Monday, September 10, 2018

Cult

Whenever I contemplate L. Ron Hubbard, Joseph Smith, Sun Myung Moon, "Bill" Cooper, Alex Jones or other cult leaders, one question dominates my thoughts: Do these people really believe what they're saying?

Years ago, a guy who knew Hubbard told me that, when separated from his followers, Ron would sneer at the suckers who bought into Dianetics. At least, that was the mask he wore when speaking to his fellow science fiction writers. Other evidence suggests that Hubbard sincerely bought into his own rap -- Xenu, the volcanoes, thetans, clams, all of it.

Proposition: Let us consider Trumpism as a cult.

Question: Does DJT believe in the weird conspiracy theories that he tweets about?

I've gone back and forth on that poser. Now we have evidence: Yep. He's a sucker for his own bunk. He's a Music Man who has convinced himself that the Think System actually works.
“I think Hillary is getting killed now with Russia. The real Russia story is Hillary and collusion,” Trump can be heard saying on the tape before arguing that the Clinton campaign made an illegal campaign finance violation by allegedly spending $9 million on a report to prove he had colluded with Russia. After getting affirmation on that claim from Hope Hicks, he adds, “So the whole Russia thing I think seems to have turned around, what do you think, Sarah?”

“Absolutely,” Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders replies, dutifully.
What shocks me is not the fact that the underlings all say "Yes, boss. Right, boss. Seven in one blow if you say so, boss." Obsequiousness is what underlings are for.

What shocks me is that Trump seems genuinely convinced that there is some hidden skullduggery linking Hillary and Russia. That claim is pure projection, pure propaganda. Nothing backs this theory except for casuistry offered by desperate people hiding behind feigned arrogance. Yet Trump makes this absurd claim not just on Twitter, not just in speeches, but behind the scenes.

He's a Hubbard who thinks that Xenu really is out to get him.

Speaking about cults. I must respond to this article, which references -- yet again -- Leon Festinger's overly-familiar When Prophecy Fails. For some reason, people keep presuming that I've never read that book. Hell, if I had a dollar for everyone I've met who made that presumption, I could order steak tonight. Well, maybe a first-rank burger.

Yes, I've read it. Not only that: I know the truth about "Marion Keech," the cult leader whose group was infiltrated. Her real name was Dorothy Martin, a.k.a. Sister Thedra, and she became the behind-the-scenes leader of the Association of Sananda and Sanat Kumara (ASSK), the group that gave us Ramtha.

(Remember Ramtha? Blonde chick who imitated Yul Brynner while offering mystical guff and fake prophecies? "He" was big in the 1990s. Most people ignored "his" conspiracy theories about the Rothschilds, but I notice such things.)

Here's a message for all you folks who think that you can take me to school just because you've read Festinger's book: I've spoken directly to someone who got screwed over by Keech/Martin/Thedra.

After the events outlined by Festinger, she joined up with a con artist/cult leader named George Hunt Williamson, a.k.a. Brother Philip. (His real name may or may not have been Michael d'Obrenovic; no-one really knows.) Williamson became notorious for introducing anti-Semitic conspiracy theories into the subculture of post-war mysticism. Standard fare nowadays, but shocking at the time. 

In the late 1950s, Williamson and Martin gave lectures about a secretive conclave of adepts nestled in the Andes -- the Brotherhood of the Seven Rays, supposedly a kind of Shangri-La in Peru. He wrote about this group in a 1961 book called Secret of the Andes.

(That "Seven Rays" bit was lifted from Theosophy and actually refers to a deeply racist theory of human development. Rays = Race.)

Shortly before the publication of that book, Williamson and Martin announced that they were mounting an expedition to visit the Brotherhood. Dozens of naive young Americans forked over a lot of dough to join the trek. The rubes were taken to a small Peruvian town (I forget the name) at the foot of the Andes, where they holed up in a truly horrible hotel. After they had spent a few days there in mystic preparation, Williamson and Martin assured the group that, in the morning, they would all begin the final leg of the journey. They were going to join the Brotherhood.
  
