On this thought-provoking Blog, English author, David Brear, guides us to the dark heart of a modern-day, totalitarian labyrinth and shines a piercing light on its manipulative rulers and manipulated inhabitants. First, he provides a spool of unbreakable thread so that we can all find our way safely home. Blog readers may contact David Brear via: firstname.lastname@example.org
Herbalife Distributors Claim in $1B Suit Events Were a Sham
MIAMI — Patricia and Jeff Rodgers figured they did everything right to get rich beyond their wildest dreams selling Herbalife health and personal care products. They attended all of the "Circle of Success" events, brought in new recruits, met their quotas on buying Herbalife goods to sell and even set up a storefront shop.
But they didn't get rich. Instead, Patricia Rodgers estimates the couple lost over $100,000, including about $20,000 spent on attending Herbalife events. Now, the couple and others are suing the multi-level marketing company that sells its products through a network of distributors who recruit more distributors. The potential class-action case could involve more than 100,000 plaintiffs and might mean as much as $1 billion in damages.
"We did everything they told us to do. We attended every event. We traveled and we spent money. And we didn't get successful like they said we would," Rodgers said in an interview at the couple's home in Hallandale Beach, Florida. "You get involved in it, it's almost like a cult mentality."
Los Angeles-based Herbalife, a publicly traded company with 2017 net sales of $4.4 billion, has long been embroiled in litigation and regulatory actions over its business practices, which have been compared by some to a pyramid scheme. A spokeswoman declined to comment for this story, although Herbalife attorneys are seeking to get the lawsuit dismissed or moved from Florida to a California court.
Herbalife lawyers say in court papers the distributors now suing the company in Miami were not specific in how company statements influenced them into making bad decisions.
"Plaintiffs' failure to specify how they were misled by these alleged misrepresentations is fatal" to many key claims, the lawyers wrote.
To become a distributor, a person must be recruited by an existing distributor, according to the company's website. The new recruit also must purchase a "Herbalife Nutrition International Business Pack" explaining how the business works and how to become a sponsor. The new distributor buys Herbalife products at a discount and sells them, often part-time, in hopes making a profit.
In 2016, the company settled a Federal Trade Commission case for $200 million. It centered on Herbalife's business model being based on recruitment of distributors rather than actual sales of its products, such as protein shakes, vitamins and skin care items. One year earlier, another lawsuit by Herbalife distributors ended in a $17.5 million settlement.
In the FTC case, the agency said in a statement that "only a small minority of distributors have made anything near what the company promises" through promotional materials showing how they lived in expensive homes, drove luxury cars and took exotic vacations.
"It's crazy. You get so pepped up. It's like the Super Bowl for us," she said. "It's like the biggest event of the year."
Herbalife's website says it has about 8,300 employees worldwide and about 2.3 million distributors. China, North America and the Asia-Pacific region account for nearly two-thirds of Herbalife sales.
Herbalife attorneys contend that many of the claims in the Miami court case are covered by the 2015 settlement with distributors that also focused on purported misrepresentations by the company about the pathway to wealth. That settlement, however, involved distributors who either couldn't sell the products for at least the cost of their purchase or wanted to return products after the company's one-year return policy.
If the case isn't dismissed or settled, Herbalife wants it transferred to a California federal court, which it claims is a requirement when a person signs up to become a distributor. In the Miami case, the plaintiffs claim their lawsuit isn't about the distributor agreements but about the "Circle of Success" events, so that requirement does not apply.
U.S. District Judge Marcia Cooke in Miami is weighing all these motions, with trial set for September 2019 if the case isn't resolved before then. A key hearing is set for Wednesday on pretrial motions.
Rodgers, the former Florida Herbalife distributor who's suing, said she'd like to recover some of her money but also hopes others don't get fooled as she thinks she was.
"I took what money I had. I followed a dream I was sold. It was addictive. It was almost like you got hypnotized and you were in some kind of trance," she said. "Then you realize, man, I really got duped."
