Why People Fall for Trump’s Political Cult

Listen to this episode

S1: Great American forces are prepared for anything, Iran appears to be standing down, which is a good thing for all parties concerned and a very good thing for the world. No American or Iraqi lives were lost because of the precautions taken. The dispersal of forces and an early warning system that worked very well.

S2: I would say that the briefing was incredibly thin on facts. And to the extent that they provided facts, in my judgment, they did not support any claim of an imminent threat.

S3: Well, I mean, a third grader could figure this out. They were overrunning the embassy.

S4: They killed a contractor a couple of days before. So Rahmani has been killing Americans for 20 years.

S5: Hello and welcome to tramcars time, Virginia Heffernan. So the comparisons of Trump to some other historical figures have come hard and fast, at least since 2015. Trump is like Berlusconi. He’s like Hitler. He’s like Boris Johnson. Then there was that 2018 filmed. You all remember this. It was called the Trump Prophecy. And it took that evangelical route, comparing Trump to King Cyrus, the 6th century Persian monarch chosen by God to free Jewish captives in Babylon. But maybe it’s time for us on Trump cast and in the country at large to stop perceived rating on the character of Trump, whether he’s a siris or Boris or siris Boris. Maybe what’s most disturbing at this moment in American history is not the 73 year old mediocrity in the Oval Office, but the worshipful attitude his diehard supporters still have toward him. I mean, many nutjobs have peddled lies in the United States before and styled themselves as messianic. But at no time in history have so many Americans been drawn to what’s looking increasingly like a cult. Okay. I know using the word cult might be exaggerating when Stephen Hossen, the expert in cults and an ex Moonie himself, who’s my guest today when he published The Cult of Trump last fall, many reviewers and I have to say I came to agree with them, dismissed the cult framework as needlessly incendiary and not all that useful because for Trump critics to call his admirers cult members seemed at first to be just another salvo in political warfare. I think I’ve said this before, but much psychologizing of Trump over the years has doubled as name calling. He’s a baby. He’s a psychopath. He’s a stone cold narcissist. I mean, in general, this stuff fails to have predictive power. And that, to me is what proves the value of a framework. It’s also true that the discourse around cults has some somewhat woolly notions from sociology. The ideas of mind control and brainwashing come from the 50s and the coinages were used to describe what Chinese communists did to convert freethinking people to their cause. That may be true, but the implicit suggestion is that certain ideologies and ideas are so unsavory they can only win adherents using a cult measures like washing brains. I mean, you can imagine parents saying you came home from Smith College talking like a feminist. They must have brainwashed you and you might take umbrage. OK. So all of that put me off. But then in August, something changed. Remember this? Trump looked heavenward and called himself the chosen one. OK. Evangelicals were suddenly off to the races. Trump wasn’t just Cyrus or King David. He had to be the savior himself. That guy, Wayne Allen Root on the radio called Trump the second coming of God and the king of Israel. And then Rick Perry straight up. Second, did Trump’s claim that he was the chosen one? He told them, yeah, you are. You’re here in this time because God ordained you. So I thought we shouldn’t stand in ceremony on the cult question too much longer. And suddenly, the prohibition in the last month on calling Trump ism a cult has just been gone. George Conway says his wife’s in a cult. John Weaver, the former Republican strategist, says Trump ism as a cult. Anthony Scare Smoochie, Omarosa Manigault, Stollman, Norman Ornstein, Dan Rather, Steven Silberman. Who knows about the science of the brain? John Parv Lovitz pastor who knows the religious community. And Jared Yates SEXTON, who grew up with the evangelicals, are all also saying Trumpism is a cult. So I want to see if this framework is useful. And I want to go to the source for that. Former Moonie Stephen Hossen has become the ranking expert on cults and anti-cult measures and how to, quote, de-program your loved ones when they fall under the spell of something like Nexium, Scientology or Trumpism.

S6: He’s also the author of the book The Cult of Trump.

S7: I’ll be back with Stephen in just a minute. But first, the tweets, these immediate boast will serve as a notification to the United States Congress that should Iran strike any U.S. a target, the United States will quickly and fully strike back and perhaps in a disproportionate manner.

S8: Such legal notice is not required, but is given.

S9: Nevertheless, all is–well missiles launched from Iran at two military bases located in Iraq. Assessment of casualties and damage is taking place now.

S10: So far, so good. We have the most powerful or well-equipped military anywhere in the world.

S11: I feel I will be making a statement to my fellow she doesn’t want to hand over the idea goes on that page that would drive fraud gellatly produced by corrupt politicians like Schempp day shift in the first place, because after all of these years of investigations and persecution, they show no crimes and are a joke and a scam.

