CNN Appearance 1-19-2021: Dr. Steven Hassan on The Cult of Trump with Alisyn Camerota
On Friday, November 22nd, 2019, I did an interview with Brian Stelter of CNN’s Sunday Reliable Sources show. This was put online as an audio Reliable Sources podcast. That Sunday, November 24th, The Cult of Trump was the focus of the last segment (approximately 4 minutes) of this highly regarded CNN cable tv show. It began with mentioning Anthony Scaramucci, Dan Rather, as well as, Republican John Weaver who each talked about the GOP becoming the cult of Trump. I was grateful to have my new book shown and to have an opportunity to discuss this important topic. Naturally, it was solely up to Brian and his producers as to what to select from the more than 30 minute audio interview. Take a listen if you have 30 minutes and, if not, take a look at the segment above. It is important to emphasize that the answer to the question about scientific proof that was shown on the TV was not how I would answer that question directly. I would talk about Dr. Anthony Pratkanis’ book, The Science of Social Influence, Neuroscientist Taylor’s book Brainwashing, Robert Jay Lifton, Margaret Singer, Edgar Schein, Louis Jolyn West to name just a few giants. I would cite my own peer review scientific journal article with a quantitative study involving my BITE model. Combating Cult Mind Control, Releasing the Bonds, Freedom of Mind are my three previous books. But please, if you are interested, take a listen to the whole interview I did with Brian Stelter, either on apple link above) or on Stitcher.
Naturally, supporters of Trump trash all critical media networks, representatives and their shows. Their thought-stopping terms like “fake news” and “enemies of the people” are used to describe all media sources whenever they speak critically of them. Fox’s Tucker Carlson did a segment with Scott Adams, who I interviewed and quoted in my book, and did his best to try to smear Brian for covering the subject of the Cult of Trump. Ad Hominem attacks, where people are smeared rather than discussing the facts, is one of the main techniques for propagandists. Despite my 40-plus years of full-time work in the field of cult mind control, I was reduced to being called only an “ex-moonie” and a “so-called expert”.
From there, the right-wing media outlets went ballistic and, of course, did one of the standard techniques of Donald Trump: they projected and their trope was that it was the critics who are all in a liberal cult and that we were the ones that needed deprogramming. The long list of right-wing media that covered this was truly amazing. In other words, they confirm the substance of my thesis–that that mind control techniques are being used! Remember, destructive cults rely on deception, confusion, loaded language, disinformation, ad hominem attacks to keep their cults going and their true believers, believing. For anyone watching or reading about me and my segment who disputes the substance of my thesis, they will want to listen to my actual interview and start digging deeper.
This was not surprising and unfortunately, the media has not gone any further than name-calling to flesh out the actual attributes (BITE model along the Influence Continuum) that actually help people understand. My book, The Cult of Trump, and the voluminous research contained within it, was unfortunately reduced to the word “cult” and the pro-Trump folks attacked everyone who is critical by calling them a cult. This technique of “projection” is another psychological technique that I describe in my book about mind control.
I discussed with my publicist at Simon and Schuster that I was willing to appear as a guest on Tucker Carlson’s show if he or other FOX commentators would have me on. I was warned that they might be “brutal” but I feel very strongly that the more viewers who get a chance to see me and hear about the subject of authoritarian mind control cults, the more we have a chance to establish communication as human beings. Forgive me if I sound idealistic, but I do wish to do everything in my power to help America understand the nuts and bolts of influence.
There have been a number of people communicating that they are upset with me and a number of thematic issues have emerged, which I thought would be good to address in this blog. Here are some of the most asked questions.
Does Steve Really Think That 63 Million People Who Voted for Trump Are Cult Members?
NO. I do not. Nor do I believe that everyone who voted for Trump would vote for him again, despite what the polls suggest. However, I stand by my assertion that Donald Trump has a cult of personality that is clear and distinct in terms of anyone who blindly follows his directions. Total loyalty (or you will be bullied and expelled) is what every destructive cult leader demands from his followers. Flowing downward from Trump himself, there are varying levels of influence which ultimately flows down to the public- in the U.S. and the world community. It does currently appear, with the impeachment recommendation proceeding, that Mitch McConnell and GOP politicians are falling in line and willing to back a narrative that does not have substance. They appear to be afraid to express any doubts publicly about Trump. They are not speaking out in support of the constitution’s mandate for checks and balances of power. Where are the Republicans of conscience? Fear seems to be the main force driving their obedience. If you still are a strong supporter of Trump, do you believe you might ever change your mind about him and start questioning whether he has upheld his oath to uphold the Constitution? Is there any evidence you would accept that he is not honorable and not trustworthy? His own actions speak for themselves, It is up to each citizen, to be honest with him or herself and evaluate their own psychological involvement. In order to do this, please understand the Influence Continuum model below.
I describe ethical, positive influences and leadership and organizations on one end and unethical influence, leaders, groups on the destructive end. All people and all organizations are somewhere within this continuum. I do not use the word cult solely to describe destructive cults, although, in my book, I do describe the Cult of Trump as unhealthy, for sure. Are there left-wing cults? Yes, in fact I wrote a blog about left-wing cults. Am I in the liberal cult? It might look that way in terms of my analysis is so damning of Trump and the GOP. But I do listen to Trump supporters and conservative media. I certainly do not accept any political leader as divine or a stable genius, or above the rule of law or the Constitution. I have read the Mueller report and formed my own conclusions about the facts of the improper behavior of Trump and his team- many of which have been criminally indicted or convicted.