The following deconstructed analysis has been formulated to sharpen the critical and evaluative faculties of all unwary persons approaching'Multi-Level Marketing'from the dangerous (subjective) point of view that it must be a business, rather than from the safe (purely-objective) point of view that they don't really know what it is.
More than half a century of quantifiable evidence, proves beyond all reasonable doubt that:
the widely-misunderstood phenomenon that has become popularly-known as'Multi-Level Marketing'(a.k.a. 'Network Marketing')is nothing more than an absurd, non-rational, cultic, economic pseudo-science maliciously-designed to lure unwary persons into de facto servitude, dissociate them from external reality and not only steal their money, but also deceive them into unconsciously acting the role of bait to lure other unwary persons (particularly their friends and family members) into the same trap.
the impressive-sounding made-up jargon term, 'MLM,'is therefore, the misleading title for an enticing structured-scenario of control which has been developed, and constantly acted out as reality, by the instigators, and associates, of various copy-cat, major and minor, ongoing organised crime groups (hiding behind labyrinths of legally-registered corporate structures) to shut-down the critical, and evaluative, faculties of victims, and of casual observers, in order to perpetrate, and dissimulate, a series of blame-the-victim 'Long Cons*' - comprising self-perpetuating rigged-market swindles**, a.k.a. pyramid scams (dressed up as'legitimate direct selling income opportunites') and related advance-fee frauds (dressed up as'legitimate: training and motivation, self-betterment, programs, recruitment leads, lead generation systems,'etc.).
Apart from an insignificant minority of shills (whose leading-role in the 'Long Con' has been to pretend thatanyone can achieve financial freedom simply by following their unquestioning example and exactly-duplicating a step-by-step-plan of recruitment and self-consumption), the hidden overall net-loss/churn rate for participation in so-called 'MLM income opportunities,' has always been effectively 100%.
*A 'Long Con' is a form of fraud maliciously designed to exploit victims' existing beliefs and instinctual desires and make them falsely-believe that they are exercising a completely free-choice. 'Long Cons' comprise an enticing structured-scenario of control acted out as reality over an extended period. Like theatrical plays, 'Long Cons' are written, directed and produced. They involve leading players and supporting players as well as props, sets, extras, costumes, script, etc. The hidden objective of 'Long Cons' is to convince unwary persons that fiction isfactand fact is fiction,progressively cutting them offfrom external reality.In this way, victims begin unconsciously to play along with the controlling-scenario and (in the false-expectation of future reward) large sums of money or valuables can be stolen from them. Classically, the victims of 'Long Cons' can become deluded to such an extent that they will abandon their education, jobs, careers, etc., empty their bank accounts, and/or beg, steal, borrow from friends, family members, etc.
**The enticing structured-scenario of control fundamental to all 'rigged-market swindles' is that people can earn income by first contributing their own money to participate in aprofitable commercial opportunity, but which is secretly an economically-unviable fake due to the fact that the (alleged)opportunity has been rigged so that it generates no significant, or sustainable, revenue other than that deriving from its own ill-informed participants. For more than 50 years, 'Multi-Level Marketing' racketeers have been allowed to dissimulate rigged-market swindles by offering endless-chains of victims various banal, but over-priced, products, and/or services, in exchange for unlawful losing-investment payments, on the pretext that 'MLM' products/services can then be regularly re-sold for a profit in significant quantities via expanding networks of distributors. However, since 'MLM' products/services cannot be regularly re-sold to the general public for a profit in significant quantities (based on value and demand), 'MLM' participants have, in fact, been peddled infinite shares of their own finite money (in the false expectation of future reward). Thus, in 'MLM'rackets, the innocent looking products/sevices' function has been to hide what is really occurring - i.e The operation of an unlawful, intrinsically fraudulent, rigged-market where effectively no non-salaried (transient) participant can generate an overall net-profit, because, unknown to the non-salaried (transient) participants, the market is in a permanent state of collapse and requires its non-salaried (transient) participants to keep finding further (temporary) de facto slaves to sustain the enticing illusion of stability and viability.
Meanwhile an insignificant (permanent) minority direct the 'Long Con' - raking in vast profits by selling into the rigged-market and by controlling/withholding all key-information concerning the rigged-market's actual catastrophic, ever-shifting results from its never-ending chain of (temporary) de facto slaves.
Although cure-all pills potions and vitamin/dietary supplements, household and beauty, products have been most-prevalent, it is possible to use any product, and/or service, to dissimulate a rigged-market swindle. There are even some 'MLM' rackets that have been hidden behind well-known traditional brands (albeit offered at fixed high prices). Some 'MLM'rackets have included 'cash-back/discount shopping cards, travel products, insurance, energy/communications services' and 'crypto-currencies' in their controlling scenarios.
No matter what bedazzling product/service has been dangled as bait, in 'MLM' rackets, there has been no significant or sustainable source of revenue other than never-ending chains of contractees of the 'MLM' front companies. These front-companies always pretend that their products/services are high quality and reasonably-priced and that for anyone prepared to put in some effort, the products/services can be sold onfor a profitvia expanding networks of distributors based on value and demand. In reality, the underlying reason why it has mainly only been (transient) 'MLM' contractees who have bought the various products /services (and not the general public) is because they have been tricked into unconsciously playing along with the controlling scenario which constantly says that via regular self-consumption and the recruitment of others to do the same, etc. ad infinitum, anyone can receive a future (unlimited) reward.
I've been examining the 'MLM' phenomenon for around 20 years. During this time, I've yet to find one so-called 'MLM' company that has voluntarily made key-information available to the public concerning the quantifiable results of its so-called 'income opportunity'.
Part of the key-information that all 'MLM' bosses seek to hide concerns the overall number of persons who have signed contracts since the front companies were instigated and the retention rates of these contractees.
When rigorously investigated, the overall hidden net-loss churn rates for so-called 'MLM income opportunites' has turned out to have been effectively 100%. Thus, anyone claiming (or implying) that it is possible for anyone to make a penny of net-profit, let alone a living, in an 'MLM,' cannot be telling the truth and will not provide quantifiable evidence to back up his/her anecdotal claims.
Although a significant number of 'MLM' front-companies (like 'Vemma', 'Fortune Hi-Tech Marketing', 'Wake Up Now') have been shut-down by commercial regulators, some of the biggest 'MLM' rackets (like 'Amway' ,'Herbalife', Forever Living Products' ) have continued to hide in plain sight whilst secretly churning tens of millions of losing participants over decades. The quantifiable results of the self-perpetuating global 'Long Con' known as 'Multi Level Marketing,' have been fiendishly hidden by convincing victims that they are 'Independent Business Owners' and that any losses they incurred,must have been entirely their own fault.
Blog readers should observe how (in the above linked-videos) chronic victims of 'MLM' cults are incapable of describing what they were subjected to in accurate terms. Even though they are no longer physically playing along with the 'Long Con's' controlling-scenario, they unconsciously continue to think, and speak, using the jargon-laced 'MLM' script - illogically describing themselves as 'Distributors.'
Chronic victims of blame-the-victim culticrackets who have managed to escape 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 years afterwards, recovering cult victims can suffer from 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, fear of forming intimate relationships; inability to trust; etc. David Brear (copyright 2018)
1. Was the person who first approached you to participate in 'MLM,' a friend or relative (i.e. a person with whom you enjoyed a relationship based on love and trust)?
2. Did the 'MLM' recruiter present a bleak picture of the world of traditional employment, in which most people are forced to go out to work for 45 years with only retirement and a limited pension to look forward to?
3. Did the recruiter present the 'MLM Income Opportunity' as a viable alternative to the world of traditional employment, in which it is possible for anyone to retire and enjoy total financial freedom, after a just a few years of concentrated effort?
4. At the time you were recruited, would you say that you were entirely satisfied with life; particularly, your achievements, education, career/employment status/prospects, home, relationships, social standing, salary, etc.?
