All of us are exposed to social pressures on a daily basis particularly in regards to conformity. Some of the social pressures are benign; be a good person, be ethical, be kind to children, animals and your elders.  Some of the social pressures are destructive; smoke cigarettes, work 80 hours a week, bully your family to establish manliness.

We have to conform to certain standards; workplace dress codes, school codes of conduct, obeying traffic signals, and police officers, civil and criminal law, privacy, civil rights, and civil liberties, email etiquette, and cybersecurity compliance on workplace computer networks. Or you get kicked out of school, fired from your job, arrested.

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Social pressure is no joke; just ask anyone in the market for a job who is active on LinkedIn. Or trying to lose weight; or get good grades in school, or….

We are all exposed to social pressures and we all make decisions on conformity. We all decide how much, or how little we will conform to social pressures, and we accept the penalties that come from our decisions. Dangerous cults employing mind control are “systems that seek to undermine an individual’s integrity in making decisions“.

Mind control is a systemic and strategic sabotage of the individual. It is the willing removal of independence, autonomy, and individuality from the mental processes of that individual,  while encouraging conformity to a status quo and carefully fostering a dependence on others. It is a mental form of slavery rather similar to Group-think.

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Introverted-Intuitive-Thinking-Judging (INTJ), a category of personality type according to the Myers-Briggs Personality Inventory. The Myers-Briggs is used in workplaces to determine personality fit, particularly in the area of employee promotion and lateral movement to different departments. Can tend to encourage “culture fit” conformity.

Delphi developed its own set of standards, its own social pressures, its own norms, codes of conduct; read a forum start page, post an introduction, respect any other rules of the forum like you would the “house rules” in a real home. Don’t jump on the furniture, break the dishes, or cuss like a sailor in front of the kids. Don’t tease the dog or cat.

It was considered “disrespectful” to go into forums or chat rooms of rival hosts or factions if you had previous conflict and pick a fight with the forum owner or staff. If you offended a forum owner, you gave them the space of their own forum, unless you were looking to make the situation worse. This was part of “The Delphi Game”.

A forum owner is running a chat and has a room full of chatters but isn’t necessarily paying attention. There are members of the resident faction, members of friendly factions, usually a spy or three for the unfriendly factions. A member of one faction picks a fight with a member of a another faction, neither of which are the home turf faction, and the one that picks the fight tries to laugh it off like it’s a joke with the forum owner.

The person that got picked on throws a fit on the forum owner, rants and raves all over the message boards of the forum the chat occurred, all over their own forum message boards, rampaging accusations at the forum owner that owned the chat. Almost no mention of the person who actually picked the fight, or their faction. That person is still taunting the person they picked on in the forum owner’s forum, even after told to stop.

Or perhaps the “troll” picks the fight with the forum owner’s staff members (usually faction members), does things to deliberately annoy them, and then pretends they can’t understand why the staff member got all upset. “Your staff member has no sense of humor, I was just playing around”. The troll starts playing the forum owner against their own staff member and friend. Then others come in and start baiting the troll.

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As a matter of fact, yes it was a bit like this when you are the Delphi forum owner trying to referee between members of other factions, or your own, and they all hate each other.

Or members of two factions, both friendly with the forum owner and their own faction are both in a chat or involved in a thread on the message board, but the two visiting factions are rivals to one another. One side starts baiting the other with abusive insults, usually the one with the higher status in the forum with the owner. The victims make a show of looking to the forum owner for protection from the bullying faction.

Sometimes the forum owner’s own faction members also take a side, either for the faction doing the bullying, and they join in on it, or on the side of the faction being bullied, which case they start reigning in the bullies and pushing them out of the forum. Often it doesn’t matter what the forum owner does, the victim faction flounces off after informing the owner they will not be back so long as the offender is allowed there.

Does this sound like a familiar dynamic in the comment sections of the news media, all kinds of websites, blogs, YouTube, Facebook, and Twitter? In Delphi, 9 out of 10 times this was all contrived; the animosities between the rival factions would be real, but the end game was to force the forum owner to choose one side or the other in the rivalry and ban the other faction from the forum. Presence in a forum meant influence.

Being banned from a forum, often led to being banned from several forums as forum owners were usually part of a faction with several members who all had their own forums. Banned in one faction forum meant banned in all faction forums. These were the social pressures exerted by individuals to gain conformity in thinking and attitude toward others.

Don’t like someone around your friend?  Pick a fight with them and make your friend choose between you. Is your friend or family member a Left Wing Liberal and you are a Right Wing Conservative? Hang around their Facebook page and argue with them and their friends every time they post a Liberal meme in hopes that by bullying and badgering them, they will either block you, ignore you, or give up and join you!

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No matter the server, online or off, we all have those friends or family members who will see you getting a hard time from someone else, and voila!