S8: Hope that all House Republicans vote against crazy Nancy Pelosi’s War Powers Resolution. Also, remember her speed and rush in getting the impeachment hopes voted on and done well. She never said the articles to Les Sanad, just another Democratic president, Joe trashmen. Breaking news. The Fifth Circuit Court to the bell has just reversed a lower court decision and gave us the go ahead to build one of the largest sections of the desperately needed southern BO2 for Bailey and dialogue’s under construction construction getting ready to start.

S12: Stephen, thanks very much for joining me on Charmcaster. Thank you for having me on. So you and I share a mutual admiration for an interest in David Weissman, who I think I discovered early in his journey leaving the Trump cult.

S13: He very much thinks of it as a Trump cult. He’s this former Trump troll as you now. He doesn’t mince words when he describes what he used to do. He calls himself a Trump troll, moggach troll. And then thanks to an intervention on the part of the celebrity, Sarah Silverman, he managed to find his way out and now considers himself a liberal Democrat.

S14: Exactly. And I wrote about him in the Cult of Trump book.

S13: Yeah. He’s really the only figure I’ve come across, you know, in watching this story for now, almost four years. The rise of Trump, that really sort of seems to allow that he was part of some kind of cult in embracing Trump. And I know that when you use the word cult, when one uses the word cult, and lots of people since your book came out now freely use it. You’ve probably seen George Conway and Anthony Scarum Luchi and others who’ve really taken on this idea that Trump followers are a cult. But there’s something a little bit dangerous about using it. How did you overcome maybe some squeamishness around that word to go right for it and say Trumpism has the hallmarks of a cult?

S15: So my background is a former cult member. I was recruited into the Moonies in 1974, Queens College. In fact, I grew up 1.3 miles from Donald Trump and got involved with the right wing fascist Korean cult and wound up even fasting for Nixon during Watergate because God wanted Nixon to be president. Some, your moon said. And if it wasn’t for a near fatal van crash and my family hiring X members to deprogram me, I might still be a member today, but fortunately I woke up and I wanted to learn about brainwashing and mind control. And I have spent the last forty three years as a mental health professional helping people get out of cults. And there are very clear behaviors that I write about in my book that made me feel like it was an obligation for me to write this book.

S13: Let’s go back a bit because I know your story and I know this book well, by the way, and I should say it’s extremely interesting and broadly reported calls on Bandy Lee’s work and some of the work of people we’ve also had on this show. This is the book, The Cult of Trump. But let’s go back, because your experience of the Moonies is sort of you probably discovered this never loses its intrigue to people hearing about it, because it’s so astonishing to think that a levelheaded, educated, measured, wise person like yourself would ever have followed Reverend Moon and who considered himself what better than Jesus and, you know, more powerful than Superman and Moses, the greatest. And he considered himself a prophet. He had messianic aims. He was virulently anti.

S15: Oh, he was the messiah. He was. He didn’t have messianic claims. Now, he said he was ten times greater than Jesus or anyone else in human history. But I was 19 years old. I didn’t know anything about cults or mind control. And my girlfriend had dumped me. And three women were lying and recruiting on the campus of Queens College, looking for four people to recruit. And unfortunately, they played me and they deceived me, which is a characteristic of all destructive mind control cults that they lie.

S5: Well, what exactly happened? Because I’m inclined to stop and talk to the Christianize or whoever. My friends used to tease me about it when I was a teenager. I’m a sucker. 2S like, stand there and listen to the Jehovah’s Witnesses. And were you like that?

S15: No, not at all. I wasn’t interested in groups. I was kind of anti-authority anti group. I was a creative writing major. I was writing poetry and short stories and fancied myself eventually becoming a professor and teaching writing. But I was situationally vulnerable through my girlfriend and these women flirting with me. Of course, the women flirting with me didn’t say, oh, we don’t believe in masturbation. And by the way, we believe them. And a messiah who’s going to assign us who were going to marry right in a mass wedding. Yes.