Regarding the question of who is a true believer and in the Trump cult, it is those people who blindly believe whatever he says or does and is not able or willing to even consider he might be untrustworthy and has acted criminally. As I write in my book, I believe there are millions of Americans who are currently involved with cultish groups who demonize critics, even fellow religious leaders who speak negatively about Trump. Please see both the graphic of a basic authoritarian cult and the Cult of Trump. Indeed most people are on the fringe, not at the White House or the GOP. Many Trump believers rely solely on conservative media for information. They believe everything critical is fake news and have therefore not yet done their homework to evaluate the facts for themselves. One central question is whether true believers acknowledge that Vladimir Putin is a former KGB colonel who is a dictator who wishes to undermine America’s power and advance his own interests worldwide? If a person denies that Putin is an anti-democratic dictator who has interfered with American politics, then I think they are operating under a provable lie. This indeed is cultish when there is thought control and information control.
So What if Trump Lies? Everyone in Politics Lies
In order to function, we need a society that values facts and holds people accountable if they misspeak. When it comes to Trump, he tells blatant lies and repeats them over and over again as part of his programming. Fact-checking is a very important function of the media. Holding people accountable is essential for society to function. We need the rule of law. According to Pulitzer prize-winning Politifact, Trump has lied over 13,000 times since becoming President. if anyone in politics lies, they should be exposed and they need to be accountable.
If you are an American, and love America, then your allegiance should be to the Constitution and not to any single person, including the President.
What Were Steve’s Motives for Writing The Cult of Trump?
Please understand that I was deceptively recruited into the Moon cult, and spent over two years as a fanatical believer. Please understand that my family rescued me by hiring ex-Moonies to deprogram me in 1976. My entire life work can be understood from this experience. I was horrified when I woke up and learned about Chinese communist brainwashing and not only wanted to understand what happened to me but wished to use that knowledge to help others to reclaim their lives and autonomy. Look at my three previous books: Combating Cult Mind Control, Releasing the Bonds and Freedom of Mind: Helping Loved Ones Leave Controlling People, Cults and Beliefs.
Some people have incorrectly thought that the main reason I wrote this book was to make money. While I can assure you that every author would like their book to become a bestseller, I researched and wrote this book as a matter of conscience. My primary motive for writing The Cult of Trump was to help raise awareness and share my life work of over 40 years. Based on personal and professional experience, I recognized the signs that many followers of Trump were behaving as though they were mind-controlled. And I could not sit back and do nothing. I do not operate with a partisan agenda. I am a human rights advocate. I wrote this book and do hope that everyone will read it. Please go to your local library and have them order a copy for you to read if you prefer not to buy a copy.
What is a Cult?
A destructive cult is an authoritarian pyramid-structured group with someone at the top who exerts power, claims to have superior knowledge and expertise and uses deception and control of behavior, information, thoughts, and emotions to make people loyal, dependent, and obedient followers. This BITE model is most useful when using it in conjunction with the Influence Continuum.
Cults can exist within the entire continuum and be healthy and ethical or at the other extreme be destructive. Within each cult group, especially on the destructive end, there can be wide variation within the pyramid itself of control and certainly, most people in cults are what I consider to be fringe members- believers, perhaps financial contributors, but hardly spending all their days doing the work of the organization.
How Do I Know If I Am Under Mind Control?
“Reality Test: Chapter 9” in The Cult of Trump outlines my recommended strategy: take time out from all information and influence reinforcing the current perspective. This is extremely hard in this digital age where most people have smartphones and we are getting notifications and messages all day long. But stopping all information gives your brain time to reset. Next, learn about mind control. Study Lifton’s 8 criteria that he developed when studying Chinese communist brainwashing. Study the BITE model. Next, as Information Control includes programming people to deny anything information which is critical of the leader, the doctrine or policy, deliberately seek out the most credible, credentialed experienced people you can find and really examine why they decided to leave the group? Why they are so critical?
In researching my new book, I read David Cay Johnston’s two books and interviewed him. He is incredibly knowledgeable about Trump, having researched and written about him for over 30 years. Trump’s ghostwriter, Tony Schwartz, actually wrote The Art of The Deal and is very knowledgeable. Listen to Omarosa Manigault Newman who was with Trump for over 15 years and served in the White House, Trump’s personal attorney for 12 years, now convicted felon Michael Cohen, Trump transition team member, and former White House communications director Anthony Scaramucci.
Next, I encourage you to go back in your mind before you got involved, and honestly reflect on all that you have learned and experienced. Ideally, if you have done this process honestly, you will have a new perspective on Donald Trump and what has happened in the past years. Has he drained the swamp or just created a bigger swamp? Has he helped America or has he helped Putin and other dictators like North Korea’s Kim, or the Saudi Mohammed bin Salman to name just two authoritarian leaders. Do you really think 11,000 of the world’s top climate scientists are wrong? Look at the recent weather patterns worldwide if you have any doubts.
I am particularly amused when Trump’s true believers tell me I am brainwashed by the liberal media. Or that I am in the cult of George Soros. It shows their ignorance of what brainwashing and cult mind control actually is. Do your homework!
What Are Steve’s Sources?
Some have accused me of just making up the content in my book. Nonsense. I did a lot of research and interviewed a lot of people. This is my fourth book. This book was vetted by multiple attorneys and there are 472 citations documenting my research.
In addition, here is a list of previous blogs that include interviews I conducted as part of my research for this book.
How Do You Help Someone Leave the Cult of Trump?
Appealing to the person’s true self, their authentic self that wants to be a good person, that believes in America and democracy and truth. Sometimes, a few well-chosen critical questions can jumpstart critical thinking. Ask questions such as: