Trumpcult (can it be de-programmed?)

Thomas Veil

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Ever since 2016 I've been fascinated (in a macabre way) with Trump's popularity.

I mean, this is a guy who started out with the almost the entire Republican establishment being against him, and ends up with them following him blindly.

It's been the last two or three years that I noticed, with no particular brilliance, how Trump's following resembles a cult. You've got the vain and imperious leader, the deluge of lies his followers are told to believe (including admonitions to avoid anything that might lead to the truth), and the bizarrely slavish devotion lavished on him by his fans, many of whom believe he was sent by god himself.

By the time this article appeared in 2020, I had to laugh because it asked a question that was so self-evident.


Definitions vary, but a basic one that applies across disciplines is, "A religion or sect, generally considered to be extremist or false, under the guidance of an authoritarian, charismatic leader for whom members exhibit fixed, even religious, veneration." Mr. Trump's most devoted followers are a relatively small part of the U.S. electorate. They tend to believe in a very specific idea of patriotism that includes international isolationism and xenophobia, under the guidance of a man who some claim was "chosen by God" to lead them.

When that article was published, it was already "Well, duh" material.

The past month or so has really revved up stories about Trump's cult, however.


Jackie Speier has a particularly horrific story to tell.

On 6 January, Jackie Speier was one of scores of members of Congress threatened by the mob of violent Trump supporters and white supremacists who stormed the US Capitol in an attempt to overthrow the results of the presidential election.

Along with her peers, she was told to wear a gas mask and ordered to lie prostrate on the marble floor as the baying crowd pounded on the chamber door and the sound of gunfire rent the air. The terror of that day induced in her a flashback, to the events that brought her into politics in the first place when she lay bleeding from five gunshot wounds in the Guyana jungle, not knowing whether she would live or die.
It was 18 November 1978, and she had travelled to Guyana as part of a congressional investigation into the Jonestown settlement and its cult leader, Jim Jones. The fact-finding group of 24 were ambushed by cult members on a jungle airstrip; the congressman for whom Speier then worked, Leo Ryan, and four others were murdered.

Speier, shot five times and left for dead, had to wait 22 hours for help to arrive. She told herself as she lay on the tarmac that if she survived the ordeal she would devote herself to public service.

And what does she think after the events of January 6?

The formative experience that gave rise to her political career gives Speier an unusually sharp perspective on the danger posed by the Capitol insurrection. She thinks of it as “groupthink”, saying that “when the groupthink is about overthrowing the government, then we’ve got a serious problem.”

Since 6 January, Speier has used her political muscle as a member of the House armed services and intelligence committees to press for urgent reforms designed to shore up protections against white supremacist and extremist violence. Last month she wrote to Joe Biden and his newly confirmed defense secretary, Lloyd Austin, calling for a “new sense of urgency” following the “appalling events at the Capitol”.
In her letter, Speier told the president and defense secretary that she had become “increasingly alarmed” about the connections between violent extremist groups and military personnel. She warned them that current efforts to contain the problem were “insufficient to the threat from these extremist movements”.

My bold.

Speier is not the only one raising the alarm about the cult of Trump. A fellow named Steven Hassan used to be in a cult. A former Moonie, he's now being consulted and interviewed about exactly what we do about Trumpcult.


Steven Hassan marched to the United States Capitol prepared to kill. He believed the president was an archangel sent by God. But now, with the president facing impeachment and removal from office, Hassan and 350 of his fellow cult members tried something desperate. They arrived at the white granite steps of the Capitol to pray and fast for 72 hours.

Two days after Hassan’s protest ended, on July 27, 1974, the House Judiciary Committee voted to impeach President Richard Nixon. Forty-six years later, Hassan watched another group of angry partisans invade the Capitol. Some in the mob believed President Donald Trump to be an agent of God.
“I was literally thinking, ‘I would have done this,’ ” said Hassan, formerly a leader of the Unification Church, a movement founded by the Rev. Sun Myung Moon and known popularly as “the Moonies.”