S16: And I do want to say that the moon organization’s roots go back to the Cold War and North Korean brainwashing. And South Korea was trying to deal with North Korean brainwashing. And in fact, when I exited the cult, I was an expert witness for a congressional subcommittee investigation into Korean CIA activities in the United States. And they had a couple of defectors that named the Moon organization. And I read all 11 volumes eventually after the Jonestown tragedy happened. And Leo Ryan. It was part of that investigation was assassinated by Jim Jones, and I came to understand there was a whole political mind control dimension to this organization. And more recently, when I read Jeff Charlottes books for research of the Cult of Trump, I realized, Oh, Moonglows in the family. Now I get it. That’s how he met Nixon. That’s why they set up The Washington Times and bought UPI, and that why Moon gave money to Jerry Falwell and the Christian right. Even though, you know, and within the group we were being told they were all, you know, satanic. But somehow we could use them. So the connection with the family and Michael Pence, who was recruited into the family by Chuck Colson and who is the transition head who brought in the cabinet, the original cabinet, if not everybody, is this organization, secretive, pseudo Christian organization that’s been operating for 80 years? They they created the National Prayer Breakfast and they’ve been wheeling and dealing secretly with Republicans and Democrats for 80 years. And this is part of what I see as the structural corruption of our country and the political process that needs to be outed. People need to understand these secretive, cult like groups that have agendas to impose their vision of reality on everybody else, even though they swear an allegiance to the constitution and to uphold the laws. As we saw by William Barr, who is on the board of directors of an Opus Day entity in in Washington, D.C., he thought nothing of mis leading and lying to the American public about the contents of the Mueller investigation.

S17: Yeah, he and Mike Pompeo and also Rick Perry. Right. Have said some it’s like they’re saying the quiet part out loud, a little bit more now. You know, when they feel like they’re at the Federalist Society or have enough power that they can start speaking their true eschatological beliefs, theological beliefs, they start talking in revelation terms and doomsday cults terms. And it’s very ominous.

S15: Yeah, exactly. And then there’s this whole piece within what’s being reported in the mainstream media as evangelical Christians, but are really dominionists, people who believe in taking over the government and changing the laws and imposing them on others in order to ready the world for Jesus. The comeback versus the you know, the the more orthodox Christians who say no, Jesus said, my kingdom is not of this world. You know, it’s hard for a rich person to enter the kingdom of heaven. These people are like billionaires of the best, elitist are the best. Let’s, you know, influence the 8 8 mountains of culture, government, family, business, media, arts, etc.. I started, you know, years ago by just saying Trump has the stereotypical profile of a destructive cult leader, which is malignant narcissism. And did interviews to that effect then. That’s what led to my agent saying I really want you to do a book called The Cult of Trump. I’ve written three books previously about cults in general and mind control and how to help people get out of cults. And I’ve always been leery about writing a book about a particular group, but I felt again, it was like my obligation to take my my 40, you know, three plus two and a half years. And the Moonies experience to say, hey, people wake up, mindcontrol exists. You know, you the biggest vulnerability is thinking you’re too smart to be unduly influenced. Yet everybody is being influenced right now through the media. All kinds of media are being influence through the Twitter and through the cult, the personality of Donald Trump and the people attached to him controlling him and also people who were who were actually believing that God is using Trump and that there’s going to be this kingdom of heaven established on earth. Once he takes over, he gets rid of all the corrupt politicians and traffickers, etc..

S12: I was writing something about evangelicals myself not long ago, pegged to Christianity Today, today’s editorial panning Trump and realized that Billy Graham came up with the idea for that magazine, which was meant to be something like theologically conservative and something something liberal. All the terms were a little different that. But in 1953, the same year that L. Ron Hubbard came up with Scientology. So the 60s and moonless started early for Bi-Lo. And exactly. So there were during the Cold War, enormous amounts of anxiety about how communists could change your mind or could get to you through ideology and that we might lose people to the reds and these. Groups emerge. When you mentioned Nixon, I was also thinking you probably saw this recent documentary about Bikram Choudhury, the Calcutta Yoga in I did see that documentary. I mean, that’s something that thrived for a long time.

S14: I mean, I know it’s still going on outside the US. Beat to avoid prosecution and paying his male multimillion dollar judgment. That happened in a court here. Yeah, there are many types of cults, you know, multi-level marketing, colds, religious political cults.

S5: He also claimed a connection to Richard Nixon and said that that’s what got him over from India to the U.S. is that he cured Richard Nixon of something with his yoga name, which I don’t think was ever validated by anyone from the Nixon administration.

S14: But what I want to say to your listeners is that if you understand cult mind control, the psychology of it, how it operates, how to discern, you know, facts from emotionally laden disinformation. It’s critical for this next period in our country’s history and the world’s history, because either authoritarian Cold Lake figures are going to be taking over each country or the democratic ideals and human rights are going to be reinvigorated through what’s happened in the last few years.

S6: I want to go back to a couple of details about Moon that allow you to liken him to Trump in some ways. Soldier what about?

