Legally released from an unenforceable NDA, the former 2016 campaign staffer discusses the cult-building tactics, Russian interference, and the who’s who of bad actors behind the scenes of the Trump campaign.
Alva Johnson, a former large-scale event producer, found herself thrust into the midst of a presidential campaign after taking on what she thought was a short gig to assist with coordinating one rally. The massive success of that one rally eventually led to Alva becoming deeply involved in the Trump Campaign in 2015 and 2016. Now, Alva is speaking out. After a four-year legal battle, Alva’s Nondisclosure Agreement (NDA) with the Trump organization was deemed legally unsound and unenforceable by the courts. Today, she aims to show
As she was an experienced event planner with impressive accomplishments, I was curious to learn from her. After reading The Cult of Trump, Alva told me she was able to identify many of the tactics used to build MAGA as cult techniques. She also stated that reading The Cult of Trump resonated with her prior role as the primary Event Producer for Brazilian faith healer John of God. John of God was an international spiritual healer endorsed by celebrities like Oprah Winfrey, Paul Simon, Shirley McClain, and Naomi Campbell. She had been hired as the event producer to bring him to the United States for the first time and was a part of his inner circle from 2004 to 2007. There are many similarities between both powerful figureheads that have each amassed millions of followers, including the use of secrecy (NDA), sexual violence as a control tactic, recruiting unsuspecting yet high-functioning individuals to carry out their plans, amassing financial opportunities to lure and maintain loyalty, and their predatory nature on empathetic people.
Data Collection to Target Specific Demographics
Did you know that the Trump campaign created an app called CallFire to gather data and influence their base? Alva unofficially became a part of the Trump campaign in late 2015 and, by January 2016, was a part of the group of some of the earliest paid staffers. Alva was hired as The Director of Outreach and Coalitions for the state of Alabama and the principal strategist for North Alabama, delivering Trump the win over the endorsed candidate of Congressman Mo Brooks and his machine. Immediately, Alva was promoted to a leadership role on the National Strike Team, working in some of the most critical primary states during the election. Having worked under Lewandowsky, Manafort, Bossie, and Bannon, Alva is one of the few people who understand the differences between the campaigns under each leadership, especially the running of the ground game and using voter data.
As an incredibly early staffer and a Director of Outreach and Coalitions, Alva was instrumental in working with Trump Tower to identify potential interest groups such as Women for Trump, Veterans for Trump, Latinos for Trump, and Bikers for Trump. Fast forward two years later, and the growth of those interest groups has become essential in, forming sub-cults under the umbrella of the Cult of Trump. These grassroots organizations gradually isolated individuals from their families and friends as their social circles became centered around the organization and spending time with like-minded individuals. Many of these interest groups became a recruiting center to pull people into other dangerous cults like QAnon. Initially formed online, these groups were encouraged to meet in person, organize events, and meet weekly. Alva spent years witnessing the growth of these groups in horror, unable to speak out until she fought against her NDA.
During the 2016 general election, Alva created one of Florida’s most successful voter engagement projects. Cleverly, she organized the Recreational Vehicles (RVs) program, which she utilized as mobile offices and met over 275,000 potential voters. It was not until the Mueller investigations that Alva learned that many of the events requesting the RVs were actually being coordinated by Russians trying to infiltrate the campaign.
Hypnosis and Mind Control Tactics in the Trump Campaign
After reading my books, Alva recalls the rallies as hypnotic, utilizing repetitive words that functioned as cue words for participants, such as “lock her up” and “build a wall.” As my blog explains, this repetition served as a form of meditation; here, hypnosis and Neuro-Linguistic Programming can be powerful tools in many high-control groups. It can allow for programming certain code words in individuals’ minds without their awareness. People are led to say or do things when they hear these cues. Alva remembers witnessing Senator Jeff Sessions, the first senator to endorse Trump, surprise himself and everyone present by standing up and declaring his endorsement of Trump for President. She recalls how Senator Sessions left the stage, stood beside her, and confided in her that he did not know why he had spoken those words. He had no plans or expectations to do so; he had only intended to give an introduction.
Influence of the Russian Government in the Trump Campaign
Upon leaving the Trump organization, Alva discovered that some of the people she had worked with, including Susan Wiles, had been lobbyists for Putin. Wiles’ ex-husband had worked on overturning the Magnitsky Act, a significant role in Putin’s agenda. Magnitsky was a Russian attorney who was tortured and killed because of his work to expose Putin’s corruption. Bill Browder has worked tirelessly to persuade governments to freeze billions of dollars of Putin’s assets outside of Russia.