“I mean, they just ordered us to fast and hold signs,” Hassan, now an expert on cultsand author of “The Cult of Trump,” said of his former Moonie leaders. “But we were trained to kill or die on command. And we believed the enemy was Satan and Communism. So the mindset was very personally familiar to me.

In another article Hassan, much like Mary Trump, offers an insight into Trump's psychology, only Hassan looks at it from the perspective of cult leadership.


In Trump’s case, we know his father was an authoritarian who used to tell him and his brother things like, “you are a killer, you are a king, you are a killer, you are a king,” over and over again. He was raised in a Norman Vincent Peale’s church, where you’re told to believe something 100% and it will magically be delivered by God, and any doubts are viewed as bad. He was trained to do thought-stopping from his childhood, about any doubts, any negative thoughts. I will generalize and say most cult leaders that I’ve studied were in a cult themselves previously. It isn’t just that the average citizen looks at cult leaders and they go “con man” or “con artist,” as if they were just criminals and knew exactly what they were doing. Cult leaders are much more dangerous because they have a delusion. They have incorrect wiring operating in their brain for conscience and empathy and reality testing and respect for others, as well as respect for the rule of law.

Hassan notes that the psychiatric diagnostic guide, the DSM-5, doesn't have--and probably should have--a diagnosis for "malignant narcissism".

And of course...

...he’s surrounded by enablers who validate him or are fired. That’s another feature of a cult persona: They’re surrounded by true believers. Again, if anybody says, “Oops, nope, you lost,” they’re gone. I want to point out this chanting in his head of “I won, I won”—this is, I believe, from his childhood, where he was trained to not allow negative thoughts and to keep focusing on the magical thought, which is that he won.

So how do you deprogram Trumpcult members?

The most important thing is activating and educating people who don’t like Trump to understand that they need to start building bridges back to their family and friends who are into Trump and apologize if they called them nasty names. Just say, “I miss you, you’re my brother,” or “I miss you, you’re my uncle. Can’t we just be in each other’s lives?” At least at the beginning to restore the memories of the good times before they even knew of Trump.
The bottom line in my experience is that mind control is not 100%, but getting the person to take a time out from the constant influence that’s coming through smartphones and digital media is going to be critical. When people have asked me if it’s good that Trump was thrown off of Twitter and Facebook and YouTube, I answer emphatically yes. Because we need to do what’s within our control to protect people from this constant reinforcement and indoctrination. But the bottom line has to be what’s factual.
There’s been an assault for years on truth, on science, on experts, and even on institutions—something called fourth-generation warfare, which is psychological warfare aimed at confusing, disorienting, numbing, delegitimizing leaders and institutions. This has been practiced from without by our enemies, as well as from within by the Christian right, neo-Nazis, and other people with authoritarian goals. The cure to fourth-generation warfare is outing it, and explaining to everybody this is an intentional psychological warfare technique.

Then came a question of particular interest to me, since I have this very type of person in my neighborhood.

About 100 yards from my house is a family with a Trump sign in their yard. They’ve kept it there even after the election. Every time I pass it, I feel their antagonism. So my question is, how could I possibly approach such people, who I don’t know that well, about this sign? How do you go about deprogramming people you barely know?
The people who are in the best position to influence, in a good way, are family and friends who have a longer history with the person. They have an [personal] arc, depending on how estranged they’ve become. The frame is critical—not to buy into the cult frame, How can you believe the election was stolen? You take the frame of, Tell me more about why you believe the election was stolen. Because if all the information I’m seeing is wrong, I’d want to correct it. What is it that you’ve seen that has convinced you? Aside from seeing it on TV, what actual evidence do you have access to that would be persuasive? You’re putting the verdict on them to convince you of their position versus you trying to argue them out of their position. But stay in the truth frame.

Going back to the third article I referenced, speaking of another expert on de-programming, Daryl Davis:

The problem with this method, Davis and the academics agree, is that it’s slow.
Hassan, the former Moonie, said the process must start by educating activists, journalists, police officers and politicians that even if Trump’s lies are dumb, Trump’s followers aren’t stupid.