These people don’t really know they are effectively trying to recruit you or anyone else they can reach and influence through you, via your comment section by using social pressure to force conformity. They have no idea they are pawns; but somewhere in a conservative echo chamber online, they were exposed to the strategy and adopted it. Maybe in their mind, they are trying to save your soul by converting you to the GOP.

In Delphi, it took me two years before I would accept that “The Delphi Game” was meant to indoctrinate me, to exert so much social pressure that in the end, I would either quit the Delphi server on my own, and I almost did at least once, or be run off by its other members under false pretenses; contrived fights; for nothing more than fun and bragging rights. It didn’t take me that long to come up with a strategic solution.

it took me that long to realize there were some very seriously disturbed individuals on that server, who really weren’t playing around when they would make threats against different factions using quotes from The Art of War. For two years,  I believed this was all the stupid drama of a bunch of childish adults refusing to grow up and act their age. My own faction tried telling me otherwise but I didn’t believe them.

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The problem with trying to cultivate public image or “brand” on the internet. It may be misleading, deceptive, only partly true. If nothing else, it’s a carefully edited “product”. And other “products” tend to know it.

I decided that my forum was not up for being dictated to by another forum. “My Forum, My Rules”; I paid the membership, I paid the forum fee, don’t like the people in my forum, don’t come to my forum. Don’t like my rules, tough, the Constitution only applies to the United States Federal Government and my forum is not a Federal agency. I set specific rules for fights instigated in my chats and forum message boards.

Pick the fight, you are on your own. If your victim brought friends and picked back, you had better be able to hold your own. If you got picked on in my forum, you were expected to defend yourself. I would not get involved and all members of my group were prohibited from becoming involved, until the victim was outnumbered by more than 3 to 1. Once a victim was arguing with more than 3 individuals, my group would move in.

Ultimately that worked in my forum; and the “My Forum, My Rules” policy began to be adopted and adapted in other forums within this sub-set of Delphi. We learned to pick our battles and to set limits on flame wars. Pick the three biggest instigators, ignore the rest completely, don’t even read them, they were irrelevant. Go no more than 3 rounds, 9 posts, then disengage. That arrested “The Delphi Game” indoctrination process.

It stopped people from getting overwhelmed and argued into submission. When it came to people who got their opinions of chat room events, message board or Delphi blog posts, from other people instead of reading things for themselves, it was fine. It was their right to get their opinions from other people if that was what they wanted but they also forfeited the right to be taken seriously at all. It wasn’t their opinion anyway.

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“Whatever you do…. don’t read THIS BLOG. For it is an EEEEEVVVILLL Blog….It is the BLOG OF DOOM! Just ask…….. Don’t worry, they will tell you ALL about it…” Come to think on it, that group probably all went on to start the Hipster subculture.

And of course I wrote 30 posts in the Delphi blog about cult indoctrination and its relevance to the sub-set of Delphi in which we had our forums. Some read it, some did not and got their opinions from other people instead, and I showed how that was the epitome of “undermining an individual’s integrity in making his own decisions“.

When someone tells you not to read something for yourself, that they will read it for you and tell you what it says (or means), that is mind control. If they tell you not to read it because it sucks, it’s too long-winded, poorly written, full of typos, “but here are the high lights”, and then make fun of it, you are experiencing social pressure to avoid reading and deciding for yourself. You are being deceived into cult-mentality and cult identity.

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Sadly, this is true, and it is where the whole idea that “freedom” doesn’t really exist at all, it’s an illusion that reinforces the status quo, comes from. What is usually not mentioned is that the reason this is the case, is because of social pressures that force people into conformity and treat diversity of form, and of thought, like its a “sin”. It’s not necessarily a formal “system”, it’s people trying to make other people just like them. Or it’s a cult-like group.

Delphi was an early example of cult conformity through mind control  in an online environment. One group attempted (and succeeded for a few years) to force conformity to a status quo laid down by them for others to follow. In their actions, their words were meaningless,  they showed that others couldn’t be trusted to think for themselves. Opinions had to be given by these self-appointed “leaders”.

People couldn’t understand anything themselves. It all had to be explained second or third-hand, by people who didn’t want to lose their base of power. People with an agenda of  their own. People who make a point of using small words and much shorter paragraphs because supposedly, everyone now suffers from low intelligence, short attention spans, poor education, lack of interest, and critical thinking skills.

But that’s not true of everyone. In fact, if you have read this post (weighing in at over 2,200 words), and earlier posts in the series, it’s not true of you. It wasn’t true for the members of the factions of Delphi’s “Dark Forums Community” either. They read the original blog, then they asked for cross posts to their forum boards, and the people who were trying to control them went away.

Still much more to come, until next time, thank you for reading.

 ***This is part 8 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.