This week the Influence Continuum podcast hosts Pam Hemphill, a 70-year-old cancer survivor from Idaho. Pam has been in the news speaking out because of her involvement in the January 6th assault on the Capitol. Pam is now a vocal detractor of the cult of Trump. She’s been a fan of the podcast and of Freedom of Mind in general and joined us to discuss how her life changed because of Trump. She is a retired Substance Abuse Counselor who says she has 44 years in recovery. She served a 60-day sentence for her involvement in the attack, which former President Trump encouraged. After serving her sentence in federal prison, Ms. Hemphill learned information contradicting the narrative she had believed was truthful. That interaction with facts inspired her to continue seeking information not circulated in her previous media sources. For several months, Pam has been hosting Twitter Spaces to “Stop the Spin” and push back against the gaslighting and lies of January 6th defendants and defenders. Ms. Hemphill says she now realizes she was part of a cult and is on a mission to help others recognize what happened to them so they may reevaluate their prior beliefs.
In an increasingly polarized society, our country needs compassion and critical thinking more than ever. Isolation due to social media and the work of political demagogues can keep us from exploring alternate perspectives. Being taken in by these forces does not make you stupid or weak. However, resistance can reflect intelligence and strength of will. We learn about this strength in Denver Riggleman’s book The Breach: The Untold Story of the Investigation into January 6th. Denver joined us on the podcast to discuss the book, his career in the military and as a congressman, and how to battle black-and-white thinking in politics.
Jen Senko’s experience with her father, Frank, hits close to home for many Americans today. Frank was a happy-go-lucky progressive Democrat when he came across a talk radio show hosted by Bob Grant. He started being more critical of Democrats and was somewhat combative about it. When he fully retired, he discovered Rush Limbaugh and listened to him for three hours daily. Then he started watching Fox News. At that point, his personality changed. He was always angry and couldn’t have discussions with his family anymore without them turning to politics.
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.
Michael Cohen is a two-time New York Times best-selling author, first with his book Disloyal: A Memoir, and now with his latest book Revenge: How Donald Trump Weaponized the Department of Justice Against His Critics. Cohen is famous for being the former attorney and personal ‘fixer’ for Donald Trump (2006-2018) and has testified for congress as well as New York’s Attorney General’s office and confessed he was in “The Cult of Trump.” I wrote about him in my book, and he is a courageous whistle-blower who, like me, has devoted an enormous amount of time and effort to shedding light on the disgraced and twice impeached former president.
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 …
Narcissism is a word often overused to describe people who are selfish or generally uncaring of others. In the clinical sense, it has a set of criteria one must meet for diagnosis, and quite often, cult leaders meet these criteria. Daniel Shaw, LCSW and cult survivor, talks with us about his experiences within a cult, exiting the group, and his work on traumatic narcissism.
Shaw is a psychoanalyst in private practice in New York City and in Nyack, New York. Originally trained as an actor at Northwestern University and with the renowned teacher Uta Hagen in New York City, Shaw later worked as a missionary for an Indian guru. His eventual recognition of the cultic aspects of this organization led him to become an outspoken activist in support of individuals and families traumatically abused in cults.
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.
The New Apostolic Reformation (NAR) is a reorganized, large Pentecostal and charismatic movement reframed by the religious right to move into politics. My guests on this episode of the Influence Continuum are warning people about the dangers associated with the rise of the NAR.
Frederick Clarkson has written and worked at the intersection of religion and politics for over four decades. He’s currently a Senior Research analyst at Political Research Associates, a is a social justice research and strategy center in Somerville, Massachusetts. He’s also the author of a very important book that I recommend everyone read called Eternal Hostility – The Struggle Between Theocracy and Democracy, a subject that everyone’s talking about in the media these days.
After he lost the 2020 election, Donald Trump spouted lies and claimed that he had won. In an attempt to counter Trump’s lies and promote confidence in the election results, prominent Democrats and election officials said that the 2020 election was the most secure election of all time. However, real vulnerabilities in our election system exist, and Trump’s lies do not justify ignoring legitimate election security concerns.