Have you ever heard of the Council for National Policy? Wish to understand this alliance of far-right wealthy donors and operators? Anne Nelson talks to us about this and more, including her book Shadow Network: Media, Money, and the Secret Hub of the Radical Right.
On January 6, 2021, the seat of our federal government and the heart of our American democracy came under siege. Now, two years on, there is the opportunity to examine developments since the attack on the Capital and to look at what can be done about it. I was honored to be invited to speak about this at the New York Society for Ethical Culture this January 2023. The title of my talk was ‘Two Years After the Violent Coup Attempt.’
In my talk, I discussed some of the forces behind the insurrection attempt. Based on typical cult leader behavior, I predicted in 2019 that Trump would never voluntarily cede power and would attempt to create as much chaos and damage as possible. In my book The Cult of Trump, I also warned that his followers would become violent.
Whenever I hear about a tragedy or destructive event, like the Jonestown massacre or the January 6 coup attempt, my first thought is always – I could have done that. When I was in the Moon cult, I would have obeyed any order from Sun Myung Moon, including breaking the law. But, when someone is under mind control, their real self, values, and beliefs are taken over by a new cult identity; they are programmed into a different reality. So, it is crucial to understand how undue influence works and how to protect ourselves and others.
Conspiracy theorists are often thought of as people on the fringes of society, believing ridiculous stories and wearing tinfoil hats while living in their parent’s basement. However, conspiracy theorists have become mainstream, and the damage they do is monumental. I spoke with Dr. Michael Shermer about this and his new book, Conspiracy: Why the Rational Believe the Irrational. Dr. Shermer is the Founding Publisher of Skeptic magazine, the host of the podcast The Michael Shermer Show, and a Presidential Fellow at Chapman University, where he teaches Skepticism 101. For 18 years, he has been a monthly columnist for Scientific American.
When asked about their idea of a cult, most people will conjure up the image of a group of religious devotees following an alternative doctrine and worshiping an authoritarian leader. Many cults fit into this …
Jon Atack’s Opening Our Minds is quite simply the best new book on authoritarian cults. It digs into the reasons why authoritarianism is ruining the world and what we can do about it. Jon and I first met over thirty years ago; I was the “go-to” guy on the Moonies, and Jon was the “go-to” guy on Scientology. However, we found more in common than our expertise on cults – we hit it off immediately and have been fast friends ever since. There is much to admire about Jon: he is an artist, a musician, a writer, a historian and biographer, a scholar-practitioner, and a truly grounded, authentic individual. Despite decades of exploring the worst aspects of human behavior, he is also thoroughly life-affirming and believes that we have the tools to save the future from the human predators who are so intent on wrecking it.
In my book, The Cult of Trump, I explored the parallels between Trump and cult leaders, arguing that his presidency was much like a destructive cult. The indoctrination techniques Trump used to build fanatical devotion in his supporters is akin to those of Jim Jones, David Koresh, Ron Hubbard, and Sun Myung Moon. Trump’s lies, lack of conscience, inability to admit when he is wrong, and projecting his shortcomings onto others can be seen in many cult leaders. With his rise to the presidency, he became more authoritarian and though he lost the election in 2020, he continues the lie that it was stolen and his supporters continue to believe him.
If you have read Jason Kander’s book or listened to his self-read audiobook, you know why the title – Invisible Storm: A Soldier’s Memoir of Politics and PTSD – is important. Jason sat in President Obama’s office as the president said, “I think you should run for president.” Dropping out of that race in the lead, Jason made what would have been a successful run for mayor of Kansas City. Yet, he eventually recognized his need to get help as a former army captain in the intelligence division for what he describes as a “secret psychological disorder,” PTSD.
With the assassination of former Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe by Tetsuya Yamagami, the Moon cult is back in the news. Abe became a target, reportedly because he and his father publicly supported the Moon cult. The assassin was reportedly furious because his mother had given away all the family money to the cult. I interviewed former top American political leader of Unification Church, Allen Tate Wood, and wish to expose the mindset of cult psychology.
I’ve been hosting the Influence Continuum podcast for over seven months, and I’ve spoken with guests on topics ranging from election integrity to 4th Generation Warfare and the Christian Right. It is plausible to say that I would not even be investigating any of these topics had I not encountered the work—and later met—the esteemed guest of my first ever podcast episode, Dr. Robert Jay Lifton.
Almost four years ago, I spoke with my friend Narendra Nayak about the rise of right-wing religious and political extremism in India. I had contacted him after learning of the killing of Gauri Lankesh. Lankesh was an activist journalist who was openly critical of Prime Minister Narendra Modi, the Bharatiya Janata Party, and their extremist Hindutva ideology. There are many similarities between the rise of conservative, right-wing ideologies in India and the United States. I recently spoke with Nayak to discuss the current social and political situations in India and the United States.
In a recent episode of my podcast, The Influence Continuum, I interviewed Amanda Ripley, a best-selling author, journalist, and host of the How-To! Podcast on Slate. Her timely book, High Conflict: Why We Get Trapped and How We Get Out, explores this concept of “high conflict” and approaches to identifying and escaping it.
I had the opportunity to invite S.E. Cupp and discuss the terrible shooting and mass violence at another school in Uvalde, Texas, for my podcast, The Influence Continuum. S.E. Cupp is an American political commentator, practical conservative, and writer. She is famously known for hosting a political panel show named S.E. Cupp: Unfiltered and CrossFire. She has also hosted a digital series on cnn.com called S.E. Cupp’s Outside with Insiders.