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In the 1930s, Roman Catholic priest and radio commentator Fr. Charles Coughlin discovered a very effective way of discrediting people he considered political threats. He would appeal to the anti-Semitism and isolationism shared by much of his audience by denouncing various individuals as “atheistic Jews” or “imported radicals.” It mattered little to Coughlin that the sources of his “information” were often untrustworthy. He knew that once he used the power of the broadcast medium to slap labels on people, those people would find it very difficult to remove them from their reputations.1Don Veinot, Joy Veinot and Ron Henzel, A Matter of Basic Principles: Bill Gothard and His Cultish Teachings; MCOI Publishing LL, 2023, p179

Whoever controls the media and the educational system ultimately shapes the “mind” (or prevailing view) of a nation. If used artfully, it becomes easy to segregate individuals or groups from one another and even pit them against each other. Many people are completely shocked to see this dark scenario play out on university campuses around the country as students put into action what they have learned from their professors.

When we first began learning about Jehovah’s Witnesses and other authoritarian religious groups, we noticed that although various cult groups held very different beliefs on the surface, a similar glue held each member fast to their particular group. The teachings could be radically different, in fact, but the “glue” was the way they were indoctrinated and cemented into their group. For one example, as individuals were recruited, they were heavily indoctrinated to believe their group had the only direct line of communication to God and that all other groups weren’t just wrong but were evil. Jehovah’s Witnesses assert all other religious groups are part of “the whore of Babylon, the world empire of false religions.” Theirs is not the only cult group that pronounces themselves THE only true Christians by any means. This practice isn’t even limited to the groups that are defined as “cults of Christianity” but is also practiced in a variety of activist groups, religious or otherwise.

In 1988, Steven Hassan, a former follower of the Reverend Sun Myung Moon, released a book, Combatting Cult Mind Control. We purchased and read the 1990 edition. It told his story of being recruited and heavily indoctrinated into the “Moonies.” His book drew on the work of Robert J. Lifton’s 1961 book, Thought Reform and the Psychology of Totalism: A Study of “Brainwashing” in China, to explain how authoritarian cults operate. It answered a number of questions about how high control groups seemed to be able to utterly change someone’s worldview in a relatively short time.

Recently, progressives in legacy media and progressive Christians in the deconstruction movement have been making the assertion that many, perhaps most, political and/or religious conservatives are in a cult. They seem to believe – or want most of us to believe – they need to deprogram and rescue conservatives from the evil grip of conservative thought. Many in the media have turned to Steven Hassan, “America’s Leading Exit Counselor” – so it says on the cover of his book – to help them and their viewing audience understand the dangers being posed “to our democracy” by this cult, and how to assist friends and family members through “the deprogramming process.”

Strictly speaking, America is a democratic republic but there is a great deal of overlap between a democracy and a republic. Ours is a political system that put the power of government into the hands of the common people. For the sake of discussion, we will use the media shorthand word “democracy.” As we all know, the common people are not thoroughly united in the way they think the nation should be governed. This means there are and always be varying views on how the nation should be run, etc. Our democracy does not promise that only one idea can be put forth while all other views are completely quashed. That is the opposite of democracy. So it is quite contradictory to proclaim that unless one’s favored position is forced on all others by despotic means, democracy will supposedly “die,” allegedly “killed” by horrible people who hold contrary views! It IS true that freedom can die, if a despotic viewpoint which will brook no dissent should amass huge gains in power over others. Unless the vast majority of citizens pretty much agree that varying opinions are to be at least tolerated in a free society, freedom is at risk. To us, that seems to be the greater threat to America and other freedom-loving people. So, to recap, Democracy is about recognizing there are many different views that will vie with each other for preeminence at a given time. Democracy cannot be destroyed by competing views but indeed may be murdered through despotic annihilation of opposing views.

We are not ascribing evil motives to the majority of people who may disagree with us. These people may truly believe what they are saying about us, but does that mean what they are claiming is true? No. Well then, perhaps we should ask if they may have been deceived into believing that Conservatives have been deceived. The problem with being deceived is that, most often, people do not realize they are deceived. Perhaps that is why it is called deception.

