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Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Possible anatomy of aggressive cults

Little educational movie about what to expect in some organizations although fraudulent businesses  or places ran by dictator wannabes may be similar. They probably promise to fix world by asking lots of money or free labor while blaming lack of results on businesses and government institutions that may harm the cult. Many cults seem to be small businesses without much to lose and nothing actually beneficial to offer and that may get dangerously desperate and/or selfish.

Questionnaire to test new recruits

Testing would help to find out who might be hating that organization, who might believe anything without evidence and what motivates or disturbs recruits. 

Considering how much overlapping there is in cults they were likely to be ruled with similar tactics and member preferences. Even if cult started in a illiterate village it would still probably look predictable in their ways of finding money, power and new recruits. For example they may be similar to churches where preachers (surrounded by golden objects) preaching about how money and power corrupts or sends people to hell and later ask for the same money or political power that they themselves said would corrupt people holding it.  
Mostly i listed childish weaknesses people may have since birth and that could be abused by other people. These questions may be answered without asking by watching and listening to overall behavior of new recruit or their attitudes.

There could be many people doing the questioning with more pleasant member asking nicer questions and building friendly contact while some more hated member can ask the worse/suspicious sounding questions so cult could blame single bad members for suspicious activity.

Examples:
1) How does recruit react if scientific terms are used randomly and in wrong places to promote some weird idea?
2) If threats are to be used later they could see how the recruit reacts if they get threatened to join and if they refuse to go along then questioner may say that was just a personal joke outside the rules of this organization.
3) Does it bother recruit if common words have completely new and often misleading meanings (like saying that criticism is murder or that death threats to critics actually mean no actual harm).
4) How much is person willing to attack others and if attacking critics is ok.
5) Is it ok if recruit has to learn many new words that are redefined old simple words.
6) How they react if they have to listen to stories with made-up nonsensical undefined words (do they pretend they know what is said or are they honest in not knowing what words mean).
7) Does nonsensical text sound believable if they say some smart authoritative people believe this? There are many ways to test some naked emperor like behavior where someone tries to look smart by pretending there is much good quality they realistically can't find from there.
8) Is it ok to say that world is ending etc by saying that cult literature maybe less than year old says so?
9) Can recruit notice that new hard words are actually describing some old simple knowledge? While they don't know cult behaves this way they may be fooled to give away lots of money or years worth of free labor time from their life in exchange of free teachings.
10) Does recruit believe that when organization lists good behaviors (don't kill, don't harm others etc) then people in it are above average good and those critical against the cult are also against list of good behaviors hinting that critics think murders or other attacks are ok so they should be treated similarly to murderers?
11) How childish does the recruit look or behave? Kids and teens tend to have wooden and clumsy body language without much diversity.
Someone less popular could say disturbing things and see how well can they argue back. Recruits may be asked to do something unpleasant for no pay with repetitive demands (repeating can wear people down fast if they aren't prepared for such behavior and kids are not good at long patient arguing) like "you have to do it", "it's inevitable you'll do it", "i don't think you actually want to leave all that" or they may just say something completely unrelated (like "kids are starving in poor countries and they suffer because the laziness people like you have") parroting that this unrelated thing was the reason to do it as this could give insecure naive people thoughts that they look like assholes in front of friendly smiling members for not caring about kids etc.
12) How easy is to make recruit doubt obvious things by confidently asking "is it really true", "are you sure", "could you give examples" (whenever topics are negative rumors about cult) and keeping it going until critic gets insecure about own beliefs or just due to thoughts like "are these cult members really so brainwashed"?
13) Can they silence someone by interrupting them with obvious simple questions or insults?
14) How weird are the friends recruit has or who he admires? New members could be divided into separate classes or kept only with supervisors so that members with conflicting world views wouldn't argue or leave cult due to public fighting.
15) Is recruit paranoid enough to see global conspiracy in any accident or event? With very paranoid people it may be easier to sell books and courses about end of world. If they don't trust media then they may trust rumors from friends or websites run by few people way more than channels run by thousands of people.
If person sees world as very brutal then they may be more likely to go along with brutal rules.
16) Does person think that they talk to god or spirits if they are imagining about being in contact with those beings? It's possible they don't have brain problems but believe that natural inner monologues are messages from divine sources (especially if they were from religious family where god supposedly talks back during prayers). These people could be seen as sort of canvas or test subjects to mental manipulators and experimenters that may try to see how to affect what that inner god/spirit says. 
17) Does recruit join with attitude that cult critics should be hated with similar tactics used maybe by military in the name of defending homeland?
18) Does recruit look socially awkward enough to buy or work for free for classes/books about communication or seduction or leadership etc.? Even if cult doesn't know much about communication it could probably still get praise by putting many people together in communication class so that they'd at least feel like they got some practice with communication.