Weaponizing Information Warfare in the Trump Campaign
Once in power, Trump could change the mindset of many American voters on critical issues using cult-like methods. He consulted with an American military strategist who had developed the concept of psychological operations (psyops) warfare and incorporated some of his ideas. This approach involved delegitimizing experts, science, and democratic institutions, branding them as untrustworthy, and spreading the notion of “fake news.” Trump attacked experts and denied global climate change and the severity of COVID-19. This deliberate strategy creates confusion, and a person in a position of authority, like the Oval Office, disseminates misinformation, people tend to follow the seemingly legitimate figure.
Media literacy and fact-checking are crucial tools in combating the spread of misinformation and propaganda. Alva emphasizes the importance of teaching critical thinking skills, sharing the BITE model of authoritarian control, and encouraging individuals to question the sources of information they encounter. By promoting media literacy, people can become more discerning consumers of news and less susceptible to manipulation.
Having worked at the apex of the Trump campaign, Alva understands the tactics Trump and his campaign have used to manipulate the media. She warns of his ability to utilize non-sensical phrases to distract the media into repeated loops of confusion. This non-sensical loop further pushes his followers into cognitive dissonance as they hear phrases like “covfefe, alternative facts” on a constant loop, even on mainstream media sources.
Strategies for engaging in productive conversations with individuals influenced by the Cult of Trump and other high control groups
After leaving the Trump organization, Alva became aware of the methodology employed to create community groups for the campaign. As a result, she can provide insights into how people can work together to neutralize the adverse effects and empower individuals. Alva had previously been involved with a cultic group called John of God, a faith healer using spiritual healing practices. She has firsthand experience of being part of a high-control cultic group through her involvement with John of God and later with Trump. Alva now aims to assist others by emphasizing the importance of educating people about mind control by showing empathy and compassion when engaging in difficult conversations with your loved ones affected by the Cult of Trump. She believes understanding the psychological mechanisms can help break through the barriers created by cult-like thinking.
Reflecting on her journey of breaking free from the Cult of Trump, Alva acknowledges the role of cognitive dissonance in keeping individuals trapped in the mindset. Cognitive dissonance occurs when a person holds conflicting beliefs or values, causing discomfort and a desire to resolve the inconsistency. In the case of the Cult of Trump, individuals may find themselves confronted with evidence that contradicts their beliefs about Trump or his policies. Alva encourages open dialogue and provides alternative perspectives to help individuals reconcile their conflicting thoughts and challenge their preconceived notions.
Alva’s reflections on the broader implications of the Cult of Trump and the need for collective action to protect democracy
Alva believes that the proactive engagement of people who have been co-opted into politically siloed but cohesive right-leaning and autocratic cults is vital. The division has been key to cult tactics. Clearly, it is a major concern going into the next election. Without reconciliation–which may be on issues previously considered trivial or frivolous but now considered of electoral importance, the political center will continue to fracture.
Alva highlights the practical complexities of the above. However, noting the immediacy of the next election urges the need for near-term action. While on a basic level, engagement with family and communities is critical, addressing the problem is unlikely to succeed without broader support from social media and traditional media organizations.
Alva also highlights the importance of building resilient communities that can withstand the influence of manipulative tactics. We must foster critical thinking skills, promote diversity of thought, and encourage open dialogue. By creating spaces where individuals feel safe to express their opinions and engage in respectful discussions, communities can become more resistant to the divisive tactics employed by cult-like groups. Unfortunately, anyone can fall victim to a cult, especially with the growth of social media and the Internet.
Empathy and compassion play a crucial role in helping individuals recover from the effects of manipulation. Alva’s friends were the ones who assisted her by not allowing her to become isolated in an echo chamber of disinformation. Alva emphasizes the need to approach your loved ones, whom the Cult of Trump has influenced, with understanding and empathy rather than judgment or condemnation. By creating a supportive environment, individuals are more likely to feel comfortable questioning their beliefs and seeking alternative perspectives.
The Cult of Trump has broader implications beyond the individual level. The same tactics are being utilized today to continue to isolate people into sub-cults through social media sites like Twitter/X and TikTok. Alva warns of the erosion of trust in democratic institutions and the potential long-term damage to the fabric of society. She calls for collective action to protect democracy and ensure that the principles of truth, justice, and equality remain. This includes holding leaders accountable for their actions, media transparency, and actively participating in the democratic process. Likewise, this includes supporting civil liberties principles that were hard fought for in the history of the United States.
In conclusion, Alva Johnson’s experiences within the Cult of Trump shed light on the tactics employed by such groups and the impact they can have on individuals and society. By sharing her story and insights, she hopes to raise awareness, promote critical thinking, and foster empathy to counter the influence of cult-like thinking. Through education, media literacy, and resilient communities, Alva believes individuals can break free from manipulation and work towards a more inclusive and democratic society.
Follow Alva on Twitter (X): @ThatAlvaJohnson
All the President’s Women | Hachette Book Group For additional details about Alva Johnson in All the President’s Women, see pages 86-87, 254.
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