This creates perhaps a bit of a conundrum. Just who is deceived and who is deceiving? And what about “middle America,” who seem fairly distrustful of political extremism on any side?

How can competing claims be fairly evaluated? Should not such an evaluation be applied equally to conservatives and progressives? As previously stated, Hassan drew upon Robert J. Lifton’s book, Thought Reform and the Psychology of Totalism: A Study of “Brainwashing” in China and applied it to religious cults. We thought we might do something different and apply Lifton’s criteria to the nation’s political situation, as Lifton did, rather than a religious sect. In this case, we’ll look at how his criteria applies to a Western nation, the USA. Citizens of other Western nations may do a similar experiment if they are so inclined.

It was “fortuitous” that while we were thinking about this, a senior business editor at National Public Radio (NPR), Uri Berliner’s insightful article, I’ve Been at NPR for 25 Years. Here’s How We Lost America’s Trust, was released. It is also helpful that Berliner is also a self-described liberal:

You know the stereotype of the NPR listener: an EV-driving, Wordle-playing, tote bag–carrying coastal elite. It doesn’t precisely describe me, but it’s not far off. I’m Sarah Lawrence–educated, was raised by a lesbian peace activist mother, I drive a Subaru, and Spotify says my listening habits are most similar to people in Berkeley.

His insights into practicing journalistic research are instructive when considering Lifton’s 8 Criteria for Thought Reform.

1. Milieu Control.2This list is modified from the one our associates have posted on the MeadowHaven website

This involves controlling information and communication both within the environment, peer group and, ultimately, within the individual. It results in a significant degree of isolation of unapproved competing ideas. Berliner pointed out that when he started at NPR (2011), the organization and the audience leaned slightly left but were pretty mainstream:

it still bore a resemblance to America at large. Twenty-six percent of listeners described themselves as conservative, 23 percent as middle of the road, and 37 percent as liberal.

By 2023, this changed, according to Berliner:

only 11 percent described themselves as very or somewhat conservative, 21 percent as middle of the road, and 67 percent of listeners said they were very or somewhat liberal. We weren’t just losing conservatives; we were also losing moderates and traditional liberals.

As Berliner tells his story, this disparity comes about through information control. Anything that competed with the progressive narrative was no longer allowed to see the light of day from NPR. As he rightfully points out, journalism should let evidence lead the way, but that was no longer happening. He did an odd thing and began a journalistic inquiry of NPR. In his journalistic determination to “let the evidence lead the way” he made a number of important discoveries, including the following:

In recent years I’ve struggled to answer that question. Concerned by the lack of viewpoint diversity, I looked at voter registration for our newsroom. In D.C., where NPR is headquartered and many of us live, I found 87 registered Democrats working in editorial positions and zero Republicans. None.

We would suggest that this can easily be duplicated across just about all of the mainstream media, as well as social media platforms. Facebook, Google/YouTube, etc., post warnings about any sharing of information that conflicts with the progressive narrative, delete whatever information offends them and cancel accounts that don’t accept their warning to toe the line. In doing so, information is reshaped to convey predominantly or only the approved view.

2. Mystical Manipulation

This is the manipulation of experiences or events that appear spontaneous but were, in fact, planned and orchestrated by the group or its leaders. This allows the leader or thought shapers to reinterpret events, scripture, and experiences as he or she wishes. Was the United States of America founded in 1776, or is that history a lie, and truth was America was actually founded in 1619 on slavery? Were the riots in 2020 that resulted in over two billion dollars in destruction, injuries, and several deaths “mostly peaceful demonstrations,” as asserted by mainstream media? Whoever controls the media controls the way the story is told and shapes how the nation thinks about these events.

3. Demand for Purity

The world is viewed as black and white, and the members are constantly exhorted to conform to the group’s ideology. DEI training is employed in corporations and governmental offices to ensure the use of proper pronouns, admit the evils of “whiteness,” and strive for perfection as defined by the thought shapers. The use of guilt and/or shame for any infractions, or the indignity of being utterly “canceled,” thrown out in the cold, are powerful control devices used to keep people in line.

