Saturday, 4 October 2014

Alan Henning was murdered by a cult.

Alan Henning
LONDON (Associated Press) — Alan Henning, a British volunteer aid worker slain by the Islamic State militant group, was described by friends as a hard-working family man who felt compelled to help people suffering from the civil war in Syria.
Henning, 47, had joined an aid convoy and was taken captive on Dec. 26, shortly after crossing the border between Turkey and Syria. A cab driver from northwest England, Henning got involved in taking aid to Syria through a colleague. Friends said he had traveled to the Turkey-Syria border several times in the two years before his capture, leaving behind a wife and two teenage children to help people whose lives were shattered by war.
"He's just a taxi driver with a heart of gold who basically wanted to help people," said a friend, Martin Shedwick.
Henning, nicknamed "Gadget," reportedly joined a convoy organized by an Islamic charity, Al-Fatiha Global, based in Worcester, England.
"I asked why he wanted to do it, because it was dangerous and he had family here. And he just said 'it's what I love to do,'" said friend Orlando Napolitano, recalling a conversation in his cafe just before Henning left in December.
"It was his passion. He'd been there twice before and would tell me about all the people there who have nothing, about all the difficulties they face. It was his passion to help them, he didn't care if it was dangerous," the Manchester Evening News quoted Napolitano as saying.
Henning, his wife Barbara and two teenage children lived in Eccles, near Manchester in northwest England.
A neighbor Debbie Ashton, described him as a "lovely guy."
"He was always asking us if we knew anyone who was throwing their clothes away," the Daily Telegraph newspaper quoted her as saying.
"He told me they would go to the border and they would have to take everything out of the van and go in ambulances, otherwise they wouldn't let him in.
"He was really emotional about it all and he used to say those kids need all the help they can get," she said. "He told me 'You wouldn't believe the life they live over there.'"
Harald Doombos, a Dutch reporter who interviewed a Syrian activist who had briefly been held in the same place as Henning, said the British man believed he would soon be released.
"Don't worry about me, I'll be out in no time because I'm just an aid worker. They will release me," Doombos said his Syrian contact quoted Henning as saying.
"He rather naively, maybe, thought it was all going to be OK, that it was some kind of misunderstanding." Doombos said.
In April, Britain's Charity Commission announced it had begun an inquiry into Al-Fatiha Global because of "serious concerns about the governance and financial management of the charity."
Among other things, the inquiry was examining allegations of "inappropriate links between the charity and individuals purportedly involved in supporting armed or other inappropriate activities in Syria." There was no indication that the investigation was related to Henning's case.
Many British Muslim groups had called for Henning to be released.
Shuja Shafi, secretary general of the Muslim Council of Britain, said Henning had traveled to Syria to help people, mainly Muslims, whose lives had been ravaged by war.
"Such a man should be celebrated, not incarcerated," he said of Henning.

Robert Barr (copyright 2014)

Image purported to show Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi (05/07/14)
Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi

An organization ostensibly led by Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, which claims to have volunteer fighters from all over the globe, has arbitrarily declared the establishment of a 'Caliphate' (an 'Islamic State') - comprising parts of Iraq and Syria, forcing many minority communities to flee their homes.

Image from IS video of execution in Mosul. 28 Auf 2014


Professor Robert Jay Lifton 

In 1961 (after many years of field-research, interviewing US servicemen held prisoner during the Korean War), Robert Jay Lifton (b. 1926) published, ‘Thought Reform and the Psychology of Totalism.’ In this standard, medical text-book, Lifton identified 8 ‘themes’ which, if present in any group, indicate that its members are being subjected to a mixture of social, psychological and physical pressures, designed to produce radical changes in their individual beliefs, attitudes and behaviour.

1). ‘Milieu control’ — the attempted control of everything an individual experiences (i.e. sees, hears, reads, writes and expresses). This includes discouraging subjects from contacting friends and relatives outside the group and undermining trust in exterior sources of information; particularly, the independent media.

2). ‘Personal or mystical manipulation’ — charismatic (psychologically dominant) leaders create a separate environment where specific behaviour is required; leading to group members believing that they have been chosen and that they have a special purpose. Normally group members will insist that they have not been coerced into group membership, and that their new way of life and beliefs are the result of a completely free-choice.

3). ‘Demand for purity’ — everything in life becomes either pure or impure, negative or positive, etc. This builds up a sense of shame and guilt. The idea is promoted that there is no alternative method of thinking or middle way, to that promoted by the group or by those outside it. Everything in life is either good or bad and anything is justified provided the group sanctions it as good.