5. How would you describe your level of satisfaction with your life at the time you were recruited?
6. When, and how, were you first approached to participate in 'MLM' and when was the name of the sponsoring company first mentioned?'
Was 'MLM' first presented to you individually or as part of a group?
Did the presentation comprise drawing circles containing numbers and percentages on a board or sheet of paper?
Did you fully-understand the presentation?
Was the presentation given by a man with a woman nodding in agreement next to him?
Were you given to believe that anyone could understand 'MLM?'
Did the recruiters seem generally happy and excited as though they had wonderful news to share?
7. What prior knowledge did you have of 'MLM?'
8. What was your initial reaction when you were approached?
9. At the time you signed up, what did you believe to be the success-rate of persons participating in'MLM' schemes (i.e. about what percentage of participants did you think made an overall net-income out of 'MLM')?
10. Were you ever shown any independent quantifiable evidence (e.g. income tax payment receipts) proving that anyone has ever made an overall net-income out of participating in 'MLM?'
11. Did you ever ask to see such evidence?
12. Could you give a brief explanation of what you understand by the term pyramid scheme or scam?
13. What would you say was the essential identifying characteristic of pyramid scams, Ponzi schemes, money circulation games, chain letter scams, etc.?
14. Were you given to believe that 'MLM' schemes are not pyramid scams, because they involve the sale of products, and/or services, to customers and end users, and offer money-back guarantees?
15. Were you given to believe that 'MLM' schemes cannot be frauds, because they have existed for decades and have been investigated and approved by governments around the world?
16. Were you given to believe that 'MLM' schemes cannot be frauds, because celebrities (including senior politicians) have endorsed 'MLM' schemes?
17. Were you given to believe that 'MLM' schemes cannot be frauds, because their sponsors have given money to charity?
18. Were you given to believe that 'MLM' schemes cannot be frauds, because they have sponsored professional sports stars and teams?
19. What was your main motivation for joining an'MLM' scheme :
to earn income?
to buy products and/or services at a discount price
20. Before you signed up, were your encouraged by the recruiter to seek independent legal/financial advice?
21. Did you ever seek independent legal/financial advice?
22. What initially convinced you that 'MLM' was an authentic opportunity to earn income?
23. At the time you signed up, did you have any knowledge of pernicious groups that employ co-ordinated devious techniques of social, psychological and physical persuasion - designed to shut down the critical and evaluative faculties of ill-informed individuals in order to exploit them and prevent them from complaining?
24. Could you give a brief explanation of what you understand by the terms:
coercive behaviour modification?
25. Were you given to believe thatit is possible for anyone to replace their income by participating in 'MLM?'
26. Were you given to believe that after achieving a certain level of income in MLM you could cease all activity and receive the same residual income for the rest of your life?
27. Were you given to believe that this residual income could be passed on to your descendants after your death?
28. During you time in an 'MLM' group, were you taught that the 'exact duplication of a proven step-by-step plan'would bring you 'total financial freedom?'
29. As part of this 'proven plan,' were you taught:
to alter you habitual way of speaking (if yes, give a brief explanation)?
to alter your habitual way of dressing (if yes, give a brief explanation)?
to alter you habitual way of eating (if yes, give a brief explanation)?
to alter your habitual sleep pattern (if yes, give a brief explanation)?
to alter you habitual social contacts (if yes, give a brief explanation)?
that everyone above you in your'MLM Network'was your 'Upline' and everyone beneath you was your 'Downline?'
that your'Upline'was to be'admired and respected?'
that your'Upline's success in MLM depended on helping his/her Downline to succeed,'
to divide everyone, and everything, in your life into 'negative' vs'positive?'
that 'MLM' products were to be deemed 'positive'and non-'MLM' products deemed'negative?'
that you should buy a regular quota (by value) of'positive'products?
that you should draw up a list of prospective 'MLM' recruits comprising everyone you had ever encountered in your life?
that you should progressively contact all these persons and attempt to recruit themusing a precisely-worded 'positive'script?
