The Cult of Trump

A Leading Cult Expert Explains How the President Uses Mind Control by Steven Hassan (pronounced /hɑːsɪn/)



Publisher: Simon & Schuster

The book was published on October 15, 2019 and available in all formats, including an audiobook.

One of America’s leading experts in cults and mind-control provides an eye-opening analysis of Trump and the indoctrination tactics he uses to build a fanatical devotion in his supporters.

Over the past years, Trump’s behavior has become both more disturbing and yet increasingly familiar. He relies on phrases like, “fake news,” “build the wall,” and continues to spread the divisive mentality of us-vs.-them. He lies constantly, has no conscience, never admits when he is wrong, and projects all of his shortcomings on to others. He has become more authoritarian, more outrageous, and yet many of his followers remain blindly devoted. Scott Adams, the creator of Dilbert and a major Trump supporter, calls him one of the most persuasive people living. His need to squash alternate information and his insistence of constant ego-stroking are all characteristics of other famous leaders—cult leaders.

In The Cult of Trump, mind-control and licensed mental health expert Steven Hassan draws parallels between our current president and people like Jim Jones, David Koresh, Ron Hubbard, and Sun Myung Moon, arguing that this presidency is in many ways like a destructive cult. He specifically details the ways in which people are influenced by an array of social psychology methods and how they become fiercely loyal and obedient. Hassan was a former “Moonie” himself, and he draws on his forty years of personal and professional experience studying hypnosis and destructive cults, working as a deprogrammer, and a strategic communications interventionist. He emphasizes why it’s crucial that we recognize ways to identify and protect ourselves and our loved ones.

The Cult of Trump is an accessible and in-depth analysis of the president, showing that under the right circumstances, even sane, rational, well-adjusted people can be persuaded to believe the most outrageous ideas. Hassan’s book is essential reading for anyone wanting to understand the Trump phenomenon and looking for a way forward.


Praise for The Cult of Trump

DR. PHILIP ZIMBARDO, author of The Lucifer Effect: Understanding How Good People Turn Evil and emeritus professor of psychology, Stanford University:

“A brilliant analysis of a unique modern phenomenon. Readers will nod their heads in recognition as Hassan expertly takes them through a fascinating, engaging exploration of the coercive control techniques that President Donald Trump uses daily to influence his followers.”

ROBERT JAY LIFTON, MD, author of Losing Reality: On Cults, Cultism, and the Mindset of Political and Religious Zealotry:

“There is a growing recognition of an important cultlike element in Donald Trump’s many-sided destructiveness. Steve Hassan confronts this element and takes us to the far reaches of possible cultic influence. We learn still more about our dangerously unfit president, knowledge that can be of help to us in combating him and the social forces behind him.”

BANDY X. LEE, MD, MDIV, editor of the New York Times bestseller The Dangerous Case of Donald Trump: 27 Psychiatrists and Mental Health Experts Assess a President:

“Donald Trump, who rose to the presidency through a conspiracy theory—“birtherism”—and peddled lies in unprecedented ways for a president, needs to be considered as a cult figure. Practical cult expert Steven Hassan does this by explaining how brainwashing works, how the nation got to this place, and how we can get out of it.”



“A psychological portrait of the sitting president, whom the author considers a master of mind control.

Having been a longtime member of Sun Myung Moon’s Unification Church and now an apostate, Hassan (Freedom of Mind: Helping Loved Ones Leave Controlling People, Cults, and Beliefs, 2012, etc.), the director of the Freedom of Mind Resource Center, is an authority on breaking away from cults. That there is a “cult of Trump” is something he takes as given; were there not, evangelical Christians would not be allying with a man twice divorced and, by his own admission, many times adulterous, among other sins of the flesh and spirit. “Trump’s over 500 rallies are far more choreographed and stage-managed than Moon’s assemblies ever were,” writes the author, going on to examine the techniques of gaslighting and outright lying that Trump has employed from the very beginning, “influence techniques with a need for attention and control over others.” Even if one does not accept that Trump is a cult leader as such—all politicians, after all, have their core of true believers—Hassan makes it clear that he is a master of certain rhetorical devices that do not require much intelligence but speak to much practice: the repetition of words and phrases (e.g., “I’m a very stable genius, very smart”) that, through “a primarily unconscious and memory-based process,” lead the listener to think that they must be coming from more than one source and are therefore true, “crowding out analytical thinking and causing the mind to retreat into a kind of trance.” Hassan also counsels that challenging a cult member about the veracity of his or her object of veneration is bound to produce only a defensive reaction; in its place, he offers a diet that includes a good dose of healthy skepticism about what we read and hear. The author’s dark likening of Trump’s followers to those who drank poison at Jonestown is, let us hope, hyperbolic.

An argument that, though seemingly from the fringe, bears consideration as the next election cycle heats up.”


Thomas G. Gutheil, MD, Professor of Psychiatry, Harvard Medical School:

“Drawing on both his experiences as cult expert and ex-cult member, Hassan opens a wide-ranging, thoughtful and well-researched analysis of some of the most puzzling aspects of the current presidency, including the remarkable passivity of fellow Republicans, the gross pandering of many members of the press, the curious avoidance of clear labels that could and should be applied  by the media. Quibbles and speculations about diagnosis do not play central roles. Instead, the current administration is best understood through cult analogies, including factors such as total authoritarianism and intolerance of any questioning or deviation from the “playbook.” This is both a clarifying and a terrifying book. Highly recommended.”