4). ‘Confession’ — personal weaknesses are admitted to, to demonstrate how group membership can transform an individual. Group members often have to rewrite their personal histories and those of their friends and relatives, denigrating their previous lives and relationships. Other techniques include group members writing personal reports on themselves and others. Outsiders are presented as a threat who will only try to return group members to their former incorrect thinking.

5). ‘Sacred science’ — the belief in an inexplicable power system or secret knowledge, derived from a hierarchy who must be copied and who cannot be challenged. Often the group’s leaders claim to be followers of traditional historical figures (particularly, established political, scientific and religious thinkers). Leaders promote the idea that their own teaching will also benefit the entire world, and it should be spread.

6). ‘Loading the language’ — a separate vocabulary used to bond the group together and short-circuit critical thought processes. This can become second nature within the group, and talking to outsiders can become difficult and embarrassing. Derogatory names, or directly racist terms, are often given to outsiders.

7). ‘Doctrine over persons’ — individual members are taught to alter their own view of themselves before they entered the group. Former attitudes and behaviour must then be re-interpreted as worthless, and/or dangerous, using the new values of the group.

8). ‘Dispensing of existence’ — promotion of the belief that outsiders — particularly, those who disagree with the teaching of the group — are inferior and are doomed. Therefore, they can be manipulated, and/or cheated, and/or dispossessed, and/or destroyed. This is justifiable, because outsiders only represent a danger to salvation.

Hardcover Edition

Prof. Margaret Singer

Another giant in the field of academic research into the cult phenomenon, is Prof. Margaret Singer (1921-2003).  Her major work which was published in 1996, is 'Cults in Our Midst.' ( In this, Prof. Singer set out 'six conditions' in which totalistic thought-reform can be achieved:

  • 1). Keep the person unaware of what is going on and how attempts to psychologically condition him or her are directed in a step-by-step manner.

  • Potential new members are led, step by step, through a behavioural-change program without being aware of the final agenda or full content of the group. The goal may be to make them deployable agents for the leadership, to get them to buy more courses, or get them to make a deeper commitment, depending on the leader's aim and desires.
    • 2). Control the person's social and/or physical environment; especially control the person's time.
    Through various methods, newer members are kept busy and led to think about the group and its content during as much of their waking time as possible.
    • 3). Systematically create a sense of powerlessness in the person.
    This is accomplished by getting members away from their normal social support group for a period of time and into an environment where the majority of people are already group members.

    The members serve as models of the attitudes and behaviours of the group and speak an in-group language.

    Strip members of their main occupation (quit jobs, drop out of school) or source of income or have them turn over their income (or the majority of) to the group.

    Once the target is stripped of their usual support network, their confidence in their own perception erodes.

    As the target's sense of powerlessness increases, their good judgement and understanding of the world are diminished (ordinary view of reality is destabilized).

    As the group attacks the target's previous worldview, it causes the target distress and inner confusion; yet they are not allowed to speak about this confusion or object to it - leadership suppresses questions and counters resistance.

    This process is sped up if the targeted individual or individuals are kept tired - the cult will take deliberate actions to keep the target constantly busy.
    • 4). Manipulate a system of rewards, punishments and experiences in such a way as to inhibit behaviour that reflects the person's former social identity.
    Manipulation of experiences can be accomplished through various methods of trance induction, including leaders using such techniques as paced speaking patterns, guided imagery, chanting, long prayer sessions or lectures, and lengthy meditation sessions.

    The target's old beliefs and patterns of behaviour are defined as irrelevant or evil. Leadership wants these old patterns eliminated, so the member must suppress them.

    Members get positive feedback for conforming to the group's beliefs and behaviours and negative feedback for old beliefs and behaviour.
    • 5). The group manipulates a system of rewards, punishments, and experiences in order to promote learning the group's ideology or belief system and group-approved behaviours.
    Good behaviour, demonstrating an understanding and acceptance of the group's beliefs, and compliance are rewarded while questioning, expressing doubts or criticizing are met with disapproval, redress and possible rejection. Anyone who asks a question is made to feel there is something inherently disordered about them to be questioning.

    The only feedback members get is from the group; they become totally dependent upon the rewards given by those who control the environment.

    Members must learn varying amounts of new information about the beliefs of the group and the behaviours expected by the group.

    The more complicated and filled with contradictions the new system is and the more difficult it is to learn, the more effective the conversion process will be.

