by Mitch Kokai
Senior Political Analyst, John Locke Foundation
“How many more Jonestowns and Wacos will have to occur before we realize how vulnerable all humans are to influence?” That is the key question of cult expert Margaret Thaler Singer’s excellent book, “Cults in our Midst.” Her work serves to prevent the tragedy of people being psychologically manipulated into blind obedience that harms and even kills. It should be required reading for everybody, because too many people are ill-prepared to resist undue influence and coercive persuasion.
In my retrospective of the Jonestown Massacre, I noted that Americans don’t seem to have seriously contemplated the harsh reality and consequences of coercive thought reform. It can easily destroy lives and rob people of the capacity for independent thought if we are not vigilant about how it works. Yet many are loath to admit that brainwashing is an actual reality to which we are all vulnerable. …
… [Y]ou don’t have to be a part of a death cult to experience various means of exploitative persuasion designed to modify your speech, behavior, attitudes, thoughts, and relationships. So why not study such things to build up your defenses?
Consider for a moment today’s culture, which is saturated with the constant agitation of political correctness. It rarely allows for any real discussion or debate without automatic vilification of those deemed politically incorrect. Sadly, this is especially true in the very place where there is a tradition of people expecting to engage in real debate: the college campus.
We can’t deny that political correctness has a lot of disruptive effects on discourse, such as inducing self-censorship that can cause us to feel socially and mentally isolated; manipulation of our basic fear of ostracism through the threat of smears; promotion of mob rule; and an authoritarian nature that promotes the power elites who use it.
Wait, those features are all rather cult-like, no?