S13: Because unlike Jim Jones, he’s on the fascist side of the equation, not the communist side. Jim Jones leveraged communists, likened himself to Lenin and encouraged everyone to think that he had a socialist utopia in mind. Moon was the opposite. And Trump certainly is the opposite. We hear Trump now scowling about socialists and and doing some of the same things Moon did. How are they similar on that political axis?

S18: Well, on a psychological level, there are the pathological lying, the grandiosity, the sense of entitlement, the fantasies of success and attractiveness, the need for adulation and obedience and dependency, the lack of empathy, the inability to put yourself in someone else’s shoes and consider their thoughts and feelings. So there’s all of that. But I guess I want to state the obvious, which I wrote about in the Cult of Trump, which is that as there’s been a revolution in science and in medicine, for example, there’s been a revolution in understanding psychology and understanding how the mind works from a note neuroscience point of view, from a social psychology point of view. And with the digital age where so many millions of Americans profiles have been harvested by Cambridge, atlantica and probably Pallin tier, which is Peter teals organization, a big Trump supporter. So much is now known about how to manipulate specific people like which buttons to push, whether you know you’re pro-life or whether you’re pro Israel or whether you climate change or whether you’re concerned about racism. And then Guy has entered into it so that we’re in a very different point in history where literally people need to get educated about how the mind works and how to protect themselves. And I have a chapter in my book, How to talk to people who are mind controlled in order to empower them to start thinking for themselves. And what I say outright is stop calling them names. Stop saying you’re brainwashed or stupid or crazy for believing in Trump. I mean, people would say that to me when I was in the Moonies and it only made my commitment deeper.

S17: You know, what did that feel like? I mean, as much as you can recall, you know, when you saw, say, an old friend of yours from Queens College and you started using the moon talking points and that person tells you what the hell is wrong with you. What do you say?

S18: Right. So I also want to just introduce the idea that when I was in the Moonies, I have like a split self. I had the old Steve Hassaine and I had the new Steve Hassen, who is the Moonie and the new Steve Haas, and suppress the old Steve Hassaine and believe that he was Satan. Say, you know, influenced by satanic spirits, etc. So there was a thought stopping process that I was taught to do on myself. And in that cult identity, the reality was black and white, all or nothing good versus evil. And I saw the world and I saw people and my friends either as people I could bring in to the truth and save them and save 10 generations of their ancestors who were stuck at low levels in the spirit world, or they were enemies and people that needed to be ignored or discarded as we went about our work of taking over the world. I’m not joking when I say that internally, as a as a American leader, I was being told by moon and by my central figure that we were taking over the government, that democracy was satanic, that a theocracy needed to be established, that. And in one impromptu leadership meeting, Moon literally said, when we take power in America, we will amend the constitution and make it a capital offense for people to have sex outside of their Unification Church marriages. We will be helping people by taking their physical bodies away from them. And in my Moonie mindset, I thought that was a really great idea because we needed to take dominion of the world and then we could restore everybody from the spirit world. That was the ideology.

S19: But, you know, once I woke up, I’m Jewish. I was educated about the Holocaust. And once I woke up and went, oh, my God, I would have done mass murder believing it was just and wonderful thing. Like so many Nazis did to people.

S12: I heard you say in an interview with vice., though, that at the time. So before you you kind of came out of this. You had heard people like. Moon to Hitler and you said, I don’t care at. I’ll follow him. Oh, yes.

S18: So that that actually was my deprogramming was five days long. It started in voluntarily. I had a cast on my leg and my father took my crutches away. But I agreed to listen if he let me go back to the group. And so I struck a deal and it was voluntary. But on the fourth of the fifth day, as the deprogrammers, the ex Moonies, were showing me parallels between Adolf Hitler and Moon, the. They got me to a point where I got so angry.

S20: I said, I don’t care. Moon is like Hitler. I’ve chosen to follow him and I’ll follow him to the end.

S18: And I meant that as a Moonie. But my real self was like freaking out inside, except it was so subterranean I wasn’t aware of it for another day.

S13: And when you look back, kids, you use a lot. This kind of splitting idea that, you know, there’s a real self. And then there’s a kind of programmed self. And when you say subterranean, I like what is the actual sensation in the body. When you kind of hear yourself saying something so anathema to your principles and your personality.

