Thought control is the second major component of mind control. Thought control is where indoctrination processes are internalized to such a degree they become a general reference framework for the group. Members are given a “new language reference system to help internalize doctrines”; these are language jargon, group slang, and key words and phrases that have very specific meanings to group members. Thought-stopping is also used; this is a method used to keep an individual’s mind “centered” to the accepted group doctrine.
In dangerous cult-like groups (totalistic groups), the doctrine is “The Truth”; the only accepted world view for the group. The doctrine is used to filter incoming information and regulates how information can be thought about. “The doctrine is absolutist, dividing everything into ‘black versus white’ and ‘us versus them’. All that is good is found in the leader and in the group while everything that is bad is found outside of the group or found in “enemies”.
Dangerous cult-like groups often claim that the doctrine holds the answers to all questions, problems, and situations. A member never has to do much thinking for him or herself, because the doctrine does the thinking for them. The new language reference system or loaded language also plays a part in this component. Words are symbols that are used in thinking; controlling a word’s meaning in reference to the cult environment or doctrine controls the thoughts. Entire complex situations or situations are condensed into a single code word or phrase; a “cult cliché’.
Cult cliché words take on a deeper meaning to a group and are often loaded with a great deal of emotion. This deeper meaning and greater level of emotion creates a roadblock in the thinking process; creates a wall between group members and outsiders, fosters a feeling of being special as it separates them from the outside world, and it confuses newcomers. New members are given the idea that if they “study harder” they will understand the group’s “truth”. It actually teaches new members how to not think and they learn that “understanding means believing” (all insiders must be believers).
Another key element of thought control is training members to block out any information that is critical of the group. A person’s defense mechanisms are twisted so they defend their new cult identity against their old former identity. First there is denial “what you are saying isn’t happening”. Then rationalization; “this is happening for good reason.” Then justification; “this is happening because of x, y, and z”. And then finally, wishful thinking “I want this to be true, so I will believe it is.”
Once a member feels there is an attack on the leader, the doctrine, or the group, they become defensive. Members are conditioned to disbelieve any criticism. Critical words are explained away as “lies“, “a conspiracy against us”, or “they’re trying to discredit us because they know we’re on to them.” As the criticism of the group confirms the cult’s views about the world or “the outsiders“, the information presented is dismissed outright from any further critical thought.
Thought-Stopping is a technique used in cognitive behavioral therapy to help individuals who suffer primarily from negative self-talk or thought processes that sabotage self-esteem. It can involve chanting, singing, humming, praying, meditating, or ‘speaking in tongues’, or whatever requires the individual’s full attention and focus; the idea is to literally distract or interrupt from the unwanted thought. It is usually explained as a means of helping people “grow”, “become centered”, or “be more effective”.
In a cult it is used when a member “has a bad thought” or a “negative idea” about the group, the leader, or the doctrine. It becomes a strategy to “drown out” anything that threatens their view of reality. The technique is perverted to the extent where members use the technique when feeling doubt, uncertainty or anxiety. Thought-stopping” is addictive; can be ingrained in a matter of weeks and can become an automatic response. Members will not even know they had a “bad thought” or felt any self-doubt or anxiety; they will believe they are “growing”.
Thought-stopping short-circuits a person’s thought processes to a point they simply cannot think about anything bad or negative in relation to the group or its leader. The doctrine is “perfect”, the leader is “perfect”, and anything else is a failure on the part of the member for not having enough “faith in” or “strength enough to see ‘The Truth”. Thought-stopping is the mechanism that turns a member into an obedient slave and keeps them in that position. Once the member’s thoughts are controlled, behaviors, and emotions follow.
How did loaded language reference systems, blocking out information and thought-stopping apply to Delphi? The indoctrination process specific to Delphi was “The Delphi Game”. If you know what that means, congratulations, you must have been a Delphi member and just proved my point right there. That’s an example of “loaded language” codified to express a very complex situation; one that needed no further explanation to an insider (after about two years). To outsiders, the phrase is just a phrase; it has no deeper, more significant meaning.
Delphi members knew what “The Delphi Game” was through experience rather than explanation; experiencing it was how one became an insider. “The Delphi Game” started with the “Delphi History Lessons”. Newcomers were expected to listen carefully to these stories and believe every word of them, without question. The faction doing the telling were usually the “good guys”; the gossip pertaining to other factions depicted them and their members as “good guys” or “bad guys” depending on the nature of the relationship to the storytelling faction.
Most of the Dark Forums members knew one another directly or at least by reputation and the reputations changed depending on who was doing the talking about whom. For the newcomer being made to listen to these stories, it involved online message board politics that were perhaps a little funny, but mostly mind-numbingly boring. You were expected to listen and ask questions of the faction doing the story-telling; or of factions friendly to that faction. Hanging around, asking questions, and being friendly with “enemy” factions was being “two-faced” or “treasonous”.
In 2007 I was the subject of many of these “Delphi History Lessons”, including a campaign to prevent any faction members friendly with the self-proclaimed “protectors of the Delphi Dark Forums” from reading the original blog. Reading the blog directly was considered “treasonous”. The other faction produced their own edited and abridged version for their members; one that made them look like heroes and me the villain. For a little while it worked; the blog was ignored; I was tuned out as having nothing worthwhile to say.