    Esteem and affection from peers is very important to new recruits. Approval comes from having the new member's behaviours and thought patterns conform to the models (members). Members' relationship with peers is threatened whenever they fail to learn or display new behaviours. Over time, the easy solution to the insecurity generated by the difficulties of learning the new system is to inhibit any display of doubts—new recruits simply acquiesce, affirm and act as if they do understand and accept the new ideology.
    • 6). Put forth a closed system of logic and an authoritarian structure that permits no feedback and refuses to be modified except by leadership approval or executive order.
    The group has a top-down, pyramid structure. The leaders must have verbal ways of never losing.

    Members are not allowed to question, criticize or complain. If they do, the leaders allege the member is defective, not the organization or the beliefs.

    The targeted individual is treated as always intellectually incorrect or unjust, while conversely the system, its leaders and its beliefs are always automatically, and by default, considered as absolutely just.

    Conversion or remolding of the individual member happens in a closed system. As members learn to modify their behaviour in order to be accepted in this closed system, they change—begin to speak the language—which serves to further isolate them from their prior beliefs and behaviours.


    Building on Lifton's and Singer's solid foundation (and after much research) I concluded that pernicious cultism is an evolving criminogenic phenomenon which can be briefly defined as:

    'any self-perpetuating, non-rational/esoteric, ritual belief system established or perverted for the clandestine purpose of human exploitation.'

    However, since phenomena cannot be accurately defined; I set down the following, essential, and universal, identifying characteristics of a pernicious cult and I published these in 2005:
    1). Deception. Pernicious cults are presented externally as traditional associations. These can be arbitrarily defined by their instigators as almost any banal group (‘religious’, ‘cultural’, ‘political’, ‘commercial’, etc.). However, internally, they are always totalitarian (i.e. they are centrally-controlled and require of their core-adherents an absolute subservience to the group and its patriarchal, and/ or matriarchal, leadership above all other persons). By their very nature, pernicious cults never present themselves in their true colours. Consequently, no one ever becomes involved with one as a result of his/her fully-informed consent.

    2). Self-appointed sovereign leadership. Pernicious cults are instigated and ruled by psychologically dominant individuals, and/or bodies of psychologically dominant individuals (often with impressive, made-up names, and/or ranks, and/or titles), who hold themselves accountable to no one. These individuals have severe and inflexible Narcissistic Personalities (i.e. they suffer from a chronic psychological disorder, especially when resulting in a grandiose sense of self-importance/ righteousness and the compulsion to take advantage of others and to control others’ views of, and behaviour towards, them).* They steadfastly pretend moral and intellectual authority whilst pursuing various, hidden, criminal objectives (fraudulent, and/or sexual, and/or violent, etc.). The admiration of their adherents only serves to confirm, and magnify, the leaders’ strong sense of self-entitlement and fantasies of unlimited success, power, brilliance, beautyideal love, etc.

    * ‘Narcissistic Personality Disorder,’ is a psychological term first used in 1971 by Dr. Heinz Kohut (1913-1981). It was recognised as the name for a form of pathological narcissism in ‘The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders 1980.’ Narcissistic traits (where a person talks highly of himself/herself to eliminate feelings of worthlessness) are common in, and considered ‘normal’ to, human psychological development. When these traits become accentuated by a failure of the social environment and persist into adulthood, they can intensify to the level of a severe mental disorder. Severe and inflexible NPD is thought to effect less than 1% of the general adult population. It occurs more frequently in men than women. In simple terms, NPD is reality-denying, total self-worship born of its sufferers’ unconscious belief that they are flawed in a way that makes them fundamentally unacceptable to others. In order to shield themselves from the intolerable rejection and isolation which they unconsciously believe would follow if others recognised their defective nature, NPD sufferers go to almost any lengths to control others’ view of, and behaviour towards, them. NPD sufferers often choose partners, and raise children, who exhibit ‘co-narcissism’ (a co-dependent personality disorder like co-alcoholism). Co-narcissists organize themselves around the needs of others (to whom they feel responsible), they accept blame easily, are eager to please, defer to others’ opinions and fear being seen as selfish if they act assertively. NPD was observed, and apparently well-understood, in ancient times. Self-evidently, the term, ‘narcissism,’ comes from the allegorical myth of Narcissus, the beautiful Greek youth who falls in love with his own reflection.

    Currently, NPD has nine recognised diagnostic criteria (five of which are required for a diagnosis):
    •       has a grandiose sense of self-importance.
    •       is preoccupied with fantasies of unlimited success, power, brilliance, beauty, ideal love, etc.
    •       believes that he/she is special and unique and can only be understood by other special people.
    •       requires excessive admiration.
    •       strong sense of self-entitlement.
    •       takes advantage of others to achieve his/her own ends.
    •       lacks empathy.
    •       is often envious or believes that others are envious of him/her.
    •       arrogant disposition.

