In every crowd there is always that one – the nonconformist, the rebel, the troublemaker. What happens when that one is approached by a cult for recruitment but then, turns out to be way more trouble than they are worth? Maybe they instinctively sense something amiss, they start asking questions, resist the process, even resist information overload.
Perhaps the group’s recruiters were too friendly too fast, came on true strong, asked too many personal questions, or were too obvious in manipulating others in their presence. Perhaps the individual was naturally more suspicious of the intentions of strangers or noticed their questions were not being answered satisfactorily and objected.
In an offline indoctrination process individuals are usually collected by recruiters, taken to an unfamiliar location and exposed to lengthy sessions of information overload. While this goes on, the new group is watched by group veterans. They may be divided into small groups with veteran “team leaders”; individual reactions are closely monitored.
The veteran members look for those who don’t appear to be interested in the group “doctrine” and seem to be resistant to the methods being used to bring the group into a state of mental conformity. The veteran members of the group watch for those who lack a certain level of enthusiasm; such individuals are “tagged” by veteran members.
Then they are placed into a separate group and interaction between them and the rest of the new recruits is slowly cut to a careful minimum to avoid “contamination”. The successful recruits are quietly told to avoid the unsuccessful group at all costs; they may be labeled as “corrupted by bad spirits” or “the Devil“, or just labeled a “troublemaker“.
Recruiters continue to try to get the unsuccessful recruits to conform to the group. They may use more successful recruits as leverage or “bargaining chips”, especially if they are family members or friends. If the nonconformist continues to refuse to conform, they are asked to leave and they are cut off from friends and family; and vice versa.
As successful recruits are indoctrinated, they are usually isolated with only other members of the group around them. The group will try to replace the family unit and friends who are not members of the group and real family and friends are given up unless they can be recruited. Unsuccessful recruits are weeded out and removed.
In Delphi, circa 2005, if someone did not adhere to “The Delphi Game” social dynamic with the “The Dark Forums” community, they were labeled “troublemakers” and “shit-stirrers”. Pressure would be put on any friends to bring them under control and subdue them. Friends would bring them into their faction and try to get them to “play along”.
If that failed to work, the individual would be confronted by the self-appointed “Delphi Police” forum, with a list of every “community (as opposed to Delphi TOS) rules” infraction ever committed, on their forum message board or in a chat. Friends would be given a choice: join against the individual or face community reprisal with them.
Then the “community” of factions led by the self-appointed “Delphi Police” forum would put their list of infractions up and invite the rest of the “community” to comment and add their own grievances and insults to the thread (or threads); these were called “Demands for Accounting”. Members were expected to answer to these posts.
This was the “flame war” (sometimes several forums, and several threads worth) that would be engaged in until the member “confessed”. It was the information overload/hypnotic induction strategy that would lead to the individual being pressured to “confess”, ask forgiveness and agree to being held accountable by the group leaders.
The group would try to break the individual down; pressure would be exerted against them, and on their friends. Individuals would be pressured to conform so that their friends would stop being criticized and would stop losing other friends. Their friends would be pressured by their other friends to quit being friends with the individual.
This goes on indefinitely; sometimes over the course of a week, sometimes for months at a time, and only after all attempts to gain the conformity of the rebel has failed do more punitive measures begin. Forums get boycotted; friends are forced to choose between the rebel and the rest of the “community”. Individuals get banned from the forums.
Members of the “community” must not be caught communicating with individuals who are banned because doing so will result in a “Demand for Accounting” and a repeat of the whole process until they are forced to conform or join the “rebel”. Conform or be isolated; conform or be banned until you leave the server entirely.
Nobody really knows how many forums were boycotted until taken private, “mothballed”, or deleted over the last two decades. Nobody really knows how many factions formed, exploded, re-formed, imploded, re-formed and exploded again. Nobody knows how many members were indoctrinated, weeded out, or fled the server.
Everyone that spent time in “The Dark Forums” were conditioned to certain behaviors. Always log the chats and keep the transcripts off the server, preferably on a portable hard drive. Log Instant Messenger conversations no matter who they were with, and save them too. Don’t trust anybody else’s logs, they could be edited to say anything.
Beware of accusations regarding things said in your own logs; 99% of the time, the accusations were coming from other individuals who just wanted you to post your chat logs so they could confront someone else about something they said in a chat that had nothing to do with what you were being accused of. Then turn on you for posting the log.
