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THE END WILL COME FOR THE CULT OF MAGA

  

Category:  Op/Ed

Via:  hallux  •  9 months ago  •  38 comments

By:   Peter Sagal - The Atlantic

THE END WILL COME FOR THE CULT OF MAGA
The next generation isn’t buying it.

S E E D E D   C O N T E N T


In October of last year, Donald Trump filed a defamation suit accusing CNN of calling him a lot of bad names, the first on the lengthy list being “like a cult leader.” One could assume that Trump would be flattered by that, because cult leaders are usually depicted in pop culture as charismatic masters with near-divine power over the lives of their followers. Jimmy Breslin once called then-Mayor Rudolph Giuliani a “small man in search of a balcony.” If so, then Trump is a large man in search of a compound.

He stands in front of massive crowds festooned with insignia proclaiming their allegiance, chanting his name and accompanying him on the familiar refrains: “Lock her/him up!” “Build the wall!” They will countenance no criticism of their idol and accept his version of events without question. The same, of course, can be said about Taylor Swift, although no mob of Swifties has sacked the Capitol. Because she hasn’t asked them to. Yet.

Those who call Trumpism a cult can point to his popularity with Republican voters   increasing   with each of his four criminal indictments. A CBS poll in late August revealed that the most trusted source of information among those voters—more than conservative media, family members, or clergy—is that famed straight shooter   Donald J. Trump .

Peter Wehner: The indictment of Donald Trump—and his enablers

At this point, as the nation faces a series of trials both literal and metaphorical, what label to apply to his movement doesn’t matter. The important question isn’t whether or not Trumpism is a cult. It’s whether the study of cults provides us with any path out of here.

Trump’s suit against CNN was thrown out of court, but Diane Benscoter, the cult expert and former cult member (a “Moonie” of the Unification Church) who compared Trump to a cult leader on CNN, still believes what she said. She’s been working with two incarcerated January 6 participants at the request of their lawyers, not so much to persuade them to recant as to help them with their behavior and attitude while in court—for example, no shouted accusations about the “deep state.” The work is difficult and slow, she told me, even more difficult than her recent efforts to “deprogram” India Oxenberg, one of the high-profile women caught up in NXIVM, the sex cult masquerading as a self-improvement course.

It’s so difficult, in fact, that she sees greater hope in attacking the demand side of cultism, calling for government programs that would treat disinformation and indoctrination as a kind of public-health emergency—a Sanitary Commission of the Mind. If enough people can be taught how indoctrination works, she thinks, they will be able to see it coming for them before it’s too late.   Set aside the legal and ethical questions about assigning the government that sort of expansive role;   what if it’s already too late? Educating people so they won’t join a political cult, in 2023, is like closing the barn door after the horse has attacked the West Portico of the Capitol with bear spray.

Steven Hassan, another former cult member (also a Moonie), published his book  The Cult of Trump  in 2019, long before the attack on the Capitol, even before Trump persuaded thousands of his followers to gather indoors unmasked during the worst airborne pandemic in a century. Hassan told me that the MAGA movement checks all the boxes of his “BITE” model of cult mind control—behavior, information, thought, and emotional control. Like all cult leaders, he argues, Trump restricts the information his followers are allowed to accept; demands purity of belief (beliefs that can change from moment to moment, as per his whims and needs); and appeals to his followers through the conjuring of primal emotions—not just fear but also joy.

His rallies, as so many have reported, are ecstatic events; people cheer and laugh as their various enemies are condemned and insulted. Hassan will be the first to tell you that being part of a cult means you’re empowered, special, one of the elect, close to the person who has all the answers/will lead us to paradise/will “make America great again.” That, in fact, may be the greatest disincentive to turn away from Trump: Nothing is more fun than knowing that you and your friends are the ones who are right about everything.

In the four years since the publication of   The Cult of Trump , Hassan believes, the movement has gained strength through de facto alliances with other “authoritarian cults” such as QAnon, as well as with groups like the Council for National Policy, a secretive networking organization of powerful conservatives, and the New Apostolic Reformation, a theological movement calling for Christian dominion over politics. The danger is metastasizing, Hassan said, thanks primarily to digital and social media, which take the place of sermons and indoctrination sessions. “We’re on our phones 10 hours a day. People are up all night getting fed YouTube videos,” he said. “You don’t need a compound anymore.”

As cults became more prominent in the 1970s, self-styled “deprogrammers,” paid by desperate family members, would sometimes abduct cult members and keep them isolated and disoriented until they gave up their beliefs. That tended to backfire: What better proof that everyone outside the cult is a dangerous enemy, to a cult member indoctrinated in that belief, than being snatched up and locked in a hotel room? Whether or not the strategy ever worked, it was clearly unethical and even criminal; some deprogrammers served time for kidnapping.