4. Confession

Sins, as defined by the group – “whiteness” for example, and now even Jewish identity – are to be abjectly “confessed” either to a person in authority or publicly to the group. There is no confidentiality; members’ “sins,” “attitudes,” and “faults” are discussed and exploited by the leaders. Interestingly, there is no absolution for the two dastardly sins mentioned above since one cannot change their skin color or their racial heritage. However, though there can be no forgiveness for these sins, many people from these very evil sinner groups are often the very loudest in their condemnation of fellow “sinners,” who likewise had zero choice in the matter of their birth. It seems these miserable people are desperately seeking an absolution they will never attain. We would say this is a powerful paradigm of mind control.

5. Sacred Science

The group’s doctrine or ideology, manmade as it is, is considered to be the ultimate Truth, beyond all questioning or dispute. Truth is not to be found outside the group narrative. If the doctrine or ideology asserts that a biological male is a female by simply declaring that they are female, it cannot be questioned and certainly not disputed. Anyone who questions or casts doubt on this doctrine must be canceled, deprogrammed, and /or punished.

6. Loading the Language

The group interprets or uses words and phrases in new ways so that often, the outside world – those not in the group – cannot grasp the new concept readily enough to thoughtfully contradict it before it is quickly deemed as something “everyone” believes. Obviously, if “everyone” believes something, it takes great courage to countermand it. The cow has wandered miles away before it is noticed that the fence is broken. This jargon consists of thought-terminating clichés that serve to alter members’ thought processes to conform to the group’s way of thinking. For example, “Income inequality” is thought by many outside the group to refer to poverty. However, to the initiated, it is a call to redistribute income so that all have equal income. To oppose huge numbers of people from other countries illegally flooding into another nation – with absolutely no vetting – labels one as being “anti-immigration.” No one is supposed even to wonder where the money will come from to house and care for the “new citizens,” nor can one publicly question the absolute pandemonium that may ensue.

7. Doctrine over Person

Members’ personal experiences are subordinated to sacred science, and any contrary experiences must be denied or reinterpreted to fit the group’s ideology. Ignore frightful contravening facts and avoid independent thinking.

8.Dispensing of Existence

The group has the prerogative to decide who has the right to exist and who does not. Terminating an unworthy life is not at this juncture, in America, being interpreted literally, although historically, it has been frequently applied in that ugly sense. Today, it means those outside the group are lost or unenlightened, and they must be converted by any means necessary to the group’s ideology. If they do not join the group or are critical of the group, then they must be rejected and even hated by all group members – canceled. Thus, those outside the cult lose all credibility. In conjunction, should any member leave the group, or become too independently minded, he or she must be rejected, canceled, and perhaps even doxxed.

Uri Berliner came face to face with this harsh reality shortly after his article was released – when NPR put him on suspension. He chose to resign. His crime? He forgot about the Doctrine over Person rule and did the unthinkable:

In the essay, Berliner claimed NPR had failed to properly cover allegations Donald Trump colluded with Russia in the runup to the 2016 election, the controversial Covid-19 lab-leak theory and New York Post’s story on Hunter Biden’s laptop.3NPR editor who penned scathing piece criticizing the public broadcaster resigns by Oliver Darcy, CNN

We are not surprised that mainstream uber-progressive media would claim conservatives are a dangerous cult who want to “destroy democracy.” We reject the claims, sacred science, and narratives of those who control the vast majority of all types of media. We believe in free investigation, public debate, and the freedom to form one’s views in the process. Anyone reading this should ask themselves if it is conservatives or progressives that best fit Lifton’s negative criteria to the closest degree in this scenario.

People are free to decide…Whatever conclusion one should arrive at concerning Lifton’s criteria, we believe in freedom of speech, freedom of inquiry, and freedom of thought.

Coercive tactics to control thought and action are nothing new in history. The Christians in the first three centuries were called atheists because they rejected the governmentally approved pantheon of gods and asserted there was One True God – and Ceasar wasn’t it! The Apostle Peter touched on this in 1 Peter 2:11-12:

Beloved, I urge you as sojourners and exiles to abstain from the passions of the flesh, which wage war against your soul. Keep your conduct among the Gentiles honorable, so that when they speak against you as evildoers, they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day of visitation.Ω

Don and Joy Signature 2

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