This is a behavior common to destructive cults; its how cult members keep control of other cult members, by having everyone reporting on everyone else. Certain forums did not invent it; certain governments have perfected it, and in the end it has been adopted by many different groups because it is effective. It obviously worked in Delphi too.
Chat logs, Instant Messenger logs, even screen shots were used against members of this sub-section of forums in Delphi to “prove” whatever someone wanted to accuse them of. It could have been failure to be an obedient and loyal member of a forum and faction, it could have been failing to live up to a certain standard on the server or in offline lives.
They could be used to “prove” that an individual was a “community threat” or an “offline threat” or both. I had such logs used against me to “prove” things were said, or weren’t said in my chats. I got manipulated into posting chats in order to set a record straight only to discover it was then used against someone else.
Once, someone sent Delphi TOS Staff after me because I posted a whole slew of colorful threats from another member of Delphi to my message board; until I explained that *I* was the person being threatened in the messages. I certainly learned “The Delphi Game” well; we all did. But most of us had no idea whatsoever that these were cult behaviors.
Not at the time.
And now there are Homeland Security related articles being published warning of what is beginning to occur right now and will be occurring in months or years to come. Media sources being impersonated; “fake news” being spread through social media; “truth decay” rampant everywhere, creatively edited photographs and videos being made.
And spread around. Photographs and videos that can be successfully forged to “prove” the “wrong-doing” of just about anyone. For any reason. One Delphi forum owner and member’s stolen and creatively edited chat log has become video from the point of view of someone in the Middle East pontificating on behalf of Islamic State.
Or pontificating in the U.S. on behalf of the Right’s Info Wars.
Or pontificating in the U.S. on behalf of the Left’s Daily KOS.
Or pontificating in the U.S. on behalf of Moscow’s RT.
Or pontificating in the U.S. on behalf of the Right’s Gun manufacturers and rights lobbyists NRA.
One-sided stories; one-sided narratives; don’t ask questions; prove loyalty; CONFORM.
The million dollar questions are what happened to all of the nonconformists, the rebels, the troublemakers, on Delphi? What does this mean for other servers, like Facebook, Twitter, YouTube? Delphi staff grudgingly responded to TOS violations when there was a big enough complaint and usually sided with the plaintiffs. Otherwise they ignored it.
The nonconformists, rebels, and troublemakers in the sub-set of Delphi either abandoned the server one by one, or they formed factions of their own and stood their ground out of sheer stubbornness. In the end it came down to two factions that refused to be bullied off the server. I am a leader of one them; we “won” by exposing the tactics.
We exposed the tactics, showed how they were used in an online context in Delphi, we cross-posted the original posts at the request of several forum owners and in the end, those who were proponents of “The Delphi Game” shut themselves down and took themselves elsewhere. The forums are mostly empty but otherwise also peaceful.
But then people on the internet tend to keep their keyboard combat to the ‘war of words’; and eventually the “unfriend”, and “block” features.
And the indoctrination process tactics have appeared elsewhere outside of Delphi both online and off. They have become topics of interest in Homeland and National Security literature though devoid of the context of cults and cult mind control. They also appear in much less innocuous forms; like consumer marketing, branding, etc.
Who benefits from use of the internet to indoctrinate and control whole populations of nations and where does it lead? Corporations and saturated consumer markets? Low wage pay for jobs that require close to a hundred thousand dollars in university tuition costs? Exorbitant pay for those who can afford to buy education and executive power?
Caste systems and wage slavery? Religious theocracy? Fascism? Failed states? Terrorism? War zones? People who want to control whole societies without bothering to educate themselves on how to organize and maintain cities, states, or nations. People who fancy themselves born with the knowledge of statecraft but are really just spoiled children.
Petty tyrants. People who want all of the money, power, and glory, but none of the responsibility. People who want to play God with your lives and the lives of your families. And they want you to be their foot soldiers and cannon fodder. Ever consider the possibility that Al-Qaeda was the McDonald’s of terrorism? In it for the profit?
Aren’t they all?
***This is part 5 of a series of posts on cults and cult indoctrination online. It will focus on the book that played such an integral role in ending the indoctrination process on the Delphi Forums server; Combatting Cult Mind Control by Steven Hassan. This series will be heavily revised and updated; the purpose is to show that Delphi is not unique.
The same process occurs elsewhere on the internet; Al-Qaeda and Islamic State did not invent it; they did not even innovate. Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, none of these sites were first to find themselves the vehicles of fake news, propaganda, or truth decay. There are much bigger cults out in the world; awareness is key to stopping the cycles.