“Even the most complex cult doctrines ultimately reduce reality into two basic poles: black versus white; good versus evil; spiritual world versus physical world; us versus them.”
“There is never room for pluralism. The doctrine allows no outside group to be recognized as valid (good, or real) because that would threaten the cult’s monopoly on truth. There is also no room for interpretation or deviation. If the doctrine doesn’t provide an answer directly, then the member must ask a leader. If the leader doesn’t have an answer, he can always brush off the question as unimportant or irrelevant.”
“Pet devils vary from group to group. They can be political and economic institutions, mental-health professionals or spiritual entities. The “huge conspiracies” working to thwart the group are, of course, proof of its tremendous importance.”
“Some groups cultivate a psychic paranoia, telling members that spirit beings are constantly observing them, or even taking possession of them whenever they feel or think in non-cult ways.”
Again, I decided to show direct quotes, because I didn’t want to lose an ounce of meaning from the author’s original words. In Delphi, we all reduced “reality” into those two basic poles, especially “us versus them”. A number of members would arrange themselves and commit to actions against others out of the idea that they were “better”, “darker”, and the other group was “stupid” or “deserved it”.
Within the subset of Delphi’s “Dark Forums”, we had factions who refused to recognize other factions as valid. If validity was extended, it was extended only to factions that were friendly. If the factions were fighting, the validity was strictly denied. In some cases certain individuals actually attempted to deny the validity of other individuals. “Alias profiles” were meant to hide identity and “pixel people” was meant to dehumanize. Claims that a profile was not “old enough” or “accepted enough” were all examples of individuals attempting to deny the validity of other individuals.
All sides tended to believe their own side held a “monopoly on truth”; each faction claimed to know what was “really going on”, to be the only ones that “knew all the facts”, but few did. Each faction knew whatever transpired on their own forum boards; in the private folders or in the chats right in front of them. After that it was second, third, or fourth hand information. Members of one faction were not privy to the private folders or private conversations of other factions; unless the information was leaked or stolen. One never knew if that information was trustworthy.
Generally the offended faction would give their side of the story; the defending parties would give theirs; and everyone else would have to try to figure out whose story to believe. Inevitably, both sides would claim the other was lying, individuals would embellish and exaggerate; others would omit large portions, one or both sides would try to hide the real instigators and any involved in exacerbating it and blowing it out of proportion.
Even worse, getting flak from one or both sides when you made it clear you didn’t want to be involved. Anyone who tried to stay out of conflict between other factions caught hell for trying. This was especially true if, when pressure was put on you to pick a side; you decided to get both sides of the story before making a decision. Getting both sides was considered an “Act of War” because it implied that one had doubts about the person telling the story or the story itself. You were always a “back-stabber” to whichever side you didn’t take.
Once you picked a side (and if you didn’t, it would usually get picked for you by whichever faction decided to get offended because you didn’t believe them) it was broken down to “us” versus “them”. The whole rest of the fight was about who the “black” and “white”, the “good” or the “evil”, the “honest” and the “untrustworthy”; the “angels” and the “devils”. If you pick a side and then try to get them to see each other’s point of view; you were “on the other side” and thus a “back-stabber” as well.
In Delphi, members had to be very careful how they asked a faction leader anything. If the faction leader felt the member was asking about something they heard from someone else, that might be critical of that faction leader, the member could get attacked for being “disloyal”. They would certainly be interrogated about who they had been talking to that they would even know to ask that particular question, and a review might be had of any past “crimes” the member might have been involved in.
Being skeptical of a faction leader’s story could get a member kicked out of the faction. When that happened, the question itself would become a proof of disloyalty to the faction leader, but it was the person who asked the question who would be deemed “irrelevant” and “unimportant”. The member if not kicked out of the faction would be given the cold shoulder until enough effort had been expended in proving loyalty to the faction leader, usually through public acts of defensiveness of the leader and faction.
Everyone in Delphi’s “Dark Forums” was somebody else’s “pet devil”. Some of us were even the “pet devils” of the majority of forums within the “Dark Forums Community” (I’m one example of a community favorite “pet devil”). Pick a forum faction then determine who they considered their biggest rival; that was their “pet devil”. “The Delphi Game” often involved sabotaging one’s rivals while actively indoctrinating or re-indoctrinating group members.
Sometimes there would be a “conspiracy” afoot; sometimes there wasn’t, but individuals had become so paranoid, they believed there was a conspiracy against them going on. Those who saw conspiracies against them always felt it was because they and their faction were “very important”. If a faction was conspiring against another faction, it was because “it was fun” and “they’re not important”. Mostly conspiracies occurred because people got bored and had nothing else better to do with their time. Targets got picked because of opportunity and it was easy.
But in the end it was always the same; server reality was always “black” or “white”, it was always “us” versus “them”; everyone was interchangeably “good” or “evil”, “angels” and “devils”; the only thing that ever changed was which side of the line you happened to be standing on between any one faction or group. The same is happening today, all over the internet and all over off of the internet as well. If you are reading this, you belong to all kinds of groups.
Some you were assigned to it at birth; like sex and gender role, racial group, ethnic group, religious or spirituality group. Some of them you may have chosen on your own; such as religious or spirituality group, professional groups, hobbyist groups, perhaps you are a sports fan, or a fan of a certain kind of music. Perhaps you identify as a member of a specific political party, or even socioeconomic group (though it could be debated on if this is inherited or chosen).
You may actively embrace a role in any of those groups and you may consider those that don’t fit into that group an “outsider”, even an “enemy”. Often when we consider an “outsider” an “enemy” it is because of how we are taught to perceive the reality of the group and its place relative to environment and resources. Often environment and resources shaped a doctrine, a worldview, a narrative, and maybe that doctrine is outdated; maybe it is not, but it goes on influencing how we act and react toward the “outsider”, the “other”.
What groups do you belong to? What in your reality do you consider “black” or “white”, “good” or “evil”? Who shapes the doctrines that inform your reality as relevant to “other” groups that to you are “outsiders”? What generalities of belief do you adopt about those outsiders? Do you know members of outsider groups yourself, or do you stick to interacting with the members of groups you are naturally or selectively a part of? Are you encouraged to interact with outsiders or are you encouraged to fear and avoid them?
***This is part 22 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 it. 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.