Cults are fairly mysterious; the word itself evokes media images of strangely dressed people doing strange things in group settings. Because of the media depictions and the overall weirdness associated with cults and cult members, it is really easy to accept some misconceptions about cults, cult indoctrination, and cult recruitment.
One of the biggest assumptions about cults is that they only attract people who are deviant in some way. That cults attract society’s misfits; those who are weak-willed, lack intelligence, are emotionally needy or crippled; or people who are prone to addiction, specifically spiritual or religious addiction. Basically, only stupid people join cults.
Because of this assumption, most people figure that because they are intelligent, don’t have emotional or mental problems, addictions, and are socially well-adjusted, they don’t have to be concerned about being recruited into a cult. They don’t have to learn too much about cults, recruitment or indoctrination because they could never be taken in.
Cults never correct this misconception; it works for them. This is exactly what they want people to think about cult followers because it makes it much easier to gain a potential recruit’s trust if they can say “You think we are a cult? Don’t be silly, you aren’t stupid enough to fall for cult recruitment, are you? No, of course you aren’t”.
Truth is, the more intelligent you are, the more prone you are to asking questions, the more likely you are to thinking critically, and over-thinking things, the more susceptible you are to cult indoctrination. Truth is, the more flexible your thinking, the easier it is to manipulate your thought processes; all they have to do is gain your trust.
Once cult recruiters gain your trust, you will do the rest by simply wanting to believe they are who they say they are, and they will tell you what you want and need to hear. When you want to trust them, choose to trust them, you will allow them influence over your thought processes. The desire to keep trusting them will make you feel protective.
Protective of your new “friends”, protective of the world view and narrative they share with you, protective of the time, energy, and motivation you have to be in their presence and working on their agendas, projects, etc. Your new “friends” will be genuine; they will be sincerely friendly, passionate about the cause, obviously intelligent, and inclusive.
Your new “friends” will pay attention to you, want to get to know about you, your family, your interests, your hobbies. They will want to know what you do for a living, what you study in school. They will look like any close group of friends that want you to join them; you will be very important as a person, and very important to them.
What you don’t know right away is that the cause may not be what it appears to be or what you are told it is. It can be a “front” for something altogether different from what you are led to believe. Your new “friends” are groomed to be very appealing, and trained on how to identify personality type and traits, they know how to react to your cues.
Your new “friends” are sizing you up, determining what kind of approach to use that will catch and keep your interest the strongest. Your new “friends” create a deceptive narrative that appeals to you based on your personality type, traits, the approach that works best with you, the interests that net you to their cause.
They study you like a marketing department studies a customer demographic and its susceptibility to new product placement in a store. What will you buy into, Coca Cola or Pepsi, the Samsung Galaxy S9, or the Apple iPhone X, the iRobot Roomba 980, or the Dyson 360 Eye? Are you a “Thinker“, a “Doer“, a “Feeler” or a “Believer“?
Are you an intellectual, scholarly type who likes to learn and use your mind to figure out life? That type is a “Thinker“; your new “friends” will emphasize an intellectual approach. Are you a “take action” type? That type is a “Doer” and your new friends will emphasize an “action plan” to “fix” whatever it is you are interested in fixing.
Are you emotional, quick to empathize, family oriented? That type is a “Feeler“, and your new friends will emphasize a family group, full of unconditional love, approval, and acceptance. Are you a spiritual or religious type, one who seeks deeper meaning in, spiritual or religious meaning? “Believers” tend to “recruit themselves” to the group.
Most people who are recruited to cults are “Feelers“, and “Doers” rather than “Believers“. “Thinkers” that get recruited usually become leaders. Cults may, depending on the kind of cult they are, have many different narratives (fronts) to operate behind and enough funding to hire marketing firms for a polished public image or brand.
They may be able to hire marketing specialists to design recruitment campaigns and they “will use anything that works“. The average person does not understand mind-control; the average person does know what kind of techniques or behaviors constitute mind-control; but the average person always assumes they can avoid being sucked in.
In the next post, I will describe how all of this related to an online server and an online, internet context.
***This is part 2 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.