A couple of Blog readers (who are members of a family broken apart by the 'MLM' phenomenon, and who wish to remain anonymous), have given me permission to post an abridged version of part of their recent e-mail to me:
"Thanks for the link David. We've now watched most of the MLM conference speeches. Overall we can't see this doing much good... A regulator criticised victims for not coming forward? That ham-fisted approach is hardly likely to encourage anyone to come forward. We know everyone (99+ %) loses money in MLMs, so why are the academics still on about gathering data?... the cult expert? We couldn't understand most of what he said until he got on about hypnotism and brainwashing? Almost everyone said MLMs are cults or like cults. Some said they are frauds. Only Robert FitzPatrick had common-sense to say they are frauds cults and rackets. Not businesses!... The Net is full of warnings about MLMs beings cults. Everyone sharp senses MLMs are cults. If something is too good to be true? Well MLMs are far too good to be true!... Like we say, we can't see this conference doing much good... Our sister was so deluded by Forever Living she just laughed at warnings. She reasoned MLMs can't be pyramid schemes, because if they were, they would have been busted as frauds years ago. MLMs only appear to be real, because regulators have done nothing and this is what has allowed them to appear to be real!"
Obviously, I'm tempted to offer for public consumption my own frank analysis of the recent 'MLM' conference. However, I have a feeling that some (but not all) of the participants might not appeciate this.
What I will say, is that, unlike certain conference participants, the authors of the above e-mail go right to the heart of what the 'Multi-Level Marketing' phenomenon really is, because, as they have evidently observed, the fact that 'MLMs' have been allowed to exist for decades, has made them superficially appear to be a lawful type of commercial enterprise.
Yet what sort of enterprise is pursued by persons who no longer have the mental faculties to question whether it is, or is not, a lawful enterprise, or to judge what is fact and what is fiction?
The 'MLM' phenomenon can be briefly-explained as cultic religion hidden behind a deceptive, non-religious 'commercial' vocabulary and imagery. Thus, these Blog readers' sister's belief was quite real, but what she believed in, was anything but real.
However, this brief explanation, and particularly the word 'religion,' also needs to be explained. Thus, what is commonly referred to as 'MLM' has been the bait luring unwary persons into a form of exploitative, non-rational ritual belief system. Classically, once the first step has been taken into this type of trap, victims are then lured deeper by an attractive illusion/delusion of a future secure Utopian existence which can only be obtained by the exact, and unquestioning, duplication of a 'step-by-step-plan.'
These 'MLM plans to achieve total financial freedom' have actually been heavily-disguised examples of what have been technically described as, 'Totalistic Thought Reform Programs' or popularly described as, 'Brainwashing Programs.'
The instigators and bosses of 'MLM' groups have pretended to be ordinary poor humans who have transformed into fabulously wealthy superhumans via their acqisition of a secret knowledge. These unoriginal charlatans have further pretended that they are prepared to share this secret knowledge with anyone (for a price).
David Brear (copyright 2021)
The Universal Identifying Characteristics of a Cult
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.
2). Control the person's social and/or physical environment; especially control the person's time.
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.
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.
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.
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.
any self-perpetuating, non-rational/esoteric, ritual belief system established or perverted for the clandestine purpose of human exploitation by deception.
Such groups are identified by the following characteristics:
- 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.
A COMMON SENSE APPROACH TO CULTISM
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 be expanded 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 game of make believe. If you think about it, what I’ve just described is the most elementary form of self-perpetuating, non-rational/esoteric, ritual belief system - 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.
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.