Judith Stevens-Long, Ph.D., Professor, human development, School of Human and Organizational Development, Fielding Graduate University:

“This book is a fascinating tour through the ways people are recruited and retained by cults, the characteristics of cult leadership and the dimensions of undue influence. Point by point, Hassan shows how Trump and his followers meet each of the criteria that define a cult and how Trump’s childhood and rise to the presidency shaped his imperious, narcissistic style and why his followers, both in the voting public and the congress, cannot make a rational evaluation of his words and actions. This book is a must for anyone who wants to understand the current political climate.”


Robin Boyle, JD,  lectures on topics concerning cults and the law. Her recent article, Employing Trafficking Laws to Capture Elusive Leaders of Destructive Cults, is published by the Oregon Review of International Law (2016):

“The Cult of Trump, in step-by-step detail, examines the inner-workings of our current Presidential administration.  Hassan masterfully parallels the psychological manipulation employed by cults over its members with the current administration’s distortion of reality by its twisting narratives and use of systematic techniques to influence our view of the country. The picture is much darker than mere buffoonery.”


Douglas M. Brooks, Attorney at Law:

“Amidst the welter of commentary, analysis and angst concerning the phenomenon of Donald Trump and the national malaise of which Trump is a symptom, Steven Hassan provides an important and unique perspective.   Carefully describing the elements of mind control as used in groups commonly referred to as cults, Hassan demonstrates how Trump’s appeal to his loyal core of supporters and his unlikely rise to President have been facilitated by techniques of undue influence that have been honed by extremist groups and authoritarian leaders over the decades.  Hassan also reveals how our cognitive biases make all of us vulnerable to Trump’s messages of danger, decline and conspiracy. While the spectacle of Trumpism continues to unfold with new outrages every day, Hassan also offers a way forward, with calm, practical advice on how to speak with Trump supporters, overcoming the divisiveness and mutual suspicion that have hamstrung our democratic institutions.   In particular, he explains how our natural inclination to directly contradict Trump’s lies and fallacies to his supporters is likely to be counter-productive. Based on his long experience in helping victims of cults and their families, Hassan shows how a more conciliatory and cooperative approach will yield better results. Hassan’s book is essential reading for anyone who is seeking to understand the Trump phenomenon and to find a way out of the morass.”


Prof. Marci Hamilton, Robert A. Fox Leadership Program Professor of Practice, University of Pennsylvania, CEO & Academic Director, CHILD USA:

“After being the victim of a cult, Steven Hassan has dedicated his impressive career to understanding the dynamics of cults and mind control.  In this book, he applies the principles he has developed with clarity and in a neutral way.   Every American will benefit from understanding the hallmarks of mind control in this tumultuous and divisive era. The Cult of Trump is a book we need now.”

Reed Hundt, author of “A Crisis Wasted”:

“It has long been understood that groups of voters behave like tribes but Steve Hassan says in his book that the better analogy is cults. His explanation for the unwavering commitment to the president of a major fraction of the population is chilling and compelling. Moreover, social networks  reinforce and renew cult-like loyalty, making the bonds of members nearly unbreakable. Against such devotion, reason struggles.”


Mark Laxer, author of Take Me For A Ride: Coming of Age in a Destructive Cult:

“Steve Hassan’s The Cult of Trump is brilliantly and sensitively written, accessible, and non-judgmental. The Trump phenomenon is a dramatic, if not dangerous example of how cults are hardly a fringe experience. They only seem that way because of a mass denial and lack of education that runs as deep and as wide as society itself. Hassan’s book is a critical and bipartisan step toward addressing—indeed healing–this national gap in education. The book is timely and, for those who value democracy, it is immensely important.”


Alexandra Stein, Ph.D., author of Terror, Love and Brainwashing: Attachment in cults and totalitarian systems:

“Steve Hassan’s first book, Combating Cult Mind Control, has helped a great number of people (including myself, nearly 30 years ago), understand and recover from their cult experiences. His latest book is an important and useful contribution to understanding the Cult of Trump, as the book is called. Hassan analyses the Trump phenomenon using his knowledge of cults and gives a good overview of cultic methods of persuasion. He takes us from an in-depth look at Trump’s personality and background to a very helpful chapter that pulls together current research on the many forces propping up his presidency. In a final chapter he suggests ways of talking to “true believers” to enable them to work through Trump’s endless deceptions. The Cult of Trump is recommended reading to understand the many dangers – and the weaknesses – of the authoritarian Trump regime.”


Keith Melville, Ph.D., faculty member, Fielding Graduate University:

“Steven Hassan is one of the nation’s leading experts on cults and how cult members can be de-programmed. Drawing on his extensive experience with cults and the strategies cult leaders use to influence their followers, he sheds new light on Donald Trump by examining his malignant narcissistic behavior and the ways in which he has attracted a loyal group of followers. This book is a revealing account of the ways in which Trump’s behavior – in particular his lack of empathy and need for enemies — echoes the characteristic traits of cult leaders. Hassan also provides a broader context in a chapter entitled “a country wired for manipulation,” which examines the nation’s increasing susceptibility to irrational appeals.

What is most distinctive and valuable about this book is that Hassan is more than a chronicler of cults and the traits of cult leaders. He has extensive experience in de-programming cult members by following a series of steps that he calls the BITE model. This is a well written, well researched book about a very timely topic, from an author who draws both on his personal experience and his success in de-programming individuals who have been drawn into cults.”


Yves Messer, LaRouche Planet:

“This is a most welcome book on Donald Trump’s America. It is timely. For the last three years many commentators from around the world have suspected that Trump might not be just about politics, freedom of expression or democracy any more. It might just be the opposite.

This book can be used as a tool to understand, identify, combat and recover from cults’ abuses whether they are local or state-run. It explains very well how Steven Hassan’s BITE Mind Control Model , his “influence continuum spectrum” can apply and how D. Trump’s network and power structure are organized in a strikingly cultist way. This book is well structured, documented and supported by a wealth of evidence and experience. […]”


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