that you should never say anything 'negative' about 'MLM?'
that you should never listen to, or look at, anything 'negative'about'MLM?'
that all persons who refused to join you(particularly, those who said 'MLM' is a scam) were to be deemed 'negative' and a threat to your own success?
that all 'negative'persons were also to be deemed losers, whiners, etc., and should be excluded from your life?
that all persons with regular jobs were to be labelled 'Just Over Broke' losers?
that you should only have contact with 'positive winners?'
that you should regularly buy, and listen to, recordings of'positive winners?'
that you should regularly buy tickets to, and attend, meetings conducted by'positive winners'at which you took part in rhythmic chanting and moving?
that you should regularly buy, and read, publications, written by 'positive winners?'
that you should exactly duplicate the 100% positive mental attitude and behaviour of the 'positive winners'in your'Upline?'
that you should regularly visualize your 'dreams an goals' in life (luxury cars, expensive houses, exotic holiday destinations, etc.)
that you should fix images of your 'dreams and goals' in strategic places in your home?
that 'all persons who develop a 100% positive mental attitude and never quit, ultimately achieve their dreams and goals in MLM?'
that'all persons who fail to achieve their dreams and goals in MLM, are negative losers, whiners, quitters etc., who always try to blame others, when they only have themselves to blame?'
30. As a result of duplicating the 'proven plan,' did you lose contact with anyone with whom you had previously been close (give brief details)?
In 1961 (after years of field-research, including the interviewing of US servicemen and civilians held prisoner during the Korean War), Dr. Robert Jay Lifton (b. 1926) published, ‘Thought Reform and the Psychology of Totalism.’ In this standard medical text-book, Dr. 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. ________________________________________________________________________
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.' (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/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 behavioral-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 behaviors 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 judgment 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 behavior 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 behavior 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 behaviors and negative feedback for old beliefs and behavior.
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 behaviors.
Good behavior, 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 behaviors 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 behaviors and thought patterns conform to the models (members). Members' relationship with peers is threatened whenever they fail to learn or display new behaviors. 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 behavior 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 behaviors.
Building on Lifton's and Singer's solid foundation (and after much research) I concluded that pernicious cultism is an evolving criminogenic phenomenon which, like all phenomena, cannot be accurately defined. Therefore, I set down the essential, and universal, identifying characteristics of a pernicious cult, and I first published these in 2005:
It is important to note that cults don't just suddenly appear and they don't always exhibit exactly the same characteristics. This is because (like cancers and viruses) cults grow and evolve (and sometimes explode or even implode) and their identifying characteristics appear at different stages of their evolution cycle. Thus, the fact that a particular group doesn't exhibit all of the characteristics described in the following document, doesn't mean that it won't in the future or that it should not be identified as being a constituent part of the overall cult phenomenon.
Apart from its use in the sense of ‘a popular fashion especially followed by a specific section of society’ or ‘a person or thing popularised in this way,’ the traditional definition of the English noun, cult (Latin cultus worship), has been ‘a system of religious worship (Latin religiosus obligation, bondage) especially as expressed in ritual,’ or ‘devotion or homage to a person or thing.’ However, the word is now also used as shorthand for what is more-accurately described as a pernicious cult. This ongoing historic, and criminogenic, phenomenon can be briefly described as: any self-perpetuating, non-rational/esoteric, ritual belief system established or perverted for the clandestine purpose of human exploitation. Such groups are identified by the following characteristics:
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, beauty, ideal 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 NPDis 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 waythat makes them fundamentally unacceptable to others. In order to shield themselves from the intolerablerejection and isolation which they unconsciously believe would follow if others recognised theirdefective 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 organise 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.
is often envious or believes that others are envious of him/her.
3). Manipulation. Pernicious 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 exclusiveoffer ofsalvation (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, dehumanising terms. Although initiation can at first appear to bereasonable 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 proselytisers 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 categorise, 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 organise 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:
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 (secrecy, denunciation, 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.