    3). ManipulationPernicious cults employ co-ordinated, devious techniques of social and psychological persuasion (variously described as: ‘covert hypnosis’, ‘mental manipulation’, ‘coercive behaviour modification’, ‘group pressure’, ‘thought reform’, ‘ego destruction’, ‘mind control’, ‘brainwashing’, ‘neuro-linguistic programming’, ‘love bombing’, etc.). These techniques are designed to fulfil the hidden criminal objectives of the leaders by provoking in the adherents an infantile total dependence on the group to the detriment of themselves and of their existing family, and/or other, relationships. Pernicious cults manipulate their adherents’ existing beliefs and instinctual desires, creating the illusion that they are exercising free will. In this way, adherents can also be surreptitiously coerced into following potentially harmful, physical procedures (sleep deprivation, protein restriction, repetitive chanting/ moving, etc.) which are similarly designed to facilitate the shutting down of an individual’s critical and evaluative faculties without his/ her fully-informed consent.

    4). Radical changes of personality and behaviour. Pernicious cults can be of any size, duration and level of criminality. They comprise groups, and/or sub-groups, of previously diverse individuals bonded by their unconscious acceptance of the self-gratifying, but wholly imaginary, scenario that they alone represent a positive or protective force of purity and absolute righteousness derived from their leadership’s exclusive access to a superior or superhuman knowledge, and that they alone oppose a negative or adversarial force of impurity and absolute evil. Whilst this two-dimensional, or dualistic, narrative remains the adherents’ model of reality, they are, in effect, constrained to modify their individual personalities and behaviour accordingly.

    5). Pseudo-scientific mystification. The instigators of pernicious cults seek to overwhelm their adherents emotionally and intellectually by pretending that progressive initiation into their own superior or superhuman knowledge (coupled with total belief in its authenticity and unconditional deference to the authority of its higher initiates) will defeat a negative or adversarial force of impurity and absolute evil, and lead to future, exclusive redemption in some form of secure Utopian existence. By making total belief a prerequisite of redemption,adherents are drawn into a closed-logic trap (i.e. failure to achieve redemption is solely the fault of the individual who didn’t believe totally). Cultic pseudo-science is always essentially the same hypnotic hocus-pocus, but it can be peddled in an infinite variety of forms and combinations (‘spiritual’, ‘medical’, ‘philosophical’, cosmological,’extraterrestrial’, ‘political’, ‘racial’, ‘mathematical’, ‘economic’, New-Age’, 'magical', etc.), often with impressive, made-up, technical-sounding names. It is tailored to fit the spirit of the times and to attract a broad range of persons, but especially those open to an exclusive offer of salvation (i.e. the: sick, dissatisfied, bereaved, vanquished, disillusioned, oppressed, lonely, insecure, aimless, etc.). However, at a moment of vulnerability, anyone (no matter what their: age, sex, nationality, state of mental/ physical health, level of education, etc.) can need to believe in a non-rational, cultic pseudo-science. Typically, obedient adherents are granted ego-inflating names, and/or ranks, and/or titles, whilst non-initiates are referred to using derogatory, dehumanizing terms. Although initiation can at first appear to be reasonable and benefits achievable, cultic pseudo-science gradually becomes evermore costly and mystifying. Ultimately, it is completely incomprehensible and its claimed benefits are never quantifiable. The self-righteous euphoria and relentless enthusiasm of cult proselytizers can be highly infectious and deeply misleading. They are invariably convinced that their own salvation also depends on saving others.

    6). Monopoly of information. The leaders of  pernicious cults seek to control all information entering not only their adherents’ minds, but also that entering the minds of casual observers. This is achieved by constantly denigrating all external sources of information whilst constantly repeating the group’s reality-inverting key words and images, and/or by the physical isolation of adherents. Cults leaders systematically categorize, condemn and exclude as unenlightened, negative, impure, absolutely evil, etc. all free-thinking individuals and any quantifiable evidence challenging the authenticity of their imaginary scenarios of control. In this way, the minds of cult adherents can become converted to accept only what their leadership arbitrarily sanctions as enlightened, positive, pure, absolutely righteous, etc. Consequently, adherents habitually communicate amongst themselves using their group’s thought-stopping ritual jargon, and they find it difficult, if not impossible, to communicate with negative persons outside of their group whom they falsely believe to be not only doomed, but also to be a suppressive threat to redemption.