Today it’s clearly not an option: It would take half the country kidnapping the other half of the country, and then who would feed the pets?

On cable TV, liberal pundits offer up regular factual rebuttals to Trump’s claims, as if his followers could be lectured into seeing the truth. But at this point, Trump’s supporters have been with him for up to eight years, through countless scandals, two impeachments, and now four indictments. What facts could anyone possibly conjure that they haven’t heard and dismissed before? Besides, to admit they’re wrong about any one thing would imply that they’ve been wrong the whole time. As anyone who’s been taken in a game of three-card monte and then played again to win their money back will know, the hardest thing in the world to admit is that you’ve been conned.

Instead, Hassan advocates “respectful, curious questioning.” He advised that friends and relatives of those deep in MAGA try reconnecting with them, approaching them without judgment, to remind them of the relationship you had before they turned. Then, through gentle inquisition, ask them to see things from others’ perspectives, to think about occasions when they’ve seen people intentionally misled by others, to ask themselves what it would be like if that happened to them. Eventually—as Hassan said he did, when he was forced by such questions to examine his allegiance to Reverend Sun Myung Moon—they will free themselves from the spell.

Maybe. Diane Benscoter tried just such an approach in a conversation with a right-wing conspiracy theorist named Michelle Queen, on tape for an NPR story in 2021. First, she found common ground by agreeing that harming children is bad. But then:

Diane Benscoter:   Some of the things that are being spread about, you know, babies being eaten and things—I don’t think those things are true personally.

Michelle Queen:   Um, I do.

At least, as the NPR correspondent Tovia Smith noted, they agreed to keep talking.

To Daniella Mestyanek Young, every group of people has a little cult in it, and every person has a bit of a cult follower within. At 36, and with a master’s in group psychology from Harvard’s Extension School, she’s acquired a following via her series of TikTok videos in which—while furiously knitting—she shares insights from her own history. She was born into the Children of God, which many ex-members describe as a sex cult, and then escaped it to join the U.S. Army, only to find that the Army was kind of a cult too. In her view, all organizations are situated somewhere on the “cultiness spectrum,” and some celebrated groups, such as the military and Alcoholics Anonymous, are much further toward the dark end than you’d like to believe.

In her TikToks, she includes various lists and rules of cults in an ever-present text box above her head, one of which reads:



The first rule of cults is:

you’re never in a cult

The second rule of cults is:

the cult will forgive any sin,

except the sin of leaving

The third rule of cults is:

even if he did it,

that doesn’t mean he’s guilty.


Like the other cult experts I spoke with, Young doesn’t believe that anybody can be argued out of Trumpism (or any other firmly held belief). People can save only themselves, as she did. But she argues that such self-rescues are happening all around us.

“Twenty years ago,” she told me, “when I walked away from a cult, it was much rarer to meet Americans like me, who are completely estranged from their families because they wouldn’t follow one leader, one guru, one specific ideology. And now it’s very common. The way that cults die without a final, Jonestown-like conflagration is when they can’t recruit the next generation, and we are seeing this in the alt-right. We’re going to see young children of MAGA Republicans voting for the left.”

She said that she hears from young people on TikTok all the time who say “they’re not going to vote for the people who made them do live-shooter drills in schools and at the same time loosened the gun laws.” There’s a trend on TikTok of young people posting what are called “deconstructing” songs; they’re usually about someone walking away from conservative Christianity. They say things, Young told me, like, “Screw you. You told me all my friends are going to hell. I’m going to hell with them.”

It’s possible as well, she thinks, that many formerly avid followers of Trump are themselves just quiet quitting, in a way. They stop posting Facebook memes, put away the MAGA hat, get back into cooking or sports or whatever it was that interested them before Trump. As said, it’s tough to admit you’ve been conned, so they don’t publicly denounce their former beliefs—unless, of course, they’re trying to get a lighter sentence. Consider the ragged smattering of followers who’ve appeared at Trump’s various arraignments, the desultory showings at his recent rallie s, the smaller and sadder group of loyalists who attend him at Mar-a-Lago.

But Young believes that the only thing that will truly end Trumpism is what ends everything, eventually: the icy hand of death. Not necessarily the departure of Trump himself; she (like Hassan and Benscoter) believes that if and when he leaves the scene, via jail or one too many Big Macs, various pretenders will rise up to claim his mantle and authority, just as the Unification Church splintered into various factions after the death of Reverend Moon. No, what she means is that the members of the cult itself will die out, and there will be no one, eventually, to replace them.