S18: Yeah. All I was aware of at the moment that I said it was a creepy feeling going down my spine. Mm hmm. But I want to say, as a mental health professional, because I actually am publishing a blog on my site today in response to an article saying there’s no such thing as brainwashing. In fact, the American Psychiatric Association DSM 5, 4 and 3, yeah, all have a dissociative disorder category where they explicitly talk about brainwashing and cults and mind control. So think about splitting as a dissociative disorder where you’re split from your body, from your real self. But you’re still there, which gives everybody hope that people can wake up from destructive cults. Yes. And well, like when I was on Leah Remini show, who did a Emmy Award winning show about Scientology. I was sitting next to the former three person in command of Scientology, Mike Rinder, who I had been afraid of for decades because he harassed me and made friends so much. And there we were doing a show critical of Scientology. And I was like, this is a real that I’m sitting next to dissing Scientology.

S17: But it must feels like such a relief to be on the other side of it and see other people likely a remedy who have made it out.

S18: Exactly. I mean, people say, Steve, how you’re doing this for 43 years, how what keeps you going? It’s like, well, people rescued me. And there’s such a powerfully wonderful feeling of helping somebody wake up from a mind control cult where people can say, thank you for giving me my freedom. Help me, you know, help me to get away from this exploitation and abuse. As a Moonie, I was taught to say, oh, I’m happier than I’ve ever been in my life. And my life was terrible for before the Moonies. It wasn’t terrible, but I would that was the wrap.

S13: Okay. How are you taught to say that? Because I mean, of course, my mind is going toward how Trumpism works. And, you know, I’ve read the accounts of distraught family members, often children of people who have kind of senior citizens who the kids feel they’ve lost to Fox News. And these these stories are amazingly heartbreaking, like you can imagine them being punchlines. But in fact, you know, one that one day a very lively woman who’s into needlepoint and charity, you know, kind of sits down in front of Fox News and the combination of porn, the like legs of the women and the, you know, sexiness that Roger Ailes got on the screen and then snuff the really angry death talk from the from some of the male hosts turns into some addictive spiral. And the family member almost invariably describes the person as lost, that no longer are they saying things that at that track they’ve they’ve dismissed their common sense. They’re living in a world of of invisible enemies and they’re willing to go down for it. Another person described it, finding his father, from whom he’d been estranged for Fox News is dead in front of Fox News.

S18: Yeah. So there’s a great documentary called The Brainwashing of My Dad. Exactly. John Sinco that describes her dad, who was a very normal, you know, human rights sensitive person who became a right wing fanatic and his, you know, waking up once he was disconnected from the constant reinforcement and indoctrination. So what I want to say is that there’s a fundamental error in everybody’s thinking who hasn’t learned social psychology yet? Yeah. And it’s called the fundamental attribution error. It’s the single most important principle of social psychology. And what it says is when people try to understand why other people do what they do, they overestimate dispositional variables or personality variables and they underestimate social influence variables. OK. To to bring that into English. Easier to understand English when we we we give people more credit that they are thinking for themselves and are independent within themselves vs. understanding. We’re social beings. We have five senses and we’re taking in trillions of bits of information through our five senses all day long. And we’re very influenced by it, even though it goes right past our consciousness. In many cases, it’s impacting us. And especially when it’s emotionally powerful and fear oriented. It goes right to the amygdala, the emotional center of the brain. And it sidesteps the critical thinking faculties, the frontal cortex of the brain. So what I want everyone to understand is that even though we are not wearing a robe and you’re not in an ashram in some isolated place, if you’re like on social media and you have a smartphone and you’re getting, you know, messages all day long and you’re watching, you know, specific silos of information, and you don’t have people in your life to reality tests and to see what other other points of view and also sleeping. Most people are sleep deprived. Seven to nine hours of sleep. Most people are not thinking critically. So what I’m trying to convey is that there’s a cultural shift that needs to happen where people get educated about how we are all vulnerable and how to how to kind of regulate the flow of information, because there really are facts that it really is science. I read a book for the for the research of the cult of Trump called Network Propaganda. That was excellent. And I love their term of that. Legitimate media is an error detection and correction ecosystem. In other words, you need to do the homework, you need to report the facts diligently, but you need to be held accountable by your community. Hey, you’ve got this fact wrong and you have to correct it. Yeah. That’s the beat. And the correction has to be as loud as the original article. Right. Which is what’s not happening on the right with Trump. There lies happening all the time. They may take it off of a Web site, but they’re not explaining to the people, well, we really got that wrong.

S12: The only problem I have with the assertion that one side is factually right and the other side is lies is that it it skips the amygdala part of this account. So so I’ve talked about this on this show before. And maybe you saw there was an M.I.T. study pretty early into Trump’s presidency about disinformation that pointed out not only do are we biased in favor of sharing and spreading lies. All things being equal, we’d rather share fiction than fact, even if the fact confirms our biases. We aren’t drawn to fiction things that have the qualities, qualities of fiction familiar with.