Who hasn’t heard about cults? The word, ‘cult,’ has been thrown around so often that most of us now take it for granted that we must know exactly what it means. To be honest, very few people have sought out sufficient background material to be able to form the lucid picture of cultism contained in the essential identifying characteristics presented in the above document. Even the most-diligent news reports have tended to examine individual cultic groups in close-up, leaving the wider phenomenon either out of shot or out of focus. However, in recent years, it has become a matter of public record that, as a result of unprotected exposure to one of an ever-growing and evolving catalogue of apparently diverse and innocent groups, almost anyone can begin to exhibit remarkably uniform symptoms. In everyday terms, it is as though they’ve fallen head over heels in love. Although this initial euphoria is often short-lived, a significant minority will subsequently undergo a nightmarish transformation and recklessly dissipate all their mental, and/or physical, and/or financial, resources to the benefit of some hitherto unknown person(s), whom they continue to trust and follow no matter what suffering this entails. Only when enough victims of one of these latter-day ‘Pied-Pipers’ wind up in psychiatric hospitals or on mortuary slabs is the word, ‘cult,’ liberally applied by the popular press. It is then always revealed that there had been some timely attempt(s) to warn the authorities, but they couldn’t intervene, because, legalistically, cultism does not exist. That said, all cosmopolitan people readily accept that cults most-certainly do exist, but, due to the prevalent style of media coverage, we habitually think of them only as remote, and grotesque, freak-shows.
In my experience, if it is suggested that ‘we should all be on our guard against cultism, because it is actually much closer to us than we like to think,’ the average person is immediately convinced that such an idea is absurd. This instinctual reaction is usually accompanied by one, or more, of the following comments:
·‘Don’t worry, I wasn’t born yesterday, a cult couldn’t fool me or anyone in my family… only idiots and weaklings join cults.’
·‘In a free society everyone has the right to believe in what they want… if adults decide to hand over their time and money to some charismatic guru, it’s their own business.’
·‘One man’s cult is another man’s religion.’
·‘I suppose you’re including all the people who believe Elvis is still alive.’
·‘Unless they are being physically held as prisoners, adults always have a free-choice to walk away if they don’t like what’s happening to them.’
·‘Perhaps some cult members get harmed, but that’s their problem not mine.’
·‘Cults have been around for centuries, there’s nothing new to learn about them.’ etc.
Whilst these opinions can all seem valid to the ill-informed, the underlying facts prove them to be nothing more than ego-protecting self-deceptions, which completely miss the point. It’s easy to understand that ‘knowledge itself is power,’ but it’s altogether harder to accept that (by the same token) ignorance is vulnerability. Obviously, cults never announce themselves, but their many disguises continue to adapt to mirror the changing spirit of the times. Throughout the ages, a dangerous minority of mythomaniacs, charlatans and would-be demagogues have always been able to get their human prey to sail blindly into positions of subjection, by first bedazzling them with all manner of false beacons which seemed so welcoming and authentic that the majority of people could not have been expected to determine exactly what was lurking behind them. Even though most of us want to deny it, at a moment of weakness all of us can need to listen to the latest cultic voice of insanity; especially when it appeals to our existing beliefs and instinctual desires, and originates from the apparent face of reason. To casual observers, the phenomenon might seem to be a ridiculous anachronism, but cultism or occultism has survived the tide of history and continues to wreck countless lives, simply because its instigators keep updating the lyrics of their siren song. Totalitarianism itself is enduring, its camouflage is ephemeral.
