Donald Trump is now the official Republican nominee for President of the United States. A year ago, his run for office seemed like a practical joke. However, now it is clear beyond all rationality, that there are powerful, wealthy, influential people backing him. I am worried.
As an expert on cults and other high-control groups, I have been asked by a number of people about my opinion on Trump and his legions of followers. I first wrote a Huffington Post blog last December when Trump talked about banning Muslims from entering the U.S. and shutting down the Internet. Last month, I wrote a blog on Trump’s narcissism. As a narcissist, Trump claims to have all the answers. “Trust me”, like most cult gurus and prophets he speaks with absolute confidence about things he has no knowledge about. He advocates torture (waterboarding) alleged terrorists-despite all experts in interrogation categorically saying it is a waste of time, money and resources. He’s also advised killing the relatives of terrorists–although most families have no knowledge of the radicalization of their loved ones. All senior counter terrorism experts say this would be disastrous, creating generations of enemies of the U.S..
Trump encourages fear in the American public. He loves attention and cannot get enough of it. Much like the leaders of cults, Trump advertises himself as being better than others in an almost divine way. Anyone who questions him is cut down with a barrage of insults and threats. He instills in his supporters an “us vs. them” and “black & white” mentality that raises tensions and anxieties throughout the world. As I wrote back in December, ISIS loves Trump and wants to see him elected as it will cause more moderate Muslims to get polarized and therefore be more susceptible to recruitment as terrorists.
One of the reasons Trump has been so effective in his run for president is that he relies on fear and uses phobias to manipulate emotions. Phobias, which I discuss in my book Combating Cult Mind Control, are irrational intense fear reactions to someone or something. Though most phobias are not based on fact a phobic person will have strong reactions whenever they are triggered. These reactions are very uncomfortable and can cause great distress to anyone experiencing them.
A person who is xenophobic for example, might be immediately drawn to Trump’s promise of a ban on Muslims entering the country. Though it is well-known that over 99% of the world’s Muslims are peace-loving and abhor terrorism, a fear driven person will find comfort in Trump’s promises to keep law and order and keep people safe. Because his message calms their fears, many who are afraid of people different than themselves offer Trump their support. This same reasoning can be applied to Trump’s ability to attract supporters with his propensity for racism, sexism, and other hateful attitudes.
Fortunately, it seems that Trump’s run is no longer considered a joke. Many people have come forward denouncing Trump’s claims of success and speaking out against him publicly. Just this week, The New Yorker ran a piece detailing Trump’s ghostwriter Tony Schwartz—the man responsible for writing Trump’s bestselling biography The Art of the Deal. In this article, Schwartz details his experiences working with Trump and expresses regret for ever involving himself in the project because he says he made Trump look more positive than he actually is.
George Takei, a famous actor (Star Trek) and activist, released a Spanish-language video urging the Latino community to take a serious look at Trump’s xenophobic platform. As a child, Takei was forced into an internment camp simply for being of Japanese descent during WWII. Speaking from his own experiences, Takei understands how phobias can be manipulated en masse and why we cannot allow them to overtake our nation again.
And, in one of my favorite pieces on the topic of Trump, John Oliver debunks some of the most commonly held misconceptions his supporters—mainly that Trump is honest, self-made, and a great businessman. Though it’s a comedic piece, this segment (which originally aired on February 28, 2016) is well-researched and provides facts that disprove these beliefs. If you have not had a chance to watch it yet, I highly recommend it.