Flirty beautiful members could be chosen to motivate lonely members to join or to keep them more energetic during work hours.

If questioner finds something they could use to extort recruit then this could also be recorded.


Inner rules and tactics for members

Cult starters probably don't care much what their recruit thinks as long they are willing to give money for some supposed help.

Workforce could be run with money they gave to cult or in case of poorer member by free work with early wakes to keep them too tired to think.

Bad reputation can isolate members from society making them more addicted to friends in cult. Also angry demands to members could be told during times where they were in front of many people they don't want to lose.

Rice with beans seems very common food in notorious cults. For example that was common in Jonestown and Heavens Gate.

One reasons cult members tend to have reputation of behaving like scary weirdos could come from cult management  that tries to isolate its members from outsiders and to scare people away from "crazy" people. To achieve this weird clothing, songs/chants and rituals could be used. Many are afraid of some "brainwashing" and they may be scared of talking members out of organizations if they keep grinning unnaturally and doing weird things.

Deliberate insults to nonmembers could be used to anger public to avoid cult members and further isolate members from outsiders with reputation of having terrible personality. Giving members disproportionate pride could also annoy outsiders away. One common way to give members high ego could be by listing bad behaviors and convincing members they are the few who care about improving the lives of others.

If cult started in very hostile country then it may be possible that leader also very dangerous. In some countries starvation is likely and hungry disappointed people can start robbing or even murdering to get good income. If robberies go well they may keep doing it as only highly paying income they can get to full-fill dreams about some rich lifestyle.
If violent organization has headquarters in country with civil wars or high risk of armed attacks then even if it has branches in stable countries they may be still governed through violence to hide secrets and not give away where they are in the dangerous country.

If cult is like a business then leaders may avoid giving their organization any consistent rules repeating that everyone can decide on their own what to believe. Also critics could add income if they are convinced to buy cult literature. This seems common that frauds who sell books insist that critics are always wrong (even if they were right) tend to tell critics to buy their books and read how things actually are.
Cult literature could be mix of magic, rules serving cult and common truthful knowledge. Common truths may be overpraised by saying "nobody" outside doesn't know about it and members are the few people who could actually inform people of these. After member reads book leaders could ask what parts they believed and then separate members according to their own world views so those who want spirituality in everything are away from members who don't believe in spirits or magic. After knowing world views leaders may make up or select some course that would help member a lot for the "low price" of over 100 dollars or several days of free labor. High prices may reduce likelihood that members start to share for free what they learned.

This separation could be used to separate violent fanatics into groups that are sent to attack critics without the knowledge of most members. If this small group injures or kills someone then other members could get stories about outsiders harming people to make the cult look bad.

Website owners can see from what page people visit their sites so if someone starts talking about a site then owners may go and start advertising their products by pretending to be a satisfied customer who got rid of serious health problem. If site stays critical they may use different user names to harass critics by humiliating, advising to commit suicide due to shame or threatening. Also they may play some terrible person who kinda agrees with critics but insist critics should also be pro-Nazi or murderous against people from other religions. Other cult members may be sent to constantly repeat that finding frauds is shameful and useless waste of time for no-lifers while people should be instead upset about government or some business that happens to compete with cults income.

If many members meet they could be divided into small groups with some supervisor added to any group. This may be explained as having old members entertain them with games etc. but they could easily keep track of potential problems to cult income. Talking about allowed things may be rewarded with comments like "wow", "you are so smart", "i didn't expect to see so smart people" and hugs or other human contact.