Whoever controls the narrative controls the “game”; you can spin just about anyone into a villain and you can spin just about anyone into a hero too. If you are on the side of the hero, you don’t listen to the side told by the villain. For a while, most of the Delphi members “tuned out”, I saw a lot of “I don’t want to hear anything Mitsukai has to say”. I got the same reaction that I would have gotten from an offline cult if I had attacked the group, the leader, or the doctrine. As if I was a “Satanically influenced nonbeliever”.
Thought-stopping techniques in Delphi did not involve chanting, singing, or meditation; they involved litanies of “Delphi crimes”. “Mitsukai will say anything to get attention”, “Mitsukai is a shit-stirrer”, and “Mitsukai is mean, she called me a name”. While it may seem silly, think about how we tend to react when someone insults or criticizes a friend in a comments section in Facebook. Most of us want to stand up for our friend and go on the offensive on the jerk.
What about when someone disagrees with us on a particularly controversial topic; like abortion, gun rights and gun control, Confederate flags and monuments, the “war on Christmas”, Donald Trump and the 2016 Election, Hillary Clinton’s emails, or “Benghazi”? People do anything to avoid having to think about anything except the point of view they themselves believe in. Even when what they believe in is in fact a provable lie, “they” are “evil”, “we” are the “good guys”!
Every time; especially when we want to believe the “enemy” side is “lying”. Why do we always assume that anyone we don’t share a viewpoint with is automatically lying about their viewpoint? We all know that perspectives change according to the person; we all know that explanations go from short and simple to extremely complex, depending on how much time a person is given to really consider what they did and why. We make this assumption, usually because ideological influencers tell us the “enemy” is “lying”.
“We know that, right? Isn’t it the case in real life? So why was it different in Delphi? Oh…right…because having a different perspective from the next person, in real life, doesn’t get you branded as a “liar”. It could mean you knew more about something, or less about something, or that you were a little more perceptive to one aspect of any given event you might have witnessed, or simply that you just don’t agree on something.” Or at least that was the case in 2007; times have changed a bit since then, “lying” is the least of the offenses for disagreement in 2018.
In Delphi, a Thought Stopping technique was also sitting in a chat for hours, listening to the opinions of everyone else, before you decided for yourself, how you feel. Where you tune inward, and absorb what you are being told, without much chance to think on it as the process goes on. Tuning out the outside noise perhaps, blanking out to the world as your full attention is on whoever is telling you what the “evil bastards did this time.” With some people in Delphi, after time in a chat room, you were just waiting for them to say “LALALALALALALALALAICAN’THEARYOULALALALA” upon sight of you.
Another nice handy-dandy thought stopping deadlock; “Long-winded posts“. When someone is of a mind to read the whole post, the length of it doesn’t matter. If a post is long, readers will return later to finish it. What matters most, is the perceived relationship, between the reader and the writer. If the writer is liked, or considered to have some importance to the reader, the reader will read. If not, then it is easy to ignore if there is peer pressure; or at least pretend to ignore. In other words it came down to bias; positive or negative bias determines whether an audience reads or not.
Today, people read from sources that fit their preconceived biases; their choice of websites often influences the marketing algorithms of the internet, especially with Facebook and other social media sites. A person who spends a lot of time reading InfoWars is going to see advertisements for Breitbart and possibly Storm Front and RT. Sites that espouse political, religious, and ideological rhetoric have a loaded language easily identifiable to their followers. Furthermore, they all sell books to readers.
Fake profiles (alias profiles) are the latest rage; so much so that Facebook deleted 583 million of them in the first three months of 2018. In Delphi these were mostly used to spy and harass members, and occasionally to influence. Today, they are used to create a false sense of majority numbers, manipulate public opinion, especially about reading content of opposition sites and book authors; and recruit people to political, religious, and ideological rhetoric and narratives.
Blocking of information by discrediting it or discrediting the sources is actively used everywhere, especially against the scientific and academic communities, against political parties and religious groups, usually by political parties and religious groups against each other. Even the Russians got in on it, manipulating public opinion during the 2016 U.S. Presidential Election. As is the case with regular cults; followers get defensive against anyone they perceive to be attacking the group, leader, or doctrine.
Consider: Donald Trump’s supporters have been described as cult-member-like in their steadfast refusal to hear any criticism of him, his policies, or rhetoric. Unfortunately, the same could (and was) said about those who supported both Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders. Arguably it was not the leaders themselves but the campaign polarization and the controlling behaviors of the followers that created this total refusal to consider even the most mildest of criticisms; blocking and thought-stopping ensued on all sides.
Thought-stopping is used by anyone who wishes to avoid thinking or even entertaining the ideas of those who disagree with their point-of-view and these points-of-view can usually be traced to media influencers, particularly religious and political influencers that support specific political candidates and ideologies. Thought control is an important component of mind control, especially when combined with behavior control, emotion control, information control, and the influence processes.
It is how fascist regimes, especially theocratic dictatorships seize power in a nation; or in the attempt to seize power, create terrorist groups and failed states.
Next up, a closer look at the third component of mind control, emotion control. Thanks for reading.
***This is part 13 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.