In 2020, more   than half of Americans   over the age of 65 voted for Trump—it was, in fact, the only demographic group he won outright—while 62 percent of voters aged 18–29 went for Joe Biden. Right now, older voters dominate the electorate, but the passage of time, unlike the counting of electoral votes, can’t be stopped by force. Trump will someday be gone, and his following will fade and diminish, just like the millennial cults that used to regularly proclaim the impending end of the world. The world never ends, but political movements do.

We may not be prepared for whatever takes Trumpism’s place, but at least we will no longer be shocked.


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Hallux
PhD Principal
1  seeder  Hallux    9 months ago

A recipe for ennui:

Combine every episode of The Apprentice in an infusion of Me & Mine for a Mug-O-MAGA-T and  serve with slices of Mendaci-T. This cult has overstayed its welcome.

 
 
 
Tessylo
Professor Principal
1.1  Tessylo  replied to  Hallux @1    9 months ago

It's gone on far too long and I honestly see no end in sight of the maga.

 
 
 
Tessylo
Professor Principal
1.2  Tessylo  replied to  Hallux @1    9 months ago

This is a fantastic breakdown of the former 'president's' supporters/enablers/magacultmembers, simply fantastic.

 
 
 
JohnRussell
Professor Principal
2  JohnRussell    9 months ago

Everything comes to an end, it is the way of the world. I see no signs of MAGA ending in the next 10 - 15 years, which means I will probably not live to see it. 

We live in a degraded nation. 

 
 
 
cjcold
Professor Quiet
2.1  cjcold  replied to  JohnRussell @2    9 months ago

MAGA will end just like the Nazis the tea party and John Birch Society ended.

Right wing fascists will just call their next idiotic party something else.

The names and faces change but the ideology remains the same.

 
 
 
Drinker of the Wry
Junior Expert
2.1.1  Drinker of the Wry  replied to  cjcold @2.1    9 months ago

The conditions that led to Nazism and today’s US conditions are dramatically different.

 
 
 
devangelical
Professor Principal
2.1.2  devangelical  replied to  cjcold @2.1    9 months ago

an ending like the nazi cult experienced would be a lot more efficient ...

 
 
 
Drinker of the Wry
Junior Expert
2.1.3  Drinker of the Wry  replied to  devangelical @2.1.2    9 months ago

Which cities do you want to start bombing?

 
 
 
Tessylo
Professor Principal
2.1.4  Tessylo  replied to  cjcold @2.1    9 months ago

Someone was claiming recently that the teabaggers were grassroots, they were astroturfers, funded by the Koch Brothers, etc.

 
 
 
Right Down the Center
Senior Guide
2.1.5  Right Down the Center  replied to  Drinker of the Wry @2.1.3    9 months ago

I nominate San Francisco.  They may need a redo from scratch.

 
 
 
cjcold
Professor Quiet
2.1.6  cjcold  replied to  devangelical @2.1.2    9 months ago

That would mean an actual civil war. A shooting civil war.

Seems many of the ignorant far right would like that.

What violent fascists don't realize is that they are in the minority.

Democracy is a fragile thing. Hope fascists don't destroy it.

Trump must go to prison for his crimes against democracy.

 
 
 
Drinker of the Wry
Junior Expert
2.1.7  Drinker of the Wry  replied to  cjcold @2.1.6    9 months ago
Seems many of the ignorant far right would like that. What violent fascists don't realize is that they are in the minority.

Exactly, these deplorables got a lot more stupid after voting for Bill Clinton and Barack Obama.

 
 
 
cjcold
Professor Quiet
2.1.8  cjcold  replied to  Tessylo @2.1.4    9 months ago

Now down to just one Koch brother but he owns ultra conservative power monger groups such as Americans for Prosperity, 

Sure would be nice if these far right fascist octogenarian billionaires would die off sooner than later.

 
 
 
devangelical
Professor Principal
2.1.9  devangelical  replied to  Drinker of the Wry @2.1.3    9 months ago

[Deleted]

 
 
 
Sean Treacy
Professor Principal
3  Sean Treacy    9 months ago

Of course.  Populist movements flare up and fade away.  Williams Jennings Bryan dominated the Democratic Party for almost 20 years, lost three elections and became an afterthought after Wilson's progressivism took over the party.  Something similar will happen to Trump, win or lose in '24.

e, “when I walked away from a cult, it was much rarer to meet Americans like me, who are completely estranged from their families because they wouldn’t follow one leader, one guru, one specific ideology.

This is funny though. It's much likely for progressives to cut off family/refuse to date those who don't share ideology than Trump followers.  Demonstrates who the actual cult is. 

 
 
 
devangelical
Professor Principal
3.1  devangelical  replied to  Sean Treacy @3    9 months ago

I believe in playing by trump cult rules with trump cultists and know exactly what language they understand the best, so I try to carry a trump cult deprogramming device wherever I go...