If someone strays too unwanted topics they may be silenced by pretended laughing, unexplained insults about intelligence, playing sad friend who tries to help others but can't help because of brainwashed critics or just threats with some pretend-fundamentalist member who insists those who are too different don't deserve to live or should commit suicide.

Pretending to be religious organization even without any publicly known holy scripture may be enough to get reduced taxes. Outsiders may think most members believe the known part of religious text and cause them further isolation (especially if religious text support violence against critics) while same time giving leader excuses to say that outsiders don't understand them and should be avoided.

Cult business can grow with direct marketing where products are directly offered to random people who get near salespeople. Like most pyramid schemes they may say that this product is very good and if they get more people to sell it then they'd get a reward for finding a new salesperson.

Obviously dishonest recruiting tactics could be excused by saving that situation is similar to saving drowning people who may get hurt while being pulled out of danger. Or that any doubt is criminal stupidity that has infected those who believe propaganda of big businesses or government.

Medical wisdom could be faked by finding members who don't believe medics know anything good and alcohol/water soaked random plant material cures serious problems. Leaders could make texts for them that say that doctors only care about money unlike they who charge maybe over 100 dollars for cheap plant material soaked in alcohol as preservative. If members are convinced to deny common diagnosis by relearning health problems with new names invented by leader then they may start to say that all these famous diseases in media don't exist and only serve doctors while maybe charging money to cure made up diseases. If members are chosen or convinced to deny psychiatry is fake then believers in cult may think nobody in cult or outside have these mental problems and widening influence of cult could solve many health problems. 

Ascetic lifestyle may be supported not only to justify poor living conditions in cult dormitories but also to make thinking harder and for creating militaristic members. If they are unhappy due to avoiding masturbation, sex, tasty foods, music, movies, hard labor, early wakes and long workdays then they may get very grumpy and hostile getting more vocal with demands to improve reality.

Cult may say that it can remove violent feelings but they can't selectively remove 1 emotion. Like with christian love all the loving caring members still feel anger but preachers divert anger towards nonbelievers. If members are made to feel miserable when critics are described by leaders then members may start to believe that existence of critics keeps them miserable and that can lead to self sacrificing fanaticism if they hope to fix the world by fighting critics even if they should lose life in the name of giving other humans better life free of unwanted moods.

Locations for cults tend to be in rural areas isolated from rest of society. Jonestown massacre went partly so far because they were in middle of jungle so they could kill almost thousand people before army reached the area about a day later although they knew this cult had murdered a politician. 

Critics and protesters could be repelled by sending out people with camera that would record critics and constantly grin like they were filming something very bad to critic.

Other choice would be to hire or send out critics that demonize critics by asking very paranoid questions like Glenn Beck if he's talking about Democratic party.

Cult leaders could isolate their victims from other people by telling them to do as weird things as possible. People may believe they are crazy as movies from kids movies to horror movies have told that people acting very different are insane.

End of world stories for business

Considering that people in need of money may be willing to murder others or give oral sex to strangers they may also be willing to scare people of their coming end so they'd make some money. Unlike murdering and prostitution, doomsday predictions and endless scare stories are usually not illegal.

List of predicted end of world stories through history from Wikipedia. On average every century from 0-1000 AD had one end of world prediction that is still known. Since 1500 AD to today it seems on average there was at least 1 end of world story with increasing frequency of stories closer to nowadays.
So for over 500 years every generation has had to live with stories that world ends during their lifetime.

Many seemed to have been spread by people in religious occupations (including popes) and this might have helped them make money from attention.

Often these predictions were made by saying that calender dates with many zeros (500, 1000 and 2000 AD) or special numbers would cause destruction.

Nowadays it's easier to see how much people benefit from scaring other people that they might die. Family radio workers predicted end of world for 1988 but kept adding years after it didn't happen for at least until 2011. By 2007 it had assets worth 122 mln USD and no mistake made them stop taking money.

Such predictors imply that material things will lose value soon and why not give it to places that could get them to heaven more likely. They may not even say they want money for themselves but if there is only 1 organization advertising end of world (like Family radio with 2011) then people who believe it may support the only place that came up with this story. If 1 place started doomsday predictions then those who believe it and want to warn others may spend their own time and money to advertise the 1 place that started the story because there is not much choice with source.

