Earlier this year, I had the privilege of interviewing sociologist, Dr. Stephen Kent. Dr. Kent holds degrees in both religious studies and sociology. He is an author, professor, and expert on cults and conspiracy theories. He received two Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council grants to study sects, cults, and new religions in Canada and the United States. He is very qualified to speak about coercive influence and cults, having a vast educational background, as well as, the largest book collection in North America on alternative and sectarian religions. I have known Steve for decades now and respect his work very much. he has also testified as an expert regarding cult practices, including Scientology.
Others have publicly recognized his expertise, his research, and work with students. Dr. Kent received his department’s undergraduate teaching award (the Bill Meloff Award for Undergraduate Teaching) in 2010, and one of three campus-wide Graduate Supervisor Awards from the Graduate Students’ Association in 2009. (University of Alberta). In 2012, the International Cultic Studies Association awarded him the Margaret Thaler Singer Award for advancing the understanding of coercive persuasion and undue influence through his publications on the harmful aspects of some religious and other ideological sects. (I received the Singer award in 2014 and a reminder that she wrote the forward to Combating Cult Mind Control.)
Kent’s research and teaching interests focus on a wide variety of religious organizations and practices, including a large project involving mental health issues related to sectarian leaders. Additionally, he co-wrote a peer-reviewed article with Jodi Lane entitled, “MALIGNANT NARCISSISM, L. RON HUBBARD, AND SCIENTOLOGY’S POLICIES OF NARCISSISTIC RAGE,” along with a vast body of work including books, articles, press, and reviews. It is interesting to note that a major lawsuit has been filed this week against David Miscavige and Scientology for abuse, human trafficking, and intimidation of a former member. Tony Ortega wrote an article and added the actual legal paperwork.
Hubbard was known to be a malignant narcissist and the behavioral patterns that we are witnessing with Trump have similar, dramatic parallels. And there is serious concern over the mental instability of President Trump (Please read my previous blog, “Yale Forensic Psychiatrist Bandy Lee Discusses the Dangerous Case of Donald Trump“).
I go on to discuss some of the DSM-5 diagnostic features of narcissism with Dr. Kent (see the previous blog about Trump and Narcissism). For one thing, Trump brags about his achievements and seeks excessive admiration. He misrepresents facts to gain more admiration and applause. In fact, when Trump walks on stage, he often starts clapping along with the audience which encourages them to clap louder and longer. This is an example of his need for excessive admiration. And Trump surrounds himself with others that display narcissistic traits (For more about Trump, see list of blogs I wrote about him).
Trump cannot accept criticism and walks out of rooms when powerful people do not accept his viewpoint. Dr. Kent points out that President Trump seems to have a need for revenge against critics, which is a characteristic of malignant narcissism. Trump reacts very harshly to critics and cannot move on. Plus, he is known to be verbally abusive. The issue with building the wall is not that he believes in building it, but that he is unable to negotiate about it or understand the position of others.
Further, we go on to talk about the appeal of Trump and why he has so many supporters. He has an inner circle that reinforces his delusions, which is a narcissistic supply. This inner circle hides his foibles from the outside public. This can be seen with the show The Apprentice. On that show, they crafted his image; he appeared much differently on that show from his real self.
And this image goes even further. Evangelical Christians believe Trump to be a King Cyrus figure, fulfilling Bible prophecy. He seemingly gets away with a lot and has become a danger to the country. Sometimes narcissism can shade into that of psychopathy and this is why we must discuss the topic.
Lastly, Dr. Stephen Kent and I talk about the Moon cult, Sovereign Cities, Alex Jones, guns and conspiracy theories. Please watch our video discussion, below.