Young children’s unconscious acceptance of ‘Santa Claus’ as total reality, stems from a fictitious scenario reflected as fact by the traditional culture in which they live. Up to a certain age, children are not equipped to challenge the model of reality offered to them by authoritarian figures within their family groups; particularly, their parents. Therefore, once children have been converted to a self-gratifying, non-rational belief in ‘Santa,’ the truth (that they are actually being deceived by the people whom they instinctively trust and follow) is unthinkable. The scenario can then beexpanded to modify children’s behaviour — ‘Santa’ has magical powers… he can see and hear everything they do at all times… he will reward them for unquestioning belief and punish them for dissent. Only when they attain the necessary level of intellectual/psychological development, can children begin to use their critical and evaluative faculties and come to realise that ‘Santa’ is merely a gameof make believe. If you think about it, what I’ve just described is the most elementary form of self-perpetuating, non-rational/esoteric, ritual beliefsystem - perfectly tailored to fit infantile minds, and reliant on the maintenance of an absolute monopoly of information presented using a constant repetition of reality-inverting key words and images combined with pseudo-scientific mystification and closed-logic.
When analysed with the same level of intellectual rigour, many of the basic procedures and conditions required to establish cultic groups turn out not to be a mystery at all. They are revealed as only more-sophisticated versions of those which also propagate the benign ‘Santa’ deception. As such, they are frighteningly easy to replicate.However, the instigators of cults are anything but benign and, interestingly, many of their most-deluded subjects and convincing apologists turn out to be well-educated adults who have simply become incapable of facing the ego-destroying reality that they’ve been fooled by what is merely a game of make believe. No sane person would ever suggest trying to ban ‘Santa,’ and everyone lies to theirchildren at some time to modify their behaviour, but consider the variety of destructive behaviour that an authoritarian adult (with hidden criminal objectives) could get dependent children to follow by exploiting their unconscious acceptance of the same imaginary, but nonetheless emotionally and intellectually overwhelming, narrative as total reality. The unpalatable truth is that, just by perverting the closed-logic rules of the game, anything - from theft by proxy to sexual, and/or violent, abuse - becomes possible.
Prior to publication, a number of people were given unfinished copies of the above document to appraise. Although no reader could refute its content, the reactions of a minority were split into two groups; these were as different as chalk and cheese. Those who had already survived a direct personalexperience of cultism devoured it. Others, who had never knowingly encountered the phenomenon, found the booklet less easy to digest; they generally described its tone as ‘alarmist.’ One man (a middle-aged, American academic) was sure that it had been written by a naïve soul who had suddenly discovered the world to be a cruel place, and who now wanted to shout about it. Several years ago, when I was naïve, I might have agreed with him. In fact, I now blush when I remember a conversation I once had with a senior citizen of the Czech republic (a survivor of rule by the ‘Nazi’ and ‘Soviet’ myths), in which I coolly dismissed his passionate contention that any country whose own citizens mistakenly believed themselves to be immune to totalitarianism, faced the greatest risk of from it. Today, in the light of a traumatic personal encounter in Europe with the large, American-based cultic group known as 'Amway,' I have come to understand that I could not have been more wrong. However, many of the crass opinions which cultism continues to attract are completely predictable, because, even as adults, we all instinctively want to shut out of our minds any information that disturbs our habitual model of the world. Sadly, anyone who searches for the truth about cultism, and who then speaks plainly, is forced to ask a lot of people to think the unthinkable; so I make no apologies for this.
Another man started to read the document and decided that it contained ‘intemperate language.’ He felt sure that it was ‘going to be a sermon’ in which I would ‘attempt to impose ideas of morality’ on him. That opinion made me go back to my original text and remove any suggestion of preaching, because that’s the last thing I want to do. I don’t pretend to be perfect, and I fully recognise that morality is only what is generally regarded as an acceptable standard of behaviour by whatever culture we live in. I tried to base my investigation of cultism on quantifiable evidence, and my analysis on rules made by democratic institutions defining what is criminal, and/or unethical. I didn’t invent this evidence or write these rules, but I couldn’t escape the fact that cultism involves the subversion of traditional codes of morality. Like my wise Czech acquaintance, I have had the dubious privilege of witnessing for myself how unsuspecting individuals can be tricked into entering a counterfeit culture in which their existing perceptions of right and wrong are overturned and then made absolute. As a result, I now accept that apparently rational persons can suddenly abandon all reason and allow themselves to be systematically abused, exploited and even slaughtered whilst participating in the systematic abuse, exploitation and slaughter of others. In short, I am describing how it is possible to enslave any human being, but without the use of chains. This, in itself, is an ego-destroying reality which, self-evidently, many onlookers will wish to deny. However, when this reality is faced, at first it can become impossible to find appropriate words (other than expletives) to describe the results of cultism. Even presiding judges, in related cases, have felt it necessary to deliver verdicts using emotive terms such as ‘evil,’ ‘sinister,’ ‘depraved,’ ‘obnoxious,’ etc., to express publicly their own private outrage. Unfortunately, many other well-intentioned people have been, and continue to be, completely fooled by the seductive words and images shielding the instigators of cultism. The great paradox of the phenomenon is that persons under cultic influence will steadfastly claim to be absolutely righteous, even when all the quantifiable evidence proves their behaviour to be (at best) misguided, or (at worst) downright evil. Although they are demonstrably dissociated from external reality, cult adherents are always certain that they alone represent the ‘truth’ and they act accordingly.