This profiting from doomsday stories may cause much suffering and further problems when people stop working or improving their lives. Also violent people may think that if things end soon anyway then maybe it would be good to kill those they disliked as they would not have to live in prison for long.

Jonestown


Jonestown was a isolated area in Guyanas run by Jim Jones. He convinced members that they would have to go there to save themselves from governments. 

In 1978 it got public attention due to 918 members dying. It was triggered when 5 people including Leo Ryan from US congress got shot to death. Jim Jones insisted that if Leo Ryan came it would cause huge suffering to people in Jonestown so it was better if they all killed themselves. Most members were made to drink cyanide but Jones overdosed with barbiturate that probably caused less suffering than cyanide and also got shot in head.

Jonestown took examples and rules from soviet style dictatorships including death penalty for escape attempts at some point although caught escapees got sedatives or anti-psychotics. People had to see propaganda movies and capitalism got blamed on world problems.  

People had to practice "revolutionary suicide" that prepared them to dying but also caused negative attention and visit by Leo Ryan.

Because they lived in hot area where tropical diseases were common and low soil fertility kept living standards low they were probably already very unhappy with life. Sometimes they experienced "white nights" where 50 armed guards waked everybody with sirens and stories that mercenaries were coming to kill them so they were supposedly given poison that would save them from death by torture.
White nights according to testimony by escapee:

32. During one "white night", we were informed that our situation had become hopeless and that the only course of action open to us was a mass suicide for the glory of socialism. We were told that we would be tortured by mercenaries if we were taken alive. Everyone, including the children, was told to line up. As we passed through the line, we were given a small glass of red liquid to drink. We were told that the liquid contained poison and that we would die within 45 minutes. We all did as we were told. When the time came when we should have dropped dead, Rev. Jones explained that the poison was not real and that we had just been through a loyalty test. He warned us that the time was not far off when it would become necessary for us to die by our own hands.
33. Life at Jonestown was so miserable and the physical pain of exhaustion was so great that this event was not traumatic for me. I had become indifferent as to whether I lived or died.

As one source of income leadership took pensions from older members.