S19: That’s that. Yeah. So you want to be clear that I’m not saying the left has all the truth. No, no, no. It has all the lie.

S12: But I agree. But. But the other thing in the study that that stood out to me, because that one is about lies and truth is, is this something very different, which is we also love to share hyper arousing details, disgusting details, shocking details, details that electrify the neurons in certain ways, usually along the lines of sex and death. So, you know, it’s snuff and porn, snuff and porn. And, you know, you think of those I don’t have experience of cults. I do have experience with addiction. Then, you know, watching Fox News with the legs, with the Roger Ailes part of things and then with very angry faces of Sean HANNITY smuggles just a high level of like some combination of meth like stimulation with, you know, whatever the lovely experience of point of light porn is, that just creates some kind of limbic feedback loop. I mean, I’m casting your because I don’t know my brain science that well. But it looks like a phenomenon that doesn’t even have to do with language or truth propositions and has to do with the physical body.

S18: I agree. And I would cite or blame depending on your frame. A fellow named B.J. Fogg. It’s. Danford, who had some of the original research that Facebook and Google and others learned about how to program people to become addicted to liking and to sharing, etc. and I saw a recent video on b.j.’s Web site where he was trying to undo some of this by at least trying to explain to people more about how the brain works. Look, we need to grow up as a species and be adults as opposed to regress back to a childishness yet and emotional. You know, you hurt me. I’m going to hurt you 10 times worse, which is a chapter in one of Trump’s earlier books about how much he loves revenge and hurting people that he feels perceived to be hurt by. We need to grow up and we need to approach this as there really is a war going on in cyber land and medio land, literally, in my opinion, for the fight between authoritarianism and democratic forces. Yes. And we need to step up if we care about human rights. We need to consciously, you know, come together, network and be intelligent about outing this entire thing. I wrote in my book about fourth generation warfare, which I think is a critical concept that the public needs to understand. Essentially, it’s a concept that was written about in the 1980s by William S. Lind, who is an American military strategist who became involved with the Christian right. Paul Weyrich of the Christian Right. It’s a psyops program, psychological operations program aimed at the de-legitimizing leaders, de-legitimizing institutions, de-legitimizing science and facts in order to confuse and disorient, to make people numb, to create learned helplessness, in order to take over or to impose a dictator into a particular country. And my understanding is our intelligence agencies have done this on other countries, by the way. But Russia is doing it on us in a very sophisticated way. And it’s my thesis that the Christian some of the Christian right cult groups that I write about in my book are doing it as well. So for an example, how do you put somebody in charge of the EPA in the cabinet who doesn’t believe in the EPA? What effect does that have on the population? Yes, it makes no sense, right. Except if you are trying to undermine democracy and checks and balances and rule of law and you want to create disorientation. And in order to impose your own view of reality on everybody else. Yeah, I really feel that human rights, women’s right to choose gay rights as well as the right of minority religions to exist with equal status to some of these Christian cult groups. This is what’s at stake right now. And all of these appointments that Trump has done with judges around the country. I think one fourth of the judiciary has now been appointed, many of them, by the way, I understand the EPA said these people are not even fit to be judges who he appointed. And the idea is to change the law of the land, to make it okay. To discriminate. Yes. To impose their version of reality on everyone else.

S12: So one way I comfort myself when I think about, for example, this process of de-stabilizing truth or fracturing it so much that almost anything could go in that slot. You’ve got the perfect example in having the EPA run by someone who doesn’t believe in the in the EPA and that that chips away at our sense of reality so that anything could go in that place. You know, you might then start thinking of, you know, Donald Trump as a messiah, as the chosen one. But when I when I get anxious about that, I think my belief in, you know, modified market capitalism with social programs and democracy as we have it in the U.S. is not because I think it’s, you know, the perfect system that has to be maintained all the time. It’s that I think it is adaptive. It’s the way that humans, even a nation of devils, can thrive in a liberal democracy. We don’t have to always be thinking of doing the right thing if we have a pretty good a good enough system that accounts for these things. And I have to think that cultism is counter adaptive to us as a species. That is, some of the people running around in the Fox cult, for example, are in these red counties that suffer disproportionately from diseases of despair, that not only are people in some cases addicted to Fox News, as I see it, porn and snuff, but also to opiates and the other drugs that bedevil those counties, the diseases of despair.

S14: You now are suicide and drug addiction, overeating as another addiction.