“Look at the media they’re watching, and the disinformation they’re getting,” Hassan said of Fox News, Breitbart and other outlets that promote conspiracy theories and lies.
The second step, Hassan and Power said, is to help people with influence on the right, including responsible evangelical and Republican leaders, address Trump and QAnon believers about hot-button topics like COVID-19 and the election.

“We need to find creative ways to debunk some of the big lies, QAnon and all that dangerous nonsense,” Lalich said. “It’s targeted, non-confrontational discussions, trying to get the person to think rationally again.”

And that is the hardest part. I have to admit, I am loathe to open a friendly conversation (or any conversation at all) with these people. And I do think of them as stupid. I mean, if you were smart, would you be drawn into a cult at all?

But then I go back to something I've mentioned before: the many, many people whom I read about or who tell me directly, "You know, I never paid much attention to politics before. I had no idea what was going on..." and then go and rattle off some claptrap they heard from Rush Limbaugh or Sean Hannity.

I guess that's not stupidity, that's naiveté. But even then I find myself resisting. Naiveté, I find myself feeling, is stupid in itself if it's the willful embrace of ignorance or lack of knowledge.

Maybe I'll come around to Hassan's solution. But it's not going to be easy.
 
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Eric

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Let's just say that if there were a comet flying by they would all be trying to hitch a ride on its tail. Their level of ignorance and ability to suspend the truth is like nothing we've ever seen in our lifetimes.

Look, I loved Obama.. drank the kook aid and all but if he told me to storm the Capital I would be like WTF are you crazy dude?
 

Zoidberg

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trump has brainwashed congress and the house its really amazing.
Most of them are not brainwashed, they are just cynical and they know they are in a situation where if they want to keep their jobs, they need to kowtow to Trump, because maga cultists are above a critical mass amongst their voters. It's the latest batch that includes true believers.
 

Thomas Veil

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trump has brainwashed congress and the house its really amazing.
There are some members, such as MTG, who have obviously gone full MAGA zombie. But I tend to think of many of them as being coldly calculating. It may look like they have a cultish devotion to Trump, but in reality they simply see him as a way of establishing a perpetual authoritarian government.

Bill Maher also had an interesting, if predictable, take on the cult of Trump.

 

Chew Toy McCoy

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DT

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March 4th is almost over, was Drumph inaugurated? 19th president? Joe kicked to the curb?
 

DT

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Oh, that was a false flag operation, the we-are-totally-serious-THIS-time inauguration of dummy is really March 20th (apparently that's the date the GOP was founded, I mean, Q isn't TOTALLY crazy, they wouldn't just pick an arbitrary date ...)

:oops: o_O:LOL:
 
U

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Oh, that was a false flag operation, the we-are-totally-serious-THIS-time inauguration of dummy is really March 20th (apparently that's the date the GOP was founded, I mean, Q isn't TOTALLY crazy, they wouldn't just pick an arbitrary date ...)

:oops: o_O:LOL:
Wake me up when it's 1776.
 

Huntn

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March 4th is almost over, was Drumph inaugurated? 19th president? Joe kicked to the curb?
How does QAnon rank and file react to theses terrible predictive disappointments? Do they question their delusions or their handlers?
 

thekev

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Oh, that was a false flag operation, the we-are-totally-serious-THIS-time inauguration of dummy is really March 20th (apparently that's the date the GOP was founded, I mean, Q isn't TOTALLY crazy, they wouldn't just pick an arbitrary date ...)

:oops: o_O:LOL:

I'm kind of surprised they didn't try March 14th.
 

Edd

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Unless the plug is pulled on right wing media the cult is here to stay. Can’t fix stupid and lying is fine. I wish I were less cynical about it but I see no hope. We’ll have to keep getting out the vote and steamroll these dumb fucks.

If the Dems can manage to stay in power you can count on more Jan 6th type bullshit.
 
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