One escapee gave testimony few months before mass dying and that led to investigation by US government and by Leo Ryan:
I, Deborah Layton Blakey, declare the following under penalty of perjury:
1. The purpose of this affidavit is to call to the attention of the United States government the existence of a situation which threatens the lives of United States citizens living in Jonestown, Guyana.
2. From August, 1971 until May 13, 1978, I was a member of the People’s Temple. For a substantial period of time prior to my departure for Guyana in December, 1977, I held the position of Financial Secretary of the People's Temple.
3. I was 18 years old when I joined the People’s Temple. I had grown up in affluent circumstances in the permissive atmosphere of Berkeley, California. By joining the People’s Temple, I hoped to help others and in the process to bring structure and self-discipline to my own life.
5. Any disagreement with his dictates came to be regarded as “treason”. The Rev. Jones labelled any person who left the organization a "traitor" and “fair game”. He steadfastly and convincingly maintained that the punishment for defection was death. The fact that severe corporal punishment was frequently administered to Temple members gave the threats a frightening air of reality.
6. The Rev. Jones saw himself as the center of a conspiracy. The identity of the conspirators changed from day to day along with his erratic world vision. He induced the fear in others that, through their contact with him, they had become targets of the conspiracy. He convinced black Temple members that if they did not follow him to Guyana, they would be put into concentration camps and killed. White members were instilled with the belief that their names appeared on a secret list of enemies of the state that was kept by the C.I.A. and that they would be tracked down, tortured, imprisoned, and subsequently killed if they did not flee to Guyana.
8. When I first joined the Temple, Rev. Jones seemed to make clear distinctions between fantasy and reality. I believed that most of the time when he said irrational things, he was aware that they were irrational, but that they served as a tool of his leadership. His theory was that the end justified the means. At other times, he appeared to be deluded by a paranoid vision of the world. He would not sleep for days at a time and talk compulsively about the conspiracies against him. However, as time went on, he appeared to become completely irrational.
9. Rev. Jones insisted that Temple members work long hours and completely give up all semblance of a personal life. Proof of loyalty to Jones was confirmed by actions showing that a member had given up everything, even basic necessities. The most loyal were in the worst physical condition. Dark circles under one's eyes or extreme loss of weight were considered signs of loyalty.
13. In September, 1977, an event which Rev. Jones viewed as a major crisis occurred. Through listening to coded radio broadcasts and conversations with other members of the Temple staff, I learned that an attorney for former Temple member Grace Stoen had arrived in Guyana, seeking the return of her son, John Victor Stoen.
14. Rev. Jones has expressed particular bitterness toward Grace Stoen. She had been Chief Counselor, a position of great responsibility within the Temple. Her personal qualities of generosity and compassion made her very popular with the membership. Her departure posed a threat to Rev. Jones’ absolute control. Rev. Jones delivered a number of public tirades against her. He said that her kindness was faked and that she was a C.I.A. agent. He swore that he would never return her son to her.
15. I am informed that Rev. Jones believed that he would be able to stop Timothy Stoen, husband of Grace Stoen and father of John Victor Stoen, from speaking against the Temple as long as the child was being held in Guyana. Timothy Stoen, a former Assistant District Attorney in Mendocino and San Francisco counties, had been one of Rev. Jones’ most trusted advisors. It was rumored that Stoen was critical of the use of physical force and other forms of intimidation against Temple members. I am further informed that Rev. Jones believed that a public statement by Timothy Stoen would increase the tarnish on his public image.
16. When the Temple lost track of Timothy Stoen, I was assigned to track him down and offer him a large sum of money in return for his silence. Initially, I was to offer him $5,000. I was authorized to pay him up to $10,000. I was not able to locate him and did not see him again until on or about October 6, 1977. On that date, the Temple received information that he would be joining Grace in a San Francisco Superior Court action to determine the custody of John. I was one of a group of Temple members assigned to meet him outside the court and attempt to intimidate him to prevent him from going inside.
17. The September, 1977 crisis concerning John Stoen reached major proportions. The radio messages from Guyana were frenzied and hysterical. One morning, Terry J. Buford, public relations advisor to Rev. Jones, and myself were instructed to place a telephone call to a high-ranking Guyanese official who was visiting the United States and deliver the following threat: unless the government of Guyana took immediate steps to stall the Guyanese court action regarding John Stoen's custody, the entire population of Jonestown would extinguish itself in a mass suicide by 3:30 p.m. that day. I was later informed that Temple members in Guyana placed similar calls to other Guyanese officials.
21. The vast majority of the Temple members were required to work in the fields from 7 a.m. to 6 p.m. six days per week and on Sunday from 7 a.m. to 2 p.m. We were allowed one hour for lunch. Most of this hour was spent walking back to lunch and standing in line for our food. Taking any other breaks during the workday was severely frowned upon.
22. The food was woefully inadequate. There was rice for breakfast, rice water soup for lunch, and rice and beans for dinner. On Sunday, we each received an egg and a cookie. Two or three times a week we had vegetables. Some very weak and elderly members received one egg per day. However, the food did improve markedly on the few occasions when there were outside visitors.
25. As the former financial secretary, I was aware that the Temple received over $65,000 in Social Security checks per month. It made me angry to see that only a fraction of the income of the senior citizens in the care of the Temple was being used for their benefit. Some of the money was being used to build a settlement that would earn Rev. Jones the place in history with which he was so obsessed. The balance was being held in "reserve". Although I felt terrible about what was happening, I was afraid to say anything because I knew that anyone with a differing opinion gained the wrath of Jones and other members.
26. Rev. Jones’ thoughts were made known to the population of Jonestown by means of broadcasts over the loudspeaker system. He broadcast an average of six hours per day. When the Reverend was particularly agitated, he would broadcast for hours on end. He would talk on and on while we worked in the fields or tried to sleep. In addition to the daily broadcasts, there were marathon meetings six nights per week.
27. The tenor of the broadcasts revealed that Rev. Jones’ paranoia had reached an all-time high. He was irate at the light in which he had been portrayed by the media. He felt that as a consequence of having been ridiculed and maligned, he would be denied a place in history. His obsession with his place in history was maniacal. When pondering the loss of what he considered his rightful place in history, he would grow despondent and say that all was lost.
28. Visitors were infrequently permitted access to Jonestown. The entire community was required to put on a performance when a visitor arrived. Before the visitor arrived, Rev. Jones would instruct us on the image we were to project. The workday would be shortened. The food would be better. Sometimes there would be music and dancing. Aside from these performances, there was little joy or hope in any of our lives. An air of despondency prevailed.
29. There was constant talk of death. In the early days of the People’s Temple, general rhetoric about dying for principles was sometimes heard. In Jonestown, the concept of mass suicide for socialism arose. Because our lives were so wretched anyway and because we were so afraid to contradict Rev. Jones, the concept was not challenged.
31. At least once a week, Rev. Jones would declare a "white night", or state of emergency. The entire population of Jonestown would be awakened by blaring sirens. Designated persons, approximately fifty in number, would arm themselves with rifles, move from cabin to cabin, and make certain that all members were responding. A mass meeting would ensue. Frequently during these crises, we would be told that the jungle was swarming with mercenaries and that death could be expected at any minute.
32. During one "white night", we were informed that our situation had become hopeless and that the only course of action open to us was a mass suicide for the glory of socialism. We were told that we would be tortured by mercenaries if we were taken alive. Everyone, including the children, was told to line up. As we passed through the line, we were given a small glass of red liquid to drink. We were told that the liquid contained poison and that we would die within 45 minutes. We all did as we were told. When the time came when we should have dropped dead, Rev. Jones explained that the poison was not real and that we had just been through a loyalty test. He warned us that the time was not far off when it would become necessary for us to die by our own hands.
33. Life at Jonestown was so miserable and the physical pain of exhaustion was so great that this event was not traumatic for me. I had become indifferent as to whether I lived or died.
36. I am most grateful to the United States government and Richard McCoy and Daniel Weber, in particular, for the assistance they gave me. However, the efforts made to investigate conditions at Jonestown are inadequate for the following reasons. The infrequent visits are always announced and arranged. Acting in fear for their lives, Temple members respond as they are told. The members appear to speak freely to American representatives, but in fact they are drilled thoroughly prior to each visit on what questions to expect and how to respond. Members are afraid of retaliation if they speak their true feelings in public.