S12: And so that these are not adaptive behaviors that you know, it joining the Jim Jones cult was clearly not adaptive or the Branch Davidians or the Heaven’s Gate that actually end in suicide and that even on a broader scale, the family and Mike Pompeo and other more visible figures in what sounding increasingly like a doomsday cult, hastening the end of the world by catalyzing a war between Israel and Iran, that that doesn’t work for humans long term. The ones who stick with it and end up dead with Nike’s on their feet are one group. But lots of other people see, like you did ultimately that not that you’d seen a bright light and your parents were right. That says some kind of secular Judaism was the way to go, but that this was self-destructive. You had not discovered the new Garden of Eden. You had discovered a way to wreck your own life and you wanted to write it.

S19: You know, it’s more like getting access to my real self. Get out back in time. What I thought I was joining and comparing it with what I was now believing. And frankly, what really helped me a lot was Robert J. Clifton’s book Thought Reform and the Psychology of Total Wisdom, which was published in 1961 about Chinese communist brainwashing and going through his eight criteria with the ex Moonies. It was clear we did the all of those things and at that moment that I had that thought. I was like, but we are God and communism is Satan.

S18: How could we be doing the same techniques? And that was the main seed that helped me reality test that. And meeting former members who are happy and fulfilled is when I was in the cold, I was shown The Exorcist and Moon literally said, if you leave the church, this is going to what’s happened.

S19: A prophecy of what would happen to you. And I’m meeting these former members who are so kind, loving, thoughtful, enjoying their lives. Yes. And they’re raising these questions. And so as a combination of things that woke me up. But I do want to, you know, absolutely compliment you in saying that cults don’t work. They’re not adaptive. Not only that, they suck. It’s terrible. It’s suffocating. Yeah, constricting. You’re afraid of your own thoughts. You’re afraid to tell anyone what you’re actually feeling. Phobias are indoctrinated in your head where you can’t imagine being happy and fulfilled outside of the cult. And that’s why it’s so important for people like David Weissman to speak out. By the way, Omarosa Manigault, Newman wrote a book Unhinged where she’s all that a cult. Yeah. Tolin called it a cult as well. So we have at least three andsaid removed She’arim. Read my book. Yes. Said that it was a cult as well. So we people are starting to wake up. My purpose and calling it the cult of Trump isn’t to call people cults and call them names and put them down. I’m speaking as someone who is in a cult just trying to say, hey, people hear the characteristics of a destructive mind control cult, the narcissistic, malignant, narcissistic leader, the pyramid structure, the deceptive recruitment, the control of behavior, information, thoughts and emotions to make people dependent. And, you know, wake up. Yeah, yeah. Go back in time to what you thought you were voting for. And what you actually thought of Trump before, you know, three years ago or four years ago, and ask yourself if I knew in several years the world would be like this.

S12: When I say yes to that question with someone like you, with someone like David Weisman, there’s an interesting way that new information plays on the system. So for you, it seems quite understandable. You, as a young man, enchanted by the idea of this, you know, seeing the world completely differently. I mean, when I was in my 20s, when I was in graduate school, you know, we were reading all kinds of radical texts. And I you know, the idea that terrorism was a legitimate tactic, you know, sort of pop passed through my mind, I thought, of course, if you’re Hamas or your you are the I.R.A. and, you know, you don’t have access to head Germanic power, the only thing you have is pipe bombs. You know, it just was it was very exciting to invert everything I thought before, you know, I mean, and this was just stock graduate school stuff, you know, people striking a poses and trying to sound radical in the humanities. But that is very enchanting for you, though, undoing your thinking with this. The LIFTIN book, which is also kind of there’s a lot of drama in that book, the one that first laid out what brainwashing is. And that might have been exciting also to think. No, I now see how this of it’s actually flipped. I’ve been taught these lies. I can get my brain back, you know, and that might be one person quite energizing that intellectual operation.

S21: You know, to be honest, it wasn’t energizing. When I woke up, I was so embarrassed. I was so depressed.

S19: I cried for hours. It was devastating for me. It was, you know, it was energizing. And I actually just did an interview with Robert Lifton that I just posted about his new book called Losing Reality. Yeah, it was uplifting. Was when I saw I contacted him several months after I got out of the group and I said, I want to talk to you. Your book saved my life. And he said, Which book? And I said, Tort reform. He said, That old book. Why do you want to talk to me? So I said I was in the mornings and he said, come and speak with me. And I met him and I started describing the system of how the Moonies would recruit and indoctrinate people. And he said, you know, I just studied the second hand, but you’ve lived it. They did it to you and you did it to other people. And what you’re describing is so much more sophisticated than what the Chinese were doing in the 50s. You need to study psychology and explain it to people like me. Wow. It was with a cast on my leg with a depressed college dropout who is embarrassed having been in this moon called and this world famous Yale psychiatrist was saying I had something valuable to share.

