Friday, July 15, 2016

Nobody Joins a "Cult"

They join something that gives them - to use words I have used before - meaning, purpose and community. They only call it a cult after they leave it. Maybe everyone else can see it's false and calls it a cult, with its authoritarian con-man ruler and oppressive, micro-managing rules, but the believers don't.

No one embraces "false" beliefs on purpose. To them it's as true as it gets - until it isn't anymore. In the 20th Century the biggest of these "religions" was Communism. And everyone knows what they did. Some people still pine for a Stalin - or a Hitler (I still remember some people referring to the dry-drunk ex-cokehead Dubya Shrub as "my President" - who said the Constitution was "just a goddamn piece of paper" and things would be easier if he was dictator).

People join to become better and more alive than they were before. And as the mythologist Joseph Campbell noticed, what people really want is to feel alive - and to be involved with something they see as bigger than they are. Even if it's a political party.

I've studied con artists for perhaps 20 years, which I know is the reason people fall for them is the hope of making their lives better. No one sets out to be conned.

When I was a teenager there were two big marginal religious groups - the "Jesus freaks" and the Hare Krishnas. I'd see the Hare Krishnas on the street all the time, begging for money (I saw one teenager tell a woman belonging to the Hare Krishnas she was "brainwashed").

In those days I had a friend who was a Jesus freak for a while, who later decided Carlos Castaneda was where the truth was at. Finally he gave it all up and became an airline pilot.

These days, all those cults are gone. But there will be others. There always are.

I have met con artists in person. More than one of them. Which is why I know "con" means "confidence." They bring you into their confidence. They're excellent at reading people, seeing their flaws and desires, and seducing these people into giving them money, power and attention.

They tend to be superficially charming and authoritative, but instead they are as empty as balloons. They tend to exhibit the Dark Triad - the real version of it, not the Manosphere's delusions of what it is. They have no conscience, no guilt, no remorse.

"Ultimately, what they sell is hope," writes Maria Konnikova in The Confidence Game. "Hope that you'll be happier, healthier, richer, loved, accepted, better looking, younger, smarter, a deeper, more fulfilled human being - hope that you will emerge on the other side you will be superior to the you that came in."

Isn't that what all ideologies promise?

11 comments:

Eduardo the Magnificent said...

Eric Hoffer said the same thing. People join mass movements because they are broken inside and need a collective purpose to fill that massive hole in their soul. That's why it's so easy to convert them: it's not "the cause" they're truly after, but the belonging, sense of importance, duty, and other attributes that distracts them from their failures. Hitler was a failed painter. Stalin a failed poet. Marx a failed writer. Bernie a failure at everything. On and on it goes.

Avraham said...

These are important ideas that were around in the 1960's but that did not stop problems. Warnings that people did not heed.

Anonymous said...

The big cult today fucking loves science, bigots.

Days of Broken Arrows said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Bob Wallace said...

Yeah, the "I Fucking Love Science" retards.

The Reactionary said...

People do want to belong, to be accepted. That's not being broken. What's broken is that they don't have that in a healthy, functioning society.

The Damage Dealing Meat Shield said...

"Yeah, the "I Fucking Love Science" retards."

I had two of those retards on my FB friends list, I posted what a real jet engine analysis and they freaked because it didn't look like anything remotely what they are use to seeing on IFL Science website. Many of them don't understand the basic tenets of science. And they cannot discern what studies are BS.

Anonymous said...

Hitler was not a failed painter. He was in fact regarded as a decent painter but was considered more suited to architecture by his professors. He was also considered a brave, honorable and very commendable solider in world war I. So many lies, misconceptions and misinformation about this man.

Bob Wallace said...

Hitler was a failed painter and was not admitted to art school because he did have enough talent. Policemen who knew him said he was a criminal and a thug.

Anonymous said...

"Policemen who knew him said he was a criminal and a thug."

Can you please cite a reference? A book?

Bob Wallace said...

"Leftism Revisited" by Erik von Kuehnelt-Leddihn, who was Austrian and grew up there long before WWII.