Like she said many members went to this jungle settlement because Jones threatened by saying CIA had them in a list of people to torture to death so the only way out was to move into Jonestown.

Weekly suicide drills ("white nights") may have been used to numb members to this thought and also to maybe make them less stressed about real dying.

Life was knowingly made miserable and hard enough that people cared less about staying alive. Jim Jones did almost anything he wanted including taking wives from married couples and eating everything he wanted unlike others who got rice and bean. Others had to suffer way more but Jones seemed interested in making history by mass murder/suicide.

When Leo Ryan reached Jonestown he got the usual show of things being ok but some members gave him letters that begged to escape this place. Ryan agreed to take as many as his plane could take but before takeoff they were attacked with Leo, some escapees and journalist dying.

Around the time of attack on plane they started with mass suicide or murder depending on the willingness of victims. Much of it got recorded on 44 minute death tape. Many responded with applause to Jims comments about how good he was to his members. 

1. part of tape:
2:40 he said he didn't plan to shoot plane but it was going to happen, he never lied and it was better if kids died before things were over with the attack. 
Around 3:40 he said that it was better to kids and elderly to give the poison because "there was no way we would survive".
Around 8:00 Christine Miller tried to talk about escape and not dying but others yelled over such comments.
2. part:
at 1:20 Jones argues that he doesn't believe that Miller is afraid of dying.
By 5:00 others get angrier with Miller saying that she should be grateful for the life Jones gave them.
3. part:
People had started to take poison during that time. In first minutes he declares Leo Ryan has died. People keep yelling at Miller until she stops talking.
4. part:
kids and women start to cry due to having babies poisoned first.
5th part:
audience has started to thin down with kids screaming "no" at background. Jones says "death is million times better than 10 more days of life like that".

When someone tried to talk about escape or negotiation Jones usually used hopeless tone to say that he doesn't believe it was possible.

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