-a-do cults on this planet than you might think. People are searching for something more real than their boring day-in-day-out lives, and just about anything could attract followers, no matter how ridiculous. These extreme examples have something in common with the more popular groups operating today. It doesn’t matter if the disconnect from reality is big or small, if it can’t relate to real things, then it’s false.
“Make America Great Again™” is a slogan, not a plan. Somewhere between the reality of restoring America and the deeds to make it happen either you have to believe in a person, or a miracle.
Believing in Trump requires more faith than most religions, and that could be the most powerful argument that his persuasiveness, seductiveness, is really a cult.
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