 
 
 
cjcold
Professor Quiet
3.1.1  cjcold  replied to  devangelical @3.1    9 months ago

What caliber?

 
 
 
Hallux
PhD Principal
3.1.2  seeder  Hallux  replied to  cjcold @3.1.1    9 months ago

The O.E.D works.

 
 
 
Sean Treacy
Professor Principal
3.1.3  Sean Treacy  replied to  devangelical @3.1    9 months ago

You are such a bad ass. Constantly fantasizing about killing trump supporters on the internet, just like real heroes do.  

 
 
 
devangelical
Professor Principal
3.1.4  devangelical  replied to  Sean Treacy @3.1.3    9 months ago

... you should hear what I have to say about the papist cult.

 
 
 
Drinker of the Wry
Junior Expert
3.1.5  Drinker of the Wry  replied to  devangelical @3.1.4    9 months ago

We are looking forward to that, how long will you keep us in suspense.

 
 
 
afrayedknot
Junior Quiet
3.1.6  afrayedknot  replied to  Hallux @3.1.2    9 months ago

“The O.E.D works.”

And a GED is the only bona fide required. 

 
 
 
cjcold
Professor Quiet
3.1.7  cjcold  replied to  Hallux @3.1.2    9 months ago

So you just throw a big heavy dictionary at them? Sounds impractical.

 
 
 
cjcold
Professor Quiet
3.1.8  cjcold  replied to  devangelical @3.1.4    9 months ago
papist cult

But I love paper! Books have always been my best friends!

Just a damn shame that trees have to die for my papist enjoyment.

What?.....Ya mean? ...

Never mind.

 
 
 
cjcold
Professor Quiet
3.1.9  cjcold  replied to  cjcold @3.1.8    9 months ago

R.I.P. Gilda Radner.

 
 
 
Hallux
PhD Principal
3.1.10  seeder  Hallux  replied to  cjcold @3.1.7    9 months ago

So use a trebuchet. Just don't hire the moron who built the 6-1 scaffold to construct it.

 
 
 
cjcold
Professor Quiet
3.1.11  cjcold  replied to  Hallux @3.1.10    9 months ago

My little brother actually had his boy scout troop build one.

It was designed to throw a softball a few hundred yards.

Wish I had had a boy scout leader like him in my day.

All my scout master ever did was teach me how to throw a knife. 

 
 
 
cjcold
Professor Quiet
3.1.12  cjcold  replied to  cjcold @3.1.11    9 months ago

Once won the Cripple Creek Knife/Tomahawk throw events.

All it took was many years of training.

 
 
 
Tessylo
Professor Principal
3.2  Tessylo  replied to  Sean Treacy @3    9 months ago

Your last comment there is projection through and through..

 
 
 
Hallux
PhD Principal
3.3  seeder  Hallux  replied to  Sean Treacy @3    9 months ago
Demonstrates who the actual cult is.

Would that cult be Ruby Freeman and her daughter, Wandrea "Shaye" Moss or those that defamed them?

 
 
 
Sparty On
Professor Principal
3.4  Sparty On  replied to  Sean Treacy @3    9 months ago
Demonstrates who the actual cult is. 

Yep, spot on.  
The master political race as it were ……. jrSmiley_7_smiley_image.png

 
 
 
Igknorantzruls
Freshman Quiet
4  Igknorantzruls    9 months ago

i’ve thought of Trump as an uncultivated cult liter B 4 all of his quart shing dig ding a ling ling thing things, and still do due to flagrant phallacy followers for whom Facts are more diffi cult to join in with than falsehoods whose maga hats make hate, to love again, cause Pigz in Zen, at least whatJane said, and the Cult won’t end ,

till Trump be gone dead

 
 
 
Hallux
PhD Principal
4.1  seeder  Hallux  replied to  Igknorantzruls @4    9 months ago

sumpin' like dat.

 
 
 
cjcold
Professor Quiet
4.2  cjcold  replied to  Igknorantzruls @4    9 months ago

He keeps up with dat diet and he be dead soon.

 
 
 
bbl-1
Professor Quiet
5  bbl-1    9 months ago

MAGA fade away?  Remember the line in the movie "Independance Day?"  'They are using our satellites against us.'  The autocratic supporters are using The Constitution against us and the Electoral College is their fulcrum.

 
 
 
cjcold
Professor Quiet
5.1  cjcold  replied to  bbl-1 @5    9 months ago

Screw the electoral college! One person, one vote.

 
 
 
Drinker of the Wry
Junior Expert
5.1.1  Drinker of the Wry  replied to  cjcold @5.1    9 months ago

Exactly, isn’t that what Trump said.

 
 
 
bbl-1
Professor Quiet
5.1.2  bbl-1  replied to  Drinker of the Wry @5.1.1    9 months ago

no

 
 

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