    7). False justification. In pernicious cults, a core-group of adherents can be gradually dissociated from external reality and reformed into deployable agents, and/or de facto slaves, and/or expendable combatants, etc., furthering the hidden criminal objectives of their leaders, completely dependent on a collective paranoid delusion of absolute moral and intellectual supremacy fundamental to the maintenance of their individual self-esteem/identity and related psychological function. It becomes impossible for such fanatics to see humour in their situation or to feel pity for, or to empathise with, non-adherents. Their minds are programmed to interpret the manipulation, and/or cheating, and/or dispossession, and/or destruction, of inferior outsiders (particularly, those who challenge their group’s controlling scenario) as perfectly justifiable.

    8). Structural mystification. The instigators of pernicious cults can continue to organize the creation, and/or dissolution, and/or subversion, of further (apparently independent) corporate structures pursuing lawful, and/or unlawful, activities in order to prevent, and/or divert, investigation and isolate themselves from liability. In this way, some cults survive all low-level challenges and spread like cancers enslaving the minds, and destroying the lives, of countless individuals in the process. At the same time, their leaders acquire absolute control over capital sums which place them alongside the most notorious racketeers in history. They operate behind ever-expanding, and changing, fronts of ‘limited-liability, commercial companies,’ and/or ‘non-profit-making associations,’ etc. Other than ‘religious /philosophical’ and ‘political’ movements and ‘secret societies,’  typical reality-inverting disguises for cultic crime are:

    ‘charity/ philanthropy’; ‘fund-raising’; ‘lobbying’ on topical issues (‘freedom’, ‘ethics’, ‘environment’, ‘human rights’, ‘women’s rights’, ‘child protection’, ‘law enforcement’, ‘social justice’, 'peace,' etc.); ‘publishing and media’; ‘education’; ‘academia’; ‘celebrity’; ‘patriotism’; ‘information technology’; ‘public relations’; ‘advertising’; ‘medicine’; ‘alternative medicine’; ‘nutrition’; ‘rehabilitation’; ‘manufacturing’; ‘retailing’; ‘direct selling/ marketing’; ‘multilevel marketing’; ‘network marketing’; ‘regulation’; ‘personal development’; ‘self-betterment’; ‘positive thinking’; ‘self-motivation’; ‘leadership training’; ‘life coaching’; ‘research and development’; ‘investment’; ‘real estate’; ‘sponsorship’; ‘bereavement/trauma counselling’; ‘addiction counselling’; ‘legal counselling’; ‘cult exit-counselling’; ‘financial consulting’; ‘management consulting’; ‘clubs’; etc. 

    9). Chronic psychological deterioration symptoms. The long-term core-adherents of pernicious cults are psychotic (i.e. suffering from psychosis, a severe mental derangement, especially when resulting in delusions and loss of contact with external reality). Core-adherents who manage to break with their group and confront the ego-destroying reality that they’ve been systematically deceived and exploited, are invariably destitute and dissociated from all their previous social contacts. For many years afterwards, recovering former core-adherents can suffer from one, or more, of the following psychological problems (which are also generally indicative of the victims of abuse):

    depression; overwhelming feelings (guilt, grief, shame, fear, anger, embarrassment, etc.); dependency/ inability to make decisions; retarded psychological/ intellectual development; suicidal thoughts; panic/ anxiety attacks; extreme identity confusion; Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder; insomnia/ nightmares; eating disorders; psychosomatic illness ( asthma, skin disorders, headaches, fatigue, etc.); sexual problems/ fear of forming intimate relationships; inability to trust; etc.

    10). Repression of all dissent. The leaders of the most-destructive cults are megalomaniacal psychopaths (i.e. suffering from a chronic mental disorder, especially when resulting in paranoid delusions of grandeur and self-righteousness, and the compulsion to pursue grandiose objectives). The unconditional deference of their deluded adherents only serves to confirm, and magnify, the leaders’ own paranoid delusions. This type of cult leader maintains an absolute monopoly of information whilst perpetrating, and/or directing, evermore heinous crimes. They sustain their activities by the imposition of arbitrary contracts and codes (secrecydenunciation, confession,justice, punishment, etc.) within their groups, and by the use of humiliation, and/or intimidation, and/or calumny, and/or malicious prosecution (where they pose as victims), and/or sophism, and/or the infiltration of traditional culture, and/or corruption, and/or intelligence gathering and blackmail, and/or extortion, and/or physical isolation, and/or violence, and/or assassination, etc., to repress any internal or external dissent.

    David Brear (copyright 2014)

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