In the above document,I have tried to demystify cultism by using an accurate, deconstructed vocabulary to describe the phenomenon. As a result of my own extensive investigation, I am entirely satisfied that all groups exhibiting the essential characteristics given previously, are manifestations of the same problem. The historical evidence has led me to the inescapable conclusion that the only real differences between cults are the exact motives and mental state of their leaders, and the length of time they survive before they face a well-informed and determined challenge.
Cultism is a trap. Obviously, anyone who only examines the bait in a trap and who remains unaware of its true purpose, risks getting caught themselves. Just like a mousetrap, the basic design for the cultic trap has remained the same down the centuries even if the presentation of the bait has become evermore sophisticated. Sadly, many commentators have found it impossible - when faced with the apparently illogical results of cultism - to abandon their existing academic, and professional, disciplines, which are anchored in the logic of the traditional world. Consequently, their understanding has often been made impossible by misplaced objectivity. However, it must be remembered that a counterfeit banknote might be 99.9 % perfect, but the bit that is not makes all of it a fake. Similarly, in order to have any chance of understanding cultism, it must be approached from the apparently subjective point of view that its results are always the product of a contagious deception, the victims of which unconsciously accept fiction as fact. Only then, can the phenomenon be examined with genuine objectivity. Once this vital principle has been learnt, the apparently authentic words and images reflected by persons under the influence of cultism - like those printed on counterfeit banknotes - are revealed as dangerous distractions. They should never be taken at face value and, therefore, I try to remind the reader of this at all times. Any commentator who repeats the reality-inverting shielding-terminology of any cultic group, but without detailed qualification (or heavy irony), demonstrates that he/she remains at a pitifully low-level of understanding.
In truth, if it wasn’t for its tragic consequences, then cultism would be nothing more than a sick joke. However, until an individual is confronted by a nightmarish change in the personality and behaviour of a loved-one, then they can never really appreciate the full horror of the phenomenon. I realised a long time ago that there are always some people who will never be able to accept what I describe, because, for them to do so, they would have to abandon too many self-deceptions supporting their own view of themselves. Like many others before me, a soul-destroying experience with members of my own family forced me to abandon most of mine. Then, through close contact with the survivors of various cults and my research into the deeper origins of ‘Nazism’ and the ‘New Global Terrorism,’ I came to the further, inescapable conclusion that it is actually impossible to exaggerate the potential menace posed by the creators of these counterfeit cultures, or their significance to the history and future of civilisation. I then found great comfort in the opinions of some of my critics, because the people who first tried to warn the world of the horror lurking behind an apparently absurd, little gang of sanctimonious charlatans - calling themselves the ‘National Socialist German Workers Party’ and led by a hitherto unknown, German Army veteran playing the comic-book role of ordinary man turned superman - were also dismissed as ‘alarmists.’
Whilst it remains generally misunderstood, cultism will continue to be an unnecessary threat to the lives, liberty and happiness of all communities, families and individuals all over the world.
David Brear (copyright 2018) ______________________________________________________________________