Dawn came. You guessed it: Williamson and Martin had flown the coop -- taking all the money with them.

How do I know this? Because I spoke at length to one of the victims.

Like all of the other young rubes, he had no choice but to send a message to his family begging for emergency money. Although the Peruvian expedition proved very humiliating, it awakened an interest in actual anthropology -- at least, such was the case with my informant; I don't know about the others. He later became a scientist attached to a prestigious institution, and he made me swear that I would never reveal his name in connection with this tale.

I mention all of this by way of countering Festinger.

That book is founded on the premise that "Marion Keech" was a sincere would-be prophetess, when in fact she was just a money-grubbing con artist. Festinger made the same mistake that several other sociologists have made, particularly J. Gordon Melton and Massimo Introvigne: They insist on presuming that all cult leaders operate in good faith. In fact, many fringe religious movements are headed by liars and dangerous criminals.

As for Festinger's theory that followers "double down" on their beliefs when a leader proves fallible -- well, my informant didn't react that way. He doubled down on science and logic. When you awaken in the middle of nowhere and suddenly realize that you've been robbed, you tend to wise up very quickly.

The Trump cultists need a morning like that. Nothing else will snap 'em out of it.

We come back to our original question: Do cult leaders really believe their own bullshit? On some level, Martin and Williamson did betray a kind of sincerity. Their commitment to certain Theosophical ideas -- and to racism -- was probably genuine. Yet they also were in it for the dough.

What of Trump?
Comments:
Sorta like Stantonn Carlisle believing his own Shit?
 
This post needs an important clarification.

Does Trump believe his OWN bullshit? NO, repeat NO. For a very simple reason: None of what we call "bullshit" or "lies" came from Trump's own pea brain. It's all stuff he read or heard somewhere - like on Fox & Friends, or Alex Jones. If he hears something he likes or that is favorable to him, he latches onto it and integrates it into his stump speech and dinner conversation. Maybe he even tweets about it.

The last thing he cares about is whether it's true or not. NO fact-checking required. It simply doesn't matter, and so he doesn't bother to find out. The bullshit's pleasing and good, it gives him something to joke or rant about, and it therefore becomes part of his (alternate) reality. He covers his ass with a stock phrase: "People say...[insert bullshit here]."

Trump's not so much a deliberate liar as he is someone with a total disregard for the truth. He doesn't bother with it.
 
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Does Trump believe his own bullshit? Well it makes it easier to appear convincing if you believe the lies you're telling. But remember, young Donald Trump grew up attending church services of Minister Norman Vincent Peale. Peale wrote the best selling book "The Power of Positive Thinking". Trump truly thinks that if he believes strongly enough in his own bullshit, it will become reality.
 
Wow! I have to say this classifies as an optimistic post. Never thought I would read that here! What I took away is that once the Trumpers realized they've been conned, they will abandon him strongly and immediately. This would give me great hope for the future except for the whole vote hacking thing which, as everyone needs to be reminded of constantly, our government has done nothing to prevent. Can't wait till election night!
 
Obama in his latest speech repeated his version of what Hillary said 10 years ago. When she said it, she was chastised and ridiculed for it, I am talking about politics isn't a game. Now suddenly when it came out of his mouth it sounded so deep by the same cult who didn't like when she said it. Of course he wouldn't be a president without that cult. I don't know if there are people who born without conscious or flooding it along the way.
 
Pretty much all power brokers are either wealthy or have access to people who have wealth. It's not just Trump. Even when a person marries into money or has a trust fund so in theory they the can be more independent in thought they are still probably going to be accused of being beholden to the source of wealth.

When wealth comes from being victorious in the business world, whether the victory is earned, justified, passed on, or immoral seems to be a side product that is not often investigated. Some will rationalize that immorally gotten wealth can be reinvested in a moral way, or more ethical way.