S17: He was your Sarah Silverman.

S19: Yeah, well, for sure, much more. I mean. Yeah. You know, he said more or less, I’ll be your mentor. I’ll I’ll you know, let me let me guide you. And I’ve had I’ve been blessed. I have many brilliant mentors over my career.

S13: Another sort of seeming cultists who got out of our time as Katie McCue. I don’t know if you’ve had any. She she says, you know, this is a cult. Get out where you can. She wrote for Bright Bart and she got increasingly involved with a group, I think, around Lynchburg, Virginia, that you almost don’t even want to spell it out. They have some kind of idea that they should, like, live in the woods like animals. They’re very Richard Spencer ish.

S18: Yes. Survivalists called.

S13: Yes, survivalists, but also hypermasculinity or something. You know, it’s it’s sometimes ridiculous to talk about the content because the content seems interesting at first and then it kind of falls apart in your hands like, oh, you know, again, they they all seem to believe, you know, Nexium, for example, like it all somehow seems to come down to sexual liberation, turning into sex slavery.

S14: Yes. So Nexium is an interesting call to mention because Keighran Aerie claimed to be the most brilliant person on earth. He wasn’t and claimed to be a martial arts expert. He was, um. But he was you and he. He was found guilty of having a multi-level marketing group which was shut down. And then he started this particular cult. But he was using hypnosis, neuro linguistic programming that the president of Nexium was trained in the form of covert hypnosis, which is another thing I mentioned in the Cult of Trump Book to take advantage of his followers and to rape women and to have women hurt each other and even brand them with his initials and Alison Mac’s initials by their genitals.

S12: Yeah, I’ve been really, really impressed to see some of these people who’ve who’ve gotten out of these groups, you know, beginning with you, David Weissman, the people who escape Nexium, Scientology, and to hear their accounts and also just see their wholeness come back.

S19: Yeah, there’s hope. And there’s a lot more ex-members out there. There are millions of American. We’re ex-members, but they’re still kind of in the closet because they are afraid or ashamed that of the stigma. Yeah. And I’m really hoping more people will think about sharing their experiences if they don’t want to go on the radio or TV. Fine, but start talking about it with your co-workers, your friends, and learn about brainwashing and mind control. And the other thing I want to make sure to say is that when families come to me and ask me how do I hope my loved one in a call? Yes, please. I often learn that they’ve cut off contact with them because they couldn’t. They could. They tried to argue them out of it rationally, discuss it. They cut off contact with them. And what I say to them is the way that’s going to work to help them get out is more contact with normal people on the outside who love them. Yeah, and stop arguing. Don’t attack the leader, the doctrine or the group directly because it will trigger thoughts stopping and trigger the phobias. But build rapport and trust. Learn about other cults. And the big one with Trump people is Chinese communist brainwashing. The same thing that helped me get out is going to help people wake up from the Trump cult. I believe these these eight criteria that were spelled out in his book and originally in 1961 or trafficking, which is another part pimps and traffickers that that groom and use hypnosis in order to create sex slaves. It’s those two topics that Trump believing people would be interested in learning about. And then you can kind of back your way into talking about the bite model, the behavior information thought and emotional control variables and start asking questions about how do you tell and activating the person’s precalc self for authentic self to get them back in touch with who they were prior to now.

S13: In my experience with and again, I only know I don’t know about cults, but I know a little bit about drug addiction. Reuniting someone with the person they once were is incredibly moving. It isn’t grueling and you really can see someone come out of a period in their lives where they were self alienated and discover, you know, ordinary happiness.

S15: Yeah, remind them of the good, you know, when they were good and they were when they were winning the trophy and basketball or when they were, you know, doing the the horseback riding and surfing and other things that they loved to do.

S5: Listeners can read all about this in the Cult of Trump.

S22: A leading cult expert explains how the president uses mind control. By Stephen Hossen. Stephen, thank you so much for being here. Thank you for having me on it. That’s it for today’s show. What do you think? Tell us on Twitter. But don’t get sucked into the misery there. Just come for the fun. And then pop on out. I’m at page 88. The show is at real. Charmcaster Our show today was produced by Melissa Kaplin and engineered by Merrett Jacob. I’m Virginia Heffernan. Thanks for listening to Trump Cast.