So once a person's wealth exists, the person has power and influence over others. Cult leaders have power because they have faced down people by looking them in the eye and getting the person to believe that by following the leader, their lives will be more fulfilling. Perhaps the biggest difference between a Cult Leader and a Politician is the Politician has to be voted in and can be removed via private vote at a later time.

MIchael's assessment of Trump is pretty spot on. I would suggest that Trump believes Trump is a truthful person because Trump believes in anyone who believes in Trump. Perhaps Trump is a cross between a Cult Leader and a Politician. That would explain why it will be difficult to have Washington Insiders Impeach AND remove him from office since he is an outsider who has created his own paradigm for governing. If the establishment tries to thwart him he will become a martyr to his followers.
 
Let me be a bit a of a contrarian here, Trumpism is not a cult. There is an interesting book, "Rogue Messiahs" by Colin Wilson which discusses various religious cults through history. One of the hallmarks of a cult leader is the ability to change rules rather capriciously. One of the most famous Jewish cults was that surrounding Sabbatai Tzvi. Sabbatai Tzvi was, like Trump, nuts. Judaism, if nothing else, has many rules. So do other religions, but I am most familiar with Judaism, so I will proceed with Tzvi. He would whimsically change rules, this year we eat matzah on Yom Kippur and fast on Passover. Next year, who knows. Suppose Trump decided to change the rules, suppose he grew a soul and decided that we would have single payer, that we would invite refugees in, that we would raise taxes on the rich or would adopt any other liberal issue. I don't think his followers would continue to follow him. The point is that the Republican party was not co-opted by Trump, Trump was co-opted by the Republicans. Trump saw an opening in racism, hatred and fear and simply used it. To be clearer, Trump saw that he could seize up the natural inclination of people towards tribalism and turned it from a benign, even positive attribute into a vicious,negative one. As Obama said, Trump is not the cause, he is the symptom.
 
I must admit that comparing Trump to Sabbatai Tzvi (or Zevi, which was the version of the name I learned) is an idea that never would have occurred to me. As I recall the tale, didn't he convert to Islam at the end, when made an offer he couldn't refuse? I can't imagine Trump bowing his head and giving in to an enemy. He's just too arrogant.

But Trump DOES capriciously change the rules. During the campaign, he advocated for something very like single-payer. He said he wanted out of Afghanistan, and I think he really did. And then there's Syria. I could cite another dozen examples of startling changes of mind.
 
Sabbatai Tzvi (or Zevi or Zvi or any other variation you like)But did convert, and his followers saw that as another sign from God. They also converted but continued to believe in his messiahship. The followers continued to live in Turkey. The cult ultimately died out in the early 1900s.
But single payer was never a Republican idea, nor was getting out of Afghanistan. These are just more examples of Trump being co-opted by Republican orthodoxy. If TODAY he were to come out for single payer, that would be a change, that would be leadership and that isn't going to happen.
 
The Elephant in the room is still Ageism. Most Progressives either make enough money to help take care of their of their parents or have created their own life that is based on other Progressive values. Hillary Clinton has abandoned her Moderate Base and gone 45 and under with her Onward Together movement. Unfortunately, what a Progressive won't ever do is admit that they are more concerned about other issues than they are about the elderly we already have in the U.S. are being treated.
Maybe I should say we have a Twin Elephant in the room because many Conservatives don't want to pay for programs for the elderly, and they conveniently get to use the Progressives agenda to make their point. The Moderates are the ones who get flipped into becoming Republicans or Progressives, and the Moderates are the ones who see the need to have a benevolent society, and that includes taking care of the elderly.
What we have now is the elderly going into the Progressive Blender with all immigrant related issues, and the elderly are largely being ignored. Every alleged free legal aid service in California focuses ONLY on issues that also affect immigration. They will NEVER take on an issue that only affects seniors who have lived in this country for most of their lives, they just won't do it.
 
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